Archive | December 2016

Mini-Review: The Moving Finger (Miss Marple #4) by Agatha Christie

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HMMMM…In a recent review of a Poirot mystery, I said that I thought Christie may have begun writing the novel as a stand alone and then added Poirot as a character in the later stages.  I felt the exact same way with The Moving Finger.  Miss Marple makes her first appearance on page 142 out of 200.  She plays a very minor role.  What’s interesting to me is that the story worked very well as a stand alone and would have been fine without her presence. I wonder why she decided to bring her in.

Regardless, it’s another great Christie mystery.  4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Dreams and Slumbers (October Daye #10.1) by Seanan McGuire

Dreams and Slumbers picks up just after the events of Once Broken Faith (spoilers for the series to that point may follow.)

Arden, Queen of the Mists, now has the potion to wake her brother from the elf-shot spell he has been under for 80 years.  She’s excited but also very nervous.  Things don’t go as planned and she has to enlist the help of Walther, Cassandra (Stacie’s daughter and Karen’s older sister – remember that she was also kidnapped by Blind Michael) and the Luidaeg to save him.

This is another great addition to the October Daye series.  McGuire makes the most of these short stories.  They fill in some of the blanks that she just can’t give us as part of the main series.  We learn more about the secondary characters and their motivations.  It was nice to get to know more about Arden and Cassandra, especially.

4/5 stars.

It’s a sad week

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I’ve been trying to come to grips with a world that no longer includes Carrie Fisher and planned to write a post today about her impact on young girls from the 70s and 80s.  Then, I woke up this morning to the news that her mother, Debbie Reynolds, had died after a stroke.  Part of me isn’t that surprised.  It has to be one of the worst things on earth to lose a child.  But, the sadness…

It feels like this year has been especially tough with my generation losing so many icons of music and screen.  I’m sure there are those out there saying “you don’t know these people; how does it even impact you?”  It impacts me as a human being.  We are all part of this world and the loss of anyone, even someone we don’t know personally, affects us.  When it’s someone that you grew up with, someone who showed you something of what you want to be, then, yeah, it impacts you.  I read an article earlier this year that really stuck with me.  It was written by a psychologist about this very subject.  He explained that we shouldn’t feel guilty or strange for grieving someone we didn’t know (or a lion killed unnecessarily or anything else that we feel).  Empathy and compassion shouldn’t have those rules.

Maybe one day I will write more about Ms. Fisher’s impact on me but for today, I will leave you with a quote that sums up why I loved her iconic character, Princess Leia.  She is being held by the Empire and has been tortured by Darth Vader.  Most people would be cowering and unable to function.  Not Leia.  When she’s brought onto the bridge of the Death Star, she says:

“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

The Force will be with you.  Always.  Thank you, Carrie Fisher.

Review: Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10) by Seanan McGuire

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You know you are reading a great urban fantasy series when it’s book ten and you immediately look at Amazon and Goodreads to find out when book eleven is being released.  When I started reading this series, I thought it was okay.  Slowly, over these last ten novels, it has become one of, if not, my favorite urban fantasy series.

What makes it special?  McGuire tells a good story but it’s the characters who keep me coming back.  Toby is a strong, independent woman who has learned to live with her powers (strengths and weaknesses) and to depend on those around her when necessary.  Tybalt is…where to start?  He is my favorite UF male lead (aka alpha).  He supports Toby but, at the same time, lets her stand on her own when appropriate.  Toby’s relationships with her ‘kids’ including Quentin, Raj and Karen add another layer of complexity to her life.  May, Jazz, Walther, Arden…the list goes on.

I would love to spend an hour talking to McGuire about her plans for this series.  I suspect she knows the end game for Toby and while I’m very nervous about it (she deserves some semblance of an HEA), I know she is in good hands with McGuire.

5/5 stars.

Christmas Reading Review 2016

Every year I look forward to reading several books over the Christmas holiday.  This year, I was able to read:

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Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie.  4/5 stars.  See my review here.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz.  The book is simply the written form of the beloved Christmas TV special.  While good, it doesn’t quite capture the magic from the screen.  4/5 stars.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.  The well-known story is one that I think we should share with children every year.  Christmas isn’t about the presents, food or other material things.  It’s about friends, family and love.  The book is a wonderful presentation but it’s the animated show that made my heart grow three sizes.  4/5 stars.

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2016 is my first annual reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. At some point I will write a proper review for this but it is a classic for a reason.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future teach us that we have to look outside of ourselves to find happiness and fulfillment.  5/5 stars.
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This is my fourth annual reading of A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd.  I love the movie and I love the book.  You can find my review here.

 

Merry Christmas everyone.

Holiday Review: A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

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Today represents my fourth annual re-read of A Christmas Story.  MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone and don’t shoot your eye out!!

3rd read: 12/25/15
2nd read: 12/25/14
1st read: 12/25/13

I love Christmas. The gifts, the food and spending time with family. One thing I look forward to each year is watching “A Christmas Story” – usually multiple times to the annoyance of said family.

In this year’s stocking, my husband gave me a copy to read. So, on Christmas day, I spent a few hours with Jean Shepherd and his family.

Mr. Shepherd wrote several essays about his life in lower middle class America. These essays were compiled and created the screenplay for the movie. While the movie actually follows the stories closely, the stories are not all set around one Christmas and there were some changes. It was heartfelt, funny and just what I wanted on Christmas day.

The first story, Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid, shares his memory of the Christmas he longed to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun from Santa along with all the subtle hints he gave his parents. Of course, he received the classic block: “You’ll shoot out one of your eyes.” His dad, however, came through and made sure he got his gun Christmas morning. He proceeded to almost shoot his eye out but somehow got away with it. Even if I had never seen the movie, I would have laughed out loud while reading this story. It perfectly captures the feelings of childhood. Wanting something so badly and feeling like you are being thwarted around every turn. And just when you think all is lost, your mom or dad saves the day.
Story two, The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again, tells us about the secret decoder he finally got in the mail to use during the Little Orphan Annie Radio broadcasts. “Drink Your Ovaltine” – a crummy commercial. This may have been his first realization that nothing is free and the real world is just looking to sell you something.
My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art – Ahhh…the infamous leg lamp. So sexy, so inappropriate. Yes, his mom broke it on purpose. Who can blame her?
Grover Dill and The Tasmanian Devil – finally our protagonist takes out his tormentor (Grover Dill in the written story) in a flurry of fists and obscenities. My favorite part of this story is the detail about his mom really protecting him so that his dad wouldn’t punish him for the fight. He literally vomits in relief and, I will admit, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Who didn’t have one of these moments in childhood?
The final story, The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds, gives much more information about the redneck neighbors and their dogs that terrorized the neighborhood. The dogs break in the back door and steal the Easter ham from the table. This scene (stealing the Christmas turkey) in the movie always made me chuckle. But, while reading, I had a much more serious feeling. These were not rich people. They had saved and scrimped to have a nice Easter. The entire family looked forward to a few special meals a year and this was one of them. To have the ham taken away was horrible. And, the Bumpus family were awful neighbors on a day to day basis. I sighed with relief when they moved out one night and the neighborhood was able to get back to normal.
Overall, this is a wonderful book about childhood and family with a little Christmas cheer thrown in. I do believe I will make a re-read a Christmas day tradition. 5/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Murder for Christmas aka Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Hercule Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie

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As one of the characters said, I would have liked to experienced more of a classic English Christmas with all the traditional goodies. But, instead, this is a fairly standard Poirot mystery that simply has Christmas as the back drop. Still full of Christie twists and turns; just not quite what I was hoping for.

4/5 stars.