Archive | January 2017

February TBR

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I haven’t written my January wrap up yet but as you can see from the stack above, I didn’t quite hit my goals.  So, here’s what I’m hoping to read in February.

January Carry Over:

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

…assuming I will finish Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie today – fingers crossed

 

February TBR:

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (my classic of the month)

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

 

Bedside Pile of Shame (aka ‘currently reading’ for months):

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (I really hit the wall with this one and need to just focus for a few hours and finally finish it)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone (Illustrated) by JK Rowling

 

What are you reading this month?

Review: Life is Short by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein

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This isn’t my normal read but my Mama enjoyed so gave it to me.  And, I have to admit that it was not only interesting but also informative, funny and poignant.

The book’s structure worked well to tell their story.  Jennifer and Bill alternated chapters that basically gave their life history during the same time periods.  From their childhood surgeries, high school, college, work and then meeting and falling in love.  I immediately clicked with Jennifer’s story.  Her description of her medical struggles was very well done. She was able to describe some pretty horrific experiences without sounding sorry for herself (which she would have right to be).  Dr. Arnold is one tough woman.  She excelled in college, graduated medical school with honors and is a successful pediatric doctor.

It took a little longer for Bill to grow on me but once he did I became a big fan.  His descriptions of being bullied and, in one case, threatened remind us how important it is for us to have empathy and teach our children the same.  His love for Jennifer was what ultimately won me over, though.  And, his love for his children.

Overall, I liked this much more than I expected and highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about their story and some of the issues that little people put up with every day.

4/5 stars.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Before I get started, I do want to mention the beauty of the edition that I read.  I received several Barnes and Noble gift cards for my birthday and decided to buy this collectible edition.  The cover is soft and buttery feeling.  The pages are a thick stock and have a purple edge.  It is just gorgeous.

You will notice that I didn’t title this post as a review.  You can’t really review a book like Wuthering Heights.  The last time I read it was in high school…many, many years ago.  At the time I remember thinking “why is this so great?” and scoffing at the old-fashioned phrasing and actions of the main characters.  Now, I recognize the beauty of the writing and the story that is so loved and hated.

Many people consider WH to be a favorite.  I can’t say that I’m in that camp although I did rate it 5/5 stars.  The characters are unlikable (which is a death knell for many readers).  But, really, that’s the point.  Right?  We aren’t supposed to like them.  They are, for the most part, horrible, emotionally manipulative users.  There are glimpses of light here and there but as soon as you think “oh it’s going to be okay”, Bronte turns a corner and everything falls apart.  This book is the literary example of someone enjoying a good cry for no reason other than an emotional release.  Or, going through a haunted house to be scared out of your wits.  Sometimes you don’t want to read about flowery, successful love stories.  Instead you want to feel the obsession, pain and, ultimately, the destruction of Heathcliff and Catherine.

I thought it might be interesting to put together a playlist of songs that could provide background music for a first time Wuthering Heights reader.  Here are my suggestions (let me know if you can think of any other songs that would create the atmosphere of WH):

“Come To My Window” by Melissa Etheridge
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline
“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley
“My Immortal” by Evanescence
“Possession” by Sarah McLachlin
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette
“You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League

 

Love is all around…

This week we lost one of my heroes.  Mary Tyler Moore passed away Wednesday January 25 and the world is now emptier.  Years ago, I read a biography of MTM entitled “After All”.  Her life story is riveting and we could talk about that for days.  But, as you might suspect, what I really want to mention are the two television shows that made her famous.

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As Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show, she was everything this little girl wanted to be when I grew up.  She was a beautiful wife with a handsome husband.  They would dance and sing in the den for goodness sake!  But, as an adult, I realize how groundbreaking she really was in this role.  She fought for her character to be able to wear pants (and boy did she look good in them.)  Laura might have been a housewife but she was a feminist groundbreaker.  Rob was expected to help with housework when he got home from his job in the city and he was a partner in raising their son.  I especially love the episode in which Laura gets the opportunity to be one of the dancers on The Alan Brady Show.  She goes in every day and faces the physical demands of that full time job.  And, when Rob gets home, he still finds a clean house and dinner on the table.  He’s concerned when she is offered a permanent position (this is the 1960’s after all).  Because she’s made it look so “easy” he thinks she will jump at the chance.  However, Laura makes it clear that she had to work her butt off to make it look easy.  It wasn’t easy.  It was hard.  But women have a way of just getting it done.  There were many episodes where it was clear that Laura was the ‘strong’ one in this partnership.  (And as an aside, my husband and I have had many conversations about the differences between television back then and now.  Consider the talent that was on this show.  Almost everyone could not only act but also sing, dance and was funny as heck.  They truly don’t make them like this anymore.)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Now, the one that will make me cry.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  There has never been another show on television that could compare.  As Mary Richards, MTM was the blueprint for all future working women.  She moved to Minneapolis to start a new life when she and her fiance broke up.  But, this show wasn’t about breakups and romance.  She wasn’t desperate to find a man.  This was a show about a woman who worked her butt off in a male dominated field and was successful.  Yes, she had to fight to make as much as her male predecessor but she did it.  When there was a promotion on the table, Mary always went for it.  She showed her value with her brains and hard work.  She had SPUNK!  Yes, of course, she had to put up with some crap in the office but she never let it bring her down.  Her boss and coworkers admired her not because she was beautiful but because she was smart.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the MTM show and female friendships.  Was there ever a BFF like Rhoda Morganstern?  The relationship between these two was refreshing.  They weren’t competing over men or worried about who was prettier, made more money or had the nicer purse.  They were simply friends, soulmates and each other’s ride or die.  I intentionally included a picture with Phyllis as well (my husband hates her!)  While she could be annoying (to my husband and Rhoda), she was another example of a strong woman.  She just went about it in a different way than Mary or Rhoda.  Probably my favorite Mary and Rhoda episode is the one where Mary meets a new friend, Joanne, and they start spending time playing tennis and being quite perfect together.  Through a series of events, it appears that Mary is ditching Rhoda for Joanne.  This isn’t the case but you know how it is.  When your BFF has a new friend, you get a little jealous.  Mary wants to include Rhoda in some of their girl time but Joanne balks when she realizes that Rhoda is Jewish.  Mary, who never dreamed of this being an issue, makes it clear where her loyalty lies – with Rhoda.  The episode was named “Some of My Best Friends are Rhoda” and it was a wonderful example of how television can entertain while still making a point about the world we live in.

 

Thank you, Mary Tyler Moore, for being my hero.  You had struggles and sadness like the rest of us.  But, we are left with your legacy that will live on.  From one woman to another, thank you.  Rest In Peace.

 

Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1) by Danielle Paige

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I bought Dorothy Must Die for my 13-year old niece for Christmas.  Then, I decided to add a second copy to my basket so I could read it as well.  She’s been busy with school so I’m sure she hasn’t gotten to it yet but I finished it a few days ago.  And, well…I have a few thoughts.

If you read my reviews you know that I sometimes have questions about the Young Adult classification of several series.  Overall, DMD has a definite YA feel.  However, I was somewhat shocked at the language in the first third of the novel.  I’m not talking about a few but many of the granddaddy curse words that I’d still get in trouble for saying in front of my Mama and I’m 45-years-old.  When I took a second to analyze, it did make sense for the character but it was shocking.

The idea for this story is stellar.  Dorothy couldn’t handle being normal when she got back to Kansas at the end of The Wizard of Oz so she finds her way back to Oz.  Then, as it does, her power started going to her head.  The residents of Oz need someone to save them from her tyranny.  Paige also did a pretty decent job of the good vs. evil/wicked trope.  Who gets to  decide what is evil?  And, is it wicked to do a bad thing for a good reason?

But, I have to say that I was fairly disappointed.  The writing wasn’t that great and felt stunted and forced in some sections.  It’s also full of all the things that adult readers tend to hate in YA.  Insta-love (or in this case insta-attraction for no good reason).  Female MC who is pretty dang stupid when it comes down to it.  And, the cliched ‘good girl’ who lives in a trailer park with her alcoholic mother and just can’t catch a break.  How many times do we have to read about this?

My rating for DMD is 2/5 stars but I have to admit that I am tempted to read book two.  I’d really like to know what happens next.  Is that normal?

Mini-Review: A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie

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If you’ve read any of my prior Christie reviews, you will know that I absolutely love Poirot but feel ambivalent towards Miss Marple.  Her stories do not resonate with me and I find them significantly less enjoyable.

A Murder is Announced isn’t a bad book but there really is nothing special about it.  Miss Marple titters around talking about human nature and how so and so in the village did X so it must mean that the killer did Y.  They really are all that same formula.  And, don’t think I’m being dismissive of a female led series.  It simply is what it is.  Christie calls Miss Marple an old woman and generalizes that all old women in these villages are the same.

Having said that, some of the mysteries are better than others.  Unfortunately, in this case, I figured out a good portion of the big reveal pretty early on.  That’s always a disappointment because I expect Christie to trick me.  Here it was pretty clear what would be a “big shock” for the denouement.

Lastly, just as a note…I cannot determine if Christie herself hated anyone who wasn’t English or if she just wrote many characters who were xenophobic.  I have a tendency to give her the benefit of the doubt since Poirot was Belgian and experienced discrimination for being a foreigner.  I always felt that Christie intended for us to be sympathetic towards him.  But, sometimes, I’m not quite sure.  There are so many negative references to foreigners (well, honestly, anyone different whether it be nationality, race or social status).  Books should reflect the times in which they are set and I’m not a fan of revisionist history.  So, if this is accurate for ‘society in England’ at this time so be it.  It is, however, rather jarring to read with today’s sensibilities.

2.5/5 stars.

Review: One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews

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While I’ve enjoyed the Innkeeper Chronicles from the beginning, I always felt that the Kate Daniels series would remain as my favorite Andrews.  With One Fell Sweep, the IC has begun to give Kate a run for her money.  (In fact, if I look at all of the Andrews’ books, OFS is second only to Magic Bites on my favorites list.)

If you aren’t familiar with the Innkeeper books, here’s what you need to know.  Dina is an Innkeeper who is magically connected to the Inn that she runs.  Her B&B is basically a safe haven on Earth for alien travelers.  She takes her role as their protector very seriously.  Her love interest, Sean, is a werewolf (though the specifics of wolf-ism are different in this world).  In OFS, she receives an urgent message from her sister (who we’ve never met) and Dina enlists the help of friends to rescue Maud and her daughter, Helen.  Then they are all pulled into a holy war against a dying race, the Hiru, who offer Dina a bargain – help us and we will give you a tool to assist you in finding your lost parents.

The main reason this works is the blend of humor, action and heart.  OFS made me laugh out loud and cry multiple times.  It is that good.  Plus, Helen is one of my new favorite characters.  If I had a child who was half-vampire, I’d want them to be just like her.  And, the fight scenes are on-point.

One other thing that I just need to note is the Andrews’ creativity.  In building the Innkeeper world, they’ve allowed for other series characters to make appearances.  Thus far we’ve only seen George and Jack from the Edge series.  BUT…If you think about it, there is room for the Kate Daniels world, etc. to coexist and still make sense.

I cannot recommend the Innkeeper series enough.  You do want to start with book one, Clean Sweep.  Don’t delay.  It’s worth every penny.  5/5 stars.