Inheritance

•October 23, 2018 • 1 Comment

My grandmother passed away on Labor Day. In part because my mother was with her when she passed, her dog has become part of my household. You could say I’ve inherited a 7-year old, 10 lb chihuahua. His name is Scooter, because he stretches out on his tummy and scoots at a high rate of speed across the floor. It’s hysterical. What’s even funnier is when he and Bailey do it together.

It’s been a challenge merging the two households because Bailey is still adjusting and Mom was gone for so much of the time Bails has been here, that they are getting used to each other, too. And poor Scooter is seriously traumatized. He’s lost his #1 human and his home, and relocated to the other side of the country. He has to get used to an entirely different climate and learn to share room and board with a really big dog.

Bails still isn’t entirely sure what to make of this relatively new addition, and I’ll be honest, I’m not either. I’ve never been a fan of small breed dogs. I’ve been bitten twice by a dog that wasn’t my own, and both times were by small breeds. I’m actually more scared of small dogs than I am of Dobermans, Rottweilers, or Pit Bulls. Many of the ones I’ve encountered are Napoleonic terrors. But, Scooter seems to have accepted me, and with the help of a trainer, we are all learning how to be a cohesive pack. They are now actively playing with each other, including play bows, and apparently they have a game where Scooter runs full tilt into Bailey and she rolls him over with her nose. As I type, Bailey is snoring at the foot of my bed, and Scooter is curled up on the large dog bed down below.

I’ve often heard that you may not get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need. Bailey has helped heal my heart after I lost Pilot and Scooter is definitely teaching me lessons in compassion, patience, and understanding, and chipping away at my small breed prejudices. I think Gammy would be pleased.

Shutter Island

•October 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, from what I’ve seen on Litsy and Goodreads, but I was disappointed in this book. It’s my first Dennis Lehane and I received it in a thriller/horror themed book exchange, and it’s touted as a great psychological thriller. I kind of wish I’d seen less hype and enthusiasm for it, as maybe that would have  managed  my expectations a little better.

The premise is two U.S. Marshals head to an island which is basically a prison/hospital for the criminally insane to investigate a missing patient. All is not what it seems on Shutter Island, and Teddy Daniels, the lead investigator, has a secret agenda of his own. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who wishes to give this a chance.

Now, I will admit that I did not guess all of the details surrounding the resolution to the book, but I knew there would be a twist, and I guessed some of it. Knowing that there had to be something along those lines coming, took the tension out of the tale and as I read the last hundred and fifty pages, I mostly just wanted the book to be over so I could move onto other things. I had only a vague interest in the plot details. Maybe the book was groundbreaking when it was first published, and maybe I would have been on the edge of my seat had I read it then, but I did not and I was not.

Halloween Audiobooks

•October 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Audiobooks

Last week, I barreled through several Halloween appropriate audiobooks. Rather than do individual reviews, I thought I would do a quick summary of each in a combined post. I hope you don’t mind, but I doubt I have enough to say about each one to justify individual posts.

First up is The World of LORE: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke, narrated by the author. This is the first in a series of books based on Mahnke’s podcast, LORE. I’m not a huge fan of podcasts, most just don’t work for me, even though audiobooks do, so I’ve only listened to an episode or two of the original podcast. Mahnke’s voice isn’t my favorite, but at 1.25 x speed on the Audible app, it was pleasant enough. I’ve heard that most of the stories in the book can be heard on the podcast, but I liked having them all in one place. Not too spooky overall, but there were definitely a few tales that made me uneasy. 3-4 stars, depending on my mood when you ask me, and I am sure I’ll be listening to the rest of the series.

The second audiobook I finished last week was Washington Irving’s classic Halloween tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, narrated by Tom Mison, who played Ichabod Crane in the recent FOX television show based loosely on the same tale. I cannot hear or read this story without thinking of the wonderful 1949 Disney animated version that was part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Disney was amazingly faithful to the original tale and Tom Mison does a good job of narrating the audiobook. It’s short – an hour and 15 minutes – but entertaining. 4 stars, definitely, and I’m considering making it an annual October listen/reread.

The third and final listen completed last week brought Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot to my ears via the excellent narration of Hugh Fraser. Hallowe’en Party is a solid mystery, nothing less than one would expect of Mrs. Christie. A young girl is murdered at a Hallowe’en Party after bragging about having witnessed a murder. Everyone Poirot speaks to claims the girl is a known liar, so supposedly no one at the party believed her claim. Someone must have been worried, though. I was disappointed in some of characters, who seemed either very flat or gross caricatures, and Poirot is detestable, in my opinion. The more of his books I read, the less I like the Belgian detective. I’m committed to reading all of Agatha Christie’s books, though, so at least I have Hugh Fraser to  read many of them. I highly recommend his narration.

I started The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter on Friday, and got about 60% of the way through. Short stories are something I have long struggled with and this collection is no exception. It’s a collection of fairy tale retellings, that are surprisingly risque. I went into this without any real knowledge of the subject matter, and I think that’s the best way, but I admit to being a little surprised and uncomfortable. These are NOT the Disney versions. I find that I am not enjoying them much at all, despite the exquisite voice of Richard Armitage narrating half of the tales. The other half are narrated by Emilia Fox, who I like as an actress, but abhor as an audiobook narrator. Unless something significant changes, this is going to be a 1.5/2 star listen for me. I’m just hoping to get through it by the end of the day. The audible app says I have 2 hours and 14 minutes remaining, which sounds like 3 hours too many.

Bless Me, Ultima

•October 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Prior to this, I read 35 of the books listed on PBS’s The Great American Read (GAR) top 100 list. I had not heard of this book before watching the intro episode of GAR, and when it was mentioned, I was instantly intrigued and ran out to get a copy. It languished on my shelf for a couple of months until I went looking for something to read for the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. I discovered that not only has Bless Me, Ultima frequently been banned or challenged, a New Mexico school district actually burned copies, according to Wikipedia.

For me, this was a beautifully written coming of age story. We follow Antonio as he begins school, experiences his first communion, and struggles to figure out what path he will take in life – is he more Márez and will he take after the wandering spirit of his father’s people, or will he follow the path his mother sees for him, that of her family, the Lunas, and become a priest? He is guided by a curandera, Ultima, who comes to live with his family. She is a wise woman, a healer, and a grandmotherly figure.

There is death, loss, and sadness in this book, along with great joy and beauty. There is also a lot of foul language, but I only know that because of Google Translate as the swearing in Spanish. Bless Me, Ultima is not something that I would have picked up on my own, just reading the back blurb, but I’m so glad it was featured on GAR, because it is just simply beautiful. It provides a glimpse of a culture foreign to my own. That in itself is a gift, and one of the things I love most about books. It deserves a place on any list of classic American novels.

The Bloodprint

•October 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Let me begin by saying that I will read anything Ausma Zehanat Khan writes. I discovered her mystery series last year thanks to the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. I devoured all of the books that were available at the time, and then in October 2017 she released her first fantasy novel in The Khorasan Archives, The Bloodprint. She’s been incredibly kind and generous with her time, interacting with me on Twitter and Facebook, so I am definitely a huge fan.

I wrote a short review on Goodreads for this book when I finished it the first time. The sequel, The Black Khan, releases in the U.S. next week. It’s already available in the UK. To say I’m looking forward to it, is an understatement. The Bloodprint ends with one heck of a cliffhanger, so I’ve been biting my nails for a year.

The writing in this book is just beautiful. Khan paints a clear picture of the lands of Khorasan and creates a world that is richly detailed and vibrant, while also being harsh, bloody, and brutal. Her characters are not flat stereotypes. She gives them breath and life. I want to say more, particularly about Arian and Daniyar, but I also don’t want to risk spoilers. For me, this is epic fantasy at its finest, set in a Middle Eastern climate based, according to Khan herself, “in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan with nods to Iraq”. There are parallels between the Talisman in the story and the Taliban in reality, and I found that to be very interesting. Khan does her world building without large info-dumps, which helps the pacing, but the reader is left with plenty of questions by the end that are still unanswered. Hopefully, things will become clearer in The Black Khan.

Because I read so much, I decided to refresh my memory of the events of the first book with the audiobook version. It’s narrated by Jenny Bryce, who is a new audiobook narrator for me. I’ll be brutally honest here. I’m not a fan. I listened to her narration at 1.25 speed because I couldn’t take her voice and her pacing at normal speed, and the faster speed helped, but wasn’t perfect. If I had tried to listen to this book first, and if I had no other experience with Ausma Zehanat Khan’s work, I probably would have bailed and never looked back. What a tragedy that would have been! I highly recommend that you read this book yourself and skip the audiobook version if you can.

Vicious

•October 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

V.E. Schwab is another author I discovered through Litsy. I bought A Darker Shade of Magic and began following her on Twitter. Since my TBR stacks are ridiculous, and I’m a mood reader, I still haven’t cracked ADSOM open, but I did buy the rest of the series. When I saw Vicious at Barnes and Noble, it jumped off the shelf, into my hands. Superheroes? Sounds intriguing. I’m a huge X-Men and MCU fan, so sign me up!

Firstly, let me say that V.E. Schwab deserves all the hype. Her writing style really works for me. The cadence of her prose, her attention to detail, and ability to create a detailed image with words is fantastic.

Secondly, she crafts great characters. They do not fall into a black and white, good or evil category. The ambiguity is compelling. Also, I don’t know about you, but I find people who commit depraved acts while firmly believing they are working for the “greater good”, the true believer types (religious or not), to be the most terrifying and troubling of characters. Think Alexander Pierce in Captain America: Winter Soldier. I don’t want to give anything away, but Schwab definitely writes her zealot well. **shudder**

Lastly, I got a real Flatliners movie vibe from this book, with how ExtraOrdinary people (EOs) are created, which was kind of fun and nostalgic. I could say more, but I don’t want to risk spoilers. This is easily a 4 star book and you should definitely give it a shot if you have any interest in Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. There is a prequel eBook available, titled “Warm Up”, which I read after finishing Vicious and I highly recommend it as well.

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie

•October 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I read my first graphic novel about two years ago, thanks in large part to the wonderful bookish community, Litsy. If you haven’t joined, please check it out in your app store. Litsy people are all book people, and book people are the best people.

This book, written by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau, beautifully illustrated by Alexandre Franc, and translated by Edward Gauvin, was a present from a lovely Litten as part of an Agatha Christie themed gift exchange. It is a graphic biography of the Queen of Mystery.

I gave this three stars on Goodreads, as I felt it was good, but not great. As noted earlier, the images are wonderful. I really liked the artwork. The story, however, leaves a bit to be desired. I didn’t realize until I sat down to compose this review that it’s a translation from French. I wonder if that is where the problem lies. The text is choppy and in many places it lacks transition from one scene to the next. These abrupt changes are disorienting. The scenes where Christie engages in conversation with her characters were fun. I did not know that she had such conflicted feelings towards her most famous detective, and those conversations were interesting.

TL;DR For a short, quick summary of the major events of Agatha’s life, I absolutely recommend this. I enjoyed the format, even as I wished for a little more substance.