Friday, March 30, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #14 The Moonstone

Writing about The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins without giving anything away is going to be hard, as there are so many red herrings that I want to talk about extensively, but doing so would give away the book.

I would like to warn people...if you read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher and/or know anything about Wilkie Collins then ending could be given away. Might I suggest not researching this book, and might I also suggest not reading the Whicher book first as it talks about the Saville Kent murder (a case that mirrors so closely the story of The Moonstone that I had no trouble guessing most of the Collins book a section into the narrative). 

I want to look at this book stylistically, as a detective novel, and in comparison to the Kent murder.

The story of the theft of the Moonstone, a large yellow diamond stolen from the forehead a mystic Indian statue,  is told from the stories and notes gleaned from 11 different characters and I suppose if you didn't just allow yourself to go on the adventure this could be quite tedious. At the behest of Franklin Blake, each narrator has something to tell and each narrator in his or her own way sets out many red herrings as to who might have taken the diamond. The chief narrator is Betteredge a long-time servant of the Verinder family. Although he is the chief narrator he is the most unreliable of the lot and I spent most of the time he narrated digging through his interpretations to find the truth. Please know he doesn't lie, he just sees things differently. The most annoying narrator would be Mrs. Clack as she is blindly and hypocritically religious. All the narrators vary in character and tone (for this I give Collins much credit), my favorites are Franklin Blake, who I suppose is the hero of the tale, Mr. Bruff, the lawyer and Ezra Jennings as they tell the story in a straight forward manner. Once you get to the conclusion of a certain narrative I promise you that you'll want to read on to the end.

As A Detective Novel
This book is considered by many to be the epitome of the detective novel and I can totally see why, written many years before the first Sherlock Holmes, Sergeant Cuff is definitely the prototype for all detectives hence. Cuff enjoys growing and talking about roses, he is quick to offend as his gruff manner is offensive to some, and he knows the culprit years before the others. He is smug enough about it to write the name of the thief on a sheet of paper and seal it in an envelope for others to read after they figure it out. He deduces aloud, makes conclusions that others don't agree with, but in the end knows the truth better and more thoroughly than anyone. If Betteredge is good at throwing out red herrings, all the reader as to do to combat this is read what Cuff has to say. Just like most detective novels, this book at three major plot twist, the final one is the most impressive. We also learn that any character could be the culprit, and that things get bumbled by the local police.

In comparison to the Kent Murder
In 1860, three year old Saville Kent was taken out of his bed in the middle of the night and murdered. The only evidence was a smear of blood on a night gown and the fact that the timing indicated that it was committed by someone in the house. While the theft of a diamond in no way compares to the murder of a child these stories share many similarities, in both the biggest evidence was a smear on a night gown, both were committed by someone in the house, both were committed without an accomplice of sorts, both would have been solved earlier had the people in the house understood that it was an inside job. The final comparison is the most important, Detective Whicher is the model for Sergeant Kent and both had to wait years to be told they're assumptions were correct.

This book is loads of fun and I can't wait to read more by Collins.

5 Stars
If you can't tell I enjoyed this book immensely!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #13 A to Z Stories of Life and Death

After joining Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2012, I surfed around the blog and its leaders and participants and found Damyanti Biswas and her book A to Z Stories of Life and Death and I figured that for $1.99 I could download and read 26 stories about life and death.

I gotta tell you, I'm pretty impressed with these stories and they remind me a lot of Annie Proloux's Wyoming Stories and Sue Miller's book Inventing the Abbott's and Other Stories. They are sparse and true and sexy and tragic. They are about life and each one has a taste of bittersweet.

Below you will find a list of all the story with asterisks indicating how many stars (1-5, like a book review) I gave each and then a sentence or two about it and why I liked it.

Aquarium ***
A girls aquarium gets snails, at first she thinks it's cool, but in the end she realizes they mean so much more.
Burn *
A teacher wants his protege to learn how to burn.
Commas **
A teacher with AIDS teaches her student about more than commas.
Do What You Do **
A man picks up a Dontella Versace look alike.
Ecstasy **
"Ecstasy is not death, it's a release from pain."
Fickle **
A person with ugly hands is comforted Mr. and Mrs. Winter
Girls ****
A family of children are saved by their brave sister Sakhi.
Heart ****
Ruth is a stealer and taker of hearts.
I Have A Secret *****
A woman finds out so much about herself when she takes her god-daughter to buy her first bra.
Jasoda's Children *
Jasoda is a baby-snatcher.
Kill ****
A man dreams of getting revenge on a doctor, can he go through with it.
Life ****
"Smoking Can Kill You"
Mannequin ***
Behind every mannequin is a person, or is that the other way around.
Nothing *****
A couple deals with the loss of their child.
OK ****
A boy digs through trash every day to help his family.
Perilious ***
Walking on the edge of life.
Quit ***
The Blue Tilapia must behave.
Reunion ***
Sula is the best host of childhood games.
Sacrilege *****
A boy must decide to be a man.
Tell Me A Story *****
A little girl teaches her father about living.
Under the Skin ****
Tattoos go deeper than the top layer of the skin.
Victorious *****
Although her neighborhood is gone, an older woman remembers and it's still there.
Women ****
A woman passively fights against the kidnapping of women.
X-Ray ***
Can you be dirty inside and out?
Youth ***
A murderer puts it all to an end.
Zone ****
A man is with his wife for the last time.

And, you can find the author and more interesting stuff about her at...
Twitter: damyantig

4 Stars   

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #12 Fins Are Forever

I'm not sure how I feel about Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs. On the one hand I love the continuation of the story from the first book, I love the character Quince and I love the Lily is learning more and more how to be herself. On the other hand, I felt that new  characters were added just to add meat to the very thin story, I thought that the story was predictable to the point of boredom and, well, there's a whole lot of Dosinia and Doe (as she is called) is the character we spent the whole entire first book disliking--frankly, I disliked her soooo much that, even at the end of this book and we find out a few things about her, I still wanted her to get eaten by a shark.

Although the bond has been severed, at the end of the first book, Lily and Quince decided that they should be together. This means that Lily must give up her kingdom...for a boy. I was willing to accept this fate for Lily as she spent the whole book crying and not listening to her heart and needed to be shown that her true happiness really does matter. In this book she jeopardizes (although by the end we all see why) her future and her happiness, and I still can't decide if it's because she was too stubborn to get it or if Doe is a bigger b-word than I thought.

Which brings me to the fact that I don't like Doe. I suppose that I should be grateful that Childs has written her character so well that I want to vomit every time she's around, which in this book is often, as she's been banished from the kingdom and forced to live with humans. Of course, Brody is back and there's another boy who is heir to a throne in dire straits. Because of this fact, there's more relationship tension between Quince and Lily...tension caused by Lily and her inability to trust people...ugh.

Part of the problem I may have with this book is that I felt that the first one ended so nicely. Actually, this book has a pretty sweetastic ending also, it just took me about 45 pages to understand that there could, in fact, be more to the story.

It may not sound like I enjoyed this book, I did like it, I just know I would have liked it more had it been a stand alone and not a sequel.

I'm looking forward to the third book, Just For Fins, and I still love myself some Tera Lynn Childs, however, this particular book didn't totally live up to my expectations.

3 Stars

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #11 For Men Only: A Straightforward Map to the Inner Lives of Women

I'd like to premise this book review by first saying this book, For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn isn't quite as cheesy as I thought it was going to be, although there are parts that are so obnoxiously cheesetastic that my husband and I laughed a little at the absurdity.

I was reading an article the other day and it said that married people don't talk enough about the wonderfulness that is marriage. And, I thought to myself that I totally fall into that category my husband can make me angry as hell (frankly, I'm angry with him right now...and, he's in the other room playing the guitar...probably, um, angry at me too!), but I love him, I also like him and I like him to know all of that. I do think that marriage is work, though, and I think that those who don't make it look like work are working at that, but it doesn't mean the work can't be fun!

The Story
I wanted us to have something for Valentine's Day that we both could benefit from...don't get me wrong I wanted flowers and dinner too, but I wanted our presents to have meaning. I remembered a girl from work reading these books with her fiance and thought they would be a good idea for us.

Some plusses

  • If your husband is like can still read this book all the way and he can use the Quick Start Guide which is included in the book and has 6 key components (Reassurance, Emotions, Security, Listening, Sex and Beauty) and where to find them throughout the book.
  • This book talks about the fact that the biggest problem with marriage is communication and then it shares ideas about how to fix this. I like that those ideas aren't incredibly secular, nor are they dirty.
  • If you buy the two books together (For Couples Only) they also come with this handy-dandy guide, which includes "12 Tips to Get Great Results from For Couples Only" my favorite being the one where you switch books (which is what we did, if you're wondering why I read this book clearly labeled for men) and answer the questions and mark it up et cetera and then you get to read your book with your partners comments.
  • It works for either marrieds or seriously thinking about getting marrieds.
Some not so plusses
  • I'm just going to say this and hope that no one gets offended, because it is steeped in good Christian living, it can be a bit old-fashioned...ok, it can be a lot old fashioned. For instance, Chapter 7 is titled The Girl in the Mirror and is sub-titled "What the little girl inside your woman is dying to hear from you--and how to guard your answer well." What does she want to hear? That her spouse finds her 'beautiful' and that her husband 'only has eyes for her'. Barf. And, while the chapter does end with some wonderful advice about the words 'fine' and 'no'...all I could keep thinking was I am not a pet.
  • I hear the For Women Only book is hokier...I wouldn't know because, well, my husband hasn't finished it yet!

I really liked reading this book and marking it up. I liked learning what I feel makes a relationship and what I think makes it work and I like that my husband not gets to see what I think...that's so much easier than trying to talk about feelings. I'm not sure I'll feel the same way reading the next book with marks that aren't mine, but I will work at making that work. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #10 Kissing Kate

I remember one day when I was about 11 years old. I was sitting on the floor of my friends living room and she and I were just bashing the dickens out of gay people and her mother, who is still one of the wisest women I know, said, "Would God really want us to harm any of his children or treat them the way that you've been talking?" Of course, we answered very meekly, "No." And, thus began my struggle, balancing the blindly conservative Christian in me with what I knew must be true.

During this same time period and for the next fifteen years I re-educated myself using the media and literature to do it. Rock Hudson came 'out of the closet' when he found out he had AIDS (people my mom's age and older were just mind-blown) and when he died the world mourned, Ryan White (who was just a few years older than me) got AIDS from a blood transfusion, Magic Johnson got HIV and still played basketball, and Matthew Shepard, who was my age, got beaten to death in Wyoming for being gay. I watched and read And, The Band Played On and all those series on HBO like If These Walls Could Talk and Queer As Folk. I read all sorts of young adult fiction about boys who were gay (there really didn't seem to be a lot about girls) like Night Kites, one I especially remember is The Drowning of Stephan Jones. I remember so identifying with the girl in that book because she too had a hard time saying what she knew to be true and what she believed as defending Stephen and his boyfriend meant going against how she was raised. I suppose I was looking for answers and trying to figure out what it all meant...did I mention that's hard to do in a small town in the Midwest?

In my high school there was only one boy who actually told everyone he was gay and he was also my neighbor. I didn't care that he was gay, I just liked that he taught us how to dance (he went to real dance classes in the city) and dressed cool because he was from fashion forward California. I felt that he and I weren't so different; as a person of color and a gay person we were treated badly by some because of something that we could not and did not want to control.

All this background knowledge really did come in handy when I started teaching and it seemed that my quiet open-mindedness attracted and still attracts those students who know that I will listen without judgment. This has made me quite the connoisseur of controversial young adult novels. (Isn't it strange that books that actually help students deal with loss or pain or being themselves are always controversial?)

Anyway, I say all of this so you understand the foundation of being I had when reading Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle.

This seriously is one of the best books that I have ever read about teen confusion concerning sexual orientation. One night at a party Kate kisses, Lissa, her best friend and although Kate wants to pretend it never happened Lissa can't. This, of course, means that they are no longer best friends and as Lissa branches out she wonders if Kate was ever truly her friend at all. Through other friendships and several confrontations with Kate, Lissa learns to be her powerful self. This is a great coming-of-age novel and anyone who has had a hard time reconciling with the core of who they are will identify with Lissa as she totally turns her world upside in the search for her self.

I like that in the end Lissa has friends she can trust and she's confronted Kate, but she is still thinking about and learning about who she is. I could see how this book might help several teenagers realize that they are not alone and that their struggles don't have to be completed in silence.

Author Alex Sanchez's list of books about Gay Teens

4 Stars   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Las Vegas and Los Angeles in 4 days...4...days...

So, I'm going with some friends to the aforementioned cities in about 5 hours.

It will be my first trip without the tiny person since the tiny person came out of my body. I mean I went on trips before she existed and went on trips when she was nicely contained, but since she was born I have taken her everywhere I go. It's been fun and rewarding and challenging...I've liked it a lot.

I feel weird knowing that I am only packing for one on this excursion. I also feel weird knowing that if flight tickets didn't cost one katrillion dollars, we would have taken our usually trip to see our family in DC. Alas, it is cheaper for me to go to LV and LA and rent a car and stay in nice hotels and eat than it is for me to take the tiny tot East. Don't worry we're going on a long family trip in the the car (it will be our first), but for now it's me and my girls and the pool and gambling and the buffet and Hollywood sans the kiddo. I love Las Vegas, but have never been to's only 4 hrs. from LV in a car, and we'll have a car and I have friends there who I miss so...why not...

I feel sorry for my friends, as I'm sure all I'll be doing is sleeping and catching up on my reading!

Spring Break 2012 here I come!

Monday, March 12, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #9 The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

Barnes and Noble had Kate Summerscale's book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective on the Daily Find...I'm not really sure when, I'm not really sure that it matters. Anyway, I'm not sure I would have noticed the book, but one of my Goodreads groups (Reading the Chunksters) was about to start reading The Moonstone and I'd spent some time researching it, and I knew what the name Whicher meant to the making of The Moonstone.

In researching it I found out that Mr. Whicher, a real life detective, was one of the first  in Scotland Yard, the only man to truly solve the horrid murder of a 3-year old boy, and, the prototype for which every subsequent detective has been modeled. I mean everyone from Sherlock Holmes, and beyond...Remington Steele, Maisie Dobbs, Bones, The Mentalist ...every detective has, in some way, been imprinted with his traits. Which is strange to think because Whicher was right when the world told him he was wrong and he went to the grave knowing the murderer had been caught, but not knowing all the answers, as it took the death of everyone involved to know the whole story. 

I read this book not quite understanding it. I read it knowing it was being modeled after Wilkie Collins books but did not know what that meant. 

I think that was Summerscale's point. Her book reads like a detective novel winding around the truth and the lies and the people until you almost don't know which end is up. If you are a clever person (and, by clever I mean one of those people who reads enough detective novels and watches enough detective shows to get the truth) than you know who committed the crime about 15 pages in, but that isn't the whole of it.

You must read to figure out the why and the what.

And, that's the sad part, I truly wish I'd read Collins' book first for two reasons 1] I wouldn't have thought that whole bit in the middle of the Summerscale book was sooooo boring, I'd have known that it, again, was just modeling itself after The Moonstone and it's many and varied layers. Point for Summerscale, on that one. Of course, reading the Summerscale's book does have one MAJOR drawback. Which leads me to 2]...

Because of Summerscale's book, I know the whole thing in The Moonstone! :

Godfrey did it. He got Franklin to help, not sure if Franklin was willing or not. Rachel is covering for Franklin because she doesn't know that Godfrey is the guilty one. And, if those blasted Victorians would just say what they see and let go of propriety, the stone could be recovered. It won't be though. At least I'm pretty sure that will be the case.
If I would have known all this. I might have held off reading until I was finished with The Moonstone. You can't compare the death of a child to the theft of a diamond (no matter how large) and I can't help but see how the Victorian fascination with the murder of a little boy affected the telling of this tale, and that hurts my heart a little.

I also think that if I'd read Collins first, I might have immediately been fascinated with Summerscale's story telling abilities. Instead, I was just annoyed that she wasn't getting to the obvious point fast enough.

3 Stars
I initially gave this book 3 stars because I thought the middle dragged, I still think it drags, but with a purpose...I think I may have to change it to...

4 Stars   
The more I read The Moonstone, the more I think that Summerscale is a brilliant mastermind! From NPR

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My YA SF TBR is getting out of control!

I love Science Fiction! You can read all about that love here.

I'm typing this while watching Battlestar Galactica, not the new one, the old one from 1978 with Lorne Greene, and Robert Hatch and Dirk Benedict. Side note: I didn't know that Rick Springfield was in the Pilot, that's what I get for waiting so long to watch this show again!

Anyway, Jill Hathaway is having a giveaway for her upcoming debut novel Slide.

About Slide from Goodreads:
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered. 
Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body. 
Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane. 
Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.
Go over and enter to win (blogging about it gets you 10 pts. towards the giveaway!) and then come back and read my list of Young Adult Science Fiction, I'm just itching to read...

The List
(alpha by title)

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Cinder by Marissa Meyers
Cycles by Lois D. Brown (reading right now)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Slide by Jill Hathaway
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

There are more...these are just the books I can think of at the moment...

Where shall I begin?


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