Sunday, July 5, 2020

"Persuasion" by Jane Austen (yet again)

Yup, still my favorite Jane Austen book.  I can't believe the last time I read this was in 2015!  Silly me.

Characters are always what draw me to a story -- if I love the characters, I will love the book.  If I don't engage with the characters, no matter how much I like the author's writing, I won't actually love the story.  So the reason that this is my favorite Austen book is because Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are my favorite Austen heroine and hero.  And together make my favorite Austen couple.  That's just how it is.

Of course, Austen's writing also delights me. She's so smart without being pompous, polished without being glib, and sincere without being sappy.  I love how deeply we get to know and understand her characters -- many of them, not just the main character.  And I love the way her books bring home to me the fact that no matter how much the externals of society change, people are the same inside, century after century.

Quick description of what the book is about, in case you don't know already:  Miss Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth were engaged eight years ago, but she broke off their engagement because her surrogate mother believed the marriage would be unwise and imprudent.  Neither of them have ever fallen in love again.  Now Wentworth is back on sea, important and wealthy and ready to settle down, but still harboring bitter disappointment over Anne's ending things with him.  Anne is unappreciated by her own family and has lost her girlhood beauty, but has grown into a patient, wise woman who has learned to understand herself and those around her.

I read this as part of a buddy read on Bookstagram, and that was so much fun!  I really love discussing books with other book lovers.

(Mine from Bookstagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"There is hardly any personal defect," replied Anne, "which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to" (p. 31).

A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone (p. 138).

Her spring of felicity was in the glow of her spirits, as her friend Anne's was in the warmth of her heart (p. 227).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Nothing objectionable here.

Like I said, it's my favorite Jane Austen novel.  I have many copies...

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Signing Up for the "One Bad Apple" Virtual Book Tour

I will be going on a virtual book tour to celebrate the release of One Bad Apple at the end of July!  This tour will run from Monday, July 27 through Friday, August 7.

Just like the tour I did for Dancing and Doughnuts, this will be very flexible.  Would you like to interview me on your blog?  Host a video chat on your Instagram or YouTube channel?  Post a book review on your blog or Instagram?  Contribute some totally different thing I haven't imagined?  I am open to ideas!

You can sign up using this Google form, and I will contact you via the email address you provide to that form to discuss dates and so on.

If you are already signed up to receive an advance copy of One Bad Apple, know that you'll be getting that in a couple of days.  Your review of that would be a perfect way to participate in the book tour!

All book tour participants will be eligible for extra entries into the giveaway I'll be hosting starting on release day, July 28.  Just my way of thanking you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"Goldwater Ridge" by Hannah Kaye

This was a rollicking story -- part old-fashioned western, part tall tale, part whodunit.  Aimed at middle-grade readers, it's clean as a whistle.

Billy Bob Clyde, who prefers to be called just Clyde, heads west when he gets a garbled message from his father, who went west years earlier.  Clyde falls in with a bunch of bounty hunters, crosses a desert with no one to help him but his horse, and finally lands in the almost-deserted town of Cactus Poke.  There he meets a motley collection of people, all of whom harbor secrets.  After learning the truth about the girl he admires, Clyde sets about saving the town from notorious outlaws.

This story had several twists I didn't see coming, was just far-fetched enough to qualify as a tall tale, and has a satisfying ended.  I very much enjoyed it.  I especially appreciated all the humor and the way all the characters could see the funny side of various situations.  And I loved all the Shakespeare references!

Full disclosure: I received a free advance copy from the author.  I did not agree to provide a positive review in return.  All opinions here are my own.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Thanks," I said.  "I'd tip my hat to you, but it's evidence now."

No sheriff in his right mind would send a thirteen-year-old alone after a seasoned outlaw.  But Sheriff Hodges wasn't in his right mind.

"Yeah, but it was Hamlet's line," Sadie said, "and he never said anything clearly."

Manners don't matter where bacon is concerned, anyway.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence and scenes of peril.

Monday, June 29, 2020

"The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" by Victor Hugo

Um, yeah.  So, the best thing I can say about this book is that, now that I've read it, I never have to read it again.

It's not that I don't enjoy tragedies.  I mean, this is the person who has seen nineteen different versions of Hamlet, many of them multiple times.  I like a good, sad story.

So it's not the tragicality that made me dislike this book.  It's the fatalism.  The bleak flavor that permeates it.  Hugo seems to be saying that fate dictates how everything will turn out, what everyone will do, and that is absolutely the opposite of my belief in the gift of free will.  The characters become puppets for the author to move around, and Hugo uses them to try to convey the idea that all people are puppets, jerked and shoved about by fate.

If fate dictates everything, there are no consequences for actions, no accountability.  Right and wrong are sapped of their meaning, and everything is dictated by the whim of some made-up, nameless, uncaring power.  Feh.

Even with the fatalism aside, this is a book full of people doing really stupid things that ::surprise!:: lead to bad results.  I hate that kind of tragedy.  I only enjoy tragedies that feel inevitable, where the events set in motion by the villains lead to sadness and badness that the heroes mitigate the best they can, but which eventually overwhelm them because they're flawed themselves.

(From my Instagram)

So, yeah.  I loved Les Miserables when I read that twenty years ago, and I'd like to revisit it one of these days.  But I have no desire or need to revisit The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.  Ever.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for lascivious desires and intentions and behavior, scenes of torture and violence, and voyeurism. 

Some happy news!!!  This is my 50th book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club, which means it's my 100th book for the club as a whole!  I have sent up a third list of 50 books and will embark upon it in July.

This is also my 24th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Chronicles of Avonlea" by L.M. Montgomery

How is it that I never read this book before?  Why, when I was first introduced to Anne of Green Gables as a child, didn't anyone say, "By the way, there are some books of short stories that have Anne Shirley and other characters in them too."  WHY?

Anyway.  I heartily enjoyed this sweet book.  It was just the antidote I needed when I was in the middle of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and getting somewhat depressed by it.  This book was like a balm.  I kind of wish I hadn't inhaled it in basically one afternoon, because I like to savor things, but the fact that I did that tells you just how much I needed it.

I don't think I have a favorite story in this.  I enjoyed them all -- some more than others, of course, but all of them were delightful.  I look forward to revisiting them.  There's a definite theme of "second chances" running through them.  Second chances at love, at a family, at happiness.  There are a lot of middle-aged people finding love for the first time or having love return to them after all hope of it had been lost.  I really liked that.

Particularly Good Bits:

He had learned the rare secret that you must take happiness when you find it -- that there is no use in marking the place and coming back to it at a more convenient season, because it will not be there then (p. 95-96).

The more I saw of men, the more I liked cats (p. 122).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G for good, wholesome, sweet, and lovely.

This is my 49th book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club!  One more book, and I'll have finished my second list of 50!!!

This is also my 23rd book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Desert Death Song" by Louis L'Amour

This is a collection of short stories by Louis L'Amour, many of which are not easy to find in book form because they were first published under his pen name Jim Mayo during the early part of his career.

Of these eleven stories, my favorites were:

+ "His Brother's Debt" -- a man is accused of being yellow so often, he convinces himself he must be even though he subconsciously has a very good reason for avoiding fights.

+ "Dutchman's Flat" -- a posse trails a man accused of murder and gradually comes to respect him and question whether he's guilty after all.

+ "Desert Death Song" -- a posse chases a man accused of robbery until he hides in the desert.

+ "Riding for the Brand" -- a stranger assumes the identity of a dead man in order to help honest folks keep a ranch out of the hands of bad guys.

+ "McQueen of the Tumbling K" -- bad guys do take over a ranch, but good guys get it back eventually.

Particularly Good Bits:

From the desert they had carved their homes, and from the desert they drew their courage and their code, and the desert knows no mercy ("Dutchman's Flat," p. 59).

It was a weird and broken land, where long fingers of black lava stretched down the hills and out into the desert as though clawing toward the alkali lake they had left behind ("Dutchman's Flat," p. 66).

He smiled into the darkness.  Since his early boyhood he had lived in proximity to death.  He was not foolhardy nor reckless, for a truly brave man was never reckless.  Yet he know that he could skirt the ragged edge of death, if need be, as he had in the past ("Riding for the Brand," p. 124).

Gunfighters are admired by many, respected by some, feared by all and welcomed by none ("Man Riding West," p. 167).

His was the grave, careful look of a man accustomed to his own company under the sun and in the face of the wind ("The Turkeyfeather Riders," p. 221).

Off to the right Iron Creek hustled over the stones, whispering wordless messages to the rocks on either bank ("The Turkeyfeather Riders," p. 232).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence, occasional vague threats to womanly virtue, and maybe a few mild cuss words (I don't remember any for sure, but I finished reading this almost a week ago).

This is my 22nd book read off my TBR shelves for #theunreadshelfproject2020.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors" by Sonali Dev

Well, this was a roller coaster.  I actually had to put it down for a couple days because it was making me too tense!  Wow.  Been a while since I had a book do that.

Yes, this is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Yes, it's set in the modern day, and it does a gender-swap on many of the characters, which was neat.  And yes, it was a lot more emotionally intense than I was expecting.

Indian-American neurosurgeon Trisha Raje can't stand DJ Caine, the brother of one of her patients AND the talented chef who is catering Trisha's brother's fundraising events.  Her brother is making a bid for the governorship of California.  DJ's sister Emma is about to die of a brain tumor that Trisha can remove, but only at the expense of Emma's sight.  Emma is an artist and is convinced she can't live without her sight.  DJ is convinced Trisha is an entitled jerk.  Trisha is convinced DJ is a judgmental jerk.  You see where this is going.

What made it all so extremely tense is Julia Wickham, formerly Trisha's college roommate, now trying to get revenge on all of Trisha's family and using DJ and Emma to do it.  She makes Mr. Wickham from P&P look like a nice guy, y'all.  I fear manipulative people like her, and she was so scary-real I had to take a break from reading.  But I did pick it up and finish it, never fear.

All the descriptions of food made me very hungry while reading this, even though I don't have a lot of experience with Indian food, so I just had to kind of imagine a lot of what the food discussed must have tasted like.  I really liked the characters and how the story ended, and the writing was very engaging.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"Guilt is a waste of time.  The fact that you have the things you have isn't wrong.  Not understanding what you have is" (p. 5).

Manners aren't about appearance at all... they are about kindness.  You put the other person's comfort before yours, that's good breeding (p. 279).

"Secrets can get heavy.... Undressing a secret makes it naked and takes away its power" (p. 376).

...he was starting to realize that escaping who you were wasn't the same as becoming who you wanted to be (p. 385).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R.  Very R.  Lots of adult dialog, discussions of sexual anatomy, some discussion of sexual activity (no detailed love scenes), and lots of bad language.  Adults only, kiddos.