Thursday, March 28, 2019

"Hometown Girl" by Courtney Walsh

This book surprised me.  For some reason, I thought it was going to be about someone opening a flower shop.  It's totally not.

It's about a business woman helping her sister renovate and restore a tourist farm/orchard/market/place with the help of a handsome cowboy-ish guy who has a deep, secret connection with the farm.  That involves an unsolved crime. 

You know I love mysteries, so that unsolved-crime aspect sucked me in, and so did all the details about restoring old buildings, setting up raised garden beds, and so on.  I love gardening, I love old buildings... it was definitely my kind of book.

Plus, a little sweet romance and a lot of character growth.  So much character growth.  Overall, I liked it better than Walsh's Paper Hearts, which is interesting because I wasn't expecting to like it as well.  Huh.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

Her blue eyes alone could make a man forget his own name (p. 251).

"Find your 'why' and the rest of it -- that will fall into place.  And it'll let you off the hook.  All the things you thought you should have done -- if they aren't a part of your 'why,' then they don't matter anymore" (p. 280).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some kissing scenes and a mystery about a young girl who was abducted years ago.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"The Annotated Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler, edited by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Dean Rizzuto

Well, this was fantastic.  I've never read a fully annotated novel before, just annotated versions of Hamlet, but I am now a firm fan.  It's like a movie with a commentary track, but as a book.  It was absolutely fascinating.  I learned SO many cool things from these notes!  From explaining slang to discussing the LA setting to exploring the major themes, this book's notes had everything.

And I do mean everything, so if you don't want the more seedy subtext of the the book brought forward, don't read this.  It will delve into the depravities that Chandler only hints at, and that's definitely not something everyone would want to read.  So do be aware of that, okay?

It took me like two weeks to read this, but that's only because I was enjoying it so much that I read it in little bites and nibbles so as to make it last as long as possible.  

If you want to know what The Big Sleep is about, I reviewed it pretty fully here in 2017.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for the book's text, R for the annotations.  No sexual explicitness, exactly, but definitely discussions of sexual topics, drugs, violence, etc.

This is my fourth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring Fling

The prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday this week is "Books on My Spring 2019 TBR."  So here are ten books I hope to read (or reread, or finish reading) this spring:

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery  (re-read)

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (finish re-reading)

The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien  (re-read)

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame  (re-read)

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (re-read)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J. K. Rowling

Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit by Amy Stewart

Flora of Middle-Earth by Walter S. Judd and Graham A. Judd

(From my Instagram)

A little fantasy, a little junior fiction, a little sci-fi, a little mystery, and some cozy re-reads.  Should be an awesome spring!  If I actually read all of these, lol.  There are five here I'm confident I'll read (or finish reading) and five that... we shall see!  I'm very much a mood-reader, so reading plans like these often fall off the rails pretty quickly.

Are you a mood-reader?  Or do you plan out your reading?  Or do a bit of both?

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Homer Price" by Robert McCloskey

If you're thinking to yourself, "Wow, Hamlette has been reading an awful lot of YA/Middle-grade/Junior fiction lately, hasn't she?" you are not wrong.  I have been.  It's because I'm teaching two lit classes twice a month for our homeschool co-op, and I'm revisiting a lot of really wonderful books in the process.  And I am loving it!  Though I'm not loving how it cuts into my unstructured "I read what I want" pattern of reading.  But whatever, I'm still reading things as the mood strikes me, just more slowly.

Anyway.  Homer Price.  I loved this book (and its sequel, Centerburg Tales) as a kid, and I love it now.  It's like The Andy Griffith Show, but told from Opie's perspective.  (That's one of my top fave shows, so this is high praise, folks.)  Homer Price, his family, his friends, and all the townsfolk go about their small-town, middle-America, middle-century lives with joy and curiousity and good humor.  I would love to live there.

Homer gets into a jam now and then, like when his pet skunk tangles with four armed robbers, or when he "fixes" his uncle's doughnut-making machine and then it won't stop making doughnuts, but he always uses his quick wits and friendly nature to come through just fine.  McCloskey's storytelling is simple, direct, and laced with humor.  I chuckled aloud a couple of times, but I remember laughing heartily over it as a kid.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, clean, wholesome fun.

This is my thirtieth book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club!

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

I read this back in high school, like so many of you probably have.  I hated it.  Hated it in the, "Why does this exist, why did I have to read it, and how soon can I forget it?" way I hated Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  

But I've been wondering about Lord of the Flies lately.  During my thirties, I've re-read and re-watched books and movies I disliked in my teens and early twenties and discovered that I now like a lot of them.  Even love some of them.  So I wondered if this had also suffered the "I'm not ready for this book" problems that had plagued my initial readings of The Old Man and the Sea and The Great Gatsby, which I now very much enjoy.

Also, I'm a big fan of Lost, and I knew that the writers had credited this book as being an inspiration for the show.  I mean, my beloved Sawyer even mentions it at least once within the show itself.  So... I decided it was time to give it another go.

I still hate it.

Actually, maybe I don't hate it.  Maybe I just... find it heavy-handed.  I read it this month for the 9th-grade literature course I'm teaching at our homeschool co-op, and during our discussion for this book, I realized what is probably the main reason I don't care for this book.  It's supposed to make you all shocked and startled that oh my goodness, these boys are acting like savages -- are people inherently evil or something? And... thanks to my Biblical understanding of human nature, that's not a shocker.  That's something I already knew.  Romans 3:10 reminds us, "There is no one who is righteous; no, not one."  Psalm 51:5 says, "Surely I am sinful from birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  So Golding spends lots and lots of time convincing us of something I didn't need convincing of.

Plus, it's so loaded with Important Symbols.  I really don't like obvious or heavy-handed symbolism in my books.  Give me instead writers like Tolkien, whose symbols function perfectly within the story whether you see them as symbolic or not.

So, yeah.  Like with Of Mice and Men, I'm agreeing with my teenage self that this book is not one I enjoy, like, or want to spend any more time thinking about.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a hard PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, mild bad language, and creepy scenes.

This is my 29th book read and reviewed for my second time through with the Classics Club.

Monday, March 4, 2019

"The Lady in the Lake" by Raymond Chandler

I inhaled this book in a day and a half like a drowning woman whose been handed an oxygen tank.  It was everything I needed right now -- sparkly and gritty and grim and delicious.  

You know by now that I adore Raymond Chandler's books.  I try to read one a year (I have all seven of his novels, plus two collections of his other writings, like short stories and essays), which means it's about nine years between readings, and that lets me forget a lot of what the plots involve.  Keeps them fresher, you know?  Works for all of them except The Big Sleep, cuz I've watched the movie half a dozen times and know the story really well by now.  

Anyway.  I really think The Lady in the Lake is my favorite of Chandler's novels.  Maybe it's that part of it is set away from the grimy city.  Maybe it's that a down-home country sheriff plays a substantial, heroic part that I thoroughly enjoy.  Maybe it's that Marlowe is just a little sweeter in it than some others.  I don't know.  But wow, I dig it to pieces.

Philip Marlowe gets hired to find a rich man's missing wife.  Not to bring her back, just to be sure she's okay.  Body after body piles up, starting with the titular drowned woman, and Marlowe has to do some pretty fast thinking to stay alive, much less ahead of the bad guys.

Particularly Good Bits:

I like a drink, but not when people are using me for a diary (p. 41).

"However hard I try to be nice I always end up with my nose in the dirt and my thumb feeling for somebody's eye" (p. 137).

"I'm all done with hating you," I said.  "It's all washed out of me.  I hate people hard, but I don't hate them very long" (p. 243).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence, bad language, and much discussion of people having extramarital affairs.  As usual, Chandler manages to handle tasteless subjects in a surprisingly tasteful manner.

This is my 28th book read and reviewed for my second time around with the Classics Club.