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review 2014-05-15 20:12
Review: Apples Should Be Red by Penny Watson
Apples Should Be Red - Penny Watson

This was absolutely adorable!


Beverly Anderson (Bev) and Tom Jenkins have known and disliked each other for quite some time. Complete opposites, they typically only see each other for the holidays since their children are married. Bev thinks Tom is horrible, rude and crude while Tom thinks Bev is a “snooty-ass bitch.” Both widowers, circumstances have thrown Bev and Tom together at Tom’s house for the week prior to Thanksgiving.


During their week together, Bev learns to loosen up and stop trying to be “perfect” while Tom learns to show his vulnerable side.


Apples Should Be Red is an adorable book about two people who fall in love just when they needed to the most. This romantic comedy gets most of it’s laughs from Tom. Tom is what Bev thought he was: rude, crude and “raw”: he speaks his mind and is rather funny in a rough-edged way. The things that Tom thinks/says are quite funny. Bev, on the other hand, is the “straight man:” rather repressed and anal retentive – her character spends quite a bit of time worrying or dissolving into tears.


I felt the relationship that grew between Tom and Bev was just so cute – although they are close to complete opposites, they really seemed to balance each other in a very positive way. I had a smile on my face throughout the majority of this read.


There’s not really much else to say about this short novella – the characters are engaging and the story flows well. To be honest, I had very few complaints: Bev and Tom went from severe dislike to lust to sex to a relationship rather quickly. The ending also bothered me somewhat – I felt that Tom’s reaction was true to character but Bev’s reactions were rather underwhelming and did not ring true. The ending was a little to nice and easy but was still so cute that I enjoyed it.

Source: bookslifewine.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/apples-should-be-red
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review 2014-04-05 16:04
Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum

I used to consider myself a Wizard of Oz expert. I’ve seen the 1939 movie a ton of times. I’ve seen the musical adaption movie The Wiz about a million times (Micheal Jackson, Diana Ross, Mabel King, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor? YES, please). And then – just to put 10 on the 20 – I’m a theatre geek from waaaaaay back. I served as Technical Director and Lighting Designer (and I also danced in!) for the stage version of The Wiz. I used to know that script backwards and forwards. So you can’t fault me for thinking I knew my The Wizard of Oz.


Well, guess what? I did NOT know my Wizard of Oz!


I went into this read thinking I knew what was going to happen. I had the movies and the plays all circling in my head so I spent the entire read fighting with my memories and knowledge of the adapted works. The Wicked Witch that Dorothy kills is wearing silver shoes; the Good Witch that meets Dorothy upon her landing is NOT Glinda and she’s an old, weak witch about the size of the Munchkins; The Wicked Witch of the West has very little on-page time and Glinda doesn’t get page time til the very, very end. Like, Glinda didn’t even know Dorothy was in town til she came pounding on the Witch’s front gate. And those are just the initial big differences. There was just so much changed…


This is a relatively simple children’s book but it still follows the typical fantastical structure of the Heroic Quest. I quite like heroic quests so I think I may have enjoyed this book more than some [others who read it as an adult].


One of the first things I bothered me, however, was what seemed to be a bias of the narrator…who doesn’t seem to like Kansas, prairies or older women very much. After making a point in describing Kansas as uniformly grey, poor and draining, there was almost an entire paragraph dedicated to the death of Aunt Em’s faded beauty. Uncle Henry, on the other hand, is barely described at all. I think it bothered me simply because it didn’t really have anything to do with the plot. The description of Aunt Em’s beauty and age – or lack thereof – are from a time prior to the birth of Dorothy. So why bring it up?

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober grey; they had taken the read from her cheeks and lips, and they were grey also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.
- L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz, Page 2

the wizard of oz tv show description

I also was quite astounded by the sheer amount of violence that is to be found in this children’s book. Dorothy commits two murders personally (both Wicked Witches) and her friends help by killing quite a few more. During their trip(s) I counted about 125 deaths that can be directly attributed to the small group. O_O


Throughout the book, I kept wondering how freaking old is Dorothy??! Her age is never given and her actions hit multiple age ranges. The particular edition I own is illustrated and based on the photos I would put Dorothy somewhere between 8-12 years of age. So you can only imagine my face when the little group finally reaches the Emerald City and meet the “Great and Terrible Oz.”

“Well,” said the Head, “I will give you my answer. You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return. In this country everyone must pay for everything that he gets. If you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must do something for me first. Help me and I will help you.”
- L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz, pages 89-90

When I read this, all I could think was What in the actual FUCK?! Did he just tell a little lost girl that she has to go murder someone – who she has not met and has not harmed her – before he would be willing to help her?! AND he knows it’s so dangerous that she could either be enslaved or killed?? WTF.


So Dorothy and her friends go off to commit murder. Again. They kill wolves and crows and even bees. Of course, it’s all fun and games until the flying monkeys attack. The flying monkeys seem to be the only animals the Dorothy Hit Squad can’t take out. What I found interesting is that the flying monkeys are not really bad guys (like the movie), they are actually pretty nice monkeys (all things considered). They were controlled by a special hat that forced them to follow orders.


Once the Dorothy Hit Squat takes out the Wicked Witch – who was not the sister of the dead witch and only wanted the silver shoes because of their power AND didn’t show up until pg 99 but was dead by page 112 – go back to the Emerald City to get their rewards from Oz.


Oz is shocked, of course, because he totally believed that he had sent Dorothy and her murderous friends off to their deaths. Being unprepared for how good the Dorothy Hit Squad was, Oz had no plans about what to when they returned. And once he was discovered and confronted for being a lying fraud, Oz pulls out this ying yang:

“My dear friends,” said Oz, “I pray you not to speak of these little things. Think of me, and the terrible trouble I’m in at being found out.”
- L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz, Page 135

Wait. Wait just one freaking moment. Did he just say “think of me” after he deliberately sent a freaking child off to what he thought would be her death or enslavement??! THIS is his response??! Where I’m from…that’s attempted murder! Oz has now admitted to fraud and deception AND he ordered an assassination. I can’t help but to think that Oz is a pretty bad guy…and possibly worse that the Wicked Witches. I mean, at least they were upfront and honest about their actions.


But anyway, the group of friends demand Oz fulfill his promises. So he gives the Scarecrow “brains,” the Tin Woodsman is given a “heart,” and the Cowardly Lion is give “courage.” Then Oz and Dorothy stitch together a hot air balloon so they can both try to float back to the States. Well, Oz floats off somewhere BUT Toto (in his usual M.O.) runs off and Dorothy gets left behind.


Since Dorothy gets left behind, she goes with her friends on [yet another] adventure to speak to Glinda, the Good Witch The Witch of the South. They travel through three lands which all could be edited out. This time they only kill one animal, so…progress?


Dorothy and her friends meet Glinda who helps them immediately. She arranges for the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Woodsman to get back to their new prospective homes and tells Dorothy how to use the silver shoes to get back to Kansas.


I can’t help but to admit that this was a rather entertaining read. There’s a decent amount of action but I felt it…meandered quite a bit. Especially after Oz floats away without Dorothy. When I compare this classic children’s book with The Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia is a lot more focused than The Wizard of Oz. I think I prefer that focus, tbh. I wanted to be done after Oz floated away. I was more annoyed than enchanted by the third adventure.


I don’t know if I’ll read this again unless I have children but I’m glad I did read it. While there are all sorts of things in The Wizard of Oz that I could nitpick and pull apart (like the representation of women), it’s still a good children’s book. The story was easy to read and relatively engaging throughout.



Funny article about the 1939 movie: 5 Reasons The Greatest Movie Villain Ever is a ‘Good’ Witch

Source: bookslifewine.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/wizard-of-oz
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review 2014-01-24 18:37
Review: Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia, #2) by C.S. Lewis *light spoilers*
Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2) - C.S. Lewis

I love the Narnia series and I’ve read it many, many times. Whenever I read this series, I always read it in original publication order – as it should be.


It’s hard to review books you love so this is more like…a smattering of a review combined with my general thoughts and feelings.


Prince Caspian introduces one of my favorite characters: the talking mouse Reepicheep. Reepicheep is fierce and I love him to pieces. When I first read this series, I was taken with Reepicheep and with every re-read I realize what a wonderful character he is! The bravery, loyalty and honor along with the slight arrogance make Reepicheep a very human character.

In this particular re-read, I noticed that both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian rather casually mention boarding schools. That is such a different world to me. I have to wonder, what was the prevalence of children going to boarding school at the time this series was written? I don’t think I know anyone who’s attended boarding school.


Ironic comment about telephones I noticed on this re-read:

“It’s worse than what Father says about living at the mercy of the telephone.” – Prince Caspian, Chapter 8

I wonder what the Pevensies’ father would think of the way we live in 2014? The smart phones, the tablets and the constant email…we’re all living at the mercy of our digital devices now.


While the Pevensies and Trumpkin are traveling to meet with Prince Caspian, Aslan appears to Lucy and [without speaking] motions for her to follow him. I never really understood why Aslan didn’t appear to all of the children and just Lucy, during this re-read I came to wonder if Lewis was trying to make some point about faith. One definition of (religious based) faith is “belief that is not based on proof.” Lucy is forced to wake everyone from a sound sleep and have them follow her. She is following Aslan but the rest of them can’t see him at all. They just have to trust that Lucy is correct and that things will be alright.


As everyone knows, Edmund had been a traitor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I really appreciate the way Edmund backs Lucy when she tells them that she saw Aslan.

“Well, there’s just this,” said Edmund, speaking quickly and turning a little red. “When we first discovered Narnia a year ago – or a thousand years ago, whichever it is – it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot, I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time? I vote for going up.”
- Prince Caspian, Chapter 8


The story of Prince Caspian moves quickly. The flight of Caspian from his uncle’s castle, the beginning of the war for succession and the summoning of the children from England all happened very quickly. I want to say it happened within a matter of months. The war was close to over when Aslan shows himself to Miraz’s soldiers. I’m starting to notice that Aslan doesn’t arrive until someone is already trying to do the right thing and are left with little to no resources. It reminds me of something my aunt used to say all the time, “God helps those who help themselves.”


This book will also be the last time that the High King Peter and Queen Susan will be in Narnia. They are getting too old and will have to come to know Aslan in their own land. In previous reads, the aging out of Peter and Susan always made me feel incredibly sad…but in this re-read…I noticed that Peter and Susan aren’t as fleshed out as Edmund and Lucy.


In the group read for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe we (the group) focused in on the character Edmund and his motivations as well on the importance of Susan and Lucy (the fact that Susan and Lucy were graced to see Aslan’s resurrection). During this discussion we started to feel that maybe Susan and Lucy were the “important” characters… Now I’m starting to feel that Lucy and Edmund are the important characters in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and my upcoming read: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Source: bookslifewine.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/prince-caspian
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review 2014-01-17 17:17
Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis
Making Model Transport Vehicles - Peter ... Making Model Transport Vehicles - Peter Fairhurst

I have read this book (and series) so many times that there is no way to count. I’ve owned all the books on multiple occasions and in multiple formats – my current format is a trade paperback omnibus edition. I truly believe this is a book that is a such a treat for the eyes that all should have the opportunity to read it at least once. The book was written for children and it does read that way…but this is not a “childish” book (or series) in any sense of the word.


The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (as well as the entire Narnia Chronicles) is definitely a Christian allegory but it’s written in a very…non preachy way. Most young children who read this book are unlikely to recognize the Christian elements. I remember reading this series several times as a child (as well as watching the BBC movies*, which I love and own) and it took me quite some time (as well as age) before I started to notice the Christian elements. I think that is one of the things that makes this book so beloved: even if you’ve never heard the story of Jesus you can thoroughly enjoy this book.

Some of the Christian elements in this book include a Messiah, a god-like figure (the Emperor Over Sea), the sacrifice and death of the Messiah for the sins of another, a resurrection of the Messiah and the miraculous healing of others. Aslan the Lion is the son of the Emperor Over the Sea and the Messiah figure of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. All of Narnia had been ruled for centuries by the evil White Witch but her downtrodden subjects dreamed and whispered of Aslan returning and liberating them from her cruel reign.


While the Christian elements mentioned are very clear to those who are familiar with Christianity, Lewis did not start by trying to create a parable.

“Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.”

~ from Of Other Worlds by C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has always held magic for me. From the very first moment when Lucy opens the Wardrobe door to the last word in the book – pure magic. Even though I’ve read this book many, many times (both as a child and as an adult) I still get excited as Lucy discovers Narnia, my breath still catches in my throat when the children are being chased by the White Witch and I still get sad and anxious during Aslan’s sacrifice.


Pure Magic.


One of the things that has greatly enhanced this particular re-reading is that it was a group read with one of my bookclubs. It’s been wonderful discussing this book with others and I find that I’ve learned new things this time around. We had a wonderful discussion about myriad parts of the book. That is what a good bookclub is for and I feel that my next read of this wonderful favorite will be even better.



*The stupid Disney versions should not exist. They are…atrocious. :(

Source: bookslifewine.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe
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review 2014-01-15 16:33
Old Skool Erotica Review: Warlord by Jaid Black
Warlord - Jaid Black



Written erotica has been around for ages. I remember reading a couple of my father’s eroticas while in middle school (or younger!). During those days, erotica (at least, what I saw) was written and marketed primarily to men.


[Quite] some time later (about 1999), Tina Engler (Jaid Black) started writing and trying to sell erotica. Being constantly rebuffed, Engler started her own business to start selling her erotic romance fiction under the pen name Jaid Black. By 2001, Engler’s site was up and running – making Ellora’s Cave one of (if not the) first ebook erotica bookstore.


Erotica has come a long, long way since the opening of Ellora’s Cave and the publishing of Engler’s first novels. The cheesy covers have started to fade away, the language has changed, the plots have become increasingly complicated. Erotica has become…mainstream.

Every now and again as I scroll through my book catalog, I get a yearning for some old skool erotica. The erotica where anal sex never hurts, all women have huge, sensitive breasts and the plot is [almost always] secondary to the sex.


Which brings me to this book, lol. Warlord by Jaid Black. Now, just take a full moment to marvel at that cover. They don’t make them like this anymore. ^.^


Warlord is – I think – one of the better specimens from the early days of erotica. Published in 2001, Warlord hit a lot of consumer markers: the book includes time travel, Scotsmen, bad Scottish “accents” written in worse Scottish dialect, kidnapping, an alpha hero and lots of (hilarious) sex.


I’m excited! Let’s get started!


Warlord starts in 1052 A.D. at the estate of the Donald, Euan. Euan has just beheaded a man, the leader of the Hay clan, because the Hay’s daughter was betrothed to Euan but she ran off with another man.


Warm snuggles yet? No?


The Donald decided that since he still needed a wife, he would get her by “reiving” women (stealing) from the Hay’s clan. With that thought, Euan and his brothers rode out that very night.

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Source: bookslifewine.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/review-warlord
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