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review 2017-03-02 21:52
The Unexpected Guest
The Unexpected Guest - Charles Osborne,Agatha Christie

The Unexpected Guest is another play by Agatha Christie that was adapted as a novel Charles Osborne - so in short, it is not that great.

 

Of course I am peeved that I ended up with this book because it was advertised as an Agatha Christie novel, and it is not, but I am also astounded Osborne got to write several novelisations at all, and all of them on commission by Christie's estate!

 

He has no feel for Christie's characters.

 

While I can see that the setting in this novel is a typical Christie country house mystery, the main character of Laura Warwick does not strike me as a Christie woman at all.

 

But maybe I'm just peeved that Audible did not make it clear that this was an Osbone novel. 

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text 2017-01-25 14:43
I'm still around...I think...

*pokes head in*  Hi.  I'm here.  Lots going on IRL...had to move AGAIN.  Asshole landlord's son nearly ran over my dog (I did not realize it was him as I could not identify the snowmobile's driver because of the time of day and clothes he was wearing until we got the eviction notice), I bitched, he denied it, we got evicted because I was 'vulgar' in my bitching.  They also claimed I posted vulgarity to their Facebook page, which I did not.  Unfortunately, my iPhone geo-located me when I posted my brief rant (it is still visible if you do a Facebook search for posts about Malenfant Fuel Co. We left, but things are still up in the legal air about the actual eviction, I am told I have a civil case of some sort against them, which I might pursue, if the assholes do not keep their promise about letting my mother return in the spring to take up her plants and get her statues that are still on the property we rented.

 

My grandmother died.  This wasn't unexpected- she was 95 and ailing.  I am happy for her...my beliefs are that she is with our ancestors and that is a good place, but still...her presence has been a solid constant in my life for 40+ years, having that physical presence gone is going to take some getting used to.

 

Anyway...hi folks, hope things are going great for you, and I will be back soon-ish.  This is a picture of my grandmother (on your left), her father, and her younger sister.

 

 

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review 2016-03-03 20:42
The Painted Ocean
The Painted Ocean - Gabriel Packard

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

There were merits to this book, for what it denounced (oppression; rape; manipulative people who drown others in words the better to confuse them; humans demeaning other humans to the point of making them look like animals). Unfortunately, I thought the story overall was too implausible, and the characters not compelling enough for me to really care.

The first half of the novel was decent enough at first, depicting Shruti's life in England as an 11-year old kid whose father was gone and whose mother was torn between her life with her daughter, and the family's honour. This is made most blatant through the Uncle Aadesh character, who wants her to go back to India and marry another man, however the price would be to put Shruti in a foster family... and leaver her there. Terrorised by the prospect of being kept away from her mother, Shruti makes bad decision upon bad decision, managing to land herself in, well, a foster family.

And I guess this is where things started to go downhill, because for the whole story, Shruti struck me as a pushover and a not so smart person, which didn't made her sympathetic nor made me root for her. Meena wasn't better, mind you: her way of ending the bullying Shruti suffered was efficient but ruthless, and her idea to teach Aadesh a lesson was just mind-boggling (what sane 12-year old girl would come up with that? Why did Shruti not reflect upon that when she was grown-up?). It didn't reflect so much the life of South-Asian people in the UK than make me wonder why I should care, and this was really too bad, because I wanted to care, and I wanted to read more about Shruti's experiences... if only they hadn't been so improbable and/or based on silly decisions on her part. I guess that's obsession for you: it makes you dumb.

More than anything, what bothered me seriously was Shruti's voice. It fitted her as a 11-year old girl, even though all the “cos” and “like” and “And I was this. And I was that. And then we did this. And then that happened.” quickly got on my nerves. However, it was definitely weird when she kept that voice as a 18/19-year old woman, and when she went through the traumatising experiences of the second half of the novel, it was... disturbing. Not in a good way: in a “see a child being raped” way. I don't particularly like reading about that. Rape is terrible enough as it is.

Those same experiences were also too far on the bizarre end of the spectrum: flying to the other side of the world, getting embroiled in such situations, people treating others like slaves, manipulative games... All those kept piling up upon each other, to the point where my suspension of disbelief was all but suspended by a thread, which broke quickly soon after that. If it had been less unbelievable, and more subtle, it would definitely have had a strong impact; but there's strong, and there's overkill. I wanted to feel for Shruti, and ended up just wondering why she couldn't see through anything, why she thought like a kid (using a stolen passport and thinking that's a good idea? Well...), why anyone would make such decisions, really. The ending was interesting; it would've been better if it hadn't been so rushed—I honestly couldn't believe how Shruti managed to get where she did, in so few pages (considering how non-savvy she was, she should have died ten times over).

I may have appreciated the story if the bizarre setting had been peopled with characters I could enjoy reading about... but it wasn't.

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review 2016-02-23 19:11
My Sweet Audrina
My Sweet Audrina - V.C. Andrews

I read this book when I was 12 or so, and I remembered liking it, so this time I wanted to read it in English and not in French... I guess the "ignorant preteen" + "bad translation" combo left me with a very different impression than the one I got now. Some 25 years later, I definitely didn't like it.

Too many twists that veered into sensationalist territory, and not in a good way (so many people falling down the stairs). Very stilted dialogues that nobody would use, especially not in the 70s or 80s. Audrina being pretty dumb, all things considered, because even when she had all the hints, she still needed other characters to spell it out for her. Also every female character being either the self-sacrificing type who stays with others out of "duty", or the ruthless-seductress type—virginal and pure women vs. debased and sexualised ones. Not to mention the "it's all the woman's fault" undertones (marriage going sour? It's Wife's fault, because Wife isn't sexually active enough for Husband to be happy, and so it's normal that Poor Husband cheats on her).

I guess reading stuff I liked when I was in my teens isn't always a good idea. :/

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review 2015-11-23 01:10
Out of Africa
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass - Karen Blixen,Isak Dinesen

"There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night. It is as if someone had cried a message to you in one word, and would not repeat it. I stood for some time wondering what it had meant. Nobody could aim at anything at this hour, and, to scare away something, a person would fire two shots or more."

 

There is some truly beautiful writing in this book.

 

When describing the land and the wildlife of Africa, Dinesen (i.e. Karen Blixen) truly shines as a writer and I can only believe that it is this aspect of her book that resonates with so many who rate this book, Out of Africa, highly. I mean, the film of the same title is not really based on and has little to do with this book, so clearly readers must see something else in the book that appeals to them - and I'm guessing it is the lyrical description of the African landscape. If the book contained itself to her impressions of the land, I would have loved this book, too.

 

Unfortunately, no amount of lyrical prose was able to outweigh the aspects of the book that really drove me nuts, none more so than the way author writes about the people of Kenya and, by doing so, what we learn about the author herself.

 

After reading only a couple of chapter I was utterly conflicted whether the author's constant racism was a result of her genuine believe that white Europeans were supreme to the primitive natives or whether her offensive descriptions of "the Natives" was a result of some sort of mistake in articulating what she really meant.

Seeing the she continued to generalise about African people and compare them to animals throughout the book, it leaves little argument against the assumption that Dinesen really believed in the superiority of the white "Immigrants". 

 

So the next question that occurred (and as one fellow reader pointed out also) is, how much of the casual racism was a result of the time that Dinesen lived in?

 

Well, seeing that she lived in Africa between 1915 and 1931 (Out of Africa was published in 1937), it is of course to be expected that her views are reflecting the mores of a less enlightened time, which is somewhat ironic as she fills the book with literary and philosophical references in an attempt to show off her worldliness and pretends to present herself as an enlightened, witty and intellectual woman. This in particular made me want to smack her with a copy Markham's West with the Night. Markham may have had her shortcomings but she did not need to fuel her self-confidence by patronising anyone, least her African neighbours.

 

As much as Dinesen's racism may have been a reflection of her time, it became clear when reading the first story in Shadows on the Grass, that Dinesen's believe of superiority must have been ingrained in her more deeply than just as an expression of a sentiment that was popular within her social circles.

 

Shadows on the Grass was published in 1960. So, at that time Dinesen had not only returned to Europe, but had also widely travelled, was at home in the artistic and literary circles of Europe and the US, and as any enlightened intellectual of the time would have been exposed to current affairs of the world such as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the US, the demise of the colonial systems as a result of the moral issues raised with supremacist theories after WWII, etc. Yet, the first story in Shadows on the Grass contains the same racist bullshit as Out of Africa including the following:

 

"The dark nations of Africa, strikingly precocious as young children, seemed to come to a standstill in their mental growth at different ages. The Kikuyu, Kawirondo and Wakamba, the people who worked for me at the farm, in early childhood were far ahead of the white children of the same age, but they stopped quite suddenly at a stage corresponding to that of a European child of nine."

 

She even goes on to say that she found some pseudo-scientific theory to support her musings on the qualities of different races. Of course, this only takes up one paragraph in the book and she does not present any arguments that may contradict her opinions.

 

How is this supportable by the justification that she was a writer of her time? Had she been "of her time" I would have expected her to move on, but no.

 

What the book also told me about Dinesen is that she had more appreciation and compassion for animals than for human beings. She was against killing animals for sport - except lions (lions were fair game, apparently), which was quite unusual for a member of the society she lived in, and also considering that the love of her life, Denys Finch-Hatton, organised safaris for wealthy big game hunters.  And yet, when confronted with the victim of a shooting accident, a child who had been shot accidentally, all she can say is the following:

 

"When you are brought suddenly within the presence of such disaster, there seems to be but one advice, it is the remedy of the shooting-field and the farmyard: that you should kill quickly and at any cost. And yet you know that you cannot kill, and your brain turns with fear. I put my hands to the child's head and pressed it in my despair, and, as if I had really killed him, he at the same moment stopped screaming, and sat erect with his arms hanging down, as if he was made of wood. So now I know what it feels like to heal by imposition."

 

So, her first instinct is to shoot the child? The second insight she gains is that she deludes herself into thinking she could heal by laying on hands?

 

Actually, there is more about her delusional exploits as a medic when deciding to become the primary medical care giver to the Natives on her farm. Granted, any first aid may have been better than none, but at no time does she pretend to want to find out if what she's doing is of any medical help, and it looks like failures didn't make her stop to think, either:

 

"I knew very little of doctoring, just what you learn at a first aid course. But my renown as a doctor had been spread by a few chance lucky cures, and had not been decreased the catastrophic mistakes that I had made."

 

So, again while some of the writing is great, I just cannot muster any sympathy or liking for the author, who, to me, came across as an ignorant, utterly delusional, racist, ever pretending to be something she was not.

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