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text 2014-08-23 19:19
Reading progress update: I've read 223 out of 425 pages.
The Very Best of Charles de Lint - Charles de Lint

I have acquired a new appreciation of the short story and renewed my love for the wonder, beauty and magic in Charles de Lint's writing.




Having learned my lesson from the last collection of his stories, I decided to share my thoughts on individual stories that particularly appeal to me rather than waiting to review the whole collection as one.


In the titled story is a paragraph on page 211 that really hit home with its truth.


...Beauty isn't what you see on TV or in magazine ads or even necessarily in art galleries. It's a lot deeper and a lot simpler than that. It's realizing the goodness of things, it's leaving the world a little better than it was before you got there. It's appreciating the inspiration of the world around you and trying to inspire others.


Sculptors, poets, painters, musicians - they're the traditional purveyors of beauty. But it can as easily be created by a gardener, a farmer, a plumber, a careworker. It's the intent you put into your work, the pride you take in it - whatever it is.


This is just one of the stories that speaks to me...the book is loaded with them and I'm loving every word.

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review 2014-05-02 17:02
Carrie - Stephen King

It is hard to believe that Carrie was actually written 40 years ago as it is a story as relevant today as it was when first published. I'm going to go on the assumption that most everyone has either read the book or seen a movie version of it and not worry about spoilers. There may be a few to come but I'll try to avoid them...read on at your own peril.


I used to be a huge fan of Stephen King and greedily devoured his stories as quickly as they became available but then his stories changed, he became very long winded, and his books boring rather than thrilling so I turned to other writers. This is a re-read for me and I chose it to see if I could recapture some of my earlier love for his writing.


What happened in Chamberlain High School can be seen in Columbine and other schools over the past few years. An abused and mentally fragile teen finally reaches a breaking point, a point where she can no longer accept the jeers, taunts and bullying from the so-called "cool kids" and strikes back when the one glimmer of happiness is so cruelly wrenched from her, when she realizes she will always be the misfit subject to ridicule. She is a teen who suffers abuse by her hyper religious mother who sees sin at every turn to the point, that anything fun, any laughter, or anything that makes life a little happier or easier is the devil's work and must be prayed about and routed out. Any infraction of the rules issued by Carrie's mother results in hours spent locked in the "praying closet" with images of Jesus on the cross bleeding from his wounds. So much blood!


Your heart has to go out to Carrie who leads an isolated existence devoid of friends or confidants at school or in her neighborhood, a girl whose home life is a nightmare of repression rather than a safe haven of love and acceptance.


There was only one likable character in the whole book, Tommy, a boy who was confident enough within himself that he didn't need to follow the cruelty of others to be "popular" but treated others with genuine kindness and respect. I fail to see what he saw in his girlfriend, Sue, who after being shamed by her treatment of Carrie, tries to ease her conscience with a grand but hollow gesture through the use of Tommy. If only she had simply apologized to Carrie and treated her with dignity and a little kindness from the shower incident on into the future, the whole night of terror might have been averted. Sue, IMHO was the worst of all of them.


The other cast of characters you can see at every school, the "mean girls", rich, spoiled and totally incapable of empathy, the followers, the "bad boys", the inept teachers, the victims, in other words, a mirror of society in general.


Reading Carrie reminded me of why King was to go on to achieve such success as a writer. Even at the beginning his career he understood human nature and wrote of characters we could believe were real, after all, we have encountered these people throughout our entire lives, that, and he could tell a really good story! Although this book didn't rekindle my love or send shivers up my spine I still think I'll go on and revisit some of his other works as well.


Originally published on www.chapterofdreams.com

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review 2014-04-25 16:16
Moon Called
Moon Called - Patricia Briggs
Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy's next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy's connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water..


This is a far cry from the books I normally read and a genre that I'm only mildly familiar with, but I'd heard from others that this was a good series and wanted a change of pace. Moon Called certainly was a change of pace but also one that I did enjoy.


Mercy proved to be a strong protagonist, a woman comfortable in her own skin, whether it be as a woman or as a coyote, confident in her abilities and more than able to handle herself in the most trying of situations, yet also aware of her own limitations. It's so refreshing to read about a smart, confident woman who doesn't wilt at the first sign of trouble nor go running to the nearest male for protection, but works with them as equals.


When Mercy's neighbour, Adam, the alpha male werewolf of her area's pack comes under attack and his human daughter kidnapped by outside forces, Mercy springs into action to help him.  Fearing that some of his own pack were responsible for the assault, Mercy can think of only one place where he can be totally safe until he's able to heal himself, to the Marrok, Bran, who is the acknowleged leader of all the werewolves in North America, and the leader of the pack that raised her. The trip is not without great risk, a six-hour drive with a wounded werewolf who when he becomes conscience will be ravenous and more than a little ticked off, is not what is described as a pleasure jaunt.



I enjoyed the dynamics of Samuel, son of Bran, and Mercy who, until Mercy left the pack was her intended lover or mate. One could easily see that there were still unresolved issues between them as well as a strong attachment to each other.  Then there is Adam who has claimed Mercy as his although they have yet to even date. One can see a change in relationship developing here as well. The pace was brisk and the characters on the whole very likable.


Our narrator, Mercy, takes us into a world where shapeshifters, werewolves, witches, gremlins and vampires all exist and a world where magic rings out, where they are all brought together to find who orchestrated the assault and to rescue Adam's 15 year old daughter. The mystery was well disguised, until the end I went from culprit to culprit in my mind only to find I was wrong on all counts.

Much to my surprise I enjoyed this book which begins the series and will certainly look for the next one. After all, who wouldn't be attracted to a nice guy until the full moon when he turns into a wolf on steroids. Hmm, sounds like a few men I dated in my time.

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review 2014-04-11 22:22
The Scarlet Pimpernel

Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.


While it is difficult to find anything amusing about the French Revolution and the mass murder by guillotine of a whole segment of society, amusement can be found in the exploits of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The setting is Paris, France, the year 1792 during the period of time where all around one found,

"A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate".


"The lust of blood grows with its satisfaction, there is no satiety, the crowd had seen a hundred noble heads fall beneath the guillotine to-day, it wanted to make sure that it would see another hundred fall on the morrow."

Before Zorro, before Batman, Superman, The Lone Ranger or the other heroes of today, each with their own secret identities, came the larger than life figure of The Scarlet Pimpernel, a British aristocrat who was determined to save as many of his French counterparts and their families as he could from the cruel blades of the guillotine.


 A master of disguise, a courageous man who with brilliant planning and a cunning execution rescued noble families right from under the very noses of the revolutionaries. After each rescue he would taunt them by leaving his calling card, a card bearing the picture of a small red flower, the Scarlet Pimpernel, which ensured his notoriety among the populace and that his name became a word-of-mouth legend throughout France.  Should he be captured, he too would be paraded before the blood thirsty masses before suffering the same fate that was planned for those he saved. The Scarlet Pimpernel along with his small but loyal cadre of friends made journey after journey from England to France to give these people a chance for life.


The book has all the requisite cast of characters; Chauvelin, a determined and shrewd agent for the Committee of Public Safety, who will go to any lengths to learn the identity of and capture this man who has so frustrated them. A villain of the first order.


Margarite St. Just, former French actress, now wife of the very rich but silly and foppish (or is he?) Englishman, Percy Blakeney,  and part of the social elite. Although reportedly the smartest woman in both France and England, she does some of the dumbest things imaginable yet is feted by all society and lauded for her wit, beauty and intelligence.


We have noblemen from England who help The Scarlet Pimpernel with his rescues, even The Prince of Wales makes an appearance. Throughout the book we have many characters who are hiding behind the masks of  their social persona, seemingly one thing yet hiding their own secrets.


This is basically a story of adventure, of derring-do, with romance thrown in to sweeten the pot, but still, it is an adventure story with non-stop action from beginning to end with characterization an after thought. No, wait! Perhaps a better description would be a romantic adventure, as romance is a key ingredient. However you want to describe it, it is still great fun! The author makes no attempt to explain just how these slight of hand rescues take place nor does she get bogged down with details of any of the intricacies involved in the planning, it is enough that we are shown the final results.  The story thus moves along with breath taking speed and is rollicking good fun.


It is easy to see that the author's sympathies lay with the French nobility (after all, she is a Baroness), but no matter who the reader is rooting for, this is still an excellent adventure story. It's fast-paced and hard to put down. Once you start reading you just want to keep going. The ending is predictable but that's acceptable, in this case it's even preferable. I absolutely adored this book but have no desire to continue on with the series. It was an enjoyable ride but but lacked the depth to lure me into reading another.


Originally published on www.chapterofdreams.com

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review 2014-04-04 15:46
The House on Mango Street

house on mango street

"The House on Mango Street" has entered the canon of coming-of-age classics even as it depicts a new American landscape. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, "The House on Mango Street" tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn't want to belong - not to her run-down neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her. Esperanza's story is that of a young girl coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become.

Esperanza's story is told in a series of vignettes, each a snapshot of a memory of her life as a young Mexican-American girl growing up in a Latino section of Chicago, each adding to our knowledge of her dreams, aspirations and the realities of her life on Mango Street. It is simple, beautiful, eloquent, emotional, poetic and will be remembered.

Pg. 11 & 12 - Named for her great-mother "..a wild horse of a woman, she wouldn't marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it.
And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza, I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window."

We see within the pages a young girl who knows at a young age what she wants from life and equally as important, what she doesn't want. She sees others in her neighborhood and rejects their choices as they would hold her back, but she doesn't reject the people, they are her friends, her family and those she loves.  

As puberty comes, so does the betrayal of friends, the unwanted advances of men and then sexual assault. While angry at the men who assaulted her, the real blame she lays on the women who should have warned her rather than falling into the "sex is love' trap.

(spoiler show)

She closely watches the women in her neighborhood and notes the situations they are incapable of escaping, some literal prisoners in their own homes. Each observation will add to her desire to leave Mango Street behind her, to have better.

pg.88 & 89 - My mother says when I get older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.
"In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. The is the one who drives the men crazy. She will not give it away."I have begun my own quiet war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate."

As she strives for her dreams, she also remembers those on Mango Street, those that helped to shape her. She may wish to leave Mango Street but it is a part of her, the experiences and the people were integral in making her the person she has become.


"They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out." 


This book is deceptively simple in style, yet it is rich in meaning. I encourage you to read it, twice, the first time just for the sheer joy of it, the second time to examine it more closely for the messages it offers! Excellent!


Originally published on www.chapterofdreams.com

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