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text 2018-08-21 10:56
Toucan Keep a Secret (Meg Langslow, #22)
Toucan Keep a Secret - Donna Andrews

I was going to save this book for Bingo, but I'm hoping to attend a few panels Donna Andrews is on at Bouchcon, and it seemed appropriate to be up to date on my favorite series beforehand.

 

The story didn't work as well for me as others have, but it did feel edgier, which was a compelling surprise.  The criminal suspects are really criminals, and at one point someone shoots at Meg.  Not the standard fair for Meg and her eccentric and fabulous family. 

 

Even though I say it's not as strong as others in the series, it's still better than most cozies out there right now.  It's definitely the best humorous cozy series you're going to find, and Andrews has the awards to prove it.  The plotting is still strong too, even after 22 books - I certainly never came close to guessing the ending.

 

Opening one of these books is like coming home to your favorite people, where everyone is kind, funny, competent and believes in something bigger than themselves, whether it's family, community, God, or all of the above. 

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review 2018-08-16 06:50
Fun running over tropes
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont

Why did I take this long to read this? From Austen's big six, this is the last I got to. I mean, I know what my reasoning was: satire and humour was not what I was looking for when I searched for an Austen volume. But I was wrong to, because this was a great romp.

 

(On that note, one day I have to write long and hard on how the prominence of Pride and Prejudice in pop-media puts an expectation on what Austen writes about that is a total disservice to her body of work)

 

If you put this and Persuasion together, it's impossible to ignore that the woman's common thread is not romance, but social critique, and tropes and expectations. In this one she takes Gothic literature ones, and more than run with them, runs them over. Anne Brontë kinda did that in a very understated way. There is nothing understated here, and I was laughing from the opening lines alone... Actually, the overall initial setting is quite similar to Brontë's Agnes Grey's opening, just, you know, absolutely savage. Much like the whole book.

 

The charming part comes from Catherine being a sincerely good-natured soul, and pretty sensible on the whole, so even where she hypes herself from much sensational reading (and hell, like nobody ever got jumpy in the night after reading or watching some horror), and builds some weird fantasies on it, she never quite finds herself carried away on over-dramatic feelings of angst, be it romantic or otherwise. Even when other characters ask about them on hilariously detailed, over the top descriptions.

 

I get now why it is the favourite Austen among many. I had lots of fun with it.

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review 2018-08-15 07:14
Witches Abroad (Discworld)
Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett,Nigel Planer
Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

An excellent riff on fairy tales.  I'm not actually sure what to say about it beyond that.  If you've read any of the discworld books, this one won't disappoint you.  

 

I listened to the audiobook, and Nigel Planer did an excellent job, though I disliked his Magrat and Ella choices; his voices for them both made them sound dull and stupid. On the other hand, I've also listened to other Pratchett books narrated by Celia Imrie and I really disliked her Granny Weatherwax voice; Planer gets Granny just right - she's the crone without hurting your ear drums. 

 

The plays on words are always my favorite part of Pratchett books and Witches Abroad did not disappoint (Emberella = Cinderella).  I also loved the we finally saw Granny's magic in a very decisive show; I hope it won't be the only time we see it.

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review 2018-08-09 00:40
The Adventures of Elizabeth in Ruegen
The Adventures of Elizabeth in Ruegen - Elizabeth von Arnim

I can't believe how long it took me to read this book.  It was my second Elizabeth von Arnim book, after reading Elizabeth and Her German Garden, and i have to say it was harder going at first.  Her Adventures in Rügen start off in a much more florid style of writing than she used in German Garden; her verbosity was challenging, to say the least, and I found myself putting the book down and passing it by for days on end.  I was determined though, because I had to believe the writing I loved in German Garden would be in there somewhere.

 

And it was.  By the fourth day (page 87), the Elizabeth I had expected started showing up. Coincidentally it was about this time that her idyllic trip round Rügen started to become less idyllic and more comic.  By the fifth day (page 115) I was pretty well hooked, and where as the first 115 pages took me three weeks to read, the remaining 185 took just a few days.  As the book, and her trip,  progress, the writing becomes more concise and the pace ratchets up higher and higher until it reaches its final, devious, and hilarious conclusion.  I loved the last two chapters, they had me chuckling regularly, and the ending was absolutely perfect.  

 

A few notes about my copy of this book: I was lucky to find a 1904 copy in beautiful condition that includes a pristine pull out map of Elizabeth's trip.  A few things about it made me smile though: the cover title spells the island's name as Ruegen, but everything else in the book uses Rügen.  Both are correct (as ue is the alternate for ü), but the inconsistency left me curious about why.  Also, my edition's copyright is in the USA, but it states that it is strictly intended for circulation in "India and the British Colonies" only, and the publisher is Macmillan, London.  So we have a book written in Germany, printed by a London publisher, copyrighted in the USA, for circulation in India and the colonies.

 

This is why I love old books.  

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review 2018-07-13 07:12
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling

From the author of the beloved New York Times bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the creator and star of The Mindy Project comes a collection of essays that are as hilarious and insightful as they are deeply personal. In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Amazon.com

 

 

Really thought I would dig this one more, as I DO find Kaling funny in her movie and tv roles, but something just didn’t work for me here. It wasn’t gawd awful or anything that bad, but I was surprised to find that I did not laugh out loud once. Not. Once. Even though I could count at least half a dozen mentions of her pointing out that she was a comedy writer. All I could think was one of my favorite lines from Finding Nemo: “You know, for a clown fish, he’s not that funny.” And at times I felt like she went a little heavy-handed with the self-deprecation… to the point of being irritating. Additionally, I found myself cringing a bit at some of the people she refers to as friends.

 

I did finish it, as it is an easy read and it is mildly interesting in a “skimming People magazine in the waiting room” kind of way, but about the only bit where I was honestly invested was the portion where she writes this whole scenario for “alternate Mindy” – the Mindy she imagines if she hadn’t found fame, the Mindy who teaches Latin at a private school in NYC. That whole bit is done in a blend of work emails, text messages and IMs and she actually does make a pretty entertaining story there. I would’ve happily read a whole novel with those characters!

 

A couple things I did appreciate or relate to: I give props to Kaling for her work ethic. Regardless of what I think of this book, I can’t knock her dedication to her job, as she lays out an average day for her readers, a day that she says typically runs from 5:30am one day to 12:30 am the next… over and over again. You have to give a nod to that.

Also nice to know it’s not just me that worries if some Uber drivers are secretly serial killers.

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