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review 2018-12-12 14:15
24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance, Book
A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time - Jean-Philippe Blondel,Dominique Fabre,Alphonse Daudet,Irène Némirovsky,Guy de Maupassant,Jean Brassard

 

An anthology of French Christmas short stories, from 19th century classics to contemporary, up to and including stories published in 2017.  "Nobody does Christmas like the French" is, of course, monumental sales hyperbole (and that's not even taking into account the ubiquitous non-French usual suspects like Dickens's Christmas Carol and E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker), but the stories included are enjoyable enough, even if (on balance) a bit on the preachy side.

 

Since several of these stories are set in Paris, I'm using this as my book for the 24 Festive Tasks - International Day for Tolerance square.  Since one of the anthologized stories is by Irène Némirovsky, I'm also using it for the "N" square of the Women Writers Bingo.

 

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review 2018-11-26 20:28
Some Stories Are So-So, but Ultimately 4 Star Short Story Review
Christmas Magic - Cathy Kelly

I am switching this one out for International Day of Tolerance. Sorry, there's not a lot of books I don't read so couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. 

 

So as I always say, writing short stories is an art. I thought this ultimately this collection was very good, though there were some weak stories here and there. I ultimately think that sometimes there wasn't even development of characters, or the endings were a bit weak. 

 

Christmas Magic (4 stars)-I loved the idea behind this one. An elderly woman (Genevieve) receives a book about magic and then goes a head to decide to use it in order to start taking some risks. There is a side plot with her next door neighbor dealing with the realization that his wife is not who he thought she was. It didn't really work I thought and think the story lost something when it shifted away from Genevieve. 


Anniversary Waltz (3 stars)-Nope. Nope. Reading about a woman (Felicity) having to deal with her selfish 22 year old daughter who is angry that her mother is trying to move on with her life after separating from her cheating louse of a husband. Most of this story is Felicity trying to think of ways for her daughter and mother to stop piling on her about her terrible ex. The anniversary waltz comes into the play at the end. This story ultimately felt a little rushed with romance and the ending was just eh after all that build-up. 

 

Madame Lucia (4 stars)-Women at a traveling agency end up seeing the psychic upstairs. It's left unsaid why the woman (the psychic) appeared and what she was after though which kind of left a hole in the story. 

 

Love in the Aisles (3 stars)-A young woman, Sarah is pretty much fed up with ever meeting someone. Due to her being tall she feels like most men prefer her more tiny and perfect sister. This story didn't hit the mark with me at all. Sarah eventually comes to find out what fool she's being acting like she's not attractive, so there's that. 

 

May You Live in Interesting Times (5 stars)-I liked this one. Thirty-nine year old Ruby Anderson knows she should be content. But after her neighbors drop bombs about moving to Australia and having affairs, she starts to wonder if she shake up her life. Ahem, why would you listen to anyone telling you having affairs is a good thing in a marriage? Still pretty funny though. 

 

A Villa by the Sea (5 stars)-Marcella ends up being the shining star in her family and is there to encourage on her sisters. It kind of made me laugh that her parents were totally oblivious to how she kept her younger sisters up and motivated. I did like how Marcella had a great career and realized that she was going to need to step back and think about herself after making sure her sisters were steered to more greener pastures. 

 

The Gap Year (3.5 stars)-Frankie feels lost after her only son leaves the nest. Though she usually doesn't get along with her mother, she's there to help her through it. 


Cassandra (5 stars)-I could have seen this one being a novel. The title character is Cassandra, best friend to Molly. Molly is constantly there to get Cassandra out of jams, do her homework, and "let's" her steal her boyfriends. One wonders what is Molly thinking. Things come to a head after they both start working a magazine together. I still found the ending a bit too unsatisfying, cause Cassandra needed a kick in the ass for the stuff she got up to. 

 

Letter from Chicago (5 stars)-A family has very little time to prepare for relatives coming from America. After finding out that her mother has told lies to her aunt about the state of her home, job, and children, Kim has to pull it together with her family and sister in tow to make the house presentable. 

 

Bride and Doom (4 stars)-Lily rightfully has a thing about weddings after getting left at the altar. There a comedy of errors, she ends up meeting a guy who may change her mind about them. 

 

You've Got Mail (4 stars)-Through email we found out that a woman (Millie) is dating a terrible person. At least things end up in a happily ever after. 

 

Christmas Post (4 stars)-A woman (Alice) and her family who had to deal with the death of her husband through the years. Alice and her family sound great. Her sister in law is a pain, though we get to see a more human side to her in the end. There is a weird plot with the next door neighbor's child that made zero sense. 


The Trouble with Mother (3 stars)-Not really trouble with the mother. Trouble with two stuck up daughters angry that their mother can ruin all of their plans by being boisterous and showing that they are from humble beginnings. I liked the other two siblings. The ending was weird though. It needed another paragraph to just say how things ended up. 

 

The Paradise Road Book Club (3.5 stars)-Okay I guess. Some of the local women who formed a book club are up in arms when they think that one of its members is dealing with her husband leaving her. That's not what is going on though. 

 

The Angel Gabrielle (5 stars)-Two women become fed up by their family (Claire) and married lover (Shelley). They end up meeting each other and another woman Gabrielle (really named Peggy) who encourages them to come to her annual holiday party.  

 

Lizzie's Fling (5 stars)-A woman gets her groove back when she starts a harmless flirtation with a coworker in another office location. 


Thelma, Louise, and the Lurve Gods (3 stars)-My least favorite of the short story collection. It went on forever and I didn't like the main character, Suzanne. She and her girlfriend seemed to not really care about the love interests in this book besides how hot they were. I didn't get any chemistry from what I was reading between Suzanne and Liam. 

 

The Office Christmas Party (5 stars)-Cracked up at a story taking a look at an office Christmas party. Though I liked this one, I was more interested in the side stories we heard about (a woman throwing up in someone's purse). When the office is able to have a bigger to do than what last year's was, Larissa, is a bit hesitant. However, she meets someone and then does her best to dress up in disguise so he doesn't recognize her later. There's a whole thing about why she does this, and it made no sense to me really, but was funny to read about. 

 

A Family Christmas (5 stars)-I thought this was a realistic look of a woman dealing with depression and finally finding her way out of the other side. Things may take a possible turn though, when she finds out that she and her husband have to host his family for Christmas. I thought it was great though how she find out some things she didn't realize about her sister-in law though. Which goes to show you never know what another person is dealing with. 

 

 

 

Book: Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

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text 2018-11-21 15:22
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF TOLERANCE-24 TASKS

 

International Day of Tolerance

Task 1:  Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.

 

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs (Burn Bright Review)

I already commented about how this book just about broke the fandom when Briggs provided readers insight into a character. I never in my life want to have to discuss if pedophilia is still a thing if the person doesn't act on it. The say something nice that I have about this book is that Briggs did do a good job with opening up a possibly spin-off with an interesting new character that can open up a whole other avenue into the world of the Pack. 

 

Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?)

 

1. Love triangles. Now this trope has morphed into love squares and I hate it even more. That Team Edward and Team Jacob crap made me throw up my hands about Twilight. Now every author it seems these days tries to set up a love triangle so I guess they can create a new fandom that gets obsessed over one terrible teenage werewolf and vampire who both think they own another teenager who is the Queen of the Mary Sues.

 

2. Insta-love. This trope is also awful to read about. Most of the time insta-love seems to revolve around character staring/lusting over the other characters body. It just seems gross and out of date. 

 

3. TSTL characters (Holly Review) Look, I can't help it, Holly will always go down as my most hilarious update rants at Booklikes. That said, if she existed in real life, I would not be responsible for what I would do to her. 

 

4. Best first time ever. (Duchess War, The Brothers Sinister #1). Only Courtney Milan has written a first time scene for me that worked in the Duchess War. Usually authors have the woman somehow turn into a wanton trollop (not my words) or do things that the men exclaim no whore (once again not my word) has ever done to them. It's just unrealistic and makes me roll my eyes. 

 

5. Women gives up career/life to follow man. Enough said. 

 

Task 3: The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.

 

Charter for all readers:

 

Rule #1 - All books and graphic novels/comics are welcome. 

 

Rule #2-Book reviews are for you and other readers. 

 

Rule  #3-As a reader, you can ask another reader about what they did and didn't like about a book, but telling them their opinion is "wrong" and they are being mean to the "author" will result in penalties.

     Penalty #1-Requires you to read "A Catcher in the Rye"

     Penalty #2-Requires you to read "Go Set a Watchman"

     Penalty #3-Requires you to read "Atlas Shrugged"

 

Rule #4-You don't sneer at other readers book choices. Romance novels are to be treated equally to whatever dramatic fiction book that is the new in thing with the word "girl" in the title is. 

 

Task 4: UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.

 

Hmm may be able to get some pastries later! TBD. 

 

Book:  Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone.  (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is my planned read.  

 

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text 2018-11-19 18:45
A Trope Too Far: three tropes that turn me off

a trope too far

I'm a fan of literary tropes. They are a metaphorical soundtrack to the novel I'm reading. They are Lego blocks moulded by the collective imagination that help us quickly to build a story we'll enjoy. I particularly enjoy trope twisting, a kind of ParKour for novelists, helping my imagination leap from the expected to the original.

 

Yet it is possible to go a trope too far, usually when the trope has mutated into an underlying idea or emotion that I find unpleasant.

 

Here are my top three avoid-if-you can tropes.

 

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The Eternal Triangle

 

When they're done well, romantic triangles can be fun.

 

A woman having to choose between the affections of two highly desirable men who are not only besotted by her but willing to compete for her favour is a fantasy so far away from most people's experience that it is irresistible.

 

What turns me off is when the triangle becomes eternal. When the woman refuses to choose. When having a choice becomes more important than who is chosen.

 

 

I have no moral objection to this. I dislike it because it kills the momentum of the story, stalls the development of the characters and erodes my empathy for everyone involved.

 

The worst examples I've encountered are in Urban Fantasy. When the participants are immortal, the triangle really can be eternal.

 

 

psycho-1Thrillers that turn women into victims

 

Nothing turns me off faster than a thriller that turns women into victims, especially victims that get raped/tortured/murdered to move the plot along.

 

This trope isn't about the women as individuals. It's about women as an easy and somehow deserving target of violence and hate. 

 

The worst uses of this trope are the ones that take a voyeuristic delight in the destruction of the women: their humiliation, their awareness of their helplessness, their pain. I don't need this in my head. 

 

I liked Derek Miller'sadvice to thriller writers: if you've written a thriller where a woman gets killed, swap the genders of your characters and see if the story still works.

 

The stalk and kill tropes have evolved now so that the most likely target is a strong, brave woman who will put up a fight. She'll still lose of course. Which I think exposes the misogynistic glee that powers this trope.

 

HanibalThe Genius Serial Killer

 

I think of this as the "Criminal Minds" trope. It lionises the serial killer. It shows them as clever, daring and powerful.

 

"Yes, they may be broken and of course they're evil," the trope says, "but boy do they burn brightly."

 

At its worst, this trope becomes a sort of death porn that speaks to the fantasies of men who feel diminished by having to stay within the boundaries of civilised behaviour and who get a thrill from the idea that someone out there is smart enough and tough enough to do it again and again and get away with it.

 

I admire Val McDermid's writing but I can no longer bring myself to read her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series.

 

 

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text 2018-11-19 18:17
24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance, Task 1 (Book Redemption)
The Lake District Murder - John Bude
The Lake District Murder - John Bude,Gordon Griffin

Looking back through my "read" shelf, one of the books I liked least this year was John Bude's Lake District Murder.  I felt the book missed a monumental opportunity in not exploiting the dramatic setting of the Lake District where the action takes place, and I was also rather annoyed by the fact that the investigation into the murder discovered at the beginning of the book is sidetracked not once but twice -- admittedly into ultimately related crimes, but by God, the two investigative strains should have been much more intertwined.

 

That said, any reader adverse to last-minute surprise revelations and preferring to remain on an equal footing with the book's detectives will have absolutely no reason to complain here: Bude (like Freeman Wills Crofts) subscribed to the notion of "playing fair with the reader," so any and all clues uncovered by the police are laid out the moment they are uncovered (and in excrutiating detail).  For me, the resulting conclusions were altogether a bit too obvious ... but if this is your jam -- and it has to be admitted that "playing fair with the reader" was a maxim to which all members of the Detection Club subscribed (even though they implemented it in vastly differing ways) -- then maybe you should give Bude's writing a try.

 

Original review HERE.

 

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