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review 2018-02-19 03:08
Where The Truth Lies by Jessica Warman
Where the Truth Lies - Jessica Warman

On the surface, Emily Meckler leads the perfect life. She has three best friends, two loving parents, and the ideal setup at the Connecticut prep school where her father is the headmaster. Then the enigmatic Del Sugar enters her life, and Emily is immediately swept away-but her passionate relationship with Del is just the first of many things that aren't quite what they seem in Emily's life. As the lies she's been told start to unravel, Emily must set out to discover the truth, a journey that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew.






To the casual observer, Emily Meckler looks like she has pretty much everything going for her: good friends, loving parents, private school education.... but at night, Emily is having horrible nightmares involving out of control fires and walls of water. She can't figure out what these night terrors are stemming from and her parents are at a loss for a solution, other than sending her to the school therapist. Then a shift happens in Emily's life, brought about by the arrival of new student Del Sugar (yes, cringe now -- I know I did -- that's the name the author decided to plaster onto our main male love interest). Emily is warned by multiple people (including her father / academy headmaster) that Del is bad-boy-bad-news but of course the two find a way to get to know each other and Del convinces Emily he truly understands her inner turmoil (oh, and that they're totally meant to be).  No surprise, in no time flat Del has Emily's once stable life in quite the pickle. Strangely though, her involvement with him does set her on the path to finding the root cause of her nightmares. The answers she finds disrupt all she thought she knew to be true and solid, in terms of her very existence. 


My initial interest in this book mainly came from the main character struggling with sleep issues. As I have a sleep disorder myself, I was intrigued. But (my luck!) it seems that this plot element was really only used as a gimmick to hook readers in, as virtually no time or description is put into the nightmares themselves, other than a generic "ooh fire, oohhh so much water"... AAAND she's awake... and we're left to just accept that her very soul is shaken. Emily also seems to have very little issue with side effects of sleep deprivation. Sure she's a little sleepy here and there but that seems to be the extent of it. 


No surprise, the primary focus is put on Emily's interest in Del... who is very possessive and manipulative with her but in fiction that makes him SOOO hot, right?! For a "bad boy" character, Del struck me as being a lot of talk more than anything. You get 100 pages into this book that's barely over 300 and very little has actually gone down. He is, however, a stereotypical jerk that I'd venture to say a fair majority of women have had experience with at least once in their life. 


Scene after scene of Del straight up lying to Emily and trying to control all these aspects of her life, and Emily acknowledges here and there that she sort of recognizes it, but she adores him anyway... even though she notes he pretty consistently smells of sweat, beer, cigarettes and kerosene. Her words, verbatim: "The smell on him almost makes me want to gag." NOICE. LOL. The scene with the contacts -- Emily actually allowing Del to stick his fingers in her eyes and shift around her contacts just to say "I see parts of you you can't see..." NOOOO SIR. True love means you keep your dang fingers outta my eye sockets unless I have an eyeball literally dangling from my face (god forbid... just sayin'). 


To balance bad boy Del, readers are given over-the-top sweet, stand-up borderline boring guy Ethan to also vie for Emily's romantic attention. I'll admit, at the start of the story I was thinking with Ethan "Okay, this seems like a good guy for our girl" but his lack of virtually any edge had me changing my mind. Also, Emily's bland personality grated on me too much for me to care who got her in the end. 


It seemed like SO much focus / detail was put on the most mundane aspects of the story. This was one of those ones where I was just waaaiiting for the plot to kick in already. In the end, literally NOTHING in this book was a surprise. No redeeming plot twists! 

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text 2018-02-16 18:51
Landmarks - Robert Macfarlane,Roy McMillan,Penguin Books Ltd

Why did I read it?  When first published, several people recommended this book to me, and it was recommended more than once by some.  I imagine those recommendations came because of my like of the natural world, and of language.  I have no idea why, but I put it on my 'wish list' and then my 'to be read</i>' pile, but never actually started it; these decisions I now regret.

What's it about? With the Oxford Children's Dictionary removing words relating to nature, e.g. acorn, in favour of technological terms, Robert Macfarlane explores the United Kingdom in search of those words to describe, and connect us to the natural world.  Connection.  That is the key to this book.  In a time, and place which seems to breed disconnection, this book seeks to reunite us with a deep love for landscape, and language.

What did I like? Every single word, and most especially the glossaries.  Rich in words and landscape, there is so much to enjoy, and explore in this book.  I listened to the audio book, which is rather nicely done.  I did query a few of the Gaelic pronunciations - being a learner of the language, not a native speaker, I may not completely comprehend the dialectal nuances.  I am very pleased I opted to purchase the Kindle edition, too, so I can explore those glossaries at my leisure.

Oh, the joy I found in this book: learning new words for phenomenon I had no idea might even exist; remembering 'childish' the way children use language to describe their surroundings; and discovering new Gaelic words I wanted to include in my (ever-expanding) vocabulary.  

The narrator, Roy McMillan|, did a splendid job.  I'm afraid I have no idea of the name of other gentleman whose voice was used to read out various words, but his voice gave  luscious contrast to Mr McMillan's smooth tones.

What didn't I like?  I could find no fault with this book.  I find fault with myself for not reading it sooner.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Yes! Yes!  Not necessarily the audio version though - not because it is not well read, but because once you've read the book, I'm pretty sure you'll want to keep it to hand to pore over the word glossaries, and then add to your own.

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review 2018-02-08 18:55
Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England - Judith Flanders

This is an engaging and informative survey of daily and home life for the middle classes in Victorian England. It is organized by rooms of the house, but the author uses each room as a segue to discuss various aspects of Victorian life: the nursery leads us to childrearing and the education of girls; the scullery, to the lives and expectations of servants; the morning room, to the etiquette of paying calls. The author pulls from diaries, letters, memoirs, official records and even novels to paint a detailed portrait of life at the time: from the physical details of lighting and plumbing and the many, many household items, to family and social life and expectations.

It is a fascinating portrait, and left me glad not to live in Victorian England, for all kinds of reasons. Industrialization made London so dirty that merely walking outside could leave soot in your clothes and hair, while arsenic was included in dyes used in clothing and wallpaper. Constant housework was required of anyone without several servants: not only because of the dirt, not only because of the many household implements and fabrics that all required special and often time-consuming care, not only because a growing understanding of germ theory linked cleanliness strongly to morality and social worth, but because society piled even more expectations onto that in order to keep women busy. Doorsteps were supposed to be whitened every morning, for instance, though this did nothing for cleanliness. Meanwhile women wore close to 40 pounds of often voluminous clothing (today’s clothing weighs 2 pounds or less); between that and the housework and expectations of always serving others, some appear to have become invalids less because they were really sick and more to get a rest and have time to themselves. (With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Florence Nightengale, among the most productive women of the period, was an invalid.) The power structure, in which husbands ruled their wives and wives ruled their servants through the husband’s borrowed authority, was considered divinely ordained, and wives were expected to keep from their husbands all details of running the household, even so far as the news that their baby was sick.

But there’s a lot more than gloom to provide food for thought. The Victorians ate an enormous variety of meats, many of which have disappeared from modern menus. Waste was virtually unknown; household items were repurposed or sold to, for instance, visiting rag-and-bones men, until all that remained to be simply carted away was ashes from the fires. Mail was extraordinarily quick: when a husband in a Victorian novel sends his wife a note from the office telling her when to expect him for dinner, it’s actually going through the post. And while many aspects of Victorian life seemed to revolve around showing off one’s means in carefully prescribed ways – “living up to one’s income” was considered a moral virtue, rather than, say, being generous with it – some aspects were much less extravagant than today. Weddings were simple affairs, and more importance seems to have been attached to sending pieces of wedding cake to connections and paying them calls in one’s wedding attire than to the ceremony itself. Meanwhile, for all the talk about the drabness of mourning clothes, I wonder if this socially prescribed ritual of grief wasn’t healthier than today’s discomfort with the subject of death.

There is a lot in this book, and as the author admits, it’s an overview. It barely touches on the upper or lower classes, it primarily focuses on London, and the focus on home life means it discusses women’s lives much more than men’s. Some topics, like Victorian medicine, are breezed through very quickly, while others, such as sex, aren’t touched at all (though marriage and childbearing are). The organization into rooms is sometimes stretching it: the drawing room and parlor are apparently synonyms, but get separate chapters to discuss different aspects of social life. For that reason, it may make a frustrating reference book. But as an engaging historical work and a window into another time, I found it to be excellent.

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review 2018-02-08 14:55
Podcast #90 is up!
Lord Lyons: A Diplomat in an Age of Nationalism and War - Brian A. Jenkins

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Brian Jenkins about his biography of the 19th century British diplomat Lord Lyons (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2018-02-08 04:33
Game On (Game On #1) by Olley White
Game On - Olley White

What a wonderful and cute story! :) 
I laughed out loud several times and even did an "aaawwe!!!!" (or two or three) complete with googly eyes =)

There is no angst, just two guys trying to figure out their relationship. Very sweet and enjoyable :)

4.25 stars

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