Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oliver Twist

"The honest gentlemen held the curtain in his hand, and looked on for a minute or so, in silence.  Whilst he was watching the patient thus, the younger lady glided softly past, and seating herself in a chair by the bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from his face.  As she stooped over him, her tears fell upon his forehead.  The boy stirred and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known.  Thus, a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, or the mention of a familiar word, will call up sudden dim remembrances of  scenes that never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened; which no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall."
                                                               Charles Dickens (Chapter 30 in Oliver Twist).

Does that make you want to cry?  I did.  Of course, I had twenty nine chapters to build up to this beautiful scene, so when Rose laid eyes on Oliver for the first time her compassion for him was powerfully overwhelming.
I have heard it said that Dickens was an angry man, who strafed the world with his satirical novels,  poking and parodying those he felt the greatest contempt for.  I disagree (partly).   I think that Charles Dickens was a great student of human nature, with a quick and brilliant intelligence that was elaborate, prolific and that his novels are a wonderful gift from a great man who could see, not only the most ugliest of human nature but the purest beauty of it as well.   I can appreciate the goodness more because the badness has been thoroughly shown to me beforehand.  Not only is the language beautiful,  the characters are unique as well, and every feeling while reading this novel is felt fully, humour, horror, fear, compassion, relief, you will have your full measure (with a heart filled to bursting!), and get to have the genuine Dickens experience. 

Sleeping Murder

This is by far my favorite Miss Marple mystery.  Boo to the BBC for cocking it up.   I mean, really!  What was wrong with the original?  Nothing!
Okay, I'm kidding (a little bit!).  I feel that there is more here than just a murder mystery.  This, to me, is a nod at a bygone era (just passing by moments before), making all of the events a very nostalgic trip down not just the memory lane of our protagonist but of Agatha Christie's as well.  In my mind's eye I can see all of the ghosts and it made this book, for me, extremely beautiful as well as a very emotionally powerful story.


The last book that Agatha Christie wrote... just as good as the first!  Lot's of misdirection, suspects, and mysterious behaviour which only makes sense at the very end (as it should).  I discovered early on in my readings of a Christie murder mystery that it's best not to try and figure out who did it, but just to enjoy the journey.  Not only is this great detective fiction, but a blast from the past.  A visit to an era that I never lived in but feel that I would have enjoyed,  genteel people living in a simpler time.  When things just seemed to be tidier, though of course, people are still just folks with hopes, dreams, and the baser wishes and needs, sex, jealousy, dirty secrets and a grisly murder or two...  Every era has them, but it's lovely to visit Agatha Christie's, murders and all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Secret Adversary

For a second novel, it is really quite good!  But then, it seems that whatever Agatha Christie put her hand to came off rather beautifully.   I have really enjoyed reading her autobiography, and I can appreciate what she wrote even more now after reading about her life and what she thought important to write about.   A little spy/mystery/romance goes quite a long way, and Christie wrote it in such an easy way, that it is just effortlessly and satisfactorily gobbled up in one afternoon (to be consumed with cups of Earl Grey tea naturally).

A Time of Changes

There are a few things I am particularly fond of in a novel, a story told in the first person, or one told in diary form.   One of my most favorite storylines are about worlds that have a colony of descendants from Earth, so we have a combination of some of my favorite things.  I love to see how these transplanted humans get along, what way they are different from good old Earthlings, and what they have done to possibly pervert what used to be the norm.  I also like a lot of background information, though you can't possibly put that in one book, especially one of this size, so ultimately I felt that there was a little something missing in this novel, but I try not to let that bias me, because not everyone can be as prolific about their post-earth world like say... Anne McCaffrey. 
There were lots of references to Earth (so apparently this story is not too far in the future).  The story rolled along at a steady clip, kept me engaged but while I'm thinking about it, there was one character, who was a catalyst to the crisis in the story, who just disappeared at a certain point and I didn't see anything about him again.
It was a baffling but interesting romp, in a not too strange world with a uniquely formed culture.  It won the Nebula so there's got to be a good reason for that right?

R is For Rocket

I have been encouraged from time to time to write my own book.  I don't understand why.  I love to read books, I love buying books (especially hunting for treasure in the second-hand book stores), I love talking about books (without giving away too much unless you have read it and then the discussions can be very enthusiastic).   I will gleefully be as geeky as I can when it comes to anything about books (coffee mugs, t-shirts etc.,).  I just can't write them,  and this is why. 
I have no imagination.  How I would come up with a story or a plot or an adventure is beyond my ambitions.  The only thing I know about is my own life, and believe me, that would be a miserable thing to write or read about.  Why write when there is already so many amazing books out there?  I would rather spend my time reading them than writing them.
I'm grateful not everyone feels the same way as I do, and of course, ever so grateful that I grew up in an age that has so many great writers.  I don't know how many ways I can say this but I am just so glad that Ray Bradbury was born.  What an immense gift to the world, and to myself.  He takes me to so many different places, with so many different problems, each an experience so different from the last and all flavored with his enthusiasm and joy for the written word. Out in space, where he isn't limited to what might happen here on Earth, the ideas are just unfathomable, showing me that he was such a great writer, and how I never could be.

Dead and Gone

For a few books now Sookie has managed not to get too physically damaged, mostly the harm has been to her heart.  This time, this book seems to have caught up on all the pain she has missed previously.  There have been a lot of pivotal changes, some disappointments, new developments, and indications of what is to come (ambiguous enough for you?).  I was shaken after reading Dead and Gone, and I'm not too sure what to make of it.  This is my second reading (I haven't been tempted to re-read this one because of it's element of horror), but this was the last one to be read this month (I have been rationing them out so that by the time number thirteen has been published I would be ready to go!).  It has been a bit of a struggle to stop at just the three for each month, especially now that Tor books is promoting their own re-read of the books building up to the end...

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Loving 18th century literature as I do I had high hopes for Cranford... while not packed with humour, action, or scandal it was actually very sweet.  I liked the characters and I liked the presentation of a chronicle rather than just a single storyline.  The community dynamic was very touching, and of course it was concluded in a very pleasant way (I wonder if this was a style of the time?).  Of course Hardy puts that speculation to death...I don't think I will ever forgive him for Jude The Obscure.   I just don't know enough yet.  I thought the pokes at 'Boz' were quite funny, and I appreciated that this was another era that I don't have too much familiarity with (Hardy and Dickens do not a Victorian era make...with so many books to still be read from this time period I feel like Scrooge McDuck about to go for a swim in his money bin!).  On an unrelated note,  I won't buy a Dover edition again.  While inexpensive, they are not the easiest to read, the words are too close to the binding which is distracting. 

From Dead to Worse

Things are getting dark in the Sookieverse.  Lots of action (almost non-stop), loads of awful things happening, and of course Alcide Herveaux has gotten himself well and truly written off and out of the running (in my humble opinion... I just can't concieve of Sookie taking him on now or ever).  It's unfortunate because at the beginning he seemed really promising, but the more I get to know him the more repugnant he is.  Eric has gained some points and is actually being quite sweet, I feel really sorry for Quinn who just doesn't seem to get a break,  Bill still impresses me with his constancy but he really doesn't have a chance,  and last but not least my favorite Sam has consistently proven his worth (though I really shouldn't get my hopes up). 
This book in a way was a Spring Cleaning kind of book. A whole bunch of loose ends were taken care of (quite satisfactorily), with the promise of some good things to come.  Naturally, it won't stay that way. 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

I just had to revisit this book today as I have been reading Agatha Christie's autobiography and I was ever so excited when she began talking about her attempt at writing her very first detective novel. 
I have to say that the experience was pleasurable in that I saw so much more in the book than previous readings.  I appreciated every part that refered to her actual experiences, was tickled pink by them and amused!  I couldn't help chuckling every time I encountered something that came directly from her own life.  She really was a funny old duck, with tremendous talent, and is still one of my favorite mystery writers.  I still haven't finished the autobiography, it's quite a long book, but every chapter is very interesting, and Agatha always wrote in a style that is so relaxing and enjoyable to read. 
I would recommend any day a Christie mystery... just put aside a day for reading, choose a very comfortable chair, wear your softest clothing, drink tea out of your favorite literary mug,  curl up and savor the experience.

Friday, March 8, 2013

All Together Dead

Well Charlaine Harris has absolutely no blahs smack dab in the middle of her Southern Vampire series!  There's no wan attempt at plot or character development, she's already achieved that, so when something new happens, I can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the story, wondering how Sookie will deal with this newest challenge.   This one was absolutely packed with action and mysteries to be solved.  I was just as engaged in this one as I was the very first book, which I think is pretty special and rare in a series.  Six more to go!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vintage Bradbury

I cannot have too much stuff in my head.  It's a failing, I admit and I work hard to maintain what I do know and have learned.  It just doesn't stay.  There's always so much else to stuff inside, and I think that if I ever tried to stop shoving things in I might just give up and die right there and then!  Where am I going with this?  I am choosing this time to wonder a little about what must have gone through Ray's mind while he was writing these particular stories!    Such an active and expressive imagination, I could never have concieved of any of his worlds.  Lots I can accept because I feel I really understand what made Ray tick at this point, but what about a world where caucasians are suddenly a minority and on the endangered list?  I try not to think about it too hard, but Ray did, and he really put the fear into me!  He's so good at that.
Then of course there is The Veldt.  Such a powerful story which has touched many people I think, so check out this link for a wonderful homage to the story.   The Veldt    I love the video, love the song and try not to get teary eyed (and always do).  I think that if Ray had lived to see it he would have thought it was wonderful and he would just have been tickled about it.

It's a Strain Alright...

It's just one of those lists that I have been trying to fill out... the books to movie one for science fiction.  Or is it the other way around?  I suspect that there is very little that is different between either.  That isn't criticism!  Just merely the statement that you could either read the book or watch the movie and you wouldn't be missing anything.  Crichton's got to be good considering how many of his books have made it onto film. 
It's just not my cup of tea.  In this instance, I think the movie is better than the book because you don't get too bogged down wth the technojargon (which always automatically switches off any interest I may have).  Either version of the movie is neat and nifty in a very insipid paranoia-inducing way, the seventies version for nostaligia's sake (they made so many pre and post apocalyptic shows in that era, it's hard not to be fond of them) and the tv movie that they made in the last decade with newer technology but the same effect (the creepy-heebeegeebee-paranoia effect). 
Secret germ warfare facilities out in the desert ready to blow at any time...yep, that's creepy.  And probably true...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Indulging the Romantic

 Huge fan of Jane Austen?  Can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice?  Well look no further (well maybe that isn’t the right thing to say as I will always be on the lookout for more fan fiction about Pride and Prejudice!).  This trilogy goes a long way to fulfilling the need for more.  The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy is very thorough.  Three books about one book, all about  Darcy’s delicious side of the tale, it is very satisfying, doling out not just Darcy’s oh-so-wrong outlook and his struggles to become the man that would be eligible for marriage with Elizabeth Bennet, but sharing other lovely tidbits of Regency Era history, and some nods to the other books that Austen wrote (but I’m not going to tell you much about that…it’s just too much fun to find them on your own).  This is a must-have for a Janeites collection, and be sure to have plenty of Earl Grey tea, harp music, and  of course, an empty weekend in which to indulge yourself completely with this lovely collection of novels.
With this first installment we get to see just how snotty, selfish, ignorant and arrogant our romantic hero is.  But never fear, we do get to see the goodness in him too when we see how loving he is with his sister. I also simply adored Aidan's extras (people not featured in Pride and Prejudice).
I loved how much character development was done here, and the Gothic goodies were so very deliciously macabre.
The wonderful conclusion.  We all know how the story ends... but with this the struggle was so engaging, Darcy's angstful efforts to become our romantic hero (with all its warts etc.,) was epic.  I will be re-reading this in the not too distant furture.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Definitely Dead

Ya know what really 'get's my goat, turns my crank, bee's my bonnet'?  A story that has something missing.  Or rather makes you feel like you have missed something really important, and what makes this even worse, is there are quite a few referrences in the book to the 'thing' you have missed.  If you aren't in the know you are missing something important, so the first time I read this book, I was actually getting agitated thinking that I had missed something, that somehow Amazon.ca had messed up my order ( I had initially bought an eight-pack)...something was wrong because I had never heard anything before about the plot.   WHAT where they talking about!  It was driving me nuts!  So, just in case this is your first time, I can reassure you now, the problem is not with you!  The problem is with the fact that when Charlaine Harris is not writing her novels she is editing and contributing to collections of short stories, many of which are from the Sookieverse which are not one-offs, but little tidbits that advance the story along.  So if you haven't read the short story you could be missing out on something important.  So while it's not essential to read the short fiction for the integrity of the novels, this one, this particular little story featured quite a bit in Definitely Dead, and it was frustrating.  Which is not fair when there is already so much pivotal stuff happening in this book.  Six books in we could be in danger of it all being just filler keeping the space warm for when it gets interesting again, but not in this case.  Quite a few important things happen that further the general plot and develop the characters.  I can't wait to see what happens next!