Sunday, July 19, 2020

Service With a Smile

Service With a Smile
by P.G. Wodehouse


The final Uncle Fred novel marks his return to Blandings Castle to relieve Lord Emsworth's woes: a nagging secretary, prankster Church Lads, and a plot to thieve his prize-winning sow. Uncle Fred must serve up his brand of sweetness and light to ensure that everything turns out very capital indeed.

My Reaction:
(Shared read with Donald.)

We started reading this one months (no telling how many months) ago, then set it aside to keep up with whatever 372-Pages book was going at the time. Somehow, we never got around to picking it back up again, until the past week, when we wanted some light reading. It was still on my Kindle, so we picked up where we left off.

It didn't take long to remember enough of the story to feel that we weren't completely lost-- and honestly, with Wodehouse, the humor and style of the language itself is much more important (for me, at least) than the plot. I don't think this is one of his best, but it still had us laughing again and again.

As always with Wodehouse, this little novel left me in a better mood than it found me. I need to remember this the next time my spirits need lifting!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

My Immortal

My Immortal
by Tara Gilesbie

My Blurb:

This Harry Potter fanfic follows the trials and tribulations (and the bizarre wardrobe choices) of Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, proud goth and vampire, after she enrolls at Hogwarts. She meets all the most notable characters from the Harry Potter universe, but you won't recognize them, because in this fic, none have any depth or retain any of their canon characteristics/personality traits-- to the point that most have been transformed into vampires and have even been renamed to sound more "goff" for this hilariously bad exercise in wish-fulfillment.  It is a truly epic example of the Mary Sue. 
(Or IS IT?!?!)

My Reaction:
(This was a shared read-aloud with Donald.)

It's another 372-Pages bookclub podcast selection!

Once we began reading this, I realized that I'd started it years before after seeing it mentioned online. I didn't get very far back then, but this time around, I loved every poorly written sentence.

I simply can't believe that this could possibly be "real". There's no question that there are some staggeringly terrible writers out there, but this... this is probably too outrageously, entertainingly awful to be true. Some of the malapropisms are just too, too perfect. (Tom Bombadil, anyone?) And the way that characters can do absolutely anything "sexily"... It's just not possible that this could be real. (Right?)

Anyway, I suppose it doesn't matter whether or not it's actually "sincere", so long as the author and her audience enjoy(ed) the experience. We laughed and laughed while reading-- and having the podcast to go along with it is just the cherry on top!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Art of Inheriting Secrets

The Art of Inheriting Secrets
by Barbara O'Neal

When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate—and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime.
One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her. As Olivia begins digging into her mother’s past, she discovers that the peeling wallpaper, debris-laden halls, and ceiling-high Elizabethan windows covered in lush green vines hide unimaginable secrets. 
Although personal problems and her life back home beckon, Olivia finds herself falling for the charming English village and its residents. But before she can decide what Rosemere’s and her own future hold, Olivia must first untangle the secrets of her past.

My Reaction:
Another DNF.

I listened to probably more than two-thirds of the audiobook-- selected because I could listen for free on Amazon-- but at some point I lost patience and stopped listening. I'd planned to skim through to the end just to satisfy my curiosity, but it's been months, and I find my curiosity simply isn't that strong! Maybe I'll still skim through, but I think I can guess more or less what will happen, and if I'm wrong... (shrug)

My SPOILERY annoyances:
-- I'm not bothered by a little Anglophilia, but Olivia takes it to sickening, barf-worthy extremes. I was embarrassed on her behalf. The whole "as Lady of the Manor, I must learn this, do that, change who I am" thing made me sick. I guess I'm too American for that nonsense. Inheriting a beautiful home? Fun and exciting to think/read about! Doing right by the community as you take possession of this historically significant home? Great! But all the airs and graces and "you must do it this way because this is how it's done because we say so"? No, no, a thousand times no.

-- Olivia's obsession with the age difference between herself and Samir? Ugh, so, so boring! But then when they "hook up", it's possibly even worse. I wasn't expecting so much sex in this book, and it was unwelcome. (Please, more house renovation/mystery and less village gossip, family drama, food talk, and sex!)

-- Such a slow pace. Dragging its feet the whole way.

-- Very obvious "baddies".

-- Didn't really care for the "closeted lesbian grandmothers" subplot. Sorry, not what I was expecting from this book. Just didn't care. Like the heroine's food obsession. (Seriously. Can we stop with the food already?) I just couldn't care less!

All in all, it wasn't what I was expecting, and I didn't like what it was enough to get over that and stick with it until the end.

I'm sure Olivia and Samir end up together, her plans for the house work out (one way or another), and there's a happily-ever-after. That much was never, ever in doubt.

Every House is Haunted

Every House is Haunted
by Ian Rogers

In this brilliant debut collection, Ian Rogers explores the border-places between our world and the dark reaches of the supernatural. The landscape of death becomes the new frontier for scientific exploration. With remarkable deftness, Rogers draws together the disturbing and the diverting in twenty-two showcase stories that will guide you through terrain at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

My Reaction:
This is a DNF. 

Every so often I think a creepy short story would hit the spot, but unfortunately, I must be very picky when it comes to horror short stories.  I so rarely actually enjoy them!  I only read three in this collection before calling it quits.  "Ace" was just "okay" for me, "Autumnology" was far too short for me to get into at all, and "Leaves Brown" was another "okay".  They're not long or involved enough for me.  I know short stories tend to be open-ended, but these were open even by that standard.  Worse, I didn't find them scary or even particularly eerie.

No sense in continuing, as I suspect "okay" is going to be my strongest reaction.  I can see how some readers might enjoy them, but they're not for me.  It's a shame; I love the title, but the stories don't seem to match it, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

Sunday, June 7, 2020


by Mary Stewart

The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.

My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
The Mary Stewart novels I'd read previously were her older "travel mysteries". Those followed a formula very similar to this one, but with a couple of exceptions. Mainly, there was much less drama, suspense, and action in this tale, and the setting is England instead of a more exotic locale.

I quite enjoyed aspects of this story. I liked Cousin Geillis, the suggestions of magic were fun, and I have a soft spot for novels in which a character inherits or purchases a property. I love living vicariously through the exploration-- the discovery-- the fixing up and putting-things-right. (In fact, I would've enjoyed the book much better if it had gone into greater detail on these points.)

There are also a couple of word pictures of the beauty of the night that I absolutely loved. I could almost feel the autumn evening-- something I'm already longing for as we slip into steamy June. Stewart's amazing ability to capture and express the essence of a setting is as strong as ever in Thornyhold.

Unfortunately, this book suffers from an extreme case of instalove. My tolerance for instalove has eroded with the passage of time, and I've reached the point where it can very nearly ruin a book for me.

Authors (though in this case, she's no longer with us), please listen. Not every book has to contain romance as a central plot. It's okay to merely hint at things that might eventually come to pass. If you can't spare the time, effort, or pages to fully flesh out a realistic romance that develops at a pleasing pace, I'd much rather if you didn't inflict upon your readers a breakneck-speed love story. These too-fast romances are flavorless and dull. It's like meeting two strangers, watching them flirt briefly and then declare undying love with barely a breath in between-- and then being expected to grin foolishly (and maybe even wipe away a tear or two) at the romance and emotion of what you've just witnessed. I can't care.

Anyway, this was very fast even for instalove. I didn't like the romance element of this story at all, honestly.

Then there's young William. He wasn't as bad as the child characters in "this type of book" sometimes are, but he was still rather bland and... meh. If you turned him over, you'd probably find "Wholesome English Youth" stamped somewhere. Just too much of a type... If we'd had more time with him, I might have felt I knew him a bit better. That's a big part of most of my problems with this book: It needs more pages and a more nuanced, involved mystery.

As it is, the mystery is very transparent, and I found it frustrating that Gilly is so slow to see the obvious-- and refuses to stand up to her overbearing neighbor (Agnes). And then, when it finally all comes to a head, she won't even tell her new love about it, because her rival/enemy is also a woman and there's a "code" (or something?). I guess I'm mean, but you'd better believe I would've told him every last gruesome detail! It's no more than she deserves!

The ending's too sugary-sweet. Where's the spice?! Where's the vinegar?! I didn't need to see Agnes suffer agonies-- perfectly happy to have her merely hoist with her own petard-- but Gilly barely even stands up for herself and is far too noble. Very unsatisfying. Blah.

After enjoying the first half or more of the book so much, I found the conclusion disappointing and lackluster.