3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationshi3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationship be a slow-burn, and build some anticipation....more
I've said a number of times that I think Northanger Abbey is vastly underrated, both by the general public and by Janeites themselves. I've also saidI've said a number of times that I think Northanger Abbey is vastly underrated, both by the general public and by Janeites themselves. I've also said many times that I think it gives the best idea of Austen's personality and playfulness, and I think it feels the most like what it would have been like to know Austen and be friends with her. So needless to say, there are not enough Northanger etellings out there for my liking. On the one hand, this makes sense, and not just because it's underappreciated; Northanger Abbey is a book that hinges on a silly moment of a very young character, and in the end, feels complete. There's not as much wiggle room there to play with in adaptations, or at least, not in the way that many adaptations tend to go. Nevertheless, when I see a Northanger adaptation pop up, I am all over it, so of course I was super excited when Maggie Sullivan (author of last year's "Heroic Ranking Index" post) sent me her latest, the intriguingly-titled, There Must Be Murder.
And what I found was a really solid, quick read for fans of Henry and Catherine. One playful enough and with that same sense of humor and observation that made me love its original, while poking fun enough that I think even those who found Northanger too silly will still appreciate this one. Sullivan does a good job when it comes to recreating the characters and their experience of Bath, but also of progressing the stories and lives of those same characters. Those that found Catherine to be unbearably silly and frivolous will see that she's shown growth, though her spirit and penchant for ridiculous drama is still there. But as I always liked Catherine, the thing the story hinged on for me was the relationship, and it was strong on that score as well. The way Catherine and Henry interacted was charming and a believable progression from the end of Northanger. I've seen many discussions where people doubt their relationship and its potential for happiness, questioning whether Henry would remain interested in someone as flighty as Catherine. I've always thought they were very well-suited, and could see Henry happily teasing Catherine well into old age; this embraces that dynamic and showcases how well they work together. It's really nice, and with some of that characteristic sly style Austen has, but also with a more modern flirtiness to it.
Things have also changed and progressed nicely, or at least, interestingly, for other characters, too. And frankly, it's amusing to see General Tilney in a somewhat debased form. Reading this, I couldn't help but feel that he and Sir Elliot would get on capitally, were they to cross paths in Bath. You know what, nope. Scratch that. They'd fight like to primadonnas out for the same man - cuttingly one-upping each other, and maybe having a touch of grudging respect.*
Um. That was a tangent... ANYWAY, I really think that Catherine and Henry could have a whole host of interesting adventures in Margaret C. Sullivan's hands, and I definitely hope to see more. The only real drawback for me was that it wraps up a little too swiftly and neatly. I would have liked a little more dwelling on the "mystery" that Catherine finds herself embroiled in, and the darker, gothic aspects that are such a hallmark of Catherine's sensibility. There was potential to lengthen and make the most of the drama, but instead, it felt like Sullivan pulled back a touch, maybe trying to avoid those same pitfalls that make so many readers speak a little disparagingly of Northanger. Whatever the reason, I could have done with a little more on that score, but it doesn't change the fact that this was a thoroughly enjoyable, very quick, fun read.
*Now, they'd be an interesting pairing. Someone needs to take advantage of that. ;)...more
I'm fairly indifferent on this one. It's not a "bad" cookbook, necessarily -- the recipes, though nothing very original, are good basics and startersI'm fairly indifferent on this one. It's not a "bad" cookbook, necessarily -- the recipes, though nothing very original, are good basics and starters for people who want to know how to make pretty common recipes (Eggplant Parmesan, Mac and Cheese, stuffed potato skins, etc), but have maybe never tried to before. These are the quick types of recipes that you can get anywhere, and they are straightforward and use some shortcuts, like jarred sauces, etc. I'm not opposed to that in itself (it is how most of us cook on the day to day), but I do think you have to be clear about what type of book you're pushing. Is it semi-homemade ala Sandra Lee, or is it from scratch? I didn't realize when I picked it up that it wasn't from scratch, so if you don't know that going in, it may irritate you. (Or, if you already know how to dump a jarred sauce on breaded fried eggplant, you may find this pointless. Again, it's just a matter of how you cook at home.) There are a lot of basic "entry-level" recipes (<-- I amused myself with that one), as well as some more intricate recipes for the more adventurous cook. Looked at this way, the book can be used progressionally, building your skills over time. It's also a nice basic reference on recipes you want to be able to throw together quickly.
Setting the recipes aside, though, I was not even a little bit pleased with the design of the book. There is no table of contents, which immediately means I'm setting that cookbook back on the shelf. If I can't open it up and see a list of the food I'm going to be making, I don't want it. As I flipped through the book, I realized part of why there is no TOC -- the book's organization is a mess. Or, I guess there just isn't one; there's no scheme to it, no rhyme or reason. There are no real "sections" that you typically look for in a cookbook. There is no meat section or desert section, as one would come to expect. Nor are the recipes set up in "meal" order, a try entree with this side with this dessert type of thing. Recipes are somewhat set out like with like, but not in any type of progression, and there are no dividing pages to let me know I'm moving on from Poultry into Pasta, etc.
I was also very disappointed at the lack of pictures in the book. We eat with our eyes first, and you may look at a recipe and think 'eh' but look at the glossy delicious photo of that same recipe and feel the need to make it, asap. This was a lost opportunity on the part of the book's designers -- whenever there was a picture, the food looked absolutely delicious, but they were so few and far between that the overall impression was blah.
There are some recipes I intend to try (when I'm not sick, as I don't think my family wants food cooked by Typhoid Misty...), and when I do I will update you. For now, I would say pick this up only if you are a basic cook who needs a good variety reference without complication, or if it's at your local library and you want to give it a browse....more
We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of the Blackwoods, a hill-country family more well-off than their neighbors, and maybe just a littlWe Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of the Blackwoods, a hill-country family more well-off than their neighbors, and maybe just a little more off than them, too. Told from the POV of 18 year old Mary Katherine Blackwood, the youngest, we learn that the remaining Blackwoods -- Merricat, her older sister, Constance, invalid Uncle Julian, and Jonas the cat -- are shunned by the townsfolk to the point of Frankensteinian pitch-fork crazy. Mary Katherine, or Merricat, as she is called, is a thoroughly fascinating character. She reads like I Capture the Castle's Cassandra Mortmain if she were maybe OCD and slightly disturbed. In fact, the whole thing reads like the Mortmains with a dash of gothic crazy thrown in. Through Merricat, it is slowly revealed that the reason the Blackwoods are shunned, and the reason there are only three left, is because the rest of the family was poisoned over dinner six years prior -- and Constance stood trial for it. Now, they keep to themselves in their secluded house with agoraphobic zeal, with Merricat making dreaded weekly trips into town for supplies. They could go on this way forever, avoiding people, avoiding life, living in Merricat's fantasies -- until a visitor comes and things will never be the same.
So, that's the basic story, without giving too much away. What I loved about this, what I found absolutely compelling, was the tone of this story. Jackson, known for her insanely famous tale "The Lottery," is a master of tone. Her stories always seem to have a presence; you can feel them in the room with you. Everything about Merricat's world seems present and ominous and dangerous. The town has a presence, the forest and fields have a presence, the Blackwood house -- more so than anything -- has a presence. In only 200 or so pages, Jackson makes everything come alive, which is an impressive feat.
Merricat, as the narrator, is quirky and volatile and possibly brilliant. She is very much haunted and slightly odd, and as the reader, you become completely absorbed in Merricat's view: you know the world is against you, and you find yourself going along with the things she does. It's easy to root for Merricat, even when you start to doubt her. The peripheral characters are fascinating and difficult and compelling.
In short, if you can handle a healthy dose of weird and/or crazy, this slim story pulls no punches. Definitely add it to your list (Halloween-time reading is recommended).
This is an interesting book because I can honestly say I haven't read it before. I know that sounds obvious, but with kid's books, they can all blendThis is an interesting book because I can honestly say I haven't read it before. I know that sounds obvious, but with kid's books, they can all blend together and lack originality, and this did not. I think that was partly because Gaiman didn't try to hold back and keep it gently creepy, kid appropriate. This is a genuinely creepy book, with a girl who is held hostage basically by her "other mother" who is certainly not human, and wants to sew black buttons into her eyes, and who devours souls. The main character has a nice, distinct voice, and the book is easy to read (age appropriate) without being dumbed down. As I am a quote person, here are some of my faves:
"Small world," said Coraline. "It's big enough for her," said the cat. "Spiders' webs only have to be large enough to catch flies."
"She kept us and fed on us until we've nothing left of ourselves, only snakeskins and spider husks."
"I swear it," said the other mother. "I swear it on my own mother's grave." "Does she have a grave?" asked Coraline. "Oh yes," said the other mother. "I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back."
The sky was a robin's egg blue, and Coraline could see trees and, beyond the trees, green hills, which faded on the horizon into purples and grays. The sky had never seemed so sky, and the world had never seemed so world....more