Minerva Dobbs might be my favorite romance heroine, and I do not type those words lightly. Sure, she has flaws, but her dialogue is to die for and she...moreMinerva Dobbs might be my favorite romance heroine, and I do not type those words lightly. Sure, she has flaws, but her dialogue is to die for and she contains facets of all of my best friends in their best moments.
At regular intervals, this book delivers scenes that --in real life-- would end in awkward silence, chagrin and later regret. Here? They end in pithy triumph! You know when you have those...
* Delicate flirty exchanges where you're dying to come up with the perfect witty riposte that will charm and beguile? * Catty girl-fights where you want to verbally slap a bitch? * Angry dinners with your parents, or your boyfriend's parents, where ancient scars and old embarrassments are ripped open and exposed in a totally inappropriate venue and you just sit there mute and woebegone?
TONGUE TIED NEVER APPLIES TO MIN DOBBS. That woman *always* has the right comeback at hand, bless her. You're watching a series of ideal conversations unfold, and you just get to sit back, cheer and shake your pom-poms. Or (if you're me) read the dialogue aloud just to feel the satisfaction of your mouth delivering a damn fine set-down.
This is delectable, re-readable, dreamy chick lit. Like Marian Keyes, it surpasses the boundaries of its genre while reveling in the strange rituals of dating and group bonding that embody a social comedy.
I'll admit, there are some awkward moments. A slight excess of creepy psychoanalysis and theorizing about human relationships as chaos theory from the supporting characters. An unhealthy obsession with chicken marsala. Many doughnuts are consumed in the course of the tale.
And if you read romances for steamy sex scenes, please walk right on by. Sex shows up predictably late in this story and the act of seduction itself did not knock my socks off. It's all about the brain stimulation here, about finding a mate who can match your intellect and make you feel at home in your own skin. It's soul mates and kisses, not P in V.
I enjoyed this book immensely. Crusie did a great job of taking a jaded angle that I usually hate (using a bet to keep H/H apart, ugh) and remade it into a bearable and functional plot device. She took the unpopular route of having a plus-sized heroine, explored some of the pressures and neuroses that made her overeat (hello, mommy) and did not pull a Keyes and magically melt off the pounds with a wasting disease or clinical depression. No! She left Minerva pleasantly plump until the conclusion and gave her a passionate entanglement with a man who loves her curves and defends her sexiness to any and all detractors. Bravo!
Too many romances adhere slavishly to the established tropes of the genre. Crusie defies expectations by giving life to her entire ensemble: Bringing in bitchy parents and lovestruck nephews, evil bridesmaids, stray cats, snow globes, evil exes, Italian chefs and lesbian bartenders as needed to move her story forward. In this book, it takes a village to get two stubborn lovers together, and it's a joy to watch it happen.(less)
More story and historical "did you know" than your average romance. You will learn a lot about Methodists, Welsh coal mining, billiards, and Gypsies....moreMore story and historical "did you know" than your average romance. You will learn a lot about Methodists, Welsh coal mining, billiards, and Gypsies. At times the text wandered into an almost educational textbook tone, but there was a good strong focus on the man/woman relationship and steamy progress on the passion front with points for creative use of pool tables and good kissing. Lots of drama, bad guys, a touch of tragedy with a satisfying conclusion. Fun, well paced read. (less)
Amazing, as always. Love the monsters, the dialogue, the characters, Lying Cat. The only off note for me was the discussion of the idea of "the opposi...moreAmazing, as always. Love the monsters, the dialogue, the characters, Lying Cat. The only off note for me was the discussion of the idea of "the opposite of war", which rang strangely false and silly and seemed like a weak excuse to draw a robot orgy. I mean, if you want to draw a robot orgy, just work it into the plot direct - don't get all faux-philosophical flashback exposition-y about it, right? Otherwise Marko, Alana, Hazel et al continue on their hazardous journey across space and time seeking asylum and we get to join them for the ride. Nice touches in this volume include: expected romances, an entertaining BBQ, some curvier women, and direct mention of at least 2 significant same-sex relationships and the possible social and political ramifications thereof. Not a lot of magic. Strong violence including stabbings, pokings, shootings, spearings, and maiming with teeth and fingers. Superbly crafted and imagined, don't miss it.
Oh, James Langton, you silver-tongued devil. Your audiobook recordings are so unbelievably good, so lively and full of unique characters, I could list...moreOh, James Langton, you silver-tongued devil. Your audiobook recordings are so unbelievably good, so lively and full of unique characters, I could listen to you read for days (and I have).
'The Black Cauldron' is the second book in the Prydain chronicles - a classic quest, full of Princes and crones, evil undead and courageous warriors. We begin in Caer Dallben, where Taran works as Assistant Pig-Keeper, dreaming of greatness and glory.
If you are lucky enough to have the audio version of this book, you will delight in the melodious Welsh accents of the narrator as he voices the vexed and practical voice of Princess Eilonwy, whose comparisons I adore. She says things like, "That's worse than putting a necklace on an owl and letting it fly away!" or, "That's like wondering whether to scratch your head when a boulder's about to fall on it." LOVE HER.
Then there are the gravelly "crunchings and munchings" of loyal and ever-hungry Gurgey, and the colourful embroiderings of Fflewddur Fflam, absentee King, regular fibber and harp enthusiast. These are old friends, familiar from 'The Book of Three', first in the Prydain series, but we get to hear some new voices as well.
This book introduces the soft-spoken and wise bard Adaon, son of Taliesin; arrogant, prideful Ellidyr "Prince of Pen-Llarcau"; the mournful Gwystyl (who could give Eeyore and Marvin the Paranoid Android a run for the money in the "most manically depressed character ever" category); and the three witches Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, whose voices are extremely creepy.
Being high fantasy, it is easy to dismiss the plot as merely derivative. Of course there are shades of Tolkien, but if the story is good, who cares? There's sacrifice and battle, invisible dwarves and magic cauldrons, and it is a good tale, beautifully told.
The descriptions of the setting are so clear and fine that you can feel the mists rising around you as you read of the Marshes of Morva. There is heartbreak and anger and friendship and betrayal and I had to hold back tears at a few points in the reading.
Warmly recommended, although scary at points and it does deal with death, pain, struggle and loss, so read it when you are in a philosophical mood.(less)
Excellent good fun! I tried to read this once before and stopped after a pitiable four of five pages because the prose was too dense and academic for...moreExcellent good fun! I tried to read this once before and stopped after a pitiable four of five pages because the prose was too dense and academic for my state of mind at the time. If I had only had someone to urge me on to the completion of Chapter Two, which includes a hilarious letter from the accused, I would have seen the lighter side of Caudwell's tale of murder and art history, and persevered.
Alas, I had no such guide, and wasted several years having this book sit on my shelf unread and unappreciated, when I should have been singing its praises. Hallelujah, gentle reader! You can now benefit from the wisdom I then lacked.
This lovely little mystery is British in the extreme, despite its events occurring mostly in the canals, alleys and palazzos of Venice, Italy.
Some unconventional storytelling takes place, in that we have the crime related to us in an epistolary fashion, via letters posted while on holiday. This correspondence recounts in amusing detail the suspects, the setting, and important clues, all the while providing some nice tidbits of Italian cultural history, which made me very much want to visit that country with its Campari sodas and plentiful coffee shops all over again.
Yet more unorthodox is the laissez-faire attitude towards gender and sexuality in the book. Not only are same-sex relationships at the core of the mystery, involving men in love with men, women who are disposed to sleep with men who are comfortable with their bisexuality, and flirtatious and misunderstandings between ladies embracing while in a state of distress/undress, but more unusually, the sex of Professor Hilary Tamar, our erstwhile detective, is never explicitly revealed.
Male or female, Hilary solves the crime using methods that even Sherlock might find inscrutable - by the application of scholarly disciplines, including the science of textual criticism, a smattering of cunning translations, a bit of gumshoe work at art galleries and the like, and the setting out of bait for certain suspects to separate the red herrings from the really stinky fish.
I did not figure out the ending, although there were clues enough to tip me off, but I enjoyed the tale immensely and polished off all 314 pages in record time.
If you enjoy the casual bickering of Oxford and Cambridge graduates, the snobby intellectualism of the elite, law jokes, art jokes, Shakespeare jokes, sex jokes, or investigators who solve crimes with no direct access to the corpse, scene of the crime, or even being in the same country in which the crime was committed (putting one up on Rex Stout's formidable Nero Wolfe, to be sure!) then I can say with confidence that you will enjoy Sarah Caudwell's 'Thus Was Adonis Murdered'.
If you are squeamish about LGBTQ relationships, don't appreciate Latin interjections, or object to classical references such as Endymion or Praxiteles being used as descriptive shortcuts, this book may not be quite your cup of tea. Personally, I thought it was masterful. (less)
Marquis was a newspaper reporter during and after WWI, and these vers libre poems were published in the New York Sun between 1916 and the early 1920s. The humor is timeless, but they are steeped in the mood and politics and society of that era. The subject matter of the poems varies widely; from ghosts and ectoplasm to Shakespeare and theater, and the narrators are variously cats, parrots, rats, toads, fleas, moths, and dogs.
The poems are written without punctuation or capitalization, using line breaks to give the necessary rhythmic pauses. This is because they were written by a fictional cockroach, Archy, who was a free verse poet in a previous life, and who wrote stories on Don's old typewriter at the newspaper office when everyone in the building had left.
Archy accomplished this in a painful fashion by flinging himself headfirst down onto the keys (thus, no capitals, as it would be impossible for him to hit a key and shift at the same time with his full-body typing technique). When he needs explicit punctuation, he has to type it out full length, as 'exclamation point', 'period' or 'question mark'.
Mehitabel, Archy's partner in crime, is another transmigrated soul. A downtrodden alley cat with loose morals, she claims to have been Cleopatra in a former life. Mehitabel laments the domestic trials of the female artist hampered by kittens, but her constant refrains of wotthehell wotthehell and toujours gai toujours gai show her resilient and devil-may-care spirit.
I don't know what it is about these stories that captured my imagination so completely. The voice of Archy is distinctive, seductive, persuasive. He often despairs of his condition as a bug, not in a Kafkaesque way, but in the manner of a true writer plagued by doubt and angst about the quality of his verse, always struggling against his muse, asking the question "is it literature?". His mastery of language is awe-inspiring. His turn of phrase is quick, nonchalant and witty.
In the poem 'archy interviews a pharaoh' (which is actually about Prohibition and a thirst for beer), Archy devises half a dozen playful ways of referring to the dry pharoah in a deferential yet saucy manner. He calls him 'my regal leatherface', 'old tan and tarry', 'the princely raisin', 'divine drought', 'my reverend juicelessness', and 'the royal dessication'.
I found myself wanting to type out several of these poems - notably, 'the lesson of the moth' - to print and post around my workplace as a constant reminder of the juicy essence of life and romance, and the universal pain of writing. They taste like Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, yet they bubble with an effervescence and playfulness all their own. They look forward, towards John Steinbeck and Henry Miller and the Beat generation to come.
This is not your standard poetry. It's not likely to be studied in English literature classes in high school (more's the pity), it doesn't often rhyme and it isn't Tennyson or Milton (although the writer has clearly read and revered these greats, and references them in his work). Marquis speaks in an American voice, a free voice, a laughing, crying, comic, tragic voice. It's great stuff and I hope you read it. (less)
One of my all-time favourite Georgette Heyer books. I love a brooding scoundrel, and the hero of this work is shameless, with all the fiery temper of...moreOne of my all-time favourite Georgette Heyer books. I love a brooding scoundrel, and the hero of this work is shameless, with all the fiery temper of his mother and audacity of his father in his veins. The appearance of his father at the end of the book is fantastic. A must-read for Regency fans. (less)
I very much enjoyed this mystery; very atmospheric! If Agatha Christie can have an elderly English matron solve crimes, why not have an eleven-year-ol...moreI very much enjoyed this mystery; very atmospheric! If Agatha Christie can have an elderly English matron solve crimes, why not have an eleven-year-old English schoolgirl do the same? I suppose the answer is that most children are self-involved and have a limited intellect, but Flavia de Luce is of course the exception that proves the rule. Her two sisters play counterpoint to her oddball genius, and her father and the rest of her venerable old family are strange enough to account for her being a peculiar child. The setting was richly described, with vivid world-building that evoked an English estate and small village circa 1950, but harkened back to tastes and styles that were popular 100 years earlier. I am fascinated by chemistry and its history, so Flavia's laboratory with its beakers and books delighted me. I also enjoyed the stamp-collecting details, which were done nicely - just enough detail to make it believable, but not to excess. The story changed direction a bit around chapter 15, where Flavia's narration was supplanted by an extensive flashback, but I can see that it was a necessary plot device for the solution of the mystery. For a theoretically contemporary story, this book has a strongly Victorian feel. Enjoyed Bradley's fun wordplay and creative similes immensely! Will read the next book in the series shortly; obviously hoping that the mystery of the mother's disappearance will be addressed.(less)
This was a lovely collection of sci-fi short stories from the 1950s and 1960s, three of which have been made into movies and one that has definitely i...moreThis was a lovely collection of sci-fi short stories from the 1950s and 1960s, three of which have been made into movies and one that has definitely influenced other science fiction giants (e.g. Battlestar Galactica reboot, Terminator, etc).
"The Minority Report" is a nice little paranoia-inducing tale. It's about fear of aging, fear of losing power and significance, of being replaced by a newer model. It's about the struggle for power between authoritarian entities (police, army) and the problem of The Greater Good. It's also about the perils of harnessing the human mind's latent psychic powers to predict and police future crime.
"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (aka 'Total Recall') featured a very different wife and a cute twist ending that are completely unlike what you see in the cinematic versions.
"Paycheck" is also about memory loss related to top-secret employment at a mysterious company, struggles between giant corporations and governments for power, revolution and future-predicting technology.
"Second Variety" is a future man vs. machine war scenario which I found extremely creepy thanks to the expert reading by the narrator of the audio book version. Also, being from May 1953 it predates Ellison's "Soldier from Tomorrow" by 4 years and is, in my mind, an equally solid predecessor to James Cameron's 'Terminator' story.
Lastly, "The Eyes Have It" was very short and more of a fun word experiment than an actual story with a plot (not my favourite).
The tone of these stories is terrific; it is simple and unadorned, with a stark 1950s flavour of authoritarian fatalism. Fear of the government, fear of police, fear of the Reds, fear of technology, fear of radiation and bombs and the future are what shapes these dystopian narratives. They have a delightfully old fashioned feeling for such a collection of futuristic, perennially fresh ideas. (less)
Oh, Jennifer Crusie. You do what you do so well. When I'm not reading about your characters, I'm wondering what's going on with them, that's how real...moreOh, Jennifer Crusie. You do what you do so well. When I'm not reading about your characters, I'm wondering what's going on with them, that's how real they feel to me. When you write dialogue, I can hear it being spoken. When you set up obstacles between your lovers, playing on traditional stereotypes, it still seems like reasonably real and possible problems between humans not just crap you made up. This book wasn't perfect, of course. But it had steamy sex scenes with pauses for a breath of reality to make it feel more genuine: mentioning the condom, showing that sometimes it just isn't working for one or both parties, talking about sweat and discussing The Second Sex and feminist opinions about orgasm, to give a few examples. I mean, I'm impressed. I like that you brought family into the picture at the appropriate time in the relationship. I liked your coverage of municipal politics and council meetings and elections. I liked that everyone got what they deserved, or maybe even a little more than they deserved - death for a jerk, and love for a pornographer. I didn't guess whodunnit until pretty late in the story because you kept me distracted with romance. I just dig your writing altogether. Keep it up, and I'll tell some more people about how solidly awesome your novels are, ok? Deal. (less)
My favourite Austen. Loved it so much I recorded myself reading it aloud for LibriVox as a free MP3 audiobook. My gift of Austen to the world! ;) http:...moreMy favourite Austen. Loved it so much I recorded myself reading it aloud for LibriVox as a free MP3 audiobook. My gift of Austen to the world! ;) http://librivox.org/persuasion-by-jan...(less)
Extremely impressed with this book and its meal plans; I admit I did not pick this up for the exercise recommendations - I already have a good routine...moreExtremely impressed with this book and its meal plans; I admit I did not pick this up for the exercise recommendations - I already have a good routine in place with yoga twice a week and some running/cycling on weekends, plus walking 10,000 steps a day. Working out has never been a problem for me, it's keeping track of what I eat and when that has been a consistent problem. I love food, and have tried Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal for tracking consumption, but what I was really craving was a solid, nutritionally balanced, variety-filled, orderly, multi-week meal plan that would suit someone in their 30s who was slightly overweight, looking to lose a dress size in a reasonable amount of time.
I didn't want to feel hungry or deprived or bored, and this met all expectations. Even my partner was impressed with the dinners (I did breakfast, lunch and snacks on my own, but dinner for two). There were notes on different portion sizes for women & men, and helpful grocery lists. The meals broadened my horizons in terms of vegetables and cuts of meat I would not usually buy at the grocery store. Some personal favourites were: the steak kebabs with rosemary, mushrooms and peppers (amazingly delicious); baked Teriyaki halibut (so good), and several tasty grilled chicken recipes, as well as a nice vegetarian pasta that I would make again. Almost none of the recipes have more than 10-12 ingredients, and with adequate prep on Sunday or the night before, all of them can be cooked in 30 minutes or less, so great for commuters like myself.
Although I did not drop 12 pounds in 2 weeks, since my eating habits were pretty good to begin with and I only started at 5'4" and 150lbs, I did lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks, so down to 140 now. I liked the meal plans so much I bought a few other Denise Austin books, many of which have unfortunately awkward titles and/or cover art (like "Shrink Your Female Fat Zones" and "Lose Those Last 10 Pounds"... yikes) and have found good recipes there also - the Portobello mushroom sandwich from "Lose Those Last 10 Pounds" Week 1 Monday lunch is amazing.
So, I wholeheartedly recommend this author and her work. Yes, she is a little on the relentlessly cheerful and optimistic side, it's like being coached by a cheerleader on cocaine, but I prefer a sunny and upbeat outlook to the "work hard, be mean to yourself, fatso!" stance that seems to be the alternative attitude in the nutrition game.
Deserving of 5 stars for making me break some very bad habits, and teaching me how to snack, cook, shop and portion responsibly. Obedience to this plan will be rewarded with results. (less)
Simply fun. Clever entertainment with some interesting ideas. Liked that the mysteries of the CDF kept me guessing. Going to read Scalzi's 'Redshirts'...moreSimply fun. Clever entertainment with some interesting ideas. Liked that the mysteries of the CDF kept me guessing. Going to read Scalzi's 'Redshirts' next. I enjoy his style: lots of nods to Heinlein, especially Starship Troopers, and to Douglas Adams and Orson Scott Card (but not in a bad way). The kind of sci-fi I would have loved as a teenager and still really enjoy chewing into in my thirties. My sole complaint would be that the book got off to a bit of a slow start then went hell for leather at the end, and some of the early dialogue had a uniformly sarcastic tone, without sufficient variance for different characters. Room for growth, but a quick, enjoyable read. (less)
Well, I loved this: thought provoking, written with a luscious use of vocabulary and playful reinvention of accepted language, and driven by a trio of...moreWell, I loved this: thought provoking, written with a luscious use of vocabulary and playful reinvention of accepted language, and driven by a trio of characters that include a strong/sarcastic 15-year-old girl, a black/asian hacker nerd, and a bad-ass aboriginal dude. Good times.
Three of my favourite passages were: The advertisement for the Smartwheels on Y.T.'s plank; the thought processes of the Rat Things, especially Fido; and the Federal Government memo on austerity measures as they related to bureaucratic staff buying their own toilet paper. Sheer fucking hilarity.
The narrator reading the audiobook version (Jonathan Davis) was simply amazing. He managed to do a convincing job of making distinct voices for a cast of characters that included teenaged skater punks, elderly Italian mafiosos, a psychotic Russian, a mad Texan, and a series of Asian men speaking heavily accented Engrish. A virtuoso effort, to be applauded and savoured over 17 and a half hours of lyrical goodness.
I've seen a number of complaints about the racism, violence and sexuality that are all dealt with very bluntly in the text, but Stephenson writes without the inner editor that would make many writers tone down their dialogue or plotting for the sensitive stomachs of his unseen critics. He builds characters, then lets them have free rein over their dialogue. They speak in distinct voices, and move the plot forward at a good pace. This is America, Jack - there are harsh realities at play, lots of conclaves and groups that dislike one another both vocally and viscerally and are engaged in a fight to the death for dominance. If you can't handle watching the spectacle, go be an audience to a different storyteller who won't grate on your nerves.
The idea of a country that has abandoned the universal rule of law in favour of corporate citizenship is not as wildly far-fetched as this book's science-fiction label suggests. In the current economy, money is power and the rights of the individual are at constant war with the needs of the collective. It's not such an incredible leap of logic to see people banding together based on mutually held beliefs, motivations and fears that transcend the "lobby" system currently in place and evolve into new sovereign political bodies of their own. I enjoyed the idea of the Mafia versus a Church franchise, banding together in a marriage of convenience with a new Hong Kong franchise. Uncle Enzo is a delightful figure and a perfect counterpart to Raven.
There was, of course, as in all Neal Stephenson books, a point where I felt like the glossolalia that runs through the story had possessed the author himself. Forget the Librarian - I could have used Coles Notes to decode what the hell was going on.
In the scene where Hiro plays the detective revealing his findings to the assembled room of suspects, I deduced that L. Bob Rife had a master plan full of naughty machinations. However, I could not for the life of me keep track of the Dan-Brown-on-speed reinterpretation of early religious pseudo-history. Was Enki a bad guy? Was Asherah a help or a hindrance to mankind? What was going on with Judaism and the Torah and then Jesus and the resurrection?? No fucking clue. Everything got really murky with viruses and counter-viruses and in the end I tuned out, lost the thread of nam-shubs and may and babel, and let that scene roll by me, undigested and unfathomable.
It's not perfect, but it's a damn fine work of literature, and I'm glad I took the time to add it to my mental library. Thanks, Neal.(less)