Thursday, November 5, 2015

Nonfiction November: Yes Please

I was given a pretty (and heavy! nice paper!) newly-released paperback copy of Yes Please by Amy Poehler to review. Though I had this lovely paperback, I was told repeatedly that I *had* to listen to it on audiobook. So I got on the library hold list and, when it was available, I started a co-read of sorts. And now that I've done it, I want to recommend it to everyone else who hasn't read this book yet. Poehler's humor comes through in both mediums but there are benefits to each one. If you listen to the audiobook, you get Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, and even Amy's parents chiming in. If you get the book, you get to see childhood and teen pictures of the young comedienne. I definitely feel like I got to have the best of both worlds on this read.

This book is funny and profane, sometimes dark and sometimes thoughtful. It was a little disorganized but I'm guessing that there wouldn't be a simple way to organize such diverse content. My favorite parts were the discussion of Parks and Recreation (which I didn't start watching until last year and now I still haven't quite finished because I don't want it to end) and the insider look at SNL. I loved Amy's potty mouth/keyboard and her parents' Boston accent. I wasn't so into the semi-frequent drug mentions or her talk about smoking (though she seems to have quit now). Overall, this was a very honest sharing of her life both in and out of "the business" that was as comfortable as a late-night talk over drinks with a friend.

Peeking behind the curtain,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Release: Sorcerer to the Crown

I know, I know. EVERYONE is raving about Sorcerer to the Crown and Zen Cho.  I actually didn't request it right away from the library because of that whole ridiculously-high expectations thing. But I was told that it was totally my kind of story and I caved. Then ... I loved it.

So what does this story have that makes it so great?

-- An alternate Regency London/England that has magic, naturally. I don't think I have to explain why that is the best setting possible.
-- Discussions of race. One of the main characters is Zacharias Wythe, an emancipated slave, rescued in his youth and trained in the ways of magic by the Sorcerer Royal of England. Needless to say, the majority of the other magicians are not his fans.
-- Discussions of gender. The other main character is the unfortunately-named Prunella Gentleman, who, despite the belief that women cannot handle magic, seems to have an exceptional aptitude for it. She's multi-racial as well.
-- Dragons and fairies and familiars. It's probably all because of Hedwig, but who doesn't love a good familiar?
-- Politics. English politics, fairy politics -- it's all good.

I'm sure I've missed something else awesome. After all, I rushed through the story quite quickly. I couldn't help it. I had to know what was going to happen to Zacharias and Prunella and all of the magic of England. Anyway, if any of this interests you, you should pick up the book sooner than later. I'm going to buy my own copy -- hopefully with the gorgeous UK cover shown above!

(p.s. This will be a trilogy.)

Off to my ideal world,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Goodbye RIP, Hello November

The time has come far too soon to bid adieu to RIP season. I managed to read thirteen books this year, which seems appropriate. I DNFed my most anticipated read (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street) but enjoyed many other perilous plots. A big thank you to Andi and Heather for taking up the reins on the event this year!

Looking forward, there are lots of great events happening this fall/winter. 

This week, I'll be celebrating Witch Week with Lori! There's a group read of The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter that any of you can still get in on as it's quite short.

Kim, Leslie, Katie, and Rebecca are hosting Nonfiction November. I have some reviews that I still need to post that will fit nicely and also some books to get to so I'm using this event as motivation. I think I'll start with Amy Poehler's Yes Please.

A whole host of bloggers are reading Jane Austen's Emma in December and I'm hoping to join in on that as it's my final unread Austen.

And last but certainly not least is the #potterbinge Harry Potter Readalong hosted at The Estella Society! I'm hoping to read Order of the Phoenix with Z but I'll probably sneak in as many books as I can. I'm in the mood to revisit Deathly Hallows as well.

What are your reading plans for November and beyond?

Reading all the books,

Friday, October 30, 2015

RIP X: 12, The League of Beastly Dreadfuls and 13, Sad Cypress

My last two RIP reads have nothing in common but it's time to wrap this month up so ...

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant is a middle grade fantasy/mystery that is a bit uneven and leaves too many threads hanging at the end. I wanted to love this book but it feels badly edited and Anastasia, the main character, is a bit of a dummy. She's at school one day when the school secretary comes and takes her out of class with the news that her parents have been in an accident. She's told that her "aunts", two women she's never seen, met, or even heard of, are there to pick her up. She takes the bait and leaves the school, only to find herself in an abandoned Victorian mental asylum, locked in a mildewy bedroom, and wondering if her parents are okay. And yet, for a significant amount of the book, she finds her situation unfortunate but not strange. I just didn't get it. And things were left open at the end for an obvious sequel/series but in a way that you still know nothing about why any of this happened to her. I'm not sure if I will read book two when it comes out or not.

I put off reading the last few Poirot novels that I had on my shelf because I had watched the television series first and so I knew all of the plots. But enough time has now passed that I was able to pick up Sad Cypress and not know what was going to happen. This one is a riff off of the old country house murder -- three women in a house, one ends up dead. Did Elinor really kill Mary out of jealousy? Eventually Poirot is brought in to figure it out. This was a standard Christie -- not one of her best but still entertaining and a good way to end the RIP season.

Returning to peril-less reads,

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

RIP X: 10, Jackaby and 11, Beastly Bones

With Beastly Bones being released this month, I couldn't help but reread Jackaby as well because William Ritter has created a fascinating world of strange magic and malevolent creatures, part Sherlock Holmes, part Doctor Who. (I know it says this same thing in the cover copy but I swear that it is true. You will find yourself thinking of both as you read.) With a smart and secretly caring detective and a strong and capable female assistant, these stories are a pleasure to read. The crimes are bloody and the climaxes are explosive but everything is tempered with a bit of humor and romance, which makes these my ideal RIP books.

My review of Jackaby was actually posted a year ago tomorrow and I would be immensely pleased if Ritter could keep to this brisk schedule as he releases successive books in the series. I wouldn't mind total series rereads every October!

Under a spell,

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Tiffany Aching Novels

I have been slowly working my way through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and hadn't yet gotten to the Tiffany Aching books. (The entire world is broken down into smaller series and these are the later books in the Witches sub-series.) However, since I knew the final Discworld novel (and Pratchett's final book ... sob!), was coming out in October, I decided to catch up beforehand so that I could cheer/grieve with everyone else. I started at the beginning of August with The Wee Free Men and fell instantly in love with not only the main character, Tiffany Aching, but with almost every side character as well. Then, about every two weeks, I picked up another of these books (or audiobooks) -- going from A Hat Full of Sky to Wintersmith to I Shall Wear Midnight and then finishing with The Shepherd's Crown on the morning of Readathon.

I can't say enough good things about this series. The characters, many of whom are witches, are interesting and smart and complex. The plots are exciting and unique while being nestled in a coming-of-age master plot. The audiobooks, read by Stephen Briggs, are wonderful. (To be honest, having the audiobook helps a lot with understanding the Scottish-like brogue of the Nac Mac Feegle.) Through the series I laughed (a lot), gasped, and even cried.

These books are listed as YA but I really think that's only because Tiffany herself is a tween/teen throughout the series. I didn't notice much difference between the writing in these books and in the other eight Discworld books I've read so far. If you are new to this series, the Tiffany Aching books aren't a bad place to start either.

I will absolutely be buying my own copies of these five books for my personal library. I plan to reread them often as I continue working my way through the approximately three dozen other Discworld novels that I haven't yet had the pleasure to read.

Until we meet again,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

RIP X: 9, The Law and the Lady

I still have a couple of unread Wilkie Collins novels on my TBR shelves so I decided to pick up The Law and the Lady this season. It is one of Wilkie's later books (1875) and is a thrilling story.

Valeria is an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle. One day she meets a man who is fishing near her home and it is basically love at first sight. The two quickly get married but, only days later, Valeria finds out that her husband might not be who he says he is. It is therefore up to Valeria to discover the truth.

Yes, this is another super vague description because some of the secrets of the story are revealed quite early and I don't want to give anything away because it's such a crazy, twisty tale. But, as you probably expect from Wilkie by now, there are questions of identity, crime, and, of course, social justice. Valeria is constantly expected to behave in a certain way simply because she is a woman. However, she also happens to be strong-willed and tenacious and this leads to a first-person account that is compelling and ultimately a bit stressful to read! It manages to be smart but insane at the same time and is a great example of Collins' genius with plots and his concern about the Victorian society's treatment of women. I had so much fun reading this book that I will probably choose another Collins to read this winter.

Peeking in the diary,

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Release: Wilkie Collins

I was very excited to be offered a copy of Peter Ackroyd's new Ackroyd's Brief Lives entry, Wilkie Collins. 'Tis the season where one cannot help but choose one of Wilkie's brilliant stories to indulge in as the wintry gloom approaches. And what better way to preface a Collins read (mine was The Law and the Lady this year) than by learning more about the man himself.

Small in size (not unlike Collins himself), this book nevertheless covers Wilkie's life, including so many scandals and illnesses. It was an easy read and I appreciated the opportunity to flesh out those things I already knew about one of my favorite authors. It was obvious while reading that he is also one of Ackroyd's favorites and it produced a feeling of veracity about the facts in the book -- both from faith that Ackroyd was diligent in his research and also trust that he viewed Collins' actions in a more sympathetic light that some other biographers.

I have really enjoyed Ackroyd's non-fiction (including London Under) and fiction (featuring an RIP read from five years ago) and look forward to picking up his Brief Lives volume about Poe (and eventually getting back to the very large London: The Biography).

Solving the mystery,

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