The Mermaid Chair

Have you heard? Sue Monk Kidd has a new book out! I’m so excited, and as soon as I can get my hands on it…I’ll review it!

This is not that review. But, hearing about her new one made me think about her other two gorgeous books, so I had pull The Mermaid Chair off my shelf for a reread. And I can’t promise The Secret Life of Bees won’t make an appearance sometime soon. *wink*

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The Mermaid Chair is a Goldilocks story–you know the kind that is juuuust right? Not too long, not too short. Not too fancy, not too boring. Just enough whimsy to be interesting, but not so much that it crosses over out of reality. Reading this kind of book is like sliding into your favorite pair of slippers.

What is it about Carolina islands? They all seem to have some kind of legend, don’t they? Even though this one is fictional, it fits right in. The mermaid who is seduced on land, and the monk who steals her tail so she cannot leave, forcing her to become a saint. Oh, and don’t forget the perpetual island dog.

Kidd’s underlying plot reads like traditional marriage vows. Sickness, health, better, worse, death do us part. (I guess it’s lacking in the richer/poorer section.)  The tests and trials of marriage are mixed together with a heavy dose of religion, Catholic flavor, but mostly it is a story about love and trust and remembering.

I love this book, hence the reread. I am very much looking forward to Kidd’s new one, so I’ll be certain to share it with you guys once I find it!

Among the Ten Thousand Things

Julia Pierpont’s book isn’t out until July 7, but I am already seeing the cover everywhere. Of course it’s on Goodreads, but people have been reblogging it on Tumblr, and I’ve even seen it on Twitter and Facebook already. That’s pretty cool for a new author!

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I put together my June TBR list the other day and realized I had this ARC waiting to be reviewed. No wonder it sounded so familiar!

The story, in my opinion, is a little ordinary. Just another man cheating on his second wife who was originally his mistress, and then playing the victim. No big surprise there. Teenage angst caused by the lousy father. I was a little underwhelmed by the characters and overall plot. And there were some weird jump cuts in the timeline. Part 1 and 3 are “present-day,” but 2 and 4 make very little sense.

HOWEVER–every once in awhile there will be nugget of consciousness that is absolutely brilliant. Something one would actually think about if one were letting his mind wander in an idle moment. Those brief moments of (what is the opposite of clarity?) are what make this book relatable and memorable. Those rambling thoughts are why people will recommend this book to a friend, even if they don’t know why they liked it so much.

I’m on the fence about this one. I felt really blah about most of it. It wasn’t bad, but the characters were missing that spark. Those stream of consciousness breaks were the one bright light that kept me going, and I was continually looking for them. It was like digging for one more piece of cookie dough in a pint of ice cream. Without it, it’s just vanilla.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

 

 

WWW Wednesday 5/27/2015

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What are you currently reading?

The Turn of the Screw, The Aspern Papers and Two Stories by Henry James

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

What did you just finish reading?

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont (Review tomorrow)

 

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne (groaaaaaan…we’ll see if I get all the way through this one)

Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

The Prince and the Pauper

Sometimes I wonder if kids today still get the same stories that we grew up on. Remember Velveteen Rabbit? That was always my favorite. Or The Little Engine that Could, Babar the Elephant, The Giving Tree? Are those still around? Do kids even know what Aesop’s Fables are anymore, or is it just that Mama Llama book every day?

That is maybe the only thing I miss about not having kids of my own–sharing my stories. I have nieces and nephews, but it’s not quite the same when you aren’t there to read to them every night.

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The Prince and the Pauper is one of those stories I remember hearing at some point. Or maybe it was just seeing the Mickey Mouse version. But I know that story by heart, and as I was reading Mark Twain’s book, I kept wondering if my littles would ever hear this one.

Another thought I had while reading it–I never realized before that this was a legend of Henry VIII’s son. As much as I love his court, I didn’t make the connection. This was apparently Mark Twain’s first attempt at historical fiction, and it’s such a silly little tale, but I quite enjoyed reading the full version. I will say that it is much more…vivid…than the Disney version! Not such a kid’s story, this one.

If you are as in love with Henry’s court as I am, this is worth the read. Mark Twain is so much more than Huck Finn. Who knew?

The Hogwarts Library

I touched a bit on my excitement for expanded series when I reviewed Four recently. JK Rowling is the master of pleasing her fandom with Pottermore. She also put out The Hogwarts Library, as a nod to Hermoine. These three short books raise proceeds for Comic Relief and Lumos. None of the books take long to read, but are a marvelous edition to the original series. For us die hard fans–they definitely tickle our need for everything magical.

Quidditch Through the Ages

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To be honest…Quidditch was my least favorite part of Harry Potter. I think it is mostly because no matter what happened Griffindor ALWAYS won (or almost always). Kind of takes the fun out of the sport, doesn’t it? I mean, high school sports are always full of drama, but there was always so much nastiness in it.

Still, reading about the history of Quidditch was pretty interesting. I have a better grasp on the teams now, when they go to the big cup game, and I am firmly against baskets! My favorite part was reading about the cranky old witch who wrote the first game down in her diary. Damn idiot boys throwing leather balls into her garden!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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The middle book in the set is pretty much just an encyclopedia of the different creatures in the wizarding world. While the descriptions of some of the beasts are interesting, there’s really not much to it. (Although someone’s been up to some mischief with a quill…) I am curious to see how they will turn this A-Z reference guide into a movie, and how many of the critters will make it!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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Being the great lover of fairy tales that I am, this book was my favorite of the three. How amusing to read stories where the witches are the protagonist, instead of the evil ones like in the fable we grew up with! Of course, The Tale of the Three Brothers was familiar, but The Fountain of Fair Fortune was the one I loved the most. It was such an uplifting story.

The commentary by Dumbledore added so much more to the book too. Like all the others in The Hogwarts Library–it’s sometimes easy to forget that these aren’t genuine nonfiction. More than once, out of habit, I started to add one of the notated books to my Goodreads, only to blink into reality and facepalm myself. Those aren’t real reference books! For hardcore Harry Potter fans like myself, the Library only extends our world just a bit further…and our madness too. It just can’t be helped.

I would encourage any fan of the original series to pick these up. They are cute, look great on a shelf, and support great charities for kids in need. And that’s something Dumbledore would have been pretty proud of.

 

Under the Lake

Can I just tell you, it feels REALLY good to be caught up? I’m writing this post way ahead of time–I already have a post scheduled every day this week, and so you’re going to be reading this almost a week after I finish the book! That almost never happens! I’m so glad my slump is over.

My latest library pull was from the very oldest TBRs. We are talking from back before Goodreads, when I kept everything in an Access Database. I got pretty suave at using that program because my TBR list was so crazy detailed. Do you know how happy I was when Goodreads came along? Phew. So much easier. It basically saved my life. Or at least my sanity.

Two of the books didn’t make the cut. Sometimes, a book is on your TBR for so long you really don’t remember why you added in the first place. And they were pretty bad. But, Under the Lake was just the thing for this week, when I was starting to catch my stride in my reading come-back.

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Under the Lake is a thriller from the 80s…which can either be really great or really terrible. This, thankfully, is one of the great ones. It has all the hits:  small town sheriff, rich guy who runs that town, newspaper man down on his luck, spooky mystic old lady, and a mystery that everyone tries to dust under the rug. Or in this case…UNDER THE LAKE! *badaching*

Here’s the thing. This is a bit of a man’s man fantasy. As in, the main character gets everything he ever wants.

  • Easy escape from a lame marriage. Check.
  • Hot friend sex with no strings attached. Check.
  • Hot sex with mystic woman’s sexy mystic daughter. Check.
  • Isolated cabin in the woods with boats and unending supply of booze and chili. Check.
  • Easy writing gig where he makes money but you never see him do any work. Check.

All this for a middle age balding guy with a bad back? mmmmmk….

Some of it does seem a little flat, I will admit. But, I took it with a grain of salt, that it was a guy thriller set in the mid 70s (published in 87). Let’s face it. This isn’t the most modern of books. However, once I got beyond that thought, I really enjoyed the mystery of the town of Sutherland, and what was going on under the lake. Digging around in history always gets me interested, so the story itself was very intriguing, even if I found the characters themselves lacking a bit.

I’m giving this a 3. It’s not perfect. I’m not jumping up and down, but this was “quality entertainment” for a couple of days, and it was an easy thing to read.

 

HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hilary Clinton

When you read as much as I do, you start to know a little bit about a lot of things. I might know and read more about some subjects than others, but I have a pretty wide range of random knowledge.

However, I have always stayed blissfully uneducated when it comes to politics. For 25, 26 years, I could give less than two shits about public policy or the elections or any of that stuff. It all seemed like absolute crap to me–no one was every happy with any decisions that were made, we were all just fighting each other anyway, so what was the point? I absolutely HATE salesmen, and that’s really all politics is.

But, maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, I don’t know. I married a man who is obsessed with Fox News (I know…right? He had to have a flaw or two, I guess), so I’m always hearing about current issues, and not always from a slant I agree with. Ok. It’s almost NEVER from a slant I agree with. It’s also impossible to be on Tumblr for 5 seconds without seeing some kind of social activist rant of the day.

And so my eyes are opening and I’m learning. More accurately, I am sucking information in like water through a straw after running a marathon in a desert. I haven’t figured out where I stand exactly on all the issues, but I definitely care what is going on now. Welcome to Adulthood.

Anyway. I was offered a free copy of HRC to read and review, and since Hilary had just announced her candidacy for president, it was great timing. People are so polarized on Secretary Clinton, and I wanted to read more about her work.

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I wasn’t sure going into this that I would understand everything the book discussed. However, the authors are extremely detailed, and it was really interesting to see the nitty gritty goings on. Richard got me hooked on West Wing shortly after we started dating, and maybe that’s why reading HRC felt so familiar. Even though I wasn’t paying super close attention to the current events during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, I do remember some of what the book refers to, and now I understand much more of what happened–the details, the faces, and the controversies.

This book makes me wish I had one for every single candidate in every election from now on. This is exactly what I need–a 400 page account detailing each person’s work in the field, and an epilogue at the end with their platform. The book was serious, but human, and while yes, it has a political bias, I didn’t feel like it was trying to shove Hilary down my throat like “PICK ME PICK ME.” It showed her flaws as well as her strengths. It wasn’t a used car salesman book. I’m sure not everyone researches presidential candidates by reading that much…but sure was helpful to me!

The next election is going to be an interesting one. It’s the first one I am really paying attention to. I have a lot more research to do, but at least now I know what to look for.

 

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

Mansfield Park

When I added Mansfield Park to my TBR list, I was excited because I was finally going to get to read a third Jane Austen novel. I’ve read Pride & Prejudice a million times, and Emma twice now, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

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Or so I thought.

Apparently, I’ve picked this book up before, and read at least the first half. I had major book dejavou. I remembered Fanny and William and Edward. I remember the play being practiced. That was about as far as I got though, everything after that was unfamiliar.

I was expecting another romance from Austen, similar to the above two books. So when Mr. Crawford started playing for Fanny’s attention in the second half…I figured he’d win in the end. After all, Darcy and Mr. Knightley were both pretty patient, right?

But Mansfield Park is really a completely different book, really more relatable to something you’d see in a 90s teen movie than in an 1800 romance. You have a young woman with social anxiety who just wants to be helpful and loving to everyone she meets. Her best friend of course is in love with the popular girl. PG’s brother is a flirty stud (see:  fuckboy) who all the ladies want, but when Fanny gets a new dress she suddenly becomes beautiful in his eyes and he “must make her fall in love with him” before he leaves in two weeks. Fanny doesn’t trust him, doesn’t want his attention, and when he screws up, some how that’s her fault. (See again:  fuck.boy.)

Ah well, it all turns out ok in the end, as Jane Austen novels always do. I liked this one, though. Definitely not what I expected at all, and it makes me even more excited to read the rest of her books, if they are all going to be so different.

 

Fulfill’s Boxall #82

Red Queen

Everyone has been reading Red Queen lately. It is the new it cover right now. Of course it is–it’s gorgeous!

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I’ve seen mixed reviews, but I knew I had to get my hands on this story. It took me a little while to get from the library, but yay! Just in time for our last minute road trip.

The structure of Aveyard’s book is familiar, and I think that might be the cause for the mixed feelings. It’s another combat dystopian:  female main character, relying on two males for help, which of course leads to the inevitable love triangle. (There’s actually a third mixed in there too–can’t tell if he’s just buddy buddy or what that relationship is meant to be yet.) So, yes, the framing is nothing extremely unique. I’m ok with that though.

I very much enjoyed the world Aveyard created. There are two types of humans–Red blood (lower class) and Silver blood (upper class). The Reds are forced into a kind of serfdom society and mandatory military service at 18. Life means desperate poverty and misery. Silvers have special abilities–like manipulating minds or throwing fire, and they battle each other for power and notoriety. Reds lack this power and so they are held down by the stronger Silvers.

However, a rebellion is rising up among the Reds and one young girl is caught between the two societies.

This is only the first book in the series, and of course now I’m dying for the continuation. I had a hard time putting Red Queen down. Even though the tropes were familiar and somewhat predictable, I like this kind of book, and it was a fantastic addition to the genre.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #31:  A book with bad reviews

The Canterbury Sisters

Is there a name for (pre)menopausal coming-of-age stories? If not, there should be. I love them, even though I’ve still got several years (decades!) before I get there. But there is something about the shift in a woman that is beautiful to me at that point in her life.

These stories almost always include a journey of some kind–Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love are the two that come to mind first. Wild is in there too. Stories of self-discovery and breaking out of the ruts that life has us in.

If you like these stories too, add The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright to your list. It comes out today, and it’s going to be the next one everyone is reading.

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Che (yes, like the revolutionary) gets dumped on the same day she receives her mother’s cremation urn. The instructions enclosed with the ashes are simple:  Go to England and spread the ashes at Canterbury Cathedral. She COULD just take the train from London. There’s one every hour. Instead, she sets off on a week long pilgrimage with Broads Abroad–a touring group for individual women looking to walk in the path of Chaucer’s inspirations.

The women in the group decide to follow Chaucer’s lead and each tell a story of their own, with the group host judging a winner upon arrival in Canterbury. And so the contest begins. 9 complete strangers set off, and become close friends by the end. The result is a funny, heartwarming book, filled with a no-holds barred “what happens on the road stays on the road” type attitude.

I’ll be surprised if Wright’s novel isn’t my favorite Women’s Fiction of the year. And I’ll really be surprised if I don’t hear about people reading it in a few months. I think this is going to be really popular.