September 25, 2015

Two unusual detectives and the blogger who loved them

I'm a great lover of mystery novels. (If you randomly search throughout this blog you'll see that I'm a great lover of many different genres but I digress.) I was recently turned onto an Australian television program entitled Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (if you're a fan of mystery programs then you should check it out on Netflix) and when I discovered that it was based on a series of novels I immediately started looking for them at the library. The first book in the series by Kerry Greenwood is Cocaine Blues and it introduces the reader to Phryne Fisher, a most unusual choice for a detective. She's brash, fearless, wealthy, and (if you didn't catch on) a woman. The series is set in late 1920s Melbourne, Australia and features an interesting assortment of main characters which include but are not limited to working class taxi drivers, a dutiful maid, a stolid detective inspector, and Phryne at the center of it all. In the first book of the series, Phryne manages to solve 3 crimes (only two of which feature the illegal substance mentioned in the title of the book). A young girl is given a back alley abortion that nearly kills her by a man that the police have yet to pin down, a woman seems to be a victim of poisoning by her husband, and the cocaine trade is rampant in Melbourne and the King of Snow is at the heart of it all. Picture an attractive young woman sailing onto a crime scene bedecked in the latest fashion of 1920s London carrying a small pistol in a tiny purse who effortlessly solves crimes while simultaneously beguiling all of the attractive men (and women) in the vicinity. So why aren't you reading this series already?!

Continuing my foray into mysteries, I returned to one of my favorite mystery writers (and detectives). Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin *swoon*, This has been a favorite of mine ever since I discovered the A&E series with Timothy Hutton *swoon*. (Maybe I should start a blog where I review television series and movies. hahaha) Death Times Three includes 3 novellas featuring the famous armchair detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. All of the Nero Wolfe mysteries take place in Manhattan through the 1930-70s. The first in this compilation, Bitter End, starts out with contaminated liver pate and continues with the search for a murderer. Following after that is Frame-Up For Murder where Archie is entreated by a beautiful young woman to help her brother save his fashion business only for the waters to be muddied by an ill-timed death. It closes with Assault on a Brownstone which is singular as Wolfe's sanctuary is beset with Treasury officials and Archie meets someone who gets the jump on him. It's a quick, fun read and if you love mysteries it will whet your appetite for longer works from Stout. You won't regret it, I promise.

**If you're interested in a books like the ones I've reviewed here, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 18, 2015

Children's Classics (and their movie adaptations) Part One

Longtime readers of the blog may have picked up on the fact that I absolutely adore classic literature. I'm a big fan of Dickens and Austen especially. However, there are a lot of children's classics which I haven't really touched upon here and since I have a hankering to read them...HERE WE GO!

The first one on the list is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Now this is a book which I first read back in middle school and I do believe I reread at least twice since then. I picked up a used hardcover copy a few years back at one of my local libraries for $0.25 (it's gorgeous and I love it) but until this past week I haven't stopped to reread this delightful little tome. The story centers on the March family which consists of Marmee (Mother), Father (away at the war at the beginning), Meg (eldest), Jo, Beth, and Amy (youngest). Each of the characters has a distinct (and at times rather exaggerated) personality. From the outset, it is clear that the reader is meant to favor Jo. Her character is the most fleshed out and tangible. She is outspoken and her biggest regret is that they weren't all born as boys. They are a close knit family group that is rounded out by their housekeeper and their neighbors next door who consist of a boy Jo's age and his grandfather. The story runs from their childhood into their adulthood and covers everything from petty sibling arguments to childbirth to death. Louisa May Alcott continued the series with Little Men and Jo's Boys which are excellent reads but not as great as Little Women in my opinion. The book was adapted to film in 1995 and included such actors as Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale. The script stayed pretty close to the storyline of the book but I found the casting of some of the characters to be a bit off. For example, I think that the girl who played Meg would have done better as Beth and Christian Bale was not AT ALL what I pictured as Laurie. Otherwise, it was alright but if I had seen it first I don't think I would have been inspired to read the novel that it was adapted from.

Moving on from there, I finally read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I want to start with the film review for this one because it's truly in my top 5 favorite films of all time. The movie came out in 1993 and is the reason why I have wanted to ramble across the Yorkshire moors (which I finally did this summer!). The script includes lines which are directly lifted from the novel and is almost entirely faithful to the storyline. It is absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it. Now for the book! It features a little girl named Mary Lennox who is orphaned and sent to live with an uncle who she has never met named Archibald Craven. Mary's childhood up until this point has been rather lonesome, grim, and without affection. As a result, she is a morose and not at all agreeable child. The house is large, foreboding, and empty apart from the servants as Mr. Craven frequently travels. They're situated out on the Yorkshire moors which to the little girl appears barren and desolate. At first, you think that Mary's life has not improved one iota...and then she starts exploring the gardens. She learns that there is a garden that is hidden and which no one has been inside for 10 years since Mrs. Craven died. Through seemingly magical circumstances, she locates the key and finds her way inside only to discover that the garden is not entirely dead. She enlists the help of a boy that lives on the moors named Dickon who tames animals and over time helps to tame her as well. They decide they are going to bring the garden back to life. This isn't the only mystery of the novel either...and I'm not going to tell you anymore because you need to read it and then watch the film. GO, GO, GO!

September 11, 2015

Exercising Positivity

I just figured out that Levana is the Evil Queen and Winter is Snow White. *mind blown* Now I have no idea if you guys have or have not already reached this conclusion and so I don't know if this is a spoiler...hold on I'm going to see if this is a well-known fact or not..okay it doesn't seem like it's totally a spoiler but it makes sense if you read the title of the book (Fairest just in case you've forgotten) and remember the saying that the Evil Queen would say when looking into her enchanted mirror. The real point I was trying to make is that I completely forgot that these were fairytales with a twist and then when it hit me I was truly shocked. Also, I'm obsessed with this series and so to discover that Winter isn't technically the last book (she's written a short story compilation called Stars Above full of secrets!) made me quite happy. I know there are some of you that aren't really into young adult lit and I totally get that. It's not for everyone and honestly I don't like all of the genres myself. However, when there's relatable characters with interesting storylines in a world that is fascinating you're bound to enjoy it. In this story, you find out just what Levana looks like without her glamour and why she's seemingly without feelings. There are moments of fleeting happiness in the previous books in this series and if you're looking for that here you're going to be disappointed. That shouldn't stop you from reading it though because there's a lot of backstory that I have a feeling will definitely play a part in Winter (why isn't it out yet?!).

And then there was the reason I titled this post "Exercising Positivity". I just finished reading Louise Pentland's Life With A Sprinkle of Glitter. If you're not hugely into YouTube or lifestyle/beauty blogging then you probably have no idea who Louise is. Her online identity is (aptly named) Sprinkleofglitter and she's great. Her book is exactly like her. It's a collection of silly, sweet, heartwarming, British-y goodness. I bought my copy when I visited the United Kingdom a few weeks ago because they have it in hardcover and it is GORGEOUS. There are chapters on everything from body positivity to crafts to practicing kindness. It's definitely a feel good book that I can see myself picking up and perusing when I'm feeling a bit low (or when I want to make a sweet treat for a social gathering). It's a quick read and Louise's brand of humor is really up my street (if you don't like it when someone laughs at their own jokes you might want to stay away). Did I mention that it's a really gorgeous book? I'm talking full-color layouts on every single page, people.

September 4, 2015

Remembering 16

Firstly, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Short Stories was written while Susanna Clarke was still working on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which I just found out took her 10 years to I guess I won't hold my breath on her next novel. Secondly, this was a great short story compilation, ya'll. This was especially great if you are thinking of reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but you're not sure if you want to commit yourself to such an epic length book. This will definitely give you a taste of her narrative style as well as the world that she has created (Faerie! Also other places!). Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this author. I am super excited to see what else she comes up with but as I said a few sentences ago she does like to take her time (and she's also been ill so don't be too hard on her). Go check this book out!

Now onto why I titled this post 'Remembering 16': To Hear the Ocean Sigh by Bryant A. Loney (who is only 18!). I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher, Verona Booksellers, a few months ago and I've just finished reading it. This is the story of an 'every man' named Jay Murchison who is just trying to get through his sophomore year of high school (and become popular in the process). There's typical teenage angst about what it means to be 'popular' but embedded within that is the question of what it means to be authentic to oneself. I found the book to be at times poignant (the reason behind the title kinda blew my mind a little bit) and pedantic (I don't need to know every single move that Jay makes throughout his day especially when it's a mundane everyday activity). If you're a fan of John Green style young adult novels you'll most likely enjoy this one.

Sticking to the young adult theme, I'm about to be caught up with the Lunar Chronicles series because I've just picked up Fairest: Levana's Story. Each of the previous books in the series focused on different characters from fairytales with a twist. This one is all about the villain of the series, Levana. I'm excited to learn the backstory of the one character that so far has seemed pretty one-sided. On with the reading!