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Book Tuesday: The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

being-earnest

This is another classic of literature which I only got around to reading because I heard of a webseries adaptation and wanted to compare with the original material. I would say it was part of my “”read it first” effort, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate, because I saw the first two or three episodes first.

It went this way: someone I follow on Tumblr (from the Emma Approved days, I think) posted a link to this video.

 

It was a brand new thing, only two or three episodes old, and I was completely charmed by this pilot. So I went ahead and got the play on my tablet. I think I read it in a couple of days. It’s pretty short, most plays tend to be, and it shouldn’t have taken me this long, but I remember that I had to go and be someplace where it would have been rude of me to read, the first of those two days.

Quick resume: Jack Worthing has been calling himself Ernest to everyone he meets in town; from his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff, to the young woman he is courting, the Honorable Gwendolyn Fairfax, and her mother, Lady Bracknell. But while in the country, he pretends that Ernest is his wastrel of a younger brother and uses this imaginary brother as an excuse to leave his young ward, Cecily Cardew, to the care of her governess. He is determined to abandon the plot once he marries Gwen (if only he could convince her mother to grant her blessing!) so Algernon takes this last golden opportunity to visit Jack’s home in the countryside, pretend to be Ernest, and seduce Cecily. And of course, as in any good comedy, the ruse is discovered and after some witty banter and the odd deus ex machina, everyone lives happily ever after.

The play is good, and I’m glad to have spent those few hours over two days to read it. Some elements of the farce are just on the wrong side of believable, but that’s want makes this funny. And some of the exposition seems deliberately construed to increase tension. (Algernon and “Earnest” fighting over the cigarette case, because Algernon should have started with “that cigarette case belongs to someone named Jack, says so right here!”, or looking through the military records to find General Moncrieff’s first name, because wouldn’t Algernon and/or lady Bracknell know it already?) None the less, I did enjoy the book.

I infinitely prefer In Earnest, though. The elements of the farce are pared with the right amount of seriousness, there is drama and conflict and character development, and a happy ending that becomes so much more satisfying for the work that went into it. I am much more likely to recommend the webseries then the play, even if I did like the play. Or, putting it another way, I’m not that excited at the idea of reading more Oscar Wilde, but I did pledge some money to support REX, the next project of the creators of In Earnest, and encourage everyone reading this to do the same.

the indiegogo campain for REX the webseries.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Hybrid Chronicles, by Kat Zhang

The first volume of The Hybrid Chronicles, What’s Left Of Me, was a great example of the Goodreads “Recommend” feature working the way it should. I gave the first volume a five star, and the other two four stars each.

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Kat Zhang creates a fantasy world where everyone is born with two personality living in their bodies. Generally, one of the personality begins to fade around age five, and has completely disappeared by age ten. The narrator, Eva, is one of the personalities of a sixteen years old girl, the personality that should have faded away years ago but never did. In typical dystopian fashion, the personal struggles she shares with her “sister”, Addie, expose the terrible way she and others like her are treated. They discover an underground resistance movement and radically transform their society to get rid of the prejudice she and others like her face.

I really enjoyed this series. I absolutely loved the first book, though the ending was a touch too ambiguous for a stand-alone. Then again, by that point, I already knew that this was a trilogy. By the second book, I encountered the biggest problem I have with this series: it is made clear in the series that most of the major world events happened in this world as well, that the reason Eva and most everyone else knows nothing about them is that America has severed all contact with the rest of the world, but it doesn’t tell us when. Or the when shifts between novel. In the first novel, it looked as though the separation happened sometime after the revolutionary war. In the second book, it looked like it happened around or after world war two. There is a lot of time between the two, and trying to figure out the “actual” timeline hurt my head. Once I stopped trying and just went with the flow, the book was good again.

One of the things I enjoyed best in this series was the fact that Eva and Addie are consistently written as co-owners of their body. Neither of them wants sole ownership; they don’t want the other to disappear. They are written like twins; they are different people, they have different tastes and different dreams and aspirations, they occasionally squabble, but they love each other, and they do not want to lose each other. I haven’t seen that kind of relationship written that well in many novels, and I thought it was a really good thing.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Liar, by Nora Roberts

The most recent stand-alone novels by Mrs Nora Roberts, which came out a month ago, but I was waiting for my library copy, so I only read it this week-end.

the liar

A brief resume: Shelby Pomeroy married Richard Foxworth at age 19. Five years later, she becomes a widow, and immediately later learns that her husband lied about everything: he cheated on her, he pretended to want a second child with her but had a vasectomy in secret, he never even made the first payment on their new seven-bedrooms house. She’s left with nothing but her toddler and three million dollars of debt; so she returns home to her family. She reconnects with her old friends, and some old enemies too, and she catches the eye of newcomer Griffin Lott. But moving away doesn’t mean getting away from the trouble her husband left her into. On top of all the other things, the man was a thief and a con artist, and from old victims to former partners, there are way too many people looking to settle a score with him, through Shelby.

What did I think of this book? I liked it, for the most part, and I did finish it in less then 24 hours. When one considers that there are books I cannot even bring myself to finish, I think this is a fair indication that I really did like this book.

Beware spoilers under the cut.

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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

scarlet_pimpernel

 

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the books that I had marked down in my Aurelia Osborne GoodReads, but never transferred to my [insert real name] GoodReads, and therefore promptly forgot. Then I heard the title somewhere, got intrigued, and picked it up.

The story is set in October 1792, in France. It is the Reign of Terror, and anyone even remotely suspected of being an enemy of the revolution is sentenced to die. Yet, the guillotine is cheated out of many heads by the hard work and ingenuity of a man known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. All that is known about the Pimpernel is that he, and the League who operates under his orders, are English noblemen. Therefore, the French Government sends an agent, Chauvelin, as their ambassador to England to discover the identity of their clever enemy and have, if possible, send him in France to a trap where he would be caught and executed. To assist him, Chauvelin enrolls Marguerite Blakeney, née St-Just, the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, baronet and leader of fashion, who just so happens to be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite does not know the secret identity of her husband: she only knows that unless she helps Chauvelin, he will have her brother Armand arrested for treason.

Having read this for the first time three months ago, and many many more times since, I am going to go ahead and call this my new favorite classic novel. I have some issues with the form: there is a lot of seeing the action happen and then followed by lengthy explanations. But I’m getting used to seeing this, as I’ve been reading more and more classic novels. It seems that they all employ this story structure. I don’t like it, and I’m really, really glad that it fell out of fashion, but I’m getting used to it. There is also a lot of wandering around, and A LOT of repetition and rehashing of events. But I do enjoy Marguerite, as a main character, and so much of the story, the intrigue and the action and the romance, is all so captivating. In a word, I have been enjoying the book despite it’s writing.

Because I do enjoy seeing classical works adapted in visual formats, I have begun to look for various Scarlet Pimpernel adaptations to compare and contrast. I am especially looking forward to Masked, a modern-day adaptation web-series announced for “summer 2015” (so… six weeks from now?)

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The Fill-In Boyfriend, by Kasie West

This is the first time I can remember doing this: I’ve pre-ordered the electronic version of this book, it is coming out today, and I am attempting to read and review it on the same day.

the fill-in boyfriend (not out yet)

I figure if I’m going to take a chance and try a same-day review, it might be with this book. I have already read all of Kasie West’s previous novels and I have found them to be quick reads as well as enjoyable ones. I’ll review those separately some other time. For now, here is what I think of The Fill-In Boyfriend.

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Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: Love and Leftovers, by Sarah Tregay

I bought this book purely on a whim. I was at the bookstore, I had a thing in my hand that I was ready to buy that was not a book, and I promised to myself that every non-book purchases at the bookstore must be matched by a book, and that one looked all right, both in terms of blurb and of cover, so I bought it.

love and leftovers

The story seems simple enough: a girl moves away when her parents divorce and she goes to live with her mother. She leaves her friends behind and meet new people and “a new romance heats up”, according to the blurb. But even from the first few pages, you can tell that the situation is more complicated then that, and it only gets more intense as the book goes on.

One thing that really surprised me when I first read the book, a thing I didn’t expect but ended up really liking: the novel is written as a series of free verse poems. I like that the fact that the book doesn’t advertise it’s unusual style; there are clues that I picked on later, but I clearly bought the book without having figured it out. I’m not sure I would have spent my money if I had known in advance, because I tend to be weary of shticks, but I did spend the money and only learned about the shtick after having read the first 10 pages of the book, at which point I figured “might as well finish it”. And other then some conversations that turn out really awkward, the shtick works.

I enjoyed the book, I’m glad I read it, and I was more then happy to share the love by loaning it to a friend of mine, even knowing fully well that I might never get it back again. Let that be a lesson, everyone: always assume that loaning a book is giving it away.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron

When I learned how sick my cat really was, I decided, for some reason, that I needed more literary cats in my life. (I was going to say more fictional cats, but Dewey was not fictional.) That is when I borrowed Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron, from the library.

deweydook

(I learned my lesson from last week.)

Sometime, I really think that I make terrible decisions, the kind of decision that will inevitably make me cry, just to remind myself that I’m not a robot*. Reading this book when I did was definitively one of them, and I’m not just saying that because I was reading it in a bus full of strangers; they can suck an egg if they don’t like me crying. I’m saying that because it’s a biography of a cat. I knew from the start that it would end with the cat dying, and that unless the book was so terribly written that I couldn’t finish it, that death would hit me pretty hard.

The book was not terribly written, not at all.

One of the things I loved best about it is that it wasn’t just the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the kitten who was found in the return box of the Spencer, Iowa public library one cold winter morning. Of course, the book covers the life of Dewey, who recovers from his night in the return box to become the official library cat, status which brought him national, and even international, fame. Dewey sounds like he was the most adorable cat: playful and sociable, without being clingy. The perfect library cat, in a word, and the kind who makes me wish that my library had a cat.

It’s also not just the story of head librarian Vicki Myron, who found Dewey that morning and was his non-official keeper. She does inject a good part of herself in the book, as is her right as a narrator, and her story is inspirational on many levels. Her many trials and tribulations cannot fail to strike a chord with readers. (Is it prejudiced to say especially female readers? It might be, but I’m having a harder time imagining male readers connecting with the medical complications caused by childbirth, and the breast cancer diagnosis.)

Along with all of that, it was the story of Spencer, a small-town in Iowa, and the people who call it home. The descriptions of Spencer and it’s inhabitants are so tightly interwoven with Dewey’s story that you begin to think that the story could not have happened anywhere else, or at any other time. The setting would probably feel mythical to anyone younger then I am; it brought me a lot of memories and nostalgia for my late eighties to late nineties childhood.

I’m really happy that I’ve read this book, although a small part of me wishes that I’d waited a few more weeks, at least.

*There are moments when I doubt my own capacity to feel emotions, such as when I went to see The Fault in Our Stars and didn’t cry, so those reminders feel terrible but might actually be good for me. Like Buckley’s.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The “Magical Cats” mysteries, by Sofie Kelly

I was taken with the urge to read cozy mysteries about four/five months ago, and I have spend a great deal of time sifting through the collection at my local library, looking for the right fit. The good thing about cozy mysteries is that there are almost as many different types of series as there are readers. Something for everyone if you know what to look for. Whether you love cooking or crafting, or music or books, or pets or babies, there is something out there for anyone. The story can have a hint of supernatural, or be completely in the realm of fantasy, or be completely mainstream.

After a lot of trial and error, I figured that I wanted something with books, especially those starring librarians, and with pets, with maybe just a hint of the supernatural. I found exactly that in the Magical Cats series, written by Sofie Kelly, a pseudonym of Darlene Ryan.

The Magical Cats series follows Kathleen Paulson, a Boston-born librarian who takes a one-year contract to oversee the modernization of a small Minnesota town. She adopts, or gets adopted, by two almost-feral cats, who have magical abilities: one can turn invisible, and the other can walk through walls. They also have the “cozy mystery pet” syndrome: they know exactly when to get involved in a homicide investigation, and they have a knack for finding the piece of clue that will guide their non-professional-investigative-person owners to the guilty party.

When I first began reading the series, I was worried that the supernatural element might be a bit too much. After trying some “witchy” cozies and getting annoyed with the magical element, I wanted something more mainstream. But the magic here is so specific, it’s an original twist that doesn’t feel so far removed from reality. (Which should give you an idea of the talent of Sofie Kelly: the cats who turn invisible and walk through walls still feel realistic.)

The main character, Kathleen, is a great protagonist. I was expecting more of a book-lover vibe from her, although she does occasionally breaks into book quotes, but it is clear that she is a librarian at heart. She’s the straight man to her family of crazy actors and artists, which leads to some interesting reactions vis-a-vis her super-powered cats. And, most of all, she is a cat-lover. Because, really, it’s the cats that sell the story. There are many well developed and amusing secondary characters in the from of Kathleen’s family and friends, and a police detective romantic interest. But it’s all about the cats.

The series is six books along so far. A seventh book is planned for this fall. I can’t wait, but I don’t have a choice.

eta: It occurred to me that this post might look better with the covers of the books discussed. So, here is the series, so far

magical cats mystery series

and here is the upcoming book

faux paw

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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