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oblue

Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

Currently reading

The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Myra McEntire, Kiersten White, Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, Matt de la Pena, Jenny Han, Ally Carter, Kelly Link, David Levithan
Secrets of the Tulip Sisters
Susan Mallery
Let's Talk About Love
Claire Kann
The Wedding
Dorothy West
The Man in the Brown Suit
Agatha Christie
Progress: 5 %
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain
Phoebe Robinson, Jessica Williams
The Round House
Louise Erdrich
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St. Andrew's Day-24 Tasks

St. Andrew's Day

 

 

Task 1:  Nominate someone for sainthood.  Who?  Why?

 

I am going to nominate Lousia May Alcott who refused to give in to fans of Little Women and did not have Jo and Laurie get together. People still complain about that even if you are a reader of the books and realize those two would have murdered each other. I think the best thing an author can do is hold to their vision for their characters and not bow under pressure by the fandom. I still say JK Rowling should have pushed back on people insisting that Harry couldn't die and Hermonie and Ron should be together. Bah. 

 

Task 2: St Andrew is revered in many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, where he worked as a Christian missionary, long before his relics were brought to Scotland centuries later. – Tell us: Is there a book (regardless whether fiction or nonfiction) for which you would basically walk up to strangers and tell them: “Read this!”? What would you say and do to get people to read that particular book?

 

Oh wow. I have already told people at my office to read Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon. The one person who has read it based on my recommendation loved it and thanked me for recommending it to him. That book moved me in ways that had me weeping while reading. The entire story is told in the first person by Cory. There is not much to say besides the fact that I thought that Cory was wonderful as a character. Robert R. McCammon perfectly captures an 11 year old boy who loves his family, friends, and his loyal dog. Watching as Cory starts to understand the power of words, telling stories, and ultimately writing down his stories was great. This book had so many great lines. 

 

“The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us.

We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It's not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don't know its happening until one day you feel you've lost something but you're not sure what it is. It's like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you 'sir'. It just happens.” 

“Maybe crazy is what they call anybody who's got magic in them after they're no longer a child.”

 

“If you were my girlfriend I would give you a hundred lightning bugs in a green glass jar, so you could always see your way. I would give you a meadow full of wildflowers, where no two blooms would ever be alike. I would give you my bicycle, with its golden eye to protect you. I would write a story for you, and make you a princess who lived in a white marble castle. If you would only like me, I would give you magic. If you would only like me.”

 

“I understood then what courage is all about. It is loving someone else more than you love yourself.” 

 

“They may look grown-up,” she continued, “but it’s a disguise. I

t’s just the clay of time.

Men and women are still children deep in their hearts.

They still would like to jump and play, but that heavy clay won’t let them.

They’d like to shake off every chain the world’s put on them, take off their watches and neckties and Sunday shoes and return naked to the swimming hole, if just for one day.

They’d like to feel free, and know that there’s a momma and daddy at home who’ll take care of things and love them no matter what.

Even behind the face of the meanest man in the world is a scared little boy trying to wedge himself into a corner where he can’t be hurt.” 

 

Task 3: Legend has it that the saltire or St. Andrew’s cross (white on an azure background) – which constitutes the national flag of Scotland – originated as a cloud formation, symbolizing St. Andrew’s being crucified on an X-shaped cross rather than an upright one.  Do you have any pictures of unusual cloud formations?  If so, share them with us!

 

This was a picture I took at the pool in August this year. I though the cloud looked like a young girl with her arms out about to take off and fly. 

 

This is a picture I took in Portland this April. It's weird, when I took this it seemed like Mt. Hood was surrounded by clouds. I pretended to myself that they were clouds whisking gods and goddesses off to Mount Olympus. 

 

 

This is a picture I took at Great Falls in September 2017. I thought the clouds in the sky looked like cotton balls. 

 

Task 4: The town of St. Andrews, where the saint’s bones ended up in the course of the spread of Christianity to Scotland, is also famous for its golf course and tournament.  List your 3 favorite books where golf is key to the plot.

 

1. Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18) by Agatha Christie. I don't want to spoil this whole thing, but golf is a central part of this story.  

 

2. 4:50 from Paddington (Miss Marple # 8) by Agatha Christie. Lucy Eyelesbarrow uses her practicing golf in order to look for a body that is hidden. 

 

3. Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie. One of the main characters in this one (Bobby) finds a man dying on the golf course. 

 

Book: Andrew was the first apostle; read the first book in a series. OR:  Andrew and Peter were brothers; read a book about brothers. OR: Read books about or set in Scotland or by a Scottish author, or set in Charleston, South Carolina (which is where the celebrations as we know them today began – by a group of Scottish expats – according to scotland.org).

 

Yeah a Rosamunde Pilcher book should fit this! Going to read Snow in April.

Christmas in Ballybucklebo

An Irish Country Christmas - Patrick Taylor

This is the third Irish Country book and this one has a lot of moving parts. It's still one of my favorites though. Not going to lie, though I initially felt for Doctor Barry Laverty in this one, I ended up losing all of my sympathy after a while due to how he was treating the woman he is dating (Patricia Spence). Him acting as if her studies or meeting new people, seeing new things is not as important as coming home to spend a few days with him during the holidays got old after a while. The star of this one really is Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly and his second chance romance with Sister (meaning nurse) Kitty O'Hallorhan. It's so weird though, the first couple of books acts as if O'Reilly and Kitty didn't really have much of anything until you read the later books. I am shocked that O'Reilly didn't look her up ages ago or at least get why she felt the way she did about him. 

 

"An Irish Country Christmas" has the village of Ballybucklebo waiting for the Christmas season. Unlike in the first two books, we have Taylor switching between Doctor Barry Laverty and Doctor Fingal O'Reilly. Both men have the holidays and romance on their mind in this one.


Barry was an ass in this one. I can't say much more than this. I get that the book takes place in 1964 and of course men's attitudes about equality among the sexes had not set in yet, but good grief. Barry got involved with Patricia Spence in book #1 with the understanding that she was attending Cambridge. Him all of a sudden acting put upon because she is studying and meeting people got old fast. Barry I realized was quite selfish when it came to his relationship in this book. 

 

“The same family own property with a big wood, and that was the very spot A. A. Milne called the Hundred Acre Wood in the Pooh stories.”

“Really?” He started to let his tone show his disinterest. He was certain she was using all this trivial chitchat as a smoke screen to avoid having to tell him she wasn’t coming home. “That’s interesting."

 

"Barry took a deep breath. “Look, Patricia, it’s great to chat, but I need to know so I can work out on-call schedules with Fingal . . . are you coming home?” He heard the edge of irritation creep into her voice. “I still don’t know.” Barry tried not to let his own disappointment show. “If you still don’t know, why did you call?” “Because, Barry, I like to hear your voice”—her tones were measured—“and I knew Jenny’s dad wouldn’t mind. I miss you, and I was happy we would be able to talk.”

 

I swear, after a while I started just sighing heavily and speeding past Barry's sections. 

 

Fingal has a lot of thinking to do in this one. Kitty throws it out there that she could care for Fingal again, but she won't wait forever for him. Fingal is still haunted by his first wife's death. 


The doctors are still doing what they can to take care of the villagers in Ballybucklebo. We get another antagonist in this one besides Bertie, we have an introduction to a former classmate of Fingal's, Doctor Roland Hercules Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was awful in these earlier books and one wonders why Taylor ended up getting rid of all of the doctors antagonists in this series. It has started to make things dull in these books. 

 

The writing in these earlier works was good to me. Taylor explains diagnosis and what people did back then with regards to labor and other things. 


The flow wasn't great though. I always tell people if you read these books be prepared for some repetition and slowness to things. It's not a bad way to spend an afternoon inside.


The happy ending was funny to me based on what ends up happening next in the series with regards to Barry and Fingal's romances. 

DNF at 2 percent

Summer Light - Luanne Rice

I can't take seriously this book. We know that a child (Kylie) is apparently clairvoyant or has visions and is being studied at a university? I just noped out of the book at this point. I like romance and magical realism, but this is definitely not the book for me. 


The writing also reads as off to me. It's very flat to me. When the heroine (May) tells you how she got pregnant with her daughter Kylie I was flabbergast. She was dating some guy, got pregnant, he tells her hold up, I'm really married, sorry about that? I just...there's not enough time to absorb information before the author moves to something else. There's no build up that is grabbing me at all. 

 

My Least Favorite Binchy

Heart and Soul - Maeve Binchy

It's weird. I started off reading this book years and years ago. It was published back in 2008 and I just didn't like how it ended much. Binchy ended up changing up the ending, but I don't have that version in my Kindle version (grrrr) so I do know that she had a new ending that worked a lot better. That is the main reason why I gave this one 3 stars. We end up leaving a lot of characters in the lurch I thought. I also thought the whole thing with Clara and Hilary needing to "get" their two kids together was ridiculous. Additionally, the amount of jobs that the character Ania was working didn't even make sense since it sounded like at best she would only be getting about 2-3 hours of sleep. I know it was to show the contrast between Clara's one daughter, but it was a bit much.

 

Heart & Soul follows characters that many Binchy fans have been reading about for years. We have Aiden and Signora popping up (Evening Class (96) and Quentins (2002), Brenda (from Evening Class and Quentins), Grania and Tony (Evening Class), Fiona, Barbara, David, Vonni (Nights of Rain and Stars 2004), Maud, Simon, Cathy Feather (Scarlett Feather 2000) and Father Flynn (Whitehorn Woods 2006) and probably a whole host of other people I have forgotten. 


We also have some new ones like Clara Casey, the new director of a heart clinic and Ania, a young Polish immigrant living in Dublin. 

 

Though Binchy doesn't call out characters by chapter heading in this one, we do go back and forth to characters within chapters sometimes. So if we start off with Clara, we may also include another character like her daughter, her ex-husband, etc. I didn't mind it at all in this one, but I think I miss that we could just stick with a character through one sitting instead of bouncing around a lot with them. I found all of the characters to be good, but I was really happy with the follow up to Fiona and Barbara. I had really liked Fiona in Nights of Rain and Stars and we see that she  has totally changes from who she was after the events from her last relationship that was depicted in that book. 

 

As I said above though. I had a bit of an issue with Clara in parts of this book. We find out that she has been long separated from a cheating spouse who wants to divorce and marry his partner of several years. I know it wasn't great, but her reaction to it wasn't great either. I liked that she realized that her friends and family were tired of her hanging on to the guy and she needed to move on from him. She starts a new relationship in this one, that left me feeling meh, and it was good to see her realize that too. Her fighting with her daughter Linda though made me scratch my head. Her thinking that she needed to get married and settled with Hilary's son made me want to go huh. This was written in 2008, not 1988, so I didn't get why she thought her 21 year old daughter needed to settle down. 

 

Ania's story was sad at first. We meet her and she's barely hanging on doing odd jobs in Dublin to obtain money to send back to her mother. We don't know what happened to her in Poland, but hints are it wasn't great. When Binchy reveals her tale, it was okay and all, but not Earth shattering. I just thought it was a bit much that Ania works at the heart clinic, at the laundromat, at a restaurant, helps with landscaping, etc. At one point I felt myself getting panicky at her jobs that she was doing. And her acting as if everything was super expensive (like some lace for sleeves on a dress) was making me go okay after a while. Ania is set up as some perfect person, but I was left a bit cold towards to her while reading.

 

We follow a new doctor named Declan in this one and we get to see his romance with someone that readers are familiar with (no spoilers). I liked Declan okay, but liked to see him push back on things later on in the book. He seemed a bit too perfect to me at first.

Hilary's story I found sad. I don't know if Binchy was going for clueless with her, but I definitely felt she was. We find out that she married a perfectly charming and handsome man who never worked. Her poor mother went and got more jobs to support them all (Hilary and her son Nick too) and Hilary works more to help. Things don't go well in Hilary's life I thought when we see that her mother is having some medical issues. 

 

Father Flynn who popped up in Whitehorn Woods shows up here and his whole storyline was weird I thought. Leaving that one alone.

 

The book going back to Vonni in Greece and Aiden and Signora caused it to drag for me a lot too. 

The writing was okay, but I am realizing that the flow wasn't great. Binchy jumping from character to character within a chapter didn't work as well for me in this one. I was looking forward to the ending which isn't like me usually. 

 

The setting of the book revolves around the heart clinic doctors, patients, and friends of patients or doctors working there. Maybe if we stayed focused on the staff it would have worked more. It would still be nice to read about characters that were introduced in prior books still, but we could have focused on new characters more.


The book ends with a wedding and just kind of ends. I liked the new ending ( I happened to read it in a new paperback release one day at the bookstore) that showed some characters after the wedding and what something new is going on with all of them. 

Binchy Takes A Look at Students Attending an Evening Class

Evening Class - Maeve Binchy

So I apologize in advance for not reviewing these books in the order of publication. I tend to go back again and again to my tried and true Binchy novels. I decided this year I will aim to at least post reviews for all of the books that I have read. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I enjoyed re-reading this book, Heart & Soul, and This Year it Will Be Different. There is something so homey with these books. At this time I have been reading about the same characters for more than a dozen years. I likened her a bit to Rosamunde Pilcher who returns to the same characters or references them in her other books. It's like a very nice present you get each book. That said, I thought that some of the character stories in this one were pretty adult. You have Binchy tackling marital rape (still rape), adultery, and theft. There are still some good heartwarming stories here and there though.

 

Evening Class starts out with Aiden Dunne realizing that his dream of becoming principal of Mountainview College is never going to happen. A new teacher, Tony O'Brien is who the administrators want as principal. Aiden doesn't know what he is going to do now and how he will be able to spin this to his family. Tony pushes him (for his own reasons) to do a potential evening class that Aiden recommends in order to bring in people to the school. 

 

Once again Binchy does a good job of setting up the stories of the people who will end up attending this evening class. We know that at least 30 people sign up, but we ultimately only follow Aiden, Signora (real name is Nora), Bill, Kathy, Lou, Connie, Laddy, and Fiona. 

 

Per usual I think my favorite sections to read about were Aiden, Signora, and Connie.

 

I felt for Aiden since he is realizing that his wife (Nell) and two daughters (Grania and Brigid) have grown apart through the years. His wife is barely home, his two daughters don't really talk to him, and he is starting to realize that he is middle-aged with the possibility of this being his life until the day he passes. Him organizing and taking the evening class which will ultimately teach its participants Italian allows him to think about his life in a totally different way. His burgeoning friendship with the teacher, Signora, always allows Aiden to dream about something new. I did get frustrated with Aiden a bit, because I felt like he was just way too clueless about a lot of things going on. He was a bit passive, except a few times in the story. I was ultimately happy with how Binchy concludes his story in this book. 

 

Signora was interesting. Usually I would despise this type of character. At the age of 20 something, Signora met an Italian boy named Mario and proceeded to defy her family and follow him to Sicily. While there, Signora finds out that Mario is to be married. She still decides to stay and be Mario's other woman for more than 20 years. When Mario dies in an accident, she is asked to leave by his wife and children and Signora finally returns home. Ireland has moved on while she was away so Signora has trouble finding a place to live and work. When she ends up teaching Italian at Mountainview College it seems her prayers are answered. I felt a bit for Signora's family. They don't sound great, but I can see why her family was a bit put out with her. She ended up reconnecting with her best friend from years ago, Brenda, who runs the ever popular Quentins, so that was good. I did read Quentins years ago, but will do a re-read to post a review. 

 

Connie's story was something else though. A young girl who had it all until her father died leaving her family penniless. Being forced to give up her dream of being a lawyer, she goes to a secretarial school where she ends up avoiding men. She eventually meets someone that she thinks will be a perfect husband and father, Harry Kane. Connie thinks that her life will be perfect, but there a ton of wrenches thrown in the way. I liked how Connie pushed through them though I did wish that the character had went to therapy. There definitely seemed to be something going on with her. I did love how Binchy wrapped up one part of her story. I didn't really like the whole thing that went down with her when the group gets to Italy though. 

 

The other characters are interesting, I just didn't like them as much as the others. I just felt like Bill was being a pushover, and a jerk at times (his realization of him having to be his younger sister's caregiver after his parents are gone just made me dislike him a bit). Kathy's story was okay, just not that engaging. I though Lou was a jerk honestly when we find out what he was getting up to. And Laddy's story was just sad to me. Honestly it should have been called Rose's story (Laddy's sister) since the story focused on her and what she had to deal with as a married woman. 

 

The writing was really good. Binchy has a way with words that just draws you in. I always love reading her works in the fall/winter because that always seems to be the time of year to me that is best to read her works. The flow was a bit up and down though between character chapters. That and me not being as engaged with the different characters stories is why I gave this one 4 stars. 

 

The setting is Ireland in the late 90s I imagine. Evening Class was first published in 1996, but I got this book back in April 2009. Some parts of the book felt a bit dated to me then with discussions of one of Aiden's daughters working in a travel agency. I honestly don't know if there are travel agencies anymore. 

 

The ending leaves things with a newfound hope and joy for two of the characters. And some of them are definitely in a new stage of their lives like Fiona and Lou. 

So...

Image result for the grinch gif

 

I read more books than what I posted on Monday. Decided to break up my review wave into two days. I finally got my stuff together today since I was so busy yesterday at work. I have two meetings today, so hope to post reviews in between all of that mess and maybe finish up by tomorrow.

Bon Om Touk-24 Tasks


Task 1: Make a paper boat and post a picture of it. Instructions, if needed: here.

 

Ugh pass on this one. My boats look awful. I tried a few times and even following the instructions I am missing something here. Here's a picture. 

 


That was seriously the best out of the bunch. FYI, I am not crafty. If you are looking for crafty go talk to Moonlight. I suck at stuff like this :-)

 


Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.

 

Gay Pride in 2016! I really don't have any pictures of the boats though which sucks. I do have some other pictures which I posted below. I had a lot of fun doing this one since my friend Leslie's apartment in DC was right on the parade route. So I had to come and park the day of and went upstairs to her place. We had a ton of food (potluck) and a BBQ going with drinks galore. The guy I liked at the time was there and had a blast flirting with him. Too bad he ended up being a goober down the road. Don't even ask. But it was a sunny hot day in June and we got to sit on the roof and cheer as the parade went on by. We eventually went downstairs to watch the parade in person. 

 

Obsidian Blue's pictures from Gay Pride in DC, June 2016

 

I did go and find some floats to post though. 

 

2016 Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade


 

 


Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!

 

Hmm I really like children adventure books on rainy days. Maybe because it takes me back to when I was a kid and stuck inside on rainy days. As a kid my favorite thing to do was make hot chocolate (Swiss Miss for the win!) and a grilled cheese sandwich. As an adult it's become a glass of sparking wine and brie and crackers. 

Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?

 

1. I love the Sue Grafton Alphabet Series starring Kinsey Milhone. This next one isn't my favorite of her works, but it does have Kinsey moonlighting. H is for Homicide. Kinsey actually lies about her name and ends up being wrapped up with an insurance scam gang.  H is for Homicide Review

 

2. Next would be the Harry Bosch series. Harry ended up retiring after the events in City of Bones. He ends up following up on a cold case that has haunted him for years in Lost Light, see Lost Light Review. Harry being retired from LAPD means he really can't do a thing here with no authority. He eventually makes it back to the LAPD two books later in

The Closers. He works cold cases.  

 

3. I do have to smile at the version of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books I read as a teen. The covers were much brighter, and usually they were all undercover doing something that would have grown men freaking out. Here's a link to one of those books, 

Double Crossing (Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Super Mystery #1). I do crack up though at the thought of people hiring teens to investigate thefts and potential sabotage. 

 

Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.


TBD!

Wonderful Cookbook!

Together: Our Community Cookbook - Hubb Community Kitchen

What a great cookbook! I have started to buy more cookbooks these days because I love to just make something to eat at home. It seems every winter like clockwork I go into hibernation mode (due to the weather) and I want to be able to make something that is filling, that is not going to have 1,000 ingredients, and that for the most part I can get done in an hour or less. 

 

"Together: Our Community Cookbook" is pretty great. I loved all of the color photos that accompanied the recipes, the foreword by HRH The Duchess of Sussex, and also the community members who added little personal anecdote before getting into the recipes. It made it seem as if a friend is sharing a recipe with you. 

 

This cookbook is divided into the following: Foreword; Introduction; Breakfasts; Snacks, Sharing Plates and Dips; Lunches and Dinners; Salads and Sides; Desserts and Drinks; Index; The Royal Foundation; Cooking in the Community/Recipe Notes; and Acknowledgements. 

 

Not going to lie, I don't recall one cookbook I currently own that gets into breakfasts. That is seriously my favorite meal of the day. Most of the recipes I have for breakfasts I just find on Pinterest. I do own Martha Stewart's one cookbook that gets into the type of meals that you can make depending on your cookware (crockpot, dutch oven, cast iron skillet, etc.)  The first thing I am going to try though is the simple chocolate cake recipe. I really want something like this to enjoy over winter with a nice cup of coffee. 

 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

Together: Our Community Cookbook - Hubb Community Kitchen

I don't have a kitchen right now because the renovation gods hate me as much as the book ones do right now. Hoping my kitchen gets back together in the next two weeks so I can try out these recipes. Great color pictures and all of the food sounds freaking delicious! Loved buying this and knowing it is going towards a good cause.


I loved the foreword by Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex.

First recipe I want to make is the the green rice one, I love rice and I think I should be able to make this one, error free. I am not a big fan of anything with coconut, so those dishes have that as an ingredient, I will probably pass on those. 

 

 

 

Some Stories Are So-So, but Ultimately 4 Star Short Story Review

Christmas Magic - Cathy Kelly

I am switching this one out for International Day of Tolerance. Sorry, there's not a lot of books I don't read so couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. 

 

So as I always say, writing short stories is an art. I thought this ultimately this collection was very good, though there were some weak stories here and there. I ultimately think that sometimes there wasn't even development of characters, or the endings were a bit weak. 

 

Christmas Magic (4 stars)-I loved the idea behind this one. An elderly woman (Genevieve) receives a book about magic and then goes a head to decide to use it in order to start taking some risks. There is a side plot with her next door neighbor dealing with the realization that his wife is not who he thought she was. It didn't really work I thought and think the story lost something when it shifted away from Genevieve. 


Anniversary Waltz (3 stars)-Nope. Nope. Reading about a woman (Felicity) having to deal with her selfish 22 year old daughter who is angry that her mother is trying to move on with her life after separating from her cheating louse of a husband. Most of this story is Felicity trying to think of ways for her daughter and mother to stop piling on her about her terrible ex. The anniversary waltz comes into the play at the end. This story ultimately felt a little rushed with romance and the ending was just eh after all that build-up. 

 

Madame Lucia (4 stars)-Women at a traveling agency end up seeing the psychic upstairs. It's left unsaid why the woman (the psychic) appeared and what she was after though which kind of left a hole in the story. 

 

Love in the Aisles (3 stars)-A young woman, Sarah is pretty much fed up with ever meeting someone. Due to her being tall she feels like most men prefer her more tiny and perfect sister. This story didn't hit the mark with me at all. Sarah eventually comes to find out what fool she's being acting like she's not attractive, so there's that. 

 

May You Live in Interesting Times (5 stars)-I liked this one. Thirty-nine year old Ruby Anderson knows she should be content. But after her neighbors drop bombs about moving to Australia and having affairs, she starts to wonder if she shake up her life. Ahem, why would you listen to anyone telling you having affairs is a good thing in a marriage? Still pretty funny though. 

 

A Villa by the Sea (5 stars)-Marcella ends up being the shining star in her family and is there to encourage on her sisters. It kind of made me laugh that her parents were totally oblivious to how she kept her younger sisters up and motivated. I did like how Marcella had a great career and realized that she was going to need to step back and think about herself after making sure her sisters were steered to more greener pastures. 

 

The Gap Year (3.5 stars)-Frankie feels lost after her only son leaves the nest. Though she usually doesn't get along with her mother, she's there to help her through it. 


Cassandra (5 stars)-I could have seen this one being a novel. The title character is Cassandra, best friend to Molly. Molly is constantly there to get Cassandra out of jams, do her homework, and "let's" her steal her boyfriends. One wonders what is Molly thinking. Things come to a head after they both start working a magazine together. I still found the ending a bit too unsatisfying, cause Cassandra needed a kick in the ass for the stuff she got up to. 

 

Letter from Chicago (5 stars)-A family has very little time to prepare for relatives coming from America. After finding out that her mother has told lies to her aunt about the state of her home, job, and children, Kim has to pull it together with her family and sister in tow to make the house presentable. 

 

Bride and Doom (4 stars)-Lily rightfully has a thing about weddings after getting left at the altar. There a comedy of errors, she ends up meeting a guy who may change her mind about them. 

 

You've Got Mail (4 stars)-Through email we found out that a woman (Millie) is dating a terrible person. At least things end up in a happily ever after. 

 

Christmas Post (4 stars)-A woman (Alice) and her family who had to deal with the death of her husband through the years. Alice and her family sound great. Her sister in law is a pain, though we get to see a more human side to her in the end. There is a weird plot with the next door neighbor's child that made zero sense. 


The Trouble with Mother (3 stars)-Not really trouble with the mother. Trouble with two stuck up daughters angry that their mother can ruin all of their plans by being boisterous and showing that they are from humble beginnings. I liked the other two siblings. The ending was weird though. It needed another paragraph to just say how things ended up. 

 

The Paradise Road Book Club (3.5 stars)-Okay I guess. Some of the local women who formed a book club are up in arms when they think that one of its members is dealing with her husband leaving her. That's not what is going on though. 

 

The Angel Gabrielle (5 stars)-Two women become fed up by their family (Claire) and married lover (Shelley). They end up meeting each other and another woman Gabrielle (really named Peggy) who encourages them to come to her annual holiday party.  

 

Lizzie's Fling (5 stars)-A woman gets her groove back when she starts a harmless flirtation with a coworker in another office location. 


Thelma, Louise, and the Lurve Gods (3 stars)-My least favorite of the short story collection. It went on forever and I didn't like the main character, Suzanne. She and her girlfriend seemed to not really care about the love interests in this book besides how hot they were. I didn't get any chemistry from what I was reading between Suzanne and Liam. 

 

The Office Christmas Party (5 stars)-Cracked up at a story taking a look at an office Christmas party. Though I liked this one, I was more interested in the side stories we heard about (a woman throwing up in someone's purse). When the office is able to have a bigger to do than what last year's was, Larissa, is a bit hesitant. However, she meets someone and then does her best to dress up in disguise so he doesn't recognize her later. There's a whole thing about why she does this, and it made no sense to me really, but was funny to read about. 

 

A Family Christmas (5 stars)-I thought this was a realistic look of a woman dealing with depression and finally finding her way out of the other side. Things may take a possible turn though, when she finds out that she and her husband have to host his family for Christmas. I thought it was great though how she find out some things she didn't realize about her sister-in law though. Which goes to show you never know what another person is dealing with. 

 

 

 

Book: Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

Pumps Fist in Glee!

Towards Zero  - Agatha Christie

Counting this towards Mawlid An-Nabi because it has a green cover!

 

I read this book four times over the holidays. It was so good! Why didn't we get more Superintendent Battle books?! I don't know what else to say, but prepare for a glowing review.

 

So "Towards Zero" starts off with a retired lawyer Mr. Treves notes something odd when he reads something and is off somewhere unknown. An unknown figure hatches a plan and laughs. A man is hospitalized after a suicide attempt. And then we have Superintendent Battle going to his daughter's school to deal with an accusation of stealing. This plays into the later part of the book, but I loved Battle calling the teacher out for filth before departing with his daughter.

 

Image result for sit down gif

 

Then the book moves to follow Nevile Strange. Nevile is newly married to a second wife (Kay) and they are making plans to visit his former guardian's widow, Lady Tressilian. Lady Tressilian loved Nevile's first wife Audrey, and Kay is arguing against visiting her. When it comes out that Audrey suggested that they both visit Lady Tressilian in September (during her normal visit) Nevile is happy that they can maybe finally be friends. Kay is angry about the visit and exclaims that Audrey still wants Nevile. 

 

The book countdowns to September. We don't know what is going to happen, but we have a lot of people afraid about Nevile coming together again. Christie introduces other characters into this, Mary Aldin who is Lady Tressilian's maid. And Thomas Royde, who is a childhood friend of Audrey's. 

 

When all parties come together at the house, we get scenes of jealousy, anger, and the feeling that someone is plotting something. Of course we get a sudden death and another death that is definitely murder. Battle is on the scene due to vacationing, and he helps out his nephew Inspector Leach on the case.

 

I loved all of the characters, even the ones that you are supposed to despise because of the way that Battle paints them. Nevile seems foolish and is hung up on Audrey. Kay is jealous and shouldn't have married him at all. Mary Aldin I thought had a keen eye for human behavior and I liked her and Thomas Royde's interactions together. I am perplexed by the character of Mr. Treves though. If you think someone is a murderer, how are you going to just announce it to said person (in a room of people, but still) and think that is going to go well for you? 

 

When the murder occurs, all signs points to one person, but Battle quickly unearths that it can't be this person and starts to slowly peel away who the guilty party is. I loved how Battle references Hercule Poirot too which cracked me up. 

 

The writing was good and the flow worked. I did have to go back and re-read a few lines here and there because I got a bit confused when we read about what the murderer did. That said, the book was really good. 


The setting of the book is primarily Gull's Point near Saltcreek. I wish that Christie had included a drawing of the home and rooms, because until the reveal, I was still perplexed how the murder took place. It was definitely a case of tricking the mind in this one that could have worked out, if only. 


The ending was a bit much though. I know I gave this 5 stars, but the ending made me roll my eyes a bit. I just felt like saying, really to one of the characters and hoping for the best for them. 

 

 

 

Kind of Like Our Town Taking Place in Ireland

The Copper Beech - Maeve Binchy

We have two characters who are men of the cloth (we get one of the characters POV, and we find out that another character is hiding a very dark secret, along with another one hiding a secret that ends up benefiting her). 

 

It's funny, I think I read this one eons ago (back in the mid-2000s) but I never got into it. At least I can say that nothing read as familiar to me when I started this. I thought that the way that Binchy balances all of the characters, and then we get to see them in the end, adults, married, with children was great. I always want to know what happens next in a story, so we get a little of that here.

 

Binchy divides up the book and focuses on certain characters in the village of Schancarrig. We start off with Father Gunn, then we move to Madeline Ross (known as Maddy) which also introduces Father Barry. We have other adults in this one, Dr. Jims and Nora Kelly but they are in the mix of when the school children are introduced. After them, we move to the children who go to Schancarrig school. First we have Maura, then Eddie, Nessa, and Leo. We also have another character who is not one that went to the school, Richard. He is related to one of the characters we hear about in this story, Niall. We don't get Niall's POV in this though.  

 

I have to say that out of everyone I liked Nessa's and Leo's stories the most. Probably because Nessa gets to see a different side to her mother's relationship with her father, and she realizes that it's better for her to give her strength to someone who needs it/her instead of throwing herself away on someone who doesn't deserve her.


Leo's story was heart wrenching. Her family gets twisted upside down and she is forced to keep a secret that haunts her. I did love how the village reprobate Foxy made good and how he was hell-bent on marrying Leo. I thought it was odd though that Binchy didn't switch Foxy in for Richard's story. One of the main reason's why I gave it 4 stars. 

 

Maddy's story was a hot mess. Dealing with an overbearing mother, she throws her all into being an assistant teacher, and then her friendship with Father Barry who is another mess. Her ending was not happy at all, and I liked how Binchy looped her back in the end. 

 

I really liked the writing in this one. You really have to pay attention to what is going on while reading this since you get hints of thing to come in other people's stories. Also Binchy does a wonderful job of looping things back. For example, you don't know what caused Leo to suddenly change how she was personality wise. You just know that other characters remark upon it. Eventually you do find out while reading Leo's story. 


The flow was good too, though some of the individual stories, I was a little bored with like Richard and Eddie. Eddie's story gets better by the end, but the beginning of his tale was slow. Richard I didn't like at all, and it was odd that was even included I though except it gave us insights into two other characters, Nessa and a woman we hear mentioned a lot, Mrs. Gloria Darcy. 

 

The setting is Shancarrig in the 1960s. When the book ends we are in 1970 I think or at least 1971. The book focuses on the school (the old stone house) and the tree that the children wrote their initials on as they grew up (the copper beech). 


The ending leaves things on a hopeful note for all of the characters except for Richard and Maddy. 

Romantic Comedies Deserve Better

Dashing Through the Snow: A Christmas Novel - Debbie Macomber

Well at least this book counted toward something. Dash is ex-Army intelligence. He is also very stupid. So is Ashley. But that is neither here and there. Look I love romantic comedies. You know how many times I have watched "To All the Boys I've Loved Before?" I laughed and weeped my way through "Crazy Rich Asians" and "The Big Sick." This book tried so hard, and it just didn't work. 

 

Dashing Through the Snow has Dashiell Sutherland and Ashley Davison trying to fly out of San Francisco to get to Seattle. When Ashley is weirdly told that she can't get a flight, but Dash is being told he can, Ashley leaves in a huff talking about sexism and just because Dash is "eye-candy" doesn't mean he should get prioritized over her. Usually I would be all rah rah for the sister-hood but I loathed Ashley throughout this book. From there Ashley goes to a car rental place and runs into Dash again (they offered standby, he said no) and she is encouraged to rent a vehicle with him via the car rental agent. Why the hell a stranger would tell a woman on her own to get in a car with some dude she doesn't know baffled me. Eventually Ashley is forced though since she is 24, she can't legally rent a car to drive (which has never made any sense to me). Dash agrees to take her, though Ashley demands to speak to his mother first. Of course Ashley can't believe that Dash is not married and that is the first question she peppers his mother about and why doesn't he have a relationship.

 

GAHHHH!


Anyway, the story moves slowly and poorly from this plot point. I maybe screeched at one point that these two idiots didn't even think about taking a train from San Francisco to Seattle. Recall me saying that they are not that smart. 

 

Map from San Francisco, California to Seattle, Washington

 

Anyway Ashley acts butt-hurt that a total stranger doesn't want to talk about his personal life with a 24 year old woman (she acts 12) that he just met. And Ashley spends most of this disastrous road trip trying to get Dash to admit he is attracted to her and she's upset when he doesn't seem to be. This fool also decides to adopt a puppy when they get to a stop just because. The person trying to offload the puppy is a Vietnam vet, and it's weird that it was a thing in the book, but moving on. And frankly I was not on Ashley's side at all, because who does shit like this? 

 

GAH!

Things get worse when Macomber transitions over to two FBI agents who are hot on this duo's trial and I can't even with this whole story-line. One of the older agents has a case of I am older and wiser than you and denigrates the younger agent the whole time.

 

We also get a motorcycle gang that is just there that makes my head hurt. 

 

Ashley and Dash are chemistry rejects. They had no type of chemistry with each other. It didn't help that though I think Dash is 30, he is written to sound even older and Ashley acts like a hare-brain half the time. 


The writing was so-so and the flow was awful.

 

"By age thirty Larry and I had had both our children. These days kids don’t feel the need to make a commitment.”

Ashley lowered her voice. Really, this wasn’t any of her business, but she was curious. “He isn’t involved with anyone?”

 

Why is this any of her business? Seriously. Anyone?

 

“Well, I’m not, either.” Ashley bristled, refusing to admit she was disappointed. The men she met at school and the diner were often not worth the effort.

 

Yep, Ashley is angry that Dash isn't attracted to her. We go back to this a billion times in this book. 

 

“You named your dog Pickles?”

She brightened. “Cute, isn’t it?” She didn’t mention that she’d been the one to choose his name.

He shook his head. “It’s ridiculous. Poor dog probably died of embarrassment.”

That was a nasty thing to tell someone who just told you their family dog died. Gah. 

 

Dash hadn’t been any better.

The bottom line, she realized, was that she’d wanted Dash to like her, to enjoy her company because she’d enjoyed his.

She took it personally that he hadn’t felt the same way about her.

Like I said, she's 12. 

 

When the FBI eventually catches up to them, the whole book just stops and we had a FBI agent asking Dash is he in love with Ashley and keeps pressing the point and I felt embarrassed for this mythical character.


The setting of the book moves around a lot, though Seattle ends up being the final destination. No place really sounded real though. Most of the book is just terrible dialogue between Ashley and Dash, the two FBI agents, and jumps back and forth.

The ending was hilarious (to me) and not in a good way. 

 

Stories Revolving Around Christmas Don't Always Lead to Happy Endings

This Year It Will Be Different, and other stories - Maeve Binchy

Going to have this count towards Melbourne Cup Day! Some of the stories take place in Australia! Lucky me! I will make sure that I identify them below. 

 

You all know that I love Maeve Binchy. She wrote some fantastic short story collections that I always recommend to people. I hit a nasty reading slump and started reading some of her collections/books that I have been meaning to get around to some day. 

 

The First Step of Christmas (5 stars)-revolves around a stepmother who is trying to deal with throwing her and her husband's annual Christmas party. We find out that Jenny (the stepmother) has not been able to get through to her husband's daughter (Alison). The story sets it up as if Alison has been a pain throughout her courtship and marriage. I honestly just felt badly for her especially when you find out that her mother died. I did like how this story ends though with Binchy showing that Alison is a lonely girl who misses her mother. 

 

The Ten Snaps of Christmas (5 stars)-Yikes. This one made me think of The Family Stone movie. Pretty much everyone is awful and you want it to be over. The mother (Maura) in this one pushes for her daughter (Orla) to get a voucher for clothes. The dad ix-nays that whole thing and they buy her a Polaroid camera. Why you would by a teen this is beyond me. Eventually Orla takes 10 pictures that shows what her family is really like when not pretending to be perfect for the holidays. 

 

Miss Martin's Wish (5 stars)-This one takes place mainly in New York though the story begins with Miss Martin as a teacher in Ireland. We eventually find out that she has left practically at the altar and the plan was for her and her ex-fiancee to go to New York together on their honeymoon. She eventually travels there and meets someone (not in a romantic sense!) and I liked how this story ended.  

 

The Hard Core (4 stars)-This one takes place in Melbourne, Australia. The main part of this story is that the owner of an old age home (Kate) is taken away during the holidays after her mother suffers an accident. The Hard Core refers to a group of elderly residents who cause no end of suffering by the staff cause they are pretty much jerks. Kate has to ask a staff member about staying behind to watch The Hard Core. I don't know if I found this one very realistic, but I still enjoyed it all the same. 

 

Christmas Timing (5 stars)-I maybe laughed through this whole story. We have two people, Chris and Noel (guess which is the woman and which is the man) who are engaging in an affair. They think that the other one is the love of their lives, but Noel is not ready to leave his wife and children, because the children are too small. Sure Jan. These two fools love to take magazine quizzes that affirm their love for each other. This Christmas is different though when they both take a quiz that forces you to fill out answers. I maybe laughed hysterically about what the answers revealed. 

 

The Civilized Christmas (3 stars)-I really didn't like this one. The stepmother in this one (Jen) is just a martyr through and through and I got tired of it. She has a stepson (Stevie) who she is constantly taking back and forth to her husband's first wife's home. Jen is jealous of Tina and thinks that Martin and Stevie are comparing their lives at the home they share with Tina. I mostly felt pity for Stevie cause I can see in future stories Jen being angry if Martin shows more affection and love for Stevie than for her. 

 

Pulling Together (5 stars)-It doesn't take place in Australia, but the main character Penny writes a weekly air mail to her friend Maggie in Australia. Kangaroos are mentioned. This is another short story about adultery though. Penny never goes away to see her family or friends since she wants to be on "call" in case her married lover can come and see her. When she pushes back about being there for the holidays he makes her feel guilty about leaving him to his family. Yeah. He sounds like a jerk. Penny eventually ends up finding out surprising things about a student of her's (called Lassie) and a fellow teacher (Ms. Hall). I liked how the three of them end up needing each other for the holidays. 


A Hundred Milligrams (5 stars)-This short story shows the aftermath of an affair on a couple and the woman's mother. Having this mess go on during the holidays makes me yearn to hide from people. 

 

The Christmas Baramundi (4 stars)- This one takes place in Pyremont, New South Wales, Australia. Apparently this has a fish market that sets the stage for another tale of adultery around the Christmas season. I felt pity for the main character in this one (Janet). She seems to have a lot of dreams left unfilled and decides to rest them all on a dude she meets (Liam) when they were both trying to buy a baramundi. I would be off fish for life.  

 

This Year it Will be Different (5 stars)-A mother finally gets fed up for doing everything around the holidays for her lazy husband and two sons and daughter. She doesn't get the exact result she wanted, but you are left with the ending of how she plans on changing things in the future. 

 

Season of Fuss (5 stars)- About the Doyle family and them getting their mother who loves to fuss to settle in and enjoy Christmas. I did love that Binchy shows that once the mother is left with nothing to do, how her personality changes and starts to dwell on her dead husband. 

 

A Typical Irish Christmas (5 stars)-  This one takes place in the New York, but eventually moves to Ireland. A man (Ben) who wants to be left to his own devices for the holiday after the death of his wife. Ben decides to go to Ireland to leave behind all of the well being people who want him to come to their homes instead. 

 

Traveling Hopefully (5 stars)- Meg is traveling to Australia for the holidays to meet her son and his new wife. She is apprehensive since she feels like she doesn't know her son much these days. She ends up striking up a friendship with Tom who is also traveling to Australia to meet up with his daughter. I thought this one was so cute and I liked the ending. 

 

What is Happiness? (3 stars)-Another aftermath of an affair with the other woman hell-bent on wrecking her ex-lover's life. Told from the POV of the young son. 

The Best Inn in Town (5 stars)-This was a good way to end the book. Avril and Noel both have mothers who are bossy and nasty towards the other. For some reason both grandmothers come to them during Christmas which causes no end of making sure that nothing is done to upset them. They eventually get fed up with it and hard shrug about making Christmas preparations for them. I loved how the kids were portrayed in this one. I also laughed at the reference to The Empire Strikes Back. 

 

Insert Pithy Title

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor  - Lisa Kleypas

This book was awful. My say something nice is that I liked the cover. That's all I really got here. I am realizing that my Achilles heel for romance reads are any books that deal with widows or widowers finding love again. Not to say that they should not in real life. I just hate how the authors set things up as a competition between old and new love. Why is it always treated as some terrible thing if someone found love before you met them? I would be happy that the other person experienced before even if it resulted in someone dying. I just found the hero (Mark) to be a hypocrite of the first order throughout this book. It didn't help that he was romancing the heroine (Maggie) even though he was dating someone else. Another Achilles heel for my romance reads. You can't have one person dating someone else when the heroine or hero comes into play. 

 

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the first book in the Friday Harbor series. I am guessing the other books follow the Nolan brothers. Isn't it grand I have no intention of reading past this book so I have no way of knowing :-) Yeah for me. Mark Nolan is left in a tizzy when his sister dies in a car accident. She leaves behind 6 year old Holly and asks Mark to raise her since their parents were dumpster fire people, her one brother is immature (Sam), and the other one is a hard nosed businessman (Alex) with a wife who sounds like a pain in the ass. Mark manages to strong arm his brother Sam into helping to raise Hope. He also moves them both into Sam's home that is located on a vineyard. 

Fast forward several months later and Mark reads a letter that Holly wrote to Santa asking for him to send her a mother. So now Mark is all I must marry and provide Holly with a mother. Instead of doing what any other person would have done which is hold Holly, tell her you love her, and tell her stories about her mother. 

 

Mark sucked. He is dating someone at the start of this book who he is dismissive of almost the entire book. When he first meets Maggie at her store, he acts skeptical when she talks about fairies and magic to Holly. Yet he is still drawn to her and starts thinking about having sex with her. Maggie has been widowed two years, and loves that she was able to set up a children's toy store. Though she doesn't feel ready to move on from her husband, everyone else acts like two years is more than adequate for her to get out there and date again. Though she really should be avoiding Mark (who is dating someone by the way) she starts catching feelings for him too. 

The scenes between these two were lackluster. There was zero chemistry and reading about how attracted Mark was to Maggie drove me up the wall. It didn't help that Mark decides at one point that Sam should go and check out Maggie in case he wants to date her. Cause Maggie has no say in this at all. Gah. And then we get Mark saying that Maggie just needs to get over her husband being dead, cause it's been two years. When we do get to their love scene I laughed out loud by Maggie telling him to love her. Sorry, I am a Grinch today I guess. 

 

I also had a hard time with the fact that Holly is often mentioned, but never interacts unless it's for a plot point. For example, Holly gets sick, Sam lets Mark know while Mark is away visiting his girlfriend and instead of Mark spending time with her and her friends, insists on going home because Holly needs him. Of course girlfriend is made to look like a totally terrible person even though she points out that Sam is there and can handle things. 

 

The book goes round and round and I just didn't enjoy it. Things end in a HEA that just felt below average to me. I like to do a pretend game after I finished a terrible book about what happened to the characters. I am going to pretend that Maggie and Mark got married, had two more kids, raised Holly, and eventually Mark dies when Holly is 18. Then everyone encourages Maggie to start dating within two years. 

Russian Mother's Day-24 Tasks

 

Russian Mother's Day

 

Task 1:  Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?

 

Purple prose. It just sets me off and makes me grind my teeth. I can stand some of it, but good grief I think I almost broke something when reading Divergent. I noticed that a lot of YA authors get into purple prose and I can see why that turns a lot of readers off. 

"In purple prose, skin is always creamy, eyelashes always glistening, heroes always brooding, and sunrises always magical. Purple prose also features an abundance of metaphors and figurative language, long sentences, and abstractions."
(Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines. Writer's Digest Books, 2006) 

Divergent Review

 

Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.

 

I honestly can't think of one. My mother passed when I was 23 and two years earlier my dad died. I think that we mostly would make my mom breakfast in bed and we would have cards and presents for her. But I honestly can't think of anything that I specifically gave her for mother's day. I know that I bought my dad a tool box for father's day. I only remember that since it was so expensive and I used my first paycheck while working to do it. 

 

Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.

 

I don't have a picture of them. But starting 9th grade I had these bright blue shoes that I initially loved since they were funky to me. First day of school, two of my best friends called them Smurf shoes and after being made fun of all day I stuck them in the closet to never wear again. My parents were annoyed with me since it's not like shoes grow on trees and made me wear them. I pretty much tried to dirty them up and take the blue off anyway I could. Also these shoes bled through and my socks turned blue every time I would wear these shoes. 

 

Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here: https://www.expatica.com/ru/about/Top-10-Russian-foods-and-recipes_108678.html

 

Going to pass on this one. 

 

Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.

 

I have some ideas. Will have to just think on it a little more.