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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sarton Sundays - a May Sarton Reading Celebration

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This is actually something that I wanted to do three years ago in celebration of May Sarton's centennial birthday, but as often happens with me, life got in the way. I'm hoping to change that this year. I've worked out a reading schedule that I think should allow for me to be able to do this. I want to finally read my way through her main works. I've read everything at one point or another in my life, but I've never really sat down to do a constructive reading of her works. So, beginning next Sunday, I'm going to be hosting Sarton Sunday, a reading celebration of May Sarton's works, in publication order. I would love if others would join in with me!

I have chosen Sundays as a day of refection for me. One thing that I have been struggling with for many years now is finding a balance of time for me versus the time I give others. I certainly don't mind the time that I give to others, but I frequently overextend myself in trying to make time for everyone else and not allowing enough time for me. One thing that Sarton excelled at was forcing time to her will as opposed to letting time take over her life. I need to learn from this. So, I'm hoping to make Sundays "my" day, not planning things unless I really want, making the day productive, and filling it with time that works for me.

So, here's to productive, relaxing, and time-filled Sundays.

Happy reading!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick

 photo 080417348601_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zpsda9e2b77.jpgThe Ghost and Mrs. Muir
by R. A. Dick
Published by Vintage Books, September 23, 2014
192 Pages • ISBN 978-0804173483 • Hardcover

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To purchase any of the books in this post and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Book description:
The basis for Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s cinematic romance starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

Burdened by debt after her husband's death, Lucy Muir insists on moving into the very cheap Gull Cottage in the quaint seaside village of Whitecliff, despite multiple warnings that the house is haunted. Upon discovering the rumors to be true, the young widow ends up forming a special companionship with the ghost of handsome former sea captain Daniel Gregg. Through the struggles of supporting her children, seeking out romance from the wrong places, and working to publish the captain's story as a book,
Blood and Swash, Lucy finds in her secret relationship with Captain Gregg a comfort and blossoming love she never could have predicted.

Originally published in 1945, made into a movie in 1947, and later adapted into a television sitcom in 1968, this romantic tale explores how love can develop without boundaries, both in this life and beyond.

With a new foreword by Adriana Trigiani.

Vintage Movie Classics spotlights classic films that have stood the test of time, now rediscovered through the publication of the novels on which they were based.

I received this from a friend for Christmas, and her gift theme this year was books that were the basis for famous movies. It's been years since I've seen the film The Ghost and Mrs Muir (and I didn't even know about the sitcom series from the 60s), and I'll admit up front that I had no idea the movie was based on a book, so I went into the book with no preconceived expectations. Turns out, I love this book!

The story follows Lucy Muir, who strikes out on her own after the death of her husband. Due to a large amount of debt that he left her, and trying to escape the overbearing, constant presence of his family in her life, she decides that all she needs in life for her and her children is a place of their own and solitude for herself. After being shown Gull Cottage in the village of Whitecliff, Lucy decides on the spot that she must live there, even though she is warned very strongly about moving there because the house is haunted. Determined not to let something as simple as a ghost deter her from her dreams of independence, she moves into the house anyway and ends up forming a friendship with the ghost of sea captain Daniel Gregg. Over the course of her life and through multiple struggles, she and Captain Gregg become more than just friends, and ultimately the story grows beyond her story to become their story.

This is a charming and quick read. I finished the book in one reading, and is the perfect book to sit down with a cup of tea on a chilly winter afternoon and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Original Sin by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Deodato

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by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Deodato
Published by Marvel Comics on November 18, 2014
392 Pages • ISBN 978-0785190691 • Hardcover

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To purchase any of the books in this post and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Product description:

Who shot the Watcher?

Uatu, the mysterious space-god who's been watching mankind from the moon for as long as we can remember... is dead. Thus begins the greatest murder mystery in Marvel history! As Nick Fury leads the heroes of the Marvel Universe in an investigation, other forces are marshaling and other questions are arising. Why is Black Panther gathering a secret team of his own, including Emma Frost, the Punisher and Dr. Strange? Who is the Unseen? What was stolen from the Watcher's lair? Fury's cosmic manhunt leads to the far corners of the universe and beyond, but just when the Avengers think they've cornered their murderer... everything explodes, unleashing the Marvel Universe's greatest secrets and rocking the heroes to their core! What did the Watcher see? What was the Original Sin?

COLLECTING: Point One 1 (Watcher story), Original Sin 0-8, Original Sins 1-5, Original Sin Annual 1, Original Sin: Secret Avengers Infinite Comic 1-2

After so, so many time travel stories raging throughout the Marvel Universe right now (seriously, check out just about any current Avengers or X-Men title and chances are you'll find yourself in the middle of a time travel story of some sort or another), Original Sin is practically a breath of fresh air. This is just a good, old-fashioned murder mystery (or at least, the Marvel version of one). Uatu the Watcher, he who lives on the Moon and must not interfere with the events going on with the planet Earth yet seems compelled to at every turn, is murdered. What follows is a cosmos-spanning investigation searching for who would be able to commit such a crime. Involving several heroes from across the Marvel Universe, the search is on for Uatu's murderer. However, long forgotten (and unknown) secrets from across the Marvel Universe are revealed and not everyone is happy about the results.

As is often the case with the Marvel events these days, the main story is fairly strong, but the additional material added into the volume I find severely lacking (such as the Original Sins series). If it were up to me, I'd do away with these stories, as they really do nothing to move the main story forward and are nothing more than money makers for Marvel because the completists out there need to buy all the titles! So, for those that don't need to read the other stories and can wait for it, pick up the paperback release of this title which may only include the main series.

Aaron's writing is fairly solid throughout. The way some events are retconned in Original Sin bugs me a little, reminding me a little too much of the Illuminati series where events that have never been revealed before are brought to light just to move future stories along. For some reason, this plot device (that Marvel seems to use way too much sometimes), just rubs me the wrong way. Overall, this plot device is handled fairly well here when all is said and done. Deodato's art is quite good in this series. I haven't been a huge fan of his art in the past, but his style fit this story perfectly and his art seems to be quite a bit stronger than I remember it being.

I'll be curious to see how the events from Original Sin play out in current and upcoming events in the Marvel Universe, particularly Secret Wars. Personally, I haven't been this excited to be a Marvel fan in a long time. I wish that the stories weren't so Avengers-centric, but given the current state of affairs with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don't think that will be changing anytime soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

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Title: An Irish Country Doctor
Series: Irish Country Books, Book 1
Author: Patrick Taylor
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 351
ISBN: 9780765319951
Publisher: Forge Books
Twitter: @torbooks
Format: Paperback
Available: January 22, 2008
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Product description:
Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there, but already he knows that there is nowhere he would rather live than in the emerald hills and dales of Northern Ireland. The proud owner of a spanking-new medical degree and little else in the way of worldly possessions, Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.

The older physician, whose motto is to never let the patients get the upper hand, has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can’t decide if the pugnacious O’Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met, or the best teacher he could ever hope for. Through O’Reilly Barry soon gets to know all of the village’s colorful and endearing residents, including:

A malingering Major and his equally hypochondriacal wife;

An unwed servant girl, who refuses to divulge the father of her upcoming baby;

A slightly daft old couple unable to marry for lack of a roof;

And a host of other eccentric characters who make every day an education for the inexperienced young doctor.

Ballybucklebo is long way from Belfast, and Barry is quick to discover that he still has a lot to learn about the quirks and traditions of country life. But with pluck and compassion and only the slightest touch of blarney, he will find out more about life—and love—than he ever imagined back in medical school.

An Irish Country Doctor is a charming and engrossing tale that will captivate readers from the very first page—and leave them yearning to visit the Irish countryside of days gone by.

An Irish Country Doctor is a quick, charming read, even if it is highly predictable. We follow Barry Laverty, a recent medical school graduate, as he assists the local doctor of the small Irish village of Ballybucklebo, the extremely colorful Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. As Laverty learns the ropes of small town medicine from Fingal, he learns that sometimes not going by the book can be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to country folk. Filled with quirky characters and both funny and touching moments, I think this would probably be a big hit with book clubs and fans of the Mitford series and such.

Spoilery bits ahead!

Yet, the book proves to be a little too charming and slightly even more predictable as the story goes along, as well as taking too long to drive a point home. For instance, how many times must Laverty need to be shown that quite possibly Fingal's unorthodox doctoring ways work? It's more than you'd think. Each character fits the mold that they need to fit the most, almost to the point where they are caricatures of themselves. Fingal has all the answers. There is, of course, also the predictable love interest for Laverty. Putting this all out like this, it seems like there is not so much to like about the book, but Taylor at least keeps the story amusing throughout, so I was able to let these annoyances be.

Spoilery bits finished!

Chances are highly likely that I will be picking up the next book in the series, An Irish Country Village. This is the perfect series to read when you don't need to think too hard about what you're reading and just need some fluff.

Happy reading!

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, illustrated by Gahan Wilson

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Title: A Night in the Lonesome October
Author: Roger Zelazny, illustrated by Gahan Wilson
Copyright: 2014 (1993)
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781556525605
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Twitter: @ChiReviewPress
Format: Paperback
Available: October 1, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Product description:
Loyally accompanying a mysterious knife-wielding gentleman named Jack on his midnight rounds through the murky streets of London, good dog Snuff is busy helping his master collect the grisly ingredients needed for an unearthly rite that will take place not long after the death of the moon. But Snuff and his master are not alone. All manner of participants, both human and not, are gathering with their ancient tools and their animal familiars in preparation for the dread night. It is brave, devoted Snuff who must calculate the patterns of the Game and keep track of the Players—the witch, the mad monk, the vengeful vicar, the Count who sleeps by day, the Good Doctor and the hulking Experiment Man he fashioned from human body parts, and a wild-card American named Larry Talbot—all the while keeping Things at bay and staying a leap ahead of the Great Detective, who knows quite a bit more than he lets on.

Boldly original and wildly entertaining, A Night in the Lonesome October is a darkly sparkling gem, an amalgam of horror, humor, mystery, and fantasy. First published in 1993, it was Zelazny’s last book prior to his untimely death. Many consider it the best of the fantasy master’s novels. It has inspired many fans to read it every year in October, a chapter a day, and served as inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s brilliant story “Only the End of the World Again.”

Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books. When I heard that A Night in the Lonesome October was being released, and knowing that a dear friend is a diehard Zelazny fan, I picked up a copy and suggested that she and I read the book, one chapter a night, through the month of October.

Well, I'll tell you what, I had a lot of trouble sticking to my one chapter a night. I loved this book! Seriously, at the end of my nightly chapter, I wanted so desperately to keep reading, but I restrained myself. I found the whole idea, that numerous literary figures from across the horror spectrum have come together to play the Game, fantastic. Told from the point of view of Jack's familiar, a dog named Snuff, we are lead through the month of October as he tracks down clues as to which side of the Game each of the players are on. I loved this bit, as you try to figure out, along with Snuff, who is going to be pitted against who at the end of the Game. It was also fun seeing how so many literary (and in some cases, historical) characters were woven into this book. The entire story becomes a guessing game as you try to figure out who each of the characters are (some are obvious, some not quite so)and what role they'll play in the Game. I'm not saying what the Game is, as that's half the mystery as it is played out in the book.

Some might consider the next bit a little spoilerish.

If I had one quibble about the book, it's the abrupt end. There is so much build up to the finale of the story, that when it arrives, I was left a little shocked. It may just be that I wanted more of the story, but once the Game comes to an end, it is finished. No further explanation as to what happens to the characters, nothing. The story is just done. For me, it was just a little too unexpected, but I guess it works with the way the book is written, as we're only shown this one month of the character's lives.

End of spoilerish bit.

A Night in the Lonesome October is an immensely clever and entertaining book, a perfect addition to any reading that you may be doing leading up to Halloween. I'm fairly sure this will become a favorite of mine each October.

To purchase any of the books in this post, and help my local Indie bookstore, and help me buy more books, click the links above!