Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The vengeance of the opium

We come to the end of The Moonstone and the end of this FANTASTIC readalong. I would firstly and foremostly(?) say that this as been stupendously fun. And yes, Wilkie gets some credit for that because that man can write a mystery. But most of that has come from everyone playing along and being the definition of awesome* with all the gifs and the comments and everything. You guys rule. And if you didn't get a chance to play along this time I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Now onto the last part of The Moonstone and there's going to be spoilers because MYSTERIES ARE FINALLY SOLVED.

I went with that title quote because it could have served as the subtitle for this book. Except that would have been all spoiler-y, so good choice on Wilkster's part in not doing that.Whoever guessed that Dr. Candy drugged Franklin, ten points! And he didn't do it for any awful reasons. He didn't even want to embarrass Franklin. He just wanted him to admit that sometimes you need medicine and thought drugging him with opium would be the best way to prove that. Alright, so maybe not the BEST idea but nothing sinister in those motives.

Rachel never gets to be our Marian probably because a) we never get to hear HER narrative and b) she was like 18 and needs to stop being a teenager to reach Marian levels of greatness. But there is hope for her. Because how sweet was it when Jennings told her "oh hai, so Franklin was high as a kite that night and honestly didn't know what he was going. I'm going to do a whole experiment that's really not that sound to prove it so..." and before he could finish she's like "I'LL BE RIGHT THERE!"
She just wanted the littlest excuse to believe that Franklin didn't do it. Or did it but didn't know he did it at least.

Anyone else think Jennings was going to be evil? Especially when he startled Franklin leaving the doc? Way to teach me not to judge a book by it's cover, Wilkie. And instead he's SO SWEET and SO TRAGIC. I wish we got to learn more about him and the things he did and his love.

In a small way, I kinda don't blame Godfrey for taking the diamond. Because of course he's the one who took the diamond to London. But he was having all these money problems and Franklin literally HANDED HIM THE DIAMOND. Maybe he even convinced himself it was fate.
That doesn't make what he did right and that doesn't make him less of a douchenozzle for the whole "trying to marry Rachel for money" thing or "probably defrauding those lady charities" things. Yeah, he deserved jail and a lifetime of loneliness but not smothered to death.

And Cuff comes back! Although he doesn't really do too much other than perform his little detective magic trick. Writing down who he THINKS stole the diamond in an envelope to be opened later. Guess what, Cuff. WE ALL THOUGHT GODFREY DID  IT. All that gardening has made you soft, sir.

One last thing. The Indians got their Moonstone back. Happy endings for everyone! Except Godfrey. And Rosanna. And Lady V. And Limpin' Lucy. And Jennings. OK so happy endings for some. Death for a bunch of other people. But Franklin & Rachel get together and they have a baby because Robinson Crusoe said so.

*In both the hot dog and space version of the word.

Title quote from page 210, location 6728

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Public domain books, published 2012. Originally published 1868

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but given this one seems like an easy one for me to crank out, I figured I'd play along with this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week they're asking for our Bookish Confessions. Here goes

1. I don't go to the library - I know I should. But I don't. I had a library card for the Boston Public Library back when I was a freshman at school. And not since. I like owning my books instead of borrowing them, though I'm considering trying out the library for Kindle books. We'll see if I get around to that since step one is "finding a library and getting a card".

2. I've read the entire Twilight series - Not only did I read it. I own it. It sits on a shame shelf, sorta hidden, on a bookshelf in the hallway. I read it in a week. Because everything that has been said about it (it's got horrendous writing, stupid characters, an AWFUL moral lesson especially for girls) is true and it's also addictive as hell.

3. I never get rid of books - Hence the whole hiding the Twilight books thing. I'm just about out of bookshelf space (not space on my bookshelves, but places to put more bookshelves) so perhaps I'll have to do a book purger sooner rather than later.

4. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to a book series - If I have a series of books, I want them to all look the same. Know why I didn't read Catching Fire right after finishing The Hunger Games? Cos it wasn't out in paperback yet and I have HG in paperback so OBVIOUSLY they must match. My Harry Potter set is cobbled together but still makes sense to me. So books 1, 3, 5 and 7 are the normal American cover trade paperbacks. Book 4 is American cover hardback. Book 2 is some mass market paperback I got in Rome. Which mean I had to find book 6 in a similar vein so I bought a used copy of the "adult" cover, which luckily just has a spell book on it and isn't actually HP porn.

5. Sometimes the movie is better than the book - Sarah said this too, but I'm repeating it because it's true. Lord of the Rings books, I wanted to love you, but sorry, the movies stole my heart.

6. I don't dogear pages. Or write in books. But I'm jealous of those that do - Sorta jealous anyway, because it's way easier to just fold over the page instead of always making sure you have a bookmark (or ticket stub, or whatever) on you. And it would be way easier if I underlined quotes in the book so I could find them later instead of just trying to remember where they were. And inevitably forgetting.

7. If I can't pronounce a character's name, I make up my own - I do this for pronounceable names as well, though usually it's a case of misreading it once and deciding I like mine better.

There's probably more but I can't think of them at the moment. What are your bookish confessions?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Go to the cows, Gemma. The cows will help you.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Jane Eyre.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a retelling of Jane Eyre.
I would have rather spent the time re-reading Jane Eyre. So, yeah...

So this is just Jane Eyre. Sort of a retelling. Actually, more like someone (in this case Livesey) took a detailed outline of Jane Eyre and then wrote a story based on that. Then nominally set it in the 1960s except not really. I mean the story claims to be from then but the style doesn't fit. The main character is surprised and sort of confused by the telephone. Like as an invention. And I GET IT, she's supposed to be poor and didn't have access to nice things. But she lived with her uncle and aunt who seemed to have enough money to have a phone in the late '50s/early '60s. And she went to a boarding school where maybe SHE wasn't allowed to use the phone, but it was a thing there. Or was Scotland really late to the whole "telephone" thing?

I like re-tellings of stories, even if the original story is something I'm not crazy about. But this isn't really a retelling. There's nothing new brought to the material. It's just Jane Eyre that is sometimes set in the '60s when the author remembers that's when it's supposed to be taking place. Oh and Gemma Hardy/Jane Eyre is originally from Iceland so you can plainly see this is an entirely different book and you should absolutely read this instead of just re-reading Jane Eyre. Grahme-Smith used entire passages from Pride and Prejudice when writing his book but that works as a retelling because he changed the story. By adding zombies. This could have really benefited from something supernatural. Or having Gemma act like a girl from the '60s and put a modern twist on things instead of randomly remembering that record players were a thing then, so we should mention them and OH, it's a whole new book!

To give the book some credit, I am not the intended audience. Maybe if you LOVE Jane Eyre and want moar. Moar. MOAR! this will be the perfect book for you. For me it was very, "Why am I doing this?"
To answer that question: The book was free and I don't like DNF-ing. Besides, finishing this means I can bitch about it here. Besides, it is a quick enough read. And when I bring a book with me on the train I don't have too many options other than "stare out the window" so I figured I may as well read it.

*Spoilers below. But about a really boring part of the book that should have been more interesting and failed. There, now if you don't read the stuff below, you know the gist.*
You know how in Jane Eyre the reason Jane can't/doesn't marry Rochester at first is cos of the whole secret crazy wife in the attic thing? You remember how that was an actual scandal? Livesey missed that part. There is no arsony secret wife. There is no secret wife or previous wife or anything. Which at first, when there was NO mention of fires or whatnot, I thought "It's fine. My problem with Rochester always stemmed with how Bertha was treated. Maybe I'll like this guy better." But we still need a scandal, something to drive Jane/Gemma away from Rochester/Sinclair so she can wander into the most boring part of the novel and find herself. The scandal here: more than 20 years earlier Mr. Sinclair and one of his friends/kids that worked at the family estate changed names for a couple years so Sinclair could join the RAF and convince his father he was brave. The other guy, Seamus, took Sinclair's place as a Bevin Boy working the mines and agreed to the switch because Sinclair offered up his sister Allison. Which at first does seem bad except in this case "offered up" equals "put in a good word for the guy, since Allison already likes Seamus, and also talk to his dad about what an awesome son-in-law Seamus would make". That is the scandal. That's it. Allison ended up dying due to a drug overdoes which would seem scandalous, except that the book says was not-at-all an effect of this arrangement. I'm pretty sure I mumbled "Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me. That is the scandal? That?" Maybe she tried to make Sinclair less of an ass than Rochester but she went so far the other way that I'm wondering why is this even a thing that was hidden. Or mattered at all?
*Seriously, how did she manage to make the most interesting part of Jane Eyre so boring? Anyway, spoilers contained*

Title quote from page 304. I picked it because it's such a ridiculous line and said so earnestly. It's like the voice from Field of Dreams coming to Gemma and telling her to go to the cows. The cows are the path to salvation. I'll stop now.

Livesey, Margot. The Flight of Gemma Hardy. HarperCollins, 2012. I received this in a giveaway

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

For your own sake, get on with your grog

It's Wednesday again, so here we are again to discuss The Moonstone as part of Alice's readalong. Are you excited? You should be. Unless you aren't playing along in which case these posts are probably annoying to you. Sorry about that. Anyway, onto Wilkie!

First up, we get MOAR CLACK!
I thought we were done with her after the last section but she's back for more. After Lady V's death Rachel goes to hang out with Godfrey's family cos apparently Rachel must be guarded at all times. And for whatever reason she invites Clack to hang out with her, which is a win for us, but I can't figure out why exactly she wants her there. Other than we need Clack to tell us what happens during this scene because there is BIG NEWS. (Also the opium.)

Remember how we ended the last section all going "Rachel and Godfrey are engaged, whaaaaa?" Rachel has come to her senses and broken off the engagement and with no reason. Well no reason she'll tell anyone, because being stubborn is her thing apparently. Godfrey's dad is NOT having this and the scene is all tense and angry and he's face is going red and there's a lot of yelling. Clack is there to break the tension though with a tract! She apparently carries tracts for all occasions and his occasion calls for "Hush, for Heaven's Sake!" You know all that frustration everyone felt about her but were too nice to say? Daddy Godfrey isn't too nice. He calls her an "impudent fanatic" and "Rampant Spinster" and kicks Rachel out of his house. Don't worry though, because Mr. Bruff agrees to take her in and also Clack has decided she'll leave Rachel a whole bunch of tracts in her will.

Next we move into Bruff's narrative and we don't get too much here except the knowledge that those three Indians that I keep forgetting about are still after the diamond and they found out that they're going to have to wait a year because it's currently being used as collateral for a loan. We also learn that SOMEONE wanted to take a look at Lady V's will not long after she passed and that SOMEONE proposed to Rachel because that SOMEONE is Godfrey! Because we were all totally right that Godfrey should not be trusted. Bruff tells Rachel about this and Rachel breaks off the engagement and now we're finally getting some answers.

And we're about to get some more answers because our next narrative is by Franklin! We learn what's in Rosanna's letter and what she put in the Shivering Sand! Except everything we find out causes more questions and we all need more grog.
Rosanna really was in love with Franklin and she was totally neglectful of Lucy and my dreams were crushed a little.
It was a nightgown in the Shivering Sand. The nightgown with the pain smear. And that nightgown belonged to....FRANKLIN! Whaaaa?
No seriously, what? Cos Franklin says he must have done it because I mean, there's his nightgown with the stain so irrefutable evidence right there. And he just doesn't remember it.
Rachel broke it off with Franklin and refuses to speak to him because she SAW HIM steal the Moonstone.
But they still want to be together! But they can't because she sees him as a thief and he knows he didn't do it and has to prove it to her and then they walk away from each other and the section we're supposed to read ends! BUT I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!
How is this going to play out? Did Franklin really steal the Moonstone? And does he actually not remember taking it? Or is this all part of his con?
Why did Godfrey look at the will? What's his end game?
Who is using the diamond as collateral? And for what?
What about those Indians that keep randomly showing up whenever I have forgotten about them?

Wilkie! Tell me your secrets!

Title quote from page 158, location 5142

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Public domain books, published 2012. Originally published 1868

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[The] diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die.

I have been putting off this review. Not for any good reason. And I actually haven't really been putting off this review specifically, so much as I've been lazy writing non-Moonstone things*. So when I pulled this up and said "I'm going to write this thing, dammit" I thought I already had something written. Maybe even half written. I looked at my draft and here's what I got:

Augustus Waters is a manic pixie dream boy.

Still, fact, but not exactly letting me off easy tonight. Ah well. I'll get back to that comment, but first some introduction.

I haven't really read that many reviews about John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I knew OF it because I spend time on the internet looking at book blogs, so I can't not know about it. But I heard the buzz words "YA" and "cancer" so I skipped over it. Then during Armchair BEA I won a copy from Laura over at The Scarlet Letter, which was awesome and gave me my chance/excuse to read it.

In case you don't know what The Fault in Our Stars is about, well first off Hi! How are you? Glad you could crawl out from under that rock. Hope it's not to bright out here. But second it's about a teen with terminal cancer. It's also a teen love story because it's YA so OF COURSE there's going to be a love story thrown in there. Will the female character wonder what anyone could ever see in her while the male character is practically perfect in every way (except, you know, cancer) and worships her? YUP. Is it pretty predictable and the characters aren't that fully developed? You bet. Was it emotionally manipulative? Did I mention the terminal cancer? Did I still enjoy it? Yeah, I did.**

Back to the first and only thing I wrote down while reading this book: Augustus Waters is a manic pixie dream boy. The film critic that came up with the term describes it as "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." In this case it's a soulful young lady, since Augustus is the boy and our main character Hazel is a girl but same thought. Think of Augustus as Natalie Portman in Garden State Zooey Deschanel in, just, anything. He shows up at her "I'm a teen with cancer" support group meeting (not for himself but for a mutual friend) and they are instantly attracted to each other and he gets her to quit being quite so depressed about that whole "I'm going to die way sooner than most people" thing.

Alright, so I haven't said too much positive about this yet, but I did say I enjoyed it. And even though the book is predictable and emotionally manipulative, I let it slide because it made me laugh. The book is first person from Hazel's point of view and she's far wittier than most teens I know*** but that's fine because she says stuff like this
Then I found myself worrying I would have to make out with him to get to Amsterdam, which is not the kind of thing you want to be thinking, because (a) It shouldn't've even been a question whether I wanted to kiss him, and (b) Kissing someone so that you can get a free trip is perilously close to full-on hooking, and I have to confess that while I did not fancy myself a particularly good person, I never thought my first real sexual action would be prostitutional.
So yeah. Stuff like that means I overlook the scenes that are there to make you feel all the sad. Because the book did make me cry and then I got angry at it for making me cry because it was SO OBVIOUS that was going to happen and still it got me. You bastard.

I didn't LOVE it as I gather much of the internet loved it. But I did like it. It wasn't life changing but I am happy to have won a copy and read it.

*But seriously, Moonstone is the best.
**Don't you love it when people ask themselves questions? Are you picturing Seinfeld right now?
***I don't know any teens, so I'm going off memory from when I was teen.

Title quote from page 24

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton Books, 2012.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I am (thank God!) constitutionally superior to reason

Welcome to the next Moonstone post as part of Alice's readalong. Heads up to those not playing along, there will be spoilers. However, please enjoy the GIFs!

Before I get to anything else I want to say this: Miss Clack wants in Mr. Godfrey's pants.
I wrote my last Moonstone post after finishing the assigned section, which seems like the logical way to do things. However SO MUCH HAPPENED that I ended up blathering on about the plot and missed out on lots of the amazing things that I had wanted to write about but forgot when the time came. So this week I've decided to write down a bunch of stuff as I'm reading it so hopefully I'll forget less of the stuff I want to say. Why yes, I could make sure to just focus on one part instead of trying to cram a bunch in here, and thus make a well thought out post. But I'm going to go with the random spewing of thoughts that will make for an incoherent mess. As I do

Rosanna died???
I thought the shivering sand was going to be our ominous Woman in White lake but nope, turns out to be an actual danger. OR IS IT? I mean, we're just assuming Rosanna is gone, based on those footprints Cuff found. And based on that suicide note she left about doing just that. But still, I want to see a body. I think it's very convenient that "What the Sand gets, the Sand keeps forever." And what did she chain down into the sand? The Moonstone seemed like a good guess to me but I guess not.

Rachel is still being Rachel-y and refusing to help or talk to anyone and is basically acting like a pain in the ass. Cuff tells Lady Verinder and Mr. Betteredge (who needs to be there so he can tell us what happens) that essentially Rachel's got some debts that she NEEDS to pay or there will be busted kneecaps (implied, or whatever the Victorian version of that is) and she actually has the diamond. Lady Verindar and Betteredge vehemently disagree. Now I do think/hope Rachel actually has more going on than what we're seeing so far. I still don't think she's our new Marian.

We leave Betteredge's narrative to head over to Miss Clack's and she is the most sanctimonious stick-up-her-ass brat so her narrative is equal parts painful and AMAZING. She's that awful person that talks about what a good Christian she is and how leaves people helpful literature (tracts) about how they're dressing like a (Victorian) slut titled "A Word With You On Your Cap-Ribbons" and is that a real tract? Can someone please find that and share because I want to read that.

Anyway, as I said the ever proper Miss Clack wants in Mr. Godfrey's pants. Trousers. He is everything perfect and he thrilled her when he would talk about "our prospects and trousers." Granted, the prospects and trousers in question were part of a clothing drive for the needy, but that does not change how much Miss Clack liked talking about trousers with Mr. Godfrey. But Mr. Godfrey loves Rachel, who is SO BENEATH him, Miss Clack can't even stand it.

We also learn Lady Verinder is very ill but she doesn't want to tell Rachel what's wrong. She does tell Miss Clack which was a major misstep on Lady Verinder's part, but it does give us a fantastic scene where Miss Clack leaves a bunch of religious books hidden around the house for Lady Verinder. And when they're returned because, you know, awful-person, she spends the time copying out passages from the books so she can leave letters around the house. Easier to hide I guess? Plus it gives Miss Clack the opportunity to sneak around the house and listen in on a conversation between Mr. Godfrey and Rachel. Of course this also gives her the opportunity to hear Godfrey propose to Rachel and have Rachel agree and oh the horror, the HORROR.

There's also stuff about the Moonstone but since I've already babbled enough, I'll let other people talk about everything else.

Title quote from page 83, location 2767

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Public domain books, published 2012. Originally published 1868

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Martians are coming!

After finishing up The Importance of Being Earnest I needed another plane read. And I wanted to read something else that would count towards my challenges. And I wanted it to be free. So I went with H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. I didn't know much about the story other than the whole Orson Welles radio-broadcast thing. Also I already own a copy of this book that was my dad's. One of the reasons it was important when I was downloading this book that it be free.

I see how this was done as a radio news story. It sort of reads like a news report even though it's a first person narrative of an alien invasion. It's a pretty straight description of what this guy saw when Martians landed in England. There isn't a lot of narrative to get in the way of "just the facts".

I wish there was more emotion in the story. But it's more like "these aliens came and then they SHOT EVERYONE WITH HEAT RAY LASER BEAMS *PEW PEW*. Then there's some quiet time while we walk somewhere else and OH NO, THE ALIENS ARE BACK AND NOW THEY CANISTERS OF BLACK DEATH SMOKE *WHOOSH*". OK, maybe emotion is the wrong way to describe it. There's not a lot of character development I'm saying. Especially given this is a first person story and I know the characters as "main guy" "main guy's wife" and "main guy's brother". There are a couple other characters and Wells may have even given them names but I don't remember them cos the characters aren't really that important. They could be anyone.

It's one of the original alien invasion stories although I can't say I've read too many other alien invasion stories. I have, however, seen Independence Day, so I'm pretty much an expert on the genre.* There is the first strange landing, where people are curious about this cylinder from space. Then there's the violence as the aliens attack. Things seem impossible for humans, who are no match for the superior alien weapons until suddenly the tides turn.

*This next part has some spoilers. Kinda. You're prob fine to read this, but in case you want to go into this knowing nothing, skip ahead*
My favorite part of the book happened when the narrator and a curate were trapped when one of the Martian cylinders mostly buried the house they were hiding in. They can't escape because the only way out would require them to go right by the aliens. There's dwindling food and the curate slowly starts to go mad. Especially when they seem the alien feeding, which involves sucking the blood out of a living human. Maybe because this was on of the first times in the book the narrator slowed down and instead of describing the havoc the aliens were inflicting we got to see what this invasion actually does to an individual. Even then, there are still scenes that would have been nice to see but were mostly skipped over. Like the narrator knocking the curate unconscious to keep him from alerting the aliens that they're there. Instead of hearing the narrator's growing desperation as he tries to keep the man quiet, we get this:
As the days wore on, his utter carelessness of any consideration so intensified our distress and danger that I had, much as I loathed doing it, to resort to threats, and at last to blows.
Days are going by as they're both trapped in this prison, not knowing if they'll be found or starve to death and our narrator is trying to stay sane and keep the guy quite but eventually he knocks the guy out. There is this day long struggle about this and instead, we get one sentence about how he punched the guy so hard he quit making noise.
*Spoilers contained. Though really, you're probably fine to read it*

Another detail that was lost on me, a bunch of English cities were stepped on but unless you have a map handy (or you know, are from there) all this city listing will be sort of meaningless. Probably because I'm a self-centered American. Maybe if they were American cities/towns I would have cared more. I would have at least had a an idea of where they were. And yes I realize I could have checked a map. I also could fluently learn another language or take up heli-skiing but those things don't seem to be happening either.

One last detail, Wells mentioned bunnies a lot. My Kindle says there are 6 separate mentions of rabbit which I guess isn't that much but more than I expected to see. And not mentions like "and then the Tripod stepped on a rabbit." They're references that essentially equate people with rabbits. Or else how would a rabbit view humans. For example
The bare idea of this [alien feeding tactics] is no doubt horribly repulsive to us, but at the same time I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.
I'm not smart enough/too lazy to examine what the bunny/people references could mean so instead I'll just giggle at the picture of intelligent rabbits. Like Alice's white rabbit. But disgusted at people eating meat and also running from an alien invasion.

This book counts as my 19th Century read for the Classics Challenge. Making my way through!
*As usual, I have no idea what I'm talking about. Watch that not stop me from going on

Title quote from page 66, location 1356

Wells, H. G. The War of the Worlds. Tibeca Books. Originally published 1898

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Most Best Teen Novels

It's been awhile since I posted a list of books on here and NPR has apparently decided this needs to be rectified. Or they made their own list independent of my little blog and in fact don't acknowledge my existence at all. Jerks. Whatever the case, NPR asked people to vote for their Top 100 Best-Even Teen Novels. Now I'm not a YA fan but I scanned the first few titles and said "Oh hai, I know those" so I figured why not post the list and see which ones I've read and haven't. Also this gives me more time to procrastinate on getting reviews written. However, I am only listing the top 50 because after that I hardly even recognize the titles that come after that and don't feel like spending my time NOT highlighting or italicizing stuff. Priorities, I haz them. So bolded titles are ones I've read entirely, italics are ones I read part of, since they include series as a single number and I want credit for The Lord of the Rings.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
3. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein - not yet but coming soon (maybe)
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - this counts as YA lit? what now?
9. Looking for Alaska by John Green
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
11. The Giver series by Lois Lowry
12. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
13. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - I also own the movie. On VHS.
14. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
15. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
17. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
18. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
19. Divergent series by Veronica Roth
20. Paper Towns by John Green
21. The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare
22. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
23. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
24. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
26. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
27. Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer - stop judging me!
28. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
29. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
30. Tuck Everlasting by Nathalie Babbitt
31. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
32. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Bashares
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
35. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous - but isn't not really by anonymous but actually by someone pretending it was a true diary to convince people that drugs are bad? (or so says Snopes)
36. Howl's Moving Castle by Diane Wynne Jones
37. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli - the hell? This but not Maniac McGee? Something's afoul here. Because MM - "explores racism & homelessness" and SG is apparently about a manic pixie dream girl (so says NPR so don't yell at me)
38. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
39. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
40. Abhorson trilogy by Garth Nix
41. Dune by Frank Herbert
42. Discworld/Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett
43. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult
44. The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
45. Graceling series by Kristin Cashore
46. Forever... by Judy Blume
47. Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin
48. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
49. The Princess Diary series by Meg Cabot
50. Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce

Out of the top 50 I've read 18, if I include those where I at least read one in the series. And I include that. This number of read stays exactly the same, even if I include the next 50. So yup. What we need on this list is more YA lit written before the new millennium. Then I'd have way more read. Maybe. Some more at least.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast

Post one of the actual Moonstone readalong. Or rather, first post once we have all read the first section and can really appreciate what Wilkie is doing. And it's so exciting. Heads up, this is going to contain all sorts of spoilers and probably non sequitors.

The story begins very Indian Jones-esque as we learn about the theft of a sacred Hindu (Hindooooo) stone called the Moonstone and you can practically hear someone yelling
or temple
But the Moonstone, a diamond the size of a bird's egg, does not stay in the temple. Instead it ends up in the hands of a Colonel Herncastle, who's sort of a douche. If you didn't get that from the whole "stealing sacred stone" thing. His family hates him and refuses to have anything to do with him. When he dies he leaves the stone to his niece Rachel. Is it a peace offering? Is it to pass the curse to the family that hates him? Who knows? I don't yet. But I'm so excited to find out!

As is Wilkie's style (which I can say after reading only 1 Collins book) the story is told as a set of narratives from different characters, writing out everything they can remember about the incident. Betteredge is the head servant (I guess, I don't understand servant hierarchy) and we get to hear his side of the story first. He meets up with Mr. Franklin Blake, Rachel's cousin (and suitor..eww) who is bringing the stone to the family. He was followed by a trio Indian jugglers and a little British boy that is able to see the future, so long as he has a special ink poured into his hand and the jugglers (actually Brahmin priests!) say the proper incantation and do you hear how amazing this is??

Mr. Franklin doesn't give Rachel the stone right away. It's supposed to be presented to her on her 18th birthday and Mr. Franklin knows all about the curse on the stone and about the jugglers that had shown up before he arrived. He and Betteredge decide that the thing to do is put the stone in the bank and see what happens. If nothing out of the ordinary occurs, it's probably safe to give it to Rachel. Apparently future seeing random Indian jugglers and their little British boy is old hat for this house. Rachel and Mr. Franklin spend a lot of time decorating a door, and please someone tell me if that is code for something else? Or implied something else? Were they really just painting a door for a month plus? Anyway, the only person acting strangely is one of the maids/servants Rosanna Spearman, but she always acts strangely (staring a quicksand that is apparently right near the Verinder homestead) so yeah, all normal here.

Rachel and Mr. Franklin finish painting the door just in time for Rachel's birthday and since the Indian guys haven't shown up again Mr. Franklin decides it's alright to give her the giant diamond. She gets it and wears it  and there's much oohing and ahhing. And then naturally the next morning the ring is GONE
Dramatic hamster
After a misstep with a useless detective Sergeant Cuff is brought in and he is wonderful and very Sherlock Holmes-esque except he loves roses instead of opium. Or he loves both but so far he's only told us about the roses. I guess since Cuff came before Holmes, it's really the other way but saying Holmes is Sergeant Cuff-esque makes no sense.

I have spent so much time and I haven't even gone into some of the best things Betteredge says. I'm going to leave it to everyone else to go into that but instead I'll save a couple of my favorite quotes so far

"To make things worse, [Mr. Franklin] had promised to be tall, and had not kept his promise."

"I follow the plan adopted by the Queen in opening Parliament -- namely, the plan of saying much the same thing regularly every year."

"Betteredge, your edge is better than ever" This is actually from Mr. Franklin to Betteredge, and I'd like to think that line was one of the ones written while Wilkie was in his opium haze.

Title quote from page 39, location 1363

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Public domain books, published 2012. Kindle edition. Originally published 1868

Monday, August 6, 2012

This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last

Oscar Wilde, you are all the snark and all the cynicism. I wish we could hang out and I'd listen to you make bitchy comments about, just, everyone. But instead, I will have to enjoy your work. And enjoy I did.

I've only read one Wilde book before this, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry Wotton was my favorite character. My friend argued that Lord Henry was actually an incarnation of the devil. Maybe. But he's just so much fun. Anyway, I point him out because The Importance of Being Earnest is like an entire cast of Lord Henrys. At least what I remember of Lord Henry. What I'm saying is I LOVED this play.

The full title is The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. John Worthington (Jack) lives out in the country but tells his ward and servants and everyone else he lives with that he often has to come into the city to visit his troubled younger brother Ernest. His friends in the city all know him as Ernest. His friend Algernon Moncrieff finds out about his little ruse and is delighted to hear his buddy is a "Bunburyist" as well! Algernon gets out of hanging out with his Aunt and cousin by pretending to visit a sick friend of his named Bunbury. Jack refuses to tell Algernon where his country home is or about his life there in the slightest. Given Algernon's personality, it sort of makes sense to keep his country life private. But Algernon may soon be family, since Jack wants to marry his cousin Gwendolen. Except Gwendolen only wants to marry an Ernest (which she thinks Jack is) and hates the idea of marrying someone with any other name. Seriously? Any name other than Ernest? Dealbreaker!

One day Algernon finds out where Jack's country home is and goes there introducing himself to everyone as Jack's troubled brother Ernest, who has mended his ways. Of course he's welcomed in the home. He is family after all. He is especially welcomed by Jack's ward Cecily. Cecily and "Ernest" (Algernon) fall in love instantly and they get engaged. Cecily also has the condition that her husband be named Ernest and couldn't imagine marrying someone with a different name. Especially Algernon. Gwendolen comes out to the country to visit "Ernest" (Jack) and then there is much confusion about who is engaged to Ernest and hilarity ensues. There's also a whole sub-plot about Jack being adopted after being abandoned in a suitcase at the train station.

The basic plot is very Shakespearean-esque, what with all the mistaken identity stuff. Except it's far less complicated and far-fetched than the plot of, say A Comedy of Errors (see there are these 2 sets of identical twins that were separated when they were young and both sets find themselves in the same town...) It works better because it is simpler. It's also much shorter. My Kindle edition says it's 58 pages. This is a quick read and indeed I finished it part way into one of the legs back from Seattle to NY. And during my reading I kept elbowing Boyfriend+ saying "Now read this line! Oh you have to read this part." I'm a joy to travel with, is what I'm saying. Here are some of the quotes I highlighted. Though I sorta highlighted the entire thing

Algernon: If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night...
Jack: I haven't asked you to dine with me anywhere to-night.
Algernon: I know. You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations.

Lady Bracknell (Algernon's Aunt): Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.

Gwendolen: I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

I could go on and on with quotes because I love them all, but I'll stop now. The one criticism I have is every character sounds the same. Every character has the same tone, same sense of humor, same snark, same cynicism. Which I LOVE but it doesn't exactly make for the most compelling set of personalities. However it's short enough, and the lines are so good that I didn't mind so much.

And this is another challenge book down! This was my Smooth Criminals selection for "Book written by a writer who did time". This may be sort of a cop-out for this choice, given Wilde did time after the play was already on the stage but the category wasn't too specific and this still works.

Title quote from page 55, location 873

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Kindle edition. Originally published 1895

Friday, August 3, 2012

I was about to break into a desperate fit of single virgin rage

I was on my way to Seattle and needed a book for the 7+ hours of travel I had ahead of me*. I had downloaded The Importance of Being Earnest and The War of the Worlds but as I was sitting in the airport I thought "I can't read those. I'm not in a classics mood" and I started scrolling through my "To Read" shelf on Goodreads. I came across one of the first books I added on there, Elna Baker's memoir The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance**. This was what I needed. Something light. Something funny. Something that would be good for a plane read.

The story mostly revolves around Elna's life as a Mormon living somewhere other than Utah, mostly New York City. Which just terrifies her mother.
'Elna,' she said nervously. 'The first thing that will happen when you move to New York is, you might start to swear.' I wanted to say, 'Oh shit, really?'
'And Elna,' she said, pursing her lips and looking directly into my eyes, 'what would you do if a lesbian tried to make out with you?'...'I'd say, "No, thank you...lesbian."'
Now Elna's story doesn't involve her moving to NYC and breaking away from her Mormon faith and going nuts and all that jazz. As a matter of fact, a lot of the book involves her defending her faith to people. And she does a good job, at least in my opinion. You feel her frustration with other people and her religion, but also the trust she has in her faith. And I learned little things about it.
They think I'm Mormon because I haven't read enough books yet.
Mormons don't believe in hell. We believe there are three different levels to heaven, like how they divide A-list, B-list, and C-list celebrities. 
But really the majority of the book is about Elna trying to find love. As a Mormon. In NYC. Really just finding love in general. She does make out with just, a lot of people and her drawings of who she made out with and where in Manhattan are hilarious.
Normally this [a co-worker saying he wanted to touch her boobs] would be considered sexual harassment, but since Jeff was average cute, I let it slide. The whole "Attractive Boy + Sexual Repression = Ethical Hypocrisy" equation.
when you're in a relationship without the possibility of sex it feels more like you're flirting with your personal assistant. 
The book is very funny. I found myself smirking a few times, though never outright laughing out loud. Of course part of that could be I was reading it on a plane and trying not bug too many people. But this wasn't my most favorite memoir. Maybe because I recently read the last memoir I read was The Bloggess one which had me crying I was laughing so hard. Maybe because I read the book all at once so I didn't have a chance to let it sink in. Maybe because I didn't have the same very religious upbringing so I didn't relate all that much. Whatever the reason, very funny book that I'm glad I read but (sorry Alice) not one of my most favorite books ever.

Update: I have left out a part of the book that doesn't really fit in with the main stuff (being Mormon, looking for love, living in NYC while being Mormon and looking for love, etc) but it was one of the best parts. For awhile Elna worked at FAO Schwartz in the section selling crazy expensive baby dolls of some certain type that I could look up but I'm lazy and won't. The dolls were featured on some realty show (again, could look up, but not) and got super popular and ALL the rich NYC ladies had to get them for their daughters. Specifically had to get the white babies, which the store sold out of. There were rows of Asian, Hispanic and Black babies but these people didn't want them. I mean what would the neighbors think?? (Seriously, one lady asked Elna this when she suggested the woman buy one of the Hispanic babies instead of waiting for a new shipment of the white ones to come in.) So yeah, it's mostly Mormon trying to find love in NYC, but also stuff like this sprinkled in as well.

*It was significantly cheaper to get to Seattle from New York by transferring in Dallas. I don't know why. That makes no sense, but that's what happened.
**Every time I write out that title I have to look it up. If I don't, I leave out an adjective.

Title quote from page 213, location 3306

Baker, Elna. The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir. Dutton Adult, 2009. Kindle edition.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July Reading Wrap Up

Summer is FLYING by. I guess that happens when summer is less "vacation time" and more "those months that are hotter than the other months". Damn being in the real world. So this month was a good one for me, what with the whole engagement thing* and all. Reading wise, I did a lot of it but the percentages aren't great. That's alright though. I'll live. Without further ado, here are the stats

Number of books read

Number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of US authors

Percentage of eBooks

Percentage of challenge books

Books written by decade
1890s - 29%
1990s - 29%
2000s - 14%
2010s - 29%
(I rounded up if you're wondering why that adds up to 101. If you bothered to do the math. If you didn't then, nevermind, the math is perfect. Move along.)

Those stats look better than I thought. I mean I still need more ladies and more not white people, but I did pretty good reading some non-US people. Those challenge books helped. I'm looking forward to August reading because it's Alice's Moonstone readalong and it is going to be wonderful. If you haven't signed up yet it technically already started but I assume you could join anyway. Or just read it and enjoy the gifs.

*For those that are interested, I'm thinking of doing wedding-ish updates on Sundays. Thus far I have had none but if I have one, I'll do it that day. I figure those that want BOOKS ONLY can easily pass those by.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Moonstone: The Introduction!

Alice's Wilkie Collins The Moonstone readalong is upon us! Oh, the excitement!
For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I'm Red. Or Alley. Hello!

If you didn't take part in the last Collin's readalong when we all read The Woman in White, well you are in for a treat. I hope. I don't want to build this up too much but last time it was super fun and lots of gushing over the awesomeness of Marian, the boringness of Laura, the creepiness of Fosco. I hope for more of the same. But you know, with Moonstone characters, whomever they may be.
I've decided to go into this one like I did the last one, meaning I haven't bothered to look up a damn thing about this before I dive in. Last time it was because I didn't pay enough attention to the posting schedule. This time it's because I'm procrastinating. I did try to really study the Siege of Seringapatam, which Wikipedia does have a page on, so I don't have to make something up. However, military stuff makes my brain go "oh this is the time I can quit paying attention" so the details are mostly going in one ear and out the other. So here are the details that I can seem to grasp

-The "belligerents" are the British East India Company and the Sultanate of Mysore and I can't help but go "your sore what?" and giggle because I'm a small child.
-They call it the Anglo-Mysore War but I like it the other way cos then I can giggle some more. "Ow I've bruised my Anglo"
-The Moonstone begins with someone stealing jewels from "the legendary treasury of Tippu Sultan" who was "a short, fat officer" although later in that same section it says he was about 5'8 which doesn't seem that short. He also had delicate wrists and ankles.
-Wilkie Collins has a huge forehead. I know, not about the siege and I talked about it last time but seriously, look at that. Look. At. It.

I look forward to seeing everyone's thoughts and picking favorite characters and the gifs. I am excited for all the gifs.