"Speech is sliver, but silence is golden." Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  I picked these books because of their length. It is a sad fact I have to pad my reading stats with short books with my 100 books read goal for 2013. The good news is one of these books is also part of my 1001 Books/The Classics Club Challenge and the other is by an author I've heard of but have never read.  The bad news is, I didn't care for either book.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparkbrodie

Synopsis: Jean Brodie is a teacher with advanced and unconventional ideas that put her at odds with the other members of staff at the Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh, as she endeavours to shape the lives of the select group of girls who form her "set".

What saved The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (★★★) from a two star rating was the writing. Spark has a unique style, omniscient narrator, jumping back and forth in time  between paragraphs. She so casually drops into the story who "betrayed" Miss Brodie I had to go back and read it a few times to make sure I read it right. I liked her writing style enough I will read more of her work, but the characters in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie were less than appealing. Thank God it was a short book.

 

 

Monsieur Pain by Roberto Bolano

bolanoSynopsis -Paris, 1938. The Peruvian poet César Vallejo is in the hospital, afflicted with an undiagnosed illness, and unable to stop hiccuping. His wife calls on an acquaintance of her friend Madame Reynaud: the Mesmerist Pierre Pain. Pain, a timid bachelor, is in love with the widow Reynaud, and agrees to help. But two mysterious Spanish men follow Pain and bribe him not to treat Vallejo, and Pain takes the money. Ravaged by guilt and anxiety, however, he does not intend to abandon his new patient, but then Pain's access to the hospital is barred and Madame Reynaud leaves Paris.... Another practioner of the occult sciences enters the story (working for Franco, using his Mesmeric expertise to interrogate prisoners)-as do Mme. Curie, tarot cards, an assassination, and nightmares. Meanwhile, Monsieur Pain, haunted and guilty, wanders the crepuscular, rainy streets of Paris...

On the other hand, there wasn't much of anything I enjoyed about Monsieur Pain (★★), except the Paris setting and recognizing streets I visited on my trip there last year. There was no plot to speak of (the above summary is technically accurate, but it makes the plot sound more interesting and cohesive than it was); it seemed to be mostly about Pain walking around Paris, getting drunk and having hallucinations and nightmares. I found it a rather difficult read, as if Bolano worked so hard to write deeply he ended up with a story without a point. At the very least, the point or theme was so camouflaged I didn't get it. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for Monsieur Pain, or maybe I'm just not bright enough to "get" Bolano. It definitely didn't make me want to read his 1000 page posthumous novel, 2666.

June Reading Round Up: Young Adult Fiction

Sometimes, I confuse myself. I do. For the whole month of June, I was meh on reading. None of the books I read were so wonderful I couldn't put it down. But, six of the eight books I read this month received four or five stars. That is by far the best monthly rating average for the year. Maybe I graded the YA books on a curve, though that doesn't sound like me at all. I'm not nearly that nice.

An aside here: I'm sitting on my deck writing this post. It's 84 degrees in Texas at 5 pm on July 1. That makes me ridiculously happy.

Update: Here is is, July 3 and I haven't finished this post. That pretty much sums up my whole month of reading YA. Start and stop. Kinda dread going back to it but when I do, I enjoy it.

It's official: I'm a mess.

Top Pick of the Month

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Eleanor and Park (★★★★★) by Rainbow Rowell - this was recommended by an agent I met at DFW Con and has been frequently included on Summer Reading lists.  It deserves the praise. I'm not sure what this would be categorized as - teen romance, maybe? But, it is a far cry from Sweet Valley High. The alternating POV and voices of the characters are well done and the setting (mid-80s) brought back teenage memories of my own. I don't even resent the author for that.

You Can't Go Wrong With...

Stargirl (★★★★★) by Jerry Spinelli

The Rules for Disappearing (★★★★) - a nice little thriller that probably shouldn't be a series, but whatever.

You want issues? I've got your issues.

Twisted (★★★★) by Laurie Halse Anderson - the ending, especially the resolution between the father and son, might be a little too pat, but overall a well-intentioned book with a good message.

Abandoned...

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel - I am a huge fan of Oppel's Airborn series (if you haven't heard of it or read it, you really should; action adventure with airships, a little teen romance, shipwrecks, a desert island and pirates!) and I thought the premise of this series (the teen years of Viktor Frankenstein) was a cool hook. It just didn't keep me interested.

Divergent by Veronica Roth - tries a little too hard to fill The Hunger Games void.

It's July! We are halfway to 2014 and it's National Ice Cream Month. Yea!

Actually, I'm not excited about 2014, but National Ice Cream month does excite me.  I wish it didn't because the pounds are creeping onto me again. They wouldn't if I would just Work Out like any sane forty something woman should do. But, I don't want to work out. Or run. Or eat better. I want to make ice cream and sit on my deck at 5 pm and drink a beer! Which is what I'm doing right now because it's 84 degrees at 5 pm on July 1 in Texas. That? Has never happened in my lifetime.

Hey, at least I'm drinking a Michelob Ultra.

Anyway. Three things are going to happen on the blog this month. One, I'm going to post every weekday. Two, I'm going to make ice cream and tell you all about it. Three, I'm going to read Historical Fiction and do a better job of writing reviews for each book. I'm going to have to if I want to post 23 times. I might even post about writing again since I haven't in a while. I've been a slacker for the entire month of June in the writing department but that stops tomorrow! I need to do a little revising of my MS then get back on the wagon with the sequel.

But, back to ice cream because, really. Ice Cream.

My first ice cream post will be about a fool proof, inexpensive chocolate ice cream recipe I found. Except nothing is fool proof when it comes to me and cooking. More on that later.

I want to find a banana pudding ice cream recipe because, really. Banana Pudding.

I also want to make Peach Ice Cream because, really. Peaches in the summer is nirvana.

What's  your favorite ice cream flavor? Do you make homemade ice cream? If not, why?

Also, unrelated to any of this: Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon was the stupidest movie I've ever seen, and I've seen my fair share of stupid movies.

May Reading Review - Romance

cheesyMy month of reading romances turned out better than I thought. The quality of the writing was surprisingly good and I didn't end the month wishing my husband was an Irish bar owner in the middle of nowhere. If I have a complaint about romances is they are formulaic to a fault. But, the formula is part of the Romance Writers of America definition of the genre:

Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

Which means a good romance depends on a unique setting, characters and story. There are plenty of average romances that will leave you happy and satisfied. Finding an exceptional one is much more difficult. But, so is finding a horrible romance. They seem to hum along around three to four stars and, you know what? Sometimes the book you're reading doesn't need to change the world or make you ponder deep themes. It just needs to make you feel better when you finish than when you started. Most of the books I read in May did.

Top Pick of the Month

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand () by Helen Simondson - Major Pettigrew is the best kind of romance; great characters, believable conflict, sweet love story and uniqueness. I've wanted to read this novel for years and I'm so glad I did. Would recommend to anyone and will most likely re-read it in years to come.

You Can't Go Wrong With...

Jewels of the Sun () by Nora Roberts - Roberts is the quintessential romance author that will always deliver a reliably enjoyable read. Some complained on Goodreads about the ridiculous Irish stereotypes. To that I have this to say:  you don't read romance for veracity; you read it for fantasy. So what if the Ireland Roberts depicts is more Brigadoon and blarney stone than reality? It's fun, well written escapism. Also, don't talk to a Texan about stereotypes. In college I was able to convince two New Yorkers we all rode horses to school and had oil wells in our back yards. If a reader is stupid enough to believe the over the top stereotype, what do you care?  I stay away from Texas-based romances. I suggest easily offended Irish do the same for Ireland.

Georgette Heyer - I read two Heyer books this month (The Devil's Cub ; Lady of Quality ) because she is, far and away, my historical romance comfort read. The plots of her novels unfortunately share too many similarities, but I don't care.

This was shelved in Romance?

About a Boy () by Nick Hornby - There is nothing romancy about it, though I suppose Romance might have the widest definition of any literary genre. About a Boy could be considered romance, if you squint and turn your head a little, as if trying to catch sight of a shy fairy.

Good, not Great

Fall into You () by Roni Loren - My first full length erotica. Eh. Well-written but I'm not overly interested in reading about BDSM. I would read another if someone gave it to me but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy one.

With Just One Kiss () by Francis Ray - Thoroughly enjoyable. Will read another. Not as well written as Roberts but still lighthearted and fun. I liked it enough to seek out the next book in this series.

Bend in the Road () by Nicholas Sparks - I'm fairly certain this is the first Sparks novel I've read, and it will probably be the last. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. The sex scenes were sweet instead of sexy or erotic. I'm not going to complain about the lack of drama with the pair getting together - this is romance after all - though waiting for weeks of dating to kiss is totally unbelievable. The conflict after is good, but knocked down a star because the final scene was a fade to black. I wanted to see Miles grovel a bit and I wanted to see Sarah call him out for his behavior. Sarah turned out to be way too weak and Miles was too big of an ass. Overall good, not great; I won't waste my time with another Sparks.

Let's Get a Classic in Here...

Lady Chatterley's Lover () by DH Lawrence - For a book that is known more for being banned for thirty years, I expected something much more obscene. Though, of course, for 1928, all the talk about penises and orgasms would be quite shocking. It was pretty funny when Lawrence continued to call a woman's orgasm "coming to a crisis." I've only ever thought not coming to one is the crisis, but maybe that's just me. My reaction to Lady Chatterley is contradictory - I liked it overall but hated the characters. DH Lawrence is an excellent writer but he is repetitive, especially with his social commentary. I think all romance writers, especially ones that write erotica, should read Lady Chatterley, if only to honor the author that had the courage to take on the establishment in 1928 and pave the way for them.

Skimmed or Abandoned

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen () - writing wasn't good enough to carry a convoluted plot. Really, one of the worst books I've read this year.

The Typewriter Girl - besides having a horrible title, there were occasionally strangely structured sentences, not to mention an unlikable main character.

Fifty Shades of Grey - I tried.