Book Cupidity

Book Cupidity

Lover of genre fiction; Romance, SFF, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller and Horror. I read the occasional classic and a cookbook or two.

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."  Erich Fromm

If it's a book, I'll read it.

4 Stars
A Prisoner in Malta by Phillip DePoy
A Prisoner in Malta: A Christopher Marlowe Mystery - Phillip DePoy

Going to the library on a lazy Saturday is a dangerous proposition, especially without a mission. Unlike a bookstore, at the library you can have all the books - or at least according to the card holder guidelines, one hundred check-outs at a time.

Librarians are worse than any bookseller too, they entice you the way no sales table can -- by creating displays, like 'Fall in love with First Lines' and 'If you liked this, you'll like that'. Something that just begs you to investigate. I succumbed to one such display and picked up a book whose title and cover sang to me...The English Agent. Scanning the inside cover, I found that it was book two - I quickly remedied that problem (reading in order is a must) by locating a digital copy of A Prisoner in Malta in Overdrive and made my way, practically whistling, to check out.

One might wonder why this book called to me - I'm not a history buff and have never really ventured into a ton of historical fiction either. BUT, I do have a passing interest in Shakespeare and a couple of months ago I came across this article that gave more credence to Marlowe's influence on Shakespeare, even attributing co-authorship of some work. I've always known of some theories along these lines, but this in particular is what was floating around the surface of my brain when I ran across this book.

In truth, I'm probably an excellent fit for this book - I'm someone who's not overly familiar and who is willing to let go of accuracy in the name of a good time. The mystery is mostly based around a true plot to poison Queen Elizabeth I...for reasons, mostly religious ones:

"In point of fact, Marlowe’s father had been born just after King Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy, the law that established the English King, and not a foreign pope, as head of the church. The Anglican Communion was in all other ways indistinguishable from the Catholic—confusing times for the religious in England. But by the time Henry’s daughter Elizabeth was on the throne, that confusion had been removed: it was illegal to be a Catholic in England. The Pope’s subterranean war to pull England back into the fold was met by Elizabeth’s iron determination to uphold her father’s law, provoking the most savage plots and heartbreaking betrayals in the history of the country. So Marlowe was absolutely unwilling to admit any religious affiliation, especially to such rude strangers."

Major historical players are present, like Dr. Rodrigo Lopez:

“Dr. Lopez?” Pygott jeered, recognizing the famous name. “The Portuguese Jew bastard what made poisons for Robert Dudley?”

And if that name isn't familiar, perhaps this fellow, the original spymaster:

"Sir Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth, was the man in charge of Her Majesty’s foreign, domestic, and religious policy. His reputation was towering, and Marlowe found himself in reluctant awe. A rabid Protestant, he had, almost single-handedly, enabled exploration of foreign lands, established English colonies across the globe, and created the greatest navy in the world."

And, of course, a young but brilliant student and aspiring poet/playwright, Christopher Marlowe:

“Marlowe,” he said. His voice was unexpectedly melodious, like the low notes of a viola da gamba. Marlowe nodded once and, with some effort, held his tongue. “We require your services.” Marlowe swallowed. “The Queen and I,” Walsingham continued.
“I—I’m not certain—sir,” Marlowe stammered.
“My men have been watching you for two years,” Walsingham interrupted, “in Canterbury and in Cambridge. You are a remarkable young person. We believe that you have certain talents which will serve your country well.” “Talents?” His voice sounded strange in that room. “You are unsurpassed in your ability at using words to persuade,” Walsingham began, “and if your words fail, you are likewise adept with a dagger and a rapier. You rarely exhibit fear. You never avoid confrontation. Your theatrical talents make you a man able to play many parts. Your amorous exploits are legendary among your companions. And you are a spectacularly convincing liar.”

One of the things I loved about this writing was how artfully crafted it was - carefully weaving history and intention into the fiction. Even though I'm not even remotely intimate with Marlowe's factual personal history, what I do know is that he died young in a fight over a bar tab - I think it's a fair assumption that someone who dies over something so silly is someone who has faulty fear and confrontation synapses.

DePoy is not only thoughtful, but he's funny. For me, the storytelling was a reminiscent mixture of several movies that I adore, “Shakespeare in Love”, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, and the “The Princess Bride”. DePoy weaves the creation of Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepard to his Love” into the story while he’s sleuthing, there is some nearly absurd humor with clever word play in the dialogue exchanges, and even, a laughably inconceivable villain.

All the while, the action and mystery never stop – it’s almost ridiculous in how it never stops. The turns and twists abound and character after character are introduced. In fact, DePoy quips:

“Well,” Marlowe allowed, “the possibility (view spoiler) being the killer had been building in my mind for some time. First, I systematically eliminated all other suspects.”
“By which you mean you guessed incorrectly several times.”
“Yes,” Marlowe plunged ahead,”

Though the journey is truly the long way around, all the groundwork is there to solve this plot. Personally, it seemed there was purpose in such a long journey, the purpose of showing the breadth of turmoil and intrigue possible for the period. For this reason it did drag a smidge in the middle but this could easily be a symptom of how quickly I consumed the book – I raced through it in less than a day. I could say how a smidge more attention to atmospheric detail would have been swell to really land us in Renaissance England, but I can’t fault the dialogue heavy narrative for a character that was himself, a playwright.

Overall, I pretty much adored this read and might even compliment the next librarian I see for their book-pushing ways. The English Agent is on my night stand for soonish consumption, and in the meantime as a once upon a time thespian myself, these Christopher Marlowe words will stick with me:

“Theatre is the truest metaphor of life we human beings have yet invented. Better: this life is a play, you understand?”

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2 Stars
City of Wolves by Willow Palecek
City of Wolves - Willow Palecek

A very okay piece of quick fiction, it felt like a beginners effort if I were being completely honest. I wasn't entirely hooked into any part of the story, but pushed to finish it because it was only 96 pages, so why not?

Whatever this was trying to be, whether steampunk, or noir, or some hybrid of gaslight paranormal slash urban fantasy, I'm not sure, but it didn't work. It lacked all the pop on the page that any of those categories require - in short, it was shallow. One might argue that it's intent was to be quick and perfunctory, it is a novella after all, but length is hardly an excuse a lifeless execution.

Here's my biggest gripe. The author forgot that magic has a price, whether that price is paid by performing it or by having knowledge of it, treating it flippantly destroys any wonder for the reader.

Along those lines, even the title is a little careless...the only punchline to the book is given away by those three words. How anti-climatic is that, to get through all 96 pages to find out the the city is full of wolves. You don't say?

The protagonist himself, Alexander Drake, starts as a drunken fellow who might have something interesting up his sleeve - he's private drunk detective who is seemingly broke and perhaps disreputable? A little cliche but perfectly ripe for a nice backstory. Unfortunately, all personal characterization is tossed aside in the name of pacing, or at least, that's what it felt like.

I picked this up on my Overdrive account and it was such a quick read that I can't fault anyone for trying it. As a short mystery, it does work even with its problems - a puzzle was solved. I would give this author another shot down the road if anything else was published. There was a spark here that could catch light if allowed some greater fuel...but in this case maybe the paper was a little damp or something.

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The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
The Butter Battle Book- Signed Ltd Edition - Dr. Seuss

We all are intimately familiar with the glorious rhyming and the honest joy of reading a Dr. Seuss book aloud. Considering some of the check-outs that my kindergartner has brought home this year - the kind I begrudgingly cracked open and read each night with the sort of over-taxed smile and forced lilt necessary to make it through the more inane children's books - seeing a Dr. Seuss was a great relief. One that I've never read or heard of to boot!

Unfortunately, the nightly recite until turn-in-time for this library book has probably already been nixed.

"That was boring."

Sigh. Even though I poured every ounce of theatre into that first reading, I have to admit that I tend to agree. Not only that, but I had to do some quick thinking about how to talk about the book with my kiddo... in a surprising turn for a Dr. Seuss book, I wish I would have known the subject matter before diving in.

This book, published in 1984, is anti-war cautionary tale. It probably has good intentions. There's no denying that it could be said to be relevant to today.


As told by a Zook grandfather to his dear grandson, the Yooks butter their bread on the wrong side, which cannot be tolerated - so a wall had to be built, patrolled and armed. But with each Zook arm, came a better, more spectacular Yook arm - to the Zook Tough-Tufted Prickly Snick-Berry Switch, a Yook VanItch Sling shot to smash it smithereens. And so it goes...until they both come up with the "Big-Boy Boomeroo" which will destroy both Zook and Yook land with loads of toxic blue goo (or something very close to that).

Zooks and Yooks march underground. The last page, a cliffhanger, a face off between the two sides ready to drop the annihilating boomeroo. The question hangs, "will they or won't they?".

The problem I faced with this possibly timely and important subject matter is that it's more relevant to adults than it is to my child. We're not born with war, we teach it. It was boring because for my kid the conflict was worse than stupid, it wasn't even something he could comprehend. Why would two people be so angry over which side the bread is buttered on? Beyond the fact that I had trouble with the story that equates some real moral issues with something as simple as a matter of opinion - I was faced with a slightly deeper dilemma - do I explain to him that this type of supreme idiocy exists in the world? Surely he'll find that out for himself soon enough?

Because it was bedtime I decided to put off that revelation for another day and preserve whatever quiet innocence I could for just a little longer. I'm sure many people would disagree with me there, but I think a parent should follow their own compass.

"It was boring. Last book for the night, should we let the Pigeon drive the bus, again?"

Sting by Sandra Brown
Sting - Sandra Brown

3.5 stars

After my last dud of a thriller, I was in a specific mood...a Sandra Brown mood.

Sting is unapologetic fantasy wish fulfillment but when it comes from the keyboard of Sandra Brown, I rarely care. I'm a junkie for her romantic suspense because she knows how to write a page burner. From the palpable zing of her plot twists to the scorching tension between hero/heroine, she takes you right to the edge of dangerous territory before showing you her hand. It is something that you have to experience to understand.

When professional hit-man, Shaw Kinnard (view spoiler), abducts Jordie Bennett to negotiate an increase to his fee, he surmises pretty quickly that he'd do anything to protect her from the man that wants her dead.

Jordie would do anything to make sure she survives. Finding out why her brother, Josh, is on the lam is important to her but returning him to the care of the FBI who is protecting him after he turned informant on the very man that wants her dead, is even moreso.

Murder and running and chasing and tracking ensue. Jordie has her moments (view spoiler) but she has her secrets too and just like falling dominoes, they tumble out one by one until the end.

And, I have to say this, SB is great with her mystery, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention how insanely hot her the sexual tension is - I'm warning you for your health because it is ratcheted up to the nth degree. Buyer beware of the anticipation, I've encountered few writers who handle this so well.

This is a formula book, absolutely. The saving grace in a formula book is that there are still surprises and points in it's favor - I didn't guess the result of the mystery even though I'm very familiar with SB's formula, so that's a point. The cops and other agents who are actually doing their job to track all perpetrators were actually likeable and not idiots, so that's a point. For the most part SB steers clear of things she has no knowledge about, she doesn't get into procedure, doesn't over complicate the motive or try to be overly clever with the plot - that's a point. I just can't give it all the stars because it is what it is and I've read a variation on her theme in the double digits.

All in all, it's a fun piece of escapist fiction with a level of professional writing that I really appreciate in a mass marketed book.

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The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Laura "Lo" Blacklock has the opportunity she's been waiting 10 years for, to cover an exclusive cruise on it's maiden voyage for the travel magazine, Velocity. Before she sets foot on the gangplank however, the tide of her opportunity pulls away to reveal a nightmare, sucking her into an undertow that just won't let her go.

I've already made this sound more interesting than it is because for however much this book tried to be thrilling and action packed - Lo was faced with a home robbery, strangling insomnia, a mysterious woman, and a likely murder - overall, it was dis-jointed and boring, never really picking up the steam or smarts necessary to keep me engaged.

When insidious intentions by every character were hinted at, Lo's reactions were so strange that I was wondering if it was all just a paranoid hallucination. For the briefest moments I felt like it was veering towards a psychological thriller but when the protagonist won't stop drinking long enough to be lucid, characterization takes a nose dive into too-stupid-to-live territory. That should be a no-fly zone for any 'strong female' character that's going to have to use her brain to solve a mystery and ultimately, evade abductors.

And it didn't stop there, after the visit to TSTL territory, Lo tripped into the land of make-believe where a character can overcome incredible physical obstacles, like a badly sprained ankle, to run barefoot in the woods of Norway for miles uninhibited.

The week I read this book, I fell asleep early every single night after cracking it open to put a new dent in the current chapter. I got more sleep that week than I had in the previous 8 years - ten hours, every night with this baby. If you're thinking that that is pretty much the worst endorsement for a book, you'd be right. Especially one that is touted as an edge of your seat, nail biter.

This one was a best-selling dud, it lacked any real thrill and was very slow through the middle. All attempts to mislead the reader worked against the character who comes off as rude and unlikeable. I rarely regret reading a book because even when I don't enjoy it I've come away with a new experience....but I do regret buying this book. Then again, hey, maybe I have some HPB credit in my future?

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Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists

Sisters: The Lives of America's SuffragistsSisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists by Jean H. Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Cast off the shackles of yesterday..."

Abusive husbands, isolation, overwhelming work of the home, sole responsibility in rearing children, little to no outlet for creativity, demands for sex in a marriage where the thought of pleasure plays in the background under the fear of getting with child, again. The physical drain of multiple pregnancies, the emotional drain of infant death and the unknown postpartum depression. All experiences of some woman in marriage, many in which they had little say and even less recourse.

The inability to be independent. The societal pressures of place. The inability to own property, speak in most public places, hold positions of authority or really, positions anywhere except in the home. The understanding that you have no voice, even in your own life once you marry - but no honest and decent way to be successful without marriage. This what most women faced in the 19th century.

It makes perfect sense that the cause of woman's rights piggy-backed those of anti-slavery.

"Shoulder to into the fray..."

Lucy Stone's oration, Susan B. Anthony's strategies, E. Cady Stanton's words, Frances Willard's accommodation (which paved the way for modern day feminism), and Paul's radical actions that tipped the pot - all women who worked tirelessly for the cause of women's rights and the vote. In this book, Jean H. Baker showed me their hard fought accomplishments (even when they seemed slight), and made me stand in awe of the very sacrifices and difficulties they shouldered their entire lives. For my sake.

"Our daughter's daughters will adore us..."

It's hard for me to put comprehensive thoughts together without simply repeating the history learned, but there were things about each woman that stood out to me...

Lucy Stone's words, from letters mostly, were gorgeous and I wish she had written a personal history like the others. Striving to put herself into school for seven years, then doing so, then spurning the dogged advances of Henry Blackwell until he proved himself, and then being the first recorded woman in American history to not take his name in marriage? Fascinating and brave.

And it's such a shame not to mention how she was a most popular and successful anti-slavery lecturer, how she stood for independence in a marriage and the right for women to speak publicly and own property. She was forever a 'woman disappointed' but was a portrait of hard work for many woman's causes, including and most importantly, the vote.

Susan B. Anthony. In my mind, this woman was a bully. She lived in 'blessed singleness' and was doggedly single minded - women needed to be able to vote to accomplish any type of equality, to gain any form of freedom. She was devastated when Lucy Stone dared to marry and put-out when her own best friend, E. Cady Stanton also succumbed (and had children, the horror). As Baker said, she was Napoleon. Her strategies were what gave Woman's suffrage a voice, and while others were seeking suffrage at the state level, she understood that true change would only come from a constitutional amendment.

Though Anthony positioned the voice to be heard, her best friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, gave the voice life. Cady Stanton was the writer and organizer. She backed Anthony every step of the way (although sometimes only after she was done nursing her babe) and proved an integral cog in Anthony's machine, yet neither taking credit for their part. Cady Stanton most inspired me with her vocal stance that women be self-reliant, something that my own mother instilled in me and of which I'm grateful.

She was a mother of seven children, five of which were boys...needless to say, there was a lot in that quarter that I identified with and yet, though exhausted and in need of a long vacation, she found the time and stamina to do big things.

One of the most refreshing things about these women was that they were flawed. In fact, I'm not sure that I actually like any of them, though I certainly admire and respect them. Frances Willard, on the other hand, had a way that appealed to me and a philosophy that encouraged me. She was accommodating. Of the strong belief that women should stand for their vote, she encouraged this by any and all means chosen by that woman. Unlike Stone's roots in her Quaker background, Anthony's determination that women not marry and give up what little rights they had, or Cady Stanton's belief that only the educated be allowed to vote, Willard felt that all women had the right to pursue the course best suited for them. She was most inspiring, to me.

Which brings me to Alice Paul. I think, without really having any basis in fact, that beyond Anthony, Alice Paul is most remembered as being the driving force to suffrage victory. The interesting thing to me about this book is that though this may be true, she certainly was the last, loudest voice in the final push, it seemed to me that the ratification of the 19th amendment was more of a result of perfect timing. In the end, after decades of speechifying, traveling, lectures, petitions and picketing by thousands of women, Alice Paul's radical drive to get the woman's vote above all other concerns (including that of WWI) tipped a stubbornly self-righteous Woodrow Wilson over the edge into hypocrisy. Paul's prison time and horrid treatment within (which caused public outcry) during a time when Wilson was calling for democracy among other nations while he sat in a country where 20,000,000 of its citizens could not themselves take part...well, there wasn't anything left to do but save face and encourage Congress.

"And they'll sing in grateful chorus..."

This isn't to downplay Paul's amazing courage, or those women who stood with her. What the adage "timing is everything" does remind me of in this movement and Paul's time, is that when we truly stand up for the things that are important, when we are in the midst of a long battle, when the mountain seems so insurmountable, when there is no coming dawn on our horizon- the battle is still worth fighting - we do not know how things will unfold or when that last piece necessary for victory will come.

I really enjoyed this book. It did read like a textbook and it was a little dry, but it was also compelling and marvelously written. Baker has such a deft hand with her history, teasing you with interesting and relevant tidbits but never veering from her topic at hand. I did a deplorable job relaying that this book is really about these women's lives more than their accomplishments and public face. To make up for that in the end, all I can say is that for those who are interested in this history, this would be a great book to pick up.

"Well done, Sister Suffragette."

(Can you tell that Mary Poppin's Sister Suffragette played on repeat in my head during the duration? I won't expound on the disappointing epiphany I had about the movie after reading this book however...)

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A Souper Sunday

I've really enjoyed Soup Sunday posts by Whiskey and BrokenTune and a couple other Booklikers that I've seen during my intermittent visits in December. My big little guy was feeling under the weather this weekend, and by his request I made Chicken and Dumplings for dinner...that's a soup, right?


I thought I'd share since today is conveniently Sunday!


This is a version of  Ree Drummond's Chicken and Dumplings. Pardon the bad overhead lighting and glare.









This was after I'd taken a couple dumplings out of the pot to get the kids servings cooling, otherwise the pot is stocked as full as it can be with the good stuff. Part of the recipe that I don't stick to is the dumpling. I've tried hers and we all hated them. It could be that I didn't finesse them correctly, but I thought they were horribly dense and tough. I like a hearty sized, but fluffy and light on the inside when you cut into it, dumpling.




So, I use Bisquick. I find it to be the easiest to use and it gives me a reliable result every time.


This is the last evening that I have with my sister who stays with me through the holidays, and she noted that dinner was like a 'warm hug'. I'd call Souper Sunday a success!


4 Stars
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
Ghost Story - Jim Butcher

There's no rest for the wicked.

Harry Dresden, tricked trapped between life and death, understands this better than most when he's called from the grave to once again save Chicago and his friends.

I'm sure I don't need to spiel about where Harry's been and where he's at now (and I won't pretend to know where he's going). After all, Ghost Story is the thirteenth book in the series, and it isn't as though you can just pick one of these bad boys up and jump right in. Even if you wanted to attempt it, this installment would be the hardest to enjoy as it's very nearly void of all the characters that make Dresden's world work. There's a couple scenes with Butters, Murphy and Molly - but mere teases really, especially in light of Harry's demise. He's a ghost afterall, and more importantly, a ghost with a mission. Hardly time to discuss regrets and say good-byes over the whole he's-not-really-corporeal thing is sort of a problem. Mostly this book gives Harry the opportunity to return to his detective roots as he searches for the insidious forces that are taking over Chicago and threatening his friends. He also gets to spend a lot of time in introspection, his favorite pastime. Thing is, Harry has a lot to think about this go around - having spent the last 24 hours of his life putting most everyone he loved in dire peril, decimating a whole vampire race and winning the vampiric war thus creating a power vacuum, ultimately ending the whole shebang by sacrificing his once-love and mother of his child to save said child.

I have to cut the guy some slack here, that's a lot for most people to process in a normal day.

The great thing about Harry though is that he always comes to the best conclusions:

"I spent my lifetime fighting the darkness without becoming the darkness. Maybe I faltered at the very end. Maybe I'd finally come up against something that made me cross the line - but even then, I hadn't turned into a degenerate freakazoid of the Kemmler variety. One mistake at the end of my life couldn't erase all the times I had stood unmoved at the edge of the abyss and made snyde remarks at it's expense.
They could kill me, but they couldn't have me.
I was my own."

What made this crazy book a little more insane was that there were no boundaries. I mean that in the sense that Harry in spirit form could do about anything imaginable, but also mean that Butcher had no limit to the amount of pop cultural references he wanted to make. I guess the lack of character interaction made Harry a little loonier than normal. There was Star Wars, Knight Rider, the Matrix, Tombstone, Tolkien, King Arthur, Star Trek...literary references, song lyrics, quotes...I could go on (and he definitely did go on), but the best? I mean, the wink that made my heart explode, my jubilant squee heard around the world?

"I stared for several seconds. No one had ever given me a present before—not one that was meant for me, and not just some random, charity-donated Christmas package with a label that said: FOR: BOY. And it was an excellent glove. George Brett had one just like it. I’d been to two Kansas City Royals baseball games on field trips when I was little, and they were awesome. So was Brett."

Fan. for. life.

Anyway. This book was bonkers, but so very satisfying. In many ways it's a bridge book, we're opening a new chapter in The Dresden Files, one where Harry no longer enjoying basement living and has the new cool (not cool) title of Winter Knight. I'm psyched going forward, I've been waiting for Demonreach to really take center stage and I think the time has come.

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4 Stars
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson


Oh, public shaming. Everyone who is on the internet has at least seen it happening to someone and sadly, some reading this may have even been a shamed. It's becoming so prevalent that we say things like "I'm grabbing the popcorn" when we know someone's comments section or Twitter is going to explode.


I was pretty fascinated with this book and at one point in the beginning, ran through a mental list of everyone in my life who was about to be gifted it for Christmas. I quickly realized that what I found sickly intriguing, the train wreck(s) that was the heart of the book, the stories of those publically shamed, was likely old news to about everyone I know.


Lindsey Stone and Justine Sacco certainly, maybe even those developer guys and Jonah Lehrer too. My husband certainly knew of them while I recounted the horror that was their ordeal by reading entire passages out loud.


In truth, I have a very small threshold for such things in real time. When Harambe happened it was during a FB stint for me, where I was actively on FB. I was trapped in the madness, sucked into reading post after post and comment after comment on that mess. I cried all night when the worst of it was happening. I stared at the ceiling in the dark while my children and husband were sleeping and sobbed because people are that cruel. And while I was busy feeling for all involved, I was simultaneously terrified that something like that could happen to me. All of it, from my wandering son falling into peril to the public outcry for my death as a result.


Reading about things that had happened in the past was far easier than coping with the helplessness of the present. I feel bad even saying that because as far as Ronson's account is concerned, it's not like everyone's story that he detailed had a happy ending - so it's not like I can feel good about where they are now, it just helped my own selfish anxieties.


But, to the writing.


This is my first Jon Ronson book, and I doubt it will be my last. He's a good writer who is engaging and smartly funny. I found it largely successful, especially given the endeavor itself. A book about shaming? How do you even go about that? Here's what it's not. It's not a book about who is shamed (he allows the reader to draw some clear conclusions there), it's not a book of how to overcome a public shaming (though he attempts to find an answer to that), and it's not a book about how to stop future shaming (though he uncovers some societal truths, perhaps).


Basically it's a book about how it can happen to anyone, anywhere because people are fickle and often times terrible, even when they're trying to be good. Even when they feel like they're meting out justice, passionately defending their compatriot (or agenda, for lack of better word at the moment), or righting a wrong. The strength of this book is the question it forces you to ask about your own actions and what was overwhelmingly stated is that we do not understand the consequences or care to understand the consequences - and in most cases - care to understand the entire story. How careless we are with people's lives.


Of course, on flip, how careless people are with their own lives. *Goes to check privacy settings one more time*









2 Stars
The Secret Life of the American Musical
The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel (2016-03-01) - Jack Viertel

"Musicals—the great ones—are rarely about ordinary life plodding by. They’re about the outsize romance that can’t be controlled, the special world we’d love to live in for a while, the faraway time and place we’re waiting to be seduced by, the larger-than-life force of nature we so rarely encounter in real life."


I love a good musical. In fact, I love a few bad ones too. This sentiment pretty much sums up the why and, truth be told, there were many lines like this in "The Secret Life of the American Musical" that was a zing right to my heart - things I understood or agreed with immediately having lived in the process of production in some years or just being a loyal patron in others. I've always been a fan and I always will be.


So why didn't I love a book that was clearly written for the likes of me? Well, the first thing I can tell you is that this book is a lesson in why you can't judge a book by it's title. How disappointed was I that I hardly got any 'secrets' out of Secret Life? This title really leads you to believe that you're going to get the details of behind the scenes production. How creators collaborate, how they work with choreographers and composers, how staging decisions are made, what influences are carried in stagecraft and costuming...the list could go on.  How fun that book would of been?


Unfortunately, this book is primarily about the evolution of the musical pieces that string along the narrative and how there might be a formula that makes a show work. Even though this topic still has merit, I was disappointed to find that though this 'secret' formula is true for some shows, it certainly is more of a guideline than a rule. 


For example, a very well known musical, "Guys and Dolls", does not adhere to his proposed formula. In fact, two of the major production numbers in this show are 'noise makers' - they don't offer transition, revelation or decision to the story itself. They are just flashy, fun numbers - "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat", and "Luck Be a Lady".


So, not only was I duped by what the 'secret' actually was, but I'm not even sure if it's that worthy of a secret to begin with!


To further injury, Jack Viertel peppers his thoughts of formula with ideas that sound like wisdom but are really just common sense:


"To make it work, the audience had to get attached at the beginning. You have to get on the ride when the ride starts."


You don't say?


"Musicals depend on these rhythmic energy shifts. Quiet thoughtfulness must be followed by noisy energy, and vice versa. In theatrical nourishment, timing is everything. If an idea overstays its welcome, the audience gets bored. If a new idea intrudes before the last one has been fully digested, the audience will be denied the proper introduction of a new pleasure and become confused or frustrated."


This is common knowledge across all entertainment mediums, it's just prettily stated here to sound smart. Think about how they put together a music album or even how a book is written. Nothing new here.


And here lies the crux of the matter, I had a hard time listening to Jack talk and am not sure if I was ever convinced he was an authority. He repeats himself so frequently that it becomes evident that he's just trying to fill out 336 pages with material that could be presented in half that. Here's a link that provides the most of the same information as this book, with the exception of a few points, and on ONE web page here.


Overall, I found this book to be boring and not just a little pretentious in voice. Not very enjoyable. "The Secret Life of the American Musical" is like an over produced show, lots of glitter, little substance.



!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
1 Stars
Oh, Alice...
Alice - Christina Henry

My reading slump can be solely blamed on Alice, the bookclub selection that I felt I absolutely had to finish in spite of my growing hatred with each passing page. That is, when I got the pages turning. One particular week I only made my way through 3%.


I have several gripes and after a couple days of reflection, here are the few that irked me the most:


Alice is a dark, adult, horror-type book. Emphasis on dark here because Christina Henry really wanted to drive this point home. Unfortunately, she writes dark in the cheapest way possible by using rape as the linchpin to all villainy. Not only is Alice graphically raped, but every woman in the book is threatened or enslaved. The setting is a sort of Wonderlandesque mob world where bosses rule their territories by stealing, selling, and maiming woman. The Walrus, for example, "eats them while he takes them". It was all so vile and repetitive that I found it infuriating.


When Henry wasn't busy beating us over the head with how atrocious her made up world was, she was slowly moving a very basic plot along in which Alice and her asylum escapee partner and axe murderer, Hatch (also, her love interest), were attempting to destroy the Jabberwocky who was to devour everyone in the Old City (errr...the mob-world Wonderland).


Personally, there wasn't a thing in this city worth saving and Jabberwocky should have just been left to his own devices, but I guess that wasn't the point of this particular journey, though I'm not sure what the point actually was because any attempt at actual story telling was removed in favor of yet describing another horrific rape. In other words, it was a lot of flash and titillating horror to distract you from the fact that there was little in the way of plot and then what was presented was full of gaping holes.


But the final nail in the coffin was when they arrive at their end destination, the climax of their journey. Along the way they were given little to no information to sleuth their way there, instead they trip along from one villain to the next all the while asking 'what are we going to do?".  In the end they happened upon their goal, two, three, four, five. FIVE WORDS:


"Then, suddenly, they were there."


REALLY? Neither of these two incredibly cardboard yahoos had any clue of anything  almost the entire book (oh, amnesia, what a crutch) and we get them to the place of redemption in FIVE WORDS?


So by this time I could hardly care that all other major back story was dismissed by.... eleven words.


 "'Why’ is a girl’s question, and we are no longer girls,"


I was nearly the ONLY reader that wanted to know why however, all of my other book friends that have read this book have enjoyed it. I'm okay with being in the small minority on this one though, it should make for an interesting book club.


Have a safe and spooky time of it today!

Look what I got!

All the stars were aligned for me this month and I won in the Halloween Bingo drawing last week! I received a very awesome package on Sunday, but have been under the weather (to say the least) and have not had the wherewithal to sit at a computer this week. So, I'm late in posting this:


Obsidian Black Death 




Moonlight Murder


T H A N K  Y O U !


I received a set of 5 spooky, spectacular Halloween socks. Very cute. I attempted to put them on display here with my other recent acquisition, our new cat, Ollivander Nox.




Here Ollie is questioning his decision to live with me, but he is displaying my favorite pair with great patience, so I kept this photo.


I took a lot of pictures. I think it was the pain medication that clouded my judgment and made me a bit...wacky. Evidence of the final straw is this ludicrous photo in which I tried to invent a scene.



In this photo you can clearly see Ollie questioning my husband's intelligence as well. He did marry me.


After coming to my senses this morning and finally being able to sit down and make a post, I decided to just take a picture of the damn socks. ;)




Many thanks to all the Halloween Book Bingo'ers who have made this ride so much fun!  I adore my new socks, Blue and Moonlight, and appreciate you guys for putting such a fun event together!


Thank You, Murder by Death


Most everyone must know Murder by Death by now. If you don't, you should. She's an excellent book friend and the resident Booklikes cheerleader, librarian and problem sleuth. Recently, she had a three-year blogging anniversary in which she had a book gifting giveaway.


I won. Apparently this is my time in the sun.


Being the cool human that she is, I tend to follow her around to see what she's up too and several months ago she inadvertently introduced me to This site has awesome remainder sale prices, plus some scratch and dent stuff. So with the given book budget, I sought my deal. A deal was found and my gift arrived. It's already found a home:





Thank you, MbD for my beautiful hardcovers The Aeronaut's Windlass and Vision in Silver! They arrived in great condition and I will think of you when I see them on my shelf...forever...(that's not too creepy, right?).



!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3.5 Stars
Stiff Competition by Annelise Ryan
Stiff Competition - Annelise Ryan

Finally! The cozy conclusion that I've been waiting for in this series. Not that this is the end, but Stiff Competition finally delivered some much needed balm to the anxiety riddled characters (and readers).


Amazingly, Mattie Winston's new mom status seems to have just the right effect on her. While her self-confidence issues are still hoovering, her newborn son takes center stage in her worries (as he should) and the effect is that he really mellows out her poor decision making that drives me up the wall. For the most part. She still does have her signature Mattie gaff moment, but it isn't as painful as say, gambling away $10k. I wasn't sure that she was going to pull out of her funk of the last several books until halfway through when Hurley leaves the scene for awhile. Ironically, I think not having to include him in every scene allowed author Ryan to sort out their written relationship. It's like every time the dialogue had to be written, Ryan was taking some kind of sick satisfaction in ensuring that their words would make Hurley and Mattie's relationship circle the drain a little faster. I don't get it, personally, but the relief was real when the situation at hand sorted itself out.


Surprisingly, I enjoyed the personal drama more than the mystery in this one. The whodunit was lack-luster. I'm not good at picking the killer but I had this one pegged early on.


Overall, I can breathe easier continuing this series now that we've leaped a major hurdle. Hopefully we can get back to the adorable antics of Mattie's life instead of the haywire, insane, desperate choices that we've seen in recent history. The addition of Matthew marks an introduction of a new 'friendly' character into the series and will hopefully breathe life back into the funny that's been missing.


The cover explains it all for this square:






3.5 Stars
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Sorcerer to the Crown (A Sorcerer Royal Novel) - Zen Cho

I almost quit this book. The opening is rife with stuffy old men of a magical society that speak in such a way that I was completely lost half the time. Zacharias, the Sorcerer Royal (kind of a big deal) and leader to these craggy fussbutt magicians, was not my normal hero. He's mild mannered, gentle, and for the first several chapters, a doormat. Muddy language and a milksop character? I didn't know if I had it in me.


Thank goodness I made it to chapter 4.


Once Prunella enters the fray and is introduced in Chapter 4, everything changes for the better. The story forms a plot (why has magic been so stagnant and draining from England?), the characters show some chutzpah, and Zacharias' quietly clever nature is better balanced.


In short, after Chapter 4, it switches from being a snoozefest to a quirky and charming fantasy romp. If I were completely honest, any of the chapters sans Prunella were a  struggle but I forgive a great many faults in a book with a strong ending. That's definitely the case here. Wow. I closed the book with a lovely sigh. 



Murder by Death reviewed this book, which is how I picked it up and she actually picked it because of Kaethe. It's making the rounds. Thanks, ladies!