Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Stevenson's Treasure" by Mark Wiederanders (HF Virtual Book Tours)

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(Throughout the review I'm going to abbreviate Robert Louis Stevenson to RLS because homeboy has a long name and I don't have all day to spell it out 45 times in one review.)

Fanny Osbourne is barely keeping it together. One of her children has died and it's landed her in an asylum in France for "melancholia". The doctor there suggests that she goes to an artist colony nearby where she can find therapy in her painting and spending time with her daughter Belle. She gets more than she bargains for when she meets and falls in love with RLS. He isn't the famous author yet, he's more of a scraggly wanderer with a persistent cough due to a lung condition but the attraction between he and Fanny is swift. There is the complication that she is married, has two kids (one, is closer in age to RLS than Fanny is) and lives in America. She eventually leaves France, assuming that this is the end of her romance. But it is not.

RLS travels across the ocean and then across the United States to join Fanny in California. His doctor tells him before he leaves that the trip will almost certainly kill him. It nearly does. (That could be the subtitle of this book: "Almost everything nearly killed him. The fact he lived to write anything is darn near miraculous"). Fanny is shocked and surprised and thrilled and horrified at his arrival. She had been making a real effort to make a clean break from him and try to mentally leave him behind and now his scraggly blonde face is there.

The rest of the book details what happens next! Should they be together? What about the kids? If she divorces her husband she will be penniless and it's not like RLS is rolling in the dough, so what would they do? What will his family think? Will RLS live long enough to figure any of this out with Fanny since he keeps not eating and getting sick?

There's a kind of curdling moment when RLS sees men setting fire and hacking a part a dead whale carcass. Glad that this book wasn't scratch and sniff!

Here is what kind of grinded my gears about this book (and it really doesn't have anything to do with the book or the writing or anything like that).

-Belle is all concerned her daughter is a "trollop". Uuuuhh can we talk about how you and RLS were running around basically in public in France and in California and kind of flaunted it in front of everyone including the kids? If she is a trollop, who do you think she learned it from? Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

- I had a hard time cheering for any of these characters. Everyone's complicated and messy and that's fine, but I like to have someone to cheer for. Personal preference.

But it was an interesting, easy read that was well paced. If you have an interest in forbidden romance, art, or RLS I definitely recommend it for you!

About the Author

Mark Wiederanders lives in Northern California and writes about the private lives of famous authors. His screenplay about William Shakespeare’s family, “Taming Judith” was a finalist in the Academy of Motion Pictures’ annual screenwriting competition and was optioned by a film company. The idea for his current novel, STEVENSON’S TREASURE hatched during a visit to Carmel, when Mark learned that Robert Louis Stevenson suffered a near-fatal collapse in 1879 while hiking nearby. What was the young, as-yet unknown Scottish writer doing so far from home?

To write the novel that resulted from this question, Mark studied hundreds of historical letters and visited sites near him in Monterey, San Francisco, and Calistoga. Then he followed Stevenson’s footsteps to Europe, lodging at the Stevenson home in Edinburgh followed by a week in the Highlands cottage where RLS wrote TREASURE ISLAND. Mark is also a research psychologist (Ph.D, University of Colorado) who has studied treatment programs for delinquents and the criminally insane. His interests include acting in community theater (recently a Neil Simon play), downhill skiing, golf, and spending time with his wife and three grown children.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mailchimp, a Newsletter and You!

I'm always excited to host a challenge for Bloggiesta (even though I never have any ideas about what to do, so Suey always to give me a list to pick from, so high maintenance, sorry Suey. Next time I'll come bursting with my own ideas). There was some talk about MailChimp on a Bloggiesta Twitter chat, so here we are talking about Mailchimp and newsletters.

What is Mailchimp?
Mailchimp is a service that helps you "create, send and track newsletters". What's great about it, is that it's free up to 2,000 subscribers! And you don't have to be super web design savvy to make a newsletter, they have pre-made templates you can use.

There is a difference between using a service like Feedburner when subscribers are automatically sent out an email when you have a new blogpost, and newsletter let's you customize your content, it won't just be your latest blogpost.

Do I need a blog newsletter?

Full disclosure: I don't have a blog newsletter. I figured I need to get myself established and maybe after my one year anniversary I'd make one. Now I'm kind of like "whatever I'll make one now!" I'm still deciding, I want to make sure I give people content worth reading!

Here's reason to have a blog newsletter:

*If something apocalyptic happens to Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, or however else you communicate with your reader you still have their email addresses. That way you can reach them and let them know where to find you once the crisis has passed!

*It's a great place to maybe try something new. Are you a book blog, but now you're thinking you might want to talk about great recipes occasionally? Maybe try it out on your newsletter once and see how it's received before doing it on your blog.

* If you're readers get overwhelmed with social media, the internet or what have you (or they give something up for Lent!) having your content delivered straight to their inbox is a good way to make sure they don't leave your blog behind.

*Extra reach! If you're newsletter is good and noteworthy people will forward it on to people who aren't on your subscriber list, therefore expanding your blog's reach!


 Look at your blog and decide if a newsletter is something that will be beneficial. If you already have a newsletter is there a way to improve it? Check out these tutorials on how to have the best newsletter possible.

*Do you want the option of your reader getting a daily or weekly newsletter? Check out this tutorial from DIY blog Tiny Sidekick.

*Are you more interested in using MailChimp in an RSS feed way?  This tutorial from Blog Ambitions has you covered.

*Want to add a "subscribe here" box for you MailChimp newsletter on your blog? My Crazy Good Life has the tutorial for you!

FallBloggiesta 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: "The Giant's House" by Elizabeth McCracken

Got a bit of an interesting book for you today.

Peggy is a small town librarian in Cape Cod. When the book starts it's 1950 and she's 25 years old. She's unmarried and her life is pretty much wrapped around her work at the library. One day a twelve year old boy comes in with a local elementary school class. She notices him right away, probably because he's twelve and is 6 foot 4 inches tall. His name is James Sweatt and he begins to come into the library frequently. They become friends and she helps him find books on all kinds of topics, including what "people like him do". (Peggy thinks that he's asking what they do occupation-wise, but he's really asking what do they do to stop growing. Spoiler alert: nothing)

He and Peggy grow close over the years, and she becomes basically a part of his family. He lives with his Aunt Caroline and his Uncle Oscar. They are lovely people and welcome Peggy into their family, and appreciate the help and companionship that she provides for James. Their relationship grows and changes over the years but they are each others best friends and extremely important in each other's lives.

At the end of the book James has just turned 20, he is eight feet and 7 inches tall, and weighs 417 pounds.

Elizabeth crafts these really lovely sentences. Here's an example:
"I understood, finally: tourists don't take pictures as souvenirs. They want to assemble a new country to tour after that they outfit with the best parts of the last place...The photographer is native and stranger in his glossy dream city, invisible but significant, as natives and strangers often are"

Another great one is when she's talking about rude patrons who refuse to pay their fines at the library:
"Listen: in my library, as in the Kingdom of Heaven, the rude and busy are not rewarded. We honor manners, patience, good deeds, and grave misfortune only"

I thought that this book would weird me out because of the age difference. It really didn't. The par that weirded me out was the end. Not necessarily the end, but like the ten pages before the last most ten pages, if that makes sense.Its not that I thought that it was bad but it was just like wooooooah. One of my favorite things about the book (at least the edition that I was reading) the book was just a little bit oversized, just like our friend James. The book was 6 inches  by 9.5 inches which was just proportionally weird enough to be noticed and appreciated but not that it made the book uncomfortable to read. I thought that it was clever and I liked it. The only thing gets a high 3 out of 5 stars from me!

Also a library-centric cover to go with it's oversizeness. Adorable.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bloggiesta to-do list!

Bloggiesta starts on the 18th (officially), but people are already assembling their to do lists. I only have a few things on my list but they are annoyingly time consuming. And they are...

-I have a Goodreads shelf where I thought I'd tag all the books I reviewed on the blog. There's not many books on that shelf so I know I missed a bunch of them. So I'm going to go through and make sure everyone gets tagged that needs to be.

-Update the review archive on the blog. Since I haven't done it since LAST Bloggiesta.

-Figure out how to set up a Rafflecopter giveaway. The blog is celebrating it's 1 year anniversary and I want to use it for a giveaway. Hooray!

I actually wrote a tutorial for Bloggiesta this year about Mailchimp and blog newsletters so if that's something that interests you please keep your eyes peeled for that!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Living Abroad - France

"A Year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke

Let's just get this out of the way, merde is "shit" in French. So this book is called "a year in the shit", which is kind of hilarious and fitting considering the book is about an Englishman living in France for 2 years and trying to learn how to be a Parisian. And look, we all learned a cuss word in a foreign language today. What a productive day!

One of the things that he has a hard time with is alllll of the dog poop all around Paris. He has to take extreme precautions (aka buying tons and tons of crappy shoes that then he would just throw away when he actually has to walk around the city). Did you know that 650 people go to the hospital a year for slipping on merde? Yeah. That's unpleasant.

He is in Paris because he has been hired by a company that apparently deals exclusively in butchering cows (?) open a series of English style tea rooms. It's Paul's first experience working in a French corporation and there is are several things to get used too. He gets distracted by one beautiful woman in the office almost immediately. He is angered by the slow pace that everyone takes.

His boss put him up in an "all beige" hotel on the outskirts of Paris. He decides he wants to find his own apartment but can barely read the classified ads, which makes for some interesting visits. (One claims that it has a dining area, but really you just put a plank over the claw foot tub that is in the bathroom/kitchen). He asks for advice from an American that he met at a cafe and he said the best way to get in a decent apartment is to "get and move in with a French girlfriend". That isn't an immediate option, but he does move into his boss's daughter's apartment because she has a spare bedroom. Does this sound like a bad idea? Oui, it is. Not just because they almost immediately start having a casual sexual relationship, also because there are some illegal shenanigans a foot. If the apartment hunting and living turned out poorly, imagine how bad it goes when he decides he wants to buy a little cottage in the country.

The book can basically be summed up thusly. (Thusly, that's a word right?)
-His boss is shady, actual his whole job and work situation is shady
-He tries to learn how to act Parisian which involves looking kind of angry and shrugging a lot
-Sexual conquests (because of course, eye roll)

This book was funny. It was a light, easy read. It got a little repetitive and it kind of ends cliffhangery and I want to know what happens with the thing he was about to pursue. I give it a low 3 out of 5 stars.

A Year in the Merde

I'm also linking up here!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: "The Undertaking" by Audrey Magee

I heard some buzz about this book, so I ordered it from my library. It sounded like a book I would read, and I hadn't read any World War II books in awhile (kind of a departure for me), so I thought it was a good pick. The day I picked it up from the library Shannon over at River City Reading posted a favorable review. So that night, with my husband absorbed in pre-season inconsequential football games I stretched out on my couch and laid into it.

I have to say, this book is best read in such conditions: with a full belly, in a warm and safe home, and with a loved one within arms reach. Do not read when feeling : sad, vulnerable, bummed. Because this book will not help those feelings.

Katherina and Peter get married,though they are hundreds of miles apart, and have never met. (And here I thought that a bride and groom in the same room was a necessity for a wedding.) They each have their own motivations, Katherina will get a widow's pension if something happens to Peter, and Peter gets a week's leave from the brutal conditions on the Eastern front.

The time they spend together is short, but memorable. But before long Peter is back in the war and Katherina continues to struggle with her overbearing parents and the struggles of the home front during war time.Her struggles seem to pale in comparison to Peter's horror stories at first, but as the war progresses it gets worse on the home front too.

There are a couple of things that I really liked about this book. There was no sugar coating about how terrible the conditions were during the siege of Stalingrad, and pretty much the whole Eastern front. They were incomprehensibly bad. I liked that it was from German's perspective. So much of the books out there are exclusively from the Allied perspective. I thought it was an interesting writing choice that there are big gaps of time in the narrative where we get to draw our own conclusions about what happens that we aren't told about. Not an easy read but a good read, 3 stars!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Divergent Trilogy Discussion/Thoughts. There are spoilers within!

So more or less, I read the whole Divergent trilogy in rapid succession and now I have questions and thoughts. Please chime in on the comments!!

-When watching the movie with my husband (who hasn't read the book) he was very concerned about Tori (the tattooist). He kept being like "Oh man, she's not going to make it". And I was like "uhh... you're not supposed to care about her that much. She's kind of a peripheral character". And then I'm reading Insurgent miles and miles away in Mexico and I find out she is kind of a big deal, which made me laugh. When I came home I told him that I was sorry, and that he SHOULD have been worried about Tori.

- I liked movie Four better than book Four. (And not just for the Theo James visual, though I have decided that he is quite good looking). I feel like he's more hardened and angry and that stays him longer in the movie then in the book. I feel like in the book that part of him falls away kind of faster than it should, though he doesn't ever shake all of that part of his personality. I guess we'll see what the rest of the movies bring.

-If the La Fleur girl from the Harry Potter movies doesn't play Cara I'm going to say that was a massively missed opportunity. (That's who I was picturing in my head at least!)

-What did you think of what was left out of the movie? How about the eye stabbing?! My sister, who read the book before she saw the movie - a rare occurrence- said she kept waiting for it to happen and it never did. Which makes me curious about the Edward character in the next movies.

-Also I like how they made Eric look in the movie better than how he was described in the book. I kept referring to him as "that skinhead guy". Though I like Jai Courtney in other things.

- So in the last book when Tris dies, does she survive the serum and die of the gunshot? I know that's what they told Four but I felt like I kind of missed something in there.

-Did anyone read the prequel Four stories? Im on the endless waiting list for it from the library.

Statement: I still like The Hunger Games series better (since people seem to think it has to be one or the other for some reason) but I think Four is more interesting than Peeta or Gale,

What are your thoughts on movie vs book (so far?) Is anyone else irritated that they split up a trilogy into four movies to get the most money possible? It irritates me. What's your faction?

And now I leave you with some funny things from pinterest....

Four~  This will forever be my favorite quote from him.

The 15 most hilarious 'Divergent' memes so far