Friday, November 30, 2012

25. Beast In View

By Margaret Millar

I was following a yoga video while Olman was bathing the baby when all of a sudden there was a loud boom and then everything was plunged into darkness.

My eyes were immediately drawn outside the window where just across the street a bright shower of sparks rained down from above like fireworks. Oil splattered on our poor neighbour’s black Audi. Turns out that the transformer across our building blew up. Perfect timing too, since this was the first cold night of winter (I think it was supposed to drop down to -15 C)!

The reason why I mention this event was because I finished reading Beast In View by candlelight. It turned out to be a cozy evening where we went out for dinner (shared a steak at Burger De Ville) and came home to read since there’s not much you can do sans electricit√©. Beast In View was a great read, even though I probably did not love it as much as Olman did.

It was Olman who happened to borrow this book for me when he was at La Bibliotheque Nationale. Since I’m a newish parent, I’ll let Olman’s review speak for me as well. But in a nutshell, the book starts off with a very intriguing mystery:  wealthy spinster, Helen Clarvoe, receives a prank call one day that impels her to hire an investigator. The story then evolves into a twisted tale full about a deeply dysfunctional family and the psychological (and homicidal!) ramifications that can bring.

… Then Miss Clarvoe stretched out her hand and Blackshear took it. 
    Her skin was cool and dry and stiff like parchment, and there was no pressure of friendliness, or even of interest, in her clasp. She shook hands because she’d been brought up to shake hands as a gesture of politeness. Blackshear felt that she disliked the personal contact. Skin on skin offended her; she was a private person. The private I, Blackshear thought, always looking through a single keyhole.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

24. Beezus and Ramona

By Beverly Cleary

It’s probably a little bit ironic that I chose the name Ramona for my baby daughter, yet I have not read any of the Beverly Cleary books when I was growing up. Though I was quite aware of their existence, somehow I just missed out on them. Guess I needed someone to push these onto me, which never happened. Well, soon after Ramona was born, Olman’s Aunt V sent us a package that contained the first two Beezus and Ramona books.

Unfortunately, the first book had the cover from the 2010 movie, and since I’d rather not have to look at Selena Gomez, I replaced it with the book you see here (only $2 from BMV when I was in TO last – love that store!).

In any case, the first book turned out to be delightfully charming and sweet. It’s the perfect book for any girl (or boy) who has a sister, or ever wondered what it might be like to grow up with one. I’m looking forward to the day when I can read them to Ramona when she’s a little older.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

23. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

By Alan Bradley

 I had acquired the first two Flavia De Luce books based on the assumption that I would be into the whole series. However, I was lukewarm about the first book, The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie, so it took me a while to read the second one.

Though I enjoyed it, more or less, as much as the first, I was still lukewarm about Alan Bradley’s creation. Like the Harry Potter books, it’s just not my thing. It’s just a little too cutesy for my liking. Or trying just a little too hard to create a charmingly eccentric and precocious young heroine who talks like an old English gentleman.

Basically, I found the second book to have the same flaws as the first.  Worse, I didn’t really care too much about the characters, nor was I dying of curiosity to find out the who, how, why and what of the plot development. At the best of times, I was only mildly intrigued.

Part of it is because the novel was rather long, about 343 pages, and the plot took a while to really get going, spending too much time in the setup. By the time the murder finally occurs, we’re almost halfway through the story at page 147. Sadly, I’m putting this my giveaway/trade pile, but thankfully this is one series I need not invest my time in, as I can read other books I’m more enthusiastic about, such as the next three Patrick O’Brian installments in my on-deck shelf!