Wednesday, May 22, 2013

BOOK: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, (4 hours, 37 min)

This book and Bossypants will be forever linked in my mind. Both are written by hilariously funny women (Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling) and both audio versions are (in my opinion) the way to listen to them. They are essentially stand-up routines by non stand-up comedians. It happens that I listened to both books, and hearing the funny women read them adds a lot to the experience. Both are a series of essays and thoughts by two of the funniest women in show business.

Kaling is best known for The Office (I haven't watched her new show on Fox yet) and actually wrote one of my favorite episodes, "The Injury". It seems timely that I was listening to this book as The Office wrapped up it series. (Btw, great last season of the show. I love that they finally dealt with the documentary, and had Jim and Pam have some bumps, but ultimately their love shone through. Plus Dwight and Angela belong together.) I watched the show from the very hilarious beginning.

Kaling is surprisingly normal, and disproves the adage that comedians deal with the tragedy of their youth in their comedy. Not only did she have a pretty normal life, she relishes and appreciates her family and their normalcy. A few of the essays that stood out to me were her defence of marriage as evidenced by her parents, her confusion over the attraction of one night stands, and why is it best not to peak socially in high school. She is very funny, and observant, and my only complaint is that is wasn't long enough. I could have listened for several more hours.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BOOK: Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker

Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker, 305 pages

Miss Hargreaves is the last of the Bloomsbury 'pretty cover' books I bought back in 2009. It was different, and maybe a little too long. Here's a librarything link to all the books in the series. (The Bronte's Went to Woolworths was the most fun of the bunch!)

Miss Hargreaves is the story of two young men (early 20s) who foolishly make up an elderly lady, who suddenly then appears in their life in real life. Written in 1939 it describes a different England. The main character is an organist in the Cornford Cathedral, and some of the music and church life could easily have been cut out.

The premise is funny, and seeing the boys react to her answering their letter and showing up was good. But that wears after a while. The middle part of the book, up to the point where they realize they have to 'get rid of her' somehow, dragged a bit. But then the ending was good again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

BOOK: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley, 466 pages

review copy from Simon&Schuster Canada;
Canadian Book Challenge

This was my first book by Canadian author Susanna Kearsley, but not her first. The Firebird is her ninth novel, and the notes at the end suggest that some of the characters have come from a previous novel. Colonel Patrick Graeme was a major character, and based on a real person, from The Winter Sea. He is a minor character here, and while other characters are also based on real people, the main character in the present is fictional.

The Firebird has two stories - a present day art historian with a gift of sight, and a early 1700s story of a Scottish girl and how she ends up in Empress Catherine's Russian court with a potentially valuable artifact. The historical Jacobite's provide the backdrop to the past.

Nicola and her gift of sight felt a little forced to me as a method to 'see' the history of Anna and how and why she moved from Scotland and ended up in Russia. Nicola and her ex-boyfriend (and clearly going to be her new one) Rob, who also has the sight, can conveniently fast forward through history to see the scene they are interested in. Other than that weird little skill, I liked the book. The historic story of Anna and the Jacobites and the Russian court of early 1700s was really good. Kearsley writes great historic fiction, and I hated being brought back to the present day romance. I now want to read another book from the Russian court or one of Kearsley's Jacobite intrigue novels.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BOOK: The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri, 5 h 40 min

translated by Stephen Sartarelli, narrated by Grover Gardner
book 15

I've been reading, and enjoying this series since I discovered it in 2006. Camilleri keeps writing, and Sartarelli tries to keep up with the translating, and it is one of the few books I buy as soon as a new one is released. I missed this latest book's release date, and happened to notice it as an audiobook at the library. Hmm. It was only about 5 hours, just about the length I like to listen to without feeling rushed, so although I generally prefer nonfiction on audio, I decided to give it a try.

Wow. Listening to it gave me a whole new appreciation for Inspector Salvo Montalbano, and his devoted and patient police officers. In this one, Mimi Agiello goes missing. (I'm not a very auditory person, which is why I haven't taken to audio books so much. I have no idea how names are spelled from listening.) Montalbano is beside himself with worry, and becomes very focused on finding Mimi and solving the case of who kidnapped him. I was actually able to pick up on some clues a little better on the audio for some reason, and the mystery just zoomed along. Montalbano and Livvie will be making a decision about their future soon I think, and Salvo wasn't quite as depressed about being old this book.

Camilleri is having lots of fun playing with the meta in this book. Montalbano has been made into a television series in Italy, and our character complains at one point of the filming and his worry of running into the actor playing him on the show. Later, Montalbano muses how only Camilleri knows the ending. Between these references, Montalbano One and Montalbano Two fighting over philosophical decisions, and of course, Catarelli's continual mangling of whatever language he speaks, I spent quite a bit of time chuckling in the car.

I don't know if it was the new format, or Camilleri really stepped up the mystery plot, but it's not often that the 15th book in a series is one that I've enjoyed as much as any in the series. I'm now hoping to listen to the next book (20 books have been written in Italian) as well.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

BOOKS: April Reads

Without meaning to, I took quite the tour of England this month. Life After Life was the last book I read in March, where the same (British) life was relived over and over. I then proceeded to read about England over and over in April, through different time periods and cities, but mostly London. I even consciously tried to change settings for my last book, but ended up reading about a creepy serial killer. Some months I manage great reviews for every book I read; some months get recaps.

25. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley, 358 pages

book 5 of 6 in the Flavia de Luce series
1950s England, and our heroine, the crime-solving teenage Flavia is enmeshed in crimes again. I read this at the first of the month, and can't remember the mystery! No wait, they are digging up the church relics, and the missing organist is found under the church. Really, the mystery is only a small part of these books - Flavia, her sisters, her father, the local police, are the main attraction. And all anyone will remember after reading this book is the final, cliff-hanging sentence! Bradley hasn't ended a book like that before. Can't wait for the next book! (though not completely surprised at the revelation)

26. The Forrests - Emily Perkins reviewed here

27. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, 326 pages

Orange Shortlist 2013 (Women's Prize for Fiction)

This was a wonderful change of pace book. Fast action (epistolary books are low on description, high on action) as the disappearance of Bernadette is investigated. A Seattle mother is hiding out somewhat after an early in life, brief success as an architect. I liked Bernadette; I liked how the minor characters (the gnats, mothers at the private school)  also played big parts, and didn't stay stereotypes, but showed growth as well as providing humour. Add in a cruise to Antarctica and it was a fun week-end read.

28. N-W by Zadie Smith, 304 pages

 Orange Shortlist 2013 (Women's Prize for Fiction)

Modern Northwest London. Four characters from the same neighbourhood whose live somewhat intersect. Each gets a very different style (from stream of consciousness, no quotations to regular quotation style narrative) and it all came together quite nicely. We get to see each character from different points of view, from how they appear to be successfully living compared to the reality. The first section is the hardest to read, but I recommend persevering through it. It made sense after the fact, and added to the book in retrospect. I'd try another Smith.

29. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear, 384 pages (book 3 of 10)

 Here's a series that got ahead of me. I bought this third book a number of years ago, and for some reason, I was remembering these books as slow going. Instead, I raced through Maisie's adventure as she explored the psychic world to prove to a widower, who promised his dying wife, that he'd find out if their son truly died in France in the war. Although it is 1930, the effects of the first war are still strongly felt in England and France. Maisie is getting close to facing some dilemmas regarding her love life, and is discovering there is more to her mentor, Maurice, than she originally knew.

I'll be reading the next book sooner rather than later.

30. Birdman by Mo Hayder, 448 pages (book 1 of 5)

I have to watch Criminal Minds with just one eye on the television. Half my brain can only pay attention because of how disturbing the serial killers the team chases are. Birdman could easily be on Criminal Minds, he's that creepy. This first book in the Jack Caffrey series may be my limit of how far I can read the creepy. I plan to read another one for sure, as there are only 5 in the series as of now, which feels like I can catch up with this one. I liked the main detective. It's another cop whose brother disappeared as a child.
And I spent more time in a London setting.

Cheer-ee-o London, I'm sure I'll be back!