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Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

James A. Michener
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 172/311 pages

Can You Keep A Secret? (DNF/Not Rated)

Can You Keep a Secret? - Sophie Kinsella

I was able to get through enough of this book to see that this could have been a fun read, but I was so annoyed by the first-person-present-tense that I couldn’t force myself to continue beyond the first few chapters. DNF at 40 pages.


I was reading this for the 2017 Romance Bingo, for the New Adult square. I guess I’ll have to find another book.

Search the Shadows ★★★★☆

Search the Shadows - Barbara Michaels

Amazingly, this is the first Barbara Michaels I’ve ever read. It was a good page-turner, and the mystery was satisfyingly atmospheric in its gothicness and twisty with its misdirection. The romance, however, felt sort of tacked-on at the end. I was pleased to have a romance with an intentionally unlikeable heroine, for a change. She’s rude and selfish, snide towards all other women, and feels very little sense of guilt over neglecting her relations. She also does not hesitate to use any tools available to her to achieve her own ends, including people. But of course, she is also beautiful and unaware of it, feeling that her dark coloring makes her unattractive in comparison to her fair-skinned and fair-haired mother. This makes pretty much every man she encounters willing to


(show spoiler)

walk over fire to help her.


I read this for the 2017 Romance Bingo. It fits the Gothic Romance square, as it has most of the elements of gothic literature, except the usual supernatural one, if you discount several characters who seem to have almost psychic thought connection or leaps of intuition. 

Cold-Hearted Rake ★★★★☆

Cold-Hearted Rake - Lisa Kleypas

I’m pleased to have found a Regency romance where the feisty female protagonist is neither TSTL nor grossly anachronistic, and her love interest isn’t grossly misogynist to start. It was a fun read, and I liked having a couple of male protagonists who really just needed some responsibilities and something constructive to do, to help them discover that they aren’t useless boozy boors after all.


I read this for 2017 Romance Bingo, for the Rogue square. The title is an apt descriptor of both the primary male protagonist and his brother,

who are both lazy, selfish, womanizers, who intend to dump an entire estate with dependent female relatives, tenants, and servants, because they can’t be bothered, but finally come around and become responsible and loving, decent men.

(show spoiler)


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive, with an excellent performance by Mary Jane Wells. I admit to forwarding over the explicit sexy times scenes, though, as I somehow find those a bit cringeworthy when read aloud, especially when it’s going on in my earbuds while I’m wandering the canned goods aisle at the grocery store.

Never Too Late ★☆☆☆☆

Never Too Late - Robyn Carr

The writing style consists of brief bits of dialogue between info-dumps. Do not like. 

DNF at 13%, after an 1 1/2 hours of listening. Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Outstanding performance by Therese Plummer. I'm already looking for others of hers that I might enjoy better. 


Most WTF moment: "She even tried counseling, and was honest as a heart attack during her sessions..." 

Attempted to read for the 2017 Romance Bingo, for the Second Chances square. I guess I'll have to find another book for that one.

Fangirl ★★★★☆

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

I enjoyed the story of Cath and her sister Wren, two young women in their freshman year of college who are trying to come to terms with growing into adulthood. Wren is launching herself into her idea of adulthood, with wild parties and brutal separation from her family. The unsociable Cath is warding off adulthood by clinging to the tokens of her childhood and responsibilities to her family, but is 

finally dragged into the bewildering world of adulthood by the friends and boyfriend she tried not to make and her father’s insistence that growing up means creating a life beyond the safety of immediate family.

(show spoiler)


I liked that both characters grew over the course of the book, but still retained their essential selves. I liked that the consequences for recklessness didn’t have to include sexual assault as a plot device, as so commonly found in other books. I thought the “Simon Snow”/Harry Potter knockoff was funny, and having been a reader of HP fanfiction myself, I enjoyed the whole fanfic subplot as well, although I found it a little incredible that a popular author of fanfic would be naïve enough to turn in her fanfic in a college-level creative writing class, and to be hurt and surprised when her professor called it unoriginal and plagiarism.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Rebecca Lowman provides a terrific performance, with Maxwell Caulfield reading all the “Simon Snow” excerpts.


I read this for the 2017 Romance Bingo, for the New Adult square. I think it could fit these other squares:

Young Adult: I genuinely think this belongs in New Adult, but because the main characters are still in their teens, the “voice” is that of teens, and there’s no explicit sex, you could argue that it fits YA too.

Key to My Heart: She falls in love, almost against her will, and through this new relationship learns to open her heart to others.

Twins: Cath and her sister are identical twins, and there’s even a few scenes with college douche-bros doing the whole, “whoa, twins, my sexual fantasy” thing, and even better, some decent guys calling them on it.

Fairy Tale Retelling: A bit of a stretch, but I’d argue that the “Simon Snow” tale is a retelling of and AU Harry Potter, and Cath’s fanfic is a retelling of an AU Simon Snow.

Guy/Girl Next Door: Cath’s new boyfriend

is literally her roommate’s friend and a constant visitor in her room, and he definitely has that boy-next-door persona

(show spoiler)

Skagboys DNF/Not Rated

Skagboys - Irvine Welsh

Since this is a prequel to Trainspotting, I decided to read this one first. I got about an hour into the audio before realizing my mistake, as this seems like a series of disconnected vignettes about characters that the reader is supposed to already recognize. Not having read Trainspotting first, I really had trouble following along or understanding the import of the events, so I decided to DNF and start with Trainspotting instead.


Just checking in

Hey everybody! Or, those of you who are left. Just checking in to say howdy. I see BL is working fairly fast again, although it looks like they still haven't fixed the books import bug. I just tried again to import my books and reviews from GR but it seems to be doing the same thing - that is, nothing at all. I'm going to give it some time, then I guess I'll try to manually add them, if the hamsters haven't died on their wheels by then. 


I hope all is well with you all. I've been in a reading funk for about a month. It coincides with my growing alarm over the current political climate - it's been hard to immerse myself in the world of fiction. 


Meanwhile, have an emergency snoot boop:

Update: Romance Bingo 2017 - Bingo!

I've completed one Bingo and am close to another!


Unfortunately, my reviews are all over at Goodreads, but I've provided links below. I tried to import my completed books and reviews, but it's been a week since I started the import of a dozen books, and I just got notice that they've finished importing, but I don't see them on my shelf or the reviews posted in my blog. Not sure what the deal is there. :(


Anyway, this has been tremendous fun, and I'm glad that this has given me incentive to work through some Romances on my TBR. I've even really liked some of them. 


B1 Insta-love: Call in the Night ★★☆☆☆

B3 Blown Away: A Kiss at Midnight ★★★☆☆  

I1 TSTL: The Bridge ★★☆☆☆

I3 Man in a Kilt: The Exile ★★☆☆☆

N3 Free Square: Heroes are my Weakness ★★★☆☆

G3 Rogue: Cold-Hearted Rake ★★★★☆

O1 New Adult: Fangirl ★★★★☆

O2 Gothic Romance: Search the Shadows ★★★★☆

O3 Historical Romance: Call of the Canyon ★★☆☆☆

O5 Urban Fantasy Romance: Reckoning ★★★☆☆

A Redbird Christmas ★★★☆☆

A Redbird Christmas - Fannie Flagg

I read this almost a month ago and it was so unmemorable that I have already forgotten nearly everything about the plot, except that it was entirely predictable and so unrelentingly sweet that I felt I needed an insulin shot before I was done. However, it was pleasant enough to keep me engaged until the end.


Audiobook, read by the author, who does not provide a very polished performance but nevertheless read with warmth and authenticity.

Taking a BL break

All - I spent several frustrating hours last weekend, trying to catch up on my December reviews and finish up the 12 Festive Tasks posts. Even worse, I have been unable to spend the time needed to read and respond to all my friends' posts. I know the BL staff have finally started posting and responding to us again, but I have finally reached the limits of my tolerance for the slowness and bugs here. I'm going to be taking an extended break from BL. It might be permanent, I don't know. But for now, my plans are to move operations over to Goodreads and to check back in over here in a few months to see if the problems have been resolved. For those of you still on GR, I am "SheriC (Portable Magic)" over there. If we haven't already connected there, please send me a friend request. For those of you who aren't on GR, I'll miss you, but hopefully BL will get its shit together and I can catch up with you all then.

All Rivers Run to the Sea ★★★★★

All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs - Elie Wiesel

I found this memoir less compelling than Night, but still a chilling picture of the buildup to transport and the difficulties facing the survivors beyond the immediate aftermath of liberation.


Audiobook, performed by the author, who reads with such emotion that I was at times moved to tears.


“Wherever my life took me, a part of me would remain in that street in front of my empty house, awaiting the order to depart. I see my little sister. I see her with her rucksack, so cumbersome, so heavy. I see her and an immense tenderness sweeps over me. Never will her innocent smile fade from my soul, never will her glance cease to sear me. I tried to help her. She protested. Never will the sound of her voice leave my heart. She was thirsty, My little sister was thirsty. Her lips were parched, pearls of sweat formed on her clear forehead. “I can wait,” she said, smiling. My little sister wanted to be brave, and I wanted to die in her place. I seldom speak of her in my writing, for I dare not. My little sister with her sunbathed golden head is my secret.”


For the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season book challenge, Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah (Let the dreidel choose a book for you: create a list of four books, and assign a dreidel symbol to each one (Nun = miracle; Gimel = great; He = happened; Shin = there, i.e. Israel). Google "spin the dreidel," and a dreidel comes up for you to spin. Give it a spin and read the book that the dreidel chooses!)

Maya Angelou Poetry Collection ★★★★★

Maya Angelou Poetry Collection - Maya Angelou

I rarely read poetry because I have difficulty connecting with it. But this collection, on audio, is performed by the author herself, and hearing it in her own voice is profoundly moving. It gave me the opportunity to experience some of her less widely known work. Some of my favorites:


I was also delighted to hear her actually sing parts of several spirituals that were the inspiration for the poem she wrote for Clinton’s inauguration.


Audiobook version, on CD (ISBN 0375420177), that I purchased on a sale rack years ago. Looking it up online just now in hopes of getting some audio samples to link to, I was amazed at the prices, but it looks as though it’s commonly available at public libraries, per WorldCat.


For the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season book challenge, Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa (Read a book written by an African-American author or set in an African country

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls ★★★☆☆

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris

Although I’ve loved his other books, this collection of essays just didn’t seem as entertaining. Audiobook via Audible. Read by the author, who as usual provides an excellent performance.

Krampus: The Yule Lord ★★★☆☆

Krampus: The Yule Lord - Brom

This inventive story was a fun read and the illustrations are fantastically creepy. The writing, however, is the clearest and most consistent example of “telling” instead of “showing” that I’ve ever read. The artwork was far more evocative. Altogether, I feel that this would have made a better graphic novel, with the story told through illustrations and dialogue.

The Bridge ★★☆☆☆

The Bridge: A Novel - Karen Kingsbury, January LaVoy

While I can happily suspend disbelief for fantastical story elements, like elves and magic spells and talking trees and, yes, even miracles from God, I have very little tolerance for illogical or grossly improbable plot points in a story that is supposedly set in a realistic world and peopled by functioning adults. This, unfortunately, is one of those books. 


More than one character is expected to

take over a successful family business from their supposedly business-savvy parent, but is actively discouraged from learning basic business skills at university. A character who resists learning how to run a business is magically able to run a charitable foundation, which seems to consist of just approving scholarship applications and manning the adoptions desk at a pet shelter. I can get behind a miracle from God causing someone with massive brain injuries to suddenly wake from a coma with no neuro deficits, but all my sensibilities cry out at the notion that his visitors were allowed to store 9 boxes full of books in his ICU room alongside his ventilator and other medical equipment. That same ICU room also held an entire choir of carolers who came in to sing him awake. I’m not sure where those carolers were all standing. I imagined them perched on top of his ventilator, clinging to his IV poles, balancing on boxes of books, and sitting on each other’s laps along both sides of his bed.

(show spoiler)




Then there’s the thought processes employed by the characters, especially the main protagonists.

The entire plot of lovers wrongfully separated for years hinges on the guy just accepting that the woman he desperately loves is planning to marry another, just because her overbearing father calls him up out of the blue and says so, and despite her already having explicitly told him she won’t. He doesn’t even ask her about it, and she doesn’t ask him why he’s suddenly turned cold. This goes on for years, and continues when they meet up again. Finally, after 5 minutes conversation, the misunderstanding is all cleared up and they’re going to live happily ever after, because of course they’re suddenly capable of having a mature and adult relationship.

(show spoiler)




Audiobook version, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. January LaVoy’s performance was the best thing about this book.


I read this for the 2017 Romance Bingo reading challenge. This book clearly fits the square for TSTL (too stupid to live).


A Christmas Story ★★★☆☆

A Christmas Story - Jean Shepherd, Dick Cavett

Had I read the book before seeing the movie, I might have enjoyed this more fully. It helps tremendously that it’s read by Dick Cavett, who captures that wry tone of voice that Jean Shepherd used in narrating the movie. The primary difference between the two is that the events in the book are more a disconnected set of stories, rather than events woven together to make it flow. But still, an entertaining story and worth 3 ½ hours spent listening to it.