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Portable Mistletoe

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

The Horse Dancer
Jojo Moyes
Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Laura Hillenbrand
Peanuts Classics
Charles M. Schulz
Progress: 20/450 pages
The Bungalow Mystery
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox
Carol Burnett
Progress: 16 %
The Bungalow Mystery #3
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
The Bungalow Mystery
P.M. Carlson, Russell H. Tandy, Carolyn Keene
Progress: 204/204 pages

The Bungalow Mystery - finished reading

Sorry I've been absent the last several days. I'm using the Dia de los Muertos book task to further my Nancy Drew Project, and to simultaneously read and compare two versions of the same book requires some focused concentration on my part. I'm done reading both 1930 and 1960 versions and now just need to write it up and start posting. 

The Bungalow Mystery - P.M. Carlson,Russell H. Tandy,Carolyn Keene  The Bungalow Mystery  - Carolyn Keene  The Bungalow Mystery #3 - Carolyn Keene  

There are only 2 text versions, but I love the new cover art on the most recent printing.


Door 4 - Diwali; Task 4

Washington Square - Henry James, Lorna Raver A Little Princess - Tasha Tudor, Frances Hodgson Burnett Mostly Monsterly - Tammi Sauer The Dark Tower - Stephen King A Knight in Shining Armor (Montgomery Saga, #10) - Jude Deveraux

Task 4: Find 5 books on your shelves (either physical or virtual) whose covers show a young woman holding a flower and share their cover images.


I squinted at over 1700 thumbnails on my shelves, and this was the best I could do. If I stretched the definition until it squeaks, I could say these five  are "persons" holding or wearing flowers. 


I could have gone a step farther and gone with young women with flowers in near proximity, and I'd have had plenty of covers to show for it, but I decided to stick with this. And yes, I realize that the last one is technically a knight's gauntlet holding a flower, and doesn't actually have the knight's hand *inside* it. 

In Such Good Company - 16%

I love Carol's explanation that the inspiration for one of her most famous comic moments was entirely due to costume designer Bob Mackie's genius.

Scarlett vs Starlett - the portiers dress


Apparently, the script instructions were just that Scarlett would just pull down the curtains then appear with them draped around herself, rather than wearing a dress made from the material as in the original book/movie. Mackie said, "Well, that's not all that funny," and decided to add the curtain rod. He didn't tell Carol Burnett what he'd done until the day of the show. 


If you're interested, here's a video of Carol talking about that episode, with clips from the skit. 


Reading this for the Festivus book for the 24 Festive Tasks. 

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox - Carol Burnett 

Firestarter ★★★★☆

Firestarter - Stephen King, Dennis Boutsikaris

There is a lot to like in this story. The concept has always fascinated me, especially given the veneer of plausibility as the US government does have a well-documented history of unethical human experimentation and has had programs investigating psychic phenomena. So the setup, and the description of Charlie and Andy McGee’s wild talents, the psychological manipulations, and the action scenes are wonderfully entertaining. The characters who people The Shop are fantastic.


But the book is not without its problems. The pacing is awful, dragging endlessly in spots until the final third of the book. This is also very much a book of its time, with now cringe-inducing stereotypes toward race, gender, and sex. Charlie, who is only 7 years old, behaves with a maturity and critical thinking ability far beyond her years, even for a child who has spent all her life having to conceal her essential self and years on the run from deadly government agents.


Audiobook, via Audible. The performance by Dennis Boutsikaris is excellent.


I read this for The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season, for the Guy Fawkes Night door; the book task: Set in the UK, political thrillers, involving any monarchy or revolution; books about arson or related to burning.

Woohoo! I just realized

The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett

I just realized that our Discworld group read for December fits the Diwali book activity. I love it when that happens. 

Peanuts Classics - 20/250pg

Peanuts Classics - Charles M. Schulz

I had planned on using In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox - Carol Burnett  for the Festivus door, and even started it last night after I finished Firestarter - Stephen King,Dennis Boutsikaris, but then while I was browsing Half Price Books while waiting on friends for dinner, I came across this and had to have it. Then I opened it to read  couple comics and just kept reading! So I think I will use this for Festivus instead. 

Door 4 - Diwali; Task 1: Share a picture of your favorite light display.

I get that we're supposed to be cynical about Disney World and its artificial perfection, but dammit, this was the most amazing light show I've ever experienced. The videos don't do it justice. In person, with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra pounding in my ears and an entire city block's worth of buildings covered in pulsing lights, I was dumbfounded. 


I wish I had higher quality video, but this is the only one that really matches up with my memory of it. There are others that more clearly show the details and the other songs in the light show. 

Firestarter - 26%

Firestarter - Stephen King, Dennis Boutsikaris

Oh dear, this story has gotten so dated. 

The Bungalow Mystery - 0/204 pg

The Bungalow Mystery - P.M. Carlson, Russell H. Tandy, Carolyn Keene The Bungalow Mystery  - Carolyn Keene

The next book for my Nancy Drew project fits right in the Dia de los Muertos book category, so here we go!

Hocus Pocus ★☆☆☆☆ (DNF)

Hocus Pocus - Kurt Vonnegut

I gave it my best for 40 pages, but finally just saw no reason to continue. This book does have a perverse sort of humor and is funny in places, but it was also off-puttingly angry. The conceit of this book is that it is the disjointed scribblings of a (possibly mad) man who is imprisoned in a library, and he decides to write his life story on random little scraps of paper he found laying about. So even as I recognize that the story's rambly structure and style is meant to illustrate the set up, I still found myself utterly unable to summon the will to keep reading. YMMV


DNF at 40/325 pages. Paperback, picked up from... somewhere, and had been sitting on my shelf for 3 years. Fly free now, little book, and I hope you end up with someone who wants to read this kind of drivel. 


I was attempting to read this for The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season game, for door 19 Festivus (Dec. 23) book task: Read any comedy, parody, or satire. Instead, I'm going to listen to the audio of Carol Burnett's In Such Good Company

Door 3 - Melbourne Cup Day; Task 2

Task 2: Cup day is all about the hats.  Post a picture of your favorite hat, whether it’s one you own or not.



Rally cap!!!! When the Rangers need some runs for a come-from-behind-win, I make my dogs wear the rally cap. Annabelle is generally not pleased, but my sweet Stubbs will put up with anything for a little attention. 


Sometimes it even works. 



Firestarter - 0%

Firestarter - Stephen King, Dennis Boutsikaris

It's a re-read, but I've never actually written a review for this one, so I decided to use it for the Guy Fawkes Night book. Obviously, there is arson, both intentional and accidental. 

Door 2 - Guy Fawkes Night; Task 1

Task 1: Burn a book in effigy.  Not that anyone of us would do such a thing, but if you HAD to, which book would be the one you’d sacrifice to the flames (gleefully or not)?



No, I would never burn a real book. Not even books as terrible and potentially harmful as these two. It was tempting to toss them in the recycling bin, though, which is where they belong, but instead I returned these safe and unharmed to the library that I borrowed them from. I am pleased to report that at least some teenagers are too smart to fall for this misogynist bullshit, though. The books came to my attention when the author was invited to speak at a local high school and a number of students walked out, but not before trolling him on Twitter with #Lookadouche. This arbiter of moral values was arrested a couple of years later for public intoxication after police found him asleep in his car, covered in his own vomit and reeking of alcohol, after not bothering to show up at a speaking engagement to yet more impressionable youth. 

Hocus Pocus - 0/324pg

Hocus Pocus - Kurt Vonnegut

It's probably a bad sign when I'm already expecting I might DNF a book before I've even read the first page, but I have very low expectations here. I picked this up on a whim at a used books sale, but I'm always hit/miss with Vonnegut and based on other user reviews this is going to fall into the dark humor category as I see descriptions of both "funny" and "angry". Also, it also relies on a shifting timeline narrative and I think I've probably had enough of that from the book I just finished. 


Oh, well. I'm reading this for The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season game, for the Festivus door, and if I hate it then I have a Calvin and Hobbes book as an alternate. And although those cartoons are also an acerbic social commentary, they are still more fun than angry, so I won't have trouble finishing THAT one, for sure. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter ★★★★☆

The Clockmaker’s Daughter - Kate Morton

I'm not sure how to review this one, and as I reflect on the issues I had with it, I'm not sure it deserved all 4 stars, but I'll let it stand, because in the end, I think my enjoyment of the characters and their stories overcomes the style and structure issues I had with it. 


First of all, I was surprised at the overtly supernatural elements to this story. Morton usually has some elements of fate or the gods or whatever embedded in her plots - she has to, in order to make them work, I think - but this is the first I can think of where there is an actual ghost. I'm not spoiler tagging that, because it's pretty apparent early on, even if not explicitly stated. I'm not disappointed in it, but after two months of reading for Halloween Bingo, I was looking for something a little more grounded in the real world. 


Second, the structure made this a difficult read. As the title implies, the nature of Time is a strong theme, and the author takes over a half dozen characters from across more than 150 years and weaves their stories together with a shifting timeline. Not only do we shift between different characters in different eras, we even shift back and forth within the timeline of each character. In the end, she *mostly* pulls them all together, so we can discover how they are each connected and the cause and effect between all the story's events, but getting there was difficult. I found it impossible to follow on audio and had to switch to hardcover so I could flip back to earlier pages to refresh my memory. Also, the voice of the titular character slips occasionally into first person, present tense, which I normally hate, but it is used sparingly and purposefully, and it fits as a storytelling device. 


Third, this is the first time I think the author was unsuccessful in tying up her loose ends and finishing the story. Maybe this was on purpose - again the nature of time and the human experience in it - but it felt just hastily finished and incomplete. I still had a lot of questions at the end. 


Last, though, is the strength of this book that lifts it above the technical problems. The characters are all wonderfully drawn. I invested in all of them, I invested in all of their stories, and I rooted for them, and I sympathized with them, and I even cried a little with some of them. 


I read using both hardcover and audio (via Audible) editions. Joanne Froggatt (of Downton Abbey fame) performs the audio and does a fine job with it, but I desperately missed the voice of Caroline Lee, who has performed all of the author's works up to now. 

PM's Festive Tasks 2018 Update #1

I finally found a way to indicate the partial reveals, full reveals, and number of activities/points per door. And I was able to work in my little cookie markers, so that makes me very happy! I'm trying to at least plan for all the book activities, although it's highly unlikely I'll read them all.