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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

The Music Shop: A Novel
Rachel Joyce
The Vintage Bradbury: The greatest stories by America's most distinguished practioner of speculative fiction
Ray Bradbury
Peanuts Classics
Charles M. Schulz
Progress: 66 %
The Bungalow Mystery
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
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

So, Anyway ★★☆☆☆

So, Anyway... - John Cleese

I had hoped for more behind-the-scenes on his work that I know best, but pretty much the whole book is his origin story and earliest work with the other MP guys, before they were Monty Python. The storytelling pretty much stops with the first MP taping, although he gives a little post-script on the "reunion" along with some complaints that "political correctness" has spoiled his brand of comedy. I did enjoy his thoughts as to the nature of comedy, though.


Audiobook, via Audible. Read by the author.

A Study in Scarlet - 71%

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection -  Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry

This sudden left turn into Utah and story line about Mormons is bewildering. I have no idea where this is going or why.

The Parasite ★★★☆☆

The Parasite -  Arthur Conan Doyle

The writing is atmospheric and descriptive enough to make this short horror story entertaining, but I might have strained my eyeballs by rolling them so hard through this story of an honorable man whose life and reputation is ruined by the spiteful woman he rejected. Give an ugly woman a little bit of power, and naturally the first thing she does is try to control a man's mind and body, first for love, then for hate. *rolls eyes again*


Audiobook, via Librivox. Read by volunteers

The Incendiaries (NR)

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

This is probably a very good story, but I have too much going on right now to keep up with all the shifting timelines. I keep losing the thread of it, so I'm going to abandon at 26%.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Strong performance by Keong Sim.

Thornwood House ★☆☆☆☆

Thornwood House - Anna Romer

This just couldn't catch my interest, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I was so annoyed by the initial first person present tense style in the prologue. I thought I could get past it, but for the entirety of the 20 minutes I gave this audio, my mind kept wandering and I found myself both unmoved and uninterested in the story.


Audiobook via Audible. DNF after 20 minutes.

Emma ★★★★☆

Emma (Audio) - Jane Austen

This story is a lot of fun and continues to hold up well on every re-read. Emma is perhaps the most realistic of Austen's protagonists - a wealthy young woman who has always been the biggest fish in her little pond, spoiled, vain, arrogant, and petty. But she means well, and eventually matures as she makes blunder after blunder, not learning from the first mistake, or even the second, but she gets there in the end. 

This story also features two of my favorite fictional characters - Mr. and Mrs. Elton, who thoroughly deserve one another. 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Nadia May's narration is outstanding.

Sense and Sensibility ★★★★★

Sense and Sensibility - Wanda McCaddon, Jane Austen

My elventy-billionth re-read and enjoyed it as always. Still want to give Marianne a kick in the corset, still think Elinor ended up with the wrong man. I keep wavering between 4 and 5 stars on every read, probably depending on nothing more substantial than my mood, but since I keep reading it over and over, I guess that makes it a 5 star. 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. I think Wanda McCaddon might be my favorite narrator of Jane Austen novels.

Lethal White ★★★★☆

Lethal White - Robert Galbraith

Another excellent entry in the Cormoran Strike series. I still love all the characters and how they are growing, but I could do without the elements of romance, even though I understand they are an important part of how each character is evolving.


Audio version through Audible, love the performance by Robert Glenister.

Need Help: Sherlock Holmes book


I picked up this Audible Studios edition of the complete works of SH, read by Stephen Fry, and am about to get started with it.

I tried to search for it on the ASIN I got from Goodreads, and the search bar returns "not found". When search on the title, of course I get hundreds of SH books and don't find this one. When I search on Stephen Fry, it doesn't return this one, either. 


So I tried adding it as a new book. Except when I tried to save it, I got an error message that this ISBN/ASIN was already in the library!


HELP. Does anyone have this book on your shelves? If so, maybe send me a link so I can add it to my shelf?  Otherwise, any search function tips? 


Brownies and Broomsticks ★☆☆☆☆

[ Brownies and Broomsticks (Magical Bakery Mysteries) by Cates, Bailey ( Author ) Mar-2013 Compact Disc ] - Bailey Cates

I picked this up on a whim, thinking it might be a fun new cozy mystery series, but was dismayed to find that it's really more Romance than mystery, and not the good kind, either. 

For example: The MC is busy trying to get her new business off the ground and dealing with her first big customers, but the moment she locks eyes with some random guy in the shop, she's thinking about long term relationships and admiring how straight and white his teeth are. Later, the MC has just seen the strangled body of a woman she was just interacting with and hears that her uncle has been arrested for the murder, but that's not nearly as important to her as checking a stranger's hand for a wedding ring. 

Audiobook, purchased from Audible. I gave it a full 45 minutes before DNF'ing at just over 10%. This was after absolutely nothing happened for the first 30 minutes except the introduction of a bunch of characters and gobs of exposition, unless the reader is interested in hearing about the color scheme of the MC's apron and how it matches her melon balls. 

The Bungalow Mystery - update ND3.1

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

Reading the 1930 & 1960 versions of The Bungalow Mystery simultaneously, comparing differences in the story and characters, and pondering dated plot points. Spoilers: full plot description below!


1930 Chs 1-3 vs 1960 Chs 1-2


1930 Nancy and Helen, her buddy from the last two books, are having a nice summer afternoon boating adventure on the lake when a violent storm comes up out of nowhere. Their boat sinks before they can get back to shore and there’s an unreasonably exciting scene where Helen, who is a weak swimmer, nearly drowns Nancy by clutching at her in a panic. Unreasonable, because it’s Chapter One and you know they’re both going to survive, but it’s really pretty well written, even with the cliché of exhausted Nancy trying to tow Helen to shore and Helen pitifully telling Nancy to leave her and save herself, and Nancy grimly determined to save them both. Anyway, another girl in a boat shows up, having heard their shouts for help, and rescues them. While Helen lays in the bottom of the boat like a dead fish, Nancy takes over for the exhausted girl at the oars.


Once they get to shore, the girls shelter in a boathouse until the storm blows over, and the new girl tells them her story. Laura Pendleton is a wealthy young lady who has been recently orphaned, and she’s staying at a hotel on the lake where she will be meeting her court appointed guardian, Jacob Aborn. She’s grieving and lonely and afraid, because her guardian is a stranger to her. The girls exchange invitations to visit and part company.


The 1960 version is similar, except that instead of Helen panicking like a ninny so Nancy can look extra competent by comparison, 1960 Helen has her arms somehow paralyzed by the boat hitting her when it sank. Laura inexplicably tells them her whole story while they’re still out in the storm trying to make it to shore, and the boathouse that they shelter in has a second story that’s set up like a small apartment – this difference will be a significant plot point later. Jacob is a distant relation in this version, and is to be accompanied by his wife Marion. I can’t find any reason for this change that serves the plot, except it gives the author a chance to illustrate a “bad” woman.


Considerations: A couple of things caught my interest. In the 1930 version, the girls pull on oilskins, but in the 1960 version, they put on plastic raincoats. So I fell into an internet rabbit hole reading about the history and evolution of waterproof outwear technology. Apparently, the oilskins would have been made from cloth impregnated with a petroleum-based wax. It seems that most of the innovations in waterproofing technology occurred somewhat later than the 1960 date of the revision, but by the late 1950’s there were “plastic ‘macs’ aka (by brand name) Pakamacs (made from extruded sheet plastic with welded seams and no fabric at all).”


Another curiosity is that the 1960 girls did look unsuccessfully for life jackets before the boat sank, but this isn’t mentioned at all in the 1930 version. Another internet rabbit hole later, I can say that life preservers did not become mandatory in personal watercraft until 1973. In fact, even at the time of the 1960 rewrite, the available technology was so poor that it’s highly unlikely a lake resort motel boat would have even had a life jacket designed to hold an unconscious person’s head and face out of the water, so although it might have helped Nancy keep Helen afloat, with her useless arms, she still would have had to struggle to keep her face above water in the rough, stormy water.


Dated Plot Points: Nobody with commonsense is going to be caught out on the lake in a storm today, assuming they have a smartphone with a weather app and weather alerts. Although I suppose they could be out of a service area. Since they are only 40 miles from River Heights, though, that seems unlikely. Also, mandatory life jackets, floatation cushions, and a radio for help. We had all these things on our 16 foot ski boat, so I assume they would be available on a resort motel’s motor boat.


Cult of Domesticity: One striking difference in the revisions is the significant amount text devoted to demonstrating that Nancy, despite her intelligence and determined, inquisitive nature, is still compliant with the virtues of feminine domesticity. In the 1960 version, we are treated to a full explanation of the girls drying out their wet clothes, making a nice cup of hot chocolate, washing their dishes and tidying up, and leaving a note of thanks to the boathouse’s owners. The 1930 girls just shelter until the storm blows over and take off after.  


The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season 2018: Dia de los Muertos (Nov. 1) – Book: Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author, a book from a finished (dead) series, or a book set in Mexico.


Index of Posts:

ND3 Reading start

ND3 Reading finish


ND3.1 (pending)

ND3.2 (pending)

ND3.3 (pending)

ND3.4 (pending)

ND3.5 (pending)

ND3.6 (pending)

ND3.7 (pending)

ND3.8 (pending)

ND3.9 (pending)


ND3.0 The Nancy Drew Project, con’t for The Bungalow Mystery

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

Three years ago, I was inspired by a fellow Bookliker to embark on a project to read through my Nancy Drew collection, in order, and comparing the original to the revised texts. It has been slow work, so I’m just now getting to the third book in the series, “The Bungalow Mystery”.  I’d better pick up my pace, if I’m to finish in my lifetime, as of the original series, 34 of them have multiple text versions.


Background: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories began as a girls’ adventure series in 1930 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, written by various authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, following the story idea and outline provided by the Syndicate. Starting in 1959, the books were rewritten, condensing them to 20 chapters/180 pages, modernizing the stories, and eliminating some of the racist stereotypes found in the original stories. Some revisions only updated the stories, but others featured extensive revisions and sometimes even a completely new story. The Bungalow Mystery was originally written in 1930 by Mildred A. Wirt Benson and revised in 1960 by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. The revisions are less extreme, although as usual the updated version is more poorly written and far less interesting, having introduced more characters and needless subplots in a condensed page count. Not to mention the significant changes in Nancy's character, who is a feisty, reckless, independent girl in 1930, but is sweetened up and made far more demure and traditionally feminine in the revision. I’ll post the chapter comparisons over the next several days.


Updated shelfie of my Nancy Drew collection: Starting with the books I owned and loved as a girl, I’ve added to it over the years from junk shops, used bookstores, and online purchases, with a goal of owning a copy of each format – original and revised texts, illustrations, and cover art. It is not yet complete, but I’ve hit a few bonanzas this year, so it’s now taking up 5 rows of shelves.


Book Challenge & Tags: Lucky for me, this book fits the Dia de los Muertes door in the 24 Festive Tasks of the Holiday Season 2018. All my posts in this project use the tag Nancy Drew Project.


Index of Posts:

ND3 Reading start

ND3 Reading finish

ND3.0 (current post)

ND3.1 (pending)

ND3.2 (pending)

ND3.3 (pending)

ND3.4 (pending)

ND3.5 (pending)

ND3.6 (pending)

ND3.7 (pending)

ND3.8 (pending)

ND3.9 (pending)

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.