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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 Shuttle
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Progress: 99/512 pages
End of Watch: A Novel
Stephen King, Simon & Schuster Audio, Will Patton
Progress: 33 %
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 249/311 pages

The Shuttle - progress: 99/512 pg

The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Okay, I realize that Betty is a bit of a Mary Sue, but I can't help but love her character and how she interacts with the others. This is a conversation from the morning after their ship had a collision with a steamer:


   "I was very rude to Louise, when I found her wringing her hands over you, and I was rude to Blanche," Bettina said to Mrs. Worthington. "In fact I believe I was rude to a number of people that night. I am rather ashamed."


   "You called me a donkey," said Blanche, "but it was the best thing you could have done. You frightened me into putting on my shoes, instead of trying to comb my hair with them. It was startling to see you march into the stateroom, the only person who had not been turned into a gibbering idiot. I know I was gibbering, and I know Marie was."


   "We both gibbered at the red-haired man when we came in," said Marie. "We clutched at him and gibbered together."


The Shuttle - progress: 53/512 pg

The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

It just occurred to me that the author started work on this book during her very short and apparently turbulent second marriage, to a man who reportedly was very controlling and attempted to take her money, which she had earned with her writing.



The Shuttle - progress: 41/512 pg

The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Early 20th century gaslighting, before gaslighting was a thing:


"'Did - did it?' Rosy faltered weakly. She knew he was offended again and that she was once more somehow in the wrong. So many things about her seemed to displease him, and when he was displeased he always reminded her that she was stupidly, objectionably guilty of not being an English woman. 


Whatsoever it happened to be, the fault she had committed out of her depth of ignorance, he did not forget it. It was no habit of his to endeavour to dismiss offenses. He preferred to hold them in possession as if they were treasures and to turn them over and over, in the mental seclusion which nourishes the growth of injuries, since within its barriers there is no chance of their being palliated by the apologies or explanations of the offender."


End of Watch - progress 33%

End of Watch: A Novel - Stephen King, Simon & Schuster Audio, Will Patton

Oh boy o boy, this is much more fun than his earlier attempts at a straightforward detective mystery. Keep on being yourself, Mr. King!

Finders Keepers ★★★★☆

Finders Keepers: A Novel - Stephen King

This was a much slower moving story than Mr. Mercedes, with the setup and history to the main action taking up the bulk of the book. But the author is so good at breathing life into the characters and sprinkling action and excitement into seemingly mundane scenes, that I was carried along without really even noticing it. And I was pleased that his awkward and unconvincing attempts at romance in the first book was mercifully absent in this one.


And does anyone do murder scenes better than Mr. King? NOPE.


Okay, I’m ready to dive into the last book!


Audio version, via Audible. Will Patton’s performance was masterful. He does much more than just allow the listener to distinguish between the voices of different characters. He uses a different voice for each scene, depending on the central character for that scene. He creates a unique voice, with breath, speech patterns, and pacing, for each character, that fully embodies the its characteristics. I especially loved his voice for Holly. His voice for Morris was absolutely menacing, it gave me chills.

Finders Keepers - update: 321/448 pg

Finders Keepers: A Novel - Stephen King

It's amazing that we've gotten this far into the book, and none of the main characters has actually encountered each other yet, and very little has actually happened that isn't background or history to the principal conflict, but the tension keeps ratcheting up and I've never lost interest or been bored by the story. I don't know how he does it.

HP's BL-opoly - 2nd Dice Roll


Instructions for the ring additional task: Read a book where someone gets married, with jewelry on the cover, or where any character is a millionaire/billionaire!


The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett 

Although this would have been an easy task to fill from one of the books on my TBR romance shelf, I decided to tackle one from my TBR vintage bookshelf. I picked up The Shuttle at an antique store in downtown Waxahachie, during their Gingerbread Home Tour three years ago. I'm always attracted to vintage books with illustrations, and this one had the extra lure of an author that I recognized, but had never read any of her books intended for adult audiences. A Little Princess and the Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett are of course two of my favorite children's books. 


The Shuttle fits the task because several characters are millionaires, and according to the synopsis, one of them gets married to an awful man and needs to be rescued by her sister. 



Dream Weaver ★★★☆☆

Dream Weaver - Jane Yolen, Michael Hague

This is really not a children’s book. Like most real fairy tales, these stories and their intricate illustrations are much darker than their Disney counterparts, more violent and bloodthirsty, with very adult themes. The book contains 7 re-imagined classic fairy tales, tied (woven, ha ha) together by the narrative of a blind old woman who weaves dreams for a series of passers-by. They are strange and disturbing, and I did not enjoy reading them, but I did find it an interesting exercise to try connecting each fairy tale/dream with the persons for whom it was woven.


This is a good-quality hardcover version with glossy illustrations that I picked up at a used bookstore and has been sitting unread on my shelf for several years. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly game.



Testing, testing, 1 2 3

Okay, this is just a test post to see if I can make Line Bookaholic's trick work for me. The trick is to be able to add a book to a post, where it appears as a small pic of the cover within the body of the post, rather than as a huge pic at the top of the post. 


So, right now I'm reading Finders Keepers: A Novel - Stephen King . I'm reading the audio and physical book in tandem, because I've discovered the joys of Will Patton's narration and because I bought the physical book a while ago and need to get it off my TBR mountain. 


I'm planning to do Dream Weaver - Jane Yolen,Michael Hague  for my first BL-opoly. It's another physical book that's been on my shelves for ages and needs to come off the TBR mountain. 


I thought the detailed illustrations were interesting, and a little dark for a children's book:

Dream Weaver - Jane Yolen,Michael Hague 


 EDIT: It worked! Yay!

HP's BL-opoly - 1st Dice Roll

I'm really looking forward to this game, and I love that it's designed to let me further my goal this year of reducing my TBR mountain. I have a challenge going over on GR in the Horror Aficionados group, and so far I've knocked out 13 from my goal of 40 books.

So for my first dice roll:


I had a lot of choices for this one, since fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but this children's fairy tale book has been on my shelf for a couple of years, since I picked it up at a used bookstore on a whim after seeing the illustrations. I probably won't get to it today, since I'm still trying to finish my taxes, but I can finish it tomorrow, in time for the next dice day on 4/19. 



Maskerade ★★★★★

Maskerade - Terry Pratchett

How I empathized with Agnes, cursed with a good personality and nice hair, instead of a trim figure and a pretty face. Knowing that she was always expected to be calm and sensible and capable, resenting it, and yet unable to help herself in always being the calm and sensible and capable one in a crisis. What young woman wouldn’t be horrified to see her own future in Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax? And yet, there is certainly power in embracing your true self.


I’m a little sad that there’s only one more book in the Witches series from the Discworld books. So far, this one is my favorite.

Marrying Winterborne ★★★★☆

Marrying Winterborne - Lisa Kleypas

I picked this one up because I had enjoyed the first in the series very much. I had low expectations, though, because the male love interest seemed more the stereotypical Romance genre alpha-male, on the rapey-side, based on his appearance in Cold-Hearted Rake. Much to my surprise, though, the author gave him a more nuanced character in this book, and although he was certainly a bit manipulative, the heroine had full agency. Most of what I like about this series of books is the rediscovery of Romance as an enjoyable, escapist read.


Audiobook borrowed from my local library via Overdrive. Excellence performance by Mary Jane Wells.

The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer ★★★☆☆

The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer  - Krista Davis

I enjoyed this second book in the Paws and Claws series a bit more than the first, but that might be more due to my adjusted expectations than to any real difference in quality. With my vast experience of a single book in the cozy mystery genre, I have a good idea what to expect, and this book met expectations admirably. It’s a cute story, with uncomplicated characters, and not only does this book add on to the DOGGIES(!) from the first book, it has more KITTIES(!). Seriously, who cares why an unlikeable character drowns under mysterious conditions when there are doggies and kitties galore? The solution to the mystery is almost an aside, for me.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Jeanie Kanaley’s narration is just as bad as it was in the first book. I had to laugh aloud every time the main character says or thinks “ugh” (which is lamentably often), because Ms. Kanaley actually pronounces the word, rather than verbalizing that guttural grunt of disgust that it represents. Yes, she actually says, “Ugg,” like she’s referring to trendy footwear.


And yes, I’ve already put the 3rd book in the series, Murder Most Howl, on hold at the library, because in spite of all the flaws, DOGGIES!

Mr. Mercedes ★★★★☆

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Well plotted and plausible thriller, but as usual with King’s books, it was the characters and their individual stories that drove me on through most of the book. The “what happens next” takes the co-pilot seat in the last third of the book, turning into a real nail-biter at the end.


King’s genius, to me, is his ability to bring fascinating characters to life and in the story game of “what-if”. I nearly always find romantic relationships between his characters awkward and unconvincing, though, and the sudden and intense romance in Mr. Mercedes was no exception.


He does that thing again that I both love and hate, where he

introduces characters and makes you invest in them, then kills them off and makes you start over with new characters. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it puts me, the reader, on cautious footing with the new characters, feeling untrustful and not quite willing to commit. Until those new characters are in peril, and I find that I *am* invested in them, after all.

(show spoiler)


Audio version, borrowed from my local library via Overdrive. Will Patton’s narration is fantastic. He breathes life into the story and characters, and I loved how his vocal (oratory? Not sure of the proper word here) style changed, even when not voicing dialogue, for each section when the narrative switches between different characters’ stories. I could instantly tell when the story changed from following Brady, to following Hodges, to following Jerome, just by the change in voice. I might have finally found a new favorite reader of King’s stories, years after Frank Muller’s passing.

Bird Box ★★★☆☆

Bird Box: A Novel (Audio) - Josh Malerman

Although the premise was interesting, this little horror story simply failed to live up to its potential. Neither the writing nor the plot were compelling enough to overcome the annoying present tense stylings and awkward nonlinear jumps through the timeline. In a story where the characters spend most of their time blindfolded, you’d think the author would make a greater effort to bring the other 4 senses to life, but instead we are treated to descriptions along the lines of, “the terrible smell was much stronger”. There were also some plot holes and logic gaps that were obvious enough to pull me right out of the story.


Still it was interesting enough to keep me listening through to the end, so I’ll give it 3 stars.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. I was unimpressed with Cassandra Campbell’s narration, and as this is the second book of hers that I’ve listened to without enthusiasm, I think I can attribute it to her and not the material she had to work with.

The Princess Diarist ★★★☆☆

The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher

I enjoyed this memoir, which was told with wry, self-deprecating humor. Ms. Fisher looks back on her 19 year old self with gentle affection, recounting her very first love affair that just happened to be with her married, 15 years older co-star, and who apparently fell for the tough, cynical, experienced persona she tried to project, only realizing afterwards that she was really just a teenager with an enormous crush. Although, having literally grown up in show business, with Hollywood parents and a father fully engaged in the lifestyle of chronic substance abuse and serial philandering, she does seem to have been amazingly naive. Perhaps, with first love, we are all ridiculously naïve, even if we have every reason to know better.


My favorite sections were those where she recounted the years of sci-fi and comic conventions, the autograph whoring (her words) and encounters with fans.


I ended up forwarding through her actual diary entries, because they are exactly what you’d expect from a teenager in love with an older, married man: a lot of boring emo bullshit. Her adult self is far more interesting.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. I loved, loved, loved that it was read in the author’s own voice. It sounds as though you are just sitting down with a friend over coffee, who is telling you funny stories of her life experiences.