Discussion Post: I Mustache You Some Questions

February 26, 2015 Alisa Discussion Post 4 Comments

mustache-questions-300x300 smalliconalisa

 

So things have been VERY busy lately with work, it is Black History Month and I have been doing all the decorations for the show that was supposed to be this week but probably will be delayed until March because of the snow storm. Secondly my entire family has a cold, including MJ who unfortunately is too little to take cold medicine.  So that means I am behind on just about everything at the moment including blogging. I have several audiobooks I want to talk about on my blog soon, so stay tuned. As well I need to post the prize for my giveaway, Angie from Angela’s Anxious Life was the winner! Otherwise things are going fine, MJ has gotten her first two front teeth which is very cute and is very close to crawling, mostly still rolling around and scooting on her tummy. It kind of amazes me how quickly she is growing up! It is both sad and happy, really liking 4-5 months it is a fun age. I was tagged awhile ago on this meme  by Char @Bookish Whimsy and was wanting to post it but never got a chance :)

 

Four Names People Call Me Other Than My Real Name

  1. Alisa- because it is not my name actually, it is my nom de plume..LOL Yes, I am very mysterious!

Four Jobs I’ve Had

  1. Art Teacher K-5- I have been teaching art for eight years now. o.O
  2. Art Lead Summer Camp- Same job essentially but I also was in charge of ordering supplies etc.
  3.  Library Assistant (Shelver)- I liked working in the library but shelving is very tedious.

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once

  1. Jane Eyre 2011, 1973, 1996, etc.- I have watched them all multiple times.
  2. Labyrinth- I was obsessed with this film when I was younger.
  3. Beauty and The Beast- my favorite Disney film.
  4. My Fair Lady- I used to drive my sister CRAZY with that, played it every afternoon for an entire summer.

Four Books I’d Recommend

  1. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place or Jackaby

Four Places I Have Lived

  1. Boston, Massachusetts- For my graduate degree.
  2. Chicago, Illinois- For my art degree.
  3. Memphis, Tennessee- I REALLY hated it there, worst year of my life.
  4. Atlanta, Georgia

Four Places I Have Been

  1. England(my husband is from there)
  2. Scotland
  3. Ireland
  4. Italy

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now

  1. Disneyland
  2. London
  3. Haworth, United Kingdom
  4. On vacation somewhere it is not wintery..

Four Things I Don’t Eat

  1. Pickles
  2. Raw Onions
  3. Olives
  4. Croutons

I hate sour food in general.

Four of My Favorite Foods

  1. Kimchi!!! Korean BBQ is yummm
  2. Sushi
  3. Cheesecake
  4. Chocolate in general..

TV Shows That I Watch(I couldn’t name just four)

  1. Game Of Thrones
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Gotham
  5. Jane The Virgin ( Omg! I LOVE this show, so fun/funny)
  6. Once Upon A Time

Four Things I Am Looking Forward To This Year

  1. My daughter’s first birthday party! :) I will take lots of pictures of her smooshing the cake all over her face.
  2. Summer vacation- I am really tired this year, it’s been an adjustment being  a new mom + working.
  3. Spending more time with Aidan in the summer (honestly our schedules suck right now!)
  4.  Getting more time to do fun stuff, it is hard to find me time right now.

Four Things I’m Always Saying

  1. Jane Eyre ( LOL same here Char)
  2. Whatever, not my problem ( sometimes I have an attitude)
  3. I just want to take a hot bath and read my book.
  4. I need coffee (I didn’t know what sleep deprivation was until I had a child LOL)

Four People I Tag

  1. Jami Zehr@Absurdly Nerdly
  2. Aidan@Those Who Geek
  3. Lee @Rally The Readers
  4.  Angie@Angela’s Anxious Life.
I just tagged some people randomly – feel free to not do this if you don’t feel like it, no worries! :)  And of course if you would like to do it but have not been named, consider yourself tagged!

 

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Audiobook: Fairest by Marissa Meyer/Cress Giveaway

February 9, 2015 Alisa Audiobook Reviews, Book Reviews, Young Adult 17 Comments

fairest

Fairest

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3.5

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: Published January 27th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Romance

Find this book on Goodreads

Blurb: In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisa

I always think what makes a story memorable is often not the hero, rather it’s the quality of it’s villain. What makes a good villain? I always personally think the best villains are multi-layered, that aren’t merely evil for the sake of being but rather have motivations that are complex. So far in the Lunar Chronicles Levana has been rather cloaked in mystery, we know she doesn’t like mirrors and refuses to be filmed  yet at the same time she is known for being a great beauty. We also know she is very brutal and capable of doing just about anything in order to get what she wants. In Fairest the veil of mystery is finally lifted and we get a glimpse into Levana’s true nature.

Levana was never a character that stood out to me in the series before this book, as we see very little of her and rather like Sauron in LOTR she is a looming omen of doom rather than a flesh and blood character that has developed throughout the chronicles. So I was very curious what this book will do with the character and whether or not I would find it compelling as I have all the other book in this series.  Fairest is based on the fairytale Snow White and  like Cinder(Cinderella), Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel) it uses elements of the original while giving it a very distinct and original twist.

Levana is in a culture that is obsessed with physical beauty, using glamours and surgeries in order to obtain physical perfection. Levana doesn’t fit the standard, she is an outsider and as a result she struggles with her own self image. Levana doesn’t start out a villain but she becomes one because of her inability to accept that she can’t get what she wants by using manipulations, her privileged upbringing and also the unchecked cruelty of those around her. What Levana longs for is something that is very universal; love and acceptance. I found myself surprised at how much I felt for Levana in the story, her life in many ways is really tragic.

I am happy to say that while Meyer gives you context you never lose the sense that Levana is still evil.  I was very pleased with how Meyer handles her development of Levana, she maintains the fact that she is a selfish, vain and evil woman who is willing to do horrible things to get what she wants. A lot of times in these back stories or retellings you lose the sense that in spite of the sympathy you may feel for the character that they are still in fact a villain and need to be defeated in order for good to triumph. The next book is ‘Winter’ which focuses on Levana’s stepdaughter and will conclude this series. I was able to get a preview of ‘Winter’ as the audiobook has the first three chapters which made me VERY excited for the next volume in this series.

Overall I really enjoyed this and believe it is an essential read to understand the relationship between Winter and Levana in the next book. I definitely think it is a most read for all fans of the Lunar Chronicles.

 

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rating5 Be sure and check out my giveaway:

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Audiobook Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

February 4, 2015 Alisa Book Reviews 5 Comments

13206828Cress

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: February 4th 2014 by Feiwel & Friends

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Romance

Find this book on Goodreads

Blurb: In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisaI have been wanting to read this book for SO long, this has been one of my all time favorite YA series and was the reason I decided I wanted to start book blogging, Cinder was my first review ever. I very much enjoyed Scarlet ,the second in the series and was eagerly awaiting the release of Cress, the third in the series, when I became pregnant with my first child. When I had my daughter on October 1st of this year my world turned upside down and I haven’t had time to read as much as I would like. I have never been a huge fan of audiobooks as I like imagining the voices any way I like and in general have a short attention span which doesn’t suit the format, but I am finding now they are the best way for me to read books because I can simultaneously watch Miranda while listening. That is how I finally had the chance to read this quite long volume in the Lunar Chronicles and I am happy to say I was not at all disappointed!

Each of these stories is based on a Fairy Tale, the first being Cinderella, the second Little Red Riding Hood and the third Rapunzel while at the same time being interwoven with a larger plot that is epic in it’s scope involving an impending war between Earthens and The Lunars. Cress like Cinder was a wonderfully drawn character, very innocent and naïve but strong like all of Marissa Meyer’s female protagonist. I loved the way she developed in this story and how her romance with Thorne starts out as adulation to genuine love/respect for each other.  Thorne is easily my favorite male character in the series, how can you not like him he is Flynn Rider, Hans Solo and Captain Jack (Dr. Who) all rolled into one awesome package! I loved that we got to see so much of him in this volume. It is very clever the way in each book how she connects them to original fairytale without being obvious and strictly flowing the plotline of the original, i.e. the surprising way Thorne becomes blind midway into the plot. I have to say ladies be prepared for the ‘smoulder’ because there is a lot of Thorne to love in this book!

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As for the larger story it was woven together pretty brilliantly and it was fascinating how what seemed like unconnected threads all came together at the end. It was  very well plotted  because each character got there moment without taking the focus from Cress’s journey. I don’t want to spoil but I loved seeing more of IKO and  yet there is one moment where my heart nearly broke because of her.  The new character I am the most intrigued by is Winter and I am looking forward to getting to know her in the volumes to come. She reminds me a bit of Drusilla from Buffy, she feels dangerous and yet at the same time sad/broken. Yes, I have already downloaded Fairest and I can’t wait to get to listening to it soon!

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So that being said, I loved this book! It had the perfect blend of action, adventure and romance. This author really knows how to keep a plot moving through several volumes and keep you engaged and fascinated for the next volume. If you haven’t started this series, pick up it up immediately!

Audiobook: As for the audiobook it was well done, wasn’t a huge fan of  Scarlet’s French accent and I also felt Cress/Cinder sounded too alike. However the narrator did a great job of varying the voices and tones throughout the story.

* I by accident picked up the paperback of this book forgetting that I had already purchased the hardback, what can I say I have new mommy brain. I am going to do a giveaway of the paperback in my next discussion post.

rating5

 

 

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Discussion Post: YA Movies / Books I Haven’t Read

January 29, 2015 Alisa Discussion Post 14 Comments

discussion-3 smalliconalisaGoing to the movies is something I am really not able to do often lately as I have a 3.5 month year old, so I have gotten in the habit of renting a lot of movies on VUDU or Red Box or Netflix.  I keep thinking I want to write up my thoughts on the various YA adaptations I have seen recently. Honestly most of the books these adaptations are based on I haven’t read (except of course The Hunger Games) and some of these adaptations made me glad I hadn’t.

 

 

 

 

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

mockingjayThis was one of my most eagerly anticipated films of the year, as I have loved all the adaptations so far and I love Jennifer Lawrence’s depiction of Katniss. I know it is the newest trend right now to split the finally film in a series into two parts, they did it for The Hobbit, Harry Potter and now every YA adaptation of a series is getting split in half. However I feel it always does some damage to the first half of the adaptation because like the books not much happens in the first chapters and it can give you the sense that the narrative is dragging. That being said I would be perfectly happy to sit for a longer film to have this not happen and to be able to see the entire story at once, but I realize we as a culture have short attention spans (plus the movie theaters and companies make way more off two rather than one film. Though I really can’t complain because like so many others I go dutifully to the theater to see each part.) That being said I thought that it was well done and hit all the emotional points of the book extremely well, especially Katniss’s horror at the actions of Peeta in this book and the emotionally gutting reunion between the two of them.  I missed some aspects of the story that were cut such as the back story of Finnick and Haymitch that are explained in greater detail in the novel.  I am glad I got to see it in the theater and I eagerly await the next volume of the story.

Verdict: Movie Theater-go see it now.

 

2. The Maze Runner

MAZEI have not read this series, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film. I rented it on a whim from vudu and found myself surprisingly engaged in the story. It had the feel of many YA stories such as Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, in that the main character is destined for greatness. However the bit of the story I found the most intriguing was the Lord Of The Flies hierachy that had developed amongst the boys outside the maze and also the mystery of why they were chosen, who they are and what their purpose is in the Maze. The acting perhaps was not the movies strong suit and I think perhaps it could have benefited from stronger casting in some of its leads. However the story was intriguing enough that it made me want to watch the next film or perhaps pick up the book, as I felt some aspects were not fully or effectively explained in the film.

Verdict: Rent It- it is worth a watch on a rainy afternoon.

 

3. The Giver

THEGIVERAnother story where I have not read the original and therefore not able to fully compare the two. This was a very odd film, I wasn’t sure entirely how to feel at the end of it but overall I would say I found it disappointing. It has some very familiar dystopian elements in the idea of a regimented society with lack of freedom of personal choice, since this book was published many years before many of the current YA novels I think it probably has served as inspiration for many of them. In particular I saw a lot of similarities to YA series such as Divergent and Matched. However it is a very insular plot with some very high concepts which I think probably work beautifully on the page but were less evocative in the film. The casting as well left much to be desired as I felt the lead lacked charisma and that made it difficult to connect to his journey. I think perhaps if it had better direction and also if they weren’t trying so hard to make it like epic film series such as Divergent, The Hunger Games etc. it would have been much more effective.

Verdict: Skip It- read the book instead

 

4. The Fault In Our Stars

FAULTYet another book I have not had the chance to read, honestly going into it I didn’t know the twist at the end in spite of this books huge popularity. This is a very sad story that I found very touching while being very life affirming in it’s tragedy, which is not surprising as it is a story about young people with cancer. Perhaps I would be even more moved had I read the original story but the film was very effective in it’s goal in making me cry, which it tries to do often and sometimes very heavy handedly  (i.e. the rather sappy scene in Anne Franks house with the applause was too much for me.) I think what made the film for me was that the leads were extremely charming and well cast, especially Shailene Woodley. Honestly this is not my usual fare, I tend to veer away from tragedies and stories that are geared toward doomed romance. However I was surprised by how much I liked this adaptation and it makes me think I would definitely like to try the book at some point.

Verdict: Rent It- make sure you have tissues ready.

 

 

5. If I Stay

STAY This is another adaptation along the lines of books I veer away from because I know they are designed to make me cry, this as well is another book I have not had the chance to read though I hear very good things about it. However this story really didn’t effect me in the way I expected it too, the only characters I really felt sad about were the death of Mia’s parents/brother who were of the epically awesome, totally understanding and cool variety that most teenagers fantasize about having. However I really didn’t connect with the romance, especially with Adam who I know I am supposed to find dreamy as he is cool, in a band and completely unattainable in the hotness front. That being said I think he is a totally self-centered jerk often in the story and I have no idea what Mia sees in him, so I found it really hard to connect with or like him as a character (though I know he redeems himself at the end.) However I can’t help but think these two in 20 years will resent each other for giving up their dream and I can’t really buy into their romance being a long lasting one. This is essentially because I don’t buy into the idea that long distance relationships can’t last, if you don’t care enough to stick with someone even though they are far away I don’t think you really can call it love. My husband and I were long distance 3 years (England/America) and we are still together nine years later.

Verdict: Skip It.

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Book Review: Doctor Who: Silhouette (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #53)

January 28, 2015 Alisa Adult, Book Reviews 5 Comments

 

DRWHO Doctor Who: Silhouette (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #53)

Author: Justin Richards

Published: September 9th 2014 by Broadway Book

Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Mystery, Television Tie-In

Find this book on Goodreads

Blurb: Vastra and Strax and Jenny? Oh no, we don’t need to bother them. Trust me.”

Marlowe Hapworth is found dead in his locked study, killed by an unknown assailant. This is a case for the Great Detective, Madame Vastra.

Rick Bellamy, bare-knuckle boxer, has the life drawn out of him by a figure dressed as an undertaker. This angers Strax the Sontaran.

The Carnival of Curiosities, a collection of bizarre and fascinating sideshows and performers. This is where Jenny Flint looks for answers.

How are these things connected? And what does Orestes Milton, rich industrialist, have to do with it all? This is where the Doctor and Clara come in. The Doctor and his friends find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem. Can they unravel the truth before the most dangerous weapon ever developed is unleashed on London?

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisaI haven’t had a chance really to talk about how I felt about the most recent season of Dr. Who and Capaldi’s depiction of the doctor in depth on this blog though I have discussed in on my husband’s Those Who Geek. I love Dr. Who, it is one of my all time favorite shows. It is a show I grew up watching with my Dad who was a fan, particularly of the Tom Baker era. It is something as well that connected me to my now husband of six years, when we first started dating we would regularly marathon episodes of classic Who as he is a HUGE fan of the show. So I was very excited when I heard they were casting Capaldi  and hoped very much to like this new doctor. However in the end I found it hard to connect with the newest doctor, mostly because he is so stern and often times harsh to those around him, especially Clara. It reminded me a bit too much of what I disliked about the Colin Baker era of Dr. Who, in that the doctor often puts down or belittles his companion in those episodes. So when my husband told me to read this tie-in, I was at first very skeptical that I could or would like it as I have not liked many of the episodes this season.

However in spite of my doubts I really loved this book and wished it had been an episode this season. The story features some familiar characters from Matt Smith’s era, such as Strax, Jenny and Vastra.  I really liked this because the author did a magnificent job of capturing to the personalities of the characters from the show, in particular Strax is really spot on. The mystery is a really intriguing one that is multi-layered and features some really striking visual imagery such as the origami birds coming to life or Silhouette herself who is described vividly.  I liked the the story really played off the strengths of all the various characters and that each gets their moment to shine. Capaldi’s Doctor is very well done in this book and one of the things I appreciated is it played off his grumpiness in a quirky, fun and humorous way. In particular there is one sequence that plays off classic Who so beautifully and I would love to see it played out in an actual episode.  The story often twisted upon itself and it made it hard for me to put this book down, this is easily my favorite Dr. Who tie-in that I have read so far. If you are a fan of Dr. Who, I definitely recommend giving this book a try.

rating5

 

 

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Discussion Post: The State of MJ

January 16, 2015 Alisa Discussion Post 12 Comments

discussion-3 smalliconalisa So the last couple of months have gone by in a blur, mostly of sleeplessness. MJ is now three months and doing very well and thriving. In fact she is progressing a little faster than expected, she has already learned how to lift up her head at 1-2 months, push up on her elbows 2.5 months, push up on her hands, roll over, grab objects and push up unto her knees if supported at 3 months ( most of these milestones are 6 months +). I definitely have a very active child, she is very curious and wants to grab everything, she is keeping me busy. So I have decide in terms of blogging I will post if and when I am able. I am finding the only chance I get to write a review is when she is taking her long nap in the morning on the weekends.

We have been reading lots of different books to her, but for whatever reason she loves anything with bears in it. I am not sure why, maybe it’s the shapes etc. Currently her favorite book is ‘ Bear Sees Colors’, which is very colorfully illustrated. She has started trying to turn the pages herself when reading it, though she sometimes tries to move them when we haven’t finished reading the page! She mostly likes the illustrations and looking at the various images on the page.

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 The hardest things about parenting for me right now is figuring out how to manage her sleep schedule, and get some rest myself as I have to get up for work at 5 am as I have a very long commute. When she was about 8 weeks she was sleeping really well from about 10 pm to 6 am, feed and the back to sleep until 8 am. We mostly were able to manage this because of an awesome book called ‘Happiest Baby On The Block’ which uses the 5’s system to get your baby to sleep (it really worked well when she was a newborn). We swaddled her up until the 3 month mark when she started rolling on to her tummy. She continued to sleep fine, if not quite as deeply for the first week we stopped but we decided that 10 pm is too late of a bedtime for her, so we moved her bedtime to about 8 pm. We have been doing that for about a week now and it has been an adjustment, some nights are great like last night fell asleep right at 8:20- woke up for a 9 p.m feed straight back to sleep, 5 am.  woke up for feed straight back to sleep, 8 am. up for the day. Other days are more rough with several evening wakings and usually a 3 a.m. rather than 5 a.m. wake up call. However we figure she will eventually catch up, as she will sleep longer as she gets older anyway and by then she will be so used to going to bed early we won’t have to go through the process again. Luckily my husband is awesome and takes the burden off me by helping me out and giving me opportunities to rest by watching MJ for me. I count myself lucky in that unlike a lot of other parents who are dealing with every 2 hour wakings and horrible reflux/colic issues that MJ is very healthy and generally good tempered.

So for those who are new parents or thinking about having a baby here are the three books that have been most useful to me are, bearing in mind that every kid is different and what works for your kid might be completely different. I tried doing a strict daytime schedule with MJ with naps at the same time everyday, haven’t had luck with that so far though she generally crashes easily at bedtime.

1) ‘ Happiest Baby on The Block’

Happiest Baby On The Block

2) ‘The No Cry Sleep Solution’

The-No-Cry-Sleep-Solution-Gentle-Ways-to-Help-Your-Baby-Sleep-Through-the-9780071381390

3) ‘What To Expect: The First Year’

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Book Review: Jane F***ing Eyre by J.K. Really

January 12, 2015 Alisa Book Reviews 6 Comments

 

jane fing eyre Jane F***ing Eyre

Author: J.K. Really

Published: Published October 11th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services

Genres: Humor/Mashup

Find this book on Goodreads

Blurb: Jane F—ing Eyre is the Victorian gothic romance Jane Eyre, retold by a heroine who’s ready to get real. While Charlotte Bronte’s classic has spawned dozens of film iterations, it’s never been updated, probably because Mr. Rochester’s little tricks wouldn’t fly with any woman navigating the dating scene today. Re-telling this iconic piece of literature as a mashup of the original verbatim dialogue and what Jane’s thinking with her Victorian filter off, allows fans to experience the romance, the horror, and the passive-aggressive jabs of Ms. Fairfax again as though for the first time… but with all the boring parts cut out.

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisaI have an extremely rude and irreverent sense of humor, the more I like something the more I enjoy making fun of it. I love the novel Jane Eyre, it is my favorite book, so therefore I have been known to write parodies of it such as ‘The Fresh Governess Jane-Aire’ etc.  So when I read Bookish Whimsy’s review of this book, it was something I definitely something I knew I wanted to read, because I love to have a good laugh.

This book did not disappoint I was laughing out loud constantly during it, it is one of those books you don’t want to read in public for fear that people may suspect you are mentally ill on the bus and move quickly to the back away from you. Jane Eyre is a very proper person with strong moral values, so reading her thoughts such as ‘When my spoiled-a** cousins weren’t cracking me upside the head with leather-bound novels, I was getting locked in the family murder room by my b**chface Aunt.‘ it is gloriously out of character. The author seemed though to really get the character and in spite of irreverent humor it shined through that the author loves the book and the character Jane.

The biggest problem I had was that the second half of the book was obviously rushed and I suspect not read in detail by the author as they call the Rivers sisters Diana and Hannah instead of Mary (Hannah is the River’s servant.) It seems like the author was much more interested in the Rochester bits of the novel, which who can blame them as those are my favorite bits as well. However it would be fun to see Jane’s thoughts on St. John because he is a pill and I think ripe for parody. Also there were some typos, which usually doesn’t bother me as I am the typo queen myself but I think it could have used a quick look over.  That being said this book was so fun and I definitely recommend it for those who are fans of Jane Eyre, who have a sense of humor about it, so go ahead and f***ing read it now.

rating4

 

 

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Book Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

January 5, 2015 Alisa Book Reviews 8 Comments

 

20312462 Jackaby

Author: William Ritter

Published: Published September 16th 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers             

Genres: Mystery Thriller, Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Find this book on Goodreads

Blurb: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisa

This book was another random pick from Barnes and Noble. The moment I read the blurb I knew this was the book for me. Doctor Who meets Sherlock – what could be better? This story definitely has the flavor of Sherlock in that the protagonist solves mysteries using deductive reasoning however the twist is his particular gift is of the paranormal kind.  I was initially a little concerned when it seemed perhaps the two characters were too similar but quickly as the story progressed it definitely differentiated itself from its inspiration and even poked a little bit of fun at it’s protagonist in the process.

Jackaby is a fun character. He’s very quirky in the style of the Doctor but also methodical in the style of Sherlock while still being a unique character in his own right.  I liked him from his first interaction with Abigail who challenges him to think differently from their first meeting.  Abigail perhaps was my favorite of the two as it is nice to see her stand up to and match wits with Jackaby throughout the story.  The two characters instantly had chemistry with Abigail taking on the role of Watson, assisting him in solving the mystery that unfolds in the first chapters of the book.

As for the mystery – it was really well constructed. The paranormal aspects were very inventive but at the same time familiar.  The story used common mythologies and archetypes but played around with them in surprising ways. It kept me guessing from beginning to end and the twist truly surprised me – I flatter myself that I am usually pretty good at spotting the murderer midway into a mystery. This story never lagged for me, it was fun and fast paced. This was one of my favorite reads of 2014 and I definitely recommend for fans of mysteries of the paranormal variety.

rating5

* I was definitely picturing the 11th doctor as Jackaby and Clara (in her governess incarnation) as Abigail.

doctor-who-clara tumblr_mu9hxlhvOz1shc5jbo5_250 giphy

 

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The Murder at the Vicarage [Miss Marple 1]

January 3, 2015 Aidan Mystery 0 Comments

VicarageThe Murder at the Vicarage

Author: Agatha Christie

Published: 1930

Genre: Mystery

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Blurb: It’s a historic event in detective fiction as the unflappable sleuth’s passion for gossip – and cheerful recognition of the worst side of human nature – leads her to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, St. Mary Mead’s most loathed magistrate, has been found shot through the head. But it isn’t the “pompous old brute’s” murder that raises eyebrows, but rather the scandalous secrets it exposes. Those secrets are about to put St. Mary Mead on the map – and send Miss Marple on the trail of a killer with something to hide.


The Challenge

I have been on something of a mysteries kick recently and so it struck me that this year I wanted to do tackle something on my reading bucket list and make my way through each of the Miss Marple novels in publication order. I am, of course, familiar with most of these from the many radio, television and movie adaptations that have been attempted over the years and I am pretty sure I read several of the novels while I was in Middle School so I am not coming to these cold and often begin reading already knowing the solution.

Why Miss Marple and not Poirot? Well, I am determined to actually finish the challenge I am setting myself. Tackling Miss Marple requires one book a month – something I feel I can achieve, even if it means I have to read a title during a couple of lunch hours. If I find myself getting on well and exceeding my expectations I may roll onto another Christie hero but let’s start with a significant but realistic challenge and work from there…


Notes on The Murder at the Vicarage

This wasn’t actually the first appearance of Miss Marple. In fact she had made her debut several years before in a series of short stories run in a magazine in which she solved crimes that were being described to her. Those stories would be collected in The Thirteen Problems (when I write about it I’ll be using the American title, The Tuesday Club Murders). Why does this book come first then? Well, it features some stories that hadn’t been published when The Murder at the Vicarage was released. Even if that wasn’t the case, this is a better starting point. The Miss Marple of that collection feels more of a prototype than the finished character and usually only steps in at the end of each of those tales. This book gives a truer representation of how the character is in the other novels.

I’m not sure if this is true of all editions (or in all formats), but the copy I read had some rather charming diagrams in them, showing the layout of the area around the vicarage. I ended up studying them for a while in search of clues. In the end I think it’s a testament to how well Christie wrote simple but meaningful descriptions that the maps feel pretty redundant. You can already get a great visual sense of what Miss Marple can see from her garden when the evidence is introduced. Still, it’s a fun thing to include!

It’s pretty apparent that this story is set in the late 1920s as there are a few story points that unfold in ways that wouldn’t have been at all likely in later periods. One of the more noticeable examples of this to me was how several characters have clocks that do not keep good time – the first commercial synchronous electric clock would be released in Britain a year after this book was published. That wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the case of the Vicar’s clock though…

Adaptations in Review

This story has been adapted twice for television, one for radio, as a successful play in the 1940s and once as a French graphic novel (L’Affaire Protheroe). I couldn’t lay my hands on the graphic novel (not that my French would have been good enough to read it even if I had), nor have I seen or read the play but I have experienced all of the others and revisited them for this post.

The 1986 BBC television adaptation stars Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and Paul Eddington plays the Vicar. My memory of the production had been that it was quite entertaining but I didn’t care for it nearly as much on repeated viewing. There are some noticeable adjustments to the story and characterizations – the Vicar’s role is minimized to allow Miss Marple to play a larger role in the story which seems a shame given how well Eddington plays the part. The character of Protheroe is, if anything, even more unpleasant than he is in the book and the adaptation hints more heavily at some of the revelations and in some cases makes them early – reducing the field of suspects earlier. Several supporting characters are completely removed. 3/5.

The 2004 ITV television adaptation starred Geraldine McEwan and featured Derek Jacobi as Colonel Protheroe. This production is more visually appealing with lovely period costumes and cinematography. It does make many changes to the story however, several of which are minor and cosmetic (and, frankly, unnecessary). One change particularly rankles me – the decision to give Protheroe an even more unpleasant past. I think this reflects that, regardless of the opinions we hear people voice about Protheroe in the novel, he is odious rather than villainous. Both television adaptations try to make him a more deserving corpse – this version tries harder – and I do think that the choice is an attempt to try to build sympathy with two of the suspects. The other major change this version makes is to introduce a romantic backstory for Miss Marple that she reflects on during this mystery. While this was a controversial decision at the time, I personally did not mind the decision. It is a way of giving Miss Marple a personal interaction with the case and while I did not find it moving or particularly effective, I can see that it might soften the character for modern audiences. 3/5.

June Whitfield as Miss Marple.

My favorite adaptation is the radio adaptation that stars June Whitfield as Miss Marple. It walks the best line between adhering to the source material and increasing the role of Miss Marple within the story. Unlike the other adaptations, this one does give the Vicar a larger role in the proceedings and it also retains many of the story’s subplots. The performances are generally very good and it flows at a very good pace. Its faults are those of the source material. 4/5.

Aidan’s Review

The first Miss Marple novel was an entertaining read and it was interesting to see how the character was subtly changing already in this early stage to enable her to take part in the events of an investigation. While the short stories that had been published before this each had her playing quite a passive role, sitting and listening to the stories being told at the Tuesday Night Club. This novel forces her into the investigation at an early stage as a witness and we quickly realize that she has an inquisitive personality and eagle eyes, helping her to notice some critical details as the case unfolds.

One of the smartest things about this book is the decision to tell the story from the Vicar’s perspective. This choice made sense on several levels. Firstly, it provides us with a character who has greater access to the criminal investigation and yet is not a part of it, allowing him to work as a bridge with her. Secondly, had we directly shared Miss Marple’s thoughts, the novel would have given up its solution too easily and we would quickly learn what elements of the case she regards as peculiar. Instead the Vicar makes mistakes and that provides ample opportunity for red herrings. Finally, we get to hear the Vicar’s thoughts on Miss Marple and see her through his perspective (and hear others in the village voice their opinions of her too). Those opinions allow us to put confidence in her abilities and insight but also emphasize that those skills are off-putting to many others. Somehow that makes me like her all the more.

The mystery itself is quite well structured although I do think the murder plan relied a little too much on assumptions about other characters’ actions (what if Protheroe hadn’t been sat writing at a desk when the murderer encountered him?) and the clock timing issue does seem to artificially stretch the story out a little too much near the beginning. Once things get going however there are plenty of interesting revelations and Miss Marple does a good job of reasoning what really happened.

There are plenty of red herrings within the story and I was surprised at how well several of these are handled. The truth behind each of these is hinted at early in the novel but it is quite easy to overlook the clues (I had completely forgotten why one character was acting suspiciously until the incident of the slashed portrait in the attic about halfway through the story). My favorite character was Dr. Haydock and I enjoyed how outright hostile he was to the investigation at times and his thoughts on criminal justice.

Overall I found this a very enjoyable read and while I do find some of the red herrings a little unlikely, I was thoroughly entertained. A great start to my Miss Marple marathon and I look forward to seeing what the other books have in store for me!

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Book Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

December 30, 2014 Alisa Book Reviews, Middle Grade 4 Comments

 

18885674 The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

Author: Julie Berry

Published: Published September 23rd 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Genres: Mystery, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

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Blurb: There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

Alisa’s Review:

smalliconalisa

One of my favorite things to do is to go out to Barnes and Noble, get a cup of coffee and pick out a random book from the shelves, so when I saw the title/cover of this book I knew I had to read it. The story is set in Victorian England at a boarding school, which is a setting I always find fun to read about in novels. The proper lives of these young ladies becomes unraveled when the headmistress and her brother are mysteriously murdered. The young girls love being together so much that they decide to hide the bodies and masquerade as though Mrs. Plackett has not been poisoned in order to remain at the school, think Weekend at Bernies meets Arsenic and Old Lace in terms of the plot.  In the foreword of the novel there is a set of drawings and descriptions of each of the girls, but as the story goes on we realize they are much more than the nicknames they are given. Each of the girls proves to be smart, resilient, brave in their own different ways, emminently likeable in spite of the fact they do some truly horrible things in the course of this book. I really loved all the characters in this story, they were caricatures without being one dimensional and each had traits I really liked about them. My favorite characters had to be Smooth Kitty, Disgraceful Mary Jane and Stout Alice as each of them has a really fun moment in the story.

As for the mystery, I was pretty sure I knew who the murderer was early on in the novel but given this is a middle grade story I don’t think that is really a problem. What really made this story fun was to see the many ways that the girls lies unravel and backfire against them. The moment you think the girls are safe, another twist comes along which turns the story in a different direction and many of those surprises shocked me, especially towards the end of the story as the plot really began to get complicated. I found it difficult to put this book down as I was really rooting for the girls to make it through, in spite of the fact they were doing many morally questionable things. Overall I would highly recommend this book for those looking for a fun, light and suspenseful read. I enjoyed my time with the Scandalous Sisterhood and I definitely hope the author plans to continue this series.

*I thought this actually would make a really fun movie, so below is my list of actresses I think would match each of the characters.

thS9VXK8OYSmooth Kitty- Hailee Steinfeld- She was great wheeling and dealing in True Grit and I think she physically matches the part.

iforphan117Dour Elinor- Isabelle Fuhrman- I think she would fit the gothic tone of the character and physically she is perfect.

AnnaSophia-Robb-Wallpaper-annasophia-robb-34799492-1024-768Scandalous Mary Jane- Anna Sophia Robb- I really liked this actress in the Carrie Diaries, she definitely can play sassy and she is beautiful so I think she would fit perfectly, though her hair would need to be darker.

elle-fanning-maleficent2Dear Roberta- Elle Fanning- She is the softest and kindest of the girls, I think like Aurora in Maleficent, Elle Fanning would capture her innocence.

Abigail Breslin 03Pocked Louise- Abigail Breslin- Louise has attitude and is the Sherlock Holmes of the story, so I think Abigail would do a good job with the part though she is a bit too old, she still has a young face though.

willow-shields-2Dull Martha- Willow Shields- I think physically she could match the part if she wore glasses and I think she would do a good job of depicting her shyness but giving her layers and showing her bravery.

Lilla+Crawford+Arrivals+GLSEN+Respect+Awards+c_Uos0liwkMlStout Alice- Lilla Crawford- I looked all over for a plus size actress and there were none to be found. This actress played Red Riding Hood in the movie version of ‘Into the Woods’ and I thought her round face may suit but she is obviously too small to be really called stout, but there is a bit of the story in which she has to sing.

 

 

rating5
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