Book Review: Carry On, Jeeves

I was scrolling my library’s digital audiobook collection, classics category, and came upon P. G. Wodehouse’s Carry On, Jeeves.  My main experience with this comes from a music medley show I once saw that included “By Jeeves” by Andrew Lloyd Webber–so, not much!  But I decided to give the book ago and it was delightfully fun.

A collection of short stories set in vaguely early 1900s England and New York, they center around wealthy Bertie Wooster and his invaluable manservant Jeeves.  Bertie is friendly, affable and idle, not as smart as he thinks, and gets into occasional social entanglements.  Jeeves is unflappable and brilliant.  The stories are delightfully funny if slightly formulaic–Bertie or a friend gets into a scrape, usually involving a love interest or an overbearing relative, and Jeeves calmly, discreetly orchestrates a masterful solution to sort everyone out.

These were so much fun to read, and so utterly British, to the point of parody.  I don’t know if Jeeves is tapping into the butler/manservant stereotype or if he actually set it, but he is the epitome of what you would expect in such a role.  He rarely betrays emotion, sets high standards regarding conduct and dress, and is discreetly helpful at all times.  He has impeccable taste and timing, and a trick of “projecting” himself into a room to appear exactly when needed. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Just a Little Suspense…

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?

I am not a reader or watcher of horror by and large–but sometimes I like a good suspense.  I enjoy Alfred Hitchcock (when he’s doing suspense more than horror) and my favorite suspense writer is Lois Duncan.  She writes young adult, sometimes with supernatural elements, but usually contemporary and mostly focused on the world as you and I know it.  And that’s the suspense I like best–stories where, on the surface, everything seems normal…but something very wrong is lurking beneath.

Duncan’s most famous book, I think, is I Know What You Did Last Summer, but, just for the record, the book apparently bears little resemblance to the movie of the same name (I’ve read the book, I’ve not watched the movie).  My favorite of her novels is Daughters of Eve, which very much is that surface-level calm with something else lurking…and it has the most chilling but very understated ending.  It’s masterful.

Do you distinguish between suspense and horror?  Who is your favorite author who writes either?

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Book Review: This Is Not the End

I don’t read a lot of real-world teenager stories, but I was super-intrigued by the premise of This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker–mostly because of the one sci fi element in the mix!

As she approaches her eighteenth birthday, Lake’s life is completely centered around the perfect trio of her, her boyfriend Will and her best friend Penny.  But then a car accident kills both Will and Penny in one afternoon, and Lake is left alone–for now.  Because in this near-future world, science has found a way to bring back the day.  Strict regulations mean each person can bring back one individual, and they only have one chance at it–choose someone to resurrect on their eighteenth birthday, or waive the right forever.  So now Lake has to choose, a decision growing only more complicated as she learns new things about her friends–and about her brother Matt, a quadriplegic for the past five years, who has his own agenda in the question.

This was a fast read, very engaging and full of mysteries that kept me turning pages.  Lake is likable and sympathetic, and the characters around her are well-developed.  Will and Penny in particular, despite dying early in the story, are very vivid, both through Lake’s feelings around them and the flashback sequences that take us through Lake’s relationships with them.  I liked Penny a lot, and would love to read a story with a heroine like her.  It’s overall great, smooth writing, with an unusually clear setting too, for a contemporary story. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Classically Horrifying

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein are considered classics. Have you ever read either of them?

I’m not a reader of horror, but I am a reader of classics, so I’ve read both these books.  I was not greatly impressed by Dracula, in all honesty.  It was not nearly as frightening as billed (though a friend who read it alone at night said atmosphere made a difference…) and I was deeply (deeply) bothered by the notion that a character could lose her soul against her will (cursed by Dracula, more or less).  I was also left wondering how we ever got from Stoker’s vampires to the Twilight romantic variety (I’ve been told Anne Rice is the bridge).

I like Frankenstein a lot.  It’s also not too horrifying, in the sense we typically mean horror now, but I found it much more engaging than Dracula.  I hated Victor and felt great sympathy for the Creature (for most of the book), but the key point there may be that I felt strongly about both of them, so I had a heavy investment in the story.  Frankenstein figures slightly in my Phantom of the Opera retelling (another classic Gothic horror, actually).  The Phantom has a copy on his bookshelf, alongside The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Both are probably very unhealthy reading for him…

Have you read either of these classics?  How did you feel about them?

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Classic Review: Merlin Dreams

I’ve been thinking vaguely of rereading this one soon, and rereading my review has convinced me of it!  A fun note I’m not sure I knew when I wrote this–the author Peter Dickinson was married to Robin McKinley, a long-time favorite author of mine.  I love connections like that!


There’s an old legend that Merlin never died–that he’s imprisoned beneath a stone somewhere on the moor, sleeping through the centuries.  And while he sleeps, what might he dream?

This is the frame-story for Peter Dickinson’s wonderful book, Merlin Dreams.  He tells eight stories, eight dreams of Merlin beneath his stone.  Between each story Merlin half-wakes, remembers his life or senses what goes on above him, then drifts back into sleep…and has another dream.

I’m fascinated by the frame story, and the short stories are excellent too.  Several have a vaguely Arthurian flare, although I don’t think any retell an actual legend.  But there are dashing (and not so dashing) knights, brave damsels and many unexpected heroes.  There’s a king, fallen from honor and strength who needs a little girl to show him the way back.  Another little girl befriends a unicorn in the woods, only to be threatened by men who want to exploit the opportunity to hunt a unicorn.  Two stories feature tricksters who put on shows for country folk they hold in contempt, only to be undone by their own tricks.  There’s a young prince who fights a dragon, and another, particularly ugly young man, who fights a sorceress.  And woven throughout, Merlin remembers his own life, and strange fragments of other scenes and stories. Continue reading

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