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Reading/Watching/Baking List by Jayne for March and early April

Reading/Watching/Baking List by Jayne for March and early April

My goodness, it’s been a long time since I wrote my last “what I’ve been reading/watching” post. I know I’ve been bad, bad, bad about this. So with no more excuses, here goes.

Reading

Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman

I’m not sure what the author was aiming for here. I started this thinking it would be a Chick Lit book with a heroine who is plus sized. The heroine is overweight but it’s because she eats too much, not because she’s large boned. I was getting the feeling that by the end of the book, she would slim down. I have no problems with that but this seemed like it would be the weight version of those books with an unattractive woman who merely needs to get contacts, let her hair loose and get a clothes makeover in order to dazzle. Also, by the 100 page mark the hero (yes, I skipped to the end and peeked) had appeared only once. I debated continuing – the heroine’s boss was a delightful bitch who stole every scene she was in – but it was just too depressing at this point what with the heroine whinging on about her weight and her problems and getting dumped on by everyone. DNF

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The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

This is a book which Jane sent me unsolicited so I had no expectations going into it. For me historical fiction is usually either spectacular or a clunking bomb. This one turned out to be a winner. The period details seemed correct, interesting and dropped into the narrative with a delicate touch. The characters are intriguing and I quickly came to care about them and their fates. This is a book I didn’t want to end. Full review posted this morning.

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The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Cochran

Jonah Gray doesn’t actually go anywhere in this book. His “return” is his tax return as investigated by IRS agent Sasha Gardner. There’s a lot more to the book besides tax codes and deductions as Sasha has a lot going on in her life besides waiting to audit Jonah. Some is funny, some is bittersweet but I found myself riveted to the book and the bold chances Cochran takes with the plot. Full review to follow.

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Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

I’m only one chapter into this one and already I can tell it’s going to be very different from the usual Moore offering. Before I go any further, I think I need to brush up on my late 19th century artists especially Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec so that I can catch more of the subtle jokes that Moore has supposedly included.

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Master and God by Lindsey Davis

Davis is a long time favorite author of mine who’s written the wonderful Falco historical mysteries set during the Flavian dynasty in ancient Rome. With this book, she’s doing something slightly different from those and – I believe – more like her book “Course of Honour.” The story follows the lives of two people during the reigns of Titus and then Domitian – the second and third Emperors of a dynasty of only three. Gaius is a Praetorian Guard while Lucilla is a hairdresser to the powerful at court. Between them, they manage to be in on most of the important happenings going on and perhaps might find a romance at the end of it all. I’m only a third of the way in but so far it’s fascinating.

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Watching

Gavin and Stacey – a UK comedy about a young Englishman who corresponds with a young Welsh woman for 6 months before they finally meet and begin a romance in person. They hit it off so well, that by the end of the first season they’re already married. I watched this first season while it was still streamable from Netflix and now need to move the next seasons up in the queue. A surprise delight is Alison Steadman in the role of Gavin’s mum. New to me are Ruth Jones as Nessa and James Corden as Smithy – Gavin’s and Stacey’s BFFs who say they hate each other yet end up hot smexing each other every time they’re in the same city.

Burke and Hare – It has Simon Pegg plus Andie Serkis and is directed by John Landis. How could it go wrong? That’s what I’m asking. How on earth could this have been as bad as it was during the 30 minutes I suffered through? Not only was it not funny, it was unfunny meaning for me it tried and painfully failed.

Nurse Jackie – a dramedy about a NYC nurse played by Edie Falco. Jackie is a wisecracking old battle axe of a nurse who’s seen it all and isn’t impressed by hotshot young doctors. She’s a great mentor to new nurse Zoey, a loving mother to her two daughters, a true friend to Dr. O’Hara of the Jimmy Choos, a loving wife to her husband Kevin and has been sleeping with Eddie the ER pharmacist while popping pills on the side. Jackie’s got issues. Season three just became available at Netflix and I can’t wait to see how the intervention goes.

Chariots of Fire – I can’t believe I’d never watched this one either but honestly I hadn’t. And after finally seeing it, all I can say is that tastes certainly differ. This won an Oscar? Really? Because it about put me to sleep. File it under “would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d seen it back in the day.”

Baking

What else have I been up to? Making biscuits, that’s what. I’m a Southerner born and bred yet I blush to admit that I’d never once attempted making biscuits from scratch. That’s what older female relatives, church homecomings and Biscuitville are for. Nevertheless, after our post on Australianisms I decided to give it a go. Armed with a bag of White Lily all purpose flour and Alton Brown’s recipe I finally made my first batch of biscuits. They might not be the prettiest biscuits ever baked but mah Gawd they are good.

What Jayne has been reading and watching in early October

What Jayne has been reading and watching in early October

A lot of my time the past week or so has been taken up with washing machine repairs and acclimating my new kittens to their new home. Guess which has been more fun. But I have gotten a little reading and movie watching squeezed in now and then.

Flawless by Carrie Lofty – A book about a bastard heroine involved in the diamond trade in south Africa in the late 19th century. How more interesting can a premise be? Not much in my opinion which makes the fact that I gave up 150 pages into the story that much more disappointing. Lust, lust, lusting and more lust filled most of those first 150 pages and really nothing was shown of Viv’s diamond business until page 125. By that point, I found I didn’t care. Oh, and the chummy relationship the heroine and her Viscount husband appear to have with the servants aided things not at all. DNF.

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Heart Strings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves – Funny, filled with realistic dialog and featuring four cats. I went into it with no expectations but had a lot of fun reading this one. Enough fun that I plan to go back and read the preceding books at some point. Full review to come.

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Lawman by Laurie Grant – This is another Harlequin Treasury reissue. It’s 1869 Texas and Cal Devlin is finally returning to the hometown he left to fight for the Union. Livy Gillespie is the girl who not only didn’t wait for him but who ordered him off when she learned whom he would fight for. Now they’re both older, wiser and scarred from what happened in the years between. This is a slower paced book from 1997 and one which, after I got used to that, I found myself enjoying. Full review to come.

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Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – Darlynne mentioned this novel in our last Open Thread for Readers and the excerpt she provided got me to try it. Stark (called Sandman Slim while he was “Downtown”) is back from 11 years in hell, literally, and he’s out for revenge against his former friends who sent him there and specifically the ones who killed the only woman he’s ever loved. Fast and filled with biting humor and fantastic one liners, this one started great then wound down a little as it went on. Kadrey avoids big info dumps, allowing us to discover Stark’s world and his past as we go along which I liked. Rules for this world are laid down then broken plus all sorts of new paranormal creatures are introduced as the story goes along which I didn’t like. Also, Stark is revealed as not quite what he and we thought he was. I plan to read the next book in the series since I already have it but it will determine how much farther I go with the series – providing the series goes past two books. B

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I’m now reading the new Kathy Love paranormal Devilishly Hot, the Nora Roberts contemporary The Next Always and Addison Fox contemporary Baby It’s Cold Outside arcs. So far, I’m liking but not loving the first two and have just started the Fox but so far, so good.

*****

Paul – In my review of “Hot Fuzz,” Maili mentioned that she views that film – as compare to “Shaun of the Dead” – as an embarrassment for Pegg and Frost. It wasn’t for me but after viewing this movie, I understand what she’s saying. In “Paul,” Pegg and Frost play two Englishmen on holiday to the US. They’re SF fans and after attending Comic-Con and various SF pilgrimage sites in the US Southwest, they come across a real space alien who is running for his life from MiB. As they try and help him to reach a place where a space ship can pick him up, they run across various other characters including a Fundamentalist young woman with whom Pegg falls in love. Parts are funny but the film is overloaded with puerile humor and is obviously Out. To. Make. A. Point. about Fundamentalist Christians – who are mocked – and beer guzzling rednecks – who are humiliated. I’m far from Fundamentalist but this part went beyond any amusement. Beer guzzling rednecks, on the other hand, can be humiliated until the cows come home.

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Ondine – Darlynne recommended this film to me and I wish I could say I enjoyed it but sadly I couldn’t even finish it. Syracuse, an Irish fisherman, brings up a mysterious lovely woman in his net while out working. She can’t remember anything about her past and nice man that he is – where are these men in my life? – he takes her to his deceased mother’s country cottage to stay. His young daughter Annie is one of these preternaturally wise young characters who quickly starts to imagine the woman is a selkie – even though those are Scottish and they’re in Ireland. This is basically as far as I got – 40 minutes into the film – when I just couldn’t take not understanding one word in three of the dialog. Irish accents are lovely to listen to, so they are, but only if you can figure out what the hell is being said. Since it only comes with Spanish subtitles, I was out of luck. One part I did really like was Syracuse’s time spent in at confession with his parish priest played by Stephen Rea.

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Stray Dog – This is a fairly early Akira Kurosawa film done shortly after the end of WWII. A Tokyo detective has his service Colt stolen while on a crowded bus. Humiliated, he works to track down the criminal who has rented the gun from an underworld gangster and suffers shame and guilt as that man’s crimes escalate. Part police procedural, part film noir, part view of life in post war Japan, I found myself riveted to it and to Toshiro Mifune as the young policeman who took one path in life while the criminal, who suffered many of the same setbacks in life, took another.

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The Lives of a Bengal Lancer – “Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone and Richard Cromwell head the cast as a trio of British soldiers in this sweeping saga set in colonial India. While stamping out an insurrection in the country’s northwest frontier, the men wrestle with one another. They also struggle with their internal dissonance. The adventure film racked up eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Henry Hathaway) and Best Screenplay.” I rented this because it’s such a famous film but at the 30 minute mark I hit the pause button then sat there thinking “I’m not enjoying this. It’s boring. I’m tired of Cooper’s character harshing on one soldier while exchanging snarking comments with Tone’s character. Meanwhile the rest of the cast is either doing the ‘stiff upper lip, old boy network’ thing or barking commands at the natives.” That’s when I decided that this is an older film which, to me, just hasn’t stood the test of time.

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