Sunday, September 17, 2017

Recent Listens

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame narrated by Michael Hordern.  An Audible freebie a few months back.  I really like this book despite finding the world confusing.  Animals and humans live together but animals are still subject to tracks (possible post-apocalyptic situation?).  Toad is free and clear once escaping from jail simply because he makes it back to his house (is this a game of tag?).  Best not to think too much about the details.  The narration was lovely, and there was the added bonus of some sound effects and music.  Nice to hear the splash of water while Rat and Mole are paddling on the river.
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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah narrated by Trevor Noah. Another Audible freebie.  Noah's decent on The Daily Show (although I quit watching after the last election since I'm less stressed reading news than hearing about it).  He does a good job of presenting a completely different way of life than we know in the US without making it sound too alien.  I particularly enjoyed the section where he talked about his friend Hitler since it was both funny and a good reminder that where you live determines who history's great villains are.
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The Witch's Vacuum and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett narrated by Julian Rhind-tutt.  One of the Sync books from this summer.  I'd read this earlier this year so not much to say on the stories, but the narration was quite enjoyable.
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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka narrated by Martin Jarvis translated by Richard Stokes.  Another Sync book. I enjoyed this a heck of a lot more than I expected.  The story packs a lot to think about in a little over two hours.  Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning as a bug and instead of worrying about what happened, why, or how to fix it, he worries that he's in trouble at work for missing the morning train.  He's a bit of a schmuck, but I quite liked him and thought he deserved much better than his fate.  His family is a times sympathetic for having to deal with a bad situation and yet can be horrific.   A well worth while classic with excellent narration.
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Monday, September 4, 2017

Recent Reads

Gulp by Mary Roach.  This popped up in Prime Reading.  Roach's specialty is picking a subjevt that can be described with one word and then rambling about it.  I've read some of her columns in the past but none of her books.  Gulp is about digestion--taste, smell, guts.  The book was interesting and somewhat amusing.  My main issue was that she tried a bit too hard to be funny.  There were times when the writing almost came off as a written rimshot to make sure you noticed the joke.

The Ancient Allan by H. Rider Haggard.  An elderly Allan Quartermain and the woman he rescued in The Ivory Child ingest a drug that allows them to revisit their previous incarnations in ancient Egypt.  I was somewhat leery of the ancient setting (the only Agatha Christie I could not make it through is set in ancient times), but it worked out better than expected.  Haggard basically kept it a great hunter story without focusing too much on the ancient culture aspects.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman translated by Henning Koch.  I really liked the movie which is the story of a man trying to avoid the wolrd only to find he can't.  My aunt liked the book, my hairdresser liked it after the first few chapters, my librarian couldn't make it through the first chapter.  Indeed, the first chapter is somewhat off putting, but once you get through it the books is most excellent.

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh.  The book in which Inspector Alleyn meets his future wife.  It was pretty decent and Alleyn's mother is a pip.  I just wish Marsh had a better proof reader.  In the early chapter, an artists' model is posed on her one side which is the pose she is supposed to maintain throughout the book, but later on the pose is reversed.  Inexcusable given that the pose is a major plot point.

The Road to Mars by Eric Idle.  A researcher in the far future finds a thesis on the nature of comedy that he becomes obsessed with.  The thesis was written by a robot (who looks like David Bowie circa "Let's Dance" who was the assistant to a comedy team working the outer planets.  Part sci-fi, part conspiracy, part musings on the nature of comedy.   Decent but nothing special.  And Idle suffers from putting in references to Monty Python and himself.  If you are a teenager writing fanfic, go ahead and put yourself in your story.  Otherwise don't.

The Lady and the Squire by Terry Jones.  From one Python to another.  This is book two in a series although I don;t know if reading book one would have helped.  I gave up after a few chapters.  It seems to be aimed at the junior fiction level, but the writing is almost too simplified for that.

In the Market for Murder by T. E. Kinsey.  My Kindle Lending Library book for August.   Much like the first Lady Hardcastle novel, the story and characters are pretty good but it still does not ring true to its 1909 England setting.    This one has several mysteries to it, but the main one involves the death of a farmer which the local police inspector just hands off to Hardcastle to investigate.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.  A pretty good tale of a private investigator looking for a missing author.  This is the second book in the Comoran Strike series so I'm hoping the other books are as good (The Cuckoo's Calling is near the bottom of a to be read physical book pile and I dint' feel like digging to read it first).  It's something of a pity that J. K. Rowling's pen name was exposed so soon.  One the one hand theses books would have ended up being well reviewed but largely ignored and this one at least deserves to be read.  On the other hand, I imagine some kid picking this up because of the "by J.K. Rowling" sticker on the cover and being really confused.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie.  For being one of Christie's better known works, it's not one of my faves.  Not enough Poirot and too much of two characters trying to analyse the motives of others.

Flim-Flam! by James Randi.  This book came out in the early 1980's as a reaction to the 1970's when we were all interested in ESP, UFOs, and other weird matters (In Search of had me convinced Bigfoot lived in the woods near our town despite the fact we live in Pennsylvania and the wood were maybe an acre or so big).  Randi debunks all sorts of stuff in this book which is mostly interesting.  Unfortunately, he has a bad tendency to be a smug ass about it.

August Mask Maven

Mu August Mask Maven subscription arrived on the 3rd which is the earliest I've gotten one in a while.  It now comes in a box instead of a bag and padded envelope which added an extra special feel to it.  On the down side, the detailed product card was replaced with a card directing you to Beauteque's site for more information.  I like having the cards so I can cross off the masks as I use them but I get why they made the change.
The theme is Bright and Balanced.  It's mostly new to me brands including Elimina, Farm Stay,  Beauty Chuck, and Morin.  The other two brands are Coreana and MJ Care.  In addition to the face masks, there's a Tony Moly eye mask.  

Masks I tried last month that I liked came from Wangskin and Coreana.  I also liked a MJ Care two step mask that involved a serum followed by the mask.  I semi-liked the Coreana 2-Step Egg Cloud Mask.  It involved a foaming sheet mask followed by a cream.  I liked the effect but the scent was way too strong.  The loser of the month was A'Pieu's Watermelon Slice Mask.  It contained 12 smaller round pads that were difficult to remove from the packaging.  Also the packaging was not reclosable which is odd since I imagine most people would not be using all the pads at the same time. I did since I was short on time that night and putting a bunch of smaller circles on my face allowed me to mask while wearing my glasses.

Twin Peaks: The Return

I've been a Twin Peaks fan since the beginning and was quite excited when the new season was announced.  This morning I watched the last of the 18 episode season which left me with mixed feelings.  The original show was weird and out there but it had an underlying sense to it.  I couldn't explain everything, but I could explain most of it.  The new season was just weird.   There was a narrative through line, but that was wrapped in a whole lot of mystical nonsense.  It was worth watching for the performances and the visuals even if the plot was too odd for my personal tastes.  There were a few moments in episode 15 involving characters from the original show that I found satisfying enough to justify the new season.  In the end, though, The Return is a one off for me and not a show I'll watch repeatedly like the original run.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

July Mask Maven

I got my July Mask Maven Subscription earlier this week.  The theme is Summer Sweets which is mostly fruit and honey masks.

There's one Berrisom mask which is a brand that doesn't really work for me, and there's a watermelon slice mask that is not full face, but the rest looks good.  New to me brands are RiRe, The Saem, and Coreana.  My mystery mask is from NOHJ which is a brand that generally works for me.

Last month's masks mostly worked well, and the ones that didn't weren't bad but just okay.  Mizon is a brand I tried once before and this second try did nothing to make me think better of it.  Other new to me brands that didn't really work were fro Timeless Truth and Welcos.  WellDerma, Mediheal, and Etude House were all decent.  I was also surprised to like the Masque Bar mask I got in a Target Beauty Box since I'm less interested in American brands.  I tried the some of the Pure Smile Point Pads I received in my June Mask Maven on my knees which were a little rough.  They have a nice amount of serum and stick well.  I'm sure I'll use them up but they aren't something I'd go out and buy on my own.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Recent Reads

Death Dines at 8:30 edited by Claudia Bishop and Nick DiChario.  One never knows what one will get when you grab short story collections at a book sale.  This one was quite good with a selection of stories written specifically for the book on a dinner theme.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.  Another gem by Telgemeier.  Here a family moves to a coastal town where ghosts are common and friendly.  Quite charming.

The Case of the Lame Canary and The Case of the Mythical Monkeys by Erle Stanley Gardner.  Canary was a bit too convoluted and Mason missed an obvious line of inquiry until way late in the story.  It was most notable for the ending with Mason and Della dashing off for a round the world cruise.  He proposes and she says no since she'd rather share his life as a secretary than be stuck as a housewife since his spouse wouldn't be allowed to work.  Monkeys had a much better plot and was well-paced.

The Ivory Child by H. Rider Haggard.  Allan Quartermain helps a friend find his wife who has been kidnapped by an African tribe who sees her as the reincarnation of their priestess.  There's two tribes battling it out, one worships an ivory statue and the other a giant ancient elephant.  A good adventure although I did end up crying since a character I'd grown to love did not make it to the end.

Mr. Skeffington by Elizabeth (Elizabeth von Arnim was apparently on the one name train long before Cher or Madonna).  I've of course seen the film since Claude Rains is one of my all time favorite actors.  It's been awhile, but I think the movies more about the relationship between Job and Fanny. The book has Job not showing up until the last few pages and is mostly about Fanny trying to figure out who she wants to be after an illness has taken her beauty.  Fanny comes off as far more sympathetic than I expected, and for the most part I quite liked the book.  My biggest problem was that the theme was that she wouldn't have to redefine her life had she never left her husband and that she should get back together with Job as soon as possible.  After all, a husband has to love you whether you are pretty or plain.  She left him for screwing around and had not seen him for 25 years.  All the people who tell her to get back together with him don't even know if he'd want to get back together with her.

Thrush Green by Miss Read.  Two weeks ago was a bad week , and I wanted some fluff.  Fair day at an English village seemed to fit the bill.  Then I made the mistake of trying to read this while watching the DVD of Deadpool which an employee lent me. While both the book and the film were excellent, it is not a combination I would recommend since I ended up having to give up reading until I'd finished the film.

The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket.  A fun short read for anyone who has enjoyed A Series of Unfortuante Events (it will make no sense otherwise).  The book was nicely designed coming with a reversible jacket to fool the bad guys as to what book you're reading, but poorly executed in that it fell apart while I read which should not happen to a fairly recent book.

Recent Listens

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin narrated by Edward Herrmann.  This examines the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the media.  I found it quite enjoyable although I ended up with the distinct impression that Goodwin does not like TR.  I get it.  Will TR's one of my favorite presidents, he was had some major flaws all of which pop out in his campaign against Taft.  Actually, I could see a lot of that campaign echoed in our most recent presidential election in that TR campaigned by appealing to populist sentiment and insisting he was the only man who could fix things.  Taft comes off as so ridiculously nice it's amazing he got as far as he did.  Herrmann's narration was perfection as always.

Crackanory:  Too Cracked for TV.  Crackanory seems to be a British show with actors and comedians reading short stories.  It was free from Audible so I gave it a shot.  This has five stories which were fun and darkly twisted.  It was better than I expected free to be.

My Man Jeeves by P. G. Woodehouse narrated by Simon Prebble.  I love this book which collects stories about Bertie Wooster and Reggie Pepper (who is a lot like Bertie but slightly less of a twit).  Prebble's narration is most excellent.  His aunts were especially well done.

The next few months will be a bit different for me.  I usually do one audio book at a time but then a few week's ago Robert Caro showed up on C-Span's Q&A.  It was a good interview (especially the parts where the host quizzed Caro on his health and habits which show I'm not the only one worried Caro might die before completing The Years of Lyndon Johnson).  This inspired me to start listening to Caro's The Power Broker which is over 66 hours long.  While the book is excellent thus far, I cannot imaging spending months listening to the same book.  Since Audible conveniently as the book broken up into ten parts, I'm listening to one part, then a shorter book, then another part, and so forth.  Since I have a smart phone now, the Audible app makes it super easy to switch between books.  It seems to be working out so far.