Wednesday, January 30, 2013

30,000 Dollar Bequest - Featured Review

Book art for 30000 Dollar Bequest and Other Stories by Mark Twain 30,000 Dollar Bequest and Other Stories
by Mark Twain
Genres: Classic, Humor

     I think Mark Twain's humor takes a little getting used to. The first and main story in this book is about a happily married couple who are informed by a distant uncle that they stand to inherit $30,000 when he passes. Human nature can go two ways with such a fortune, a very large fortune back in those days. Money can either enhance one's life to make it better, or it can change people completely. Money is the root of all evil after all. I'll leave it to you to guess which way this turns out so that you will still be surprised when you read it for yourself. It is easy to do since this is a free ebook within the public domain.

     The majority of these stories are enjoyable. Some are pretty out there. From my research when I wrote Mark Twain's biography there was a time in his life where he was just churning out essays and papers to pay the bills. A few of the stories included in this book are undoubtedly Twain writing just to hear himself speak and have something to sell.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Phantom of Manhattan - Serial Sunday Review

book cover art of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth The Phantom of Manhattan
by Frederick Forsyth
Fan Fiction Sequel
Genre: Historical Fiction

     This is a fan fiction sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera, not Gaston Leroux's book. Forsyth begins with a lengthy introduction explaining the history of the original author and novel and how it was later interpreted by Webber. While this was a serious plot spoiler to the musical version, which I have never seen, I'm glad that he did explain it as I would have been completely lost when these scenes were referenced as it is completely different than the original book. Forsyth also goes into great detail about Leroux's error in "believing" an untruthful account of events in the original story which Leroux claims to be true. This is a literary license that many authors take, portraying a story as true events when it in fact is not. After Forsyth shows that events in The Phantom of the Opera are untrue, he goes forth to explain how Gaston did not understand the character of Erik, the Phantom. If the story were relating events that did actually happen then it could be possible that Gaston Leroux misunderstood the character. But as this is his own creation, he could not be confused as to Erik's past and current motivations as that is how Leroux created him. It's fiction, get over it and accept the character as he was created.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Fortune Quilt - Fun Read Friday

The Fortune Quilt
by Lani Diane Rich
Genre: Romance, Humor

     This. Was. Hilarious! At one point I got the giggles so completely that my brother actually felt the need to check that I didn't accidentally take too much of my pain medication.

     While not necessarily a non-believer of psychics, Carly is wary of the many shamans who use hoaxes and tricks to bilk believers. When assigned to interview a woman who makes quilts that can predict the future, Carly thinks the woman is just using it as an angle to sell her product, until her own reading begins to come true.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On the Decay of the Art of Lying - Featured Review

On the Decay of the Art of Lying by Mark Twain On the Decay of the Art of Lying
by Mark Twain
Genres: Classic, Nonfiction

     This is a short essay written by Mark Twain that gives one plenty of food for thought. He isn't implying that people are becoming more truthful, wouldn't that be nice? Twain reflects that people are becoming less artful in their deceptions.

     While theorizing that everyone lies he suggests that a well placed lie can do wonders. Everyone has been in this position ... No, that dress doesn't make your butt look big. Yes, I love your new haircut. Oh sweetie, that is the best drawing of a dog/cow/horse (I have no clue what it was supposed to be) that I have ever seen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Serial Sunday Review - The Phantom of Valletta

Book cover art of The Phantom of Valletta by Vicki Hopkins The Phantom of Valletta
by Vicki Hopkins
Fan Fiction Sequel
Genres: Romance, Mystery

     It is almost tempting to say that Erik has mellowed as he has gotten older. But then I remember that this book was not written by the original creator of the character and is Hopkins's interpretation of the Phantom. I must say that he is a much more likeable fellow with fewer cruel tendencies and the presence of a conscience.

     Afraid of arrest for his misdeeds in the final chapters of The Phantom of the Opera, Erik flees to Malta where he has heard of an opera house that was severely damaged by fire. He decided to buy the building and haunt again. Ironically the opera house has another ghost already in residence amongst its halls that performs several acts of sabotage. While the sequel does have a bit of intrigue as to whom the new ghost is, it is more of a love story that a mystery.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Power Play - Fun Read Friday Review

Power Play by Penny Jordan Power Play
by Penny Jordan
Genre: Romance

     I had read this before and was quite surprised to find that it was published by Harlequin. Unlike a typical Harlequin romance, the characters were well developed, quite three dimensional, and there was a lot more to the plot than the usual "He loves me, he loves me not" storyline for at least the first 300 pages.

     Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but sometimes it isn't quite as sweet as imagined.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Mysterious Stranger - Featured Review

Cover Art for Novel The Mysterious Stranger by Mark TwainThe Mysterious Stranger
by Mark Twain
Genre: Classic

     This story was published after Mark Twain passed away and it is debated as to whether or not this version is a legitimate version of the story or if the editor had too free a reign with the cutting of text.

     Mark Twain can be very hard to read, but this was not the case. Set in Austria around the times of witch burnings, this book sets itself apart from most of Twain's works. There is no phonetical dialogue that he oft uses, and I personally find very hard to read.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mark Twain Quotes - Top Ten Tuesday

  1. “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
    ― Mark Twain

  2. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
    ― Mark Twain

  3. “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
    ― Mark Twain

  4. “Classic' - a book which people praise and don't read.”
    ― Mark Twain

  5. “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
    ― Mark Twain

  6. “The trouble is not in dying for a friend, but in finding a friend worth dying for.”
    ― Mark Twain

  7. “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
    ― Mark Twain

  8. “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
    ― Mark Twain

  9. “A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.”
    ― Mark Twain

  10. “Out of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.”
    ― Mark Twain

Quotes provided by goodreads

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera - Serial Sunday Review

The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Genres: Classic, Romance, Intrigue

     While Gaston Leroux never wrote a sequel to his original story, many writers have written fan fiction sequels. Even though it technically is not a series, I decided to review the original novel along with two sequels as this month's Serial Sunday selection.

     I had never read this nor seen any of the movies or plays so went into this book blind, so to speak, with just the barest idea of the story line. The Phantom is a tragic character. His disfigurement gave him a face that not even his mother could love. His plea to be loved for himself tugs at the heartstrings as long as you don't think about it too deeply. If you take away looks and want to be judged on your personality, heart, or soul ... well Erik's just not a very nice person if one is completely honest about the fact. With some of the things that he does, I think he would find it difficult to find a wife even if he was gorgeous. But maybe not, women marry good looking abusive husbands all the time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Those Extraordinary Twins - Saturday Short Review

Those Extraordinary Twins
by Mark Twain
Genre: Classic

     The twins were based on Siamese twins that Twain had seen in a side show. Two heads, four arms, one body, and two legs. It is hard to imagine how much of these characters were fiction vs. truth as one of the twins is dark complected with brown hair while the other is fair of hair and skin. It brings to question if Siamese twins must come from a single fertilized egg that doesn't split properly which would demand the twins be identical, or if two separate eggs could have been scrambled together somehow.

     At any rate, this is quite an interesting story, however I would recommend reading The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson first. It may have just been the copy that I had but instead of retelling certain scenes, Twain merely referred back to certain chapters/scenes located within the original novel.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Myths of the Modern Man - Fun Read Friday

Myths of the Modern Man
by Jacqueline T. Lynch
Genres: Science Fiction, History

     A strange genre combination as science fiction meets history. The earth is dying. John Moore is sent back in time to observe the rebellion of a Celtic tribe against the Romans. It is often stated that we can learn from history to refrain from continuing to make the same mistakes.

     While the telling of John's adventure in ancient Celtic times was riveting, I'm still not entirely clear as to what knowledge he was supposed to bring back with him, or how it would help the scientists save the earth from self destruction.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson - Featured Review

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson
by Mark Twain
Genres: Classic, Suspense

     Mark Twain admits that the story got away from him, something that he seems to be notorious for. He had originally meant to create a story that was based on a side show attraction that he had seen of siamese twins. His fiction twins had gotten pushed into the background as the characters of Roxy, Tom, and Pudd'nhead Wilson became more prominent. Twain ended up separating the Siamese twins in this book and pulling this plot out of the story and publishing it as a short story titled Those Extraordinary Twins which I plan to review as a Saturday Short review.

     Roxy is a slave who looks white, because the majority of her ancestors were. Her son also has an anglo saxon father and looks just as white as the young master that is her charge. She fears being separated from her son as slaves could be sold at anytime without regard for families. In an attempt to avoid this, she switches the boys in the cradle. Her son ends up pampered, spoiled, and racist, which irks Roxy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Help - Fun Read Friday Review

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Genres: Fiction, Drama

     It is Mississippi in the early 1960's. Segregation, racism, and the KKK are a reality and in full force. One white woman sees the inhumanity in the segregation laws and wants to make a difference. She wants to right a wrong. With the help of one very brave black woman, they organize an expose in the form of a collection of stories that tell of a kind employer who treat "the help" with respect or help them in some way. Many are tell all stories that reveal how the maids are treated as sub-human. There are stories of heartbreak, of the white children that the maids raise and love as their own until the children grow up and become their parents - believing that people are less-than only because of skin color.

     While my situation was different of course, I can kind of relate to this concept. It wasn't until I was in my 20's and grieving the loss of my great-grandmother that I found out that she wasn't actually related to us. This information was only revealed because my mother was having problems settling the estate due to the lack of legal relationship. I had been very close to my great-grandmother and I was floored to find out that she had "only" been the housekeeper that had raised my grandmother after her own mother had passed away. My great-grandmother was the woman who watched me after school. Even though in her 80's, she took me in and dealt with my teenage attitude and grief when my father was too ill to listen to my brother and I constantly bickering. It was she who told me and comforted me when my dad passed away. It was my great-grandmother that I had gone to in high school when I ran away from home. While this new information rattled me, I realized that it didn't change the woman that she was, or my love for her. Her portrait, to this day, hangs on my living room wall next to my mother's.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Prince and the Pauper - Featured Review

The Prince and the Pauper
by Mark Twain
Genre: Classic

     The more classic books that I read the more convinced that I become about the general misconceptions of the themes of such books. I had always thought that the prince and the pauper had purposely exchanged roles - the prince wanting freedom from his structured schedule and the pauper wanting relief from the hunger and misery that comes with being poor - but that is not the case! What began as childish whimsy, exchanging their clothes led to an exaggerated case of mistaken identity. I find it quite sad that the kids' parents didn't notice the exchange of the dopplegangers, though the pauper's mother did at least have her suspicions.

     By weaving in actual facts of the royal family, Twain has made the history of this time period so interesting that I almost want to research it further - almost, but not quite. I was never a great student of history though I have gotten a little better as I have gotten older and certain topics will pique my curiosity.

     I am not a huge fan of Twain, as i find his frequent use of phonetic depictions of dialects hard to read, but I have found some of his stories to be very enjoyable, and this was one of them. I would gladly read this story again, which I cannot say about all of his books.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January Featured Author - Mark Twain

Mark Twain

  November 30, 1835
  April 21, 1910
Main genres:
  Children, Classic, Historical Fiction,

     Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens but was best known by the pen name Mark Twain. His most recognized characters was probably Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain was born during a visit by Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it" as well. He died the day following the comet's subsequent return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age".