The Madwoman Upstairs

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The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel by Catherine Lowell

Samantha Whipple hates the Brontë sisters.

As the last remaining relative, she has found herself hounded by journalists, bombarded at every turn, and told time and time again about their genius and to further study their writings.

The only item that makes Brontë bearable is that the novels give her a connection to her deceased father.

Samantha has just started at Oxford University and hopes that this will be a way to move out of the past and into a new future. However, things do not go according to plan. Her tutorial involves a very attractive, yet unattainable, professor who is intent on having her study every bit of literature she hates and criticizing everything from her thoughts, to her writing style, and even down to her use of commas.

Really?

She is also being harassed by a writer for the school newspaper, finding her name in print every day; along with her father’s arch nemesis, Sir John Booker.

And to top it off, Brontë books that were believed to be burnt in the fire of her childhood home are mysterious reappearing in her room; along with a dead friend being revived. As Samantha finds herself not only on an extensive treasure hunt to discover her inheritance, but studying and reading Brontë more than ever before; will she find all the answers she is looking for? Will she be able to understand her father’s cryptic messages? Will this cause her to grow to love the Brontë work instead of abhorring it?

Thoughts After Reading:

This has been one of the hardest reviews I have had to write as I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I enjoy the irony of the main character hating Brontë, yet at the same time reenacting the same features she complains about. For instance falling in love with her professor, James Orville; who is not only tall, broody, and arrogant; having the temperament of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre; but also as unattainable as Mr. Rochester.

Although in this case the issue keeping them apart is not a mad wife, but the college’s code of conduct between student-teacher relationships. Or when Samantha is stranded in her room from a big storm and starts breaking down similar to the ill governess in Villette.

Hmm…

At one point in the novel, Samantha finds her journey barred by a huge storm and having to reside in the house of her father’s most hated person, Sir John; which is reminiscent of how the narrator in Wuthering Heights finds himself forced to remain with the inhospitable Heathcliff.

The character of Samantha is also very unusual. On one hand we have a very intelligent, sarcastic, logical, and thoughtful person. However, the pendulum swings back with her also being neurotic, anxious, awkward, impulsive, and fanciful.

Not that it isn’t realistic to have a character express so many traits, but for the reader it feels inconsistent, contradictory, and a bit scattered.

Samantha’s love interest Professor Orville is lacking depth within his own character, along with his relationship to Samantha being weak and having no chemistry. Professor Orville is shrouded in mystery as to his history and background; with the reader never really seeing as to who he is, but just him as the Professor or Brontë-like hero. Part of this has to do with the fact that he is a Professor and distances himself Samantha, not revealing much of his personal life, so the quick wrap up the author provides in the end when the two have married seems strange and too quickly sewn up.

After all, most of what we see in the novel between them is Samantha’s fantasies and crush on her professor, hardly anything in the novel showed that he seriously reciprocated.

On the question of the Brontë sisters the book gives quite a lot of information into their individual backgrounds and each of their novels; along with some very thought provoking analysis. Out of all the Brontës, the author spends the most time on the youngest, Anne; with a new viewpoint and direction.

However, as the book so truthfully points out, the novels we read become a part of us. The characters and stories become an active part of our reality, memories, and sometimes even family. So when a character or story is taken in a different direction than the one that you as a reader have perpetuated it can be hard to accept. There are a few ideas surrounding the Brontë‘s leading men, that depending on your own view and relationship with the books, you will find either inspired or idiotic.

The writer has a good voice and the ability to capture one’s attention and maintain it strongly through out the pages; but because I found it lacking in other areas I would have to give this book two and a half out of fives stars.

For more mysteries involving a treasure hunt, go to The Sign of the Four

For more mysteries that take place at Oxford University, go to Decked

For more mysteries that take place at a college, go to Murder at Oklahoma

For more mysteries involving a relationship with a Professor, go to Good, Clean, Murder

For more stand alone mysteries, go to Whistling in the Dark

A Scandal in Bohemia

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“A Scandal in Bohemia” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

Thoughts Before Reviewing:

Now that we have done the first two novels of Sherlock Holmes, we have moved into his short stories. As with all short stories, I’ll be posting them on Sunday instead of during the week (except for a few special cases).

I grew up reading the short stories or cases of Sherlock Holmes, and I think my favorite collection growing up was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It just has so many good and memorable tales.

So “A Scandal in Bohemia” is probably a story you are familiar with.  I’m sure many of you have probably read this story or seen the Sherlock version (which I hated)

They didn’t do it right!

It is one of my favorites and I am glad to share it with you all.

Plot Synopsis:

The Bohemian King comes to Sherlock for help, first in disguise but of course Sherlock sees through that, to ask for his help. He is to be married, but before the engagement he had had a relationship with the beautiful Irene Adler. He has tried to get it back a very incriminating photograph through begging, payment, bribery, theft, etc; but nothing has netted it.

Nothing is working!

Sherlock does some reconnaissance on her and ends up being the witness at her wedding!

Seriously?

Sherlock continues on his plan to get the photograph by dressing up as a minister and having Watson create a fuss about fire in order to determine the secret hiding place of the photograph. When Irene goes to retrieve it and protect it, Sherlock spies on her and leaves planning on returning the next day for it before she leaves on her honeymoon.

On the way home he is greeted by a young boy, one he does not know but that isn’t very odd, after all he is a known figure. The next day the three men set out to retrieve the photograph but find Irene gone.

What?!

Irene has left a note explaining that she thought there was something suspicious about the “fire”, dressed up as a boy to research it, and figured out the plan of Sherlock Holmes; besting him by leaving that night.

She leaves the picture behind, as she is married she no longer needs it; forever going down in history as the one who bested the greatest detective, and becoming the woman.

Thoughts After Reading:

One of my favorites as Irene just kicks butt.

She’s everything we want to be: intelligent, cunning, beautiful, witty, etc. And she is the only one to outsmart the Sherlock Holmes.

For more by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, go to The Sign of the Four

For more Sherlock Holmes, go to A Study in Scarlet

For more short stories, go to The Murders in Rue Morgue

For more mysteries with private detectives, go to The Missing Housewife

For more mysteries that involve a wedding, go to Murder Well Done

Blackberry Mint Infused Water

So for my birthday, a friend of mine bought me a infuser type water bottle. I wasn’t sure what to do so I searched the internet.

Hmm…

This recipe comes from The Casual Craflete

Ingredients:

  • A Handful of Blackberries
  • A Handful of Mint
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Mash the blackberries, releasing their juices into the pitcher or bottle.
  2. Rub the mint in your hands-releasing the oils-and place in the pitcher or bottle.
  3. Just add water and infuse for two hours or overnight.

Thoughts After Making:

So I didn’t like it.

All it tasted like was dirty mint leaves, even though I washed them.

I found another recipe which adds lime. Maybe this will be better? I’ll post if I make it.

For more drink recipes, go to Yoda Soda

For more recipes, go to Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing

The Missing Housewife

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The Missing Housewife (Steven Wade Mystery #2) by Iris Wynne

When a women long believed dead is spotted in China by an old friend on holiday, it opens a real can of worms. If she is indeed the woman believed murdered, than her drug dealer has been falsely imprisoned and there is a dead body who’s identity still needs to be discovered.

With the sister of the accused pushing for involvement to free her brother, and the family of the “deceased” wanting the dead to remain dead, it turns out to be a real muddle.

With such uncertainty there is only one thing to do, hire someone who can look into the matter: a private investigator Steve Wade.

On the case!

Since Wade solved the case of “the missing mah jongg player”, he has become a hot commodity and is asked to check out the case. But is the deceased, Patricia, really alive, or is it just a look-a-like in China? And if she isn’t dead, who died in her place? Did the drug dealer murder this Jane Doe, or was it someone else?

Thoughts After Reading:

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, The Missing Mah Jongg Player, which gave me high expectations for the sequel. Wynne didn’t disappoint with a cleverly crafted mystery that takes murder into mistaken identity and even further into assassins and a cover up.

We also have a return of the characters we enjoyed from the first novel; such as the intelligent, imaginative, analytical, and methodical Steve Wade; Candy the stripper turned private investigator, who is still coming to terms with her insecurities and the shadow of the past; and sweet Sarah, Steve’s secretary, who finally gains confidence and the ability to assert herself.

The only problem I had with this novel was that the secondary characters were not as well done as in the first book. In The Missing Mah Jongg Player, the other mah jongg players created a more personal connection to our missing person causing the viewer to see her as a person rather than a “victim”. Their different personalities also balanced well with Wade’s logical approach.

All of you

In this book our new cast of characters were interesting and developed, but not as fun or colorful as in the first.

On a whole I enjoyed this novel and give it a four out of five stars.

For more Steven Wade Mysteries, go to The Missing Mah Jongg Player

For more novels centering around a disappearance, go to The Sign of the Four

For more mysteries with private investigators, go to C is for Corpse

For more mystery reviews, go to Triple Six

Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing

Who likes salad?

Me!

One thing I like is caesar salad, but the dressing can be so unhealthy.There is one recipe I use, but the day I was going to make it I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I had to start searching the internet.

This recipe comes from the blog Humorous Homemaking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Jar with a tight fitting lid
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar.
  2. Screw the lid on tight and shake the jar until all ingredients are combined.
  3. When finished serve immediately or save in fridge up to a week.

Thoughts After Cooking:

I thought it was fantastic.

It was fun shaking the jar and absolutely delicious on the salad.

For more salad recipes, go to Caesar Salad

For more salad dressings, go to Garden Pasta Salad with Bocconcini

The Secret of the Three Teardrops

The Secret of the Three Teardrops by Jacqueline A. Ball

This book was a part of the Barbie and Friends Book Club but wasn’t one of the usual in the series. Instead this was a special edition book that came with a Barbie dressed in the gown shown on the cover.

My mother gave the doll to my sister, as she was born in September and is a sapphire like the sapphire teardrops in the story. I got the book.

At first I was really mad about it, but then I realized as that isn’t a doll you can play with, it was better having the book.

Barbie is the director of the American Museum in Chicago. She has been working with other museums in America and Europe to form a traveling show of recreated Venetian ball gowns.

She is excited not only in putting the pieces together, but to be in Venice and able to partake in things she has always wanted to, like riding in a gondola, etc.

Yay!

Barbie is being shown around by Angelo Modesto, assistant director of the Venice City Museum.

Barbie meets Gina Morelli, the director, who shows her the dress she will be wearing at the Masquerade Ball to kick of the show’s opening. The dress is almost perfect, except for the replica’s of the famous Duchess Venezia’s teardrops. This is extremely bad for them as the photographer for World Art is coming to do a cover, but with no sapphires no story.

Gina then gets the idea to use the real teardrops. They can stitch them on, and then remove and replace them. Angelo doesn’t want to do it, but Gina is the boss.

As the dress is being stitched, Gina tells her the story behind the jewels.

Many year’s ago, a duke’s son fell in love with a beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde; Venezia. The family would allow no marriage to take place as Venezia is only a maid. The duke’s son tried to get Venezia to run away with him, but she refused to come between his family. The son was heartbroken and did nothing but sit on the garden bench where he used to spennd his time with Venezia. The parents became so sad to see their child that way and went and brought Venezia back. The parents and Venezia cry with joy, which awakens the duke’s son. After they are married, the Duke and Duchess give the couple three teardrop sapphires. Three for three generations (the parents, children, and the future kids); and for tears of healing, joy, and family love. The building that is the museum, used to be their house.

After the photo shoot, Toni, the dressmaker, removes the jewels and gives them to Angelo to put back in the museum.

Later Barbie goes sightseeing and shopping. She finds a book about the Duchess Venezia and sees her wedding gown, the one that Barbie will wear a replica of. But something is odd about this design, the sapphires were a much deeper blue than the ones that are currently on Barbie’s dress.

Hmm…

After Barbie gets to her hotel she looks at the dress that was just delivered, As she is looking at the accessories, she gets  call from Gina. Something terrible has happened and Barbie is needed right away.

Gina has been looking over the exhibit and noticed that the jewels needed to be rearranged. When she opens the case, she discovers that the jewels are not the real ones.

So who took the teardrops? The only people in the museum were the staff, so it is an inside job. But which staff member?

Angelo, who is clearly upset that Gina was chosen over him and has a key to the case? Toni, the dressmaker, who could have switched them when fitting Barbie? Or maybe this is all a smokescreen to cover that Gina is the thief?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved this mystery!

It being in Venice, Barbie’s gown, and a treasure hunt.

Just fantastic!

For more children’s books, go to Binky Brothers, Detectives

 

Triple Six

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Triple Six (The Lightkeepers #2) by Erica Spindler

Thoughts Prior to Posting:

I read this book before the first one, and have my review as it was originally written. 

Plot Synopsis:

Detectives Mikki Dare and Zach Harris are back in their second adventure to battle evil. Detective Dare has worked her way up the New Orleans Police Department ladder and had recently been paired with Detective Harris, to protect him as he utilizes his unique abilities. Detective Zach “Hollywood” Harris is not your average person. He is a Half Light, child of a lightkeeper and a human; this ancestry giving Harris the ability to read emotions and memories, pick up on how many people have been in the area, and track down the “Dark Bearers”, evil ones who are dedicated to destroying the world.

Harris hasn’t told Dare about what he really is, pretending to be a psychic, but unfortunately Dare had became involved in the middle of a fight between the Lightkeepers and Dark Bearers. She was shot, but healed by another Lightkeeper and while can only remember little of what occurred, she is insistent to search out what happened.

She also has become more ingrained in the Lightkeepers, when she unknowingly offered her home to one of the Lightkeepers, Angel.

In this book, New Orleans has been hit with home invasions, and Dare and Harris are put on the case. What they discover is strange: a band of young teens who are destroying homes and attacking adults, yet playing with the children and gaining their trust.

Meanwhile, Angel has been approached by a handsome, older, man.

They begin a relationship that moves incredibly fast and starts changing her personality worrying the Lightkeepers and Dare.

But the two instances become connected and reveal a much darker plot than any had thought of.

Oh no.

Thoughts After Reading:

I thought this book was amazingly well done. It constantly kept your interests from beginning to end making it near impossible to set down, as you had to know what was to happen next and whether or not the characters would survive.

I found myself glued to my kindle as I followed the novels twists and turns to its conclusion.

Besides being a captivating and thrilling story, the characters were interesting and relatable. Each one comes from a different walk of life and the obstacles, challenges, and history the author created in these characters really captured your attention and creating a desire in wanting to know more about them and who they are.

All of you

As this is the second installment in the series and I had not had the opportunity to read the previous piece, I was initially confused as to who the characters were and what creatures the Lightkeepers and Dark Bearers are. However, even though I did not have the opportunity to read the prior book in the series Spindler is able to craft a well-done story that quickly brings the reader up to speed with the world the characters live in.

This book was phenomenal and I’m looking forward to reading any to be published in the future.

I give it five out of five stars.

For more on The Lightkeepers, go to The Final Seven

Eggplant Tomato Bites

Thoughts Before Cooking:

I’ve never been a big eggplant fan-but when I saw the picture in the Real Simple magazine. I decided to try it, and hoped it would turn out right.

Ingredients:

  • Safflower Oil, for the Grill
  • 4 Large Slices of Country Bread, 1 inch thick
  • 1 Large Eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, Halved
  • 12 Ounces Smoked Mozzarella (They didn’t have it so I used Low-Skim)
  • 2 Large Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 1 Cup of Fresh Basil

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium. Once it’s hot, clean the grill grate with a wire brush.
  2. Oil the grill grate with the Safflower Oil.
  3. Brush the bread and eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill bread until brown and crisp, one to two minutes, and rub with garlic.
  5. Slice in half crosswise, and put aside.
  6. Grill eggplants, turning occasionally, until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  7. Place the mozzarella on the bread and grill, covered, just until it is warm and beginning to melt.
  8. Top with the eggplant, the tomato, and then basil.
  9. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with a salad. (I recommend the caesar.)

Thoughts After Cooking:

I LOVED IT!

I thought it was so good and couldn’t stop eating it.

You should try it out!

For more Real Simple recipes, go to Orecchiette with Red Onions, Almonds, and Green Bell Pepper

For more grill recipes, go to Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups

For more eggplant dishes, go to Ratatouille

For more Vegetarian recipes, go to Crazy Cantina Chili