The Madwoman Upstairs

MadwomanUpstairs_comps_9.18.15 b alt-r-w1000-h660-q75-m1450478667

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

Advertisements

Murder at Oklahoma

MurderatOklahoma

Murder at Oklahoma by Jack M. Bickham

Phyllis “Flip” Ryan is a tall, leggy, blonde studying for Ph. D. in electrical engineering. She has trouble with people taking her seriously as they don’t expect supermodels to be interested in how things work. But Flip has been working hard on her studies and has proved all wrong.

But then Flip is propelled in another direction. When the star of the English department and famous author of Southern romances, Dr. Lilith Weilman, is murdered; Flip decides to take on the case and discover who the killer is.

This won’t be easy as Lilith had plenty of secrets and enemies.

Besides that someone has gone through a lot of trouble to erase information from her computer, information that would be vital in tracking down the killer.

As Flip prepares to use her cool logic and sizzling intellect at this puzzle, she must tread carefully in order to protect her university and her life.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

I really don’t like this mystery as it is not memorable.

Meh

Yes it is so bad that my brain is unable to keep any part of it in my mind, it is so just so forgettable.

I thought the characters and the story were super bland. I’ve read this three times and the only thing that stays rooted in my mind is that the English professor’s like to LARP which Flip found insane.

I also recall how the book seemed unfinished at the end with Flip contemplating her future goals with the future of her current relationship. Her boyfriend doesn’t want to leave the area as he is doing well at work, but Flip knows she will have to move to find work. It almost felt like the author was planning on writing another novel, but I guess he just was unsure how to end this one as their are no sequels and this book was published in 1998.

The rest of it was boring, bland, and just not worth your time. Just skip it.

For more mysteries that are not in a series, go to The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen

For more murder mysteries featuring college students, go to Good, Clean, Murder

Too Easy Hotdish

 

Appleturnovermurderjoannflukehannahswenson

Thoughts Prior to Cooking:

This recipe comes from the Hannah Swenson Mystery Apple Turnover Murder.

Hannah makes this dish for her boyfriend and sheriff deputy, Mike. Now before reading this book I had never heard of a hotdish, other than a hot dish, as in a dish that is hot. Apparently they are big in the Midwest and Northwest, but me being from California we don’t eat “hotdishes”, we eat casseroles. But I was willing to give it a try as to how they described it in the book made it sound extremely tasty.

FoodBorder

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick Cooking Spray or Butter
  • 1 and 1/2 lbs of Lean Ground Meat (such as hamburger, pork, chicken, turkey, sausage, etc. Make sure it is lean as the fat does not drain out of this dish)
  • 2 -12oz Cans of Cream of anything
  • 1 lb Package of Tater Tots
  • 1 Cup of Shredded Cheese (Be sure to use only one cup as too much can become an insulator and keep the bottom layers from cooking.)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° fahrenheit.
  2. Use the cooking spray or butter to coat a 9 by 13-inch pan.
  3. Put the ground meat in the bottom of the pan, spreading it as evenly as you can. Press it down with your hands or the back of a spatula.
  4. Spoon the two cans of cream-of-something on top of the meat. Make sure to spread it out as evenly as possible.
  5. Put the tater tots on top of the soup in a single layer. Spread them out as evenly as possible.
  6. Sprinkle on the shredded cheese.
  7. Do not cover your hotdish with anything. Slip the pan into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tater tots are browned and crispy.

FoodBorder

Thoughts After Cooking:

In a way this particular hotdish is like the poor man’s Shepherd’s pie. Instead of mashed potatoes, tater tots, and instead of gravy, cream of something. I am not a fan of Shepherd pie at all, I can hardly eat it, but I did enjoy this Hotdish.

flabergastedshockedwowwhatreally

The only thing that I thought was wrong with this dish was that it was rather plain in seasoning. I recommend using the Cream of Chicken and Herb, as the herbs really helped along with adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

It was very easy to prepare and I recommend it for those of you who’s hours are crunched (working moms and college students) and need a fast dish to make and make quickly.

Lordoftherings LifeisGood

I didn’t include a picture as it doesn’t photograph well, but do not let it’s looks deter you. It does taste great.

FoodBorder

For more Hannah Swenson recipes, go to Christmas Cheese Rounds

For more cassaroles, go to Ratatouille

Where Are You Now?

Mothers-Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

So I wasn’t originally planning on posting anything today, but then I came across a book that just fit the theme and decided:

whynot

So first thank you to all the moms out there. It is hard job and you are not honored enough.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

1629007

Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Charles “Mack” MacKenzie Jr. was your average college student. He came from a rich family, had a loving mother and father; a great little sister, good friends, a nice apartment; everyone who meet him liked him, he was studying to be a lawyer–i.e he has it all.

Lordoftherings LifeisGood

Then one day he walks out of his apartment and is never seen again.

disappearvanish

For the past ten years he hasn’t come back, the only contact the family has had is Mother’s Day. Between 12:00 a.m and 11:59 p.m. every Mother’s Day he calls, says a few words, and then hangs up.

phonecall

His parents have tried going to the police (they weren’t very helpful); have hired private investigators (who netted nothing); and questioned friends (they had nothing to add); but it all ends up with a big zero-nothing.

Not-Good

Even when his father is killed during 9/11, Mack refuses to change his procedure.

Come on, Mack

Come on, Mack

But now his younger sister, Carolyn, has decided she has had enough of this. She is tired of feeling hurt and betrayed. She is tired of always wondering why he left. And she is tired of seeing how destroyed her mother looks.

Stop this stupid love triangle!

She is going to search for Mack.

lets-do-this-ucas-gif

When Carolyn tells Mack that she is on the case and is determined to find him; she is surprised to find a note from Mack placed in the collection plate of her uncle’s church.

Interesting

Interesting

This note tells her not to look for him, but besides the warning Caroline is intrigued with its delivery. Is Mack still in New York? Had he never left?

Smirkity smirk smirk

Hmmm. Maybe she is on to something.

Carolyn decides to devote the next three weeks to searching; if she doesn’t find Mack then she will finally move on with her life, but if she does then she will finally have the mystery solved.

gotthis

She begins requestioning people from her brother’s past and happens upon some strange things. His old landlords are cagey, their statements contradictory, and they are all around reluctant to talk about that time. Could they possibly be involved with Mack’s disappearance?

suspicious Hmm

One of Mack’s old roommates, who is married to Mack’s old girlfriend; also doesn’t want to speak to Carolyn at all. And when he heard that Carolyn was asking questions he whisked his wife and kids out of the city. Very suspicious.

I've got my eye on you

I’ve got my eye on you

As Carolyn continues to investigate, she discovers that Mack was taking drama lessons and would record himself. When she tries to reach out to his former teacher she is told that the woman was killed while being mugged and that her house was broken into.

coincidenceithinknot

The only items stolen being Mack’s tapes.

Very fishy

Very fishy

Meanwhile, the police are swamped with a disappearance of a girl, Leesey, who lives right next door to Carolyn. She is the third in a series of such disappearances, the girls or their bodies never being found. As the cops are racing against the clock to find her, one detective looks through older evidence and discovers that Mack was at the same club the first girl disappeared from. Could he be involved with this vanishing? Or did he know who was and then disappeared because he was afraid.

urkelgif interesting hmm

With the press and police out to hang her brother for the crimes; and Carolyn starting to doubt his innocence as well; she knows more now than ever she must find him. But where is he?

31218-Where-Are-You-

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

I’ve only read a few Mary Higgins Clark: this book, Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, and Let Me Call You Sweetheart. For me I’ve noticed that her books are either a hit;

loveitSupernatural

Or a miss:

stupidestthingever

No in-between.

You_know_thats_right

This book was definitely a miss for me.

IDon'tlikeit

At first I loved the book, it had a very strong premise; the characters were interesting, and was written so well I had a hard time keeping my hands and mind off of it.

don'tneedsleepneedanswers

Mary Higgins Clark likes doing multiple narrations, and I really liked how she incorporated the killers mind. It was only a few times it really added to the book.

fantastic

However, the ending to this book just fell flat. The person they choose and the reasons behind it were kind of boring. You know same old same old.

blahblah

In fact the villain was so much something you have seen countless times I had no  trouble figuring out who he was.

im_bored_himym

The end was a bit of a letdown after all the action.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

I also didn’t like the way she portrayed the police officers. They were mean and a bit stupid. They concentrated more on making the facts suit their theories rather than the facts speak for themselves.

bigmistake

All in all I thought it was only okay. Good for maybe one read, but not worthy to add to your permanent collection.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

For more mysteries revolving around a disappearance, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more mysteries not in a series, go to Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters

For more holiday posts, go to Wookie Cookies