Read Watch Play #5

October has been an incredibly busy month, and it has been a few weeks since I last did a Read, Watch, Play post, which is my version of the Sunday Salon. Read, Watch, Play is a round-up of bookish and non-bookish entertainment going on in my home this week. Feel free to join in and let me know what fun you have had recently!

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What I’m Watching:

  • Stranger Things (Netflix)- I finally finished the first season! It is rare that I watch anything classified as horror, but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. The actress who plays Eleven, Millie Bobby Brown, is brilliant. I can’t wait to see where they take the show next.
  • Just Add Magic (Amazon) – An original series by Amazon, and a much better than I thought it would be. M started watching this about two weeks ago, and after walking by a few times while she had it on, I got sucked in to the series as well. Just Add Magic is targeted to tweens – the show is based on a middle-grade book of the same name by Cindy Callaghan – but there must be some magic involved, because adults seem to enjoy it equally as much!

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What I’m Playing:

My first triathlon is officially in the books, y’all!!

I’m done, done, done!!! Joy, joy, joy!! I dismounted from my bike into a happy dance yesterday when I polished off the last mile for the Jimmie Johnson Virtual Triathlon!!

The JJF runs from October 1 – October 31, and is a 140.6 mile virtual race that involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles cycling, and a 26.2 mile run/walk/jog. It is not completed at once, but broken up into however many workouts you need to get it done.

As of October 29, I completed:

  • 2.4/2.4 mile swim
  • 114.53/112 mile bike
  • 26.31/26.2 mile run

For a grand total of 143.24 miles! For me, this is a MAJOR accomplishment!

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What I’m Reading:

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One of the best things that I read this week was not in a book, but at M’s elementary school. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and on Thursday her school participated in Unity Day. Students – dressed in orange to make a statement against bullying – took to the sidewalks around the school with messages of hope, positivity, and encouragement, to show their support for one other.

I happened to be helping at the school book fair the morning the kids went out to dress up the sidewalks with chalk messages, and it was POWERFUL. I was a victim of bullying during my middle school years, and it melts my heart to no end to have my daughter enrolled in such a safe and supportive school. Messages of hope and solidarity were literally spread from corner to corner of the school property.

Below is a small selection of messages written by M and her fellow students. I’m telling you, these kids are pretty amazing.

  • “Together we can change the world. Speak up to stop bullying.”
  • “The truth may hurt for a while, but a lie hurts forever.”
  • “Fly away from the Haters!”
  • “Never give up on life.”
  • “There are so many kind, though some are blind, there are so many kind!”
  • “The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one!!”

I think Mr. Browne from Wonder could find a few more precepts from this crew to add to his collection.

What are you up to this week? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Are you ready for Halloween? A read-a-thon update.

I happen to live in a country that celebrates Halloween, and it is one week away!! I love Halloween, and all of its creeptastic, spooky accompaniments. Halloween…and all the side dishes at a Thanksgiving feast, were the things I missed most when I have lived outside of America (sorry to my family and yes, I missed Halloween more than I missed you, LOL), and I embrace it wholeheartedly every year!

When I say we love Halloween, what I mean is we go so overboard on our Halloween decorations that our neighbors think it is freaking amazing. Or…they think we’re freaks but are too nice to say so. Either way, it’s a fun time.

Just take a look at my reading companion this morning…

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I can tell him all about my reading adventures of the moment and he listens so sweetly. He’s a pro at the whole active listening thing. It’s just too bad that his brain found its way outside of his cranium…

With one week to go until the end of the month, I thought it would be a great time to update my progress on the Halloween Read-a-thon, hosted by Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews!

Update Time!

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I am right about where I thought I would be for this challenge. I picked out six books, but I would be amazed if I finished six that fit into the theme. You can find my original challenge post right about here.

Costume Party: Read a Book with a Creepy Cover

  • Original selection: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. While I have read a few selections from Scary Stories during read-aloud time with M, I have decided to substitute…
  •  What I read: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. It was spooky and mysterious, and I will never look at forests around Asheville the same way again.

You can find my review here.

Haunted House: Read A Supernatural or Paranormal Book

  • Original selection: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • What I read: Nothing yet. But Neil Gaiman’s graveyard mystery is up  next on my reading list, just as soon as I finish my ARC of The Gilded Cage by Vic James. Which I will hopefully wrap up today!

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Urban Legends: Read a Horror or Thriller Book

  • Original selection: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 
  • What I read: I finally, finally got around to reading Jekyll and Hyde! This book has been on my TBR shelf for years. Dark secrets in the Victorian era? Yes, please!

You can find my review here.

Witching Hour: Read a Book After Sunset

  • Original selection: Nothing, really. I was lazy. In my complete defense, lots of reading happens after sunset, anyway. Especially in the fall and winter!
  • What I read: I am going to plug-in The Gilded Cage for this category. Mysterious, brooding aristocratic brothers with deep, dark family secrets? Alternate history and fantasy rolled into one? Yes, this fits the category!

You can find my review up on Wednesday or Thursday. And if you don’t read it, I will cast a spell on you! Mmmwwwwahahahahahaha!

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Trick or Treat: Scary Book You’ve Been Putting Off or Treat: Free Choice of Any Genre

  • Original selection: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s just not going to happen. I failed utterly and miserably. Back to the procrastination pile it goes. Till next October!
  • What I read: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I read this on October 6, and I declare it a perfect match for this category. Woohoo for free choice!

You can find my review here.

All Hallow’s Eve: Read Six Books

  • Original selection: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • What I read: Yeah, this isn’t happening, either. It was tough to squeeze in six books with delicious, tantalizing, chilling fare. I did finish watching the first season of Stranger Things, which definitely fits all of the above adjectives. Does that count? Because the woman below…

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Only Eleven could mess with her.

Are you reading any Halloween themed books this month? What books would you recommend for a spooky October read?

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: Classics, Gothic horror

Our house has been a flurry of activity lately. Hurricane Matthew evacuees (my parents), triathlon training, and today, the beginning of a major master bathroom renovation. Demolition is happening as I write, our cats are freaking out, and I am trying my best to avoid the noise, calm the cats, and get a book review posted!

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Poor kitty. I feel bad for both of our fur-babies today, who have no idea why there are strange men and so many loud noises happening in their precious home. They are keeping me company in the home office today, which is as far away from the renovation area as you can get.

I feel so sorry for them.

Okay, on to the book review.

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic horror novel has been adapted so many times that I honestly had no idea what to expect from the original. So many books and movies have been influenced by this short novella: The League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe Incredible Hulk, Van Helsing, the many movie adaptations, and even an appearance in Looney Tunes, just to name a few. Was it going to be as timeless as its characters? Or will the frequent appearances in pop culture take away from the original storyline to this modern-day reader?

We start with Mr. Utterson – a sensible lawyer – listening to his friend Enfield tell a somewhat sinister tale about a mysterious Mr. Hyde. Mr. Utterson has heard Hyde’s name before, connected to his boyhood friend Dr. Jekyll, and sets out to find the relationship between the two.

I feel as if I have been familiar with the “good” Jekyll and “evil” Hyde my entire life, but I haven’t. Not really. And the first thing I realized was that despite appearances, Stevenson does not make the good versus evil divide that clear-cut. No…just like real life, there are multiple shades of grey in between. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Dr. Jekyll.

Dr. Jekyll is deeply conflicted about hidden vices that stem back to his young adulthood, but the precise nature of these vices are never named. The Victorian era is known for its social constraint, so one has to wonder if these “vices” were truly immoral acts, or just an alternate lifestyle condemned by Victorian sensitivities. This inner turmoil influences his scientific work, as he seeks to develop a potion that will separate the evil side of himself from the good part.

When he successfully creates this potion, the split did not happen as he thought it would:

Hence, although I had now two characters as well as two appearances, one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair. The movement was thus wholly toward the worse.

Stevenson’s prose is engaging, but I am generally not a fan of much of the plot happening in the form of a written letter, as it does in the latter part of the novella. I probably will not rank Jekyll and Hyde at the top of my list of favorite classics, but it is certainly an interesting, thought-provoking book to read. What is the nature of good and evil? Is human nature inherently a duality, as Stevenson suggests in this novel? Were Jekyll’s scientific experiments ethical? How did the expectations of Victorian society influence Jekyll’s decisions?

What I liked best about the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  was the questions that it raised for the reader.

Read Watch Play #4

Read Watch Play is my own version of a Sunday Salon: a round-up of bookish and non-bookish entertainment going on in my home this week. Feel free to join in and let me know what fun you have had this week!

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What I’m watching: 

I still haven’t finished Stranger Things, TV time these days is rare, indeed. I have two more episodes to go. I am really loving Eleven’s backstory, she is such a fascinating kid. I hope she finds some peace and happiness by the end of this season!

I watch Once Upon a Time every Sunday, and I have to admit, I relish this season’s return of the Evil Queen! Lana Parilla must have so much fun playing the part, and the Queen’s costumes are always amazing! Do you think Regina and/or her sister will succumb to the Evil Queen’s tactics? Emma’s premonition is certainly setting up an interesting arc for the first half of this season, but part of me thinks this season is too busy. Between Mr. Hyde, the Evil Queen, the entrance of the Aladdin characters and other untold stories, Emma’s premonition, and whatever Rumple is getting up to these days, there is a lot going on in Storybrooke right now.

I will also be watching the Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump debate tonight. That should be an interesting one. Will you be watching?

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What I’m playing:

I mentioned last week that I am participating in a virtual triathlon this month. I don’t usually like to toot my own horn, but…toot, toot! I am so happy with my progress so far this week.

The Jimmie Johnson Foundation Virtual Triathlon runs from October 1 – October 31. It is a 140.6 mile virtual race that involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles cycling, and a 26 mile run/walk/jog. It is not done at once, but broken up into however many workouts you need to get it done.

Right now, I am ahead of schedule, and might be on track to complete the triathlon a week early! My biggest achievement this week was my first swim. I love swimming, but I haven’t actually swam as exercise in years. I jumped in the pool on Tuesday with a goal of as many laps as I could do in a one hour period. I stepped out of the pool 1 hour 15 minutes later having swum 70 lengths (35 down-and back laps) in a 25 yard pool. That’s a freakin’ mile, people! Amazingly, I wasn’t sore the next day either! Although I did have horribly matted hair. I bought a swim cap on my way home.

JJF Race Stats (October 9)

1.7/2.4 mile swim (71% complete)

42.64/112 mile bike (38% complete)

8.1/26.2 mile run (31% complete)

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What I’m Cooking: 

Meatballs. This batch almost didn’t make it into the oven without losing a few to a curious cat! This is Hello Kitty, lover of tuna, goldfish crackers, and meatballs.

Our meatballs change depending on my mood, but here is the base recipe I build upon.

Italian Style Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 pounds grassfed beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds mild italian sausage
  • one thick slice of firm bread of your choosing (sourdough, whole wheat, baguette…I think I have used them all).
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, finely shredded
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons italian seasoning (I use salt-free Catazano herbs from Savory Spice Shop. It contains garlic, lemon peel, marjoram, European basil, Mediterranean thyme, rosemary and Greek oregano).

Directions:

Have your sauce of choice ready to go on the stovetop.

Turn on the broiler. Pour the milk over the bread until it is saturated, and let it soak for a few minutes. Squeeze out the excess milk, and quickly pulse in a food processor. Gently combine all of the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Form into medium-large size meatballs (about the size of a Ping Pong ball). Broil in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, until the outside has browned, then transfer the meatballs into your sauce and finish cooking in the sauce on the stovetop, about another 15 minutes or so.

Bon Appetit!

What I’m Reading:

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. I just finished reading Serafina and the Black Cloak this morning. I think I will count this for Wonderless Review’s Halloween Readathon, even though it is not on my original list. A review will be posted tomorrow! It was interesting to read a book set at the Biltmore Estate, near Asheville, a place I have visited many times!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m starting this one today! It looks like it will be a quick read. I have been meaning to read this book for ages. There are so many cultural references to Jekyll and Hyde, I have always felt remiss about not reading the original!

What are you up to this week? Let me know in the comments!

Standalone books to read when you have Series Burnout

My bookshelves are filled with standalone novels. In my family, it is a well-known fact that I easily get series burnout. When I start to juggle multiple series at the same time, or I’m trying to read through a new-to-me series and find myself reading the same author for weeks, I take a break and pick up something else.

If this happens to you, here is a list of a few standalone novels, from a variety of genres, that have helped me break a reading slump in the past!

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The Night Circus  – Erin Morgenstern (fantasy, historical fiction) –

It is ethereal, magical, other-worldly. The dreamlike imagery the author provokes is astounding; it is also the reason why so many people dislike it. If you need a plot-driven novel, this may not be for you. I loved every second of it, and found it to be a beautifully written, visual book. The descriptions of the circus, vividly drawn but only in the shades of black, white and red, stay with the reader long after finishing the book.

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The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (YA contemporary)

I shed so many tears reading this book. It didn’t help that I had just lost a close family friend to cancer two month’s previously. A beautifully written book about making peace with the unfairness of life. A lesson that rings true no matter what your age. It may also make a good starting point for older readers who typically only read adult literatures but want to explore YA.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (fiction, fantasy, horror)

Oh, to be inside Neil Gaiman’s brain and see how it ticks. The is the first book I read by Neil Gaiman that was not a graphic novel, and boy, did it give me the chills! This story brought me back to my childhood; it’s like all of those monsters under the bed came to life in terrifying and menacing way. But it’s not just horror, it’s much more nuanced than that, or I would not have liked it. There is truth and beauty, melancholy and sadness, and a hard look at the innocent ignorance of childhood.

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All The Missing Girls – Megan Miranda (mystery, thriller)

I just reviewed this one recently, which you can read here. I will never look at Ferris Wheel’s the same way again. All The Missing Girls is the perfect stand alone novel to read in the fall at a time when county and state fairs are happening all across America.

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (historical fiction)

I don’t usually recommend novels set during WWII, because I don’t read them very often. I read this one for book club this year, and absolutely loved it. It is very character-driven, which is right up my alley, and the attention it has received is well-deserved. The author does an excellent job of heightening your senses along with young Marie-Laure after she loses her vision. And it tackles so many themes in a way that is not over the top: military culture and bullying, free will vs. predetermination, physical vs. spiritual blindness, moral relativism. It is a fascinating read.

What standalone novels would you recommend to readers who need a break from series works?