Review: Barely Breathing by Pamela Clare

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Hoo boy, this book. This is the story of Lexi Jewell who returns to her hometown to help her father try to win his wife back and keep her from divorcing him. She keeps telling herself that its temporary and that she’ll go back to Chicago in a few weeks when everything back home is settled. For better or worse, she has the freedom to make this extended trip back to Colorado because she’s recently resigned her post at a big accountancy firm following a scandal. Of course, things are complicated back home by many things. Her father and her step-mother are prideful, cantankerous coots. The local Mountain Search and Rescue organization is having some financial difficulties and need an accountant. Oh, and her ex-boyfriend Austin is a park ranger and a member of the volunteer Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue organization and is stupidly hot.

So, shenanigans and many sexy bits ensue. There’s a heart-warming ending. This is exactly what I was looking for. Its a lovely, little romance novel. It is a series and I might even read the next one, which is about the Park Ranger’s best friend, who is the fire chief!

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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So, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was so, so good. Its critique of society was subtle, but apparent, its heroine was super likable. Man, I love when a book is this enjoyable.

I think my favorite part was how Frankie grew and learned while the novel progressed. I also think it was great how she clearly struggled with wanting to be a part of something and wanting to create her own path and do her own thing.

Anyway.

This book is the story of Frankie Landau-Banks who, at the outset of the novel, confesses to conceiving of a series of pranks/vandalism that took place at her elite boarding school and were carried out by The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, a secret society at said institution. From there, they go back to the beginning and lay out exactly what happened to bring her to this confession. The pranks are fun and the way she goes about getting them accomplished is pretty genius. Or, if not genius, is pretty clever.

I enjoyed this so much, and if you like reading about high school shenanigans and social commentary, I think you’ll like this one, too.

Joint Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 on Broadway

Beth and I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 this week on Broadway! It was an exciting, if long experience. The play takes place after the final scene of the seventh film. We’re going to keep this review spoiler-free. It was an experience and definitely worth seeing, if you are a huge Harry Potter fan. We don’t want to ruin the magic for anyone.

What was your favorite part?

Kate: The magic, maybe. I think they did a great job making the stage really feel like the wizarding world.

Beth: Agreed.  The stage craft was on full display.  How they were able to create the feel of the wizarding world without special effects of the movies was very impressive.

What about the costumes did you like?

Kate: I want capes to be a thing in everyday life now. There is just so much drama and flair in wearing a cape. I could use a little more flair in my life.

Beth: OMG! The Capes!  The way they moved and swayed I’m so jealous.  We should bring back the capes.

What did you like about the staging?

Kate: The special effects were really neat but they didn’t distract from the story. I really liked that.

Beth: I thought it was so well done.  I loved how they did the moving stairs.

Kate: OMG! The stairs were so good! I liked how the stairs and the movement made the space feel so much bigger and more dynamic!

Who was your favorite character?

Kate: Scorpius Malfoy, hands down. He was amazing. Draco comes in second, but possibly only because I was really impressed by how much his character developed from when we last saw him at Hogwarts.

Beth: Yeah!  Who would have thought that a story with Harry, Hermione and Ron that Draco and his family would turn out to be the most likable.  Scorpius was the real heart of the story.  He brought most of the laughs and kept the story going.  I’m hoping that if they do a new movie series after Fantastic Beast, it should be centered on him.

Kate:I would watch Scorpius Malfoy movies. I love that little nerd.

Any last thoughts?

Kate: I still have some questions about various bits and pieces of the story. But, I really enjoyed the spectacle of it, so I’m willing to forgive (though, if you follow us on twitter, clearly not forget) some of the more plot-hole-ish things.

Beth: I’m with you on this.  There were some pretty noticeable plot-holes that fans should easily notice and since I’m guessing that most people who see this are big fans, then we are not the only one who has issues with it.  That being said, sitting in the audience with other people who came dressed up in their Hogwarts finest, made it more enjoyable.  We all knew what was going on.  We all got the easter eggs they dropped.  We all gasped at the same time.  It was like a community experience.  Harry Potter fans, I think this is a must see (plot-holes and all) and theater geeks, too, because the staging is in a class of it’s own.

Kate:It was so good to see people turned out in their Hogwarts finest! You are so right! I loved seeing everyone’s outfits! And, everyone who turned up in their cape in August, I have so much respect for that. It must have been so hot.

The Accents in The Cormoran Strike Books by Robert Galbraith

Something that always interests me is how accents or dialects are presented in literature and how those things can act as a stand in for something else (like class or race).  I’ve recently finished listening  to Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm and two of the main characters, Robin and Cormoran come from places in Britain that are either known for their accents or have some very good reasons why they’d have distinct accents. The standard British accent (sometimes called RP for ‘received pronunciation’, or ‘Southern English Standard Pronunciation’ (SESP), ‘Southern British Standard English’, or ‘King’s English’) wikipedia tells us the standard in the South of England and can be heard all over England and Wales. The thing with standard accents or dialects is: they are fiction. No one speaks them. There are regionalisms everywhere. We all do our own thing. But, we operate as if we’re all doing the same thing so there is power in performing in a way that aligns with the standard. There’s also an invisibility that comes with being in line with the standard. But, I’ll circle back to that. The standard dialect is what you are used to hearing if you watch a lot of BBC television (or listen to a lot of BBC radio). The video below is from a YouTube channel that helps people practice their standard pronunciation. I picked this one because standard British is known for being ‘non-rhotic’ which means that at the ends of syllables and words, r-sounds are not pronounced.

‘Cart’ and ‘Fast’ do not have the same vowels for me. But, they do in Standard British English!

Since neither of our main characters speak this standard dialect and both of them speak a dialect that could mark them as outsiders, so lets talk about what they might sound like.

Let’s start with Cormoran.

Cormoran is said to have a Cornish accent. Cornwall and Devon are in the Southwest of England. There the little sticky-outy bit that is below Wales. So, in the map below, you can see the island of Britain to the right of Ireland. There is a red line around England and a bit in the West that is excluded by the red line. That excluded bit is Wales, Cornwall is below that.

Cornwall is pretty small as a region. It regained its Independence following the Roman exit but eventually fell under the rule of Wessex in the 1300s and was eventually fully integrated into the monarchy. (Thanks, wikipedia!) Cornish, a Celtic language, was spoken in the region and was thought to have died out. But, its undergoing a revival now.

First, Cormoran’s Cornish accent would probably be rhotic, meaning that he has all of his r-sounds every place you’d expect it. He might also have f-sounds and s-sounds that sound more like v-sounds and z-sounds respectively.

Now, onto Robin’s accent. Ayup! (There’s no way I’m using that right.)


Yorkshire is in the North of England and includes cities Leeds and Sheffield.

Some of my favorite English-isms are apparently from Yorkshire. For example, faffing. As in, “She was taking her time, faffin’ about, not getting much done.” Faffin’ is one of my favorite words. Also, Yorkshire might be one of my favorite English accents. In my mind, Yorkshire is the quintessential Northern English accent. Speakers with this accent have an “i” sound as in “in” at the ends of words like “city” where you might have an “ee” sound. It is a dialect that is known for contractions. For example, speakers may contract the definite article “the” and so something like, “I’m going down the pub.” might sound more like, “downt pub”.

Here you can listen to Yorkshire native Harrison Fletcher discuss his accent.


 

So, both of these characters have non-standard accents and, in the books, they are definitely set apart from most of the people they interact with. In the first book, they are hired by John Bristow, adopted son of Sir Alec Bristow to investigate the death of his sister, Lula Landry. Throughout this novel, they meet moneyed individuals who sometimes go out of their way to make it clear that they are from a different class and their betters. Nowhere is the contrast more great than between Cormoran and his ex-fiancé Charlotte Campbell, whom he met at Oxford. Charlotte is a blue blood and, if I’m being honest, also the worst. Robin does a great job of hiding her accent, but it does come out at times. I found it a really wonderful addition to the book, reminding you that both of these characters are outsiders in the city of London, which is perfect as they investigate their cases.

This has been just a very brief look in at these accents. If you want to have a deeper look, you can check out the BBC Voices project, which can be found at the British library. (Here’s a link to a conversation with folks from Penzance in Cornwall and another one from Bishopthorpe in Yorkshire.). There are also some nice slide shows on Slide share, such as this one by Natalia Ramirez. The Dialect Blog has a post on Cornish accents. And, of course, Harrison Fletcher has a few videos on Yorkshire English.

Review: Scowler by Daniel Kraus

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In the novel Scowler by Daniel Kraus, meteorites hit Iowa farm country and all hell breaks loose. Except, that’s not what the book is about. The book is about how Ry Burke comes to terms with the trauma his abusive father inflicted on his family prior to being sent to prison. The entire book takes place in the hours immediately before a meteorite impacts the Burke family farm and also the subsequent day. It’s a pretty intense day, as it involves both a meteorite and facing Ry’s escaped-convict father, Marvin.

This book is so intense. So, so, very intense. Now I know why Beth said, “I really hope you don’t hate me after this.” So intense. So, some content warnings: This book involves some pretty detailed descriptions of violence and abuse. It was so, so brutal. The book spiraled into insanity that was both useful and hellish.

I liked Ry and Jo Beth. I thought their characterizations presented them as full people. The writing would veer into the thoughtful and touching before winding its way back into horror. Sarah, Ry’s younger sister, is also pretty great. Marvin Burke is even presented as a full person. He has moments of humanity that make the violence seem even worse.

This book, man. It was good, but it was also very horrifying.

This was such a bummer to end the Pop Culture Homework Assignment on. But, true the assignment, it was horrific.