Monday, May 31, 2010

Murder on the Bosporus, or Lady Emily Uncovers All While Defying Patently Backward and Unjust Victorian Societal Mores

I spend a not insignificant amount of time (well, okay, not that significant) polling the internet for reading suggestions.  Based on Amazon's "people who buy this also buy..." and Lauren Willig's reading suggestions, the Tasha Alexander books came to my attention.  These books, very similarly to the Lady Julia series as pointed out by Huvi, are Victorian mystery/romances - so a bit later than my optimum time period, and not quite my genre, but close enough :) I started reading them a few months ago and just finished the fourth (and last one) over the weekend.

I basically have the same review for the entire series - not a bad romance, Colin's definitely cool, and Emily has a lot going for her.  Unfortunately, Emily has a little *too* much going for her - she's definitely got some Mary Sue stuff going on - and her attitude about independence, women's rights, etc. is more than a little annoying - I mean we are *soo* proud of you for drinking port with the men, and I *totally* get why you're afraid to marry this wonderful guy because you'd be giving up on your independent widowhood... or maybe I'd be more sympathetic if the book was better written.  But that being said, pretty easy read, and mostly pretty fun - and, yes, romantic.

But this is the fourth book and Colin and Emily are married so... farewell romance (hello, being reminded *every other second* that they are finally married).  And the annoying writing hasn't disappeared.  So at first I was enjoying Tears of Pearl rather less than the others.  But the truth is... the book was interesting :) It took place in Turkey, during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and even though the "enlightened" outlook of Muslim life grated, I think there was enough authenticity that it was... well if not fascinating, enough to make me read on.  And the plot was good! I mean it wasn't the greatest mystery in the world (it was pretty obvious who the culprit was and most of the other secrets) but it moved fast.  And guess what? the subplot with Ivy's and Emily's pregnancies was actually pretty good - even added back in a little pathos - and of course, pathos = romance in my book :)

So it was more enjoyable than I expected.  The ending was a little more subdued than I would have expected/liked.  Not everyone ends up happy - and Emily... should I spoil? guess so, who's reading this anyway :) loses her baby and possibly her ability to have children - but I have faith that this at least will be resolved in the next book, whenever that comes out :)

Verdict: 3.5/5
Food: well... it definitely struck some decidedly wrong notes... but the genre was right and I like it anyway... I guess I'll go with slightly raw string beans - I *love* them when they are cooked right (soft with lots of garlic salt, onions, and mushrooms) but all too often, the crispy police strike and I have to be satisfied with a slightly raw dish... which I eat anyway, cuz it's still good :)

(like the pic? :))

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just a Note...

because I don't feel like posting a full review, but I like to keep track - I read Miranda and the Warrior, another one in that same series (see one below), this one is about an Indian and frontier girl.  Not quite as up my alley - and interestingly enough, less of a romance, more other historical stuff w/ Indians vs. soldiers, etc. and the whole Indian way of life and all that.  Anyway, fun enough, started it down by the lake finished it a few hours later at my house, thanks to Peryl for lending it to me even though she was in middle of it :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

23 Year Old and the YA Romance

I have, in my time, read quite a few young adult books, and a few historical romances as well.  One special genre in my bibliographical history is that of YA romances.  I can't think of too many, but the girl's name and the male occupation series are prime examples of this type.  It's quite funny actually, they are not young adult chic lit, they are actually romance novels written for the teenage set, meaning they are appropriate and about sixteen year old girls, but otherwise, they read the same way as the regular set.  I read the series *quite* a while ago, and I enjoyed every single one of them.  My favorite was Samantha and the Cowboy, by Lorraine Heath, which  I originally found in the Catonsville library.  I used to check for it every time I went back there (and I used to go on the often side when I went to UMBC) but it seems they got rid of it (they do seem to do that rather often, and I'm getting quite frustrated - they don't have Melissa Nathan books anymore either).  So I gave up on it after a while.
Then, Peryl said abg brought a friend up for Shabbos, and she brought a whole collection of books, which Peryl had stolen.  I was naturally excited, even though Peryl and Chava both assured me that they were not the most exciting collection ever.  But I said I wanted to go down and take a look anyway - then Chava said, no really, they're really stupid, I picked up this one last night called... Samantha and the... and I was like, Samantha and the Cowboy? I LOVE that book! so of course I had to read it - and I went down the hill to get it and spent a comfortable hour and a half or so wrapped up in gritty universe of post civil war Texan cowboys.

It was *definitely* fun - I mean not the best written book (can't think of many worse written :)) but it's kind of part of the charm.  I couldn't get over how it really was a romance novel, just cleaner and younger.  Totally melodramatic, full of pathos, and people who are rather idiotic about their own feelings - but for all that, totally fun :) I almost reveled in the simplicity, but the definite romance between Sam and Mathew (last name Hart, really).  And it was a bit of a blast from the past too. And of course, it was an hour and a half so not too much time expended in any case :)

Verdict: 4/5 - I mean, you know that's what I like :)
Food: hmm... well I can't do Dunkin Heine's icing again... but the truth is, I don't think this was quite as saccharine.  It was a bit of a different sort - more like something you know isn't that good, but is perfect in its own way.  And definitely something sweet, not for the overly refined palette.  I know! canned pineapple - maybe even the kind in Dole little cups with corn syrup - yes! I am *good*

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wandering Over To A Different Section of the Library, With Some Success

Children's book are kind of their own thing, just like children's television and children's wallpaper.  Since I don't spend a lot of time reading children's books, I don't always appreciate this fact, but when I do pick one up, I'm quite forcibly reminded of it.  Last night, I picked up (finally) Howl's Moving Castle.  If you don't recall, Howl's Moving Castle is the Dianna Wynne Jones book featuring a wizard named Howl who apparently ranks up there with Shevraeth and others as a romantic hero, according to the Bad for Shidduchim post that inspired me in the first place (don't feel like making a link, but see my first post).  So did he live up?

Well I didn't have huge expectations for the book because s.b. and e.sp. both read it and both gave the same verdict - cute, but definitely not incredibly romantic.  And I definitely agree with that assessment - and, as a children's book, I wouldn't really have thought anything else.  It's not even YA (well it was in the YA section of the library, but it could easily have been in children's).  And I like Dianna Wynne Jones, or at least the Chrestomanci series - Christopher is *rather* awesome.  But the Chrestomanci books aren't romantic - there's nothing going on with Milli in the first book as Christopher is 10 years old, and by the second he's married with two kids.  So Howl, with a twenty-something wizard and a simple young town girl, is a *much* more promising setting.  So I'm okay that there's not really any romance - I can put it there myself, pretty well :)

As for the story itself... well the Chrestomanci series is definitely by far the superior world - this one felt like a country cousin of that one (chiefly the portal into "our" world).  But the emphasis here was much more on the story and the people than on the world - and the truth is, I'm not a huge fan of world building.   I like books about people.  Actually, my problem with the book was mainly the "action" sequences - which I just skim or skip totally.   And as for the people, Sophie's definitely cool - she's got spunk, she's smart and she's super nice too - and everyone likes her.  Howl's pretty good, though I don't know why he belongs on the romantic hero post... different strokes for different folks :) (see, I can be very understanding of other opinions :)) And I liked the fairy tale element of the story too - the way it kind of tongue in cheek brought in witch/wizard/enchantment elements.   There's a reason Dianna Wynne Jones is such a popular writer...

So basically, a good children's book, and one of the few I'm happy and intersested to read.

Verdict: 4/5
Food: Well it's good, but not completely satisfying... I think I'm going to go with whole wheat macaroni and cheese - I like it, but it is *not* the same thing as the genuine article.  But don't get me wrong, I would *love* a bowl right now (of course, I'd love a bowl of anything with carbs right now :))

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting Your Hands on the Good Stuff

Tonight you lucky viewers are getting a tutorial in obtaining the maximum possible number of books for the minimum possible sum.  I consider myself an expert in this field as I have been practicing since.... well at least since fifth grade.  I'm not sure how much earlier I became an active book procurer, shifting out of the passive reader mode.  Anyway, here's the lowdown.

There are two basic sub areas involved in this endeavor - buying and borrowing.  I'll discuss buying first, since it's less exciting to me (and I'm not really an expert in buying books at all - far from it).  So as everyone knows, used books are much cheaper than new books.  Used books stores are tons of fun, and they used to be the place, but it's been a LONG time since online has become the place to shop.   When I first read I Want To Go Home, I was desperate for my own copy. I called Barnes and Noble, they said they had a copy, then they said they didn't, so then I went on Amazon, where it said it would need 6 weeks to get a copy for like $70 or something.  So I gave up, and ended up getting a copy missing about 30 pages from my extraordinarily generous cousins, the Sp.  That was in fifth grade, but by the time I ruined Peryl's copy of Pride and Prejudice by leaving it open and upside down, I was able to find her a new copy on - even though it was a one time publication from the Book of Month Club - with no ISBN! and now I have a gorgeous copy of P&P with tons of illustrations and a broken spine :) And when I decided to read Charlotte Lennox's the Female Quixote, and the library had no copy (this must have been before I became such a multi-card holder), I went on ebay and bought a copy for $.99 - totally worth it, even if I haven't read it since that first time in 10th grade (it's a good book though, I should reread it).

Of course, online book sellers come with a MAJOR caveat - witness this post.  *Shipping* I mean that book cost 99 cents, but I'm sure the shipping was a good $3.00.  And I spent $15 on 11 books - and another *$25* to get them here... I mean I'm pretty sure the sellers are making money of the shipping, but whatever, it still ends up being pretty cheap :)

But cheap is not free, and that brings us to my preferred method to obtaining reading material: borrowing! Borrowing from friends is nice, if you can find someone to lend it - you get what is often a nice copy for a potentially unlimited lending period. But of course, then you have to be careful with it (well the truth is, you always should be careful with books) and it's not easy to find someone all the time.  And besides, if you want a brand new book, you always have to wait on line.  So of course, the gold standard in free book borrowing is the public library system, that wonderful institution, that bastion of civilization, that paradisaical locale.

Here, too, the internet has been a great enabler.  When I first starting borrowing books - and don't even ask me how old I was - I don't even think the catalog *was* online... and some point, I discovered you could renew books online, and either earlier, later, or simultaneously, I started searching the catalog to find the books I wanted.  Of course, if your branch doesn't have a book, you can either reserve it, or even easier, just call and request it and they'll send it over.   That's for amatuers... slightly more sophisticated users know that you can actually reserve books when they are on order - these days, popular books can be reserved months in advance and obtained on the *day of publication* itself - today I picked up Lee Child's 61 Hours, which was ready for me yesterday... publication date? May 18.  And that's not even fast.  I've gotten Lauren Willig books the day they come out, Jasper Fforde, The Spellman Files... the only problem there is that it's not always predictable which books the library gets immediately - I have had to wait for a month! before a newly published book is available - and to a professional like me, that ranks as *unacceptable*

So how to solve? If I'm really desperate for a book I make sure to reserve it in *more than one library*.  And that's not more than one branch, it's another system.  I am the proud owner of 7 - and yes that's SEVEN - library cards.  Baltimore County is my library, Pratt is the Batimore city system that everyone uses in parallel, Prince George's County is where I went to school (at Maryland), Howard County is where I work (Columbia), Lackawanna County is for CL, and the other two are just for fun - DC, where I obtained a copy of New Moon when there was not *one single copy* available in the *entire* Maryland, and Frederick County, where they had a copy of the Reluctant Heiress *before* it came out - from it's original publication as Magic Flutes.  And I am using these stars because *I feel this is very important*.  If you make sure to hedge your bets, one or another place will get you what you need - lately, I've noticed that Howard County has been much better at on time releases than bcpl - I'm thinking of shifting... but I'm a little lazy to - for my VIBs, I'll need to though

A few more little tricks - renewing, obviously - bcpl now lets 2 renewals, for a total time out of 9 weeks :) if you have to return something, you can try to get them to let you take it out again right away... but I was unsuccessful with that the last few times I tried... The other thing you can do, which I just did, is get a book out from another library - I have return Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days next Friday, and I don't know if I'll have a chance to read it before then (I've got *a lot* on my list) - so I just picked it up from Pikesville today (original copy is from pratt) - now I just need to make sure to return the right copy :)

Oh, here's another one - ebooks! so you don't even have to leave the house - the library's selection is pretty limited, by I have access to 4 different OverDrive systems, which I have made occasional use of - definitely worth it when you want a quick and easy read :)

And for the real troopers... Jude Morgan wrote a new Regency, A Little Folly, which unfortunately has only been published as of yet in England.  I can buy a copy for $16, possibly - I only found that in some weird site, and on Amazon it's even more... but guess what? it's in the London library... and in the Brisbane, Queensland, AUS library as well.  So all I have to do is fly to Australia, somehow get a library card, and I've got everything I need! And of course, I'm going to Australia this summer... maybe :)

Hope you found this helpful - I doubt anyone made it this far into my treatise... but I'm always open for suggestions, questions, comments - and I LOVE helping other people get books

Happy book hunting!

Awesome P.S. to the Jude Morgan - I'm not really planning to buy the book even for $16 -  I don't think it's that good - but I wanted to find the website again to verify its legitimacy.... but I don't remember how I found it the first time - it wasn't by a standard search, I was looking for something specific.  When I went searching I found two things : 1) This blog shows up on PAGE 3 of the entries when the terms of A Little Folly Jude Morgan!!! so I am making my mark on the Internet :) 2) I couldn't find the website I saw originally, I remembered it had free shipping and there was nothing like that - there was one that offered one for $13 + $7 shipping (because it ships from the UK) - but not the original site.  so then  I tried to remember what I was searching for - for some reason, I thought it might have been the genre - though I've changed my mind, I don't think it was that after all -  I think I"m confusing it with a genre search I did for an AMS book. But anyway, the second or third result was for risky regency, which is the blog I've seen before, so I clicked on it - I'm easily distracted :) and ... it was a post about the books she wanted for the holiday season (i do feel more comfortable referring to it that way :)) and she mentioned that she got a lot of books from and that sounded familiar so I clicked on it and.... THAT WAS THE SITE! how beyond weird and cool is that - and it's not like the post was even about A Little Folly, she mentioned she got some book on Napoleon there... so I think a worth mentioning coincidence, no? :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Completely Silly, Done Right

Just finished Wrong-Way Romance - took me about an hour or so.  The book has the most ridiculous premise, is composed of sentences like "Then the day you hit me with that book, I knew what I was feeling had to be either true love or a spinal injury" (really I just quoted that verbatim :)) and the main character, Darby is a bit of an idiot who's also quite self righteous and somewhat of a Mary Sue (really only in her mysterious apparent attractiveness).  But so what? I mean, it's not like I'd expect anything else from #176 in the Sweet Dreams series... and Bruce is just *so perfect*. He is handsome, a star athlete, appears fairly bright, never gets mad, is always a gentleman, and loves Darby from the beginning.  What more could anyone ask? Certainly nothing more from this book - it's a good hour of cotton candy.  You know, I think I'll start giving books food comparisons as well as ratings...
so rating: 5/5
food: well, I said cotton candy, but I don't really like cotton candy... it's more like... dunkin heins icing - really good, but it would make you a bit sick if you ate too much of it at once - but 136 pages of font size 12 is just the right amount :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writing Something Very Far From Jane Austen

Elizabeth Aston has, up till now, written a series of books about characters tangentially related to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.  Some of them are better than others, but all of them are somewhat romantic, fairly well written, and have accurate historical detail.  That being said, I wasn't overly excited when I saw that she was publishing her first modern book, about a lost manuscript of Jane Austen's.  At first, I wasn't planning to read it as well, as believe it or not, I'm not a huge fan of Austen paraliterature for its own sake (for the sake of romance I'm a fan of anything, of course ;))  I decided to give it a try anyway...

So first of all, the writing.  Sentence structure, syntax wise, it was good - not uneven, very easy reading.  I did find it a bit abrupt at times,  I definitely felt overdramatic (I feel like everything I read these days falls under the heading of "manufactured melodrama").  But it was fine, especially after I got used to it.  My main complaint was really the premise of the book more than anything.  The main character is an author who has never read Jane Austen because her stock in trade is Victorian lower class misery and she feels Austen is complete whitewash fantasy land and totally uninteresting.  Of course, she is disabused of this notion as she meets the eclectic group of people who fall under the category of Janeites and then spends an enthralled 3 days reading all 6 books straight.  Now actually, I thought it was cute for her to read those books that way but I had two major issues with the whole way her hate/love of Jane Austen was handled.  1) Who cares if Austen is all about escapism into a fictional world that never existed? Certainly not I - that's why I read these books.  I mean, yes, she's also a great comedic writer and her characters can be very realistic, her social commentary continues to be relevant and all that, but I read those books b/c I love the story and it's the greatest romance ever written, IMO (and a *whole* lot of other people's too :)) 2) There are a lot of reasons people don't like Austen, or prefer the Brontes to Austen and even though I COMPLETELY disagree with them, setting up a naive author as the strawman who discovers her mistakes upon first reading P&P is not enough of defense against their arguments (whatever they are...) So that was my main complaint in the beginning

Then she discovered how much she loved the books and got started writing and that whole issue kind of just receeded.... to bring up another in its place - based on the back of this book and my previous experience with the author (and also my peek at the last page of the book which was an epilogue with (spoiler alert :)) a wedding announcement, I was expecting a pretty decent romance.  And there were some scenes from Henry (the guy)'s POV, so there was certainly potential for it.  but... there just wasn't - seriously, there was nothing.  Georgina realizes she loves Henry, does nothing about it, and then at the VERY END they get together with absolutely NO fanfare.  so basically, no point to reading this book at all.

The redeeming feature was the ending was actually a bit of a surprise, especially given that the rest of the book just kind of went along (not that I would complain if it went along the way I wanted :)) and everything was resolved okay. still... it could have been *so much better*

verdict: 2/5 (I know that does seems harsh... but I just don't see where more stars are going to come from)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sometimes Even Low is Too High

Finished the Meg Cabot - Runaway, third in the Airhead series.... not much to say - I don't expect much of any Meg Cabot, but they are often decently romantic - this series has more plot than her usual, but it was OVER DRAMATIC - like OVER THE TOP AND A HALF - and choppy, and all over the place and throwing it in your face... i was totally just skimming it to get through it in the end... Meg Cabot, I am disappointed.


Dime Novel Theatrics Done... Well Enough, I Guess

Well, I've made progress... maybe not as much as I could have considering I just had two blissful days of yom tov, but I was (and still am) in cl, so I think I did as well as can be expected... anyway, I'm in middle of the Meg Cabot, so more on that anon, but I *finished* the Harvey Girls - so here goes...

Huvi didn't like it too much, so I think I was *slightly* prejudiced going on, though I know her taste does tend to differ from mine quite often... but anyway, the first thing I noticed was that I found the tone quite anachronistic - and if there's one thing I don't like in my historical fiction, it's anachronism.  It was so much anachronism of speech (though there was some of that) or anachronism of dress/lifestyle, it was more just the tone.   And I realized that Samuel Hopkins Adams, writing, I think, in the 1940's, did not see himself as at all a contemporary of the 1890's young westerners about which he wrote.  The general tone I picked up, at least in the beginning, was basically that of the dime novel he references more than once in the book - a view of the west as the wild place and the westerners as rather simple-minded and uncouth go-getters.  To some extent, I think, this was actually the case... but I found myself comparing the book's tone and setting with the Virginian, which is unquestionably accurate, given that Owen Wister traveled out west for years and the book is basically a collection of some of his experiences there (slightly romanticized of course :)).  Anyway, there can really be no comparison between the two, The Virginian being an American classic and The Harvey Girls more of a fun read which gained notoriety more through the movie adaption than anything else, I think.

So that being said, I mostly got over the somewhat uneven tone pretty quickly, and was able to enjoy the book for what it is.  First and foremost, I'd say, it's a western, with all the drama and violence, all the corrupt authorities, rough diamonds, and always on top heroes that implies - so it was fun, all the more so because, like all my favorite books, it didn't really get *too* tense - issues tended to get resolved pretty quickly - like when one of the waitresses got secretly married and pregnant, she wasn't summarily fired, but continued on until she wanted to quit.  And the evil judge never actually got elected governor (sorry to spoil :))

And there were three attractive girls, all with pretty good romances going on - quiet Deborah, with her reformed gambler, Hazel Biggs, with her earl in disguise (yes, L&Gs, you read that right :)) and Cricket/Alma, whose good nature and supreme competence reward her with a P&P-esque romance and one sat--is-fy-ing Mr. Darcy :)

so all was pretty well until... as Mia says of Mill on the Floss SOMEONE VERY IMPORTANT DIES! - okay, so it wasn't Cricket (which is basically who it is in MotF), it's Deborah (sorry to spoil again :)) but it does put a damper on the book - and I kind of felt it was out of nowhere... I guess Deborah and her guy, Ned Trent, were kind of the good guy sacrifices so that Hopkins Adams could kill off the judge, and not have the story come off as too improbable.. but I have faith that he could have come up with something else and not killed of one of the main three... definitely a mistake in my book.

That being said, it was surprising easy to get over (her romance was definitely the least important of the three, and she doesn't really seem to be going anyway herself) and the book finished off okay... but only okay, it was on a pretty serious note altogether.  There was an epilogue 50 years later, which was nice, but I always find those kind of depressing, because they remind me of how much time passes (Great Expectations syndrome is the term I have just coined). 

This review sounds like I have mostly complaints about the book, but that's really not the case- it's fun to read about the west, especially when the main characters are such awesome cowboys... and if it's not The Virginian... come on, nobody is ;).   And the romances weren't bad at all... and like I said, the book mostly kept a pretty light tone, so it wasn't too difficult to recover even from the darker ending than I expected.  Plus it wasn't like I was expecting an incredible book anyway.

So verdict... 3/5.  And I'd recommend reading, but with low expectations :)

Oh and I almost forgot! It was totally fascinating to read about the Harvey restaurants, especially after hearing the NPR piece - just a completely new and different experience - always worth it :) (well not always, but this one was :))

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Importance of Reading Rightly

Well I finished yet another Alexander McCall Smith book last night... what can I say, he writes a lot of books.  And this one has as of yet only been published in England and was on loan to me for this Shabbos only and so naturally moved to the top of my to do list... and even with that I only managed to finish it 4 in the morning last night so it could head home to Queens early this morning - but I did it, of course - there is little I would not do for a book, especially an only-published-in-England book :)

So I was debating whether I should even review it, given that I've already said so much about AMS on here (see here and here) but since it's the only book I finished this Shabbos, and I can't go so long without posting (couldn't do that to my loyal fans :)) I decided to indulge you and myself in a light review - so here goes :)

The first thing to say about The Dog Who Came In From the Cold is that it's the second in the series of the Corduroy Mansions books, and I do not remember the first very well.  I remembered all the characters, just not where exactly they were in lives.  So it definitely took some getting into before I could fully engage - but that didn't actually take long, it's pretty easy to pick up the thread.  But the truth is, I don't really root for any of the characters in this book, the way I root for Bertie and Matthew (a little Matthew... maybe not so much) in the 44 Scotland Street series) so I found myself getting annoyed with their pretensions - it seemed like AMS just putting his thoughts in every character's mouth, without each really having much of an individual voice.  And when it came to MI6 recruiting Freddie de La Hay, William French's dog (Pimlico Terrier actually - definitely a point in favor of this book that it takes place in Pimlico :)) I just got annoyed - I was like, I'm sorry but spying agencies just do NOT recruit like that.  So then I started complaining as I was reading and it was pointed out to me by several helpful people who were in the room at the time (thank you p,p,y,y, and h - don't recall which of you did the actual pointing out :)) that it was a JOKE - and I thought about it and I was like - you're right, it *is* just a joke.  And once I realized that, my whole perspective on the book just changed.

You're not supposed to take it seriously - it's published in a serial form first and the chapters are each meant to be interesting and somewhat humorous in an anecdotal way - when you read it in book form, you need to remember that, and kind of just let the story carry you along without getting too invested in the plot, or even in the characters.  It's kind of just a "what life would be like if life were just a little bit more improbable" and also "if people were slightly more like caricatures of themselves than they are".  Anyway, when you read it in the right spirit, it's really quite enjoyable.  It's kind of absurd but light and moves along very quickly.  I did find that I disagreed more than agreed with the aside observations, which is unlike in No. 1 Ladies, but I just kind of ignored any philosophical bent and reveled the slight absurdity of the story instead.  And it was fun :)

Verdict 4/5 - good job again, AMS :)

Oh and side note - if you want to read this book, I think it's still available in serial form online (and I'm sorry about the website, this does not imply ANY patronization of the newspaper in question) - but here it is

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How I Manage to Slack Off Even Though I Have Nothing to Do

Being that my life is incredibly busy (not really, I have one of the less frenetic lives I know of) I seem to be on pace to reading one book a week - which had BETTER pick up because I am way behind... want to hear the list?

So first of all, there are the books I just bought - two of them I've never read b/4 so they are up there on the to do list

1) Melissa Nathan's Learning Curves
2) Leanna Renee Hieber's The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

Then there are the two (hopefully two) books I am getting from S. Sp. *just* for the weekend - so that'll park that one right up

3) Wrong Way Romance - which I read I think by Michoel's bar mitzvah, but not since then
4) The Dog Who Came in From the Cold - new Cordoroy Mansions from AMC

Then I've got books from the library, in order of due date (or ultimate due date after I renew them)

From Pratt:
5) Bachelor Degree - chic lit, probably stupid
6) The Harvey Girls (I know, I know)
7) Book of a Thousand Days (suggested by abg on this very blog :))

These are due on Friday... and unfortunately I have a block on my card so I can't renew them - which leaves me in a rather unsatisfying situation.... the Central library closes at 5:00 tomorrow and I have to work until 6:00 because I am going to Chapman Lake for Shabbos and I'm planning to leave tomorrow night, if all works out...
so I am taking rather extreme measures - I have done some research (google maps) and ascertained the branch that will take me the shortest out of the way that is open till 8:00... Hampden Branch will take 38 minutes from work, to branch, to home with no traffic - so to Hampden I go! will pay my fine and renew my books, giving my another three weeks to finish... and will I do it? I, at least, am biting my nails in suspense :) I guess we'll find out one way or another within a month - so hold on tight!

That's pratt - from the county library I've got another... a lot

8) Tears of Pearl - the 4th Lady Emily by Tasha Alexander
9) The Vintage Caper - Peter Mayle's second novel - both of these are due 5/17 with one more 3 week renewal
10) Howl's Moving Castle
11) The House of Many Ways
12) Castle in the Air - these three are due 6/2 with one renewal (and no, I have not started them despite what posts from weeks ago may imply :))
13) Runaway - the third in the Airhead series by none other than... Meg Cabot (yes L&G, I do read such trash :))
14) Suite Francaise - I got this out before, but had to return it so I got it out again (really like the 4th time overall... but I'm going to read it someday, I will)
15) Writing Jane Austen - Elizabeth Aston's first contemporary novel
16) Wagered Heart - Christian romance by Robin Hatcher - due 5/28 with 2 renewals left

17) and besides that, I had to return Winter's Tale, but I'm planning on getting it out again next time I go to the library

so yeah... have bitten off more than I can chew,  as usual - but at least I've got plenty to read- and I'm actually looking forward to most of these :)

so lucky me

Sunday, May 9, 2010

That Famous British Sense of Humor

Today's (and the week's) reading was Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! It was a Terry Pratchett book, which is to say that it was good, but there's not much interesting to say about it specifically - other than that it was the first Watch book, which I hadn't realized, so it explains Vimes and Lady Sybil and also Carrot's beginnings.  Anyway, since I don't really feel like reviewing it as such (I hope you appreciate the delicate tone shade of meaning in as such - not exact, but whence to I paraphrase? :)) I am devoting this post to a more general discussion of why I like Terry Pratchett.

Well I like Terry Pratchett because he's funny - that's fairly simply.  But what's interesting is that when I go through all my funny authors, I find that they are British men - Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, P.G. Wodehouse, Mark Helprin (not entirely British, but he did go to Oxford at least :))... the English part is particuarly interesting, as I have said b/4 I am more than something of an Anglophile, but male? When I go to the library I look at several things before even pulling a book off a shelf and one is definitely the gender of the author - if it's by a man... that's a point against.  Except when it comes to funny books.  I don't know if women don't try to write funny books or if I'm just not interested... I think it's more the former.  Well maybe not... offhand, the only funny female author I can think of that i read is The Spellman Files - those books are funny, but it's an *entirely* different sort of funnyness.  They are funny because Izzy is funny and she gets into funny situations.  Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse... they're funny because the writing itself is funny.  I think the same can almost be said about Alexander McCall Smith, in the No. 1 series at least and the 44 Scotland Street.  It's a supremely dry sense of humor  that I think comes along with being British and to me at least, seems peculiarly (and I mean that in the archaic sense :)) male.  And obviously, that's the sense of humor I find funny.

It's not really worth analyzing why that's the case... I think I have that in common with many others, and slapstick just doesn't make it through when it comes to writing (I tend to skim right over anything smacking of an action sequence), it's just interesting to recognize.  And it's the only interest I ever have in male authors at all, so it's a good thing there are so many of them.  I think Van Reid would fall in this category too, though I've only read one of his books, and I don't remember it that well.  I really shouldn't say that's the only interest I have in male books though - I mean I definitely read male classics - though Mark Twain was like the *prototype* for this kind of humor (sorry if I'm overusing ** tonight)- and I did read The Dante Club and that author's other book... and I'm sure there are more... whatever, I seem to be rambling so I guess it's time to stop :) All I know is, I like books like this, and you should all be aware that I'm not a totally single minded reader - sorry if that disappoints :)

on an interesting side note, I once read a Terry Pratchett that had a comment blurb on the back that said "The single funniest English writer" or something like that - and I thought how can they say that? what about PG Wodehouse? then I picked the book up and saw the rest of the quote "... since PG Wodehouse" :) Great minds...

Signing off then... g'night all :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tonight's Activity

Instead of hurrying up and finishing another book so I have something to review, I have been entertaining myself with another activity - luckily, it's book related, so I still have something to post :) Well I posted yesterday that Melissa Nathan wrote another book that I must get a hold of... unfortunately, not ONE library in the entire Maryland has a copy - I think it was only published in England, so that would explain it. Anyway, Amazon has a used copy available for $0.01 + $3.99 shipping, so I was contemplating buying it (not that I expect it to be that good, but 1 cent is pretty darn (sorry for the language) cheap. But then I started thinking, well if I get more than one book then the shipping will be less, so that's more worth it. So I started looking for Jude Morgan's new book, A Little Folly, which I know has so far only been published in hardback in England, and so is ridiculously expensive. And then I started looking for other books that I might not mind owning... other melissa nathan, that kind of thing. but then I decided to check the shipping policy, and lo and behold, on Amazon Marketplace, you *cannot* combine shipping - so every item is at least $3.99+...

so what to do? well I check bn's policy - the same - and then I went looking for other sites - and alibris lets you combine shipping! yay! so then I looked for The Learning Curve on alibris and they had it, but only for $1.49 cheapest and the store I wanted it from $1.99... but with combined shipping, would it work? I started looking for other books - georgette heyer, ella enchanted... s.b. helped me with some suggestions... The Ordinary Princess, which I've been thinking of buying... and then I started checked for The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which is a gothic Victorian mystery romance I've been meaning to read because it was suggested in a few places but which none of the libraries have either... and there was site with that one too...

so everything was going swimmingly, when I checked the shipping savings - $3.99 for the first book and $2.19 after that- but since these books mostly cost $2.00, it's basically the same thing as paying 1 cent + 3.99 so I'm back where I started... can't decide what to do - it feels cheaper to me to buy the additional shipping... but that's completely psychological, as it's actually more expensive... I think I'll go with that anyway...

really, I'm just going to go with the one with better books - and by better, I mean rarer - because what's the point if I can just get it from the library? no one has jude morgan's new one for a decent price, so for that I'll either have to wait till I can go to the library in australia (where according to the website, they do NOT give temporary cards, so that sounds like a no go) or I can wait till an edition comes out in the US or a paperback edition comes out that I can buy for cheap... so patience there :) but I definitely want the melissa nathan book and i think the leanna renee hieber book and also the ordinary princess and also sylvester... so I can now spend the rest of the night looking for a single seller on alibris that has all those... or for a bunch of 1 cent copies on amazon :)

or I could just buy $50.00 worth of stuff for alibris - then I get FREE shipping!

if anyone actually read and posted, I would naturally ask for advice and/or suggestions... but seeing how if all my viewers are lurkers (and don't worry, I'm grateful to you for just bringing up my view count :)) I guess I'll have to decide ALL BY MYSELF - more fun for me :)

Update: so after all that, I decided to buy The Learning Curve for .01 on Amazon, because none of the websites that offered it were particularly cheap... but then I got caught up in a cheap book frenzy and I ordered a bunch of .99 cent books from a company on alibris that was selling The Strange Case... for 1.99... and I got 11 books for $15.00 and then... I went to checkout . . . (accompanied by that let down music) shipping was $25.00... so then I decided, well why don't I try to get free shipping? so I went through and found tons of cheap books that I was mildly interested in and finally got my total up to $49.00... but it wasn't eligible... so then I took it back down to the original 11... but I kept all 11 - and with a $1 coupon code, 11 books for $14.00... plus $25 S&H - still that 11 books for $40 = 3.63 a book... so not bad -and cheaper than the .01 Amazon way :)

so what books did I just waste $40 on?
1) Leanna Renee Hieber - The Strange Life of Miss Percy Parker - because I can't find it in the library
2) No More Dead Dogs - present for my Mommy :)
3) Son of Interflux - s.b suggested A Semester of Life in A Garbage Bag and this one goes together with that one for me
4) A Semester of Life in a Garbage Bag (see above)
5) Ella Enchanted - been wanting that one for a while - definitely qualifies as a know by heart book
6) The Ordinary Princess - maybe not know by heart, but I've read it *a lot* and I like it more every time I read it
7) Sylvester- because you can never have too many Georgette Heyers (and I don't know why I didn't buy this one along with all my others anyway)
8) The Talisman Ring - see 7 (not the parens this time - I know why - it doesn't rank up there :))
9) The Nonesuch - see 8
10) April lady - see 8
11) Anne of the Island - I would already own this, but since it's one of a series, I was always kind of reluctant to buy it... but it is by far the most romantic so... :)

man, do i waste money... it's okay, it's only $40 :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Nanny by... Melissa Nathan!!!

Fair warning...there's a whole intro to the review here, so if you just want the review... here it is.

Hello all... reporting from Bubby (or my grandmother, depending on who you are :))'s kitchen, via internet access from the lovely people next door (thank you to them, and if anyone is reading this for whom Bubby is not the appropriate term, don't worry it's with their full knowledge and cooperation :)). Anyway, in Monsey for Shabbos managed to finish one book - and not even on Shabbos, just on Motzei Shabbos... but it was a good 'un!

what book, you ask? well read the title, duh :) but WHY this book? a very good question, or not actually, because more often than not the answer would be because the blurb on the back looked good... but in this case, I have a very good answer :) Melissa Nathan is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Field which is one of many modern day versions of P&P, but I think quite a well known one. Anyway, excellent book, as is Persuading Annie, her modern version of Persuasion. Her other book I've read is The Waitress, a fine example of contemporary chic lit... so I thought up until this minute that the last book of hers I haven't yet read was The Nanny (she actually died a few years ago, so no more books from her :() but just now I looked up on Wikipedia and SHE WROTE ANOTHER ONE! which i MUST READ! and shall, never fear :) anyway... I always wanted to read The Nanny but when I last looked for it I was only a member of two libraries besides lackawanna county and my regular library didn't have it and the pratt library's copy was apparently lost... however, last Friday I went to pratt for the Harvey girls (see here) and I decided to look for it and THERE IT WAS - actually I needed to ask the librarian to go down to stacks for me, but whatever there it was in stacks) so I was terribly excited because after all, I'm talking about a writer KNOWN to write good solid chic lit with plenty from the guy's POV and a fantastic happily ever after!

so what happened? here's where the actual review starts by the way, if you've been going blah-blah-blah what do I care this whole time :) I started the book with a great sense of anticipation naturally but as I read I felt mostly confused... the main character had this horrible life (which wasn't confusing at all, but I mostly get impatient w/ huge complainers and I have no patience for provincials :) which is, I'm sorry, what she was) and the people she worked for (she is a nanny, remember) well I couldn't figure out if you were supposed to like them or not... sometimes they behaved absolutely horrible (the woman contemplating cheating, the man behaving really meanly to her, in addition to the fact that he cheated on his first wife) but it did seem like they were supposed to be symphathetic sometimes... and besides, if they would get divorced, that wouldn't be a very happy ending, so I just wasn't sure where anything was headed. The other thing I noticed was that the author really fancies herself above the general run of chic lit, as she used interesting similes all over the place... but the truth is, it was mostly pretty comical, and I think that was the intention. So my first impression was basically kind of why do I like this author so much?

and then as I kept reading, I was getting even more nervous... I mean I like chic lit to be basically about the relationship between the main character and whoever the guy is. I do not read it for a plot filled with tension and tons of other stuff going on - and this one had two disfunctional parents, kids with a few issues, money problems, infidelity... I mean not what I signed up for! but with all that, it was still a fun read, so I kept on going and...

!!~Reward~!! as I kept reading, the problems mostly resolved themselves without any overly tense blow ups - the only blow up was the requisite one between Josh and Jo (those are the main characters btw) and as I understood the characters more, the book really took shape (or maybe the author just got her act together, idk). in any case, by I'd say a little over half way, it was good solid chic lit - and I do mean good! Plenty (well not plenty but almost enough) from Josh's POV about how he likes Jo, a little angst, some bickering, and everything resolved just purrfect in the end. so good that I was thinking about continuations of the story after I finished (before I fell asleep, don't worry not *that* obsessed) and I only do that with books I really like.

I mean I'm not saying I'm going to go out and buy a copy or anything like that, just that I guess it's been a while since I've read such good chic lit - why does no one write anything like that anymore? :) and it does continue to be my favorite genre - my unapologetic favorite genre :)

So I'm not telling *anyone* out there who does not like chic lit to read this book - it is chic lit and there is really nothing else in there - but if you're a fan of books about twenty-something girls in london who meet gorgeous guys and live happily ever after - find this book - anywhere - and read it! (or your time returned to you, guaranteed **)

oh so verdict... 5/5

**not really, I'm not a magician or G-d