Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Looking For High Drama

Finished this Sunday... too lazy to post till now... feeling tired these days... anyway... after my previous foray into long-neglected GHs, (see review of The Quiet Gentleman) I was eager to venture yet again into the land of almost-forgotten novels by the great authoress.  I selected The Masqueraders, which I think I bought in an airport in Europe at some point because it was the only Heyer there... or actually, maybe I bought it last summer along with TQG... yup, I'm pretty sure it was then (Simon the Coldheart was purchased at the Glasgow airport I think).  And since I bought it last summer, I haven't read it - not surprising, since I hadn't read it for quite a few years before and I haven't read most of the Heyers I've bought, sad to say.  I have read it more than once, which puts it ahead of TQG. (continuing from Thurs...) Now TQG never got reread because, as I said in that review, it's almost more of a mystery than a romance.  The Masqueraders is more typical Heyer, but not typical Regency Heyer - it's one of her Georgians.  Those are written quite differently - more dramatically, with less of a light touch and more of an intense tone.  With that, there's no real reason why they  can't be just as romantic... These Old Shades, The Convenient Marriage, even Devil's Cub are also decently, or more than decently in DC's case, so.  But The Masqueraders...

Well I don't know how much I noticed it before - I think not as much previously as this go-around - but The Masqueraders loses a lot to drama.  In fact, it's not really a chic lit romance at all - I don't even really think it's meant to be.  There are two couples, one the usual boring one and then the central couple.  But the central couple aren't together not because of angsty misunderstandings or spark-filled clashes, but because circumstances (the woman masquerading as a man) make it impractical.  So there's not much fun in waiting for them to get together.  The fun is more in the drama and the action of the story, a fairly entertaining tale of a con artist's greatest effort - all taking place in the elegant halls of Georgian London high society.  And you know, it is pretty fun in both those senses (con artistry and high society).

But I don't know why, the high-flown language just bothered me more than usual.  I know GH essentially made up Regency cant as we know it today, but now it just seems authentic to me (and it bothers me when other authors get it wrong :)) But here... maybe I'm just less used to it or maybe it really is more fabricated, but the "child" (to address an adult), the "it" (in place of he)... and then there was the rather too much "show don't tell" magnificence of the con artist in question, Lord Barham.  Sad to see GH guilty of such a thing.  And I can't say she's *very* guilty of it.  He mostly is pretty magnificent.  But the drama just wasn't *quite* all it was meant to be.  I hate to criticize a Heyer but... there it is.  I can't say I didn't enjoy this book, I did, but it irked me at the same time - maybe just because it wasn't as good as I remembered.  I still think she's great, and I'm sure I'll go back to this one some time... but just be warned, this is not quite the Heyer we love.

Verdict: 3.8/5

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finish That Goes Nowhere

Well it's been a while... what with California (though my last post was after that I think) and Pesach... I finally finished the book I started in CA over the last days of Pesach but then it took me a while to get to this... anyway, here I am now.  Ready to review Jane Vows Vengeance, the third in Michael Thomas Ford's series of Jane Austen as a vampire.  I think I rather enjoyed the first two (and at least one, if not both, are reviewed here, but I have not reread the reviews, pursuant with my general rule :)) so I was expecting the same of the third.

But whatever I liked about the first two, this one was not up to par.  I mean it's not like the other two were  *great* - but somehow MTF did a good job with the characters, making them interesting and fun to be around.  But this one... well the characters were more annoying than anything else - it's like only the main elements of each were preserved and exaggerated, with most likeability erased in the process.  It's almost a "show, don't tell" case, where we're supposed to like Lucy and Rabbi Cohen and Walter because they're the ones Jane likes, but they're just kind of boring and there to be yes men than anything else.  And the dislikeable characters aren't funny (I'm pretty sure they used to be funny) just kind of silly.  I guess Lord Byron has some of his old charm... but even he is just repeating old movements.

I found that, in general, this book was covering old ground - and what wasn't old was not worth introducing.  The story centered around vampire legend, and MTF played as fast and loose as he wanted with it to get what he considered a good story.  But it just comes off as thrown together.  In fact, the whole book comes off as thrown together.  There was some interesting promise with the mystery, but it all got resolved most disappointingly.  Really just altogether very amateur, with nothing I can think of to redeem it.  Oh well, at least this was the last one.

Verdict: 2/5

Friday, April 6, 2012

Not an Ordinary Fairy Tale

Upon finishing the previous title Motzei Shabbos before leaving to SF, I did not immediately write up a post.   I also did not go to sleep in anticipation of my 7:00 AM flight the next morning.  Instead, I took a survey of books to bring with me on the trip and decided I was in the mood to read The Ordinary Princess right then and there.  So I did.  It's not too long, finished it before going to sleep.

It really is an adorable little thing.  I mean it's a children's book, but it's not written for children so much as as an homage to children's books of yore (fairy tales).  So, though its attitudes are often simplistic, it's understood that's to be expected in a fantasy land.  And occasionally there's some light fun made of the open-and-shut universe of fairyland.  Well I suppose actually the entire book is a parody, since the notion of an Ordinary Princess highlights the ridiculousness of all those other Extra-ordinary ones.  But in any case, no one reads this book as a satire, and not even really as light humor.

Instead, it's a charming love story/coming of age.  In common with some fairy tales, there is no tension to be found - I mean none - Amy goes to work as a kitchen drudge, but that's not something she minds.  And she's happy to live alone in the forest.  So the time passes as easily for us as it does for her.  And the love story - it's interesting, because it doesn't really have much of that angst I always say is essential to a good chic-lit romance - but yet, I find the story quite romantic.  I almost don't know why, but there is the constant underlying tensions on both sides that the other party is "not for me" (though of course, we know  better :)) And despite that, they do grow closer - and reading between the lines, treasure their fleeting time together.  I almost don't know why I enjoy this romance so much... but after all, it's by MM Kaye - who has written some rather grand romance in her time.

The book takes about an hour (or less) to finish - and I wouldn't want it to take more.  But from start to finish, I really don't think there's one moment I don't enjoy.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Some Neat Lines, A Lot of Fluff

I actually finished this one almost a week ago, but what with my little dash off to San Fran I didn't get around to reviewing it till now... when it seems most imperative that I do so since I'm heading into Pesach and possibly more reading time.  Anyway, after finishing up a long-neglected GH, I still didn't have any books on my agenda (and still don't have many, since I've been lazy about reserving) so I picked up a rather random title.  A few months ago, I mentioned that a "popular math" book I saw around Dov's parents' house looked interesting - Math Mysteries I think it's called or something like that, by Marcus de Satoy (again, or something like that).   I've read a few books of this type - history of math, basic introductions to its areas of study - and they're entertaining enough.  So my sweet Dov brought the book home for me, rather unexpectedly.  It seemed incumbent upon me to read it once I got around to it.

It turned out to be fairly interesting, and definitely an easy read.  I don't think any of the actual math was new - a lot of it was very similar to the math section of 1,2,3....Infinite and the remainder was mostly my CMSC 203 class - discrete math.  But it was a nice reminder I guess.  What I found a little annoying was the juvenility of some of the examples - the book is peppered with games that "illustrate" the concepts being explained.  But maybe it's aimed at a juvenile audience, I don't know.  It just seemed like a little too much filler.  And on the other hand, some of the most interesting math was glossed over, so that I found myself wishing he explained A->B in a little more detail.  But there was good too - I think what I found strongest were his examples of math in nature - especially the prime number cicadas and the three-colored lizards.  What a world we live in, huh?

I guess it's not his fault that this isn't my first math book.  I would have gotten more out of it if I didn't already know most of the stuff.  But I'm glad it's not my first, because I think those other ones did a better job explaining the concepts than he did.  Overall, it wasn't hard to read though, and it was a nice refresher.  Not too taxing on the brain, and good reminder of the neatness of mathematics.

Verdict: 2.75/5