Thursday, November 14, 2013

Classically Good

Lagging behind as usual... I think I promised you I'd have something more accomplished than GH to review soon, and indeed, soon after I wrote my last review I did complete my grand endeavor (ok, ok, not so grand) but then of course life interfered, in the form of an interrupted move.  And today I sit here in Teaneck, waiting for my house to be ready and starting my delayed review of... North and South.  I know, I know, not crazy impressive.  But it it a *little* more intellectual/challenging than GH :) Where do I start? Should it be with my personal history of N&S? Why not? :)

I read Wives and Daughters in high school some time, I liked it.  That was when I used to read lots of classics, some of them on the bleaker side (Bleak House :)), so W&D was almost a treat in its treatment of middle class society and young couples in love.  I didn't read any more of Elizabeth Gaskell's books at the time, I thought W&D was by far her most prominent (I guess it is that).  So much for that. Fast forward a few years, to the beginning of youtube fandom, when I watched a video entitled... well entitled something.  It was fun :) (I can't find it anymore, it was a montage of period heroes).  There were a few I didn't recognize, including one that was identified as Richard Armitage in North and South.  Richard Armitage? Waaaah?? Isn't he like an ambassador or something? Why yes he is... because there are two Richard Armitages :) The ambassador (we don't like him) and the actor - we HEART him.  He was one of my major celebrity crushes, I watched everything I could find with him online.  Anyways... jumping ahead of ourselves.  I looked him up and I looked North and South up.  I was intrigued, no doubt about it.  I made a deal with myself I wouldn't watch the movie till I read the book... so of course I lost no time in reading the book :) (I think I ordered it online).  I enjoyed the movie in its own time, but it's the book I'm here to talk about.

And I enjoyed that too.  The first time I read it, the second time, and now, the third time (I think it's the third time). It's a serious book, even the romance is intense, and the romance is only a small part of a story that's more about class tensions in the early Victorian era.  Sounds appealing, right? But the romance is *excellent*, excellent I say.  Good amount of pathos, nice amount of suspense, denouement not terribly anti-climatic.  (Well the romance aspect of it isn't, the rest is actually quite anti-climatic, I think her editor told her to end it already or something - jumping ahead of myself again).

But what's interesting is that, despite the comparative dearth of romance, I very much enjoyed the entire book.  Thornton and Margaret are both strong, and mostly very likeable (the very is more him and than her) and their story is interesting because it's about them.  I can't say I'm very interesting in the struggles of the industrial revolution but this book makes me care.  It even makes me think a little bit.  But mostly, it entertains :) That's quite a compliment for a book with a painting of something other than people on the cover :)

Bottom line, I liked this book.  It's obviously well-written, it's entertaining, it's romantic, and it's a good story.  Yay for books like this :)

Verdict: 5/5

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Yeah, I Just Like Her

Well, it's been a while (surprise, surprise).  I didn't realize how long a while till I just checked the last post - almost two months! What happened? The usual of course, very busy so not reading so much and posting even less, but also, I did take on a slightly more demanding work following all this light fare... but that's not what I'm reviewing now :) (hopefully soon, as I am actually nearing completion).  What happened was... well on one of my many times away from home (yom tov!), hubs couldn't find this book so I told him to pack something else... more light favorites :) So that's what we're reviewing now (yes, well after yom tov when they were finished).  It's two more Georgettes, both from the less-frequently-read pile.

First Talisman Ring - I used to read this one a lot, as it was one of the few the library had in stock, and I always enjoyed it.  I don't know that I ever ranked it as a top-tier, and if I did, I demoted it a while ago :) But that's not to say I don't like it, I do.  It's one of the non-Regencies, taking places in the 1790's, and has that more adventuresome tone GH's non-Regencies do (this is called swashbuckler I have learned on Lauren Willig, IIRC she actually reviewed this very book recently and made the some comment).  Anyway, not quite as joking in tone, and with language a touch more stilted/old-fashioned, whatever.  And characters maybe a little more old-fashioned too.  I don't consider that a good thing, but it's not the worst certainly.  More of a point against TR is its status as mystery-lite, rather than straight romance.  I don't have quite as much time for those.  But you know, as always, Heyer does a great job.  The romance is ok, the plot is interesting (and surprisingly, I didn't even remember every plot turn, though I had pretty good vague ideas of most)... and once again, I find myself impressed with her writing, especially her humorous writing, which keeps me engaged even when I just might get annoyed with these old-fashioned characters and their dramatic mysteries :)

Then there was the Nonesuch.  I think I enjoyed this one very much the first time I read it but not as much in the time(s) following (I'm not sure how many there were) so I was even less familiar with this one.  This is a Regency romance (yay) but the main characters are a governess and philanthropist, not necessarily the *most* engaging set of circumstances (I think that's probably why this one fell out of favor). In addition, I have some vague notion that I didn't find the romance all that potent.  On that latter point, I was I think most happily proven wrong on this re-reading, it's a good, solid romance, with a decent amount of suspense, and all proper feelings (especially where it counts, on Sir Waldo's side :)) As for the governess aspect of the book, I didn't find it too irksome, and the philanthropist aspect doesn't take up too much time.  And on the plus side, this book is a sparkler! Light, bright and fun - maybe precisely because of the governess aspect, we get to look down on all the silly young people while going about in their company :) So what am I saying yet again? GH can write! Seamless prose, easy dialogue, and, oh, the humor! I'd say the Nonesuch went up a notch in my book and GH... well how much further can she go? :)

Verdict: 2 * 5/5

Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Shorts

And here I am, still sitting phoneless on the train :( With nothing else to do but review books, and I don't even have the list of books in front of me to review :( But I'm pretty sure, based on the last time I checked, that all I have left to review is miscellaneous non-review books :) So you're going to get some selected shorts - 

1) I reread Reb Aharon Feldman's book on marriage, The River, the Kettle and the Bird.  Nothing earth-shattering (there wasn't really anything the first time around either) but always very, very good to remind myself of the basics of communication and relationships, especially with one's spouse :)

2) I reread Sandition, which I have reviewed previously - still really like this book.  If I'm being picky, it's not Jane Austen, and it's pretty obvious when you're looking - I wouldn't say it's perfectly consistent plot-wise with the beginning of the book either.  But who cares, it's a *great* story, and quite well told.

3) I reread the Ordinary Princess, mostly because I wanted something fast (and maybe that I wouldn't have to review, not sure :)) As good as always (reviewed last year if you're wondering).  Not much depth, but then, it's a fairy tale :) and charming, charming, charming.

4) QED - also a reread, though one I don't remember.  I used to read physics books a lot, I should start again, I really kind of like them :) This is a very interesting one, since it goes into a lot of detail without going over my head (much :)) By the classic physics for the masses writer of course (well maybe not quite that, but a very, very good teacher from what  I understand :)) Richard Feyman.

Well that's all I remember for now, but if I remember more or somehow obtain my list (which was stored on my dead phone but maybe just maybe was connected with the account instead of the phone) I will add others.

Don't Need Nothin' But Heyer

So I am once again phoneless, this time slightly more permanently as I await a replacement for my broken phone.  And since I have nothing else to do, it's time for more reviews.  I'm actually a fair way towards catching up on my backlog, partially because this next review is a compound… of all the Georgette Heyers I've read over the past few months (quite a number of months, I don't think I've reviewed the ones I read back in Baltimore and that was 8/9 months ago).  Not sure if I'll remember them all without my list (which is on my broken phone, and which I just realized I may never be able to retrieve :() But here goes…

I. The Grand Sophy
I read this one a while ago, so I'm not sure how much of a point there is in reviewing it - I don't really remember any specific impressions I had of it on this reading.  I know I liked it - this was the first GH I reread and I was eager to finish it, reading my own copy at home because I left Baltimore before finishing S.b.'s copy.  Which makes me realize that this was not a book I read when I was staying in Baltimore after BB was born, since I didn't go straight home then.  Must have been S.b.'s or Huvi's sheva brachos.  In any case, still a while ago.  And it was great.  It's funny, I think I care less about romance than I used to, maybe enjoy a little (a very little less).  But GH's books have only become more enjoyable since the romance is only a small part of what makes them good.  The characters, the dialogue, the humor - The Grand Sophy has those all in generous quantities, and that's what makes it one of the best.

II. Cotillion
This one was also read in starts and stops, partially in Baltimore, partially at home (I think at home, I know I took the book home to return it to Batya, its rightful owner).  Again, very enjoyable and again, I don't remember much about my specific impressions.  This one has a lot of story to it, and maybe not the most interesting story.. but GH makes it work, everything moving along swiftly enough to keep me from getting impatient.  And the characters (Freddy!) and romance all in good working order.  Another good one, though not quite as brilliant as the Grand Sophy I'd say.

III. The Unknown Ajax
Well here's something different - I don't own a copy of this one (though I've had Gital's since I borrowed it when we went to them for Shabbos in January and she has another one so I may buy this one off of her) and I've only read it once, if I recall correctly, and that back when I read all the GHs, in 9th grade.  So you can surmise that this was not one of my favorites then, and I wouldn't say it has become one of my favorites since.  But I've been in the mood to read it for a while, I think because it was cited a lot in Jennifer's Kloester's GH's Regency World (reviewed earlier on this blog), which made me think it was more Heyer-y than I had previously attributed.  Anyway, there's a reason this one wasn't one of my favorites - it's not a typical Heyer Regency skipping along merrily through the glittering Mayfair throng - it takes place on a rather impoverished (though noble, don't worry ;)) estate in Devon.  And the main character is a soldier - of low birth! (well low birth on one side, on the other he's heir to a Baroncy :)) And the story is less about the romantic relationship between our protagonists than about their family issues (they're cousins) and all that.  So yeah, not typical Heyer fun.  But still, the characters and the dialogue are there, and the romance too, though not so prominently.  And the story moves along well enough as usual.  I really think GH is a better writer than even I give her credit for :) Maybe I should even give her mysteries a try… well that might be taking it too far.  The Unknown Ajax, while maybe not quite in her typical bent, is still most definitely a Heyer Regency romance, and thus enjoyable by default :)

IV. The Corinthian
So after reading a few old favorites (I'm pretty sure there's one more I'm not remembering that hopefully I'll review below) and one lesser known work, I took the medium ground.  The Corinthian isn't one of my absolute favorite Heyers, but I've read it multiple times and liked it enough to purchase it (actually I'm a little surprised that I did, it was probably one of the last ones on my list of necessary ones :)) It's good, but against its favor, we have the setting - the road to Bristol (i.e. not London), the plot - jewel heist and cross-dressing drama (i.e. not dances and card parties :)), and the couple - suave older guy and silly young woman (i.e. not someone you want to see humbled by love and not someone you particularly see as fall-in-lovable).  But, but, but… we still have our awesome hero (that's probably why I have always rated this book highly) and a well-told romance.  And writing that makes it all very easy reading.  I think I'm seeing a theme here… GH is THE MAN (figuratively :))

V.  I thought there was another one, but I went through my books and I couldn't think of another one I had read recently (other than the two I reviewed back in December).  So I guess it's conclusion time - which I already stated above, GH can write! I love these books for the romance first and foremost of course, and for the setting that has become so closely associated with romance (of course because it's such a fun setting in the first place :)) But then there's the dialogue and the humor… part of it is acquired taste, but there's not doubt that Georgette Heyer is a talented author.  Glad her books are still living up to the test of time, and multiple re-readings :)

Verdict: 5! 5! 5 out of 5! (I'm imitating The Count from Sesame Street, which I picked up from Lauren Willig's website, if you're wondering)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Regency, Done Literarally

Who would have thought I would have a another opportunity so quickly? But, a succession of circumstances... Ok, you really want to know? I know you want to :) (or I want to make my review longer :)) Phone did not have a long time to charge today as I got in late because drove straight from cl and went to pump, and then ate lunch about an hour after I finished pumping, at which point I took my phone out to get lunch (like I always do) and forgot to plug it in.  As I went up to lunch, I noticed my throat hurting and decided to go get a strep test.  I went to the doctor’s office, which took quite a while, and of course my phone was not plugged in this whole time.  Turns out I have strep so I went home early... and my phone was dead.   It is now charging but does not have enough juice to do anything with (and by anything I mean read Slate because it *really* doesn’t have enough juice for tethering.  So I need something to do while I take the local train back home.  And what to do without internet? Writing a blog entry sounds perfect :)  So! Next up... After I finished Grandma’s two presents, I didn’t go back to ebooks... not sure why, but maybe it was because I was almost going back to work? or was already so behind in my reviews that I didn’t want to bog myself down further? Whatever the reason, I wasn’t reading much, and when I did read it was books I had on my shelf already (oh right, probably the reason was I was watching t.v. except on Shabbos so I just needed something to read on Shabbos).  Really don’t know the order, and besides, I want to review some in groups, so next up is the two Pink Carnation (Lauren Willig) books I own.  These aren’t my favorite two, they are just the ones I happened to buy (#4, Crimson Rose because the library was taking forever to get it and #8, The Orchid Affair because I went to the book signing (yes I did :)).  I actually reviewed #8 at the time I read it, but of course I can’t link to it right now because I’m writing offline, but you can go find it yourself :)

Anyway, you hear a lot about Lauren Willig if you read this blog, since she’s always offering up suggestions for authors (though I guess I don’t take her up on too many of them but I do feel like I mention her a lot).  Her books have a strong element of Regency romance, which is why I read them, but they are also very well written and well researched, entertaining historical mysteries.  Not found in the paperback section of the library or anything :) I always liked them, and still do, but I’ve noticed the “seams” showing a bit more in the past few years - by which I mean that her narration sounds like it’s often chuckling to itself.  This is less a product of the books changing than of me getting more discerning (if I do say so myself :) could it be related to this blog?? :)), which I know because I see the same writing style in #4, which came out before I noticed the trend.  So her writing, while good, is a bit too blithely irreverent for me, but not at all awkward and still vivid and entertaining.  The books are solid romances, each with a fresh plot and the spy element is never too distracting.  The modern element of the books has gotten less interesting as the story evolves (no surprise there as how long could the original romance be stretched out) but 1) it doesn’t take up too much time and 2) the new plot twists at least keep us from rehashing the same old conflicts.  Basically, these are good, solid books, rare well-written examples of (my favorite) Regency genre (ok not technically Regency but close enough).

About these two specifically - like I said, they were never my favorite ones.  Crimson Rose is about Mary Alsworthy, and while she is a sympathetic character in this one, she can’t entirely lose the taint of being a conniving and nasty sister in the previous book.  I do heart Lord Vaughn :) but the romance showcases that issue where the cool guy is so cool you don’t want to see him humbled by romance.  As for The Orchid Affair, it’s about a governess and a French bureaucrat... not exactly my ideal milieu.  But the romance are both excellent of course and the stories well told.  So I didn’t find it hard to read these, not at all.  If I had more Lauren Willigs at home, I’d reread them too :) And whenever I start going to the library again the two (!) new Lauren Willigs (one not a Pink Carnation) will be first on the list.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rather An Ordinary Tale of An Extraordinary Journey

I visited my blog for reasons unrelated to content this past week (for work) and I noticed that the last post is from June 30th.   Oysh.  The backlog of reviews has definitely been weighing on me and my reading choices, so I thought I would take this perfect opportunity (down time in CL on Sunday) to finally update.  So where were we? Books Dov's grandmother got me for my birthday (oh what a coincidence it's my half birthday (that's SIX MONTHS later) tomorrow :) Anyway, after I finished The Dovekeepers (reviewed below) I moved on to the other one, The Alchemist.  It's a short little book that apparently got a lot of buzz amongst Dov's grandmother's set.  Translated from Brazilian, instant classic...

The book is a sort of folk tale (not an actual folktale I don't think), telling a kind of grand story of epic adventure fraught with meaning and destiny.  Also a fair number of religious overtones.  I'm not sure what I expected (not the least because I read this nearly six months ago :)) but given that it was (at least according to the blurb) a wildly popular, life-changing book, I guess it was a fairly revolutionary and moving story.  The scale was certainly impressive, like I said, fraught with destiny and significant decisions and life-or-death moments.  But did it resonate? Did I feel like the book had anything to say? I know the answer is no, I'm just trying to remember exactly why :) I guess there just wasn't much point.  The end of the story was the boy, after traveling from Spain to Egypt, finds out there's a treasure back home which has a nice, ironic feel to it.  But life lessons? Trust your heart, follow your dreams, be generous and faithful... Good stuff but nothing controversial, nothing innovative.  In short, a nice story, written well-enough (though of course it's just a translation) but I'm not exactly sure what made this book catch the public fancy.

Verdict: 3/5

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jewish (Not Necessarily Kosher :)) Literature

Well that was the last of my kindle books - once I stopped, I didn't go back (hopefully I still will, as I will soon be in possession of both a kindle and a nook, having won the latter for signing up for back up daycare and my current activity is watching t.v. instead, which is not the greatest obv).  Anyway, what drew me away? Dov's grandmother gave me some paperbacks for my birthday.  A very nice gift, and of course I had to read them.  Not in my usual style (unsurprisingly, we don't really have the same taste in books) but I don't mind venturing out of my comfort zone *once* on a while :)  (Incidentally, she gave me three books, but one I had already read on one such venture, and enjoyed very much - the Henrietta Lachs book, reviewed here).  The first of the two I picked up was The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman.  She's I think a fairly popular author, not sure what most of her books are like but this one was serious historical fiction - a story of four Jewish women and the siege of Masada.  Interesting stuff, right?

(ok, I started this back in May, it is now the last day of June.. and I must have read this book in February (since that's when my birthday is :)) but let's hope I can still say something mildly interesting :))

Anyway, yes, the historical era was not my comfort zone, the sepia-toned cover didn't suggest a light-hearted romp, but I was going to read it.  And really, it's not like I ever find Jewish-themed reading boring... just sometimes offensive :) Well I can't say I was offended, per se, but I did take note of the *numerous* inaccuracies.  I'm sure there was a lot of research done, but there was of course a lot of artistic license applied as well... so I feel free to believe that the majority of the Jewish people at the time  of Masada were not, in fact, the practitioners and purveyors of magic (kishuf, that is) and that they did value the laws of marriage etc. more than this crowd seems to.  But you know, devout Jews wouldn't make for very good reading, this mix of mystical magic and earthy, opinionated women is a story people can recognize.

So taken out of the Jewish context, as it really must be to be appreciated on its own merit,  was the book good? It was a fairly mesmerizing read, I didn't have any trouble going through it.  And the history (the real history of Masada, or at least Masada according to Josephus) is definitely something I was happy to hear more about.  The story itself.. well it was one of those intertwined stories, four individual tales that only intersected at the end.  Though not necessarily the most fascinating tales outside of the history, the history in combination with the powerful voices narrating it (I think all told a good story, though I was more sympathetic with some than others) were decent reading.

Bottom line - not like I loved this book or anything, not like I expected to.  But it was on the higher end of my expectations for readability and, if you can get past the inaccurate portrayal of Judaism (not that I'm sure one should get past it) the subject matter is one that I at least, find appealing.

Verdict: 2.5/5

Friday, May 10, 2013

Light, Fluffy, and Real-Life!

It's a good thing I'm keeping a list of books I need to review on my phone, because otherwise I don't think I'd know what's on my agenda (forget next on my agenda, order is on my whim at the moment).  So coming up next we've got Jen Lancaster - this is an author recommended by Laren Willig, who loves her books.  She writes non-fiction, comedic memoirs.  Not a genre I've read much of, but since she seems very well liked, definitely worth a try.  And two of her books were available from the library on kindle, so that settled it.

As I said, this isn't a genre I've read much of,  so not much to compare it with (I thought maybe Dave Barry since I've been read one of his books at Dov's parents' house but those aren't really memoirs).  Actually David Sedaris (Yael H. was at my house last Shabbos and reading this) but I've never read any of his books.  So I did find the format of the books interesting - it's a little hard to tell what's real, and what's, shall we say, exaggerated.  And there's of course not much plot and, sometimes, an iffy timeline.  But small potatoes... These books are funny, easy reading.  I read two of them, one is more about her childhood and one more about contemporary stuff, but both are just full of light anecdotes and slightly satirical portraits of Jen herself and everyone around her.  Like I said, I'm not sure how much was real and how much either fictionalized or fiction, but I don't think it matters.  I'm not sure how much it even mattered that these were non-fiction as oppose to fiction.  Well it's definitely funny when you can say, hah, I know people like that (or I know people exist like that, they don't exactly run in my circles :)) but even if I have to say, yeah, there's no one really like that, enough elements of human nature / life in America / and all that shine through to be appreciated.

So I liked these books - I don't think I liked one more than the other, they were pretty similar and kind of ran together a little bit, but I'd be happy to read more of the same.  Really quite perfect reading for nursing, as there's not much continuity involved and everything flows along pretty fast.  Almost surprising how much she has to say about not that much... unfortunately these were the only two available at the library, and I'm not interested in paying.   So maybe I'll get some physical copies out at some point, or maybe she's a finished chapter (for now).  But good stuff.

Verdict: 3.753.5/5

PS Just searched for an image, and she is quite hefty.  Not that it matters, but interesting (oish I'm horrible :)) But that started me thinking about the books, where she does go into some weight issues, and then I realized I should probably add a post script.  I did like these books, but I'd say they are kind of guilty pleasures - or semi annoying, however you look at it.  (I hope more the latter).  She is really not the most refined, or the nicest, person.  Oh well, she's still funny.  But I am lowering my verdict.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Ebook Gem (Well, Semiprecious Stone)

If I thought I was behind before... These books are now a light fading in the distance, but needs must, and I need to review these books so I can get on with my reading life (or at least have one less thing on my todo list).  Next up - I don't quite recall the exact sequence by which I stumbled upon this one, but I assume it was something like this: check up to see if Court Duel is on Kindle, and notice that for $1 (or something like that) I could pick up a Regency romance by none other than Sherwood Smith.  My favorite genre by a writer proven to have some chops in the historical (ok, fantasy historical) romance department? All for $.99? I had found my next title :)

Now Danse de la Folie (that's the title, by the way :)) appears to be a toss-off work of fun for Ms Smith, so I wasn't expecting the most polished piece.  And I'm not sure whether I was expecting that it would be something more of a swashbuckler than the typical Regency rom., but I should have been, since most of Sherwood Smith's books aren't even romances, just straight fantasy adventures.  Both those things proved true. The book felt a little jittery at times and the characters at turns annoying or silly, and there was some time taken (though really not that much, almost exclusively in the beginning) with action and all that.  But you know, minor quibbles :) Well not the first one so much, but even with the lack of polish in plot, dialogue, and characters, the book was a good read.  Solid Regency romance, with lords, ladies, and London.  Okay romance, though nothing to swoon over (just not written that way).  But good fun, good fun.  I'm sure SS had fun writing it and I had certainly did reading it.

Verdict: 3/5

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not Much To Say, But That's Not a Bad Thing

This next one is going to be short (unless I can start remembering more (which I suppose is a review in itself, though not so much in the case)) Last summer I borrowed the latest 44 Scotland St from Sarah Sp. (yes, AMS just never stops) and I was in middle of reading it when events interrupted.  I didn't resume it until months later, when I needed something to read while nursing on Shabbos.  So it was an interrupted reading, both by a months-long-hiatus and by the stop-and-go nature of nursing (ok, that might not be the most felicitous turn of phrase).  And of course, it's been a few months since I finished it.  So between all that, what can I say? Not much.

I did like the book,  I think more than some of the other 44s.  It definitely moved and I felt like it moved places rather than just jumped around.  Funny and interesting things happened to the characters, some of them (many of them) somewhat far-fetched, but not the less interesting for that.  Nothing bad happened (nothing ever does), no evil specter even loomed its head (none ever does).  Do I still care about these characters? Most of them, yes.  Is anything ever going to happen to them? Well some stuff really did for some of them.  For others (Bertie), probably not (unfortunately for him).  But I'll keep reading, I definitely have no reason to stop.

Verdict: 3/5

Germans Make For Some Light Humor

Oish, behind, behind.  So far behind order becomes a fuzzy thing.  Luckily I wrote down a list of books to review before I forgot, so Iet's just pick one - Porteguese Irregular Verbs, by our ubiquitous Alexander McCall Smith.  This is actually the first in a series of which I read the other two previously.  They are some of AMS's funnier work, with very little serious intent at all.  Professor vod Igelfeld and his colleagues take themselves very seriously, but I don't think we are meant to take them seriously at all.

(This was, by the way, kindle reading, and free from the library,  if you're wondering)

So I think the first thing to clarify about this book is just how seriously one is supposed to take it.  I mean, the professor's subject matter, linguistics, is certainly not meant to be accorded the importance he gives it.  So that gives you a hint as to the legitimacy of his opinions :) I guess the only question is whether we are supposed to advise his colleague Unterhollzer with the same pity he does and whether his colleagues accord him the respect he seems to assume they do.  Pretty sure the answer is yes, but it makes little difference - overall this is a story of a man quite disconnected from reality, and amusingly so. Most of AMS's books have a good amount of humor in them, but I think these are the only ones with no serious side at all.  Part of the reason is that these are short stories, with no need for real plot development, but mostly it's just because I think.

And as far as the humor goes, I don't know if it's laugh-out-loud funny, but it has its moments.  Once I stopped trying to decide who was sympathetic and who was not, I could just enjoy the ridiculousness of Prof. von Igelfeld's opinions of the world, his colleagues, and himself.  And enjoy the mostly ridiculous plot devices as well.  The book went fast, though there's no denying it's quite short in any case :) Basically, a fun read - can't say I would have wanted it to go on forever, but I think there's a fourth one out on the series, I should really try to get my hands on it.

Verdict: 4/5 (for its genre)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Imitator Fails To Live Up to GH (But We Don't Fault Her For Trying :))

(A note - I know I've said before that I'm behind, but now I'm really behind :) Going to do my best to review this in any case, mai oui :))

So what came next in my spate of kindle literature? Well this one actually came both before and after the Wodehouse.  Backstory - as you may know, one of my sources of new reading material is austenprose, though those books tend to be Austen paraliterature of course.  This year they are featuring a year-long reading group of the Regency novels of Candice Hern.  Now I had never heard of her, but I assumed that if she was being featured, she was probably not a typical Regency romance (that is, bodice-ripper (sorry for the slightly risque term, I did not originate it :))) writer.  And indeed, on looking her up, I found that she has a set of typical romances and then she has the ones being featured on austenprose, more "traditional".  So Regency romance, but clean? Certainly worth a shot.  Especially when I found that her books cost a mere $2.99 per piece, and 3 for $7.99 (kindle books are usually more like $9.99).

I started with the one listed first on her website, A Garden Folly (well actually I started with the free short story, which was very silly, but pretty much as expected and good enough to keep going).  Cannot say my expectations were high, but I have to say, they were definitely met, and possibly exceeded.  Don't get me wrong, the writing/characterization/plot were all nothing to write home about, but they weren't cringe-worthy either.  Characters were I think mostly fairly believable/close enough to Regency (that is, GH :)) standards, and the plot was entertaining (though it ran out of steam somewhere along the way).  The writing reminded me of something, maybe Julia Quinn, which isn't a bad thing I would say.  All in all, I'd say I was pleasantly surprised.

So naturally I moved on with the sequel, which I think is called A Matter of Expectations (or something similar - I'll look it up now and verify :) ... nope it's called The Best Intentions (not sure where I got that first title :)) I'd say I was slightly disappointed, mostly because my expectations were higher.  I can't remember why I liked this one less, but I definitely did.  I think I found it slightly more boring - I just didn't like the plot as much (that would make sense, as it involves a widower... children are just boring :) (well in romance novels where they are never potrayed well they're invariably boring anyway)) Other than that, I'd say the writing was of the same caliber - nothing to write home about but I wouldn't say cringe-worthy either.

That was all encouraging enough to move on to the Regency Rakes trilogy, which was available as a set for $7.99 (nice and cheap :)) And here's where things fell off.  The writing was substantially worse (more abrupt, overly dramatic, long-winded, you name it) than in the first two.  And the stories mostly ran out of steam far too early.  I really don't think I had any enjoyment of the romance at all - certainly no heart-squeezing moments.  Mostly just chugging along.  And I think the characters themselves were more stock, slightly more boring - though that might have just been me getting bored.  It's possibly I would have enjoyed these more if I started with them - but I'm pretty sure I would have been just as unimpressed.

There's still one more left to go, and maybe I'll get to it eventually (since this is definitely easy reading and that's pretty much what I want on the kindle).  But I can't say I'm very excited by the whole series.  Still, clean Regency romance? Something we can use more of, even in mediocre doses.

Verdict: 2.5/5 (being kind b/c it's a favorite genre :))

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Some Lesser-Known Works of a Master

Getting behind again, no surprise, and I'm not quite sure of the order in which I finished the next few books, but abg's comment that she is actually reading this has inspired me to soldier on - so here we go :)  One of the authors for whom I checked in the library's ebook system was P.G. Wodehouse.  His books have, in fact, been transferred to Kindle form but, and this should not come as a surprise, are the Jeeves and Bertie books were out.  Yes, I could have reserved them, but for now, I just checked out a different series, Psmith.  I had read the first of these previously, but only had a hazy recall of the book, so I figured I'd start with that one.  Once I did though, I found that the adventures of adolescent males, even gentle English ones, failed to hold my interest.  I think this was more of a product of my diet of tv watching than a fault in the book, but nevertheless, I decided to move on to the next of the series, Psmith in the City, which featured a more mature Psmith and Mike (the straight man to Psmith's over-the-top).

Psmith is quintessential Wodehouse - urbane, gentleman-like, polite - and utterly oblivious to societal norms (or at least he appears to be).  He knows how to manipulate things (and people :)) to go his way, but he's so debonair doing it, it's not even wrong.  And he takes Mike along in his various schemes to improve their rather dull City-man lot.  All this is of course related in Wodehouse prose, light and delicate but full to the brim with humor.

There's not much of a story, it's mainly anecdotes of Psmith and Mike at work, but I can't say I read Wodehouse for the story.  It's more about the characters, and in the case of this series at least, it's all about Psmith.  I'd say he does an okay job of carrying his series - he's not as much of a genius as Jeeves, and cares far more about appearances, niceties, etc. than Uncle Fred, and certainly not as lovable as Bertie, but he's not too bad.  The book moves along as lightly as Psmith himself does - never a real page-turner but amusing enough to keep me reading.  So typical Wodehouse, though not in prime form I'd say.

Verdict: 3/5

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Not Quite As Much of a Romp As You Might Expect

When I finished Miss Marjoribanks, it was on with the search for kindle material.  I browsed the library's ebooks, but nothing good is ever available.  I noticed a book called "Brewster's Millions" which had a classics appearance to it (not a real cover :)) and the title itself sounded familiar.  Once I looked it up, I realized the title sounded familiar to me only because of the movie based on it (fairly loosely I think), but the book itself fell into the same kind of minor classic category as Miss M - although American, not British.  It seemed worth a go.

It was quite turn-of-the-century American, all lightness and fluff.  The premise of the book is Brewster spending a million dollars in a year - how will he do it? This was obviously much harder 100 years ago, and the various provisions for spending (having nothing to show it for it at the end, not giving it away) made it harder still.  But of course, the book would have had no plot at all if it was just about spending money.  There's a love story to go along with it of course - and then there's the tension of whether Brewster will succeed, that is, succeed in spending money in the correct way and succeed in spending it all.

None of the elements were particularly pleasing on their own, but put together, I guess they were something.  Brewster himself is likeable and we certainly sympathize with him on his ridiculous journey.  I knew the whole time the ending wasn't going to be simple though - what would be the point? So of course I was tense as he spent, knowing he wouldn't get it all back in the end (he needed to spend a million dollars to inherit seven million, sorry for not explaining that earlier :)) But in the end, it was resolved nicely enough, though I think slightly anti-climactically.  In any case, an amusing journey, which was short enough that it never really got boring.

Verdict: 3/5

Some Light Classical Fare

Well now I had my ereader, but what to read? Didn't want to pay for anything, prime lending library did not show much promise, library ebooks were mostly checked out, and did I have the patience to get into a classic (or other copyright-expired material :))? Lucky for me, I found one for which the answer was yes - Miss Marjoriebanks.  This is a book that I heard of who knows where, maybe on some recommendation for what to read after Jane Austen? it's a minor English classic that I never read because it wasn't in the library (and I didn't care that much).  Lo and behold, the *very day* (maybe it was the day before) I needed something to read on my kindle, it was published as an ebook on amazon! Yay!

It proved surprisingly easy reading, actually.  It's the kind of thing that it's only a classic because it's still around - when it was originally published, I doubt it had any literary pretensions.  Which of course usually makes for a fairly light read.  It was a charmer in its own way, which is of course a way I am very familiar with - 19th century gentle England.   A little more middle class than my usual (townspeople, not (as they term it) "county", but they certainly acknowledge their own pretensions to gentility.  I guess it's much the same folk as Elizabeth Gaskell (the two I've read anyway, N&S and W&D), though possibly a little later in time.  In any case, quite my milieu.

Miss Marjoriebanks herself is quite a character, one of those indefatigable types who will always carry everything her way in the end (a'la The Grand Sophy).  I always like reading about cool people like that.  And I was fairly certain that there would be little or no romance from almost the beginning (just didn't see any likely candidates) so I didn't mind that none materialized.   Don't get me wrong, she does get paired off in the end, but that's not what the book is about...

... or is it? It's not, but then, what is the book about? Miss M. goes through machinations of various sorts to arrange various things to her satisfaction, some of which are more successful than others.  But in the end of the day, does it make much difference? The denouement of the book is precipitated by an event that renders all past history moot.  Well maybe that's the point of the book, all the machinations lead us right back to where we started (slight spoiler :)) but it does seem a bit of a letdown after all the glorious schemes.  Still the journey was entertaining enough, and Miss M. gets her happy ending, so I'm not overly inclined to complain.  Definitely a point in its favor that it kept me so well entertained, even in ereader form.

Verdict: 4/5

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Take the eReader Plunge

Well so much for reading books around the house - those were the ones I picked up to have something to read while pumping and while nursing on Shabbos.  But during the week, it was all about something else (tv :)).  But you know, it was quite enough already... so I decided to take quite a step - into ebook land.  Yes, I bought a kindle.  I had always previously avoided the purchase of such, for two reasons - 1) my main time for reading is Shabbos and 2) I get books from the library, I don't buy them.  1) hasn't been true for a while, as I have been reading on my daily commute since I started working for the big G.  As for 2)... well I figured I could find cheap books (classics and such) and stick with those for a while.  Certainly better than nothing.

Once I got the kindle, I was pleased to discover that by becoming an Amazon Prime member, I could access a large lending library for free... until I took a look at the inventory of the said lending library, which does not compel me to continue past my free trial.  But then, a great discovery - library ebooks work on kindle! When it comes to availability, ebooks are kind of ridiculous on the one hand - that is, never available - but on the other, all you have to do is reserve and wait, you'll get them eventually.  And the selection is decent, especially when you have (as I do :)) membership to several different libraries (in 4 states! :)) So I'm not in crazy bad shape when it comes to reading materials that won't break the bank.

With that said, book number one on the kindle was an old favorite, and one I've previously reviewed - Daddy Long Legs. You know I love it, and I don't have anything new to say about it - so let's review the ebook reading experience instead.  Yes, it's not a book.  But it works for nursing! No holding it open, no losing the place, and backlit so it can be read in the dark (this is a new feature, which I did not realize previous to shopping for the kindle).  In the case of DLL, the cute little illustrations were missing  - oh well.  But I was still able to enjoy the book, and I'd say it served its purpose well.  A good purchase on my part :) I'm proud of myself for the idea :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Confirmation of the Tastes of Years Gone By

Well it's been a while again... but with this pop back in, I have new material to review! True, I have been busier than I ever with my LO (that's a common abbreviation on mommy sites :)) but what with nursing and pumping, I do have time which is well-filled by reading.  Reading what? Some old favorites.  Well-loved, but I still don't (or maybe because of that don't) feel like posting full reviews.  So right here, you're getting three shorties :)

First, Friday's Child.  S.b. has a nice collection of GHs and I picked this one up - haven't read it in a while, though not in longer while than most other GHs.  It's always been a favorite of mine (well top ten) but I think it was (at least for a while) *the* favorite for Huvi.  She loves the humor, and I do think Sherry's band of bachelor pals are very amusing - their knowingness in some areas and cluelessness in others, their calm confidence in sometimes absurd notions.  So there's that, and then there's romance, which is as well done as any Heyer, and nicely original, again, as any Heyer :) That's always been my feeling on this book, and it did not disappoint upon this reread.

So after one successful Heyer, I was eager for another.  Picked up Devil's Cub, also a long-time favorite, but in quite as a different mode.  Devil's Cub is not a Regency, and thus lacks the classic Heyer Regency feel, which reflects the casualness and light elegance of the era (at least the era according to GH :)) It's Georgian, and dramatic.  This is not something I noticed on my first reading, but I did pick up on it a while ago - and while I think I prefer the Regency tone, it doesn't mean I don't still love Devil's Cub.  Yes, it may be a litttle overdramatic at times (a' la Scarlet Pimpernel, see that review) but still, solid, solid, romance.  GH does not disappoint!

When I finished Devil's Cub, it was a Shabbos, and I felt slightly guilty about picking up another secular book... so I went off in another direction, reaching even farther back into my reading past.  I have a habit (not so much anymore, it used to be more frequent) of quoting "Rabbi Wein stories" - this leads people to assume I am a Rabbi Wein aficionado, when in fact, my stories all come from one anthology of Rabbi Wein shorts not even written by him - Vintage Wein, by James Brown.  I'm not sure to whom the credit goes (both, I'm sure, actually) but the stories are short and very much to the point - poignant, pungent, moving and amusing.  I have read this book so often that even though I haven't picked it up in years, I don't think there was one unfamiliar story in it.  And it's still a great read, I breezed right through it - glad to be reminded of all those Rabbi Wein tidbits I can bring up in conversation :)

So that was that, three old favorites, all still 5/5!