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!