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