Sunday, November 29, 2015

Strange, Silly, Spendid

I needed something to read in case I finished this month's Commentary on Shabbos... so I took A Company of Swans with me to my in-laws' house.  This is the "other" Eva Ibbotson I own (other than the Morning Gift, that is).  I didn't buy it because it's my second favorite, but rather because it was for sale that Borders going-out-of-business sale.  It's typical Eva Ibbotson - focused on the arts, melodramatic, and but of course a great love story.  Also, this one, in common with a lot of her others, has a definite creepiness factor.  I think it's especially prominent in this one because Harriet Morton is so alone... well actually many of the heroines are pretty alone, so I'm not sure why this one was so much worse.  Because it takes place in the wilds of the Amazon among the questionable company of ballet dancers maybe.  So there's definitely that to distract from the story, and it was creepy as ever I'd say.

That being said... I started this Friday night when I could have just gone to sleep and I stayed up until I finished it :) So clearly not too creepy for me.  Great romance, eminently likeable characters (perhaps too Mary-Sueish for some in their apparent universal likeability and congeniality, but  I could handle it).  Adventure in the Amazon, talented ballerinas, a tropical villa with devoted staff, and all that good stuff.  What can I say - the creepiness was there, the melodrama was ever present, it wasn't particularly well-written, but it's my kind of story :)

Verdict: 3.75/5

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Shaking Off Some of the Dust

Shockingly enough, I am now up to date - chiefly because, since I finished my last book, I've been busy with Commentary. But at Malka Sp's Avi's bar mitzvah, Sarah Sp gave me the latest Scotland Street, and I had to read it in order to pass it on to the next person, Aunt Sarah, so when Huvi came for Shabbos this past Shabbos, I made sure to finish it so I could give it to her, and then I forgot to give it to her, oh well, but it is now finished and I am now going to review it, just a day after finishing :)

So I think I haven't loved the past few 44 Scotland Streets. They are just too much of the same, and I have little patience for all the philosophical digressions. But I have to say, I think this was changed it up a bit. Definitely in respects to Bertie, where he finally gets out from under his mother's thumb, and what a joy it is to be out.  But I thought the other stories were somewhat fresh as well, and the characters themselves mostly refreshingly unphilosophical.  I can't say no digressions, but kept light. It was mostly story. And, though in some cases, the stories had that 44 Scotland St feel where they never really went anywhere, in a few cases, things seem to resolve actually.

So it wasn't too different than usual of course, but it seemed back into a better groove, at least from the way I felt about it.  Here's to continuing to shake things up on Scotland Street.

Verdict: 3.75/5

Solid Talking Points

Going back months as usual, I finished by GH reading while at my in-laws' house for Succos.  They have plenty of interesting reading material there, but everything was a bit disorganized because of construction.  One thing I came upon was Alan Dershowitz's The Case For Israel, which definitely seemed promising.

Of course, I am a stalwart supporter of Israel and I know many of the talking points, but I am always interested in knowing what to argue in more depth (with whom? well anonymous Salon  commenters, but that's another story... or perhaps not, I'll get into that later :)) Anyway, The Case For Israel is a fast read, not a detailed history, but it addresses every argument of the anti-Israel camp in detail (well maybe not every argument, but certainly those that I've heard).  It goes through some of the salient history, much of which I did not know  - including the recently relevant details of the Mufti's participation in the Holocaust and the very important demographic information surrounding the founding of the state (up until 1830, "Palestine" was almost empty. Though the start of the Arab influx of immigration predated the Jewish start by a few decades, the population growth of the two groups occurred basically simultaneously.  At the time of the Partition Plan proposal, the clear majority of the population living in the land to be allotted to Israel was Jewish).  There was information about international law and how it relates to Israel, and details about the Israeli army's extremely careful stewardship of life. The book was written in 2003, but nothing much has changed since then - other than the Palestinians growing over more intransigent and world'd louder condemnation of "settlements".

I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable, gratifying and very informative read.  I then took my new-found factually-based arguments and commented on a Salon article. That of course was a mistake, in which I wasted a week raising my blood pressure to argue with a rude bully, until I gave up as it was taking too much time. But, that incident notwithstanding, I am very glad to have read this book, just so I can answer all those anti-Israel news stories in my head with solid, cogent, pro-Israel arguments :)

Verdict: 5/5

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Same Old, Same Good

Next up - the duo introduced well by this post (and now you get a digression into the backstory of that link. There used to be a wonderful website called austenblog that kept up to date on all the latest Austen news (of which there is plenty, believe me :))  So the Editrix, Margaret Sullivan, apparently got bored of this site and stopped doing regular updates, so I stopped reading it.  Recently, Sarah Sp sent me a link to an exhibit about Emma showing in Goucher College, posted on the habitofjournaling blog, which she explained was the new blog by the Editrix.  So I took a look at it, and that post was the second post, which of course reminded me that I had to do this review. So, months late as usual...)

At some point, I needed something new to read and of course went back to my Heyer collection.  I
picked up Devil's Cub, which I reviewed at some point previously (when I was on maternity leave with BB).  This is one of the Heyers that has gone up and down in my estimation, I don't even remember why.  Probably related to Vidal's status as a Duke, its placement in the Georgian, rather than Regency era, and the Sp's pointing out that Vidal was actually going to rape Mary.  Any on this reading, I found the book absolutely spectacular.  Greatly romantic of course, but also sporting a wonderful heroine, really the stuff that heroines are made of with her spunk, coolness, intrepidity, resourcefulness, quiet pride etc.  But also a fun plot (pretty fast-moving, as this is a shortish book).  Just really, really enjoyed it.

So of course, next on my list had to be These Old Shades - Justin's awesomeness in Devil's Cub of course inspiring me to pick up his own story.  And Justin is awesome  - the post does a great job of describing that - "I do so love the Duke of Avon.  He's so fabulous" - that he is :) This book, similarly to Devil's Cub, starts off with the stilted writing of Heyer's non-Regency (and I guess, mostly if not all, earlier) books.  But unlike Devil's Cub, which I think shrugged off the tone pretty early (or I stopped noticing, but pretty sure it's the former), this one kind of kept it throughout.  A little too much drama, a little too much Mary Sue, a little too much "show, don't tell".  So I have to say, I didn't *love* this one.  I mean, liked it, sure, but it's not one of my favorite Heyers. I'm not sure it ever was though, so that's ok.  She's still da best :)

Verdict 5/5, 4.5/5