Sunday, April 17, 2016

Better than Fiction

And for a something a little different - during some Shabbos at my in-laws' in Jan/Feb (forgot when), I neglected to bring reading material from my house, and had to make do with what was there.  They recently reorganized their books, so there was lots of new scope, and, to my delight, I came across Cheaper by the Dozen. I'm not sure when the last time I read this book was, but I don't think it'll be long before I read it again :) (must order a copy).   History of this book goes back a while, and it's fun to go down memory lane.  One day in CL, Peryl started telling me about a really funny book she had read about a family with a dozen kids.  The specific story she told me was, if I recall correctly, the story of the Peeping Tom and Ernestine, and I was very intrigued.  I got the book out of the Peckville Library (the old Interboro Library) and loved it.  Read it many, many times since then (I was certainly in elementary school when I first read it, though I'm not sure what age), and read Belles on Their Toes as well (that one used to be harder to find, I remember being excited when I picked it up in Towson).  Rereading it now, it's funny how many of the references I understand that flew over my head.  Some innuendo, but some more intellectual ones.  I'm sure I understood them in later readings, but I've forgotten those and the earlier ones stick in my head.  Anyway back up memory lane...

This book is great! It is, literally, laugh-out-loud funny.  The writing is neat, quick, fresh, and amusing - every phrase is well turned.  And while it's strange to speak of characterization in a non-fiction book, the characterization of bother Mother and Dad (forgetting what they call him at the moment) Gilbreth is fantastic.  I picked the book up expecting to just read a little, and then kept on reading most of Shabbos. Finished it this past Shabbos on Friday night.  There are so many moments in there that I feel like have stuck in my consciousness without me even realizing where they are from. And quotes that make me smile every time I hear. It's classic.

It's also kind of fun reading about NJ now that I am a resident of this fine state :)  Montclair, of course (I looked up Eagle Rock Way on google maps, it's still there), but even New Brunswick was mentioned once or twice.  Also interesting to look up the Gilbreths on Wikipedia and follow them for a bit - not much info there, but the last one (Fred I think) just passed away a few months ago as it turns out.

Anyway, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be handing it over to my kiddos when they are old enough to start appreciating it (maybe 5-6 years, that's all, iyH :)) So glad I picked this one up again, and I'm sure I'll follow it up with Belles on their Toes at some point.

Verdict: 5/5

(p.s. the pic is the original version that I read)

GH In A Crotchety Mood

Slightly more recent finish, but only because it dragged on for a while - I'm pretty sure I started Lady of Quality either on my way back from Florida or maybe the Shabbos after, but with various busy Shabbosim and a Commentary, I only finished it a few weeks ago.  It's a Georgette Heyer, and one that I own, so obviously a lovely book but... I have to say, this one irritated me more than usual.  It was never one of my favorites, but I think it's fluctuated in line.  I haven't read it in a while (this was actually the first GH I owned, picked it up in the airport in England (or maybe it was Scotland) when I was there on my post-sem trip).  But right away, I found myself annoyed by Annis's intolerance of Miss Farlow coupled with Annis's tolerance of Ninian and Lucille.  It's funny, because I used to find GH's portrayals of "children" or young adults ridiculous for their unrealistically young behavior, but I guess I'm old enough that I find seventeen-year-olds (or however old they are) acting like babies to be completely realistic. So it wasn't that that annoyed me... more like, if they are that annoying, then why does Annis tolerate, indeed like, them so much? And just because Miss Farlow talks a lot, she's villified into this barely sympathetic sour creature.  I mean, of course I understand we're supposed to look down on her for being jealous of Lucille. But really, she isn't *that* bad, and I find Annis's unwillingness to put up with her foibles not very sympathetic when compared with her indulgent treatment of Lucille.  And it's much the same with Mr Carleton - we are supposed to sympathize with his and Annis's connection, because they have the same unwillingness to pander to the world and put up with silliness - but really, is silliness all that bad? Are people unworthy of sympathy because they are not intelligent?

I'm taking this all a bit too far of course, but I'm just trying to pin down what was bothering me as I read the book - this feeling of, but that's not what you should be feeling right now, no, you should be feeling less/more annoyed etc.  It really did get in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

So you didn't like the book, you'll ask? Well it was a GH.  I'll put up with a lot from a GH - Still my world, still my girl :)  But I'm not sure how soon I'll be picking this one up again.

Verdict: 4/5

It's interesting that this was her final novel - published posthumously I think. Perhaps it needed some refinement. Or perhaps it was GH getting crotchety in her old age, and passing it on to her characters :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

More Romance (Gets Boring, Doesn't It? :))

And the other book from the trip, somewhat similar in that it's a fantasy romance, but decidedly for adults (and not based on a classic fairy tale) - Summers at Castle Auburn.  Sharon Shinn is an author I've read for a while (though I haven't picked up her new books recently (well I haven't picked up anyone's new books recently :))).  I've read almost all of her books and enjoyed most of them. She's a regular fantasy world-builder, which I can take or leave, as long as the worlds are good (if they're not good, then I have no tolerance for it :)), which hers generally are. And she very often has a satisfying romance at the heart of the story (those are the "most" I enjoy :))  The first book I read of hers, Archangel, was described by Peryl (who discovered it), as a romance disguised as a fantasy (I don't think we realized at the time that this was far from a novelty, more of a genre :)) But anyway, yeah, her books are fantasy romances, often with some more complex world-built story to be resolved.  The story with Summers at Castle Auburn is that the library (BCPL and whatever other libraries I had access to at the time) didn't have this one and I wanted read it, so I borrowed it from someone (probably the Spitzes) and read it, I think during Yaelle's sheva brachos. I LOVED it, and eventually bought a copy.

This is Sharon Shinn fantasy romance, but light on the fantasy, heavier on the romance :) Takes place in a world that's quite close to say, Rennaissance Europe, not too much complicated magic or whatnot going on.   I remember the first time I read it someone told me she gets together with the wrong guy, which cause me to root for the one I thought was the wrong guy... which, it turned out, *was* the wrong guy, since she got together with the one I had originally thought was the right guy! which kind of muddied my enjoyment for the first read, but made for a more satisfying second read (not that this is relevant to what's probably my 4th or 5th read but just funny. Same thing happened with Agatha Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit).

So anyway, on further readings, I noticed that despite the lack of a an impending war or great destruction to bring urgency to the plot (not atypical of Sharon Shinn), the book is somewhat serious in tone, and the romance is serious with it.  It's also a bit interesting because of the youth of the protaganist during much of the book (are we supposed to root for a romance between a 14 year old and a 19 year old? it's a lot less weird by the time she's 18 :)) But that's all built in to my expectations from previous readings, so I didn't mind it too much.  And it really is a beautiful romance - Kent's secret devotion coupled with his myriad wonderful qualities, oh my.  And like I said, there isn't too much distraction from major plots about wars and such, which is a good thing in my book. Mostly castle intrigue, which I find more to my liking.  So certainly enjoyed the book, in line with my expectations :)

Honestly, I read so little these days that I probably would enjoy anything, so who knows if these reviews are fair in any way...  and who cares? :)

Verdict: 4.5/5

(also btw, let's pretend you are an avid reader of this blog, you will recall that I've reviewed this book at least once before, as I read it on my trip to Glacier back in 2012 :) can't remember if the time before that was when I was doing reviews)

Romance for Children (and Me)

Well, I'm months behind as usual, so you (whoever you is) get a less interesting review. sorry 'bout that.  I had a perfect vacation in Florida at the beginning of February and snuck a few books in of course.  First one (think first one anyway) was Ella Enchanted (continuing my streak of children's fantasy).  Again a much-loved, much read book, though not to the same extent as Court Duel.  Ella Enchated is a real children's book (I first heard of it in 6th grade, when numerous girls did book reports on it), but a good romantic story nonetheless (Cinderella).  The movie is good too - Hugh Dancy ;) I like it enough to own it, but it doesn't hold the same place in my heart as, say, Court Duel, so my expectations for it are lower.  I never considered it to be the best-written or most satisfying romance, just a good, romantic story.

This reading lived up to that - the romance was about as good as I remembered - not the most full of angst, pathos, glorious moments and whatnot, but some subtle-ish well done male POV and a good arc.  The story outside of the romance is (other than being a retelling of Cinderalla) a well-constructed fantasy world that I enjoyed reading about.  The book is a Newberry Honor book, and I think that's a deserved honor.

So like I said, too long ago for me to have much to say (not sure I would have had that much to say in any case), but I've always liked this book and I continue to like it. Probably won't pick it up for a few years so I can enjoy the novelty again when I do :)

Verdict: 4/5