Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sometimes, Same Silly is Simpatico

And now for the second library pickup -  so I was in the library with two kids, not really the time for browsing. I just needed an author I could check for for quickly.  PG Wodehouse was the one who popped up - not sure why  - maybe because I think of his books as filler between others? Maybe because old libraries tend to have his book and this library looked pretty old? I think I had heard him mentioned somewhere in the relatively recent past and it just stuck in my head.  Anyway, that’s what I searched for, and that’s what I found - Jeeves and the Tie That Binds (I think the only Jeeves book they had).  So Wodehouse - now, talk about sameness (see review below), these books are all exactly the same. I have no idea if I’ve ever read this particular one since its plot is so exactly like all the other Jeeves and Wooster books I’ve come across. This one was actually PG Wodehouse’s 90th birthday book, so I think it was deliberately derivative (nice, right?) but really they are all the same. You don’t read these books for the plot, that’s for sure.

So what do you read them for? Well the setting, for one thing (again :)) I just love that English aristocratic countryside, even if it’s early-twentieth century (between the wars maybe? don’t even know), not Regency.  The jokes - silly references and plays on words, along with absurd situational comedy (that’s the long form of sitcom, which is probably not what I want - but I mean comedic situations :)) The ever-so-comfortable antics of vapid-but-amiable Bertie, a host of mean, silly, hearty, and other people, and the wise Jeeves who always cleverly saves the day.  After a while, it can all get old, especially with poor Bertie always trying to do the right thing and always getting stuck in the wrong, but you just have to let it all roll off. Does make for a less engaging read, but still very easy to get through :) And inspires me to such eloquence in review, you see? He really was quite the master, that PG.  Will continue reading the same book over and over :)

Verdict: 3.5/5

10 Books In, Has the Premise Run Its Course?

Well I finally did it - almost 4 years after my last trip to the library (August 2012), I put my kiddos in the car and drove the (very short) drive (could have walked but then would have had to deal with the stroller) to the Edison library.  Excitingly enough, this library is less than a 10 minute walk from the house, and right near the train station where I come/go every day, but it took me this long to get there (and I lived for over a year in Carteret without ever taking a book out there (used the Manhattan library though) and in HP without even getting a library card, but anyway).  So what was my first pick? Lauren Willig of course.  I think I even wrote on an FB post on her page once that it would be. How embarrassing :) I didn’t have much browsing time, I got one more book (more anon of course), but let’s just focus on Willig first.

So as you know ;), I’ve been reading these books for a long time.  They are favorites of mine because they are regency romance but not the romance genre (have more literary pretensions). They are also of the historical mystery/drama genre, but less so than, say, Deanna Raybourn or Tasha Alexander.  Anyway, Regency, romance, not trash, and nice and light.  What’s not to like, of course.  So yeah I do like these books.  In recent years (well not that recent), I have noticed a “sameness” about them, and also somewhat liberal anachronism and silliness, so I can’t say I find them *that* well-written, but you know, they are pretty good. Neat enough phrasing, if a bit too pat. So that’s in the past few years. (I have read her books since I stopped going to the library, since I own two of them, so it’s not going back all that far necessarily.  You’ll have to read old reviews to see how far it does go back ;).  On top of this recent impression, and really more along with it, I think I have less tolerance for empty romance than I used to - I need something more in a book than an implausible romance and less-than-mediocre writing. Not saying that describes Pink Carnation books, just that my tastes have changed (matured, perhaps :)) in that respect.

So anyway, back to this particular book, it’s about Miss Gwen (I was, by the way, 3 books behind in the series, as well as not having read the 3 non-Pink books written in recent years, so quite a lot of material :) This was the least recent of the series books.)  Miss Gwen is Jane’s companion, a lady of mature years and prickly demeanor.  So not the most endearing of characters, at least as the heroine of a romance.  The book is supposed to show her softer side, but I’m not sure I want to see her softer side.  I liked her as the steely chaperone Miss Gwen, more ambivalent about “Gwen”.  The Captain is a debonair and likable figure, but I’m not sure I buy the romance.  It’s not forced or anything, just rather… shallow? Here’s where I’m not sure if I’m just picking up on the “sameness” thing (so boring because same), if the books have gotten worse, if my tolerance is lower, or if I really just don’t like seeing Miss Gwen’s softer side. Here’s hoping it’s the last, since I like being able to thoroughly enjoy my books.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the book. It was light reading, which I never mind. It had romance, it had some action, I guess a few laughs. It had characters I care about and the setting I love. So can’t really complain, and look for reviews of the last two books of the series shortly :)

Verdict: 3/5

A Matriarchal Memoir

Before we get on to the aforementioned new stuff, need to finish up Pesach reading.  After finishing up Slaughterhouse 5, I moved on / back to Cheaper by the Dozen - or, actually, Belles on Their Toes. I ordered it after so thoroughly enjoying CbtD (ordered CbtD too, since I’m sure I’ll want to reread it one day :)) Obviously, I’ve read and enjoyed Belles on their Toes before, but I did want to see if it held up quite as well as Cheaper by the Dozen did.  It’s definitely a sadder book, both because the father is no longer living, and because it features extensive passage of time, which I always find somewhat depressing.  And it has fewer hilarious incidents than the first book.  That’s not to say it’s sad though, maybe just not *quite* as humorous.  But still humorous, very well-written, and a lot of fun.  It’s definitely up for discussion whether the book would be as much fun had we not been introduced to the Gilbreths already, but I kind of think it would be.  The main thing is that the Gilbreths are so much fun to read about - they make even stressful situations fun and light-hearted.  So even though there’s more stress in this book, there’s not that much less fun.  What makes this book special is right there in the intro “this is Mother’s story” (might not be the exact quote). Mother, who is an admirable figure in Cheaper by the Dozen, really comes into her own in Belles on their Toes.  She is strong, wise, and kind, a career women whose children adore her.  It is clear from the book that the Gilbreths love their mother, and I have to say, I love her too.  The story of the Gilbreths after Dad died is a happy one, told in light and entertaining fashion, and she made it all possible.

Verdict: 5/5