Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Bloggers Social

I was very excited for Saturday night. The Book Bloggers Social was taking place in Midvale, and my real life friend Suey, who introduced me to book blogging and inspired me to try my own, invited me since I have a Sorta Book Blog. (Isn't she sweet!) Back in the beginning of 2009 I had jumped onto the book blogging boat and was just starting to get over the seasickness when Sebastian was born and I fell off.

I wanted to be included!! I aspire to be a real book blogger! So I worked all fuzzy week! I cleaned up my sidebars, cleaned out some old posts, blogged the stuff floating in my brain, caught up on reviews, participated in a weekly thingy, starting planning my new and improved header... And I did it all while sick.

A new kind a sick than the sick I had been for 2 previous weeks. A personal horrible sick. But it can't last through Saturday, I thought. I would surely be dead if it did, I thought.

And Saturday morning seemed to go great. I was fine. I washed my nice jeans. I found my favorite shirt. I had the babysitter (that I scheduled myself!) coming.

And the sick came back.

Scrambling to figure out how I could still go, we called the pharmacy to see if I could take anything while nursing. Go to the doctor if it's been more than 48 hours, they said. It was 48 hours...72 hours ago!

So instead of the Book Blogging Social, I had to go to the clinic. I sat down and cried.

While everyone was gathering in the restaurant, introducing themselves, and getting food, I was wrestling with the devil's own blood pressure cuff. Sob.

We had to drive to Provo for the late night pharmacy and the prescription that would save my miserable life (I'm prone to exaggeration. It makes me feel better.) so we passed the DI. My adorable husband had heard me complain that I never remember to look in the adult-type books when I'm thrift shopping, so he decided we would stop for a little pick-me-up. I hobbled and hunched a little - but WHO CARES!!

I am ecstatic to report that I found a better copy of the The Two Towers and a copy of The Return of the King that my little brother had lost long long long ago!!! (These are the 1965 printing that I inherited from my older brother that I love and thought were very very old and cool as a young girl.)

While scanning titles I overheard two ladies discussing their find of Wuthering Heights. They seemed confused by the author (Jane Eyre recognition perhaps?) and also talked about how they wanted to read Austen but never have. (!!) I didn't butt in with any Bronte information. I thought about it, but I'm really not that kind of nosy know-it-all girl. (That is just how I would feel, not what I would think of such a person. Really, I'm just a coward.) Later I found a copy of Pride and Prejudice and thought of getting it...but then remembered the ladies. After a few moments of courage gathering, I walked over to them and offered it. Told them it was the best Austen to start with. They seemed happy and I was proud of myself.

Not many moments later I found this:
I love the books that look old. I want to collect some, if only for pictures. But I don't want just any old book! I want old books I LOVE. And here is my very own OLD Pride and Prejudice. A 1937 edition. All loved and pictureless. This one is a Book Crush for more than just the contents. Karma I tell you. Happy Sigh of a Ninja.

I am still totally bummed to miss the social. But at least my night was not a loss. New books. Medicine that did end up working. We went home and watched the new Emma. More on that later. And I guess this will give me more time to read others' blogs, get my own running better, and feel not so overwhelmed, not so much the interloper, at the next social. Hah!

Do you ever, when thrifting books, feel sorely tempted to buy another copy of your favorite books when you find them?

I feel slightly crazy when I do, but that temptation actually won once this week. Sometimes it takes all my book-loving strength to walk away!

Thift Stores

I had a mission: go to the thrift stores and find an ugly chair, and if possible some serving bowls. I need bigger serving bowls. I went to Savers and the DI. I found NO ugly chairs and NO serving bowls.

I came home with two bags of books.

Isn't this world beautiful?

Later, when I explained my ambitions for an ugly chair to Robyn, she got excited and forced me to the American Fork DI even though I was not feeling well. And guess what?

We found more books!

I even found Avalanche by Arthur Roth. I've been wanting a copy and to reread that book for a long time! (It made an indelible impression on me when it was read out loud in class some time in grade school.)

And guess what else?

I found an ugly chair!!

The chair is not actually as ugly as I had hoped, and in quite a different style than I had imagined, but I think it will be spectacular. And it happens to be comfy. Watch for future sightings of my green ugly Beast chair.

I just love book loot...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Weekly Geeks 2010-6: Romancing the Tome

In honor of Valentine's weekend, let's talk about romantic literature. By that, I don't necessarily mean the modern romance genre, but books that you find particularly romantic.

Feel free to explore any or all of these prompts:
  • What literary couple is your favorite?
  • How do you define romantic literature? Does it always involve sex? or the hint of sex?
  • What author/s do you think writes romantic scenes particularly well?
  • Do you have a favorite romantic scene in a book?
Favorite literary couples? Let's the top of my head:
  • Anne and Gilbert
  • Elizabeth and Darcy (of course)
  • Margaret and Mr. Thornton
  • Jane and Mr. Rochester
  • Percy and Annabeth
  • Sarah and Jack Elliot
  • Ron and Hermione
  • Beauty and the Beast
I would have to define romantic literature as: a book wherein 2 characters develop a romantic relationship. (That turned out much shorter than I thought!)

There definitely does not need to be sex. In fact, the most romantic scenes do not have it. That being said, under certain circumstances, I do not mind it, I might even like it. Vague. Hmmmm.... I don't like sex when the protagonists are teenagers. Given my particular belief set, I prefer it to be after marriage. But I understand that others have differing values, characters included, and can handle it when we are talking about adults. But please, please, please, I don't need as much detail as is often included.

What is romantic? Conversation, conversation, conversation, and physical contact. I love dialogue between couples. I love sparring with words. I love those exchanges that have many layers of meaning. And I love it when they come in contact, be that kissing or hand holding or saving each other in a battle or bumping into each other in the dark or any sort of casual touch that is so much more because of how they feel about each other. Romance comes from overcoming difficulties like the rules of society (like Jane and Mr. Rochester), danger (like Ron and Hermione), and their own personal issues (like Margaret and Mr. Thornton). Tension is romantic. There is both physical attraction tension and emotional tension. Others things that can contribute: secrets, confusion, misunderstandings, separations,and longing. Having the characters thrown together into difficult or unlikely situations can be very romantically charged.

I don't go for RomanceRomance books. I am of the opinion that there has to be something else going on in the story - mystery and adventure being my top picks. I do NOT like romance in young teenagers. They need to be at least 14. Better yet, 16.

A romantic scene pops does into my head. It takes place in The Apprentice by Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore, a romanticif self-indulgent fantasy novel I've read a dozen times. I considered typing it out, but not only was it too much work, I started to feel like an idiot. I think there is something very personal about how one reactions to romantic scenes.

For me, romance should be present in most novels. I often feel the story is incomplete without it. Happy Romance Month!

Review: Beauty by Robin McKinely

by Robin McKinley
Fairy Tale
336 pages
published: 1978
4 of 5 stars

  • Is it wrong that right now I'm thinking in bullets? Can I cope with the fact that this is not a paragraph week?
  • Thoughts on this book.
  • This is the first thing I've read by Robin McKinley and I was impressed by the storytelling.
  • This book captured the feel of older time in its language. Leisurely. Descriptive. Higher vocabulary. It reminded me, in the language department, of Princess Ben. (Which is a good thing.)
  • I loved the logical back story - the father a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune and the family having to move to where the son-in-law could support them...
  • I liked that Beauty was not "beautiful" and that she had nicknamed herself.
  • I loved loved loved the servants in the castle as sentient, capable breezes.
  • I was totally engrossed.
  • I loved that the beast was OLD. That is the only way that the collective conscience of the villagers would have forgotten about a whole castle and nobility had once existed in their midst.
And now I feel bullet-free as I'm constrained to mention what I did not like and what lost this book a star on my rating scale. The end. I know and you know how Beauty and Beast ends, but that does not mean that as a reader that we want to skip it. At least I don't! The end is the big pay off! As a writer, that the end should have been the most important to get right.

What happened at the end of this fairy tale? Flash. Bang. Over. That's what happened. Literally. Now, it was magic, and it's fine that the beast transformed instantly, but this flash-bang also included a shower, costume change, and hairdo for Beauty (who wasn't a part of the original spell!), Beauty's family walking up to the castle apparently already aware that she was now a princess, and the slight personality shift of the main character. What huh?? I was gypped.*

One other thing I didn't like about the book was that Beauty, who wasn't supposed to be beautiful, was magicked at the castle so that she grew 7 inches, changed her hair and eye color and whatnot so that she was now beautiful. Two thoughts on this: first, the old standby of why does beautiful have to fit a certain mold to be beautiful? and two, the information that she wasn't beautiful came from an unreliable source - her. She was judging herself as compared to her sisters and with the dirty mirror we all use. Her father and sisters found her beautiful. The Beast found her beautiful. Why oh why did she need to be changed to be beautiful at the end? That very idea undermines the whole theme of the Beauty and Beast fairy tale any way. Beauty is on the inside!!

All complaints aside (heave, shove, puffpuff), I did love this book right up until the very end. And even so, am happy to have it in my fairy tale collection. It has been suggested that I might prefer Robin McKinley's other retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so I am excited to give that one a go.

*In a mission to spell 'gypped' correctly, (I had the erroneous idea that it involved a 'j' and an 'i') I found out the origin of the word. I had no idea it was a racist reference to gypsies!! Is the modern usage enough removed for me not to feel bad about that? Wow. Learn something every day! :O

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Golden by Cameron Dokey

by Cameron Dokey
Fairy Tale
179 pages
published: 2006
4 of 5 stars

This is a another retelling of Rapunzel that had necessary elements for the fairy tale according to me: girl in tower, throw down your hair, ride off with the prince. :) It has a completely different feel than Zel however. This story is bright and hopeful and good.

I am happy to have read a version where the mother wasn't evil, Rapunzel didn't go insane, and 'happily ever after' didn't come at such a price.

What I loved:
  • The beautiful, lyrical language again. (What a treat to read two fin a row!)
  • The plot twists. There were more people in this version, the 'bad guys' where from unexpected sources, there were 2 'princes.' The ending was unexpected. And I loved the spice of the little Cyrano de Bergerac that was thrown in.
  • I enjoyed the characters. I liked Repunzel's spunk and Harry's stubborn, teasing attitude. I liked the prince's sweetness and the daughter's hopeful crankiness. I liked the tinker's dedication and restraint.
I liked it so much, I could have wished for more complexity/length, though I know it's YA and usually don't regret the lesser (if there is lesser) complexity/length. Perhaps in this case, I could see how this book could have a double written for 'adults' with more time spent on relationships and romance, the danger and journey, the difficulty in the tower. But this regret is small and short-lived.

I'll be happy to give this on to my daughter in the next few years and will likely read it again soon.

Review: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

by Donna Jo Napoli
Fairy Tale
227 pages
published: 1998
4 of 5 starts

I was entirely unfamiliar with "whole" story of Repunzel before this book. My memory of it this fairy tale went something like: girl in tower, throw down your hair, ride off with the prince. I was stunned and enthralled with this book.

What I loved:
  • The beautiful, lyrical language. Though the meaning of the words was often dark or scary or even horrifying, the beauty of the writing itself often softened the blow. And when the story wasn't blatantly dark, the language made me forget it was ever dark and I started floating away to LaLa Land. (There would be a crash later!)
  • The setting was lovely, quaint, medieval, and all that good stuff.
  • The intricacy of the plot.
  • The view into all the characters. The chapter would alternate among the Mother, Zel, and the prince.
  • The insight into a truly insane woman. Sometimes I could almost get her point, almost sympathize with her. It was disturbing. In a good way. (Or maybe I'm just morbid.)
  • Watching Zel go crazy from solitary confinement. Very interesting. And it felt very real.
  • The happy ending.
Now, this book was not one that will be read over and over. It won't ever be one of my favorites. It wasn't a clutch-it-to-my-chest-and-savor-it book. It was dark, creepy, violent, and frankly, insane. It involved soul selling, manipulations, betrayal, madness, filthiness, and even sex. I wouldn't recommend it lightly or let my daughter read it for quite a long time.

But it was a fascinating character study and an intriguing retelling.

Books in 2010

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. Beauty by Robin McKinley
  4. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
  5. Golden by Cameron Dokey 
  6. Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
  7. Spelling B and the Runaway Spell by Lexi Connor
  8. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
  9. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
  10. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford
  11. Belle by Cameron Dokey
  12. Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey
  13. Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier
  14. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  15. The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  16. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinkley
  17. East by Edith Pattou 
  18. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
  19. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  20. Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
  21. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
  22. Hush by Donna Jo Napoli
  23. Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  24. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
  25. Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey
  26. Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli
  27. And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander 
  28. Fablehaven: The Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
  29. Mythological Beasts: A Classical Bestiary by Lynn Curlee
  30. A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker
  31. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  32. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
  33. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green 
  34. Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison
  35. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
  36. Fablehaven: The Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull
  37. The Fairy's Return by Gail Carson Levine
  38. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Dunce
  39. The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
  40. The Ugly Duckling by Brenda Hiatt
  41. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  42. Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke
  43. These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
  44. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
  45. Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles
  46. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  47. Ondine: the Summer of Shambles by Ebony McKenna
  48. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
  49. Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
  50. The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen 
  51. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  52. The Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  53. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 
  54. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry
  55. A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
  56. Dakota's Revenge by Janette Rallison
  57. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
  58. How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison
  59. If I Have a Wicket Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor
  60. The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson
  61. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley 
  62. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley 
  63. Jane by April Lindner
  64. Matched by Allie Condie 
  65. Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
  66. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Chairs

While I was searching for images onlines, I came across these "Book Chairs." They have made me smile all day so I thought I'd share.

While they are both fascinating, and I have to squash the desire to own them, they look too uncomfortable to by my sort of book chair. I rather like to lounge.

Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South
By Elizabeth Gaskell
450 pages
published: 1854
5 of 5 stars

And here I confess some of my terrible ignorance of many things "classic" when I say that I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before my book club proffered this to read, and I was worried that it would be about the civil war. (I do not dislike books on the civil war as long as they are about the war, and not politics. I don't like politics.) But Oh Happy Day! it is about England and the industrial revolution and has a wonderful Jane Austen taste. Yummy!

Margaret is South here and Mr. Thornton North as industry clashes with the "sophisticated" gentlemen and ladies. Old money versus new money. Hard work versus no work. My prejudices are coming out - dang! But all you out there that like your cheap clothes, grocery stores, electricity, and your general standard of living needs to thank the industrial revolution. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Ugly. Sad. But needful. And that is the start of why this book is so good.

Many thought the beginning was slow. I was even told that around page 200 it started moving. I must respectfully disagree. I loved it from the beginning. I loved Margaret and her quandaries. I loved the setting. I loved the background of her life and relationships. By the time I got to page 200, I couldn't put the book down.

Margaret and Mr. Thornton reminded me of Elizabeth and Darcy, only more stubborn and prejudiced. It was highly entertaining! She was quietly saucy and he was gently over-bearing. How is that even possible? Loved it! It was great watching Margaret's opinions change and Mr. Thornton flirting with humility.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters and how they contributed to the main characters' development. Margaret's parents were a constant stress that Margaret held up under, and Mr. Thornton had a vaguely disturbing relationship with his mother. Fascinating. I loved Mr. Bell and his wit. I loved Betsy and her father and their earthy practicality.

I enjoyed the window into that chapter of history as well. I have studied the American industrial revolution, but not the British version. And call me morbid, but it was refreshing how much death was a part of the story. It was touching, raw, and real.

I am amazed and want very much to read more by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World
by Robert Jordan
Epic Fantasy
814 pages
published: 1990
Wheel of Time series #1
4 of 5 stars

This is the first novel of an epic fantasy. It does have the standard beginning of the unsuspecting nobodies being thrust into danger and adventure, but it liked it, like I almost always like it. Beginnings like that have intrigue, adventure, confusion, mystery, and the beginnings of relationships.

From that point there is much running, hiding, fighting, tracking, learning, and separating. Several of the characters end up have to fend for themselves. By the time everyone comes together again, the goals have changed and more adventure awaits.

Could I have been more vague? Probably not. But I don't know how to summarize such a complex "beginning" and I'm not going to try. Instead?

What I loved:
  • The characters. Characters and relationships are my favorite part of any story, and characters and relationships develop best under stress. Like the stress of being chased by trollocs, trapped in a city of death, or even just traveling endless miles together and being forced to rely on one another. I loved the three boys, though Rand and Perrin are more loved than Mat. Mat is funny but annoying. I love Nynaeve eventually. At first she is a tad bossy. :) I love Lan. I mentioned before my weakness for capable men. I love Tam and was sorry that he didn't have more of a part in this book.
  • The world. I love the sense of timeless history. I love the wealth of stories the gleemen carry around and the effortless details of monuments, ruins, cities, and even weapons that is included. There is a richness there that I wish our own world had more of.
  • The adventure. The mystery. The romance. This is why I love fantasy - it has everything! And epic fantasy, well that makes for epic love.
  • Intensity. There were times I put the book away to give myself a break.
Even though I complained to my husband about this and that, there really wasn't anything to complain about except the difficulty I had with the prologue.

I love it. I'm already off and reading the next ones. I have so many questions!

Stop Answering My Questions!

My husband is very sneaky. He doesn't look like he is. You wouldn't think it if you met him. But he is ever so patient and he plots.

My husband is also a reader like me. He doesn't naturally gravitate towards a wide range of genres as I do, but he reads as voraciously. It is in fact, one of the very first things that drew me to him. He owned a book I wanted. But that is another story.

My husband reads fantasy first and foremost. We pooled our collections when we married and there are still series's from his collection that I haven't read. One in particular was the Wheel of Time series. Why wouldn't I read it? I don't honestly know. Maybe because it was so big and daunting. Maybe because it is popular. Maybe just because he wanted me to. (I can be ridiculously perverse.) I do know that I had tried 3 times before and while I have never had a problem breaking into a fantasy series before (I read fantasy first and foremost also) I just could not crack the introduction of The Eye of the World.

This did not bother me. Not even with the lure of a local author (whom I love and have read most of his work) taking over the completion of the series would I budge on this issue. (I said perverse and I meant it.)

Back to the sneaky husband. We were on a car trip returning from my parents' home in northern California and I needed to drive. It was late and dark and I required something to listen to in order to stay awake. (I did not want to resort to caffeine because it would keep my nursing baby awake!) I had listened previously on this trip to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, probably my favorite HP, and wanted to resume. Unfortunately, Dear Husband claimed that he couldn't return to my place because of...yaddah malfunction. I would have to listen to the whole book over - and I was to the point to all the messy time travel!! (Was he lying? I don't know.)

"But here!" he said, "I have The Eye of the World."

"Grumble grumble....No!"

Three minutes later, "Okay fine."

And I was trying to understand the introduction for the fourth time. And the fourth time was a charm. Probably because it was being shoved down my throat and I wasn't allowed to stumble over names or phrases I didn't understand. Probably because when it is professionally read out loud, the story shines through and no micro-reading takes place.

By the time we stopped for the night I was all the way to the trolloc attack (which is very scary in the middle of the black desert!) and was hooked.

Sneaky husband.

Over the next week as I finished the first gargantuan book I made several more token complaints.

"These books are so big and there are so many, it will be forever before anything actually happens and any of my questions are answered!"

"No," he says, "They're big because SO MANY things happen.

"I don't like this Egwene person very much and she obviously gonna end up with Rand and I don't like it. I don't want to read any more!"

"No," he says, "You'll be happy with how it goes.

"A lot of these people are brats. Why am I reading about brats? And Moiraine has a serious Allanon complex!"

"One of the best things about this series," he says, "Is how much character development there is."

"Is there ever gonna be any romance? I can see two of these people should get together but I think they are both too stubborn!"

"One of the reasons I've wanted you to read them," he says, "Is because of all the romance. You'll especially like book 3."

And later, while on a date with Dear Husband, we were discussing the books and I was asking rhetorical questions. Occasionally he answered my questions thus revealing plot points and in frustration I banged the table with my first and said, much too loudly for a restaurant, "Why are you answering my questions! I'm not asking questions for you to answer them!!" I was loud enough to get the attention of the waiter guy (alright, I might have yelled a little) who bothered me the rest of the night, asked me questions, and was severely disappointed that my questions weren't 'personal.' Ack!

This has been an emotional ride.

I am now half way through book 3. Would I consider stopping now? He** No! But I also haven't hit the promised romance yet! :P

*Please tell me if any of you understand my Allanon allusion....