Saturday, May 24, 2008

22. The Meaning of Sisterhood

The title: The Meaning of Sisterhood
The author: Beverly Sommers
Publication: Fawcett Juniper, 1993
Got it from: Freemont Books

No. of times I've now read this book: 2

Age at first reading of this book: 15-16

No. of years before I started going, hmm, what was that book my friend loaned me back in high school? It was kind of bad, but kind of good: 9-10

No. of frustrated hours I spent looking for this book online using my mad librarian skills, before turning to my last resort and asking the SB's: 4-5

No. of months between sending my request to the SB's and having them post it: 4

Length of time the request was up before someone correctly identified this book: 13 hours, 51 minutes

No. of days after I got my answer before I went hunting for the book at my local used book store: 5

No. of minutes it took me to find my book once I entered the YA section: 7

Total cost of book: $1

No. of minutes after purchasing before I realized it was a discard from a library where I work: 30

No. of pages in book: 120

No. of hours it took to read when I brought it home: 2

No. of times D. asked me if I'd gotten to the groping scene yet: 1

No. of times I thought to myself, "they'd never put that in a YA book now!": a lot

No. of times the characters had popcorn or chocolate bars or something else that made me hungry: too many to count

No. of boys the main character kisses: 2

No. of times she likes it: 1

Amount of time for character development, given the book is only 120 pages: not much

Meanings of sisterhood that I got from this book: 0

Crazy unrealistic plot device used to get the long-lost sisters together? Oh yeah

No. of seconds it takes before you realize the dorky football player is going to end up with the heroine, not that creepy poet guy: 0.5

Altogether? Solid god B, and that's extra points for bringing me back to the early '90s.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

21. Whispers of War

The title:
Whispers of War: the War of 1812 Diary of Susanna Merritt
The author: Kit Pearson
Publication: Scholastic, 2002
Got it from: La library

In one of the libraries where I work (Merritt) there's a picture of its William Hamilton Merritt, one of those famous local historical types. In this book, he's simply known as "Hamilton," the main character's older brother. What's kind of cool is that the character, Susanna, is based on author Kit Pearson's great-great-great grandmother Susan Merritt, who actually was Hamilton's sister.

This is my little foray into some local history, since I'm new to the area and know absolutely zippo about the War of 1812. A few weeks ago I went to Queenston and saw General Brock's memorial, but I was distracted by the canteen and mushroom-shaped fountain in the park. But I suppose that's neither here nor there. I do love to ramble.

Overall, I haven't been too enthralled by the Dear Canada series, even though I love the idea of teaching young people about history through the made-up "diaries" of girls living in various times of Canadian history. The Newfoundland one I found boring and the Halifax explosion one was way too depressing. Still, all the books in the series get *rave* reviews from their intended demographic, so maybe I'm just being a jaded old librarian who's read too many of these historical kids' books before.

This book centres around Susanna Merritt, a twelve-year-old girl living in St. Catharines in the year 1812. Her father and older brother are involved in the war and Susanna records daily in her diary her fears for them, as well as the mundane parts of her life on a farm. Think Little House on the Prairie, Canadian style. My problem with this book, and of the Dear Canada series in general, is that is throws in too many "let's teach some history!" elements into the book. You just know the author was doing research and said, "hey! I learned how they made soap back then, so let's have Susanna make soap!" Sometimes the characters sound more like they're teaching history than being actual people. I also found Susanna's character to be somewhat bland. I never really felt like I got to know her.

Still, it was fun to read about what life was like in my area back then, and it does make all those War of 1812 memorials around here seem more interesting. But I'd recommend Kit Pearson's far superior Sky is Falling trilogy over this book. B

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More regency romance!

Updated! May 17: Shareholders are revolting against Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang for his decision to fend off Microsoft's Advances - particularly sharholder Carl Ichan. So I'm adding my own twist to this tale. This is too fun to pass up.

Chapter Two: Mutiny from Within

"You fool!" Great-Uncle Carl hissed as he learned of Miss Yahoo's refusal over breakfast the next morning. "This could have meant money for all of us! You think you're so noble, don't you? But all you're doing is driving your family to the poorhouse!"

"But uncle," Miss Yahoo! said, putting down her spoon. "I didn't love him. He would have mistreated me."

"Of all the rubbish nonsense!" her great-uncle spat, his face visibly reddening with rage. "If you don't find him and ask him to propose again, I'll force you to marry him. By god, I will!"

Miss Yahoo! shrank back, more determined than ever to stay away from the wicked Marquis. Just then her aunt, Sharon Holder, came bustling in with curiosity brimming over. "Good heavens, Carl," she said with a nervous laugh. "What is going on here?"

"Nothing, dear sister," he replied with forced politeness. "I was just telling our dear niece that she must always put the family's needs ahead of her own."

Wow, this is getting so exciting! I can't wait to see what happens next!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo = Regency romance

As you probably know, unless you have just crawled out from under a rock, I am basically the world's biggest fan of Regency romance, or maybe 8th or 9th or 11th.

I don't know what this person was smoking, but they wrote a funny parody of a Regency romance using Microsoft and Yahoo and the protagonists. Here is an excerpt:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a software firm in possession of a large fortune must be in want of an acquisition…

There is something tremendously satisfying about watching the search engine firms flirt, fall out, argue and compete. It is so very human, for all that they are enormous and powerful corporations. The recent Microsoft attempts at acquiring Yahoo! made me think of a regency romance, far trashier than Jane Austen [K's note: trashy!? Oh no you didn't...]:

Miss Yahoo! shrank back against the piano, pale but determined. “Sir,” she gasped, “your offer insults me. You think my love can be bought with trinkets!”

The Marquis de Microsoft stroked his moustache and raised a haughty eyebrow. “Madam, I have made you a respectable offer. I am a wealthy man with a large and reliable fortune. ‘Twould be madness to refuse me.” He stalked to the fireplace and stared deep into the flames, gritting his teeth. “Furthermore, my dear, I have told half of London that I shall marry you and marry you I shall!”

She glared at his figure, hunched powerfully over the fireplace, and strengthened her resolve. “I do not wish to marry… you.”

Just then, the door burst open and Sir Guy of Google charged into the room. “Unhand her, sir!” he demanded, slightly unnecessarily, for the two were standing some distance from one another, each disdainful in their mutual dislike. “Miss Yahoo!, don’t throw yourself away on the Marquis de Microsoft. Do not trust his solicitations! I have reason to believe his intentions are not honourable.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

20. The Ladies of Grace Adieu

The title: The Ladies of Grace Adieu
The author: Susanna Clarke
Publication: Bloomsbury, 2006
Got it from: Amazon

Can I just gush for a minute about the cover? I love love love it. As someone, somewhere on the internet said, "the outside is just like the inside!" Call me creepy, but when this book came in the mail I couldn't stop caressing it, it was so soft. Ah, I am such a book fetishist.

This book is a companion to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I read last year and adored. The thing I love most about Susanna Clarke as an author is that she really makes it worthwhile for smart readers who are paying attention. In other words, she doesn't club you over the head with the obvious, which surprising few authors know how to do nowadays. As someone who is well-versed in both Regency and fairy literature, I found both Jonathan Strange and this book to be howlingly funny, while most readers I imagine would be painfully bored.

The best analogy I could think of to describe Clarke's books is this: imagine a lake that everyone goes to visit, because it's a well-talked about lake. Most people would go, say, "oh what a pretty lake, but I don't see what the fuss is about, it's kind of boring and nothing's really happening," and move on. But some people would take the time to stand on the shore and look into the lake. And if they were paying attention, they would start to see all kinds of delightful creatures, like giant orange fish and swimming turtles and wavy seaweed and maybe a monster or two.

This book is a collection of short stories, which is definitely a departure for me. I almost never read short stories, because I hate getting to know a set of characters, only to have to leave them a short while later and start all over again. (An exception to this is Budge Wilson's short stories). On the other hand, if I don't like the story, at least I know I can leave it in a few short pages.

What else can I say about this book? It's closely tied to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, so I wouldn't recommend reading it unless you've read that book first. Think of it as Silmarillion to Lord of the Rings, only less tedious. Any flaws I might point out about this book are somehow argued down in my mind with, "but it's about fairiessss! And the Regency! That's like complaining about chocolate mousse when all you've had lately is turnips. Maybe it's a little runny, but it's chocolate mousse for goodness' sake!" B+

Monday, May 5, 2008

19. A Scholarly Gentleman

The title: A Scholarly Gentleman
The author: Catherine Blair
Publication: Zebra, 2002
Got it from: D., Christmas 2006

I don't usually read category romances, but D. got this one for me for a larf a couple of years ago and as I am still fighting an ear infection and have no energy to read anything heavy, I thought I'd give it a whirl. And I have to say, for a category romance, it wasn't bad. After the truly painful Madrigals and Mistletoe, I was wary of categories in general and Zebra Regencies in particular. This one proved that shorter romances can be good (somewhere in the B range) and needn't necessarily be formulaic.

The story is about Jordan DeVaux, an astronomy professor at Cambridge. Jordan's cousin has just died, leaving him a lordship and a mountain of debt to deal with, not to mention a strong-willed widow. She also happens to be the same woman who Jordan was once engaged to until she called the wedding off and ran off with his cousin. Will they possibly ever get back together? The agony is unbearable!

Here's what I'd like to talk about: the cover copy. Sure it's okay. Yes, it does cover the plot of the book pretty well.* But let's just sit back and ponder it for a moment: the guy is an astronomy professor. What a wasted opportunity! I mean, the sexual metaphors practically write themselves. Here are a few suggestions for terms they could have used:

-he's a "rocket ship entering her heavenly body"
-anything about her "celestial orbs"
-him showing her the rings around Uranus
-taking a "meteor shower" together
- the passionate removal of an asteroid belt
- his exploding supernova
- her Black Hole
- the roiling, grinding motion in their fiery cores

Anyone else want to try?

*Although as an aside I hate it when they get details wrong: they kissed in the observatory, not the library, ppl!