Saturday, July 26, 2008

37. Taggart

Thar's gold in them thar hills!

The title: Taggart
The author: Louis L'Amour
Publication: Bantam, 1982 (originally 1959)
Got it from: The highly scientific process of "it was in a box of books someone donated to the library."

Well, I finally read a western, and it wasn't even Longarm and the Haunted Whorehouse (tagline: These spooky strumpets don't stand a ghost of a chance!) No, I thought I'd go legit here and actually read a western by a good author. And Louis L'Amour is like the Nora Roberts of westerns. Or maybe Nora Roberts is the Louis L'Amour of romance? I'm so confused.

As I said, I've never read a western. I've certainly seen plenty of them. The older men at the library where I worked last year were addicted to them like crack. I'd go to the bookstore and say, "John, give me all the westerns you got for my library." Well, not exactly, but I love talking like a person from a western. I was doing it last week until D. pointed it out to me. "Gonna rustle me up some grits for supper, eh?" He was probably wishing I'd rustle up my own grits once in awhile.

So, I have confirmed old men like westerns. My great-grandmother's husband sure did. Not the one who gave me his DNA, the other one. The one who was always drunk and lying by the kitchen stove reading Zane Grey. Maybe I would drink if all I read were westerns, too. I would also drink if I had to spend the rest of my life in Aroostook like he did. (I can vouch for this. I lived there last year.) Consarn it, what was I talking about? Oh yes, this here Louis L'Amour book.

What it's about: not what the back cover says. Damn your oily hide, back cover, for telling me lies! I'll see you tomorrow at high noon! Anyway, this book is about a man named Taggart. Swante Taggart. Why is he called Swante? Damned if I know. He's a tough guy, as men who lived in Frontierland
all were back then. He's on the run in the harsh Arizona landscape, because some bad guys tried to steal his land and all he did was shoot them. Really, is that all? It's not like he took their wimmenfolk or anything.

Speaking on wimmenfolk, there are some in this book. And if L'Amour going to mention the phrase "whole lot of woman," in this book one more time, I was going to go Annie Oakley on his ass. Seriously, Louis, could you tone it down a little? First it was the wife of the prospector guy, the hot and hot-blooded Mexican woman. "She sure was a whole lot of woman for a man to handle!" Then the prospector's sister (she's "good" and the Mexican's "bad"): "That Miriam sure was a whole lot of woman!" Well, what else could they be? A little bit man? Slightly reptilian? Made partially of gummy? (Mmm...precious Venus.)

So yadda yadda, Taggart takes shelter with the prospector, his Latina babe and the sharp-shootin sister. And the
Evil Lawman™ catches up to them, but that's okay, because he can help them fight the Evil Apaches™. Oh man, can you ever tell this book was written in the 1950's. Because the racism against the Natives is about 1000x more powerful than the sexism. These guys pick off Indians like they were shooting squirrels for dinner.

And what did I think of the book? Despite it all, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought. It was mercifully short, so that's a bonus. The writing was kind of bad, but I can handle that. The story was predictable, but in this unstable world that's not a bad thing. Overall, it kind of reminded me of a grown-up version of those pioneer stories I read when I was growing up. C+.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fashion through the ages

While I'm busy reading, I hope you enjoy this fabulous video of women's fashions from 1795-1948.

Monday, July 21, 2008

36. Jane Austen's Guide to Dating

The title: Jane Austen's Guide to Dating
The author: Lauren Henderson
Publication: Hyperion, 2005
Got it from: Bath, England, 2006

Ah, Jane Austen. Is there anything she can't do? According to the author of this book, we must turn to Jane for her timeless dating advice. Obviously, I didn't read this book as an instruction manual. It's been many, many years since I was ever involved in anything like dating, and even then I tended to jump directly into the relationship stage. No wonder. Dating seems like a pretty terrifying prospect, especially these days.

There are some things the book does right. Most of the advice is pretty solid, based as it is 'n all on High Priestess Jane's sensible morals. It's a lot of common sense here. And by "common sense" I mean stuff-that-I-figured-out-a-long-time-ago-but-other-people-haven't. You know, "have faith in your own instincts" and "don't fall for superficial qualities." The author gives many examples of what to do and what not to do based on Jane Austen's characters. I did enjoy the analysis of their personalities and motivations. I felt like these descriptions helped me more clearly understand the books. I also like the "which Jane Austen heroine archetype are you?" quiz at the back (Elizabeth Bennet) along with the "which Jane Austen hero are you most compatible with?" counterpart.

What didn't work so well, I felt, were the "real-life" stories to supplement the character stories. For example, in the "why you should tell your lover when he pisses you off" section, they illustrate this with Elizabeth's put-down of Mr. Darcy and a similar story of a man who gets angry with his girlfriend for always being late and lets her have it. The problem is, we're never sure how many of these "real-life" stories are actually real. Some of them appear to be based on the life of the author and her friends, but we're not sure which is which. Either way, they're far less interesting than the Austen gang. B

Thursday, July 10, 2008

35. The House at Riverton

The title: The House at Riverton
The author: Kate Morton
Publication: Atria, 2008
Got it from: Library

I've had it. Between this book, Fabergé's Eggs and Her Royal Spyness, I'm thoroughly sick of the early twentieth century. I've had enough. I'm calling it quits on this time period. Escort me to my Victorian parlour, Jeeves. All these flappers and shell-shocked soldiers are upsetting my constitution.

Oh, so you want to know about this book? Well, it's about this very old woman in 1999, who's recounting her life as a servant in the 1910's-1920's and the messed-up family she serves. Basically, if you took Remains of the Day, Wuthering Heights and added a dash of Titanic, you'd get this book.

I should have liked this book. All the elements are there. Zigzag timeline + wealthy English people from long ago + good writing =.....zilch. This book did nothing for me other than depress me and make we want to run to my nearest froth-filled novel. I just couldn't relate to Grace, the heroine. I suppose she was acting as she should have for the time, but I wanted to beat her with a dead fish for most of the book. She makes some incredibly stupid decisions that mess up everyone's life, including her own, and when she's old she feels guilty about it. Well, duh. Almost no one gets a break in this book. It's like there are big anvils falling from the sky all the time, conking people on the head.

I figured out Grace's "big secret" about fifty pages in, and it was so frustrating to have her not figure it out until a scrillion years have gone by. And then she never tells anyone! What the freak is that about? And then the "other" big secret at the end, involving the filmmaker who's making a movie about the events at Riverton - Grace realizes who the filmmaker is at the end, and again she doesn't tell anyone! Give me a break! Why does everyone have to be so repressed and not state the obvious in these books? I hate people who are like that in real life and I don't want to read about them either. I mean, the woman is dying. The least she can do is say, "Hey, guess what Ursula? You're actually...." But no. It can never be that way in these "arty" type of books. Everyone has to die in horrible, romantic ways, no one can ever live happily ever after and the book can't lighten up for more than a nanosecond. I'm sure there's lots of weepy, sentimental types who will like this book. But for me, it was a drag. D+.

Give Kathryn books. Now.

The SBs are giving away Georgette Heyer books.

I haven't been too disappointed that I haven't won any of their contests before. But these books, I want so much I'm salivating. I've only read one of Heyer's books before, but as the Grande Dame of Regency romance, she's been calling out to me...calling my name...for ever so long! They've been reissuing her titles recently here in North America. When I was in England two years ago I first saw them and fell in love with the gorgeous, gorgeous covers. I mean, look at them!

(Know what those girls are saying? "Why aren't we in your library, Kathryn? You want us to be in your library! Why don't you looove us?")

My library, sadly, is deficient in Georgette Heyer books. Nor do my local used bookstores carry them, particularly not with the new covers. And where does that leave poor-as-a-churchmouse me? Left playing the book lottery.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Edited July 16: No dice. Sigh. I guess I'll have to find another route to Heyerville.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

34. Her Royal Spyness

The title: Her Royal Spyness
The author: Rhys Bowen
Publication: Prime Crime, 2007
Got it from: Library

Lady Georgiana ("Georgie"), 34th in line to the British throne, has just had her allowance cut off and now the poor little rich girl has to make her own way in London. Think chick lit set in the 1930's. Okay, to be fair, Georgie isn't as annoying as your average chick lit heroine, and the plot isn't as fluffy. But it's still ridiculously light. There's a murder involved, of course, and a roguish love interest (natch) but I kept waiting for that extra bit of sparkle to come in, something that would make Georgie more than the expected plucky heroine. Sadly, it never came. I'll say two things in favour of the book, though. It did keep me interesteed, and it gave me the fabulous phrase "rumpy-pumpy" which is a euphemism for...well...I'll let you use your imagination. B.

33. Murder in A-Major

The title: Murder in A-Major
The author: Morley Torgov
Publication: Rendezvous-Press, 2008
Got it from: Library

After attending a three hour workshop on trends in mystery writing, hosted by Mary Jane Maffini, I decided to branch out and try a few new mysteries.

The results so far have been kind of disappointing. Apart from the fabulous Amelia Peabody series, most mysteries elicit a tepid "meh" from me. I'm not sure why that is, but it's something I'll have to ruminate on.

I chose this book because of its interesting subject matter, the German music scene in the early 1800's. The Shumanns are the main characters, but there's also some Brahams, Liszt, etc. thrown in for good measure. Aside from learning about how pianos work, which was actually kind of interesting, I'm not sure how much I got out of this book. The female characters seemed to exist solely for the purpose of being sex objects and the male characters were fairly reprehensible. It's not that it was a bad book, it just didn't do it for me. C+