Sunday, August 31, 2008

I Has Heyer

Remember when I was all upset about my lack of Georgette Heyer novels? Well, thanks to the awesomeness of friends and my own used bookstore-hunting skills, I have now amassed a modest Georgette Heyer collection. They're not all the new covers, but I like the old paperbacks too.

See for yourself:
I am so excited, I think I shall institute a Georgette Heyer month, where I read nothing but Georgette Heyer. This is very exciting!

41. Six Words You Never Knew Had Something To Do With Pigs

The title: Six Words You Never Knew Had Something To Do With Pigs: And Other Fascinating Facts About The Language From Canada's Word Lady
The author: Katherine Barber
Publication: Oxford UP, 2006
Got it from: The library

For the record, the six words are porcelain, screw, soil, porpoise, root and swain.

Etymology lovers everywhere will probably love this book, so they can nag everyone they know with interesting tidbits concerning word origins. I am an etymology lover. Therefore, I continually interrupted my husband to discuss a fascinating word origin. For instance, I took great glee in telling him (a younger son) that the French word puisné, meaning 'born next' (i.e., younger son) is where we get the word "puny". The French had another word for younger son, capdet (little head), which fascinatingly enough gives us the word captain (younger sons often joined the military), cadet, caddy and cad. Ha!

Me famous

I'm on NBPLS's Virtual Library Books & Reading page. Woot! Welcome, NB readers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

40. The Ghost Map

The title: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World
The author: Steven Johnson
Publication: Riverhead Books, 2006
Got it from: The library

August 25, 2008

To Whom it May Concern:

Has it really been seventeen days since my last book review? For shame! It is inexcusable. I suppose I may feebly protest that my father was visiting for a week, or that I had three Summer Reading Club parties to plan at the library and I was just exhausted. But who am I kidding? No, I suspect the real reason I haven't been able to finish a book is that I have spent too much time watching
How Clean is Your House? and reruns of North of 60. That's right. I have let television rot my mind. Also, technically speaking, I did read two books since my last entry that I have chosen for various reasons not to blog about.

I suppose you are wondering what this book, which I have just finished, is about. It is about cholera in Victorian London. Not what most people would consider a fun summer read, but then again most people don't mummify their Barbies for science projects when they're nine, either. I found this book to be a perfect summer non-fiction book: light and breezy. The author is very engaging and kind of cute too. Not that I look for that in an author, but most of the non-fiction books that I read are written by crusty old men with names like Lord Fotherington-Fusspot and Henry Tweedsworth III.

Where was I? Oh yes, cholera. It sounds very nasty, and I'm glad I wasn't suffering from it in Victorian London. You basically wither up from lack of water and waste away until you're one-third your usual size and your organs shut down because there's not enough fluid to get you blood. Worst case scenario is you go from healthy to dead in a matter of hours. Ugh.

But this book is more than just about an epidemic, it's about two men who were the first to discover that cholera was transmitted by water, not borne in the air as everyone thought. This leads to a lengthy discussion about the filth of London and the dreadful sewage management of the time. (Sewage management = leave your waste in the basement until it eventually gets in the river). I wouldn't have thought I'd ever find s--t so fascinating, but there you have it. I'm almost tempted to read that book about the Great Stink of London in 1858. It's a morbid fascination.

It's amazing to think that one simple act, the removal of a pump handle on Broad Street, saved so many lives and changed the world of public health forever. A reviewer has said, "If you read only one book about cholera this year, make it this one!" and I agree. This is a good introduction to non-fiction if you're primarily a fiction reader and I found it only bogged down slightly at the end. B+

Thank you for your patient wait for a review, and I hope I do not disappoint you next time,

Sincerely yours,


Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's my birthday and I'll blog if I want to

I haven't got a proper post today, as I've been verra busy and am deep into at least five different books without having finished any of them yet. Today I thought I would blog about an event that is near and dear to my heart.

Madonna's birthday.

Ten years ago today it was all over the news: Madonna's turning 40! Rip out the front page, this is news, baby! Since this was still a hazy time when the internet wasn't a primary news source, TV and radio trumpeted it all over the place, as if the act of turning forty was a supreme achievement. But was there any word of my turning 16, I ask you? What news source heralded this landmark occasion in my life? What has she done that's so great? So she's made some music videos and sold some albums. But I survived Quispamsis Junior High, and let me tell you, that's more worth celebrating.

Now here we are again and nothing's changed. I defy you to find a news source today that's not celebrating Madonna's 50th birthday. But what of my 26th? In the past ten years, I've graduated from high school, earned two degrees, bought my first car and gotten married. What's she done? Made some crappy albums, had a handful of kids and gotten divorced and stuff. Hardly worth all the attention she's getting today. Whose birthday is really worth celebrating, I ask you?

Friday, August 8, 2008

39. The Book of the Seven Delights

The title: The Book of the Seven Delights
The author: Betina Krahn
Publication: Berkley, 2005
Got it from: Reads Saint John, last Christmas

This book is about...well, I'll let the cover copy explainermarate:

Abigail Merchant is determined to prove her worth as a librarian to the stodgy old men running the British Museum. When she uncovers the journals of an eccentric scholar in the museum basement, she sees the opportunity to earn the curators' respect and vows to complete the old boy's search for the remnants of the Great Library of Alexandria...even if she has to go all the way to Timbuktu to do it.

Think Evie from The Mummy, only make her more completely helpless. Heck, why not just say this is The Mummy slightly rewritten, since the hero is a bitter ex-Legionnaire. Make no mistake about it: this is a very silly book. If you're willing to suspend your disbelief (I mean really suspend it - especially in the middle where it goes all Fantasy/Sci-Fi) you may enjoy it. The characters are fairly two-dimensional, except toward the end where they mysteriously change their ways. The hero, whose name is Apollo (yes, Apollo), is a little too heavy-handed with Abigail at times, and her character is so plucky and feisty it seems somewhat contrived. But there is nary a dull moment in here as the action and harrowing chase across the desert just doesn't quit.

I repeat: this book is very silly. The ending is about fifty pages too long and the HEA is incredibly saccharine. Still, if you're looking for a fun desert adventure that doesn't make you think too hard...B.

Edited it add: I'll bet you're wondering what the Book of Seven Delights is and what that thigh is doing on the cover, aren't you, you saucy thing? Well, a lady never tells. You'll have to read the book to discover it for yourself.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

38. And Only to Deceive

The title: And Only to Deceive
The author: Tasha Alexander
Publication: HarperCollins, 2005
Got it from: The highly scientific process of "it was in a box of books someone donated to the library": Part II

I actually finished this book awhile ago, and it's a shame I didn't get to write about it sooner, because I haven't enjoyed a book like this in a long time. (Our Interweb has been down, in case you're wondering).

In this Victorian-era mystery, young widow Lasy Ashton has been in mourning for her husband, the Viscount Ashton, for over a year. She didn't know him all that well, and thus feels no loss for him, while enjoying the privilege and freedom that comes with being a widow in the 19th century. That is until she stumbles across her husband's journals and discovers he was very much in love with her. Much to her dismay, she finds herself falling in love with her dead husband. With her new discovery, she takes up her husband's passion for classical literature and art, and soon stumbles upon a forgery ring centred around the British Museum. Did you say British Museum? Yes, I know, I have a weakness for the British Museum and books about it. There will actually be two more reviews coming up featuring the British M. but I shall leave that for later.

And Only to Deceive is full of wonderful secondary characters, like Cecile, the irreverent French dowager with a mania for miniatures, who takes Emily under her wing; and Margaret, her port-swilling, cigar smoking bluestocking friend. Emily is herself is a wonderfully drawn heroine, and her growth from rebellious daughter to intelligent woman is a delight to watch unfold. And of course I couldn't go without mentioning Colin (I have dubbed him Mr. Sexy Pants), her husband's best friend, whose "concern" for Emily goes beyond friendship. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

And the settings! Late Victorian London, Paris during the height of the Impressionists and, briefly, Greece. What more could you ask for? This book was simply a treat to read, through and through. I can't wait to get my hands on the other two in the series. A-