Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Heart, Ivory Bones

The title: Black Heart, Ivory Bones
The author: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (eds.)
Publication: HarperCollins, 2000
Got it from: Vancouver, Chapters, 2001

I bought this book in Vancouver over ten years ago and for some reason, it's taken me this long to get around to it.  This year I resolved to finally tackle it and put it to my all-important reading list.  It's a collection of re-told fairy tales, some by very famous fantasy writers (Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee), some by authors who weren't nearly as famous then as they are now (Neil Gaiman, Susannah Clarke) and others who remain obscure.  

Like many short story collections, the quality of these stories varied widely.  Some of them, like "Rapunzel" were obviously linked to specific fairy tales, others were vaguely fairy tale in theme.  Some were gritty and modern ("Big Hair" was about teenage beauty pageants, "Goldilocks Tells All" was like a Jerry Springer show involving psychiatry, "The Red Boots" made me think of a strange lesbian country-and-western song).  I didn't like the ones that were gross or violent, like "Rosie's Dance" and "My Life as a Bird."  "The Cats of San Martino" by Ellen Steiber was a fun story on its own, while, "You, Little Match Girl" was a haunting tale that accomplished a great deal of emotion in just a few short pages.  Interestingly, "Mr. Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower" from Susannah Clarke's other short story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu, first appeared here, long before Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was first published, and it is an excellent story, well worth re-reading.  Was this collection worth waiting ten years for?  Probably not, but it wasn't entirely a waste of time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Home for the Holidays

The title: Home for the Holidays
The author: Heather Vogel Frederick
Publication: Simon & Shuster, 2011
Got it from: La library

Let me say it up front: I love the Mother-Daughter Book Club the way I loved the Baby-Sitters Club when I was 9.  It doesn't matter if something silly happens, or I find a character annoying, or a plot device wraps things up too neatly.  Inside, I'm going NONONOBUTIT'SSOOOOGOOOOD!!!  This is the fifth book in the series, and I've spent so much time getting to know the girls, their families, their lives and the town they live in, it's like visiting close friends.  It's probably no coincidence that there are a LOT of similarities between these books and the Baby-Sitters Club, which is probably why I'm so drawn to this series now, twenty years later.  But while the BSC became bloated and out-of-control, this series lets its characters age properly and the end is in sight.  (My inner critic says that's a good thing, my inner fan says nooooo!!!!)

How much do I love this book?  When I first saw the beautiful silver-cover foil that looks like wrapping paper (the Internet does it no justice) I almost squealed in glee.  This book is the equivalent of an amazing box of chocolate, and like chocolate I had to slow down to read it so I wouldn't gobble it up all at once and not have anything to look forward to.  In this book, the girls are 15 and each of them is going away for the holidays, but in the meantime the mother-daughter book club is reading the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace.  I haven't read this series, but I'm so tempted to now.  Becca and Megan are going on a tropical cruise (just like Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #1: Baby-Sitters on Board!) and Jess and Emma end up in a lodge in New Hampshire (just like Baby-Sitters Super Special #3: Baby-Sitters' Winter Vacation!) and Cassidy goes back to her old town in California (just like Baby-Sitters Super Special #5: California Girls!).  

Okay, I'll stop with the BSC/MDBC comparisons.  But it didn't take much to make me love a book set during the holidays.  Yes, there's some strife amongst the girls, but there's also lots of presents!  And so, so many loving descriptions of food that will make your mouth water.  Seriously, I would have killed to have been part of such a close-knit, fun-loving, book-oriented group whose members get to travel and do other awesome things.  These are characters that remind me of friends and family from high school, and maybe that's why I love them so much.  They remind me of the best parts of growing up.  Either that, or my theory that these books are laced with crack.