It’s Monday! What are you reading? (22 February)

February 22, 2010 at 9:02 pm (Memes) ()

Nothing. Well, that’s not quite true. You see, I ran out of the library books that I WANT to read, and have a bunch more on hold the library that haven’t yet arrived (damn you, Multnomah County Library! *shakes fist*). All I’ve got left now are Margaret Irwin’s The Galliard, a very old-fashioned (and not especially accurate) Mary, Queen of Scots novel, and Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. So I’ve been supplementing by reading my totally rad (and interesting) American Heritage Cookbook circa 1969. Of course, the problem with that is now I want to make New England Boiled Dinners, chowder, and Anadama bread.

This week, I polished off Joan Aiken’s classic The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (one of my childhood favorites), Valerie Martin’s Property, Anya Seton’s The Hearth and Eagle (another factor in my cravings for New England cuisine), a classic Madeline L’Engle Chronos book, A Ring of Endless Light, and another of my crack books, The Morland Dynasty: The Victory by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Not too shabby. I’m still getting back in gear post-wedding, but I do have a lot of catching up to do, here and at Gourmanderie.

This week, look forward to catch up book reports from December, as well as the new year. I’ve given up all thought of posting them in chronological order, but the reading dates will still be posted at the bottom of each book report–and there’s always the master lists to refer to.

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BSC revived and revised

January 12, 2010 at 4:15 am (Current Events, Juvanalia) (, , , , )

Have you seen this article in the New York Times? Ann M. Martin’s seminal series The Baby-Sitter’s Club is being resuscitated by Scholastic with not only a reprint and a prequel, but also a revision to update the books. No more perms and no more cassettes!

Like a lot of my peers, I read a fair number of BSC books in their heyday. It was never my favorite series, but I liked it better than the wholly ridiculous Sweet Valley High (and far better than the loathsome younger reader spinoffs of that) for featuring somewhat realistic girls doing well, everyday activities. And while there are far better books out there for young readers, I do not mind them reading stuff like the BSC. But is a revision to update the books really necessary? When I was in that same age group, I inherited some of the books that had originally belonged to my two older sisters, ten and twelve years older than me. Among these were several Judy Blume books, the requisite horse books like Marguerite O’Henry’s Misty books, and also the Amy and Laura books. The latter series was about a pair of sisters, different as different can be (and I suspect that difference is why my sisters had them; they had a very difficult relationship till they were adults), living in the Bronx in the–well, to this day I’m not entirely sure when they lived. Their lives were drastically different from my own, and though I wanted a malted, I wasn’t entirely sure what one was. But there were many similarities besides the complicated relationship between Amy and Laura, which echoed the one I witnessed between my own siblings. Like Laura, I checked out the Lang Fairy Books (I remember her interest in finally acquiring the Olive volume), and like Amy, I enjoyed riding my bike around the neighborhood. I really don’t think any small difference between my technology and theirs impeded my interest in their lives in the slightest.

The same goes for many classics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; though my mother had to explain segregation and belts for pads (when I read Iggie’s House and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, respectively), that hardly lessened my enjoyment or understanding of the books. But I suppose there may be an argument that since the BSC books are of less err, literary merit, shall we say, then they do need updating to remain relevant to children. I don’t know. But I may have to take a trip thrifting soon, and try to stock up on those original volumes just in case I ever have some girls interested in Stoneybrook.

Also: I first saw this article on the second of January, when the comments were already closed (really, NYT? Really?), but I MUST respond to this comment by Adrienne of New York (who is more than welcome to rebut):

This whole generation of girls who had grown up reading ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ were now teachers, librarians or mothers,” Mr. Levithan said.

…Does Mr. Levithan really believe that little girls can only grow up to be teachers, librarians or mothers?? These books were about strong, entrepreneurial women. Mr. Levithan just robbed all women of the childhood joy they derived from these books. Thanks.

Ummm, yeah. Pretty sure Levithan is entirely aware of the fact that the women most in the position of recommending books to young readers are, well, mothers, teachers, and librarians. Ya think?

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? (14 September)

September 14, 2009 at 1:44 am (Memes) ()

on_mondaysAfter all the work I did to get caught up on my reviews from last week, I slacked off like crazy this week. I posted no book reports at all until tonight, when I just had to get Hunger of the Beast out there! I’m just awful.

The problem is, I got stuck writing up Once is Not Enough by Jackie Susann, the first book I finished this week. There’s a lot I want to say about the book and her, and it’s hard; i want to do them both justice, so I wimp out on my entries. That’s when I have to shake myself and shout, “Schatzi! It’s not a term paper! Twelve hundred words is too many! You’re not being graded!” I’ve got issues.

My ambition is to have both Once is Not Enough and Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Marsh King’s Daughter done tomorrow; I read the latter Saturday when I was home sick, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also have some fresh books from the library, plus The Unbearable Lightness of Being, to take care of, but I also picked up The Historian last night, and plowed through the first hundred pages in nothing flat. I think I found something for my RIP IV challenge! I am seriously enjoying this book.

Speaking of which, I need to go check out the Multnomah County Library site; I think those swine are deleting some of my requests! I put a hold on my ghost story books before I ever requested The Historian, and they’re still nowhere in site. Bugger all. Well, I better go check that out. The weather has been awfully autumnal, and I need to curl up with some spooky books.

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Spider & Jeanne Robinson Could Use a Hand

September 9, 2009 at 4:35 am (Current Events) (, , )

callahan's ladyBack in the fuzzy days of my pre-adolescence, when my reading matter was often chosen as much for titillation as for intellectual stimulation or entertainment, I stumbled across a rare find. Down in the basement of the Historic Irvington bungalow my father and stepmother inhabited were many a cardboard box of books, books of every sort, from the fundamentals of theatre to children’s classics. And above all, there was fantasy and science fiction. Boxes upon boxes of paperbacks both slim and fat, from every genre of science fiction and fantasy there was in the Seventies and Eighties. And on hot summer days, my little sister and I would duck into that cool vault and sort through the treasure trove of books we found.

I hated to be told what I could read and could not, so I would always have to hide my finds, sneaking them upstairs and reading them on the sly; my prurient pre-adolescent mind gravitated toward the naughty, and I dreaded being found out and having my precious books confiscated–which had happened before and which would happen again. And one hot afternoon, I happened upon a promising book. It was called Callahan’s Lady, and in it, I found a place where I wanted to belong, Lady Sally’s House. Yes, it was a brothel somewhere on Manhattan Island, but it was also a place where decency and good manners were respected, and where people could have fun and be accepted for who they were–whether they were in fact people, freaks, aliens, or even genetically-engineered German Shepherds. Instead of simple titillation, I found in Callahan’s Lady commentary on the human condition (as is found in the best science fiction), good humor at its worst (those puns!), and a new Heinlein (to whom my father had already introduced me).

I kept Callahan’s Lady (don’t tell my dad where his copy went), and I bought the sequel The Lady Slings the Booze, as well as the first Callahan book, Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. I checked out other Spider (and sometimes Jeanne) Robinson books from the library, and I was a total SF nerd. And I loved it. In turn, I passed those books on to others, like my eldest sister Heather and some of my friends, and every one has loved them. Spider Robinson also has written some fantastic essays, including an amazing defense of Robert A Heinlein for People Who Just Don’t Get It. (And I would love him for that, if nothing else, because I do adore RAH.)

I learned a lot from those books in the way of basic civilization: Live and let live. Let well enough alone. Vengeance is counterproductive–and it gets your soul all sticky. Placebo !/= spaseeba. Pain shared is lessened, while joy shared is multiplied. Treating people as you wish to be treated is the best way to achieve that goal. And I had a lot of fun.

Just over four years ago, my mother died from metastasized breast cancer, and it’s a pain I live with every day. I would do anything to keep someone else from having to go through what I and my sisters–and tutu and aunts–have suffered, the pain we live through every day, and that’s why I’ve written this post. Jeanne Robinson suffers from a rare biliary cancer that has already taken her gall bladder, bile duct, and most of her liver. She and Spider are having a hard time affording the treatment she needs, and I would dearly love to pay them back in any way possible for the hours of amusement, entertainment, and thought I’ve had thanks to their work. If you’re interested in their work, buy it from Amazon through Spider Robinson’s site. There are a few Ebay auctions for her benefit. Also a benefit site with other options.

And perhaps best of all, this gent came up with a way to benefit Spider & Jeanne with ANY Amazon purchase! I just bought a couple of books last night, but I will happily do some early Christmas shopping this way to help them out. Even if you aren’t interested in their books, you can send a little their way with any Amazon purchase.

Maybe I’m a shill, I don’t know. What I do know is how much I have suffered without my mother thanks to cancer, and how much enjoyment I’ve have from a few printed words that Spider Robinson happened to write. And that I started to cry when I first learned what was going on, and I’m still tearing up now. I’d rather not, but I suppose that can’t be helped. I might not be that fond of sherry, but I’ll take any port in a storm.

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Cleopatra’s Daughter Giveaways

September 7, 2009 at 7:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

cleoredtogacover2Michelle Moran‘s second novel Cleopatra’s Daughter is about to come out, and in celebration, there are a ton of book bloggers hosting giveaways for it. I’ve read some good reviews of it in the past few days, and am pretty excited about reading it myself. I was waaaay into Cleopatra when I was little and saw the Liz Taylor film (back when TNT showed awesome classics all the time), even demanding that my hair be cut like her bob in the movie! The best book I’ve read about her so far would be Margaret George’s The Memoirs of Cleopatra (special shoutout for Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game).

If you’re looking to win a copy of Cleopatra’s Daughter (and who doesn’t enjoy a win now and then?), check out these lovely, generous blogs:

Medieval Bookworm (ends September 10th)

Passages to the Past (autographed copy! ends September 14th)

Virginie Says … (also autographed, drawing September 15th)

A Journey of Books (ends September 15th)

Historically Obsessed (ends September 10th)

Violet Crush (ends September 10th) also features Nefertiti!

Go for the contests, stay for the posts!

From the publisher:
The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? (7 September)

September 7, 2009 at 12:46 am (Memes) ()

on_mondaysThis week, I got all caught up. I posted book reports for Farmer Boy, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Everything is Illuminated–and even read and posted entries for The Concubine and A Long Fatal Love Chase! I am seriously blowing myself away here.

Since finishing A Long Fatal Love Chase last night, I’ve picked up both The Lady’s Not for Burning and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. When I need a smile after some of the latter, I glance at the former. I must admit, since getting into The Unbearable Lightness of Being and really thinking about it, I fear I might secretly be an existentialist. And I have loathed existentialism since reading The Stranger in eleventh grade. See, this is exactly why I avoid Big Important Philosophical Works that Make You Think n’ Stuff. They ruin everything! DO NOT WANT.

Then today at work, I started looking at Jackie Susann books and well, I think I might have to read one to assuage my pain. The Love Machine or Once is Never Enough? I just don’t know! Maybe even Dolores!

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