Saturday, September 30, 2006



David Sedaris is appearing at Playhouse Square on Oct. 6. The man is a total trip in person. He signed for us once and stayed for over 4 hours. It was craziness all around. It was rather hard to keep him in one spot long enough to actually sign the books.

Buy tickets from Playhouse and buy a book to be signed from my boss while you're there. She's the short one with the curly hair.

I don't know what the heck a "smart seat" is, but it's only $10.

posted by ~e at 2:36 AM


Other Mother is going to get you

Neil Gaiman
I read the re-issue Harper Perennial "P.S." edition pictured below

I didn't know Coraline existed until this reprint came though, and since I thought it looked cool and several of my coworkers clearly thought it was crazy that I hadn't heard of it, I read it. And it's Neil Gaiman, so you really can't be dissapointed.

This is a kids' book, technically, but that doesn't stop pure Gaiman from showing up. The man is fantastically creative in my opinion and comes up with full, rich stuff in all his books.

Coraline is a young girl who loves adventure but finds her domestic surroundings to be pretty boring. One day, she finds a door where a door should not be and steps into the world of her Other Mother, who looks a lot like her real mother except for the part where she's some sort of evil thing with shiny black buttons for eyes. However, at first Other Mother seems like a tempting option, with great food for lunch and neat toys and such, and wouldn't Coraline just like to stay and play forever? Coraline is tempted, but being a smart girl, she's a little uneasy and is allowed back to her own life when she makes the wise choice to get the hell out. However, Coraline is later faced with the task of going back into the realm of Other Mother in order to rescue her real parents.

Even though this is a kids' book, it won the grown-up Hugo award and is pretty darned creepy. The drawnings in this edition I thought were really creepy, and even though this edition is packaged for a slightly older reader, I think it would give the readers in the original age group total nightmares. However, the general though seems to be that kids' see the whole book as a neat adventure story and it's the adults that get the nightmares.

I didn't get nightmares...but this story kinda stuck with me. If you haven't read any Neil Gaiman, try him sometime, even if it's not this book. "American Gods" was good (if you're super duper religous you might not was to go there) and he also just realised a collection of a ton of his shorter works in a hardcover compilation that I should really know the name of. darn it.

ok, here:

posted by ~e at 2:20 AM


sexy monkey

Monkey Portraits
Jill Greenberg
HC released Sept 06

This isn't so much a book you read. It's a photography book, but it grabbed me, so I thought I'd add it here.

If you see it in a store, just take a few minutes to flip through it. The depth of emotion displayed in these monkey pix is pretty engrossing.

Be sure to check out the sexy center fold. It edges on creepy.

posted by ~e at 2:17 AM


World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks
HC released Sept 06

So, I wasn't planning to read this book. We couldn't decide whether it was supposed to be humor or horror, but regardless, I wasn't going to bother reading it. Then the general manager read it, and she's kinda conservative and didn't think it was trash, then Mark read it and thought it was pretty good, so I picked up the advance once he was done with it.

And it is pretty good. I haven't even finished it yet, and I'm willing to say that you should consider reading it. Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) has put together a realistic collection of "interviews" with the survivors of the world-wide zombie war. Aside from the fact that after reading this you probably aren't going to believe in zombies specifically, you probably would be willing to believe that if some catastrophic event were to befall all the world's human population, the sorts of situations described in this book could really happen.

Although the war itself is clearly fictious, Brooks gives you just enough hints to realize that the book's time frame is only a few years in the future and that WWZ gets going in just about our present day. (For example, a few interviews point to the realatively sorry state of the US military at this time, being as the country was still very war-weary due to our most recent Iraq crap, although he leaves it just one half step short of actually saying "Iraq", though I think he mentions Gulf
War I or something). He "interviews" people from all over the world and many of the interviews are interwoven in some way and nearly all have a clever and unexpected twist to them in the end.

If you can allow yourself not to scoff at the zombie bit, this book reads like a faily serious non-fiction book about a time in history were the human race wasn't doing so hot. The interviews are presented in a way that takes you through the war chronologically and gives you an idea about how it unfolded, from the first outbreaks, so to how it spread from continent to continent, to the Great Panic, and so forth. It sounds really weird, but the author did a really good job with it and even dared to poke a little fun at himself in the process. Brooks previously published a humor title called "The Zombie Survival Guide" or something, and in one of the interviews, a survivor from a foreign country mentions that the "civilian guide" was pretty useless because it was clearly culturally biased towards people with firearms and SUVs (um, Americans).

It's also kind of interesting to see how the author chose to re-draw the world political map after World War Z. It isn't so much that any country really took over any other, but whole populations were destroyed and in some cases huge, huge, huge areas of different countries were abandoned, at least officially. Each interview includes the name of the country where it's being performed, and many of them don't exist today, or at least not quite in the same form.


posted by ~e at 1:51 AM


this i belive

This I Believe
written by lots of different people
HC to be released 10/03/06

This I Believe was an NPR segment in the 50's and was revived in recent years. Famous and everyday average people write essays about their personal beliefs, and once a week a really good one ends up on the radio.

A couple of things are interesting about this book. Edward R. Murrow's original introduction to the show is printed here and is pretty good. Also, as the editor or intro writer or somebody notes, if you didn't know which of these essays was written for the 50s show and which was modern day, you probably couldn't pick most of them out. These everyone still has the same concerns and convictions as they did then. There are some really big names in here, and it's kinda cool to see what they think when they are only speaking for themselves.

There will be six additional essage available in the finished book that weren't in my advance copy, so I will probably have to leaf through it and find the new ones.

The book also includes a CD with records of these people reading their essays and may some other stuff.

posted by ~e at 1:44 AM


going insane politely

Spot of Bother
Mark Haddon (HC released August 06)

man i'm behind on my books.

Spot of Bother is the second novel from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is quite good and if you haven't read it you should, and would be worth a whole other post if I ever get to it.

This new novel follows a family with two adult children going through the things families go through...wive having an affair, adult daughter can't make decision about fiance, adult gay son drives off the love of his life by being an idiot, husband begins to completely lose his mind. So, normal, right?

What's lovely about Haddon is that he writes dead-on internal dialouge for these characters without being obvious. It's very subtle which allows you to get into the emotion of the moment. He's also very funny, and British, so extra funny. You shouldn't be giggling about some of the stuff that's happening to these people, but you will find youself doing so anyway.

I also learned some fun new British words, 'cause they didn't water down the language for us fool Americans. I used my context clues just like my 3rd grad teacher taught me.

posted by ~e at 1:32 AM


Friday, September 29, 2006

I don't know where to start with this one

Title: Dave Barry's Money Secrets
Author: Dave Barry

Read this book. Financial advice from a humor columnist - there's nothing remotely useful, but it's hilarious.

A brief excerpt:

Chapter 11 - Starting Your Own Business: Harness the Awesome Power of Human Stupidity

Consider the following people: John D. Rockefeller. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. Irving Chevrolet. General Electric. What do they have in common?
Correct: They are all dead. But before they died, they got really rich. And do you know why? They started their own businesses.
Why can't you do the same thing? Why shouldn't you benefit from your talents?
One reason, of course, is that you don't really have any talent. But that shouldn't stop you any more than it stopped Paris Hilton.

Do I need to say any more?


posted by ket at 10:25 AM


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hello, darkness, my old friend...

Title: Hello, Darkness
Author: Sandra Brown

Paris, a late-night radio DJ (much like the real-life Delilah, who drives me nuts), receives a troubling call from one of her listeners, saying that he (Valentino) has a girl and he’s going to kill her in three days.

She calls the police, and they bring in the big guns, Dean, a criminal psychologist. Shockingly, Paris and Dean have a history! Paris was engaged to Dean’s best friend, Jack, when they all lived in Houston, but Jack was in a terrible car accident and spent the past seven years in a coma. Paris was a devoted caregiver, etc.

Dean’s 16-year-old son, Gavin, is a bit of a trouble-maker. His preferred extracurricular activities are getting high, getting drunk, and getting laid. Conveniently, there’s a “sex club” that all the cool kids are in – they have screennames and chat rooms, and go to meeting spots where they all have sex with other random members of the group. Woo hoo!

There’s no actual proof that Valentino has a girl, just his claims made over the phone from untraceable lines. However, one of the leaders of the sex club has gone missing. The daughter of a local and powerful judge, she’s notorious within the police department, and the cops all know that whomever brings her home will usually get a tip ($$$) from dad for keeping her name out of the news. Judge Dad and WASP-y mom are in complete denial that their daughter might be in trouble, preferring that her name and photo not be released to the media, even though if she is missing it could help find her sooner, because they figure she’s probably just off on a bender and don’t want all that bad publicity.

All the cops working with Paris have a thing for her, but she’s rather oblivious. Plus, there’s her chemistry with Dean. Apparently (according to several flashbacks) they met a while after she started dating Jack, but felt an instant connection that they couldn’t act on. Of course, they’re both single now…

But, more importantly, they need to find Valentino and the (potentially missing) girl. Right. Because the relationship totally has lower priority.

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posted by ket at 9:40 PM


Babble, Shmabble

Title: Queen of Babble
Author: Meg Cabot

Lizzie is a recent college grad with a degree in fashion history; formerly pudgy, she’s lost some weight recently. She lives for vintage clothing. That, and her boyfriend Andrew, a former exchange student she started to “date” 2 days before he went back to England. Three months later, they’ve talked on the phone, and now she’s off to visit him for a month!

Of course, when she arrives, she (1) doesn’t recognize him, (2) hates his red Michael Jackson-esque jacket, and (3) feels very strongly that him registering for unemployment while working as a waiter is wrong. It took a few days to reach all these conclusions. During those days, she also learned how many other things he lied to her about – like having a prestigious teaching internship (see: waiter, above), having a flat (living with his parents and 2 brothers in a 3-bedroom flat; Lizzie has to sleep in the laundry room), and needing money for school fees (or perhaps to pay off his gambling debts because they’re threatening to break his legs).

At this point, Lizzie decides to leave. Her best friend, Shari, and her boyfriend, Chaz, happen to be spending the same month in France at a vineyard owned by the father of one of Chaz’s prep school friends, Luke, so, even though she doesn’t speak French (and had never even left the US before going to see Andrew), she hops on a train and heads for her friends. She’s still freaking out, and vents all to the attractive young man sitting next to her (Jean-Luc), down to how she gave Andrew a blowjob because he couldn’t perform in the laundry room, and how she wished she could take it back because he didn’t deserve it.

As you may have guessed, Jean-Luc is actually Luke, Chaz’s friend, though he doesn’t tell her this until they both get off the train at the same small town (because once he figured it out, he couldn’t come up with a good way to bring it up in the conversation without making her feel awkward – like letting her keep talking would make it better…).

At the vineyard, mayhem ensues because Luke’s cousin is getting married there in a few days, and she’s a crazy Texan sorority girl. His mom and aunt come in for the wedding, and they’re just as bad. Luke’s girlfriend, Dominique, is also there. She’s a money-grubbing bitch with fake boobs. She wants to turn the gorgeous old vineyard into a spa where rich women can recover from plastic surgery. Dominique’s not right for Luke. Lizzie is!

Dominique realizes that Luke and Lizzie have a connection, and becomes even bitchier. Shari, being the best friend, sees that Lizzie has fallen for Luke, and both encourages and cautions her.

The crazy bride’s wedding dress turns out to be a monstrosity, and Dominique volunteers Lizzie to fix it with about 18 hours to go before the ceremony, figuring that she’ll fail. Lizzie, whilst playing in the attic with Luke, had found trunks of vintage couture clothing, including a Givenchy gown. The wedding dress turned out to be unsalvageable, but, fortunately, she could clean up and fit the dress to the bride and save the day!

The bride’s grungy brother is in a band, and they just got a record contract. That works out for everyone – Dominique, who’s looking for someone rich and pliable, jumps ship and runs off with him. Simultaneously, Lizzie and Luke are furthering their “connection” in the vineyard’s cask room…

Happy ending for everyone!


posted by ket at 9:36 PM


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Born to be Wiiiiiild

How would you try to spell the way it sounds in the song?

Title: Born to be Wild
Author: Catherine Coulter

It's so hard to remember what goes on in these books, since I'm really not going for retention...

Mary Lisa is a highly successful soap opera star - she's regularly winning Emmy's, everybody loves her, etc.

One day, someone tries to run her down, and the cops can't figure out who did it. Her friend, Lou Lou the makeup artist, starts a thing with the lead detective (hah! I know you were thinking she'd go for the cop!).

Mary Lisa goes home to some small town in Oregon to hide out with her family for a while. If my family was like hers, I think I'd run the other way. Middle sister Monica is married to ML's former fiance, whom she stole a few weeks before the wedding. Monica's now running for state rep. She's not very nice. Littlest sis Kelly's a bit of a drama queen. Apparently she was married for a week, but nobody bothered to tell ML. She was recently dumped by John, the local DA. And, best of all, there's Mom. She's a tight-a$$ snob who just radiates resentment every time she speaks to ML, and pretty much berates and belittles her constantly. Only Dad truly loves her.

ML meets John, he thinks she's cute (nope. You're wrong again.), but nothing happens because she knows his history with Kelly, and doesn't want to hurt her sister. ML also meets Jack, the local police chief and John's best friend. Kelly has decided that he'll be her next conquest, in order to get back at John, but Jack has other plans (finally!).

ML goes back to Malibu, Jack shows up on her doorstep to protect her, and they get back to work figuring out what's going on, with the help of Lou Lou, Detective Danny (her cop), and Elizabeth (ML's friend who's a local TV anchor - don't feel bad for John, because he ends up with her).

There were probably a few more attempts on ML's life and stuff. Plus she has to develop a relationship with Jack.

Speaking of, he arrested her the last time she was in Oregon (3 years ago), so they have to deal with that (she was just getting back at her bastard ex-fiance, but Jack, as a man, took offense at her damaging Mark's car).

Oh, there's also a random murder or two in Oregon that John and Jack are dealing with. But they're totally capable of multi-tasking.

And everyone lives happily ever after, though there's no discussion of how Jack can be the police chief in Oregon while ML's got a career in Malibu. Don't the authors think about the practical parts of relationships ever???


posted by ket at 10:38 PM


Gotta love the crazies...

Title: Angels Fall
Author: Nora Roberts

This book is the latest by Nora - well, the latest stand-alone, since the first in a new trilogy came out last month.

But back to this story.

Reece limps into a small town in Wyoming in a car that essentially dies on Main Street. She's a bit of a loner, though a few of the townspeople immediately develop a soft spot for her.

She decides, within hours, that she'd like to stay there, and takes a job as a cook in a diner. As it turns out, she used to be a professional chef, and has all kinds of training from prestigious French schools and stuff, but she's on the run from her inner demons.

Those inner demons make her more than a little bit paranoid. But more on that later.

One day, while out hiking, she sees what looks like a man killing a woman in a clearing on the other side of a massive river. She runs back down the trail, freaking out, and fortuitously runs into Brody, a successful (and single!) author, who is, coincidentally, one of very few people who believes her story. Why is that? Because there's no body. No evidence of a crime. And she couldn't see the man clearly enough to identify him.

Suddenly, things start happening to Reece - things that she doesn't remember doing. Things are misplaced in her apartment. Strange messages written to herself on her mirrors. It's almost like someone's playing into her paranoia to make her doubt herself and leave town.

Oh, she's running across the country trying to find herself because she was the only survivor of a mass killing at her old restaurant, and they never found the killers. She spent a few months in an institution trying to deal with that.

And because of that, half the town thinks she's just nuts, while the other thinks something might actually be up.

Is there a killer? Who's the woman she thought she saw? Is she just nuts? Well, we know the general answers to all of those, since this is a romance novel. I'll just say it works out the way you think it will, though the killer might be a bit of a surprise (he/she was to me...).

Honestly, I think Nora's run out of ideas. She's written like 250 books. The first ones are a bit too eighties (gosh, I hope this ridiculously powerful man will rescue me from my secretariness...), but there's a good strong phase in the middle where I like the characters. The most recent 2 novels? Eh. (Last one was set in Alaska. Burnt-out cop. Don't remember much else.)

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posted by ket at 10:21 PM


Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Wrestler and a Bookseller

Title: Two of a Kind: A Love Story
Author: Patrick Cauvin

Phillipe Lipinchky is a 37-year-old pro-wrestler known as Mephisto King…and a complete softie. While in the ring, he ponders the best way to portray petal color in his most recent painting of geraniums. He likes to cook, and has an especial fondness for cheese. Being a true giant of a man with the face of a “baked potato,” he finds it rather hard to find true love.

Jacqueline Puisset is your typical romantic heroine – that is, she’s a repressed book seller who is walleyed and who has long ago given up on the possibility of ever finding true love. When not baby-sitting her nieces and nephews, she hangs out with the local senior citizen’s club. Life – in her words – is very fulfilling.

Both Phillipe and Jacqueline obsess over how ugly they are. But then they meet, fall in love, and realize that there’s someone out there for them after all. There’s a plot complication that half-heartedly tries to derail their future bliss, but it vanishes with the slightest of murmurs. I don’t think I’ll be ruining anything by revealing that there’s a happy ending.

Two of a Kind is a really sweet romance – no bodice-ripping sex, very pretty writing, and it takes place in Paris. Patrick Cauvin wrote the book in French, and it translates very well. His writing is beautiful and touching without getting overly “purple.” I didn’t roll my eyes once.

I did, however, get rather goopy and go “awwww” on more than one occasion...

I can’t really recommend Two of a Kind, however, because it’s rather hard to find. But Patrick Cauvin also wrote E=mc2, mon amour, which is the book that the film A Little Romance is based upon. And that movie everyone has to see : ). Along with Before Sunrise, it's my favorite romance.

posted by Elizabeth at 8:34 PM


This is not your mother's "art" class...

Title: The Art of War
Author: Sun Tzu

The Art of War is a collection of common sense aphorisms relating to battlefield strategy. Composed by Sun Tzu in the 5th century B.C. and translated by Lionel Giles in 1910 (not the only translation, but the most famous one), it’s been a handbook for those wishing for a high-powered career in today’s highly competitive corporate world ever since Gordon Gekko told Charlie Sheen it was required reading in Wall Street. And since the one rule in my life is to always follow what Michael Douglas advises, I figured I’d give it a shot as well.

Not being a military strategist, I can hardly analyze the usefulness of The Art of War for today’s military. But it did strike me as rather dated, and doesn’t address the most pressing issues of today – What is war? How do we distinguish civilians and combatants? How should detainees be treated? Etc. etc. etc… I was particularly surprised that a treatise on war wouldn’t bother to define what war is, but maybe that’s just me.

The other question, of course, is whether Sun Tzu is relevant to today’s business world. Many appear to think so. I honestly don’t know, and also don’t really care. I think it’s rather silly to approach business as a battle. I’ve found one criticism of the application of The Art of War to business situations to be very persuasive, and that is that business and war simply aren’t comparable. In battle, there is a winner and a loser. In business, things are best when all parties working together gain something – it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game. A businessperson who deceives those she collaborates with and is only out for her own benefit will soon find no one willing to work with her.

Besides, those people I’ve met who’ve read The Art of War and seriously apply it to their lives are often intolerable, boring, and far too full of themselves for their own good. Call me naïve, but I rather like honestly and common courtesy. Then again, I clearly didn’t thrive in the law firm environment, so what do I know!

However, I do think that The Art of War would be excellent reading for football coaches. Football’s a simple game with clearly-defined boundaries, and someone always wins and someone always loses. Sun Tzu would like it.

I don’t mean to be too down on The Art of War, it was a fascinating read and I think everyone should give it a look. The words themselves are often beautifully simple and poetic. I wish I had read it a little slower – it’s one of those books where you should read a line, mark your place, and then stare of blinking into the distance while you ponder its significance.

And one thing I really did love about The Art of War is that Sun Tzu asserts that the best victory is never to fight at all. He also advocated treating subordinates and conquered peoples with respect and dignity. I liked that.

Two final points. First, if you read The Art of War, make sure you get an edition that comes with the notes and commentaries, since these explain a great deal and are more than half of the actual text. I read Sun Tzu straight through first, and would recommend that approach, but it was nice to then explore what others had thought. Second, this book is by far the most popular reading I’ve seen on the Metro. Since I read it, everyone else seems to be reading it, too – but mostly yuppy young white guys. Make of it what you will.

posted by Elizabeth at 8:05 PM


Thursday, September 21, 2006

multiple targets

Technically, this should be a comment, not a post, but I had the exact same response to all three previous posts:

Wow. Just... wow.

I'm so glad that rule number one (ok, the only rule so far) for this blog was "post everything you read." I'd be missing out on so much if it weren't for that one simple directive.

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posted by reyn at 12:50 PM


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I hope this is the start of a series!

Title: Bad Attitude
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

With a title like this, you know what you’re in for. :-)

JD Steele, a former army sniper with anger management issues, is recruited by a super secret agency (the Bureau of American Defense, or “BAD”) to infiltrate a ring of bad-guy snipers, one of whom will be given the contract to assassinate some foreign dignitary whose death will result in nuclear war or something.

His new partner, Syndey Westbrook, is apparently a shorter, slightly pudgier version of Angelina Jolie. Of course.

To get into the sniper ring, you have to prove your worth. These guys are serious. They send someone from within the ring after you for a day – if you live, you’re accepted. And, obviously, Steele and Sydney didn’t know this until the “game” had started.

They wander around DC and the surrounding countryside, shooting up various locations and people. Blah, blah, Steele survives.

They use Steele’s new connections to hack into the sniper ring’s records, and, lo and behold, Steele recognizes the sniper who gets the assignment in question as his father (who also was a well-respected sniper in the army back in the day), so he has to choose his loyalties…

Then the ball where the dignitary’s going to die arrives, so Steele and Sydney go in to find dear old dad.

Plot twist ahead!

(SPOILER) It’s not dad! It’s little sis! Tina was always resentful for being ignored and though unworthy of shooting stuff just because she’s a girl, so she became a mercenary in her own right, poisoning people. But because she’s a girl and the hero’s sister, she only kills bad people. Therefore, BAD should obviously recruit her, and add her to the agency’s roster.

And Steele and Sydney get married. The end.

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posted by ket at 11:10 PM


Devil went down to NYC?

Title: Devil May Care
Author: Sheri McInnis

Sally, an aspiring actress in NYC, is getting nowhere fast. Her loser boyfriend, David, at least has a regular gig as a waiter on a soap opera.

While at an audition, Sally meets Jack, not realizing he’s actually the owner/president of a TV network. Suddenly she’s getting work! First as an extra, then her nemesis has a spasm and bites off her own tongue, and Sally’s hired as her replacement on the same soap where David’s an extra – but Sally’s suddenly the most popular character.

And this is where things start going downhill. She’s dating both Jack and David. She’s stressing out. Everything she wishes for is coming true, and so she thinks she may have accidentally made a deal with the devil, where the devil is Jack.

Strange things start to happen to people around her. Sally obviously goes to consult with the Mother Superior of the order of nuns who happen to be just around the corner from her apartment, and she senses that something is off.

David’s in a car accident or something after Sally tells Jack she doesn’t have the heart to dump him. She finally dumps Jack, her character on the show disappears, and then she’s pregnant. The book ends with her and her (now reconciled) family baptizing the son of the devil.

Very odd.


posted by ket at 10:57 PM


Hot, Hot, Hot!

Title: Hot Number
Author: Carly Phillips

The third of a trilogy, this book deals with marrying off the third sister from a family of sports agents. Orphaned as children, each reacted to the loss (and subsequent raising by their gruff, bachelor uncle) differently.

Annabelle, the eldest, is a busybody/control freak/boss, who married a guy that I think was a football player (I read this one at least a year ago…).

Micki, the youngest, is a tomboy, who found her match with a tough guy baseball player.

And now Sophie – the middle child. The one who’s even more of a control freak, who can’t handle things unless she’s done all the research, knows all the options, and even then doesn’t want to deal with it.

Uncle Yank’s partner (in the agency), Spencer, goes missing after some personal details are released to the media.

Coincidentally, a hot, playboy quarterback (Riley) needs to talk to Spencer. Obviously, he and Sophie start tracking him down, traveling to Spencer’s sister’s house, etc.

As you may expect, they don’t get along. He thinks she needs to loosen up, she thinks he’s too sexy for his own good and turns ice princess to avoid being flustered around him.

But then, as they spend more time together, they come to realize that they do like each other (awww…).

Of course, together, they can handle anything, including resolving the issues surrounding Spencer.

Sigh. I love a happy ending. (gag)


posted by ket at 10:40 PM


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Welcome to Smutville, Population: 2

Title: Key of Light
Author: Nora Roberts

Members of this blog, that is. I’m sure there are millions of other women out there who also read this stuff.

After 25 years of blatantly refusing, I have done it. I have read a “bodice ripper” as reyn would call it. However, to clarify, no bodices were harmed in the writing of this book. That isn’t to say that there weren’t the requisite sex scenes, though.

This particular novel is the first of a trilogy (imagine that, Nora Roberts doing a trilogy?). There are three heroines, one for each book. Each heroine has to find a key within a 28 day period of time in order to free the souls of three demi-goddesses, all the while trying to remain one step ahead of the evil god, Kane. Never fear, their friendly neighborhood god, Pitte, and goddess, Rowena, are there to help them out, as are their soon-to-be-lovers, for what is a romance novel without its romance?

The heroine of this book is Malory. And that’s all I have to say about that.

I’d rather focus on my favorite heroine: Dana, the reference librarian (further proof that librarians can be sexy, right?). She is intelligent, sassy, determined, hates mornings, and loves books and knowledge. She doesn’t “sound like any librarian [Malory has] ever known,” meaning she swears, although not nearly enough, I should say. If it weren’t for the occasional stupid sayings, such as “information is my god,” she would be my favorite heroine ever, which has nothing to do with the fact that I identify with her character. Well, minus a detail here and there.

Anyway, the book ends as one would expect. I won’t ruin it for you, although I don’t think it takes a genius to figure it out.

And now I’m off to read book two, which has Dana as its heroine.

posted by Kate at 11:21 PM


Feathers Feathers, Everywhere

Title: The Four Feathers
Author: A.E.W. Mason

Against my better judgment, I really liked The Four Feathers. Ask ket, she heard me squeal in excitement while reading it : ). Published in 1902, the year after Queen Victoria died, it still has very much the feel of a “Victorian” novel. Bravery and courage have not yet become ridiculous concepts, and the “might and right” of the British Empire remains unquestioned. I should view a book like this with a jaundiced, cynical eye. And yet, the adventure and romance was sweeping enough that I completely fell for it, and finished the last chapter with a huge grin all over my face.

The story is familiar to many. Harry Faversham comes from a long line of distinguished British military men. On the night of his fourteenth birthday, he listens to a gruesome story of cowardice told by a group of Crimean War veterans. Jump ahead thirteen years into the future, and he is an officer in the British army, engaged to a strong and beautiful girl named Ethne, and has a firm best friend – Lieutenant Durrance. Life is good.

Or is it? Being the imaginative boy he is, Harry is haunted by the spectre of the tales of cowardice he heard as a boy. And so, on the night that his regiment is ordered to the Sudan, he resigns his commission. Three men (although not Durrance, as it is told in the numerous film versions) then present him with three white feathers: a symbol of cowardice. Ethne, who was present when he received them, then gives him a fourth and breaks off their engagement. And thus the stage is set for a story of adventure, travel, and romance, as Harry departs to the Sudan on a quest to display his bravery and make the three men – plus Ethne – take back their feathers.

Interestingly, much of the story is told through the eyes of Ethne and Durrance, as they learn of what Harry has done through the tales of others. Ethne is a much stronger character in the novel than in any of the film versions I’ve seen, and the reader spends a great deal of time with her in Ireland. And it’s not only Harry who displays bravery. One could make a very strong argument that Durrance shows as much – if not more – courage than his friend, and is the true hero of the book. But I’ll leave that to you to decide.

The novel’s examination of bravery is interesting. Harry is not, by definition, a coward. Rather, he resigns his commission because he’s afraid he may act like a coward, thus disgracing Ethne. What he fears – to borrow that classic phrase – is fear itself. (Which makes one wonder whether JKR had him in mind when choosing the name for her own Harry?) And Mason makes it clear that Harry’s problem is a surfeit of imagination, nothing more. Compared to his father and his father’s military friends – whom Mason portrays as somewhat dimwitted – Harry is intelligent and sensitive. Most people, Mason seems to be arguing, are brave not because they have overcome their fears, but because they are too stupid to know that they should be scared. Harry simply is not stupid, and that is his problem.

I wish that Harry really would’ve been a coward. It would’ve made his story much more interesting. Also, the novel’s concept of bravery is very old-fashioned compared to how we define it – or how we should define it – today. But I shouldn’t wander down that path, because I could write pages on the topic, and then everyone would stop reading because they’re bored!

Finally, a few words on British Imperialism are necessary, although I’m not an expert on the subject. Emil Korda’s classic 1939 film of The Four Feathers is famous for being very “rah-rah” pro-British. I was expecting to find this in the novel, but there was much less “Rule Britannia!” cheering than I had expected. Mason is more concerned with his characters than politics, and simply treats the British Empire as an unquestioned fact. He doesn’t glorify it – but, he doesn’t criticize it either.

However, one could easily fault the novel from an Orientalism standpoint (to borrow the word as defined by Edward Said), in that Africa becomes nothing more than an exotic playground in which young British men can test their mettle. It’s a dangerous wilderness, important only because of the white men fighting in it. And that could be a problem for many.

Still, I haven’t enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed The Four Feathers in a long time. I have a love for the classics, and I enjoyed the old-fashioned feel to Mason’s writing. Plus, I’ve always adored sweeping adventure stories in the desert (*cough* The Blue Sword *cough*), so I. The Four Feathers was a nice little vacation for me, and one that I look forward to repeating at least once in the future.

posted by Elizabeth at 5:58 PM


Finding My Inner Fluff

Title: Bridget Jones’s Diary
Author: Helen Fielding

Hmm…there’s not really much to write about Bridget Jones’s Diary, because everyone has probably already decided whether they love or hate it. Well, I hated the movie at first, because I was expecting a Pride and Prejudice story, and that wasn’t what I got at all. Bridget and Lizzy are nothing alike, and Mark just can’t compare with Fitzwilliam in the “Darcy” category. But I’ve gotten over that now, and actually really like the story for what it is: the entertaining struggles of a thirty-some “singleton” trying to give new meaning to her life, even if she does go about it rather bizarrely. On some level, I identify with Bridget much better now than I did when I first saw the movie five years ago. First of all, I’m not as much of an intellectual snob as I used to be. And secondly, I have a much higher appreciation for how difficult the real world can be, so I’m better at understanding all of Bridget’s little foibles and failures.

So, I liked Bridget Jones’s Diary and didn’t find it obnoxious at all. Well, the calorie-counting irked me, but then again, it always does. I can see why it would be a big part of Bridget’s life, although I still think it’s silly. And the book’s “Darcy” ending wasn’t nearly as good as the movie’s, but this is one of those books where attitude and style is more important than plot anyway. And to make up for it, I was actually rather impressed with the way Fielding ended the Mum and Dad story – or, rather, didn’t end it. Their final scene together is definitely cringe-worthy.

One last thing, however – don’t place this book on your nightstand before going to sleep. The creepy cover gave me the willies. It “watched” me, and I kept expecting it to come alive and gobble me once I fell asleep. Weird.

And, naturally, I can't end this post without giving a shout-out to ket, who loaned it to me : ). Thanks!

posted by Elizabeth at 4:11 PM


Friday, September 08, 2006

Shock! Amazement!

Title: Between You and Me
Author: Mike Wallace

A non-fiction, legitimate book! Don’t y’all go dying of shock on me…

Mike Wallace, that reporter you all know from 60 Minutes, has had the privilege of talking with what must be thousands of interesting, prominent people, starting with his first interview show in the 50’s and continuing through today, though he has a greatly reduced role at 60 Minutes, only contributing occasionally.

The book is subtitled “a memoir” but the focus is more on the really interesting interviews he’s done. You can glean a bit of detail about his life from the context he gives each of the interview subjects, but it’s not chronological, since they’re grouped by type more than date.

It shows the amazing amount of leeway he’s had, being one of few interviewers to actually challenge his subjects in the early days of television, not being afraid of their reactions, even when it was someone ridiculously powerful, like the Shah of Iran. He’s been friends with an impressive group, knowing Nancy Davis since before she married Ronald Reagan, befriending several presidential couples, and even being the object of a crush from Shirley MacLaine.

For someone who wasn’t even alive when two-thirds of his work took place, this memoir is a brilliant summary of the more significant events and people, some who I’ve only briefly heard of, and this provides some insight into the inner workings.

And for those of you who aren’t so into reading (why are you here?), the book also includes a dvd with clips of several of the interviews, including the more provocative statements made by either Wallace or the interviewees. Very neat.

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posted by ket at 9:49 PM


if 12 isn't, what is?

Title: Size 12 is Not Fat
Author: Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is the author of The Princess Diaries, plus a few cute boy-meets-girl books for the adult readers.

This one is the start of a series featuring a former teen pop star who now has to work for a living. Heather Wells was the teenybopper, back in the day (8-10 years ago), but when her record label dropped her and she caught her teenybopper fiancé receiving a special, oral, present from a movie star, she dropped him.

Now she’s living in an apartment in the former fiancé’s black sheep of a brother’s house in the Village in NYC, working for a “fictional” university (aka NYU) as the assistant director of a dorm (sorry, residence hall, as she so often points out).

And suddenly, students start dying under mysterious circumstances – supposedly falling down elevator shafts while elevator surfing, but Heather doesn’t believe that, because, of course, girls don’t elevator surf.

Conveniently, the black sheep brother, Cooper, is also a P.I., so he helps her look for the real killer, though, really, he more of the effort is directed towards keeping Heather out of trouble, since she tends to act before thinking.

Did I mention that Heather has a secret crush on Cooper?

But since this is the first of a series, nothing can come of it in this, the first book. At least they find the killer.


posted by ket at 9:47 PM


what else is going to get killed?

Title: Killjoy
Author: Julie Garwood

A worrywart data-cruncher for the FBI (Avery) was raised by her aunt after her mother abandoned her and her grandmother died. Aunt Carolyn is kidnapped, while traveling to a posh resort in the mountains, by a contract killer.

John Paul Renard, a former CIA agent who's now a bit of a maverick, has been tracking the killer, Monk, for a year or so, ever since he tried to kill John Paul’s sister. Monk had dropped off the face of the earth, but just resurfaced, leading both Avery and John Paul to the resort.

While they are each, unsuccessfully, trying to find out what’s going on, the kidnapper calls Avery and gives them instructions. Though they’d never met, know nothing about each other, and don’t trust each other, Avery and John Paul set off into the wilderness, alone.

The kidnapper spends the whole time tracking them, trying to kill them, and yet, somehow, they miraculously survive running/walking several miles through the woods and a few jumps off waterfalls until they reach civilization.

Plus, they save the day (okay, Aunt Carolyn), and find true love!

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posted by ket at 9:40 PM