Friday, July 31, 2009

Duchess by Night by Eloisa James (57/81)

Disguise is a dangerous game . . . After a lifetime as a wallflower, Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, is finally seeking a little pleasure of her own. And where better to begin than at the house of one of the most disreputable men in the country, Lord Strange? However, the high-stakes games of lust and chance that rule Strange's household mean that to cross the threshold could entirely ruin her reputation. So Harriet swaps her hoops and corsets for a pair of breeches and transforms herself into a young male relative of the Duke of Villiers. Before she knows it she's writing bawdy missives on behalf of a young actress, not to mention winning card games played by the most powerful men in England. But when she starts attracting male attention, Harriet must decide whether to stay in her disguise - or to reveal that she's really a duchess by night . . .

The third book in the Duchess series and I have to say this is my favourite one so far ....

It has everything in a Romance that you could ask for ... Beautiful houses, dashing men, Mystery and of course your gorgeous leading ladies !!! ........

The story is set around Harriet who is a the Duchess of Berrow and how she can find not only adventure but also love in the 'Strangest' place ...........

There are moments that will have you laughing and glad that you are a woman in the 21st century and not back then ........ I cannot even imagine spending 2 hours doing my hair each morning !!! .........

I loved this book and the Duke of Villiers is growing on me .... lol ........

I rate this book 4 ****

P.S ..... I little note to my mom .... This book is dedicated to your favourite author Georgette Heyer !!

An Affair before Christmas by Eloisa James (56/81)

One spectacular Christmas, Miss Perdita Poppy Selby met the man she thought she would love forever. The devilishly attractive Duke of Fletcher was everything the convent-educated girl wished for in a suitor and their wedding day was perfect. Unfortunately, no one had quite prepared Poppy for what would happen next. Four years later, Poppy and the duke have become the toast of High Society but behind closed doors the spark of their love affair has burned out. Fortunately, Poppy has a friend in Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont. Jemma, who is toying with another man herself, reveals to Poppy a world of strategy and desire that will change Poppy s whole outlook on love forever.

Well are we not lovin the covers of these books ...... This is the second in the series of the Duchess and although I did enjoy it is not as good as the first one ...

I love how there are certain characters which are popping up in the books .... And you are getting to know them better .... And I have to say that I love the character of Jemma .... and really hope that we will be able to find out more of her story ...

This book focus mostly on 'Poppy' or better known as Mrs Peridita Selby and how as a little girl all she ever wanted was to be married to a Duke. Now that she has her wish and it is 4 years later is she really happy???? .........

These books are light hearted and very girlie ......... So if you are looking for something that you can sit in front of the fire and just get lost in for a few hours ..... You will love this series ....

I rate this book 3 ***

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Embers by Hyatt Bass, 20/81

Some dysfunctional families draw readers in, and make them engaged in the story. Then there are the literary dysfunctional families who are simply annoying. The Aschers, the focus of Bass's novel, are decidedly in the latter category. Throughout the book I was struck by what a bunch of miserable, negative, self-absorbed people the Aschers seemed to be. Basically, this is a book about self-centered, neurotic people who experience tragedy, which in turn makes them more self-centered and miserable. A big part of the problem is that this book is longer than it needs to be. One simply gets sick of the Aschers' navel-gazing. The book seemed repetitive, with the same sentiments repeated. If the book had been cut down by a third, it would likely have been stronger. This is not a book based upon plot, rather, it is meant to be an investigation of the interior life of a family. The problem is, it's very difficult to pull that off with characters such as these, and in the absence of plot, the reader is left with little else.

Hyatt Bass, The Embers (Henry Holt, 2009) ISBN: 0805089942

Category: Published in 2009 2/9, 20/81

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

James and the Giant Peach

LinkJames and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl, author
Quentin Blake, illustrator

This edition -
publisher: Puffin Books
release date: August 16, 2007
format: paperback
pages: 160

I'll admit that this is not what I thought I'd be reading this year but I needed a banned or challenged book and James and the Giant Peach is short ;-) The book may have been banned from school and/or public libraries across the USA but as of July 18,'s sales rank is 2,268. It is #1 when looking for Roald Dahl and #52 in humorous children's books. How can this be? When books are removed from libraries parents must buy them.

James and the Giant Peach starts by telling us how wonderful James’ life was by the sea. He "lived peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea. There were always plenty of other children for him to play with...It was the perfect life for a small boy."

When he was four, his parents went shopping in London were they were “eaten by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo”. Eaten mind you, not just killed. Leaving him to be sent to live with his aunts. So James becomes the drudge. Two aunts, many chores, no children to play with, very little play time, no toys, no leaving the garden, sometimes no food. And he meets a man with magic. And the songs?

A Gnu and a Gnocerous surely you'll see
And that gnormous and gnorrible Gnat
Whose sting when it stings you goes in at the knee

and comes out through the top of your hat.

Yes, I can see where people would complain, it sounds just like a Disney movie. (by the way, that was sarcasm)

Mr. Dahl's first stories were written for his own children. Can you see him in a comfortable chair with his children and maybe a neighbor or two sitting on the floor in front of him? I'm sure he slapped his hands on the chair and bounced, just a bit, when the peach ran over James' aunts leaving them "ironned out upon the grass as flat and thin and lifeless as a couple of paper dolls cut out of a picture book."

Mr. Dahl died in 1990. The edition that I have was published in 2007. That is the extent of his popularity. May it live on forever.

My post also has a bit of a rant on censorship and a list of Puffin Books by Roald Dahl. I'm sure you'll see some favorites.

He also wrote adult novels, the only one I own is My Uncle Oswald, picked up because of the cover (legs!) and purchased because I thought it would be funny - "Uncle Oswald makes Casanova look like Winnie the Pooh"

Are You There God? It's Me, Mrgaret.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
Judy Blume

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
copyright: 1970
format: hardcover
pages: 149

I needed a banned or challenged book, but running out of time, choose I "short" one that I didn't think I'd ever be rereading but still enjoyed. My library copy had this same girl but it wasn't '3 books in 1'

Margaret moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day. She came home from camp and found out that their New York apartment had been rented to another family and they now owned a house in New Jersey. She had been left out of the decision completely. Her father commutes to Manhattan, Margaret now goes to public school and her mother has a yard.

"I think we left the city because of my grandmother" Oh yeah, when grandma finally shows up she brings food because New Jersey may have deli, etc. but it's "not like what you get in New York" and leaves with a "just because I can't drop in everyday" Everyday? Yikes! I'd move too.

I laughed and I cried and I remembered.

We've all read the book. Do you remember what it felt like to find out you weren't the only one? Read it again as an adult. What a difference!

As for the challenging: Margaret talks to God but doesn't go to church. She and her friends opening talk about their periods (or lack thereof), their changing bodies, find out what a boy looks like naked, and check out a Playboy together. I think the biggest problem some may have is that Margaret and her mother TALK about these things. Margaret may be embarrassed but she still knows her mom with calmly answer her questions.

When I was her age, this wasn't something you talked about. I didn't make that mistake with my daughter.

Judy Blume has written for the pre-teen, young adult and adult. She's still a name that makes my mom cringe but I think it was Forever that she's thinking off....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Desperate Duchesses by Elosia James (55/81)

It is Spring 1783 . . . Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont, has just returned from Paris and is planning to shock all of London High Society - not to mention horrify her husband - with scandalous soirees and a debauched Grand Ball.But irritating her husband comes naturally, and she needs a challenge. When her country cousin Lady Roberta St. Giles asks for help seducing the Duke of Villiers into marriage, Jemma jumps at the chance. She transforms Roberta into the most delicious and desirable woman in town. Then she lures Villiers to the house, ostensibly to play chess.But the plan backfires. Villiers responds enthusiastically to Jemma's challenge and, ignoring Roberta or indeed Jemma's husband.

This is the first in the Duchess Series ........ ( You can read the other novels as stand alone works but there are common characters throughout the series and is better to read them in order ) Thanks to Legs for me know :) .......... And lending me the first couple books .........

Isn't the cover gorgeous ......... I really enjoyed this novel and it is an easy read ......... There is romance, big houses and even bigger dresses ........ Beautiful woman and dashing men ....... With a really good story to boot ...... There is a couple of sexy scenes in it ..... But all in all a really good story that you can curl up in front of the fire and just read ......... Will Roberta get her Duke? and will the Duchess Jemma mend her ways and become a respectable lady? You are going to have to read the book to find out !!!

I rate this book 4****

Prom Nights from Hell by Meg Cabot, Stephenie Meyer, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Lauren Myracle (54/81)

In this exciting collection, bestselling authors Meg Cabot (How to Be Popular), Kim Harrison (A Fistful of Charms), Michele Jaffe (Bad Kitty), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), and Lauren Myracle (ttyl) take bad prom nights to a whole new level—a paranormally bad level. Wardrobe malfunctions and two left feet don't hold a candle to discovering your date is the Grim Reaper—and he isn't here to tell you how hot you look.

From angels fighting demons to a creepy take on getting what you wish for, these five stories will entertain better than any DJ in a bad tux. No corsage or limo rental necessary. Just good, scary fun.

This is an easy read with five short stories by some of the most popular young authors at the moment !!! Not only is this a fun book but also a portion of the proceeds goes to a good cause ... The First Book organization which gives families with low incomes the opportunity to own there own books ...... Which I love .....

My favourite stories in the book where The Exterminator's Daughter by Meg Cabot .... A funny story that I would have liked to have read more about !!! .......And Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper by Kim Harrison which was again funny and wished there was more !!!

This is a great wee book that you would read in an afternoon ........ And that Teens that like Fantasy will eat up .....

I rate this book 4 ****

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin (53/81)

Cruel betrayals, royal secrets and an ancient murder. Two murdered princes; a powerful queen betrayed; a nobleman riding towards his certain death... Everyone thinks they know about the Princes in the Tower: one of the most fascinating, and most brutal, murder mysteries in British history. But the real story of the suspicious deaths of the young Edward V and his brother, and the involvement of the man who would become Richard III, remains unknown, over five hundred years since the boys were taken from their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV. Now, in a brilliant feat of historical daring, Emma Darwin has recreated their world and their terrible, exhilarating story: the power struggles and passion that lay behind their birth; the danger into which they fell; the profoundly moving days before their imprisonment; and the betrayal of innocence.

Well loving the cover and with reading the back of the book we as a book club where totally intrigued ....... And I have to say that I was abit disappointed with it ...... With the books description I was looking forward to the story of the two princes and what happened to them ...... But that story is barely touched on during the whole book ........ The book itself is two stories one in Modern times with Uma and Mark ( Which to be honest you could have done without) and the story of Elizabeth and Edward ( Which I could have had more of ) ...... If the book had been described as the story of Elizabeth and Edward I think that I would have been satisfied by that but it wasn't .........

There is a historical history at the back of the book which I was advised to read by one of the book girls first ...... Which I am glad that I did but I felt that unless you know a little about the monarchy of that era you will be completely lost ....... Which sorry to say I was for the first 150 pages of the book ... I do realize that the book goes back into time to cover the two periods but there is no clear way that this novel does it ... One minute you are reading about Queen Elizabeth and then in the next sentence you are deported to modern times ..... Very confusing .....

The best pieces of this novel are definitely with Elizabeth her brother Anthony and her husband the King Edward ...... I just wished that there was more ........... I was waiting and waiting for the story of the two princes and was left abit flat as this story was never really mentioned ... It did make me curious to actually search out more books about Elizabeth and Edward to compare stories ......

Sad to say that is an average read for me ....... Could have been alot better and had so much potential ........

I rate this book 3 ***

Hunted by P.C and Kristin Cast (52/81)

The good news: Zoey's friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren't Neferet's secrets any longer. The bad news: Ancient evil with the face of an angel has been let loose - that and various other nasties (whose faces aren't so angelic). Grandma Redbird is in trouble. Heath is in trouble. The House of Night is in trouble. Okay, let's face it - Zoey's whole world is in trouble! But when the trouble comes from a being who appears to be beauty personified, will the world believe it? Especially when only a teenager and a group of misfits are the only ones who really understand the danger he brings. Will Zoey have the strength and wisdom to reveal the truth?

This is book 5 of the House of Night Series and I thought it was OK ............ There was less of the rituals in this book and more story which I thought was good ........ But I have to say that the Character of Zoey is really easily swayed when it comes to Boys ......... Which to be honest frustrates me at times ......... First she is madly in love with her Vampire boyfriend and then two seconds later she is cuddling up to her human boyfriend .......

The character that I enjoy the most would have to be Aphrodite she is witty and tells it how it is ... The way that is left in the book there definitely could be more in this series .....

As Vampire books go it is an OK series but not one that I would rave about ...... I prefer Vampire Academy or the Sooky Stackhouse series ..... This is classed as a teen series but would definitely make sure that it was the older end of the market because of the language and some of the subject matter ......

I rate this book 3 ***

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Under Western Eyes, 69/81, 2nd round

Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad, reread category

Razumov is a loner, studying at the university and working hard. He is interrupted one day by another student, Victor Haldin, who confesses to the assassination of a government official just that day. Razumov realizes he must help Haldin, but he doesn't care about politics, only about the consequences if his involvement gets out.

Despite setting out to help Haldin, when things get complicated Razumov informs on him. Haldin is arrested and executed. (This may sound like a spoiler, but it takes place early in the book and is described on the back cover.)

When I started reading this book, I couldn't remember the story at all. I know I read it in college, but nothing that I was reading stood out to me. I think it's because I was confusing it with The Secret Agent, which is also about anarchists and the coming revolution.

Conrad uses this story to talk a lot about Russians and their psychology and how Westerners can never understand them. He also skips around in the story, going back several months, then jumping back ahead. It's confusing, and I don't think it works.

The story is told as if taken from Razumov's diary. The person telling the story is an English teacher he meets much later in the book.

I'm not sure I would recommend this one. Like I said, the timeline is rather confused. I felt like Conrad had an agenda in writing this book, and it got in the way of the story. I don't think I will read this one again.

The Castle of Otranto 68/81, 2nd Round

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, reread category

What an entertaining mess!

This book was written in 1764, and started the whole Gothic craze that was so popular in the 19th century. But honestly, for a modern reader, scenes that were designed to cause fear and shock now wind up sounding really funny! I mean, take the opening. A father is planning the wedding on his only son. But before the ceremony can take place, a giant helmet falls out of the sky and squishes the groom to death. Who can take that seriously? And that's only the beginning, although really, it's the most ridiculous part.

If you want some entertainment, this is pretty fun. But I'm sure it's not entertaining the way the author meant it to be. It's just so dated. But it's still good for a laugh.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 66/81, 2nd round

A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass, historical category

This is the short biography of Frederick Douglass. He writes about his life as a slave, how his mother died, how he learned to read, how he was beaten and starved, and how he decided to escape. He enlarged on this story later, but in this version of the story, he doesn't give any details of his flight to freedom. But you certainly get a vivid and horrible picture of slavery. I thought his words about the religious hypocrisy of his former masters was especially illuminating.

After reading this, I was surprised really that more slaves did not make the attempt to escape. He says that he never had any idea of escape until after he learned to read and realized what else was out there in the world. That may have been one reason. Douglass himself says that he almost changed his mind when he realized that his escape would mean the loss of contact with all his friends. I'm sure that such ties to friends and family was another reason that most slaves stayed put.

After reading this, I was motivated to read more about Douglass and what happened to him after he wrote this book. He was a very eloquent, even passionate man fighting for the cause of freedom and equal rights for both women and for slaves. This is a great story for young people to read, as it would help them understand how brutal slavery really was. Also important today, when there are still horrible acts of violence and injustice all around the world.

Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal (30/81)

In The Last Temptation of Christ, Judas finds himself in a terrible situation. Jesus has told him that it will be necessary for Judas to betray him in order for mankind to be saved. As Christ acknowledges, God gave Judas the really hard task, that of betraying someone who he holds very dear. By comparison, all Christ has to do is die.

Though it's never acknowledged, the narrator of this book finds himself in a similar bind. As the lifelong friend of Joshua (aka Yeshua aka Jesus) and under the dictum that "dying is easy; comedy is hard," he has been left the harder path. All Joshua has to do is die. Biff has to make it funny.

Biff has been brought back to life by God so that he can write the definitive gospel since he was there from nearly the beginning. In order to ensure his cooperation, God has an angel chaperon Biff. Though it makes up very little of the story, the scenes of Biff and the angel in the hotel room are some of the funniest of the novel, especially in the angel's befuddlement at modern life.

Biff first met Joshua when they were both kids, and Joshua was bringing lizards back to life for the benefit of his younger, lizard-killing brother. From there they strike a lifelong friendship not impeded by the fact that Joshua knows he will one day be the Messiah. Biff is your quintessential underachiever, and his philosophical outlook, which has been derived from the teachings of Cynic, makes for a nice foil for Joshua's earnest desire to fulfill the task that has been set before him. When Joshua decides he will never learn how to be the Messiah if he does not seek out his origins, it is Biff who accompanies him on his travels.

They go in search of the Three Wise Men in order to learn the truth of Joshua's birthright. In their travels, this Hebraic Hope and Crosby encounter bandits, Taoist magicians, herbalist concubines, a hungry demon, a Buddhist monastery, the Tibetan Man of the Mountains, martial artists, a Kali ceremony, Tantra, untouchables and the Kama Sutra. After their travels, Joshua comes to learn what he has to do to become the Messiah, so they return to Palestine for the more familiar part of the story.

Christopher Moore here has a fine line to tread in attempting to make the story of Christ funny and believable yet keeping Joshua as the earnest Messiah figure we can all look up to. (No Last Temptation-style dream sequences of Christ experiencing the temptation of giving it all up here.) Having the story told by the underachieving and very sardonic Biff is a great way to thread that needle.

Moore makes the most of the sections where the gospels are silent, which give him a lot to work with. It yields great comic touches, like the time Joshua, Biff and Maggie decide to "circumcise" a well-endowed Greek statue, or the origins of the Jewish custom of Chinese food on Christmas. Though not every joke works, the passages overall maintain a high level of humor without robbing Joshua's quest of meaning.

The humor does begin to lost its impact near the end. Once Joshua and Biff return to Nazareth and Christ begins his ministry, Moore has less leeway with which to play. Once the ministry and the inevitable path to Golgotha have begun, the humor becomes more forced. As Joshua himself once said (though not in this book), a man cannot serve to masters, for he will honor one and neglect the other. The book has to choose between the earnestness of Joshua and the cynicism of Biff. It opts for the latter, for which one cannot entirely blame Moore. To have gone with the latter would have been to write a different, much edgier book. That Moore manages to make both elements work for as long as he does is testament to his talent and his great sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Untamed by P.C Cast and Kristin Cast (51/81)

Life sucks when your friends are mad at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird – she’s become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey's adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened in PC and Kristin Cast's spellbinding fourth House of Night novel.

This is the 4th book in the House of Night Series and I am finding as they go on they are getting better ....... I did notice a label at the back of the book which reads 'not suitable for younger readers' which I have to say I am quite glad about ..... As this series is targeted towards the teen reader !!! ....... I have found that the more you get into the series the less the language and sex talk there is !!

I would have to say I enjoyed this one and looking forward to reading the next one as it left you on tender hooks as to what will happen next !! You do feel sorry for Zoey it isn't easy for her with everyone looking at you to be the next big thing ........ But some how she always ends up getting misunderstood and not in a good way !!!!!!!!! ......... Will she be able to band her wee group together in time to save the day !!!!!!!!

If you love Vampire books then you will enjoy this series but it is definitely one for the older teen .............

I rate this book 31/2 ***

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood, 19/81

Mei-Ling Hopgood was adopted from Taiwan as a baby- this is her memoir of reconnecting with her birth family two decades later. Unlike many adoptees Hopgood never really wanted to know more about her birth family. She happily embraced the culture of the American Midwest, her adoptive parents, and her two brothers. As a young adult Hopgood discovered that her Chinese family had been looking for her. Unsure of what she was getting into, Hopgood dug deeper, and discovered she had a large family in Taiwan- birth parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, and a brother. And so she met her birth family. After an exciting honeymoon period, Hopgood was confronted with a whole host of uncomfortable questions she had never anticipated. Her birth mother's submissiveness, her birth father's clear preference for sons over daughters. Coming to terms with these things is the substance of Hopgood's memoir. A written record of nearly ten years spent working out the complicated relationship with her Chinese family, Hopgood has written an engaging tale. There are many good memoirs concerning adoption and immigration issues. I'm not certain that Hopgood's offers much above and beyond the others, but is certainly a strong choice for those who wish to read such a memoir. Both well-written and compelling.

Mei-Ling Hopgood, Lucky Girl (Algonquin, 2009) ISBN: 1565126009

Category: Memoirs 2/9, 19/81

The Name of the Rose, 64/81, 2nd Round

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, historical fiction category

Brother Adso and Brother William travel to a remote convent in Italy. Brother William is there to work for a reconciliation between the Emperor's faction and the Pope's faction within the Catholic church. But his arrival also causes the abbot to investigate the recent death of a brother of their order. More deaths follow soon, and everything points toward an insider being behind it all. William is determined to find out what's behind all of this, even if it means discovering every secret the abbey possesses.

I read one review that describes this as The Da Vinci Code with brains. Possibly. But that doesn't necessarily make it an easy read. All the long, long, paragraphs, the highly technical religious controversies, and all the passages of Latin (With no footnotes! Why not?).

I almost feel like this was two books in one, one that I enjoyed - the mystery, the relationships, the setting - and then the long, pretentious stuff that's rather boring. I got to where I started skipping the boring stuff so I could get to the action. This edition had an afterword by the author, where he longwindedly defends his style and his writing. Maybe. But I disagreed with him. The stuff he defends as crucial to the book are the things I found myself skipping.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (50/81)

The first book in the Darkest Powers trilogy - a brand new series by bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. All Chloe Saunders wants is a life like any normal teenager - the chance to get through school, make friends, and maybe meet a boy. But when she starts seeing ghosts, she knows that life will never be normal again. Soon ghosts are everywhere, demanding her attention. When Chloe finally breaks down, she's admitted to a group home for disturbed kids. At first Lyle House seems okay, but as she gets to know the other patients - charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek; obnoxious Tori; and Rae, who has a 'thing' for fire - Chloe begins to realise that something strange and sinister binds them all together, and it isn't your usual 'problem kid' behaviour. And they're about to discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home, either ...

I love the cover to this series and I have to say that I will be going out to get the second book of the series .......

When Chloe starts to see Ghosts everywhere people begin to think she is crazy (including herself) so she is send to a group home for troubled kids ........ But things are not what they seem ...... Are the doctors really trying to help the patients there or do they have other motives! ....... Who can Chloe trust? .......... She is confused about her gift and how to use it ....... If she is to get out of the home she is going to have to act 'normal' ..............

I actually liked the character of Chloe and the book just flows well ....... It is an easy read and at the end of it you are are just hanging out for what happens next .......

As a new series go's I liked this one and will definitely be going out and buying the next one !!

I rate this book 4****

Friday, July 3, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well, 63/81, 2nd Round

All's Well that Ends Well, by William Shakespeare, play category

Well, it does end with Helena and Bertram married and living together, but he's a big jerk so I'm not sure why she wants him.

Helena is the daughter of a gifted physician, recently deceased. Bertram is a Count, newly become ward of the King of France. She heals the king and asks for Bertram as her husband for her reward. He (Bertram) is disgusted by her low rank and runs off to fight a war in Italy. For some totally unknown reason, she thinks it's her fault and sets off on a pilgrimage. Which just happens to take her to Italy.

I read the preface in this edition, which suggests that Shakespeare was adapting earlier stories, so the lame plot may not be entirely his fault.

I also hated the "clown" parts in this which just weren't funny at all. Then there are all these completely extraneous scenes and dialogues that just slow the action down and make my eyes gloss over. In the theater, that would be the time to run to the restroom.

There are a few good lines in here though. Most of them are at the beginning, so you could just stop there. Shakespeare seems to give the best lines to Helena and the King. He must have been playing favorites.

Absolutely not his best. I know that seeing the play is always better, but it just couldn't save this play. Don't bother!

Q's Legacy (76/81)

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
Category: Books about Books (Category Complete!)

The third in a set of memoirs by Helene Hanff begins before the others, when she had to drop out of college during the Depression. Visiting the library, she found a set of books - the lectures of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - to teach herself about writing and English literature. With the success of her memoirs, 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Helene had no idea how far-reaching indeed his influence would turn out to be.

I love these books for Helene's sense of humor and quick wit. She has excellent timing for both comedy and poignancy. Her delightful descriptions of Q's lectures made me want to read them, too. Though 84 Charing Cross Road is forever my favorite of her three memoirs, Q's Legacy is a lovely capstone of her memories of both books and her tribute to the man who taught her to write through his published lectures. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

A Short History of Nearly Everything (75/81)

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Category: Nonfiction (Category Complete!)

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the universe or the workings of a cell? This introduction to many different branches of science gives you a taste of the history of how we know what we know (and what we think we know) about the world and how it works.

Giving a brief overview of such diverse scientific disciplines as physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and lots more, you may find yourself frustrated by only being given a taste of one subject before Bryson moves on to another. But the extensive notes and bibliography at the end will show you where to go next for those subjects that most interest you, and Bryson's characteristically witty narration will keep you reading even during those explorations you may not have found compelling in school. I was most fascinated to discover the reasons behind current scientific thought, and how much we really don't know about the earth and our universe. 4.5 stars.

Alice in Wonderland (74/81)

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Category: Lost Book Club

Many are familiar with this classic tale, so I won't repeat a plot synopsis here. Since it's fantasy, children's, and classic, I feel like I should like it more than I do. I first read it as a child, and what stood out for me (and got annoying, to be plain) was Alice's continual size changes. It's a very strange, meandering story that got exciting but ended in what seemed to me to be a bit of a cop out. On rereading it, I still didn't love it and found it rather difficult to follow on audio as well. An alright story, but not one of my favorites. 4 stars.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West, 18/81

Lady Slane spent her entire life as a politician's wife, raising six children. In the wake of her husband's death she finally has time and space to attend to her own desires. At age eighty-eight Lady Slane chooses to move to her own home, and surround herself with persons of her own choosing. And what Lady Slane chooses to do is to reminisce about her life, from her marriage in 1860 to the present day. Lady Slane's children presume that their mother has descended into madness, but she holds her ground, refusing to become the doddering widow her children expect. In this novel we learn Lady Slane's history: her thwarted dreams of becoming an artist, her love for her husband, and the restrictions incumbent on Victorian political wives. The book culminates as Lady Slane faces an awakening of unexpected passion. This is a dark and contemplative novel, though there are elements of comedy as well. The Slane children all fit into comic stereotypes, and perform their allotted roles to the point of ridiculousness. These comic elements are necessary, they allow Lady Slane to be sensible, rather than cruel, in cutting herself off from her children at the end of her life. Lady Slane's long life spans the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and if the hallmark of the Victorian era was change, than Lady Slane is certainly a good model thereof. She lived through modernization, the growth of empire, and in her reflections we see the long span of her life.
Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent (The Dial Press, 1984) ISBN: 0385279760
Category: Virago Modern Classics, 4/9, 18/81