Monthly Archives: September 2013

Book Bloggers International

Well, this is fun!

I will be featured on the Book Bloggers International blog tomorrow.  How cool is that?

Here is the link to their wonderful blog.  They do interviews with all kinds of book bloggers everywhere.  It’s fascinating reading.  There are so many interesting and charming people out there who love to blog about books.  Who knows, you could even find a new blog that you love to read.

Revenge Wears Prada – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Shining Girls by: Lauren Beukes

And the Mountains Echoed by: Khaled Hosseini

The God Eaters by: Jesse Hajicek

Letters from a Nutby: Ted L. Nancy

Other Books I’m Reading:

Riotous Assembly by: Tom Sharpe

Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

I did indeed read Lauren Weisberger’s books The Devil Wears Prada.

I tried to read it once before I saw the movie, then I tried to read it again after I’d seen the movie. Only the second time did I succeed. It is very rare for me that the movie version of a book makes the book itself readable for me. But there it is.

Even after the disappointing experience I had with The Devil Wears Prada I thought I would go ahead and give the follow up a try. After all, there is something to be said for a really good evil character. I think Miranda Priestly counts as a good bady.

Revenge Wears Prada starts eight years after Andy left the horrible clutches of Ms. Priestly. Andy is about to get married to Max, a supposedly super wonderful media mogul. She is also now best friends and business partners with Emily, the woman who worked with her as Ms. Priestly’s senior assistant.

Once again, Andy has made a series of judgement errors when she’s picked the people in her life. There is her fiancé/husband Max. Who basically tells her who he is several time, but Andy doesn’t believe him. So when he finally stabs her in the back the reader isn’t surprised, but Andy is shocked. There is Emily, who used to torture Andy just as much as Miranda. Andy seems to have forgotten all of Emily’s mean girl tendencies, and gotten into business with her. It is however not clear how Andy could have forgotten all of Emily’s nastiness. Since she is still just as nasty to Andy from time to time. Especially when she isn’t getting her way. Also, Andy seems to have forgotten that Emily wants to be Miranda Priestly one day. If Andy had just remembered this about her best friend, the whole rest of the book never needed to happen.

Then there are the things that could have made this book better if they’d been fleshed out instead of just hinted at. Andy’s mother -in-law doesn’t like her and doesn’t want her to marry the overly sappy Max. This plot point could have been interesting, had it ever come to anything. It doesn’t.

Also, anyone looking for the return of Miranda Priestly in this book will be sadly disappointed. I know I was. Miranda the couple of times she shows up is at best a polite and cool snob, and at worst a mere shadow of her former glory. Miranda is trying to acquire Emily and Andy’s magazine The Plunge for the same media group that owns Runway. Which would make her Andy and Emily’s boss again. The best tricks she can come up with are killing them with kindness, and eventually pulling Andy aside and demanding what she wants. While a grown woman acting like a toddler is indeed worrisome, it’s not really scary. I can think of three better ways to forcibly acquire a magazine in fiction land, and I’ve never even been to New York city.

The end of the books is obvious to everyone but Andy.

Perhaps most annoying is Andy’s continued good girl posturing. Andy is not a nice person. She marries a man when she’s having second and third thoughts about the whole thing. She hold grudges. She throws herself into panic attacks over her suffering from eight years before. She encourages one woman to have an affair. She secretly dislikes the way Emily treats her, but won’t stand up for herself. She’s passive aggressive, refusing to just tell her partner that there is no way she’s willing sell the magazine. I mean, Emily was totally out of line, but Andy wasn’t dealing honestly with her. So neither of them wins that situation. Even though Andy gets an utterly random happyish ending, there is no way the character as written is going to be anything but miserable and/or self deluded for the rest of her life. In the end she can’t dither her way out of a paper bag. Why do I care about this person? Oh wait. I don’t. Hello Mary Sue.

Favorite Scene: Meh

Favorite Quote: Double Meh.

Enjoyability: One star. It got published.

Where to read this book: In secret.

Further reading: I have to read And the Mountains Echoed. I’m not sure I’m looking forward the experience.

The House Next Door – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Queen by: Steven James

Revenge Wears Prada by: Lauren Weisberger

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by: Ian Morimer

Kraken by: China Mieville

Reamde by: Neal Stephenson

Other Books I’m Reading:

Riotous Assembly by: Tom Sharpe

Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

I always appreciate it when an author steps away from what they normally write to try something different. I think most authors have more stories to tell then the ones they publish. When an audience becomes used to a certain kind of book from a writer of course they want more of that sort of book. But I like the glances down the road not taken. Even if they aren’t totally successful.

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons is one of those steps away from the normal. Siddons, who has long been known for lush books about Southern life and culture, actually doesn’t step too far from her normal realm here. The book is still set in the south, and still displays many of the usual Siddons motifs. However, The House Next Door is a psychological thriller.

Colquitt Kennedy and her husband Walter have a nice quiet middle class life, until someone starts to build a house on the property next to theirs. Colquitt is actually a little put out that someone is building next door, until she meets and befriends the young architect Kim Dougherty. It’s Kim’s first house. He’s excited, and desperate that everyone should recognize his special genius. Which of course Colquitt does.

Then things turn dark. There are accidents, and unexplained incidences connected with the house. People seem to have personality changes when they are in the house or become depressed. Leading Colquitt and eventually Walter to believe that the house is evil. Or possibly haunted. Of course you can’t have a haunted house on the block killing people, so Colquitt and Walter decide to take care of business.

Here is the thing that keeps this book from being just another haunted house story. Colquitt is the first person narrator of the story. So it’s not always clear if she is telling the absolute truth about things. The truth as she sees it. Or the truth as she’s been influenced to see it by the house. She could be suffering from a deep and scary form of psychopathy, or she could be dealing with a very evil house. It’s never really made clear either way. Although I have an opinion given the last ten pages.

The House Next Door was written in the late 1970’s. Younger reader may find some of it a bit dated. I don’t think it detracts from the book. Sensitive readers should be aware there is one scene containing a mildly graphic description of a miscarriage. On the whole though it is not a gory book.

If you do decide to read The House Next Door clear some time in your schedule. I read it in one sitting the first time. I was up until 3 a.m. It gives the phrase architectural nightmare a whole different meaning.

Favorite Scene: Kim comes by for a drink the first time.

Favorite Quote: “If we find that all our efforts have failed and someone buys the house, we shall set fire to it and burn it down. We will to this at night, before it is occupied. In another time they would have plowed the charred ground and sowed it with salt.

If it should come to that, I do not think we will be punished.

I do not think we will be alive long enough. “

Enjoyability: Five stars.

Where to read this book: Probably not at night alone in a house. I read it at night, but I was not alone.

Further reading: I have a whole pile of books. I should probably just start at the top and work down.

Sense and Sensibility – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

A Serpent’s Tooth by: Craig Johnson

The Princes in the Tower by: Alison Weir

The Glass Blowers by: Daphne Du Maurier

Reamde by: Neal Stephenson

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson

I’ve been reading many works of actual History lately. Mostly Alison Weir. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, her book on Mary Boleyn is a recommend. I’m still working my way through The Princes in the Tower. It is looking like a recommend right now too. I have, over the years, come to really enjoy Weir’s scholarly work almost as much as I dislike her fiction. She’s got a Biography of Elizabeth of York slated to come out in December. I’m excited.

Since reading me writing on the intricacies of the English monarchy is…not that interesting, I thought we’d talk about Jane Austen today instead.

I know that when you start on Jane Austen everybody will tell you that Pride and Prejudice is the book you should start with. Don’t get me wrong P&P is a great book. Funny. Insightful. Possibly proving that Jane was an early master of game theory. It’s a great read.

Persuasion is my personal favorite. If I thought I could ever write a book that good, I’d probably never leave my computer again.

However, structurally, I think Sense and Sensibility is by far the best of Jane’s works. Every character in S&S has another character in the book who is their equal in situation and rank, but who makes the opposite decisions about life. Talk about the deft and handling of the old morality play. It’s not just that the main heroines Elinor and Marianne Dashwood have opposite temperaments. One of the hero’s, Edward Ferrars is also his brother’s opposite. Sir John Middleton, who is the benefactor of the Dashwood ladies, he provides them a reasonable place to live, is the opposite of the John Dashwood, the half brother who wants to get the Dashwood ladies out of his house. Then there are Anne and Lucy Steele, who are the opposites of Elinor and Marianne. Even Colonel Brandon has his opposites both in John Willoughby, and eventually Mr. Thomas Palmer.

I can see why this book is not as popular as Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. Sense and Sensibility is an earlier work. Some of the characters are not as well rounded as they would be in her later works. Elinor can be read as cold or just a goody two shoes at times. Marianne can be down right dense.

There are also people who have read the book and were deeply disappointed that Marianne married and was apparently happy with Colonel Brandon. That ending has never bothered me. It makes perfect sense in relation to the rest of the book. Of course Marianne has to marry Colonel Brandon. He’s the opposite of Willoughby. Likewise, she has to be just as happy with him, as she would have been unhappy with Willoughby. Otherwise the rest off the book doesn’t add up.

The very first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, I wrote the worst ever modern take on this story. To this day it’s a stain on my hard drive. So trust me when I tell you that what Austen did in Sense and Sensibility proves her writing chops. I couldn’t do it successfully, and I have yet to read a book where anyone else could either.

So, what is your favorite Austen? Why? And which heroine are you?

Personally, I’m an Anne with a heavy dash of Elinor thrown in.

Favorite Scene: The scene where Edward is not married after all.

Favorite Quote: “Excuse me,” said she (Elinor), “and be assured that I meant no offense to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings.”

Enjoyability: Five stars

Where to read this book: Anywhere. It will make you look really smart.

Further reading: I found a Daphne Du Maurier at the library this week that I didn’t know existed. I have great hopes for it.

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