Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation reading

I was very sensible this year, and took only 5 books along on vacation. To my horror, I read only one. I can't remember the last time I read only one book in that long a time! It's the knitting, I tell you -- it's ruining me as a reader.

What, you ask breathlessly, was the lucky book? It's a book I'd read before but didn't remember completely: The Year of Pleasures, by Elizabeth Berg. (Sounds like it should be soft porn, but it's nothing of the sort.) I like her work a lot; this one is not the book I remembered and thought I had with me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

What did I intend to read? Well, War and Peace, and Nicholas Nickleby, of course! Because those are always on my list, even though I let them stay home this year. And To Kill a Mockingbird, which I last read over 40 years ago. That stayed home, too, by mistake. I treated myself to Ann Patchett's new book, State of Wonder, after Maureen Corrigan waxed rhapsodic over it on NPR, and even that never got out of the crate. I plan to start that one tonight.

Everybody else? What are you reading (or planning to read) in the vacation frame of mind? It doesn't have to be "respectable."

Monday, June 13, 2011

OK, who's read Little Women?

Time to wake up everybody!! Let the words "summer reading" fill your hearts with joy, and don't worry about reading responsibly. It would be nice to hear your voices, though. . .

Question for the day: have you read Little Women, and what did you think?

I read it for the first time when I was in about 6th grade. I hated it. But -- that was because (1) my mother told me how much she'd disliked it (the power of suggestion is strong!) and (2) the character who dies [not giving anything away, almost everyone knows this] is Beth, and that is what I was called at that time. I went on to read all of Louisa May Alcott's books, and I loved all the others. Take a look at An Old-Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, and Jack and Jill.

Little Women (1868) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) were published not too far apart. When I was a graduate student, teaching freshmen, I taught the two books back-to-back to illustrate how we think about what boys do versus what girls do. My late-20th-century students were fascinated and dismayed. And very uneducated -- one young woman scoffed when we discussed the scene where Jo sells her hair, and asked, in tones of disdain, "Why didn't she just go out and get a job?"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guilty Pleasure - J.D. Robb's Eve

I've been slowly giving away my books in recent years - probably trying to de-clutter or downsize my possessions as retirement looms on the horizon. A few books remain downstairs; among them: Secret Garden (the copy given to me by my grandmother one summer when I was sick), the Prophet (the chapter on marriage we read at our wedding), the Mists of Avalon, and I Take Thee Serenity by Daisy Newman.

But upstairs, in my bedroom bookcase? Ah, this is where my guilty pleasures/series reside within easy reach: the FBI series by Catherine Coulter, the Home Repair is Homicide series by Sarah Graves, the Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann, and the unforgettable Lt. Eve Dallas series by J.D. Robb. The series is set in NYC in 2058 where the technology has advanced but the crimes haven't changed. The lovers meet, resist, joust, love, and develop over the course of the 30+ books...and I've been hooked since the first one. What can I say? It's a regency romance in a futuristic setting.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guilty Pleasure - Georgette Heyer

Thank you, Elizabeth, for the invitation and also the Lauren Willig recommendation. I am always dying for book recommendations!!!

My guilty pleasure is Georgette Heyer. Here's how I was introduced to her:

When I was growing up, my local library was the Jenkintown Library - tiny, dark, built in 1836. The librarian was a formidable and stern young lady named Edith Prout. I would go in every week and check out a tower of books, take them home and put them on my bed and then read them one by one. Well, eventually, since the library was so small, I had simply read nearly every book in the children's and young adult section. I must have looked forlorn one day, because Edith took me aside and said, "Do you need a recommendation?" and I said, yes please. She took me over to the adult section (thrilling! because I was 11 or 12 at the time) and handed me "These Old Shades" by Georgette Heyer. Done and done! I looooooooved Georgette Heyer. Her books were funny and smart and elegantly-written, and the romances were just chaste enough and just mildly racy enough to make them appeal to my 11-yr-old heart. Edith Prout never ceased to chide me about my voluminous late fines and only occasionally granted me a smile, but I am eternally grateful to her because she introduced me to Georgette Heyer.

Fast forward 30 years. Because I lived nearby, I had checkout privileges at all the local libraries. My parents still lived in Jenkintown and one time while visiting them I decided to take my 4-yr-old son to the Jenkintown Library to look at their children's books. I walked in the door (I have not been there in 30 years or so at this point), and I hear a voice say, sternly and matter-of-factly, "Hello, Diana." It is Edith Prout, still behind the desk, never missing a beat, as if I had been in every week like I did when I was a teenager!

I still turn to Georgette Heyer when I'm in between weightier tomes or when I need a break, mentally. My favorites are "Sylvester", "Arabella", "The Devil's Cub". And of course, "These Old Shades", the book that started it all.

Guilty Pleasures: Lauren Willig

A long time ago, when I was working in bookstores in Maine, I had a coworker friend (you know who you are) -- a smart, educated, interesting woman -- who was hooked on Regency romances. One of the perks of working there was that you could borrow books to read, ostensibly so you could sell them better, but really because they paid us so little that they felt they had to offer something, anything, to make it a little bit better. Well, I thought, here's a person with a brain who loves these books, so let me give them a try. And they were fun -- silly, but fun, and many of them were quite well written. Time passed, life changed, and I hadn't read one for literally decades.

Then, about 5 years ago, another friend let me borrow Lauren Willig's first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It took me back to that era of English history, but so much better! The historical adventure/romance is framed by a contemporary plot involving an American grad student desperately in search of material for her dissertation, a handsome Englishman, a mysterious family archive. . .

I gobbled up each of the subsequent books the minute it came out. But I'd kind of forgotten about them until a Facebook friend "liked" Lauren Willig and led me to her newest, The Orchid Affair. Completely satisfying. I think it's the 7th one of the series, and you really should read them in order, if possible.

Willig knows how to tell a story; these books fall firmly in the category "intelligent fluff," and are a far better use of your time and brain cells than TV.

So confess -- what are your guilty pleasures (we're talking books here).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time to reboot!

A friend asked me today if I'd read anything good recently. And I know I have, but can't remember what it was.

So, Thanksgiving is over, December has come and gone, and we're almost halfway into January. Normal life can resume. Please, everybody, tell  me something to read!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Graphic novel, anyone?

I've registered for a course this spring on graphic novels - never read (have I even seen?) one. Have you read any?

I'm still working my way through the Doc Ford series set in Florida; however, "working" isn't really an appropriate word to use, since they are such fast reads. Fun to watch the characters develop with each book (there are 17 and I'm beginning #6). Then just before we leave for Key West, I will re-read a Hemingway title....