28 May 2004

Pushing Backward...

Arrrgh! I've had this book, St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge, ordered ever since they announced it was coming out. Originally it was supposed to come out this month. Amazon is now saying July. And this page says "Fall 2004."


(I could probably spend the rest of my life reading the books out of the McFarland catalog--especially the television and radio books, the World War II books. Go on, check 'em out; I dare you to go in and not want at least one of these fascinating volumes...)

With apologies to Lerner and Lowe:

"All I want is a room somewhere,
Filled with full bookcases stand-ing there,
And one enormous chair--
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?

27 May 2004

Farewells...Some of Them Welcome

"Mark's" went out of business last Saturday.

"Mark's" was officially the Science Fiction and Mystery Bookshop (run of course by Mark Stevens). It was here when I arrived in Georgia in 1988. It was so much of an institution in our lives that it seems remarkable that it's gone. But Mark just couldn't keep up with the expenses of running an independent bookstore. The internet and the bigger chain stores were eating his market.

Actually, we had stopped going to the store frequently after it moved from the Virginia Highland area. The new store on Cheshire Bridge Road was roomier but not as homey, and since the Phoenix Science Fiction Society was no longer meeting, we just weren't out in that neighborhood very often. I could go at lunch at work until we moved, and even then could only spend about 20 minutes browsing because of fighting through traffic there and back.

Mark was then gradually surrounded by "adult entertainment" facilities and finally he moved to a little store off Shallowford Road. Most people didn't know it was there. In fact, the day I went to the closing sale, at least two people wandered in saying they had never known the store was there before. A pity.

Anyway, I picked up nine books, including a British Sherlock Holmes homage I enjoyed (sadly, it's the only Holmes book by that writer ever released in paperback). Five of the books were from Valerie Wolzien's Susan Henshaw mystery series, including the newest, which I'm steadily reading through.

When I'm done reading, it's bye-bye Wolzien.

I don't hate these books, but I don't really like them, either. Susan Henshaw is a well-to-do Connecticut housewife with a penchant for solving mysteries. In the later books, the police chief even calls her in on crimes. Her best friend is Kathleen, a police officer who came to town to solve a murder in the first book, fell in love, married and had a family. Susan is married to Jed, and they have two children, Chrissy and Chad. Jed works for an advertising agency.

If this all, except for the solving mysteries part, sounds unbearably boring, it is. Plus I find that, although I'm perfectly okay accepting wealthy Lord Peter Wimsey and Sir Adam Sinclair as protagonists of what I find interesting stories, the Henshaws' prosperity annoys me. Susan spends gobs of cash on pricey Christmas presents, she shops at Saks and Neiman-Marcus, her friend gets a Jaguar as a holiday gift, they all wear designer clothes and expensive shoes, they can afford to hire caterers for big parties, the house is absolutely gorgeous with slate kitchen floors, imported tile, and expensive woodwork. I feel like I'm the Little Match Girl peering in the windows at the opulence.

The other irritating thing is Wolzien's penchant for starting action in the middle of a scene at the beginning of a chapter and then "flashing back" to what happened next in the sequence. It gives the book a very cinematic feel, but if I wanted a movie, I'd go see one. For instance, at the end of one chapter Susan is trapped on a widow's walk of a house she's attending a party at after the door shuts and locks behind her. The next chapter starts with Susan in bed, enjoying the warmth and talking to her husband about the party. She then tells her husband how she got out of the predicament. One or two times is a nice change of narrative pace. But in The Old Faithful Murder, for instance, almost every chapter is written this way. In one, Kathleen and Susan start to go somewhere. The next chapter starts and they are coming back from wherever they'd gone, talking about what they did. The rest of the chapters are similar in structure. It about drove me mad.

These books get good to excellent reviews on Amazon.com, so maybe I'm just being a crank. But after constant exposure to the Henshaws' lifestyle, I have this irresistible urge to go live like the Waltons.

14 May 2004

Ooops, Been Reading...

I'm still here. I've polished off The Adept: Lodge of the Lynx one more time, plus the rest of the library books: I loved the book about Gilbert and the erector set, Paris 1919 and Benjamin Franklin were both good, although I didn't read as deeply as I probably should have.

I also was quite absorbed by Everett Allen's A Wind to Shake the World, which I mentioned in Yet Another Journal. The combination of Allen's prose and a dark rainy day were quite extraordinary!

Also have finished Leo Laporte's 2004 Technology Almanac, The Science of Harry Potter, and James Burke's The Knowledge Web (I'm now starting his Circles). Sigh, so many books to read and so little time to do it in.

I mentioned Trixie Belden in Yet Another Journal--has everyone seen the republished versions Random House is doing? I hate the covers; Trixie looks like a simpering blonde bimbo of the Jessica Simpson school--not to mention she's supposed to have "sandy" hair, which is usually the equivalent of some shade of red. But I love the reprint, which has used the original text--this means you'll find Trixie riding on the running board of her dad's car in the first few pages of the original novel, The Secret of the Mansion--and the original 1940s-1950s illustrations, which show the girls in dresses and pedal-pushers and rolled-cuff blue jeans. Cool.

04 May 2004

A Book Meme

Tuesday Twosome


1. Do you prefer: Fiction or non-fiction?

That's a hard one. I probably have as many nonfiction books as fiction ones. I think I prefer fiction because it's usually written in a more lively manner.

2. Do you prefer: Magazines or books?

Books. I don't like most magazines and I'm down one: it looks like the Borders at Akers Mill doesn't carry Best of British anymore. [Later today: No, they haven't. I must have missed the March issue while I was in the hospital.]

3. Do you prefer: Biography or autobiography?

Biography most of the time. Most people don't talk about themselves well. However, my favorite biography of all time is an autobiography, Rosalind Russell's Life is a Banquet.

4. Name your two favorite books:

I don't have two favorite books; I have lots of favorite books! How does one expect me to pick two????

5. Name two books you haven't read, but plan to:

Paris 1919, which I have from the library, and A Wind to Shake the World, Everett Allen's book about the Hurricane of '38, which I ordered recently.

01 May 2004

Suffering from a Surfeit of Books (What a Way to Go)

I got a library visit in this week and and am now happily wallowing in new books. I practically devoured the first three. I started with Sue Henry's Cold Company and Death Trap, which feature Henry's heroine, independent musher Jessie Arnold, in a series of books that began with Murder on the Iditarod Trail. I had started collecting these in paperback, then got pissed off about four books ago when Henry dumped Jessie's love interest, state trooper Alex Jensen. Jessie can't seem to keep out of trouble, with or without Jensen around; in the "six months" (four books) since he left, she's been stalked innumerable times, involved with killers, and in the last book, left in a trap that would require her to kill her favorite dog, Tank, to save her own skin. Henry's next book is about a supporting character she introduced two Arnold books ago, which leaves Jessie time to--hopefully--rest up. I'm surprised the woman is not stark raving mad in a rest home by now. (Incidentally, we find out why Jessie is so self-reliant and reluctant to depend on anyone in Cold Company, but it reads as a bit of a cliche.)

I also got my mitts on a copy of the hottest fiction book of the last few months, Dan Brown's DaVinci Code. As you remember, I didn't think much of Angels and Demons, which is the first Robert Langdon book. This one is a bit less improbable. I find it surprising the sudden interest in DaVinci and his "codes." I've watched two different specials about it already. Had folks not heard of the Gnostic gospels and the theories about Jesus' family, which have included brothers and sisters as well? Also had not heard the terms "Divine Principle" or Fibonacci numbers or even "phi," but do remember this ratio being discussed in history--or maybe math--class as "the Golden Mean."

At the moment I'm in the middle of two other books, last year's highly publicized--they did a story in Time, as I remember--Walter Isaacson biography of Benjamin Franklin and Bruce Watson's great The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made, the story of A.C. Gilbert, the man who gave the world the Erector set.