21 August 2008

Books Read Since July 14

• The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwick sisters—responsible Rosalind, unpredictable Skye, literary Jane, and little sister Batty, along with their Latin-quoting widower dad—are back at their home on Gardam Street after an eventful summer, but autumn appears to be even more eventful: their aunt has produced a letter from their late mother, requesting their father start dating again. So the resourceful sisters form a club to sabotage the dates. A sweet, funny throwback to those simple novels by Beverly Cleary and Eleanor Estes, with the memorable sisters, especially novel-writing Jane and sister Skye, who are embroiled with a deception in school. Yeah, you can see the ending coming a mile away, but who cares? Wonderful stuff.

• Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, Jon Savage
The term "teenager" and teen culture really only date from the late forties, but the rebelliousness of youth has been eternal. Savage returns us to the late 1800s when rebellious Marie Bashkirtseff's published diary astounded the world that a young Victorian lady would have such unladylike thoughts and a "boy murderer" killed several little boys near Boston. As the new century progressed, more of these "twisted" teens emerged: the young ladies who left sedate walking for suffragette marches and then became flappers, the discontented young men who became Apaches in Paris and swing fans in Nazi Germany; how both sexes experimented with sex, tobacco, and freethinking. Savage's readable text chronicles the shifting face of youth in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and other areas of Europe.

• About Time: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, 1980-1984, Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles
More commentary, trivia, pointed barbs and insights, inserted essays, and everything and anything else you'd want to know about Tom Baker's final Doctor Who season along with the Peter Davison years. Strictly for fans of the good Doctor, sharp, funny, sarcastic.

• The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig
Graduate student Eloise Kelly has lucked out in her research about the flowery-titled English spies of the post-French Revolution like the Scarlet Pimpernel and his cohort the Purple Gentian: Arabella Selwick-Alderly, descendant of the Purple Gentian, Richard Selwick, over the protestations of her nephew Colin, has allowed Eloise free rein in her private papers, where Eloise hopes to find out the identity of the most mysterious of the spies, the Pink Carnation. Suddenly she is plunged into the story of half-French/half-English Amy Balcourt, who has rushed to France, unfortunately encumbered by her cousin Jane Wooliston and their chaperone Gwen Meadows, to join the league of the Purple Gentian to avenge the death of her father in the Revolution. Make no mistake, first and foremost this book is a romance novel, for when Amy meets Richard, sparks fly...and not all of them are in anger. Much swash buckles in this page-turner, along with some decidedly anachronistic vocabulary, but it's all done in such fun, just play along with it.

• Words Words Words, David Crystal
A small collection of essays by linguist Crystal. Not as enjoyable as Crystal's larger books like Stories of English.

• Only Yesterday, Frederick Lewis Allen
After having this volume recommended by several people as well as several books, I picked up this history of the 1920s written in 1931. It is a remarkably contemporary account for a history book written over seventy years ago, as opposed to the often turgid historical prose from that era. Allen examines all facets of the 1920s, from the average home life of the time to the flappers to politics of the era to finally end with a chronicle of the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. And finally a comprehensible explanation of the Teapot Dome affair! I enjoyed this so much that I want to find Allen's book about the Great Depression.

• The Masque of the Black Tulip, Lauren Willig
Secondmost, this series of books, if you are in the mood for the amusing romances spun within, are as addictive as peanuts. I bought the first three at bargain book prices and then purchased the fourth in hardback with coupons—and I don't even like Lord Vaughn! In this outing, Sir Richard Selwick's sister Henrietta, who thinks of her brother's best friend as an adopted brother, and his best friend Miles, who has always acted as "Hetty's" protector, discover that there's something more to their relationship when they're embroiled in a search for the deadly "Black Tulip," a French spy who has dispatched more than one of the Purple Gentian's cohorts and who has now set his (or her) sights on the Pink Carnation's operatives. Meanwhile, Eloise Kelly and Colin Selwick clash once more...and you know what that means...

• The Deception of the Emerald Ring, Lauren Willig
Eloise Kelly's research leads her to a further surprise as she descends back into her research into the workings of the Pink Carnation: Richard Selwick's cohort Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, who has spent years writing love poetry to aristocratic Mary Alsworthy, actually married Mary's red-headed sister Letty. In a slight homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, Geoffrey treats Letty with scorn, thinking she has tricked him into marrying her by compromising them together, when she was only trying to prevent her sister's elopement. When Geoffrey leaves for Ireland directly following their honeymoon, Letty stubbornly follows him, unwittingly becoming embroiled in his spying mission. More swash, more buckles, and of course the inevitable romance. More fun from Willig.

• Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary, Vivian Cook
A tidbit of a gift book about the English language concerning spelling mistakes, spelling reform, and even grammatical wrangles. Nothing special, but okay for a bargain book.

• Jewels, Victoria Finlay
In the tradition of her previous Color, Finlay takes us on a journey around the world, from mines in Australia, England, the far East and the American West, and most places in between to trace the history and use of amber, jet, pearl, opal, peridot, emerald, sapphire, ruby, and diamond, profiled in order by their order of the Mohs hardness scale. Finlay visits places that are still exotic and/or isolated today, some which appear to be very dangerous, whether from the terrain or from the population. It is amazing to think that some of these places still exist in today's electronic world. "Fascinating" is the only word.

• Re-read: A-Going to the Westward, Lois Lenski
Lois Lenski has always been most well-known for her regional children's novels, such as Strawberry Girl, but she also wrote several historically-based novels, starting with her first books A Little Girl of 1900 and Skipping Village, based on her own childhood. Westward is the story of twelve-year-old Betsy Bartlett, who, with her parents, younger brother, and an aunt, sets across country via wagon in the year 1811 for the first westward movement, to the Ohio country. Accompanied by an irritating neighbor family, the Bartletts endure bad roads, bad weather, frightening river fords, thieves, and other dangers as they begin a new life. Since most books about pioneers emphasize the later migration across the Plains and the Rocky Mountains, A'Going to the Westward remains a unique, absorbing narrative of the first western movement. Although written for children, Lenski's vocabulary is never restrictive.

• No Dogs in Heaven?, Robert T. Sharp DVM
Don't expect the poetical prose of James Herriot, but if you love anecdotes about days in the life of a veterinarian, this book may just be your cup of tea. Dr. Sharp talks about the most memorable patients in his career of taking care of pets and farm animals in Ohio. Perfect for a bedside read, with short chapters.

• Hounded to Death, Laurien Berenson
Melanie Travis (Driver) is back for a new outing, but this time she is sans new husband and young son, as well as her beloved poodles, to accompany her aunt Peg and sister-in-law Bertie to a weekend symposium where she hopes to relax. Of course, this being a Melanie Travis mystery, you know that can't happen; after making an astonishing keynote opening speech, a well-known and respected dog judge turns up murdered in the conference center's hot tub, and Melanie, Peg, and Bertie are involved up to their eyebrows since they discovered the body. Worse, Melanie's reputation has preceded her and all sorts of people are demanding she ferret out the killer. No better or worse than any of the other books in the series, although an event at the end is rather terrifying considering Melanie's pregnancy. Recommended as always for dog lovers and fans of cozies.

1 comment:

Tasha said...

After loving the first book, I'm reading The Penderwicks on Gardam Street now. These books are so great, with an old-fashioned feel. I'm looking forward to reading the rest in this series when they come out.