Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Time Is It?

It's 2 am and I'm sitting in bed reading on my laptop.  I'm not sure this is the best thing to be doing--should be well, 1. SLEEPING.  2. reading a book from my pile that is growing exponentially or 3. at least emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes.  Instead, I woke up for my usual mid-sleep potty break and find myself here.  AWAKE.  How is it possible to be so extremely exhausted, and not able to sleep?  Seriously.  Since starting back to work, I haven't had the preggo insomnia that got to me in the summer--I think pure exhaustion from work (school) is the *nice* cause of my ability to sleep and sleep hard but somehow it's back tonight.  Again, seriously?  I was so exhausted trying to put the kiddo down to bed, and then talk on the phone to both parents and hubby (did I mention it's Single Mom Week Here at JAA?) that I was barely coherent and hardly able to stand straight...and now....Hmmm....

I lament the at least 2 books sitting to be reviewed/blogged about on my nightstand.  Really, I need to find the time to at least blog the 2 books I'm done with...I lament the entire basket of books to read--both JA fanfic and YA.  Instead, I'm catching up on my favorite organizing blog (nesting much these days?) and stalking random friends on FB.  Not good. I might need to "block" FB and Google Reader from myself for a while.

In other excitement, I received my first, sort of, official book to review from an author/publisher yesterday.  There was some giddy excitement as I ripped open the envelope and looked at it!  Really, if I could get my act together and work on my book review skills, I'd blog more and work on reviewing a bit more full time.

But in the meantime...
I cringe at /wallow in/get through (and yes, sometimes delight, I admit)  A: the perils of iMovie 6 and its bugs at work. (Insert several swear words here.)  B: The eternal:  "Mrs. B. do you remember that one book that's blue and has a tree on the cover?  It's about this girl...." (Seriously, kiddo there are X number of books in the library and N are blue....but yes, I do actually....) and finally...

C: Did I mention that tomorrow is an evening equivalent to Parent/Teacher Conference night at work?  Beware of the Sleep Deprived (Pregnant) Mom.  'Nuff Said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Phantom of Pemberley

The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery by Regina Jeffers

Ulysses Press, 2010. 416 pgs.

The Basics:  An impending visit from Mrs. Wickham, an impromptu visit from Lady Catherine and Cousin Anne, a harsh winter storm that brings some travellers to Pemberley and add a strange ghost that seems to be haunting the halls of Pemberley and Darcy and Elizabeth get some unwanted craziness in their lives.

There is suspense, the dynamic duo of Darcy and Elizabeth and a maturing Georgiana.  The book is  a fun romp at Pemberley.  But now I'm going to get a little picky.  Of course the strange ghost or shadow man that keeps haunting Pemberley is Wickham.  Duh!  While a fun read, I found the plot a bit tedious and frankly, obvious.  Yep, strange travelling companion with Mrs. Wickham is somehow related to mysterious murders.  Yep, Wickham and the usual greedy lust that he breeds.  And, yes, I guessed the plot twist at the end (which I won't tell you, but it is a good one.)  I just found the book to be a bit too predictable for my tastses.

3 Bonnets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

HP Alternate Ending

DH shared this one with me and I can't help but share it here.  It is the HISHE (How It Should Have Ended) for the Harry Potter series.  While I do not agree with all of the blog/video, it couldn't agree more with the Time Turner thoughts.  Where the heck is it?  Come on J.K!?!  Come on editors!  Read the blog for some description or just watch the video for kicks.  Enjoy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Birthday Celebrating!

Having just celebrated a birthday I’m feeling contemplative on the whole birthday thing….Especially the summer birthday thing.  Since my birthday falls in what I have always deemed “the exact middle of summer” it is both wonderful and crummy all at once. It is wonderful because it is summer –I’ve hardly ever worked on my birthday being that I chose education as a profession (maybe I did in college when I worked at the canning factory? I don’t recall.).   So there’s that and well, heck, it’s my birthday.  There’s usually some kind of cake or dessert and presents with ribbons.  That’s pretty good. 
While, yes, it’s true I hardly ever got the paper birthday crown in elementary school. ---Well, maybe once for a half birthday in January and I never got to bring treats in to celebrate--except for that one time when I had a crown?—Really, this lack of inclusion stopped bothering me at some point.  Let’s be realistic here, I looked on with bits of jealousy, but for the most part this lack of recognition fits my personality—the introvert in me finds no need to draw extra attention to myself.
Back to reality.  Being that my day is the 15th of July that means it’s the middle of summer.   The summer countdown begins and it’s over, this summer business, I mean and that means back to school or work or whatever it is. (Target and Staples had back to school supplies advertised last week!) Le sigh…
Usually, a nice quiet dinner and dessert with family has sufficed and I’ve been quite content.  But as I work my way through the decade of my, gulp, thirties, I think I’ve finally hit on something.   Here it is:  Let’s just make this virtually a whole week of celebrating and craziness and exhaustion!  What’s more, this year I documented the celebration with a photo blog story.   
Here goes:
Wednesday AM: Run around in the morning trying to get toddler to cooperate after she declares she doesn’t not want to go to storytime (one of her favorite activities).  Mom bribes child with cheerios to get her in the car and at least return books/movies to the bookdrop that cannot be renewed another day….
Wednesday early PM:  Uncle Dan arrives for his first solo babysitting adventure after sitting in traffic for an extra 45 minutes. We’re all a little flustered but said toddler is excited to play “pay-doh” with Unc Dan.  Score! (No photo available, photographer preoccupied with getting out the door.)

Wednesday evening:  Indigo Girls concert at the MN Zoo.  1. Yay that the zoo is open.  2. Yay for no rain during the outdoor concert. 3.Thank you to KC for the bleacher seat.  This pregnant lady would not have made it through the evening with out the back support!
We had a great time as per usual at the concert. Our seats this time ‘round weren’t the greatest we’ve ever had (last time was something like row 3 or 4 smack dead center!), but it’s not about seeing their faces as much as hearing the music.  Besides, their roadie/tuner gal was fun to watch as she chucked guitar picks at the Skippy the security guard.    
That all said, I have a small IG problem.  Later this week, my dad asked how many times I’d been to see them and the conversation went something like this:  “So, that was your second or third concert?”  “Um, no.”  I held up my hand and displayed all five fingers.  “Yes, I guess you really are a groupie.”  (And I’m making DH, dear hubbie, a groupie, too.  It was his third.) 
(Set List photo shamelessly yanked from the IG's FB page. They did not play Watershed and the question mark was an awesome rendition of Chickenman/Bitter Root mixed together.)  Thanks, ya’ll.  
Thursday AM:  Toddler dropped off at daycare.  Check.  Mini-cat nap on the couch.  (Have I mentioned I’m not sleeping very well right now?)  Check. 
Thursday Noon:  For my mom’s birthday, I’d said I’d take her out to lunch and shopping.  We did this on Thursday, which added to the birthday hoopla, we were celebrating someone’s birthday, right?  We had a delightful tea luncheon at the Mad Hatter in Anoka.  Unfortunately, the rain kept us from perusing the shops in downtown.
Thursday PM:  Pick toddler up from daycare and stop by the theatre on the way home for tickets.  Harry Potter tickets!
Friday AM:  Package on table with ribbons.  Wait wasn’t the concert my birthday present?  Guess not.  Teehee! Convinced toddler to hop in the car, despite the thunder to get Mom her ‘Bou Day Birthday Coffee.  Oh sweet decaf skinny almond cappuccino, it’s been a while! 
Friday AM cont.:  Matching Thomas and Friends with toddler.  Note that Mom’s spot is supposed to be RIGHT next to toddler and Little Nut Brown Hare on the floor.  Thank you thunderstorm!
Friday AM:  Grandma Sue and Grandpa Bruce arrive to spend part of the day with us.  We attempt the library musical program but it’s beyond packed.  Instead we do puzzles together at the library. 
Friday Noon:  Lunch at Chile’s.  DH joins us in the downpour.  Good food, albeit a bit slow in the service department.
Friday PM:  Naptime for toddler, birthday cake time for adults.  MMMMMM!  Say goodbye to parents, attempt to cat nap on couch.
Friday PM:  Papa Murphy’s pizza pickup (Ok, so it’s not Punch Pizza like last year, but this was pretty good stuff and what awaited was even better!)
Our church friends, Audrey and Al arrive to babysit.  They’ve offered to babysit pretty much since kiddo was born and it’s just never happened until now.  We show them the ropes, eat pizza together and head down the road several blocks to the theatre….
Friday PM:  Much Harry Potter Goodness.  And Crying.  And saying Goodbye to Dear Friends.  Sigh.  Gulp.  It was like finishing the last book for the first time—bittersweet.  It was awesome and even the small bits that were changed were perfect.  And can I just say what a pleasure it’s been to have all of the same actors and actresses play the same roles each time? 
The Star Tribune's review said this:  "For all the movies' dazzle and flash and Hippogriffs, the characters are more vivid than the special effects.  It is out emotional involvement with the three-dimensional heroes and villains, sidekicks and background players that draws us back time after time.  The final chapter ends with an epilogue that puts a lump in your throat and makes you want to watch them all again from the beginning.  That's the definition of a classic."  So true--as Albus Severus Potter found his seat on the Hogwart's Express, a chocolate frog jumped across the window of the train and I uttered, "Oh, a chocolate frog!"  Yep, time to start from number one again.
(See photo with Snape/Alan Rickman.  I Heart Alan Rickman.  Not that I think he's hot or anything but he's an awesome actor.  Love him!)
I’d also like to thank Baby Boy in utero for cooperating for a whopping 2.5 hours and allowing me not to have to get up to use the restroom.  Not even once.  Thank you, Son.  Much appreciated. 
Friday Later PM:  Birthday cake whilst watching the Thursday episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Who will be in the Top 10? One we pegged and one was a bit of a surprise. 
Saturday:  Recovery Mode. We’ve all slept a lot.  For the first time in 2.5 years, the child slept until almost 8 AM.  What a blissful summer schedule!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do

Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011. 353 pgs.

Ahem, I have realized that I have another book to add to the mix of lost time.  I could have sworn I did a blog entry on this book, but alas, I did not. Let me clarify, it was not because this book was forgettable that I forgot to write about it....Darn pregnancy brain.  Let me also acknowledge that I read this sometime mid-winter and some of the minor plot details have started to escape me. Forgive me if I miss something or get something incorrect.

Kara Louise takes us on the "what if Mr. Bennet died before Elizabeth and Darcy could get things figured out" plotline in this lovely novel.  Mr. Bennet dies, Elizabeth becomes a governess for the Willstones and much to her surprise discovers that they are acquaintances of the Bingleys and Darcys.  Long story short, they are invited to Pemberley for a visit (Elizabeth included) and Darcy does what he can to catch Elizabeth's fancy despite Mrs. Willstones sister's (Rosalyn) obvious interest in Darcy and Mrs. Willstones obvious objections when she notices the attention that Darcy pays a simple governess.

I enjoyed this novel because it showed Darcy putting to use the second chance he receives in becoming (re)acquainted with Elizabeth.  He is persistent in regards to Elizabeth and oblivious to the fact that Rosalyn admires him.  Elizabeth being invited to Pemberley as a governess was a nice twist to the P&P plot.  It is not far fetched and the feelings of the characters realistic.  The Willstones were a bit cold to Elizabeth but it was due to their recognition that Elizabeth and Rosalyn were rivals for Darcy's attentions.  This story worked for me and was another quick light read.

4 Bonnets.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jane Goes Batty

Jane Goes Batty by Micheal Thomas Ford
Ballantine, 2011. 295 pgs.

We're moving on into the time when I was coming out of hardly awake stage here.  I am pretty sure I read Jane Goes Batty sometime in May (Or was it June?).  Well, either way, it was a true delight.  Really. For someone NOT particularly enamored with Twilight or the whole vampire thing, I can say that these books are just great.  Sure, they might not be "high" literature, but they contain a wit and sparkle that I, personally, think other Vampire fiction lacks (and other mash-ups for that matter as well).

To pick up where Jane Bites Back left off, Jane Goes Batty, starts with well, Jane going a bit batty!  Jane Fairfax's (aka Jane Austen) world is topsy turvy and out of control.  Her best-selling novel, Constance, is being made into a movie right in her hometown, she's still getting 'How To Be a Vampire" lessons from Lord Byron, and she keeps dodging her boyfriend Walter's hints at getting married.  Add that Walter's Jewish mother arrives in town, there's a camera crew following Jane around for DVD extras and that "Our Gloomy Friend" (aka vampire Charlotte Bronte) is still out there and Jane can hardly keep her fangs in check.

Hilarity ensues and laugh out loud moments populate this book.  Really and truly.  Micheal Thomas Ford's talent at witty storytelling shines through in this series.  He's creative and here's what I love--I didn't get bored at all!

Again 5 out of 5 bonnets!  Bravo!  (And did I mention that a 3rd in the series comes out Feb. 2011?  Jane Vows Vengeance!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts, 2009. 270 pgs.

Here's yet another piece of JA Fanfic that I read during that "I just lost 3 months of my life" timespan.  Hmmm....Here goes:

Emma Douglas' life is falling apart:  her husband cheated on her and then helped create a scandal at the college where she taught.  Needless to say, her tenure track, let alone is position, at the college is gone.  She escapes to Britain to find some inspiration in Austen's England and to find some of Austen's missing letters.  A recluse named Mrs. Parrot claims to have some of these letters and sets Emma on a quest to find more of them.  Add an old friend and love interest, Adam, to Emma's time in England and she truly starts to believe that Jane Austen really did ruin her life.

This book fell sort for me.  I was kind of bored with it and I can't quite put my finger on it.  This is the author's earlier book (I'd already read Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart) and I think that might be the problem.  Or rather that the two books are very similar, not connected per se, but similar in terms of the secret society of ladies protecting Jane's letters and/or manuscripts.  I think that the plots blended together too much for me and I was hoping for more.  Had I read this novel first, I think I would have liked it more, but then would have not like Mr. Darcy as much.  At least that's my hunch.  It also might be that the main character, Emma, was a bit of a whiner, complainer, "whoa is me" type and it just got downright old for me.  I simply wanted something new and fresh.

2 Bonnets.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Homage to Anne Shirley

I know I posted this on Facebook for some of my friends, but I feel that this link needs to be shared here since Anne of Green Gables is on my Ultimate Top 10 Book List.  Again, Fug or Fab makes me Gafaw, Chortle and any other form of laughing you can figure.... I've posted it below,  but it does cut off Kate's ensemble, so clicking on the picture will take you to the original.  LOVE IT!

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011.  381 pgs.

First, let me take a breath and pause and be honest.  I, ahem, read this book sometime this winter/spring.  I'm not sure quite when it was.  Ahem.  It was sometime during the "Oh, sweet goodness, I keep falling asleep trying to read just one page before I go to bed." phase of the 1st trimester.  (That is, when I actually attempted reading and didn't just fall asleep at 7pm.)

So, the details are a bit fuzzy.  I'm sorry.  That's just how it is right now.  Either way, let's give this a go...

In The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth makes friends with Cousin Anne De Burgh during her visit to Rosings.  Anne, being the clever one that she is, gets that Darcy and Elizabeth are 1. attracted to one another and 2. that something has happened to be Darcy out of spirits.  Insert a little matchmaking (Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.  Find me a find.  Catch me a catch....) with Georgiana's wild imagination and a bit of cleverness, mixed with Bingley's older brothers and the book is a fun romp into another what might have been in Darcy and Elizabeth's courtship.

Overall, an enjoyable read.  There was a bit about Darcy helping out an old mistress of his get reestablished after returning from the continent, that felt a bit forced to me.  Like it was just thrown in there for the sake of another plotline, but overall it was some quality Austen Fanfic.

4 Bonnets.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beware of the Sleep Deprived Mom

At the last bookfair my school held, I picked up a cute little sticker that said, "Beware of the sleep deprived mom!" I bought two, thinking that some one or other of my dearheart girlfriends with a kid (kids) needed one, too.  After carrying this little sticker around in my day-planner-calendar-keep-me-sane book for several months, I've come to the possible conclusion that perhaps, just perhaps, I should change the name of this blog to that quote.  It might better fit my life right now...

So, dear blog, it's been awhile.  And while I do have some Jane Austen blogging to do--I have been reading in my hiatus--I also have some mom updates, thoughts and ruminations for this blog entry.

  • First, let's be upfront.  A hiatus from blogging?  Sleep deprivation?  Tums in my purse?  Yes, this sleep deprived mom will be going from just a little bit of sleep deprivation to a significant amount at the end of October with the arrival of Baby Boy.  I've started suggesting names like Fitzwilliam or Darcy, but I just get these strange looks from DH.  Hmmmm...At least I'm not suggesting Willoughby or Wickham! Geez!
  •  Here and there I get it in my head that I (read that as we:  daughter and I) need a craft project.  There have been several this winter/spring.  (Think foam monkey Valentine's, felt projects etc. We did forgo May Day this year. I was disappointed but too exhausted to care.  There's always next year.) I thought I'd share two here.... 
Somewhere around Miss L's 2nd birthday, I saw this project in a magazine and couldn't help myself.  Yes, that's a homemade felt cornucopia!  Thank you, DH, for helping to cut out the shapes!  Seriously, this bunch of veggies and fruit has been a great addition to our kitchen playtimes.  Miss L has been making stews and soups galore!  They are great! And better than the cornucopia is the little toy grocery basket I found at the dollar store--we grocery shop at our house quite a bit with this basket and set up felt goodies.

 Elmo Cupcakes for the 2nd birthday!  Really cute, but so many on a tray is a bit frightening, yes?  These are about as shnazzy as I do when it comes to cakes/cupcakes.  I am thinking about making cupcakes a birthday tradition at our house. 

  • We finally had a first solo overnight for the kiddo at Grandma and Grandpa's this February.  Everyone did fine and really it was mom (me, not my mom) who needs to learn to chill.  Sigh...
  • At our church kids can start Sunday school at 2.  We started attending in January and it is here that I point out the "we."  As in L and I.  Together.  Or else SCREAMING would occur.  Miss L thinks Sunday school rocks and is pretty excited when church is done.  She might be mute during the whole of class, but rehashes the entire hour in the car on the way home.  We've spent a lot of time talking about how in the fall she will go to Sunday school by herself without Mommy.  Stay tuned to find out how that works for us... 
  • As we've reached the mid-twos here, I feel it is my duty to record 2 of the following events.  Both of which had DH and I rolling on the floor in laughter and somehow cringing at the same time.  At one point Miss L was complaining that her bottom hurt.  She said she needed "the diaper cream."  The next thing we knew she'd disappeared and DH went to find her.  From the kitchen I heard, "Some assistance here, please!"  Miss L had found the diaper cream, taken off her diaper and was happily smearing it on her bottom.   
Similarly, I'd hardly had a chance to blink and ask, "Did you poop?" one afternoon (me again in   the kitchen and her in the living room) and was drying my hands when I heard a door close and realized it was the bathroom door.  I ran to the bathroom to discover said child, diaperless and dumping the contents of her diaper into the toilet to flush away.   After both incidents we had to talk about asking Mommy or Daddy for help with these tasks.  Oh, such a big little person!

  • And finally, we did our first trip involving an airplane with Miss L this spring.  We went to Ann Arbor to celebrate the wedding of a good friend and knew that the 14-16 hour drive wasn't in the cards for us with toddler in tow.  While flying might be a big deal to some folks, it is for us--or for me at least.  The older I get, the more I hate flying.  Usually I take some "mild tranquilizers"  as my doctor puts it (I tend to make myself sick).  This time, no such luck given my expanding waistline.  Instead, I bucked up with a smile on my face and let DH sit next to the kiddo on the plane. We went armed with quiet activities, but really flying out all we needed was a snack and the window seat!  Seriously, I was about to get out the Elmo DVD's or Follow That Bird to keep me occupied on both flights...
Miss L was a weekend trooper, given 3 days sans naps and did reasonably well on the plane ride home. She was just a bit grouchier as we made our decent, but 3 days without a nap will do that do a kid.  We had a great time celebrating with our friends.  DH sang some of his best man speech.  (Truly priceless! He's thankful I didn't record it on the camera and I'm kicking myself.) We were thankful for the extra assistance of my in-laws at the reception (Miss L can spot a park/playground a MILE away or just next door, thank you, Grandpa!)  We are also thankful for the holding up of our GPS (it's got some charging issues) and its magically ability to point us in the direction of a park in an unknown neighborhood when it was just what we needed or an Arby's for that matter...And I called it, Miss L was asleep by the time we were pulling out of the park and ride parking lot in our own car. 

And so with those thoughts and ruminations, I click "publish post"  dear blog. I think it will be the beginning of a new tag here at JAA.  So if you see this tag and can't handle its lack of Janeness, well, I'm sure there's a Jane quote for that but I don't have the energy to find it because I need a nap.

~With Love, the sleep deprived mom on a restricted caffeine diet, aka a Jane Austen Addict.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This Will Put Tears In Your Eyes

It's not often that both DH and I fall into hysterics and fall onto the floor, laughing with tears in our eyes!  Because of this hilarity, I share the link.  This post from the website Go Fug Yourself is sure to be a day brightener! 

The posting is titled, The Other Fugs. And yes, it does relate to Jane Austen.  :) :) :)

(I think it was AustenBlog who alerted me to this.  A sincere thank you.  And if it wasn't, thank you to whatever Janeite blogger did actually alert me to it.)

Jane Bites Back by Micheal Thomas Ford

Jane Bites Back by Micheal Thomas Ford
Ballantine Books, 2010.  299 pgs.

 Ok, so I meant to write this post prior to February 1st.  Why, you might ask?  Because SQUEEEEEEEAAAALLLLLLL--the sequel to Jane Bites Back, Jane Goes Batty came out!  By the loud squeal, you can surmise my thoughts about Jane Bites Back.  :)

Here's the plot:  Jane Austen is 'alive' and well.  'Cept she's a vampire.  She owns a bookstore in upstate New York and has a trusty assistant named Lucy.  She's not a big fan of the whole drinking blood thing.  She only doesn't it when she needs to and doesn't kill.  She's been continually revising and attempted to publish the manuscript that she was working on when she 'died'. And finally--a publisher accepts the novel and suddenly Jane is in the limelight, trying to hide her real identity.

This book works, and not because I am a big fan of the mashup genre--vampires, zombies, werewolves--Oh My!   Because the thing is, I'm truly not the biggest fan of them.  But this book worked for me.  Here's why:
  • It's funny.  I was laughing out loud while reading it and that's a rare treat.  
  • There are other literary characters in it that add to the hijinks (Lord Byran, Chartlotte Bronte).  If you have read Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, I'm thinking you can appreciate this one, too. 
  • She's a got a sassy assistant, Lucy, who orders literary finger puppets for the bookstore and takes the whole vampire thing in stride, but gets a little crazed at her actually being Jane Austen--"You. Are. Jane. Austen....Your Jane freaking Austen!"
  • And Lucy is just one of the many lovable characters in the novel!
So, with that, I SQUEEEEAAALLLL again! I have a bit of dough left on a B&N gift card that would make it feel like I was getting Jane Goes Batty for half price (as if I need an excuse to buy a book, but it helps, right?).  Hmmm, maybe that wasn't a squeal but a squeak, like a bat squeak....Hmmm.  I'm batty for Jane Bites Back.

5 Bonnets out of 5.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds
2010 Sourcebooks Landmark, 348 pgs.

Let's start the ball rolling with an acknowledgment: Santa was good to Jane and I at Christmastime.  I reaped in JaneRewards and I am now swimming in all good things Jane.  (Ok, so I might have one book from last Christmas that I just started...Please no judgments.) 

Mr. Darcy's Obsession is another of Abigail Reynolds Pride and Prejudice Variations books.  They take the P&P storyline and answer the 'what if' question.  Examples: What if after Elizabeth's refusal at Hunsford, Darcy wouldn't take no for an answer (To Conquer Mr. Darcy/Impulse and Initiative)?  What if Darcy proposed, Elizabeth wasn't listening as they walked and he kissed her, someone saw and she's forced to marry him even though he is the last person she wants to marry (The Last Man in the World)?

In Mr. Darcy's Obsession:  Before Darcy has a chance to propose Elizabeth is called home because her father is sick.  Mr. Bennet passes away Jane is forces to marry a local milliner and Elizabeth goes to live with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner.  Fast forward about 2 years.  Darcy can't get Elizabeth out of his mind--he's obsessed.  He hears from Bingley, who has news that Elizabeth lives in London.  Darcy's sunk.  He goes through some covert efforts to be able to catch a glimpse of her, including hiring a local street urchin, a spitfire of a lad named Charlie.  Darcy discovers Elizabeth takes daily walks in Moorsfield park and 'accidentally' runs into her one day.  They walk together and renew their acquaintance and begin to fall in love with one another, each believing the other couldn't possibly feel the same way.

Mr. Darcy's Obsession was a light, quick read.  What I enjoy about Ms. Reynolds' work is that she is able to capture Jane Austen's style with ease.  As a reader, I am drawn in quite quickly and it feels as if the characters are just picking up right where they left off (in whatever part of the P&P story Reynolds starts her own story).  Darcy feels like, well, Darcy.  Elizabeth, feels like, well, Elizabeth.  (Ok, for Elizabeth it's most of the time, sometimes she is a little clueless and at various points in the P&P variations I've wanted to give her a whap on the back of her head, but otherwise...)  Overall, a delightful read that offers another path to falling in love for Darcy and Elizabeth.

5 Bonnets out of 5.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

In late September, I had the honor of attending an author visit for the all school read at one of the high schools in my school district.  The author was Patrick Ness.  The book, the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy--The Knife of Never Letting Go.  I was a poor visitor--I had just started the book and had not finished it.  But shortly after hearing him talk at one of the almost all school assemblies (I think they had him do 2 or 3 talks because not everyone fit into the auditorium) and having the privilege to have lunch with him with the other school media specialists, I gobbled up not just the KoNLG, but the entire Chaos Walking trilogy!!  My husband and I even jockeyed for who got to read the book because we both had our own bookmarks in the books.  (Btw, husband won!  I gave in and he finished before me.)

For a fast-paced science fiction read that will make you think--read this series!  Here's the premise for The Knife of Never Letting Go direct from the author's website:
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

This series is about information overload and how the humans on this alien planet deal with the information overload.    One of the main characters describes it this way, "That's what New World is.  Informayshun, all the time, never stopping, whether you want it or not. The Spackle knew it, evolved to live with it, but we weren't equipped for it.  Not even close.  And too much infromayshun becomes just Noise.  And it never, never stops."

New world is a place where lies and truths are garbled together in Noise, and Todd must decipher what is what:  "It's a fantasy, a lie, but the lies of men are as vivid as their truths and I can see every bit of it."  The Noise grabs you--literally as a text feature that jumps off of the page. Who said what?

It's a coming of age story, a love story, a story of survival, with some aliens (Spackle) thrown in who have their own story.  It is a whirlwind of activity and you won't stop until you put it down.

Of note:  The Knife of Never Letting Go won the Guardian Award in 2008 (Comparable to the US's Newbery, this award is for British authors with works published in the UK.)  It was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2009 (Comparable to being a Newbery Honor Book, this award is also for an outstanding children's or YA book published and is sponsored by the equivalent of the US's ALA).The Ask and the Answer (Book 2 in Chaos Walking) was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal last year.   In other words--high acclaim.  Worth a read! :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

For Christmas 2009 I received a copy of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  I had never read it before.  It was one of those titles that, as a librarian, I knew it should have read.  Knew that I should read--someday.  One that I remember friends reading in junior high and high school.  It's on so many all-time great reading lists, I felt like I must have been missing something.

If you know me, you know that sometimes my reading pile gets a bit out of control and unfortunately this lovely work got lost in the shuffle during 2010.  I finally picked it up in September and then decided I should find an audio CD of it for fear I would never finish it. So, at long last, I listened to Betty Smith's classic tale of childhood. (And, ahem, I did finish listening to it prior to Thanksgiving, but blogging about it, got lost in the shuffle, too.)

Two key thoughts struck me from reading this book.

1. It is one of the most beautifully written pieces of prose that I have ever read.  In my copy of the book, author Anna Quindlen answers the question "What is the book about?" by stating in the foreward: "The best anyone can say is that it is a story about what it means to be human." It is eloquent and real.  Descriptions feel so vivid that the world of pre-WWI Brooklyn lives.  Its smells and sounds, its dirt, its harsh realities--they are alive in Smith's writing.  Quindlen also notes, "There is little need for embellishment in these stories; their strength is in the simple universal emotion they evoke." And that must be something of what struck me.  The story so simple, but Smith's writing pulls you in so dramatically that you can't help but laugh and cry and feel the Nolan family's struggles.

2.  However.   Can you guess what I'm going to pick at?  And really I'm just picking at the stereotype, not the writing.  Yep, that darned librarian stereotype.  The book begins and ends with Francie visiting the local library; Francie being determined to read each and every titles in the library starting in alphabetical order by title.  Here is her interaction with the librarian at the beginning of the story:

She stood the desk a long time before the librarian deigned to attend to her. "Yes?" inquired that lady pettishly.  "This book. I want it....She took the card, stamped it, pushed it down a slot in the desk.  She stamped Francie's card and pushed it at her.  Francie picked it up but she did not go away.
"Yes?" The librarian did not bother to look up.
"Could you recommend a good book for a girl?" 
 "How old?"
 "She is eleven."
Each week Francie made the same request and each week the librarian asked the same question.  A name on a card meant nothing to her and since she never looked into a child's face, she never did get to know the little girl who took a book out every day and two on Saturday. A smile would have meant a lot to Francie and friendly comment would have made her so happy.  She loved the library and was anxious to worship the lady in charge.  But the librarian had other things on her mind.  She hated children anyhow.  
And the librarian goes on to recommend one of the same two books she recommends each time Francie asks this question. 

Oh, how this scene made my blood boil! Had I not been in the car listening to it, I could have chucked the book across the room! Ah, but that is the tried and true stereotype.  And the book was published in 1943.  And I should be a bit more forgiving.  But it irritated me and made me sad.  Mostly it made me sad because I am a children's librarian and each and every day I work hard to defeat this stereotype and connect kids to books.  That is my rant today.  Sigh...