Posts By: Louise

If Gone With the Wind Characters Went to Hogwarts

June 25, 2016 Books 4

Because I spent so much time pondering GWTW, and because when I spend too much time rolling a thought around in my brain it inevitably rolls back around to Harry Potter somehow….

Slytherin — Scarlett O’Hara
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How can Scarlett not be Slytherin? The Sorting Hat would barely have touched her pretty little head before it shouted out “Slytherin!” — she’s more ambitious and self-centered than any Malfoy ever was. She wants every man to admire her and she wants to be the wealthiest woman on the planet, and she’ll stop at nothing to achieve either of those things, even if she hurts other people. Plus, she looks simply perfect in her favorite color, green.

Hufflepuff — Melanie Hamilton & Mammy
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If you want a loyal and hard-working character, look no further than Melanie. Melanie and Scarlett are the quintessential unstoppable #Slytherpuff pairing.

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Talk about “unafraid of toil”… and Mammy sticks with the O’Hara family for generations, even after she’s free to leave — they couldn’t possibly survive without her, and she knows it, and makes sure they know it, too. (But I do wonder whether it’s fair to sort her based on her behavior as an enslaved person… don’t you think her personality might have been different if she was born free?)

Ravenclaw — Ashley Wilkes
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The man who mystifies/fascinates Scarlett because he’d rather read or discuss philosophy than hunt and gamble with other men, who writes long troubled letters to his wife about the politics of the war he felt forced to join — this guy couldn’t be anything other than a thoughtful, knowledge-hungry Ravenclaw.

Gryffindor — Gerald O’Hara & Rhett Butler
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Gerald (Scarlett’s father) as an easy one. He’s bold and isn’t afraid to pursue whatever he likes, whether that’s a plantation of his very own or a pretty young woman from high society for a wife. But he’s also hot-headed, prone to arguments and leaping fences that he ought not to.

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Rhett, though, was really hard to sort out! First thought — Slytherin. He’s ambitious and not afraid to get his hands dirty to get what he wants, nor is he particularly bound by high society’s opinion of him. But… if he was truly ambitious in the traditional sense, wouldn’t he have finished school at West Point? Wouldn’t he have married that Charleston girl to avoid being disowned? And if he was only motivated by self interest (which is not necessarily a true Slytherin trait, but I digress), would he have gone off to join the army after the burning of Atlanta? Would he have put up with Scarlett’s nonsense for so long? I would argue that there is a strong case for Rhett to be sorted into Gryffindor.

All Hogwarts house images from hpstuffs.tumblr.com

So, tell me — would you sort these characters into different houses? What about some of the other characters from Gone With the Wind, either book or movie version?


Movie Musicals Challenge –
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

June 20, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 6

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I made the mistake of watching this film the day after I rewatched The Sound of Music.

This one does not quite live up to THAT, and in my case suffered quite badly in comparison. I remember watching this movie with my mother a couple of times as a kid. She enjoys it, but I was not at all into it at the time. I thought that perhaps my feelings for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would change now that I’m an adult. Well, I’m still just not into it — but at least now I can sort of articulate why.

First, though, let’s talk about the good stuff. After all, the film made it onto the AFI’s Top 25 Greatest Musicals list, so it must have some redeeming qualities!

Adam (the main dude character, played by Howard Keel) reminds me of a young, fit, handsome Santa. I know that sounds weird, but whatever, it’s true. Must be the red hair and the old-fashioned haircut/beard — don’t believe that poster image up above; the color version of this film gives Adam red hair + he starts off with a full beard. And I have to admit my L-O-V-E for Howard Keel’s voice. The man can sing.

The ultra-athletic dancing & fight scenes are also great. The studio actually hired mostly professional dancers rather than actors to play the brothers and their brides, and I have to applaud this choice. Thinking about it now, I kind of want to go ahead and rewatch a bunch of the dance scenes just to sigh over the choreography.

The scenery was not done particularly well, but again, I watched this just after finishing a film where the scenery was A+++ top notch amazing, so perhaps I’m not being fair. Milly (the main lady character, played by Jane Powell) has the most boring songs and — now this really is petty — her bright orange-pink lipstick was distractingly anachronistic (#makeupnerdproblems, #historicalcostumingnerdproblems). But, again, the dancing was SO GREAT that I could easily have overlooked this stuff if it hadn’t been for the particularly grating storyline.

This is where a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but I could not get past the grossness of the plot:

Bros want gals to cook/keep house/get sexy for them, bros can’t get gals to volunteer for this duty, so bros KIDNAP said gals, but really it’s fine because they’re totally nice guys, then Stockholm syndrome sets in and the gals decide that this is fine, meanwhile the one actually-married bro abandons his pregnant wife for the entire winter because she yelled at him for KIDNAPPING PEOPLE and he’s too much of a manchild to apologize, and anyway when the rescuers finally show up they elect to leave the gals in the hands of the kidnappers because one of them had a baby therefore they have all been deflowered and are ruined unless they marry the bros.

What the everloving heck? This is SO GROSS. Can we just acknowledge that no amount of cute puppy eyes and sad (yet totally on-beat) Lonesome Polecat stuff and impressive dance moves will change the fact that it is basically a subtly misogynistic retelling of the Rape of the Sabine Women (referenced several times in the show itself)? Even as a little kid this whole thing bothered me.

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Does this musical deserve a spot on the AFI’s list? Probably. Do I have to personally like it? Nope nope nope. I vaguely remember enjoying this as a stage play done by a small theater company ages ago, though I can’t at all remember when/where. Perhaps they did a better job of playing up the funny bits and smoothing over the more troubling themes.

Tell me — do you like or dislike this musical movie? Or have you seen a cool version of it on stage? I’d love to hear some other opinions on this!


Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

June 19, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 3

Subtitled: Your Fav is Problematic, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Book

Gone With the Wind was originally published 80 years ago this month, so it seemed like a good time to tackle it for my Classics Club reading challenge.

Hold on to your hoop skirts, because this book review is going to be a bit different from my usual short’n’sloppy fare.

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Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell | 1936 | Scribner| Hardcover $30

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s epic love story is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and its people forever changed. At the heart of all this chaos is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O’Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

Where to start with this one?

If I was friends with Gone with the Wind on Facebook, our relationship status would be “It’s Complicated” …


It’s well-loved for a reason.

It’s beautifully written, with a near-perfect balance between character development, interesting plot, and atmospheric scenery. The pace never lags and no detail feels extraneous. I felt immersed Scarlett’s world, in the last days of the Confederacy and its Reconstruction. It was such a unique, strange place & time, simultaneously lavish and brutal, elegant and savage — it’s no wonder that so many people are fascinated by Southern plantation culture and the details of life before/during the Civil War as well as the war itself.

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Scarlett herself, though not precisely likeable, is well-developed and interesting. This book might even be a master class in making a basically narcissistic, mean-spirited and shallow character into someone that the reader can actually sympathize with + care about… even if she never freakin’ learns, the daft woman.

Many of her “co-stars” are well-developed and interesting, too — perhaps more interesting, but of course the story is all from Scarlett’s point of view and will therefore always be focused mainly on herself. Melanie and Scarlett together make quite the formidable pair of Southern Belles, and their friendship (such as it is, given Scarlett’s narcissism) is one of my favorite non-romantic relationships in literature.

BUT. The book is not without problems. I don’t know if it can stand on literary merit alone, and those problems deserve some discussion.


Popular things can be (and often are) problematic.

I’ve seen or heard this book called the literary equivalent of the Confederate flag, and even though I don’t want that to be true because it would mean that something I enjoyed/respected is downright bad, I can easily see why it may be viewed this way. Even though several of my own ancestors fought for the Confederacy and I try to respect the history of the South for what it is (painful as it is), I cannot condone modern use of the stars & bars flag because of its continued association with racist ideals.

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The glorification of the Antebellum South is extremely problematic, erasing as it does the suffering of literally millions of enslaved people in favor of rosy nostalgia for a kind of American nobility that lived on mint juleps and among magnolia trees. (And I can’t lie; that very atmosphere is one of the most appealing parts of the pre-war section of this book.) Should Gone With the Wind be treated the same way as the Confederate flag — as a relic of an embarrassing past, to be remembered but not revered?

Or, as a piece of work that has not only outlived but thrived well beyond its expected lifespan, should we be more forgiving of its quirks? After all, the story at its base is a kind of nihilistic coming-of-age tale, and it does not shy away from nastiness nor encourage many warm fuzzy feelings. If it doesn’t manage to address all the cruelties of slavery and war, well, that might simply be a function of its concentration on the life of one particularly self-centered character who, as complicated and problematic person herself, did not recognize all those cruelties.


Historical books deserve a little leeway.

By ‘historical books’, I mean both historically important AND fiction set in historical time periods. Gone With the Wind is included in both categories, having stood the test of time in the literary canon, and with the story being set approximately 70 years prior to the publication of the book itself.

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After all, adults who read this novel when it was first published in the late 1930’s had grandparents who lived through the Civil War & Reconstruction. In fact, we are farther removed now from the publication of Gone With the Wind than readers in 1936 were removed from the War Between the States. The equivalent for the modern reader might be a book set during WWII, from the perspective of a German or Japanese person. Such a book would no doubt be disturbing to read in some ways, but it might also offer interesting insight into the lives of people who experienced a devastating war and the total destruction of their culture.

Furthermore, the book itself is of historical importance. It won a Pulitzer in 1937 and inspired a hugely successful film that won 10 Academy Awards. To reject it outright as a relic of the past is to ignore the huge impact the book had on the culture of its own time period.


Historical leeway doesn’t make the bad parts any less cringe-worthy.

Subtitled: SO MUCH N-WORD HAPPENING WHY

Let’s go back to that example of a WWII historical fiction for the modern reader as a comparison to Gone With the Wind for its original audience. If the book was set in Germany, one might expect that it would include pejorative terms for Jewish people, or Polish or French or British people. Or perhaps it would have all the Jewish characters speaking some form of pidgin Yiddish. Those kinds of things are upsetting, especially in this historical context, and many readers might be upset at their inclusion, historical accuracy be damned. It is a fiction book, after all,and the author is choosing to use derogatory language about a severely abused group of people. But: is the author actually racist, or is she just aping the language/attitude of that place at that time?

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Is Mitchell’s somewhat upsetting, certainly patronizing treatment of her black characters a reflection of her own views, or an attempt at historical accuracy? Or, perhaps, both? Perhaps historical context necessitates some forgiveness on the part of the present-day reader. And yet, when that historical context includes racist language, or more complicated issues like the encouragement of the devoted and coddled near-family slave trope in the form of Mammy and other slave characters, how far should that forgiveness extend?


But sometimes you just have to accept (and even love?) a thing for what it is, warts and all.

Complications and ambiguity are just part of life and human history, and are necessarily going to be part of a story about a very imperfect person’s life during any historical time period. Yes, even in fiction — in fact, I think complications and ambiguity can be a sign of good fiction.

In the end, I’ve decided to go with my gut and just accept that I enjoyed reading Gone With the Wind. It’s simply an engaging story and, because the story centers on a purposefully problematic main character, I’m inclined to give the author the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the problems of derogatory terms + condescending treatment of slaves.

I also have to accept that being able to enjoy this book may be in itself a function of white privilege. Did my own ancestors’ privilege as descendants of Europeans instead of Africans in the slavery-dependent South before the Civil War echo down the years to confer upon me the privilege of being able to enjoy this book in the present, a century and a half after slavery was abolished in our country? Probably, which is why I think it is important to address my misgivings about the book here, & to absolutely avoid the temptation of Old South glorification.

This is the third time I’ve read Gone With the Wind. I was a child the first time I read it, which was soon after seeing the movie version. It was one of the first “grown-up” novels I ever read, and I loved it with the kind of uncomplicated love that only a child who has never directly or even indirectly experienced racism or the destruction of one’s home/entire culture can feel. I thought it was a lovely story about a plucky girl in fantastic dresses who didn’t care what anyone thought of her — because I was a little budding feminist, & I somehow managed to admire Scarlett because I imagined her story was all about fighting The Man. (Plus, I had a little crush on Rhett.) When I read it again several years later, as an undergrad whose eyes had been freshly opened to the actual history of the Civil War and racism in America in general, I was disgusted. Why was this book so popular; couldn’t people see how horrible it was, how horrible Scarlett herself was? I had not yet learned how to enjoy reading about “unlikable” characters, or how to handle the guilt of my own ancestors’ misdeeds. (Although I still had the tiniest bit of a crush on Rhett.)

I’m glad I chose to read it a third time. I can see now why I admired Scarlett as a kid: she was outspoken, flirtatious, strong-willed, and generally fancy — all of the things I wasn’t. And even though I’m still disturbed by certain aspects of the book, I guess I’ve learned to accept those flaws as parts of the overall-worthwhile whole. (And I’m still rather charmed by that scamp Rhett, to be honest.)

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Gone With the Wind is, I think, a good book/movie to have in a COLLECTION of other books and media about/set during the Civil War. It’s a good work in an of itself, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it should stand on its own as a singular perspective on life in the Old South. Here are a few other options for starters:

  • Mercy Street (2016 TV series, PBS)
  • Roots (1977 TV series, ABC; based on novel of the same name by Alex Haley)
  • Jezebel (1938 film, Warner Bros.)
  • Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
  • Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone ed. by John Q. Anderson
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Haven’t read yet; on my next Classics Club list)
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs (Haven’t read yet; on my next Classics Club list)

And check out these links for some other perspectives:

Got your own opinions? Gone With the Wind does invite a lot of criticism as well as praise, and I’d love to hear what you think. Talk to me!


Publication information: Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind. New York: Scribner, 1964. Print.
Source: Personal library.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Chocolate Wars
by Deborah Cadbury

June 18, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

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★ ★ ★

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury | January 2010 | PublicAffairs | Paperback $16.99

In the early nineteenth century the major English chocolate firms — Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury — were all Quaker family enterprises that aimed to do well by doing good. The English chocolatiers introduced the world’s first chocolate bar and ever fancier chocolate temptations — while also writing groundbreaking papers on poverty, publishing authoritative studies of the Bible, and campaigning against human rights abuses. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and the Americans, the English capitalists met their match. The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth.

I asked for this book for Christmas because one of my favorite nonfiction foodie books is The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner, and I thought it might be interesting to read about the history of the chocolate business from the perspective of the Brits. The Emperors of Chocolate is still my preferred title in this chocolatey genre, but I’d say that if you’re really interested in the history of the world’s favorite food you ought to try to get your hands on BOTH of these books.

And yes, the author is from THAT Cadbury family. Curiosity about her own family history is what prompted her to begin investigating/writing this book, actually. But I think she does a fair job of representing the stories of other English (& European, & American) chocolate-making families/firms. The history of chocolate as a foodstuff in general is fascinating, and made even more so when you get to “know” the people who made it into a global gazillion-dollar business.

The last third or so of the book wasn’t quite as entertaining as the first parts. I enjoyed reading about the Quaker families who took chocolate from a luxury (and sometimes highly adulterated) drink to the kind of household confection we’re familiar with today. But the latter part of the story is all about the modern corporate food world, and it turns a bit dry and even a bit more depressing. The subject is no longer chocolate and plucky industrialists; it’s globalization and out-of-control-capitalism. I found myself wishing that the book had ended just a few chapters earlier.

Still, it’s a pretty good foodie history story. I enjoyed Cadbury’s writing enough that I’ll be on the lookout for her other history nonfiction titles — she’s written some quite interesting-looking books!


Links:


Publication information: Cadbury, Deborah. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. New York: Public Affairs, 2010. Print.
Source: Gift.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Backlist Love | Two Brandon Sanderson Novels

June 11, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.

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Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2009)

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2005)

Warbreaker

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people. By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished.

Elantris

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Why I liked them

I’m a sucker for high fantasy stories with well-developed magic systems and plucky heroines, and Sanderson always delivers. Usually my favorite stories are published as doorstopper series, so these are somewhat unique on my shelves in that they’re stand-alone books. They’re both “Cosmere” novels (set in the umbrella universe that encompasses most of Sanderson’s fantasy books), but I don’t think you have to know anything about the author’s other series to be able to enjoy these.

I picked them up after I finished reading the Wheel of Time series, which Brandon Sanderson completed after its original author (Robert Jordan) passed away. I was impressed by this new-to-me author’s work, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get invested in another big fantasy series right away, so I tried these two stand-alones first instead — and I’m so glad that I did.

Who I’d recommend them to

TBH, I’d recommend the Mistborn series to Sanderson virgins first — Elantris was his first published novel, and Warbreaker was actually an experimental self-pub’d e-book project before the final version was released in paper format, and I do think that the Mistborn books represent a significant maturing of the author’s storytelling skills compared to these other two books.

But if you, like me, would prefer not to invest in a series right off when you can get a little taste of the author’s style/quality instead, by all means start with Elantris. I promise you’ll want to try Warbreaker (which is FREE in e-book format on the author’s website!!!) and Sanderson’s other books after that, too. And if you’re already a Sanderson fan, what are you waiting for?

Links

Warbreaker

Elantris

backlistlove_redux

The Season
by Jonah Lisa and Stephen Dyer

June 10, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 1

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★ ★ ★ ★

The Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer | July 2016 | Viking Children’s| Hardcover $17.99

She can score a goal, do sixty box jumps in a row, bench press a hundred and fifty pounds… but can she learn to curtsey?

Megan McKnight is a soccer star with Olympic dreams, but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters in the 2016 Dallas debutante season, she’s furious — and has no idea what she’s in for. When Megan’s attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, she’s got a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family.

I received a copy from the publisher via Edelweiss for review.

This is a fun, modern take on Jane Austen’s timeless classic Pride and Prejudice. Highly recommended for fans of the popular YouTube series The Lizzie Bennett Diaries or Clueless, or just for anyone who likes contemporary YA fiction about spunky gals getting into trouble in improbable ways. And it would probably make a good beach/poolside choice, if you’re looking for a bit of cute summer reading.

This, for me, was a something of a palate cleanser between some brain-demanding nonfiction and a heavy duty fiction classic, so I worry that my view might be biased. I wanted something fun and quick and familiar, and this book delivered. But then, how impossible is it for a book review to not be biased in some way? So I’ll simply tell you that I enjoyed this book and let you decide for yourself whether or not you trust my opinion.

The Season is not a book that’s aiming to teach the reader big life lessons, nor is it one-of-a-kind as either a P&P re-telling or a contemporary YA romance (unless the reader is actually entirely ignorant of the story upon which it’s based, in which case I don’t think this book should serve as a replacement for the original). If you take Austen super seriously and couldn’t bare to see her beautiful prose defiled, give this one a miss. But if you think “Pride and Prejudice, but with disgustingly rich Texas cattle/oil barons and 21st century college kid mores” sounds like a good time to you, well, put this title on your to-read list!


Links:


Publication information: Dyer, Jonah Lisa and Stephen Dyer. The Season. New York: Viking Children’s, 2016. EPUB file.
Source: ARC provided by Publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik

June 9, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 2

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik | March 2006 | Del Rey | Paperback $7.99

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When his ship captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.

Again with the dragon books, I know. I CAN’T HELP IT, I’M GOING THROUGH A PHASE OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, I picked this book up at just the right time, because the 9th and final book in the series is coming out in just a few days. I’ve been madly reading the rest of the series over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been gloooorious.

TBH, I’d heard about this book a couple of years ago but the blurb didn’t sound all that interesting to me (What do I care about early 19th century warfare? Nothing, that’s what) so I skipped it. But then Kritika posted a really positive review of it over at Snowflakes & Spider Silk, and I just had to try it. The mass market paperback box set of the first 3 books was going for pretty cheap, so that’s what I started with. And right now I’m working my way through book six, so obviously it turned out to be worth the “investment” haha.

The main human character, Captain Laurence, starts out as, let’s be honest, a bit of a dick. He’s a stiff, rather snobby upperclass Englishman who is suddenly thrown into a very different life when a baby dragon, Temeraire, adopts him and forces him to leave the Navy in favor of the dragon-based equivalent of the Air Force. To complicate matters, his young be-winged beastie is a tad bit mutinous and begins to grow into some kind of early 1800’s version of a teenaged social justice warrior. They’re quite a pair!

I wavered between 4 and 5 stars for this one. The book by itself feels incomplete, more like a set-up for the storylines that follow than the kind of series starter than can stand all on its own. But I’m giving it 5 stars because it was ultimately so enjoyable that I immediately wanted to go on reading the rest of the Temeraire books, which have not (so far) disappointed me.


Links:


Publication information: Novik, Naomi. His Majesty’s Dragon. New York: Del Rey Books, 2006. Print.
Source: Purchased.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Summer Reading for Grown-Ups

June 6, 2016 Books, Geekery, Library Life 4

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This is the first year since I started working as a librarian that I’m not in charge of any summer reading programs. No events to plan, no kiddos to wrangle, no posters to put up, no prizes to give out. It’s just me & my own books this summer.

Which is why I wanted to join up with my own neighborhood library’s adult summer reading club. It’s a pretty simple set-up: if you read 10 books or go to 10 events or do a combo of 10 books/events, you get a little pin (and bragging rights, natch). If you hit 20, you get library-themed SHOELACES. I am bound & determined to get me those dang shoelaces, if only to say that I won library-themed shoelaces because I read a ridiculous number of books.

Another nearby public library has a weekly drawing that only requires a title of a book you’ve read for the entry form. The prize is a custom bag (not sure what “custom” means in this case — maybe something with the library logo or decorated with the summer reading program theme). I actually used to work at this library and I know the folks there who are running this program are pretty dang cool. But I don’t remember whether you have to be a city resident to participate, and I’m not anymore, so I do need to check on that….

Not every public library does SRC stuff for grown-ups. The one where I used to work (diff. from the bag one above) gave up on it after years of low attendance/participation. They had other stuff going on for the grown-ups, though. My own focus was mostly on the teen events, which could be anything from making slime to watching anime to irreverently “decorating” the statue of the library founder (he wouldn’t have really minded, I don’t think). The branch closest to our new neighborhood doesn’t really have any events for adults that will fit into my schedule, though, so I guess if I want those shoelaces I better get to reading.

Anyway… anyone else out there doing their library’s summer reading programs for adults? What is your goal & what kind of prizes are you aiming for?


Movie Musicals Challenge –
The Sound of Music

June 4, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 0

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Um, I am way they hey behind on my Movies Musical Challenge right now! SHAME.

Anyway, I actually watched (well, re-watched) The Sound of Music a month or so ago, and am only now getting around to writing a little something about it. At least I took notes at the time, right? And I’m very glad that I did spend an afternoon with this movie because I was reminded again why it has always been one of my favorite musicals.

I forgot how beautiful the scenery is. The aerial views of the Alps in the opening scene are especially impressive, just unbelievably gorgeous. And the Austrian town/countryside, too. The cinematography in general is amazing. I have to say that this is one of those shows that has just been done so well as a movie that no live stage play can really compare — although I have seen a couple of very entertaining stage versions of it.

I’d also forgotten how snarky the Captain is at first and how silly all the crying at the first dinner was. There are some very funny lines + scenes in this film; it isn’t all just epic music and anti-Nazi sentiment. Although there is plenty of that, too, both on purpose and accidental. I mean, I know that the “You are 16, going on 17” scene/song is supposed to be cute and romantic, but really it’s a bit creepy the way Rolf calls Liesl “little girl” and treats her like one, too, while at the same time being super flirty. Oh, well, the associated dance sequence was lovely and quite athletic, so I suppose I can’t be too critical.

The children are generally adorable without being too sickly-sweet (always a danger in old movies — or heck, even modern ones). Their little German costumes were especially charming. Yes, German, because even though they lived in Austria they were culturally German, which is a big part of why the Nazis took over the area, and anyway the whole history of the thing is quite complicated but also fascinating, if you like that sort of thing (and I do).

You have to appreciate The Sound of Music not only for its impressive soundtrack, but for telling the based-on-a-true-story story of non-Nazi Germans during WWII. ‘Edelweiss’ is incredibly sad in this context. Of course the song was invented for the film, but the flower was a cultural symbol for the people of the Alps well before that.

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Watching the movie again was like seeing an old friend. Though the particulars of her face might be forgotten over the years, she is instantly recognizable and it is as though no time has passed at all.


A Natural History of Dragons
by Marie Brennan

June 3, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan | February 2013 | Tor | Paperback $15.99

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

File this one under ‘W’ for: Why Did It Take Me So Long To Get Around to Reading This?

I’ve been on a bit of a dragon book kick lately, rereading Seraphina and a handful of Pern books and tackling the Temeraire series for the first time (instead of working on any of my reading challenges or finishing up some ARCs like a good little book blogger should). I’m quite glad I picked this one up, too.

It has 4 of my Achilles heels (yes, I have more heels than I have feet) when it comes to fantasy stories: dragons (obviously); a plucky, smart, no-nonsense heroine; a kind of alternate-history setting; and a healthy dose of science! The story is told in the style of a memoir, and Lady Trent is an excellently-built character and convincing narrator. To be clear, this is not so much a book about dragons as it is about the early years of a young naturalist’s career. This was all the more interesting to me because the young naturalist in question is a woman in a world very much like Victorian England (albeit one with fantastical creatures), where she’s expected to develop ladylike hobbies and leave the science to the boys. Dragons do play a big part in this, but the book really focuses on Lady Trent’s first adventure into a strange land in pursuit of knowledge, and the mysterious/violent — yet very human — happenings there.

I also have to put in a good word about the illustrations by Todd Lockwood. Elegant and detailed, these “sketches” really add an extra oomph to the book that pushed it firmly into 5-star territory for me.

I will absolutely be picking up the next book or 2 in the series ASAP!


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Publication information: Brennan, Marie. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent. New York: Tor Books, 2013. Print.
Source: Gift.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.