Thursday, January 12, 2012

Definitely My Kind of Darcy

Definitley Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Meet Chloe Parker. She is a 39 year-old, divorced mother of one running her own antique letterpress business in Chicago. She also eats, sleeps, and breaths anything Jane Austen related. She thinks she is going to be in a documentary/competition where everyone is dressed in regency style and answers questions about Austen.

Meet Mr. Wrightman. He is an elegible bachelor owning one of the largest estates in England. He loves history, science, and bird watching. Also, women constantly fall at his handsome feet wishing to be the object of his desire. A friend of his helps him sort through the cleavage by creating a dating show where all regency customs and attire are followed to the letter.

Chloe has no idea what she's in for until she lands on the set in the lavish English countryside. If it weren't for the prize money that would help save her business, Chloe would leave for home in a rush of disgust and disappointment. She decides to stay on the show filled with beautiful, talented 20-somethings with stubborn determination.

Chloe discovers that it is not so easy being a woman of leisure in the 1800's. She finds needlepoint, riding sidesaddle, and breathing in corsets to be much harder than she originally thought. What she wouldn't do for a hot shower!

And the men! The incredibly hot, Colin Firth-style Mr. Wrightman could sweep any girl off her feet. He's the tall, dark, and handsome man of every girl's dream. Then there's his younger nerdy brother Henry. This incredibly gentlemanly (and kinda cute) doctor gets ignored by most of the contestants, but to her frustration, Chloe ends up bumping into him constantly instead of his prize of a brother.

What starts out as a business venture ends up being so much more. Follow Chloe through the last heart-pounding episode. Will she be as cutthroat as the younger contestants? Or will she discover something more valuable than the prize money?

If you enjoyed Austenland by Shannon Hale, you'll love this book. It is a perfect mix of the modern and regency worlds. You get all the romance and atmosphere that you find in Jane Austen novels with a modern twist that you can relate to. Pick it up now!

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Satire on Reality

Going Bovine

by Libba Bray

I generally like reading books that are fun and froofy or that have some kind of supernatural element about them. When I started reading this book about a loser kid with a loser life that seemed to attract nothing but loser things, I was not excited. Cameron was not an interesting character. His family was absolutely horrible. Nothing seemed to be going for this book.
Then Cameron the Loser got a fatal disease. Could it get any worse here? Where is the happy ending that I so desire? Could anything good happen in this book, please? Then something miraculous happens! Cameron loses touch with reality! This is where the book really takes off. Cameron goes on adventure after adventure searching for his own special cure.
An adventurer wouldn’t be quite as special without his trusty sidekicks, would he? Cameron has them in abundance. First, our Don Quixote finds his Dulce in the shape of a goth angel who helps lead him through his journey. Along for the ride, Cameron takes the Dwarf of Destruction, Gonzo, who ends up finding something of his own on the trip. Halfway through the journey, Balder the Norse god of wisdom who cannot be killed joins the ranks. With this set of characters, how could you go wrong?

The second half is so dramatically different from the first half that I wonder why the first half was so long. If I was just looking for a good read, I probably would have put the book down before the good part. For what it’s worth, I’m really glad I didn’t.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How much Jane Austen can I cram in here?

My lab was a practice in everyday library life. I created a book list with a librarian, made it beautiful, got it approved, and created a display of books to compliment the list. Now for details.

I went to the adult fiction section of the library I work for. Honestly, I don't have much of a clue as to who does what in the adult areas of the library. Adult meaning not the kids section where I spend my days. I found out who the supervisor was for the fiction section and talked to her about my list. She thought it would be great if I could create a list--she added a book display to go along with the list. I could definitely tackle that.

Next I went to the librarian who the supervisor said would love to work with me on the project. The librarian was fantastically kind. When I asked her for suggestions on book list topics that the library could use, she said I could choose anything. Anything, really? Yes, anything. Huh. Alright. So I asked her if I could do a Jane Austen knock-off list. She thought that was an excellent idea. After she told me the display would be up in April, I ran off to start compiling my list.

To choose the right books for my list, I started with books that I know and love in the Jane Austen spin-off world. Then I looked up those books on LibraryThing. In the recommendation
section for each of these books, I found a listing of 10 similar books. My list kept getting larger and larger, which ended up being a good thing. Not all the books would be on the list, but I would need about 60 books to fill the display enough to look good. I took this huge list and started going through the library catalog to make sure we actually had them. The list wouldn't be of much use if you couldn't find those books at the library, now would it? I pulled in most of the books on the big list from other branches so I would be able to put them out on April 1st.

The making-things-pretty part is my favorite. Next I needed to compile the list in a visually pleasing, patron-friendly list that would invite them to read as many books on the list as possible. The librarians I talked to in the fiction section used software on their home computers that I didn't have access to. So I jumped on the internet and searched the freeware out there for making fliers and brochures. My Brochure Maker turned out to be just the right site for me. It was easy to use with already laid out designs to choose from. I just needed to pop in the words and pictures and I was set.

When I was researching books, three main themes emerged in book type--sequels, spin-offs, and modern versions. The sequels continued a story from where it left off. The spin-offs changed the story a bit or looked at it from a different character's perspective. The modern versions were a modern retelling of one of Jane Austen's books. I used these categories to organize the book titles in my brochure. I chose the more popular books and series (with higher circulation) for the list. When I gave my draft of the list to the librarian, she absolutely loved it and was floored by the quality in design and book choice. She had never heard of any online brochure makers, so I made sure to tell her where I made it online so she could use it, too.

The final touches to the display were signs to get patrons interested. I created two big signs with Jane Austen's name on it to grab the attention of all Janites who might pass by. I also knew of an author visit in April that we had been given posters for. The event poster went under the Austen sign to promote even further involvement in the world of Jane Austen.

After putting up the display, I went by it periodically to replace books that had been checked out and make sure it still looked good. I originally put out 25 brochures with my book list in it. When I took it down at the end of the month, only 9 were left. The fiction librarians said that sometimes less than 5 of their lists are taken. Sixteen seems like success to me!

Here are a couple of annotations to tide you over:

Vanity & Vexation by Kate Fenton
When a big time director uses a small town in Yorkshire for her TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, a local writer has a bit to say about it. While Candia Bingham, the star of the show, falls madly for a local named John, his writer neighbor, Nicholas Llewellyn Bevan has unwittingly caught the eye of the illustrious director, Mary Dance. Sparks fly in this modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic complete with sex, money, and romance.

Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster
Create Your Own Adventure books are not just for kids! Use this books to redefine the classics you love. Will you fall for the leading man or get caught up with the villain instead? Hours of fun can be had rereading this book for different endings.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Exploring the science behind why we read fiction

Do science and the humanities mix? This article from the NY Times gives an interesting theory on why we reach for fiction:

The nod to Jane Austen in the article may add an extra bit of interest for me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What would you do if your dad was Errol Flynn?

Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


I'm not usually a romance reader. This one was given to me by my best friends. Romance novels are her guilty pleasure. She even hides them behind other books on her bookshelf so they aren't in plain sight. Actually, she told me that she was putting a lot of trust in me b/c she does NOT loan out this book. She likes to keep it close at hand for any time she might want to pick it up. With all this in mind, I went into it rather optimistically.

The book starts out in the 50s. Belinda is a very young, naive girl from Indianapolis who goes to LA in search of her one true love--James Dean. She visits studio after studio trying to get an acting gig so she could be a part of the movie world. She is glamored by any big named actor in the biz. One day she sees her beloved Jimmy in a drug store. It's rather uneventful, but at least she saw him, right? Since he dies just a few days after Belinda saw him, she thanks her lucky stars that the brief meeting occurred at all. But now that Jimmy's gone, she is a little lost in what to do with herself. By chance she meets a past-his-peak Errol Flynn, has a very brief affair with him, and is cast by the wayside. She finds out she's pregnant, but Flynn has moved on. Belinda quickly catches the attention of Flynn's French friend and gets him to marry her.

This girl is all about drama. Thankfully, most of the story is not about her, but her daughter, Fleur. Her "father" discovers how unconnected he really is with Fleur and has her sent to a French nunnery as soon as she's born. Belinda gets to visit Fleur for one vacation a year. When Fleur is in her early teens, she feels tall, lanky, and ugly with the wide features she has inherited from the father she knows nothing about. Belinda sees a tall, beautiful blond with a tremendous amount of potential. While on one of their vacations, they meet a photographer Belinda knew from her Hollywood past. The test shots she takes of Fleur are just the beginning of her star-filled career as a model and actress.

In Fleur's first film, she is paired up with an older famous actor, Jake, who has done a ton of westerns and won a Pulitzer Prize for his first play. Once she meets her love interest, the story goes up and down as I assume most romances do. Does the mother try to have an affair with Jake? Yes. Does the step-father try to have an affair with his "daughter"? Yes. Are there misunderstandings and confusion galore? Of course!

I enjoyed this book, but I think this will most likely be the only time I read it. In the 50s scenes, Phillips is a bit heavy with the name tossing. I studied theatre and television in college, so I had an understanding of the backstage workings of productions. I think it's funny how Phillips illustrates this showbiz mom going a bit far when she deifies anyone with a big name in the business. Belinda is the ultimate fan who believes no big name can do wrong. It's their right to do what (and whom) they like. Her daughter is so far the polar opposite. She's modest, down to earth, and doesn't want the attention she gets. Fleur's solid character saved me from all the drama thrown in at every possible turn. It was a good, fast, and entertaining romance.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kirkus a Classic

by Jane Austen

A woman who is slightly past her prime (at least what prime was 200 years ago) gets a second chance at love and life.

Anne Elliot is the sensible middle daughter of a once very rich and always very vain Baron who has squandered the larger part of his fortune away since his wife's death over ten years past. His circumstances have become so drear that he is forced to let his large estate to another while he and his two eldest daughters relocate to the fashionable and much less expensive Bath. To Anne's distress, her father has rented the place to the sister of Captain Wentworth, a man who proposed to her 8 years ago when he was a nobody. Anne loved him, but was persuaded to refuse him by her godmother, Lady Russell. The oldest sister, Elizabeth, decided to take a friend with her to Bath while merrily sending Anne off to stay with their hypochondriac sister, Mary, who lived close to the estate. When the two lovers meet again, one is bitter and resentful while the other is anxious and regretful. Eventually an event occurs that restores Captain Wentworth's view of Anne, but he seems to have entangled himself unwittingly in the life of another who's family expects him to marry her. Before anything can be done to remedy the situation, Anne returns to Bath where she is pursued in marriage by another dashing young man with devilish designs of his own. Scoundrels are revealed and everyone with a kind heart is paired up with another who fits them best.

An unrealistic, yet hopeful read for the fan of classic love stories.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who are we looking for?

I went into a library I've never been in before to find a good book. Unfortunately, since I work in the largest system in the area, I know most of the librarians who work in it. I went up to the desk to tell the librarian (who I knew) what I was doing. She told me there was a sub working that night, too. I hadn't met her, so I made sure the librarian I knew kept my mission a secret before starting.

When the sub finally came back to the desk, I approached her (let's call her Robin). I asked Robin if she could help me find a good book. She turned to her computer, saying, "Let's see what we can find," and then asked me to have a seat. She asked me what kind of books I liked. I told her I liked Jane Austen's books but had read them all. She turned the computer screen so I could see it as well as she could. Then she started taking me through the library website's new releases.

Really? The first thing you look at when someone says Jane Austen is New Releases??

She looked through all the new releases and didn't find anything close (who would have guessed?)

She asked me what I liked about the books. I told her that I liked the love stories and happy endings (and I don't care who knows it!) But I wasn't looking for a bodice ripper. Robin asked me if I wanted a book set in the early 1800s. I told her I liked the regency period, but it wasn't a necessity.

After asking these questions, you'd think she would do some more searching or reach for a tool. No. She took me to the stacks. Robin said that when she's looking for a good book, sometimes she just has to browse. She started picking up books that looked like they might be right. She'd read the inside cover and either put it back or pass it to me to peruse.

Somehow, she got it stuck in her head that the time period was the most important thing to find. She picked up book after book after book. Most of the ones she would show me I could tell were obviously bodice rippers just by looking at them.

After about 5 minutes of this, she took me to the front of the library to grab a copy of Book Page, a newsletter published by IMCPL. Again, it was something she usually used to find herself a book--but at least she handed me a tool! The whole thing is full of book reviews and articles. She had me look through that while we kept on browsing.

Nothing in it was for me.

Robin was determined to find me a book. We were in the stacks for well over 30 minutes. During that time we talked a lot about books and trends. She would pull something from the shelf and comment on it. She whipped out a Sookie Stackhouse book and claimed that she didn't understand the craze for vampire literature. I told her I'd read that book and liked it. She put it back on the shelf and said that's not what we're looking for. I told her it would be okay if the book had a magical element in it. She just kept on looking for what she was already looking for.

Eventually, the books she started handing me were in the time period that she was searching for, but didn't fit the love story. You know--the part I really wanted. She went from adventure to women's lives books, but they were all about struggle and challenge. Then I discovered her taste in books. Robin likes realistic books with independent women who usually end up alone. The whole interview changed from finding a good book for me, to finding a book that Robin thought was good (but in the regency era, of course!)

One of the last books she gave me was closer to what I was looking for. It's called Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold. It's about Charles Dickens' wife who had been estranged from her husband for 10 years when he finally died. She wasn't even allowed to go to the funeral. Most of the story is about how he courted her and how they fell in love. If it was only that, it would be my type of book. But it ends badly! That automatically makes it NOT my kind of book.

I told her this book would probably be okay. She was spending way too much time on me. At that point, I think she got called away to the phone and asked another librarian if she could help me with better ideas. Of course that librarian was one I knew but not well. Let's call her Patricia.

The first thing she asked me (after Robin had told her I liked Jane Austen) was if I had tried NoveList. And that, my friends, is the difference between going to a substitute public service associate and going to a librarian with an MLS. Patricia knew which resources would get her the fastest, most accurate results and she used them.

Patricia found me a book called Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death, and the SATs by Paula Marantz Cohen that was checked in at that library. She also found Persuading Annie at another branch for me. That sounded the best, so I stopped by that branch on my way home to pick it up.

I spent more than an hour in that library. I hadn't really intended on browsing the stacks for so long. (Man, was I glad I wasn't at Central!) I really just wanted something like Jane Austen. I had Prada and Prejudice and Jane Bites Back waiting for me at home. Maybe that's why I thought it took forever. I already had good options in my possession. But, it never takes me that long to help a kid find a good book while I'm at work.