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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Do the Purists Have a Point?

I love Jane Austen novels. Not just the ones written by Jane, but also the sequels, the modern day versions, the novels from another character’s point of view. All of it. Don’t get me wrong; there are bad ones that probably should not have been written. But without the bad, we would never have the good.

Lately, I’ve been into the modern day tellings of her books. When you look for this kind of story, the ones I usually come up with are about Pride & Prejudice. I enjoy P&P immensely, but sometimes you’ve got to switch it up a bit. The most recent book I finished was Persuading Annie, a modern day version of Persuasion. I’m eagerly looking forward to the publication of Northanger Alibi by Jenni James. In it, James retells Northanger Abbey, but instead of the lead character being obsessed with gothic novels, she’s obsessed with the Twilight Saga. Priceless.

In my journey to read all the good Austen I can get my hands on, I have come across a few purists. One in particular, let's call her Liza, only reads Jane Austen's books. She doesn't touch the knock-offs and won't go near the movies. Every image of Sense & Sensibility Liza has in her head came purely from Jane Austen's words and her imagination. She's a bit extreme for my taste.

Do the rest of Jane Austen's fans lose something when they are exposed to new material? Will Colin Firth forever be Mr. Darcy to anyone who's seen the P&P movie? Is that a bad thing?

I think everyone has a right to their own opinion. I read Jane for entertainment. I love her stories and can't get enough of them. Hence, my desire to consume all the good stuff out there. Others read Austen for literary reasons. They can do whatever they like to keep the purest version of the story in their heads. Their discussions will be more accurate for it. As for me, I will continue reading whatever I like.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Persuading Annie

Persuading Annie

by Melissa Nathan

Women's Lives & Relationships/Chick Lit

I have read ma
ny, many modern versions of Pride & Prejudice, but this is my first modern version of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Melissa Nathan is a British author, so the book is filled with British phrases and culture. There's even a mild distaste of Americans (yet, somehow, a love of New York?)

As far as the plot goes, it follows Persuasion's really closely with modern situations. Annie is one of three daughters to a very wealthy, very handsome man, George. While she's in college, she thinks she's gotten pregnant by Jake, her boyfriend who she thinks might be the one. Confusion ensues and they break up. Both leave thinking they've been betrayed by the other.

The rest of the story happens seven years later. George's company is going under, so the CFO (and Annie's godmother), Susannah, hires a consulting firm to help save everything. Only Annie and her best friend, Cass, know that this company is owned by Jake.

Oh, do those two hate each other when they meet again. Jake flirts with Sophie (Annie's sister's sister-in-law) in front of Annie. Annie flirts with Edward (the company's CEO) in front of Jake. Eventually, an accident occurs with Sophie in a dark, dangerous alley and all the confusion starts to clear.

If you've read Persuasion, you know what'll happen in the end. If you haven't, what's stopping you? It's my favorite Jane Austen novel, so I'll recommend it to anyone who enjoys any of her works. Persuading Annie is a very quick, light read. You don't have to read Persuasion to enjoy it. If you like any kind of Chick Lit, this is a good choice for your next read.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea
A High Fantasy Classic

by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Cycle:
#1 A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
#2 The Tombs of Atuan (1970)
#3 The Farthest Shore (1972)
#4 Tehanu (1990)
#5 Tales from Earthsea (2001)
#6 The Other Wind (2001)

I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I saw the miniseries when it came out in 2004 and loved it. When I saw the book was in the juvenile collection of my library AND that it was written by Ursula K. Le Guin, the series gained a firm place on my to-read list. That’s right, it’s in the juvenile collection of my library. When I saw our textbook list it as a fantasy, I was overjoyed to be able to sneak in a book that would add to my knowledge of the collection I work with as well as fulfill a class assignment.

Earthsea is rather like a medieval island country with magic and dragons throughout. A young man in a teeny village discovers he has some skill with magic. He does something extraordinary to save his village and his fame spreads to a wizard on the island. The wizard, Ogion, gives the boy his true name, Ged. If he tells anyone his true name, they will have power over him, so he goes by Sparrowhawk. Ogion’s ways of teaching magic are too slow for the prentice, so the boy goes to Roke—an island with a magic school.

Being naturally very skilled at magic, Ged soon gets himself into trouble by performing a spell to bring a spirit back from the dead. He is too young and ignorant to be able to control the spell, so he ends up making a tear in the fabric of space (or something like that). The Archmage (or the Dumbledore of the story) seals the tear using up most of his power. Before he sealed it, something had a chance to escape. This shadow creature attacked Ged but got ran off. Throughout the rest of the story, Ged is chased by the shadow creature everywhere he goes. That is, until Ged decides to become the hunter instead of the hunted.

I haven’t read a lot of high fantasy before. Some of the stuff I’ve touched on has seemed a bit too much at times, reeking of melodrama. I didn’t feel that way with this one. I really liked it and intend on reading the rest of the series.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Should you read the book first?

How many times have you heard someone say that you have to read the book before watching the movie? I've heard it so many times, it's ridiculous. Good fiction is turned into good films all the time (and is made into bad films even more so).

People who say you should read the book first have their reasons. They think the imagery won't be as good; the books have more details that are "essential" to the plot; they think the true creator of the story should be praised first. The list goes on and on.

I used to be one of those people. I read the Chronicles of Narnia several times before ever seeing a movie of it. Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre--all were in my hands as a book long before my eyes saw their stories on the screen. I could argue about this thing that was only in the book or that thing that was added to the movie by the director.

As I got older and more of my time was spent doing less pleasure reading (and more textbook reading), I discovered that I didn't have time to spend the time I wanted reading a story before watching it. Watching movies based on books became a way for me to better choose my next book. If I thought the movie was bad, there was no way I would waste my time in reading the book. If I really liked the movie, the book would go on my to-read list.

To the purests out there, this may sound like blasphemy. Hopefully, this will help ease your mind. I'm a slow reader with very little time on my hands. I have read books before watching movies, so I know your point of view firsthand. I just have a new philosophy on the subject now.

I've discovered something about watching movies based on books. If I read the book before watching the movie, I almost always have a horrible time liking the movie. BUT, if I watch the movie before reading the book, I can like both of them! It's so much quicker for me to watch a movie than it is to read a book. If I like a story, I will most likely want to go back to it. Going back to the book (sadly) can be too time consuming. Watching a movie, on the other hand, takes very little time comparatively.

I have been turned on to many good books by watching movies or tv shows. Dexter, Bridget Jones' Diary, The Christmas Carol, Gone with the Wind, and The Sookie Stackhouse books were all inspired reading for me after watching them first. I loved them both as books and movies. With my time being gobbled up by priorities, I feel no shame in picking up a book that I am most certainly going to enjoy because I liked the movie first.