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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Round-Up

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer: I first learned about Heyer through the (sadly, now defunct) book chats run by the Washington Post's book editor Michael Dirda, who was a big fan. Heyer is credited with starting the whole sub-genre of regency romances, and even today she is considered one of the best. The first book I read was The Corinthian (no, not that Corinthian), which I liked quite a bit. Then I read another, so tedious I can't remember the title. Devil's Cub was strongly recommended by the folks over at Smart Bitches, so that was next. I enjoyed it quite a bit; Heyer took the cliche of the love of a good woman reforming a rake of a man (it may not have been a cliche when she wrote it) and made it engaging and believable (well, believable in the context of the story).

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas: I liked Smooth-Talking Stranger so much I wanted to try Kleypas's other books, so I picked up her first contemporary, Sugar Daddy. Unfortunately, it was not nearly as good. Kleypas is a good writer, better than most of the other writers I have read in this genre, but this book felt like it was two books smushed together. The first half was a coming-of-age tale as a young girl copes with hardship and the necessity of raising her baby sister after her mother dies. The second half was a romance, where she has to choose between two suitors -- one of which appears in the first half, then disappears until the very end, the other only showing up in the second half. I think this book would have worked better had she continued to focus on the heroine's development, and let the romance remain just a subplot.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill: After reading Dracula I immediately picked up this comic collection, which features Mina after her encounter with the vampire. League teams up several fictional characters from the second half of the nineteenth century -- Mina, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Jeckyll/Hyde, and the Invisible Man (no, not that Invisible Man) -- as agents working for a mysterious man in the British government. It's a fun pastiche of nineteenth century storytelling and literature, but like all of Moore's work it is also quite dark and cynical; and as usual, being a woman in Moore's world is . . . not fun. The collection consists of the first 6-issue storyline, along with artwork, fake Victorian ads, and a prose story about Quartermain. This is an adventure tale told in a serialized format, telling of Quartermain's last adventure before joining the League, and includes Verne's Time Traveler and Lovecraft's Randolph Carter; the adventure itself draws heavily from Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos. Moore was very successful in parodying the late-nineteenth century's literary style -- too successful, because all the adjectives and dependent clausees made my eyes glaze over. There is a reason why I am not a big fan of English literature from that time period.

Thai Die by Monica Ferris: I'm a sucker for cozy mysteries, particularly those that have as their theme some sort of hobby or interest, so it should be no surprise that I like Monica Ferris's series, centered around the owner of a needlework shop in Minnesota. Fortunately, Ferris is a better writer than most in this sub-genre, and she has neatly addressed the Mystery Magnet problem by coming up with fairly decent reasons why a woman in a small town keeps getting caught up in major crimes. Like the others in the series, Thai Die was light and fun, although I did think the character who got into trouble was ridiculously naive, and I grasped what was going on a lot sooner than the characters did.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman: A longish short story for children about a boy named Odd who helps the Norse Gods reclaim Asgard from the Frost Giants. Pleasant, but not much to it.

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