I’ve been contemplating a certain change at this blog for quite a while now, and I think it’s time to finally take the plunge. On Saturday, March 15, the URL of this blog will officially become http://youbookmeallnightlong.com. It’s shorter, more streamlined, and easier to type into your Web browser of choice! So get ready, because change is coming! But don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as bad as what happened to Caesar.
I have a somewhat embarrassing confession to make: Over the past week or so, I’ve been binge-watching “Dance Academy,” an Australian TV show about teens at an elite ballet school. And even though I am about 15 years too old for the show, I kind of love it! It’s full of melodrama and teen angst, but there’s also something very sweet and sincere about it. And all the actors are extremely talented dancers as well..I’ve always been a sucker for dance movies! So for this week’s Tune in Tuesday, I’m sharing a song that has been stuck in my head since I finished watching the show: “Easy to Love” by the Jezabels. The whole cast dances to it in the Season 2 finale after one of those big dramatic tragedies that so often occur on this type of show.
And here’s the dance, if you’re interested:
In December of A.D. 1141, the Benedictine Abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury welcomes a new parish priest to Holy Cross Church in the Abbey Foregate. The former priest was a kindly old man much beloved by his parishioners, so everyone is nervous about what to expect from the newcomer. Father Ainoth soon confirms the monks’ worst fears: although he is a scholar and a scrupulously holy man, he is extremely harsh with his congregation and soon stirs up bad feeling in Shrewsbury. When his drowned corpse is found in the river near the mill, it’s up to Brother Cadfael, herbalist and amateur detective, to solve the mystery. Cadfael also acquires a new assistant, supposedly the nephew of Father Ainoth’s houskeeper, but it soon becomes obvious that the boy is more than he seems. Meanwhile, both the abbey and the town continue to be affected by the ongoing civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud.
This book is the 12th installment of the Cadfael series, and anyone who likes the series will enjoy this book as well. Once again Cadfael finds himself in the position of having to solve a murder, aid a pair of young lovers, uncover a political secret, and hide that secret from the local authorities in the interest of a higher justice. As a longtime fan of the series, I can’t help but love every Cadfael book, but I must admit that the prose does occasionally veer toward the purple end of the spectrum. Also, because Peters sticks to almost the same formula in every book, I found the plot pretty predictable. I was a bit disappointed that the murder and the political intrigue weren’t more closely connected; I thought more could have been done with certain aspects of the story to make the plot more exciting. Still, I love the series and definitely plan to read the remaining eight books. They’re wonderfully relaxing reads if you enjoy a medieval setting!
Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! I feel like I should have picked some sultry blues song, or perhaps a jazz classic. But the song I’ve had in my head all week is bouncy alterna-pop that reminds me of the kind of stuff I used to listen to in high school. And I have to admit, I still like it! So for this week’s Tune in Tuesday, here is Locksley with “Don’t Make Me Wait” — enjoy!
This book is an omnibus of short stories describing the adventures of Bertie Wooster, an amiable but dim aristocrat in early 20th-century England, and Jeeves, the consummate gentleman’s gentleman. Bertie is a friendly soul who just wants to be left alone to enjoy himself. Unfortunately, he has plenty of friends and relatives who are continually making demands on him, both financially and emotionally. His terrifying Aunt Agatha holds him in contempt, yet she is constantly trying to “improve” him and set him up with equally terrifying young females. His friend Bingo Little is always falling desperately in love with some girl or other, and for some reason he always approaches Bertie for help. Though Bertie is not overburdened with brains, he has a generous heart and usually wants to help. Good thing he has Jeeves, whose gravity and intelligence always manage to get Bertie and his friends out of whatever scrapes they’re in.
What can I say about Jeeves and Wooster that the entire world hasn’t said already? Wodehouse has a very specific style and brand of humor, and literally nobody does it better than he does. Bertie’s narrative voice is an utter joy to read, showcasing his own lack of intelligence but also satirizing the pretentious language of some popular fiction at the time. Strangely enough, his friends and family all think of him as the village idiot, but he’s probably smarter than most of his friends — definitely wiser than poor Bingo, for example! And the interplay between Bertie and Jeeves is wonderful; Jeeves always appears completely respectful and subservient, yet he dominates Bertie mercilessly (for his own good, of course!). I definitely recommend the story “Bertie Changes His Mind,” which is narrated by Jeeves and demonstrates how skillfully he is able to manipulate his employer. My one caveat is that you should pace yourself while reading this book, because the stories are all very similar and could become tedious after a while. But I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys British humor and wants a good belly laugh!
Currently reading: The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters
Books read in February:
- Alan Bradley, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
- Sarra Manning, Unsticky
- Lois Lowry, The Giver
- Matt Beynon Rees, A Grave in Gaza
- Katie Heaney, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date
- Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles
- Sarah Addison Allen, Lost Lake
- Georgette Heyer, The Spanish Bride
- P.G. Wodehouse, The World of Jeeves
Favorite: I had so many great reads this month that it’s hard for me to pick just one, but I think I have to go with The Giver. It’s a very well-written dystopian novel that reveals the flaws in its society with incredible care and precision.
Least favorite: I actually liked everything I read this month, but I’d probably say A Grave in Gaza, just because it was a little heavier than I was looking for at the time. But it’s still a very interesting book, and definitely worth reading!
Books acquired in February:
- Claudia J. Edwards, Eldrie the Healer
- Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Pulp! The Classics edition
- Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain
- B.J. Novak, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
- Emma Jane Holloway, A Study in Silks
- Sharon Kay Penman, Lionheart
Brigade-Major Harry Smith is a Rifleman in Wellington’s army, fighting Napoleon’s forces in Spain and Portugal. He participates in the Siege of Badajos, a long and drawn-out battle that results in plunder, rape, and violence when the allied British and Portuguese soldiers finally conquer the town. As Harry tries to maintain order and discipline, he is approached by two Spanish women who are seeking protection from the carnage within the city. As soon as he lays eyes on the younger of the women, Juana, he falls instantly in love with her, and she with him. Against the advice of Harry’s comrades, they marry immediately, and Juana accompanies her husband throughout the rest of the Peninsular campaign. As she “follows the drum” and experiences life as a soldier, she demonstrates the courage and fiery temperament that make her a perfect match for Harry. Together, the Smiths witness history as they eventually see Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo.
I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, but I found that I had to approach this book with entirely different expectations. Although the novel features two young, passionate lovers, it is much more about military history than it is about romance. Harry and Juana Smith were actual historical figures, and Heyer got most of her information from Harry’s journals, as well as from other comtemporary accounts including Wellington’s own dispatches. As a result, there is a lot of great historical detail in the book, but not a lot of plot or character development. While Harry and Juana are very vivid characters, their journey is not the focus of the book. I think the trick to enjoying The Spanish Bride is viewing it as a work of military history with a few romantic touches. If you approach it that way, you’ll find it very readable and entertaining. But if you go into it expecting a tale of romance and suspense with the Napoleonic Wars as a backdrop, you’ll find it extremely dull! So overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re interested in the time period, but you have to adjust your expectations.
The tiny vacation resort of Lost Lake in Suley, Georgia, means different things to different people. For Eby Pim, it’s a tangible reminder of her happy life with her now-deceased husband, George; but it’s also an increasingly burdensome property to maintain, and Eby has decided to sell it. For Eby’s longtime friend and constant companion, Lisette, Lost Lake is a refuge, and she vows she’ll never leave. And for Kate Pheris, widowed one year ago and just now waking up from her grief, Lost Lake is a memory of the best summer she ever had. When Kate impulsively decides to revisit Lost Lake with her daughter, Devin, she is immediately drawn to Eby and the other colorful inhabitants of the surrounding town. Kate and Devin’s arrival also catalyzes several important changes in Suley, including the resolution of a long-buried tragedy and the banishing of an old ghost. Eventually Kate is able to help Eby create a new future — and maybe even find one for herself.
As a longtime fan of Sarah Addison Allen, I couldn’t resist buying her newest book immediately (in hardcover, no less!) and devouring it as soon as possible. Fortunately, this book contains all of SAA’s trademark elements: a community of strong women with interconnected lives, decades-old secrets that are gradually revealed, understated romance, and a hint of magic. I especially loved the flashbacks to Eby’s life with George in Europe; they were so romantic and lavishly described that they made me want to hop on the next plane to Paris! I wasn’t terribly fond of the storyline with the alligator…I don’t want to spoil the book, so I’ll just say that the magical element was a bit too prominent for me. Overall, this is not my favorite SAA novel (that would be The Sugar Queen), but it is a lovely, relaxing read that I would definitely recommend to fans of this genre.
For the past month, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite happy, up-tempo love songs in honor of Tune in Tuesday’s Love Song Edition. But now that February is drawing to a close, I thought I’d slow things down and pick something less bouncy, more heartfelt. So this week, I give you “It’s Only Time” by the Magnetic Fields. The lead singer’s voice is…an acquired taste, but the song is really quite sweet and lovely if you give it a chance. Hope you enjoy!
This omnibus of two novels and a novella tells the story of Miles Vorkosigan’s first adventures. In The Warrior’s Apprentice, Miles has just flunked out of the Imperial Academy, where he’d hoped to distinguish himself like his father, the Prime Minister of Barrayar. Instead, he consoles himself by going on a mission to help his bodyguard’s daughter (and secret love), Elena. Of course, things quickly go wrong, and he finds himself at the head of a troop of space mercenaries. In The Mountains of Mourning, Miles is sent to a remote Barrayaran village to investigate the murder of a deformed child, a case that has special meaning for him. And in The Vor Game, Miles rejoins his army of mercenaries after a simple intelligence-gathering mission goes awry — with Gregor, the Emperor of Barrayar, in tow. Miles just can’t seem to stay out of trouble; but his brilliant strategic mind always keeps him one step ahead of his enemies.
I read the two books about Miles’ parents, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, several years ago and really liked them. So I’m glad I finally picked up these next books about the beginning of Miles’ career. I liked all three stories a lot, mostly because Miles is such a wonderfully entertaining character. In these books he’s often immature, and he still has a lot of growing up to do; but he does start to change for the better when he encounters some of the harsh realities of being a commander. Miles has a tendency to bluff his way from one situaton to the next, and he eventually learns that this approach often has dangerous consequences for his subordinates. I think the weak link in this omnibus is the first half of The Vor Game; not much happens that’s relevant to the later plot, and there is also a loose end with a corpse in a drainpipe that I wish had been more developed. But overall, I really enjoyed these books and would recommend them to anyone who likes space opera. I look forward to reading more about Miles and his adventures!