Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marian the Librarian Strikes a Pose

Now why the heck didn't they call me?

I am clearly one of those hipster librarians that's turning the old stereotype of the stuffy, shushing librarian on its head.

Right now, I'm wearing these shoes, this skirt, and this top. And there is not a bun in sight.

Then again, I do so love my bun.

Slightly Sinful

"Reading in bed is a self-centered act, immobile, free from ordinary social conventions, invisible to the world, and one that, because it takes place between the sheets, in the realm of lust and sinful idleness, has something of the thrill of things forbidden."
-- Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (page 153)

I honestly did not get much out of my summer course, but I did find that quote in one of the books.

One of my favorite activities is reading in bed. There is rarely a night that goes by where I do not read at least a few pages before going to sleep. In fact, there have been a number of nights where I've had to force myself to put down my book and turn out the light. Then again, there are also days I ignore this piece of logic and stay up reading on a work night far later than I should. I tend to bless my automatic coffee maker the next morning.

In the past, I used to spend at least a few hours every weekend, curled up in bed, reading. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I remember reading a romance novel (Jude Deveraux's Knight in Shining Armor) my mom suggested. The day was wet and dreary - but the weather provided a nice breeze when the windows were open. My bed was right by the window, so the breeze blew across my legs and the aroma and sound of the rain created the perfect reading atmosphere. After lunch, I curled up against my pillows, cracked open the cover of the book, and started reading. The day grew to night, and I just sat there, flipping the pages, enjoying myself immensely. After finishing the novel, I went downstairs for dinner feeling more relaxed and refreshed than I had in weeks.

Sadly, I've rarely had a day to curl up and read like that since then. I miss my lazy weekend days, I always feel like there is something I should be doing. Maybe I should make a pact with myself to read in bed a bit more often.

Monday, July 30, 2007

No Talkies!

Totally stole this from that glorious website I Can Has Cheezburger.

Every day since July 21st, I've seen someone on the metro reading the final Harry Potter. It makes me giddy to see where they are in the book and I find it most difficult to not discuss the story with them. In order to appease my voracious need to converse, my roommate Beth has arranged (yes, at another friend's apartment) a Harry Potter discussion.

Chinese takeout, homemade ice cream pie, wine, and Harry Potter. How was a Tuesday night ever better?

Book 42: Lord of the Nile

TITLE: Lord of the Nile
AUTHOR: Constance O'Banyon
STARTED: July 25, 2007
FINISHED: July 26, 2007
PAGES: 321
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: General Tausret, otherwise known as Lord Ramtat, of the house of Tausret, emerged from Caesar's tent and paused for a moment to survey the devastation the Roman army had left upon the land.

SUMMARY: [From a barnesandnoble.com review]In 47 BC having suffered severe injuries at the Pharsalus Battlefield in Greece, General Tausret knows he is finally going home to Egypt where he is known as Lord Ramtat. Meanwhile in Egypt, a dying Lord Mycerinus informs his beloved daughter Lady Danae that he is not her biological father although he loves her as if she was his blood. He also warns her that he no longer will be able to protect her from his heir her cousin Harique, who will want her as his personal slave to abuse.

Saying goodbye to her father, she flees by sea to obtain the protection of the Egyptian king, but a Roman soldier Ramtat boards her vessel. When the king fails her, she flees again, but this time a sheik captures her. Ramtat feels enslaved by his “prisoner” as all he wants to is kiss her senseless. However, he first must uncover the insidious thugs planning to assassinate Queen Cleopatra who are planning to frame his beloved Danae.

REASON FOR READING: I needed a romance and had just picked this one up at Giant.

THOUGHTS: If Danae had said, "It is the same with me" one more time, I was going to throw the book across the room. I think that's her only line of dialog - and it's repeated over and over and over. It was rather annoying.

As much as I love romance novels set in ancient Egypt, this one was a huge downfall. I'm all for alternative views and stories in history, but this one was just absurd. You either completely change history or go along with what we know - you don't, like O'Banyon, go for the middle of the road. Making that decision just muddles the story.

The writing and characters were flat on the whole - but there were a few cheek warming moments that made the read not a total loss.

MISCELLANEOUS: The cover model looks like he's wearing hip hugging jeans.

RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book 41: A Natural History of the Romance Novel

TITLE: A Natural History of the Romance Novel
AUTHOR: Pamela Regis
STARTED: I have no idea.
FINISHED: July 24, 2007
PAGES: 225
GENRE: Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: This book defines the modern romance novel written in English and traces its development from 1740 through the 1990s.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The romance novel has the strange distinction of being the most popular but least respected of literary genres. While it remains consistently dominant in bookstores and on best-seller lists, it is also widely dismissed by the critical community. Scholars have alleged that romance novels help create subservient readers, who are largely women, by confining heroines to stories that ignore issues other than love and marriage.

Pamela Regis argues that such critical studies fail to take into consideration the personal choice of readers, offer any true definition of the romance novel, or discuss the nature and scope of the genre. Presenting the counterclaim that the romance novel does not enslave women but, on the contrary, is about celebrating freedom and joy, Regis offers a definition that provides critics with an expanded vocabulary for discussing a genre that is both classic and contemporary, sexy and entertaining.


THOUGHTS: This book made me even more interested in romance novels. I've always been a fan and knew they were more literature than trash, but Regis actually broke down the literary make-up for the romance novel. It was awesome.

I was grew more than a little bored when Regis decided to analyze book by book and author by author. When she was discussing romance novels as a genre, however, it was a fun read.

MISCELLANEOUS: My TBR list just keeps growing

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 40: Virgin: The Untouched History

TITLE: Virgin: The Untouched History
AUTHOR: Hanne Blank
STARTED: July 7, 2007
FINISHED: July 23, 2007
PAGES: 290
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: As I worked on this book, I joked with friends that I was going to give it the subtitle Everything You Think You Know About Virginity is Wrong.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.

From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we even care about it in the first place. She tackles the reality of what we do and don’t know about virginity and provides a sweeping tour of virgins in history—from virgin martyrs to Queen Elizabeth to billboards in downtown Baltimore telling young women it’s not a “dirty word.” Virgin proves, as well, how utterly contemporary the topic is—the butt of innumerable jokes, center of spiritual mysteries, locus of teenage angst, popular genre for pornography and nucleus around which the world’s most powerful government has created an unprecedented abstinence policy. In this fascinating work, Hanne Blank shows for the first time why this is, and why everything we think we know about virginity is wrong.

REASON FOR READING: I saw a review somewhere and was rather intrigued.

THOUGHTS: It was fun to read this book in public. People always did a double take when the saw the title on the spine. Blank pulls together the most random and fascinating facts about virginity and the culture of sex. Her writing is a bit scattered, but it's always straightforward and understandable. I'm very thankful that Blank stayed away from making this a completely academic book. She could have simply gathered facts and droned on about what they mean. Joyfully for me, she did not. Instead she takes virginity and the "virgin" culture and discusses how one impacts the other. While I wish certain passages had been more in depth, on the whole the vignettes Blank writes are simply fascinating. She has put together for of a social anthology than anything else, but it works well.

MISCELLANEOUS: I didn't giggle once.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More? or, are you sick of me yet

I was wondering if we would get more of the Wizarding world. I'm happy to say that we are, at least according to this article on MSNBC.com. Rowling also reveals a few other tidbits (like who she gave a reprieve to in the final book).

I'm all for a Harry Potter encyclopedia (Harry Potter and the Reference Book?).

J.K., dah-link, get on that will ya. I finished Book 7, I need something to keep me occupied.

Accio YouTube Video!

I stole this from my friend Katie's blog. It is awesome and addictive.

Waldemart is Evil!

For those who hate Wal-Mart (they are evil) and love Harry Potter:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Book 39: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling
STARTED: July 21, 2007
FINISHED: July 21, 2007
PAGES: 759 <--- In only ten hours of reading time. GENRE: Fantasy / Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com - and, yes, this is all they give you] Don't miss the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's bestselling Harry Potter series!


THOUGHTS: I cannot, in good conscience, give a real review of this book. That's for two reasons: I don't want to ruin the series for those who have not finished reading the story and I am far too biased. I've grown so in love with this series and it's characters that I could not actually ever dislike this book no matter how bad it could have turned out. That said, I enjoyed myself immensely even though some of my desires for the story were not met. The best way to review this book is probably in bullet point form.

[Note: I tried as hard as possible to not spoil the book, but I can't completely, 100%, muffliato guarantee that hints are not there. Therefore, IF YOU DO NOT WANT ANY CLUES WHATSOEVER - GO NO FURTHER!]
  • I was deliriously happy with the many illusions Rowling made in this book to past works of fantasy, fiction, and history. I was surprised (and, honestly, extremely gratified) at how Rowling drew much of the political atmosphere for the book from the current political climate and, no kidding, Nazi Germany. I may have shouted, "Holocaust?!" at a certain point. The one downside to this, anyone under 16 will likely miss all of these parallels and, thus, an extremely integral part of the book's emotional structure.
  • Some points of the book are far too predictable for my taste - I could feel their outcome coming for their first set-up scenes on the page. These plot points were far to telegraphed to be shocking at their conclusions. There was one that comes to pass in the last chapters of the book that I could see coming from a mile away and it left me yawning instead of bereft.
  • I cried twice - one because the scene meant a lot and the other because I almost felt like I had to.
  • The book is still rather pedestrian in its writing, but Rowling's vocabulary is fantastic. I actually had to look up a few words. While, on the whole, the writing was fast moving, there were certain chapters and scenes that felt like they were added simply to increase the page count as opposed to adding to the story.
  • Bravo to Rowling for finding legitimate ways (for the most part) to incorporate characters and aspects from all of the first six books into this final tome. I can see many of my (female particularly) friends getting a kick out of this.
  • Neville = Kick Ass
  • I'm a little disappointed in the final use of certain characters. They were built up (at least for me) to do so much more in the end. I thought they would have dramatic, action filled roles and, instead, they were just there. There are actually two major characters who fit this case that bother me the most.
  • I am vindicated over my views on another character. Their role, in the end, rocked - even if it was one of the predictable (for me) conclusions. And by predictable, I saw it coming about three books back.
  • As for THE promised deaths I could go on and on about who does (and does not) die but I won't. Needless to say part of me is devastated and another part of me is, apparently, far more bloodthirsty than Rowling.
  • While I can understand the ending (even though I wanted - and was expecting - something FAR different) it was really the epilogue that left me wanting. Seriously? That's how she chooses to end it? It was too "And.... done." for me. Again, I understand it, but there were so many other (and I would argue better) ways to go.
I have a feeling that my friend (don't click this link if you are good at logic - it may spoil a few things for you) Katie is going to be rather disappointed.

I'm going to wait a few days (maybe even weeks or months) and then re-read this book. I discovered so much more in re-reading the first six books that I missed the first time around. Part of me wonders if my opinion will change after time has passed and I'm reading for me instead of against anyone who would spoil it.

To those of you have finished the book, what do you think? If you want to e-mail me and chat (for I am all about discussion) please do so. I merely ask that you refrain from writing spoilers in the comments.

MISCELLANEOUS: The fact that this is the last book has not yet hit me.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Friday, July 20, 2007

Book 38: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling
STARTED: July 15, 2007
FINISHED: July 20, 2007
PAGES: 652
GENRE: Juvenile / Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] As the novel begins, a "grim mood" has fallen over the country. The minions of Lord Voldemort (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) continue to grow as his evil spreads. The Ministry of Magic has stepped up security everywhere, and as Harry enters his sixth year at Hogwarts, he begins to see himself -- and everyone around him -- in a different, more discerning, light. With rumors swirling about Harry being the prophesied "Chosen One," he begins taking private lessons from Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. As Dumbledore prepares Harry for his destined clash with Voldemort by revealing jaw-dropping insights into the Dark Lord's past -- who his parents were, what happened after he left Hogwarts, and more -- Harry also struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry's life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes.

REASON FOR READING: The final book comes out in about 8 hours...

THOUGHTS: Well, I did it. I finished book six the day book seven is due to be released. I gotta tell you, Half-Blood Prince is a much more interesting read the second time around. This is the first time I've re-read the book since it originally came out. The foreshadowing, dear god, the foreshadowing. I missed it the first time around because all I cared about was figuring out what happened and not the why or how. Reading the book again allowed me to understand the story more and left me with a string of questions that I hope will be answered by the time I finish book seven tomorrow night.

I saw in this book, more than any of the others, J.K. Rowling's borrowing from past mythology and fantasy novels. The language and wit in this novel left me laughing, crying, but, most importantly, intrigued.

Now I am even more excited for tonight. I cannot get my greedy little hands on the final book fast enough.

Greatest. Birthday Gift. EVER! I can't say that enough.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want a phoenix.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reading Harry Potter

Come Saturday, I will be instituting Meghan's Reading Rituals. When a book comes out (or I find myself enthralled with one unexpectedly) I tend to follow a set routine. This holds particularly true for any of the Harry Potter books.

Thus, you will find me ensconced in my room, curled up into the pillows on my bed, throw blanket tossed across my knees, with my nose between the covers of the latest release. To set the mood, I will be listening to the soundtracks of all the Harry Potter movies, one right after the other. On my nightstand, within easy reach, will be my current beverage of choice (coffee in the morning, water or tea in the afternoon, and a class of red wine in the evening). Also on my nightstand, at least for this book, will be a box of tissues... just in case.

Do any of you have reading rituals?

The Ending Nears

Harry Potter. In my hands. In less than 48 hours.

Bestest. Birthday. Gift. EVER!

I don't think I've ever been this excited for my birthday. Honestly, I'm searching through my brain recalling all the birthdays I can remember and not one of them comes close to what I know will be the awesomeness of tomorrow. (The best birthday I've had so far was my 21st. That ended with my curled up like a purring cat on my bed, cuddling my water bottle. Classy.)

I made plans for this greatest of days months ago. And while I may be cutting it close with re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I think everything will work out. My schedule for Glorious Birthday/Harry Potter Preparation Day:

8:00am: Wake up, brew coffee, smile and wave at roomies as they depart for their respective employment establishments
8:15am - 9:00am: Read Washington Post
9:00am - 11:00am: Continue re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
11:30am: Finally get around to putting on clothing, depart apartment, drop off comment card in Resident Services Center, mail book requested from Paperbackswap.com, walk to B.K. Nail Salon
Noon - 1:00pm: Pedicure (while reading either HP or another book)
1:00pm - 2:00pm: Lunch and Coffee at Caribou Coffee (while reading)
2:00pm - 2:30pm: Possibility of errands at Rite Aid, hopefully just walking back to apartment
2:30pm - 5:00pm: Finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

... then the real fun begins

5:30pm: Meet friends in front of Borders and pick-up line ticket
5:45pm - 6:30pm: Putz around downtown Silver Spring (because they're having an awesome night of events)
6:30pm - 7:30pm: Dinner at Panera.... delicious, delicious, Panera
7:30pm - 11:20pm: More putzing around downtown area, complete with stops at Coldstone Creamery, McGinty's Irish Pub, and possibly a movie
11:20pm: Enter Borders and begin stake out (grab and purchase copy of latest Kushiel Series book by Jacqueline Carey)
11:50pm: Put on headphones and blast music to ward of possible spoilers (I will hurt people if they let out the ending - no joke)
11:58pm: Commence hyper-hyperness of bouncing and flailing
Midnight(ish): Enter line immediately when called, get hands on book, purchase, and stroke the spine lovingly
12:15am (Hopefully): With friends, leave store and power walk to car
12:45am (Hopefully) - 3:00am: Hop into bed, read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
3:00am-10:00am: Sleep
10:00am-Whenever: Wake up, make coffee, and read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the very end, breaking only for bites to eat, bathroom breaks, and CD changes

Just be glad I didn't put this in military time.

*jumps up in down... yes in the office*

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Filed under F...

... for Furry.

Swiped from icanhascheezburger.com. Now that website is a great way to put a smile on your face.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The dark lord approaches

It's finally happened - I am reading more than one book for pleasure at a time. I'm usually of the mind that I can only read one book for me at any given time. It I try to double up, I'd be sure to read the best of the two (or more) book while the other(s) languish in the no man's land that is my nightstand. I really institute this rule of one "me book" at a time because I know that I would never finish any non-fiction I pick-up, no matter how interesting it may be.

For the time being, I'm breaking my own rule. It's 4 (or 5) days, depending on how you count, until the release of the new Harry Potter. I thought I would finish my one book (Virgin: The Untouched History) in time to leave myself a week to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. My timing was off and I still have half the Virgin book to read. So, I'm making the Virgin book my workout book and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince my before bed reading book. Throw those on top of the books I have to read for my class, and I've got a whole lot of words to keep straight.

It's all in good fun.

And for those of you who were looking for my take on the fifth's movie score, here it is:

There are two themes throughout the film. They are there, I was wrong in that regard. These themes are just not as prevalent and easy to identify as those found in the scores of the first four movies. Also, the reason the music seems so different is for two reasons: the score is meant to be darker to coincide with the change of the mood in the film itself and the music was score and directed by a new composer. I should have known that John Williams was no where to be found in this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Holy Harry, Batman!

I saw "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" last night... Ho-ly cow! I personally think it was the best one yet.

Daniel Radcliffe turned in a powerful performance - particularly at the very end. I was utterly amazed at the talent this kid showed. This was actually the first flick in the series that brought tears to my eyes.

The rest of the cast was just as good. Imelda Staunton, as Prof. Umbridge, is so flawless in her performance it's hard to look at her and not cower in fear. I don't think I will be able to look at anything pink for quite sometime. Instead of playing Umbridge in an over the top manner, Staunton restraints her performance while keeping a constant fire of tension and hunger for power in her character choices. It was absolutely terrifying but she made it impossible to look away.

As much as I love(d) Richard Harris, I believe casting Michael Gambon as Dumbledore was a superb movie. No other actor could quite embody the calm intelligence while retaining the edge of craziness that is the Hogwart's Headmaster. The character of Dumbledore, as an active rather than passive participant, in the series really comes out in this movie and Gambon delivers a fantastic interpretation.

The new director took risks with the camera (more aerial and wide-angled shots), that I believe paid off. The book was all about the isolation Harry feels and the blocking and shot choices the director made really echoed this. Even when he was in a room full of people, Harry came across as alone and detached, fighting his own battle. The director was really able to maintain the essence of the this book, which was the frustration Harry felt with everyone around him.

The physical look of this movie is also much darker than the previous films. The color palette, even in the lighter moments, still retains dark and earthy tones that were not pervasive in the previous films. Also, kudos to the set design team. The Ministry of Magic is a wonder to behold.

I did have a few problems with this movie. First, and the one that jumped out at me the most, was just how much Ron was sidelined. I adore Ron and he should have played a more pivotal role. Poor Rupert Grint could have tap danced in a scene and no one would have noticed. Second, the musical themes introduced in the previous films were almost nonexistent in this movie. I'm addicted to movie scores and was disappointed that not only were the old themes pushed to the side, but no new ones seemed to be introduced. I have the soundtrack waiting to be listened to at home, so maybe, after a spin, I will change my opinion. Thirdly and finally, there was no Weasly Swamp. Boo. Hiss. But Flitwick does get a fist pump in there - and it is awesome.

A funny thing about this screening... I saw no kids in the audience. Intriguing.

Also, a word of caution to purists: Unless you can separate the movies and the books, and keep in mind that they are individual entities of entertainment, you will not like this film. It streamlines the book and focuses only on the Return of Voldemort plotline. All of the fun side stories (like S.P.E.W. and quidditch) and world building are left out of this movie. While the decision may anger some, I found it to be the ideal decision to make cinematically. This movie was very episodic in its telling but, at the same times, does not pause to let the audience breath. It creates tension from the very first scene that only builds as the movie progresses.

Speaking of tension, our viewing was rudely interrupted as our fearless heroes entered the Department of Mysteries. The film jumped off the reel. Oh boy was the audience not happy. No one threw a violent fit, but the entire theatre was unhappy. We were hot under the collar to begin with (because the A.C. was broken) but no one cared... until the film stopped aburptly. Never mess with a bunch of Potter fans on opening night. They were able to fix the film and start right where it jumped off, but the tension never came back to level it was before the film stopped.

Joyously, as we were leaving, the handed everyone a comp ticket to see a free movie in any Regal Theatre. Awesome. Now I really don't feel so bad about spending $11.25 on my ticket.

The movie really pumped me up for the release of the book. More on that.... later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So... far... away

I'm beginning to realize that the chances of me reading 100 books this year are slim to none... mainly with the none. You'd think that, by only having to deal with one course and having an abundance of free time, I'd easily reach my goal.

Ha! Fat chance of that happening now. It's July and I'm only reading books 38-40 at the moment. This time last year I was on Book 56. Something tells me that unless I read only romance novels for the rest of the year (not even I can do that), I'll maybe, just maybe, get 80 books in.

Methinks the fact that I am reading more non-fiction (*mumbles*andjoinedNetflix*coughs*) may be playing a role in my dearth of quantity this year.

While I'm still going to attempt to read 100 books, I think I am going to limit myself by aiming first for my smaller goals of 25 non-fiction titles and 10 classics. Then again, having read only 2 (!) classics this year, I may be in for a tough ride.

Now if only I could find a way to read until 4:00am and not be a zombie at work.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Book 37: The Romance Reader's Advisory

TITLE: Romance Reader's Advisory: The Librarian's Guide to Love in the Stacks
AUTHOR: Ann Bouricius
STARTED: July 7, 2007
FINISHED: July 7, 2007
PAGES: 107
GENRE: Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: In which I tell the story of my own path of enlightenment from paper-trained snob to closet convert to blazing zealot and romance author.

SUMMARY: [From amazon.com] Librarian and romance author Bouricius provides up-to-date information about the highly popular romance genre and its diverse subgenres; addresses key issues regarding the establishment of a romance collection; and, in a series of reading lists, recommends outstanding romances of all flavors for avid fans and new converts.

REASON FOR READING: Again, for my term paper... and, killing two birds with one stone, it was also in my TBR pile.

THOUGHTS: Wohoo! A book that I could have written. Even though this book was for my paper, I really identified with the author. She was a librarian who thumbed her nose at romance novels but saw the light. Now she is a proud reader and encourages others to look past the prejudice. In this book, Bouricius takes a playful but intelligent tone as she breaks down the bits and pieces of romance novels. Most of the book follows the "Here's what most people say, here's why their wrong, here's the reality" approach. She gives a fantastic introduction and great advice to those who have never ventured into the romance genre before.

Romance Reader's Advisory is a quick read and one that is both entertaining and informative.

MISCELLANEOUS: Not gonna lie, I originally thought this was about catching people doing it in the stacks.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 36: The Look of Love

TITLE: The Look of Love: The Art of the Romance Novel
AUTHOR: Jennifer McKnight-Trontz
STARTED: July 7, 2007
FINISHED: July 7, 2007
PAGES: 144 (though only about 20 of them have text)
GENRE: Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: The arc of the traditional romance relationship follows a simple pattern: woman desires man, man is hard to get, woman snags man, they live happily ever after.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Swashbuckling sailors, dashing dukes, naughty nurses, and sexy steward-esses caught in webs of love, passion, betrayal, and intrigue: these are the raw materials of the romance novel--and the lusty covers that advertise them. In The Look of Love, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz provides a rollicking history of the covers and stories that have captivated millions of readers worldwide. More than 150 of the most sensational covers from this venerable if venal literary form are shown in glorious color, focusing on the period from 1940 to 1970, romance design's most fertile era.

The Look of Love features artwork and excerpts from titles such as Passion Flower, Kept Woman, Rendezvous in Lisbon, and Jungle Nurse. Along the way, it brings attention to the pioneers of the romance novel: cover artists such as Barye Phillips and Robert Maguire, who helped define the look of paperbacks in general, and Harlequin, the grand dame of romance publishers, with more than 100 million novels sold each year. McKnight-Trontz reveals the themes that typify both the story lines and the covers--hospital romance, the rich and raunchy, royalty, tropical paradises, Westerns, "taboo" relationships, pirates and warriors, and love triangles--resulting in this definitive compendium of camp.

REASON FOR READING: This was actually research for my term paper.

THOUGHTS: I don't think the author did any research beyond her own opinion. That said, I learned a lot about how and why the modern romance novel cover came to be. When McKnight-Trontz isn't trying to wax poetic the book is a pretty interesting read. When she did try to intuit why romances are read, and described their plots and characters, she might as well have stuck her foot in her mouth.

It was awesome to see the older covers. The titles were icky even back then.

MISCELLANEOUS: The Abortive Hussy?!? What does that mean?

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 35: Claiming the Courtesan

TITLE: Claiming the Courtesan
AUTHOR: Anna Campbell
STARTED: July 2, 2007
FINISHED: July 6, 2007
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Justin Kinmurrie, Duke of Kylemore, looked across the tumble of stained sheets to where his mistress lay in apparent exhaustion.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The Duke of Kylemore knows her as Soraya, London's most celebrated courtesan. Men fight duels to spend an hour in her company. And only he comes close to taming her. Flying in the face of society, he decides to make her his bride; then, she vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Dire circumstances have forced Verity Ashton to barter her innocence and change her name for the sake of her family. But Kylemore destroys her plans for a respectable life when he discovers her safe haven. He kidnaps her, sweeping her away to his hunting lodge in Scotland, where he vows to bend her to his will.

There he seduces her anew. Verity spends night after night with him in his bed . . . and though she still dreams of escape and independence, she knows she can never flee the unexpected, unwelcome love for the proud, powerful lover who claims her both body and soul.

REASON FOR READING: With all the brouhaha, how could I not?

THOUGHTS: Intriguing. I have to hand it to the author, she really made me think about this one. I'm siding with the readers who think that Kylemore did not quite redeem himself. Campbell's book is well written and breaks away from the mold of the typical historical regency book. While I give her credit for trying something new, I was mildly disappointed in the end because I could not quite get to the point of liking the lead characters.

Kylemore comes off as brash and self-centered. What he puts Verity through is unforgivable. Not only does he imprison and rape the woman he supposedly loves, but when he realizes his actions were wrong, he takes the "Too late to change now" road. While Kylemore rages an interesting mental war with himself, by the end of the book I did not think that he had redeemed himself enough to earn Verity's love.

Verity, on the other hand, came across as meek to me. She puts up a good fight but, in the end, she simply gives up. She goes from hating Kylemore to loving him simply because the Duke had a bad dream. The change was too fast for my taste. I actually found myself asking if Stockholm syndrome might come into play in this book.

While Campbell's characters and their emotions seem realistic enough, I could not love this book because I found myself hating Justin on more than one occasion. The man is simply a cad.

MISCELLANEOUS: Art department take not: More covers like this please.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, July 02, 2007

Book 34: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling
STARTED: June 19, 2007
FINISHED: July 1, 2007
PAGES: 870
GENRE: Fantasy / Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The fifth hefty installment in J. K. Rowling's renowned Harry Potter series takes a uniquely psychological dark turn, putting the boy wizard at odds with his own identity and friendships as he continues to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now 15 years old, with four Voldemort battles under his belt, Harry is frustrated with the growing public skepticism regarding the Dark Lord's return. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic is also voicing its doubts, and all of Hogwarts comes under the watchful eye of an oppressive Ministry representative. Despite the additional problems of looming O.W.L. exams and Hagrid's inexplicable absence, Harry's main preoccupation is his vivid dreams, which take him to places -- and make him witness events -- that horrify and intrigue him. These dreams provide a shocking clue to his very existence, and when eventually they lead Harry to confrontation, the young wizard must cope with a tragic death and a telling prophecy about his future.

REASON FOR READING: This one gets a double reason... I'm re-reading all the books before the last one comes out and I wanted to read this one before the movie... which may end poorly for everyone else in the audience with me.

THOUGHTS: The main complaint I hear about this book is that Harry is whiny. Well, he is, but it's not without reason. I think the main thing I noticed in this book was how well Rowling writes teenage angst. She gets the mixed misunderstood, brooding but intelligent teen bordering on earlier maturity just right. Harry may be whiny but it's because no one seems to listen to him. Harry is isolated, emotionally and intellectually, more in this book than any of the others. Instead of wallowing in solitary confinement, he actually tries to find help and consolation but seems to be stonewalled at every turn. I know many people dislike Harry in this book, but I think Rowling is spot-on. I found myself identifying with Harry and his friends.

Ah, High School, how I don't miss you.

And Rowling, damn you. I hate Umbridge with the fire of a thousand suns. It takes a rare bit of writing to get a reaction like that out of me.

MISCELLANEOUS: Movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie movie

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]