Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bewitching Season

Did I mention that I read several books while on vacation?

As a big fan of Patrica Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecilia, I was very much looking forward to Marissa Doyle's Bewitching Season. Instead of cousins, however, Doyle's book features two twin sisters, Persephone (Persy) and Penelope (Pen) Leland who both study magic from their tutor Miss Allardyce (Ally). And, even better, Bewitching Season includes Princess Victoria as a character. I've always had a fondness for her, as we are the same height (4'10"), which means that the steps of Parliament match my tread just as much as they matched Queen Victoria's!

But, back to the book. Of course, nothing is as it seems in this tale of magic, mischief, and the question of who will control the county when Princess Victoria ascends to the throne. Persy and Pen are thrown into the middle of the intrigue when Ally is kidnapped by a mysterious magician who is being blackmailed by someone close to the throne. Attempting to locate where Ally is being held only draws them closer to danger.

Intermixed with the mystery and magic of the tale is Persy's desire to have nothing to do with the London season and getting married. All she wants to do is learn magic. Her sister, Pen, however, wants nothing more than to attend balls and be presented to the Queen, something which utterly terrifies Persy. But with the return of her neighbor, Lochinvar Seton, a boy that she hated growing up until one day when they realized they both shared a love of books, she is confused about her feelings towards marriage and love and how Lochinvar fits into everything. Pensy does makes mistakes with her relationships, both with her sister Pen and with Lochinvar, before finally figuring everything out.

For the most part, I was not disappointed. I did have a few slight quibbles with the (what I thought) shabby treatment Pen received from Doyle. She was reputed, granted from Persy's persepective, to be the beauty of the family, and yet seemed to pick up no suitors while Persy had multitudes. I'm hoping that Pen's story will be expanded if there is going to be a sequel. And there is, right? Also, the conclusion of their magical exploits seemed a bit too similar to a scene from Sorcery and Cecilia for my tastes.

And there is going to be a sequel coming out next fall! Betraying Season. And it will be Pen's story. So, yay!

And, if you want some fun historical tidbits, check out Marissa Doyle's blog.

My Most Excellent Year

Musical theatre, baseball, Boston, and Julie Andrews? This sounds like a book for me!

My friend and I stumbled across My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger in a bookstore back when it was first released. After reading the cover and perusing the first few pages, I knew that it was going to be a book I had to read. So I wrote it down, and hoped for the day that ILL would send it my way. Thankfully, that day happened a few weeks ago, so I had the book in hand when I went on vacation to my grandmother's. And, I was supposed to visit with her, right? But, instead, I was instantly drawn into the world of T.C., Augie, and Alejandra. Luckily for her, it only took me a few hours to read it!

The book takes place during their freshman year, although it is done as a writing assignment when they are in eleventh grade. T.C. and Augie are brothers, not by birth, but by their definition of how brothers should act. Alejandra is new to the community, and an ambassador's daughter in the bargain. T.C. instantly sets his sights on her, while his manner of proposing his intentions to her leaves her very much indignant and for much of the book goes out of her way to annoy him. Augie, on the other hand, is determined to succeed as musical theatre actor and talent show director, looking all the while to famous musical theatre actresses for guidance.

I really did enjoy the development of the relationship between T.C. and Hucky, the six-year-old who gives T.C. signals about when to swing on a pitch during his baseball games. That is, if Hucky is liking T.C. at the moment! In Hucky, T.C. sees something of himself, as her lost his mother at a young age while Hucky is an orphan. Hucky has adopted Mary Poppins as his perfect mother figure, thus Julie Andrews plays a very important role in this plot of this book. But Augie and Alejandra face their own struggles in this book. Augie comes out as being gay, and Alejandra must stand up to her parents if she is ever to fulfill her dream of being an actress.

All in all, a delightful read. Well worth the effort to hunt it down!

And for some extra fun, you can visit Augie's website.

Incidently, while I was at grad school in Boston, I went to see the Julie Andrews directed show, The Boyfriend (which also happened to be her first Broadway show way back when). I also got to meet her, which was amazing. I wish I could have somehow brought baseball into this, but I really can't. Unless you can imagine that I went to see the show with a Red Sox baseball player as a date? That's the best I can do!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

48 Hour Book Challenge Roundup!

Total number of books read: 7

Total pages read: 2025

Total hours spent reading: 20 hours

There you have it, a miserable total for me! Hopefully next year it will be a better weekend for me where I don't have a dance recital, my parents aren't visiting, and I'm healthy. I guess I'll have to take a week off of work in order to make sure I don't deal with the sick public before this epic event!

It certainly has been fun!

48 Hour Book Challenge - Books 6 & 7

Total number of books read: 7

Total pages read: 2025

Total hours spent reading: 20 hours

You know, it's sad when a 150 page book takes longer to read than a 300 page book. Oops. Here goes my last two books to review!

The Outrageous Oriel by Sally Watson
Total pages: 156

I have to say that at the end of reading this one, my first thought was "Sally Watson did not just go there!". But, I think she did. Of course, I can't say anything in depth about what exactly she did do because, well, there would go the ending. But, I have to wonder if a) this book was written back in the 1960s when she was writing her other children's books and was just never published, or if it is indeed a completely new story. It was nice having characters discussed in Lark explored in full. The main character, Oriel, was the eldest sister of Lark. The middle sister only briefly mentioned in her for her excellent housekeeping skills is in another newly published Sally Watson book, Loyal and the Dragon. That's another one that I'm looking forward to reading (especially if it has more of Alex from Witch of the Glens. That's something I love about her books, the way that you can somewhat indirectly follow the lives of characters from other books. They aren't in a series and can be all stand alone, but there is a nice tasty treat inside them if you are interested in finding out the current happenings of favorite characters. Or at least their descendants! Overall, not my favorite of hers, but still an enjoyable read.

Queste by Angie Sage
Total pages: 596

I do enjoy this series, even if I was confused in the beginning about what exactly was going on because I had completely forgotten about Septimus's brother Nicko being sucked out of time. Good thing that Jenna and Septimus are on the case! Though the villain does not make his presence truly known in this one unlike DomDaniel in previous volumes and the ending seemed a bit rushed and quickly resolved, it was still an enjoyable read. It does make me wonder where and if this series is going anywhere next. There was really no dramatic cliffhanger, though there was also no "yay and they all live happily ever after" either. So, the ending was kind of up in the air. And, really, no deaths. How strange!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

48 Hour Book Challenge

Total number of books read: 5

Total pages: 1273

Hours read: oh, dozens. Actually, I would say we are going on 12 hours right now. It is a little bit difficult because I was stuck at my recital's dress rehearsal last night from 7:30-11:30 without a watch and only passing glances at my book when I had a moment. But, there you have it.

Well, I started at 3:15 Friday afternoon. I decided to start with page volume first, and attacked my "300 pages" pile.

1) She's So Money by Cherry Cheva
Total pages: 290

She's So Money tells the tale of a Thai-American family, specifically one Maya who desperately wants to get into Stanford, and there's only one thing stopping her, a $10,000 fine. Add a boy who just might not be boyfriend material, a nerdy scheme to get rich quick, some blackmail, and a family who just might be willing to send her back to the rice paddies in Thailand. Basically, an enjoyable book. Though, I did have a sort of hard time believing that some super popular boy (Camden King) would be so into Maya. Though, he seems to be the one to hide his intelligence behind an idiot's exterior. Oh yes, win on the whole "name three writers of the Declaration of Independence" thing. I was totally singing from 1776 then.

2) How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler
Total pages: 339

Maybe this was the reason I was singing Billy Joel's song "Home" this morning. Well, not exactly singing because my throat hurts so much. Sugar Magnolias (oh, Julie, I can't help but think of you there!) has been travelling all her life, want to set down some roots. Except when she realizes that she can't, Maggie decides to not connect with anyone at her new school. Failure of epic proportions. Not that you couldn't see that train wreck coming a mile away (much like my dance recital tonight!). I especially enjoyed the different costumes that she wore to attempt to avoid people liking her, and then that all backfired.

3) Peeled by Joan Bauer
Total pages: 247

To tell the truth, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I was glad (due to the late hour I was reading it) that it wasn't really a ghost story, more of a "investigative reporting" story. That said, I was glad that I read it, despite the fact that I thought the main character's (Hildy Biddle) boy friend type person (Zach) was kind of bland. That said, I really wish we could have learned more about the Polish woman who owned the restaurant Minska. As well as Hildy's father. This isn't to say that I didn't like the book. I did! I guess I just wish there was more!

4) How To Hook a Hottie by Tina Ferraro
Total pages: 196

I think I should have skipped this one in my books to be read in a short time because it did kind of remind me too much of She's So Money, but I enjoyed this one less. Plotwise, Kate needs to raise $5,000 and keep straight "A's" for graduation so she can not go to college and do whatever she wants with her life and her college fund money. After being asked out by Mr. Popularity, she is suddenly accosted by people asking her how she did it, and she starts charging for advice. Pretty much the generic rags to riches and then crash and burn as the sudden popularity fades, only to ride off in the sunset with the real man of her dreams. This one just sort of dragged to me.

5) The Seer of Shadows by Avi
Total pages: 202

I really liked this one. Well, I've been interested in photographs of dead people since my research project on them back in grad school, but this book took it to another level. That of a photographer who, as a seer, could bring dead people into being as ghosts, just by taking their pictures. Of course, it seems to work most on vengeful ghosts, which makes it kind of hard to sympathize with their plight. You know, then whole, "you killed me so I'm going to get you now bwhahahahaha!!!!" type thing. I did want to like you, Eleanora, but, no. Utterly fabulous.

Ok, now that that has taken me upwards of an hour to write (in between talking to my parents and trying to find jewelry for my mom to wear, etc...) . Back to reading!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Oh, I can sign in!

I am all prepped and ready for the 48 Hour Book Challenge! At least as far as books are concerned. I have over sixteen potential books to read, and right now they are all in different stacks based on page length. I'm so excited for this. I've been hoarding and ILLing books like mad the past few weeks in preparation. Despite the fact that I am a) sick, b) have a dance recital and c) have my parents visiting all in this same weekend, I am quite ready to give this a go.

I have to apologize for not blogging more. I come up with these brilliant blog entries (I assure you, they are brilliant), but they are all in my head. I mean, who else but me could combine Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering with James Patterson's Sundays at Tiffany's (which will probably be the only James Patterson that I will ever read) and the short lived television show New Amsterdam.

And then there was the planned entry of a review of Shakepeare Theatre Free For All's Hamlet, the viewing of which has been forever altered by the Canadian TV show Slings & Arrows, as well as Lisa M. Klein's Ophelia. The play was utterly wonderful, even though I was like, "But Ophelia isn't dead! She was just acting all crazy!". Um, am I not allowed to read reworkings of famous plays anymore?

But, since I'm not that adventurous to fully post all of my thoughts about the above and the hundreds of books I've read since I've last posted (it really is quite depressing), I think I'll go to sleep and hope I feel better in the morning!