Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I have lately finished the five books that current make up the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, though I believe that there is at least one more in the works for the series. The titles are: His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, and Victory of Eagles. In truth, I read them in such quick succession that I have a hard time remembering exactly what happened in each book, though I do acknowledge that the most exciting action takes place in books 1, 4, and 5. That is partially due to the fact that the majority of the battles discussed takes place in those books.

I was first introduced to this series by several of my friends; all of whom were gaga over the books. In order to have any sort of meaningful conversation with them at present, it seemed best to read the books and join in. I'm already quite backwards in their society because I've only read the first two Patrick O'Brian books. I hear that they do get more exciting the further along you go. Perhaps another attempt is due someday.

Novik takes dragons and plops them in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars. A very interesting place to land, I might add. The addition to aerial combat to just the regular land/naval battles adds a completely different twist on revisionist history. And these dragons are unique in that they want to do more than just fight, they also want to be philosophers. Ok, that's a lie. Temeraire, the main dragon on which this series revolves, wants to become a philospher/political activist/fighter/etc. Basically, he is a Mary Sue, and does a great job of it, until the little (huge) firebreather Iskierka comes along and tries to out-Mary Sue him. That battle hasn't been finished, though many others are covered. So far, Novik has taken us, along with Temeraire and his captain Laurence, across three continents in these five books, and I believe the sixth book will feature another one.

Will I read the next one? Of course. I'm too attached to these dragons to let them go. Especially little Volly. I love how he eagerly anticipates getting a cow whenever he courier run takes him to Temeraire. He's so adorable!

Monday, July 6, 2009

What I collect, but, not why.

I attended the Smithsonian's Folklife festival this past Friday. No, that is a lie. I attended the Welsh portion of the festival; that country being of particular interest to me seeing as that is where I did my study abroad. I actually met a girl from Carmarthen at the festival. We also found the "Dafydd" and "Jones" tents. Though not together. A Tom Jones, however, was found.

But, the best find? Sheep Poo Paper. Yes, that's right. Paper that is so environmentally friendly, it is made out of sheep poo. Let's just say that people should be expecting to get some very adorable sheepiness for Christmas cards this year. Could you really resist the sheep on the tree? I thought not.

The final act of the day was to go to Second Story Books, or at least their warehouse store in Rockville. It is well worth the drive.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I collect what I like to call "Victorian moralistic children's tales", and Friday night, I was in heaven. I can trace this collecting frenzy back to when I was somewhere between 10 and 12. I loved reading Frances Hodgsen Burnett's A Little Princess and The Secret Garden over and over. When in my library's booksale, I came across a Burnett book I had never heard of: T. Tembarom. I was shocked! Why had nobody told me she had written other things. In fact, she had written a great deal of other things, and I have travelled over the world to collect them. Florida: Sara Crewe, Hay-on-Wye: Louisiana and The Pretty Sister of Jose, Edinburgh: That Lass O' Lowries, and back again home, Plattsburgh: The Lost Prince (a particular favorite of mine). Finding one of her books in a used bookstore is like my own private treasure hunt. A holy grail of used bookstore shopping, so to speak.

Not that I don't have others. I would kill to find a non-ex-library copy of Sally Watson's Witch of the Glens, or actually any of her books. Though I have never had luck at all finding them.

So, imagine my joy when I discover an old copy of Racketty-Packetty House by Burnett. My joy is made complete when I run across these classics of Victorian children's literature that I had no idea existed let alone needed to have. Things such as Helen of the Glen: A Tale for Youth from 1827. Or Helps Over Hard Places for Girls (1862) by Lynde Palmer written as a response to Helps Over Hard Places for Boys. Or even Facing Death, a reprint of an 1882 edition. The back of that book states that "'Facing Death' is a story with a purpose." How can you go wrong with a beginning like that?

So, is it weird that I collect these types of books? One of my favorite books I own is The Story of Naughty Kildeen by Queen Marie of Romania. I have the special edition that has hand-tinted artwork by Job. It is, I have to admit, very shiny. Of course, then there is the Enid Blyton Christmas book that has an inscription in it that makes me think that an American soldier must have bought it for his daughter over in England during WWII.

I won't even get onto my collection of books that contain statistical data about the United States and other fun facts. Of course, then there are the just plain weird for even me. Like the advanced reader's copy of racist author Thomas Dixon, Jr's The Leopard's Spots which I pulled out from the garbage pile at at FOL bookstore because a) I had no clue what the book was about but, b) in the front was a letter signed by the author asking for the reader to send in reviews of the book once it had been read. I thought that that was fabulous and had to save it. Little did I know...