Sunday, May 22, 2011

Frederica, by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer varies more widely in the quality of her writing from book to book than any other author I've read. I've found a good indicator of how much I'll enjoy any given novel of hers is the number of insults (in the case of her Regency romances, period insults) per page: the fewer the number of "you bacon-brained, bird-witted coxcomb!"s flying about, the more I'll enjoy the novel. (She seems to enjoy having her characters insult each other so much, it makes me wonder what her home life must have been like. But I digress.)

Here is a sampling of period insults from the first few chapters of Frederica:

"What a very hubble-bubble creature you are!"
"She must be a wet-goose!"
"Will you bite your tongue, you abominable little bagpipe?"
"Anyone would take you for a regular shabster!"
"Really, cousin, you are too shatterbrained!"

At first I was a bit worried that this one was going to rate on the low end of the Heyer spectrum. But eventually the insults settle down and I really enjoyed the story, about an unrepentant rake who eventually comes to care about our levelheaded heroine and her extremely entertaining younger siblings. Also, the conventional weepy, angsty, love-at-first-sight romance gets a severe thrashing, which earns the book several points in my estimation. It shares a few themes with my favorite Heyer to date, A Civil Contract (which I'll review eventually): a sensible heroine and a hero who falls in love by degrees and not all at once. It's also the story of a person becoming a better human being in spite of himself, which is not everyone's idea of a thrilling narrative, but suits me just fine.

There are one or two oblique references to extramarital sex, and as I mentioned, a lot of insults being flung about (although the heroine is the kind of person who catches herself saying mean things and apologizes immediately, which I love).

Age I'd let Z read it: 12 or 13, with a dictionary at hand to look up some of the more uncommon words. (Even I had to look up lucubration).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber

I would describe this as the horror equivalent of a nice cozy whodunit. A nice cozy horror novel.

The basic notion, as handed to us by Leiber in an early chapter, is: "Picture most women as glamor-conscious witches, carrying on their savage warfare of deathspell and countercharm, while their reality-befuddled husbands went blithely about their business."

This was published in 1953, and at first I thought some of the ideas being tossed around were meant to be satire, but towards the end when the protagonist (a male college professor) is able to get a leg up on the Big Bad because the Big Bad (a faculty wife) doesn't understand symbolic logic, I had to shrug my shoulders and roll with it.

There are some violent scenes and a few good scares in this novel (it is horror, after all), but nothing too gory. If anything I'd want Z to wait till she's older on this one to be sure she doesn't take the nonsense about women being more primitive and irrational than men to heart. But in all it was well written. I enjoyed it, wound up rooting for the protagonist, and would cuddle up with it again on a rainy day with a mug of cocoa.

Age I'd let Z read it: 16

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why a Book Blog?

Somewhere in the back of my mind every time I've purchased a book has been the thought, "I am going to have an awesome library when I have kids." Well, now Fabulous Husband and I have a kid, Z, and it struck me today that I am not ready for her to begin borrowing books from aforementioned awesome library. For one thing, I haven't even read all the books I own. What if she starts with a stinker?

So here is my project: To read every book we own, giving priority to the ones I haven't read yet, and to keep a mini-review of each one here, making note of about how old I'd like Z to be, ideally, when she reads it for the first time.

That's pretty much it.