Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Georgette Heyer?

Let's see - I was actually down to two library books, but went Saturday (probably my last "big trip" of the year, with the price of gas - downtown) and then stopped at the Crane branch on the way home from Talmud study today.

And yes, I did get one by Georgette Heyer. I'm afraid I've been prejudiced against her all these years, probably because of the fact that the Hornell library probably had every book she'd ever written and I think I thought that anyone who was that prolific must be pretty lightweight. Now I hear that she actually did very careful historical research and is "the next best thing to Jane Austen" – a pretty distant second, from what I've read of False Colours, but not too bad. I've also got the new novel about Lady Macbeth, which someone on paperbackswap.com recommended very highly, as well as The Rough Guide to His Dark Materials, one of the few books about the trilogy that I don't own, Strange Matters, about recent discoveries in science (though from 2002 - probably obsolete),and a couple of mysteries.

Of my own books, I'm now working on The Secret Bride, about Henry VIII's sister Mary (not terribly impressed so far, especially with a couple of glaring historical errors), and The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins, which reads surprisingly easily for a 19th century novel.

Another guilty pleasure - the Saga of the Phenwick Women, a gothic series from the 70s that I'm rereading, more from nostalgia than anything else - they're really not very well written! All of the titles are the name with an adjective, and they started out OK with Augusta the First, Jane the Courageous, etc., but eventually they just got downright absurd - you could almost see the author flailing around for new adjectives. Eventually he (even though the name on the cover is Katheryn Kimbrough the copyright is under John K.) ended up with titles like Nellie the Obvious and Alexandra the Ambivalent. I have to admit, though, that the concept was pretty cool, and he made it through #40, Belinda, the Impatient. I don't think I got much beyond #20, originally.

Yippee!


My copy of The Golden Compass has arrived from Amazon! I'm not sure why I'm so excited, since I had kind of a mixed reaction to the movie, but it was beautifully filmed, for all the violence I felt they did to the story, and the girl who played Lyra was spot on. I have to disagree with Philip Pullman on Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, although I guess the director got what he wanted, which was an "ice queen." She was utterly cold and you can never imagine her doing something reckless like embarking on an affair with Lord Asriel, but the feeling that I always got about her from the book was of barely suppressed passion. Someone cold might be able to watch torture unmoved, but Mrs. C. actually enjoys it.

Unfortunately things aren't looking very good for the sequel, in which case they should have added the original ending back on, but as far as I know they didn't.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reading update

I don't know why - I just can't seem to get into the mood for any full-fledged book reviews, so I'll just update. I finished The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, the Oscar Wilde mystery and Murder in Volume 2, along with Buckingham Palace Gardens, the latest in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series by Anne Perry. All of them were very good - Anne Perry is always good. I was a bit disappointed that Charlotte was hardly in this one at all, but since the murder took place at the palace, their servant, Gracie, was the one who went undercover. The Jane Austen one caught the flavor of the period quite well, as I already said was true of the Oscar Wilde mystery, and it did not end as I expected. (Anyone who is a Jane Austen fan and knows the story on which it's based will know what I expected.) It was suitably tragic, though - I'm not giving anything away since unless you're writing an alternate history (which she wasn't) you can't change what happened.

I'm still working on the other two, along with The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy, another Darcy point-of-view retelling of Pride & Prejudice, which so far is the best one I've read yet. Up to now it was the trilogy by Pamela Aidan, but the weakness of that one was Vol. 2. Evidently she was determined to have three books, and I think she would have been better off with two. Also Bras and Broomsticks, a kind of Jewish girls' Harry Potter - nowhere near the depth of HP, but still very entertaining. (I got that one for the temple library, so naturally I had to check it out.) Another one that's a lot like Harry - though still pretty well-written in its own right so far - is The Tapestry, the first book in a series called The Hound of Rowan. The kid finds out he has magical powers and goes off to a private school that so far, reminds me a lot of Hogwarts. No Dumbledore, though - one point against it.

I ended up closing Mademoiselle Boleyn on the first page, alas. Maybe it was good, but she turned me off immediately by having Anne going off to France with Henry VIII's sister Mary. I think it's pretty well accepted by now that she (Anne) was already in Austria being educated and was sent from there to France, and it seems like an author of historical fiction should be up on the latest research. Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe she was supposed to have been sent from there back to England to join Mary and her ladies, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and then the Amazon reviews didn't sound too promising - they seemed to think it was pretty lightweight. I don't have time for things that I'm already pretty sure aren't worth it!

Then I just got my introductory offer from the Scientific American Book Club, as well as all the ones I've gotten from paperbackswap.com. So many books, so little time!