Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our First Guest Post!

Plum Series
by Janet Evanovich

Milissa Woodward (Friend of the Bakerville Library par excellence) writes:

I started reading about Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter from New Jersey, on a recommendation from a fellow Friend of the Bakerville Library. She told me the author always made her laugh. The series is now 13 books and the latest one was just released in mid-June. Since I don’t get too caught up on starting things from the beginning, I started with book number eight—Hard Eight. From the first few pages, I was hooked. I have since read twelve books and had a period of mourning until Lean Mean Thirteen was released.

The main character is a laid-off lingerie buyer from Jersey who badly needed a job. She blackmailed her cousin, the owner of a bail bond business, into letting her catch one bad guy. It turns out that she has quite a knack for apprehending a variety of criminals in the most unorthodox ways.

She is surrounded by unique family members, including a grandmother who carries a gun and attends viewings at the local funeral home for entertainment. She is pulled in two different directions by men—a cop whom she has known since grade school and a mysterious bounty hunter co-worker. Another colleague is a former prostitute-turned-file clerk who joins her on occasion; her secret weapon is to sit on people if they get out of hand. Her mother serves dinner at precisely 6:00 pm every day and stands at the door at 6:01 listening for sirens thinking the worst if she is late. The list of support characters goes on—none of them disappointing.

The books will keep you laughing from start to finish. Although the story line progresses from book to book you will not be lost if you don’t start with One for the Money. In fact, the books get better as the numbers increase. Enjoy.

[Note: Like most of the books reviewed on this blog (unless otherwise noted), this book is for adult readers.]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Children's Books I Like to Read

Knowledge doesn't always make you happy.

I read Swiss Family Robinson several times when I was a kid. The version was from the '50s, I think, illustrated by Lynd Ward (not the version pictured). The most striking thing about his pictures is that all the people's faces are skewed; I read much later that toward the end of his career he developed a condition that affected his eyesight, which in turn affected his drawings.

Anyway, it was one of my favorite books--a very satisfying adventure of a family, shipwrecked on a tropical island, not only surviving, but, over 10 years, building quite a civilized compound and finally deciding to stay there, instead of being "rescued."

I was offended that Disney's movie version had cavalierly removed an entire son, and introduced a ship full of pirates.

Then my kids grew old enough to listen to the book, and, without access to the copy that I had loved, I took another one out of the library. As we went along, I started noticing some differences in this version. On closer inspection, I realized that it was a translation, and assumed that it was just a different translator's interpretation. Then I did a little more research, and discovered that there have been many versions of this book through the years, and that different editors and translators have added and removed entire chunks of the narrative. Disney's offense was nothing. Most likely, the book I read originally had little to do with Johann Wyss's first manuscript.

Here's what Wikipedia has on the subject:

The Swiss Family Robinson (Der Schweizerische Robinson) is a novel, first published in 1812, about a Swiss family who is shipwrecked in the East Indies en route to Port Jackson, Australia.

Written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss, and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss, this novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance. Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel modernized and changed the story expanding and continuing it with additional chapters not authored by Wyss, republishing it under the title of The New Swiss Family Robinson.[1]...

Although movie and TV adaptations have often given them the surname Robinson, which is not a Swiss name, the "Robinson" of the title refers to Robinson Crusoe.

This was almost as shocking as learning that Laura Ingalls Wilder might not have written the Little House series. After I get over the shock, though, I'll go back and read it again, just for spite.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Very Good, Sir

As it turns out, I have a limited tolerance for P.G. Wodehouse.

I picked up an audio copy of The Inimitable Jeeves only to feed my addiction to listening in the car. The version available at the library is the Audio Adventures one, narrated by Jonathan Cecil (not the cover shown).

I've seen the BBC Jeeves, featuring Stephen Fry as the butler, which I enjoyed tremendously, but never read any of the original before.

In this version, the narrator actually improves on the original. If I were reading this in hard copy, I would have thrown it across the room by the second chapter, up to here with the ridiculous, obvious situations. (I know, it's just comedy. I should get a grip.) But Jonathan Cecil has such a plummy British accent (indeed, at least twelve plummy British accents) that it doesn't at all matter what he's saying--I'll listen.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Blast from the Way Past

I had a great time reading this book. Look at that cover—isn’t it appealing?

A blast from just the past would have been for me to re-read the ’60s editions (and even the older ones of my mother’s) of the Nancy Drews I used to love. But Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her starts way back with Edward Stratemeyer, who started the publishing company that created not only the Nancy Drew series, but also the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys, among other series.

Melanie Rehak weaves several stories together: Stratemeyer’s life, the lives of his daughters, the life of Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote many of the Nancy Drew books as Carolyn Keene (as well as books in other series), the evolution of the publishing industry, and the story of Nancy Drew, who was modernized (kicking and screaming), politically corrected, and dumbed down through the years.

It made me want to go back and read The Secret of the Old Clock again. When I do, I’ll let you know whether it was entertaining or depressing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

Book Club will meet next on Friday, July 20th, at 7 pm. We will be reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, to mark his recent passing.

Here are the publisher notes on the book:

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes 'unstuck in time' after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch-22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it unique poignancy — and humor.