Sunday, October 16, 2011


Sunday Reading

With cold, fally weather arriving at last, our living room has become a much cosier place. (Some furniture rearrangement helped; and the new music-playing device we acquired using Air Miles.) Now all I want to do is read. Add that to Sunday afternoon and a damn good book, and I can barely tear myself away to type this. (Helps that I needed to update my reading device and now might as well let it charge.)

So, the book is The Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price. I found it in a “Best British Books” list for young people, the end result of several link hops from Fuse#8. There’s the tiniest SF device—a time and dimension machine, all nicely explained so that we don’t have to worry about things done in the past affecting the present—and then it’s part spec and part historical fiction. We’re sometimes in the 21st century, with the organization that built the machine, and sometimes in the 16th century, in a wild borderland between that day’s England and Scotland, populated by violent, vengeful descendants of Vikings. Our heroine, a disregarded “fat girl” in the 21st century, is living with the Sterkarms, the most vengeful of the lot, and reporting back to her employers—and also coming to love the Sterkarms, who regard her highly and expect her to marry the flower of the flock, the chieftain’s son Per. She loves him, and in such a messy, honest way—this book has Outlander beat, hands down. 

Now, before I forget, I purposely left The Best Laid Plans lying on the coffee table last weekend when my father-in-law came to visit, and over the weekend he read the whole thing. He loved it, as I thought he would, and I thank Terry Fallis for providing him with much entertainment and smiles.

Also, a tip of the hat to Sister, for giving me Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. I had to promise that I was no Austen purist before she gave it to me. It was definitely entertaining, based on the notion that behind closed doors and properly wed, Darcy and Elizabeth are as passionate toward each other as they are about their self-respect in polite company. So, very salty reading, all couched in Austen-like language. The author managed the latter fairly well, though I think she used “hence” too much and not always properly, and lost her grip on lay-lie when faced with accouchement (laying-in—ouch!). She managed a neat plot trick: when their passion may be getting in the way of procreation, Lizzy and Darcy are separated by the Napoleonic Wars for just the time it takes to grow and deliver two healthy babes. Nice!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Best Lied Plans

So, realizing I wasn’t enjoying The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis (I wanted to, I really did) I dismissed the idea of attending the book group meeting at which it would be discussed, feeling that not only would I have nothing to contribute to the discussion, I would also no doubt be inwardly seething. I wanted it to be funnier; also, Fallis erected a glass house when he had two of his characters be grammar purists. Fallis, you have to LIE low; and people get put through the WRINGER. The humour was stuffy, and here’s why: because (in the style of which his narrating character explicitly approves) he didn’t use one word when he could use many more than that.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest; on to Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari (can’t see that name without thinking about Friends’ pal Joey). This was one of those books I read for therapy, dealing as it does with the scenery of my deepest anxieties. It is a YA disaster romance, set in a drowned New York City, when only 1 in a million people have survived hemorraghic smallpox. A crazy scientist, a hot freak of nature, a jealous princess and the guy who won’t declare himself—it was pretty good.

And just for a lark, I checked Molly Bang’s Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life out of the library. What an enthusiastic delivery of one of the most vital processes on Earth. You can never begin too early to understand the importance of photosynthesis and its partner, respiration to Life on our planet: Molly and her partner Penny Chisholm do a great job of making it comprehensible. I never saw so clearly how glucose is so basic: how I love seeing the carbon and hydrogen and oxygen lined up like that in the chemical expression of its makeup. So clear and beautiful! My one difficulty with the book is the design, particularly as applied in the Notes section at the end: the yellow vibrates horribly against the blue page, and I pity any child or adult with vision challenges who wants to read it.

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