c o l u m b i n a

"by her keen and active wit, she [ is ] able to hold her own in every situation and emerge with ease and dignity from the most involved intrigues." ~ Duchartre

Thursday, December 15, 2005

books of 2005

So I had started off this year, planning to faithfully blog my book habits... However, best laid plans of mice and all that. I actually have read quite a lot of books this year... I just can’t remember them all. Though there were those that made quite an impression, good or bad. Hence the following list:

1. Carolyn Hart, where were you during my pre-teens when I ran out of Agatha Christies to read and was desolate and ready to give up on the mystery genre altogether? Loving the Death on Demand series. (And no, it has nothing to do with a heroine that is as strung out as I am who has my dream job of owning a mystery bookstore. Nothing at all. /denial) Though, one note: I've read maybe half of the series so far, and I have to say, though I love Max, if I have to read one more description of him being "Joe Hardy All Grown Up", I'll puke. I mean, this is getting to be in the realms of "Emerson's Dimpled Chin." Get. Past. It. Already.

2. Sorcery and Cecilia. (Shut up.) It’s a truly lovely kids book that seems far too grown-up for its readers, and was tons of fun, a cross between Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Jane Austen. Its sequel was lacking in places, but more of Thomas Schofield can never be a bad thing.

3. Georgette Heyer. I can't believe it's taken me so long in life to discover this lady's stuff, but there it is. Aside from the Regency fluff of varying quality (I think my favorite has to be Frederica, and if I never read The Corinthian again it'll be too soon), her mystery novels are wonderful. Hard to find, being out of print, and my new library system, while a wonderful improvement over my last library system, has only a few gems. But if you can find it, I highly recommend The Unfinished Clue-- great characterizations, nice cozy mystery plot.

4 & 5. Er, and as much as I hate to admit it, Julia Quinn and The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Because this spring was stressful and the summer was as hot as Hades and for a while there my brain shut down and couldn’t handle the big words. That, and they’re really quite hilarious reads. Quinn does dialogue the way the chickliterati should— fast, intelligent, and actually FUNNY. Pink covers writers of the world, take notes.

6. Carole Nelson Douglas and her Irene Adler series. The best recommendation I’ve had in a good long while, and what got me firmly back on the Holmesian bandwagon. Wonderful stuff.

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Lots of Evil, Evil Snape. 'Nough said.

2. Spook Mary Roach strikes again, and this time is funnier in her search for proof in the existence of a soul, or a life beyond death. Her cynical take on mediums is hilarious, especially during her three-day seminar of training to commune with The Beyond. I share with you my favorite passage from the book, mostly because it's too perfect to pass up:

There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, "I felt at one with the divine source of creation." Mary Roach on a conducted tour of Hades. I had to fight the urge to push back my chair and start screaming: STAND BACK! ALL OF YOU! I'VE GOT AN ARTHUR FINDLAY BOX CUTTER! Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to. (p.177)

3. This is Orson Welles Because I finally found the book and it was worth the wait. It's less a book than it is a direct recording of interviews between Welles and then-young Peter Bogdanovich over several years time. And Welles is brilliant in every inch of it. He's by turns insightful and funny, self-deprecating and proud, frustrated with the system and yet wistful regarding the major players in it; his comments on Shakespeare are so bang on the money you'd think he was an English professor and not a magician-turned-actor/director. You have to love and respect his views on film (nothing over two hours is worth the trouble, Peter Jackson), and how, after only a crash course on cinematography with Gregg Toland in a weekend, he went on to make one of the greatest films in cinema history by thinking outside of the box. You just know, reading the transcripts, that he would be the coolest celebrity to chat over dinner with because you'd laugh, and you might learn something despite yourself. (And you know there'd be good food, at any rate.) Orson, you are missed.

4. Specimen Days. I heart Michael Cunningham. That is all.

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife. I won’t beat a dead horse, but let’s just say if that movie version ever gets made, I will be sticking my fingers in my ears singing “LA LA LA” and Ignoring. The Hype.

2. Scales of Gold. (You didn’t think I would ever finish it, did you, internet? Well, dammit, I did. During that hiatus that we don’t talk about.) And this is why I have all the rest of the books of this series sitting on my bookshelf un-read. Because I don’t want to go through THAT again. It wasn’t even a bad book, really; just long. And boring. And soul-sucking, in a way. Oh, how I wish Niccolo was as cool as Lymond. (Whose Chronicles I re-read this year. And Checkmate twice, because it rocks like that.)

3. Sweet Poison by David Roberts. Oh, Mr. Roberts, you silly, silly man. You can’t one-up Dorothy L. It isn’t done. And you can’t even attempt it properly. Here's the thing: we know Wimsey is the cat's meow. We know men think he's harmless, or admire the cricket playing and the war record, and we know the women swoon or find him amusing. We're shown that, we are not TOLD that. If you have to repeat just how "charming" your leading man is, perhaps he's not so much, huh? And I will not even begin with the mess you made of Verity Browne. Stop writing books, please. Or at least, stop trying to pass them off as the quality they're most assuredly NOT.

1. I never thought I would say this, but Captain Alatriste by my lovely Arturo Perez-Reverte. Oh, the expectation was through the roof for the first book of the series in English. I could even withstand the shiny, shiny fugly cover, because Arturo and I have an understanding. He never lets me down. And he didn’t... sorta? It was a good book, but it was short. And seemed very much like Act One in a three act play, an introduction to the major players, a prologue, if you will. Here's hoping the next one is better.

2. The Penultimate Peril. Finally some answers to the purpose of the VFD! And yet, oddly un-satisfying, compared to its forerunners. What happened to Kit? Are there parents still alive? And still no answers re: Beatrice. Harumph.

3. The Blind Assassin. Perhaps this shouldn’t count, because I never did manage to finish it before I had to return it to the library. But really, people adore Margaret Atwood? Seriously? Not for funny?

4. This is so sad, but I can’t even remember what this year’s Amelia was called. Because for the first time in ages, I didn’t re-re-re-read. I remember it was an improvement over the last couple, and I remember the ending made quite an impression... Right. Serpent on the Crown, that was it. Oh, MPM, I adore you, always have, always will, but PLEASE. Make Tomb of the Golden Bird the last of the Amelias. Even Sethos is losing his bite. You don’t need an even 20, 18 is more than enough. What about Vicky, remember her? And how you said you were going to tell us about John’s family and how it is/is not connected to the Emersons? And how you were going to blow us all away with Schmidt’s WWII resistance work stories? Would love to know how all of that worked out.

1. Zorro

2. The Complete Claudine

3. Northanger Abbey

4. The Woman in White

5. Atlas Shrugged

6. ___________ by Terry Prachett (suggestions for a starter?)

7. Send a Fax to the Kasbah

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

it's that time of year...

... for gift guides. Hilarious, though I have to say, the photographs are what make it art.

... for snow art. [via] The only cheerful thing I've seen about snow this week-- made my morning. ("And the snowman with the ice cream scoop in his back?" "It's a sordid story.") Still terrified about the forecast for Thursday, though.

... for list-making. [via] ("Elves bemoan low-wages, lack of health care coverage and union-busting tactics of 'Claws'.")

... for 30 second re-enactments of classic holiday movies by bunnies. Yes, I'm twelve.

... for fluffy holiday stories. WARNING: Link contains heapfuls of romantic sap with a dash of Holmesian lore thrown in.

Friday, December 02, 2005

feeling very irish today

I don't know if it's my new green sweater or my newly red-highlighted hair or the fact that I can't get this song out of my head. (I blame watching this last night.) Either way, I feel like I'm celebrating my own personal St. Patrick's Day in December. Weird.

And Hennessy Tennessee tootled the flute and the music is something grand. A credit to old Ireland is McNamara's band. Ba ba bom. Ba ba bom. Ba ba bom.