Boo. (And not like a ghost, either)

Tomorrow is going to be one hell of a day. Taking the GRE in the morning and then reporting to the dreaded video rental shop an hour later for a four hour shift. I haven’t felt this nervous-sick since…I don’t even remember!

All i have to keep in mind is that by this time tomorrow, it’ll all be over and I’ll be back home. At least until the next shift at the dread video rental shop of dooooooom! 😦

Non-fiction: Music

Rip It Up And Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

I picked up this book after it got a glowing review in Q Magazine, which essentially serves as my music bible. I was in the middle of a book about the punk years and thought I’d skip ahead and learn a bit about postpunk. And am I glad I did! Rip It Up And Start Again is an amazingly in-depth history of the backgrounds and formation of different bands, their influences, and their ideas, covering the years 1978 to 1984 and bands on both sides of the pond.

This book will make you long for a time when indie, actual indie, labels had the power to change and mold the music industry, when music had a philosophy. It also emphasizes the romance of the time – disillusioned creative types with a passion to make themselves heard coming to New York or London and squatting in buildings until they got a gig. Quite a contrast to the privileged backgrounds of many of today’s artists (Strokes, I’m looking at you!).

I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of popular music, but be forewarned, it will probably make you run out to your nearest record store (preferably independantly-owned) and spend all your money filling in the holes in your record collection.

My rating: A

ETA: I just found out that there is at least one chapter missing from the American version – like on purpose, edited out – so now I’m going to have to track down the British version so I can see what I missed… Lame!

Romance

The Corinthian/The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

I decided to read a Georgette Heyer book after Maya recommended Cotillion as her favorite romance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Cotillion at the used bookshop, so I chose The Corinthian instead as it featured my aforementioned favorite romance novel plot device: a heroine dressed as a young man. When I was halfway through it and realized I was enjoying it, I went back to see what else they had and discovered The Masqueraders in which not only is the heroine disguised as a young man, her brother is disguised as her sister! Cross-dressing for everyone! So how could I go wrong?!

The answer is: I couldn’t. Both books were thoroughly enjoyable, with wholly satisfying plots, charming characters, and happy endings all around. Heyer’s style, though categorized as romance, really is closer to the tone of Jane Austen. Both of the heroine’s love interests see through their disguises quite quickly, which I found a little disappointing, but the chemistry between them more than makes up for that shortcoming. Very good and a pleasant contrast to the current regency romances.

My rating:

The Corinthian: B+

The Masqueraders: A-

Romance

On The Way To The Wedding by Julia Quinn

Well, it’s finally here. The final book in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. And it’s every bit as charming as the previous seven books. Frankly, I’m not sure what to say about it. It has likable characters, a plot that’s neither boring nor tacked-on feeling, and a happy ending. I’m a little bit sad to say goodbye to the Bridgerton’s because a more delightful romance novel dynasty, there has never been. Which is not to say that I don’t look forward to her next book, despite its lack of Bridgertons!

My rating: A-

Lady Whistledown Strikes Back/The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown by Julia Quinn, Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins, and Mia Ryan

More romance anthologies from the good authors at Avon Books. As usual, Julia Quinn’s novellas, for me at least, are the highlight of these books. Her characters are their usual witty selves and Quinn somehow manages to pack her novellas as full of plot and characterization as is present in her full-length novels.

Suzanne Enoch, like Christina Dodd, is an author that I think benefits from the shorter formats of these anthologies. The better of her two novellas is the one found in Lady Whistledown Strikes Back as the heroine is a rather average girl that suddenly becomes the heartfelt focus of ‘London’s most notorious rogue,’ to quote the back of the book. I’m always a sucker for these kinds of stories because, unlike most of the heroines found in the pages of romance novels, I am an average girl, so it gives me heart to read about a plain heroine (who is beautiful in the eyes of her sweetheart, of course) who becomes swept up in a romance. Her other novella is perfectly enjoyable, too, I just wanted to point out this one in particular.

I liked Karen Hawkins’ contribution to The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown, but found her other novella a bit tiresome. The story I liked is a sweet one about a rogue who realises he’s in love with the eccentric lady with whom he has been lifelong friends. I’m a sucker for those kinds of stories!

Both of Mia Hamm’s novellas I found to be extremely charming. One features a lord who has come back from the war with a head injury that makes it difficult for him to voice his thoughts while the other focuses on, again, a rather eccentric but entirely likable heroine who is a ‘free-spirited’ servant. I’ve tried to find full-length books by Ryan, but as far as I can tell, the only one available is the first book of the Duchess Diaries series that was published quite a few years ago with no follow-ups since and even that one I’ve not found anywhere!

My rating:

Lady Whistledown Strikes Back: A-

The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown: A

Fantasy

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Well, first of all, if you didn’t hear about this book when it came out, you must be under a rock. Secondly, if you didn’t read it then, I hereby command you to read it now! His Majesty’s Dragon is a fascinating alternate universe idea that follows through with infinite precision. Although Novik’s version of the Napoleonic Wars involves dragons, her historical research is impressive and the surrounding world could not be better detailed.

The idea behind the book is that dragons are used in the military just as airplanes are nowadays, working in squadrons built to utilize each dragon species’ unique natural weaponry. Will Laurence, a captain in the British navy, is unexpectedly chosen by the hatchling of a captured egg and, despite his reluctance to leave his ship behind, does his duty and joins the dragon corps. What follows is an interesting and exciting story which does an extraordinary job at balancing Laurence’s changing view on his situation and trying to find his place in this new, odd society with good, old-fashioned battle scenes.

I was instantly smitten by Temeraire and quickly found myself harboring a cross-species crush on Temeraire. And Laurence isn’t so bad himself! The dragons, despite serving as basically a vessel for the army, are all distinct and interesting characters, as well, and the relationships between them and their captains are very nicely drawn. All in all, a wonderful debut novel!

My rating: A

Throne of Jade and Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

His Majesty’s Dragon was followed almost immediately by Throne of Jade and Black Powder War, but never fear, Novik insists that it is a series, not a trilogy.

These next two, but the second one in particular, turns more to the political side of the conflict. The second book covers Laurence, Temeraire and their crew’s journey to China – Temeraire had been intended as a gift from China to Napoleon but was intercepted by the British in the first book – to try and appease China’s insistance that Temeraire, who is a Celestial dragon (an extremely rare breed), should only be captained by royalty. The third book covers their return to Britain and ends with a very suspenseful, and rather upsetting, cliffhanger.

Their missions, of course, provide much opportunity for plotting and intrigue, but while this was a chance to see Laurence’s authority come through with his crew, I did find myself wishing there was more of the internal, emotional focus that had been present in His Majesty’s Dragon. I have to say, though, that Lien rocks my socks as a villainess, particularly in the third book, Black Powder War!

As I mentioned briefly above, Black Powder War has a very worrying ending and the excerpt from Book Four (still to be released at present) does not assuage any of that tension. I can only hope that Novik is furiously writing because I want to know what happens next! Aso, on a side note, Throne of Jade contains my favorite line, one which is enormous amounts of fun when spoken in a posh British accent around the house and that is ‘Temrer! Cow?’ Hilarious, for some reason.

My rating:

Throne of Jade: B+

Black Powder War: A-

Romance

The Liar’s Club series by Celeste Bradley

All right. I’ll admit it. I occasionally read a romance novel or two. Every girl goes through their romance novel phase – I had mine while I was in high school, but I outgrew it eventually and now only read Julia Quinn’s books because they really are quite good. But one day I was bored and went to her website and she recommended Celeste Bradley’s books. I thought to myself ‘If it’s good enough for Julia, it’s good enough for me!’ and picked one up from the local used bookshop.

And was pleasantly surprised! The Liar’s Club is an elite group of spies based in London during the Napoleonic Wars (i.e. Regency, in romance novel terms). Throughout the series, various members of said elite group find romance, love, and adventure. Of course. But the characters are all very likable, although the men do display that romance cliche of believing themselves not worthy of love or whatever, the women are intelligent, and the spy storyline is really quite exciting! Ordinarily, the ‘plot’ seems tacked on just to link the love scenes, but here I found myself getting to the love scenes and thinking ‘Yeah, yeah, they have sex, blah, blah, blah, get back to the spying!’

It’s not necessary to read these in order (I think I read them as out of order as it is possible to be), but it would help as there is a story arc that connects all five books and characters in the series. I think my favorite was The Spy as it features one of my favorite plot devices: woman disguised as young man. Tres bon!

My rating: B+

The Royal Four series by Celeste Bradley

Once I started reading Bradley’s books, I couldn’t stop. The Royal Four is an ancient group of men (it’s an ancient group, not a group of ancient men…) who basically run the country, advising the prime minister and the crown and, surprisingly enough, Bradley’s Royal Four series follows their adventures in love and, once again, plotting! These books are still enjoyable and feature many of the positive aspects of Bradley’s Liar’s Club series, i.e. heroic heroes, strong heroines, and engaging suspense plots. However, I felt that the heroes all suffered from extreme cases of ‘I don’t deserve a wife, I;m too dangerous to love,’ etc. While understandable, given their political situations, it did start to get on my nerves after a while.

Again, I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order as there is again a story arc that not only spans the Royal Four series but continues on where the last Liar’s Club book leaves off, but it probably helps. My favorites are the first one, To Wed A Scandalous Spy, whose heroine is entirely charming and whose hero has the most justification for his reluctance to take a wife, and the third one, One Night With A Spy which features probably one of the strongest heroines in a romance and the most relaxed of the heroes. Entirely worth the few hours it takes to zip through these stories!

My rating: B

My Scandalous Bride by Christina Dodd, Stephanie Laurens, Celeste Bradley, and Leslie LaFoy

Bought to round out my Celeste Bradley collection, My Scandalous Bride is an anthology of St. Martin’s Press authors and all of them, but especially the Celeste Bradley novella, are exceedingly enjoyable. Christina Dodd, I’ve found, is best dealt with in short doses – while I like reading her novellas, I can’t seem to settle into her full-length books. Stephanie Laurens turns in a story rather similar to her contribution to Scottish Brides another anthology, this time for Avon, but I’m not complaining – she writes notoriously scorching love scenes and this one doesn’t disappoint! Leslie LaFoy, an author I had never heard of prior to this book, turns in a charming story with a likable heroine and a stellar rogue.

Bradley’s story, I thought, was the best. It features Kitty Trapp, who with her twin sister Bitty have made appearances in Bradley’s other series. Kitty is clever and feisty without feeling like a contrived character. In response to her staid new husband, who through a complicated series of events intended to marry her twin but instead wed Kitty in Bitty’s place, Kitty pulls some pranks which made me chuckle out loud. Utterly charming and I must say I was glad to read happy endings for both of the Trapp sisters.

Worth it for the three other stories as well as for the satisfaction of completing my Celeste Bradley collection. Yes, I know, except for Fallen which is on its way as we speak.

My rating: B+

Yuck.

Well, I’m back. Needless to say, it wasn’t what I’d expected. I thought I’d get to be like Comic Book Guy, but it’s stressful! I’m hoping it’s just the whole learning-new-things syndrome, but I feel like there’s a lot they didn’t tell me (and I forgot to ask). Like how much I’m making an hour…