Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Catch-Up Book Report

My neck is a little more flexible today and a lot less painful. Dance tonight should be interesting, but I think if I'm careful it should be good for me. Getting my body that warm may even do the final trick of snapping it all back into place. Turning may be a challenge, though. Not that it isn't usually, but I'll have a different excuse for being terrible.

I've been lax in reporting on my reading, so here's a massive book report:

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff -- She's the author of one of the first "chick lit" books I ever read, and now seems to be transitioning more to "women's fiction," though I think her "chick lit" always had more depth than the genre was given credit for. Her books were never about shoes, shopping and getting drunk and were usually about facing the consequences of one's actions. She still has the same voice but is breaking away from what few genre tropes she ever really followed. In this book, the heroine has opened a vintage clothing store and when assessing a collection of clothes to purchase for the store, she befriends the terminally ill elderly woman who's selling off her decades worth of high-end clothes. This woman's experience with a friend during WWII eerily echoes the heroine's recent experience with a friend, and that may end up helping both of them. There's also a romantic subplot, but this is definitely not a typical genre romance. I read this in just about one sitting and then had an urge to go shopping for vintage clothes (as long as I tend to keep clothes, I can almost do that in my own closet). Now I'm in the mood for that particular kind of book.

The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne -- While I enjoyed this, I'd say it's my least-favorite of her books because while I still love her writing and her characters, this is so not my fantasy. An ordinary gardener/landscape designer meets a great guy at a party and then learns that he's an actual prince from a small country (think Monaco on an island). But then she has to rethink the relationship when being with a prince means being stalked by tabloid reporters, going through a full makeover and not having time for her own career. I think that was my main problem with the story -- the bad parts of dating someone like that were dealt with pretty realistically, which made it hard to believe a truly happy ending would be possible. It was a fun read along the way but left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg -- I grabbed this off a library display in the teen section just because of that title. A teen girl who has overheard a boy she has a crush on describing her to his friend as having a "great personality," which everyone knows is code for "ugly," starts spiffing herself up on a dare from a friend and is surprised by how much it changes the way people see her, which then changes her own confidence levels. But then she has to wonder why the hot guy who asks her out didn't seem to notice her before. Can she trust him if he only likes her because of the way she looks? It doesn't help matters that her mother is an obsessed pageant mom, putting her 7-year-old sister through all the "little miss" pageants while ignoring her, since she's not really pageant material. This was another book I read in one sitting, and it was a fun teen book. I could see this making a good ABC Family TV movie. However, I was a little disappointed that the only "revenge" was wearing more makeup.

But I did have a minor epiphany about all those makeover stories. Thinking about my own past, I realized that, for the most part, most people don't notice even drastic changes. They form an image of you from the start, and then no matter what you do, that's their image of you. I started high school doing the full Merle Norman, West Texas version (subtle blush and eye makeup in neutral tones). Then a male classmate remarked on how girls had it easy because they could wear makeup and cover up their flaws, and there was an implied dare about not having the guts to go without makeup. So I did, for nearly two years. It didn't change anything about the way people saw me or treated me. Then during the summer between my junior and senior years, I got the Merle Norman treatment again, this time the East Texas version, which isn't at all subtle and which involved about three blushers for contouring and highlighting and about four eyeshadows to do the full contoured eye look, with the main color being a bright teal (this was the 80s). No one noticed a difference, and it changed nothing about the way people saw me or the way they treated me. I remember feeling very self-conscious about my weight and thought of myself as chubby, but I didn't weigh that much more than I do now, and I think by the time I graduated I was probably in about the same shape I am now, and losing weight and toning up changed nothing about how much interest I got from boys. So, basically, all those "wear more makeup, do your hair and wear different clothes, and it will change your life!" things are bogus. If it changes the way you see yourself, then great, and it may affect the way new people establish a relationship with you, but don't expect people who've known you for years to even notice a difference.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell -- This was another one that caught my eye on a display in the teen section (which I have to pass through to get from the new books display to the adult section), though it's actually more of a middle grade book, suggested for ages 9-12, and I think it really is for that category rather than being something for "children of all ages" that adults can enjoy equally. I thought it was a cute book, and in that age range I'd have probably become obsessed with it, but I couldn't get past the sense that I was reading a book for kids. Our heroine is a princess who'd really rather just hide away somewhere as a scribe, so when a loathsome cousin pulls an underhanded move to usurp the throne, she's actually okay with it because she'll finally have time to write. But then her friends rescue her, and they set out to become dragon slayers. Along the way, though, they learn that there's a lot they didn't know about dragons. If you've got a girl in that age range who likes fantasy, this is a good read. As an adult, you may find yourself frustrated by the (accurately depicted) decision-making abilities of young teens. I was impressed that the medieval life depicted was a little closer to what we know of reality than in most fantasy novels. It's set in an alternate Germany (in a world with dragons), along the Rhine, and I kept trying to mentally map the book because that's a familiar area. I'll have to look at a map and see if any of the place names in the book translate or correspond to anything in the real world.

And now for an appropriate way to end a book-related post, 17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand. (It loads slowly, but wait because the animations are what make the photos make sense.)

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