Friday, April 27, 2012

Book 34: Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor

Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor continues my theme of reading memoirs about the lives of those who worked in domestic service. Rosina Harrison weaves her legacy working as a ladys maid to Lady Astor.

This is one of those books I found on Amazon in the related reading area. As I was telling my mom the other night, Amazon and Good are just great places for me to find some books that I want to read next. It was a great little find since this gave me another facet to those who work in the domestic service for the English wealthy.

Rose is a different kind of worker all together. Unlike Margaret Powell, Rose realized very quickly that domestic service as a ladys maid would provide a way for her to achieve her dream to travel the world. Rose was more sophisticated but that was required for her job. As her mother told her, she would have to smarten up so the whole family sacrificed while she got two additional years in school then most girls got. Throughout the memoir, Rose was a realist. She saw both gray in peoples life and how some things just exist as fact.

I loved some of the anecdotes that Rose shared. Especially the one about how Lady Astor wore a frock to death from Marks and Spencer that only cost a few pounds and then claimed it was specially made for her when it was complimented. Working in retail, it was just a story I could see happening and enjoy.   

Rose was in a special proximity with Lady Astor. She was the one who would help dress the lady and be there for her at all times but she wasnt involved with the ladys political life or social life per say. Sure there were times when they confided in each other but it was a bit of separation between them since there was a worker/employer relationship.

In many ways, I think I enjoyed Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor more than Below Stairs. Rose was grateful. Plus she stayed with one place for thirty-five years and was above the stairs so she could really connect with her employers rather than only staying with a family for a short time.

Book 33: Below Stairs

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell is a book about what it was like to work in the kitchens of England’s rich and famous in the early 1900s. This book is touted as being one of the reference books used in the hit series: Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. This book was an enjoyable read.

I won’t lie, I was drawn to this book since it’s been a reference book for two great dramas shown on PBS over the years. I love going back to the source material for things and read memoirs. So I knew right away that this was a book that would interest me.

One of the things I love about good memoirs is how a person will show their personality. It’s not just what is said, it’s how it is said. Powell’s feisty, working class personality showed through. But it brought a lot of flavor to the book.

I can definitely see how this book has been used in Downtown Abbey. Much of Margaret Powell is in Daisy especially her relationship with the cook. Many of the anecdotes started to show up in the series in one way or another.

I will say it’s a bit of a mix bag of tricks to see her relationship with the job she had. It was something she did and hated doing a good part of the work.  She got a lot out of her job but it did cost a lot too: mainly her happiness and free time. It’s a lot like my first job.

I really liked this book. I could relate to her stories a lot even though my menial tasks have been so much easier then a lot of what Mrs. Powell did when she was kitchen maid.  Cleaning bedrooms is so much easier now then some of the things she said. I got a great picture of what her life was like.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book 32: Star Trek Deep Space Nine Bloodletter

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Bloodletter just failed to be a great book for me. A lot of the time, I keep finding my suspended disbelief couldn’t remain suspended. There were moments where I kept going this isn’t good Trek.

In need of a Star Trek fix and after the fail to get that on the eReader during my Philly trip, I was finally able to treat myself after coming home and finishing Royal Pains.  I decided to go Old School Star Trek. Okay not Old School in the sense of the original series but from early Deep Space Nine (before they even knew they would relaunch the book series).  This is the third book in the series written back in 1993. Even Deep Space Nine was only in its first season.  

Being an early book, there is some things you could let slide. At least I tried to but it just didn’t always work.

This book quite frankly didn’t deal with the Star Trek universe very well. First, they made Sisko very concerned by finances and they were trying to run a deficit to prove how they needed a larger budget. Great except the Federation officers don’t worry about money and they struggle with the concept of being driven by money when dealing with the Ferengi (as shown in The Next Generation). So to see so much focus on money and budgets didn’t make sense. Second, Dax wasn’t even mentioned or used until mid book when she was always part of the conversations and more likely to be in a private conversation with Sisko and Kira then Brashir ever would be. Third was pulling the baseball from Sisko’s drawer and explaining what it was. The baseball was always on display on the desk. No need to explain it to a senior officer after the Emissary book/episode. Then there was the problem of the Doctor.

I tried to tell myself that the character problems weren’t really there. It was just an early Trek book. It was before the character growth happened. But then they had Kira trying to save the prophets while the Doctor was willing to sacrifice them. He took an oath that said do no harm. He would never advocate or really even consider the killing of the Prophets. It would be genocide. So when that happened. It was game over in trying to keep the suspended disbelief.

Letters 10-15

Letter 10: To a good friend

Letter 11,12,13: a hidden find which has been used for friends, birthday wishes and a thank you

                                                        Letter 15: to a friend to say hello

Book 31: Royal Pains

Royal Pains is a book that highlights different royals or nobility that didn’t act with a certain sense of decorum and were the bane of their family and their reputations. Some of the profiles seemed to be a much more of a royal pain then others.

I never expected to purchase this book. I was in Philly and was ready to start a new book, anticipated that I would use my EReader but that failed to turn on. So I ran to the Drexel bookstore (since I was on campus and didn’t want to spend too much time trying to get one).  Royal Pains caught my eye since it sounded interesting.  Plus while I was there, I got myself a cute little t-shirt from my alma mater.

I adore the balance that Leslie Carrol has between readable narratives and being well researched. I love that. So many non-fiction books are just dry if they are informative and well research or the line starts to be blurred with historical fiction. I loved how there was a multi-page selected bibliography and there were books/authors I’ve respected over the years. Some of the books in the bibliography have made their way to my to-read list.

I learned some unusual things in this book. First was the more graphic details involved with Vlad the Impaler’s impaling. There was a specific way they went on.  Second, I’m ineligible to become Queen of England due to my religion and so would be my husband. Yet if the kids are raised as Protestant, they would be in line for the throne. This is of course if the Queen approves of the wedding which isn’t necessarily going to happen. I knew after the succession wars between the Catholics and Protestants got messy but I didn’t realized it got written into law that Catholics couldn’t rule. Third, a form of capital punishment in Hungary was to slice open a horse’s stomach then sew in a gypsy woman into the stomach and wait for both to expire while the gypsy tries to claw out. Even worse, they let a small child watch this.  While I know in that age and culture, it probably wasn’t that uncommon or even considered to be damaging to watch punishments like this but I’m sure it helped to create the “Bloody Countess”. Also, this was one of things that were that got neglected in at the Torture museum that I went to in Prague. 

My biggest gripe about this book is how some of the royals didn’t seem that bad. Then again, while I realize for a royal family especially in the post Victorian age, a sex scandal can seem like a big deal. But they are a dime a dozen anymore. So I’m not sure having sex scandals or mimicking the queen really compares to the more violent types or the ones who try steal crown.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book 30: The Search

The Search by Suzanne Fisher Woods is the most disappointing book in the Lancaster Secrets Series. The book just failed to hit a sweet spot and really pull me into the narrative.  It went from bad to okay.

I borrowed this book from my mom. This was one Christmas gift I felt bad giving. The last Beverly Lewis book wasn’t the best but wasn’t bad. I wish the book was stronger. My mom loves books as much as I do but she will spend her disposable income on her daughters (like any great parent does) where I will spend it on books (but at least I will give her a fair portion of my books to read as well). So when she gets a new book, I want it to be a good one so I felt bad that this wasn’t one of those great books. But I’m glad if one of us paid for the book that it was me.

The Search is a bit of a three story arch. There is Bess’ tale where she’s growing up while visiting her grandmother, Beth. Beth is trying to find a bone marrow match for her brother Simon and knows Lainey’s secret without using it. Then there is Lainey who is non-Amish but is tempted into the fold through her relationship with Beth and Bess.

The book was just not fantastic. I found myself especially early on forcing myself into the story. The story didn’t connect to my spirit or my attention span for the first 150 pages. I found my eyes wondering around the different points to the airport rather then focused on the text. This was a huge change from the last book (Deeper Than the Dead). Personally I rather a book catch my attention rather then force myself to read.

Thankfully Lainey really got my attention and really started to develop as the book went on. I loved watching her unfold as a character.  She was strong, into religion and I love her personality. She is what I want to be in a way-she finds a path in life that suits her even though it was completely different from what she thought going into the book.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book 29: Deeper Than The Dead

Deeper than the Dead by Tami Hoag was a bit of a surprise to find on my bookshelf. A surprise that I’m glad that I found. It’s one of those stories that really just sucked me in.

For over a decade now, I have Serial Killer Fridays. It started in Criminal Justice class where every Friday we would watch a documentary on a serial killer. Since then Friday nights were my favorite night to watch documentaries about serial killers, scammers, and other sorts of crime. It just so happened that I started this book on a Friday and it easily fit into the realm of Serial Killer Fridays except the book is fictional where we wish Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and others were fictional.

Deeper than the Dead is thrilling book that is set in 1985 in a suburban California town that is home to a serial killer that has a very creepy signature. He would glue the mouth shut, glue the eye lids shut and destroy the ear drums- see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil killer. The second body is actually found by a set of children: a quiet smart boy Tommy, a girl Wendy, the class bully Dennis and his cohort Cody.  The book has serial different threads, there is how the kids are coping with the case, their teacher who is genuinely concerned about the kids who is working with the police, the police investigating the crime, and the victim still in the murder’s clutches.

I was in love with the book for the better part of the book. A real thriller. Plus was using some believable police work in an age where forensic evidence and profiling was in its infancy. The jockeying relationship between the police and the profiler who came in to help was also very believable.

The thing I didn’t like was the ending. Now I don’t want to say too much since it would lead to spoilers. But everything unraveled and it wasn’t just the serial killer. It was a police man and his Dennis as well. It just seemed like too much to be believable. Now I would buy Dennis’ problem coming to the surface after seeing a dead body. It’s his dad’s demise and factored character that is the most unconvincing.

But I enjoyed this book big time. I wouldn’t whip out just any book while waiting in a convention line, but I found myself reading this book every chance I could.  I wanted to know what happened next and who the killer was.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book 28: After the Golden Age

After the Golden Age is one of the few repeat reads by me. I read this book last year. I loaned it out to a friend and was about ready to loan it out a second time, but I wanted to make sure it was still worth loaning out. I will have to admit, the sweet spot wasn’t as well hit this time around.

So this will be quick review since my first thoughts are here:

After getting over the fact that this is a prose written superhero book, you have to look at the details. That’s where a couple things start to fall flat. Mainly I found it hard to related to Celia half the time. I wanted to like her but she would say something or just be so resentful to her parents without proof.  Plus there were some point of view issues.