January 2010 archive

#s 3 & 4: Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

#s 3 & 4: Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

I chopped a good five or six inches off my hair yesterday. It’s the shortest it’s ever been now, I’m pretty sure. This is what it looked like when the stylist blowdried it. It, uh, doesn’t look like that when I blowdry it. But whatchagonnado?

Anyhoo.

Two very different books this week: historical romance and contemporary YA.

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

Mr. Impossible by Loretta ChaseI was really looking forward to this one — I’d already read two of the Carsington Brothers series (Lord Perfect and Miss Wonderful) and found them charming, but both of the people who’d recommended them told me I’d like Mr. Impossible best, because a) it’s basically The Mummy in prose form (without an actual mummy) and b) Rupert is a charming scoundrel.

Basically, the book is about a scholar named Daphne, who has to pretend it’s her brother who’s the genius because no one will accept a woman who’s smarter than they are. But her brother gets kidnapped as they’re studying ancient Egypt, and the only one around who can help is Rupert. She and Rupert set off together and through a series of adventures, they fall in love. He thinks her smarts are hot, she thinks his hotness is hot (and it is!), and they have lots of good sex. Hooray!

My one complaint is that it’s set up very clearly at the beginning of the book that Daphne is the brains, where Rupert is the muscle; Daphne is logical where Rupert is rash. But Daphne spends a lot of the book bursting into tears and missing the obvious, while Rupert picks up on clues and does the actual mystery-solving. While Daphne’s smarts showed through in her scholar-ing (that’s a word now), when it came to the plot itself, it was very much an applied attribute. That said, I loved her character growth as she came to terms with being smart and not being ashamed of it, and began to embrace who she is. And I loved the romance (which is, obviously, kinda key to enjoying the book). She and Rupert are delightful, and I would read a million more books about their adventures.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are by Courtney SummersI’m honestly not quite sure what to say about this one. It’s really not my genre; while I read lots and lots of YA, very little of it is contemporary and of that, basically none of it is stories about mean girls and social hierarchies, because those are not things I particularly want to read about. But I adore Courtney — her twitter is super fun to follow if you love Lady Gaga or hate werewolves (or both!) — and despite it not being my genre, I enjoyed her debut novel, Cracked Up to Be, quite a bit.

And I can’t say I didn’t enjoy SGA. I read it in one sitting, and stayed up quite a bit past my bedtime to do so. It’s compelling. But it’s definitely a story about mean girls being mean. And not in the Lindsay Lohan-movie way. The book is brutal: it kicks off with an attempted rape, and the antagonists laugh about it and use it as a way to torment the protagonist throughout.

Speaking of the protagonist, Regina: she’s not nice either. She’s not a good person who’s dealing with bad things happening to her; she’s not sympathetic. She was one of the mean girls until she got frozen out, and Summers doesn’t shy away from the fact that Regina is basically exactly the same as the people tormenting her, she’s just on the receiving end for a change. It was definitely interesting; one of the main themes of the book was that everyone revels in being a bitch sometimes.1 It would have been dishonest if Regina hadn’t been, too. But that made it hard to root for her. It felt almost arbitrary that she was the protagonist and the girl she hated most was the antagonist; without changing much of the story before the very end, only flipping the point of view, it could have been about Kara getting back at Regina for a variety of horrible things Regina had done.

So ultimately, I’m not sure what to say. A few months ago, Courtney2 posted a very interesting blog entry about mean girls and writing SGA; looking through the comments, what I wrote in response was:

I really wonder if my own completely weirdo high school existences are why I don’t read much contemporary stuff and am much more drawn to sf/f. Hmmm. There wasn’t really a lot of bullying or cliqueishness in my school (that I was aware of); I never felt bullied or that I had to find a way to belong with my equally-weird friends. So I rarely see myself reflected in contemporary stuff and I rarely identify with the characters on either side.

Aside from the fact that I evidently wrote “existences” instead of “experiences,” I think that’s the best I can do to sum up my feelings on SGA. It was a good book; it just wasn’t a book for me. But Summers’ writing3 is compelling — I read both of her books cover-to-cover without stopping. So I would absolutely recommend to people who are into mean girls-style stories.

  1. Including the reader: why would you, by which I mean me, or to be grammatically correct, I, speed through a book about horrible people if there wasn’t at least a little visceral enjoyment in seeing people, you know, be horrible?
  2. I can’t decide if I should be referring to her by first or last name in this post
  3. There I go again.

#1: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

#1: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Last year, I tried (elsewhere) to keep track of the books I read. I gave up in February when I could no longer type: banishment from the computer meant I was able to read more, but not record titles or my impressions. (Handwriting is not good for sore wrists either, for the record.) Basically I gave up three months into the year.

This year I’m trying again, though I’m weirdly nervous about it. What if I lose track and slack off and this tag only ever has this one entry? What if the internet judges me based on what I read? Or, for that matter, what I haven’t read yet? I was a serious bookworm growing up — less so of late, though I hope keeping track of what I read will encourage me a bit — but I never read much that could count as The Classics. The classics I did read were mostly for English class, and that sort of damaged the joy of reading them for me.

Case in point: Pride and Prejudice. Now, basically all of my friends swear by this book. Several swoon over Mr. Darcy. But I read it for A.P. English and detested it. Which, looking back, was unfair; it had nothing to do with the book itself, and everything to do with the teacher. This was a teacher whose favorite Shakespeare was The Taming of the Shrew — LOL spousal abuse, I guess? — and when we read it in class, who declared, “Becky, you read Kate, because you’re a shrew.” Not so much my favorite teacher.1 So I have been studiously avoiding Austen and all things associated with her ever since.

Like, in this case, Sense and Sensibility. Which I have now read! My sister put the movie on a couple of months ago, and I looooooooooved it. We actually ended up watching it twice in 24 hours. So I decided perhaps I should get over my admittedly irrational avoidance, so I picked up the book, put off reading it for awhile, and finally started it on vacation a couple weeks ago.

And okay, yes. I loved it. Jane Austen: A++, would read again. It was a bit more challenging than most of what I read, because I am very accustomed to modern pacing and structure, but once I fell into the rhythm of the book I quite enjoyed it. I loved both Elinor and Marianne, and I really enjoyed Edward and Colonel Brandon. I didn’t get all of the satire because I don’t know much about what was being satirized — I know just enough to know what I don’t know, basically — but once I shrugged and accepted that the various friends and relations running around and being ridiculous were, in fact, meant to be ridiculous, and stopped worrying about keeping track of who they were related to and how all the supporting characters related to one another, it was delightful. It took me a couple of weeks to read the first section, but once I got sucked in, I sped through volumes two and three in a few days.

So in the end, I feel thoroughly enriched and glad I read it. And now I’m going to watch the movie again, because that sounds perfect for a lazy Sunday, lying-on-the-couch viewing.

  1. In fairness to her, I was a pretty snotty student. I wouldn’t have liked teaching me, either.