Archive for September 2010
If you were following my Twitter feed or my Facebook earlier today you would have noticed me complaining about reading a book instead of listing books. It’s totally my own fault and I have no-one else to blame but I’ll try and blame the author…let’s see how I go.
I picked up The Chalet School in Exile by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. All I was going to do was look at the publishing date so I could get some idea of a price for it, seriously, but I took a look at the first couple of pages as they weren’t in such good condition and ended up on the first page of the book. Bad move, very bad move. The Chalet School books are seriously good books, I won’t claim to have read all of them as there are around 60 books and some of them are hard to get but I have read a fair few and they are addictive reading.
The Chalet School books are essentially about a private girls school set in the Austrian Alps until 1938 when they relocate to the island of Guernsey. The Austrian Alps is supposed to have very good air and be very good for people with delicate health. The founder of the school, Madge Bettany, has a 12 year old sister who is delicate so she kills two birds with one stone by setting up a school there, thus providing herself with a job and a career. Madge Bettany is a tyrant for good manners and teaching girls the important things in life and these include a good education in topics such as languages (they alternate using French, German or English as the main language of the day), history, geography, science, sports, needlework and being good all round people.
During the life of the series, Madge marries and has children, her twin brother marries and has four children but as they live in India (which is considered a bad place for children at that time) the children live with Madge and Jo (her younger sister), Jo also marries, has children and becomes an accomplished author – at this point you can speculate on whether the books she writes are written about the school, it is certainly suggested within the books.
There are many students and they all have their quirks. Many of the younger ones like playing tricks or bad grammar and are told off in no uncertain terms. There are accidents, illnesses and so many other things that I couldn’t possibly write about them all in one blog. I’m over 400 words and I haven’t even begun to tell you why this particular book took over my morning.
The Chalet School in Exile starts its journey in mid-March 1938 just at the time Hitler invades Austria and draws it into the Third Reich. It’s both an interesting and horrific time in history. In this book Madge and her husband, Jem, are looking at the school and whether it’s safe to continue. Jem is worried while Madge is not which was typical of that time, many people didn’t think there would be a problem and were proved so wrong. During half term they move the school nearer to the sanitarium run by Jem as they feel this is safer but found nothing was safe as Jo’s adopted sister, Robin, tried to save a Jewish man from being beaten. The girls with her help and they all find themselves unable to go back to school. They are smuggled out of Austria very quickly and move to Guernsey where they stay for a while until Madge sets up the school on the island. They have all sorts of fun and games including a spy and the birth of Jo’s children. That’s all I’ll say about the plot as it’s very involved and there’s so much in it. If it was being written now then it would not be limited to 190 pages but would be much bigger and I suggest would be 400+ pages.
This particular book is a spellbinder, I’ve read it before and couldn’t put it down then so I have no idea how come I thought today would be any different. It was written in 1940, only a year or two after the events it’s talking about and is aimed at children. There are many difficult concepts but then again, those were very difficult times and the children in Britain would have known bombings, food shortages, having to grow your own food and so much more. They would have heard about the war and would have known some of what was going on. It was quite clear in this book that people had some knowledge about the concentration camps and some of the other atrocities that were going on, some of the spouses of Jo’s school friends somehow made it out of a concentration camp and to Guernsey. The writing is good and some of the harder concepts are glossed over so younger children should be able to cope with them, it will open up a whole slew of questions, though. It is a page turner, I couldn’t put it down as I had to turn over the page and find out what was happening next, I know I’ve read it before and had a really good memory of it but I still had to find out what was on the next page, the only time I looked up in the entire book was to look up one name so I could place it in a historical timeline.
I have 14 more Chalet School books to be listed. I do hope I don’t have the same problem with them otherwise I’ll be a long time listing.
I’m approaching this review with trepidation. As my friends know I don’t read romance but I found myself in a bit of a bind. Erica Hayes had put a call out on Twitter and I responded…after checking her profile and discovering she wrote fantasy. After a little correspondence she sent me a pdf of her book to review and this is where the trepidation set in, she did warn me it had romance but didn’t mention the erotica component. I didn’t feel I could let her down and not read it so I did, very tentatively at first and with lots of breaks but yesterday I set my mind to it and got to the point where I could finish it this morning.
Ok, the plot. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy but they don’t tell each other. This is set in gangland Melbourne, Australia but they’re not normal humans, you’ve got vampires, fae, banshees and I’m not certain what else. If nothing else I’ve discovered I’m not excited by erotica. There’s the normal gangland violence we’ve come to expect in Melbourne.
Hayes does write well and I found myself wanting to finish as I had many questions that needed answering. Her characters were well written and I kept comparing her scenes with the little I know of normal drugs and nightclubs. It was interesting and I feel I know more than I did before.
Should Hayes ever branch out from romance and erotica then I’d be wanting to read her books, she shows enough promise that I feel confident enough to follow her into other genres.
No book related post tonight, I’m sure I could come up with a topic but I’m just going to share instead.
My eldest was rather late tonight and I’d just sent her a text to ask for an ETA when she walked in the door and cheerfully said ‘About now.’ She apologised and explained why. While she was on the bus coming home she saw a purse sitting on the fire hydrant, seeing as the bus had stopped she asked the driver to wait a moment stepped out, grabbed the purse and then got back on the bus. Looking inside she noticed it belonged to someone fairly close to home so she took it there. The owner was overwhelmed as she had assumed she’d never it back and that she’d have to cancel credit cards etc, but to have it back intact restored her faith in humanity. Naturally she wanted to thank DD and that took time so she was rather late. So, I’m a very proud mother tonight.
One of the panels I attended at AussieCon 4 was called Spoiler Alert: reviewing plot-driven fiction without giving the story away. The panel had some awesome people on it: they were Ian Mond, Helen Venn, Jenny Blackford and Crisetta Macleod. I wasn’t fast enough to write down what they did but there’s a fair amount of literature in there, reviewing books and also writing books.
I learnt so many things from them and hope to try and put some of them into practice but I’m fallible so that may not happen. The biggest thing I learnt is that a review is not the same as a critical essay. When writing an essay at school you’d assume the teacher had read the book and was looking to see how thoroughly you’d read it as well as your understanding of the book some of which may include putting the book into context in history. A review is nothing like that. A review is for those people who haven’t read the book and so you have to tread a fine line between giving enough of the details so the reader knows whether if this book is for them and revealing the plot. They suggested you talk about how it fits into the genre (this is a fun thought as some books cross genres and could be categorised in two or three genres), and mention the plot from the first three chapters only. They also suggested you outline the protagonist and main characters. I like to talk about the writing style and also to give any warnings as I try to have a ‘G’ rated blog.
If you’re reviewing a book that is part way through the series and you haven’t read the previous ones you could say “I haven’t read the previous books but this is my take on this book”. Some people also talk about how it is a stand-alone book or if it needs to be read as a part of the series.
Some do’s and don’ts
Don’t reveal if there’s a twist.
Don’t say nasty things as sooner or later you will meet that person and feel really bad.
Do accentuate the positives and play down the negatives.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking out loud about English on the Pre-loved Books @ Suz’s Space Facebook Fan page. I don’t pretend to be interesting all the time as it’s just various things I’m thinking about and notice in my travels. Sometimes it’s things I’ve pulled out of one of my many books on the English Language while other times it’s something I’ve seen on TV or somewhere on the web.
I sometimes dwell on how English is a mongrel language and has words taken from so many different languages. I also sometimes look at how words change over time. One thing I’ve been doing recently is shortening the word ‘fabulous’ to ‘fabo’, I’ve been doing this in print as well as in speech and today I discovered one friend (Norlin of Baubles, Bubbles and Bags) has started using ‘fabo’. I admit she used it on Twitter and like SMS Twitter reduces a lot of words to their essence.
Here are a few of my musings:
Got a great word for you tonight, it’s ‘bombast’. It’s from the Elizabethan times when men of fashion used to pad their clothes with cotton, tow and other materials, this padding was called ‘bombast’ from the Old French ‘bombace’. It came to be used to describe shallowness of thought dressed up in extra-vagrant and high-sounding language. It’s something politicians use a lot.
Phoneme – the basic units in the sound system of a language. Phonemes come together to form syllables (can is made up of three phonemes) while some phonemes require two letters to represent the sound (for example ‘sh’).
Love some of the old phrases, pity they’re not used so much nowadays. The Goodies were just told to ‘not be so wet’. I haven’t heard that phrase for many years.
Orthography is the art of spelling words correctly. That’s really interesting as I thought it was a science and not an art. Oh well, you live and learn.
In camera comes from the Latin and means in a vault. If a courtcase is held ‘in camera’ then it’s held in the judge’s chambers rather than in the courtroom.
Homophones, nothing to do with being gay. These are words that sound alike but written differently with different meanings i.e. maize & maze.
Maize is corn. You can get corn meal which is actually made from maize or corn meal which is made from wheat so people who have problems with wheat or gluten need to be careful.
Maze is a labyrinth & nothing to do with food unless you get lost in one & end up starving to death.
Anyway, it’d be lovely to have you join me on the Pre-loved Books @ Suz’s Space Facebook Fan page for some fun and games.
This book is set in 1997 during the lead up to the Y2K changeover and during the opening of the Crown Casino. These are both mentioned, in part due to Murray needing a plus one to take to the opening ceremony. The Premier of Victoria is called Kenneth Geoffries, a very thinly disguised pseudonym for our Premier of those times, Jeff Kennett.
In the previous books I’ve read, Murray Whelan is a rather naive man who does as he’s told and investigates things and just happens to find himself in a better job at the end of the book. In this book he’s matured a lot (he’d better, he’s now 50 and his son, Red, is having driving lessons) and he’s able to work the situations to his advantage. Yes, he ends up with a better job at the end of the book but this time it feels like he’s actually done the manipulating himself rather than having someone do it for him. It’s still got the flavour of the previous books, it’s just that Murray is older and, we hope, wiser. He’s starting to be more serious about taking care of his health and is running more often, the house is no longer falling down and he seems to have his life together.
This is Shane Maloney at his best. I’m sure I’ve spoken before about how politically naive I am so it’s really interesting to get a good insider’s view of the whole political machinations and to get a good understanding of the shenanegins. Maloney has a knack for writing in the vernacular while making it understandable by people outside the system. He’s taken a situation, shown how it could have happened and then shown us the politics behind the situation and then the wrap up so we can see one possible ending. I really could have done without the sex scenes but that’s just me and I think I understand how it could be a part of an unattached politician’s life.