Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekend books and cats

Things have been a little quiet around here as reviews for Feb's Historical Novels Review begin to arrive. Plus I've been occupied with these little critters:




They and their mama showed up on our front doorstep on Thursday at lunchtime, when it was 20 degrees out and windy. They were shivering. I brought them all inside and put them in our spare room along with a litter box, food, and water, and they're still there. We decided we'll keep them. On the same day, a friend rescued a longhaired orange kitty and took him in, which makes four kitties saved from the cold last week. We're turning into crazy cat people, all right.

I'll have some more reviews to post soon, though this past weekend I deliberately took a break from the immediate TBR pile. We recently started a subscription to Netflix, and Memoirs of a Geisha came up as a DVD I might enjoy watching. I put it in my queue but figured I ought to read the book first. Especially considering I'd bought it from Book of the Month Club when it came out (1997) but had yet to read it. (Other books in my collection have gone unread for longer than that. I try not to think about it too much.)

I won't be doing a formal writeup here, the book's too well known for that, but I did enjoy it a lot. However, I can't say I was swept away by it. It painted a very detailed picture of life as a geisha in Kyoto's entertainment district both before and after WWII. Sayuri's first-person narrative was involving and convincing, with an appropriate amount of emotional reserve. I would have liked more detail on her life as a witty, accomplished entertainer/artist as opposed to her mizuage (sexual initiation signifying her transformation from apprentice to full-fledged geisha). I had read Liza Dalby's Geisha in my intro to cultural anthropology class in undergrad and was fascinated by her depiction of the geisha world, which few Westerners get to glimpse; Golden's novel held the same fascination for me.

The second book I finished this weekend was a surprise. Sometimes I receive books for HNR that are outside the magazine's parameters, so I can't send them out to reviewers. Usually these are contemporary novels about the past rather than full-fledged historicals. On Friday afternoon, I opened up a mailing from Random House and found a copy of Michael Thomas Ford's Jane Bites Back, which has the cover tagline "It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is still alive today... as a vampire." Oh, yes. It was one of them. I'd read last year about the four-way auction for this book, which Ballantine won, and tucked that information away in the part of my brain I reserve for publishing trivia. I don't normally read vampire novels. Blood doesn't excite me. I'm not really a Janeite, either. But for some reason, I picked this novel off the coffee table while lazing around on the couch on Sunday morning and got hooked. Before I knew it, it was 4pm and the 300-page book was finished.

The main character, Jane "Fairfax" nee Austen, is a bookstore owner after my own heart. After the 200-odd years since her supposed death, the Austen industry has exploded. Not surprisingly, Jane is fed up with authors motivated not by the love of her work but by the desire to make a fast buck. After succeeding in a last-ditch attempt to find a publisher for her manuscript, written just before she was "turned," she simultaneously contends with a jealous Bronte scholar, a new boyfriend who may not understand her secret, the unpleasant return of an undead former suitor, and keeping her true identity hidden in the face of newfound fame. Her carefully concealed sharp fangs really aren't the point (pun intended), though she does need to feed now and then. Instead, it's a very funny spoof of the trend-hungry publishing industry, Austenmania, and vampire novels, and it doesn't make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. On the other hand, the author clearly knows his way around early 19th-century literature. The result is a vampire novel that even doubters of the concept could be caught dead reading. The official pub date is December 29th.

17 comments:

  1. Wow, I'm SO impressed about the Jane Austen book! I saw something about that book and was DREADING its release, thinking, "Wasn't Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters enough?!" Glad this one is more of a parody :-)

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  2. What cute additions to your family. I'm so glad you took them it.

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  3. Awww, the kitties are cute :-)
    I second Aarti re the Jane Austen book; my heart sinks whenever I hear of another of these things, so it's nice to hear that this one seems different.

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  4. Awww, those kittens are at maximum cuteness, too! I'm glad that someone is parodying the Austen parodies!

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  5. I've been staying far away from the zombies and sea monsters so didn't expect to like this one at all. It is a parody but it remains respectful of Jane's own work -- and Jane gets the best lines.

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  6. You're a sucker, just like me! I took in a kitten I found outside recently too, despite having too many already =) But, I am so glad I did - she already has my heart!

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  7. They are so cute!

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  8. Jeannie8:50 PM

    Awww, I just melted looking at the first three pictures....

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  9. Anonymous11:18 AM

    Hi. I came across your blog and thought you might like this #Austenmania and this http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishersoffice/radioroom/0609/pcoa/episode1.html.

    enjoy!

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  10. What adorable cats! Lucky they turned up at exactly the right house.

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  11. The little brown tabby reminds me of one of my cats, Caesar. We're up to 4 cats, so you'll need to collect more of them before I'll ever consider you a "Crazy Cat Lady." :)

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  12. Christine, how about if I told you we already had three before this? :) And we feed a few outdoor ones in our shed and have a semi-feral one living in a heated shelter on our front porch. On the other hand, we live in a big house out in the country, so there's room for them. We haven't introduced the new three to the previous three yet, though.

    The mother cat did seem to know where to bring the kittens, yes... she'd been scoping us out for the past couple weeks, now that I think about it.

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  13. Uh oh, Sarah, you may be dangerously close to being a Crazy Cat Lady. But I think the number of cats you have should really be proportional to the number of books you have. :)

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  14. If that was the case then we'd really be in trouble! It's also very scary to contemplate all of that cat litter. :)

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  15. Those kittens are truly adorable. How could you resist?

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  16. How interesting that you even picked up that novel, let alone ENJOYED it! Blood doesn't excite me either, neither do vampires, but Jane interests me.

    And those kitty pics are adorable, you must share more of them. What good samaritans you (& your friend!) are for helping out the sad little furry babies. Crazy cat ladies are Cool!

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  17. Nakita7:48 AM

    Cute cats! This review makes for such an interesting read! I actually quite enjoyed other parody novels (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) so I'm looking forward to this read!.

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