Books Review – The Bride’s Little Book of…

Title: The Bride’s Little Book of Cakes and Toasts
Title: The Bride’s Little Book of Customs and Keepsakes
Presented By: Brides Magazine
Format: Hardback
Published: 1993-1994

This review is a two-fer.  I was looking for better wedding books at the library and came across The Bride’s Little Book of… series in the online directory, so I placed holds on both of them.  When they got to me, I realized they were much more little than I expected, but I checked them out anyway, hoping they’d be even a little bit useful for a minute.

oh lordt.

So, for starters, I’m going to recognize the fact that the books are almost 25 years old, which is an eternity in something like weddings, which change stylistically all the time.  But the type of information I wanted from these were things I thought could transcend that, so I opened the book.

They’re both short-short.  Like 40-ish pages each.  And they’re both small.  Like four or five inches, and barely thick at all.  And since they brag about having “Over 30 images of…”, there’s an understandably small amount of space left to hold any actual information.    Y’all, it’s all so dated-traditional that I don’t think this stuff was useful at the time.  Seriously, I don’t think anything in this book was cutting age when the thing rolled off the press.

I had expected information like who should do toasts, what to expect from them, etc…  What I got was one page of quotations that were so overused that they were beyond clichee.  (May the road rise up to meet you…)  Come on.  We can do better than that.

These books *did* have a bit of cool historical information.  Like the origins of ___.  Which was neat, but not what I was going to these books for.

Which brings me to the saddest ratings ever.  These could have been those tiny gift books we find today boxed with weird trinkets.  (Customs and Keepsakes, complete with blue ribbon and old penny!)  But they weren’t.  They were just sad.

If you come across them at a yard sale, give somebody a nickel for them and then throw them in the trash to better weddings everywhere.  I hope these were better when they were originally published, but they absolutely fail the test of time.  I’ll give them a very overly optimistic 2/5 for the historical tidbits and nothing else.

 

 

Book Review – The Gates of Neptune

Title: The Gates of Neptune

Author: Gilbert L. Morris

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 1994

The Gates of Neptune is the second book in the Seven Sleepers series. The friend who loaned the books to me warned me that this book was the ‘obligatory water adventure’ that most fantasy series seem to have, and that this one was not really a shining example of the breed. I have to agree.

The Gates of Neptune follows right on the heels of Flight of Eagles, and the Seven Sleepers are soon separated from their fellow travelers. They find themselves on the edge of the ocean, where they are met by a Princess of Atlantis. The Sleepers follow her to the city, and learn quickly of the threat that is facing Atlantis.

Where The Flight of the Eagles focused primarily on Josh, The Gates of Neptune is Sarah’s book. She is the one Goel comes to and tells what they need to do, and she is the one who really learns to trust him and believe in his forgiveness. Despite the story focus, for the most part, though, she’s not a very interesting character.

Even the villain of the book is very easily see-through to somebody who is genre-savvy – it is very easy to deduce that he is being controlled by another outside force, which is made explicit very quickly. Freeing him is also far too easy – the battle takes place after.

The writing in the book remains solidly middle-grade, with paragraphs saying things like “they spoke at length” or “they discussed” where we don’t get to see the discussion go on. The pacing of the book suffers, as well, as the characters get from one point to another, and then stall there for a while, before continuing on. I was also expecting Val to have more of a twisty, dark background, but that also did not happen.

I do still want to know what happens, especially since I don’t have a sense of the overarching plot from Goel’s side yet (the Dark Side, yes).

2/5 stars.

Book Review – Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon vol 11 by Naoko Takeuchi

Title: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol 11

Author/Illustrator:  Naoko Takeuchi

Format: Paperback

Written: 1991

Translated: 2013

 

Yes, I have been on a bit of a manga kick and for that I apologize, and I ask that you dear readers bear with me as I satisfy my need for highly illustrated stories of a Japanese origin.  Now I will say that even if I wasn’t on a bit of a manga kick I would be reading and reviewing this book.  This is a book that I have been salivating and dying for since I knew about it.  It is a book that could not release and arrive in the library fast enough for my tastes.  As to why I was so excited for this book, it is because it covers my absolute favorite plot arch of Sailor Moon.

 

I fell in love with the Star Lights plot arch early on and found Seyia to be a very loveable and endearing character to me.  I loved the romance between Seyia and Usagi despite having been a big fan of Maramou and Usagi. In addition to this being such a fun plot arch to watch via anime, I participate in a role play that plays off of Sailor Moon.  (Yes I role play but I find it is a great creative exercise that keeps me writing on regular basis which is essential to any person who wants to become a professional author.)  In this role play I write Seyia after a fashion and have fallen more in love with said character and those characters that surround Seyia.  So yes, in short I was very much looking forward to this book.

 

I knew going into this book, things would be a bit different and there wouldn’t be the music to help carry the story along like in the anime.  (I admit I’m a person that is moved by music.)  Yet expecting changes and what I got were two different things.  The book was very fast paced, and I’m not comparing it to the anime when I say this I know things are abbreviated in some ways in book form than they are in the tv series but at the same time I wasn’t expecting things to move as fast as they did.  I mean the Pharro 90 plot arch was very drawn out and this one has thus far been much abbreviated.  I was surprised to see what happened to Maramou at the start of the story, and it was interesting to see Haruka and Michiru to go back to high school.

 

There were still similarities between the anime and the manga that still stood the same but I found that the emotions and reasoning behind a lot of dialogue and actions were simply lacking in the manga versus the anime. It wasn’t just the lack of music that causes me to say this.   The animosity between Haruka and the Star Lights seems rushed and pushed with very little cause, and the same is true with the romance between Seyia and Usagi.  The revelation of Kaykuu was flat and not awe inspiring in the manga as it was in the anime.

 

Over all I think I was a little disappointed with the book and I don’t think it is because I anticipated it as much as I did.  In addition to everything else there were moments of confusion on my part such as the appearance of Diana, and I’m not sure I am fond of the home planets thing that was brought up in the story either.  Yet despite my disappointments and confusion the story was still decent and I’m curious to how the series will conclude in the final volume of Sailor Moon.  I know that it will be considerably different than in the anime considering that there are other characters missing that weren’t missing in the anime so I wonder how emotional this final battle will be in comparison to the anime.  In the end I will give the book a 3 page rating where I had hoped to have been able to give a 4 page rating, a number I would assign the anime, and it is in this one case that I would recommend the “movie” over the book.

Book Review – Disclosure by Michael Crichton

Title: Disclosure

Author: Michael Crichton

Format: Paperback

Published: 1994

Michael Crichton – author of such diverse tales as ‘Rising Sun’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ – switched contextual arenas once again with the publishing of ‘Disclosure’ in 1994. Gone are the worlds of amber-preserved mosquito-extracted dinosaur DNA and hospital emergency rooms, exchanged instead for your run of the mill fast-paced, trend-setting, cut-of-the-edge IT company. Some eighteen years later, the story remains relevant – despite the exponential growth of computer hardware and information technology. Perhaps it was sheer coincidence that the area of technology Crichton chose to set his story in virtually stopped (pun intended) around the time of publishing. Perhaps it was brilliant research on his part. It may even have been an innate suspicion that humans would be satisfied with the much cheaper technology of two-dimensional graphical or textual representations of three- and four- dimensional virtual worlds.

Virtual technology. Where it was at, way back in 1994 – VT and CD-ROMs. And baud modems. The last two clearly date the novel, but the interest – rather the primary focus (and essential plot device) – is Virtual Technology, and surprisingly the technology envisioned in the novel has not really progressed in the real world. This has been a fortunate turn of events, as the story reads more like an original Star Trek episode than a dated technological leviathan.

Tom Sanders, the loveable and only slightly flawed protagonist, is a mid level manager at the aptly named company Digital Communications Technology (DigiCom), unofficially but expectantly in line for a promotion when the unthinkable happens: an ex-lover who also happens to be the up-and-comer in the DigiCom’s corporate arena gets the promotion instead. Also, a stand-alone CD-ROM drive in production is coming off the line under specs without an obvious cause for the problem, and it’s his responsibility to fix it. Meredith, his ex-lover and now boss, under the guise of wanting to ensure a smooth transition, invites him to her office for a friendly drink at the end of the day, where she attempts to seduce him. He is, like all good husbands conflicted – and does not go through with the act, so is stunned to find the following day that she is suing him for sexual harassment  He flips the case on her, hires an aggressive defense attorney and countersues for sexual harassment.

Shakespeare had his handkerchief which was fatal for Desdemona: Tom has his phone recording. Unbeknownst to him at the time, his phone was still connected to an answering machine, and the whole encounter between Tom and Meredith was recorded. When it surfaces – things seemingly are restored to order, but an anonymous warning prompts Tom to keep his eyes open. Which is of course lucky, because the best is yet to come.

Crichton’s characters are believable – even Meredith. The reader attraction to Tom comes from his ‘down-to-earth’ quality, his honesty, his laymanship. Not surprisingly, this particular quality inherent in Tom (namely, his non-technical savvy) functions as a device to translate the alienating high-tech world to the reader: a technique of which Crichton is a master.

Meredith is a more complicated subject. Criticised by feminist readers as a gross misrepresentation of women in general, and believing that the whole novel is anti-feminist: it must be conceded that…..

*SPOILER ALERT* 

…. men indeed might read the novel and think “yay, the bitch got what she deserved,” but in the final scenes, Crichton successfully manages to raise (although cover with no depth whatsoever) some of the issues that women face – some eighteen years after publication continue to face – in the workforce, including the charge that women must deploy different tactics to compete on what is in the corporate world an uneven playing field. Given the long history and countless instances of nepotism and cronyism in many organisations (not just corporate) worldwide that happen on a daily basis, I think Crichton, through Meredith, raises a valid point. Certainly it would seem disturbing to us that a woman would alter her appearance to gain favour when we are confronted with the hypothetical, point blank (and Crichton does succinctly point out that men do the same, just in different areas): but the reality is women everywhere everyday do this with the simple act of applying makeup. One point I think even the feminist critiques must concede is that the corporate power structure, regardless of the sex of the offender and their offending history, has probably been portrayed pretty accurately in their eagerness to protect one of the fold. Crichton has argued in defense of claims of anti-feminism that the clear gender ‘role reversal’ was necessary to elucidate some of the more meaty plot-lines and subject matter happening around the seven or so pages of not so badly written stunted sex.

One of my old university lecturers once said that Shakespeare wrote as much for the intellectually elite as he did for the peanut gallery (by now, you should have figured I did at least one English Lit subject on Shakespeare). Given his status as a best-selling author, it is easy for the so-called ‘intellectually elite’ to dismiss Crichton’s writing as fodder (and if you’ve only seen the god-awful movie adaptation starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas, no-one could blame you for that!), but I think the same comment can be made for most of what Crichton pens. The fault of the movie was to turn the story into sex, but the book was about actually about power. Sexual harassment was the weapon – Meredith wanted to, needed to get him out of the picture in order to scapegoat him for the manufacturing problems she was effectively responsible for. Power, deception, corporate games, gender roles in the workforce and to a lesser extent in the home, and the nature of the corporate hierarchy – all woven into an easy-to-read, suspenseful and engaging story, where some kind of natural justice is served (at least for the patriarchs, misogynists and people who just think Tom was a nice guy who deserved to be vindicated). It can be easy to overlook the nuances of the secondary subject matter; but they are there – and what’s more: after eighteen years, and a rather lucky choice of technology as part of the main narrative – they are still incredibly relevant. That is the mark of a good writer, no matter how many books they sell.

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