I just really want to wear a crinoline right now.

‘Sup. I got nothing witty today, people. I am miserable, and misery means the only reading I’m doing consists of an embarrassing amount of books whose covers feature naked male torsos. Maybe a bit of the neck, if you’re lucky. And frankly, even the glut of smut isn’t doing anything to cheer me up. I kind of hate everything.

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Yeah, Tig. I feel you, bro.

Oh, and happy Robbie Burns day.

Review time, I guess. Today it’s the Dorling Kindersley publication of Smithsonian Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style.

DK, Smithsonian_ Fashion Book

This is basically the most amazing books ever. Do you like history? Then you’ll like this book. Do you like clothes? Then you’ll like this book. Do you like history AND clothes? Then this book will BLOW. YOUR. MIND.

The book is a really brilliant visual odyssey through the major trends of fashion throughout history, beginning with the ancient world (prehistory to 600 CE) and ending with a chapter entitled “A New Generation, 2010 onward.”  There are timelines, illustrations and photographs of garments, spreads profiling influential figures (such as Marie Antionette) or historical and cultural influences on fashion (like the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and the subsequent vogue for Egyptian motifs during the ’20s).  There are a few two page spreads that examine a particular outfit in detail:

dk_fashion_spread_01

Most of the pages look like this:

dk_fashion_spread_02

The pictures are gorgeous, but there is a lot of information crammed into this book as well. The glossary is pretty damn amazing, too.

The only flaws are that female fashions are, unsurprisingly, featured more prominently than male fashions, and that there is a bias toward the fashions of the Western world, specifically European and later North American cultures.

Verdict:  Perfect for the budding costume historian. If your idea of the perfect Friday night is learning about the evolution of the mantua from the Baroque through the Rococo periods, then this book is for you (and also we should probably be friends because that is actually what all of my Friday nights are like, if you add briefs spells of crying, dancing, and tea-drinking).

Best line(s): “Tailors became as creative with codpiece shapes as with other clothing details. The codpiece could hide a pocket or even be used as a pincushion.” (p. 89). HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Codpiece. Okay, now I am a little bit cheered up.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stuffed codpieces. Oh, come on. As if I could resist. I am only human.

Laters!

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A toothsome book (oh yeah, I went there)

Howdy darlins! No new developments out here in suburbia. Still toiling away at my “novel” (ugh, why does that word always make me cringe? I feel like I’m breaking both the first and second rules of Fight Club when I mention it). Researching til my eyes bleed. Okay, so much of that researching consists of watching super-cuts on YouTube. I am only human, people.

Enough preamble. I bore myself. This week, it’s Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

DaughterOfSmokeAndBone

Karou’s living the dream, if your dream is to study art in Prague and have window-cleaner blue hair that actually grows out of your head that way (and if that’s not your dream, what is WRONG with you?). But there is more to Karou than meets the eye. She lives a double life, working for Brimstone, a creature who collects teeth, both human and and otherwise. When black handprints start appearing on doorways around the world, handprints that appear to have been seared into wood and metal, Karou’s odd but happy existence is thrown into chaos. Karou finds herself in the middle of a war between worlds, desperate to save her adopted family of monsters and discover who – and what – she truly is.

(FYI, my feeble synopsis does not do the plot justice. As usual.)

Ah, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. What a long, strange trip it has been. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I held out. I held out a LONG time. I did not want to read this book. Why? Literally judging a book by its cover. (Lol.) The title annoyed me beyond all description, too catchy, too trendy, too, I dunno, too ‘gothic twee’ (is that a thing?). And that cover. Crikee. I cannot tell you how much I hate that stupid cover. Ultra white girl in blue feather mask. Um, yeah. No.

Turns out the title is actually incredibly fitting, even if it does sound like the title of an Evanescence come-back album. The cover I still hate. I much prefer this one:

Laini-Taylor-Daughter-of-Smoke-and-Bone

MUCH better.

So… This book. THIS BOOK. Gah. I loved it. Most of it. Even the parts I didn’t like don’t make me love it any less.

First, the mythology, the – dare I say it – world-building. Laini Taylor, I can only stand by and slow clap because damn, lady, ya did good. I tip my hat to you. She’s taken some familiar creatures (or not so familiar, like chimaera) and completely reinvented them and made them her own. Cough, angels, cough. I want to Pagemaster the shizz out of this book. For you poor souls who have no idea what that reference means, it means I want to crack open this book, crawl inside, and never ever ever come back. Ever. It was so meticulously crafted, so vast, so freaking perfect. The world of Elsewhere has its own history, with bitter wars, rather horrific race relations, and corrupt political systems.

Best of all, I think, was the magic. It’s so difficult to find a system of magic that feels fresh, but Taylor nails it. I will never look at teeth the same way again. And I already have a weird fascination with teeth, so that’s saying something. I mean, I almost became a dentist, until I realized I would have to do more than just pull teeth. I used to rub my hands in gleeful anticipation when one of Idiot Brother’s teeth became loose, lurking in the shadows until I got the chance to pounce, and then I’d pin him to the ground and rip out the tooth before he even knew what was going on. Not for the Tooth Fairy money, either. Just for the sheer joy of yanking a milk tooth out of its soft, fleshy socket. I volunteered to pull all of my friends’ teeth, too (which may explain the curious dearth of birthday party invitations during primary school). Actually, I pulled out eight of my own teeth in two weeks when I was in second grade. It was eminently satisfying, even if I did have the gummy smile of an eighty-year old mountain man for the next month. Woah, I am pretty disturbed, aren’t I? Whatever, this book reminds of teeth. DEAL WITH IT.

Ahem. Back to the review.

The plot is great: fresh, suspenseful, surprising. And the great thing is that it only gets better as you keep reading. So all of those sleepless nights trying to figure out what the devil is going on in Karou’s world actually pay off! It’s well-paced, too. I do hate an adventure that feels rushed. There was just enough… wallowing. You get to appreciate the details, you know? It’s dark and unusual and sometimes unsettling, and always utterly absorbing. It was also quite sexy at times – nothing graphic, of course, but a bit more honest than the YA books that try to pretend there’s no, er, blanket hornpipe happening.

The characters are great, Karou especially. She’s clever, funny and quite the BAMF. Have to say, I didn’t much like (spoiler, kind of) the love interest, Akiva. He was a bit whingy, which I can’t stand, but I suppose he’s allowed to mope and moan after what he’s been through, so I can’t totally hate him. At least it wasn’t a damn love triangle. Love love LOVED the supporting characters: Zuze, Karou’s best friend, her ex Kaz, even Thiago, the bad guy (or one of them, anyway). Actually, I had kind of a book crush on Thiago, which should tell you where I’m at romantically.

And then there’s Brimstone. (BRIMSTONE I LOVE YOU!!!!!) I love Brimstone. That is all I can say right now. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. Sob!

Verdict: Loved it at the beginning, love loved it in the middle, and love love loved it at the end. And then when I closed the book I hesitated for a brief moment and fell to my knees to thank the gods who sometimes spare me a glance, thank them for not only making me bored enough on a Tuesday afternoon that I decided to pick up this book I was so unjustly prejudiced against, but also for a) the existence of e-readers, one of which I happen to possess, and b) the unused Chapters gift-card scammed from my demonic step-father as part of my ongoing campaign of pecuniary revenge. Because I finished this book at 1:32 in the morning, and there was no way I was waiting until the next morning to buy the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. Yes, I am an impatient, spoiled, impulsive reader. What can I say, I have no life. Alas, we are not evolved enough (yet) to recognize the need for a 24-hour bookstore. Fortunately, Kobo is always willing to take your money. Even at 1:33 in the morning.

So yeah, you should read it.

Best line(s): “Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene.  But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”

AND

“Better to be the cat gazing coolly down from a high wall, its expression inscrutable.  The cat that shunned petting, that needed no one.  Why couldn’t she be that cat?

Rating: 4.5 out 5 shiny white wisdom teeth, with the roots still attached and bloody. Ew, gross. But also awesome.

Book cat, what are you reading?

Librarian, read your YA. I am too busy being enthralled by Alan Moore's  masterpiece, Watchmen. Because I am an ADULT. Who read ADULT BOOKS.

Librarian, read your YA. I am too busy being enthralled by Alan Moore’s masterpiece, Watchmen. Because I am an ADULT. Who reads ADULT BOOKS. Uncouth boor. Call yourself a book blogger. Shyeah. Right.

Oh, Titus. You mean thing, you.

Love love love

Hello, dahlings! See, I can update every week! Yay me! Take that, resolutions! I am so keeping you this year! SUCK IT, 2013!

Put on your serious pants, my internet friends, because I have to confide in you. I, Robyn Stone-Heart, a.k.a. She Who Loves Only Fictional Men, am nursing a bit of a bruised heart. Why? I suppose because boys are stupid, even when they “grow up” (i.e., sprout face fur, a phrase which makes me think of space fur, which is making me smile way too much as I picture cute little space cats) and become the man-boys that seem to exist only to inspire those post-break-up montages. You know, the ones in romantic comedies where the heroine wears pajamas and never leaves her house and eats ice cream from the carton while watching schmaltzy black and white movies (or Dirty Dancing, because duh) and and indulges in fits of 1) righteously self-pitying weeping, 2) wild, aggressive solo dance marathons, and 3) angry writing of bad hate-poetry.

The sad thing is, that’s just, like, Wednesday for me. I mean, I just did a pretty mean dance comprised mostly of angry disco finger pointing and slut-drops to Boney M’s “Rasptuin” while wearing a sports bra and SpongeBob boxers and crying a little at my reality. And I wasn’t even thinking of the dude, henceforth known as Snaggle-Frog, who kind of harshed my proverbial mellow. So. You know. I mean, that’s life?  

Well, they don’t call me Stone-Heart for nothing (okay, so they don’t call me Stone-Heart at all… but they SHOULD). The good thing is, I didn’t even like Snaggle-Frog. (So put that in your pipe, Snaggle-Frog.) It’s just my pride that’s been wounded, I guess. I’m just mad at the world (more so than usual, ha ha). Guess I’ll just keep willing Uhtred of Bebbanburg into existence so he can marry me.

Sweet baby Thor, I’m glad I didn’t resolve not to off-site link or use parentheses, or else I’d really be failing. Ha.

This week, it’s a book that merits an Of Monsters and Men connection:

Oh yes, we’re about wallow, my friends. It’s all about “lurve,” as our old friend Georgia Nicolson would say. I’m talking the most gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, heart-smashing book I have read this year (ha, see what I did there?). It’s David Foenkinos’s Delicacy.

Delicacy-Foenkinos-David-

Yes, it was made into a movie, starring the delightful Audrey Tautou.

Natalie’s life is, quite simply, perfect. She has a satisfying job, good friends, and a husband she loves and is loved by. She has what so many desire: contentment. This fragile serenity is shattered when, after seven years of marriage, her husband, Francois, is involved in an fatal accident. After his untimely death, Natalie must come to terms to a world without him, and try to reforge her identity and her life. She finds security in isolation, certain that only when one loves can one lose. And then one small ‘accidental’ kiss changes everything, and Natalie finds herself falling for the unlikeliest of men: her awkward, odd, shy, Swedish co-worker Markus.

Not the greatest synopsis, I admit. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? That is part of the beauty of this novel. And believe me, pals, this book is BEAUTIFUL. There’s no other word for it. No, that’s a lie. There are so many other words for it: witty, elegant, funny, wistful, sad, and yes, my favourite, poignant. This book made me feel all the feelings. This book made me… uh oh… I feel a gif forcing its way in here…

myemotionstroy

This book cracked me open and made me FEEL. Oh, it was ugly, my friends. So very ugly. And I think the publisher should reimburse me for the 8,379 Kleenexes I used while reading this book.

The story itself is quite simple. Love, loss, love again. The characters are all exceptionally crafted, complex and unique and believable. They felt less like characters than like people in your own life – which is how great characters in great novels seem, I guess. The weird little details are hilarious, like Markus reading an article about mozzarella trafficking or how Francois decided to first speak to Natalie because she ordered apricot juice at the cafe, which indicated she was a “sweet, well-balanced woman […] only slightly original without being completely eccentric” (p. 4). Foenkinos is a masterful storyteller. The writing, as that little taste illustrates, will make you drool, and the pacing was incomparable, one of the best examples of measured story-telling I can think of. Nothing dragged, nothing lagged, nothing felt rushed or anything but eminently crafted. One of the stand-out aspects was how Foenkinos managed to maintain an effervescence, even when the story ventured into darker topics. The chapters that consisted entirely of lists or were only a sentence long were used very intelligently. Just when I thought my eyes would start getting wrinkly like toes too long in the bathtub, there would be a funny little chapter entitled “The Top Scorers of the World of Puzzles Championship in Minsk, October 27 to November 1, 2008” and I would stop crying (for a while).

And the ending was just… perfect. It didn’t disappoint by betraying the spirit of the book and ending unhappily – this is, above all, and despite the pervasive theme of loss, a book about happiness – nor was it maudlin or trite.  It embraced that delicate sweetness that life can sometimes offer. It was hopeful. (This book is superlatively titled, by the way. Delicacy – just think of that word and what it means. It’s mind-embiggening.) Damn it, this book will go straight to that ever-clenching first of muscle trapped in your rib cage and make you believe in love again, even if Sean Bean hasn’t called you (yet). It will make you entreat and/or threaten whatever gods you root for to put a sweet, nerdy, giant Swedish dude in your path the next time you get to Paris. If you weren’t already hoping for that. Ahem. God, this book. THIS BOOK. I can’t even. You know? You know. Or if you don’t, read it, and then you will, and we can just wring our hands at each other while bemoaning our inability to articulate in human language how this book makes us FEEL. It will be all shrugs and awe-struck puffs of breath, which is only acceptable communication on the scandalous former planet, Pluto, where everyone is always in a state of speechless consternation.

Verdict: Really? Do I even need to say this? Freaking MAGNIFIQUE!

Best line(s):  “On the other hand, she’d thanked him for the lovely evening. Yes, she had, she’d written the word “lovely.” Markus relished that word. That wasn’t nothing, “a lovely evening.” She could have written “a nice evening,” but no, she’d chosen the word “lovely.” “Lovely”–what a beautiful word. Clearly, what a lovely evening. It was enough to make you think you were in that heyday of long dresses and horse-drawn carriages…But what was I thinking about? he thought, suddenly going into a tailspin. I’ve got to act and stop letting my mind wander. Yes, “lovely” certainly was beautiful, but it wasn’t even a foot in the door; now he needed to shake a leg and go the extra mile. Oh, he felt desperate. He didn’t have the slightest idea.” (p. 126)

AND

“”But you need to have lived years in nothingness to understand how a person can suddenly become frightened by a possibility.” (p. 140)

Rating: Five out five bloody, beating hearts. That’s as romantic as I’m gonna get.

Book Cat was too busy rereading Sharpe – BOOK CAT! What are you doing? I thought you said e-readers were for middle-brow yuppie Philistines?

I wasn't reading it. I was just... looking at it. No one will believe you. STOP LOOKING AT ME!

I wasn’t reading it. I was just… looking at it. No one will believe you. STOP LOOKING AT ME!

Okay. Jeez.

Five minutes later.

Sigh. Lori Foster writes the best smutty romances...

Sigh. Lori Foster writes the best smutty romances…

Ta ta, darlins!

Blah inspirational quote blah… Blah.

Happy New Year, everybody. Here’s hoping this one’s better than the last. I’m trying to suppress my natural inclination toward pessimism and be cheerful (ugh). It is, unsurprisingly, rather difficult. Do you remember that scene in 28 Days Later, when Jim tells Selena that “it’s not all shit” and his voice is all hoarse and Irish because he’s just been running and killing zombies and is also Irish, and his shirt is off and he’s so sexy despite being covered in zombie gore? And he holds her shoulders after she’s just almost chopped his head off, and he convinces her that life is worth living after all, even if merry old England has become a pseudo-zombie-ridden post-apocalyptic wasteland? Yeah, of course you remember. Anyway, I really need Jim to give me a little shake and a wee bit of encouragement. (Gods above, Cillian Murphy is hot, though, isn’t he? I’d fight zombies with him, if you know what I mean…)

Here’s some Eugene to keep our chins up:

So here’s to 2013. May it be full of good books, great ideas, finished manuscripts, more laughter than tears (unless they’re laughing tears, which is okay), a steady job, and sexy, sexy men. Who are also tall. And maybe also mute. Or Irish. ANYWAY.

No book review for today. I’m wallowing a bit. I feel all melancholy and gloomy. The reviews will come next time, when this new year feels less like a new pair of underwear. So you get a belated Christmas Book Cat pic:

I'm only allowing this because Christmas Sharpe has put me in a good mood.

I’m only allowing this because Christmas Sharpe has put me in a good mood.

And a bonus Book Cat with costume change!

In the words of that dithering idiot Hamlet, "O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth." Yeah. So sleep with one eye open, librarian.

In the words of that dithering idiot Hamlet, “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth.” Yeah. So sleep with one eye open, librarian.

And because it’s Christmas (or it was, anyway), and I need cheering up, and maybe you do,too, here’s Sharpe:

Richard Sharpe, hottest hottie in all the hot land.

Damn, Sharpe. That’s some first-class smoulder right there. I salute you, sir. Also, marry me.

Happy New Year, darlins!!!