Friday Book Club: Prepare For The Hitchhiker’s Guide!

SWT-Book-ClubsThis February we’ll be reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.  You can participate here, and/or come to the Arden Dimick Open Book Club in person on February 23rd.  We meet at the Arden Dimick Library at 2PM, and this month we’ll be following our discussion with a screening of the 2005 movie version starring Zooey Deschanel and Martin Freeman.

So grab your guide and start reading, and meet us here next week!  The Hitchhiker’s Guide is one of my favorite books and I can’t wait to share it with you.  As The Guide advises, grab your towel, and don’t panic.

This Week’s Arrow: “Tremors”

MV5BMTYzNDYxMTkzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUzMjMxMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_I missed the first ten minutes of this episode.  I’m consoling myself with the knowledge that probably five of these ten minutes was devoted to “Previously, on Arrow…”   Apparently I missed Roy slapping water as part of a training montage – see, that’s why you gotta be on time, people.  I regret missing that deeply.

Also, like everyone else on the planet, I am sick, so this is the shortest short list of highlights ever.  I thought this was a fun episode, with the plot zipping along, revelations dropping right and left, and so very many pretty outfits to look at.  Here’s some highlights:

Line of the week:

Ollie:  “Do you have one of those hoodies with you?”

Roy:  “Seriously, do you even need to ask?”

Too funny – but boys, a hoodie does not a disguise make.  Roy couldn’t even keep that stupid thing on.  Gotta work on the costume, Roy.

This fools no one.

This fools no one.

Runner up line of the week:

Felicity:  “Oooh, you have angry face”.

Love you, Felicity, never change.

Plot stuff:

Oh, look, there’s Moira and Walter!  I always liked them.  Get them back together, show.  In other news, Moira is going to run for Mayor.  What could go wrong?

Am both confused and delighted by super-mature Thea.

Laurel, Laurel, Laurel, Laurel, Laurel.  I was amused by the fact that when her Dad pointed out that she’s not the only person to have lost somebody and been fired, she restrained herself from replying, “Oh yeah?  How many people have survived being tied to a chair and threatened with a gruesome death by an insane serial-killer taxidermist?  Huh?  I’ll tell you – NOBODY!”  See, Laurel, that’s the kind of sharp comeback you could come up with if you weren’t drunk all the time.  Work on that.

Oooh, we’re getting a squad!  A squad of bad guys!  Oh hey, Sara’s back!  Woah, someone stole an earthquake machine!  Back on the island, Slade and Ollie are hugging it out – that’s sweet.  But doomed.  So much plot excitement!

They hug in a manly way.

They hug in a manly way.

OK everyone, I’m going back to bed. Leave your comments here!



Book Review: Inside Straight, Edited by George R.R. Martin

super17Sometimes a book succeeds in spite of itself.  Inside Straight had a confusing back story (I had to resort to Wikipedia to figure it all out) and a disjointed plot but it did two very important things for the Wild Cards series:  it made me interested in and invested in the characters, and it made me wonder what happens next.

The Wild Cards Series is a set of books and short stories that are co-written by a group of authors and usually edited by George R.R. Martin and/or Melinda Snodgrass, depending on the volume.  The first set of Wild Cards books told the story of an alternate history in which an alien virus is unleashed over Earth in 1946.  The virus kills 90% of people who are infected with it.  Of those who survive, some are deformed (Jokers).  Others became Aces – people with superpowers.  Some people are Jokers and Aces.  For example, a person with wings might be considered either or both if the wings are both visible and functional.

Inside Straight is the first volume in a series of Wild Cards books about the new generation of Jokers and Aces – kids in their late teens and early twenties who can’t remember a world without superpowers.  The contributors are Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, George R.R. Martin, Ian Tregillis, and S.L. Farrell.  The first part of the book brings a group of young people together in a reality show but many of them become dissatisfied with seeking fifteen minutes of fame.  One of them in particular seems fated to go to Egypt, where Jokers are being persecuted.  This has huge consequences for the rest of the group.

I suspect everyone has a different favorite character.  I’m especially fond of Rachel, AKA Dragon Huntress, a little girl who carries a backpack full of stuffed animals that she can bring to life (and make life-sized).  My favorite line in the book is, “No, you can’t come with us to the genocide!  MAybe when you’re twelve”.  She doesn’t get much page time but I look forward to seeing her in other books.  My REAL favorite is Michelle, AKA The Amazing Bubbles.  I first encountered her in the Dangerous Women collection (my review is here).  She stores kinetic energy as fat and then disperses it as bubbles, which can be as hard and large as a cannonball or as soft as a soap bubble.  she’s compassionate, funny, courageous, and has some awesome positive body image messages going on.  I want her to be my best friend.

I don’t think this is the best book to start the series with.  I had a difficult time understanding how things work.  Nor did I think it was a great book in terms of having a unified story.  The jump from reality show to war in Egypt was abrupt and the timeline didn’t seem realistic.  The section regarding the reality show was not compelling because standard reality shows are not compelling.  The section set in Egypt was plenty compelling but frankly it didn’t make much sense, especially when the Aces are trying to figure out strategy in a tent.  Where is everyone else?  I realize the politics are complex but I do not believe that there is not one person with military experience, officially or unofficially, who wants in on this.

But here’s what I loved about the book  – it made me interested in the characters and it made me curious about their future.  As soon as it was over, I clicked on my library’s catalog to reserve the next book.  And that had less to do with plot than with the fact that the authors kept surprising me with what characters did and said.  Almost every character got a chance to shine and most of the characters grew in ways that surprised me or demonstrated sides of themselves I hadn’t expected.  what was impressive about this was that no one’s revelations or growths seemed arbitrary.  They were consistent with the character.  I can’t wait to spend more time with these people!

Friday Book Club: The Art of Being Jeeves

SWT-Book-ClubsWelcome back to Friday Book Club, where we’ve been reading Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse!

Although some recall Jeeves as a butler, they are mistaken.  Jeeves “can butte with the best of them”, but his primary occupation is that of valet to Bertie Wooster.  So what exactly does a valet do?  I’m referring here to an ordinary valet.  “Rescue your employer from a continual series of farcical mishaps” is not generally part of the valet’s job description.

A valet is the male equivalent to a lady’s maid.  Basically, the valet is the gentleman’s personal assistant.  He lays out his employers clothes in the morning and makes sure they stay clean, ironed, and dust-free.  He may personally order new clothing for the gentlemen.  He helps the gentleman dress and undress and lays out and cleans shaving implements.  He may also be the gentleman’s barber.

A valet may help arrange travel for the gentleman and will certainly pack and unpack the gentleman’s clothing.  While other servants will usually clean the gentleman’s rooms, the valet ensures that the rooms stay tidy and comfortable (lighting a fire on cold day, airing the rooms, etc.

A valet is not a butler, but in many households a valet will do double duty and fill both roles.  Jeeves fills in as a butler on several occasions in the P.G. Wodehouse novels, and he does it well, as he does everything well.  The difference between a butler and a valet is that a valet attends to the personal needs of one person, while a butler is the head of male staff and may in some cases manage the entire household.

Want more details?  Here are links!

Jane Austen’s World lists the duties of a valet in great detail, using information from these sites:
The Book of Household Management, Mrs. Beeton, 1881 edition, page 978

The Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy Thomas Webster, Mrs. William Parkes, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1852

And the duties of a valet don’t seem to have changed much.  Here’s an ad from an agency, TriState Domestic, that will help you hire your very own valet.  Please note that I am NOT endorsing this agency – I don’t know anything about it.  I mention it because I found its very existence to be fascinating.  One assumes that the modern valet uses modern technology to achieve his aim, but the actual job requirements seem pretty much the same as those in the 1800’s.  Note that “computer literacy” is a must if you wish to be hired as a valet by TriState.

This Week’s Arrow: Blind Spot

MV5BMTYzNDYxMTkzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUzMjMxMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_This was not the greatest episode of Arrow, but not the worst either – this is another one where things get slotted into place.  The short version recap is that Laurel tries to out Sebastian Blood as a bad guy, but no one, including Arrow, believes her, especially when Blood tips off the cops that there are a bunch of drugs in Laurel’s apartment.  Then one of Blood’s minions tries to kill Laurel.  If you were going to try to kill her, why bother with the drugs?  I thought the beauty of the drug thing was that it got Laurel out of the picture without doing anything other than revealing a secret Laurel really did have.  Laurel is a wreck, she’s fired – it’s basically another episode of “Kick the Laurel”.  For the love of all that is holy, could someone please get this woman a basket of kittens.  It’s an emergency.

All better now.

All better now.

Back on the island, Sara reveals that Laurel new Sara had a crush on Ollie and set her up to be grounded so Laurel could make her moves.  See, this is why my dear daughter should be grateful to be an only child.  Sara has a chat with Ivo and throws in her lot with Ollie (maybe).

Roy has issues because of the serum he was injected with and Sin spends the whole episode being awesome and trying to get him to tell Thea what’s going on, but he doesn’t, because Roy is a moron.  And now Arrow has a protegé!  Whee!

No major romance developments except that Ollie has “a blind spot” when it comes to Laurel and despite the fact that Thea has suddenly become the most mature person on the show, Roy continues to keep her in the dark.  No one likes a pouter, Roy.

Bizarre tech of the night:

Felicity doing a lie detector test on a guy remotely…how?  I dunno.  It’s being done by Felicity, so I’ll accept it.

Best Lines of the night:

Felicity finally says what we’ve all been thinking:  “Well, his last name’s ‘Blood’.  That can’t be a good sign.”

Sin:  “Good thing Thea and I are tight”.  Friendship between women!  I am now officially logging my request for a Thea/Sin spin-off show.  Sin proceeds to rock the entire episode, from her face as Thea leads her to find a “first date outfit” to her response to a john who says, “You’re pretty”  (Sin:  “You’re disgusting”).  Sin, NEVER CHANGE.

Ollie:  “He doesn’t like to talk about his feelings”, to which Diggs, replies, “Not like us!”

Sin, AKA: My Hero.

Sin, AKA: My Hero.