BTT- Jane Austen of Gor

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Barbara wants to know:

What books did you get for Christmas (or whichever holiday you may have celebrated last month)?

Do you usually ask for books on gift-giving occasions or do you prefer to buy them yourself?

Normally, I prefer to buy books on my own.  I have put the word out to those who might be buying me a birthday present in June that I’d like a complete set of the works of Jane Austen, one where the books match each other.  I have so many books that I worry someone would give me a copy of one I already own or have read.

Having said that, I did get books for Christmas.  My LibraryThing Santa, youthfulzombie, gave me The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss and Patient Zero:  A Joe Ledger Novel by Johnathan Maberry, neither of which I had heard of, but both look really cool.  I also bought a book for myself from Amazon with Christmas cash my mom sent… lol… the title is a bit embarrassing:  Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman.  On SecondLife, there is a whole Gorean community, so I thought I’d read the first book of the series that inspired them.  Not sure how I’ll like it, though.

Check out other answers to this week’s BTT questions :-)

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

Title:  Visions of Sugar Plums: A Stephanie Plum Holiday Novel

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Hardback:  149 pages

published:  2002

ISBN:  9780312306328

My name is Stephanie Plum and I’ve got a strange man in my kitchen.  He appeared out of nowhere.  One minute I was sipping coffee, mentally planning out my day.  and then the next minute… poof, there he was.

He was over six feet, with wavy blond hair pulled into a ponytail, deep-set brown eyes, and an athlete’s body.  He looked to be late twenties, maybe thirty.  He was dressed in jeans, boots, a grungy white thermal shirt hanging loose over the jeans, and a beat-up black leather jacket hanging on broad shoulders.  He was sporting two days of beard growth, and he didn’t look happy.

“Well, isn’t this perfect,” he said, clearly disgusted, hands on hips, taking me in.

-Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich, page 1

I took up this little book just before Christmas as part of my dash to the 75-book finish line.  It only took a couple hours to read it, and it was rather amusing.  It was a quick, light, and fun read for the holiday times.  Much like the chocolate chip cookies Mags and I made, I quickly devoured the whole thing and barely remembered it a couple hours later.  But I do remember the tickly-happy-treat feeling from both :-)

Okay, so it’s not an instant classic that speaks from our generation to all generations (HaHa.. if you’ve ever read a Plum novel, that will be about the funniest joke you’ve read lately), but it’s still fun.  And since it was written later than the earlier books, the characters are much more developed than those in my most recent Plum foray, Three to Get Deadly.  Also, this is the book that introduces the read to Diesel, the third member in Stephanie hunk-buffet. 

The book opens up with Diesel popping into Stephanie’s kitchen, telling her he’s been assigned to her to teach her Christmas cheer.  He accompanies her as she tries to bring in Sandy Claws… sounds like a criminal caught stealing truckloads of cat litter, right?  LOL…  who is  a toymaker hiring elves to handmake product in a wharehouse converted from a daycare (hence the need for elves, as the potties and other equipment are just the right size).  Stephanie’s divorced and formerly-perfect sister has moved back in with mom and dad, and has found out she’s pregnant by her less-than-stellar boyfriend (who faints).  Add to all of this, Grandma Mazur has a new studmuffin, and there’s a supervillain with electrical powers trying to kill them.  It all adds up for some absolute craziness.

While I found it a fun and quit book, the super powers stuff kind of irked me.  Honestly, I felt it was a bit of cheating on Evanovich’s part.  I’ve always enjoyed the mystery-book aspect of the Plum books, but reaching for the paranormal makes me wonder if the next book will have aliens and spaceships to chase down her FTA’s on.

It’s quick, it’s fun, but it stretches credulity, so I’m giving Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich 3 out of 5 stars.

Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner

Title:  Politically Correct Holiday Stories For an Enlightened Yuletide Season

AuthorJames Finn Garner

Hardcover:  99 pages

Published: 1995

ISBN:  0028604202

Twas the night before solstice and all through the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads.

We’d welcomed the winter that day after school
By dancing and drumming and burning the Yule,

A more meaningful gesture to honor the planet
Than buying more trinkets for Mom and Aunt Janet,

Or choosing a tree just to murder and stump it
And dress it all up like a seasonal strumpet.

My lifemate and I, having turned down the heat,
Slipped under the covers for a well-deserved sleep,

When from out on the lawn there came such a roar
I fell from my futon and rolled to the floor.

I crawled to the window and pulled back the latch,
And muttered, “Aw, where is the Neighborhood Watch?”

I saw there below through the murk of the night
A sleigh and eight reindeer of nonstandard height.

At the reins of the sleigh sat a mean-hearted knave
Who treated each deer like his persunal slave

I’d seen him before in some ads for car loans,
Plus fast food and soft drinks and cellular phones.

He must have cashed in from his mercantile chores,
Since self-satisfaction just oozed from his pores.

-”Twas the Night Before Solstice”, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner, pages 1-2

I first came across James Finn Garner’s schtick of running long-standing and beloved stories of western culture through the PC sanitizer in high school when I read his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.  What made that first book so funny was that it was original and pointed out the ridiculousness of the then small voice of the PC police.  Oh, if only we knew then how that voice would grow and become the bully it is today!

In this holiday version of the original book, Garner revisits our favorite Christmas stories, some with more success than others.  The first is a modernized and sanitized version of Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, and the best offering in the whole book.  The narrator of the story (a man or woman, we never really know.. though, it sounds like a shrill hippy-feminazi) argues with the Santa about everything from Christmas trees to Barbie dolls and toy guns.  Ultimately, Santa capitulates and exits, leaving this admonishment:

“I pity the kids who grow up around here,
Who’re never permitted to be of good cheer,

“Who aren’t allowed leisure for leisure’s own sake,
But must fret every minute -it makes my heart break!”

-pages 8-9

And in place of the traditional “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” this Santa calls out as he flies off, “Happy Christmas to all, but get over yourselves!”

This particular section of the book is, in my opinion, the only part of the book worth reading.  It’s clever and pulls into focus exactly what is at stake with the PC craziness and who suffers the most.  Children are more and more being forced to worry about what they say and how it might be received.  They are forced at ever earlier ages to consider how their words and actions might be taken out of context.  From the kindergartener who was expelled for sexual harassment because he kissed his classmate on the cheek, to Maggie’s own classmates (fifth graders) calling her a racist because she likes asian things (HELLO? she’s asian!) or labeling another classmate as a racist because someone said she is one.  It’s become the new bad-name to call each other whether it is true or not, and whether they even understand what it means.  It’s the “Your mother wears army boots!” of the next generation.

Other stories included in this book:

Frosty the Persun of Snow - Frosty, a gender non-specific persun of snow, organizes a march to D.C. with the goal of making congress enact changes to end global warning.  Unfortunately, an army of snowmen showing up on Capitol Hill tends to draw the media’s attention, and where the media goes, so do those pesky hot lights.

The Nutcracker - Clara organizes committees to talk to the mice and get them to come to an agreement instead of fighting, then refuses the Nutcracker’s invitation to visit his kingdom, calling it a tactic to portray womyn as “docile, helpless and easily manipulated with identities and backgrounds of lesser importance” than that of males, and that they perpetuate their abduction fantasy.  Yeah… political correctness and communism just sucks the fun out of our holiday stories.

Rudolph the Nasally Empowered Reindeer – Basically, Rudolph is a bitter, angry loner who takes the opportunity of Santa’s need for his glowing nose to rape the jolly old elf into concessions that ultimately leave his fellow reindeer unhappy and then he leaves them to organize his Laplander cousins.

A Christmas Carol - All I can say about this one is that Dickens’ original story of keeping the spirit of the season in your heart all year round has been redone, revisited, and remixed so many times that, unless you can really knock it out of the park, another version of it just becomes white noise.  Garner’s attempt is mediocre at best, and portrays Cratchit as a impotent subversive, Fred as a milksop without any sense of self, and Tiny Tim… oh, excuse me, Diminutive Timón as an opportunist. 

Overall, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner was just meh.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Here’s a clip of my favorite PC Christmas Story :-)

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