Reading “The Bee Theres” (as an adult non-Mormon)

You can just pick out "There's a Snake at Girls Camp" in my stack of summer nostalgia reading.
You can just pick out “There’s a Snake at Girls Camp” in my stack of summer nostalgia reading.

A while ago there was a piece over at The Toast by Diana Hurlburt about a book series called The Bee Theres. I won’t lie to you: I went a little nuts and instantly bought three of them. That wasn’t cheap, because while Amazon has people selling used copies for a penny, I live 1) in the back of beyond and 2) in Canada, and shipping charges are ridiculous. It would have been cheaper to buy a plane ticket for an actual Mormon and get them to bring the books as carry-on luggage. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but shipping charges really are the worst part of buying books.

(It still beats my childhood, when shopping online was not an option and going to a bookstore was a HUGE DEAL because there wasn’t one in my town. So my disgruntlement has limits.)

Anyway, dazzled by the news that there was a girls’ series I not only hadn’t read but hadn’t even heard of, I set out to instantly immerse myself (immersion to a depth of three books, bought in the wrong order).

ruby's ghostReading these as an adult who isn’t LDS (and hasn’t ever been) is about as “not the target reader” an experience as one can ever have, but I really enjoyed them. Possibly if I WAS the right age, and Mormon, I would have felt they were a little…not preachy, exactly, but proscriptive. But as an absolute outsider, what struck me most was how gentle these girls were as compared to, say, the characters in the Taffy Sinclair books (which I read and loved, eons ago). There’s no way Becca and Marybeth and Sunshine and Elena and Carlie would have dreamed up an “anti- some other girl” club. Even when they’re all feeling threatened by Ducky’s overachieving self, the most they do is have one single meeting (at McDonald’s! they go there all the time in these books) to discuss her, and when she walks in midway through they invite her to sit down.

bridesmaidAlso, these girls are BUSY. They attend something called Beehive, which I spent most of one book thinking was Sunday School but no: they also attend Sunday School, so this is something else. Also they do “service projects,” basically age-appropriate charity projects, AND they go to Girls Camp, AND they do fundraising for that, AND they design and sew bridesmaids’ dresses. Basically they make the Babysitters Club look like a bunch of slackers.

ALSO, and this stood out a mile, the girls in these books are openly interested in marriage. I mean, not right this second: they’re twelve, and make it very clear they can’t even date until they’re sixteen. But, like, they speculate about who they’ll grow up to marry, and play “who will I marry?” games at sleepovers. I only even know about “who will I marry?” games from my grandmother, and from reprints of books for girls from a century or more ago. We didn’t play games about, or openly talk about, marriage when I was twelve. I don’t know if my group of friends were singularly warped, or if it was a widespread cultural thing, but we would have been somehow embarrassed to simply admit we wanted to grow up and get married (even though we all DID grow up and get married, and in retrospect everyone else must have thought about it as much as I did, so…how did this end up being something we didn’t discuss? That’s really strange. We talked about boys, dating, sex, who had their period or wore bras yet…but not marriage. Were we all idiots?)

All the things I associate with Mormon culture show up here, more or less. Largish families; a sense of historicity and interest in ancestors (the girls don’t scrapbook, at least not in the three books I own, but they do presentations on their ancestors, visit a farm that Becca’s great-grandmother used to live at, are encouraged to keep diaries, and sew dresses using scraps of fabric that are meaningful to them); older brothers getting mission calls (okay, I only know that from the other side: youngish men showing up on my doorstep); a wedding at the Temple which the girls can’t actually attend (I had a family member who did this, and her non-LDS family could only attend the reception).

Also a few things possibly not as often associated with Mormon culture (by non-LDS people, I mean) are here: a single working mother (widowed maybe? I couldn’t tell); a mother of eight children who is rediscovering her passion for writing; a mother who teaches history at a university. No big deal is made of any of this (apart from the one who goes back to writing, but that’s only because there’s a bit of a mystery about what she’s up to until the end of the book). The mothers are just quietly there, being awesome in the background.

I am currently refraining from cornering one of the locally-assigned Mormon missionaries to ask all about Beehives, because I suspect that would be rude, but I’ve really enjoyed the books. It’s a pity the missionaries don’t hand THESE out, actually, because I bet it would make local people view them with affection even if they had zero interest in conversion.

TBR Challenge: June

I’m a day late with Wendy’s 2015 TBR Challenge, but I have been DYING to do this one since last month. Last month was the “Kickin’ It Old School” month, and I grabbed something at random from a stack of secondhand books; it turned out to be Colleen Shannon’s “The Tralayne Inheritance.” The front of it mentioned a sequel, “The Wolf of Haskell Hall,” which sounded so familiar I went back and dug through the stack again and sure enough: I own that too. I’m reading it now, in fact, but this post is about the first one I picked up (second in the series), which is so gloriously over-the-top it had me howling.

Suggested Theme: June 17 – More Than One (An author who has more than one book in your TBR pile)

Title: The Trelayne Inheritance

Author: Colleen Shannon

If you follow that title link, you’ll see the Kindle edition is listed on Amazon as “The Trelayne Inheritance (Shelley Holmes, werewolf detective Book 2).” Just…just take a moment and savour that. We not only have a Gothic-ish title, we have a female version of Sherlock Holmes and she’s a WEREWOLF detective.

I mean, you can tell this isn’t the “meticulously researched” kind of historical, right?

Even by paranormal romance standards this felt somewhat…goofy. It’s less a “set in an historical period” book than a “throw everything in here” book. It was fun, but if you’ve read a lot of any books from the Victorian era, this might have you drinking yourself into unconsciousness.

Not that I did that! Quite.

Here’s an example: I was nearly driven batty by the constant references to the hero’s family motto. The hero is Maximillian Britton, Earl of Trelayne, and the year is 1880, and OKAY, YES, he’s a vampire-hunting vampire (don’t ask), so maybe it’s unreasonable of me to expect his family motto to NOT sound like a Hallmark card, but here it is: Tomorrow is a gift, but today is a blessing. It first shows up on page 33, and it’s supposedly engraved on the silver-plated family shield. Silver-plated? How bloody cheap are these aristocratic vampires?

I ranted at everybody around me about the Hallmark-card family motto, and then went on Twitter and complained some more, and one brilliant person said maybe the vampires were really into cross-stitched pillows. Then I hit this, and officially died:

Tomorrow is a gift, but today is a blessing. That little homily had been embroidered on Angel’s christening cushion sewn by her mother’s own hands. (p. 47)

Angel’s mother is dead, by the way, and Angel lived in an orphanage in New York from the age of eight. Yet somehow Angelina Blythe Corbett is a lady scientist, because…that was an opportunity orphans had in 1880, clearly. She’s made her way to Oxford to stay with her uncle; she’s been supporting herself as a laboratory assistant, and wants to help him with his research into blood.

In the meantime Shelly Holmes, a detective and also a werewolf (I don’t know either; it happened in the first book, which I’m only now reading), is investigating a series of murders that are being committed by a vampire with one crooked fang.

Angel’s uncle, Sir Alexander, and his wife Sarina throw a ball, and Angel meets Max Britton, who responds…enthusiastically, first by licking her nipple on a balcony in full view of everyone, and then by leaping off the second-story balcony and running off with her. Angel doesn’t object because her uncle has drugged her, and Shelly Holmes is watching all this…you know what, I’m just going to throw a few quotations in here, because nothing I say is going to adequately capture the flavour of this.

From the second-story salon window she’d opened earlier, Shelly Holmes watched Maximillian Britton, Earl of Trelayne, carry poor Miss Blythe Corbett into the night. Her eyes glowed as they caught the light cast by the full moon. She felt the change coming over her and ducked back, whipping the thick curtains shut. The hairs sprouting on the backs of her hands disappeared, and the claws growing on the ends of her fingers were sheathed back into her skin. (p. 56)

Orphans working as “lowly laboratory assistants” led really full lives back in 1880:

She’d always been attracted to dangerous things. She’d experimented with opium, she loved to gallop full-tilt over stony terrain, and she’d even climbed a steep cliff once, just to see if she could. (p. 94)

Her foresight is as accurate as most people’s hindsight. It’s almost as though she can see into the future of SCIENCE:

She needed…blood samples. So many people died so needlessly. Once the mystery of blood typing was unlocked, operations could be performed safely, accident victims could be resucitated. (p. 135)

Also, and this is a minor point that barely stands out in the sea of improbable events, but I find it very mildly squicky that the hero, having loved (and killed) the heroine’s mother, should then end up happily-ever-after with the heroine. I mean, he’s a vampire, so it’s not like he’s been aging, but…would you really want to marry your mother’s old flame, even once he was cured of his vampirism?

But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the book. It was hilarious and entertaining, and I must have read nearly half of it out loud to people. Plus now I’m enthusiastically starting on the one before this one, because I can’t resist.

normal_TheTrelayneInheritance1_ColleenShannon

 

Summer! sort of

It’s actually cold and rainy here. Plus the local school year doesn’t end until the end of June. That sucks: when I was a child, we had the last two weeks of June off.

But it’s starting to feel summerish, anyway. Enough so that I’m nostalgia-reading summer themed kids’ books.

Why aren’t summer-themed adult books a thing? Or are they, and I’m just missing them? Is there a subset of, say, Harlequin romances set among camp counsellors? I bet there are “murder at the beach” books. I should go looking for those.

IMGP4886What I’m reading.