Thursday, August 30, 2007

Falling stars amidst dwindling reading speed

I've never read anything by Neil Gaiman before, but the movie of Stardust looked so nifty that it seemed like a good time to try. Such a sweet little fairy tale -- charming, interesting characters and a fascinating world for them to live in. I've yet to see the movie, but the book definitely makes me want to read more from Gaiman.

My posts are likely to be fewer and farther between for a while as I readjust to working. The start of the school year is taking its toll on my brain and my time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The incomparable Jane Austen

What can I say about Pride and Prejudice that hasn't been said already and better? It's the most charming, wittiest love story ever. I "read" it in high school, but I didn't really read it. I do wish I could have had the experience of reading it without knowing the story and without having so many film-version images of the characters. Nonetheless, it's worth a reread (or a few!).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fourth time's somewhat charmed

I really loved Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series when it began, but it slid downhill a bit after the first two. Fourth Comings felt a bit like a this-is-your-life take on the series -- cameo appearances from everyone we've met so far, but without any real starring roles from anyone other than Jessica. The character of Hope had a lot of trouble coming to life, perhaps because she's been so long relegated to email, letters, and memories, and there was way too little of Bridget. The plot itself was thin, but I was satisfied with how it played out. My biggest problem was that I haven't particularly liked Marcus since his silence in the desert thing, which makes it hard to root for their relationship. I did like seeing Jessica figure him out and learn more about him, while working to figure out how any relationship works (the answer: with complications).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Warm fuzzies

Austenland by Shannon Hale is the book equivalent of a romantic comedy: charming, funny, mildly predictable, but not so sweet that it makes your teeth hurt. I was surprised by how much I liked this book, especially after I saw that it called itself chick lit. Eek. Nonetheless, it was a satisfying bite of brain candy. And I have to admit that I really want to go to Pembrook Park, wear period clothes, and talk in Austen-dialect. Just without Mrs. Wattlesbrook, please.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More reading at the lake

We spent only a long weekend at the lake this time, so not quite as many books for me.

I had tried to read the first book in Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series and couldn't get into it; I think mostly I just wanted it to be a Thursday Next book. But now that Thursday has finally returned, I was able to really enjoy The Fourth Bear. Fforde tangles a twist on Goldilocks with cucumber intrigue and an intriguing nod to The Picture of Dorian Gray. (As with the Thursday Next books, The Fourth Bear makes me feel that my literary education is woefully incomplete.) I think Jasper Fforde has to be up there in the top five of unusually funny yet highly intelligent people.

The requisite Agatha Christie: Dead Man's Folly. I spent the first part of the book trying to remember if I had read this one before, then finally decided I hadn't and it just reminded me of Hallowe'en Party. A satisfying mystery -- I came closer than usual to figuring it out, though of course I'll never actually solve it before Poirot.

I think the movie of Chocolat must be very, very loosely based on Joanne Harris's novel, or perhaps I just don't remember the movie well enough. The book has much more psychologically complex characters than I remember from the movie. The chocolate, on the other hand, was deliciously depicted in both versions. (It was challenging to read this without snacking.) The descriptions of food and people are really what make this book so enjoyable; everything and everyone is so clearly rendered that the pictures in my head are staying with me longer than the story.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Don't let crazy happen to you

The Doctor's Wife, by Elizabeth Brundage, is a weird, weird book. It was certainly readable, though I skimmed quite a bit, but my goodness, these characters are crazy. They had good reasons for the crazy, but at times it seemed Brundage was working a bit too hard to give them good reasons. In the end, it really felt too much like a TV movie of the week, with a bit of politics thrown in for good measure.

Ordinary doesn't equal boring

Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is just that: life, recorded in alphabetized short entries. I was drawn in by the cover and front matter, with their quirky notes and lists. Then I started reading, and despite the very descriptive title, I was surprised to find it wasn't a book -- it really is an encyclopedia. Surely this won't work, I thought, and then continued reading to find that it really and truly did work. Rosenthal chronicles her thoughts and observations from funny to insecure to poignant, and at many points I found myself thinking, Dear God, she's in my head!

The website for the book is fun but makes the book seem much more gimmicky than it is. And I wish I could remember the blog where I read about this book, so if you've written about it, please let me know.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thursday returns, finally

Thursday Next, I forgot how much fun you were.
And of course, it's going to be another two years until the next one (grrr). First Among Sequels is solid TN material, with plenty of new tricks and twists along with all the fun things from the first four books. As usual, I feel I need to read everything ever written to make sure I'm getting all the jokes, but that's hardly a complaint.
Be sure to check out the author's website, Jasper Fforde's interview of himself about First Among Sequels is both hilarious and informative.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rejoining the Tudor fiction bandwagon

I had read (in no particular order) a bunch of Philippa Gregory books a while back -- I liked the first few, disliked the last few. But the royals in this time period are pretty fascinating, and I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. Alison Weir's Innocent Traitor, the story of Lady Jane Grey's life, is similar to Gregory's style but feels much more historically accurate. With plenty of unsavory characters to contrast the sympathetic Jane, Weir captures the courtly intrigue in the factual details of the story.