Well, I'm enjoying this break. I'm limping along through three or four books right now, and, while I wouldn't call it blissful, it's definitely fun.
Let's see. I'm reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'm on page 150. Another book would be winding up right now, and he hasn't even gotten to school yet. He just got off the hook at his hearing. A lot of people in Harry Potter's world seem to act like idiots mostly because if they didn't, there wouldn't be enough conflict. This is just one of the many ways in which His Dark Materials is superior to Harry Potter, with apologies to the Potter fans out there. And wouldn't you rather have a daemon than an owl?
Another way Pullman is better than Rowling is one of the chief things I notice, for good or ill, in fantasy novels: do I really belive and feel deep down that this world you're building runs smoothly when you're not there to manipulate it? Harry Potter isn't as bad as a lot of other books--some Neil Gaiman, for example (I'm looking in your direction, Neverwhere), is bad like that. But the way that the muggle world and the wizard world overlap, sometimes clashing and sometimes slipping by each other, seems a little inconsistant. Everything has a clever name, but not because they're charmed by clever names; rather, because Rowling is making them up. You can't actually image a factory that produces the crazy candies, or an artisan brewing butterbeer. What are really the rules and limitations of the portraits that move? I guess you could just plant all that under the label of Too Fantastic. But angels and witches and armored bears are fantastic. And I believed that those witches and bears lived in the arctic and flew on cloud pine branches (the witches) and hunted seals and fought Tartars (the bears).
Also, it's fun to say panserbjorn.
That's all I have to say about that.
It turns out The Kalahari Typing School for Men could arguably be the place where the Mma Ramotswe books jump the shark. The repetition of things you know from the rest of the series is getting boring. The respect paid to the polite and methodical mannerisms of the characters is wearing thin (they refer to Mma Makutsi's score at Botswana Secretarial College as her "97 percent or whatever it was." Where's the respect?) . The financial hardships seem a bit feigned, and it's taking longer with each book to get into the plot. The first three books were wonderful, though, and I highly recommend them.
Still reading Girl Meets God, and starting to enjoy it in between bouts of loathing. There's a real vibe of "look at me and my delightful HUMILITY," and I just don't like or respect the writer or (and here's the key problem) her faith. I guess there's something about writing a book about your faith that is innately braggardly, but I didn't feel this way about Ann Lamott.
There are two others that deserve their own entries, so a teaser: A Brief History of the Dead (on audiobook) by Kevin Brockmeier, and Uglies by Scott Westerfield.