Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Clean Look

I hate modern design.  It's all spare and bare and white space.  I can forgive Blogger all the white space under the assumption that it loads faster or something, but seriously, I don't understand why people think that fewer designations between different sections make it easier to navigate a website.

That's all beside the point, except to the extent that my being irritable with the new Blogger look might leak over into my opinions on books.  You've been warned.

Brenda warned me that Madeleine Robins' Petty Treason wasn't quite as good as Point of Honour, and I suppose that's true in its way, but I don't think it's much of a drop back.  I think the problem with any series is that the delight of discovering something new and interesting is never present at the second book, and it's possible to feel that lack.  In a case where you like the books instead of loving them, it might be enough to move your enthusiasm down a tick.

I think I might have liked this one better, actually.  I find that mysteries often tend to ramble as the investigators pursue red herrings.  I felt like this one kept moving forward--I never felt like I didn't know why we hadn't moved along to the next thing yet.  It's the old fashioned need to talk to so many people, instead of calling them or (as on TV) sending your uniforms to canvas the area.

Brenda's other main point, which I totally see, is that the first book involved Sarah getting involved in personal relationships that had her more engaged and gave us more of a window into her personality.  While there was no romantic relationship here, I actually felt like I got a lot of really interesting character exploration through Sarah's (excuse, me, Miss Tolerance's) relationships with her aunt, her friend Marianne, and her client.  Her fear of trusting her aunt, her protectiveness of her client, her explorations of close friendship, her frustrations that she vents at Sir Walter--all of these fit together to give me such a good picture of Sarah Tolerance's state of mind.  Somehow, I just find that really satisfying.

I keep comparing her to Maisie Dobbs, whom I've given up on entirely at this point.  Sarah Tolerance wins out every time.  Sarah's got so much going on inside her, and you can see how that is touched, formed, and fed back on by the things that happen around her.  Really, while the mystery is pretty great, these books are all about character.  The third one came out last year; I hope Robins is writing more.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Real People, Real Problems

Anne Lamott is someone who's writing I've enjoyed for a long time.  I've read her memoirs about faith; through a lot of challenges in life she's come to a very passionate, liberal, personal form of Christianity.  She writes about her relationship with religion--the community of her church, her personal reliance on God--in a very immediate, somewhat desperate way.  I have a thing for spiritual memoirs, and hers are generally very good.

So I've read a good deal of her nonfiction, but I'd never read one of her novels before.  Then Linden read Rosie, and she really liked it, so I picked it up.  And today I finished it, and I don't quite know what to say. 

Most of my emotional reaction to the book was based on my kind of hating the main character, Elizabeth, and most of my hatred of her was based on her flaws hitting so close to home.  I can't be sure whether this is one of those times when everyone who reads it would feel the same way, or if that sort of aimless self-importance, uncomfortable inertia and lack of self-control are as on the nose as I feel like they are when I read about her.  At least I'm not an alcoholic.

Rosie is Elizabeth's daughter, and I would probably not have named the book after her.  I suppose it makes sense, because, although the point of view is somewhat split between the two characters, really the point is that Rosie is the only thing that Elizabeth is good at and able to focus on.  Unless you count drinking--she's really good at drinking.  I guess she's good at loving the people she loves, which is something that is kind of grown through Rosie, though I'm not completely sure whether it's something in Elizabeth that is able to flourish because of her daughter, or just something that we as readers are able to see clearly through the lens of their relationship.

Anyway, this is one of those books where everyone is kind of annoying.  It would make a movie where all the rooms were a little too small and cluttered, and everyone was always wearing uncomfortable looking clothes--think The Squid and the Whale or Wonderboys.  All of the characters are solidly, richly flawed, which makes them powerfully realistic, I think, but really just feels kind of sad.  Rae is needy and kind of miserable; Rosie is eight, so of course she's selfish and mean sometimes.  James is kind of a cad.  Elizabeth is a hot mess.  There's a child molester, his silent wife, his poor kid; some loser boyfriends, some cheerful dolts.  No one in this book really has their acts together, and when I read a book like that, I start to feel a little hopeless.  Because while it's true that no one in real life has their act together, a lot of us do a good enough job of faking it that we even fool ourselves most of the time.  The narrator of this book--the reader--is not fooled for a minute.  And that just kind of makes me sad.

The other thing is that, knowing as much as I do about Lamott's life, I suspect that she's Rosie and Elizabeth is her mom, and that makes me a little wistful.  If it's true, it's a very respectful, loving lens through which to view life with a raging alcoholic who was really horribly self-centered.  But it's also a little dreamy, like, wouldn't it be great it the only problem was the booze and the aimlessness?  And isn't Rosie precocious?

I don't know, maybe I'm just cranky.  Elizabeth spends a lot of time cranky at books for either being too dumb or being so smart as to show her up.  Talking about this book just gets me all in a jumble.  But it was interesting, I'll give you that, and sad, and kind of gritty, in a comfortable suburban widow kind of way. 

And now I've read an Anne Lamott novel, so that's out of the way.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Round Up

I think this thing where I review books as I finish them has run its course.  I'm slipping further and further behind, because I can't summon up the enthusiasm.  I'm not a summarizer.  I emote.  I feel things deeply.  And I want to ramble about those things, in the moment.

So, let's do a quick wrap-up.  I still want to try to hit as many of the books I'm into as possible.

The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas.  This is a perfect example of a book I wish I'd written about while I was reading it, because I could not put it down.  I mean, it's a kids' book, sure, but the narrator has this delightfully assonant, onomatopoetic way of describing things that had me hooked right away.  He's cocky and independent and just solid to the core; the kind of kid that you can totally see saving the world.  Sweet and fast and funny and dangerous, I really enjoyed it, and I'd have a lot more to say if I were in the middle of reading it.  There's a sequel, though, so stay tuned.

Awful First Dates, by Sarah Wexler.  This is a compilation of anecdotes from her website by the same name.  Read the website.  It's hilarious.  The book is exactly the same as surfing the website (especially when you read it on your computer).  There is literally nothing to be gained from the book; I read the whole thing in an hour and a half.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen.  Another one I wish I had blogged in progress.  I think my summation is "slight," maybe with a side order of "jumbled."  This book does two or maybe three different things.  The main thing--what I think the author probably sat down to write about--was the failure of her marriage.  Her husband was a bipolar, emotionally abusive jerk for many years.  Also a snob, which I think is the part that bugged me most.  And she lived with it, and put up with it--left him and kept going back.  And when she talks about the end of their marriage, she talks almost exclusively about how he left her for Bob whom he met on  I think she's missing the point of what was wrong with her marriage, and I found that a little irritating, though there was, I suppose, the schadenfreude pleasure of hearing the gory details of the end of her marriage.

The other thing she's talking about is going back home after the divorce to live with her parents for a while.  This was mostly because she was in a car accident and needed the extra help.  I'm sure this was part of the original pitch for the book.  This part is about how she's a liberal academic and her family is very religious and conservative.  The "and maybe third" thing the book covers is a lot about growing up Mennonite, and all that background.  It's a lot of anecdotes and humor about eating embarrassing lunches (borcht in a thermos, anyone?), not being allowed to participate in square dancing in gym class, and how generally square Mennonite parents are.  Also Germanic--cooking and cleaning are therapeutic and bred in the bones.

She's a funny writer, and I will say I enjoyed the book.  I was a little let down because I was picturing more of an Old Order Mennonite thing, quasi-Amish.  But no, these are folks who go to public school and shop at malls--they just don't wear makeup and girls weren't allowed to wear jeans.  I'm not saying it's not a sharp contrast to Eastern academia; I'm just saying that they look a lot more mainstream from the outside than they appear to have felt from the inside.  As a voyeur, I was a bit let down.

Kingdom of Gods gets its own post.  Then some of my currents--Sarah Tolerance, Anne Lamott, and ALL THE SAMPLES I'M READING THEM ALL on my Kindle.

Friday, March 23, 2012


A couple of fun things I've happened upon this week.

I'd never heard the original Jay-Z/Kanye song, but I don't think you really need it to love this.

(Thanks to Aarti at BookLust for the link)

And for those of you who, like me, are feeling left out of conversations at work about people's "brackets," let me present Book Madness.  That link is to a blog post at Publisher's Weekly, where you can find a blank bracket sheet.  Here's a link to the actual site that's doing it, Out-of-Print Clothing, but that link includes the winners for the first few rounds.  Thought it's too late to officially enter, you can make your choices before you look at the winners so far.

The trick about this kind of contest is that it's won by votes, so I go back and forth between choosing based on who I think will win vs. my preferences.  I wish I'd gone more with my preferences; otherwise what's the point?

And this is especially tricky because I haven't read all the books.  And what do you do when Harry Potter is up against The Road?  I mean, how do you even compare those?  Would you rather have an ice cream sundae or a good haircut?  Apples and oranges, baby. (Thanks to Kris for that one.) 

Let me throw in, too, the fact that Classic Trash at The Awl just posted her review of The Secret History--one of my own favorite classic trash books!  I can't wait to read it, and wanted to share it.

Also, for anyone who's interested, the next book club pick is The Children's Hospital, by Chris Adrian.

Thanks to Kris for that link; I have

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

April Is the AWESOMEST Month

My coming soon list is bursting with stuff that's coming out in April; if you let the titles that will be out on May 1 sneak into the list, you'll leave me gasping like a corseted debutante who's been waltzing with Brad Pitt.  Which is to say--entirely breathless, in a slightly dizzy and VERY tingly way.

Let's start with The Shape of Desire.  This gets all its mileage out of being a Sharon Shinn book.  I think it's about werewolves--okay, whatevs.  I ain't against 'em.  Shinn isn't perfect, but there are two sides to that.  Most of her books are really wonderful.  Beautifully constructed, meditatively paced, and solidly structured around character, these are just pleasing, charming things.  But even when she misses the mark on some of these things, I've found that all of her books have a charm, a warm-fuzzy happy ending quality that leaves me with a good taste in my mouth, even if the book was slight.  The worst I've ever had to say about her books was that they didn't have a lot of substance; this is not a devastating criticism.

Verdict: Very promising.

Glamour in Glass will be out from Mary Robinette Kowal.  Not everyone loved Shades of Milk and Honey as much as I did, but I adored it.  I think the comparisons with Jane Austen might have worked against it a little bit; it's a Regency, like so many Austen imitators, and it does a damned fine job of it--only but plus with magic.  By invoking Austen, though, you might expect the richness and depth of her work, but really it's much more like Georgette Heyer or Joan Aiken.  With magic.

Shades of Milk and Honey is on sale for the Kindle for only $3.  If you haven't read it, and this sounds even remotely entertaining to you, try it.  You won't be disappointed.  But really, the reason I love her is because of her Hugo nominated short story, "For Want of a Nail," which you can read for free here.  I will read whatever she publishes.

Verdict: Gleeful anticipation, as of knowing there is a box of Valentine's chocolates waiting for me on April 10.

Magic Under Stone is Jaclyn Dolamore's sequel to Magic Under Glass.  I'd call it long-awaited, but while that's literally true, it implies a passion that's maybe not earned.  I read the first one mostly because there was a whole dust-up about the cover.  It was good--magic, charming, and I liked the main character very much.  A little mushy around the edges, in the way that YA sometimes is now that I'm an adult, but I'll read the next one.  And hey, here it comes!

Verdict: "Oh, hey, I don't think I've ever seen this episode from the first season of How I Met Your Mother.   Cool, I guess I'll watch it."  Like that.

True Sisters, by Sandra Dallas.  Hard to discuss; I have this weird relationship with Sandra Dallas that sort of defies description.  But this one is about Mormons, so I'm all in.

Verdict: Historical fiction by a writer I generally enjoy a great deal, about Mormons.  It's like I was at a buffet and every dish looked so delicious my plate is overflowing.  I can't wait to see what it tastes like!

Okay, here's where we get sneaky and let the May 1 books in the back door.  But oh, they're the exciting ones!

I'll tell you all about N.K. Jemisin's Kingdom of Gods very soon, because I just finished it, and oh, Sieh!  Oh, poor, funny, weary Sieh--I've rarely felt that much empathy for that complicated a character.  I'm so thrilled that she apparently had several finished, unsold novels when her first series took off, because her next series is starting already! Let's all cross our fingers for The Killing Moon to be on par with the Inheritance trilogy.

Verdict: Eager, eager, eager, but so nervous!  Like a first date, or going to a high school reunion.  Such high hopes!  Such potential for torment!  An exquisite agony of anticipation!

Insurgent is Divergent number two, by Veronica Roth.  I'm actually not squirming about this one; it was a decent YA dystopia novel with a few too many worldbuilding holes.  But I'll read the next one.

Verdict: What I really want to know is whether the third book will be called Emergent.  That is my prediction; please be prepared to acknowledge my supreme naming skills when I am proven right.

And finally, last but the opposite of least: Bitterblue.  Kristin Cashore's sequel to Graceling and Fire, and I'm really anticipating this one.  Neither of those books was perfect, but they were complicated, plotty, and character-rich, and lord, but I can't wait to see what this one has in store. I am atwitter and aflutter and a-hopeful.  Can't wait.

Verdict: I will pay money for this book the day it comes out.

This is rarely the case; most of the books above I'll jump on the library list for and read them when it's my turn.  April release dates merely begin my delightful period of waiting list anticipation.  But for some--Bitterblue, Glamour in Glass, The Killing Moon--I will spend money and download the day they're released, and buying them will make me happy long before I get around to reading them.

And now, to sleep--perchance to dream.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Within Reach

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is one of those books that I heard rave reviews for but knew nothing--absolutely nothing--about.  It was on my to-read list for a while before I realized it was a kids' book.  I got it from the library and sat on it for a while, then started reading it when it was reviewed on things mean a lot, mostly because I like her reviews and wanted to understand what she was talking about.

I was thoroughly charmed by this book.  It can be hard to describe, because there is a thread of mystery through the story that ends up being important for the climax, but mostly, this book is about a girl, Miranda, growing up in New York City in the '70s.  The great thing is that it's really about all those things--it's about Miranda, who is smart and slightly odd (she reads all the time, but only A Wrinkle in Time), and has a single mother and not a lot of money.  It's about growing up--losing friends and making new ones, figuring out how to be honest and fair, even when you don't really want to.  And it's about New York, where some buildings have doormen and others don't, and you might live in a good neighborhood but you're still afraid of the big kids who hang around in front of the garage, or the crazy guy who sleeps with his head under the mailbox on your block.

Miranda's mother is a smart paralegal with a sweet boyfriend; I loved that her family was a solid, safe place for her in the story.  Her neighbor, Sal, has been her best friend since childhood, but suddenly he doesn't want to talk to her anymore, and she's trying to figure out why.  Her mother wants to be on the $20,000 Pyramid, and she and her new friends have a lunchtime job at a sandwich shop.  It's an engaging, really lovely story about the small facts of her life.

But there's also a thread of mysteries--notes that show up in odd places, saying even stranger things.  Miranda is confused at first, as she tries to figure out whether Wrinkle in Time-like time travel might have something to do with the odd things that are happening.

In the end, both the mystery/supernatural story and the personal story are based on the idea that cause and effect are all mixed up, and that all the parts of your life are tied together.  Your old best friend and your new best friend and your new best friend's old best friend are all bound up in a web, in a community, and that's what makes up your life, and you can never know what will lead to the next thing.  This was such a sweet story; I can't say I'll be thinking of it months from now, but it was a real pleasure to read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where I've Always Been

More and more lately, I've had this problem with blogging about books after I finish them.  There are two issues.  First, if I don't write a post within a few days of finishing a book--honestly, just one day if the book is only okay--I lose my passion for it.  I loved it when I was reading it, but three days later I'm into two or three new books and that passion is more of a nice memory.  You don't want your eulogy written by your high school boyfriend whom you haven't seen since graduation, even if he loved you with all his heart, because (unless he's kind of creepy), he's more wistful than mournful at your death.

Wow, that metaphor got away from me.  Anyway, the other prong to the problem of waiting till I finish a book to write a review is the flip side of that--when I'm in the middle of a book, I want to talk about it.  Right now I want to talk to you about how amazing N.K. Jemisin is at writing about gods, which I thought would be impossible, and to rebut a critique I read in a random Goodreads review by someone who didn't find her treatment believable (though I couldn't even read the whole review because I haven't finished the book so didn't read the spoilers).

I would also like to discuss how Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is really not about being a Mennonite or ex-Mennonite or growing up Mennonite, not really.  It's way more about being left by your husband for a guy named Bob whom he met on and how the marriage was pretty messed up to begin with but your family is pretty awesome even if they're kooky and religious.  They are less kooky than a lot of Baptists I've read about.

And can I mention that no one should let David Rakoff go anywhere fun?  Because he sucks the fun from things--even as he claims to find them charming.  I cannot imagine him happy; he's like Marvin the Paranoid Android from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I love his writing--when he's talking about things outlandish (life on a movie set) or significant (Log Cabin Republicans) I enjoy his work very much.  But who let him describe staying in a nice hotel?  Who even let him into Disneyland?

Also, I want to talk about things that happen in these books.  I would really like to do a long blog post about the implications of [well, I can't tell you that, because it happens near the end and you haven't read the book yet] in The Art of Fielding, and whether you think [some people] will feel that it's sensitively portrayed.  And did you find [this character] to be fully three dimensional?  Even when he [does this]?

Do you see what I'm saying?  This all burst out of me when I sit down to write a review of Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, which was a really, really great book, and I want to encourage you to read.  I'll write that next time, I promise.  But it'll have to be soon, if I'm going to sound even close to as passionate as I felt the day before yesterday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Club: The Awakening

New book club had its inaugural meeting last weekend.  No, we didn't read Kate Chopin's syllabus-haunter The Awakening.  But we came into being as a group; thus the title.

The book was The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, and the meeting was fabulous.  I've been in book clubs that were extremely literary and ones that were extremely not so.  This was perfect--we talked about the story, and how the author accomplished it.  Nobody hated it, but there was enough variation of opinion to be really interesting, and everyone else put together a lot of things I didn't notice, for a richer experience of the book.  Two big thumbs up!

It didn't hurt that this was a fabulous book.  Right here is that place where literary fiction becomes great.  The writing is understated, but absolutely masterful.  You don't really notice the writing, because it's seamless, but so much of what is done--so many allusions and hints--couldn't have been put together without careful and deliberate intent.

The story is simple, realistic (for the most part), and incredibly compelling.  Henry Scrimshander is a gifted high school baseball player without any real plans when he finds himself at Westish College, a small midwestern school where his talent can shine.  Baseball is the core of his life, and he is the core of the novel.  We also meet Owen ("I'll be your gay mulatto roommate") and Schwartz, Henry's upperclassman mentor; Guert Affenlight, the president of the college; his daughter, Pella, who would be a college senior if she hadn't married a guest lecturer at her high school.  Each of these characters is confused and flawed and loveable and trying so hard, and I enjoyed all of them immensely.

The weakest point, I think, is Owen.  In many ways he's an outsider; while he's vital to the story in so many ways, he's the only one who's never a point of view character, and whose experiences we never really share.  Owen is very much an object in the story--he's admired and worshiped, and he's often the calm center of everyone else's troubled confusion.  But he never quite feels real himself, and you're never quite sure how he really feels about anyone.  Owen is on a pedestal; the character who always knows the right thing to say, knows when to worry and when not to, keeps his cool in any situation is often fun to read about, but is rarely three dimensional.

It's one of those stories you can't really tell.  I guess you could say everyone is trying to find the meaning of life, but since they're in college, mostly they're just trying to figure out how to really live.  If they were typical college students, it might be passionately boring in the way that most of your late night dorm talks would be if you got to go back and peek in on the.  But they're not, and they're all struggling with very adult problems and fears.  It's true that I sometimes wanted to shake them, but they were forever trying to shake themselves, and I know what it feels like to know you're not thinking constructively, but to be unable to stop that thought process.

Anyway, I'm not doing a great job of selling you on the book.  I don't know if I can, especially since how the story unfolds is so important to my experience of it.  But: if you like baseball, this is a great book.  If you have ever wondered whether you'd ever make anything of yourself, this is a great book.  If you've ever learned something about yourself that shocked you, this is a great book.  If you like really good storytelling, this is a great book.  Seriously, this is just a great book.  You really should read it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Bookstores

I just bought an ebook from my local bookshop!  First time, and I feel quite satisfied with  myself.  Porter Square Books sells Google ebooks and uses Adobe Digital Editions, which I can manage nicely.  I'm really pleased to have the option of supporting a local bookstore with my ereader.

But the main point of this post is to show you this post at Lists of Note.  Its sister site, Letters of Note, is one of my new favorites.  But that post from Lists of Note is exactly how I feel in the bookstore, and why it's such an overwhelming experience.  And I thank the blog for sparing me from reading the entirety of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, which I've heard is excellent but intimidating.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Childhood Classic

I was a huge fan of Harriet the Spy when I was a kid.  Of course, right? There's a world full of bookish, writerly type kids who loved Harriet, Sport, and Ole Golly.  Bold, smart, blunt, independent--she was fabulous.

Someone (I wish I could remember who!) blogged about Harriet recently, saying that it's a pretty upsetting book on rereading--Harriet spends some time truly afraid that her classmates are going to kill her.  I was surprised enough to want to reread it and see what else there was to see.

It was kind of startling, actually.  From the perspective of an adult, Harriet's a really infuriating kid.  She's selfish, small, stubborn, shouty.  She thinks a lot of mean thoughts, she yells all the time.  When things turn against her, she turns super mean, shuts down.  It's kind of amazing, actually--a picture of depression in a kid, a picture of someone who's tough facing something enormous that she doesn't know what to do about.

But what's really shocking is Ole Golly.  Harriet's nanny is honest and matter-of-fact, and has a quote for every occasion.  Since Harriet's mother and father don't have much to do with her, Ole Golly is her main parent.  I remembered her as the perfect picture of an adult who treats a child like a person; I remember wanting an Ole Golly.

Rereading, though, she's kind of horrifying.  Her honesty to Harriet is great, it's true, but she never teaches the girl anything about kindness, or friendship.  She talks about truth, and being a good writer, but not how to avoid hurting people.  And when she leaves--well, it's not out of character that she is unsentimental, but her pervasive message is, "don't miss me, because I won't miss you."  This goes beyond pragmatism and into just plain lack of affection.

I felt horribly sorry for Harriet.  Not just because of her parents, and Ole Golly, or because of how her class treats her (you almost can't blame them).  She didn't seem to have a lot of the emotional equipment a person needs, even at her age, and I didn't see where she was going to get it.  Blunt honesty is the gold standard in this book, and I'm a bit taken aback by that.  I wonder now at my 12-year-old reaction to it.  Did I really want to be Harriet?  If so, thank heaven I've grown up.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Dean Koontz's Icebound is not really worth a full review.  A few points:

1) Turns out this is one of Koontz's earliest books, originally published under a pseudonym.  It sounds from his afterword like he basically wrote it to see if he could write a disaster-type novel.  I've read a lot of Koontz, and there's a wide range of quality.  This one is all right, but it's kind of toward the bottom of the scale.

2) If you've got a blizzard, an iceberg, and a bomb, I'm not sure you need a psycho killer, too.  I was seriously waiting for the aliens to make an appearance for the first 3/4 of the book.

3) People in books always spend first dates talking about movies, books, music, and art.  I almost buy that; my first date with my husband involved music, books, and movies.  But ART?  Who talks about art?  I mean, I'm sure some people do.  But these are two scientists, both climatologists of one sort or another (who can remember?).  You'd think they'd talk about academia, the new theories of soil erosion.  It sounds boring, but it wouldn't be boring, because these are things they're actually both passionate about.  Seriously, on your first date, did you talk about art?  Which art?

4) Koontz likes to get horror novel mileage out of phobias, which I don't think works very well.  He's written other books (Strangers and False Memory come to mind) with plotlines that rely heavily on a strong and irrational feeling of fear, and isn't that just HORRIBLE?  And you know, if you've had a phobia, maybe.  But I have a really hard time imagining a fear of ice, or cold, or gloves.  So when you try to make me feel anxious because the character does...sorry.  I've got nothing.

There wasn't much wrong with this book; there just wasn't much there there.  A bunch of scientists rig some charges to attempt the controlled creation of an iceberg.  A storm whips up and creates the iceberg for them, so now they're trapped on top of the bombs, timers set to go off in 12 hours, arctic blizzard whipping by outside, one of their small party maybe trying to kill them.  It's got all the ingredients, but that's pretty much all there is to it--it's kind of a tossed salad of a book, rather than a rich casserole.

That was an awful analogy.  I apologize.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Shades of Grey

I've heard mixed reviews of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.  I can see how it's a book that would not appeal to every taste--atmosphere, setting, and lavish description comprise the large proportion of the book. It's a book about a deep and passionate love that springs from experiences but few words, and that changes the course of many lives, including many people besides the lovers.  Here you have a list of what are usually my pet peeves, but this was a really good book.

It's true, though, that it's not for everyone.  It's very much about atmosphere, and if you want it to get where it's going, you're going to be disappointed.  Because of this, I think listening to the audiobook was definitely the right choice for me.  I like an audiobook with lots of interesting description--not boring, but also not every word is vital to following the overall plot.  Jim Dale does an amazing job as the reader, with just the right amount of exoticism, and an amazing gift for giving each character a voice without being a ham.

It's funny, because the descriptions are so mystical and lavish that they lent magic even beyond what they were describing, if that makes sense.  Sure, it's got to be dramatic that the whole circus is decorated in black and white, but if you think about it, that could be kind of boring, visually.  You don't think that, though, when you're reading this.  It's compelling and hypnotic beyond the sum of its parts.

La Cirque des Reves is the creation of a well-known stage magician, and it is a magical place.  But what few know is that two of its many occupants are engaged in a secret contest of true magic.  Marco and Celia were both sealed to the contest as children, and now they create fantastic illusions, new attractions for the circus, as they engage in a long and complicated dance.

Really, though, Celia and Marco are almost the least interesting of the many inhabitants of this book.  I think my favorite part of the whole experience is the rich and varied cast.  So many stories forget that their secondary characters are trying to live whole lives in the background, but this book never does.  Bailey and the Murray twins, Isobel, Tsukiko, Chandresh, Mr. Barris, Herr Thiessen, the Burgess sisters: I had to look up all these names to spell them, but I remembered them all, and their details.  The twins don't get lost in each other; Isobel is not just a placeholder; Tsukiko may be enigmatic, but there is such depth to her.  Each of these people has their own small story, as each of them deserves.

It's not the book for everyone.  If you're looking for an audiobook, I definitely recommend it, and if this description sounds like your cup of tea--if you want something beautiful and magical and dreamy--then this is absolutely the book for you.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Titillating Convergences

How Thonolan is like Bingley, and why I just laughed so hard I peed a little. 

(You think I'm being hyperbolic, but I have a bad cough and already should have gone to the bathroom.)

If that first sentence doesn't mean anything to you, don't bother.

Also: I really need to keep up with the blog, because any book I finished more than three days ago is a book I no longer have an opinion about.  I remember it, I just don't really have anything to say.  Still, I'll muddle through--for you, dear readers, for you.