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review 2017-02-03 19:05
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

Charmingly overplotted, this book is the definition of a fun romp. 

 

A good friend has been bugging me for ages now to start this series because she adores it, and I'm glad I gave this one a try. I loved the sheer force of Thursday Next's personality, the way she just gets things done, the more than just slightly askew look at the world as we know it, the 80s feel (including postmodernist naming conventions), the brief instances of time travel, the book travel. The way actions had consequences and various shenanigans had to be hidden from major characters so they wouldn't show up in the text. 

 

Some spoilers ahead. 

 

I also enjoyed how there was so much going on. In recent years, it sometimes seems like every brain fart is turned into a trilogy, so it was refreshing just to delve into so much plot. There's a first stand-off with the major villain about 50 pages in, and if that isn't some generous writing, I don't know what is. The only thing I could have done without is the romance subplot. You're a male writer, and you create a kick-ass heroine who has her colleagues swooning over her, and then you give her a long-lost love interest. His occupation, of course? Writer. I haven't seen such an unnecessary author stand-in in a while. 

 

Blatant fetishism of the main character aside, this book is lovely. I cackled when the ChronoGuard tries to make Thursday believe she's been gone for over 30 years, and while I wasn't as convinced by the next installment in the series, I can definitely recommend this. 

 

Read in January 2017. 

 

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review 2016-09-01 03:01
A DYING FALL by Elly Griffiths
A Dying Fall - Elly Griffiths

A Dying Fall

Elly Griffiths

Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Mariner Books (first published December 20th 2012)

ISBN: 0544227808 (ISBN13: 9780544227804)

 

This actually was my first Ruth Gallawoay book. Even though it is #5 in the series, I did not have a problem following the story.  Griffiths did a decent job of giving background of the characters so there was no confusion for me. I found the characters wonderfully quirky and some loveable. I did find that it read similarly to other British detective type mysteries, maybe a little bit simpler in the writing style than Elizabeth George's writing style. I did enjoy the story, and how it played out. I loved reading about the small towns to which the plot brought the characters.

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review 2015-02-15 03:27
Even Better Than the First Book
A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

I really loved the first volume, <i>Game of Thrones.</i> Definitely five-star worthy, even if a couple of things kept me from continuing on--for years. Ironically both reasons had to do with Martin making me care very much for his characters, so much so I was reluctant to become further invested. For one, at the time I'd read the first book, it had been five years since he'd published the most recent installment. I feared Martin would never finish this series, but leave us hanging. Second, it's a hard, hard thing to love a Martin character. He's not reluctant to be brutal, even kill off, very appealing characters, and what he did to one of my favorites in the first book was a shock, and hard to forgive him for.

Well, Martin did publish a fifth installment since, there are only supposed to be one or two volumes to go, and supposedly with the HBO miniseries he has reportedly divulged enough of the overall series plot to the producers assure the story wouldn't die with him. And a friend who loves the series, both filmed and print urged me to read on. And I did see how Martin's way with his characters had a pay off in the second book. Knowing no character is safe ups the stakes and the suspense. And I was impressed how Martin could introduce new characters, new points of view and make me care.

But not as much as I had with the first book--which is why I gave the second volume four stars. It was still good. In fact, just having read a popular YA book just before the second book, <i>A Clash of Kings</i> I was newly impressed with Martin's world-building and skill in interweaving the very themes of the title, "a song of fire and ice" and "game of thrones" into his intricate plot. But in the end, the book felt more like a middle, a continuation--a good yarn, but not as involving to me and I wondered if, as with so many series, each book would provide diminishing returns.

Well, if anything I love this book even more than the first one, and like the first, but not the second, it provided emotional--well, highs. There was one moment in this book that made me want to cheer myself hoarse--if those in the next room wouldn't have thought me a loon. Characters I'd written off as evil turned out to have sympathetic sides and a capacity for change I didn't expect, but managed to be credible. Sympathetic characters, while staying sympathetic, managed to show sides that were much, much darker than I'd have suspected--while still feeling like themselves. It provided it's own share of surprises and shocks--and if the end of the first book gave me shivers, this one made me shudder--in a good way. So I'm moving on to the fourth book, <i>A Feast of Crows</i> with great expectations. I've heard not-so-good things about the latest book published in the series, <i>Dances with Dragons</i>, that it was a disappointment, and felt rushed. But if <i>A Storm of Swords</i> showed me anything, it's that Martin can recover from what might feel like a decline and come back stronger than ever. So here's hoping that'll be true of the closing books in the series.

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review 2015-01-11 04:58
Diverting Read
Divergent - Veronica Roth

A friend and fellow <i>Harry Potter</i> fan asked me if I'd read this. That caused me to try the film adapted from it, which I enjoyed. I could immediately see parallels to Rowling's world in this dystopia set in a future Chicago. Mind you, Tris, the narrator and heroine, is very much her own character--not some cut and paste Hermione--or Katniss for that matter, even if I find Roth less convincing than Rowling or Collins in presenting a plausible teenager. None of the characters or relationships or details of plot bring <i>Harry Potter</i> to mind, and this is written in a blander style: the usual first-person present found everywhere in Young Adult.

What reminded me of <i>Harry Potter</i> though were the factions. Think <i>Harry Potter's</i> Hogwarts houses. The qualities and values of Gryffindor are split between Abnegation, which values selfless service, and Dauntless, whose prime value is bravery. Erudite shares the passion for knowledge of Ravenclaw, but a lot of the cunning and ruthless ambition of Slytherin. Not a coincidence, I think, that our heroine has ties to Abnegation and Dauntless and our master villains are mostly to be found in Erudite. I can even see similarities to Hufflepuff in the less prominent Candor and Amity factions which value justice and kindness. The thing is, the whole concept of the Hogwarts houses and how Rowling presented them always bugged me in lots of ways. What I had to rather love about <i>Divergent</i> is the way it examines the dark side in sorting young people into these various groups with one overreaching ideal and how those ideals are corrupted.

The film adaptation does... well, diverge from the book in a number of ways so there were some surprises; I prefer the book. In fact, I was tempted to rate this book higher than I did simply because it's the first book that's been able to hold me in months--it's been that kind of year. But is it "amazing?" Even all that distinctive and memorable in characters and plot from the usual YA dystopia with an action heroine? I remember how the first <i>Harry Potter</i> book charmed and had me dogearing pages to come back to favorite lines and <i>Hunger Games</i> had me turning pages breathless with suspense and at one point sent a chill down my spine. I can't say this book matched those experiences, but I'm sure watching the film based on the book first did dampen any suspense. The book didn't change my perspective, make me laugh, make me cry or fall in love with the characters.

I <i>liked</i> Tris, though, and finished the book eager to go on to the second in the trilogy to find out what happens next. Especially since my friend tells me the series, and Tris' arc, only builds in strength. So onto <i>Insurgent</i>--entertained and happy to finally finish a book!

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text 2014-11-08 10:17
The Limitations Of Romance
Us - David Nicholls

Us is the story of a married couple in their mid-fifties who have been together for a quarter of a century but now find themselves on the verge of splitting up. In an effort to salvage their relationship they embark on a grand tour of Europe taking their graceless nineteen year old son with them. Predictably, the holiday is a disaster.

 

Narrated by Douglas, the husband, in a voice that is simultaneously nerdy and likeable, Us is acutely observed, painfully funny and very moving. Nicholls' achievement is to create a narrative that is full of comic twists, witty dialogue and ironic reversals while at the same time making all this feel utterly authentic. I felt like I knew these characters, frequently, I wanted to give them a good shake, but I was always compelled to follow their story.

 

In this novel David Nicholls demonstrates that he is far from being the writer of populist romantic comedy that he is often portrayed as. Us is a compelling and entertaining read certainly, but it is never glib or sentimental. It is a book about the difficulties of human relationships and the limitations of romance.

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