Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On getting bored and moving on

No surprise to anyone who is still hanging onto this blog or has it in their feed reader or whatever that I...I've lost interest.  I've been busy, it's true, but I've made time for other things that I find more interesting at the moment.  Like Plants vs. Zombies (awesome game, by the way, totally addictive and time-wasting and distracting).  I think my mistake was in making the focus too narrow.  I wanted to post about lots of things other that books, and I didn't feel I could do that here because I gave the blog a TITLE about BOOKS.  And even if I changed the name, the URL would remain.

I'm not done with blogging, however.  I have just decided to make a new blog, for a few reasons.  First, I wanted a fresh start with a new title that gives me the freedom to post whatever my heart desires.  Second, I feel kind of like I'm baby-blogging over here on Blogger.  The big kids use WordPress.  I wanted to try it.  So...introducing my new blog, about whatever the hell I feel like talking about INCLUDING books but also other stuff, Wishing Heart.  Go, read, give me comments.  Oh, and this blog is not going anywhere.  I'm going to leave it up for posterity as long as they let me, so if you've linked to it or want to reference something from the archives, go for it.  It will stick around.  Thanks for those who've stuck with me and encouraged me on my very first blogging experiment!  I hope you'll join me for my next adventure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Life's been busy, what can I say. Sorry, kids! But I'm about to go on a rampage because I'm uncomfortable with how many reviews I want to do! I might skip some that I really didn't like that I don't want to waste your time on - or maybe I'll gather those together and give them shorter reviews :)

The Virginia Festival of the Book starts tomorrow, too, and I'm sadly not heading to anything this year because life is crazy and I'm visiting my Mama for her birthday on Saturday. But YOU! You should be going to some of these events! There are lots of awesome things going on, including events with Lee Smith and Julia Spencer-Fleming, two of my favorite authors! And there are a bunch of other people coming as well, many of whom I've admittedly not heard of, but some I've heard good things about: Dave Cullen, Sheila Curran, Nikki Giovanni, Hermine Pinson (my former professor at W&M!), Elizabeth Strout (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge)... So make some plans to go to some of the events if you can!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We're following the leader, the leader, the leader...

We're following the leader, wherever he may go! Tee-dum, tee-dee, a-teedly-dom-tee-day...

Ahem. I may have watched Disney's version of Peter Pan just a few too many times as a child. I actually woke up with this song stuck in my head on Christmas morning a couple of months ago, no idea why. ANYWAY, as you may have gathered, I recently read J.M. Barrie's original story of the children's classic, Peter Pan. This is one of my favorite tales of all time. I loved the Disney animation (as you've already figured out), I loved the Mary Martin production, I loved Hook, I loved every version of the story I ever saw created, performed, or written. Oddly enough, however, I had never read the original story, at least not until a few months ago. I put it on my Fill-in-the-Gaps list for that very reason, and now I have read it.

Interestingly enough, Peter Pan was originally a short story in a book for adults, which was then adapted into a stage play, and then adapted again to be a children's story. You all know the general story of Peter Pan, right? Peter finds his way into the nursery of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling; he loses his shadow and Wendy wakes to find him crying; she sews his shadow on again and he takes them all away to Neverland. There they have adventures with the Lost Boys and the Indians and the dastardly Captain Hook and his crew. What I probably could have guessed (but didn't entirely realize) is that the familiar treatments of this story are prettied up. Barrie's original tale is a bit weirder, a bit wittier, a bit more sinister than we've been led to believe. The story is essentially the same, down to Nana, the children's doggie governess, but there is a distinctly different tone to the story.

Barrie clearly conveys sort of supernatural elements - he refers to Mrs. Darling cleaning up her children's minds when they've fallen asleep, similar to tidying the nursery only with their thoughts. He talks of Neverland being a place in the minds of the children, and yet they seem to physically travel there - they are absent from their parents for months during their adventures, and their parents are very sad. Peter is arrogant in all of the stories - that's part of his infinite boyhood - but he doesn't even make sense in his arrogance in Barrie's story, which I think is very true to the actual arrogance of a child. The story is also more bloodthirsty than the children's tales to which I'm accustomed. There is no shying away on the part of the Lost Boys or the pirates or the Indians about taking a life - they're at war with one another, and that's how it is. I do think children's minds work that way; it's just we as adults want to convince ourselves that they don't, so we try to make children's stories softer than that.

There are also some pretty funny comments in the book, particularly revolving around Peter and Captain Hook. I was particularly amused by the background on Hook and his extreme concern for good form. Barrie has a dry sense of humor, which I really enjoyed. Despite the humor that was clearly written to appeal to adults, the book as a whole seems very childlike to me, in a very honest way. It's not sugar-coated and sweet; it's odd and cruel and innocent simultaneously. I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would, in part because it was different from the other versions of the story I'd seen previously. 5 of 5 stars!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Goth-Emo Teen Angst Sucks In Bookish 30-Somethings!

Oh, Wet Moon. So angsty and drama-filled. I adore it. I love Ross Cambpell's pudgy little characters with the big eyes and the confusion about their love lives. I love that the most tomboyish main character (beloved Trilby) is also the only outright straight female main character. I love the weird side stories and the feeling that they're all on the point of converging. I honestly cannot put a Wet Moon book down after I open it until it's finished.

So, this is the first time I've reviewed a Wet Moon book on this blog, apparently, and I feel the need to give a little background on it. First of all, it's a comic book/graphic novel series about (mostly) college students in a small Southern town called Wet Moon. The art and culture are very emo-goth, and there is a lot of sexual tension and sexual orientation exploration. It doesn't get too explicit, but it does get sexy, and it's heavy on the bi- and lesbian relationships. My husband introduced me to it, I think because he read the first one and loved it and was confused about why he liked it so much. I read it and also loved it, and then we had a long conversation about the fact that it's so much teenage angsty popcorn fluff, but there's something more to it. And the artwork is flat-out gorgeous.

So our main characters are four high school friends: Cleo (who is probably best called the heroine), Trilby, Audrey and Mara. But the cast of characters seems to grow exponentially with every book, so that I could now name for you probably at least 20 other characters who are also of some significance. Their lives and relationships intertwine, they whine about not getting dates or not knowing who to date, they buy atrocious Hot Topic-style clothing and get tattoos and all sounds really mundane, but it is reading crack, I promise you. The first three books really introduce the characters and their relationships and backgrounds - they lay the groundwork. Things started getting weird in the 4th book - a significant character shows some serial killer tendencies, a masked vigilante shows up, there's statutory rape drama and a cat who disappears through weird inky holes in the floor...and then the 5th book just gets weirder. Now, all of the mundane drama stuff still goes on, but there's some David Lynch-like weirdness too. I love these books, and I'd love you to love them too!

So Volume 5, Where All Stars Fail to Burn, is where the shit starts to go down. Things start happening faster. We watch Cleo kinda sorta start to fall in love with a close friend, and also deal with her sister Penny's big secret. We watch Trilby and her geektastic boyfriend, Martin, be just outright adorable, and Martin gets to meet Trilby's parents. We watch Audrey finally stand up for herself. Myrtle becomes even more psychotic, and Fern becomes even more unbelievably weird. We still don't know who the masked vigilante is, though I've got some theories going. And of course, we get to see the big softball game. Campbell, that incredibly talented SOB, leaves the book with a heart-breaking killer of a cliff-hanger - I almost fell out of my airplane seat in shock that he would leave the story like that FOR MONTHS! Until the next book comes out! ARGH! It sets my teeth on edge just thinking about it, even now, and I read this book two and a half months ago!

Bottom line, 5 stars. I cannot get enough of this series. It's killing me that I might have to wait a whole year for the next one. Damn you, Ross Campbell!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

About e-booky reader-type things

I told you earlier I felt like writing... :)

So, post number three today. I started formulating this post in my head when news of the iPad was first released last week. Because the world is astir with news of the iPad, which is more than an e-reader but still, and I have personally been debating about getting a Barnes & Noble nook after getting to play with one in my local store. There's also been a huge stand-off between Amazon and Macmillan this week regarding the e-book sales model. So my thoughts have turned to e-books and e-readers of late.

One of my very first posts, just over a year ago, was on paper books vs. e-books. At that time, I was not ready to move over to an e-reader. I have since changed my mind. The sheer volume of books in our house has gotten out of control. I've also had a chance to play with both a Kindle and a nook, and I've been impressed with how they haven't at all jarred me out of the book-reading experience. I have had hesitations about the Kindle simply because they require a different format of e-book than what has become the standard and because they don't have expandable memory. Though the the memory capacity is significant and I could switch out books virtually if I ever got close to running out of room. But the nook has expandable memory, which I just like the option to have, and it uses a standard e-book file format, and it has a pretty cool lending feature.

My hesitation at the moment with the nook is that B&N isn't offering any kind of sales or discounts on it, not even to members, which doesn't jive with my frugal nature, and that it's the first generation. I've made it a policy not to buy first generation electronics - they don't have all the bugs and glitches worked out yet. Add to that the fact that I have about 45 paper books in my to-read stack at the moment. So I've made the decision to wait and get my nook after the second version is released, which may be another year or two, but I think I've quenched my initial gadget lust and can manage to make myself wait.

Now. The iPad. First off, let's just all agree that it is the dumbest name they could have possibly given to this device. Not only is it reminiscent of feminine hygiene products (did they even ASK a woman about the name?!), it's only ONE LETTER different from their most famous new gadget of recent years, the iPod. Did they not foresee how potentially confusing that could be? Anyway. Rant over. The iPad looks like a pretty cool device, all told. I'd certainly like to play with one. But from what I can tell, it's essentially a laptop-sized iPod Touch. I'd personally rather have an iPhone that gives me all of those applications everywhere, available at my fingertips as my cell phone is. My laptop does everything I want in a computer; I want a computer that's as mobile as a cell phone. That doesn't mean that I don't see the value in the iPad. I see, for example, a potential e-reader type device for my husband, the comic book reader. Today's e-readers don't display color or images, so reading comics is not really feasible. But the iPad could be a the way, provided comics publishers respond to the (already great) demand to publish comics for the device. My husband is a lover of the format, not a collector, so he'd happily stop buying paper comics if they were available in a good digital format.

The problems with it at the moment are that there is no comics publisher making comics for the iPad yet and the memory capacity is not great yet. I don't know much about computers, but I do know that 64 GB is nothing for high-resolution image-laden comics. They need to up the memory a LOT to appeal to that audience. Also, there's the first generation problem again; we'll definitely wait until at least the second generation to get it. Finally, I'm not sure how it will handle PDF files or how to put files on it that you already own. My husband has a number of digital comics collections released by the publishers on CD-ROM that are in PDF form, and he'd definitely want to be able to read those on the iPad.

So there you have it. We want to upgrade our reading technology, but we haven't quite gotten the devices we want. Maybe in the next year or two we'll do it!

Review of Ender's Game

It may be blizzarding outside, but at least that's put me in a mood to write! I might get a few more book reviews posted this weekend and catch up a little bit :)

I had been wanting to re-read Ender's Game for a long time. I first read it when I was in grad school, getting my master's in gifted education, and we focused on literature that would appeal to gifted children. I'd never heard of the book before, even though I was a big sci-fi reader as a child and the book was published around the time I was born. So I read it about 10 years ago and loved it, and bought a copy to keep in my classroom library when I was a teacher. I always meant to read it again, and I got my chance when my book club chose to read it for our December meeting.

Ender's Game's main character is, not surprisingly, a boy named Ender. Ender is actually his nickname because he is the third and final, or ending, child his parents had. He's an exception, a Third. Most families are only allowed to have two children, but Ender's older siblings were so promising to the government for a special project that they allowed his parents to have a third child, hoping he'd be perfect. His older brother, Peter, is essentially a complete sociopath with no human compassion. His sister Valentine is too loving and compassionate. Lucky for the government (and humanity at large), Ender is juuuuuust right. At age 6, Ender is sent to Battle School to learn how to become a fighter for Earth in the coming war against the Buggers. He goes through rigorous military training, and it soon becomes clear that he's expected to be the Great Hope to win the Bugger war.

I've heard a lot of complaints about this book. I've heard that it doesn't portray children accruately, that the children are too smart and too ruthless. I believe those people have never met a truly gifted child and must not remember what it's like to be a child themselves. The old adage "Children are cruel" has its foundation in truth. Children have not developed the emotional maturity to be sympathetic or empathetic; as much as adults try to teach them by saying, "How would you feel if someone did that to you?" they just can't comprehend it. And so they are absolutely horrid to each other when the mood strikes, and they are ruthless. I remember that about childhood. And just as quickly, it's all forgotten and children are best friends again. I remember that, too. Gifted children are no different in that respect; they just have the intelligence to suss out exactly the most hurtful things to say and do to one another. They are logical and have the intellingence of any of the smartest adults, but they don't have the emotional development to temper it.

And that's why I think this book is brilliant. It shows, in what I think is a highly accurate way, what happens when you throw a bunch of crazy-smart children into a military situation and teach them to be soldiers, pitting them against each other in war games. The book is science fiction, and it is ultimately about two races' misunderstanding of each other and the resulting destruction because of this, but the book succeeds because of its exploration of these kids' psyches, and Ender's in particular. It's the reason gifted kids all over the world feel so passionately about the book: they feel like someone finally understands them, that there may be other people like them, after living their whole lives feeling isolated. That, in my opinion, makes the book one of the best ever written dealing with gifted children, and it's reasonably decent sci-fi in addition to that.

On my least favorite season

Well, we are snowed in. Again. Most of you live in the mid-Atlantic region, so you know. For those who may not, let me explain.

I live in Virginia. It is a state generally considered by its residents to be in The South. That means we do not expect metric craptons of snow (and yes, that is an official measurement term). In my current town of residence, the lovely Charlottesville, our average snowfall per winter is about 17 inches, which is skewed to the high end because of winters like this. This is my tenth winter in Charlottesville, and most of the winters I've spent here have had, at most, two to three snowfalls of 2 inches or less. That suits me fine. It's pretty to look at, doesn't screw up your travel plans too badly, and is gone the next day. I like the climate where I live. We get four distinct seasons; it rarely gets hotter than 90 degrees F in the summer and rarely gets colder than 30 degrees F in the winter. I do not like cold weather, but it is nice to look at pretty snow falling every now and again, provided it doesn't bring the entire world to a halt.

Now let's talk about this winter specifically. We got our first snow the first weekend of December. It was nothing - the kind of snow I like best, just about an inch of accumulation. It was early for us - we don't usually get any snow at all until January - but it was sufficiently cold and it was December. It was within the realm of the acceptable. Then, the weekend of December 18th, we got 18-20 inches. Okay, that's insane for us. Our "deep" snows are 6 inches. It was dubbed the Snowpocalypse by the local media. It took days to dig out. For those from particularly snowy regions who may be laughing at that notion, you need to consider that (a), we don't get enough snow to be used to driving in it; (b), we know no one else knows how to drive in it either; and (c), we get so little snow that our Dept of Transportation doesn't have the equipment or staff or budget or experience to remove it efficiently. So. The parking lot and sidewalks of my condo complex were still treacherous 3 days after the snow stopped falling. At this point, before December was even over, I was done with snow for the year. I wanted no more, and I was ready for spring.

Sadly, that was not to be. We got another small snow in early January. Then we had rain that finally melted almost all of the snow still left from December...and that also flooded all of our rivers. We live in the bend of a river, and we have lived in this condo for almost 5 years, and I have never seen this river flood. It's come close, but never happened. There's a trail behind our complex that winds along the river, and while that has developed large puddles, it's never flooded. Until now, anyway - the entire trail was under 3 feet of river water. So. Massive flooding. A week after the massive flooding, we got another foot of snow. And then 2 days later, another small snow with some sleet mixed in. That brought our running total for the winter to about 36 inches. Remember how I said we get an average of 17 inches per winter, and that most winters we actually get about 6 inches or less? Yeah. This is a lot for us. By the end of January, the Virginia Dept of Transportation had already spent their ENTIRE snow removal budget for all of 2010. In the first month of the year. They'll be dipping into emergency funds next, and then they'll have to start taking from other budget expense funds, meaning they'll have to postpone road repair and construction projects (because those are "non-essential") if they have to remove too much more snow.

That brings us to today. Saturday, 5 February 2010, aka Snowpocalypse II. It started snowing at dawn yesterday, and it hasn't stopped yet. There's at least 14 inches out there (I haven't measured, that's just an eyeball figure), and it's still coming down hard. It's not supposed to stop until tonight. Let's add another 16 inches to that total, conservatively - that brings us to 52 inches for the winter, a record winter for this town. And winter's not over. The forecast already shows snow again Tuesday and Wednesday of the coming week, and then again next Sunday. The kids only had one day of school last week and are clearly likely to miss more this week, and while I don't have kids, it affects my co-worker's work schedules (and as a former teacher, I can sympathize with the teachers who are starting to see their spring breaks disappear). The snow this weekend means we can't attend a party tonight that I've been really looking forward to. I hate winter right now, more than I ever have, and I'd stab it in the heart if I thought it actually had one.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I tried yesterday to write a review of Ender's Game, and I found myself absolutely incoherent. I got about halfway through and realized I sounded like a blathering idiot. I'm not feeling a whole lot more eloquent today. Maybe tomorrow? Not sure.

In the meantime, in order to keep my few but beloved readers entertained, I thought I'd share another part of my life. I am an absolute list addict. I make lists all the time, of everything. It makes me feel like I'm in control, I think. Which makes me a control freak. Anyway, I have a few other friends who also are list addicts, and I found this 2010 planner called Listography that I thought would make a perfect Christmas gift for some of them. And then I couldn't resist getting one for myself, too. Basically, this is a weekly planner that has a prompt to make a list for each week in the year. And I've enjoyed making the lists so far - some of them are dumb, and some are fun, but I like making them nonetheless.

I don't want to share all of the lists with you, because some of them will be extremely boring for you (i.e., names of children I know - YAWN for you), but I thought I'd share some of the others. Maybe this will break my writer's block throughout the year if a good list comes up. So! Without further adieu, a few lists from my Listography planner.

List Your Goals for the Coming Year (28 Dec 2009 to 3 Jan 2010)
  • Organize the house
  • Buy a new mattress
  • Keep losing weight
  • Get better control of finances
  • Send real birthday cards
  • Get a working printer (for home)
  • Earn Copyediting certificate from UCSD
  • Reduce to-read pile

List Your Favorite Dance Songs (22 Jan 2010 to 17 Jan 2010)

  • "Dancing Queen" - ABBA
  • "Tainted Love" - Soft Cell
  • "You'll Never Be Famous" - The Clutters
  • "I Saw Her Standing There" - The Beatles
  • "Hey Ya!" - Outkast
  • "Should I Stay or Should I Go" - The Clash
  • "Graycoated Morning" - David and the Citizens
  • "Gay Bar" - Electric City
  • "Hate to Say I Told You" - The Hives
  • "Purple Haze" - Jimi Hendrix
  • "Mr. Brightside" - The Killers
  • "Lady Marmalade" - Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and Lil' Kim
  • "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" - Aretha Franklin
  • "You Really Got Me Going" - The Kinks
  • "Deceptacon" - Le Tigre
  • "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor
  • "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley
  • "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson
  • "Son of a Gun" - Nirvana
  • "Oh My Golly" - The Pixies
  • "Vertigo" - U2
  • "Blitzkrieg Bop" - The Ramones
  • "You Keep Me Hangin' On" - The Supremes
  • "Blister in the Sun" - Violent Femmes
  • "Technology" - The Whigs
  • "Hotel Yorba" - The White Stripes
  • "We Got the Beat" - The Go-Gos
  • "Nature of the Experiment" - Tokyo Police Club
  • "American Girl" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • "Land of 1000 Dances" - Wilson Pickett

List Your Heroes (18 Jan 2010 to 24 Jan 2010)

  • My mom: even though she doesn't believe much in herself, she raised me to believe in myself and to think that I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it - she set me up for my greatest successes, and picked me up from my biggest failures
  • Chet (one of my grandfathers): the sweetest, kindest, smartest, happiest person I have ever known
  • Jimmie Holland: the founding grandmother of the field of psychosocial oncology and someone I have been blessed to work with for the past six years; a brilliant mind, an unfailing work ethic, and a kind heart, but who won't take no for an answer
  • Abraham Lincoln: another kind heart, albeit one that had to lead his country to war against itself, he did the worst imaginable task for a President who loved his country with grace, intelligence and eloquence
  • Albert Einstein: eccentric, brilliant, funny, and not afraid to admit when he was wrong
  • Gandhi: a man passionate about what was right and fair in the world, but who refused to resort to violence even when it would have saved him severe injury, he turned nonviolence into an action that got more attention than violence
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: like a combination of Lincoln and Gandhi, MLK used his faith, nonviolence, and the strength of his convictions to move an entire nation to action to attack one of our country's most horrible injustices
  • Jane Goodall: if you have ever heard her speak, you know that Dr. Goodall is poised and passionate simultaneously; she has contributed significantly to our knowledge and understanding of primates, ourselves, our environment, and our relationship with the other living things of this world
  • Nawal El Saadawi: a woman of uncommon bravery, she has fought with her writing and her teaching for women's rights and women's modern healthcare in Middle Eastern countries
  • Frederick Douglass: he educated himself and used his education to better the plight of black slaves in America to the best of his ability, as well as all people; he firmly fought for equal rights of women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants - equal rights for all people

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Irish Slices of Life Improve with Time

Argh! I wrote this review two days ago and the internet ATE IT. Ate it right up. It disappeared into thin air. we go with take 2!

I downloaded The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens from back when I was closing my subscription with them. I had a bunch of credits to spend on audiobooks, so I downloaded about 10 to get to whenever I had time. I have no idea where I got the recommendation for this particular book, but it must have resonated with me because I have three or four more books by her sitting in iTunes for me to listen to when I get around to it. I've seen other reviewers compare Owens's books to Maeve Binchy, if that's any indication for you (having never read Binchy, it didn't give me a clue).

The story centers on a tea house (Muldoon's Tea Rooms) in Belfast, Ireland, and all of the people whose lives pass through and are affected by the tea house. There's Penny and Daniel Stanley, the proprietors of the tea house whose marriage is on the rocks. There's starving artist Brenda Brown who lives in an apartment next door and comes in to drink tea and write love letters to Nicholas Cage. Henry starts coming more often to get away from his wife's obssessive re-enactments of Victorian literature and ends up falling in love with Rose, the florist across the street from the tea house. Sadie comes in to comfort herself with Daniel's delicious desserts when her husband is mean to her (which is often).

They're a lovely cast of characters - compelling, with believeable quirks and struggles. While I was listening to it, I thought it was a little slow and melodramatic, but two months later, I still remember the characters very fondly. I got attached to these people! Brenda and Sadie were my favorites, but I really enjoyed the entire cast. I don't wonder what happened to them, though, because Owens did a really good job of giving closure to all the stories. The voice actor read with a lilting Irish brogue, which was quite appropriate for the story. This is possibly the first time I have liked a book more two months after I finished it than I did right after I was done. In November, I would have given this three of five stars, but now, I give it four!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Naked Once More

Oh, lordy be. I have begun another online class - this time Copyediting I - toward my Copyediting Certificate from UCSD. I hope to learn a lot, but this class is going to take more time than the last one. There's a lot more reading. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. But I finished all of the assignments for the first week, so only nine more weeks to go... In the meantime, I'll distract myself by continuing to try and catch up with my book reviews. What will happen if I ever actually catch up?! What will I write about? :)

Today's review is about mystery novel Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters. I downloaded this as an audiobook when I had an subscription because...well, I don't remember why I chose it, exactly. As you all know, mystery novels are absolutely my personal guilty bookish pleasure, so it's not a stretch to imagine that someone recommended it to me and I picked it up for that reason. Regardless, I greatly enjoyed it. Plot summary: Jacqueline Kirby, loud-mouthed, brash, fearless, hilarious, best-selling romance author, needs a vacation from the publishing biz. Unfortunately, she's also out of money. So when she hears about the opportunity to write a sequel to one of the best-selling books of all time, which also happens to be one of her favorite books ever written, she jumps at it. The book's author, Kathleen Darcy, disappeared in the middle of nowhere seven years ago, and she's now presumed dead. Her family is interviewing candidates to write the sequel, and Jacqueline very much wants to get the job. The more she pokes around in their family business, however, the more certain she is that one of them wanted Kathleen dead - and she's determined to get to the bottom of that particular mystery.

This was a fun, fast, entertaining story. The actor who reads the book captures Jacqueline Kirby PERFECTLY, which made the audiobook that much more enjoyable. I believe that this is the second or third Jacqueline Kirby book, and I definitely want to read the others in the series after experiencing this one. When I mentioned on Facebook that I'd read it, one of my friends said she liked to describe Elizabeth Peters's books as a peanut M&M - candy-coated chocolate with a nugget of protein in the center. I think that's a dead-on description. It is a fun, fluffy, cozy mystery story, but there's something weighty about it. It's well-written, and I can tell Peters is a smart woman. Five of five stars from me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Eyre Affair

Tell a former English major who loves mystery novels and has an interest in science fiction that there's a mystery series out there involving sci-fi and famous classic literature and see if she doesn't snap up a copy of the first book in the series as soon as is humanly possible. I certainly did. I laid my hands on a copy of The Eyre Affair, the first novel in Jasper Fforde's series about Literary Detective Thursday Next, less than 30 days after I first heard about it. It combines lots of my favorite genres into one, with the added bonus of being set in Britain (I'll confess to being a bit of an Anglophile). Of course, that does not necessarily make a successful novel, but Fforde has some talent with his pen as well, so the characters are interesting and the plot is compelling, making an altogether successful book.

The Thursday Next series deals with an alternate reality - it's our world, in 1980s Britain, but there are special bureaus in the national law enforcement arena that deal with all sorts of crimes that don't generally happen in our reality, such as crimes against literature and crimes connected to time travel and vampire exterminators. Thursday Next is a Literary Detective in London. Being a Literary Detective is not generally one of the more exciting special agent jobs. It mostly involves desk research and hunting down counterfeit copies of alleged "new" scripts discovered to be written by famous long-dead authors and stopping the counterfeiters. Thursday gets pulled into a much more exciting case, however, when a special bureau unknown to her recruits her to help them catch a criminal she knows from her past. Her life becomes inextricably tied up with a murderous sociopath who used to be her professor. He takes advantage of some new technology developed by her absent-minded professor-like uncle to begin kidnapping and threatening to kill characters from classic novels. She has to stop him before he kills Jane Eyre herself, forever changing the literary canon.

As far as mystery novels go, this is one of the more original and interesting I've ever read. It embraces and combines both the mystery and science fiction genres and turns their focus to classic literature with a writing style that is light-hearted and humorous. It's no classic literary masterpiece itself, but it is a really fun read with an interesting set of characters and an entirely unique plot. I'll definitely seek out the other books in the series. Highly recommended; five five of stars!