January 20, 2006

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel

by Susanna Clarke

JS “Yay! I finally finished it!” That was my first thought as my eyes took in the last words of this tome. “Whew!” was my next reaction.

This is the story of two magicians who attempt to bring magic back to England during the 1800s. It is firmly a fantasy book, taking place in an alternate reality of England. The prose are written in Jane Austen style.

Through and through, the author is true to Austen’s removed style, to the detriment of the story. I felt the same frustrations as I’ve experienced in the past with this style. The reader knows more than the characters and the characters take FOREVER to figure out what is going on and they never really understand it. All interactions are obtuse.

The book, while dragging on in length and style was still very immersive. I read much of this book while waiting for the train and I would often look up, expecting some magical event to occur just down the platform from me. I wanted the characters to figure things out. I cared what happened to them. I was uhappy when they didn’t live up to my epxpectations. And maybe that is my true problem with this book. The male characters all fall into the “evil” role and the femle characters are all under developed. There was no one to love and admire without question.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, to certain people but no to most. Because of the length, style and character traits of the “heros” this book is not for everyone. The portrayal of magic and mysticism would make it enjoyable for those who are already fantasy fans but it is not a conversion book.

I was surprised to learn, on the books own site, they are making it into a movie. It is a movie I would see.

I’m now ready for something ligther, something I don’t have to fight against. But first I plan to catch up with my back issues of Metropolis Magazine. That’s fun reading!

December 14, 2005

Recently Read

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – In celebration of my trip to London, I decided to re-read Bill Bryson’s book about his roadtrip through the English countryside. I rememberd laughing out loud the first time I read it and I wasn’t let down this time around. There were passages that demanded I read them out loud immediately and were then repeated by SB and I for days afterwards. It was a perfect selection for our trip, accenting the newness of the country for me, with Bryson’s local flavor.

Goodnight Steve McQueen by Louise Wener – Recommended by my Mom. At first I fought this book, but it won me over in the end. Being a huge fan of Nick Hornby, this book’s main character felt like a half-veiled copy of Hornby’s character from High Fidelity, for the first fifty pages. After that, Danny (aka Steve), took on his own personailty, his own brand of slackerly denial of adulthood. Wener’s character seemed to have a deeper heart, a stronger devotion to his friends, than Hornby’s character and thus in the end was more loveable.

The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe both from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis- As a kid, I enjoyed reading this series, first with my Mom and then on my own. In honor of the new movie, I thought it was time to brush-up on my Narnia. I had never read The Magician’s Nephew, a short novel written by Lewis after he was well into writing the rest of the series. It feels like an add-on, like an unneccsary explantion of a world that stands on it’s own. The Wardrobe was by-far my favorite book as a kid, and I enjoyed it on this reading too. It seems to lend itself well to the big screen. I look forward to now seeing the movie.

November 3, 2005

Knowing the ending

Sight HoundSight Hound by Pam Houston – I knew the dog was going to die. It was obvious from page one. I tried to not like the characters, to not care about what was going on. I fought this book for the first 50 pages. Then Pam turned on all her charm and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve read and own two of Pam’s other books. Her writing makes me feel like she’s my friend. I knew this friend was going to loose the best dog she’s ever had. While it is fiction, all of Pam’s books are barely fiction. On her web site she has photos of her and Dante, the dog that changed her world. It was heartbreaking and touching and funny, just like pet ownership, love and friendship.

I’m not sure I can recommend this book because it made me cry and cry. It is not a book you want to read in public, at a coffee shop or airport. This is a book for a rainy afternoon at home, alone with your favorite pet. Pam Houston is a fantastic writer. If you haven’t read Cowboys are My Weakness, start there. If you know Pam, then you must read Sight Hound.

October 20, 2005

Book List

Having a book recommendations/read/need to read, list, a al Netflix, would be fantastic! That’s a great idea Rosie!

I did a little hunting but didn’t come up with the perfect solution. If anyone else has run across or is using a service like this I’d love to hear about it.

Here’s what I found:

  • Amazon.com Listmania Amazon has two features that come close. They have a recommendations area where you can rate books and recommendations are made, but that’s mostly controlled by what you bought on Amazon. The other area is Listmania, which lets you create lists of books or products that you would recommend to others. However, these are all your top picks in a particular area and not a general list. The final problem with Amazon is that it is store specific and a big advertisement for them.
  • Stuff We Like This almost became the solution. However, it doesn’t allow you to rank the books. The idea is that you list your favorite books. It also doesn’t have an area for books you’d like to read in the future. However, there is potential there.
  • For WordPress Since I use WordPress I thought I’d see what plug-ins might be around in the vein. This allows you to list your current book and current CD in the sidebar, but it doesn’t look like it archives your reading path, nor does it look into the future.
  • What should I read next? This isn’t exactly a book rating system, however, it does do a nice job of looking into the future and recommending new books.

I’ll continue my search. If I ever find something perfect, I’m sure you’ll read about it here.

October 19, 2005

The Traveler

One of the first tasks we completed in our new town was to sign-up for library cards. It was an exciting moment for me. I grew-up with a great local library in Middleton, WI. In fact the library was just rated the fourth best in the country for the size of the community. See the HAPLR ratings.

My new library here in Georgia is a whole different library experience. I had a hard time finding the fiction section and once found I was confused by the lack of options. Ofcourse, Georgia libraries as a whole state is ranked 44th out of 51. I did succeed in finding a good book to read by browsing the “popular fiction” wall of hard covers. But oh my! are there some trashy modern novels being published these days. It seems like everyone is trying to rewrite Sex and the City.

The Traveler“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks. I couldn’t put it down. This is a book that will surely be a movie someday. Every page was action packed and had this nice balance of conspiracy theory and humanism. I loved it. That is until I reached the last 30 pages, when I realized nothing was going to be resolved. I skipped to the last page to read that it was the first book in a series.

Argh! I hate reading brand-new series. This book came out in 2005. It is going to be years before the series is complete and who knows how many books there will be. It is so frustrating! What am I to do now? If this fact won’t bother you, I highly recommend the book.

My days of wandering aimlessly into the library and picking up a terrific book are over. My new strategy is to order books through their system, but that means I need to know what book I want to read next. Today I will pick up “Sight Hound” by Pam Houston. And after that?

Please feel free to offer book suggestions. I only, only read fiction, but within that I’m pretty open.

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