Welcome hoppers! I had a busy week, but still managed to get snarky with Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil and also reviewed Firmin by Sam Savage. My favorite new author this year is Megan Whalen Turner who writes the Queen’s Thief series (my review here). On a personal note, I am now a new member of the Denver Roller Dolls roller derby team. If any of you love derby leave me a comment. Also in case you were wondering how last week’s poll of Literature’s most eligible bachelors turned out Mr. Darcy has taken the lead, but if you still want to participate click here. Well that’s a wrap. Leave me a comment so I can visit your lovely blogs back.
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Back in 2003 everyone was simply abuzz about Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi. The word titillation comes to mind. Now Yanni is back at it again with Beatrice and Virgil, a story about an author who gives up writing after being rejected, but is drawn in by an irresistible figure with a strange request. Henry (le main charactere) is asked by his local taxidermist for help writing a play about a donkey (Beatrice) and a howler monkey (Virgil) and Henry is so entranced, nay engrossed, by these stuffed darlings that he returns again and again to the lair of the strange old man.
You may be thinking to yourself “That sounds weird, but you know, maybe it has potential. After all this guy wrote Life of Pi. Maybe there’s some hidden metaphor I’m missing like the donkey represents suffering and the monkey is the potential for evil in us all, like that tiger in the boat.” Okay so maybe you’re not thinking that, but that’s what I was thinking. I kept waiting for the turn at the end, where all of the pages of the monkey and the donkey prattling endlessly about the most inane things were going to suddenly become blinding brilliant bits of prose.
Then just as I was thinking Yann should really be called Yawn and mentally estimating the number of pages left-bam! Surprise stabbing! I guess maybe Yawn thought “Hey this book is going a little slow. I know what’ll pick things up: a good stabbing. (Click, clack, click, clack. Yawn is typing at the keys and humming the theme to Psycho) There! This won’t disorient the reader at all or make them feel like they’ve been dropped into the middle of a thriller after laboring through the donkey/monkey saga for the last few hundred pages. Now to end this with thirteen morbid jokes about the Holocaust.” Sometimes you just have to say WHAT THE WHAT?!
Now I’ve read plenty of books where the main character is a slightly depressed, cynical intellectual with artistic pretensions (it’s practically a genre by now), but it’s not often that character is a rat. Firmin, the rat after whom the book is named, (ya what’s up I just used the word whom. Did I use it appropriately? I don’t know. One of you grammaristas will have to tell me…anywhoo Firmin) starts off munching on pages which may have possibly done something to his brain and eventually he started reading them. Firmin tells his life story, starting from birth, his years living above a book store, and the destruction of Solay Square in Boston. The book is a fast read and well written. What mostly attracted me to this book was the cover. The whole book has a bite mark in the side which actually makes for a nice little grip incidentally. I’ve read a lot of reviews of people who absolutely loved this book, but I was kind of meh. I just feel like I’ve read this character a million times, and the fact that he was a rat, well ya that’s a little different, but not as different as you might think. I wouldn’t be devastated if I never read it again so I’m giving it two books.
Yes indeedy it’s time to snap, crackle, and hop once more. Welcome blog hoppers to book bites. I promise I don’t bite, physically that it, I can give out some nasty tongue lashings. This week my tongue (read: typing fingers) lashed out at Charles Dickens in my post “If I had a time machine I would kill Charles Dickens before he could write any books, and other literary fantasies”. Why Charles? Did I read some of his writing that particularly incensed me this week? No. It just seemed like a good time to take that pompous windbag, er, literary icon, down a peg or two. Well, as far down as a dead white dude can go. Currently I’m reading Firmin. The book had a picture of rat on the cover and a bite mark in the side. How could I not pick that up?
As promised last week I’ve set up a poll for the hottest male literary characters. I didn’t include Twilight characters because this isn’t a Team Edward/Team Jacob thing and we all know who has better abs. If any male readers/writers out there want to set up a female counterpart blog, send me an email about guest posting. That’s it lovies. Happy Reading. Leave me a comment so I can visit you back.
The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, Conspiracy of Kings
I love a good intrigue and Megan Whalen Turner’s series has it all: murderous monarchs, twisty-turny plots, political upheaval, marriage alliances, and some good old-fashioned thievery. You can’t go wrong with a solid bit of thievery. The series is focused around Eugenides, a thief embroiled in the affairs of three countries on a smallish continent loosely based on Greece. The thing that impresses me most about this series is the vulnerability and empathy Turner imparts on her characters. Eugenides is not a typical stoic male figure, but often shows fear, and where the queen of Attolia could easily become a one-dimensional cut-throat Turner gives us a glimpse of something deeper, showing how the queen became as she is. The series also has some fantastic endings which are always appreciated. Nothing annoys me more than a great book with a let down ending. Turner consistently surprises and delights. Overall an excellent series.
4-I’ll read it again and again
I hate Charles Dickens. I know he’s like Mr. Classic Literature, but there’s something I find insufferable about his work. I once tried to read Oliver Twist, but got halfway through and gave up in boredom and annoyance. ‘Oy I’m a poor little waif named Oliver and all I want is a bowl of soup and someone to love, but alas cruel fate is maligned against me. Oh God! Oh England! Shut up and get a job Oliver. According to William Blake there’s loads of chimney sweeping gigs available, and you could look sad and pathetic with coal dust all over your face.
At least I made it halfway through that one. I’m not sure I got past the first paragraph of Great Expectations. I lost interest when Dicky was blathering on about the times and said that it was “the epoch of incredulity.” Really? The epoch of incredulity? I don’t even think people said that kind of stuff 150 years ago. I think you meant the epoch of verbosity Dick. Or the epoch of writing sentences so long that the reader can’t remember the beginning by the time we get to the end. Wait, I think I remember something about someone dying in a tower. Now normally that type of thing would catch my attention, but I’m sure I forgot because I was bogged down in the mintuae of what type of stones the tower was made of and how many and whether there was an odd or an even number, and that’s before we even godforbid get to the curtains. Not to mention that Dickens was the biggest flaming racist of the Victorian era.
What I really need is a time machine so that I will never have to hear anything described as Dickensian ever again. Next stop: Mormon County, Utah to have a little chat with Stephanie Meyers about empowering her protagonist a little.
I will go to JK Rowlings house and she will show me the secret entrance to Hogwarts hidden in the basement of her castle. Listen, we all know Harry Potter was much too imaginative and detailed to be fiction. Obviously JK got her material from the source-aka Harry Potter, and the series is clearly a biography for muggles, not an incredible young adult fantasy series. If I get sent to jail and send out a blog asking for bail money it will be because I broke into Rowling’s house and was throwing things in the fireplace looking for Flu Powder.
I want to hit up a happy hour with Elizabeth Bennet. She just seems like a great one for girls night out. We could make fun of her cousin Mr. Collins and speculate together on whatever could have possessed Charlotte to marry him. Maybe Jo from Little Women would show up and we could discuss the benefits of dating an older man. And Much Ado About Nothing‘s Beatrice would keep us all laughing with her witty (yet loving) quips about Benedick.
and discovered that there is at least one person, the writer of pussreboots, who is not in love with Mr. Darcy. This got me thinking of a post I’d like to write about the hottest fictional characters, so weigh in below with some ideas and next week I’ll set up a poll.
Hmmm a book I’d love to get my hands on right now? Harry Potter 8
Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, Nahoko Uehashi
This was kind of a weird little book but I totally dug it. Moribito II presumably picks up where Moribito I left off (I haven’t read the first installment but I plan to). Our intrepid hero Balsa is returning to her native land after a 20 year absence to speak with the family of the foster-father who whisked her away to safety and raised her. When she discovers he’s been defamed as a traitor Balsa is determined to set things right, but ends up in the middle of a tangled plot involving old lies, family ties, and plans to overthrow the kingdom under the mountain.
Now apparently this book was originally an anime series, and I’m a nerdy little anime lover myself. Anime has such a wealth of strong female characters and Moribito II is no exception. Balsa is a ferocious warrior, but she’s also complex and interesting to watch as she struggles through her relationship with Jiguro, her foster-father, and how to deal with the sacrifices he made for her and the ways it affected both of their lives. The plot of this book was absorbing. I enjoy reading/watching work by Japanese artists because there’s generally an element of spiritualism that I think adds more depth to the story than typical children’s works. Moribito has this same spiritual element, along with a consideration of family and clan loyalty. This is a series that I’ll definitely be following from now on.
****Disclaimer- I was sent this material to review for free******
Grave Conditions (vol. 1-3), Scott Nicholson (hauntedcomputer.com)
Anyone familiar comics history will immediately recognize in Scott Nicholson’s Grave Conditions a kinship with the 1940s and 50s wave of sensationalistic crime and horror comics such as Shock SuspenStories. Unfortunately I didn’t like Shock comics when I studied them, and I didn’t care for Grave Conditions either. Conditions is teeming with vignettes featuring all manner of sociopaths, serial killers, and child molesters. The artwork is hit or miss; some of it is very well done while other stories are average. The biggest problem I have with horror comics in general is the basic lack of humanity in the characters. These comics represent the worst parts of human nature and brutally exploit our fears about the monsters in society and even in ourselves. The characters are almost singularly savage and animalistic, and since these are vignettes there is no opportunity to discover if there’s anything at all redeemable. Dark, violent, and disturbing are the bywords of this work, but perhaps that’s the way it’s intended to be. I’d recommend avoiding this unless you’re an avid fan of the genre.
La’s Orchestra Saves the World, Alexander McCall Smith
This was one of those books. You know the ones-the ones you’re supposed to like, but you find them rather lacking. The premise promised to be uplifting. La, a woman living in a small English town during World War 2, decides to start a village orchestra to boost morale and show everyone the transformative and healing power of music. However, the book was much more focused on La’s rather mundane daily existence. There was no sense of who the characters in the orchestra were, how they interacted with each other, or how the music helped to hold them together. At various points the charcters tell us how great the orchestra was, but the reader never gets to witness it firsthand. And the ending just didn’t work for me. It’s a personal pet peeve when authors are too afraid to have an unhappy ending that they tack on something that doesn’t really fit with the story. I’d rather have taken something extremely depressing than the unlikely finish to this tale, because as most of us know second chances are pretty rare, and this one didn’t work.
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