Posts Tagged ‘series’

18th May
2010
written by Steph

I am not exactly what you would call a war fiction fan – generally in bookstores while browsing, whenever I pick up books that mention the words “Holocaust” or “WWII” on their back cover, I roll my eyes and put the title swiftly back on the shelf.  It’s not that I don’t think these topics aren’t something that deserve attention in fiction, it’s more that I think they’ve been getting too much attention in fiction. Seriously, the next time you got to a bookstore, keep track of how many books you pick up that somehow involve a character being plagued by some kind of WWII wound of any kind and you’ll see what I mean. Of the various wars, I would definitely say WWII is the one that’s been mined the most by authors in terms of plot devices, but of course there are myriad books on WWI, the Vietnam War, and the American Civil War as well. This saturation of war fiction means that as a reader, I’m extremely selective regarding which titles I will actually pick up and read.  I find that if I look at enough of these books in succession, they all start to sound the same, which is not really what you want as a reader (or a writer, I’m sure), so it takes something special for a book to separate itself from the bunch. (more…)
10th May
2010
written by Steph

I wanted to post this review yesterday, but I thought it would be rather too wicked of me to post my review of Sophie Hannah’s debut crime novel, Little Face, on Mothers Day. I’ve heard from many women that upon becoming mothers, there were certain books and/or films that they just couldn’t stomach any longer. Generally these books involve terrible things happening to children, or they depict a parental nightmare of some sort.  Little Face certainly falls into the latter camp. Having endured a difficult birth just two weeks earlier, Alice Fancourt finally ventures out of her home for a baby-free afternoon.  When she returns home, she faces a mother’s greatest fear: her newborn daughter has been kidnapped. Even more sinister, Alice claims that Florence has been replaced by an imposter baby. Her husband, David, thinks that she has lost her mind, and his bemusement swiftly turns to disgust and anger.  When DC Simon Waterhouse takes on the case, he finds a family in upheaval.  He’s not sure he believes Alice’s wild claim, but on the other hand, there’s something about David – whose first wife was stabbed to death – that he doesn’t quite trust.  David’s hostility towards Alice is palpable, so Simon fears the worst and races against the clock when both Alice and the baby go missing… (more…)
12th January
2010
written by Steph
If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

When it comes to following up a Jane Austen novel, clearly the perfect choice is a gory crime novel, right?  Ok, maybe not most people’s choice, but I finished Northanger Abbey on our flight from Toronto to Chicago and clearly couldn’t stand an hour-long flight without some alternate reading material.  I figure that so long as there are airports, the publishing industry doesn’t really have anything to worry about because people read A LOT when flying… including myself!  So I snagged myself a copy of Stieg Larsson’s debut novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because for better or for worse this thing has been hyped to high heaven the world over and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. There are several storylines running throughout this novel, but I suppose a boiled down synopsis would go something like this: When journalist Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel for printing an unfounded article about one of Sweden’s financial bigwigs, he thinks life as he knows it is at an end.  There goes his reputation, his career, and maybe his magazine in one fell swoop.  But then Mikael is approached by Henrik Vanger, ex-head of the Vanger corporation, and offered a job in which he’ll spend a year investigating the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, Harriet.  The twist?  Harriet went missing 40 years ago… and most of the Vanger family is a suspect.  In return, Vanger will pay Mikael a handsome salary and at the end of the year, will give him some information that will let him exact his revenge on Wennerstrom.  No one really expects Mikael to make any headway in a case that has stumped the authorities for 4 decades, but when he makes some unexpected discoveries, it’s time to call in hacker extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander, to do some exceptional and unconventional digging.  Will they figure out what happened to Harriet?  If not, will Mikael be able to bring Wennerstrom down? (more…)
4th January
2010
written by Steph
No greyzone here - I loved this book!

No greyzone here - I loved this book!

My review of the first book in Jasper Fforde's newest series, Shades of Grey, is now up on the BookPage website and can be found in the January issue.  I'm posting this under "books read in 2009", since that's when I read it, and it was technically launched here in the U.S. before 2010 was rung in. What can I say about Jasper Fforde here that I have not already said?  I think he's brilliant and Shades of Grey definitely does not disappoint. This one was a bit of a slow boil for me as the first half of the book can be overwhelming since Fforde is trying out something completely new here and there's a lot of worldbuilding and backstory that needs to happen.  Those who have any experience with Fforde's fiction know that his writing and speculative leaps can sometimes be discombobulating, even to those who have been initiated and where their Fforde fan badges with pride.  I promise that the disorientation passes and your efforts at the beginning will be richly rewarded.  I'll always be a Thursday girl, and I know that for many fellow book lovers, that series is beloved for a reason, but I really admire the risk Fforde has taken here; whether he intended to or not, he explores new depths both in terms of content and as a writer.  For someone who characterizes his own books as silly and whimsical, there is a lot of intellectual and emotional heft in Shades of Grey that may not necessarily surprise his readers, but will certainly satisfy them.  I went from being uncertain about this series to being completely ravenous for the next installment!  I hope that fellow fans feel the same way, and suggest that those who were not unequivocally won over by The Eyre Affair may want to try this on for size and see if it's a better fit.  Make no mistake, it's still a Jasper Fforde novel, but it is different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. If I were reading and reviewing it on this site, I would have given the book a 4.5 out of 5. [And yes, I received my review copy for free, but y'all know that something being free doesn't change how I feel about things!] Also, if all goes according to plan, my interview with Jasper should be going up sometime in the next week or so.  I'll keep you posted!
18th December
2009
written by Steph
Thanks, but no thanks...

Thanks, but no thanks...

For well over month now, I’ve been struggling to reclaim my reading groove.  I’ve just felt completely listless when it comes to picking my next read, and then worse yet, sticking with it.  With the weather getting increasingly cold and grisly outside, now is the perfect time of year to curl up with a good read.  Just my luck that good reads seem impossible to find right now.  My last few books have been too grim for my tastes, and seem only to increase my winter blahs.  I decided I needed something light and whimsical, so I turned to one of the Jeeves & Wooster novels that I picked up on our trip to New York.  You’ll all recall that I adored my first dalliance with Wodehouse a few months back, so I was certain this would be just the ticket to cure me of my reading malaise.  So, you can imagine my extreme disappointment in discovering that whatever kind of magician Wodehouse might normally be, I did not love Thank You, Jeeves and it was not the panacea to my biblio blues. Now, in saying that I did not love Thank You, Jeeves, I do not want you to think that this means I did not like the book.  Far from it.  It was very funny, very Wodehouse, very English… but it failed to charm me the way that Jeeves in the Morning did.  I have several guesses for why this is, but before I get into it, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the basic premise of the novel:  After being evicted from his London apartment due to his incessant strumming of the banjo, Bertie decides to embark for the country where he can play his instrument in peace.  Alas, Jeeves cannot abide the instrument and the two decide to part company.  A chance encounter with an old friend Chuffy has Bertie heading to an old cottage in the township of Chuffnell Regis where his banjo will bother no one.  But as is the way with Bertie and his rotten bad luck, his visit happens to coincide with that of an old flame, Pauline Stoker, not to mention her overbearing father, and one of Bertie’s old nemeses, Sir Roderick Glossop.  Hijinks ensue as Bertie tries to help Pauline & Chuffy find true love with one another, but as Jeeves would helpfully remind him (were he still in his employ), the course of true love never did run smooth, least of all for Bertie… (more…)
6th September
2009
written by Steph
But you know what's not rotten?  This book!

But you know what's not rotten? This book!

Ok, so I understand that whole “different strokes for different folks” idea – books that I love will not necessarily be universally loved by everyone else, but I have to say, when it comes to Jasper Fforde, if you love reading and you love books, then I kind of can’t compute how you wouldn’t enjoy his Thursday Next books.  And I know that you people exist out there, and have read things where people said that they just couldn’t get into The Eyre Affair, and while I of course respect that whole DSFDF principle I outlined above, I just don’t understand how you can NOT like these books.  And especially the people who say that they didn’t really find them funny, because whenever I read a Jasper Fforde novel, I am equal parts enamoured by him and hella envious because he is SO clever and witty and well-read that I can hardly stand it!  And I have seen him two or three times in person at book signings and I can tell you that he is exactly the same way in person (except add charming to the mix) and it is maddening!  I don’t know – I guess it is like how there are some people out there who don’t think Arrested Development is the funniest show ever created, when that is not even a matter of opinion but purely fact (Simona, I know this includes you, but I think it is a testament to my commitment to our friendship that I overlook this HUGE flaw on your part… At least you have finally read Harry Potter (and loved it!  Also critical!) 😉 ). (more…)
14th August
2009
written by Steph
AKA "Joy in the Morning" (to our UK readers)... and what a joy it is!

AKA "Joy in the Morning" (to our UK readers)... and what a joy it is!

How come no one told me how amazing Jeeves & Wooster are? OK, not entirely true, since pretty much everyone I know who has ever read these books has told me that they are smart and funny and that I would love them. So, my bad, I guess for not having read any of these until now. But don’t let yourself fall into the same trap, because Jeeves & Wooster? Hilarious!

After the slow death that was Amsterdam I needed a book that would thrill me and whisk me away. It didn’t have to be funny, but I’m never one to turn down a few chuckles. Enter Jeeves in the Morning (or if we’re being true to the novel itself, it would probably be more appropriate to say the book shimmered in… Jeeves does a lot of shimmering when he enters and exits a room.), which was just the ticket.

(more…)

6th August
2009
written by Steph
He'll be back... but will we?

He'll be back... but will we?

When I was younger, I remember being obsessed with Terminator 2.  My parents gave me this little TV that had a built in video recorder, and one of the few things I remember recording was Terminator 2 off of one of the local tv stations (that and a clip off of Entertainment Tonight or some such entertainment new program about Jonathan Taylor Thomas when he was filming Tom and Huck… what?!?  I would have been 12 years old at the time!  Clearly that’s a forgivable offense!).  Flash forward to 2009 at the ripe old age of 26, and while I still remember thinking T2 was awesome, I pretty much only know that it starred Edward Furlong as John Connor, had a shapeshifting T1000, and ends with Arnie giving us a big old thumbs up as he is lowered into a pit of molten metal... And maybe there is something with a playground?  Clearly I had some gaps to fill in. (more…)
3rd August
2009
written by Steph
In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

In 2.5 hours, does the past unravel or just get more tangled?

I’ll kick off a review by sharing a honeymoon story with you:  Tony & I were really excited to find out that the new Harry Potter movie would be premiering while we were in Charleston.  Another thing to celebrate!  I jumped online and bought us some tickets to the midnight showing at the theater closest to our hotel and then just counted down the days.  When the night finally arrived, we drove up to the theater and we were a bit confused to see that there were several police cars stationed about.  Are Charlestonians violently passionate about Harry Potter?  And what was with all the lawn-chairs that the people in line were toting about?  Surely they couldn’t have been waiting in line that long to necessitate seating!  We swiftly discovered that the movie theater had decided it would capitalize on the rabid fandom by airing the midnight showing out in the parking lot, thereby allowing them to sell an unlimited number of tickets.  Needless to say, Tony & I were not amused; I didn’t pay for full-price tickets to sit in a dirty, humid parking lot (we hadn’t known to bring chairs…) to watch the film with crummy outdoor speakers on a building wall.  So, it was with heavy hearts that we decided to bail out on the midnight showing and just catch another show the next day.  In the end, I’m glad we made the choice we did since the theater itself was really cool – it actually had a full service bar, and in the individual movie viewing rooms themselves you actually had a table in front of you and could order full meals (that someone delivered to you!).  It was definitely a new experience for us, and one I’m glad we got to have. So, onto the movie itself!  I don’t really know where to begin or how to break this all down.  I guess I’ll start by saying that this will obviously involve plot spoilers and discussion of the books and movies to-date, so if you don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you should probably not keep reading.  Also, I have A LOT of thoughts on the movie... (more…)
2nd June
2009
written by Steph
AKA: Read & Return

AKA: Read & Return

Almost at the halfway point through the year, when I look back at my reading log for 2009 thus far, I can see that I’ve definitely been delving more into the mystery genre than I have in years past.  Sometimes I worry that my reading is becoming too firmly ensconced in the detective fiction realm, but then again, I think we all have our own little reading jags that we go on, and sometimes you just need to binge for a while to get it out of your system.  Another side effect of said binging is that you start to get a tad more discerning, with certain writers rising to the top and others not so much.  It’s kind of like when I first started to drink wine – to my unrefined palate, all wines tasted alike (namely, like “wine”), but after 7 years of drinking the stuff (in moderation, mind you!  Most of the time…), I finally have some definite preferences.  Similarly, every book I read helps me hone my concept of who I am as a reader, and each mystery novel I read also gives me a more specific knowledge regarding that genre. On the surface, Publish & Perish is a mystery novel I should have liked.  Dr. Ben Reese is on sabbatical at Oxford when he is awoken by a call at 2 in the morning from his good friend and colleague Richard West.  He says he has uncovered an injustice that has long been hidden, and only the two of them can bring the culprit to justice.  However, before Richard can go into further detail, the call is cut short and when Ben next hears from Richard, it is actually in the form of a telegram telling him that Richard died of a heart attack that night.  Ben flies home to attend the funeral, and whilst there begins to poke around… although there’s no direct evidence that a crime was committed, something doesn’t sit right with Ben and he soon finds himself investigating the murder of his friend. (more…)
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