Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, the first in a trilogy

Ever since I picked up a copy of The Eyre Affair at a used bookstore in Chicago, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Jasper Fforde. Now on my second copy of The Eyre Affair (the first was lent and never returned) and with an addiction to the audio versions of his books as well, I hunger when I hear of a new publication.

I have been looking forward to Shades of Grey ever since the teaser went up on Fforde’s website. Unfortunately, the publication date was released, delayed, delayed again, and then finally established (of course, no matter when the release date is, it is always too far away). Lucky for me, the appearance of an advanced reader’s copy at the bookstore I work at meant no more waiting.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fforde’s work, he has written the Thursday Next series, the Nursery Crimes series, and now, Shades of Grey (the first in a trilogy). If you haven’t read Fforde before, start with the Thursday Next novels, move to Nursery Crime, an then pick up the newest. While Thursday Next is certainly my favorite, Fforde’s bizarre worlds and witty British humor are enjoyable in each of his series. Enough of this chatter- on to Shades of Grey.

Shades of Grey starts off slowly. Fforde’s new world is complex and confusing and it takes a good quarter of the book to establish an understanding of world and how it works. This initial section sets up the entirety of the book and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded. Fforde’s new world is wonderful; it has amazing potential which I hope will be reached in the sequels now that the whole messy business of explaining things is over.

The protagonist, Eddie Russett, is a fine, upstanding young man who truly wants the best for people. While he is not the sharpest tack in the tin, he understands the purpose of rules and governments, and how they can be used or abused. His easy going and generally genial nature allows him to befriend a host of individuals. Jane balances him well. She is smart, knowledgeable, volatile, and emotional. Together they create a dynamic pair who you hope will succeed in their plans (which I will not reveal to you).

With an intricate new world, endearing characters, and a political problem to be solved, Shades of Grey is a novel exploring the evils and corruption of governments and societies. But this intense science-fiction is tempered by Fforde’s delightful humor, so even those fictioneers who scoff at utopian novels may find something to love.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

Candle Man, book one of the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin

Take superpowers, old school detecting, and secret societies and throw a superhero into the mix and what do you get? Candle Man, book one of the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance.

As one might gather from the description above, the story is rather ridiculous and yet author Glenn Dakin takes his story very seriously- a bit too seriously to be truly enjoyable.

Young Theo has spent his life in Empire Hall. His life is completely controlled by Dr. Saint, who ensures that Theo receives ‘treatments’ for his ‘condition. Is Theo really sick? Or does he have otherworldly powers? When he escapes from the house, his adventures include strange creatures, superheros, and super villains, all with a slightly steampunk flair.

While the novel is entertaining, Theo isn’t likable enough to carry the story- his sympathies with the bad guys, while an attempt at depth and reality, are out of place in a character who is, as a child, susposed to smarter than adults and a superhero to boot.

With other mysterious series available (Series of Unfortunate Events, the Sisters Grimm, the Mysterious Benedict Society, and (to be released in March) the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place) Dakin would have been better off picking one idea (secret societies, detecting, superheros, superpowers) and running with it.

Certainly a noble effort, I hope the sequels will be more developed- revealing the intricacies of the characters with a tighter and more fluidly moving plot.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Marillier's Heart's Blood

From the moment I started reading Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, I was hooked. Now I anticipate publication of her works with bated breath. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to buy all her books, so am left waiting for the library to get a copy in- which can be a pain. But, this weekend, finally! A copy had been processed!

I find Marillier's recent novels not up to the standards of the first two Sevenwaters books. They're still wonderful books, but I can put them down if I try. Heart's Blood was an enjoyable read, even if I did guess the entire plot of the book early on. Marillier creates haunting and beautiful worlds and is skilled in describing the ethereal or supernatural. Her characters are endearing, though I found Caitrin and Anluan less lovable than her other characters. While I wanted their lives to contain happiness, I don't pine to see their life together now that the book is closed (I do not desire a sequel here). That said, the book is certainly worthy of a read if you're a Marillier fan and need a bit of escapism, but those who have never read Marillier would be better off picking up Daughter of the Forest.

A super-quick snippet of the premise: The protagonist, Caitrin, is a scribe who has run away from her abusive relatives after the death of her father. She ends up in a strange chieftain's house where things are not as them seem. The woods contain voices and strange creatures, the chieftain, Anluan, cannot go beyond the woods, and mirrors show strange images. As Caitrin organizes the library and translates Latin, she realizes there are one-hundred years of love and loss still at work in the house. Contains magic and the supernatural (these strange forces aren't from faerie, okay?)

We're in luck! According to Marillier's website, " "The new and official title for my next novel is SEER OF SEVENWATERS. This is the book formerly known as SONG OF THE ISLAND. The seer in the title is Sibeal." The good bit is the 'more Sevenwaters.'

Austen Parodies & Zombies

This seems to be the trend this year. I like to keep up-to-date with it, even if i am not a fan. Rather than reiterate my dislike of the Quirk Classic Austen books, I'll give you a few links to other people's opinions, discussions, and (more) books. has a fabulous blog. Check out this post reviewing Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters (which I was never able to finish it was so bad).

Mummies and Jane Austen? Might you be interested in that sort of thing? Mansfield Park and Mummies actually seems to have gotten decent reviews.

My quandary (which someone may be able to answer?): According to Amazon there is a book titled Alice in Zombieland. Does this book exist? Yes, it's on Amazon, but with no reviews, cover image or helpful information. Is it self-published? If anyone has seen a physical copy of this book, let me know.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Parodies: the perfect holiday gifts

Love your friends and family but can't bear the abominable smut they read? The answer is here! Parodies are perfect for the season! Specifically I am referring to the girls in your life who are strangely gaga over Twilight. Well, just in time for the holidays, here is Nightlight by the masters of literary parody, the Harvard Lampoon! And a review, if you're the sort of person to check these things out first.

*I just couldn't resist. And I'm taking my own advice and ordering one for my cousin tomorrow. "Why tomorrow?" you ask. Because I will order it from my local, independent bookstore! As the rest of you should.
P.S. Gift cards from some independent bookstores can be used at other independent bookstores elsewhere in the country. Isn't that swell? You can buy local and get all the books you crave! And to make things easier for you, here's the list of bookstores who offer this!