Book 60: Outdated – Michael War

War, Michael - OutdatedTalk about a pertinent novel. Outdated is a hilarious commentary on internet dating and what it’s like when you’ve been out of the game for a long time. I received a copy of this from the publisher in return for my honest opinion.

After the two main characters, Greg and Tim, split up, unceremoniously, Greg finds out just how much has changed in the dating world. There is such an endearing scene where Greg calls a friend and points at the chat room that he used to meet guys through and says “they’re all gone!” If you’re not aware of location-based dating, you’re either happily coupled, a technophobe or living under a rock! There are so many of them out there that I’m not going to link to them and their proliferation was exponential with the increase of smart phones!

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Book 58: First Impressions – Charlie Lovett

Lovett, Charlie - First ImpressionsIf you’ve ever read this blog before you know I really love two things: books and Jane Austen. So when I found out Charlie Lovett, author of The Bookman’s Tale wrote an Austen fan-fiction novel (my label) I was super excited! I requested a copy from the publisher and received no compensation for my opinion.

Many authors have tried to write novels featuring Jane Austen at the time she wrote her stories and try to connect her novels to her life. However, few have done it as well as Lovett has in First Impressions. The author worked around many of the issues other authors face (mirroring Austen’s language and getting the time period and personality of Austen and her characters correct) by immediately jumping into Jane Austen’s life. The book opens in the late 1700s with Austen on a walk through the countryside (hello Lizzie Bennet) and as the reader gets to an interesting point Lovett jumps to modern-day London. This could be confusing, but Lovett does it effortlessly.

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Book 56: The Girl With No Shadow (Chocolat #2) – Joanne Harris

Harris, Joanne - The Girl with No ShadowAs I said in my response to Chocolat, I had no idea there were sequels and I’m so glad I decided to read them. I haven’t started the third, Peaches for Father Frances, but I’m excited to start it soon.

Harris takes the story of Vianne and Anouk we followed in Chocolat and expands the age-old battle between good and evil. Instead of the church, this time Vianne and Anouk, now Yanne and Annie, are battling evil itself and magic takes an even more prominent role in this story than in the first. And I was glad she did! She writes about magic in such a way as to make it beautifully common.

“It took me a little longer to recognize these things as magic. Like all children reared on stories, I’d expected fireworks: magic wands and broomstick rides. The real magic of my mother’s books seemed so dull, so fustily academic, with its silly incantations and its pompous old men, that it hardly counted as magic at all.” (67)

Beautifully common, might sound like an oxymoron or an insult, but it’s not. Harris’ writes about it so matter of fact and sets it up that way in this novel, common usage versus evil usage, that you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of the magic she chooses to write about.

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Book 55: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) – Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Galbraith, Robert (J.K. Rowling) - The SilkwormI don’t care what people say. I love J.K. Rowling.

She is a skilled story-teller and talented writer. With the two types of reactions most people have when they hear her name, it’s easy to see why she wanted her name kept far from her works as Robert Galbraith. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but this was a bonus for those of us who would never have discovered them.

On one side, you have those with visceral negative reactions to her and her writing. (A lot of the time by those who’ve never read her books.) And on the other side, you have the people who adore them solely because it’s J.K. Rowling; Obviously. Thankfully, I’m somewhere in the middle. I can both appreciate her as an evolving writer and find fault in her skills as a story-teller, especially in her post Harry Potter novels. (I’m still waiting for the, hmm Harry Potter isn’t as wondrous as I first thought it was moment, but it still hasn’t happened.)

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Book 54: Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington Garimara

Garimara, Doris Pilkington - Follow the Rabbit-Proof FenceI know I say this regularly, but I can’t do justice to this book in my response. The more I think about it (I finished reading it last Wednesday), the more I realize I don’t know how to talk about it.

My local book group decided to do this book and movie, and it was an excellent choice even if I did miss the discussion! It was particularly relevant as Garimara died in April 2014 and is there a better way to honor a writer’s passing than reading their works?

I’m not sure, but if I had to guess I would say there are quite a few books out there about the Stolen Generations, but I’m not sure how many are first hand accounts. And that is where this story truly hits home. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is as much Garimara’s story as it is her mother and aunt’s. And to find out at the end that her mother made the journey a second time with one of her children and the incredible journey in the book and movie becomes that much more powerful.

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Book 53: Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret - Stone MattressAtwood is an incredible writer and story teller and there’s really not much more that needs to be said, so when I saw her newest collection of short stories I knew I had to request it! I received a copy from the publisher, in return for my honest opinion:

Spectactular.

That would be a little cruel, to leave it just at that even though it would still describe it perfectly. Below, you’ll find a one-to-two sentence review of each of the nine tales and a single quote from each.

On a different note, if you haven’t heard Margaret Atwood is the first author of the future library! This is a project where authors are asked to write a work and it won’t be read for 100 years. This makes me both incredibly happy, as she writes such fantastic speculative/near future fiction, but also sad that I won’t be able to read it! It’s a fascinating project and I could go into it in detail, but really you should just read about it at The Guardian.

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Book 52: Chocolat (Chocolat #1) – Joanne Harris

Harris, Joanne - ChocolatThis book has been on my to-be-read shelf for so long it took quite a while to trace where and when I bought it! I apparently picked it up way back in October 2012 when I helped out at the Somerville Public Library book sale! I’m glad I grabbed a copy. I own a copy of the film, but for some reason I never realized they adapted it from a novel!

Add in that when random.org selected it as my next book and I prepared to read it I found out it was a trilogy, my mind was BLOWN! I was a little grumpy at first, because I had a plan worked out to read more of my to-be-read shelf and was trying really hard not to add more in between the books, but I do love a good trilogy! I plan to read two and three, The Girl With No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis, in the next few weeks and am VERY excited about them!

Now on to the story and my response!