Book 343: Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

Brooks, Geraldine - Year of WondersI picked this novel up back in November 2012, and as is usually the case, I’m sad I didn’t read it sooner. I enjoyed Brooks’ March, but apparently not enough to buy and read the rest of her works immediately. Check out the synopsis here (Amazon link).

Zombies may be all the rage these days, but plague has been around and written about for so much longer. Zombies, according to Wikipedia at least, didn’t appear in popular culture until the 1800s, whereas plague has been a stark reality off-and-on since the 1300s.

Now imagine three hundred years after the Black Death ravaged Europe, you live in a small village with fewer than 500 people in central England. In less than a year more than 2/3 of the people were dead and you were one of the survivors to witness this and all of it is because of the plague. What would you do? How would you respond? Well this is that villages tale and the flashback to what happened in this “plague village,” and it is not the only one.

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Book 341: Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

Hornby, Nick - Funny GirlThe only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)

I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story (Amazon link) being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!

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Book 340: Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) – Rachel Hartman

Hartman, Rachel - Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2)Ever since I read Seraphina back in 2012, I’ve been patiently waiting to the conclusion of her story! It was well worth the wait and I couldn’t be happier about this book. I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest opinion, and honestly, it’s EXCELLENT!

I wasn’t sure how Hartman would go about improving on the story (Amazon link), but she definitely did. She made it more inclusive, more exciting and a lot more enthralling. I have no idea how she did this, apart from taking almost three years, but it was definitely worth the wait. I know I talked about her amazing story telling and character building in my response to Seraphina, but Hartman brought it to a new level in Shadow Scale. If anything, I wish the book were longer to flesh out more of the “grotesques” and what happens after the story ends.

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Book 338: Tender as Hellfire – Joe Meno

Meno, Joe - Tender as HellfireI first encountered Joe Meno way back in 2011 when I read The Boy Detective Fails, which was a wonderfully quirky story. That following October at the 2011 Boston Book Festival I picked up this novel and it’s taken me almost four years to get to it. I’d love to say it was worth the wait, but I’m not really sure and that had very little to do with Meno’s writing or storytelling (Amazon link).

This was by far one of the worst copy edited books I’ve ever read. I found a mistake about halfway through (see photo at the end) and then I found them on every two-to-three pages after that. They weren’t even minor comma mistakes, which I’d miss, they were WHOLE WORDS MISSING FROM SENTENCES!

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Book 337: Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley

Huxley, Aldous - Crome YellowMy friend Nick gave this to me to read ages ago and I’ve finally gotten around to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the further I read the more I enjoyed the story (Amazon link). Coming in at under 200 pages, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Huxley fit into the novel without overwhelming the sense of lackadaisical whimsy of the people.

I am incredibly glad I read the foreword though, because I don’t think I would’ve understood this was a satirical novel of the British upper-class. I probably would’ve happily read it and thought, “wow these people are petty and ridiculous,” and then thought nothing more of it. It reminded me a lot of the various upper-class dioramas I’ve read from Jane Austen to Cécil David-Weill’s The Suitors, which is what Huxley was going for in his social criticism.

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