Book 356: The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

Coelho, Paulo - The Witch of PortobelloIn a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.

Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.

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Book 355: Jane Vows Vengeance (Jane Fairfax #3) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Vows Vengeance ( Jane Fairfax #3)Book three (Amazon link) of the Jane Fairfax trilogy just didn’t live up to Jane Bites Back or Jane Goes Batty. That being said, there were some great moments, but overall it just wasn’t as light or as fun. As an end to the trilogy, it did a decent job wrapping everything up as it should and leaving enough room to keep going if Ford ever decides he wants to write more, but I doubt I’ll read more.

Rather than keeping the story in Upstate New York, Ford takes the traveling circus that is Jane Austen’s new life on the road. From Jane’s best friend, Lucy, to the future mother in law Miriam, everyone who is important either goes along or is named dropped at some point. Ford again introduces a cast of quirky minor characters, but this time they felt lightweight and fluffy. There wasn’t a lot of substance to many of them and I was left wanting.

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Book 354: Jane Goes Batty (Jane Fairfax #2) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Goes Batty (Jane Fairfax #2)When I finished this I did a little wiggle in my seat and clapped my hands. Some times I really do wonder about my sanity.

Having finished Jane Bites Back I immediately got a copy of the next two, this book (Amazon link) and Jane Vows Vengeance from the library – YAY Kindle! I didn’t read this one quite as fast as the last one even though I was working from home, but it was just as well written and hilariously fun!

What I took out of this novel was how great Ford is at caricatures, not only of characters but of ideas and fads. I spoke about the Janeites and Brontëites in the last novel and how he brought those together, but he does it even better in this novel. There’s a giant love festival, don’t ask, and the culmination is a game between the two. Originally a softball match, it ultimately is a croquet match, fitting right, and the descriptions and tension are hilarious.

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Book 353: Jane Bites Back (Jane Fairfax #1) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Bites Back (Jane Fairfax #1)I would love to say this is the only vampire inspired fan fiction of Jane Austen I have on my shelf, but it’s not. I won this in a blog raffle from the Mount TBR Challenge back in 2013 hosted by Bev of My Reader’s Block. (I also have a copy of Jane and the Damned, and I’ll be damned if I remember where I got that. Get it? HA!) Regardless, I am familiar with this Michael Thomas Ford through his book, Last Summer, and I was excited to start this one! That being said, his humor and ability to write great characters continues through this novel (Amazon link).

This was such a delightful read! As much as I love the original novels and some times shake my head at the spin-offs and fan fiction novels, this might be one of the best I’ve read! Ford takes Austen-mania, the seemingly constant competitiveness of the Janeites and Brontëites and even the book blogger phenomena, to such an extreme that you can’t help but laugh throughout. (Spoilers ahead!)

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Book 350: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Angelou, Maya - I Know Why The Caged Bird SingsI picked up my copy of this book just 11 days before Maya Angelou died last spring. I’d always had this book (Amazon link) on my list, but I’d never found a reason to pick it up and for some reason at the library book sale last year I finally added it to my pile. I knew I wanted to read it because it is one of those books that is mentioned by everyone and has such a place in American culture, but not as widely read as I probably assumed.

As I read the novel I was floored at the breadth of experience Angelou faced before she turned 17. At times the novel reminded me a lot of The Color Purple and Bastard Out of Carolina, but I have a feeling both Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison were inspired/influenced by this. That being said, of the three this is the most profound work. Perhaps because it is explicitly an autobiography (and Bastard is semi-autobiographical and Purple is a fictional novel).

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