I got a little bit stressed when I realized that it’s almost the end of the year and I still haven’t made substantial progress with my review backlog. This may sound to be very OC-ish but I wanted a clean slate for the new year with respect to my pending book reviews. A fresh start, so to speak, since I wanted to minimize, if not totally do away, with review backlogs for 2015. I’m actually tempted to just do away with no reviews (less stressful) but I also feel that every book I read deserves to be reviewed. So, as a solution, here is a 3-in-1 post of the books I’ve read recently that were neither stellar nor downright terrible, but contributed to my productive reading experience this year.
THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner
The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.
What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.
The Thief is the first book in The Queen’s Thief trilogy and I remember putting this on my wishlist last year after I read several good things about it. I thought it’s the kind of children’s book that I shouldn’t miss. A good friend sent me her copies of the series but it took me almost a year to finally get to read this first installment. I had a very slow start with this book as I got to finally finish it only this month after I started reading last October. The first half was really a trudge, and the only thing that kept me going was Gen’s wit and sarcastic comments. It didn’t help that I am not a big fan of fantasy and mythologies, and the book was a mix of both. When the pace picked up halfway, I began to read faster and I learned to look forward to the adventures of Gen. The twist at the end was a sweet surprise and I must say that I had grown fonder of Gen. Friends who read this book encouraged me to read the second book as this is much better than the first one. After finishing The Thief and learning more about Gen’s life, I think I will include The Queen’s Thief #2 on my 2015 to-read list.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson
Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night.
Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac’s apparently random attack.
Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making – with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband – until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.
Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge . . .
It was unfortunate that I read this book after I finished Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell which was a very powerful book on interconnectedness and human nature such that the seemingly novel idea of Case Histories stringing together three cases involving different people to make up one story did not anymore impress me. But even then — even if I had not read Cloud Atlas before reading this book — I strongly doubt if my feelings would change. I love a good crime story but it seems that this book has an identity crisis: it can not make up its mind whether it’s a crime fiction or literary fiction. Literary crime fiction just do not equate in my mind. Either you are one or the other. At least Jackson Brodie, the investigator/main character was an interesting personality, although he didn’t seem to be any different from other investigators in other crime novels I had read before. If I were to pick a favorite from among the three cases, I would choose Case #2 as it tells about grief and a father’s coping with loss. I just learned that this book was the first in a series of Jackson Brodie’s novels, but I am not that keen to read the sequels.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.
I read this book with my favorite reading buddy of the year, Maria. The Eyre Affair was a fun read although at first I had difficulty immersing into the world of Thursday Next, but when I finally did, I enjoyed the experience. Imagine a world where time travel is normal and books as well as book characters are taken very seriously. Imagine having to discuss Shakespeare at depth including debates as to his true personality with someone you meet on the street. Most of all, imagine having to cross over into, and literally live in, the world of books. I thoroughly appreciated the kind of fantasy depicted in this book and I like Thursday’s feisty and strong character. What I liked the least was how the story ended. I wanted a more open-ended conclusion, not the neat closure that happened in the book. I wanted a more dramatic end to the antagonist’s life (I’m cruel, haha!). But all in all, The Eyre Affair was very interesting and enjoyable and it made me want to read Jane Eyre as soon as possible. Also, I want to read Wordsworth’s poems. The Eyre Affair is a book about books and what book lover doesn’t love that?
My rating: 3/5 stars.