Books 10/30/04

I finshed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and it really was quite good. It went a completely different way than I thought it would, and the way it went was very interesting. It added a depth to the whole book that was very thought provoking. I only had one issue with it, which was a dropped story point which frustrated me. A big deal was made of something, and then when it would have come into play and made a difference in the course of events- no mention of it at all. But it really was a very enjoyable, thoughtprovoking read. The two main characters set up a very interesting dichotomy, one wants to be the only magician in England, the other wants to make magic accessible to everyone. It’s interesting to see what happens to them as people as they try to stick to those tenents. Clarke also creates a very realistic vision of what magic could be used for if it were to exist, and how that would affect the world. I have more thoughts on the book, but I can’t seem to make them come together and play nicely now.

In the middle of reading Strange and Norrell I got a highly anticipated package from Amazon containing my favorite of the Modesty Blaise books, I,Lucifer. Of course, I had to take a break and read it. I’m happy to say, it’s still my favorite. It has laugh out loud funny moments, and it really explores the character of Modesty well.

I also recieved The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood, the second in the American releases of the Phryne Fisher books. Like the first, Murder in Montparnasse, this was a fun read, one of those mysteries that you can’t solve until the end because there aren’t enough clues until the end. The characters are getting more fully developed, and I really like them. I can’t wait for the rest of these to be released.

I just finished No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and I’m sorry to say I’m a little dissapointed. People have been raving about these books since this first one came out, and I think the ridiculously high praise adversely impacted my reading. Precious Ramotswe, the main character, is not, and never will be, the next Miss Marple. She just isn’t. And that’s fine. I just wish I hadn’t read so many reviews promising that she was. I ended up expecting a completely different kind of book, and thus was not really able to enjoy the book for what it is.

What it is, is a narrative made up of smaller stories, cases that Mma Ramotswe solves through her cleverness and knowledge of human nature. These include checking up on a wayward daughter, a doctor who is acting erratically, a missing husband. They’re simple mysteries, and almost seem like filler for what is quite possibly the main point of the novel, a love letter to Africa. The descriptions of the landscape and life of Botswana are stunning, and the charachters’ pride in their country is palpable. It hints at deeper questions of Americanization and progress, and of what it means to be African.

At this point, I don’t know if I can accurately critique this novel. I think it has faults, but I can’t be certain that I would still percieve them as faults had I gone into the book completely cold. I’ll have to try it again in a little while and see what I think then.

Next up is The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. I’m excited, because Daniel Handler is also known in some circles as Lemony Snicket, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with a “grown up” book. He’s so wickedly funny, hopefully he’s able to let that out full blast here. The actual copy of the book I have is interesting, I found it used on Amazon since it’s out of print, and copies were selling for upwards of $500! (I think because of the Snicket connection. Although why they don’t come out with a softcover I don’t know.) I found a copy for $3.40 in “acceptable” condition. Seeing as “acceptable” condition for me is that all the pages are readable I bought it- and it used to be a library book! I love it! It used to live at the Multnomah County Library in Portland, OR. How cool is that?

In two days I’m starting an insane proposition, to write a 50,000 novel in the month of November. After this much reading hopefully I have something interesting to say, and I’m excited to start. My novel starts in Portland, so getting the library book seems like a good omen. I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read with all the writing that supposed to be going on, so I’m glad I got so far ahead as far as numbers go. But I’m sure I’ll be procrastinating wildly as the month goes on, so expect updates as I go. Wish me luck!

Current Total: 106
Just Finished: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Next Up: The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

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