Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Release: Arcadia

Out today in the US (last September in the UK) is Iain Pears' Arcadia. Each of his novels has moved into new territory and he manages to excel in every genre, every setting, and with a continually diverse set of characters. He is also a master of novels with multiple narratives and this one takes the cake as most complex so far. Pears even created an app that allows the reader to follow a single narrative if desired, rather than moving back and forth through space and time (although this doesn't seem to be mentioned in the US publicity so I'm not sure if the app is only available in the UK).

You may know Arcadia as a utopia, first inspired by the writings of the poet Virgil and the idyllic Greek province of the same name. There is no literal Arcadia in this novel but the idea of a utopia is played with, both in how to return to one from a heavily-damaged world and also which elements would be necessary to construct one from scratch. I won't go into the characters or plots in the book, mostly because it's so incredibly complex and I honestly wouldn't know where to stop. Just know that the book starts in 1960 Oxford with professor (and British spy) Henry Litten and it ends up somewhere you would never expect.

I have read all of Pears' novels (including his art mystery series) and this might be my favorite of them all. I really liked An Instance of the Fingerpost but the sci-fi/time travel aspect of this one has pushed it ahead. I loved the elements that reminded me of Connie Willis and Kage Baker's novels and I appreciated the parallels to worlds like Narnia. I also jotted down Fahrenheit 451 so there must have been some elements of that story in this one as well. But this novel was so much more than the sum of its parts and narratives. I enjoyed every moment of reading it.

Deconstructing the complex,

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book v. Movie: The Prestige

Somewhere around when The Prestige came out on video (Feb 2007), I enthusiastically rented it and watched it. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (not to mention David Bowie!) didn't hurt my enjoyment, of course, and I thought it was a smart and intense tale.

Years passed and I finally realized that The Prestige was based on a novel by Christopher Priest and that it was widely acclaimed. I found a gently used copy and it sat on my TBR shelves for a couple of years more.

Well, I finally got around to reading it a month or two ago, long after I had forgotten the movie, and what I read was an amazing and powerful story of rivalry and revenge and science gone wrong. The layers of story, from Andrew Westley in modern times, back to the dueling narratives of illusionists Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, were rich with intrigue and secrets and horrifying truths. It was all I had expected it to be and so much more.

After I finished reading is when it all went wrong. I had the innocent thought "now I should re-watch the movie". The holidays came and I forgot about it until David Bowie passed away. Then I happened to see The Prestige was streaming from my cable company and I hit play. What followed was the most infuriating book-to-movie experience of my life. There was almost nothing in the movie that was the same as the book except for the main character's names! Hubby was less than pleased to have to sit through a movie where I sighed and shouted and raved through the whole thing. I kept yelling "that's not the way it happened!!" Because, not only was it not the same, it was far worse. It took all of the most brilliant parts of the book story and just threw them away, replacing them with totally annoying, pedestrian plots instead.

And so, David Bowie aside, I would strongly recommend that you grab the book and enjoy an amazing read -- and get your Christian Bale fix elsewhere.

Declaring the written word victor,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

PSA: #DWJMarch is Becoming #MarchMagics

As I was thinking about what to focus on this year during our month-long celebration of all things Diana Wynne Jones in the month of her passing (sob! five years already?!), I couldn't help thinking about Terry Pratchett. He passed away last March (cruel month!) and I love him and miss him just as much as I do Diana. Naturally, I started thinking about piggy-backing events for each one of them. That thought percolated for a while and, eventually, I decided that DWJ March was just going to have to become ...
March Magics!

March Magics (named like Diana's book Mixed Magics) will be a month to celebrate everything DWJ and Pratchett and, in all likelihood, a bit of Neil Gaiman as well. Their works are similar in many ways and their fanbases certainly intersect. Between the two of them, they also have over 100 books so there is likely to be something to appeal to almost any reader. If you need suggestions for where to start with either author, feel free to ask or consult one of the Discworld Reading Order Guides.

I've decided on two read-alongs for the month: The Dark Lord of Derkholm (DWJ) and Equal Rites (Sir Terry). You should have plenty of time to find, buy, or borrow copies.

Toward the end of February I'll post again with read-along discussion dates and prompt ideas and such. I'm super excited to begin this magical new event and I hope that you all are excited too!

Expanding the celebration,

Sunday, January 31, 2016

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks - January

I thought it would help me stay on course with reading my own books this year if I wrote up a summary post each month. Also, Andi has provided a nice monthly link post so we're obviously on the same page!

As a reminder, my goal is 80 books for the year from my own shelves, whether they're new books from the TBR or rereads (which I don't do enough of these days). I have a house full of books that are dying to be read!


Bryant & May Off the Rails by Christopher Fowler
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (reread)
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
The Book Without Words by Avi
Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale
Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar

Monthly Total: 7
Yearly Total: 7

80 is about 7 a month so I'm right on track and finding some great reads that have been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I moved forward in two series, managed a non-fiction, and pulled a couple of random TBR books that called to me. I'm definitely going to be writing a post on The Prestige and how it compares to the movie (which I watched again ... bad idea). I also have lots of thoughts about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace. I've been thinking a lot lately about how women have been treated through time. I have also been sighing a lot lately.

What did you read from your own shelves this month?

Off to a good start,

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton got a lot of attention in the last year or so and rightfully so. There aren't many English novels written about Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. This is the story of young Nella Oortman, eighteen years old and from the country, brought to Amsterdam to be the wife of an older merchant. When she arrives, she is given a beautiful room and grand possessions but is immediately left alone in his home with his ill-tempered sister. While her husband continually delays his husbandly duties in favor of business, her attention is drawn by his wedding gift -- a cabinet replica of their home that she feels compelled to furnish. She looks through a directory of craftsmen and finds a listing for a miniaturist. So, while her husband is away on business, she starts building a new home that is uncannily like their own, but without the secrets.

This was a slow-paced, rich story with unexpected facets to the characters. It ended in a somewhat vague manner but that is usual in the case of magical realism. It's a story of manners and culture and the constraints of civilization. However, I will say that there wasn't anything in the story that stayed with me much past the ending of the book. It left an overall satisfying feeling but, a month later, I had almost forgotten that I had read it. Still, Burton's writing was strong and I look forward to her second novel.

Dealing honestly,

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Series of Murders

I know it has been a while since I last blogged but I have a good excuse. I was distracted by Kittypatra! She is the centerpiece of the Hello Kitty exhibit at the EMP Museum here in Seattle and she's 10 feet tall. She mystified me and took away my blogging mojo. Yes, I'm sure that's where it went. Anyway, I have a lot of books to tell you about so I'll start today with three books from mystery series --

Bryant & May Off the Rails is the eighth book in what is still one of my favorite series. Christopher Fowler brings alive a different aspect of London in each book and this time it was the London Underground with some of its quirks and secrets. This was a tense story as the Peculiar Crimes Division was fighting the clock to solve the mystery, save lives, and also save their own division from being completely disbanded. There are four more books published in the series after this one and, I believe, another one coming out this year so I totally won't feel bad if I binge read a couple more this year. I can never stay away from these characters for long!

The book I finished most recently was Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear, the ninth Maisie Dobbs book. This was one of my least favorite of the series because it was so much about Maisie's internal dialogue and so little about the mystery. It's just not easy to feel sorry for someone having a crisis over having inherited too much money. I did however enjoy the various depictions of the differences between the haves and have-nots of the time. This was definitely a transition book though, both in the things going on in Maisie's life and also in the world as Hitler starts coming to power and WWII looms on the horizon. I anticipate a lot more action in the coming books, especially with the upcoming twelfth book (release date March 29) being called Journey to Munich.

Finally, I read my first Phryne Fisher mystery because I won this copy from Poisoned Pen Press. It's the third in the series but, because I had already watched many episodes of the television show, I didn't feel the need to start from the beginning. It was fun because I had forgotten what happened in the mystery and because it was even more sexy than the tv show. I also love the tie-in cover for once because Essie Davis is so fantastic as Phryne! I definitely saw and heard the characters as they appeared on tv and it wasn't a bad thing at all. I can't wait to dive into some of the other 19 books in this series. I hope that Poisoned Pen does a few more tie-in covers too!

What mystery series are you loving right now?

Getting back on the blogging train (hopefully sans murder),

Thursday, December 31, 2015

See You Later, 2015

Where did this year go? I can't believe that we're one day away from a new one! There's just enough time left to look over my spreadsheet and see how my reading year was.

These were the goals that I set on January 1 and managed to accomplish --


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Un Lun Dun

some DWJs (The Islands of Chaldea, The Time of the Ghost, Aunt Maria, Conrad's Fate, The Pinhoe Egg, Howl's Moving Castle),
and a few rereads for the 100 Chapter Books project: The Golden Compass, The Little Prince, My Father's Dragon, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The BFG and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Rereads that weren't on my list that I got to were The Mysterious Benedict Society, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jackaby.

The only rereads I wanted to do but didn't get to were Josephine Tey's books so I will add them to next year's reread list. My favorite reread of the year was probably To Kill a Mockingbird because I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. I read it the first time in high school so this was an entirely different experience. Jackaby was also a lot of fun to revisit!


I finally read books from Jo Walton, Kate Milford, and Peter S. Beagle and loved each one. I also was happy to "meet" Bryan Lee O'Malley, Ben Tripp, Noelle Stevenson, Jean Craighead George, Kage Baker, and Zen Cho.
I wanted to read Patrick Rothfuss and Anthony Trollope but didn't get to them. Maybe in 2016 ...


I wanted to read at least 50 books from my TBR, more books in translation (10+), and more non-fiction (8+).

Pages read: 38451 (or so!)
Books read (or listened to): 128 ... with 3 unfinished ones on the nightstand
Books from my TBR: 48
Re-reads: 15
Non-fictions read: 14
Books in translation: 9 (Japan x2, Italy x2, France x3, Spain, Germany)
Most read author: Diana Wynne Jones (7)
Longest book: The Crimson Petal and the White (895)
Oldest book: The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins (1875)


Finally, I was looking forward to seven new releases and got to read five of them this year!

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman
Get In Trouble: Stories - Kelly Link
The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl
Two Years, Eight Months and 28 Days - Salman Rushdie

I didn't read The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Catherynne M. Valente) yet because I want to do a series reread with it and, even though I got an ARC of the new Kate Morton (The Lake House), I wasn't able to get into it when I tried reading it. I'll try again later though, I'm sure!

But now, looking ahead --

I have only one goal for 2016 -- Read My Own Damn Books (head over to Estella's Revenge if you want to learn more!). I set a goal of 80 books from Z and my shelves which seems lofty but those will be reads *and* rereads. I have lots of books in translation and non-fiction titles on my TBR so I'll hopefully pick them up just as often as those rereads that I want to get to.

Well, that's it for 2015. Which books am I starting 2016 with? Two from my TBR, of course!

What is your first read of 2016?

Looking forward to achieving lofty goals,


Monday, December 21, 2015

#AMonthofFaves : Dec. 21 - Book to TV Show

Oh no ... today's theme is going to force a confession from me ...
Mon. | Dec. 21 – Book to Movie or TV Show Favorites – what did you love or hate this year; did you both watch the movie and read the book; which was better

In the spring, I reread one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, in anticipation of the television miniseries version. I was SO excited from the moment I first heard about it. I loved my reread and collected the episodes on my DVR so that I could watch the miniseries as slowly or quickly as I wanted. Then I started watching it and couldn't even pay attention to the first hour. Quickly, things that were changed started getting on my nerves. Finally, after maybe one and a half episodes ... I quit watching it and deleted it all from my DVR. Crazy right?! I think that I shouldn't have reread the book. I should have watched the show and then reread the book again next year or something. It is just such a beautifully crafted story that any changes in it were intolerable to me.

Was there a film/television adaptation this year that you loved or hated? Did you watch the Jonathan Strange miniseries? I'm still deciding whether I want to give the Shadowhunters television show a chance next month. It makes me nervous. But the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies movie looks kind of awesome!

Mostly sticking with the books,