One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

Read by Emily Gray

I love this series. I know that people don't get it, or get bored halfway through (I don't recommend reading them all together, you will suffer brain fatigue.) But I have read them as they've been released and they remain new and fresh and delightful to me.

This one is different, as it's told from the perspective of the Written Thursday. Of course all of the prior books were written by ghostwriters and there was a sex-and-violence Thursday playing the part before the current Written Thursday, whose job is to be "more true to the way Thursday wants it."

If that didn't make any sense to you - you should go and read The Eyre Affair. Go ahead. I can wait.

So, now that you've read that, and this all makes sense to you...the 6th installment of the Thursday Next series is set mainly in the Book World. It undergoes a remaking at the beginning, to make the landscape a little less clunky, and we get to see what happens with the characters when the book isn't being read. A lot, actually.

Since I was listening to this in the car at the same time I've been reading other books, it is always in the back of my head and it is effecting the way I read. I feel that, somewhere in another dimension is a person who is acting out what I am reading. A full cast, actually. And with the FeedBack Loop...well, let's just say I'm paying more attention to what I read these days.

One of the biggest perks here is that Fforde is clearly a book lover. A literary fan. He would wipe the table and floors with all of us at Trivial Pursuit: Book Lovers Edition. His books are rife with references to scenes, characters, and situations from the classics - all of which inform the narrative.

A bit of a spoiler: in this book, we get to witness a Written character going into the Outland (our Real World) for the first time. It's a fairly unique experience, and there are quite a lot of math jokes. (Only, they're British, so they say "maths.")

All in all, a fun read. I do very much enjoy this series (although I haven't been able to get into anything else he's written) and will likely revisit it someday...the details of the early books are already a little hazy...

Two thumbs way up. If surrealist speculation/speculative fantasy are your thing, you can't go wrong.


Artemis Fowl: the Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

I love these books. I love that they're written for teenage boys. I love that he took the idea of fairies living "in the hills" literally and I love that he made them so technologically advanced that Steve Jobs would be speechless were he to encounter them.

I love that Artemis is basically a sociopath. I love that he's a genius. I love that Butler has tunnel vision and questionable morals. I love that Holly is the toughest member of the bunch and that the tech genius (Q, if you will) is a centaur with a potty mouth.

I love that the world is always in peril and that it's mostly Artemis's doing. Love. Love. Love. Love this series.

This is the first that I've listened to, and I very much enjoyed it. Hearing it with the accents really does make all the difference.

Now, if they'd just make these into movies already!

UPDATE::: hello, movie! http://www.artemis-fowl.com/movie_1.php

Click: One Novel Ten Authors

I missed this when it was released, but that's ok. I still enjoyed it. An interesting approach: a novel written by ten authors...some of whom I read just because their name is on it (Colfer, Hornby.) It switched points of view, but it didn't bother me at all. It also jumps in time a bit, which was also not bothersome.

It opens with the death of a grandfather, and his grieving grandchildren. Being that he was a prize-winning photojournalist, it only makes sense that his photos would help structure the narrative. Fortunately, this potentially hokey plot device was not hokey at all, and felt less like a device than a signpost, guiding us through history and geography smoothly. The narrative spans a full century - sometimes after World War Two until sometime after 2030...it's full of interesting characters and a good deal of "what if...?" Which we all know I like.

All in all, I enjoyed it enough that I'll be gifting it to some people in the future...and paying full price, as all proceeds go to Amnesty International.


Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander

This is the fourth book in this series, but only the second that I have read. The previous one, Tears of Pearl, I read and enjoyed so much that when I saw this on the shelf at the library I snatched it up and dragged my son (and all our stuff) back to the checkout so I could take it home and read it. It took me a matter of hours to devour it (spread in 20-30 minute increments over a few days - I have a toddler) and I'm considering doing something I almost never do: reading the series out of order. (The other series that I've discovered in the middle and then gone back to the start being The Home Repair is Homicide series - mostly if I discover it's a series I either just pick it up in the middle or hold off on the latest installment until I've caught up.) 

One of the blurbs on the back states that Alexander is perfect for fans of Laurie R. King and I agree - she's following the same vein: real people interspersed with her creations, a capable female protagonist who was very "modern" for the times she's living in...but by my math King is writing a full 40-50 years after Lady Emily's adventures. Still, the heroines are intelligent and scrappy (sorry, they are) and constantly proving people wrong by being stronger than their gender suggests. 

This installment takes place in France, opens with a dead body, and follows a twisty tale of madness, misconception  and a WASPy (were there WASPS in Victorian France?) ability to not acknowledge unpleasantness. I had an inkling of where the story was headed and got there just ahead of our heroine, but I won't hold that against Alexander. I'm well read in these Novels of Suspense. 

There are two things I particularly like about the series:

1) her use of real people lend credence to the possibility of these stories actually happening. Monet makes an appearance in this one, for example. She also has a firm grasp on the dress and social niceties that existed at the time. Every now and again, you can almost hear the crinolines rustling through the paragraphs.

2) her subtlety in the romantic scene department. I enjoy a good romp, but after watching people make out at the lunch table in high school (I wish I were kidding) and then a glut of Sex and the City, I have to admit that witnessing serious snogging - even if it's just being described to me - is a huge turnoff. There is obvious romance and intimacy and a healthy relationship happening between Lady Emily and her Husband, but it is alluded to and even then it is mostly for the purposes of illustrating other more pressing plot points. It's well-done, at any rate.

So if historical romantic suspenseful murder mysteries are your thing - pick these up. But maybe start at the beginning so you don't find yourself in my quandary. 

Oh, but maybe I won't go back just yet - there's a new one out at the end of Oct...or maybe I should read the first two *very* quickly so I can have all the backstory I need...decisions, decisions...


Heat by Bill Buford

So I tagged this "reader recommendation" even though not a soul actually told me to read it. I found it listed on my Sister-In-Law's Amazon wish list and thought to myself "hey - that goes perfectly with my food memoir streak! AND it's Italian food, which I haven't read, yet. Excellent!" So then I checked it out from the library, thinking if it is good then I'll pluck it off her list and send it to her for Christmas.

Well, it is that good. (It's no longer on her list, though, and not due to me!)

In fact, I have only two complaints about this book: firstly, there are no recipes. NO RECIPES, BILL! Way to hold out. There are descriptions of techniques, and a little insight into why restaurant food never tastes as good as it does in your home kitchen (batch size and measurement techniques, for starters) and that's all well and good...but throw us a bone, man! On the other hand, I must now go to Italy, find a grandmother, and convince her to teach me how to make pasta. So it's not all for nothing.

The second one - he referenced so many texts, and listed some of them in the acknowledgements, but I'm going to have to give this a re-read to truly retain all of the information. Which might have been his plan, because re-reading is really the best excuse ever for buying a book. So now I'll buy one for myself, and that means I'm more likely to buy it as gifts...I'm on to you, Buford.

So basically - he starts off as a journalist who decides he wants to learn how to cook - a lost art, in his opinion (mine, too.) He calls up his good friend Mario Batali (how has HE been off my radar?) and becomes a slave in the Babbo kitchen.  Amongst these adventures, he gives us Batali's backstory, and then follows his footsteps to Italy. In two distinct small towns he learns the lost art of pasta making (no machine!) from a Grandmother and butchery from The Maestro. No kidding, that's what he calls his mentor. Divine.

So if you're into food, Italian food, culture, food history, or just a good read - this Buford's for you. If you're a vegetarian (&etc) be warned: beef cheeks are just the tip of the iceberg. He does reflect a little on eating animals, mentioning that Vegetarians are the most aware that the bacon on your plate was once a pig in someone's pen, and he speaks of all of them with the utmost respect. So it's not gross...but I'm a carnivore.

I could go on and on filling your head with spoilers but I won't do that to you. You should read it. Because it is very good.


Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

This one was so good that I read it and then I bought the audiobook and I listened to it.

Full disclosure - this was the summer of listening to Sarah Vowell in our car. Not a bad way to spend errand-running days. She is my kind of nerdy.

Anyway - in this one, she tackles the Americanization of Hawaii- all the way from the part where they wanted it up until the part where they didn't. She interviews everyone you can think of and reads things you didn't know existed until she starts talking about them.

I got a sense of the truly complicated situation Hawaii was in -before the missionaries arrived there was no written language - so from the West (East? Isn't New England East of Hawaii?) they got a written language and enjoy a very high literacy rate. They also got lots of VD, marginalization, and ultimately...they got to lose their sovereignty.

It really just fueled my desire to visit Hawaii.

I'm gonna recommend listening to this one, unless you're familiar with the Hawaiian language - I got hung up on the names and some of the anecdotes - the cast is brilliant and hearing it in Vowell's own voice keeps the pace going - it was funnier as I listened to it.

And then get everything else she's ever written and listen to that, too. Trust me.
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