What I Read in May

 

I know I’m way behind on these. I’ve been writing at them on an off, but I just wasn’t able to get any finished. The same goes for just about anything I’ve tried to post lately. I have a hard drive rapidly accumulating half-finished blog posts and various reviews. But with some time off work, I decided to hunker down and acutally get some work done. Luckily, or not depending, the change in work schedule that left me with less time to write also left with less time to read, so I don’t have as many books to review as usual after May.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades is a fantasy version of Jane Austen, which sounds like a great thing to me, at least. Unfortunately, when adding magic Kowal somehow managed to lose all the wit and vitally that Austen characters generally possess. What is left is the unremarkable romantic plotting and a fairly interesting magic system.

Protagonist Jane has a talent for glamour, the magic of this series, but doesn’t really possess any real vitality one the page. She faints through the plot until it comes to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. Her sister Melody never rises higher than being a nuisance. Jane’s biggest dilemma stems from her needing to choose between the largely decent Mr. Dunkirk and the ill-mannered artist Mr. Vincent.

The plot plays out with a readable slowness that Austen got away with due to her wit. Kowal focuses on the magic, and it is a well-thought out, interesting magic system, but there is no life in the narrative. Shades of Milk and Honey isn’t precisely bad, but it does show the dangers of hewing too close to a classic source.

Persuasion

Jane Austen

Reading this just after Shades of Milk and Honey made me more aware of Shades’ flaws. Persuasion isn’t Austen’s best, but there is certainly more going on here than in that read alike.

This feels like a novel that Jane Austen wrote for herself, where a somewhat older woman, by those times’ standard, ends up writing the wrongs of her life and living happily ever after. Plus, the supporting characters spring right off the page, with amusing faults and larger than life personalities.

Persuasion is a little more straightforward in the plot department than most of Austen’s other novels, with no big surprises along the way. It really shines on the strength of the incidents it contains. Weak Austen is still better than the best facsimile.

Something Rotten

Jasper Fforde

This is the big final to the first section of Fforde’s Thusrday Next novels, tying up all the loose ends from the previous three books. I loved those books, and I love this one.

It really does tie the whole series together, even the sections that seemed entirely superfluous on my first reading. It is still kind of messy, but that is where the charm to this series is. The rules, for better or worse, are pretty well established by this point, but Something Rotten still manages to have some fun. Hamlet is great, as are the book visits. I don’t know what to say other than I like this books a lot and want to keep reading them forever. The Thursday Next series are books for people who love books, and I am one of those people.

The Thin Woman

Dorothy Cannell

This is a book I have some history with. My mother had a beaten to death old copy of this and I happened to pick it up and start reading. Unfortunately, it was beaten up enough that it was consigned to the garbage, and I was unable to finish it. So with my new Kindle in hand, I used the internet to find the title, my mom’s copy was short a cover, and found the book. While it isn’t one of my favorites, it was pretty good and finally being able to know how it ends was worth seeking out.

Hefty Ellie hires an escort to go pose as her fiancé at a family get together and in an absurd turn of events must play out the ruse, as well as lose weight, in order to get an inheritance. She also must solve a mystery involving the house left to her. Once past the ridiculousness of the premise The Thin Woman is a good mystery.

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