What I Read in March 2019

I only read one book in March. March was a rough month, even with a week off from law school for spring break in the middle of it. Still, even with finishing only one book this month I am still on pace to read more this year than I have the last two.

The Woman Who Died A Lot

Jasper Fforde

The one book I managed to finish in March was a reread of one of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.  The last Thursday Next book.  I didn’t forget how incredibly inventive Fforde is, especially in this series but also always, but I did manage to forget nearly the entire plot.  That is unusual for me.  Generally, once I start a reread the detail start to come pretty fast.  I might forget details or even whole characters, but as soon as I start with the book it is all there.  Here, it was like reading it all again for the first time.  I remembered that Thursday was old in this book, and I remembered a few other details, but I didn’t even remember the conceit that got the book its title.

This book is called “The Woman Who Died A Lot” to reference the fact that Thursday keeps getting replaced with synthetic duplicates for reasons that are not clear at first.  Her mind is somehow transferred into this fake version of her.  Unfortunately, these fakes are only designed to live for about a day.  When they die, she returns to her body.  The contrast here is that current Thursday is both getting old and injured.  So she can only really fight back against the evil Goliath Corporation when she is a duplicate.  Over the course of the book, she dies a lot.

I have long since accepted that Jasper Fforde is my favorite author.  I think I accepted that as he went a half decade without publishing a book.  Rereading this book, a perfectly fine but apparently forgettable entry in his signature series reminded me why he is my favorite and reinforced his position.  I am ready for whatever he has next, and until then I guess I’ll reread what I’ve already got.

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What I Read February 2019

I managed an incredible feat in February, doing what used to be my routine. I read four books last month. One was a only anticipated release by my favorite author. Another was a book I had hoped to get for Christmas but didn’t so I bought it myself. I also read a couple of Douglas Adams books, because it was about time I did.

Skyward

Brandon Sanderson

I sometimes feel bad when writing about Brandon Sanderson’s books, because I feel like I come off as very negative. I do have some problems with his prose, which are highlighted by this book, which is a young adult book. I think Sanderson’s prose is already kind of simple, and when it is further simplified for a younger audience it gets a little flat. I had that problem with this book; it just read sort of plainly.

That said, Sanderson has significant strengths, which is why I keep reading his books. I really like Sanderson’s writing, I just don’t think it is perfect. He does great work with world building and establishing characters. That is true here. Skyward has humanity exiled to a far off planet, stuck living underground to escape bombardment from the aliens who control the skies. Spensa wants nothing more than to be a pilot, one of those who fight the aliens to try to build a better future for humanity. At first her family’s reputation appears to keep her from that goal, she is allowed to join as a trainee. While she trains, she also finds a strange spacecraft in the caves that she works to get into working condition. The book is mostly team building and training, with Spensa learning a lot of hard truths. It builds to Spensa finally making a decision with the strange ship she found.

Skyward is solid. It lays a lot of groundwork and tells an interesting, if clearly incomplete story. I liked it well enough, but I am hopeful future books in the series are better. This one doesn’t feel like it really comes into its premise until near the end. The story it told is fine, but it feels a little like it was hiding all the good parts. I look forward to more.

Early Riser

Jasper Fforde

If my math is correct, Early Riser is Jasper Fforde’s first book in nearly five years. That is kind of crushing for me, because I discovered him at about the same point he stopped producing new work.  Just as I caught up the well ran dry. But like with the people who complain about George RR Martin not producing A Song of Ice and Fire books fast enough, Jasper Fforde is not my bitch. I don’t get to dictate his writing schedule. I am just happy to have more from him to read. Early Riser did not disappoint.

Early Riser is set in a world where humans hibernate. The whole society is centered around this. There are a select group of people, the Winter Consuls, who stay awake all winter to make sure those who hibernate can do so in peace. The book follows Charlie Worthing, a newly accepted trainee Winter Consul, through much of his first winter awake. As tends to happen, he stumbles into important events that he doesn’t understand. His attempts to navigate through this dangerous events are what makes this book work. Charlie is not a particularly adept protagonist, he gets by mostly on gumption. He is smart enough to know his limitations and lucky enough to get through some tricky situation.

The book really doesn’t disappoint. It is a whole new world for Fforde to play around in. (I think it might actually be the same one from Shades of Grey, but it is different enough to actually be its own thing) He still plays wonderfully with skewed pop culture references, where he references something you know, but changes it just enough to make it clear it is something different. Fforde also never says no to adding a new weird idea into an already weird book. There is always something keeping the reader on their toes. The plot is a not especially intricate thriller, but that works with how intricate the setting is.  I have deliberately not written much about what actually happens in the book, both because explaining it is rather hard and because people should read it for themselves and I don’t want to spoil it. I loved this book; I am so happy Fforde is back.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Douglas Adams

This book is fun. It is a murder mystery where the murder itself is essentially a red herring. It plays with a lot of interesting science fiction concepts and weaves them together into the format of a detective novel, but the mystery was never really what you thought it was. I am given to understand that parts of this started as a Dr. Who script, and that makes sense. Adams’s wit is on full display here, making for a book that is a lot of fun to read, but it is much more tightly plotted than anything else I’ve read by him. That is not to say you could actually call it tightly plotted, it is only so in respect to Adams’s larger body of work. Still, it is quite an enjoyable read and I’ll finish up with its sequel sooner rather than later.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams

I’ve got a full post about how much I like this story. Read that, I don’t have anything to add here.

What I Read in December 2016

Four books in December, with a couple left half read. If you include the comic collections I read I got to my goal of 55 books in 2016. It was a near thing, though. In 2017 I am upping my goal to 60 books, a little over one book a week. I think I can manage it. I’m off to a good start so far. It was an odd smattering of books I read in December. I didn’t intend it to be so, but the month turned into a Wimsey heavy month. I had one book on my Kindle forever and another I found for a buck while doing some Christmas shopping and couldn’t resist picking it up.

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Lost in a Good Book

Jasper Fforde

I decided to reread the second book in Fforde’s excellent Thursday Next series. I have read the first one, The Eyre Affair, three or four times, but I haven’t really reread any of the later volumes. I had forgotten how slowly Fforde rolls out his book world. The idea of jumping into books is central to The Eyre Affair, but the rules aren’t really explained in that one. Fforde set himself a difficult task by creating two different alternate realities in this series, with the strange world inside of books being set against the strange world outside of the books. Which is itself the world inside of a book, since these are books. So not only does the reader have to contend with a world where fictional characters live lives outside the confines of the stories we read about them in, but also a world where cloning is advanced and the Crimean War continued for a century. So it makes sense that he was slow to roll out the book stuff, never giving the reader more than was necessary for any given story.

Lost in a Good Book has Fforde painfully destroying the happy ending he built for Thursday in the last book. It doesn’t come off as backtracking, though, but in the story just continuing. She beat Jack Schitt in the first book, but Goliath Corporation is still around and wouldn’t be finished with her. The events of this book build out of those of the last without simply repeating them, like all good sequels do. While this book does tear apart Thursday’s “real” life, it gives her an outlet in BookWorld, where literature lovers get to see famous characters in a different light, though they are still informed by their original stories. I love the Thursday Next books, and will likely reread the rest of the series in the coming year, but I find them hard to recommend. I don’t know many people who have read enough classic literature to get a lot out of these. It is not that works Fforde plays with are obscure – it is mostly Dickens, various Brontes and Shakespeare – but nearly all of them are the stuff people I know were forced to read in high school and never thought of again.

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Hangman’s Holiday

Dorothy Sayers

This collection of short stories is billed as a Lord Peter Wimsey book, but most of the book’s takes do not feature him. The bulk of the stories are Montague Egg stories. That doesn’t make them bad; most of these are quite good. Sayers indulges in some macabre plots that maybe wouldn’t work over a full novel. Some are almost just absurdly dark jokes. Still, these are some well executed mysteries. The most memorable are one where a joke goes too far and a terrified man murders the innocent joking tormentor and one where a doctor husband perpetrates unspeakable crimes on his ill wife. Also one that has to do with mass feline murder. Still, if you are reading this volume expecting Peter Wimsey I think you will be somewhat disappointed, since even in his stories he isn’t all that present.

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A Presumption of Death

Jill Patton Walsh/Dorothy Sayers

It will seem odd in light of my slight grumbles about the previous book, but I quite liked this Wimsey continuation from Patton Walsh even though Lord Peter himself barely appears in the book. I think this book flows more naturally than Thrones, Dominations, likely because it is all Patton Walsh’s work and not her finishing an unfinished Sayers manuscript. That book, while mostly very good, had an uneven quality to it. This one is more cohesive. It does use Sayers’ Wimsey Papers, a fictional series of wartime letters between the characters of the Wimsey series, at the front and back, but those operate as separate pieces from the rest of the story.

A Presumption of Death has Lord Peter’s wife, Harriet Vane, step into his role as amateur sleuth while he is out of the country doing intelligence work in the early days of WWII. She has relocated from London to their home in the country, taking both her children and those of Lord Peter’s sister. With everyone doing what they can for the war effort, the local police are shorthanded when a woman turns up murdered during an air raid drill. Since it will be easier for another woman to look into some aspects of the victim’s life, Harriet is recruited to aid in the investigation. This leads to her question land girls, city girl moved to the country to help farm, as well as the pilots at a nearby military base.

The only real problem with this mystery is that the mystery itself frequently takes a backseat to the daily struggles of the war effort. The characters spend more time dealing with wartime considerations, including an uncomfortable look at the succession to the Wimsey title, than they do investigating the mystery. That is a problem with expectations, though. That this book is as much about that war effort and its effects on several families as it is about a murder mystery is not a problem with the books, but a problem with the readers’ expectations. I found it engrossing and a fast read, though I wish it could have got to the point with the mystery a little faster. It seems all but solved fairly early, but is disregarded for quite some time as other stories play out first. Still, I enjoyed it.

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Mornings on Horseback

David McCollough

This is partly a look at the early life of Theodore Roosevelt and partly an examination of his family. The eventual president is the central character of the book, but Mornings on Horseback exists to illuminate the home life that young Theodore would have had. How his parents met and came to marry, his father New York royalty and his mother the daughter of southern plantation owners. McCollough does a great job of making the Roosevelt family come alive, so Teedie doesn’t overshadow his other family members. Like the stolid, elder Theodore cuts an imposing, though generous picture as a man who is committed to his family and charity or the eldest child Bamie, whose health problems mad he seem to always strive to be useful to the family.

While their financial fortunes never really wavered, at least not through the portion of their lives this book covers, is does show the ups and downs they faced. All four of the Roosevelt children had some health problems growing up and their parents spared no expense in their care. That also meant that they never attended traditional schools. Or the household tensions during the Civil War, with the children’s Uncles on their Mother’s side being Confederate heroes but their staunchly abolitionist father not serving. Last it gets into Theodore’s days in the West, with him leaving New York after his wife and mother died on the same day. There is a lot to chew on in the relatively slim tome that goes a long way to helping the reader understand the make-up of Theodore Roosevelt and the family he came from.

What I Read in June ‘14

Another four book month and this one includes a reread. At least I finally got the millstone that is Acacia off my back. I am so glad to not be reading that book any more. I hope to keep up the pace in July, which it looks like I will at this point.


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Acacia

David Anthony Durham

This is the book that has been slowing me down for the better part of four months. It came highly recommended by some people I know, but the more I read it the less I enjoyed it. It follows the royal family of the Acacian Empire: the Emperor and his four children. At the end of the first part, the Emperor is killed, his empire crushed and the children are scattered. It is quite similar in set up to A Song of Ice and Fire. In the second half of the book, the children have grown and they come together to save their homeland. The big twist is that the protagonist’s empire is an awful place. The government distributes drugs to the populace and pays of a distant power with a yearly quota of slaves. Of course, the people that conquer them are no better.

My big problem with this book is that is ponderously written. It features a lot of telling rather than showing. Instead of having the read find out about the drugs or slaves, it just flat tells it in narration. The reader doesn’t get to see the characters mature, they are just told that it happens. It switched between the four, as well as a few other characters so frequently that it is hard for any of them to build any narrative momentum.

SPOILERS. I also don’t buy a lot of the events in the second half of the book. The eldest daughter is captured by the bad guys and spends ten years (or however many it was) a essentially a prisoner trapped in the palace. Suddenly, she goes from hating Hamish Mien, the villain, she falls in love with him. Falling for her captor, that is an understandable development, but having her hate him for all those years before suddenly changing her mind was hard to swallow. Then there is the death of the eldest son. While leading an army, he accepts a duel to the death to determine a battle. Instead of finishing a battle he has already essentially won, he chooses to fight a man he knows he can’t beat in a duel that even he calls a bad idea as soon as it is suggested. It is just a monumentally stupid plot twist. END SPOILERS

Those moments of just flat out stupidity, on top of how far removed the book keeps the reader from the characters, really killed the book for me. I understand why this got recommended to me, but I really didn’t enjoy it at all.

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The Five Red Herrings

Dorothy Sayers

Another Wimsey mystery. Possibly my least favorite in the series. There is just no personal stake here. There is no victim to feel for or diabolical criminal to catch. There is just a guy that nobody liked getting killed and everyone is a suspect because nobody liked him. Wimsey also doesn’t get a lot to do in this book. That was also true of Gaudy Night, but there he was replaced by his love interest and an interesting character on her own. Here he is replaced by some bland policemen. The mystery itself is actually quite enjoyable, but most of the Wimsey stories I’ve read have had another layer that this one lacks.

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Diamonds are Forever

Ian Fleming

The odd thing about this fourth Bond novel is that the spy stuff doesn’t really get going until past the halfway point of the book, and even then there is very little of it. Bond is investigating a diamond smuggling operation, so he goes somewhat undercover and smuggles some diamonds into America. His payment is arranged by the mobsters he’s smuggling for in a fixed horse race. He meets up with former CIA Agent Felix Leiter, who is investigating the same people. Leiter throws arranges for the fixed jockey to throw the race. So Bond’s mobster employers arrange for him to get paid with fixed gambling. So he goes to Vegas.

I guess the point of the book is Bond’s growth as a character. He feels like he’s moved on from Vesper in Casino Royale and actually connects with her as a person. Most of the book is just Bond touring America and sharing his thoughts. Unsurprisingly, his thoughts tend to be sexist and racist. Shocking, I know. This book was pretty much the opposite of what I want from a Bond story. I would rather have action and monomaniacal villains, not normal gangsters and ruminations on the fleeting nature of life and love.

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The Eyre Affair

Japser Fforde

I first read this more than two years ago and absolutely loved it. Now that I’ve read the rest of the series, as well as the rest of Fforde’s body of work, I still love. It is a great book. One of my absolute favorites.

Thursday Next is just a great character. She is highly competent and brave, but also flawed. The big conflict between her and her love interest is that she is unwilling to admit that the tragedy she was involved with in the ongoing, at least in the books reality, Crimean War was at least partly the fault of her brother who died in that tragedy. It is her loyalty to her brother straining everything else because he was at fault. She is also the perfect kind of character to be the lead this sort of screwed up mystery. She is tolerant of nonsense while not stooping to participate in it.

I think on of things that draws me to this is that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classic novels. It is also a weird book, being kind of Gothic and kind of a fairy tale and kind of a romance. It is the prefect book to fiddle with in this sort of meta-fictional manner. Read this.

What I Read in August

I read what is basically my monthly average this month, four. Three of them are from the same series, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series of mysteries. While I did read three of them in a month, I’m not sure I really liked them all that much. They are easy reading on my Kindle at work, and I didn’t not like them, but I’m not going to be gushing about them like I did about Japser Fforde’s Thursday Next books for example. Also, I’m having a hard time separating some parts of each of the Maisie books since I read them so close together.

Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear

This is the first Maisie Dobbs book and it reads like it. It is very much like a comic book origin story, with only a halfhearted attempt at a mystery. That being said, I did enjoy it quite a bit. Maisie is an interesting character, and this exploration of her was a good read. It just wasn’t the mystery I was expecting. It helps that I am a sucker for that time period. I love to read about Pre-WWII 20th century.

The novel moves back and forth from the life of young Maisie, from when she goes to work as a maid for the Comptons, to when she opens her own private investigators business. She is solving the mystery of what happens in a commune filled with WWI vets disfigured by the war. The emphasis is greatly on the life of young Maisie, with the mystery being little more than an afterthought. Maisie’s personal history is a good read, though the ultimate outcome is predictable. There isn’t a lot of investigation to be done as far as the case goes.

Birds of a Feather

Jacqueline Winspear

This one is about a runaway heiress which turns into a murder investigation, which also is heavily reliant on aftermath of WWI. This one is actually a mystery. The woman who Maisie is searching for, who may be a potential victim or the criminal herself, is not a very likable person neither for the reader nor Maisie. Maisie has to solve the mystery, though. This one is much more interesting as a mystery than the first book.

Pardonable Lies

Jacqueline Winspear

Another missing persons case, actually a few of them, where all the missing persons supposedly died during WWI. She is hired by a father to look for his son, the last request of his recently dead wife. She also agrees to look for the final resting place of the brother of one of her friends. She also has to deal with her own recollections of the war. I was a little less enthused with this one than the previous ones.

I read these three books really close together, so some of the details run together. I’m not quite sure one book ends and the other begins. But the overall they paint a consistent portrait of Maisie as a character. She is independent, to the point of fault. She is thankful for the help of her friends, but no longer wants to except that help. Maisie exists at a place between classes in a time when long held prejudices are eroding. She has to square her loving, dependable lower class father with the upper class education she has received. It makes for some compelling reading besides the mysteries, which were the real draw for me.

First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde

The title here is not just a marginally amusing pun, it is also accurate. While this is the fifth Thursday Next book, it is definitely a break from the previous four. The last book, Something Rotten, effectively tied up most of the series loose ends. First Among Sequels picks things up 15 years later. The amusing wit has not changed one bit. It is still a lot of fun. However, it seems that the longer we spend in Thursday’s world, the more it loses its magic. Of course, the more time we spend in the world, the more we grow to know it and therefore formerly strange things become normal. That is not what I am feeling here. With the events in this book, Fforde has drained much of the weird out of his universe. It is not the strange becoming familiar, the strange is being syphoned right off the pages. Despite my misgivings, First Among Sequels is still a lot of fun. Plus, all the next Next book has to do is a small infusion of weird to right the ship.

The mystery this time involves a reinvigorated Goliath Corp conspiring with the council of genre’s to take over fiction, as well as the plot that goes right to the heart of the Chronoguard. It is much like the previous books in the series, with a very tongue in cheek look at the conventions of fiction mixed with a satisfying in its own right story. As long as Fforde can keep up the this love letter to literature, I will probably to continue to enjoy it. Thursday is an appealing character, and the addition of Thursday Next (fictional) to the cast is a good one.

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.

What I Read in March

Another month with four new books read, which I guess is the fastest pace I can manage when I am rereading the Wheel of Time. Usually my WoT rereads are fast, slapdash things where I read only the parts I want, the Perrin parts early and the Mat parts late, while skipping the storylines that I don’t like quite as much, surprisingly Rand’s part. This time I am giving as close a read as I have since I first read them, which means each one is taking me about twice as long as it usually does. So four other books a month is about all I can manage.

The Blonde Lady
Maurice LeBlanc

This is apparently the second of LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin detective-ish stories. Lupin is something like Robin Hood mixed with Sherlock Holmes. What Holmes is to solving crimes, Lupin is to committing them. There are two stories in this volume, which is all about Holmes, called Holmlock Shears, matching wits with Lupin. There are some what I am going to guess are translation issues, where words don’t mean quite what the characters seem to think they mean, but otherwise it is solidly entertaining. I don’t want to get in depth on the plot since this is a mystery. Lupin is wisely kept on the sidelines for most of the book, letting most of the story come from the detectives trying to stop his announced robberies. Lupin is a great character, dashing and dangerous but he has enough of that Robin Hood noble thief in him that readers can still root for him.

The Alloy of Law
Brandon Sanderson

Since I first discovered him a few years ago, or more appropriately when I was forced to discover him because it was announced that he would finish Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Brandon Sanderson quickly became one of my favorite fantasy authors. Even though Mistborn is not my favorite thing he has written, I really like the first book but I think books 2 and 3 are flawed, when I heard that he was writing a follow up with a Western setting I was excited. The magic system in Mistborn is one of the most original I’ve encountered, especially when you weed out the ones that come off as weird for weird’s sake. Putting that in a Western, a genre that I unabashedly love, sounded perfect. Too much fantasy takes place in the same sort of faux medieval time period. It is always good to get out of that. Fortunately, Sanderson did not disappoint.

Alloy of Law is short for a fantasy novel, running just around 300 pages, but it accomplishes a lot in its short time. Since the world was not new, much of the usual world building could be eliminated, allowing for a greater focus on character and plot. Both of which delivered. Wax is a pretty great character, competent and brave but not with the sort of Godlike powers that many fantasy protagonists have. Wayne is perfect to complete a buddy cop routine with Wax. And Marasi doesn’t get quite enough time, but she is an interesting catalyst. The story follows Wax trying to solve some mysterious train robberies and kidnappings that seem to be impossible, which leads to him uncovering a plot involving corrupt cops and even more corrupt noblemen. Plus, Snaderson avoids spending too much time on the mechanics of his magic system, as he sometimes does.

Alloy is an adventure about magic cowboys trying to stop ghost trains. Conceptually, it is perfect. Even with its short length, t manages to be a meaty, enjoyable adventure. Its only real flaw is that it leaves the reader really wanting more, and the internet seems to be telling me that this is a stand alone entry in the series. Stand alone books should not have cliffhangers! More, I want more.

The Shadow Rising

Robert Jordan

The Eyre Affair
Jasper Fforde

You know how sometimes something just really clicks with you immediately. To experience a piece of media that seems almost perfectly tailored to your specific interests. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, of which The Eyre Affair is the first entry, has so far been one of those special experiences for me.

The Eyre Affair is a smart, inventive and often silly detective novel set in an alternate reality. A reality with time travel and cloning and a much greater appreciation for literature. Once all the fun sci-fi/fantasy fluff is stripped away The Eyre Affair is a rather standard-ish noir tinged detective story. But the fluff is the substance. The plot is clearly secondary to the fluff. The plot is merely an excuse for Thursday to keep moving through the world. More important than the over arching story is a side-story where Thursday helps hunt down a vampire.

Fforde throws tons of concepts against the wall, but the parts that resonate best are when he’s playing with literature. Perhaps it is just that the works he references are some of my favorites, Jane Eyre and Dickens. I simply loved the Eyre Affair.

Lost in a Good Book
Jasper Fforde

With the second Thursday Next book, Fforde focuses more on the book jumping skills that were key to the last books finale. It is also less of a stand alone book than the previous one. The Eyre Affair told its story and ended, Lost in a Good Book is clearly the start of a larger story. Numerous plots are started and very few of them are finished.

Despite that Lost feels more focused than Eyre. The first one was about throwing stuff against the wall, this one is just playing with the stuff that stuck. I didn’t like it quite as much as the previous one, but it was still pretty good. Especially the greater use of other fictional characters as living characters in this series. They are clearly different than the “real” versions of those characters, but they are reminiscent enough to be fun. Another really good novel.