Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1)The Gunslinger – Stephen King
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = NC-17 (Graphic Violence, Language, Sexual Content, Nudity, Famous Song Lyrics)

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Why: Despite our best efforts we (Evan) gave this novel a try in our youths and failed somewhere just after “The Way Station”.  This is insightful given the fact that we had a slight (and by slight we actually mean enormous) obsession with Stephen King.  Not quite sure what went wong....  Fifteen-ish years later we decided to take the plunge again and within a matter of three months, we’ve already completed book 4 in the series.  However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves... 
Roland of Gilead is on a quest to find the dark tower.  Not just any dark tower – THE dark tower.  Armed with his considerable skill as a gunslinger his first order of business is to catch the man in black.  Intrigue, mystery and a whole lot of freaky stuff surrounds the first phase of the epic pursuit.   Success requires every bit of Roland’s cunning and single-mindedness and in the end, merely catching up with the man in black turns out to be the least of his problems.   

There’s really no other way to say it; The Gunslinger is an impressive novel.  While it’s not our favorite Stephen King novel (Bag of Bones please stand) or even our favorite in the Dark Tower series (review for The Wastelands coming soon), the reader has the sense that something momentous is happening.  This novel does an excellent job setting the stage for so much more to come.  We were left dripping with enough intrigue and unanswered questions, that continuing on with the series was an easy choice. 

Stephen King has never had any problems writing characters and the cast of The Gunslinger could very well be his best.  Roland, in all his cold hearted splendor, was such a deep character; and Jake, in all his trusting naivety, provided the perfect compliment.  The setting of the novel was also top notch.  The reader is asked to accept so much as reality yet we found ourselves questioning little due to the confident and colorful manner in which the setting is described.     

With 7 total volumes currently in the series and another one waiting to be released next year, there’s never been a better time to begin The Dark Tower journey.

Editor’s Note:  Make sure you take note of the content rating...  Very little is left to the imagination.

Another Editor’s Note:  Special thanks to The 200lb Man and Off the Record for applying enough Adult Peer Pressure to get us started on the reread...  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top 10 Bookish Technology Stuff

Question: Top 10 bookish technology stuff (websites, organizations, apps, etc.)

Answer: For us this week will be less about the listing and more about the learning.  Our knowledge of the online bookish world is, well, embarrassing.  Despite the rose colored hue now covering our face, we’ve got our pen (erasable) and notebook (with Phineas and Ferb cover art) in hand and are ready to learn about all the amazing bookish resources inside our computer monitor.

Honestly, we didn’t even want to include a list this week, but because we’re sticklers for the rules, below you will find our uninspired partial list: 

1.      Goodreads
2.      Shelfari
3.      Book Bloggers
4.      BBC Big read
5.      Ummm???

Yep... that’s about all we got for this week...

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Small Fortune

A Small FortuneA Small Fortune – Audrey Braun
Evan’s ESS = out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 6.5 out of 10
Content = R (Violence, Adult Situations, Sexual Content, Language, Nightmarish Vacations)

 “I’m so ecstatic, so overwhelmed with relief, that I nearly miss the fact that Jonathon is speaking Spanish”
Why: We’ve had our fair share of tropical vacations over the years and while some turned out less than memorable we’re quite sure the main character’s experience in A Small Fortune has us beat.  And that’s definitely a good thing...      
Celia Donnelly is about to undertake a much deserved beach vacation with her husband and teenage son.  Between the stress of her job and less than perfect home life, she’s very much looking forward to the tropical retreat.  However, almost as soon as she arrives at the resort, her plans take a dramatic turn for the worst.  Being abducted and kidnapped has a tendency to do that.  Celia is left with far more questions than answers and almost no one to trust.  Her quest to find the truth will push her beyond her limits and take her halfway across the world.
A Small Fortune is a quick, very suspenseful, yet not entirely faultless read.   Overall, we (Erin) thought it was a nice blend of chick-lit and suspense and a solid debut novel for Audrey Braun.  From the very first page, we felt like we were on the couch talking to one of our girlfriends about her harrowing vacation experience (we may or may not have prepared chips and salsa and frozen margaritas for the occasion).  We enjoyed how matter of fact the narrator described the events and many of the metaphors blended nicely into the prose.  Also, Celia’s relationship with her son (or lack thereof) was quite bittersweet, yet believable.  It inspired us to give our frequently occasionally nagging preschoolers a couple of giant hugs.  A Small Fortune didn’t quite fall into the “up all night” category, but we saw the other side of midnight on one occasion.      
The flaws.  For us, we wanted a bit more - more back story, more character development, and more ending.  For all the in-your-face suspense, things wrapped a little too quickly.  We also thought the hibbidy-dibbidy scenes between Celia and a certain unnamed secondary character felt forced and out of place with the rest of the story.  Still, our peeves are relatively small as a whole and A Small fortune was an enjoyable read.  If nothing else, this novel highlights the importance of checking the contents of your family’s luggage before hopping on the plane to some tropical Caribbean beach resort... 
Editors Note:  This book was generously provided as an advanced reading copy.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next, #3)The Well of Lost Plots – Jaspier Fforde
Evan’s ESS = 10 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Adjectivores, Memory Loss, Generics)

“Fiction wouldn’t be much fun without its fair share of scoundrels, and they have to live somewhere.”

Why: If we’re being completely forthright, our recent Jaspier Fforde review binge is owed to our desire to review this particular book.  Get ready for the love fest people!

After taking refuge within an obscure, unpublished detective novel titled Caversham Heights, Thursday Next must adjust to her knew existence.  For starters, she must carefully establish herself within the novel without disrupting the narrative.  She also has responsibilities as a probationary Jurisfiction agent and is forced to stand trial for her role in the controversial Jane Eyre plot alteration.   To make matters even more confusing, she’s pregnant by a husband who never existed.   Oh, and her mobilefootnoterphone keeps picking up spam messages that detail the plot of Anna Karenina.  In all the chaos, the chances of Thursday discovering the truth behind the sequence of BookWorld murders seems highly unlikely.     

Initiating love fest in 3... 2... 1... We (Evan) loved this novel!  The Well of Lost Plots is located entirely within the world of books.  The plot was easily the most suspenseful of the series and the anger management counseling scene involving the characters from Wuthering Heights could stand as the most hilarious in all of literature.  We loved the creativeness and depth of the underground book world and have come to loath the illegal selling of secondary characters and unauthorized plot devices.

The BookWorld was filled with concepts and characters that tickled our bookish senses.  There were a whole host (pun intended) of Grammasites, which are parasite that lives in books and feed on grammar.  Adjectivores are particularly dangerous as they drain all the description from an object.  Nasty little buggers.   We also came in contact with a great number of famous characters like Uriah Heap, clones of Mrs. Danvers, Mr. Toad, and the entire cast of Wuthering Heights.  It should be noted that Heathcliff was nomination for Most Troubled Romantic Lead at the 923rd BookWorld awards (or Bookies).

What a great book.  What a great series.  We look forward to many more adoring Jaspier Fforde reviews.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lost in a Good Book

Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, #2)Lost in a Good Book – Jaspier Fforde
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Mild Language, Eradication, Demanding Mentors)

“I would so hate to be a first-person character!  Always on your guard, always having people read your thoughts!”

Why: The time between Jaspier Fforde reviews on this blog is appalling.  Appalling.  Rest assured the issue is being addressed and the review scheduler here at Two Bibliomaniacs has been placed on indefinite probation.  The good news is that two, yes two, Thursday Next reviews will be coming over the course of this week – maybe sooner if our editorial board can get things in gear....  

Newly married and enjoying her position as Swindon’s favorite literary detective, Thursday Next is quite content with life.  Unfortunately, life has different plans.  Almost at once Thursday is swept into a blackmail plot that involves the eradication of her husband’s existence.  Her only hope is to become educated in the subtle art of book jumping.  And with Mrs. Havishum as her mentor, the chances of rescuing her husband are greater than ever.  The only problem is that her chances were never really that good to begin with.

It’s very likely that our summary of Lost in a Good Book makes no sense.  Yet, anyone fortunate enough to have read The Eyre Affair will understand that sense is a rare commodity in Thursday Next’s bizarro world.  The second book in the series is no different, which is why Jaspier Fforde rocks!

Lost in a Good Book was a delightful read with plenty of ingenious wordplay and more than a couple well placed puns.  There was an entire cast of fantastic characters, like Lord Volescamper, Akrid Snell, Aornis Hades, and Miss Havisham.  Who knew Miss Havisham was such an adrenaline junkie? 

The novel also introduces the reader to Jurisfiction, which is a watchdog organization that patrols the world of literature.  It’s was a blast to find out all the problems that can occur within the BookWorld – rogue characters, grammasites, and stolen plot lines.¹  In summary, Lost in a Good Book is a treasure for any lover of science fiction and classic literature.  Admittedly, this may seem like a weird combination, but it works for us.  Oh, does it ever work for us.

1. “As demonstrated here, one of the coolest bits of technology in the BookWorld is the footnoterphone.  While we don’t pretend to understand all the capabilities, this advancement is used quite effectively throughout the novel.”    

Friday, June 17, 2011

TBR Shelf Management - Book Blogger Hop (June 17th)

After tirelessly scanning the various Friday memes this morning, we’ve decided to partake in The Book Blogger Hop over at Crazy-for-Books!!!
Question: How many books are currently in your To-Be-Read (TBR) pile?
Answer: Right now we have 379.7589 books on our TBR shelf.  However, it should be noted that his number changes daily.  As a general rule we work off compilations generated from the BBC Big Read, Time, Modern Library, and some obscure Facebook prove-your-literacy-strength list.  We also welcome recommendations from the Book Blogosphere.  With so many books vying for our attention it’s often difficult to decide on our next book.  Currently, the winners are: 
1.       A Small Fortune
2.       Capote
3.       Guards! Guards!
4.       Northanger Abby
5.       Radical
6.       The Help
Obviously, the above choices could change without notice or explanation...  Can't wait to find out how everyone else is managing their piles!!! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High AdventureThe Princess Bride – William Goldman
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Violence, Swordplay, Consequential Drinking Games, Repetitive Death Threats)

“Good night, Westley.  Good work. Sleep well.  I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

Why: If this review was important enough to have a title (other than The Princess Bride), it would be christened, The Tale of Two Opinions, which is significant considering only one of the Two Bibliomaniacs has read the novel.  Seriously, we want to boldly proclaim The Princess Bride as the most original and creative work of fiction ever penned.  And in the same breath we feel the need to ask why, oh why, was it necessary to do that to the narrative.  Let us explain.  Let us try to explain... 

William Goldman’s version of The Princess Bride is actually an abridgment of S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure.  What makes this so remarkable is that S. Morgenstern is actually a mere invention of William Goldman’s mind.  Get it?  The novel contains two separate narratives.  The first is the exciting story of Buttercup, Westley, iocaine powder, ROUSes, and a gentleman with six fingers.  The second is an entirely fictitious account of William Goldman’s life and the tedious process of abridging a lengthy novel focused on the excess of European high society.      

Our initial opinion of the actual abridgment is positive.  The story was funny, thrilling, suspenseful and romantic.  The dialogue was witty although every line felt like it would translate perfectly into a screen play...  The characters were great and in the case of Fezzik – larger than life.  The added realness of Westley and Buttercup’s relationship was welcomed, although the reunion scene at the base of the Fire Swamp left much to be desired...  We also learned some valuable insight into how tensions between Gilder and Florin escalated over a hat collection and the important distinctions between Snow Sand and Lightning Sand.

And then there’s the separate narrative about how the abridgement came about.  Our opinion is not so positive.  Yes, the technique was quite unique and at times funny, but it was also distracting.  Each time the abridgment was interrupted for some additional insight, we kind of just wanted to get back to the story.       

As a complete work of art, The Princess Bride was an enjoyable read.  Yes, we wanted more of the actual story and less of the commentary, but we always provide high marks for uniqueness.  This book IS unique and in many ways the journey was more enjoyable than the destination.  And even if you’ve seen the movie a dozen times, there’s enough extra plot to keep any staunch Cary Elwes or Robin Wright fan entertained.  Our only plea is to the S. Morgenstern estate: please let William Goldman abridge Buttercup’s Baby...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top 10 "Awww" Moments in Literature

Question: Top 10 "Awww" moments in Literature

Answer: One word of caution: “Awww” moments tend to appear at the very end of novels – we apologize in advance for any PPR (Premature Plot Reveal).

1.      The wireless scene between Stephen and Cassandra (I Capture the Castle) – Stephen sacrifices his savings to purchase the perfect birthday gift for Cassandra.  Unfortunately, the “Awww” scene is follow very quickly by an “oh, no” scene, but still...
2.      Sam’s marriage to Rosie (The Return of the King) – Even though this scene is tucked at the very end of the trilogy, it’s great to finally hear some good news for the greatest BFF of all time.
3.      Fleur’s declaration of love in the hospital (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) – There’re plenty of “Awww” scenes throughout this series, but for us Fleur’s verbal commitment to Bill despite his grisly face-job was quite touching.
4.      The final kite running scene (The Kite Runner) – In order to protect the conclusion we can’t describe this scene in too much detail.  We’ll just say, “For you, a thousand times over.”
5.      Final garden scene between Colin and father (The Secret Garden) – When hardness and bitterness give way to forgiveness and acceptance... the definition of an “Awww” moment.   
6.      Every scene between J.L.B. Matekoni and Precious Ramotswe (No 1 Ladies Detective Agency) – Despite, or maybe because of his awkwardness, this mechanic from Botswana is quite the ladies man...
7.      The Butterfly scene (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) – This insect had quite the appetite and paid the price, yet in the end he received his reward.   
8.      Father’s return (Little Women) – What could be more precious than a father’s long anticipated return to his little women.
9.      The come to their senses scene between Elizabeth and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) – With so much arrogance and presumption it was only a matter of time before an epic “Awww” moment.
10.  Roses on graduation day (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) – Flowers from dad... we won’t say anything more.  Quite touching.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Color Purple

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple – Alice Walker
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Content = R (Adult Content, Violence, Sexual Content, Language, High Anxiety Shaving)

Why: The Color Purple represents our first voyage into the critically acclaimed Books to Movies Challenge!  Honestly (doesn’t that make you wonder when we haven’t been as forthright?), we couldn’t have started with a more complete and emotionally charged book / movie.  Not sure why it took us so long to attempt this fantastic work.

Celie’s life is filled with just about every hardship imaginable - raped by her father, brutalized by her husband, and maliciously denied her sister.  Yet, somehow she perseveres.  She finds friendship in a woman named Shug Avery, who happens to be the object of desire for Celie’s husband.  And as the relationship between the unlikely pair flourishes, Celie fights to establish her voice and free herself from her oppressive husband.
The Book: The Color Purple is so much more complex that we could hope to condense into the above summary.  The glimpse into this era was as appalling as it was profound.  The narrator, Celie, has a unique and powerful voice that touches the reader.   Actually, all the characters felt larger than life, despite their oppressive circumstances.  The correspondence between the sisters was probably the most touching aspect of the novel, although it was amazing to watch Celie develop and mature.  Mister, in all his loathsome glory, was also a fascinating character who... actually we shouldn’t say any more.  He was just interesting – in a despicable sort of way.  

The Movie:  Overall, the movie was very faithful to the book.  There was more focus given to the bond Celie and Nettie formed as children, which really did an excellent job establishing the sister’s relationship.  While the multiple facial shaving scenes had us squirming in our seats, the movie also contained a few more elements of humor which helped offset the severe tone.  There were a few discrepancies – the one at the end was a bit irksome – but overall Whoopi Goldberg was able to portray a strong and complex woman who was able to persevere through deplorable circumstances.  It was interesting to see that this movie actually started her career.  And then there was another soon-to-be famous actor who tried to fool us with his name in the credits.  Nice try “Larry” Fishburne...        

In our opinion, the novel won the day, but the margin was narrow.  The letter format in the novel added to our experience and the details of Nettie’s life added a dimension that was missed in the movie.  Still, you can’t go wrong with either – just be sure you read the book first.  We do have ways of finding these things out! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Literary Blog Hop June 6-11

Literary Blog Hop

It’s been far too many weeks since our last Friday meme. After coming across this week’s Literary Blog Hop question at The Blue Bookcase, we decided to end our dry spell.

Question: What other outside influences affect your reading experience? Do you think these influences enhance or detract from the experience?

Answer: To be honest, there are too many outside influences to list in one blog post. A quick 30 second  brainstorming exercise identified the following: Life experiences, current events, prior author experience, previously viewed movie adaptations, life stage, current emotional state. And as much as we try to safeguard our bookish endeavors, we fail miserably. Below is a sampling of the influences affecting our reading experience.

Audio Books – Our long daily commute necessitates the frequent use of audio books. Narrator quality has a HUGE impact on the overall book experience. Many of our favorite books have only been experienced through a fantastic audio book adaptation (I Capture the Castle, Jane Eyre, and The Time Traveler’s Wife). We wonder if our opinion would have been enhanced or detracted by a traditional read.

Blogosphere hype – As a general rule, this influence only has the power to detract. While hype has inspired us to move a novel up our TBR list, rarely have we encountered a super-hyped book exceeding the hype. A few of these books have met the hype, but we were already expecting that. More times than not, we find disappointment at the end of a super-hyped book. Not because the book was bad, but it just wasn’t as good as what 10,000 other bloggers led us to believe. Obviously, we’re not talking about any of the books you recommended.

Previous reads – In many cases, a previous book can have a profound influence on the current book. Whatever book we read after The Hobbit or Gone with the Wind or The Eyre Affair surely suffered by comparison. We also try to genre hop as much as possible, because too much of the same thing can be a drag. As much as we loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we don’t recommend reading through the trilogy in five parts back to back to back to back to back.

Aggressive TBR list – We’re a bit challenge challenged and we’re secure enough to admit it. The cute little “100+ books in a year” bird likes to sit on our shoulder and motivate us towards our goal. Sometimes this bird can even be a tad bit pushy and encourage us to speed through a novel. Actually, maybe time is more to blame (that bird is pretty cute). If only we had more time then we’d be able to read at a more leisurely pace and reflect more on the plot and characters.

Whew... that’s all we got for today. Let us know what factor influence your bookish endeavors.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


HolesHoles – Louis Sachar
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Minor Violence, Name Calling, Digging, Dehydration, Onions)

“It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather!”

Why: For those of you that don’t already know, one of our (Evan’s) favorite stories from childhood was Sideway Stories from Wayside School.  Fast forward a couple decades, give or take one or two, and we find out that the genius behind literature’s most infamous 30 story school building wrote several other popular YA novels.  Who knew?  Well, not us.  It goes without saying that we could hardly contain our excitement (actually, Evan didn’t contain his excitement, which resulted in a rather unpleasant experience at the library).

After a series of unfortunate events, Stanley Yelnats IV is shipped off to a boy’s correctional facility, called Camp Green Lake.  To help build moral fiber, each camper is required to dig daily holes in one of the hottest and driest regions in all of west Texas.  Exhausted and lonely, it isn’t until Stanley befriends a peculiar boy who never speaks, that his fortunes begin to change.   Slowly, the two campers unravel a sinister plot headed by the camp’s Warden.  Hanging in the balance is not only Stanley’s life, but also a breakthrough technology in the fight against foot odor.... 

What a great young adult novel!  There was action, adventure, friendship and a fair number of scorpions.  We loved how the plot wove separate tales involving Stanley’s family history and connected them seamlessly to add depth to the resolution.  We loved the various personalities at Camp Green Lake despite our distaste for some of the campers and counselors.  We loved the villainous Warden and Stanley’s eccentric father.  Okay, we’ll be done with the love-fest.  Holes represents YA literature at its finest and after you read the novel check out Shia LaBeouf in the not too terrible movie adaptation.          

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top 10 Settings from Literature

Question: Top 10 Settings from Literature

Answer: We've been looking forward to this week’s question for quite some time, although, to force us to stick with only 10 seems almost cruel. Nonetheless, below are our most desirable settings from literature.

1. Shire and Rivendell (The Hobbit) – There are several places in Middle Earth that we’d sign up to explore but these 2 stand at the top of our list.

2. Willy Wonka’s Factory (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) – Further commentary defending this choice seems entirely unnecessary.

3. Hogwarts (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) – It would be a dream to wander around the grounds and explore every nook and cranny of the castle. If only we could get our hands on a Kwikspell correspondence course to help unlock some of the secret passages...

4. Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice) – We’re suckers for the English countryside... Sadly, we’re unable to speak from firsthand experience. Hanging out at the Darcy family estate would be an ideal place to cut our teeth.

5. Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia) – No specific place, just all of Narnia. We wouldn’t need a guide or anything like that, just about a month or two. And ideally we’d get there through the wardrobe.

6. Terabithia (The Bridge to Terabithia) – We’d love to explore the woods that Jesse and Leslie claimed as their secret kingdom.

7. Cemetery of Unforgotten Books (The Shadow of the Wind) – This is kind of a no brainer – and of course we’d want to select a book. Actually, all of Barcelona is described with such beauty that we’d love to hang out in the city for a few days.

8. Cliffs of Insanity (The Princess Bride) – How neat would it be to set out a picnic blanket 2 – 3 feet from the edge and just gaze out over the cove and Florin countryside.

9. The Secret Garden (The Secret Garden) – What a treat it would be to wander around these grounds after Mary, Dickon, and Collin made their improvements.

10. Kingsbridge Cathedral (The Pillars of the Earth) – Minus all the drama, this cathedral would have been a sight to see. Between Tom and Jack, these two characters really knew what they were doing and Ken Follett really knew how to describe their work...

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Monday, June 6, 2011

100th Book Review Celebration!!!

For many of our faithful readers this should come as no surprise, but yesterday’s review of Mort marked our 100th book review!!!!!! Originally we had planned an epic celebration of sorts, but at the very last minute there was a scheduling conflict with the juggling monkeys. And to be completely honest, the funfetti cake was doomed from the start...

Despite this recent setback we are still quite excited to have achieved this milestone (we hope the abundance of exclamation marks will help set the tone)!!! Our 8 months of committed book blogging have been a blast and we look forward to many, many more reviews. Thank you to everyone who has actually read (and commented) on our posts!

Join us all day long as we visit our Recommended Reading page and reflect on our many highlights and lowlights. Next time we promise to hire a qualified party planner for any kind of arbitrary milestone achievement...

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Mort (Discworld, #4)Mort – Terry Pratchett
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Mild Language, Violence, Death, Walking through Walls)

“Although the scythe isn't pre-eminent among the weapons of war, anyone who has been on the wrong end of, say, a peasants' revolt will know that in skilled hands it is fearsome.”

Why: Let the rejoicing begin – the Discworld is officially OFF double secret probation.  For those following along at home, you’ll remember back in March we expressed measured disappointment in our review of The Color of Magic.  Ever since we’ve longed to buy into the hype and now – we’re back on the Discworld bandwagon, baby!

Unfit to handle the demands of the family business, Mort’s future prospects look ever so dim.  Even a local job fair brings utter disappointment.  However, by a stroke of luck, Mort is visited by Death who just so happens to be in need of an apprentice.  Following his father’s approval, Mort accepts a career in the steady field of ushering souls into the next world.  It doesn’t take long before his increasing responsibilities become too unmanageable and cause an event that alters the fate of the Discworld forever.  Unless....

Okay, so the introductory paragraph might have been a bit dramatic.  Mort didn’t change our lives or anything like that, but it was a very good read.  And quite funny.  The character of Mort was well thought out and surprisingly complex in his naivety.  The character of Death was a hoot and almost unrecognizable from his other notable appearance in The Book Thief (what range!).  Even the plot was engaging and dare we say, suspenseful.  Mort was so much more than just the next set up for a series of comical events.  We found ourselves immersed in the story and eager to turn the page. 

In our opinion, the Discworld series has redeemed itself, which is a good thing because there’s 12 more novels on the BBC Big Read list (we will complete this list).  Next up, Guards! Guards!, and we plan to retrieve our library copy with a little more spring in our step.  We may even skip....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Content, Language, Violence, Wit, Prophetic Tattoos, Thistle Down Hair)

Beware Stephen!  There will probably be a magical combat of some sort.  I daresay I shall have to take on different forms – cockatrice, raw head and bloody bones, rains of fire, etc., etc.  You may wish to stand back a little!  

Why: The most intelligent book about magic we’ve ever read.  In fact, we almost refused to provide a review because anything we hope to compose will hardly do Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell justice.  Seriously, this novel touches so many genres, includes so many themes, and pulls inspiration from so many classics it’s hard to know where to begin.  While Susanna Clarke spent 10 years writing her novel, this post turned out to be 10 minutes in the making, so at least we’ve got that going for us...

The novel opens with a skills test, as Mr. Norrell proves himself as the last practicing magician of the age (which happens to be early 19th century England).  He quickly becomes the lone authority on magic, and lends his talents to several causes, including the failing war against Napoleon.  Amidst Norrell’s growing popularity, a sinister force with thistle down hair is release into the world.  At the same, a second magician is thrust to the forefront and together Strange and Norrell become a magic dynamic duo on par with Dumbledore and Grindelwald.  Alas, the partnership is not meant to be, which only adds intrigue to the eventual no holds bar magical showdown against the previously mentioned sinister force with thistle down hair.    

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a treasure-trove of complexity and background information.  While this adds infinite richness and depth, the narrative also had a tendency to get bogged down at times.  It also took a while for us to really get into the story.  That being said, we loved how the magical lore was woven seamlessly through England’s history and the Napoleonic Wars.  The writing was superb, the style flawless, and the whit had us laughing throughout.  The novel also contained one of the most ingenious book selling techniques of all time – a book of magic that disappears after purchase, forcing the reader to buy a second copy.    

The cast of characters was also very strong.  Besides the two main characters, perhaps our favorite was a discredited street magician named Vinculus (we hear the coming sequel will propel Vinculus into the limelight).  The novel also includes the personalities of several well known historical figures which added credibility and then there’s the gentleman with the thistle down hair...
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is more about the journey and less about the destination.  Hang on at the beginning and your bookish desires will be rewarded.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Books to Movies Challenge - June Check-In

READY... SET... wait for it........ GO!!!!

Each month we’ll set up a new Linky to make sure we don’t miss any of the wildly thought provoking commentary. The link to each monthly check-in will be conveniently located on the left side (assuming you’re facing your monitor) of our blog. For those ambitious participants, the June Check-in is below...

Oh, and it's never too late to join in the fun.  Click here to sign up!
Special thanks to everyone who has joined the challenge!!!