Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Jasper Fforde”

Reader Round Up: January


January ranks 12th out of the 12 calendar months in my personal poll. Snow has turned grey and crunchy. The sky is unfriendly and uncompromising. Walking is tricky without snowshoes or cleats. And June seems so far away. Moping and complaining is an option worth pursuing, yet it is annoying to others. I turn to books as my medicinal reprieve. By the end of January the Good Read gnomes noted I was four books ahead of schedule, meaning I read around 12 novels during that bleak month when my usual goal is about 8. Books are my happy light in winter. Here are the top picks:

all images from Good Reads

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Fresh and original come to mind, even though they are trite descriptors for this mesmerizing story of Rachel, who tries to find her identity in world that wants her to choose between being black or being white. She just wants to be herself.

Durrow writes from her own biracial personal experience, which is why Rachel’s voice has so much authenticity. The interweaving of the other characters to fill out Rachel’s story, of how she alone survives a family tragedy, provides greater depth and understanding of who Rachel was and is trying to become.

The story ends somewhat unfinished; there is a lack of resolve of whether Rachel stays or runs. And yet, there are no guarantees of true happy endings in life, as Rachel discovers.

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman

A genuine surprise. A story within a story that interweaves upon itself, building momentum until it intersects with a delicious denouement.

Two sisters, one artist, at least three mysteries to solve—missing persons, missing paintings, and relationship conundrums create a book that grabs ahold of the reader. It’s array of flawed, yet compelling characters is sometimes confusing, yet overall the plot is so intriguing it is difficult to resist. I delayed my travel departure in order to finish the book. Yes, it’s that amazing.

This would have been a definite five except for a couple of niggling little plot points that I needed tying up that didn’t happen. I give it a sound 4.5.

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings

Amazingly I found this book right when I needed to do research about what is was like to go blind, especially as a teenager.

An engaging story of a girl who has slowly been going blind and how she learns to cope with her eventual blindness. Natalie resents having to prepare for her eventual blindness by going to a special school. It’s there that she learns a few tough lessons about how other teens cope with their abilities and disabilities. The story is a page-turner and only slightly pep-talky about handling expected and even unexpected situations in life.

As with the other Cummings books I’ve read, this one has realistic dialogue, believable characters, and amazing researched details.

I purchased this title for myself, yet decided it would be appreciated by my students for SSR. One student, usually shy, and not too positive about school, grabbed the book after my suggested picks talk and at the beginning of every class she wants to talk about it. She told me the other day she is reading it so much that her parents told her to put it down and do something else. Oh how my librarian’s heart went pitty-pat upon hearing that wonderful unexpectedness. How often does a kid get in trouble for reading a well-written, engaging book in these thumbswipe days?

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Like a bowl of Mycroft’s bookworms feasting on a thesaurus, I find myself exhaling superlatives: “genius,” “delightful,” “clever,” “witty.”

It’s stupendously incredible that 76 publishers turned down the opportunity to publish this wonderful homage to literature and the literary world.

Combine the whirlwind zany adventures of Dr Who and the secret agent literary skills of The Librarian, and Thursday Next comes into being.

The first of several books involving the intrepid literature agent, I consider it the best of the lot for the main reason it features Rochester of Jane Eyre fame.

Found this copy at the local Goodwill and had to add it to my SSR bookshelf, mainly for my AP Lit students. Years ago I was introduced to Fforde and when I came across this title I knew I had to take it home, to rescue from its bland bookshelf neighbors.

With January past I am looking forward to February, of hearts, Presidents, a long weekend, a short month, and a batch of hold books to arrive at the local library.

How are you holding up in this month between winter and spring?

Author Snapshot Update: Jasper Fforde


I’m pretty sure I’ve expressed my appreciation for Jasper Fforde from time to time. He’s right up there with Douglas Adams in literary wit and as for style? I’m not sure who comes close to his genre-tweaking way of getting his point across. Playful, knowledgeable, and quite entertaining.

I was introduced to Jasper Fforde by a librarian who knew I taught Brit Lit. “You will definitely enjoy him.” Of course, with those words I felt a)obligated to try him out b)a bit hesitant–whenever someone tells me I will like something I inevitably don’t. Happens to you as well? Must be that human nature thing.

The first in the series. I do adore Jane Eyre. I’m drawn to capable women protagonists. I relish clever wordplay. And I’m hoping Thursday Next will become a series.

I didn’t care as much for the Nursery Grimes series. I also felt Mother Goose a bit grisly for my tastes, same for Grimm fairy tales. I waited for another Fforde to interest me.

Then I picked up his , which I started reading about the same as that other Grey novel came out. I shocked one of the progeny when he happened to see the title upon first glance. “Mother!”

After reassurances, accompanied by a quick summary, my son’s relief became evident when he learned the plot involved dystopian ideology based on quirkiness. He understood it to be my kind of book after all.

While fretfully awaiting the next in the series, Fforde pulls a fast one and comes out with another series The Last of the Dragonslayers. Although aimed at YA readers, I’m thinking it is really Thursday Next vacationing as a sixteen year old foundling who is coping with dysfunctional magicians.

First oneDragonslayer Book cover        Last Dragonslayer cover just read this one and now awaiting this one…

Eye of Zoltar coverIf you haven’t come across Jasper Fforde and you do appreciate a writer who wittily pokes fun at politics, literature, and popular culture, you might want to try one of his series.

Plus, it’s difficult to resist a writer who appreciates Volkswagen Beetles like I do. They are the car of choice. I came soooo close to spending my inheritance check on a bright red convertible Bug. Caving into family concerns who convinced me into buying something more sensible (I don’t regret my choice of buying a Honda Civic) I now live vicariously through heroines who drive VW Bugs as they dash about taxiing futzy magicians to and fro.

I’m still waiting for my next installment of Shades of Grey…ahem…

A Dollar for Your Thoughts…


Confession time.  *sotto whisper* I really like Dollar Stores.  There are different names for them, but they all amount to the same thing: cheap goods for cheap. I’m admitting my age, I know, when I say I grew up with a Woolworth store.  Oh my, how I reveled in the those aisles of little boxy displays of toys and delights.  It certainly was a sad, sad day when the Woolworth closed its doors.

However, my spirits lifted when  the dollar store concept arrived redressed and ready to go on the scene; my level of thrill skyrocketed due in part to nostalgia, but mostly due to my (Scottish roots?) of thrift.  Here are the top ten favorite buys at a dollar store:
1.  greeting cards–two for a dollar!
2.  toys–everything from magic tricks to fairy princess dress up essentials
3. gift bags–two for a dollar small to big bags just a buck
4. school supplies
5. decorating items–a bag of multi-colored glass marbles only 100 pennies (a yippee! find)
6. hair dibdabs–barrettes, bands, bobby pins
7. smell goods–candles, oils, incense
8. candy–oh don’t be a snob (just watch the expiration date)
9. kitchen gadgets
10.  serendipity finds-I bought a retro purple wool blazer among a shipment of very wrinkled clothing items [do I hear oohs and aahs in the background?]
And of course there is a book section.
 
However, I can’t help but feel only sadness, instead of glee, at finding great books at the embarrassing price of $1.00.  I would hate to be an author and find  [gasp] my book on the shelf.  I often check to see what titles are among the “finds.”  Some books I’ve never heard of, and some are not so unexpected (we all need an inexpensive version of Oliver Twist) But goodness gracious I didn’t expect to see a Thursday Next upon the shelf.  I consumed that series and have hungrily awaited the movie version to appear (hint hint).
Haven’t been to a dollar store lately?  Well, don’t miss out on these treasures:
Mousetraps at a dollar store

Mousetraps at a dollar store (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Typical Dollar Store, San Francisco

English: Typical Dollar Store, San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Serious Nonsense


Jasper Fforde is a seriously funny writer.  And while that statement constitutes a bit of oxymoronic thought, it is indeed true.  Fforde has basically resumed where Douglas Adams left off when it comes to creating parallel worlds that address some serious issues veiled in nonsensical prose.  Fforde and Adams are the grown-up literature of choice for those who appreciate Alice in Wonderland, yet want something not found shelved in the juvenile section of the library.

A librarian recommended Fforde to me last year knowing I was an English teacher and a voracious reader (i.e. Book Booster).  I began with The Eyre AffairHarboring a soft spot for capable, tenacious heroines, who nevertheless possess vulnerability, I consumed the entire series.  Moving on to the next Fforde offerings, I can’t say I embraced his Nursery Crime books; truthfully, I did not get beyond the first chapter.  When Shades of Grey (not that Shades of Grey) came out, I checked it out only to return it being far too busy with other projects and such to dedicate time to it.  Then came the warmth of late spring.  Aah–hammock weather.  I found time for Fforde.

I could spin out a satisfactory summary, yet why not let the invented wheel roll?  Here’s what GoodReads has to say: 

Shades of Grey 1: The Road to High Saffron

wikipedia.org

 

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

This is the first in the series and it ended with quite a cliffhanger.  Now that school is almost out and the drowsy days (and the cozy hammock) beckon me, I look forward to continuing my found Fforde series.  I do like a good series.

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Hammocking, the Backyard Sport of Choice


Image

Although the calendar says summer starts next month, I say 85 degrees is summer.  All year-long I  look forward to the time when I will spend my days shlumping around in my hammocks.  Yes, I have two.  One is a deluxe double-wide parked out edition which is housed in its own little gazebo. It’s designed  for those hot days when a breeze-in-the-shade reading session hits the spot.  The other is a K-Mart sale special stiff-canvas singler that is a roasting-is-the-mostest wonder.  I’ve already replaced the material on that one.

Summertime, hammocks, and books, with a side of lemonade in a frosted glass–who could want anything more?

What I was reading in the hammock over the weekend:

I become a Jasper Fforde fan after reading his Thursday Next series, and have started his new series.  I wonder if he is enjoying the notoriety if being the original Shades of Grey title on the market. More of a review later.

Blue Skies,

Cricket Muse

#7: Saw the Movie, and then I Read the Book (or intend to someday)


Though a professed Book Booster, I  freely admit I haven’t gotten around to reading all that I desire, or for that matter, should.  With time and interest constraints I tend to be selective in my reading, which can be received as either justification or a lame excuse.  I view my dosing of classics like one who would rather take a vitamin rather than endure the indignities of measured broccoli consumption.  Often I will watch a movie and decide, “Well now, I get the gist of the plot, let’s test drive the book.”  Or words to that effect.  Here are some movies which have prompted me to finally read the book:

1. Huckleberry Finn: As much as enjoy Mark Twain as a personality I’m not much for reading his books.  A  couple of summers ago I attended a week-long conference on Mark Twain, complete with experts and workshops, and still did not become a fan.  I will go on professing his genius and his contributions to literature, although I am a reluctant reader.  When I watched the movie I became drawn into the complexities of how a young man, namely Huckleberry, came to shed the baggage of his culture, slavery, being the biggest bag. Twain is an unmerited expert in taking on such a huge issue and presenting it so that it palatable.  Then again, Twain’s presentation creates a lump hard to swallow for many people, which is why Huckleberry Finn continues to be a challenged list somewhere at any given point.

Cover of "Les Miserables"

Cover of Les Miserables

2.  Les Miserables: Someone told me how they suffered the reading of this classic in their French class, and it made me leery.  He said it was not the  struggling through the actual reading of it–it was the sad, sad nature of the book.  I think absolutely depressing, was the term used.  Not exactly the best encourager to check it out for myself.  I watched the Liam Neeson version and went on emotional alert.  The acting, the story, the cinematography–all riveting. I wept, I commiserated, I rankled at the injustice, I shivered with anticipation, I was exhausted when the final credit rolled by. Shamefully,  I still haven’t read the book.  I am concerned I would compare it too much to the movie.  Yes, the movie was that amazing.

3. Little Dorrit, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Oliver–okay, okay, pretty much all of Dickens.  I’ve professed in a previous post my grievance of Dickens’ penchant for overwriting; nevertheless, it is no excuse for me not to read his books.  Again, I respect his tremendous literary influence, especially in terms of how his writings brought about social reform (child labor laws, especially). There is so much profundity in his writing I cannot properly chew and digest. Literary indigestion, I’m afraid.  Hence, I pop that cinematic vitamin pill and feel vindicated that at least I’m experiencing Dickens.  This is why I adore the British Broadcasting Company. All of the Dickens adaptations watched have been BBC productions viewed via the Masterpiece Theater on-line option.  My latest viewing involved the newest version of Great Expectations with Gillian Anderson as the imposing Miss Haversham.  Wow and my goodness, she was incredible.  Having invested heavily into the Thursday Next adventures by Jasper Fforde, I thought it essential to understand who and what Miss Haversham was all about.  Gillian Anderson provided the answers.

4. The African Queen: Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  How could I resist such a combination? After watching their captivating performance I sought out the book.  For once I will state  the movie proved better than the book.  Especially the ending.  No spoiler. Nuff said on this one.

Cover of "The African Queen (Commemorativ...

Cover via Amazon

5.  True Grit: My dad and I watched plenty of John Waynemovies together and I couldn’t believe someone would be bold enough to remake the one movie, his signature movie.  Staying true to the Duke I snubbed the Coen’s remake and simmered.  After hearing all the good reviews, and prompted by family members I relented finally and checked out the DVD.  This was no remake, but a recreation.  The Coen’s found an actress, Hailee Steinfield, who delivered a stunning performance.  She reminded me of Mary Badham’s performance in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I promptly checked Charlie Portis’s novel and found the Coen had paid fine tribute to a beautifully written story of forgiveness and redemption.  I plan on making this a required reading for my sophomores. Unfortunately, the publisher has no plans of reissuing it in a more affordable format as can be found for TKAM.  I plan on adding this movie and the book to my favorites list and will be revisiting them from time to time.

I might revisit my #7 at a later time.  Five seemed a good number for now.  Now, I pose a question for you:

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