The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
I’m a member of two book clubs, and my library’s “Gen Lit” group has selected The Eyre Affair for its February pick. Having heard of it but never picked it up, I was eager to give it a try. I didn’t know too much about the story, but I do tend to like literary adaptations. As it is, I’m still struggling to formulate thoughts on The Eyre Affair, but I just finished today and it’s still fresh in my mind (did you notice how far I fell behind already? Reading tons of news on networks and social media has absolutely drained my reading and reviewing mojo. I so wish we can get back to the day where I can read a book and NOT worry about which executive order is going to get vulnerable people killed).
Thursday Next is a LiteraTec investigator who has a history of combat and disgrace in the Crimea War. She is assigned to track the third-most evil villain in England, Acheron Hades, her former professor who almost seduced her. Thursday discovers a much more sinister plot in play when her aunt and uncle (who is an inventor of time-traveling literary devices) are kidnapped. Charles Dickens’ novel Martin Chuzzlewit becomes Hades’ first victim, and then Jane Eyre is in danger. Mind you, the ending is not what we are familiar with: Jane goes to India with St. John Rivers (what? That would be *such* a bummer).
For a long time, I did not like this book. I thought the plot was too random and strange the characters just a little too quirky, and the wit a bit too quippy. It reminded me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is not a favorite with me (don’t hate me! I know it’s popular!). But the second half of the book picks up, especially when Jane Eyre gets involved. I recommend giving it a shot but being patient with it. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series, but I’m glad I ended up liking it more. 3.5 stars.
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
I’ve heard of Lucy Knisley before on CBR and Goodreads. I greatly enjoyed Relish, even if the graphic novel layout didn’t always meet my expectations. And then I read Something New and immersed myself in the incredible storytelling and art. It’s a delightful and insightful memoir that merges art and philosophy proficiently.
Knisley talks about the journey of her wedding, from her relationship to her husband and the winding path of love, to her engagement and subsequent struggle to identify as a “bride.” She unpacks the idea of wedding and why she even had one, how she found herself shifting identity as a longterm partner to a man and the way heteronormative narratives can narrow our identities, and why her love for her husband prevailed over the other more annoying aspects of wedding culture. Interspersed with these thoughts are little ideas or designs to make a wedding homey, original, and personal. Overall, the memoir is a timeline with plentiful sidebars that reflect on why we marry and how we choose to do so.
I really wish this book had come into existence when I was getting married, because I would have found this to be a panacea to my wedding anxiety. I was finishing my Master’s degree and planning to move to our current location when I was planning my wedding. The Chancellor was a first-year teacher and new to an area, and he was stressed out. I got into so many fights with my mom, because I did NOT want my wedding to be a huge fussy affair, and I suspect she had other ideas. At the end, though, we all had a blast, and I love my husband more than I did the day we married. If you’re unconventional or offbeat, I highly recommend Something New to you. I look forward to see what Knisley analyzes in her next book.
Selection Day by Aravind Adiga
I was a huge fan of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, so I was intrigued to hear that he’d released a new novel—and focused on cricket. I’ll confess that I know very little about cricket, and what little I do know is based on Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. That said, you don’t really need to know a whole lot to get invested in the story. It’s an interesting contemporary tale, even if it doesn’t have quite the same original spark that fueled The White Tiger.
Selection Day focuses on a moment in time—Selection Day for the national cricket team. Radha and Manju are brothers whose father is absolutely convinced that Radha’s fate is to become a cricket star, with Manju’s talent an added bonus. He parlays his way into a contract for the boys’ training and gets them moved into a new house, in exchange for training with a renowned coach for a shot at professional cricket. Yet an unanticipated threat finds its way into their world: Javad Ansari, a Muslim Indian who can threaten their success at cricket. J.A.’s wealth and interest in Manju disrupts the equilibrium of the boys’ focus, and it changes the dynamic of the story. The boys’ relationship to
This story is interesting, but uneven in pace. There are many spots where you just don’t see much movement in plot, character, or introspection at all. There are interesting discussions of young male sexuality that I wish would have been explored much further and sooner in the novel. I think that Adiga is a talented writer, but you just don’t see the same kind of originality that you do in his earliest work. I hope he regains the spark that brought him to my attention.
Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal
After reading Forest of Memory, I decided that I needed even more Mary Robinette Kowal. So when I heard about a few of her short stories, I decided I needed to track them down. I discovered Word Puppets, an anthology with an introduction by Patrick Rothfuss. I was sold. Read the introduction first because it is hilarious. And even with his intro to Kowal, Rothfuss manages to cement the collection with major themes and ideas from Kowal’s work. It’s a great way to think about her writing, because she dabbles in a lot of genres and ideas.
There’s “Rampion,” a short story that expands on Rapunzel’s background, “The Bound Man,” in which a woman is called back in time to fight another man’s wars, but at the cost of living with her own children six thousand years earlier, and “Clockwork Chickadee,” a tale about mechanical birds that live in a cuckoo clock. My two personal favorites are “The Shocking Affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland” and “the Lady Astronaut of Mars.” The former is a Sherlock Holmes adventure as told by the perspective of a young woman about to be married in South Africa. It’s highly engaging and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (cough cough, Anthony Horowitz). Mary, you might consider writing some more of those, I’m just saying. The latter is a Hugo-award-winning tale of a retired astronaut who must decide if she goes on one last adventure or spends her time with her dying husband. It’s touching and emotional at the same time.
If you’re a lover of eclectic short stories, then definitely check this volume out. It’s a lot of fun and a quick read.
Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, and Nico Leon
I think I might have been missing something. Last Days ended on a serious cliffhanger, and somewhere before Super Famous, there must have been a Marvel cross-over somewhere. I was pretty confused about the sudden shift in tone and plot, and I think I spent most of the volume being pretty disoriented. I don’t know if I’ll continue reading the series, if it’s heading in this direction, instead of living within its own universe.
Super Famous takes place several months after the events of Last Days. By now, Kamala is an Avenger, and Bruno’s puppy love for Kamala has been shifted into a new direction: his girlfriend, Michaela Miller, or Mike (truly the best new character addition). Aamir is interested in a young woman, and he wants Kamala to be his chaperone. Kamala is struggling to balance school and Avengers stuff, as well as her family obligations. She and Bruno decide to clone her a few times, because what could go wrong with that? (Obviously, everything).
The story itself, especially if it had occurred earlier in the series, is fine and has most of the elements that make Ms. Marvel such a joy to read. However, I found the tonal shift to be strange from the somberness of the Last Days episode to the cheeriness of Super Famous. I also didn’t care for the Avengers crossover, which is more personal taste, I suspect. And another complaint has to do with the way Nakia has been poorly served throughout the series—it comes to a head here and absolutely must be addressed at some point. I don’t know if I’ll continue reading the series. I’ll see if Volume 6 is too Avenger-y before I decide.
Ms. Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
There are sometimes shifts in a story’s sequence that change the universe of the story forever. G. Willow Wilson introduces such a schism in Last Days, the fourth volume of Ms. Marvel, and it resets the universe in a way that I’m not sure of yet. The story is dramatic, and it ends on an unsettled note, which makes me wonder where the direction of the series will go next.
Kamala and her loved ones are all threatened by a cataclysmic event that will end the world as they know it. In there, Kamala’s brother Aamir goes missing. In her quest to find him, Kamala wants to ensure her family’s safety, while trying to dodge her best friend Nakia’s questions and suspicion. It’s not easy being a superhero, so thankfully, Kamala gets a little help from her personal hero, Captain Marvel (aka, Carol Danvers). In there is a commentary on life and how we face our ends.
I’m not a huge fan of the “end of days” conceit, I admit. This volume therefore got a four star rating from me, because that’s just how my personal taste works. That said, the way Kamala’s family examines their relationship is truly tender in this volume. While Kamala expresses typical teenaged frustration at her parents, her love and care for them—as well as theirs for her—emerges best in this volume. Her conversation with her mother choked me right up, in fact, and showed a richness to the relationship I had not been expecting.
Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, Takashi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc
After galloping through the first two volumes of Ms. Marvel, I was eager to dive into the third. Oh, man, Crushed is so good. It’s easily my second-favorite series after Saga (because nothing is going to top Saga anytime soon, let’s be honest). I’ve been really excited by the way G. Willow Wilson unpacks Kamala Khan as both teenaged girl and superhero, and this volume strikes that balance especially well in Volume 3.
Kamala is paid a visit by Loki, who wants to know a secret and spikes the high school punch with a truth potion in an attempt to get it—at the Valentine’s Day dance. So much drama ensues. To add to it, Bruno wants to ask Kamala out, but she’s being dense and not giving him an opportunity to share his feelings. And then, Kamran, a family friend’s son, rolls into town. Kamala, having thought she would hate a friend her parents approve of, suddenly finds herself head over heels. And love can be the most dangerous feeling of all.
This entry in the Ms. Marvel series is fantastic, because it proficiently balances fun, family, and responsibility. Kamala is, as always, torn between her home life, school life, and superhero life, and the art brings her many emotions to life. We see Kamala starting to mature while still remaining a teenager in high school. I think it’s this unique voice that makes her more than just “another” superhero for me. You’ll want to read the first two volumes first, because this entry builds on established storylines and relationships. But trust me, you won’t regret it!