Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
2005, 334 pages

So according to the stats 20 people “view” my blog. So maybe you just click on it and then click right out. But at least a quarter of you, ie, 5 people, mentioned something about my not enjoying Neverwhere. On the upside, this one way way better.

Anansi Boys tells the story of Fat Charlie Nancy (not actually fat, and I can’t help but think that Nancy and Anansi sound similar) and his brother Spider. In the beginning of the book, Fat Charlie’s dad dies, but Charlie didn’t know that his dad was Anansi, the spider god. So he finds some stuff out and learns that if he talks to a spider he can contact his brother. So he does. And he finds that his brother, while he has some godlike qualities, is a giant pain in the ass. Charlie is not happy.

He talks to some people with magical ritual powers that he knows (perhaps voodoo?) to help him get rid of his brother and then realizes that he has to fix it. So, mystery, gods, old folk tales and some murder are the things that are happening here. And I love it.

I like all of the Anansi stories, because folklore is one of those things that I just love. And there are lots of little stories throughout the book, which was lovely. For example, there is this in the beginning of the book:

“Olden days, all the animals wanted to have stories named after them, back in the days when the songs that sung the world were still being sung, back when they were still singing the sky and the rainbow and the ocean. It was in those days when animals were people as well as animals that Anansi the spider tricked all of them, especially Tiger, because he wanted all the stories named after him.

Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another each to each.”

Secondly, there’s a character, Charlie’s boss, who talks almost exclusively in cliches. A conversation had between Charlie and his boss goes like this:
“‘Fair words and fine promises. Rome was not built in a day…’
‘Right,’ said Fat Charlie. ‘So, um. No rest for the wicked.’
‘Another day, another dollar,’ said Grahame Coats, with a wag of his finger.
‘Nose to the grindstone?’ suggested Fat Charlie.
‘Shoulder to the wheel,’ said Grahame Coats.”

I think that exchange was when I first decided that I loved the book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles

On a separate note, Neverwhere is now a radio series on the BBC. Neverwhere. On the upside, James McAvoy is in it, and his voice is just so lovely. So automatic bedazzles for that. And the super creepy dudes have super creepy voices too. So that’s an ew….but whatevs.


Quick Pick #3

Summerset Abbey: A Bloom in Winter by T.J. Brown
2013, 304 pages

So, this is the second one in the Summerset Abbey series. Here is that review. If you remember, I got all excited because finally something was like Downton Abbey but not nearly as depressing. Good things happened!

Well, not for long. Essentially this one begins right after the previous book finished, and everyone is dealing with their choices and the fact that no one seems completely happy with what’s happening personally. It wasn’t awful, but naturally no one was living happily ever after (I suppose that’s required for there to be a book 3?).

I have come to the conclusion that one of two things is happening here. Either no one between the years of 1910 and 1920 or so was EVER happy, or authors just think that it is a better story if things keep happening that are not awesome. Either way, not great.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

The Very Picture of You

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff
2011, 310 pages

The first book that Wolff wrote I really enjoyed. It was called A Vintage Affair and was about a British woman who owns a vintage dress shop. So, an alternate life for me 🙂 The woman wanted to know the stories behind all of the clothes that she collected, and there was a mystery surrounding a particular child’s coat. It’s a good story, you should probably read it.

This story, on the other hand, is about a painter in London. She paints portraits of many different people, some of them famous. There are about a thousand plot points in this book, and I cannot decide whether or not I’m okay with it. They all seem to tie in to the portraits that Ella is painting. There’s one woman who wants to leave her husband, one woman who tells a mystery about a painting that she has in her apartment that both she and Ella love. Ella is painting her sister’s fiance, and is falling in love with him. AND then there is the fact that her father left when she was four and she doesn’t understand why and her mother doesn’t seem to be giving her a straight answer…

So there are all these things happening and they have to get resolved somehow! And they do. It was a pretty good story. For all the different things, it worked out just fine. It’s cute, and worth a read if you like British chick lit. Which, naturally, I do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles (But definitely read A Vintage Affair, because I liked it more.)


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
2001, 370 pages

This book is creepy, just creepy. And kind of icky too. So there’s that.

Apparently there exists London Above and London Below. London Above is where we all live, and London Below is where the people “who fall in the cracks” live, sort of like many homeless people. You cannot live in both. Richard is just going along, doing his life thing in London Above, when Door, an injured girl from London Below, appears in front of him. Richard decides to help her, and this automatically makes him a part of London Below.

Interestingly, when you belong in London Below, no one from London Above can see you. So Richard decides to go off and find Door and try to figure out a way to get back to his life in London Above.

All of the creepy belongs to London Below. Apparently there are pockets of old time in London Below, which is cool. For example, Richard ends up having to walk through a yellow fog from like the 1850s. The main plot is that Door’s family has been killed and she wants to know why. Her family has a special skill set, they can open any doors, even doors that are not there. Richard wants to get to London Above. They go on a sort of quest, and have to deal with super creepy assassins.

The assassins are funny and creepy all at the same time. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup. Apparently the internet thinks that they look like this:

Mr. Vandemar eats bugs, and bites the heads of mice and just eww. I don’t like it.

The majority of the book takes place in London Below and is interesting. But the creepiness made it not so much my thing.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
2012, 288 pages

Oh my love for this book! How can I possibly convey the awesomeness that this is? Although, some of it may be directly tied to the fact that a. I work in a bookstore and b. I love books as much as the characters do. This particular quote, I believe, should convince you that the book is written for only those awesome people who love books. “Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.” Yep, I have had that dream. And I have discussed that dream in the past few days with a friend.

But the book is also funny, with many lines that make me smile, and occasionally laugh. Here is one that I feel sums up my life. “Kat invites me to a house party. Unfortunately, I can’t go. I can never go to any parties, because my shift at the store starts at precisely party o’clock.” I really like the idea of party o’clock, and hope to turn that into an actual hour now.

Here’s the plot. Clay worked as a web designer for a bagel shop. The recession hit and he lost that job. He decides he needs anything, and so decides to work for the bookstore. He has the graveyard shift, from 10 at night to 6 in the morning. The front of the bookstore has used books, and not many customers, but the back is full of very tall shelves with books that are written in a code that he cannot crack. Clay decides to try to make sense of this mystery, and so enlists the help of his friend Kat who works at Google. Apparently there is a secret club, the Unbroken Spine, who read all these coded books to try and find answers to the mysteries of life. While trying to discover it, he gets his little posse together to go on a quest, much like people do in those computer games, with the trifecta of rogue, wizard and warrior.

What I find interesting about this book is how it goes back and forth between the computer age and the book age. Who’s winning? Is technology better than books? Will it eventually get rid of books? And then there is the comment made about trying to decode the mystery books using Google people and resources. “Books: boring. Codes: awesome. These are the people who are running the internet.”

So, all of that means that this is a book for bookworms, and people who like technology stuff, and people who think that secret passages behind bookcases are the greatest idea ever. And then there is the last sentence: “A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

I almost want to start reading it again right now because it’s so lovely! But I will wait for a little while.

Rating: 5 out of 5 bedazzles

Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
2012, 335 pages

Jane and Vincent have gotten married, and now work together creating glamurals. Their first commission is for the Prince Regent. They then decide to go on a “honeymoon” to visit one of Vincent’s friends in Belgium. While there they try to figure out how to work glamour while moving, because this is something that cannot be done. While they are trying to do this, they learn that Napoleon has escaped from Elba and will be marching through soon. They are British, so there are many people against them. They are surrounded by spies, and is Vincent one? How will they escape?

This is much different from the first book, Shades of Milk and Honey. There is significantly less Austen references, which was one of the reasons that I so enjoyed the first one. On the other hand, this one focuses more on the glamour aspect, which I find interesting. The idea of using these illusions to make the world prettier is pretty cool. It later comes out that certain people are thinking of using it for military purposes as well. That is pretty interesting.

I learned a new word through reading this book too. That word is “widdershins.” It means counterclockwise. Why it is a word, I do not know. But I double checked, and it is, indeed, a real word. So get ready people, I will no longer be saying counterclockwise!

So while not quite as enjoyable as the first one, it is still worth a read. There’s another one coming out this year and I will probably read that too.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
2010, 305 pages

So this book says that it is a mixture of Jane Austen and science fiction. Sort of. It has elements of the majority of Austen’s books, which I like, but a little easy on the science fiction.

Essentially the plot is that Jane (similar to Anne Elliot of Persuasion) is plain and sensible so no one sees her. However, she is a very well trained glamourist, the type of magic in the book is called glamour and allows the glamourist to create illusions using folds of the ether around them. She observes the world around her and looks for a man to love her for herself, even without being good looking.

The characters follow many of Austen’s, as there is the mother overtaken by nerves, the proud and mysterious stranger who Jane naturally ends up with, a greedy man who entangles himself with many young girls in order to get more money, and a flighty sister who rarely thinks of the consequences. Sound familiar?

I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t too heavy on the magic, but it was useful in some plot points. There is a sequel, and it is currently sitting on a shelf at the bookstore, so we all know where my next shift is headed….

Also, there’s a book trailer. And that’s weird.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles (I really like all the winks to Austen)

Reviews: Speed Round

I have been struggling through many books recently. Some have just not been working and I throw them away in disgust. Clearly I haven’t been posting about these. I figured that I might as well put the titles up. Maybe someone else will want to read them…or at least want to avoid them. With that in mind, here we go.

On a side note, I think that if I suffer an untimely demise it will be because the books on my shelves has squished me due to their anger that I have not read them.

Falling for You by Julie Ortolon
2002, 336 pages

Quick, trashy read. Rich society guy falls for poor, feisty chick. Not badly written for a romance.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
2005, 352 pages

Stephanie Plum’s adventures continue. Best part: a cross dresser who drives a bus and carries an AK 47 to protect the “little dudes.” I will continue to read the series.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
1992, 896 pages

Sequel to Gone with the Wind, the only book that I have actually thrown across the room because the ending annoyed me so much. Not badly written, but I skimmed the second half. I just wanted Scarlett and Rhett to get together! Preferable to Gone with the Wind though.

Rating: 2 out of 5 bedazzles

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
2004, 321 pages

Moore is very much a hit-or-miss author with me. I love Lamb, the story of Jesus written by Jesus’ best friend, and The Stupidest Angel. This one is a miss though. Started out okay, about whale researchers, but when things get weird I was ready to peace out.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles (1 means I quit reading. Get ready for more of these.)

Paris to Die For by Maxine Kenneth
2011, 368 pages

This book promised a lot, ie, Audrey Hepburn fighting crime and solving mysteries in Paris. Sounds like some of my favorite things. The plot is essentially that, before marrying JFK, Jackie Kennedy worked for the CIA. In the first chapter Jackie decides she doesn’t want to live the life of a debutante trophy wife and agrees to go work for a family friend in the CIA. She uses her feminine wiles on a Russian in Paris and then…I stopped reading.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato
2011, 416 pages

Siena, in Italy, is under the governance of a Medici lady. There is a plot for the oldest, richest families to take back control of the city. There’s a girl (the Daughter of the title) married to an abuser and she falls for a commoner horseman.

I liked the author’s other books, one set in Murano and one set in Florence, but this one was just slow. I stopped about halfway through because all of the nefarious plotting wasn’t going anywhere, and isn’t that supposed to be the point of nefarious plotting? Just ask Gru in Despicable Me. He’ll tell you.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

2008, 292 pages

I actually had to look up the plot to remember what on earth this was about. An NFL player fell in love with a dream girl when he came home from college one summer and never saw her again. 14 years later, he’s an NFL player and his dream girl ends up being assigned as his nutritionist. But she has a secret…..

Clearly forgettable, but not a bad read for a trashy romance.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bedazzles (since I forgot what it was about)

Thus concludes this speed round. 🙂

Beautiful Creatures: Book and Movie

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
2012, 577 pages

Beautiful Creatures movie
2013, 2 hours and 7 minutes

I am not big on young adult novels. I don’t know why, but some of them I just can’t handle. Beautiful Creatures was recommended by both a tutoring student, we had spent the hour talking about books and movies, and my friend Alyisha, who I trust with the young adult novels and it’s kind of her thing. That, added to the fact that Amazon was running a deal where the books in the series (there are four of them) were $3 each, and my decision was clearly made for me.

The book is told from the perspective of Ethan, a 16 year old living in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, the “War of Northern Aggression” is still such a big deal that the history class puts on a reenactment every year on the anniversary of a local battle, and strangers are not to be trusted.

Ethan just wants to get out of Gatlin, until the strange Lena Duchannes appears. She is the niece of the town’s shut in, and Ethan instantly falls in love. But Lena’s different. She is a Caster, i.e. witch, and she is cursed. On her sixteenth birthday, she will be claimed for either Dark or Light, good or evil. A little too much of the book is spent wondering “will she, won’t she” but it’s not a bad read. There is, naturally, the sidekick to provide comic relief and the characters are all interesting.

I enjoyed most the parts that focused on the small town. They don’t like strangers, and there is a campaign set against Lena to try and get her run out of the local high school, led by Ethan’s best friend’s mother. There is also voodoo as well, Ethan’s housekeeper, Amma, is a Seer, and asks her ancestors to help her protect Ethan. Naturally there is the Southern Belle contingent, who act all nice but are really vicious. Note to self: don’t cross any of them!

So while the book was a pleasant surprise to my low expectations, the movie was an entirely different story. Shout out and apologies to Rachel, who I dragged to the movie with me and probably annoyed by leaning over every few minutes to say, that’s not what happened in the book. 🙂

Here’s the biggest problem: the movie really only uses the book for the character names and a teeny bit for the plot. However, if you haven’t read the book, the movie seems to be really confusing! Characters are combined, the housekeeper and the librarian (who is also the librarian of the Caster library in the book) are combined into one. In the book Ethan’s father is around, in the movie Ethan shouts at him a few times, but you know that he’s clearly imaginary. And this is the face for all of these problems:

Similarly, Lena has all these powers in the book but you don’t really know about them in the movie. Like, it rains on them all the time. Rachel leaned over and asked if she controlled the weather because they never say anything about it. So yes, the plot doesn’t follow the book at all, which makes it bad. The ending is possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. It also differs significantly from the book, so that’s lame. And Ethan’s a big dweeb in the movie. In the book he’s a basketball player, so there’s a general level of cool about him. Not in the movie! Whoa. I think he actually snorts as he laughs at one point. Super dweeb. Unless you can see this for free, back away!

Book rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles (not super my scene, but it is an enjoyable quick read if you don’t think too much)
Movie rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

Against My Better Judgment….

When Parents Text

Normally I hate books that originated as blogs. They generally should not be books. That is why they are blogs. And I probably wouldn’t shell out money for this one. But as something to read at work last night, it was pretty amusing. I actually started laughing out loud when I read some of the texts. Good thing there weren’t very many customers, or they would wonder what I was doing!

So….don’t read the book, but go to the website. Some of them are real gems. Especially if you need a time waster or a reason to not do your homework (this guy!).