Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

ffordeIn Shades of Grey, Fforde departs somewhat from his earlier novels. The number of literary references are significantly down (though not totally absent) and the plot is set firmly in the future. The setting is Britain, but not as we know it, I guess one would call it a post-apocalyptic fantasy. Swans have evolved into seriously dangerous animals, giraffes and other exotic animals roam the wilderness, but most importantly people have lost the ability to see the world in multicolour, and how much and which colours you can see determines absolutely your place in society, your career, your marriage prospects and even your life expectancy.

To say I enjoyed the book would be an understatement. There is something about the way Fforde’s brain works that is immensly appealing to me. Mostly it’s hard to put my finger on what exactly makes it so good, but to me this is the bees’ knees and the cat’s pyjamas. It’s interesting, actually, because I have been wondering whether the appeal of Fforde’s prose was mostly due to the literary geekyness, but this book proves otherwise (though I guess I’d have to admit to some pre-existing chromatic geekyness). Simple things like the naming (and the capitalization) of the «apocalypse» – it’s the Something that Happened – gives me the same sort of thrill I normally only get from Really Good Poetry.

In fact, the only downside I can see to Fforde as an author is that it takes way too long between each new book. But I guess you can’t really rush this calibre of quality.

April, May and much of June

I swear I meant to write proper posts on some of these. However:

Police at the Funeral – Margery Allingham
Showed up in my mailbox as a sort of birthday present – bookcrossing style. A quirky and charming read and definitely an author to look out for later. I still haven’t quite decided who next to «inflict» this on, I think it takes a certain kind of reader… Hm.

Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
A little dreary, but good in its way – I think its supposed to be a little dreary, to be honest. Recognisable and not so recognisable themes of guilt and shame, religion and upbringing.

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
A reread occasioned by finding the first three books in Norwegian second-hand by chance.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Also a bookcrossing copy, my suspicions that I’d like Murakami in novel-form was confirmed. A perfectly beautiful – though quite sinister – book, and very hard to put down once you’ve started.

Under the Duvet, Angels and The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes 
A three for one sale on Marian Keyes paperbacks, and these are the ones I came away with. Under the Duvet was entertaining, but possibly a little too light-hearted for my taste (even the pieces dealing with serious issues such as alchoholism somehow felt light-hearted, something Rachel’s Holiday – the novel dealing with the same issue – doesn’t). I realised, shortly after having started it, that I’ve read Angels before. Nevermind, I didn’t remember how it would all end and it was worth a reread (even if I still don’t really like the ending. Bah). The Other Side of the Story was, uhm, not quite up to Keys’ usual standard, I don’t think. I think partly it was the narrative form I didn’t like, it was slightly too disjointed to suit the overall style of the novel (or me, possibly).

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Received from Tonbel, who grabbed the chance to get rid of some books while I was there. Most of them ended up bookcrossed, but this one she suggested I read, and I’m glad she did. The main problem with this book was that it was at least 400 pages too short. I wanted to know more, much more, and it left me (internally, I was on the bus) shouting «But what happened next?» Not that the story is unfinished as such, just that the characters were compelling enough to make me want to read more. I think I will have to put the books O’Farrell mentions as helpful when researching on my tbr list.

I’ve probably forgotten something here, oh well.

November to January, so far

The Tea Rose – Jennifer Donnelly
The plot must consist of pretty much every cliché in the book except the classic evil twin. At the last two «twists in the tale» I actually laughed out loud – that’s how madly «buy one plot-device, get three free» infested it all was. However, despite this, Donnelly had me caught well and good and I had serious problems in putting the book away and not sneak a few pages in under the desk at work. Not a Nobel candidate, then, but very well worth reading.

Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage and Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb
Ok, so this deals partly with those lost months… I had to labour a bit through the first two volumes (I never thought I’d say this about a Robin Hobb book), and got completely stuck at the beginning of the third. I don’t know if I could put my finger on it, but this trilogy just didn’t do it for me. I kept reading because I was just interested enough to want to know what would happen in the end, but not interested enough to want to spend 2000-odd pages getting there. It doesn’t help, of course, that the volumes are really too big to read comfortably (I might need to consider weightlifting if I’m to keep reading this size of book in hardback), and certainly too big to be tempting for bringing on the bus etc. I suppose I felt that Hobb might have been better off writing this as one book rather than a trilogy. It seemed somewhat unnaturally extended to me. It may be that she was caught in the probable contract with her publisher to produce trilogies, or it may be that she really felt this story needed three times 700 pages. I didn’t. I will still look foreward to Hobb’s next, but not with such bated breath as before.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
Very gripping and full of intriguing twists. Found it hard to put it down towards the end, and wanted it to go on once it finished. Still, not the sort of book one rereads – the twist is not quite surprising enough to make me want to go back and reread to see what I’ve missed and knowing how it ends will ruin the rest of the story too much at a second perusal. Bookcrossing candidate if ever I saw one.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
A very engaging book, though I became mightily annoyed with the narrator. Partly the fact that «he» is death (which just didn’t work for me, don’t ask me why), partly the endless foreshadowing (or, rather, foretelling – «more of that later» hints – a bit of vague foreshadowing I can deal with) and partly the bulletin-style interruptions which, yeah, ok, I could make a convincing interpretation of if I had to write an essay on this book for an exam, but, hey, I finished school and I prefer to do my reading at my own pace, and, frankly, until I learned to «ignore» them I wanted to hurl the book across the room every time. Still, engaging. (Sent as a rabck.)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami
A bookring on bookcrossing and one of those 1001 books. This reminded me why I don’t like short stories (just when I start getting interested, they end), but I like Mr. Murakami’s way with words, so I will try him in novel-form when I get the chance.

Frost on My Moustache – Tim Moore

The Careful Use of Compliments – Alexander McCall Smith
Isn’t it a lovely title? And isn’t it a lovely book?

Boksamlere forteller
An interesting anthology I found at an «antiques» fair. And by interesting I mean that the existence of such a collection intrigued me, especially printed in 1945. The book itself was unfortunately mostly dull. I normally love reading people’s descriptions of their collections, so I’m not sure why it should be so, but there it is.

Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums

Anne McCaffrey was a pleasant aquaintance to make. Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums may not be big, heavy tomes, but the story has strength enough to stick with you and certainly made me want to read more. I found the «trilogy» a bit construed, though, the third book, though obviously related to the first two, does not quite belong. No matter, though, when it is all so enjoyable.

A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

In which we cheat a bit

I’ve only read about 140 pages of A Game of Thrones, actually, at which point I wasn’t hooked, just mildly interested, which is not entirely complimentary to Martin, but I suspect it’s partly because I really wasn’t in the mood for fantasy just now. I started it despite the fact that I knew it was the wrong sort of book right now, because I got this book in a bookcrossing bookring, and felt that A. I had to give it a try and B. I needed to get it done with sooner rather than later as the point of a bookring is that several people want to read the book. However, I was quite definitely not feeling like continuing past page 140, and so thought I’d better send it on and rather request it back at some point.

However, I then went on the net and discovered that this is the first of a series where the two latest titles are not even published yet. And we all know all my patience (which isn’t a big heap to start with) is currently preoccupied preventing my head exploding because of the wait for the next (and, mercifully, last) Harry Potter novel. So starting a series that I can’t finish immediately is Not a Good Idea. So I think I’ll try to get hold of some of Martin’s independent novels instead and leave A Song of Ice and Fire as «noted» and check back in 20 years or so to see if the series is complete then.

(This copy’s bookcrossing journal)

A Wrinkle in Time

Another bookcrossing rabck, A Wrinkle in Time made it smile when it arrived in my mailbox and it made me smile again as I read it (except just at the end when it made me tear up – I’m a stickler for sentimental endings). I’ve been hearing Madeleine L’Engle’s name mentioned in discussions also involving such books as The Chronicles of Narnia for years, and so I was rather curious to find out what mettle she was made of. And I can tell you it’s very good mettle indeed. The plot and characters are engaging, the language and the concepts used or invented complex enough to make it interesting reading for adults while not so difficult that a 10-year-old wouldn’t be able to handle it.

(my copy’s bookcrossing journal)

Good Omens

Good Omens arrived in my office as part of a bookcrossing bookring. I’ve never managed to read a Terry Pratchett novel before, and I’ve only really glanced at Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels, so it was really a case of two new writers in one go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, really. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but chuckleworthy in places and bits of the – for lack of a better word – moral of the story will probably stick with me. On the whole pretty good.

(the book’s journal)