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Posts Tagged ‘Thursday Next’

Some holiday books, a couple of fun adventure tales, more Thursday Next and some serious airplane reading – here’s what I delved into as 2011 drew to a close:

Wildwood, Colin Meloy
Part Narnia (talking animals, evil queen, great battle), part coming-of-age story, part pure fantasy – I enjoyed this story set in “the Impassable Wilderness” near Portland, Oregon. I’d seen Carson Ellis’ work before (she illustrated the fun Mysterious Benedict Society series). She’s also married to Meloy, who is the lead singer of The Decemberists. Anyway, Wildwood is action-packed, entertaining and often quite funny. And it’s the first in a planned trilogy – so I’m staying tuned.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I’ve seen the stage play, the Disney version and the Muppet version – but had never read the original story. I enjoyed reading Dickens’ words, particularly the well-known lines in context – though for pure pleasure, I prefer Gonzo’s narration with Rizzo’s asides. A classic, and one I’m glad I finally read.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, Jasper Fforde
The BookWorld, as usual, is in dire straits – and it’s up to our heroine to do what she can, while dealing with a cranky teenager, a missing daughter and two written versions of herself, one rebellious, one far too meek. (This series gets more meta with every book.) Another fun literary romp, with lots of diplomatic intrigue, bookish puns and cheeky jokes.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde
The real Thursday Next is missing – so the written Thursday Next must try to find her, while dealing with the usual assortment of odd BookWorld problems, not to mention her own limitations as a fictional character. I missed the real Thursday and her family this time around, but a journey through the BookWorld is always good fun, and we met a couple of entertaining new characters. I’m curious to see what will happen in Book 7 (due out in 2012).

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
I love this Mitford Christmas story – I well up every few pages, even when reading on the subway. Not because life in Mitford is perfect but because it isn’t – and yet these people still face trials and Christmas busyness with faith and joy and humor. And I love watching Father Tim restore a derelict Nativity scene, and rejoicing as Hope Winchester, the bookseller, gets her own happy beginning.

Little Women and Me, Lauren Baratz-Logsted
I’m a longtime devotee of Little Women – so I loved this Thursday Next-esque tale of a modern-day girl who gets transported into the story of the March sisters. Emily tries to keep Beth well and schemes to set Jo up with Laurie – and while the Marches accept her as part of the family, no one can quite remember why she’s there. The narrator did get a bit whiny at times, but overall the book was witty, well-written and fun, with lots of little inside jokes for Alcott fans.

Day of Honey, Annia Ciezadlo
Roxanne recommended this “memoir of food, love and war,” by an American journalist who marries a Lebanese man and follows him to Beirut, then to Baghdad. A deliciously written, thoughtful, incisive memoir on civil war, being a conflict junkie, love and marriage, and the food that binds people together no matter what their culture. (And a stack of delectable-sounding recipes in the back.)

My Life as Laura, Kelly Kathleen Ferguson
The author sent me this book to review. As she faced down a midlife crisis of sorts, Kelly retraced Laura’s pioneer journey – in a prairie dress – and reflected on her lifelong obsession with the Little House series (which she calls “the Books” – I have the same yellow-covered box set). Her narrative voice is witty and engaging, if quirky and sometimes a bit repetitive. A fun journey through the Midwest and one woman’s love of Laura.

All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps, ed. Dave Isay
I loved this honest, sweet, often funny, touching collection of recorded, transcribed interviews on love, grouped into three sections on love found, lost, and found unexpectedly. StoryCorps is a wonderful oral history project that has recorded thousands of people’s stories – and this sampling was such fun to read. To review for Shelf Awareness (and set to be released right before Valentine’s Day).

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The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure, ed. Larry Smith
The subtitle says it all. This collection comes from the folks at SMITH magazine, creators of the popular Six-Word Memoirs series; these essays are longer than six words, and by turns wry, shocking, humorous, poignant and heartbreaking. The beauty lies in the variety of stories, and in the stark honesty of every single writer. To review for Shelf Awareness.

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I read this book every year, close to Christmas. It’s a lovely tale of five people who end up spending Christmas together at an old house in the north of Scotland, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about faith and grief and slow recovery, about hurt and love and family and hope. The end makes me misty-eyed every time. Beautiful.

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, Madeleine L’Engle
I love L’Engle’s work but came late to the Austin family series – so I hadn’t read this Christmas tale before. It’s an interlude, just before Rob (the youngest) is born. Vicky loves preparing for Christmas, and she gets to play an angel in the church pageant – but she’s worried her mother will be in the hospital, having the baby, over Christmas. A sweet tale of anticipation and joy.

The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
I’m still loving the adventures of literary police agent Thursday Next – and this romp through the Well of Lost Plots (where unpublished books, characters and stray words live) was hilarious, complicated and, of course, literary. Miss Havisham, the Cat formerly known as Cheshire, Commander Bradshaw, Harris Tweed – they’re all back, and as highly entertaining as ever. Good fun.

Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next (with her son, Friday) returns to the real world, where she must escape an assassin, bring her husband back into existence, stop a fictional dictator from taking over England and help her hometown team win the Croquet SuperHoop championship. No sweat, right? Packed with literary references, cheeky puns, and hilarious fake articles from newspapers like the Swindon Daily Eyestrain. (And dodos, Danish princes and a talking gorilla. Weird. But fun.)

Why I Wake Early, Mary Oliver
I picked up this slim collection at Amherst Books, and savored it slowly. Oliver writes beautiful, lyrical poetry, about nature and loss and living fully awake in the world. She always reminds me to pay attention, live in the moment and take deep breaths – and my life could use more of all three.

The Real Elizabeth, Andrew Marr
A thoughtful, detailed, completely fascinating history of the Queen’s reign (60 years this spring), beginning with her grandparents and coming up to the present day. I had a basic knowledge of the House of Windsor before, but learned so much from Marr’s account (I’d love to know who his sources were, though he discreetly refrains from naming them all). A wealth of wonderful anecdotes, mixed with a good dose of British politics and history. Highly recommended. (To review for Shelf Awareness.)

The Christmas Dolls, Carol Beach York
I’d read this sweet Christmas tale ages ago, and only remembered the main character’s name and a vague outline of the plot. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found it again – and enjoyed the story of Tatty, a little orphan girl, and the two dolls she rescues just in time for Christmas.

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