Friday, August 17, 2012


Una Fairchild's only consolation for her grim life in a series of foster homes lies in the basement library of her school. Until one day she is pulled into a story, and must figure out why she is there and what she is going to do about it. 

Marissa Burt wrote an interesting mix of modern sensibilities and old-fashioned fairy tale, with a dash of mythology. My only complaint is a major one: To Be Continued is not an acceptable ending. This is not Lord of the Rings; this is a book written for a juvenile audience, and these kids deserve a real ending. Yes, we all know that Harry Potter took seven books to finish his story, but each story was self-contained, and tied up the pertinent loose ends, with only meta-plot points left hanging loose. At the end of Storybound, the only thing I know for sure is that most of the characters are still alive (some I am not so sure about). 

Stay tuned. This book may yet be recommended, depending on how sequel(s) turn(s) out. Meanwhile, this review is To Be Continued.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The City and the City

China Mieville has a formidable literary reputation, and when you apply this to a mystery flavored with a dash of fantasy, it sounds like just my cup of tea.

I did not finish this, though, and this review is not really a review, but a Note to Self.

The tone of this book is gritty realism. Not dark, but not cheerful or humorous, unless there's some dark humor lurking in the corners. Right now I need to focus on the sunny side, so one fine day I will return to this book and try again. I suspect it will be well worth it, when I am ready.

But if you are not me, note that this book begins in a city in Eastern Europe, and the discovery of a dead Jane Doe. The police investigator proceeds, and the story, I understand, takes a turn for the weird.

Enchantment, Inc.

Hex and the city

Shanna Swendson has combined urban chick-lit with magical fantasy in a delightful froth of a story. Katie Chandler, a Texas transplant, rooms in New York City with her best buds from back home, and struggles to adjust. Her boss is a nightmare, and she can't seem to adjust to the quirkiness of big-city life, until an out-of-the-blue job offer lands her in the offices of MSI, Inc, the premier purveyor of magical spells. Her quirks are now assets, and her coworkers include a handsome wizard, a flotilla of winged fairies, and a stone gargoyle that shows up all over town. Can she help MSI combat the competition? And can she choose between the handsome hunk and another attractive prospect?

The plot is fun and well-executed. Katie and the gang are solid, and there are several books more in the series. This is a solid G-rating, with some PG if you follow her thoughts, and plenty of room for romantic development. If you're looking for Literature, this is not it. If you are looking for a fun tale to while away an afternoon off, you could do much worse. A total comfort read.

This is How

Help for the self ; proven aid in overcoming shyness, molestation, fatness, spinsterhood, disease, lushery, decrepitude & more for young and old alike

Augusten Burroughs is not a soft-spoken psychologist, tenderly holding your hand through the recovery process. Nor is he a dry academic, citing statistics and studies with precise footnotes. He's not the celebrity who bottomed out and lived to write a memoir, nor the comedian who did the same, only with edgy humor.  He is your high-school buddy who dropped off the edge of the world, and resurfaced, considerably the worse for wear, and gives you the straight dope on how to handle all the worst life has to offer.

At least, it's his straight dope. You may not agree with Burroughs, and you certainly can't bring him to the ladies' book club to speak unless they're used to saltier language than the ladies I lunch with. But his perspective is unique--who else has ever recommended changing your name as an alternative to suicide? But I suspect I will read this again, the next time the dark underbelly of life comes to my attention.

Let's Bring Back

An encyclopedia of forgotten-yet-delightful, chic, useful, curious and otherwise commendable things from times long gone by

This is a charming premise--a reminiscence of appealing items or concepts that no longer are available. Unfortunately, Leslie M M Blume has the same problem that others have had with this type of niche concept: by the time she has collected enough of these to make a book, she must stretch her definition past rationality.

There are some true gems here. Who would not wish for the return of "at-home doctor visits" or "good Cracker Jack prizes?" I admit a soft spot for "jacks" and "middies" (sailor tops on little girls and toddler princes).  And I tragically missed the opportunity to dine at an "automat."

But some of these "bring-backs" aren't really gone. I like "kitten heels" and "handwritten thank-you notes" as much as the next nostalgic, but I still see kitten heels in the stores and fashion magazines, and handwritten notes arrive in my mailbox almost as often as they ought to. "Niagara Falls" is still available as a honeymoon destination, as is the "world-tour honeymoon," for those who can afford it, to whom that particular honeymoon has always been limited. "Fred Astaire" is still remembered for his elegance and his dancing.

And other listed items can hardly be missed. "Hired mourners" scarcely qualify as delightful, forgotten though they may be. The term "holiday" is not used to mean "vacation" for a good reason. "Attention spans"--OK, stop that right now, you're just being precious. And since the monthly names for the full "moon" were used by native Americans, who, exactly, is missing the everyday usage?

Can I just throw this book across the room over a few of these?
"Suits of armor?" Really? If you want one badly enough, surely one of those armorers who made chain mail for The Lord of the Rings movies can oblige you, for a price. But the justification being that it's "good for covering up 'fat' days" reinforces the notion that Blume is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
"Gold teeth?"
"The barter system?"

I have a "rubber-band ball" in my office, and a canister filled with "sugar."