Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Queen Isabella (by Allison Weir)

As one of you delightful people predicted in the comments, I am totally dying to read more now. I think I will go for her book on the War of the Roses, a war that I vaguely know has something to do with red and white and York and Lancaster. But now that I've learned about Isabella (hot damn, woman) and Edward II (probably didn't die with the red hot poker up his butt!) I want to learn more. I felt that Weir didn't quite make her case on certain things (or really wanted to believe things more than she had actual evidence for, like her thoughts on Edward II's supposed escape and later whereabouts) and I still prefer Antonia Fraser, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I don't know why I am so into historical books about the British royal family. Maybe it's something to do with my college British Empire class, when I learned that through studying the Empire, you can study nearly the entire world--shaped, for better or for worse, by British imperialism. And of course you can't understand the Empire without understanding the history of the country. And also, I love The Office and Jane Austen and even Gwyneth Paltrow's fake British accent. Maybe I have a weakness.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Remainder (by Tom McCarthy)

I read such a glowing review of this intriguing book in Entertainment Weekly that I had to run out and buy it. (It's in paperback. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered.) The plot is essentially this: a man recieves a large settlement in an accident that has damaged his memory. He decides to take the money and spend it in re-creating memories from his own life. I don't want to say more than that; you need to experience it for yourself.

The book is blurbed by Jonathan Lethem, and I totally can see how Lethem fans will like this novel as well. It also reminded me very much of Martin Dressler, especially in how the ideas of the author get carried away. I had the same sort of experience as with Dressler; I really had to decide if the dreamlike nature of the ending was good or bad for the novel. I feel like it works better in Dressler, but I will have to sleep on that. It definitely underscores the ambigious nature of Remainder, though--the sense that the events of the novel may or may not be happening at all.

The only complaint I have about the book is the intuitive leap that the narrator makes in planning the final reenactment of the book. Every other idea he has contains some kind of twisted logic, but I feel like the last one was sort of a cop-out on the author's part. The book could easily have been longer and had the narrator progress to that point more organically.

It's an absolutely fascinating and totally original book, and it only took me a couple of hours to read. I highly, highly recommend it. If you like Lethem, you absolutely should not miss it. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Plum Lovin' (by Janet Evanovich)

I brought my huge stack of grading to Barnes & Noble and picked up this book, figuring I'd reward myself by reading one chapter for every two papers (or so) that I graded. Instead I sat there and read Plum Lovin' all the way through, and then graded my papers. So much for that plan!

This is another one of those silly, frothy, holiday-themed Stephanie Plum books. In this one, she has to take over the caseload of a relationship expert and try to help her five clients "have a happy Valentine's Day." It's worth reading if only for the scene where she, Lula, and Grandma Mazur end up watching a porn movie together.

If Stephanie Plum is your thing, you'll like it. If not... well, I have no idea.