Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice Book Reviews!

A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the HearthA Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Dickens, and I love a bargain, so when Audible offered me a Jim Dale reading of this story free as a Christmas thank you, I jumped at it . . . Perfect listening for the week before C'mas vacation, thought I.

Well. It's one weird little story. It opens with a long "conversation" between the cricket on the hearth and the tea kettle. Honest. Then we meet the family who lives in the house: little Dot (whose real name is Mary) ad her (in modern eyes, creepily) older husband. . . . and, luckily, Tilly Slowboy the mentally deficient housemaid and the baby, about both of whom we get some great Dickens humor to leaven the schmaltz that drips from this little offering. There is an evil(ish) toy manufacturer, a saintly father, an angelic blind girl, a nearly undeveloped fiancee, a missing brother. . . lots of spirits of family and goodness and the like. Still, towards the ends Dickens manages to wring the old heartstrings, as he usually does, but I did miss the wry humor and control of his best writing (Great Expectations; Nicholas Nickleby; Christmas Carol). Not a good introduction to his work, but it was interesting to hear anyway.

The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam, #1)The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series: he's funny, very smart, and creative, so when I saw he had a ya novel, I got it for Nate's b'day. That young man enjoyed it, so I picked it up to read it recently when I unearthed it in a decluttering binge. Unfortunately, I found it only okay, though I enjoyed reading it. I think Fforde needs a bigger canvas than he allowed himself in this novel: the book felt rushed, and the alternate reality felt perfunctory and thin. If this were the length of the average ya fantasy novel (500 pages or so), I think Fforde might've been able to cast his usual spell, but at just under 300 pages, it just falls a bit flat. I liked it––we have the sequel out from the library right now, and I plan to read it, too--but it just doesn't match his usual panache and wit!

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