8.31.2011

Review: Just My Type, by Simon Garfield

Just My Type
a book about fonts
by Simon Garfield
Gotham Books
September 1, 2011
$27.50 / 356 pgs

WARNING: Take a good look around you - at signs, advertisements, books, bills and instruction manuals - take a good look. You'll never look at these things the same way again. 
That should be the warning on Simon Garfield's clever, intelligent and, almost more importantly, very entertaining book, Just My Type - A book about fonts, new today from Gotham Books. It's one thing to dabble in fonts. I think everyone dabbles a little, from choosing the right font to word your essay in (i.e. maybe something a little wider, something that will inevitably make it look like more when you've written less?) to choosing the right fonts for your blog or for a homemade card, or for a business card, or maybe to advertise a lost dog.

Doesn't Talky Tina seem a little friendlier on the left?
You may not, however, know the history of the fonts you have at your fingertips, but you can appreciate certain nuances in the way a font can make you feel. For example, a flier advertising babysitting services in a small neighborhood can look charming and cutesy in something like Curlz MT, but in fonts like Lucida Blackletter, it's kind of... uncomfortable.

Fonts are extensions of one's personality. We use them to emphasize, to cheer up, to show sincerity, and to establish power. What Garfield does is explain where these things called fonts came from, and why we have certain responses to certain letter forms. There are only 26 letters and over 100,000 different typefaces... there's only so much time in the world, so don't expect an explanation of every font ever, but Garfield does an excellent job of covering the basics, from the earliest printers to the newest faces in typefaces (for example Calibri, one of Microsoft's oft-used fonts of late was only created a few years ago - why didn't they stick with the ever familiar and comfy Helvetica (which you New Yorkers may recognize from your local subway signs which use Helvetica Neue, an updated Helvetica) or the user- and web-friendly Georgia? That's what this book is about - the whos, whys, wheres, whens and hows of fonts.

And I promise, once you start, you're going to start analyzing all of the branding and packaging around you. For instance, I can tell you that the font on my window fan's box is Trebuchet because I'm familiar with Trebuchet's individual body parts - its ascenders and descenders, its counters and tails - geographical features that form the map of the font. And trust me, once you know what to look for, you might not stop.

Book Antiqua (a slab serif, Copse was,
I think, the closest thing I could find to
it, hence Copse on the blog.) 
For the record, this blog is written (mostly) in Copse, and my blog's header - where it says The Literary Gothamite - is in Chunk Type, which looks kind of like American Typewriter meets Blur. And that bit at the top, my "warning" about Garfield's book? That's in Courier. Because I mean business. Now go read the book and figure out what I'm talking about. :) Make sure you check out the videos on the publisher's website: check it out! And for the record, Book Antiqua is just my type... but Google/Blogger doesn't have it. (Boo.) Find out what your type is based on your personality: with Pentagram.

8.29.2011

Monday Mailbox #19: The Borders Sale

This month's Mailbox Mondays are being hosted by Life in the Thumb

I'm actually writing to you this week from Saturday. I'm not sure what this bitch of a hurricane is going to bring, whether I will have power or water or what, come Monday, so I've scheduled this post to go up with or without me. I hope everyone fares through the hurricane okay, and I'll see you all in a few days!

As we all know, Borders is shuttering its doors any minute now (there are signs on all the registers that say "We don't know when our last day is!", but based on the depleted selection, it can't be too much longer now. On Thursday morning I got an updated e-mail about the prices dropping, and I decided to stop in before work to see what I could find. There were a few treasures, but most of what's still on the shelves is the dregs of literary fiction. *sigh*

The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly

One of those books I wanted an ARC of, but didn't get... now I can read :)

Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley

The only one on my Autumn 2011 TBR pile (look for a review in late October)

Fated, by S.G. Browne

I just thought this one looked cute.

American Best Non-Required Reading of 2008 and 2005

Continuing my Best American Nonrequired Reading collection. I now own 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009. 

Daughters of the Witching Hill, by Mary Sharratt

This is about British witches, not the Salem witches, but I thought it could be interesting. 

To Be Queen, by Christy English

Another one I failed to get an ARC of, this is "a novel of the early life of Eleanor of Aquitane." Bring on the historical fiction!

Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian

Not gonna lie, I bought this for the soap bubble. I have no idea what it's about. Yeah, I'm that person. 


Also this week, from the library:

Jane and the Barque of Frailty, by Stephanie Barron

Part of the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, I'm not going to get to this one for some weeks... I see library fines in my future... 

And finally, an ARC:

If Jack's in Love, by Stephen Wetta

Due out at the end of September, this image doesn't really show how pretty the cover really is... there's a lot of detail lost in the digital translation, but anyway... yes. I'm looking forward to this one, for sure. 

8.28.2011

Summer Sundays: Beach Reads #13 - HURRICANE EDITION: The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, by Alina Bronsky

I find it endlessly appropriate that as that bitch Hurricane Irene approaches, this week's beach read features another whirling bitch. Alina Bronsky's narrator, Rosalinda, is not unlike a hurricane - single-minded, destructive, persistent, ignorant of the criticism around her and as unreliable as a gust of wind. Her arms spin around her, doing what she thinks is for the best, leaving only destroyed lives and foolishness in her wake. The big difference, of course, is that Rosa is only human and, that being said, we're expected to allow her some folly but, unlike a natural disaster, we eventually expect her to take responsibility for her actions.

I won't deny that Bronsky's novel is funny - Rosa's voice is strong and deliberate, and her ability to see the worst in everyone but herself is kind of amusing in its own right. But there comes a point, for most people it's likely later in the novel than it was for me, when it's not really funny anymore. Rosa does a lot of harm to a lot of people and her casual way of going about it, without truly realizing her effects, can be humorous... until it's not.

That is, until you come to a point (so silently, it creeps up, and you may not recognize it at first) when, for all her preaching and interfering, Rosa is no longer excusable for her actions. For me, this came fairly early-on, most likely due to the fact that, in my day job, I deal with Rosas every day, every hour of every day - women (and some men) who, despite their educations and their upbringing, will stomp all over the lives of anyone who gets in their way, simply to prove their own righteousness, or to have their way. For that reason, Rosa is perhaps less attractive to me as a character than some people might think.

Her wayward behavior is, to me, an incurable turn-off. Rather, it's the characters around her that I find most interesting - the women, especially: her daughter, Sulfia; her seemingly immaculately conceived granddaughter, Aminat; and her Jewish-born granddaughter, Jelena - all who seem somewhat flat on their own, but when examined as versions or facets of Rosa's personality, rather than as real people, that's very interesting.

All three of them are reflective of this matron in one way or another - Sulfia is Rosa's inner ugliness, Aminat is Rosa's outer beauty, and Jelena is representative of Rosa's fears. And maybe the funniest thing about it all, is that Rosa in one way or another hates each of them in turn, recognizing only subconciously, her own faults.

All that being said, I found the book very enjoyable in a demented kind of way. Bronsky's talent really shines through in her narrative ability, though less so in the plot. Things are a little loose on that end, but when you can blame part of that on Rosa's unreliability as a narrator, the gaping holes found in the plot could more accurately be in Rosa's memory - all the more reason to pity her, rather than celebrate her.

8.25.2011

Review: Incognito, by Gregory Murphy

Set in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, Incognito tells the story of William Dysart, a lawyer stuck in a loveless marriage to a very beautiful woman, in a fantastic job that he hates, and with a very very rich father for whom he seems to have no affection. Yes, Mr. Dysart has everything one could ask for, but none of it makes him happy. That is until he's assigned a peculiar task by his firm, a task that sets him at odds with everyone he knows and spirals him into an exploration of his own history.

The novel is graced along the way with magnificent descriptions of Manhattan and Long Island during the city's guilded age. While the story is billed as a mystery, it's almost more of a gentleman's late coming-of-age story. It's not very often that I find myself getting caught up in, or sympathetic with stories told from a man's perspective, but I found Dysart to be very sympathetic, and likable despite his mistakes.

 There was a lot more to this book than I had initially expected, and even though some of the subjects at its core are despicable, the story around them is told with simple, genuine elegance. Definitely a quick and lovely read, filled with vivid descriptions that will captivate any reader of historical fiction.

8.22.2011

Monday Mailbox #18

This month's Mailbox Mondays are being hosted by Life in the Thumb

slightly less eventful this week, just a handful of books I got from my office's lending library...

Gods & Monsters, by Christopher Bram

You may have seen the excellent film based on this book. It starred Ian McKellan as the old guy (and that was 13 years ago) and Brendan Fraser as his hunky friend... back when Brendan Fraser was still the Brendan Fraser who made George of the Jungle watchable, and not the doughy-faced mess that made Furry Vengeance not (though, to his credit, nothing could have really made Furry Vengeance watchable... unless it was just a series of kittens rolling around, followed by clips of furry puppies trying to chase their tails... and it would have been re-named "Youtube."

Home: A Memoir of my Early Years, by Julie Andrews

I don't read biographies or memoirs or autobiographies as a general rule. But rules are made to be broken. And Julie Andrews, excuse me Dame Julie Andrews is certainly on my list of people I would break that rule for. So when I spotted this book I snatched it up and ran. 

side bar: 
When I was searching for an image of the cover I came across this gem: 



Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende

I've heard a great deal about Allende, but I've never read her work. I have no idea if this is the place to start, but I figured I'd pick it up and try it out.

The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt

I've heard both good and bad about this last title. I haven't read any of Tartt's work. Any thoughts? Is this a good place to start? 

8.21.2011

Summer Sundays: Beach Reads #12 - Emma Brown, by Clare Boylan, based on the manuscript by Charlotte Brontë

I wouldn't actually call this a beach read. It's far too thick to lug to the beach and, honestly, the way I sobbed a little reading it on the train would also be inappropriate for the beach. You'll just have to let this one slide. My blogging schedule is very tight these next few weeks so you get what you get.

And what you're getting today is a beautiful book inspired by some twenty-odd pages Charlotte Brontë abandoned in the two years before her death. These same pages (it is assumed) inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, wherein a well-mannered and well-off little girl is established at a boarding school but, when she loses her father, the school keeps her on as a maid, of sorts, until she meets with a happy ending at the hand of an exotic gentleman who was previously a friend of her father's.

Most people know the Shirley Temple version or the 1995 version (Liam Cunningham FTW!!.... sorry... sometimes I'm a 15 year-old-girl...), both of which took liberties with that story and resolved the plot with the girl's father being recovered from an injury in the war (oh, he's not dead... we just thought he was dead!) and they're reunited la-dee-da. Well. It's interesting to see the way twenty pages of introduction can influence two decidedly different stories.

Boylan begins her version by including Brontë's twenty-page text, and then continues in Brontë fashion, that is from the perspective of a youngish (30s) widow. It is from her that we learn Emma's tale. You can almost see Mr. Carrisford and others in Mrs. Chalfont and in Mr. Ellin, whose backstory is taken from another unfinished Bronte work, and who, with Mrs. Chalfont, goes about Emma's salvation. True to Charlotte's style, there's more here than meets the eye--everyone involved seems to always have more history to share. Boylan fleshes them out in the form of self-narrative, something Charlotte Brontë was very accustomed to doing.

Boylan not only carried on in Brontë style and character, she considered Charlotte's life - her experiences in her later life which would have surely influenced this novel, had she completed it. She was very attuned to the plight of London's poor, and since Charlotte wrote best about what she knew, it's almost certain that similar episodes would have made it into her text. But while little Emma holds the title's name, it is the narrator's life story that is the most sympathetic and the most genuine.

Part of this surely comes from the fact that Charlotte was yet again writing as a governess whose life was not ideal - I'll grant Charlotte the credit for that. But the way in which Boylan brings her to life - quite literally by mashing together tiny bits and pieces of Jane Eyre, Shirley and Vilette. As Mrs. Chalfont's youth unfolds as young Isa on the page, she is vibrant and alive and, most importantly, full of passion. Passion is perhaps one of the most important qualities in a Charlotte Bronte novel. After all, it was she who criticized Jane Austen, saying "...she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood..."

True, passion is of the utmost importance and Boylan has written it beautifully. But while these similarietes stand, and the key features are honored, there is a certain unease in the pastiche. Boylan did, I'm sure, her best to capture Brontë's voice and tone, but by clipping together her past works and then laying her later life's experiences over them, the voice of the novel seems off. There is almost as much of Brontë in the stroytelling as there is of Thackeray and, perhaps even more so, Dickens.

I can see how that would irk a Brontë scholar, and it must be observed that, as much as we would like it to be Charlotte's novel, it is only Clare Boylan's. But for being her novel, it is touching and passionate and excellent. I borrowed this one from the library, and I truly regret it - I wish I'd sucked it up and bought it for myself. But hey, Christmas is coming!

8.18.2011

Review: The Phantom of Pemberley, by Regina Jeffers


From Amazon.com:

Happily married for over a year and more in love than ever, Darcy and Elizabeth can’t imagine anythinginterrupting their bliss-filled days. Then an intense snowstorm strands a group of travelers at Pemberley, and terrifying accidents and mysterious deaths begin to plague the manor. Everyone seems convinced that it is the work of a phan-tom—a Shadow Man who is haunting the Darcy family’s grand estate.

Darcy and Elizabeth believe the truth is much more menacing and that someone is trying to murder them. But Pemberley is filled with family guests as well as the unexpected travelers—any one of whom could be the culprit—so unraveling the mystery of the murderer’s identity forces the newlyweds to trust each other’s strengths and work together.

Written in the style of the era and including Austen’s romantic playfulness and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer—before it’s too late.
What Jeffers has done here (quite artfully, I might add) is recast a continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as a kind of gothic mystery. I would not go so far as to say the Darcys become a "husband-and-wife detective team," as this is not really as well-crafted as Carrie Bebris' Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, but it certainly has an air of Northanger Abbey about it - themes of insanity, murders made to look like suicides, hidden passageways, and watchful eyes.

While it begins with inklings of the paranormal - men in strange hats who seem to vanish into thin air - it is quickly established that Pemberley's Phantom is no ghost. Jeffers tells a good chunk of the book from the phantom's perspective and in doing so manages to deceive even the reader as to the culprit's identity.

Ms. Jeffers is no stranger to Austen continuations. She's the author of eight of them, including this one. And while her forte seems to be the lush and sexually charged romances (i.e. Darcy's Temptation, Darcy's Passions, and Vampire Darcy's Desire - which I can only hope is better than Amanda Grange's monster-osity) she's allowed the Darcy romance to simmer almost perfectly in this novel. Sure, they still defy the Regency norms and sleep in one bed and have lots and lots of sex every evening, and there's no such thing as a chamber pot etc. etc. but most of the details are thankfully left to the imagination.

Jeffers instead allows the other characters to become surprising rounded. Anne de Bourgh may have been sketched by Jane Austen, but Jeffers colors her in and brings her to life in a way I haven't really seen in similar novels. And as for the twist, and there is a twist, it's not something you expect. And that's always appreciated.

8.16.2011

Review: The Foreigners, by Maxine Swann

The Foreigners
by Maxine Swann
Riverhead Books
272 pgs - Hardcover $25.95
August 18, 2011
from Amazon.com:
...Against the throbbing backdrop of this shimmering and decadent city- almost a character in itself-Maxine Swann has created a stunning narrative of reawakened sensuality and compulsive desire that simultaneously explores with remarkable acuity themes of foreignness, displacement, and the trembling metamorphoses that arise from such states. From the award-winning, critically celebrated author of Flower Children, The Foreigners is a startlingly bold and original, unforgettable next novel.
 There's something brilliantly unnerving about The Foreigners, Maxine Swann's newest novel, due out this Thursday from Riverhead Books. She poses the analogy of foreign persons as invasive plant species: invasive, disrupting, lost.

The story focuses on one foreigner, the narrator (Daisy), and on the women she finds herself surrounded (Leonarda and Isolde). In a kind of cyclical adaptive process, the women who appear so different seem to morph into one another, taking over their surroundings, adapting to the environment.

Swann has done beautiful justice to the place she has called home for the last ten years. With her words, Buenos Aires comes alive - you can see it, smell it. For me, the language of scent was particularly vivid. And while this story was written about these women, the city is kind of like a wise old woman sitting mutely in the corner who knows that the story is really all about her. She is, after all, the only character who doesn't seem to fall completely flat at any point in time.

Unfortunately, the other women do fall flat, one by one. As the scenery seems to get more lucid, the women take a back seat and become almost like shadows of the women they later resemble. This is especially true of the wild and charismatic Leonarda, one of the only real Argentinian natives in the story.

It seems to me that there's a misplayed chord somewhere about two-thirds of the way through the novel that seems to make the characters less interesting. It's hard to say if it's because their stories seem rushed to an end, or it could be the strange presence of the man who plays Leonarda's "prey." Whatever it is, the story that begins so fresh and interesting has a fairly unimpressive ending. 

8.15.2011

Monday Mailbox #17

This month's Mailbox Mondays are being hosted by Life in the Thumb.

from the library
(because I finally paid my late fees, thank you very much):

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor 
(Being the first Jane Austen Mystery)
by Stephanie Barron

I'm FINALLY going to start in on the 2011 Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge. Woo hoo! This is the first in the series of 11. I feel like such a slacker.

The Phantom of Pemberley
A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery
by Regina Jeffers

Just one of those books that's been on my list for a while. It actually looks pretty good. A lot of Jane Austen "sequels" are kind of a bummer (*cough*) but this one looks promising.

Emma Brown
A novel from the 
unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Brontë
by Clare Boylan

This one's been on my list ever since I finished Brontë's collected juvenilia. I'm interested to see what Boylan does with the story Brontë started. 

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
by Mary Roach

I love Mary Roach's frank approach to writing about science. I've been wanting to read this one and Spook for some time... my mother actually ordered Spook for me from Alibris, but it didn't occur to her that she was ordering the audio version...not just the audio version, the book on casette tape. Casette. Tape. I don't own anything that plays those things. LOL. I've just recently given it away. I'm looking forward to eventually reading the paper version.


for review

Jane and the Canterbury Tale, by Stephanie Barron

Yes, this week I got the first in the series *and* the last in the series. This book will come out 8/30. My copy is a galley copy, but this cover is beautiful. Could be my addiction to blue glass talking. Could be. But it's pretty!

Guerilla Leader: T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt, by James J. Schneider

New book from Bantam due out in November. Looking forward to interrupting my Fall reading with some nonfiction. 

The Pirate King, by Laurie King

Due out 9/6/11 also from Bantam, this is the 11th (another series of 11!) in King's Mary Russell series (her Mary Russell is married to Sherlock Holmes). Previously, I had only heard of the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice (which came out in 1994, so that goes to show how much I've been paying attention). Anyway, according to Laura at I'm Booking It, this book stands alone best out of the series, so I'm looking forward to reading it without the benefit of its predecessors.

A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon
Edited by Laurie King and Leslie S. Klinger

Ironically enough, another Laurie King, obviously putting her Holmes expertise to work. This one comes out in October. King describes it on her website as such: "What would happen if you asked twenty top writers who don’t normally write about Sherlock Holmes, to write about Sherlock Holmes? And what if these great writers read that proposal and decided that yes, they did have that kind of tale in the back of their minds? Why, you’d have: A Study in Sherlock, Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon. " 

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos

Due out 9/6 from Berkley. Between this and The Phantom of Pemberley I'm really happy to have some silly Austenalia in the mix. It should be a nice segue into the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series.

8.14.2011

Summer Sundays: Beach Reads #11 - In which I discuss not reading The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes

I tried. I truly tried.
I tried reading it on the train.
I tried reading it at the beach.
I tried reading it at work.

It's just not very good.

I like fantasy books. I do. And this is definitely a kind of fantasy book. But it's also a kind of mystery. And kind of something else. Something awful.

I gave it as much of a chance as I could without actually throwing up, or just throwing my copy across the room, but it made me feel physically ill. I had to stop. Sorry.

8.08.2011

Monday Mailbox #16

from my office's lending library:

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth

Been on my to-be-read list forever, and now I have a copy.

The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly

This was probably sitting in the office for a while. I've never read Michael Connelly (my loyalties lie with John Connolly on the Conn_lly spectrum of things). But this was recently made into a film starring Matthew McConaughey. And I love Matthew McConaughey. So I figured, why not?

Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen

For some reason there were 2 or 3 brand new copies of this paperback sitting in the lending library, just kind of left sitting on top of other books. I don't have much of an idea of what it's about and I'm not sure I'll like it, but there it is. 



for review:

The Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in 
the Seventeenth Century Mediterranean, 
by Adrian Tinniswood

Pictured above is the hardcover, but actually my copy is the new paperback due out from Riverhead Books on 9/6/11. The paperback inverts the middle portion of the cover, giving it a kin of aqua background, a cream for the larger portion of the title and author's name, and then black for the subtitle. It's an absolutely beautiful cover and...um ...it's about pirates! I'm kind of excited.

Just My Type, by Simon Garfield

I'm so excited about this book. So. Excited. It's so pretty. It makes me so happy. This is going to be such a FUN read. It's due out 9/1/11 from Gotham Books.

The Woman Who Heard Color, by Kelly Jones

Another galley copy, though this cover is GORGEOUS. Due out in October from Berkley. It's about art. <3

Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes
by William Kennedy

Galley copy of a new Viking hardcover due out 9/29/11. It's about Cuba...and Albany. It seems interesting, so huzzah. 

The Death of King Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory
a retelling by Peter Ackroyd

It's Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur but kind of changed up. This is the paperback edition from Viking, due out in November. The hardcover came out last year.


Incognito, by Gregory Murphy

Berkley sent me another NYC-centric book. This one came out in July, so the review'll be somewhat behind, but I'm hoping to power through it in the next few weeks. It's pretty!

8.07.2011

Summer Sundays: Beach Reads #10 - Jaws, Revisited

Unless you live under a rock, you're probably aware that this past week was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. It's an annual thing - basically the Discovery Channel shows the same footage they've shown for years - everything you've ever wanted to know about sharks, but with a different host...I guess to make it more watchable. Much of the stuff is available online, and some of it is on Netflix. 

There are a lot of shark movies out there, too. Jaws is probably the best, but there are a number of copy-cats, and an even larger number of "monster" flicks. Most of these films are only really enjoyable because of their bad bad bad scripts and their worse special effects. There are some things I guess one just can't get enough of, and for me it's the awful special effects. But Jaws is the classic - giant shark, blood, dramatic music. It's magical. And in honor of shark week, I'm re-posting my comments on the book that started it all.

In his 2005 introduction to Jaws (1974), author Peter Benchley makes a very valid point in saying that he could not possibly write Jaws today. His reasoning has much to do with the current global standpoint on conservation and appreciation. It's true - the world has a very different perspective on Sharks than it did in the early 70s. But Benchley and his novel had had a lot to do with that shift and, if he hadn't written it, someone else would have.
Perhaps that's why it doesn't seem as scary to me as it should. There are too many movies, documentaries, etc. on great whites and other sharks to make this novel very frightening. I've seen all four Jaws films...I own all four films in the franchise. I'm also a proud owner of the Italian rip-off of the original film (The Last Shark, aka L'ultimo Squalo). I've seen Shark Attack and its two sequels. I've even seen Debbie Gibson in the never should have been made Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. But what am I afraid of in the ocean? Not the big sharks, no. I never go out far enough to be scared by the big sharks. I'm afraid of stepping on jelly fish and anenomes, urchins and horseshoe crabs. I'm more afraid of having to have someone pee on my leg than I am of actually losing that leg. Although that's not wholly true -- I do find myself quite fearful of bull sharks and other sharks that, through the education of Discovery Channel's Shark Week, I know like shallow water, which is where I hang out.
Jaws, as Benchley wrote it, just isn't quite so relevant anymore. Sure, big sharks are scary, but I'm much less afraid of sharks who, according to Ellen Brody in the final chapter, Jaws the Revenge, are...well...out for revenge, than I am of the people who go and hunt these beautiful creatures and cut off their fins for soup. Okay enough grandstanding, back to the book...
Benchley also goes on to say that of course the novel is not the film - the book he wrote was well-rounded, with a quiet understanding of the socio-economic undercurrents as well as a relatively solid grasp on female emotion, while the film (albeit BRILLIANT) was about a big shark. And while I already knew most of the changes made for the film, it was a treat to go back and see what the story was before it was the first summer blockbuster, and how those exclusions contributed to making it such a hit.

8.02.2011

Review: Tuck - King Raven Trilogy, Book 3, by Stephen Lawhead

Tuck is the third volume of Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven trilogy. Billed as "Robin Hood - the legend begins anew," the first volume, Hood, gives re-birth to the Robin Hood of lore in a new time and a new place. Rather than keeping to the assumed boundaries of the Old English tales, Lawhead explores what he (as he explains in the afterword, titled "Robin Hood in Wales?") believes could be the true origins of the legendary thief and his band of merry men. Scarlet continues in this tradition with the introduction of William Scatlocke (friends call him Scarlet), forced from home and occupation by the Normans, who seeks out King Raven as an ally. Finally, Tuck brings the series to its conclusion.

Fortunately, Lawhead spent enough time previously on the good Friar's exposition, allowing this final volume to move along rapidly, with more fervor than its predecessors. Friar Tuck nevertheless remains integral, essential to the plot. And whereas poor Scarlet ended up causing more trouble for the Grellon, dragging them into the open more than they'd wanted to be, Tuck seems to be the balm for those wounds. The Friar, as a Saxon, as a priest, as a member of the Grellon, manages to bridge the gaps between the warring parties, bringing the story to a satisfying end with less bloodshed than one expects. 

But Tuck is not the only essential character. The Baron Neufmarché, whose actions against Rhi Bran in the first novel, is guided by his previously frigid wife, whose new love for all things Welch changes him. We're also introduced to Alan a'Dale, a character who figures in to the Robin Hood legend later than most other canon characters. Alan proves a surprising character, almost as quick on his feet as King Raven himself, and his business as a minstrel invites Lawhead to use minstrel-song as a literary interlude, as a device to tie the story securely to its epilogue. 

Tuck makes for a nice, tidy conclusion to the series. Lawhead's research is impeccable and his creative storytelling really shines through in the finale. Definitely see this series through to the end - it'll be worth it.

8.01.2011

Monday Mailbox #15

The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2009)

Both of these were purchased from the Borders at the Time Warner Center which, as you're probably aware, is closing. I went back to the store 6 days later, and the prices had not dropped yet. They were still at 20% off of Fiction...I'm holding out for 70%.