Posts Tagged ‘3/5’

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This was one of my book club reads. My overall thoughts are that it was ok, but I didn’t love it.

The story follows Catherine, a girl in her late teens who’s basically growing up and finding her way in the world. She goes to stay in Bath with some family friends, and for the most part the book covers her time there, the friends she makes, the balls she goes to and the boys she likes. There’s also a brief stay at Northanger Abbey.

I found the structure a little bit odd. My version was around 220 pages and for roughly the first 200 not a lot happens really. There are a teen chick-lit things going on – the balls and plays they go to, details of her friendships and the usual romance angsty things. Things really kick off at around page 200 and twenty pages later it’s all sorted…

In fairness I’ve since discovered that the book is a parody on the kind of novel that was popular at the time, however it’s difficult to judge how successful it is without being familiar with that style. The book is reasonably engaging – I liked the main character and things worked out the way I wanted them to, albeit a bit abruptly. A lot of the supporting characters were very exaggerated but I did laugh at them – despite the age of the book I think most of us have come across people like the Thorpes. Despite that, and despite knowing that it was a parody, it just didn’t quite do it for me. However it was a reasonably enjoyable read.

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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaulo Guo

This was another book I picked up from the library following a LibraryThing recommendation. It tells the story of Z, a young Chinese woman who is sent to London by her parents to study English. It follows her development in several way; from a timid, scared girl coming to a strange country with little command of the language, her growing up a lot due to her relationship and, in some ways, her independence (which I’ll come back to) and her mastery of English. This illustration is one of the best things about the book – it’s almost like a diary, and the style of writing changes and gets more coherent as Z’s English improves.

From the description and the start of the book I was expecting a gentle love story to while away the weekend and it was, for a while. However it goes a lot deeper than that – Z, for example, jumps straight into a fairly serious relationship and basically swaps one kind of dependence (on her parents) for another (her boyfriend who, to be honest, is a bit of an idiot). It’s fun to see her confidence improve and more of her character come out as she’s able to express herself better, and there are a lot of nods to some of the odder things about Britain and British people that I found quite amusing. It does lose its punch towards the end though, and the ending is quite abrupt which isn’t a surprise given the story, but did leave me vaguely unsatisfied. However I would like to know a bit more about Z’s life after her year in England, so I’d obviously become attached to her.

The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

I figured this would be a good place to start with my Arthurian Legend goal. It was fun for the most part, and I really really wanted to love it but I just didn’t.

It tells the story of Wart, ward of Sir Ector, and his childhood growing up with Sir Ector’s sun Kay, who is destined to be a knight. The magician Merlyn becomes their tutor and his lessons are unusual to say the least – they tend to involve turning into something (fish, snake, bird) but there’s the occasional battle alongside Robin Wood (whose name people get wrong all the time).

There’s a lot about this that’s utterly delightful. The description of Merlyn’s cottage is fabulous, Merlyn is endearing but Archimedes the owl is awesome and the lessons, particularly those that involve transforming into something else, sound like just the sort of lesson everyone would love. The ending, which everyone knows, was great and was particularly well done in how Wart’s lessons tie together to help him get the sword out of the stone. For some reason, though, the bits in between just didn’t hold my interest, and that hampered my enjoyment of the book a little bit.

I haven’t seen the Disney version but I’d be interested in doing so to see what they’ve made of it – I imagine most of it translates brilliantly into an animated film.

Why Not Catch 21? by Gary Dexter

I picked this up from the library after reading about it on LibraryThing. Why Not Catch 21? is a collection of newspaper columns, each one telling the story of how a book or play came to be named.

I hadn’t read, or even heard of, everything in this book so clearly I’m not very cultured! However the chapters about books I didn’t know were interesting, and the ones about books I do know were fascinating. It covers a huge time period and a variety of genres (going from Utopia to Winnie the Pooh to Catch 22). Because of it’s structure it’s a very easy book to dip in and out of but still contained a lot of information. Worth reading.

This is also my first non-fiction book of the year, and one of my goals is to read more non-fiction, so I’m on my way to achieving that one.

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

I think I picked this up because it was recommended on one of those “if you like this you might also like…” things on either Amazon or Library thing.

It’s set in the fictional town of Pine Cove, California. Travis travels there with Catch, the man-eating demon he accidentally found himself saddled with and is desperately trying to get rid of. All kinds of silliness ensues.

I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but I think maybe I wasn’t really in the right mood for it. It was a good read, funny and entertaining but with a storyline as well so it doesn’t just hang on the jokes. I don’t know why I never really felt absorbed in the book because there’s nothing about it that I shouldn’t have liked more, but having said all that I did enjoy it.

I will be looking up some of his other books before I work out whether to stick with the author but I think I probably will.