Oof. Rough couple of weeks. My brain is full of snot and I am experiencing severe guilt over not updating here, even though I have been reading (I have! I swear!). But I am feeling deeply ineloquent, especially because the book I want to review is an elegant, delightful, rip-roaring adventure involving multiple universes and daring acts of bibliophilic theft.
So in lieu of a coherent essay review, here are five reasons why you should immediately obtain a copy of Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library.
A few weeks ago, Slate.com writer Adam Sternbergh wrote a rapturous review of Megan Abbott’s The Fever — really, a rapturous review of Megan Abbott’s work in general. When he described her early books as “pitch-perfect evocations of classic period noir, set midcentury, but each with an ingenious contemporary twist,” I knew I had to give one a try.*
Abbott’s third novel, The Song is You, takes a real-life crime as its inspiration. In October 1949, a dancer and background actress named Jean Spangler vanished, seemingly into thin air. The only clue was her purse, found in a Los Angeles park, which contained an unfinished note:
Kirk, Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away,
Despite media coverage and a gossip columnist’s offer of a cash reward, Jean Spangler’s trail quickly went cold.
The book’s fictional protagonist, Gil “Hop” Hopkins, is the man who made sure it did.
So remember how I said I wasn’t a big fan of urban fantasy? And that I was particularly un-fond of urban fantasy featuring romance with a bossy supernatural hunk? And that I found the first Kate Daniels book, Magic Bites, kind of frustrating and wasn’t sure if I’d read the rest?
If you remembered any of that, please forget it. Because I love this series.
After reading and liking Magic Burns, I absolutely devoured the rest of the Kate Daniels books. If Kate Daniels books were cookies, imagine me scarfing them down like Cookie Monster and then shaking the cookie jar looking for any leftover crumbs (i.e., the novellas “Magic Mourns” and “Magic Dreams,” which I also read) that I could also gobble up. They were just so much fun to read that I couldn’t stop.
What makes these books so addictive?
Some books are easy to review. Plot summary, praise, criticism, rating, done. Other books are like Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
I enjoyed reading this book tremendously and think you should read it too. But how can I convince you to do that without spoiling the humor and wit and surprise of the book? Maybe I should just link to this wonderfully spoiler-free review by my friend Mouse. Or maybe I should let the first page sell you on the book:
The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says “What’s most important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.” You’ll notice that wasn’t even the question. When I press him, he says the second annoying thing, “The truth is complicated. There’s no way one person can ever know everything about another person.”
Mom disappears into thin air two days before Christmas without telling me? Of course it’s complicated. Just because it’s complicated, just because you think you can’t ever know everything about another person, it doesn’t mean you can’t try.
It doesn’t mean I can’t try.
But that seems lazy. So instead, I’ll try listing five spoiler-free reasons that I really liked Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
::dusts off blog::
Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this little book blog! My schedule got pretty crazy there for a while. But once again I’ve been getting the itch to review the books I’m reading. First up, a little bit of escapism: Size 12 and Ready to Rock, the fourth book in Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series.
I really enjoyed the first three Heather Wells books — they’re very light reading but pure fun. Our heroine Heather is a resident advisor for a dormitory at New York College (a very thinly disguised fictional version of NYU). She lives just above the New York poverty line and gets by because her landlord, private investigator Cooper Cartwright, lets her do his billing in exchange for rent.
Oh, and Heather used to be a teen pop sensation. Think Robin Sparkles, or Britney Spears if she’d been a bit better-adjusted. But Heather’s pop career took a nosedive when she started writing her own songs and gaining weight — hence the size-focused titles of the books* — and her mother fled the country with her manager and her life’s savings. Now she’s more or less anonymous, although her past does come up from time to time. Heather, however, is generally more focused on solving the latest mystery affecting the students in her residence hall.
Sound appealing? If you haven’t read previous Heather Wells books, I suggest that you stop reading this review now (major spoilers from previous books coming!) and go pick up Size 12 is Not Fat. If you’re already familiar with Heather and want to know if the fourth installment is worth a read, carry on.
When I’m stuck for inspiration on what to read next, I tend to head to the library and just grab something off the shelves that looks kind of cool. Seven years ago, using this highly sophisticated decision process, I picked up an intriguing-looking book by an author I’d never heard of, CJ Sansom. It was a mystery featuring a hunchbacked lawyer in Tudor England named Matthew Shardlake. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the book absolutely blew me away with its detailed command of the period, the impeccably plotted mystery, and its brilliant yet tragic protagonist. The Shardlake books are now my favorite historical mystery series and Sansom’s name is generally one of the first on my lips when friends ask for book recommendations.
On 8 June 1870, Charles Dickens collapsed after a full day of working on his latest serial, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He never recovered. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is now one of the most famous unfinished novels in the English language, and it has never been clear how Dickens intended to end the book.
Matthew Pearl’s historical mystery The Last Dickens centers on a search for the ending to Edwin Drood. James Osgoode is a partner in the Boston publishing firm of Fields, Osgoode & Co., which has paid a handsome sum of money for the rights to be Dickens’s official American publisher. Fields, Osgoode & Co. is the subject of a takeover attempt from a large New York publishing firm and Osgoode is counting on a healthy profit from Edwin Drood — until Dickens’s death leaves the book unfinished. Desperately hoping to find the rest of the manuscript, or at least some indication of how it was supposed to end, Osgoode travels to England with Rebecca Sand, one of the firm’s bookkeepers. The search for Drood‘s conclusion will lead them both into far more danger than they had anticipated.