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Archive for August, 2007

Serial reader

When I find a new author, I have a compulsion to read all of his or her books.  If the writer has a series, I must read the books in order.  What I find frustrating is figuring out the order of the books.  It takes some detective work to track this down, so I was thrilled to find the site:  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/  You can search by the author’s last name, see all the books they have written, the order in which they were written and if they are a series, the chronological order of the titles. It is a UK site, but they list US prices and availablity.  Now that I’m hooked on the Australian crime writer Peter Temple, I was able to figure out which book to read after Bad Debts.  The sad thing is that the third book, Dead Point, doesn’t seem to be available anywhere.  Well, now that his new book The Broken Shore (and the start of a new series) is getting critical acclaim beyond that of the typical crime novel, I hope that his older books will soon be reissued. 

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Curiouser and curiouser

My son has to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, as a summer assignment before starting College as a freshman.  I read it as well and rather liked it.  He didn’t seem impressed, perhaps because he felt that the book was geared toward younger readers.  I think it is easy to be misled because of the simple language. The plot is not subtle, but the issues raised through the autistic boy’s attempt to solve a mystery and face new challenges in his life are all the big ones:  marriage, divorce, life and death.  The best thing is the voice of the narrator, the autistic teen Christopher, as he describes how the world seems to him and how he copes (or doesn’t cope) with sensory overload, the strangeness of other people and the breakdown of his familiar world.  I loved the Sherlock Holmes references, the math examples were interesting, even to a non-math person, and you find youself really empathizing with Christopher’s viewpoint.  He’s right, people don’t always say what they mean, they often lie and the world is often illogical. 

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HP Marathon

I couldn’t resist rereading all the Harry Potter books before watching the latest movie and embarking on the final volume. It’s a collosal waste of time, but I’m able to pick up on some of the foreshadowing that occurs in all the books.  She really did have the whole thing figured out from the beginning.   For instance, in the very first book they encounter the centaurs who seem to see something written in the stars and have an argument about interfering with destiny. 

Having just finished Book V (Order of the Phoenix), I still like Number III (Prisoner of Azkaban) the best – it is more complex, multi-layered and better written than the others.  In the first two books, the writing is noticeably ‘clunky’, which may be the problem with creating a framework and just filling it in, rather like coloring by number.  The third book has better flow, plus I like Professor Lupin.  In Book IV, the writing quality diminishes a bit, and Book V is just so dark.  Still, on the plus side, she does a great job with her characters, especially the teen angst and awkwardness, (Harry’s first date is really funny). Another word about the writing:  when I first opened up Book I, I was fresh off reading the Lord of the Rings out loud to my son (a marathon effort that we did twice).  Rowling’s writing was a noticeable drop in quality, but her plot, as well as the clever touches about the magical versus muggle world, was enough to hook me in.  Later, it became the characters and even the formula that appealed to me.  At the current time, I am listening to Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and again I feel the difference in the quality of the writing. Pullman is so poetic, philosophical, heart-wrenching and compassionate, there’s really no comparison.

  Still, I’m not quibbling with Rowling.  I admire her imaginative work and especially the fact that the books got bigger and bigger. It did my heart good to see third and fourth-graders lugging Book IV around.  She didn’t have to write such a huge book; she could have gotten away with anything at that point. 

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