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Joyful Girl

Andrea Blythe's blog about writing, reading, and everything else


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Books Completed in July
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As I'm still playing catchup, so here's my be-lated reading list.

1. Hands of Flame, by C.E. Murphy
2. 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma
3. Arthurian Romances, by Chrétien de Troyes
4. Late Eclipses, by Seanan McGuire
5. Anya's Ghost (graphic novel), by Vera Brosgol
6. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (audio book), by Muriel Spark

Did not and won't finish (at this time): The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

REVIEWS:

1. Hands of Flame, by C.E. Murphy
Reading Baba Yaga's Daughter and Other Stories of the Old Races reminded me that I had yet to read the last book of the Negotiator trilogy.

Book three has Margrit Knight still neck deep in the conflicts between the Old Races with her life and the freedom of her loved Alban (a gargoyle) on the line. The action comes quick and fast and Margrit faces it with all the grit and grace in her repertoire, fighting for peace and tearing down the injustices of a flaw system of rules, even if it means risking her own life. This is a fun urban fantasy series with a great and unusual mix of supernatural characters, and this book works as a great conclusion, even if every plot threw isn't wrapped up neatly.


2. 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma
Discussed elsewhere.


3. Arthurian Romances, by Chrétien de Troyes
Discussed elsewhere.


4. Late Eclipses, by Seanan McGuire
The fourth book in the October Daye series begins with sad tidings and has Toby once again thrown into a much bigger battle than she's prepared for with old enemies returning and new enemies arriving. What make Toby make it through these (and other) impossible circumstances is not just her bravery and skills with knives, but the love and trust her allies have in her and their willingness to help. Actually, watching her friendships grow change and develop is one of the great things about this series.

Like most of the October Daye books, there's a kind of zig-zag pattern to the plot with Toby going from here to there and back again in a kind of manic trying to figure things out. Sometimes it's a little too much action, action, action without much retrospection.

But that's a minor quibble, because this series is so much fun and I can't wait to read the next book.


5. Anya's Ghost (graphic novel), by Vera Brosgol
When a teenage girl falls down an old well, the last thing she expects to find is a pile of bones and a ghost to follow her home. The ghost seems to be the perfect friend, until she learns that the ghost has a secret of her own.

Anya is a rather typical teenager, feeling awkward and fat and ugly (been there), while wanting desperately to fit in and get the attention of the hot boy in school (been there, too). In order to achieve this, she rejects her Russian heritage and avoid the other Russian kid in school. She's not a perfect kid, not always sweet or good, but she's likeable and relateable and she makes up for her mistakes, so it's easy to be on her side.

The artwork lovely, clean and sharp. The images mostly bright and yet just creepy enough when the ghost is around. The story unfolds with neatly with just the right amount of humor and chills. A fantastic book, which I read cover to cover in just over an hour, then proceeded to flip through again for the enjoyment of it.


6. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
The Age of Innocence follows Newland Archer, who is about to marry May Welland, both from New York's upper class families. Everything seems superbly perfect to Newland, until the Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after fleeing her husband in Europe. After several stops and starts and subtle inflections of politeness, Newland discovers that he and Ellen are in love. But the wedding with May goes on, leaving them both caught between following their heart and following the norms of society.

The Age of Innocence garnered Edith Wharton the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, the first time it was awarded to a woman. Though apparently there was some frustration for her about this, because her book was chosen over another author's merely because it was the "safer" choice. In her view, the book is far from safe, as it satirizes the standards of marriage and criticizes the edicts that society holds dear.

I personally found The Age of Innocence to be readable and enjoyable with much subtly of personalities, contradictory natures, and wonderful rendering of the upper class culture and its hypocrisies. This book didn't have nearly the emotional punch in the gut that the fantastic House of Mirth had, but it was still wonderful in its own right.


7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (audio book), by Muriel Spark
I tend to be fond of stories that involve women who challenge the system and its norms and inspire younger women to do the same, but unfortunately this one left me cold.

Miss Jean Brodie is a school teacher, who has captivated a set of girls within the school with her charm and wit and willingness to talk about her love affairs during class. Over and over again, it's mentioned that Brodie is in her prime, though it's never clear what's meant by that phrase. I suppose she's meant to be intelligent, but mostly she just comes off as vapid and superficial. I'm not sure she actually teaches her students anything other than about her personal love affairs and her journey's around the world, so I'm not sure how her set manages to become the most intelligent girls in school, as they all seems to be vapid and superficial, too.

At no point was I able to find a character I could get a handle on and have interest in, as each of these thin, vapid characters is described in a superficial way and it's impossible to really understand their motivations or why any of the girls is so smitten with Miss Jean Brodie in the first place. On top of that the plot (if you can call it that) loops back and forth through time in such a way that it's hard to understand the narrative thread or what the overall conflict is supposed to be.

When the conclusion rolled around, the first question that formed on my lips was, "What was the point?" I'm not sure there was any.