I’m Kicking It Old School

So I have a chunk of books I’ve read lately that I haven’t had a chance to vomit all over. Grab a beverage and a barf bag, and let’s get those book covers a-crackin’!

So I finished the Steig Larsson trilogy, and am so excited about the movie coming out in English. (We don’t want none Swiss, please.) And I’m also really glad they didn’t put Natalie Portman in the title role as rumored, because she seems to be quite sweet and adorable, and Lisbeth is kind of badass. Once you read the first one, you can’t really help but finish the rest of them, and they do get progressively better and more interesting. The final installment was basically about Lisbeth’s history, which was pretty intriguing.

Because it was well-reviewed, I bought Amy Bender’s book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It has a really interesting premise, in that the main character can feel the emotions of the person who prepared any given dish by simply eating it: sadness, betrayal, infidelity, gratitude, etc. It is also unconventionally written, which can be a burden at times, but seems to work with the overall strangeness of the novel. But that’s where all the good stuff ends. What could be a promising mystery with her brother’s disappearances becomes just another, “huh?” moment, and feels too lackadaisical compared to the heavy strangeness of the main character’s “power” and the overall weirdness of her brother throughout the novel. It’s a letdown. And there’s no gratification in finishing the novel – the ending is chopped off, like the author couldn’t really come up with anything else to say, so she just closed up her laptop and called it a day. It was a downer, and probably should have been a library rental instead of the $7 or something Amazon charged me to load it onto my Kindle.

Then I read Marisha Pessl’s novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which debuted to rave reviews. First of all, her prose is eloquent, and her main characters are intriguing. It’s narrated by Blue van Meer, a child genius who travels the country with her father, as he teaches at a different sub-par university each semester, despite his being Harvard-educated. The chunk of the novel is set during Blue’s senior year in high school, and what ensues. There is adequate mystery to keep you interested, but not enough for you to label it a mystery, and when the mystery is solved, you barely see it coming. The big revelation, however, seems really, really, (really) implausible, and given the backstory, incredibly unlikely. Overall, it’s a good read, well-written, and different enough from other stuff out there that it was worth it.

And because it was a free download on the Kindle, and I’m beginning to love all things Jane Austen (I know, I know, I’m a latecomer to her brilliance and romance), I read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke. And I am ashamed. It was poorly, poorly written, like a really bad romance novel (but to be fair, Harlequin would have stamped it with a big red “X” because it actually had a plot), and it was, in short, ridiculous. A modern day girl, Eliza Knight (the author’s characters are all unabashedly named similarly to characters in Austen’s novels and/or personal life) finds a letter in an old bureau addressed to Jane Austen and signed F. Darcy (Fitzwilliam Darcy being The Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice) and an unopened letter supposedly from Miss Austen herself. The rest of the novel is basically her trying to find out if Mr. Darcy was based on a real person, but then, as par for the course, finds herself falling in love with a modern-day Mr. Darcy within minutes of meeting him (smoldering eyes and all), and living happily ever after.

So to basically wash the bad taste out of my mouth, I started reading the real Pride and Prejudice so I can fall in love with the real (fictional) Mr. Darcy. It’s been awhile since it was required reading (meaning, I just read the Cliffs Notes), so it’s like reading it for the first time. (Okay, I’m exactly reading it for the first time.) But I have read Emma, and watched Clueless probably a hundred times, and saw the movie Becoming Jane on Netflix, so an Austen newbie I am not.

As for future reading, I’m probably going to make a sojourn back to the oldies but goodies, because a). they’re free downloads on my Kindle, and b). I haven’t had so much luck in absolutely loving anything new I’ve read lately. I need to reassure myself that great literature did exist once.

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