A few weeks ago I read and reviewed Mr Darcy’s Diary, which was a very enjoyable and light read. Between the fourth and fifth Wheel of Time books this week I took three days to read another Amanda Grange book, Mr Knightley’s Diary. For fans of Jane Austen, Amanda Grange writes from the main male character’s point of view and are worth checking out. Quick minor book blogging point, I’ve started a new system for ranking books and would love feedback from you all. Instead of just putting the book title as the caption for the book cover, I’m going to start ranking books on my “Bookmark Scale.” Five out of five bookmarks is a great book I loved, one of out five is a book I did not enjoy. Please let me know what you think, or any suggestions you make have! And as always, I’ll use tags for each post for how much I enjoyed it (loved to meh) and if I would recommend the book.

 

2 out of 5 Bookmarks

 

Mr Knightley lives a quiet, comfortable life in the village of Highbury. His brother is happily married and living in London, many of the young people in the village are getting married, and his young neighbor Emma encourages the matchmaking with her own schemes. By turns he finds her spoiled, stubborn, beautiful, talented, amusing, and endearing. But most of all, he finds her to be the one woman he enjoys spending time with. Of course that doesn’t mean he loves her, he just needs to find a wife who is like Emma in almost every way.

For her part, Emma lives to have fun and make people happy. She is an ideal daughter, a wonderful playmate to her nieces and nephews, and a good friend to her neighbors. Emma may not be the most accomplished woman, but she has a passion for life that often makes up for a lack of focus and dedication. Despite their large age difference, Emma and Knightley have been best friends for years.

Together, Emma and Knightly make up the best of Highbury society. But things are changing in their small village, thanks in part to Emma’s matchmaking. Knightly is starting to think of getting married, but every woman he encounters never compares to the relationship he has with Emma. But she is so childish at times, and they have known each other for her entire life, he could never think of her that way…until a new man comes to town and steals her attention.

Jane Austen’s Emma is said to be one of the greatest love stories, but I’ve just never been a huge fan. I find Emma’s spoiled and self-indulgent behavior to be obnoxious and it isn’t offset by finding a good husband in the end. And somehow, Amanda Grange turned Knightley into a character that is just as oblivious and silly as Emma ! Mr Knightley’s Diarywas a fun read, in the same way I enjoy reading gossip magazines. And Knightley’s diary did read like a gossip magazine. But despite my dislike for the characters, I thought the writing was great. A gossip magazine is exactly what Emma would read if she was alive today, and this book will be tons of fun to anyone who loved that aspect of Emma.

I read Dune in February of last year, at the insistence of a few friends. And I loved it. But I waited to read the second book, Dune Messiah, because few sequels are as good as the first one. I finally gave in, and actually finished the book two weeks ago but couldn’t pin down my thoughts on it. I finally found a chance to talk about the book with a friend and while I can’t say I loved it as much as I did Dune, I will be excited to start the rest of the series after my Wheel of Time reading challenge is over.

Dune Messiah

Dune Messiah follows the life of Paul Atreides after the violent revolution that happened at the end of the first book. He is now emperor, his sister Alia is a priests of her own church, his wife is trying to trick him into getting her pregnant, and the woman he loves can’t bear the heirs he needs to secure his rule. Paul is also leader of the jihad, spreading his rule over millions of people on other planets. Yet despite all his religious, political, and psychic powers, Paul cannot stop the horrible future he has foreseen for himself and his people.

Dune was full of action and battles, while Dune Messiah focused much more on political strategy. And there was a lot of political maneuvering in this book. Paul’s wife is part of a conspiracy by the Reverend Mother’s to breed Paul and Alia and create a powerful child they can control; the religion that has grown around Paul and Alia is something neither of them want to deal with, yet pilgrims come to them every day seeking help; and powerful (and hidden) enemy tools have come into his life for reasons he could not foresee.

Yet while I love a good political story, I found Dune Messiah to be much less interesting and not as well developed as Dune. The first 90% of the book was completely devoid of action, and consisted of Paul and Alia avoiding their responsibilities as leaders. The last 10% I really enjoyed, because everything the book had been leading up to finally happened. The ending was extremely exciting, but it took me a few months of reading to get there.

I’ve been told the next two books are much better, and I really hope they are. Dune was an amazing book, with a society that was superbly developed and detailed. Dune Messiah added nothing to that society or the character development, and felt more like a placeholder between the first book and the rest of the series. I would recommend this book to someone reading the series for the first time, but after I’m done I only plan to reread Dune.

One of my largest complaints about a book (other than hating every character…cough cough A Confederacy of Dunces…) is an awkward writing style. I may love the storyline, or I greatly enjoy the characters, but if the writing style creates a barrier between me and the story, I just don’t enjoy it. Maybe I’m being overly picky, but I know what I like. Do you have a writing style or genre that drives you crazy, or an author you just can’t stand?

Libra

Libra is about the JFK assassination, written as a biography of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. DeLillo combines true events of the assassination and life of Oswald and fictional conspiracy theories to create a thrilling story. Oswald is presented as a listless and unfocused drifter, struggling against a world he believes is out to get him, stumbling from one government conspiracy to another. In every instance, Oswald changes his entire mindset to prove he was innocent; he is a patriotic American, a Marxist, a Cuban revolutionary, a family man, and a great supporter of Soviet Russia. In the end, Oswald is recruited to attempt the assassination (but miss!) in an attempt to force the US to finally invade Cuba and eliminate Castro.

I found the story line to be extremely interesting. While there is not a really solid narrator, the book is written around this old scholar, Nicholas Branch, studying the assassination for the government to come to some sort of conclusion about what happened and why. Although there are no answers in this book, it was fun to see one theory of how all the pieces fit together. Because there are so many characters (Oswald’s family, his army buddies, and the many FBI agents trying to recruit him) who act as proxy narrator while Branch studies the file containing that life event, the point of view changes constantly.

It was this changing point of view that drove me crazy. I can deal with books that change narrator every chapter (although I generally dislike it), but this book would change narrator from one paragraph to the next, often leaving me confused for a few sentences before I knew who was talking! And many of the characters were hard to follow, as their thoughts were presented in fragmented and unfocused sentences. So while I liked the story, I could hardly read more than 20 pages at a time before getting so frustrated with the writing I needed a break.

For a girl who can read for hours at a time without noticing, that was the deal breaker with this book. Interesting story about an extremely emotional event, but a writing style that refused to let me really get into the book. I was never able to become so engrossed in the characters that I forgot where I was and what I was doing. Slightly recommended to people who love history and government conspiracies, but not recommended to casual readers or people who like grammar.

After finishing The Vampire Lestat last month, I eagerly started reading the third book in the series, The Queen of the Damned. And put it down just as quickly as I had picked it up. Where as the entire reason I loved The Vampire Lestat and Interview was the character of Lestat (he has become one of my favorite literary characters), he was really only used for the introduction and conclusion. This book annoyingly switched narrators constantly, rarely staying with my favorite characters for longer than a chapter. I’m a very opinionated reader, and I hate when authors switch narrators so I have to not only read about a character I hate, but I have to hear the story from their point of view!

The Queen of the Damned

This book did have many positive qualities. I enjoyed seeing Lestat a little less arrogant. The story also goes further into the history of vampires than The Vampire Lestat did, which I really enjoyed. The addition of a mortal history was also greatly appreciated. And I especially enjoyed seeing more development in characters only briefly mentioned in the previous two books. Even with the addition of a character I hated, I loved reading about how all the histories of vampires from around the world are tied together by their mysterious origins.

But I just can’t get over how much I hated the queen of the damned herself, Akasha. I thought her idea to save the world was a cheap, poorly developed scheme for someone who had 6,000 years to do nothing but think. Even after her characters was explained, I detested her stubborn ignorance. As a result, I suffered through every chapter about her even though those ones featured my beloved Lestat. As the boy likes to say, I enjoyed the parts of Queen of the Damned that didn’t actually have the queen in them.

Despite my rather unwarranted hatred for the queen, I enjoyed this book. Just not enough to ever need to read it again, or recommend it to people other than as the necessary end to the three-part beginning of The Vampire Chronicles. But I’m glad I finished this book, as it was well worth it once the story was complete.

Because of the minors I have (Political Communication and Sociology), and the interest that lead me to those minors in the first place, I love books about people, their struggles, and how they fit into the large social movement. I especially enjoy studying the lives of women in the early 1900s and their movements to become independent and educated…and in the process get really upset about all the stupid things the larger society did to prevent their freedom from the traditional patriarchal social structure, which is why I was interested in the book Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical.

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant living and working in New York as a cook. She was identified as having typhoid, a deadly and much feared disease with no known cure at that time, and unknowingly infecting the households she worked in. The story is amazing: an Irish immigrant making a life for herself as a strong and independent woman. The life she escaped in Ireland, and the success she had in America is a tribute to her strength and dedication.

The writing in this book, however, does no justice to the subject. I found it to read more like a tabloid story than a well researched, historical account. The tone is very sensationalist, and even sarcastic in parts. The only part of the book I enjoyed was the 4th chapter, “The New Woman.” It explains the reason American society was changing, and how women were able to start the process of becoming independent and step out of their traditional roles of mother and house wife. The reason I liked this chapter is because it relates to another book I’m reading on the subject.

If you like historical, scholarly books, don’t read this. If the story of Mary Mallon is interesting, find other, more serious and credible sources. It’s worth looking into.