Sunday, July 29, 2007

Harry Potter?

The book's been out for a week and, yes, I did finish it last Saturday, but I thought I'd better hold off for a bit to give others time to read and absorb the book. I've tried to be vague in this post, but there is one spoiler toward the end.

With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being the final book in the series, it was hard not to get caught up in the fervor. I'd preordered by copy of the book from amazon (I know, I know, I should be supporting local businesses...) and I have to admit that I was getting very antsy waiting for our mailcarrier to show up with my copy.

While I liked the book overall and think it was a satisfactory ending to the series, it wasn't flawless. Some things were very well done, others could have been handled better.

There were so many things that were not addressed in the epilogue and I found that disappointing. While I'm glad that certain characters lived happily ever after, I wish that we found out what happened to everyone else. (And, no, I don't think I should have to watch The Today Show to find out what happens). The way she ended the series, I can definitely see some spin-off series about the kids at Hogwarts, either done by her or by someone else at some point.

The pacing was a bit schizophrenic, some sections were almost unbearably slow, while others flew by so quickly that it was hard to keep up. There was sooo much action that at certain points that I felt rushed through the book. And, yes, as many others have said, it was a bit of a blood-bath. While I understand why it was necessary, this book doesn't really deal with the consequences of those losses like the earlier ones did (not that they were perfect in that respect, either).

On the other hand, I really liked the way she tied things together with a certain character who features prominently in book 6.

However, I still think that book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is my favorite book in the series.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

book clubbing in July

This month's book club selection was Tracks by Robyn Davidson. The book is subtitled "a woman's solo trek across 1,700 miles of Australian outback" and is less an account of the trip itself than a chronicle of that time in the author's (mental) life.

Tracks opens with Davidson and her trusty canine companion, Diggity, arriving in Alice Springs with only $6 and a dream: to travel across the central desert with three wild camels. We follow the author through her preparations (2 years!) and the trip itself--with the accompanying mental angst, injury, romance (?),and wild animal attacks--and in the process we learn much about camels, the Australian outback, and plight of the island's aboriginal inhabitants.

Most of our book club members didn't actually read the book before our discussion today. One member quite liked the book. I thought it was just OK, I expected more (I know, I know, it's not good to come at these books with preconceived notions, but sometimes you just can't help it).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

back in business

I've finally beat the (acute) bronchitis so expect a lot of new content this week.

In the meantime, pop over to WestofMars - the meet and greet to learn all about the Hidden Treasures contest (you can also read my post about it), then go read a book so you can review it for the contest!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I'm terribly behind on my reviews (as I expect some of you may have noticed).
Just when I started to get my act together I came down with what I'm hoping is just a very bad cold.
Suffice it to say that I have a bunch of half-written reviews haunting my various computers and as soon as I'm feeling well enough to write coherently (hopefully next week) there will be lots of new material to read.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Chess Machine

Penguin is publishing a really wonderful piece of historical fiction this month, The Chess Machine by Robert Löhr. My review appeared in the May 1 edition of Library Journal.

Journalist Robert Löhr takes the inspiration for his debut novel from one of the most successful hoaxes of all time: the Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing automaton created by Austro-Hungarian Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1770. Although the book is well-researched, Löhr's story focuses on the Turk's early years, of which very little is known. He weaves a fictional back-story for the Turk's relatively well-documented later life. The novel is peopled with historical personages like von Kempelen and Empress Marie Theresia as well as completely fictitious characters like the Turk's first operator, dwarf Tibor, Kempelen's assistant Jakob, a Jewish lothario, courtesan-turned-domestic-spy Elise, and the ill-fated Baroness Jesenák, all of whom are well-executed and sympathetic. Löhr's vision of 18th century Europe seems authentic and the inclusion of a murder-and-revenge plot gives the story a satisfying momentum. Translated by award-winning translator Anthea Bell, this novel is highly recommended for readers of historical fiction.