Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Image result for lost in a good book by jasper ffordeLost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next, a literary detective in the Special Operations division, has become famous for her work trapping a villain in the pages of Jane Eyre. Set in an alternate universe centered in England, Thursday and he husband Landon start noticing bizarre coincidences that put their lives in danger. Thursday’s father, a renegade time traveler being hunted by the ChronoGuard, keeps finding her in the past and future to warn her about a mysterious substance that will destroy the world if she doesn’t stop it. At the same time Thursday keeps meeting Miss Havisham from Great Expectations to be trained as a book jumper. As the plot threads begin to merge and the characters keep meeting, the book becomes even more engaging. The second in the Thursday Next series, Lost in a Good Book continues Jasper Fforde’s wildly inventive and humorous universe created in The Eyre Affair. While having read the works of literature mentioned is not necessary, familiarity with their plots gives the reader a deeper understanding of this book. Fforde even brings in a character from his Nursery Crime series. This book is great fun and well worth the reader’s time.

Lost in a Good Book sub index

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

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White Queen by Philippa Gregory

white queen

White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Gregory is known as queen of historical fiction about the Tudor dynasty, but in this series she takes up the Plantagenets in the middle of the War of the Roses.  Our White queen is the beautiful and ambitious Elizabeth Woodville Grey, who has recently been widowed when her husband was fighting again the current King of England.  Despite her family’s Lancaster loyalties, she stands in the road the that same king passes through her country town, hoping to get her husband’s lands back from one of the king’s cohorts.  Imagine her luck when the handsome young king falls for her beauty and begins to secretly woo her!  As Elizabeth rises to power at the side of her king, her ambition eclipses everything else.  She wants her entire family to benefit from her position, and is not hesitant to give them land, titles and marriages that help the crown as well as the individual.

This book is an enjoyable journey into the behind-the-scenes plotting and machinations of the British royalty.  While I found Elizabeth’s voice to be somewhat stilted, it did not stop me from devouring the book, hoping that she and her family would prevail over their many enemies.  I highly recommend this to fans of historical fiction, regular readers of Philippa Gregory and students who enjoyed the movie The Other Boleyn Girl, whose original book was also written by Gregory.

other boleyn

In Darkness by Nick Lake

in darkness

In Darkness by Nick Lake

“In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One:  I am alive. Two:  there is no two. I see nothing.  I hear nothing.  This darkness, it’s like something solid.  It’s like something inside me.”

So begins the readers’s journey with Shorty, a Haitian teen stuck underground in a crumbling hospital after a terrible earthquake.  He is surrounded by death, and slowly dying of thirst and starvation, but shares the story of his difficult life and how he ended up in his current predicament.  Shorty’s hard-scrabble slum life led him into a world of gangsters, ruled by the impulsive Soleil, just so he and his family can survive.  Like he’s whispering in our ear, Shorty tells us about life in his world, where the gang lords imitate the American gangbangers, and children execute enemies with barely a second thought.    While he waits in hope of rescue, he feels the ghost-like presence of a man coming into his mind, that of Toussaint L’Overture, slave who led the rebellion to free the Haitain slaves in the late 1700’s.   Though seeming different, the two men actually have ideas in common that will intrigue readers as they make their way through this captivating story.

Although I found this book to be utterly sad, I was compelled by the author’s style to read it to the end.  I had to find out what happened to Shorty, even though his life felt hopeless.  In the afterward, Nick Lake said he did research Haitian history, but took liberties with the facts, smoothing out the history to fit his story.  I think this book will make readers want to learn more about l’Overature, as his character as a simple man who led a revolution against Napoleonic France is fascinating.  I recommend this to readers who like urban drama or historical fiction.

Smack by Melvin Burgess

Smack by Melvin Burgess

Fourteen-year-old British runaways become heroin addicts in this gripping story.  No one would be surprised to see Tar runs away from his abusive, alcoholic parents, even though he had no idea where to go or how he would take care of himself.  But when Gemma decides to flee from her overly strict parents to join him, it changes everything.  Through a helpful tobacco storeowner, they find an empty building and decide to join some others in “squatting” there.  After they meet the carefree older teenagers Lily and her boyfriend Rob, life becomes one non-stop party, free of responsibilities, full of sex  and drugs and partying.  Slowly, the couple’s occasional heroin use turns into a full blown addiction, pulling them in directions they never imagined possible.

What most readers love about this “impossible to put down” book is that is doesn’t lecture them about the dangers of drug abuse.  It simply grabs you from the first page and plunges you first-hand into a lifestyle you probably wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

I would recommend this to all types of readers, especially those who like gritty, realistic stories about teens living on the dangerous edge of society.

Sara’s Face

Sara’s Face by Melvin Burgess

While I have to say this wasn’t one of my favorite books from this year, it was definitely worth reading.  I ordered it because it’s written by the wildly popular British author of Smack, Melvin Burgess.  Simply put, this is the story of what happens when plastic surgery goes wrong.  Seventeen-year-old Sara is obsessed with being a celebrity, and seems to be willing to do anything to reach this goal.  When the infamous rock star Jonathan Heat, who reminds the reader a little of the late Michael Jackson, takes her under his wing, it appears that all her dreams will come true.  It doesn’t make her nervous that Heat’s own face is so messed up from plastic surgeries that he has to wear a mask to appear any kind of normal.  When she moves into his mansion, though, she finds that the price for beauty may be more than she is willing to pay.

This is a book about vanity, celebrity-obsession, the drive for the perfect look, and the price we sometimes pay to try to serve these goals.  It will certainly make readers think about our current society’s adulation with celebrities and obsession with appearances.