It’s the fifteenth book of the Dresden Files. I know some avid readers who say the series has long since become same-old, same-old. Weirdly enough, I’m still engaged.
I was never very interested in reading this book until lately, when political pundits began setting it up as an opposite to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. After reading it, I don’t really see them as opposites so much as complimentary, dystopian views of the direction our world may be headed.
In the weird version of San Francisco featured in the same author’s “Love Story” trilogy of vampire novels—”Bloodsucking Fiends”, “You Suck”, and “Bite Me”—lives a textbook specimen of the creature known as the Beta Male. His name is Charlie Asher. He runs a second-hand shop (inherited from his father), shares a four-story apartment building (ditto) with his lesbian sister, and can’t believe his luck when a beautiful Jewish girl marries him and has his daughter. But then death swoops down in the form of a seven-foot-tall record store owner whose name, like his wardrobe, is Minty Green. Suddenly Charlie is a widower, a single father, and because he could see Death coming for his wife, he’s Death as well.
Collection spells are not just for debt collectors who want to put the hoodoo on a delinquent customer. In Chris Colfer’s “Land of Stories” series, they are the framework for a quest-like adventure through a magic world teeming with fairy tale heroes and villains. The first book, “The Wishing Spell”, was all about a shopping list of magical items that twins Alex and Conner Bailey needed to assemble in order to get home to the “Other World” (namely, ours). It could only ever be used one more time, and the Evil Queen from “Snow White” wanted to get there first. Now in their second visit to the Land of Stories, Alex and Conner are trying to complete one collection spell, while the Enchantress from “The Sleeping Beauty” races to finish another.
It’s been quite a few years since I read “Enchanted, Inc.” because, frankly, I’m a guy, and chick lit isn’t my thing. But it was such a funny and magical book that continuing with the series has often been on my mind. And now I find that the “Katie Chandler” series has grown to seven books. Based on the adventures of a Texas belle who finds adventure, romance, and professional fulfillment in New York, it combines the appeal of a “Sex and the City” spoof with the charm of a modern, urban fairy tale.
We’ve run into this problem before: First it was a novel. Then it was adapted, more successfully than faithfully, into a movie. Then came a film novelization, a novel designed to be more faithful to the movie than the movie was to the original novel. They did it to Pierre Boulle’s “Planet of the Apes”. More recently, it happened to Cressida Cowell’s “How to Train Your Dragon”. It even happened to another book by Ian Fleming. And so your dilemma is this: Which book do you buy or borrow, to read or give to your kids? Which counts as the classic?
Everyone who meets Don Quijote is amazed that one and the same person can be so wise and well spoken regarding most things and so completely insane when it comes to chivalry and the deeds of knight-errantry. Really a sensible old country gentleman, he has had his head turned by “books of chivalry”—romances about the apocryphal acts of apocryphal knights, their quests and amours, their saintly virtues and their military exploits. At times it seems possible that he has deliberately chosen to set aside reason, to make a break with the modern world, and at hazard of looking like a lunatic, to pursue the ideals of a time that has long passed, if it ever was. Maybe he’s a danger to himself and others. Maybe he’s a harmless fool. Maybe his protest against the unromantic pragmatism of modern life will be heard. Or maybe his plight is a protest against the poison of romance. Spin your interpretation as you will, what happens to Don Quijote and his talkative, rustic squire Sancho Panza is so funny that you may hurt yourself laughing.
While some of the “Jeeves” books are collections of short stories, this one is a solid (though not very long) novel. Its plot, similar to many other adventures of Bertie and his man Jeeves, has to do with mending two broken betrothals, saving an endangered marriage, distributing prizes at a boys’ school, and staving off the resignation of a supremely gifted French chef, all upon a summer holiday in the Worcestershire countryside. In its dimensions, it appears to be a trifling piece of entertainment. In its style of narration, it partakes of the stylish slang of a British upper-class dandy riding the crest of fashion à la 1934.
Two 12-year-olds from Waterloo, UK (near Liverpool) tell their parents they are going to the Lake District for a school camp, when in fact they are going to the moon. Kids these days! It’s only the latest prank pulled by young Liam, who has made a study of ways to get in trouble by being tall for his age and stubbly-chinned. When adults mistake him for one of them because of his height and mature looks, it’s as if he can’t help himself. It starts at an amusement park, with a thrill ride other kids his age are too short to try. Then there’s his first day in high school, when the headmistress mistakes him for the new teacher. By the time his father catches him trying to test-drive a Porsche, you would think Liam’s fever for mischief has run its course. But you would be wrong. This thrill ride goes all the way to the moon.
In her debut novel “Savvy”, Ingrid Law introduced us to the big, unconventional Beaumont family, in which each child manifests a unique superpower (called a “savvy”) on his or her 13th birthday. The challenge is to recognize what that savvy is and scumble it, or figure out how to control it, before something big happens. Otherwise, people could get hurt, or even worse, outsiders might find out about the family’s secret. In this sequel, we meet some of the Beaumonts again, as well as their cousins the O’Connells and the Kales. The birthday kid this time is Ledger “Ledge” Kale, whose special ability to “Bust! Things! Up!” literally brings down the house at a family wedding reception.