The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde

boe

Jasper Fforde does it again with a dazzling new series starring Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division.

Jasper Fforde’s bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

(I originally shared this review on June 16, 2015…so three years ago! I have been struggling to stick with a book this summer and The Big Over Easy felt like a perfect reread. I still stand by what I originally said about the book and I’m loving it even more the second time around! Enjoy!)

Jack Spratt is in charge of the Nursery Crimes Division of Reading, a division on the verge of losing its budget thanks to his recent inability to convict the Three Little Pigs of murdering the Big Bad Wolf. Then the smashed remains of Humpty Dumpty are found next to a wall and Jack knows it wasn’t suicide. Now Jack must find the murderer, save his misfit division, and keep sleuthing celebrity, DCI Friedland Chimes, off the case.

I absolutely loved The Big Over Easy. Thank you for the recommendation Polly! Each page is packed with nursery rhyme references but it never feels overwhelming as the passages are so matter-or-fact. It leaves you with this nagging feeling that these events actually happened. Fforde’s dry, sarcastic humor kept my snickering and speeding through the novel. The Jack and the Beanstalk references killed me every time!

My only complaint is the climax chapters were too fast paced for me in comparison to the rest of the story. That’s it for me but I did take some time to read the few negative reviews of The Big Over Easy. My response to them is: do NOT read this book if you don’t like murder mysteries. It’s a murder mystery that mocks the elaborate and showy nature of modern mystery development. How can you expect to like that when you don’t enjoy mystery novels?! Other reviewers complain that Fforde is trying too hard to be clever and only includes all the nursery rhyme information to make his readers feel smart when they get the references. You’ve got to be kidding me. Yes, the clever jokes and writing style may be too much for some but I highly doubt Fforde is more concerned with boosting the ego of his readers over the need to provide a good complex story. My only advice for such thinkers is that you should get over yourself and learn to enjoy the mechanics and discipline required to write a well balanced story.

Fforde’s jaw dropping ability to expertly meld so much research and detail in to one murder mystery has me wanting to be a better writer. I recommend The Big Over Easy to writers, as well as readers, as a prime example of a writing style that remains showing despite being so informational.

Have you discovered the Nursery Crimes Division? It’s time you should!

Lindsay

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

25489134

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in the 1300s in the northern forests of the Land of Rus’. Our main character, Vasilisa, or Vasya, is a gifted girl who must fight to save her father’s land from being destroyed by the evil spirit, Bear. Vasya struggles to find her place in a world where women have set tasks while her people attempt to find a balance between old and new beliefs.

I have strong conflicting thoughts about The Bear and the Nightingale. The aspects I enjoyed had me finishing the book over a weekend, but the aspects I disliked have left me reluctant to recommend it.

Let’s start with the things I liked. I adored the relationship between Dunya and Vasya. It was so kind, understanding, and nurturing. I found myself smiling while reading of Dunya doing her best to ‘tame’ the young Vasya, and failing miserably. I also loved the relationships between the siblings, especially between Vasya and Alyosha. The setting was fantastic. Arden’s prose had me immersed in the winter woods from the first word. I could smell the mead, feel the warmth of the fire, hear the faint crunch of snow underfoot, and embrace the struggle of the harvest. She kept me yearning for more information as each of the old world spirits emerged on the page. And Morozco…he was the main character that kept me reading. Just the complexity of his existence and the depth of his secrets are enough to carry the whole story. I wanted to know the details of his thoughts, his plans, his powers.

After that you’re probably wondering why I didn’t love The Bear and the Nightingale. Well, Iwould have preferred the book to be a standalone instead of the first in the series, which would have allowed for more questions to be answered by the end. I will note the pacing was very well done for a debut novel, though there were moments, such as the final battle, where I longed for more detail. And Arden is definitely able to provide unique and detailed characters. But still, I couldn’t commit to loving this story.

There are two reasons for this. First, I did not like how Christianity was handled. I liked how the village people mixed their old beliefs with their new religion. I understood the priest’s drive to rid the village of the old ways. However, I did not like how the religion was portrayed. At all. And this isn’t because I am a Christian. It was because the portrayal was only negative. All priests were political, power hungry people. Konstantin was a vain, cruel, selfcentered man who manipulated his ‘flock’ for personal entertainment. I know the religion was quite different in the 1300s but it only focuses on the need to fear God with not a single positive attribute of the faith shared. Honestly, the only time the church was painted in a remotely positive light was through Sasha’s eyes. I could make myself get past this if it wasn’t for the second point.

Second, I despised Anna. Sure we shouldn’t like the evil stepmother, but I despised EVERYTHING about her. From the madness, the religious fervor, the cruelty towards her stepdaughter, and the recurring issue of marital rape; she didn’t have one single redeeming trait. And I was relieved **SPOILER** when she finally died. The marital rape was unnerving. I get that it was part of the time and culture, but it was still hard to read. However, I couldn’t bring myself to even pity Anna because she was so horrid. She was too one-sided. The lack of empathy I felt for her made it hard to read, and I wished she was more developed. (And I admit to having a hard time reading the rape and ‘women’s role’ scenes)

Will I continue with the series? I want to say yes because I am intrigued by Morozco. And because I enjoyed how hauntingly dark The Bear and the Nightingale is. Still, I don’t see myself clamoring to pick up the next book. I do however look forward to Arden’s development as a writer. I find her background in history and cultures interesting and I think her writing, and story telling, will just continue to improve as time passes.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Lindsay

The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy
by Jasper Fforde

The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime, #1)

Jasper Fforde does it again with a dazzling new series starring Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division.

Jasper Fforde’s bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

Jack Spratt is in charge of the Nursery Crimes Division of Reading, a division on the verge of losing its budget thanks to his recent inability to convict the Three Little Pigs of murdering the Big Bad Wolf. Then the smashed remains of Humpty Dumpty are found next to a wall and Jack knows it wasn’t suicide. Now Jack must find the murderer, save his misfit division, and keep sleuthing celebrity, DCI Friedland Chimes, off the case.

I absolutely loved The Big Over Easy. Thank you for the recommendation Polly! Each page is packed with nursery rhyme references but it never feels overwhelming as the passages are so matter-or-fact. It leaves you with this nagging feeling that these events actually happened. Fforde’s dry, sarcastic humor kept my snickering and speeding through the novel. The Jack and the Beanstalk references killed me every time!

My only complaint is the climax chapters were too fast paced for me in comparison to the rest of the story. That’s it for me but I did take some time to read the few negative reviews of The Big Over Easy. My response to them is: do NOT read this book if you don’t like murder mysteries. It’s a murder mystery that mocks the elaborate and showy nature of modern mystery development. How can you expect to like that when you don’t enjoy mystery novels?! Other reviewers complain that Fforde is trying too hard to be clever and only includes all the nursery rhyme information to make his readers feel smart when they get the references. You’ve got to be kidding me. Yes, the clever jokes and writing style may be too much for some but I highly doubt Fforde is more concerned with boosting the ego of his readers over the need to provide a good complex story. My only advice for such thinkers is that you should get over yourself and learn to enjoy the mechanics and discipline required to write a well balanced story.

Fforde’s jaw dropping ability to expertly meld so much research and detail in to one murder mystery has me wanting to be a better writer. I recommend The Big Over Easy to writers, as well as readers, as a prime example of a writing style that remains showing despite being so informational.

Have you discovered the Nursery Crimes Division? It’s time you should!

Lindsay

Fairest

Fairest

by Marissa Meyer

 Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Fairest is the story of the evil Queen Levana, and the prequel story for Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicle series.  For those not familiar with the series it contains three full length novels (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress), two short stories (Glitches, The Queen’s Army) and now a short novel with Fairest.  The final novel, Winter, is scheduled to come out the Fall of 2015.  The Lunar Chronicles is a science fiction re-telling of the classic fairytales Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.

I received Fairest as a birthday gift and initially began reading it in February.  You may be surprised it took me so long to finish the novel considering how much I love the other books in the series, but I just couldn’t get into the story.  This has nothing to do with Meyer’s writing and story development.  Her writing is good and the story moves well.  It has everything to do with Levana as a character.  I just don’t like her because I have never been fond of the Evil Queen despite her many reincarnations over the last ten years.  Charlize Theron’s portrayal is by far my favorite, though I was less than impressed by the Snow White and the Huntsman film.

Anyways, a story about the Evil Lunar Queen wasn’t going to be my favorite of the series, but I still wanted to read it.  It should have been half the length, a novella instead of novel, because we spend far too much time delving in to the frantic, and often childish thoughts of Levant, resulting in her seeming more whiny instead of powerful and terrifying.  I loved the glimpse into her psyche; how lost and confused she was, how desperate in her love, and how much she hated herself.  I just wish the power of the final scene with the mirror resounded through the entire story.

I still recommend it to fans of the series.  Fairest adds depth to the Queen, and provides a wonderful view on the early lives of some well known characters from the other stories.  We get to see Cinder and Winter as children and even a few hints of Dr. Erland’s life on the moon.  Plus, its always fun to learn a character’s backstory and Levana’s is interesting…

Have you ready Fairest?  What is your favorite story in the Lunar Chronicles?

Lindsay

Cress

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Cress is the third installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicle series and readers dive in to the tale of Queen Levana’s satellite spy, Crescent ‘Cress’ Moon.  The story opens with the fugitive crew slipping through the stars to save Cress and Meyer takes us to Africa, Luna, and Back to New Beijing on an exciting journey to piece together Cinder’s team and stop the royal wedding.

Cress was a fun, fast-paced story that I could not put down; I had my husband laughing as I jumped up and down on the bed in excitement as plotlines fit together perfectly.  But, I had expected a tad more from Cress and my slight frustration resulted from the lack of character development that stemmed from the characters constantly being on the run.  I was disappointed in Wolf’s meltdown, I expected a little more from Cress as the story progressed, and I was disappointed at Cinder’s lack of leadership throughout the entire story.

I still loved it!  I enjoy the world that Meyer has created and she has a talent for re-telling the classic fairytales (Thorne’s lost eyesight is a quirky example).  Cress and Thorne develop a unique and real relationship as they survive the African deserts together and it is entertaining watching Cress react to her new friends.  Readers also get to spend more time with Kai, Dr. Erland, and Sybil Myra, who I just love to hate.  We even get a glimpse at the semi-sane Winter.  I love the fairytale romances and the intricate plotlines; Marissa Meyer is a master in her genre!  it is going to be difficult to wait for Fairest and Winter!

Let me know what you think about the review and Cress.

Lindsay

Scarlet

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Readers Beware: Here there be spoilers!
(Its just so hard not to have spoilers with a series like this.)

Last weekend we went kayaking out along the beach and of course my copy of Scarlet went with me! Scarlet is the second installment in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series and it is jam packed with an exciting ensemble of characters. Cinder, Thorne, Iko, Scarlet, Wolf, Queen Levana, and the list just goes on and on! Meyer takes her readers from New Beijing to France as the storylines of Cinder and Scarlet merge. Cinder searches for the truth about her past and Scarlet hunts for her missing grandmother.

Cinder is determined, strong, and much more confidant than the girl we met in Cinder. I was thrilled at her growth and the grudging friendship that she develops with Thorne; the American Captain pushes Cinder to open up through his annoying comments and playful jabs. She was just a stronger character which made reading her storyline more enjoyable than expected.

We get to meet the fiery Scarlet, a French farmer who is desperate to find her missing grandmother. Scarlet takes up with the mysterious Wolf (my favorite character) after she discovers he may know where to find her Grand-mere. She convinces him to help in her search, and the two develop an interesting relationship during their trials. I can’t wait to see where Meyer takes the two in the next installment.

I had hoped to see more ‘telling instead of showing’ with Scarlet. Meyer does take more time describing the setting, especially the Paris icons, but it was still a tad lacking. The story may be somewhat predictable because it is a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood. My suggestion is to embrace Meyer’s theme and enjoy the ride!

I couldn’t put Scarlet down and the last third of the book had me holding my breath as I turned the pages. Meyer’s writing is just enjoyable for me to read and I hope you find the story as enthralling. Let me know what you thought about Scarlet!

Lindsay

Lunar Chronicles Update!

So it may be obvious by my  reading over the last month, but I wanted to officially announce that I am a big fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicle series.  And by fan I mean the goofy happy dance…fangirl squeal…first in line for the new book type of fan.

And I am totally ok with this!  I love how she has modernized classic fairytales with a science fiction twist.  I enjoy her quirky characters and ‘edge of the seat’ storyline.  So I just had to announce the exciting news!  The series was originally supposed to consist of:

Two Short Stories –

1. Glitches

2. The Queen’s Army

and Four Novels –

1. Cinder

2. Scarlet

3. Cress

4. Winter

But, Meyer has just reveled that a fifth novel has been added to the lineup.  Fairest occurs before Cinder takes place and tells the story of Queen Levana and her rise to power.  Meyer continues with her fairytale theme and has hinted at the story correlation with Snow White’s Evil Queen.  Fairest is scheduled to come out before Winter, which is the final installment of the series.

So follow the link and check out the article on Fairest which was posted on USA Today! Anyone else as excited as I am?

Lindsay

Discount Armageddon

Discount Armageddon

by Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night….

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity – and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George.

When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

Discount Armageddon is the first book in the Incripted Series by Seanan McGuire. Verity Price is a competitive ballroom dancer by day and cocktail waitress at Dave’s Fish and Strips, the local strip club, at night. But, as if that wasn’t already a unique lifestyle, Verity also belongs to a family who is dedicated to protecting the cryptid population, all those fairytale creatures that are not supposed to exist, in New York City. She sublets an apartment from a Big Foot and shares her home, and her fridge, with her colony of Aeslin mice. Verity is just a typical twenty-two year old trying to find her niche in the world!

Discount Armageddon is worth reading just for the Aeslin mice. These talking mice are a religious colony dedicated to worshiping and recording history for Price family; they are hysterical due to their love of all-night festivals and demands for fried chicken with a side of chocolate cake. I picked up Discount Armageddon towards the end of my final semester, and it provided the fun adventurous release I was craving after months of writing papers. McGuire does an excellent job of installing the creatures of our childhood, such as the boogeyman, in to the human world; boogeymen own strips clothes, dragon princesses are cocktail waitresses, and cuckoos go to college to study mathematics.

Be prepared to get a little frustrated with Verity. She consistently makes stupid decisions, which left me constantly yelling ‘WHY?” at the paperback clutched in my hands. I reminded myself that this is a coming of age story for our heroine, so I suggest readers do as I did and embrace her youthful tenacity and laugh at her antics.

I enjoyed reading Discount Armageddon as the fast pace writing kept me turning the pages. It is entertaining watching Dominic De Luna, member of the Covenant of St. George, struggle with his feelings for Verity as she drags him all over New York City. Actually, most of the book is pretty entertaining if you don’t take the story line too seriously! Have fun reading Discount Armageddon and let me know what you think of Seanan McGuire!

Lindsay

The Queen’s Army

The Queen’s Army
by Marissa Meyer

The Queen's Army (The Lunar Chronicles, #1.5)

It is time. The boy must leave his family to serve in the Queen’s army. To be chosen is an honor. To decline is impossible. The boy is modified. He is trained for several years, and learns to fight to the death. He proves to the Queen—and to himself—that he is capable of evil. He is just the kind of soldier the Queen wants: the alpha of his pack.

The Queen’s Army is a short story in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles that documents the military training of a Ze’ev, a young Lunar boy, who is chosen to be an elite solider in the Lunar Queen’s war against Earth.  He is horrified to learn his duty requires monstrous physical modifications and mental manipulations, but Ze’ev quickly adjusts in order to survive.  The Queen’s Army, which has me wanting to re-read Ender’s Game, provides detailed descriptions of the gory training received by the Lunar Queen’s elite soldiers and further educates readers on the mysterious lunar colony’s animalist culture.

I enjoy this short story because it introduces fans of the series to Wolf, the man who once was Ze’ev and who will appear in Scarlet.  Readers also get a glimpse of life on Luna, the moon colony, which was just hinted at in Cinder.  I wish we could hear more about the regular citizens, such as readers experience with New Beijing, but Meyer restricts the story to the military training facilities and utilizes the setting to emphasize the cruel mentality of Queen Levana.   The Queen’s Army identifies Ze’ev’s moral conflict with his training and the goals of his queen; readers should remember this point when reading Scarlet.

This story really does not really function as a stand alone piece, but I know that it is meant to be read as part of the series.  Actually, The Queen’s Army is a must read for those continuing with Meyer’s series as it is necessary aspect of Wolf’s character development.  Wolf is one of my favorite characters in the series so far, and The Queen’s Army made me more sympathetic to Wolf’s struggles in Scarlet.  I immediately started reading the next book in the series so expect to hear about it in the next few days.  Let me know what you thought about The Queen’s Army!

Lindsay

Glitches

Glitches By Marissa Meyer

Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5)

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. In Glitches, a short prequel story to Cinder, we see the results of that illness play out, and the emotional toll that takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch…

Glitches is the prequel for Cinder, the first novel in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series.  This short story introduces Meyer’s main heroine, Cinder, and provides the origin story of the headstrong mechanic.  The excerpt for Glitches on Goodreads does little to actually describe the story, so here is my version:

Cinder, an eleven year old cyborg, is left to adjust to her new metallic hand and leg in New Beijing.  Her new family barely tolerates her due to her ‘condition.’  Lost without memories of her previous life, Cinder learns that there is more mechanical in her than meets the eye.  Glitches establishes the integral relationships between Cinder and her new family while introducing the ever positive Iko.

This is a wonderful prequel short story, and I recommend that readers of the Lunar Chronicles start their adventure with Glitches.  I bet understood Cinder and it gave depth to Adri, the evil step-mother.  Glitches performs best when included in the Lunar Chronicles universe, and I can see how some readers may find it lacking as a stand alone story.  Just remember the true function of Glitches when diving in to Meyer’s science fiction fairytales.

Expect to see the rest of Meyer’s work discussed through out the month of June as she is one of my favorite new authors.  I was actually inspired to start writing my own novel while reading CinderGlitches is a prime example of Meyer’s story telling capabilities and it left me excited to pick up Cinder once again.  Let me know what you think about Glitches!

Lindsay