Between the Bookends returns for 2014 with ghosts in Malaysia, murder and intrigue in Westeros, and a whole lot of My Little Pony!
Sophie has been reading a lot over the past few weeks. She just finished Dan Brown’s Inferno, the January choice at her book club, and rather enjoyed it despite its obvious flaws. She is currently working her way through You Are the Music by Victoria Williamson. It’s described as “exploration of how music makes us who we are throughout our lives.” She’s also (very) slowly progressing through Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files by Robert Shearman, reading the section for each episode after watching it as part of her complete series rewatch.
With her young son, she is reading My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Volume One by Katie Cook and Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab by Daniel Sean Kaye. The latter is a wonderful series of cartoons about the secret lives of her favorite crustaceans. They also just finished a beautiful edition of T.S. Elliott’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
Kelly Knox and her daughter recently stumbled upon The Elements of Harmony, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic guidebook. The companion to the TV show is packed with an episode guide, concept art from the show creator, character descriptions, and even song lyrics. (Kelly and her daughter have been happily singing “A True, True Friend” together.) Official companion books can be hit or miss, but the behind-the-scenes tidbits and close look at the world of Equestria make this one a must-read for Pony fans young and old alike.
Rebecca is currently re-reading a book for a book club she is hosting: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo is a most unconventional romantic ghost story. It is set in the Chinese society of Malaysia during British colonial times, and she finds that setting and culture fascinating! The main character is Li Lan, who was brought up by her widower father, who seems to be more interested in sharing his love of books and maps with his daughter than keeping her in high society. Although that sounds like a great childhood to us now, once she becomes a grown woman, a good marriage is the only way to keep her family finances intact.
A marriage offer comes in from a wealthy family for Li Lan to become a ghost bride—a rarely used practice, where a recently deceased young man is officially married to a living woman. She gains all the status and money of marrying him for real, but is a widow forever (with no children or society life).
That premise was interesting enough for her, and then the dead fiance starts courting Li Lan in her dreams. And he’s a total jerk! Her foray into the Chinese afterlife, and the other people she meets, is a wonderful tale where the setting is just as important as any character in the book.
The last few months have seen Helen go into a reading frenzy, aided by many hours of having to feed her baby. The Kindle app on her new phone is the best thing that ever happened to nighttime feeds. The past six weeks have seen 20 books finished, chosen mainly by what’s on offer in the Kindle store. The main highlight has been George R.R. Martin’s epic A Game of Thrones, which Helen began knowing nothing about and, like many others, is now slightly obsessed by. She’s half-way through a dead tree version of A Clash of Kings now, enjoying the richly detailed world, as well as the excitement and intrigue of such a long-running saga. In a related vein is Rod Rees’ Demi-Monde quartet, including similar levels of sex and violence to Westeros, but this time set in an alternate reality and also concurrently within a sophisticated computer simulation. It also includes a large cast of characters, any of whom might come to a sticky end at any time, but also raises issues of consciousness, morality, and what it means to be human.
On a completely different tack was Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, which didn’t include any gruesome decapitations or battles, but did include mysteries and ancient secret societies instead. It was a quick and easy read, but no less enjoyable for that. After all that fiction, next up is Quantum by Manjit Kumar, which delves into the history of the science of quantum mechanics, and looks at how these theories were debated and discussed by scientists such as Einstein and Bohr. Whether Helen’s sleep-deprived brain can handle this remains to be seen, but she thinks it’s worth a try.