Jeeves and the Wedding Bells: An Homage to P.G. Wodehouse by Sebastian Faulks

jeeves

Bertie Wooster is a rather foolish young man of the British upper class, and Jeeves is his highly intelligent and understated butler. The Jeeves and Wooster series is a British comedy institution, and P.G. Wodehouse wrote many books over the 60 years of their publication. For those who haven’t read them, the Jeeves and Wooster novels are comedies of manners, like A Room With a View, only more ridiculous, set in a similar time and place as Downton Abbey. The plots are fun and always tie up neatly at the end of the book and the wordplay is delightful.

Many praise Wodehouse as the finest comic English author, so Sebastian Faulks took on a tall order with his new book, subtitled “An Homage to P.G. Wodehouse”. It is a true homage, with a complicated plot of romantic comedy misunderstandings, Bertie messing things up, and witty banter between Bertie and Jeeves. It is not quite as good as the originals, however. The plot wrap-up was not totally up to Wodehouse standards, and though his writing is good, Faulks did not have Wodehouse’s flair for creating crafting each sentence to sparkle like a gem: the wordcraft was always the best part of Wodehouse’s books.

In the author’s note, Faulks says that the Wodehouse estate hopes that this new Jeeves & Wooster novel will introduce a new generation of readers to Wodehouse’s books. I think it does an ok job of an introduction, but if you are looking to get your toes wet with some real Wodehouse, I would recommend starting with Right Ho, Jeeves. You can get it from King County Library System in a number of formats, and you can currently get the ebook for free from Amazon.com.

Right Ho, Jeeves from King County Library System in Book, eBook, Downloadable Audiobook, , Audiobook CD, Audiobook Cassette (!), and the TV series on DVD: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?custom_query=(contributor%3A(wodehouse)%20AND%20title%3A(right%20ho%20jeeves)%20)&suppress=true&custom_edit=false

Right Ho, Jeeves from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Rithmatist-Brandon-Sanderson/dp/0765320320

 

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells from KCLS in Book, Downloadable Audiobook, and Audiobook CD: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?custom_query=(contributor%3A(faulks)%20AND%20anywhere%3A(jeeves)%20)&suppress=true&custom_edit=false

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jeeves-Wedding-Bells-Wooster-Novels/dp/1250047595/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395884835&sr=1-1&keywords=jeeves+wedding+bells

 

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Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

Cover image of Dallas 1963

Dallas 1963 describes the social and political climate in Dallas, Texas in the three years leading up to the Kennedy assassination. It is an eye-opening book on the right-wing extremism in Dallas and the culture of hate and fear it spawned. This book delves into the politics of the leaders of Dallas, showing how they acted and their motivations. Some key figures followed include Ted Dealey, the editor of the very conservative Dallas Morning News, General Walker, an army general who became a poster child for the right after he was fired for forcing his conservative views on his troops, and Stanley Marcus, the liberal owner of the Neiman Marcus department store.

I had learned a little about the Kennedy assassination in history class, but I did not live through the event. Dallas 1963 was a great book to learn about the context of the assassination. It delves into the Dallas Citizens Council, the elite power broker businessmen of Dallas that controlled the city, as well as the progress of the Civil Rights movement and de-segregation in Texas and the South more broadly. This book does not go into any of the conspiracy theories, and instead is a well-researched and gripping book about the climate of hate and fear that permeated Dallas and led up to the assassination. As with many books about history, it can also be read as a warning, showing how this culture grew and reminding us that it can grow again if we aren’t careful. A worthwhile read, especially for younger readers trying to understand the event.

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dallas-1963-Bill-Minutaglio/dp/1455522090/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393280617&sr=1-1&keywords=dallas+1963

From King County Library System in book, e-book, audiobook cd, preloaded audiobook, and e-audio: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?t=smart&q=%22dallas%201963%22&commit=Search&CFID=11234464&CFTOKEN=5746043fac8b22ca-FC015BFB-155D-225D-FAD6577D69801EB3&author=Minutaglio,%20Bill

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The cover of A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches is a fantasy novel that feels like a combination of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, with far more witches. The main character, Diana, is a witch who wishes she was just a human. She studies the history of alchemy at Oxford University, and her world is shaken when she looks at a strange book and meets a handsome, brooding vampire named Matthew Claremont. Diana is quickly drawn into the supernatural world of witches, vampires, and deamons, and gets entangled in their politics.

Like Twilight, A Discovery of Witches takes a little bit of time to get the plot going, and it echoes The Historian with its scholar of European history stumbling into a supernatural world. The real delight in reading A Discovery of Witches is the unfolding relationship between Diana and Matthew. As they get to know each other, their walls start to come down, even as they both find out things that should make them reconsider. Diana is a more grown up and strong-willed heroine than Bella of Twilight, and seeing how Diana and Matthew negotiate an adult relationship is entertaining and authentic.

The author does spend too much time on the intricacies of alchemy for my tastes, but the specifics aren’t important to the plot of the book, so I mostly glossed over the in-depth descriptions of alchemical drawings.

Fans of A Discovery of Witches will be pleased to know that it is part of a trilogy. The second book, Shadow of Night, is out now, and the third, The Book of Life, is due out in July 2014. I gobbled up the first two books and I’m eagerly awaiting the third.

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Witches-Novel-Souls-Trilogy/dp/0143119680/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie

From King County Library System in book, e-book, audio cd, large print book, and preloaded audio player: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?custom_query=%28contributor%3A%28Harkness%2C%20Deborah%29%20AND%20title%3A%28discovery%20of%20witches%29%20%29&suppress=true&custom_edit=false=UTF8&qid=1389145973&sr=1-1&keywords=discovery+of+witches

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatistAll Joel ever wanted was to study Rithmatics, the art and science of fighting with chalk drawings. Rithmatists draw defensive circles and offensive chalk drawings to duel other Rithmatists and to fight the dangerous wild chalkings. But Joel was not chosen to become a Rithmatist, so he attends normal classes at Armedius Academy, not trying at the classes he doesn’t like and watching the Rithmatic students jealously. Then the Rithmatic students start to go missing, and Joel and a fellow student, Melody, are assigned to help the professor in charge of the investigation into the crimes. Joel and Melody make some surprising discoveries on their hunt to find the perpetrator, a mysterious figure named The Scribbler.

This is a fast-paced and inventive fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson, more known for his adult Mistborn series. There are some diagrams of the defensive circles by Ben McSweeney, which are very helpful for understanding the concepts of Rithmatics.  The Rithmatist reads like a combination of the Harry Potter school for magic idea, the Pokemon or Fullmetal Alchemist idea of battling, with a little bit of steampunk and chalkdust thrown in. This is the first book in a planned series, and I am excited to see the next.

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Rithmatist-Brandon-Sanderson/dp/0765320320

 From King County Library System in book, e-audio, audio cd: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?t=smart&search_category&q=rithmatist%20sanderson&commit=Search&CFID=4407978&CFTOKEN=3fa8752e4600ccb3-61E73CD4-155D-225D-FADDE260E6419A9E

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

A-Confusion-of-PrincesKhemri is a young man that was taken from his parents as a baby and has grown up in a Matrix-like environment to work for the mysterious Imperial Mind as a prince of the empire. In his training, Khemri learns the legends of the great princes, who do the Mind’s bidding and can come back to life if the Mind deems them worthy. The millions of princes in the galactic empire compete to get good positions and to become the one prince chosen to become the next Emperor. Khemri nearly gets assassinated twice on his first day out of training ala Hunger Games, and then he’s maneuvered to join the Imperial Navy even though he’d rather be out cruising in a fast starship and getting girls. The Imperial Mind has directions for Khemri that no one else seems to know about, and he gets put on a secret mission after his training at the Naval Academy is complete. While carrying out this mission, he falls in love, and questions if his goal of becoming Emperor is what he really wants out of life.

This Young Adult science fiction story is told from Khemri’s point of view, and the best part about the book is seeing his character change from an arrogant prince bent on becoming Emperor to a more humble adult who questions authority. I found the ending a little predictable, but teens reading the book might find it more comforting. The world building in this novel is also very good, with a fresh take on the politics and power structures of a vast galactic empire.

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Confusion-Princes-Garth-Nix/dp/B00BCUIYJ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389205136&sr=1-1&keywords=a+confusion+of+princes

From King County Library System in ebook, eaudio, audio cd, and book: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?custom_query=%28title%3A%28confusion%20of%20princes%29%20AND%20contributor%3A%28nix%2C%20garth%29%20%29&suppress=true&custom_edit=false

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

girls-who-went-awayThis is a nonfiction collection of stories gathered from interviews by women who gave children up for adoption in the 1950’s, 60’s, and early 70’s. The author intersperses the stories with chapters about the culture and social forces at work during the period. The book tells a wide array of stories, but one theme runs throughout the book – the lack of choices and agency of the birth mothers, and the incredibly strong forces from society, social workers, and their own families that led the women to give their children up. I did not know much about adoption before reading this book, but I knew what society said about adoption: that birth mothers wanted to give up their children and could not or would not raise the children themselves. This might be different today, but The Girls Who Went Away shatters that myth for the 50’s-70’s. The women’s stories are shocking and sad, and some made me angry, but it is important for these stories to be told, as that can be the first step in understanding and healing for birth mothers and adopted children.

One problem I had with the book is that the author chose women to interview based on women who were (in the organization?). The group of women were self-selecting, as they joined the organization and volunteered to tell their stories. This makes for a sample that is probably not representative of birth mothers as a whole during this period, but as there are not public records of women who were birth mothers to sample from, and there is so little research into this area, I feel this book goes a long way to filling the need for information about the topic.

http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/item/show/531626082_the_girls_who_went_away

http://www.amazon.com/The-Girls-Who-Went-Away/dp/0143038974

cover of The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump – The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.

The Reason I Jump is a rare look inside the mind of someone with severe autism. The book takes the form of a Q&A, with the author, Naoki Higashida, answering common questions about autism. The questions range from “why do autistic people talk so loudly and weirdly?” to “what’s the reason you jump”. Some answers go more into depth than others, as the author struggles to understand some of his behavior and cannot compare it to a “normal” person because he doesn’t know how they think, but all the answers are informative. Interspersed among the questions and answers are short fiction stories by the author, which tell his experience from a different perspective.

I found the book very helpful for understanding how someone with autism might experience the world. From sensory overload to problems with language and impulse control, the author explains to the best of his abilities how he sees the world. It is also a pretty quick read – at 176 pages, with many illustrations interspersed, I got through the whole book in 90 minutes. I felt the time was well spent for this illuminating book.

One problem that I had with the book is that Higashida often answers questions with “we” and “us” instead of “I” – he is answering for everyone with autism, not just for himself. As autism is a spectrum disorder, with many different traits, I do not feel that he can speak for every autistic person. This also might be problematic if a reader is not very familiar with autism, as they might take his word as gospel and treat other autistic people as Higashida wants to be treated, which might not be the same for all people with autism.

Overall, The Reason I Jump is a quick and illuminating look at an autistic person’s mind.

Find the book on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Reason-Jump-Thirteen-Year-Old-Autism/dp/0812994868

Find the book on the King County Library System website: http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/search?q=HIGASHIDA%2C+NAOKI&search_category=author&t=author