Quick, bite-sized reviews of fast, enjoyable reads!
A penny for thoughts, a snappy two-cent reflection!
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
Published: April 7
Genre: adult fiction, contemporary
Summary: The summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns to Highbury, where she will live with her health-conscious father until she launches her interior-design business. In the meantime, she will offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the ways of the world. This summer brings new faces into the sphere of Emma’s not always perfectly felicitous council: Harriet Smith, a naïve assistant at the ESL school; Frank Churchill, the stepson of Emma’s former governess; and, of course, the perfect Jane Fairfax.
Mini Review: While I own one of the Austen Project novels, I’d yet to read one. I also haven’t read Smith before, so my only comparison is to the original Austen (also, not my favorite Austen novel). When I read this contemporary retelling, I found it entertaining — certainly had that Austen voice — but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Contemporary is meant to not only be set in our time, but also have today’s mannerisms and culture and dialogue. I was expecting an English version of Clueless or Emma Approved. Smith did such a great job writing like Austen that I actually had a hard time believing this was set in the modern day (again, not sure if this is Smith’s normal writing style or if this is part of the Austen Project guidelines). This is also a very condensed version of the original, with only the major events stringing together nicely across a summer. The downside: less George. I wanted more George and Emma interaction! All that aside, I felt the characters’ backgrounds fitting for modern day — Emma as an interior designer, for one — and the satire amusing. If I loved the Austen novel more, I may have enjoyed this one more, as well.
This qualifies as book #3 in my resolution to read 10 library books in 2015.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: November 2011
Summary: Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
Mini Review: I listened to this in the car on the way back from BEA, and I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it. Mindy is nothing like her characters on television. She’s funny, insightful, and intelligent. Every story she told felt honest and true, and she managed to make me laugh without using vulgarity or racism. Her memoir managed to make me believe we were best friends.
This qualifies as book #4 in my resolution to read 10 library books in 2015.
The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr
Publisher: Chicken House
Published: March 2015
Genre: middle grade, mystery
Summary: Orphan Edie’s been sent to Knight’s Haddon, a private boarding school, by her uncle to investigate the disappearance of a precious crystal bird that belongs to his client’s daughter. Anastasia, a Russian royal, has a fragile disposition and a melodramatic bent — or so the headmistress and all the other girls say. Edie’s assignment is to find the missing glass bird, befriend the troubled blueblood, and keep a watchful eye on her. When the two girls uncover a dangerous plot, how can they stop it and who can they trust?
Mini Review: I was expecting something a bit more adventurous and mysterious. While I really enjoyed Edie’s character — she certainly doesn’t do well as a spy, but it was fun to watch her attempt to sneak around — I found myself drawn to the adults in the story. With every turn of phrase, with every tiny scene alone in their minds, I was drawn to that aspect of the mystery more than what the girls were up to. This book also contains a lot of fears over mental illness as well, paranoia and the like, and I wasn’t sure if it worked. I’d recommend this book to light mystery readers in need of a boarding school setting.
This qualifies as book #5 in my resolution to read 10 library books in 2015.