Comic-a-Week – Jan 2-8 – The Night Bookmobile

You’ve seen a lot of reviews of this one the past week and I’m not exactly sure why all of us decided to read this one at the same time.  I picked mine up from the library on a whim, after hearing a couple of bloggers express how much they loved it.

I love Audrey Niffenegger.  Like many people, Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite books.  Beyond the fact that it is a lovely book, it is also one of the first books that my boyfriend recommended to me.  It marks the beginning of our relationship and will forever hold a special place in my heart.  While Her Fearful Symmetry left me somewhat disappointed and conflicted, I enjoyed reading it and I absolutely loved parts of it.  I’ve also read The Three Incestuous Sisters, Niffenegger’s other comic, and I enjoyed that one as well, though I didn’t really have a strong reaction to it either way.  The Night Bookmobile produced a reaction in me similar to Her Fearful Symmetry – there were parts that I loved, but others that left me feeling somewhat cold toward the book.

For one, the concept behind this comic is perfect.  The idea that each person has their own library with each book they have read and started to read  stored in a vehicle of sorts.  Alexandra, after fighting with her boyfriend and walking alone at night to clear her head, encounters her library and quickly becomes obsessed with it.  Secondly, the art is lovely and adds to the mystery and fantasy of the story.  It was short and sweet, with a memorable conclusion.

But a significant part of that conclusion really upset me, not because of what happened, but because of how abrupt it was.  Of course, I do not want to spoil anything, so I’m being purposefully vague.  It is a shocking turn of events that I honestly found difficult to understand.  I really wanted to love this book unreservedly, because the idea is so bookish and wonderful, but I just couldn’t.

I don’t necessarily want to deter anyone from reading this comic.  It really is wonderful for most of the time.  Apparently it is a part of a series that Niffenegger will be continuing in the future and I sincerely hope that as a whole the series is as lovely as the majority of The Night Bookmobile was.

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

1330V, Bart’s Bookshelves, The Written World, nomadreader, Reader’s Corner, Words and Peace and Stuff As Dreams Are Made On all feature posts about The Night Bookmobile.  Did you?  Leave a link in the comments and I’ll include it in this list.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

When Her Fearful Symmetry came out this year and all the reviews started to pour in, I knew that I was going to have to wait to read it.  The results were of resounding disappointment – it was no where near as good as Time Traveler’s Wife, to most it was mediocre, to others it was downright infuriating.  I wanted to let that sit a while before I read this book, and I knew that I was going to read it eventually because Time Traveler’s Wife remains one of my all-time favorite books.  Sitting here, with Her Fearful Symmetry read and this review waiting to be written, I’m still not sure how I feel about the novel at all.

When Elspeth dies, she leaves a very unconventional will.  She leaves her flat, right next to Highgate Cemetery, to her twin nieces that she has never met (Valentina and Julia).  But Elspeth does not completely depart from this world; she haunts the flat and has ongoing conversations with her former lover Robert and the twins.  There is also Martin, the twins’ OCD neighbor.

What I can say about it is that I never didn’t enjoy reading it.  As I was reading it, I thought the novel was interesting and well-written.  There were elements of Time Traveler’s Wife that I loved, repackaged and still fresh.  There was the supernatural element of the ghost story, which I thought was done quite successfully.  There is Niffenegger’s gorgeous language and her perfect sense of place.  I have never been to Highgate Cemetery, I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen pictures of it, but she did a fabulous job explaining it and completely putting me there.  The best thing about this novel?  Martin and the ending.  I thought Martin’s storyline was endlessly fascinating, especially at the beginning, and I wanted more from him.  I also loved Robert; he was flawed and another favorite to read about.  The ending of this novel was, for me, exactly what was needed.  It does not end happily, not really, and there were plenty of twists that I did not see coming.  I’m so glad that Niffenegger ended this one as she did, because otherwise the novel would have suffered greatly for it.

Where Her Fearful Symmetry fails is in making me care about Valentina and Julia.  Much of the plot revolves around Valentina and how she feels suffocated by her relationship with Julia, but I honestly don’t know why, other than the fact that Julia wanted to drop out of college and somehow dragged Valentina with her.  The pathos of their relationship is never adequately explained and I needed that explanation to connect with the twins.  Instead, I connected much more completely with Robert and Martin, whose complexities are explained fully and simply.  Instead of coming off as trapped and tragic, Valentina comes off as immature and whiny.   I wish that there hadn’t been any twins in this novel at all, but that we had just gotten to see how the lives of Martin and Robert played out after the death of their mutual friend, who happens to be haunting her flat.

Even with that complaint, I still really enjoyed reading Her Fearful Symmetry.  I particularly liked this quote near the beginning of the novel:

James said, “I saw a ghost once. […] I was quite small, only a lad of six.  […] So, I was put to bed upstairs.  I remember lying there with the blanket pulled up to my chin, my mother kissing me goodnight, and there I was in the dark, not knowing what terrible thing might be ready to slink out from the wardrobe and smother me…”

Jessica smiled.  Robert thought it might be a smile for the morbidly fantastical imaginations of children.

“So what happened?”

“I fell asleep.  But later that night I woke up.  There was moonlight coming in through the window, and the shadows of the tree branches fell onto the bed, waving gently in the breeze.”

“And then you saw the ghost?”

James laughed.  “Dear chap, the branches were the ghost.  There weren’t any trees within a hundred yards of that house.  They’d all been cut down years before.  I saw the ghost of a tree.”

Robert thought about it.  “That’s rather elegant.  I was expecting ghouls.”

Well, that’s just it, you see.  I think perhaps if that sort of thing does happen – ghosts – it must be more beautiful, more surprising than all these old tales would have us believe.” (62)

So, yes, I recommend this book.  It is a good ghost story, but it definitely fails on some levels.  When I read Time Traveler’s Wife, I sobbed at the end for Claire and Henry because I felt like I knew them.  In that sense, Her Fearful Symmetry is a disappointment when you compare it to that first novel.  However, if Niffenegger had written this book under a different name and I never tried to compare the two?  Maybe I would feel a little differently.  And an absolutely perfect ending?  Hard to come by.

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Other reviews: The Book Lady’s Blog, S. Krishna’s Books, Devourer of Books, Books on the Brain, Stainless Steel Droppings, Dear Author, Fantasy Book Critic, Rhapsody in Books, Literate Housewife, At Home With Books, 5 Minutes for Books, eclectic/eccentric, Care’s Online Book Club, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Presenting Lenore, books i done read, Jenny’s Books, Savidge Reads.

Did I miss yours?  Leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it in!

TSS – 8 August 2010

Books  read this week – reviews pending:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier & The Color of Heaven by Kim Dong Hwa

Posts this week:

Fat Cat and Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Currently reading:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Happy Sunday!

TSS – 1 August 2010

Okay, nothing is going right this morning.

WordPress was down.  Now the Sunday Salon badge is NOT working.  But you guys know what it looks like.

Nothing is going right in the reading department either, unfortunately.  I was definitely digging Her Fearful Symmetry and then… I left my book at work.  I forgot to get it again on Friday and now I have spent the whole weekend without it.  But I am seriously loving it, so I can’t wait to get back to it on Monday.

So instead, I started reading Fire Study.  Now please, step in here and say, “But Lu!  You never posted a review of Magic Study!  Why are you holding out on us like that?”

Because I never read it.  I thought Fire Study was the second book in the series, but it is not.  It is the third.  The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking, “Wow!  That’s a weird decision to just start the book after so much time has passed. Why would Snyder decide to do that.”  Um, unfortunately it didn’t click until 100 pages into the book.  Now I don’t even want to continue reading the series.  I’m so bummed out.  Dear publishers: PLEASE make it clear the order of a series.  Nothing is worse than reading books out of order.

I did read the graphic novel The Color of Water today and I liked it, but not as much as The Color of Earth.  It definitely suffered from second book syndrome.  It really just felt like a connector between The Color of Earth and The Color of Heaven. I’m looking forward to reading the third and final book in the series.  Fortunately I read them in order.

I hope your reading goes a bit smoother than mine did.  Happy Sunday and Happy August 1st!

TSS – 25 July 2010

Currently reading:

Am I picking books based solely on their cover colors?  Possibly.  How about setting?  Also possible.  It’s been unbelievably hot and both of these books have quite chilly atmospheres, plus their cool blue covers.  I’m dreaming of cooler times.

Books reviewed this week:

I think I liked this one?  But I really have no idea.  I can’t tell if I have no feelings about it or ambivalent ones.  But other folks have loved it.  Click the photo to read my full review (if you can call that list a review…).

Things posted at At the Bridges this week:

Going somewhere?:

Welcome to Parismina!  We save the turtles.
We conserve nature… it is our future.

I might be going here in October.  I originally thought I would be going to Spain, but I’m beginning to lean toward a volunteer experience in Costa Rica, Peru or the Galapagos Islands!

Happy Sunday!