The Woman Who Died A Lot, Jasper Fforde

The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next NovelJasper Fforde’s latest and seventh book in the Thursday Next series, The Woman Who Died A Lot, picks up Thursday’s story in the year 2004. Thursday is recuperating from an assassination attempt, and she is looking to run SpecOps 27, the Literary Detectives division, the agency responsible for dealing with forged or stolen manuscripts and works of literature. Meanwhile, she has other problems. Her son Friday has received a letter detailing his new future, now that the ChronoGuard has been disbanded and he will no longer be saving the world from destruction by asteroid HR-6984. Instead, he will murder Gavin Watkins the very week during which the book is set and spend the rest of his life in prison. Meanwhile, her daughter Tuesday is feverishly working on an Anti-Smite Defense Shield to protect Swindon from the wrath of the Global Standard Deity (GSD), who has enacted “a series of cleansings” all over the world “mostly as a warning to His creations that messing with the Big Guy’s Ultimate and Very Important and Unknowable Plan was not going to be tolerated.” Thursday’s brother, Joffy, supreme head of the Church of the Global Standard Deity, is taking a stand against the GSD and means to be in his cathedral when the smiting occurs, but Goliath, the large, evil corporation bent on running the world, has plans to lure the GSD’s smiting away from the city center by gathering together a large collection of unrepentant evildoers with the idea that the GSD will smite them instead. Goliath is up to new tricks, replacing Thursday with synthetic “day player” versions of herself. Aornis Hades is on the loose again, and the mindworm about having a daughter named Jenny that she implanted in Thursday continues to wreak its sad destruction. Thursday, older and and not up to her previous physical abilities, must contend with a rival who manages to push her out of her desired position in SpecOps, relegating her to the deceptively tame-sounding job of Chief Librarian of the Wessex Library Service. But this is Jasper Fforde’s world, where “many frustrated citizens who weren’t selected … to train as librarians … will have to console themselves with mundane careers as doctors, lawyers, and lion tamers.”

If it sounds like there was a lot going on, believe me, I have barely scratched the surface. Fforde’s plot had so much going on that it seemed even he was having trouble containing it, and I admit I gave up trying to follow it and just went along for the ride. I think Fforde is at his best when he lures his readers into the BookWorld, the fictional realm of literature in this series. I haven’t enjoyed the last few books in the series as much as I had enjoyed the first few. The story in this particular book doesn’t really ever come together until close to the end, and at that point, I was already so confused, I had forgotten some of the important details from earlier in the book. However, it’s Jasper Fforde, which means fun and hilarity will ensue. While I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I have while reading his earlier books in this series, I did enjoy the whimsy of Jasper Fforde’s alternative world, just as I always do when I visit it. And I will probably read the promised eighth Thursday Next book, too.

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Top Ten Tuesday adapted from

Top Ten Books for People Who Like X

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from

Oooh, I haven’t participated in Top Ten Tuesday in a while, and even though it’s technically Thursday, this one looks like too much fun to pass up. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books for People Who like ______. I’ve been unpacking my books, and I’ve been thinking about the connections among my different reads. My husband made the remark today that we have a lot of good books, and we really shouldn’t need to go to the bookstore in a while given how many great books we have. He’s right.

  1. If you like the [amazon asin=0545162076&text=Harry Potter] books, you should try Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series: [amazon asin=0142001805&text=The Eyre Affair], [amazon asin=0142004030&text=Lost in a Good Book], [amazon asin=0143034359&text=The Well of Lost Plots], [amazon asin=014303541X&text=Something Rotten], [amazon asin=0143113569&text=Thursday Next: First Among Sequels], [amazon asin=0143120514&text=One of Our Thursdays is Missing], and joining the ranks in October, [amazon asin=067002502X&text=The Woman Who Died A Lot]. Jasper Fforde’s series is hilarious bookish fun, and even has a few references to the Harry Potter series.
  2. If you like Emily Brontë’s classic [amazon asin=0143105434&text=Wuthering Heights], you will enjoy Sharyn McCrumb’s historical fiction retelling of the infamous Tom Dooley case, [amazon asin=0312558171&text=The Ballad of Tom Dooley]. McCrumb herself has described the novel as Wuthering Heights in the Appalachians, and it’s true. The story’s characters greatly resemble their counterparts in Wuthering Heights in many ways. I loved it.
  3. If you liked [amazon asin=143918271X&text=A Moveable Feast] or [amazon asin=0743297334&text=The Sun Also Rises] by Ernest Hemingway, try Paula McLain’s excellent novel [amazon asin=0345521307&text=The Paris Wife] for Hadley’s side of the story. One of the best books I read last year. Highly recommended.
  4. If you liked [amazon asin=0143106155&text=Jane Eyre] by Charlotte Brontë, you will enjoy an updated retelling of the story, [amazon asin=0062064223&text=The Flight of Gemma Hardy] by Margot Livesey. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.
  5. If you liked Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon asin=0440423201&text=Outlander] series, try Jennifer Donnelly’s Tea Rose series, beginning with [amazon asin=0312378025&text=The Tea Rose]. [amazon asin=1401307469&text=The Winter Rose] and [amazon asin=1401307477&text=The Wild Rose] round out the series, but the first one is the best one.
  6. If you liked [amazon asin=161382310X&text=Moby Dick], or even if you only sort of liked it because it got bogged down in cetology, but you liked the good parts, you will love [amazon asin=0061767654&text=Ahab’s Wife]. Oh.My.Gosh. One of my favorite books ever. Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel introduces the amazing persona of Una, wife of Captain Ahab, from one line in which Ahab mentions her in Moby Dick, and she’s one of the most incredible fictional people you’ll ever meet. I love her. She is one of my fictional best friends.
  7. If you liked [amazon asin=0316038377&text=Twilight], but you wished you could read about grown-ups, and you wanted less purple prose and better writing, try Deborah Harkness’s [amazon asin=0143119680&text=A Discovery of Witches], the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. The second book, [amazon asin=0670023485&text=Shadow of Night], comes out in about a week. You will like Matthew much better than Edward. Trust me.
  8. If you liked [amazon asin=0143105426&text=Pride and Prejudice] and [amazon asin=0486295559&text=Persuasion] by Jane Austen, and you are a little unsure of all those Austen sequels, try out Syrie James’s fictionalized what-if? novel [amazon asin=0061341428&text=The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen] that wonders aloud whether or not Aunt Jane had a real romance that inspired her great books.
  9. If you liked Suzanne Collins’s thrilling [amazon asin=0545265355&text=Hunger Games series], you will enjoy Veronica Roth’s [amazon asin=0062024035&text=Divergent] and its sequel [amazon asin=0062024043&text=Insurgent]. Not sure when the next book in the trilogy comes out, but I can’t wait. Her books are amazing. They will remind you of The Hunger Games without feeling anything at all like a ripoff.
  10. If you liked [amazon asin=0486415864&text=Great Expectations] and [amazon asin=1612930999&text=The Turn of the Screw], you will love John Harwood’s [amazon asin=B000I5YUJE&text=The Ghost Writer]. The book makes several allusions to both novels, but it also contains four complete short stories within the text of the novel (written by the protagonist’s grandmother), and it’s set in a creepy house with a secret.

Bonus: If you like Victorian novels period, and you want to read a love letter to the Victorian novel, or if you like Daphne Du Maurier’s [amazon asin=0380730405&text=Rebecca], try Diane Setterfield’s [amazon asin=0743298039&text=The Thirteenth Tale].

Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. Just because my husband says we have a load of good books doesn’t mean I’m not always looking for more.

Thursday Next

Booking Through Thursday: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Thursday Next

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “If you could see one book turned into the perfect movie–one that would capture everything you love, the characters, the look, the feel, the story—what book would you choose?”

I had to think about this one for a while. A lot of the books I love have been made into movies of varying degrees of quality. But wouldn’t a Thursday Next movie be awesome? Of course, the entire franchise would need to be filmed (like Harry Potter, and speaking of which, did you see the awesome trailer?).

  • [amazon_link id=”0142001805″ target=”_blank” ]The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0142004030″ target=”_blank” ]Lost in a Good Book[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0143034359″ target=”_blank” ]The Well of Lost Plots[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”014303541X” target=”_blank” ]Something Rotten[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”B001IDZJIQ” target=”_blank” ]Thursday Next: First Among Sequels[/amazon_link]
  • [amazon_link id=”0670022527″ target=”_blank” ]One of Our Thursdays Is Missing[/amazon_link]

The way I envision it, the movies would be able to pull off every single special effect. Casting is difficult when you’re talking about such a mega-series, but here are some thoughts:

Lola Vavoom can’t really play Thursday since she’s a fictional character, but how about Natalie Dormer?

Natalie Dormer

She is from Reading, UK, which is where Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crime novels are set. You might remember her as Anne Boleyn from [amazon_link id=”B0042RJWTC” target=”_blank” ]The Tudors[/amazon_link], so you know she can play feisty. For her daddy, Colonel Next, my choice would be Michael Palin. Can’t you just hear him saying, “Hello, Sweet Pea!”

Michael Palin

His old buddy John Cleese could play Uncle Mycroft.

John Cleese

Acheron Hades should be Eddie Izzard sans makeup.

Eddie Izzard

And Miss Havisham must be Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren

Thursday’s husband, Landen Parke-Laine should be David Tennant.

David Tennant

Eddie Steeples could be Spike Stoker.

Eddie Steeples

As for the rest of the characters in the large cast, I’m not sure. I know I would love to see Jasper Fforde’s alternate timeline world come to life. If you’ve read the books, what do you think of my casting choices? Who would you pick? Who could play the parts I didn’t cast?

Read my reviews of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books:

I haven’t read One of Our Thursdays is Missing yet.

Oh, and I just realized the Booking Through Thursday meme title is really punny for this post.

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday: When Series Jump the Shark

Booking Through ThursdayThis week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt concerns series books: “If you read series, do you ever find a series ‘jumping the shark?’ How do you feel about that? And, do you keep reading anyway?”

I have found that if the early books in a series grab me, I am much more forgiving of later lapses. I really loved Anne Rice’s first two Vampire Chronicles books, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. I didn’t like Queen of the Damned so much, but I understood its importance in terms of the Rice vampire mythos. I did enjoy The Tale of the Body Thief. As the series continued, I liked each book less and less. I didn’t like The Vampire Armand much, I never finished Blood and Gold, Pandora was only OK, and Memnoch the Devil remains the only book I’ve ever thrown across the room. Still, I kept trying for a while, you know? Because I liked some of the earlier books so much. I read Merrick and I tried Blackwood Farm. Finally I had to admit to myself that I just didn’t like the books anymore, and that trying to recapture what I felt about the first couple was pointless: she had clearly moved in a different direction, and it wasn’t one I was going to enjoy.

I had a sort of similar reaction to Stephenie Meyer’s books. I know it’s not cool anymore to admit you’ve read them, but I’ll cop to it. I will even admit to enjoying the first book a lot. The second less so. The third even less. The last one was frankly really awful and extremely weird. Vampire babies, vampire Bella is somehow more remarkable than everyone else (Mary Sue much?), weenie pedophile Jacob, weird abusive sex. Nope. Totally jumped the shark. And I can say honestly that if Meyer has plans to extend the saga with a fifth book, I won’t read it. Breaking Dawn was a shark-jumping moment if ever there was one.

In both cases, I kept up with books in series, despite declining quality, because I had truly liked the first or first couple of books. It is hard not to feel a little betrayed by the books. It’s hard too not to feel a little angry with the author who had previous given you so much pleasure. However, I am clearly forgiving past the point of rationality, especially as illustrated in Rice’s case, and I will read an entire series if the payoff in the first two or so books was good. I have read all of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books published to date, and I loved them all. My favorite series, Harry Potter, just got better and better.

One of these days, I’m going to try to finish Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The first four books were rewarding. I never finished the fifth, and haven’t touched the others. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sort of Pavlovian reaction to one of her book covers.

If you look at it from a behaviorist perspective, I have clearly been rewarded by enough series books to have learned to stick it out. However, it seems to take me a long time to stop expecting that reward. And you know, sometimes, I just have to finish a series to know what happens. Lately I have been telling myself life is too short to read bad books. And I have been sticking to that axiom, for the most part. A series is a commitment. It’s more than slogging through a few hundred pages. It’s a relationship with an author and her characters. And like many relationships, it can be hard to let go and figure out when breaking up might be the healthiest thing.

Living the Literary Life

NovelWhore tweeted a good question: “What book most represents what you want your life to be like?”

This is a tough questions to answer. I would love to be able to go to Hogwarts and do magic like the characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but Harry and Company go through some very rough times. They lose their loved ones, they’re tortured and outcast for their beliefs, and they experience a great deal of pain and suffering. Not even magic can eradicate these types of problems.

Una Spenser of Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel Ahab’s Wife is one of the strong female protagonists I most admire. She touches so much history, and she’s truly a remarkable woman. However, she also is forced into cannibalism to survive a shipwreck, an experience that drives her husband insane. I certainly wouldn’t want to have some aspects of Una’s life, but others sound truly amazing.

While I admire the passion and windswept beauty of the landscape in both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, the characters again must live through such ordeals, much of it at the hands of other people who are cruel for reasons that are difficult to fathom. Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and Thornfield Manor might be interesting to visit, but I can’t honestly say I’d want to live there.

Manderley seems like a great house to explore. I love Daphne DuMaurier’s descriptions of her unnamed narrator in Rebecca. However, if Mrs. Danvers must come with the house, I have to decline.

No, if I had one choice, one book in which I could live, one book that represents what I wish my life could be like, it would be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here are my reasons:

  1. Empire waists are flattering. The clothes are simply gorgeous.
  2. Despite the supposed repression of the time, Lizzie manages to express her true thoughts quite well, especially when she’s been insulted. She does not accept Mr. Collins’s proposal: she knows she will be miserable. When Mr. Darcy insults her with his first proposal, she lets him know in no uncertain terms, exactly where he can stick that proposal.
  3. England. You will not meet a bigger Anglophile. If I could live anywhere in the world and money/job were no object, I’d pack my bags for the U.K. this red hot minute.
  4. Austen’s economy of description evokes just enough of the setting to give the reader an idea without becoming bogged down in detail. Even so, I can see all of it, and it’s so beautiful.

In Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, characters are able to jump inside books, and Thursday even lives inside one for a time. If anyone ever works out how to visit books, I want to book a trip inside Pride and Prejudice.

In which book would you like to live? Blog about it and tag others (we can make this a meme) or leave your answer in the comments.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

Thursday Next: First Among SequelsThe fifth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, begins more than a decade after its predecessor, Something Rotten. Thursday’s son Friday is now a teenager whose thoughts seem to revolve more around his favorite group Strontium Goat than on joining the ChronoGuard—something he must do, and soon, or the world might end. And that’s the least of Thursday’s problems. She also has to deal with the two book versions of Thursday Next, a reappearance of old nemeses Aornis Hades and Felix8, and Goliath Corporation’s machinations. Worst of all, the stupidity surplus is at an all-time high, and in order to get rid of it, the government has decided to turn Pride and Prejudice into a reality show called The Bennets. It’s up to Thursday to put all things to rights.

I think this book is one of the stronger in the series. As full of literature jokes as the others, it’s also folded upon itself as Thursday has by this time had books written about her, which have spawned BookWorld Thursdays that don’t resemble herself at all—or do they? My favorite parts were some speculation that Harry Potter himself might turn up for a meeting (I won’t give it away), and a passage in which Fforde shares his own feelings about literature (I know this because he shared them at his book signing, too):

I’d been trying to explain to them just what form the BookWorld takes, which was a bit odd, as it was really only my interpretation of it, and I had a feeling that if they actually accepted my way, it would become the way, so I was careful not to describe anything that might be problematical later.

I found that passage to be a beautiful metaphor for the interpretation of literature, and it made me wonder what I might see if I traveled to the BookWorld. I am thinking a lot of squashy places to curl up and read, rain-spattered windows, and books, books, books.

I highly recommend this entire series to book lovers. The jacket blurbs recommend it to fans of Harry Potter, and it has a bit of that charm, but really it’s not like that series. It’s silly, bookish, and full of in-jokes for the well-read. You won’t be able to put them down. I can’t wait for the next Thursday Next.

So… what do you think the BookWorld looks like?

Bibliophilic Books Challenge Typically British Book Challenge

This novel is the second selection for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge and the third for the Typically British Reading Challenge. My next excursion is a trip back to Meryton to visit the Bennets of Longbourn. I haven’t been back for some time.

Reading Update

perfect place to readI am within 80 pages of finishing Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. I should be able to share a review soon.

I am about 70% in on Crime and Punishment, and I have to say that I am just not into it. I will finish it because I’ve gone too far to turn back. My judgment at this stage is that there are really interesting parts leavened by parts I either can’t understand or am just not interested in. It’s running on two stars at the moment.

I am also slowly moving through Mansfield Park, and not because I don’t enjoy it, but because my reading focus is on finishing Thursday Next at the moment.

Following Thursday Next I plan to pick up Pride and Prejudice again, which will serve as the third of my four selections for the Typically British Reading Challenge. In terms of my other challenges, the All About the Brontës Challenge and the Bibliophilic Books Challenge, I’m still thinking about what to read next. My scores stand thusly:

  • Typically British Challenge: 2 of 4 (3 of 4 once I’ve finished Thursday Next)
  • All About the Brontës Challenge: 2 of 3
  • Bibliophilic Books Challenge: 1 of 3 (2 of 3 once I’ve finished Thursday Next)

photo credit: Dawn Ashley

Jasper Fforde

Shades of GreyJasper Fforde was in Atlanta last night for a reading, Q & A, and book signing, and I had the opportunity to purchase his latest novel, Shades of Grey, which is a departure from his “books about books”—the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. I brought my daughter with me, and she found the premise of his new book intriguing. It is set in the distant future after some catastrophic event, and the people who inhabit this post-apocalyptic society can only see one color. Accordingly, they divide themselves into groups based on which color they can see.

A few readers asked Fforde questions about interpretation of his books, and I want to try to paraphrase his answer, though I didn’t capture the exact wording. He said that a book only belongs to an author until someone else reads it. After that point, it belongs to the reader too. He described reading as a creative process, work very much akin to the process of actually writing the book, and he said there is room in books for many interpretations because of all the reader brings to a book; therefore, when he is asked whether he meant to comment about something particular with certain choices he makes, he turns the question back on the person who asked: “Well, what do you think?” He values the thoughts and interpretations of the readers as much as his own. I found that to be so beautifully expressed and so true to my own beliefs that when he signed my book, I explained that as an English teacher, I am often challenged by my students who don’t agree with an interpretation I share (whether my own or that of another reader or critic) and thus will insist that the author might not have meant it the way I am explaining it. I usually say that just because an author may not have intended it doesn’t make me wrong necessarily because we all bring certain experiences and knowledge to reading, and we make connections the author may not have intended or known we would make. I also add that many times authors will say they did intend something or other, even if it is not on a conscious level because we have such a vast repository of symbolic language. Now I can tell my students that Jasper Fforde, a successful published author from England, believes the same thing I do. I think it will give my explanation more authority.

If you haven’t read Fforde’s books and you consider yourself a book lover, do yourself a favor and check them out.

The Fourth Bear

Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear is the second in his Nursery Crime series. Detective Chief Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division, is investigating the disappearance and possible murder of Goldilocks. She was last seen alive by three bears, and things just don’t add up. To top it off, deranged psychopathic murderer the Gingerbreadman has escaped from the mental hospital where he’s been confined since Jack collared him twenty years ago, and he’s on a murderous rampage.

OK, this book is just silly, but you have to expect that with Jasper Fforde and just go with it. Fans of nursery rhymes and fairy tales (as well as other types of fiction) will enjoy Fforde’s sly references, and however silly his stories become, he always manages to make me laugh in a few places and keep turning the pages. I had a friend on Twitter ask me if this book was any good because he’d heard this series was not as clever as Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and I have to say that all things considered, I enjoy the Thursday Next books more. However, if Fforde returns to Nursery Crime, I will read the next book, and I plan to be in line when he makes an appearance at the Buckhead Barnes and Noble on January 15. None of my books are in good enough shape to be signed. I may have to purchase his new one. Oh, drat.

Beach Books

I’m hitting the beach tomorrow! We’re staying in Florida for a few days next week, and so I’ll have plenty of choice, I decided to bring along the following books (the first of which I have just started reading):

I’m not sure what sort of online presence I’ll have while I’m on vacation, but even if I don’t review the books over vacation, I’ll review what I have read when I return.