My Father Had A Daughter by Grace Tiffany

My Father Had A Daughter is a wonderfully inventive fictionalized memoir of Judith, William Shakespeare’s daughter.

Since they were young, Judith and her twin brother Hamnet, have been in awe of their father, who told them stories about fairy queens and the playhouses in London. Judith and Hamnet are inseparable, and have a world no one else understands (Hamnet and Judy playing A Midsummer Nights’ dream evoked memories of our 6th grade play in St. Scho)… But tragedy strikes as Hamnet accidentally drowns In a fantastic game Judith creates out of her wild imagination, and Judith is stricken with grief.

One day, Judith uncovers a new play in her father’s wastepapers — Twelfth Night, which to her horror uses her grief as a springboard for the plot. Enraged, Judith decides to storm off to London to sabotage her father’s play, under the guise of street urchin Castor Popworthy, and she rediscovers her theatrical self.

I liked this book because it was charming, and Judith Shakespeare seemed to really come to life. The earlier parts of the book, when Hamnet was still alive, reminds me of The Thirteenth Tale and its concept of “twin-ness,” and how a twin is never the same once “untwinned.”

The highlight of the novel is when the spunky Judith becomes a girl acting as a boy acting as a girl right under her father’s nose — The whole London adventure was hilarious!

It’s also great how Judith’s relationship with her parents evolved, how she gained respect and affection for her mother, and how her relationship with her father evolved from hero worship, to disillusion, to finally, an understanding of her father’s character.

***
My copy: a well-worn trade paperback bought at Book Sale (P70)

My rating: 4/5 stars

photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble (http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/18690000/18696089.JPG)

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

I finally finished the trilogy last night and I can’t get over the fact that it’s over, and I am posting a review in the attempt to get some closure (sniffle sniffle).Deathly Hallows spelled the end of an era for me and millions of Harry Potter fans, and I’ve long been in search of something else to sink my teeth into, but it’s often a disappointing experience (e.g. The Inheritance Trilogy [Eragon], the Charlie Bone series). The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke was a great discovery, but it’s a different kind of fantasy, with a different feel to it, not to mention that we’re still waiting for the third installment and a final release date for the movie, for crying out loud. The Darren Shan Saga is great, too, it was even recommended by Rowling herself, but veers more towards blood and gore (not for the weak of heart and tummy!).

On a whim, I picked up The Amulet of Samarkand back in January using my 40% discount on Powercard Plus birthday blowout (thank you Powerbooks!), and then got The Golem’s Eye for a birthday present (thank you Andrea!)… And then I chanced upon a hardbound Ptolemy’s Gate at the Powerbooks VIP Sale (yahoo!)

I finally got to read the series recently, Amulet about two months ago, and then Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate in the last few days because I simply couldn’t stop reading, even though I was supposed to be reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World for our discussion on Saturday (now I have to cram that).

Anyway, enough with the long intro and let’s get on with the good stuff (no spoilers, I promise).

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a British fantasy series about an alternative London, a present-day London that is ruled by magicians, a blend of centuries-old magical tradition and modern technology. At the heart of the series is Nathaniel, a young magician; his wisecracking five thousand year old djinni Bartimaeus, and a renegade named Kitty Jones, and the forging of an extraordinary bond between these three characters.

Consistent with British magical lore (if you’ve read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you’ll enjoy the Bartimaeus trilogy because it’s about twenty times more exciting), the book touches on magical apprenticeship, summoning magical creatures, political wars won with magic, the importance of birth names, and a host of magical creatures – imps, foliots, djinn, afrits, marids, and golems). It’s a bit darker than Harry Potter, and politics is a major theme, and there are lots of entertaining historical references, but everything ties together well with the story.

The Amulet of Samarkand starts out with Nathaniel’s apprenticeship, extraordinary magical aptitude, and his need to prove himself. Together with Bartimaeus, Nathaniel sets out to foil a government conspiracy involving the Amulet of Samarkand, with a few setbacks engineered by Kitty Jones and her team of ruffians. It’s an excellent introduction to the series, with the narrative between the perspectives of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel.

The Golem’s Eye sees Nathaniel rising in the ranks of government while Kitty Jones continues to thwart him, as her renegade group, the Resistance, wreaks trouble in the city. The second book is more transitional – it happens two years after Amulet, introduces Kitty’s perspective and establishes her as one of the central characters in the story, reveals a larger conspiracy that is a prelude to book 3, and lays out Nathaniel’s transformation into a ruthless and ambitious politician, John Mandrake.

Ptolemy’s Gate, which is easily the best of the three books, happens another couple of years later. Nathaniel is now London’s most powerful magician, and Kitty has changed her identity and apprenticed herself to a magician in her quest to learn more about Bartimaeus. Here the sinister conspiracy reveals itself, and Kitty, Nathaniel, and Bartimaeus must all overcome their personal differences and work together to save London and set things right. The book reveals a large part of Bartimaeus’ story, gives the wake up call that Nathaniel needs to regain his old self, and explores the relationship between human and djinn, building up to a thrilling climax that effectively concludes the saga.

It’s a perfect blend of all the right elements – humor, history, politics, ambition, adventure, excitement, survival, and compassion, and a great story that is contained completely within the three books, with a sense of finality to it, even though you want it to go on and on. I kept rereading the last few chapters because I couldn’t believe it was over, something that I haven’t done with a book in a long time.

Ok, now someone else should go read it already so I can pour my heart out. Waah.

***
My copy: Book 1 paperback upgraded into a hardcover with dustjacket (mooched from the US); Book 2 paperback upgraded into a hardcover without a dustjacket (mooched) then into a hardcover with a dustjacket (mooched again); book 3 hardcover with dustjacket from Powerbooks VIP sale. All US edition (Hyperion/Miramax). Paperback copies of Books 1 & 2 will be passed on to a moocher in Japan (wired_lain!) and the naked hardcover to Flipper friend Cecille.

My rating: Book 1, 5/5 stars; Book 2, 4/5 stars; Book 3, 5/5 stars. Series, 5/5 stars

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale is a treat for book lovers everywhere. It’s a present-day gothic novel with rich characters, family secrets, and cunning stories.
Margaret Lea is an avid reader, especially of old novels and journals. A bookseller’s daughter, she practically grew up in her dad’s antiquarian bookstore, and dabbles in writing biographies of people long dead, people who come alive in the books she reads.

One day she receives a letter from Vida Winter, a famous yet reclusive writer whose life is shrouded in mystery — all the existing accounts of her life are different yarns she has spun at her whim. She has never told the truth about her life, until now, when she decided to contact Margaret to write her biography.

Margaret has never read Vida Winter’s work, and she is hesitant. She searches the bookstore’s shelves for a first edition of Vida Winter’s book, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She reads the book and is gripped by the first twelve tales, and when she turns the next page, she discovers that the thirteenth tale is missing.

Determined to find out about the thirteenth tale and the truth to Vida Winter’s life, Margaret Lea decides to accept the project. Vida Winter tells Margaret a haunting tale about an estate in the moors, twin girls, a governess and a ghost. As the dying author’s story unfolds, Margaret’s own family secrets surface, and she comes face to face with the past that has always haunted her.

Very very interesting :)

***

My copy: trade paperback (bought full-price at Powerbooks) upgraded into a hardcover with dustjacket (from the NBS hardbound sale)

My rating: 4/5 stars

Making Mischief by Elizabeth Young

I can’t quite give a summary so here’s the back of the book description:

Abby Morland’s been making mischief since she was not-so-sweet sixteen, when she spied gorgeous Guy from the neighborhood being attacked by curvaceous Cara, the “Topless Piranha.” It was a racy, tasty, spicy piece of gossip Abby couldn’t resist passing along. But years later, her indiscretion may be coming back to haunt her — since she now wouldn’t mind a little nibble of Guy herself. With four cousins, two weddings, and a re-emergent piranha in the offing, the recipe for making more mischief is at hand, and it might just turn Guy in Abby’s direction at last!

It would have been funny, because the characters are charming, but I think the author went overboard with the plotline — it was just too complicated. There’s Cara the piranha, then there’s the riotous wedding, then there’s the family tradition of boyfriend-stealing subplot, and there’s the adorable little brother that brings Mr. Right closer to home…. One at a time, they’d have made a great story, but all together, they’re quite chaotic. There are enough characters to fill a school bus, and it just takes so long for the necessary action to take off that it can be quite dragging.

It’s just a long way to happily ever after.

***
My copy: trade paperback, from the NBS bargain bin

My rating: 3/5 stars

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins (http://cdn.harpercollins.com/harperimages/isbn/large/2/9780060784782.jpg)

Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes

This is actually a piece of fluff masquerading as a novel, like I suspected that I never bought it til there were stacks of them on sale at National over the weekend. And for good reason too, now that I think about it. I mean, what kind of book gets marked down to 50 bucks? (Hehe, they marked down citizen girl to P30! I knew it! I knew it was a rotten read. But at least that one had a story, albeit also not a very good one.)

Not much of a storyline, the book drones on and on about the frivolities of high society New York living without going in any particular direction. It’s not even about the subject matter. I can handle a fair amount of brattiness if there was a remote semblance of a story that featured it. I think if the author had been a bit less mediocre she could’ve worked something palatable out of it.

Sigh. There are so many chick lit titles around, but there are good ones, and there are abysmal ones. On that scale, this is almost negligible.

***
My copy: I had it mooched as fast as I could, haha, a mass market paperback from the NBS bargain bin.

My rating: 1/5 stars

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