I have been going to the library instead of buying books, which I should always be doing, especially since we’re going to be moving soon. Read Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke, the sequel to Inkheart. I liked this one even better but was annoyed by the muddled “Stay Tuned for the Next Installment” ending. So, where is it, Cornelia?? Huh?
Also Heart-Shaped Box, a debut horror novel by Joe Hill. A ripping yarn, couldn’t put it down, liked the characters. It had some uneven moments, but really good.
Then I broke down and bought two books. Just finished The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff.
This novel disturbed me on several levels, most of them to do with me and my own writing. It has a number of similar themes to Reply All–a young woman who suddenly finds out a truth about her parentage, a hint of incest, a search for her real father, a daughter repeating the mistakes of her mother. However, dare I say it, I prefer my own Reply All, although apparently no one actually in the publishing business does.
Lauren Groff is a literary novelist, has an MFA, and has published in literary magazines. Her style is lovely, and her story is an interwoven historical mystery, contemporary chick lit-ish story, and tribute to the history of Groff’s home town, Cooperstown, NY. But for me these elements were woven together in an arbitrary and disconcerting way, especially the frame of magical realism with the discovery of a kind of Loch Ness monster in the town’s lake. Oh, and there’s a ghost too, and a Carrie-like fire starter. Oh, and the ghost leads the main character to the last piece of the historical mystery in a ridiculous scene, where I could almost hear the author thinking, Jeeze, where else can I send her to find clues??
I didn’t like the main character, especially her sexuality. It didn’t seem real. It felt so glasslike, cold, brittle. And some of the historical sections dragged and others were simply confusing. And I guessed who the father was the very first time he was mentioned.
By contrast, I think Reply All is at least a coherent narrative, although like Monsters I jump back and forth in time, but between two main protagonists, the mother and daughter. It’s also funnier. There’s not much real humor in Monsters, the main character sort of thinks she’s funny, but she’s so shallow it’s just annoying.
Okay, this is harsh. I’m just jealous. Blah, blah. I read it all didn’t I? Enjoyed it enough to keep reading. Liked the monster of course. Admired her writing.
Moving on now to Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux. Library again.
EDITED TO ADD: The New York Times agrees and also writes reviews better than I do.
5. The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff
4. Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill
3. Inkspell, Cornelia Funke
2. Riding Lessons, Sara Gruen
1. Summer People, Brian Groh
3. The Silver Princess in Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson
2. Captain Salt in Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson
1. Earth Abides, George R. Stewart