Quick thoughts on books:
The Magicians, Lev Grossman
From the reviews that I've read, people seem to either love or hate this book. Most of this has to do with the main character, Quentin Coldwater, who is "brilliant but miserable." Billed as "Harry Potter for adults"--which makes me wonder if the marketing people read the last couple in the series--The Magicians follows Quentin as he discovers that the world is indeed magical.
To me, the most interesting thing about this book is that it's so obviously self-aware. Fillory, the fictional world (that turns out to be not-so-fictional), is based on Narnia. And Grossman knows his Narnia. As someone who's well-versed in Narnia, it was at once fun and frustrating to see this--fun because, well, picking out allusions, yay! and frustrating because it kept yanking me out of the story. There are actually so many allusions, to all sorts of things, that Grossman actually lists them here.
I remember being Quentin's age--the book spans his 18-21 years--and I think Grossman captures "brilliant but miserable" well (not that I'm brilliant, but I was miserable for a while). The problem with this was that Quentin and his peers are often insufferable, unlikable characters. Alice was my favorite, and even though she proves to be absolutely bad-ass in the end, there were times I wanted to shake her.
I may pick up the sequel, The Magician King.
ETA: Also, from Better Book Titles (don't click if you mind swearing).
Stone's Fall, Iain Pears
A man falls out of a window in 1909, and a mystery ensues.
This is a book about espionage and the British financial world in the mid-1800s to early 1900s (and a lot of other things as well). When I asked for book recommendations on Facebook, someone suggested this one, which I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own.
It's an interesting read. There are three parts, which go backward in time from 1909 to 1890 to 1867. The heart of the first section is John Stone's fall from a window and the mystery around it. In his will, Stone leaves money to his child--except that Stone and
his widow, Elizabeth, never had children. Matthew Braddock, a journalist for a London newspaper, is hired by Elizabeth to find the child.
Seems simple, hmm? Not so much. The book then opens up into the sometimes-seedy side of Stone's life and his work as a financier and arms dealer. One review of Stone's Fall compares it to the Russian dolls. It's got a twist ending, which some may find shocking and others may find too gimmicky.
Right now, I'm in the middle of Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. So more later.