Programming note.

Hey all. I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I came to a decision: Two’s Reviews is ending, as of today.

It’s been interesting and fun, but it’s starting to affect the way I read books–I’ve found myself altering reading patterns and habits, and not for the better. Since this whole thing was predicated on my love of reading, it’s not a good thing.

So thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

All the best,

Two

p.s. I’d like to leave you with a list of books I would have reviewed in the future; I hope you find them useful.

Individual books:

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Suzanna Clarke

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Bellman and Black, by Diane Setterfield

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Poisonwood Bible. by Barbara Kingsolver

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

The Woman Who Would Be King, by Kara Cooney

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

State of Siege, by Eric Ambler

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy, by Karen Abbot

Interred With Their Bones, by Jennifer Lee Carrell

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls, by Danielle Wood

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

Complete series:

Her Royal Spyness series, by Rhys Bowen

The Phryne Fisher Mysteries series, by Kerry Greenwood

The Night Watch series, by Sergei Lukyanenko

The Dublin Murder Squad series, by Tana French

The Lord Peter Wimsey series, by Dorothy L Sayers

The Old Man’s War series, by John Scalzi

The Millenium trilogy, by Stieg Larsson

The Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer

The Charles Lenox series, by Charles Finch

The Jason Bourne trilogy, by Robert Ludlum

The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George RR Martin

The Dresden Files series, by Jim Butcher

The Hollows series, by Kim Harrison

The Labyrinth trilogy, by Kate Mosse

The Sevenwaters trilogy, by Juliet Marillier

The Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling

Agent of Hel trilogy, by Jacqueline Carey

Excellent authors in general where you really can’t go wrong:

Neil Gaiman

Terry Pratchett

Robin McKinley

Jonathan Stroud

Seanan McGuire

Mira Grant

Jim C. Hines

Gail Carriger

Mary Roach

Jasper Fforde

Agatha Christie

Elizabeth Peters

Dorothy Gilman

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Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig is at the end of his rope–literally. He’s scheduled to be hanged for the crimes he committed under the name of Albert Spangler. A superb conman, his luck’s finally run out. Or not…

Lord Vetinari, being the brilliant political schemer that he is, has decided that while, yes, Albert Spangler has to die for what he’s done, Moist von Lipwig really ought to be spared and put to, shall we say, better use? Moist is presented with a choice: obey Vetinari, or walk out through a door leading to a very deep pit.

Moist makes the wiser choice, and is told that he must, no exceptions, restore the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service to its former glory. So off he goes, to the old Post Office where he encounters the two remaining employees, Postman Groat and Stanley Howler (he’s a little odd, but it’s only to be expected since he was raised by peas); literal tons of undelivered mail; and a very odd pigeon coop on the roof. Not to mention the unwelcome information that a number of previous Postmasters have died under mysterious circumstances shortly after being given the job, threats from the sinister head of the Grand Trunk clacks line (think a telegraph, but Pratchett-style), and a chain-smoking golem-rights advocate named Adora Belle Dearheart.

Failure is not an option; neither is mediocrity–Vetinari won’t allow it. Moist needs to use every one of his ill-gotten skills (and gains) to ensure the Post Office once again reigns supreme.

Going Postal is one of Pratchett’s best. The comedy is pitch-perfect; Moist is a brilliantly shady protagonist you can’t help but root for. The bizarre combination of hacking, government services, and equal rights shouldn’t work, but instead it elevates the book into something beyond mere words on a page. Read it for the fun, read it for the story, read it for the insights–it really doesn’t matter why you read it; only that you do.

Favorite Line:

What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.

Don’t read if: you hate obsessive pin collectors, bizarre midnight rituals, golems covered in paint, or smoking gnus.

No Post Today

Sorry guys, but there won’t be a review today–had a family issue come up that took priority over everything (yes, even books). But there will be a review on Thursday as usual, I promise!

So in lieu of a review, I’d like to ask you–what books have you discovered through other’s recommendations? Through browsing? Through boredom (you know, the “there’s-nothing-else-to-do-but-there-is-this-book-here-so-I-might-as-well-and-holy-crap-this-is-amazing” thing)? I’d love to hear about them.

The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman

The irrepressible Mrs Pollifax is at it again, this time in Bulgaria.

Carstairs of the CIA has received a desperate missive from Bulgaria: the secret police are growing more powerful and arrests are growing more and more frequent. The CIA is given a name–Tsanko–an address, and a plea: send identity papers. So Carstairs, being Carstairs, sends Mrs Pollifax off to Bulgaria with eight forged passports hidden in her hat, secure in the knowledge that it’s nothing more than a simple courier job. Just like the last one. Oh. Oops…

Upon arriving in Bulgaria, Mrs Pollifax discovers that the British guide she was to hire isn’t interested in the job after all–he’s hit some sort of jackpot. Not only that, but a young man she spoke to on the trip over has been arrested as a spy. Someone broke into her room to try to steal her coat. And Tsanko wants to meet her in a city on the other side of Bulgaria, which results in Mrs Pollifax going on a bizarre cross-country drive with a hippie hitchhiker in the passenger seat and a mysterious car following close behind.

Join Mrs Pollifax, her contact Tsanko, and her ragtag Bulgarian Underground on an ingenious adventure you’re not likely to forget.

I’ve been sick lately, and this book is one of my comfort reads. I found it in a library when I was ten, and even though I had no idea what ‘elusive’ meant or what the Iron Curtain was, it stuck with me. When I found the book again ten years later I was absolutely thrilled. It’s an exciting little book full of memorable characters and what is quite possibly the (mild spoiler) most unlikely prison break ever put on paper. But it works, and it’s fun, and you should give this one a go–at the very least, you’ll never see little old ladies the same way again.

Favorite Line:

“I wondered how long it would take you to understand,” she said happily. “Of course I’m blackmailing you. I have what you want, and you have what I want. That’s the way blackmail works, isn’t it?”

Don’t read if: you hate night-blooming cereus, geese, Young People, explosions, or telling time with eggplants.

The Eight, by Katherine Neville

Mireille is a novice at Montglane Abbey in France. It’s 1790, and the French Revolution is well under way, so the Mother Superior is closing the abbey before the army arrives. But it’s more than just the nuns she is trying to save: the abbey has long been the hiding place of the Montglane Service, a chess set once belonging to Charlemagne himself. Massive, exquisitely wrought pieces encrusted with gems, the board a meter square and made entirely of silver and gold, the service inspired greed and rage in nearly all who saw it. So it was hidden away for a thousand years, safe from the evils of the world. But with the Revolution seizing the contents of all convents and monasteries, it’s only a matter of time before the Montglane Service comes to light again. Unless she can smuggle it out, piece by piece, dispersed with her nuns across the length and breadth of France. And Mireille is a perfect candidate to help protect the pieces…

It’s New Years Eve, 1972, and Catherine Velis is late for a party. When she finally arrives, a bizarre fortune-teller rambles something at her about her hand being foretold, not trusting anyone, and an endless battle of white. A bit confused, she shrugs it off. After all, she’s only got a few months left in New York before her company ships her off to Algeria, and she wants to enjoy it. But an acquaintance is pestering her about finding a rare, extremely valuable chess piece while she’s there, and there’s something…off…about his request. And the weirdness keeps mounting: the strange man on the bicycle, the shooting at a chess tournament, the body on a slab at the United Nations. And the job in Algeria doesn’t seem quite right, either.

As Mireille struggles to protect the pieces, as Catherine comes closer to uncovering the secret of the Service, can they succeed against rising odds and mounting violence?

The Eight is best described as a quest novel, told in two concurrent timelines (Don’t worry, eventually they meet up). It’s a riveting thriller taking readers from New York to Algiers, France to Russia. Mireille and Catherine are engaging heroines, bound by fate to protect the Montglane Service. If you’re looking for a thrill, some history, some chess, or just something a little different, I seriously suggest giving The Eight a try.

Favorite Line:

“How did you know which [car] was the secret police?”

“I didn’t.” Lily gave me a smug smile as she took off down the street. “So to be safe, I drilled them all.”

Don’t read if: you get uncomfortable about chess, Rolls-Royces, historical figures in fiction, or the French.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

..well, not that different. But today, April 2, is International Children’s Book Day; instead of a review, I thought I’d post some recommendations for children of all ages. (Or if you’re like me, and perfectly happy to read kid’s books because they’re books and they’re there and some of them are really quite good)

For the very young:

 

 

Chu’s Day is a wonderful little picture book by Neil Gaiman. There’s a sneezing baby panda in it.

 

 

 

 

 If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, is another good one; this time involving mice and cookies.

 

 

 

 

But No Elephants, by Jerry Smath, is about neurosurgery. Kidding. It’s about an old woman grudgingly acquiring a houseful of animals; hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

For 4-6 (or so) year olds:

 

 

The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish (again by Gaiman) is hilarious, and the title basically explains the whole story.

 

 

 

I Want My Hat Back is by Jon Klassen, and the first time I read it I laughed so hard I could barely breathe.

 

 

 

 

Where’s My Cow, by Terry Pratchett, is a great take on the Spot-the-Dog type books.

 

 

For kids getting into chapter books:

 

 

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J Sobol is a great book in an equally enjoyable mystery series.

 

 

 

 

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien is one I read as a kid; I loved it.

 

 

 

 

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo is absolutely adorable–a huge-eared mouse saves the day for everyone. 

 

 

(good grief, they’re almost all animal stories. let’s change that with the next category!)

For the more advanced readers (but still age-appropriate):

 

 

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud is a great adventure story set in an alternate-reality London.

 

 

 

 

The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley is one of the best retellings of the Robin Hood story in the history of ever.

 

 

 

 

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (by Avi) is a book about a girl crossing the Atlantic when a mutiny breaks out aboard the ship.

 

(Of course there are so many other choices, including classic options like Treasure Island or Johnny Tremain or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; but if you’re reading a review blog I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with them, so I thought I’d look for things a little less ubiquitous) Aaand, those are some of my suggestions for the book-loving child in your life. And if they don’t love books, give one of them a shot anyway. You never know what might ignite the spark.

Happy International Children’s Book Day!