Mini-reviews: The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Tales of the City and Frederica

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

2010. Bantam. Hardcover. 269 pages.

Review:

I picked this book up a few weeks ago to bring with me on a quick trip to Georgia. The two main characters are Julia and Emily.  Julia returned reluctantly to the small town of Mullaby after her father died.  She plans to leave after she’s settled her father’s financial debts.  Meanwhile, she runs her father’s main-street BBQ and adds baked cakes to its offerings.  Emily comes to Mullaby as a result of parental death as well.  Her mother left Mullaby due to scandal, and Emily must face the stigma of her mother’s reputation while trying to make a home with her maternal grandfather, a reclusive giant.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon is a blend of romance, light supernatural mystery, and ode to small towns.  I get bored by sentimentality, and so I was glad that Allen tempered the sweet with humor.  The “Mullaby lights” mystery that Emily explores is kind of silly, and had unfortunate shades of Twilight for me.

Still, I can see why this book and the author inspire so much affection. I’m sure I’ll pick up another book of hers in the future. I’ll add that The Girl Who Chased the Moon is definitely suited for a nice summer vacation read.

Others’ reviews:

Dear Author – ” . . . the writing kept it from falling into the treacly sentimentality. In part, I suppose, because the characters had all suffered so tremendously that a little happiness was something that they all needed.”

write meg – “While I read this novel quickly — it’s breezy – I have to admit that I expected more from the talented Ms. Allen.”

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Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

1978. Harper & Row. Paperback. 371 pages.

Review:

Tales of the City starts with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.” As I’m going to San Francisco soon (the end of this week!), I wanted to read some San Francisco books. Tales of the City is the first of a series that follows an increasingly interconnected group of characters, a central group of whom live as tenants in a building on Barbary Lane.  There’s fresh-from-Midwest Mary Ann Singleton, unsure if she belongs in this city that she impulsively moved to. There’s Michael Tolliver, whose break-up with his boyfriend leaves him rooming with his close friend, Mona. And there’s the mysterious pot-growing landlady, Anna Madrigal.

Tales of the City started out as a serial publication in a newspaper, and this is reflected by the episodic nature of the chapters.  It’s a very quick read and the dialogue is lively.  Tales of the City is thoroughly a 1970’s novel, full of references to brands and terms that sometimes passed over my 28-year-old head, though I could figure out some from context. While I didn’t love this book, I’m curious to read more of the series. While Tales of the City doesn’t exactly end on a cliff-hanger, there is definitely some unfinished business. Also, I think it would be intriguing to see what Maupin does with the characters as time progresses. For indeed, 1976 is a snapshot of pre-AIDS San Francisco, which lends a retrospective sad sheen over the stories.

Others’ reviews:

In Laurie’s Mind – “I felt like this book read like a sitcom. The characters engage in crazy antics. They get involved in humorous love triangles.”

somewhere i have never travelled – “It’s the perfect antidote to modern-day angst and worry and overwhelm.”

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Frederica by Georgette Heyer

1965. Sourcebooks. Paperback. 437 pages.

Review:

I’d heard a lot about Heyer’s books but hadn’t read one yet.  It seemed like a good book to throw in for a quick trip up to Vermont over Memorial Day weekend. Frederica is set in London in the early 1800’s.  Self-involved and wealthy Lord Alverstoke finds his life up-ended by a determined distant relative of his named Frederica. She manages to convince him to sponsor her beautiful younger sister’s coming-out ball (which he mainly does to pique his sisters). And of course, Lord Alverstoke and Frederica fall in love while taking turns calling each other “brass-faced little gypsy,” “odious creature” and other Regency-era quaint insults.  (I have no idea if the extensive slang and terms that Heyer employs are accurate to the time, but do be warned that you might have to stop and figure out the dialogue at times before continuing on.)

Heyer can definitely be wonderfully comic – I especially like the story of Mr. Trevor’s ordeal near the end of the book.  However, after a while, aspects of the writing began to grate.  If someone were to make a drinking game out of Frederica, I would suggest a drink for every time that Frederica suppresses a chuckle, or her eyes twinkle/dance/sparkle, or in general slyly expresses mirth of any kind. I guess I just think that the dialogue should not be slathered on with these kinds of descriptors, especially not in so repetitious a manner.  Also to my horror, Heyer made Frederica “gurgle” in mirth not once but twice. Only babies should gurgle in earnest; all others should only gurgle if the author is making fun of them.

The book depreciates more in my mind the more I think about it.  There’s just something so artificial-feeling about the characters and the story. Not sure if I’ll pick up another one by Heyer, as Frederica seems to be the top-running favorite among Heyer fans.

Others’ reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews – “But her books are never just about romance. They’re about society and family and life itself. Her characters are human: in other words, she’s smart enough to make her characters–all her characters–flawed.”

the bookworm – “I liked Frederica, she is smart and sassy and does not let others intimidate her.”

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