Book Review: The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde


AuthorJasper Fforde
TitleThe Eye of Zoltar
Publication Info: HMH Books for Young Readers (2014)
ISBN: 0547738498
Previous books in the Chronicles of Kazam:

Summary/Review:

This is the third book in Fforde’s young adult series The Chronicles of Kazam, and the best installment so far.  Jennifer Strange, the teenage orphan tasked with managing an employment agency for sorcerers, is tasked with crossing the border out of the Kingdom of Snodd into the Cambrian Empire, a nation known for entertaining daredevil tourists (and leaving many of them dead).  Accompanying her are a ragtag bunch including a rapidly-aging wizard, a princess magically body-swapped with a handmaid, a rubberized dragon, an Australopithecus, and a ten-year old tour guide.  This book is an adventure filled with Fforde’s trademark clever wit that also works as a satire on both sword & sorcery tropes and our modern society.
Favorite Passages:

“All of us are somewhat clairvoyant; any future you can dream up, no matter how bizarre, retains the faint possibility of coming true.”

“It’s somewhat bizarre to learn that many of you think other humans are somehow different enough to be killed, when you’re all tiresomely similar in outlook, needs, and motivation, and differ only in peculiar habits, generally shaped by geographical circumstance.”

“Death cannot be avoided forever, but it can be postponed—it’s very much like doing the dishes.”

“Honor is kind of what you get when you weaponize manners, but if you’re brought up in a system where honor is valued more than life itself, it makes a lot more sense. Some. A bit.”

“I’d been an idiot to think that this journey was anything but a quest. Searches were nice and soft and cuddly and no one needed to be killed. A quest always demanded the death of a trusted friend and one or more ethical dilemmas. I’d put us all in jeopardy, and now, as likely as not, I was going to lose the one person I cared for most.”

“To have a purpose is the right of all sentient beings,” said Gabby, touching my shoulder. “To have a vitally important purpose is an honor not often bestowed.”

Rating: ****

Book Review: Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin


AuthorArmistead Maupin
TitleMary Ann in Autumn
Narrator: Armistead Maupin
Publication Info: Harper Audio, 2010
ISBN: 9780062007131
Summary/Review:

As a long-time fan of the Tales of the City series, I was surprised that there are not one but two new books in the series I’d missed out on.  This volume follows-up on the first-person narrated Michael Tolliver Lives, but resumes the interlocked stories of several characters told from a third-person omniscient narrator like the original six novels.  The other return to form is the appearance of Mary Ann Singleton, who was the central character of the serialized stories of the 1970s and 1980s.  Mary Ann’s characterization in recent stories has not been flattering in the least, but here she returns to San Francisco for the support of her friend Michael, having left her wealthy husband and learned she has cancer.  In addition, to Mary Ann and Michael, there are stories about Michael’s husband Ben, Michael’s friend/employee Jake, Mary Ann’s estranged daughter Shawna, and the always lovely Anna Madrigal, the landlady from the earlier stories.  There’s even a surprise return of a storyline from the earliest Tales of the City stories.  Themes of the novel include aging, mortality, and second chances.  A nice addition to the series.

Rating: ***1/2