Review: The Vintner’s Luck, Elizabeth Knox

I am being awesome at the Graphic Novels Challenge but completely falling down on the other ones.  Women Unbound, nothing since The Group though in fact I suppose I could have used The Opposite House.  Or, hey, Committed!  Actually, Committed totally is one.  I’m going back and editing that post and using Committed for the Women Unbound Challenge.  Time Traveling, couldn’t manage to get anywhere with the Stephen Fry.  And Horns and Halos?  UTTERLY have not read anything for it.  I started and stopped Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, and that is it.

Until now!

The Vintner’s Luck is about a nineteenth-century French vintner (you saw that coming) who once a year meets with an angel called Xas.  Xas is a particular case, a treaty between God and Lucifer, his body signed with the words “Xas can go freely”, and he meets with Sabron each year.  They meet for the first time when Sabron is eighteen and cannot decide whether to get married, and Xas tells him he will be married to the girl the next time they meet.  For angel-type advice?  This is not very good.  Celeste is all crazy in the head.  In spite of this Sobran persists in thinking of Xas as good luck, and they meet every year on the same day and eventually fall in love.  (Sort of.)  (There are complications to this.)

For a while I was struggling to get interested.  The book is organized in chapters for each year, and at first the only thing that happens in each chapter is the meeting between Xas and Sobran.  It’s confusing, and you never know what’s been going on for the rest of the year, and that makes it hard to relate to the characters at the beginning of the book.  Then at the end of the book, there are too many characters (Sobran has a ridiculous number of children; I felt like Emerson talking to Evelyn and Walter), and I had trouble keeping them straight.

Still, in the middle, good stuff happened.  I liked this book more than I can think of nice things to say about it.  I can think of maybe two stars’ worth of good things to say about it (treaty angel was an interesting idea, I liked the relationship that developed oh-so-slowly between Aurora and Xas and Sobran), but in fact I give it three stars.  Which isn’t bad, but I hope for better things subsequently in this challenge.

Other reviews:

Care’s Online Book Club
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
just add books
Libri Touches
A Striped Armchair

Did I miss yours?  Tell me and I will add a link!

I don’t know why I lie to myself

All these past weeks, when everyone has been deciding on their challenges for the New Year (is anyone else totally ready for 2010?  This has never happened to me before, but I find myself wanting to write 2010 as the year for everything, and then when I have to write 2009 instead, I feel cranky and cheated), I’ve been saying, I am not joining any.  No challenges for me, I have said.  I’m not joining the Women Unbound Challenge; I’m not joining Haloes and Horns, or Alyce’s Time Travel one, or the Graphic Novel one that Chris and Nymeth are hosting.

Though in fact this turns out to be a tangled web of lies.  I’m totally joining all these challenges, because, well, because they sound fun, and I like to find new blogs, and even when I pretend I’m not joining these challenges, I know that I really am.  Because I checked out The Facts in the Case of the Disappearance of Miss Finch, and I thought, Hey, for the graphic novel challenge! and then I checked out a graphic novel memoir of this woman whose husband was killed in 9/11, and I thought, this will work for the graphic novels one and maybe for the Women Unbound one too; and if I find a graphic novel about a time-traveling angel that deals with women’s issues, y’all, I’m going to throw a party.

Sidebar: Speaking of parties, a recent (-ly finished) study found that the happiest people in America are (drumroll!) Louisianians!  We’re the happiest state!  We’re happier than Hawaii!  It’s because we’ve got mad food here, and also because we like to throw parties.  Enormous festival-type parties for rice and jazz and strawberries and football and hurricanes.  PARTY AT LOUISIANA’S HOUSE.

Anyway, pride in my home state aside, here they are, the challenges that I am joining for the new year:

The Women Unbound Challenge is happening here, and I am joining it a bit late, and I am joining at the suffragette level, which means reading eight books all about the womenfolk before November of next year (I can totally do that!).  This is a list of some books I am considering:

Women of the Raj, Margaret MacMillan – I’ve had this on my shelves for a while – it’s about women!  Of the Raj!
The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy – a novel set in the 1950s that follows a wacky ex-pat girl in Paris
The Group, Mary McCarthy – apparently this is Sex and the City for 1930s Vassar graduate ladies
Sisters, John Fialka – a nonfiction book about how nuns have contributed to the making of America
Bluestockings, Jane Robinson – a nonfiction book I probably won’t be able to acquire, about the first wave of women who went to university but I probably won’t be able to get it (sad, sad, sad)
Foreign Correspondence, Geraldine Brooks – a memoir about Geraldine Brooks tracking down all her old pen friends
Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy – nonfiction book about women and feminism in America right now
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte – because my sister said Anne Bronte is sort of a badass feminist

Those are the ones I’m thinking of right now.  However, there are a lot of people in the blogosphere with lists of books they are reading for this challenge, and I may read a completely different set of books than these.

Time Travel Reading Challenge!  Because I love time travel!  And because it’s completely relaxing – I get to pick the number of books to read and read them sometime in 2010.  I’m going to read five.  Five is a nice number.  I was born in the fifth month.  These are the ones I want to read, though at least one of these is a bit of a pipe-dream.

Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, Samuel Madden – I was enchanted by the idea of this book to start with, because it’s got an angel in it (see below!) what travels to 1728 (which is about when the book was written) with letters from 1997/1998, and apparently it was terribly controversial at the time and it got suppressed.  Going to have to ILL this one.
Trapped in Time, Ruth Chew – Two little kids get transported back to the Civil War times
A Traveler in Time, Alison Uttley – A time travel book written by the lady who wrote Little Grey Rabbit.  Love.
Time Cat, Lloyd Alexander – Well, just because I haven’t read this book in a thousand years, and I used to love it.
Making History, Stephen Fry – a book about people trying to stop Hitler from being born – Stephen Fry wrote it!  Stephen Fry.  I love Stephen Fry and am curious about his writing

Also, the Horns and Halos Challenge, which I simply can’t resist.  It’s devils and angels!  How fun, right?

There are several reasons this challenge appeals to me.  One is that my fluttering heart, who is hosting it, is hosting it because she’s tired of vampires AND, GOD, SO AM I. Another is that I have never reviewed Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel Murder Mysteries on this blog, despite its containing one of my favorite ever lines in all of literature.  And another is that I want to reread Paradise Lost.  I’m going to read seven books, because my birthday is on the seventh of the month.  And I like the number  seven, and it is all mystical which is good as it’s angels and demons.  I counted it out carefully, and with my choices of books, I am going to end up on the Garden of Eden level, exactly the same amount angels and devils, assuming Paradise Lost splits up the middle.

Paradise Lost, John Milton
Murder Mysteries, Neil Gaiman – a graphic novel with angels and murder mysteries
Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, Samuel Madden – see above!  An angel and time travel!
The Vintner’s Luck, Elizabeth Knox – a vintner and an angel become friends and stay friends over many years
Lucifer, Mike Carey – a series of graphic novels that I’ve been meaning to read anyway because I liked Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer
Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe – because I never did read it before and have heard wonderful things about it
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Jonathan L. Howard – all about a guy who sold his soul to learn necromancy

And last, but not least of course, Chris and Nymeth’s Graphic Novels Challenge.

Graphic novels!  I enjoy graphic novels!  I shall read numerous graphic novels!  I shall be at the Expert level, which is ten or more.  I’m not making a list right now because it’s always iffy whether my library will have any of the graphic novels I want; so these decisions will have a lot to do with what’s available.  (My library is wonderful, and is getting more graphic novels than they used to have, but they still don’t have a really fantastic collection.)