Big Night Out (Ed. by Jessica Adams, Maggie Alderson, Nick Earls, Imogen Edwards-Jones)

Big Night Out is a collection of short stories, recipes, song lists, illustrations and edited by Jessica Adams, Maggie Alderson, Nick Earls and Imogen Edwards-Jones. It was published to benefit the War Child charity.
Finished on: 25.11.2017

Big Night Out isn’t your typical short story collection. There really is a lot here that isn’t a short story at all, although the biggest part are short stories. I grabbed it for those (well, I grabbed it mostly for Jasper Fforde‘s short story in it), so I mostly skimmed through the other things, even though some very big names contributed various things (INXSSteve Coogan, and Nick Hornby recommending songs? Anthony Stewart Head sharing a cocktail recipe? Joan Collins‘ beauty tips? Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, and Boy George detailing hangover cures? It’s all there). I did feel that the selection was made on the basis of the people in any case and not necessarily for the quality of their content. But hey, it is for charity after all. If you don’t buy it for the stories, but for the good deed, you’ll get what you expect.

After the jump, I will talk about the short stories in the collection separately and you can find the table of contents so you can see what else is in there.

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The Eye of Zoltar (Jasper Fforde)

The Eye of Zoltar is the latest Dragonslayer novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews of the other two.]
Finished on 03.03.2015

Jennifer Strange is the manager of Kazam, which means that she hires out magicians for jobs and generally organizes their life. And it also means that she’s busy busy busy. Way too busy to really date trainee magician Perkins, even though they’d both like that. But things are about to get even worse: the Mighty Shandar had promised to kill all the dragons – dragons Jennifer saved. And since that means that Shandar is now deep in debt, he tasks Jennifer with procuring the famous jewel, the Eye of Zoltar. If that hadn’t been enough, the King and Queen settle Jennifer with the Princess Shazzine in the hopes that she will grow out of her spoiled-princessitude if she experiences the real world for a while. So Jennifer packs her things, the princess and Perkins and travels to the Cambrian Empire – famous spot for Jeopardy tourism and the last known location of the Eye of Zoltar. If it actually exists.

The Eye of Zoltar is full of creative ideas, fast-paced and generally made of win. I really loved it.

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The Song of the Quarkbeast (Jasper Fforde)

The Song of the Quarkbeast is the second book in the Dragonslayer Trilogy by Jasper Fforde. [Here’s my review of the first book.]

After the coming of Big Magic, Kazam – still under Jennifer’s leadership – is doing pretty great. Despite the fierce competition with iMagic, who can’t actually keep up with Kazam. But then the king gets involved and orders a magic competition. And strange things keep happening to Kazam’s sorcerers, making them unavailable for the competition. But bit by bit Jennifer uncovers that there is more to this than a bit of rivalry.

Unfortunately the first thing that I noticed about the book was the bad editing. But if you disregard that it was another really sweet and funny back that I enjoyed a lot.


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Re-Read: The Last Dragonslayer (Jasper Fforde)

The Last Dragonslayer is the first book in the Dragonslayer Trilogy by Jasper Fforde. [Here’s my first review.]

Jennifer Strange is in charge of Kazam, a temp agency for wizards who get hired to clean drains or rewire houses. Things are looking dire for them since the magic is slowly disappearing from the world. But then one of them has a premonition – the last dragon on earth will soon die. Which immediately leads to people camping outside his territory, waiting for his death so they can claim his country for themselves. But this is not the only change in the world – and Jennifer is deeper involved than she would have ever thought.

It is frankly amazing – it’s been not that long that I read this book for the first time, but I barely remembered a thing about, apart from liking it. Only a few details. But on second first reading, I might like it even more than the first first reading.


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The Woman Who Died a Lot (Jasper Fforde)

The Woman Who Died a Lot is the seventh Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews of the other books.]

After an almost successful assassination attempt, Thursday is slowly recovering. Her body is still a wreck and she’s been in forced quasi-retirement for the last months. But that’s not the only thing that has changed: the time-engines have been shut down, leaving her son Friday feeling stranded and without a purpose – but instead with a dire prediction that he will shoot somebody. Meanwhile her daughter Tuesday is working hard to get the anti-smote shield working, which is a rather pressing issue as God has announced a smiting at the end of the week. And if that wasn’t enough, Aornis’ mindworm is still bothering Thursday and Thursday’s doppelgangers (crafted by Goliath) keep popping up all over the place.

The Woman Who Died a Lot is again absolutely fantastic. It’s a joyride, a whole damn lot of fun and the only real drawback it has, is that it’s way too short. But as there will be a next book, I can live with that.

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One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Jasper Fforde)

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing is the sixth Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews for the other books in the series.]

The fictional Thursday Next is troubled. Her books are only just above being unread, her co-characters are annoying and the guy she likes has no backstory whatsoever. She just wishes that she was more like the real Thursday – also because that would mean that she would get a Landen of her own. After a big restructuring of the Book World, Fictional!Thursday gets called in to investigate a book crash. But as she soon discovers, there’s more to it than it looks like at first and apparently Real!Thursday is missing – right on the brink of the peace talks between Racy Novel, Women’s Fiction and Dogma she’s supposed to be heading.

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing seems a bit like the start to a spin-off – there are wonderful new characters like Sprockett and Square, the Book World has been remade and the Real World is treated like the exciting new thing, not the Book World. But what remains the same is Fforde’s idea explosions and his sense of humor (there’s a mime field. It’s a thing of beauty and terror). And as usual, that just works very well.

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Re-Read: First Among Sequels (Jasper Fforde)

First Among Sequels is the fifth Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews for the other books in the series.]

[slight SPOILERS for the previous books]

14 years have passed since the end of Something Rotten: SpecOps was officially disbanded and Thursday and Landen have been living happily with their kids, even though Thursday has some trouble getting her son Friday to join the ChronoGuard like his future self told her he would. Landen is safe in the knowledge that Thursday is no longer working for either SpecOps or Jurisfiction, but Acme Carpets, together with Bowden, Spike and Stig. But of course, this wouldn’t be Thursday if there wasn’t some action: She’s secretly still in business. There’s a bit of cheese-smuggling, helping Spike to get rid of some Supreme Evil Beings and training an apprentice in the BookWorld. And not just any apprentice, but Thursday5 – her own fictional version who is unfortunately not at all like Thursday herself. At least she isn’t like Thursday1-4 either.

First Among Sequels is one of my favorites in the series: I love the whole plotline with Friday and Thursday encountering herself-but-not-herself and there’s almost enough Landen to make me entirely happy (at least he exists the whole time through). It’s satisfying and fun.


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Re-Read: Something Rotten (Jasper Fforde)

Something Rotten is the fourth Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews for the other books in the series.]

[SPOILERS for the previous books]

Two years have passed since The Well of Lost Plots and Thursday had her fill of the bookworld. Even though it’s exciting and fabulous, she wants to return to real life, to work on getting Landen re-actualised and to teach her son Friday to talk something other than Lorem Ipsum. So she leaves her hunt for the Minotaur, her job as Bellman and takes Friday – and Hamlet, who longs for a change – and returns to Swindon. While Thursday tries to get her life on track, childcare for Friday and her old SpecOp job back, she also discovers that the Goliath Corporation is applying to be a religion and has joined forces with Yorrick Kaine. And it seems like the world is about to end. Again.

Something Rotten is great. Good pacing, good sense of humor and I just love Thursday more and more with each book. And Hamlet is brilliant, especially when interacting with Alan, ferocious dodo extraordinaire.


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Re-Read: The Well of Lost Plots (Jasper Fforde)

The Well of Lost Plots is the third Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde. [Here are my reviews for the other books in the series.]

[SPOILERS for the first two novels follow.]

After the still-ongoing eradication of her husband Landen, Thursday Next decides to give it a rest, also for the sake of her unborn child. Giving it a rest in Thursday’s life means that she retreats to Caversham Heights, an unpublished novel in the Well of Lost Plots where its protagonist Jack Spratt tries desperately to keep the book from getting deleted. But the troubles of Caversham Heights are Thursday’s least worries. Yorrick Kaine is still on the loose in the real world, her apprenticeship with Miss Havisham is coming to an end, Aornis Hades has left a mindworm in Thursday’s head that makes her slowly forget Landen and Text Grand Central is about to release a new operating system that will make BOOK (v8.3) obsolete.

There are many wonderful things to The Well of Lost Plots, but it’s definitely the weakest book in the series so far. The pacing is ever so slightly off and you just don’t get pulled into it as much as into the first books. Still, it’s very worth reading for a hundred thousand different reasons.


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Re-Read: Lost in a Good Book (Jasper Fforde)

Lost in a Good Book is the second Thursday Next book by Jasper Fforde. [Here’s my review of The Eyre Affair.]

Plot [with slight SPOILERS for the Eyre Affair]:
Three months after the events in the Eyre Affair, Thursday is happily married to Landen and enjoys her work for the Swindon SpecOps. That is precisely the moment, her time-travelling father chooses to show up to tell her that the world was going to end (in pink goo no less) and that he had no idea how to stop it. And then the Goliath corporation decides that to get Thursday to help them retrieve their employee Jack Schitt from a copy of Poe’s The Raven they need pressure. So they eradicate Landen (who from then on died when he was two) but leave Thursday’s memories of him intact. As if that wasn’t enough on her plate, Thursday finds a copy of Shakespeare’s lost Cardenio, is hunted by strange coincidences, discovers that she can actually enter books on her own, gets drafted into the inner-literature police force, Jurisfiction and apprenticed to Miss Havisham of Great Expectations. Oh, and Thursday’s pregnant.

As in all other Fforde books the level of detail and brilliant throwaway remarks* is absolutely staggering in Lost in a Good Book. Fforde’s weak point is and remains the plotting, though it’s already better here than in The Eyre Affair. But it’s a weakness easily forgiven when the story just whisks you along and the characters make you fall in love with them over and over again.

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