Friday, January 29, 2010

book comments 23

"Under The Dome" by Stephen King
--novel answers the question "What would happen if a transparent, oxygen- and light-permeable, but otherwise impenetrable dome suddenly dropped down over a small town?"
--a lot of dead birds, for one thing
I love how King tells his tale. He uses omniscient narration to describe the grand scale of the event, then pares it down to individual viewpoints--almost like a reporter doing a few human interest stories against the backdrop of a larger disaster.
--excellent characterization
--BUT: A few times, I thought some of the characters were almost *too* vivid, as though they came close to being caricatures. I loathed the main antagonist, Jim Rennie--but he was almost too easy to hate, if you know what I mean.
--recommend to any King/horror/psychodrama fan

"The Gunslinger Born" and "The Long Road Home" by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove
--first two in the graphic novel series based on King's Dark Tower
Just to clarify: The term "graphic novel" does not refer to "graphic sex" or "graphic violence." It means a story told basically in comic book form, but longer than a comic book and printed on more durable materials. A novel told through graphics, holla.
--totally fascinating to read/view these after having read King's novels
--GORGEOUS artwork...just paging through these makes my fingers itch to paint
--for King fans: These include tidbits of story we don't see in the original novels!!!
--my one complaint: They didn't draw Rhea ugly or creepy enough. ;o)
--highly recommend to King fans and graphic novel fans

"The Naming--The First Book of Pellinor" by Alison Croggon
--first novel in a fantasy series
--story of Maerad, a girl rescued out of slavery and starting to find that she has magical powers--and the enemy wants to make sure she never gets to use them
--excellent world-building; history, culture, language, arts, it's all there in the background before the story even starts
I keep thinking this is what Lord of the Rings might have been if a woman had written it--which, coming from me, is a compliment. ;o)
--highly recommend to any fantasy fan, especially young adult
In fact, this would be a great novel with which to get a young teen started on the fantasy genre.

"Odd Hours" by Dean Koontz
--fourth novel about Koontz's endearing character Odd Thomas, who sees ghosts and does what he can to help them move on into the afterlife; in this one, the dead (and the living) are helping him avert an impending, wide-spread disaster
I think my favorite part of this novel is the dialogue, especially Odd's dead-pan one-liners.
--a novel without clutter; Koontz keeps it simple without letting it slide into simplistic
--an open end! I see another Odd novel coming. :o)
--highly recommend to fans of paranormal and/or Koontz

"Elantris" by Brandon Sanderson
--Sanderson's first published novel
--fantasy epic, does *not* read like a first novel (I'm jealous.) ;o)
--story of Prince Raoden and his wife-to-be, Sarene, who fight to save their country and their religion from being overrun by a neighboring empire
This novel is proof that solid backstory is essential and can be offered to readers through tantalizing hints that add up to a coherent, fascinating whole.
--comes complete with a tortured, sympathetic antagonist (though I didn't like him at all until he started doubting himself)
--comes complete with incredible visual imagery that would be stunning in film (as in, LOTR stunning)
--convinces me that Sanderson is, indeed, quite capable of finishing out Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series
--recommend to any fantasy fan

"Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill
--another one to make me jealous with a well-crafted first novel ;o)
--story of aging rocker Jude Coyne, who "buys" a ghost online...and then finds himself haunted and struggling for his life
Hill has created a main character I would love to meet--even though I have no doubt that Jude's appearance alone would scare me witless. ;o)
I appreciate and admire Hill for his female characters, who are strong despite (or because of?) their terrible weaknesses.
--contains a tribute to Hill's father, SK, at the end? (a door in the floor...)
--one complaint: I wish Hill had done more with the music. Yes, music plays a vital role in the story--keeping the vengeful ghost at bay--but I feel like Hill took it *almost* as far as it needed to go, but didn't quite get there. I guess I wanted music to be more directly involved with the story's climax.
--recommend to any horror/paranormal fan

2010 Book Count To-Date: 7.

Monday, January 04, 2010

book comments 22 (and my book count for 2009)

"Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy
I understand why people call this McCarthy's masterpiece.
--gorgeous language, flowing style, highly believable characters
--what I enjoyed in "The Road," I also enjoyed in this novel
--presents a picture of the Old West that I suspect is far more accurate than the shoot-'em-up Westerns we've all become accustomed to courtesy of Louis L'Amour and John Wayne
The mindless, pointless violence of the book's characters made this a tough read for me. When I read a novel, I am THERE with the characters. When the novel is particularly well-crafted, I am not just there, I am IN the characters. But as a woman, I couldn't be in this novel or in any of its characters--because the violence done to every female character in the novel literally made me sick.
On the other hand, "Blood Meridian," like "Lord of the Flies," depicts very well the degeneracy of human beings who have no standards to guide them and no love among them. From that standpoint, the novel serves as an effective warning against letting ourselves careen out of civilization and forget the intrinsic worth of the individual and of humanity as a whole.
--recommend, but ONLY to McCarthy fans or to those with strong stomachs

"Matilda" by Roald Dahl
--story of a genius girl with special powers, fighting against injustice
What's not to like? ;oD
--engaging, charming, witty, and the best of Dahlian morbid
--highly recommend

"'V' for Vendetta" by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
--my first graphic novel, I do believe
--another fight against injustice in a dystopian future
--completely fascinating because SPOILER!!!!!!! we never see the hero's face
--vivid characters, both in dialogue and in drawing
The artist in me was itching to learn these drawing techniques. :o)

"The 1977 Annual World's Best SF" edited by Donald A. Wollheim
--collection of sci-fi short stories by Brian Aldiss, John Varley, Michael Coney, Richard Cowper, Lester Del Rey, Isaac Asimov, Barrington Bayley, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Damon Knight
--fun reads for the most part
--some chauvinistic depictions of women, which thankfully aren't as common to the genre now as they were in the '70s
--recommend to any sci-fi buff

Courtney's Total Count of Read Books for 2008: 46. Sadness! I'm five books short of my total count from 2008. I credit The Great Approximately Six-Week-Long Summer 2009 Reading Hiatus with this abysmally low grand total. I'd like to say I want to do better in 2010--but I'm not sure I have the power to shape that particular aspect of my reality. I might have too much writing to do. We shall see. ;o)


Courtney's Hidden Track of Unfinished Reads for 2009

"Ariel--Poems by Sylvia Plath"
--didn't finish because it got too depressing
--do intend to finish, but a poempiece at a time (instead of consuming it in big chunks the way I was doing)

"Like a Fish Understands a Tree" by Helen Collins
--didn't finish because I lost interest
--feel bad about not finishing, because this is a fellow NaNo-er who got her book published
--published by Paradigm, a consulting agency for disabilities (agency could use more highly skilled editors)
--might finish

"Strengthening Your Marriage" by Wayne A. Mack
--didn't finish because the content was not new and was not written as well as other marriage books I've read
--don't intend to finish

Courtney's Plumped Count of Read Books for 2008: 49. Dude. ;o)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

this wasn't supposed to be my first blopgost of the year

...but it's just kinda happening, because I had this thought, and I wanted to record it.

In public.


I am sick and tired of not saying what I really think.
I am sick and tired of not saying what I really feel.
I am sick and tired of not saying what I really believe.

I am tired of worrying about what other people will think of me.
Oh, I talk a great game of not caring, not letting others' opinions determine the course of my actions, blah de blah blah blah.

But really, in my secret heart, I want you all to like me.
I hate being the recipient of criticism, disapproval, and--o, the horror--rejection.

If I speak the truth about something, and someone responds by chastising me, my heartrate shoots through the roof, and my desire to make it all okay again shoots through the stratosphere.

This is not a healthy reaction on my part.
I have boundary problems.

And I'm sick and tired of it.

I don't want to be the gutless one.
I don't want to cower when a stronger personality tells me I Have No Right To Say _____________.
I don't want to be afraid anymore.

In the religious denomination I grew up in, I was taught to keep my mouth shut about _____________--because expressing my rock-the-boat opinions might lead another person to trip over something and get hurt.

But what if that something isn't even really there?
What about the other person learning to take responsibility for looking at where they're putting their feet?
What if the thing they need most, in order to learn to walk better, is someone (like me?) who will holler at the top of their (my?) voice about the discrepancies and the dis-integrity?

I've been told that a lot of people in this world look up to me.
If that's true, I don't really know why they do that. I'm a continual screw-up--didn't you know?

And one of the ways in which I screw up is by keeping my mouth shut out of cowardice.

Yes, there is a time and a place for expressing my thoughts/feelings/beliefs about certain things. I need to choose wisely ( --> discern) when and in whose company to verbalize these things.

But if I'm staying quiet simply because I ***fear*** others' reactions...then that right there, O Friends and Neighbors, is Screwing Up In Grand Fashion.


Maybe this was the right blopgost to start the New Year with, after all.