Wednesday, June 16, 2010

book comments 30

"The Looking Glass Wars: Seeing Redd" by Frank Beddor
--story of how Queen Alyss defends her realm, Wonderland, against her evil, usurping aunt, Redd Heart
I still haven’t read any of Lewis Carroll’s originals, so I have no idea how this story would fit into his Wonderland universe.
If you want vivid descriptions and intricate world-building, this novel is for you.
If you want characters that don’t seem like superficial caricatures, this novel is not for you.
*sigh* I’m actually really sad not to have much good to say about this book. Based on the jacket blurb and the incredible cover art, I was excited to read it. But I just didn’t enjoy this one very much. (Insert tired adage here.) For one thing, I couldn’t decide if this was supposed to be children’s literature – in which case the lack of deeper character development might make sense – or some form of fantastical literary fiction – in which case it was sorely lacking in depth. And the action sequences, which could have been fast-paced and exciting, dripped slow as molasses down their every page because of overly detailed enumeration of every single movement of every single character involved. Oy.
Still, in some places, the lack of depth seemed intentional. Maybe even satirical. Maybe the whole novel is a single sarcastic remark on a genre, and I just didn’t get it.
Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, makes an appearance in the story. I liked that a lot.
There are sequels. I won’t be reading.
--don’t recommend

"The Walking Dead, Vols. 3 & 4" by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
--continuing the zombie apocalypse survival adventures of Rick and his friends
Read my initial review of this series.
Recommend! If you enjoy graphic novels, or if you like zombies, sociology, and/or psychology, you'll enjoy this series. (Caveat: adult content.)

"The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing
--contemporary story of Harriet and David, who meet, get married, and have a picture-perfect life in spite of naysaying friends and relatives – until Harriet gets pregnant with their fifth child, and all hell breaks loose
--totally fascinating look at the sociology of family relationships
But this is anything but a textbook. Characters are brilliantly deep, and Lessing conveys that depth with an intense efficiency that’s enviable and almost scary.
--multiple genres in this one: lit fic, sci-fi, fantasy...seems like the only one missing is metafiction
UPDA* – I loved everything about this book, and I read the whole thing in less than three hours. (Granted, this is novella-length, but still.)
--HIGHLY recommend

"A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick
In the near future (written from a 1977 perspective), Fred is an undercover agent addicted to a drug that splits users' personalities. He's assigned to narc on a druggie named Bob Arctor -- who just happens to be Fred's other personality.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for anything about dissociative identities (aka multiple personalities), so this was right up my alley. Not to mention it's a great look at how a sci-fi writer in 1977 imagined the future. Amusingly, he thought we would still be using tape decks.
--also fascinating look into the mind of a drug addict: outlook on life, processing of daily input, relationships, disconnects, and unusual associations
--vivid characters, unexpected plot twists, lots of effective teasing of the reader, a refreshingly economical writing style
--a little too much rambling in some of the dialogue; I skimmed a few places
This novel was made into a movie starring Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. I plan to watch it soon. Should be interesting!
--recommend, but this is a gritty one and not for the faint of heart

2010 Book Count To-Date: 30.5.

*UPDA = UnPutDownAble

book comments 29

"The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood" by Barb Bentler Ullman
--fun, heart-warming story of Willa, who finds new friends both great and small as she struggles to get through her parents' divorce
Minus the family struggles part, this story is what we all dreamed about when we were kids: finding life-changing magic in our own back yards.
--great story for kids who want fun, or even for kids who are dealing with the same problems Willa faces

"The Traveler" by John Twelve Hawks
--multiple-POV story of Maya, born into the mercenary clan known as Harlequins, whose task is to protect dimension-crossing Travelers against a nefarious organization known as the Tabula
--set in present day, but feels sci-fi
--interesting plot, vivid characters
For some reason, I had a terribly hard time connecting with this novel. Even though Maya’s struggle to protect her Traveler was a hard one and caused her to grow as a character, I caught myself thinking several times, “Huh. I just don’t care.” Part of this, I’m sure, stemmed from the fact that as a Harlequin, Maya can’t afford to let herself become emotionally involved with anyone or anything. The purpose for her detachment is to keep emotions from clouding her judgment. I get that. Unfortunately, the side effect was that *I* remained detached from the story from start to finish and had to force myself to keep reading from chapter to chapter.
There’s a sequel, but I don’t plan on reading it.
--still, a fascinating premise; I really did enjoy the sections written from the Traveler’s POV; and the descriptions of other dimensions were pleasantly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra novels.
--don’t recommend

"Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey
Cursed from birth by her god and sold into slavery as a child, Phèdre tries to find her place in the schemes of her own increasingly large circle of acquaintances and friends.
Phèdre ends up a key player in politics. Her choices and her character development lead her to save her whole country from invasion.
Wait. This sounds familiar. Where have I read this story before? Oh, yes. I basically already reviewed it.
No, I'm not accusing Carey of plagiarism. Far from it. Had I read her novel five years from now, I wouldn't have been irritated that the basic plot is the same as Adams's (i.e. sex slave rises to become savior of her country). But the Adams read was just a year ago. Carey's story made me feel as though I were reading the same book again.
BUT. Carey is a brilliant storyteller and a master worldbuilder. Oh my, she's good. In this story, she takes European history -- particularly church history -- of the past 2000 years and infuses it with magic. Literally. Fallen angels and demigods all over the place, and a country that's located where our world's France is, but it's not France. People worship "Elua," and there are "Yeshuites." Not to mention "Tiberians." Carey weaves pieces of real-world history into a lush, vivid fantasy story that's breathtaking.
That said, I won't be reading the sequels. As with Adams's novel, this story was packed with way too much gratuitous sex for my taste. I guess that's kind of unavoidable, when your main character is a sex slave. But it made me hunger for a fantasy heroine who doesn't have to sell her body in order to save her world.
Read at your own risk.

"Flawed, Book One: Empath" by Rebecca J. Campbell
--story of Jade, struggling to turn her special disability into a truly more-than-human advantage -- while she's on a collision course with a particularly gifted psychopath
Yes, I'm being intentionally vague. ;o) I know the author, and this is an unpublished work, so I don't want to give anything away! But it's a well-written story with vivid, fun, interesting characters -- and a unique, gripping premise that I think is going to pack quite the punch once it's all polished. I wish *my* first novel had been this fascinating and had shown this high a skill level.
Shoot, I wish my third and fourth novels had been this skilled and interesting!
Recommend. OH yes. :o)

2010 Book-Count To-Date: 26.5.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

book comments 28

"Dear John" by Nicholas Sparks
--a happysad story of a soldier, John, who meets the girl he never even dreamed about, then loses her when he's sent to fight in the Middle East
--very much a "dear John" story, natch
--WAY better than my last Sparks read
There's romance, there's excellent dialogue, there's believable tension and conflict, there's character development that makes you smile even as it makes your heart ache.
If you're not a Sparks fan, you might actually enjoy this one.
If you are a Sparks fan, you're gonna love it. :o)

"Good Faith" by Jane Smiley
I wish I could remember what this novel is about, but I can't. I think I made it into the third chapter before I was so bored that I gave up. The main character, whose name I can't recall, works in real estate. Smiley spent a lot of time describing the ins and outs of the real estate business. I just kept thinking, "Let's get to the story." Even the burgeoning torrid love affair couldn't keep me hooked. I skipped to the end, found out that guy does not get girl, and that told me everything I felt the need to know.
This one's responsible for the .5 in my Book Count, because I'm not going to pick it up again.
--don't recommend

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
This is not a boy-and-his-dog story. This is a boy-and-his-tiger story. More specifically: boy and his untamed tiger in a lifeboat, accompanied by a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena.
This is one of the best books I have ever read.
--story of Pi Patel, who is born in India; adopts Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam all at the same time; and has to rely on his much-encompassing faith (and his wits) to survive when his family takes a ship to Canada and the ship sinks
--faith, hope, love, endurance, survival, creativity, coming-of-age, and more-than-meets-the-reader's-eye
--stunning in the best of ways
--HIGHLY recommend!!!

"No One Noticed The Cat" by Anne McCaffrey
--easy-to-read fantasy (novella, I think) in which Prince Jamas must use all his resources to protect his country, his beloved, and himself from the schemes of the evil neighboring queen
His greatest resource, much to the disbelief and consternation of many, is the Niffy the cat, whom Jamas inherits from his deceased father's deceased advisor.
--fun, witty, fast-paced, sarcastic, UPDA

2010 Book Count To-Date: 22.5.

*UPDA = UnPutDownAble