Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stif... Stivferr... ah, what the heck.

It's rare, these days, to read a book that really captures me.  You know what I mean?  A book where you become so involved and so worked into the story and the world of the book that - besides forcing you to stay up into the wee hours of the morning because you just CAN'T STOP READING - it consumes you for a couple of days. I kind of drift around in this weird, dazed way, where my head and imagination are most definitely in the book and characters, while my body, inconveniently, is not.

I can never predict when this is going to happen, or with which stories, but it did with this one.
I'd never encountered Maggie Stiefvater before, but I'm glad I did.  I actually listened to this as an audiobook - library download site, I worship and adore thee - and a cracking good one it was. I consider myself something of an, ahem, audiobook connoisseur, and this one was not extraordinarily great, but certainly, solidly good.  I'm always pleased when double narrator books are seamless, because they so often are not.  A truly good audiobook is a rare gem.

 The film rights have been bought, which doesn't mean it will absolutely be made for sure - more likely the opposite, judging from what I've read about the workings of the film world - but I'll be excited to see it if it does make it through the purgatory of development.  I hope they don't ruin it, because it's the kind of book would need restraint in every aspect, and I don't think that's hollywood's strong point at the moment.  Much as I'm glad it's been optioned at all, I wish somebody besides the people behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had got hold of it.

I'm still sort of stuck in that dreamy, dazed state, so I can't say much to the point.  I liked it, and I'm downloading another of her books as we speak.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Books on tape

I whined a lot this semester about how I didn't get to do any reading.  Well, I didn't really get to do much reading - but I recently realized that I sure listed to a heck of a lot of books on tape.

Bloodlist by P.N. Elrod
A sort of noir thing with the main character as a vampire.  His being a vampire seemed mostly like an convenient way to bring a character back from the dead to solve his own murder.
CONCLUSION:  Of the startling number of vampire books I have recently consumed, this was probably my favorite.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater 
Highly enjoyable, surprisingly.  Best book I've listened to in a good bit. I perversely didn't want to listen to it for a while because it won awards and I was afraid it would be dull, but I was happily wrong.
CONCLUSION: see full write-up.

My Week with Marylin
It's nothing surprising really - a behind the scenes with Marilyn Monroe.  It was interesting to me because I've seen The Prince and The Showgirl, in which Marilyn Monroe was quite good, I thought, and I knew a little of the backstory already.
CONCLUSION: Enjoyable in the way you know it will be - a slightly uncomfortable but fascinating peek into the life of an icon.

2 Nathaniel Cade books
Do I really like these? It's debatable.  I like conspiracy theory stuff.  I like thrills and action. Do I really love, like, paranormal stuff? No.  This seems to be about the closest thing to a paranormal Michael Crichton novel I'll ever encounter.
CONCLUSION: When it's this or Karen Kingsbury, I'll take vampires and frankensteins trying to kill the president any day.

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
Weird magical all-mythological-gods-are-real story.    Didn't like it as much as Ender's Game, but how is that surprising? I adored Ender's Game.
CONCLUSION: Though this wasn't my favorite story ever, I do always go for the hermes/loki character. I wanted to hear more.

The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card
Weird alternate America where magic happens story.  Maybe it's because I listened to them instead of reading them, but these seemed... I don't know, fuzzier than Ender's Game.  This was also tainted by the readers (yes, plural) one or two of which were certainly not my favorite.
CONCLUSION: Didn't like it as much as The Lost Gate.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Read it before already.  Fine. I'm not a chick-lit person, so this is really as close as I'll ever get.
CONCLUSION: THANK GOD! FINALLY a book about a Jane Austen fan who doesn't make dumb mistakes when she's transported back to Jane Austen's day.

3 Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books.
Do I like these books? Not really. Am I a paranormal-fiction fan? NO. But! The reader is good. The pace is quick.  There were lots of fights. I listened to them while doing school work, and they seemed to not take much focus to absorb, which was just what I needed.  I honestly didn't know they were, like, considered sexy books until after I was done with them.  Maybe I missed those parts, but it just seemed like a spunkier, much gorier Twilight to me.

True Strength by Kevin Sorbo
Hm. Didn't know he was, like, dying while making his TV show. Poor chap. I like that TV show. It's so marvelously campy.
CONCLUSION: But I didn't need to read that much disorganized whining.


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Genuinely funny in many places, and excellent reading (by the author!) - but for some reason I just didn't finish it.  There's a good chance I will someday.

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
I'm sorry to say it, but about a third of the way in I threw in the towel.  This was published in 2007, and felt so much like a lackluster knock-off of Dorothy Sayers, that I couldn't get through it.  The long descriptions of the food he was eating and him looking for his special pipe wore me down. EVERY scene was described in too much detail.  You have to restrain yourself sometimes, or it just gets dull.
I really don't care that "he preferred his eggs scrambled." That's just not an interesting fact.  Mainly because it says next to nothing about who he, or his companions are - and most of the detail is like that.  If we're talking about eggs and detectives, think of Hercule Poirot's lament that eggs are not round?  That says something about his character, thank you very much.
The reader was sprightly, and did a decent job with the material.

Lord of the Fading Lands by somebody or other
Honestly? I didn't even get through the prologue.  I'm adventuring further into the fantasy/sci-fi world these days - but some things I will just never like.
By Tom Edge - Does size matter?

It occurs to me that the simple definition of novel versus novella could usefully be updated to account for ultra-sized works of fiction, those titanically-proportioned books so often taken to be the defining criterion for admission into the Serious Novelists Club.
Ulysses, The Corrections, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: All are books wide enough to carry the author's name horizontally across the spine when shelved.
HP and the Order of the Phoenix, Infinite Jest, Moby Dick: These are the kind of books that furniture removal men hate, but which can also be used as furniture (small stools, door stops and so on).
At present we have the short story (small), novella (larger, but still small) and then the novel. Perhaps we need a new word for the type of 600 pages-plus book that will concuss a Chihuahua if knocked from the kitchen table...
Like comedies at the Oscars, short works often seem overlooked in the canon of Great Novels, physically dwarfed on the bookshelf and struggling to compete for critical attention. We seem impressed by marathon efforts. Short stories, on the other hand, get relatively short shrift.
The organisers of NaNoWriMo say "we don't use the word "novella" because it doesn't seem to impress people the way "novel" does." They're right. Which is a shame, as there are some wonderful writers out there who rarely, if ever, overstep the 300 page mark.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enclave by Ann Aguire

It says "for fans of The Hunger Games" on the cover.

Yeah.  Here's my question: is post-America dystopian strong female lit the new paranormal romance weirdly alluring female lead lit?  Seems like it.  Of the two, I guess I'd have the former.

Everybody seems to be capitalizing (or, more accurately, trying very badly and obviously to capitalize) on the Hunger Games mania.  A bunch of books are popping up about creepy societies and weapon-weilding heroines.  I saw an ad on TV tonight for some post-America survival show, complete with a view of an overgrown Wrigley field and a bow and arrow carrying female.  I mean! The same thing happened with twilight - all of a sudden a zillion paranormal TV shows came zinging out of the ether and into the American TV screen.

That's not to say that this book is just some awful imitator.  It's pretty good.  The freaks were creepy (though I did wonder how they could reasonably be supposed to exist.  I get why, from a narrative standpoint, we don't know - but from a sheer "how could this be" standpoint, I'm mystified.).  I liked that the main girl was a little indoctrinated by her "enclave" or whatever.  It was fine.  I'll read the next one.

I just didn't adore it.  I don't know quite why.  I think something just felt forced.  When people create these alternate worlds and don't name things well I find it hard to enjoy myself. It's one of my big pet peeves, actually.  Slang that sounds awkward, stuff like that.  That's one of the things I felt the Hunger Games lady did well - none of the names she came up with for new creatures or people or whatever felt unlikely.  "Tributes" for the competitors - makes sense because the districts are, as in the olden days, paying tribute to their captors.  People have had to do that for a long time.  There's some kind of historical precedent for the term, and, consequently, it works.

CONCLUSION: This book shouldn't need to be marketed to Hunger Games fans as a book for Hunger Games fans, something for them to while away their time with until the next movie comes out.  If you're going to write a book that fits into a hot current genre, it needs to be more than ordinarily exceptional.  You have to be able to prove that you're not just capitalizing on the popularity that style has at the moment.  You have to prove that, if there wasn't this new public demand for Hunger Games type lit, your book could still be published and survive - in a way just like the lethal females that litter its pages - all on its own.

Friday, April 27, 2012

East by Edith Pattou

It's a crying shame, but I haven't read a bit of fiction for fun in simply ages.  
Well, I hadn't, I should say.  Because, thank heaven, the other day I tore through this book with a bleary-eyed intensity I haven't felt in a long time. 
I'd not heard of this book or its' author, and went in with only my sister's earnest recommendation. Frankly, I have no idea why it was so good, but it was so good.  Very cinematic, as ma soeur said.

Perhaps partially because I hadn't just read a good book for fun in such a long time, I gloried in this little tale.  From what I understand, it's based on a real folktale from up north somewheres.  Interesting how this type of story is found in so many cultures.  It felt familiar, like putting on an old glove - Cupid and Psyche, the Beauty and the Beast.  But then you sort of looked at the glove and found that it was made of some strange new material.  Polar bear fur in this case, I guess.

CONCLUSION:  I may hunt down more of Edith Pattou's books.  I need to start reading pleasure fiction again.  Because... it gives me pleasure.