Saturday, June 29, 2013

list of recent reads par-tay! (6)

Because I'm too lazy to write about all of them individually!

The Search for WondLa
I can't decide if I liked this.  Kind of a strange tone - but I finished it, so that says something.  I liked that Eva was female, but though she's kind and "pure of heart," it isn't exactly the strong female lead I was hoping for.  I'm considering reading more. It was nice that, though it did have the requisite "this is going to be a series, consumers of America!!" ending, it also had a complete feel.  The cliffhanger thing  came as a surprise - there was already an ending wrapped up.  Interesting illustrations.
CONCLUSION: I KNEW it would have something to do with The Wizard of Oz.

Artemis Fowl
Another one that the jury is still out on.  The scale was a lot smaller than I expected, and I didn't like that the series was so obviously being set up.  When conservative people were all in a furor over Harry Potter, someone suggested this as a safer substitution, which is ludicrous to me.  Harry Potter glorified self-sacrifice, courage, loyalty, kindness and justice. This was about a genius child criminal who uses people shamelessly to get what he wants. Not only is he not as relatable as Harry, he also is kind of bad!!! I can't believe people tried to substitute this for the Harry Potter books. 
CONCLUSION:  It's unlikely that I'll continue on with more books. 

The first two books in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series. 
YAY! I complained on facebook about how Rick Riordan is a meanie, because he ends chapters with things like, "he woke up and they were screaming." and even though it's three in the morning you have to find out why.  I almost get grumpy about it.  Sort of, "well, THANKS Rick. Just GREAT that I have to get up in four hours but I can't stop. Awesome."  
CONCLUSION: I don't know why these books are so fun.  They just are.

Howl's Moving Castle
Borrowed from a friend, sorry I had to return it. 
CONCLUSION: Better than the movie, as the friend promised.  And that says a lot in this case. 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a master of the bittersweet ending.  I liked the ending on this so much better than the ending of the movie in some ways, and in some ways... well,  I hated it for being just so darn sad. 
CONCLUSION: Thank you, Lord, for Neil Gaiman. 

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Seriously, it's a miracle this woman can sell books with such an un-typeable name.  Yeesh.

So! I absolutely loved The Scorpio Races and was prepared to love this book too.

And, probably, if I hadn't already read The Scorpio Races I would have been happier.  Of the way, way too many supernatural books I've listened to on tape (in most cases out of desperation during the school year, when I only have time to consume any literature while doing homework for art classes), this was one of the absolute best.  Mainly because it just wasn't as supernatural. It was written before the Twilight explosion hit (if I remember rightly) and it's just so different from that type of book.  When the boy is a wolf - and he is either a wolf or a boy, nothing in between - he can't remember things, or think normally. He's just a wolf. When he's a boy he doesn't have a ton of, like, magical abilities.  The wolf thing seems more like a plot device to make the young lovers angsty than the point of the story - which is often not the case with these supernatural books.  One thing this writer does well is make decent characters.  I liked no-nonsense Grace and her negligent parents - especially the parents.

I'm not sure why I didn't love this book as much as The Scorpio Races.  This was the second time I've listened to it on tape - the first time I didn't get through it.  For some reason I just lost interest.  It seemed like there was too much "oh no he's not going to change let's be sad" in the middle, and that the pace got a bit lost.  But do I only think that because, both times, I was somehow unconsciously expecting the tightly-wound drama of The Scorpio Races? I don't know.

Unusual. Good. I might check out the other books in the "cycle." (Just realized I despise the word "cycle."  Why do I despise it?  What a confusing night.)  But I won't be heartbroken if I never get around to it.

(P.S. Didn't realize that red spot on the cover was blood. Cool!)

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan

I listened to this on tape, and about three days after I initially downloaded it from the library, I saw a positive review for the book on NPR and felt unreasonably proud of myself for downloading a decently reviewed book purely because the cover is well-designed.

The review said that it was the tone that makes this book - and I think that's very true.  When you tell someone what the story is about, it doesn't sound like anything spectacular. It's about the underworld of the Hollywood area, a drugged-out child star, a burglar, and a porn film.  How is that new or different, right?  And when you tell them that it's funny sometimes, it's even more misleading. Because it isn't a funny book overall; people die, and it's serious and scary. Yet the characters can find humor in life - they aren't perpetually serious - and that makes them seem like human beings.  Nothing is more boring to me than the stoic, inscrutable, Bond-style detective.

So, basically, it's a hard book to describe to people.

I can say that this is the only modern mystery story I've read that I really enjoyed.  Not only because the main character was fun and all that - but because it was at least a bit believable, and seemed to be about bigger things than just giving the reader a fun ride.  I was struck by the unmistakable social commentary.  And how the characters - all of them (with the possible exception of Junior's wife - she's believable and everything, but not meaty) - would be an actor's dream. And since Lionsgate has bought the rights to make a movie, there's a slim chance that it might pull through development purgatory and get made. Of course, the story and the characters and the social commentary could all get sapped out of them by dumb people, but with a smart screenwriter and a handful of great actors it could be something really, really special.  And I don't think that often.

Thistle Downing, in particular, would be a dream of an acting role. If somebody played the part well, I'd see them grabbing awards.  Thistle is drugged-out, obviously, but she's also so self-aware, and sees precisely what the media machine is after. She has a sense of humor.  She has weird ideas about what happened to her talent. She's not your normal messed up hollywood kid character - and I think that's cool because there is no such thing as a normal messed-up hollywood kid.

People in real life are not just types - they're all different, no matter what group they fit into - and that, right there, is why this book is good: because Timothy Hallinan knows it, and writes his people like people.