Friday, March 7, 2014
Dark Moonlighting is the first of a four novel series. It's about Nick, a 600 year old vampire doctor-lawyer-police officer (needing only 2 hours of sleep a night, Nick has plenty of time to work) . No, Nick isn't sexy, he doesn't glow in the sunlight, and he doesn't live on synthetic blood. He has a virus that drives him to kill about one person a week, drinking their blood and then urinating profusely after each kill. If you calculate the "Urinator's" body count, this comes to around 30,000 souls. But don't fret, Nick doesn't kill innocent people. A vampiric Dexter of sorts, he rids society of its scum, which, in this day and age, includes dreaded spammers and door to door evangelists.
Some of the reviews I've read have hailed the book for its departure from the popular vampire genre. Reviewers are thrilled with a vampire who doesn't take himself too seriously. While these things may be true, it doesn't automatically mean the book is good. Are we so disullusioned with Twilight and True Blood that we'll bed the first ugly vampire to wink at us?
The problem I have is with the writing. Yes, Dark Moonlighting is tongue in cheek and bleeding with satire and pop culture references, but despite this, the jokes flatlined for me. I kept getting the feeling I was reading something a junior high schooler wrote. There was no subletly to the humor, instead, the jokes were obvious and overexplained. Who knows, maybe that's part of what makes it funny and I'm just not getting it, but I couldn't get over the amateur feel the writing had. Haworth has a lot of good ideas, he just didn't execute them to my liking.
I can't completely write the book off, as it had its moments and was a quick, easy read. But I won't be rushing to complete this tetralogy any time soon.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
The novel started as a short story that was released by Amazon for the Kindle in 2011. Due to its popularity, Howey continued writing and amassed a three book collection in two years. Basically society exists in an underground silo because the air outside is too toxic to breathe. The chapters are written almost in a Game of Thrones style where a grouping of chapters is from the perspective of a different character. The first few chapters were so intriguing to me that I feared I wouldn't like the format because I didn't want to move on to another person's story....much like you don't want to break up with someone you are comfortable with, I guess. However, Howey is the best friend who helps you realize it's for the better. I found myself happy to move on each time because his different characters are equally compelling.
Which brings me to my next point, it kinda sucks when he kills the ones you like. But as we learned from G.R.R. Martin, that can be quite a beneficial plot device.
Of course the story isn't confined to the silos and its inhabitants. There is, of course, a great conspiracy involved and the question of life outside of the silo is explored.
And, like any popular book, there is a movie in the making. Ridley Scott is on board for this one. I am cautiously optimistic.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
The Secret Life of Bees is the story of Lily, a 14 year old girl, growing up in the South in the 60's. She finds herself in Tiburon, South Carolina, after having run away with her nanny Rosaleen from an unloving father. Lily believes that Tiburon holds the clues to her mother's past, something Lily's memories and her father have revealed little about. In Tiburon, Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by the Boatwright sisters, a beekeeping trio with an eclectic lifestyle.
Oh, and Rosaleen and the Boatwrights are all black. Why does this matter? Well, the setting is 1964 and President Johnson has just signed the Civil Rights Act. Lily isn't the only one running away, Rosaleen is also escaping some trouble she got into on her way to register to vote. If the fact that Lily is living with four Aftican American women isn't enough to turn heads (and it is), Rosaleen's legal trouble is.
What I like about this book is that there is a lot of potential for drama, given the year, the location, and the character's themselves. It was this potential that made me uneasy about a lot of things while I was reading. But Kidd has a nice balance of good and bad. She doesn't capitalize on all the possible (and sometimes obvious) storylines.
Her characters, although I felt not fully fleshed out, were memorable. She created a unique world that existed in the Boatwright's pink house, complete with their own livelihood and religion. Her descriptions of life at their home, the daily work, the church services, the celebrations, and the trials, made me want to be right there while everything happened.
Turns out, a movie was made in 2008 with Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, and Alicia Keys. I would never have been interested in this movie if I hadn't first read the book. Now, I think I'll actually see it. I'd love to see Kidd's characters come to life on the screen.
So in all, a strong book. A bit of a girl power vibe, but I'm a girl and don't mind that kind of thing (every now and then). It wasn't a life-changing book, but a well-told story. Something I might recommend to, say a neighbor, for a *quick* summer read.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
The answer is fuck yes. EVERYTHING gets compared to Harry Potter. All other YA books I've read? Not as good as Harry Potter. The coffee I had this morning? Not as good as Harry Potter. That dress I want to buy? Won't make my hips look as good as Harry Potter. You get the point. That series has been burned into my mind, heart, and soul. I cannot and will not unremember it. Does Rowling even stand a chance against herself?
Maybe she knew the answer...maybe she anticipated this inevitable proclivity which we all have. And maybe that's why she wrote The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym. Because she knew assholes like me would never forgive her for writing *just* another novel. I think her prologue says it all, "Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous." Freudian slip of the pen much?
So how to proceed now that I've compromised any semblance of neutrality? I'll just get on with it. I didn't find the story compelling, I didn't like the characters, and I didn't buy the ending. This was a book I read for the sake of finishing, so I could move on to another book.
My first complaint, her characters. Mean, selfish, or boooooring. Sure, some people are pricks, but really? THAT many people? Everyone we meet, even our protagonist, is a prick. His sister? A prick. His client? A prick. Everyone else in the book? Pricks. Every one. I wanted to avada kedavra all their asses. The only character I wouldn't call a prick is Robin, our detective's wingman secretary (her fiance though? You guessed it). The problem with Robin was she's as interesting as a Kardashian sex tape.
Another complaint is the ending. I felt like Rowling left some loose ends unaddressed. And the only reason I was surprised by the ending is because it just didn't make sense. Sure, she offered a one sentence explanation, but I don't buy it. I also don't feel her trail of bread crumbs would have led many readers to the right conclusion without a lot of blind speculation. But then again, I'm not a detective like Cormoran Strike. And then again, Rowling's only an author, (sniff).
To be fair, murder mysteries aren't my genre of choice. True, I went into it with high expectations, which can be a buzzkill for even above average performances. But really, I think a great story can rise above its genre, or age group, or expectations. Isn't that what we loved about...well, you know.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
**No more spoilers given than what is published to advertise each book**
Thomas wakes up one day to find himself in a field with other boys surrounding him. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Same as the others before him. He soon learns he is trapped in a maze and joins their quest to find a way out.
This series starts as many YA series do. Strong, compelling, slightly twisted. But by book three, I find myself back to 2006, watching the third season of LOST - frusterated, confused, and less willing to believe.
The maze runner was good, if not a bit strange. Thomas becomes a "runner," or one of the boys whose role is to map out the constantly changing maze and try to find a way to solve it. The entire first book is consumed by the maze itself and the boys' lives therein. My questions are the same as the boys'. Why? Where? What caused this? What is going on in the rest of the world? But because they have no memory and I don't really know when this takes place or in what kind of world, I am along for the ride. Dashner ends the book strongly - with a promise of answers to many, if not all, of my questions. Ok, I say, I can continue down this rabbit hole with you.
So I pick up book two. Here's where we get into season two of LOST. I'm invested in these characters, I understand the premise, and I like it. Yeah, there are some strange things that happen, but I'm willing to trust Dashner and see how he'll tie everything together in the end. Ok, maybe this book isn't quite as good as the first...but we're building to something here. I can feel it.
Without giving too much away, book two places Thomas and the other boys, or "The Gladers" as they've called themselves, into the "Scorch," which is basically the desert. And here's where the series evolves into basically a zombie tale (no complaints yet). The Gladers have learned they are a part of a special group undergoing trials in order to hopefully effect a cure for the condition of the world today. Just as a drug undergoes trials in testing, the Gladers, quite literally, are enduring their course of trials.
This second book has a bit more teenage angst and drama, which I feel just meh about. Thankfully Dashner keeps things platonic and the drama more on an emotional level, which I think is fair. I'm more interested in how jacked up everything has become and why. But do I get many answers? No. Just more questions. Well, I'm already invested. Might as well pick up book three.
Book three picks up the pace. Answers begin to come. But the more I understand what is going on, the more I realize how everything in the previous two books was kinda meaningless, subplots within the grand scheme of things, I guess. Are the Gladers really accomplishing anything? Or are they literally just running around for no good? Dashner puts in details that seem so important at the time but become forgotten as the series evolves. Is it poor planning? Did he abandon those ideas? I start to get ambivalent. I start to think Dashner has made more happen than he's going to explain. I can't decide if I like the series or feel jilted by it. I look at the book like an old lover. Do I keep you in bed with me? Or throw you across the room?
After much frustration and some eye rolling, I've finished. (In case you're wondering, I'm not still using the jilted lover parallel here.) I like the ending, in all, an interesting series. There is a fourth book, a prequel. Will I read it? Probably.
So it's a mixed recommend. Definitely something different with its ups and downs, but Dashner has managed to keep me interested and feeling...something...while I read. I suppose that's the point.
And for you lazies who like the on screen version, I hear this book has a movie in post production, scheduled to be released this fall. Should make for a great movie.
Monday, February 18, 2013
We all know and appreciate the many Star Wars references that pop up in everyday speech. If you don't, then I can tell you now that this isn't the book you are looking for.
Darth Vader and Son is a graphic novel that takes your favorite Star Wars quotes and puts them in the context of a father/son interaction between Darth Vader and Luke as a little boy. Each page is a separate comic in which Brown inserts Darth Vader and Luke into everyday situations, whether they be mundane, tender, or aggravating.
I imagine this book is the brain child of many "what if" moments Brown had when pondering the awesomeness that is Star Wars.
I could go on and on but if you're a Star Wars fan, you already know this book rocks. If you aren't, you won't appreciate it as much as you should. And ladies, you don't have to feel left out...Brown has also compiled Leia inspired comics in Vader's Little Princess.
To learn more about Jeffrey Brown's work, an atheist son of a minister who used to work in a wooden shoe factory in Holland, Michigan, then check out jeffreybrowncomics.com
On a separate but related note, there is a book called Admiral Akbar's Guide to Everything...IT'S A CAT! And yes, there are a few traps too.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
There is a small library of books at my work for employees' reading pleasure. Pleasure might not actually be the best word, as most of the books are true crime novels, where death, murder, and mayhem are the topics of the day. When I need a book to read, I'll randomly pick one...usually based on the cover or its name...much like the way I pick a bottle of wine.
Shot In the Heart is my latest pick and it didn't disappoint. Mikal Gilmore is the brother of Gary Gilmore, a man who was put to death in Utah in 1977 for murdering two men. Although Gary's story is enough to fill an entire book (Mikal recommends The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer if you are interested), Shot In the Heart is the story of Mikal's entire family. Now I'm a sucker for multi generational stories...and this is no exception. Mikal details his family history, beginning with the origins of Mormanism. Not only does his mother's family come from Mormon stock, but Gilmore is fascinated with the Mormon idea of blood atonement. This is the belief that the sin of murder is so heinous, only the shedding of the sinner's blood will atone for it. Gilmore writes about how Utah's capital punishment laws kept this doctrine alive by allowing an inmate on death row the option of death by firing squad.
Although Gilmore's maternal lineage is defined by its Mormon roots, his paternal lineage has equally compelling stories. His grandmother was a psychic, and his father a con man with a spotty, incomplete past. After I got through the Mormon part of the book, I found myself reading stories of Harry Houdini, evil spirits, and haunted houses. I actually got the heebie jeebies reading some of his stories.
Gilmore then talks extensively about his parents and siblings' lives. Although Mikal was lucky to enjoy his father's love and relative family stability, he still describes the disfunction that dominated his brothers' lives and that carried into his own. With physical abuse, sibling rivalry, and unpredictable parents, I wasn't surprised by his brother Gary's life decisions. And although Gary became the "famous one" in the family, Mikal and his other brothers weren't immune to poor decisions wrought from their lives' trauma.
Although captivating, Shot in the Heart is sad in many ways. If you want an uplifting book, this isn't the one for you. But as a study in human depravity, it's worth the read.