January 29th, 2011

003

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michal Chabon & The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michal Chabon [New York 2000]
Summary: The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born writer named Sam Clay—both Jewish—before, during, and after World War II. Kavalier and Clay become major figures in the nascent comics industry during its "Golden Age." [Source].
Review in 5 words or less: Excellent characterization and style | Interesting plot | Starts out really strong but becomes dragged out in the second half | Memorable |
Personal Rating: ◊ ◊ ◊ of 5.
Extra: The Escapist, Kavalier & Clay's most famous comic book character, has been turned into a comic outside the novel as well. For those who have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay this could be of interest. If you want to, check out two artist's renditions of The Escapist here and here, as well as information on the comic at the Grand Comic Book Database. Nice trivia for the book, in my opinion.
Fake-cut to review: Go here! :)

Title: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin [New York 1972]
Summary: For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret -- a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon. [Source].
Review in 5 words or less: Scary | Impressing | Memorable | Very intense and clever |
Personal Rating: ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ of 5.
Fake-cut to review: Go here! :)
crime

Books 7-8: Blind Fury and The Big Sleep.

Book 7: Blind Fury (Anna Travis 06).
Author: Lynda la Plante, 2010
Genre: Police procedural. Crime fiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 501 pages.

Close to a motorway service station, the body of a young woman is found. There is no identification. DI Anna Travis joins the investigating team led by DCS James Langton, who already suspects that this case is linked to two other unsolved murders. As more evidence comes to light the team realise that they are contending with a triple murder investigation with no suspects. Anna is unsettled when she receives a letter from a murderer that she helped to put away some years previously. He claims that he has vital information related to the case but will only talk to Anna. She is reluctant to visit but any lead is worth investigating. Mind games ensue.

A very satisfying police procedural that does drive home the fact that investigations of this nature can be hard work. No quick CSI-like answers but plain dogged police work to build a case. As with all of this series I found it very hard to put down even though it is quite a slow-burner.

Book 8: The Big Sleep .
Author: Raymond Chandler, 1939
Genre: Vintage Crime Noir. Modern Classic.
Other Details: Paperback. 220 pages.

Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead. - Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep

Iconic hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe made his début in this 1939 crime novel. It was also Chandler's first novel though he had been writing short stories for pulp fiction magazines, such as Black Mask, for some years.

The plot involves Marlowe being hired by General Sternwood, a paralysed old man, who is being blackmailed. Marlowe's task is to get the blackmailer off the General's back. Of course, this is only the beginning of the story and Marlowe quickly finds himself caught up in the complicated lives of Sternwood's two daughters, each of whom in their own way is a femme fatale of the 1930s school of femme fatales. There are, of course, murders and cover-ups, missing bodies, and lots of vice and corruption. An almost perfect example of crime noir of this era.

Although I appreciate that aesthetics have changed since the 1950s, I still rather like this 1958 cover by Ernest Chiriaka, which does reflect a key scene in the novel.

Overall, it is sparsely written with Marlowe providing a wry narrative voice throughout. Although some aspects are dated, such as certain slang words, I found it a very accessible and fun read, evoking memories of black and white films. I was also surprised how racy it was.

It was generally well received in our book group with only one person actively disliking it.
woman, gothic, dark

Book #1 - Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

 Title: Kushiel's Dart
Series: Kushiel's Legacy
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 901

Rating: 8/10

Books read: 1/50

Synopsis: (from back of book)

When Love cast me out it was Cruelty who took pity on me.

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phedre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phedre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phedre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of "Kushiel's Dart"-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

Review:

I found this book a little hard to get into initially, but I persevered and I'm really glad I did. I would consider this to be a book more about politics and sex (in that order) than specifically a fantasy novel, but the fantasy elements were still good. There were times I liked Phedre, and times I didn't, but what really made the book for me was my fascination with Joscelin Verreuil, Phedre's Cassiline guard
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Overall the book was really well written, and mildly complex. It's definitely not what I would consider a 'light reading' book, but it's worth it. I liked most of the characters, although there could have been a little more backstory for some of them. There are some themes that may disturb some people, for example the fact that Phedre's world seems to essentially be made up of courtesans and their clients, and that experiencing "pain and pleasure as one" effectively means that she's a BDSM submissive. Still, while there are some sexual elements, it's not porn by any means. There are a lot of religious elements, so having a little knowledge of Christianity makes the book read easier I think. I would definitely recommend it.

Love as thou wilt.
anemone
  • cat63

Book 5 for 2011

Call the Ambulance! by Les Pringle. 383 pages

I wanted to read this book, because Pringle, like my late father, was  an ambulance driver in the 1970s. Pringle worked in Birmingham and my dad in London, but I thought I could at least get a general feel for the sort of thing that went on.

I wasn't expecting a great deal in terms of writing, but was pleasantly surprised. It's a well-written, well put together peek into an ambulanceman's life at that time, and I was pleased to find that the author has a previous book that I haven't read, but which I shall certainly be looking for.

taiwan girl

(no subject)

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

The sequel to Beautiful Creatures which I loved. Darkness starts as slowly as its predecessor. With the extra dollop of Noble Idiot syndrome from the female lead, Lena, I was prepared to hate this book. Thank God it did eventually pick up. Characters later show up in a rather coincidental way, but I enjoyed the twists and better understand what the authors might do with two more books. (I still think they're doing two more to cash in on something that could be more tightly plotted than what we have, but I feel confident that, at least, things will happen.)

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

The sequel to The Eyre Affair (which I reviewed here) and the second Thursday Next novel. I was delighted to find that I liked this book better than the first. (In fact, I did get lost in this book: I couldn't put it down and read it in one day.) I was more used to the world Fforde had built and his tendency to cram every new chapter with something completely new. I was especially tickled by the notion of "murder by coincidence"-- that's a lampshade I will buy.

Next: Zombie Economics by John Quiggan

(Rest of the Reading List)
tree

Gone by Michael Grant



When did young adult books become so good? I'm way older than the target age for Gone, but it's just about everything I could have asked for in a book.

Gone starts out as Lord of the Flies meets Stephen King's Under the Dome. It's a normal weekday, kids are in class, and all of a sudden POOF, every adult vanishes. Soon they discover that their town is also cut off from the rest of the world.

Things move to Lord of the Flies territory pretty fast, and from there get worse (for the characters, 'better' for the reader!). Event upon event occurs, fast paced, each time seeming like there's just no more room for more conflict.

Soon enough, supernatural elements start cropping up, making this so much more than just a Lord of the Flies/Dome crossover. There are some really interesting elements, but unfortunately I can't list them without spoiling. They make the story satisfyingly more complex though.

Gone is the first in a series of books. The next two, Hunger and Lies, are out now. Plague is due to be published in the next few months, and the last two (Darkness and Light) are sometime after that. I've only just finished Gone, and I can't wait to move on to Hunger.
Book Stacks

Book 3 of 50: Royal Assassin

Book 3 of 50

Title: Royal Assassin: The Farseer Trilogy, Book 2
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: fantasy

Summary: (from amazon.com): Continuing in the tradition of her first book (Assassin's Apprentice) Hobb propels the Farseer saga into its second installment with irresistible plotting and memorable characters.
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Comments: I listened to this on audiobook, and I have really been enjoying this series. Sometimes I feel like the magic is so small, and that the world is so small. Still, I really like the characters in this series. This book really seems to center on the inner turmoil of what FitzChivalry wants for himself, and what he knows he should do for the greater good. Hobb does a great job, I think, writing Prince Regal as the villain. So much fantasy I read has "The Dark One" or something like that as the villain, but Prince Regal is very realistic, with very real motivations and selfishness. He's very realistic. So while this seems pretty different than other fantasy I've read, it has different strong points that I still really like. In this book in particular, I really was able to get into the struggles of the main character. All of the characters in this series seem very human. If you've read the first in the Farseer trilogy, then you need to read this one as well. It continues a great story.

x-posted to cmmunchkin