Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book 17: Irresistible

TITLE: Irresistible
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh
STARTED: May 5, 2009
FINISHED: May 19, 2009
PAGES: 313
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: There was always a sense of pleasurable anticipation attached to entering London even though one had to travel through the poorer, more crowded outer areas before reaching Mayfair and its splendid mansions and thoroughfares.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Sophie Armitage has never felt attractive to men. Even her late husband treated her more as a companion than a lover. But suddenly a longtime friendship turns into an irresistibly passionate affair...

THOUGHTS: Umm, Sophie, why couldn't you just tell your lover what the problem was from the start? Oh, because then there would have been no book.

Worst. Plot device. Ever.

At least the characters were decent with believable chemistry. Also, Ms. Balogh, why couldn't you give your secondary characters their own book. Their story was more interesting than the main plot.

Not Balogh's best, but far from bad.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 16: Delicate Edible Birds

TITLE: Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories
AUTHOR: Lauren Groff
STARTED: May 1, 2009
FINISHED: May 4, 2009
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Short Stories / Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Every village has its rhythm, and ever year Templeton's was the same.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Groff follows up The Monsters of Templeton with this innovative and beautifully written collection that covers a wide swath of humanity, from east coast resort towns, to the early 20th century flu epidemic, to WWII Europe. In "Lucky Chow Fun," the narrator, an ungainly but wise 17-year-old girl, watches over her younger sister after their father leaves and their mother tunes out. In "Watershed," a woman reunites with a man and moves back to her hometown, but their happiness is short-lived when a freak accident leaves her husband comatose. Not all stories are gems-the supernatural elements in "Fugue," about a couple tending to a semi-abandoned hotel, don't quite work, while "Blythe," about a housewife who befriends a bipolar eccentric in a poetry class, feels half-baked. Even in the less successful stories, Groff's prose is lovely, and when she nails a story-like the title story about journalists fleeing Nazi-occupied Paris-the results are sublime.

THOUGHTS: Groff and me are tight. And by tight I mean we lived in the same town. I enjoyed her stories more (particularly Lucky Chow Fun) because I've lived in Cooperstown. I know the setting. I know the characters. I know that restaurant! (Damn, I miss their steamed dumplings.) While all of her stories are enjoyable, I read Groff for the connection we have. I can see how many people would dislike her work (who needs to fill in those plot holes?), but I enjoy her writing and ability to craft characters.

Each story is different. I mean different. Groff has the ability to write these stories without any carry-over into one another. I don't like it when I can recognize characters and/or styles in each story. It is clear the author took her time on each piece and I appreciate that. The mood is different in each tale and so are the plots. Her ability to create emotional characters from mere lines of text is impressive. I always felt that the characters were complete people even in the scant number of pages they were given. They reacted humanly.

If you're looking for a short story collection that's a bit out there but written with elegance, this book is for you.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 15: Coraline

TITLE: Coraline
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: April 28, 2009
FINISHED: April 28, 2009
PAGES:192
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: Coraline discovered the door a little after they moved into the house.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] When a girl moves into an old house, she finds a door leading to a world that eerily mimics her own, but with sinister differences.

THOUGHTS: Buttons will never be so creepy again. I've been reading a lot of Gaiman lately (with more to come) and he never lets me down. He tells stories. Sure, I'm not enamored with his writing or characters, but his stories are awe inspiring.

Coraline is about curiosity. We want enough of it to keep ourselves entertained, but not so much that you lose yourself. In this graphic novel, Gaiman walks the fine line between scary and AAAAAAAAAHHHHH very well. The book is creepy enough to leave you tense, but not so scary as to leave you with nightmares when you turn off the light and go to sleep.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 14: Extreme Measures

TITLE: Extreme Measures
AUTHOR: Vince Flynn
STARTED: April 19, 2009
FINISHED: April 28, 2009
PAGES: 430
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Mike Nash glanced anxiously at his watch and then eyed the twin flat-screen monitors.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp and his colleague Mike Nash may have met their match. The CIA has detected and intercepted two terrorist cells, but a third is feared to be on the loose. Led by a dangerous mastermind obsessed with becoming the leader of al-Qaeda, this determined and terrifying group is about to descend on America.

Rapp needs the best on this assignment, and Nash, who has served his government honorably for sixteen years, is his choice. Together, they have never wavered in the fight against the jihadists and their culture of death. Both have fought the war on terrorism in secret without accolades or acknowledgment of their personal sacrifices. Both have been forced to lie to virtually every single person they care about, and both have soldiered on with the knowledge that their hard work and lethal tactics have saved thousands of lives. But the political winds have changed in America, and certain leaders on Capitol Hill are pushing to have men like Rapp and Nash put back on a short leash. And then one spring afternoon in Washington, DC, everything changes.

THOUGHTS: Bring back the shades of gray! Seriously, Mr. Flynn you used to be so good, why have you devolved into a mass of "I'm selling for the movie to be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer." Not cool man. Not cool at all.

Your best character was the terrorist. I don't think you meant to write it this way, but you made me sympathize with a terrorist. He had thoughts, feelings, and second-guessed himself. You know, he was human. He lived in a world where he had to make reasoned decisions and live to see how those decisions changed others and, in turn, changed his character. That is so unlike your main characters who are so macho and American that we just HAVE to trust them when they act. Puh-leeze. American does not equal good. I know your writing for a certain type of audience these days, but don't forget you have loyal readers who read your series before 9/11.

I am tired of your books coming across like you want to play the action hero who knows whats best. You use to be so much better.

But god dammit if I won't read the next book. You leave just enough intrigue to make me want to see what happens next.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, May 25, 2009

You've Been Warned

Sometime this week there will be lots of posts coming. Lots and lots of posts. I've got a backlog of books I've read recently but have been too tired and/or busy to post about. Add to that, my class this summer requires me to read several mountains worth of children's books (horror, I know). I've motored through quite a few of those this weekend.

Just you wait, the updates are coming.

Dun dun DUN!