Sunday, September 02, 2007

Books Read in August

Fugitives of Chaos by John C. Wright B+
Second in a series, and I think I read the first one last October, which was the month of ‘Books lost in our Great Computer Transfer’… So, I’ll mention the first one, too: Orphans of Chaos. This is Metaphysical/Mythological fantasy at it’s most erudite… I enjoyed it, but have to say if you don’t know Greek mythology, forget it. You’ll just be frustrated and annoyed. I know most Olympian/Titan stories and didn’t recognize some of the critters mentioned. We’ve got Telchines, Sirens, the Echidna, Graeae, Grendel… Plus, Wrights’s mostly using less well known name for the big guys (Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Hera, Poseidon, etc.)- don’t ask me why. To a certain extent I thought Wright’s just trying to prove how much he knows while confusing everyone else… Anyway, they’re very good and I’m glad I read them, but they’re pretty convoluted and confusing, so take ‘em slow.

Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot B+
I particularly enjoyed Cabot’s breezy style after reading Wright’s weighted literary ponderosity… Cabot’s the author of the Princess Diary books, the 1-800-Where-Are-You (psychic) series, the Mediator (ghost speaker) series, and a variety of adult light romances such as The Boy Next Door. They’re fun, although I admit I got a little annoyed at the sizing issue in this one- since our heroine, Heather Wells, a washed up pop star, used to be a size 8, is now a size 12, generally lunches on Doritos and Oreos, and is surrounded by size 0 and size 2 college students and is constantly comparing herself to them… Size 12 is a mystery and Heather Wells is the RA of a New York State dorm in which young shy college freshman girls are going elevator surfing and ending up dead. The police are convinced it’s all typical college shenanigans, but Heather’s convinced they’ve been murdered. Turns out she’s right…

Marvel Masterworks The X-Men Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 B+
Loved these… The first 21 X-Men stories from the early 60’s. Boy, were some of the first stories corny. I admit I didn’t start reading comics until the 80’s and the stories I remember just seemed better… I don’t know, though. I’ll probably go back to those stories and realize how corny most of them were, too! It was interesting to be introduced to all the characters and see their original histories- Juggernaut, the Sentinels, Dr. Trask, Magneto, the Scarlet Witch, the Blob… I was a little annoyed at how Marvel Girl was consistently portrayed as a ‘girly-girl’… Her power was pretty wimpy back then, she made a perfect meal, looked perfect at all times, was always being saved & protected by the guys, and she pined after Cyclops (okay, he pined after her, too…). Anyway, give me the chick who could become the Dark Phoenix any day!

Sabriel by Garth Nix A+
I loved this! I honestly don’t know why I haven’t tried Nix’s stuff before… Sabriel is a young woman learning her father’s trade, Necromancy with a heroic twist, and dealing with a far more scary world than she’d expected… Wonderful characters, fun adventure, good twists and turns, interesting combination of fantasy and technology… I couldn’t put this down. I started it yesterday and stayed up to finish it.

Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot B+
Enjoyed this. A fluffy, frothy romance told through e-mails, a PDA and a travel journal. A Catholic girl and a Jewish boy head off to Italy to get married because all the parents involved disapprove of the relationship and the couple end up dealing with a ridiculous amount of difficulty. Their best friends are invited to be the witnesses and HATE each other at the first meeting at the airport, then (of course) end up falling in love and choosing to stay in Italy together… A silly & very light book. The best part was the six page interview with Cabot at the end- she used her own marriage as the basis for the book and almost all the completely unbelievable aspects of the wedding actually happened to her and her husband (Italian red tape, an SS German spy, a mayor/soccer coach who would only marry them at the crack of dawn…)

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson A
This is a YA version of his When the Wind Blows and The Lake House. It’s very good, although I admit I liked the adult version better… The story isn’t exactly the same, although it’s based on the same idea: a government organization performs DNA/recombatant experiments on infants that they’ve either stolen, or been given. The main characters of the stories are children who have wings, bird-like bones and structural changes. It’s an interesting story (although it doesn’t finish and leaves you hanging waiting for the next one) and lives up to Patterson’s break-neck story pace and surprising plot twists.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine A+
Loved this. One of my favorite books this year… A return to the world Levine created in Ella Enchanted, except it takes place in the country next door to Ella’s Kyrria, Ayortha. This is a retelling of Snow White, although if you didn’t know that story you certainly wouldn’t recognize it. Excellent story-telling, fun characters, believable situation. Ayortha is known for it’s singing, and everyone there is known by their ability to sing. Our main character, Aza is born with a beautiful voice that captivates and can do almost anything; however, she is born rather unattractive and wishes with all her heart to be beautiful… Humor, adventure, romance and song- what more could I ask for in a good book?

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli A
Good. A little heavy in the first section as it attempts to transport us into Persian culture & Islamic beliefs, but definitely an interesting tale. This is the story of a proud Persian prince who angers a fairy which then causes her to set an ancient curse into motion: The prince will be killed by his father’s hand if he doesn’t flee within the next day. The curse drives him to leave his home and travel across Europe in search of redemption and forgiveness. Through his travels he learns humility, loneliness, and how to deal with despair. A French beauty named Belle will free him from the curse, but not until the end of the story…

The Beloved Disciple: Following John to the heart of Jesus by Beth Moore A
I love Moore’s Bible studies. They are fantastic, and after seeing her speak in person I know how hard she strives to be Biblical, Godly and focused in her teachings. As a North-Western woman it’s always a little shocking/funny to see her big Texan-hair! I have to say though, that after several studies with her, I am able to overlook her hair and look at her heart. She tries to be transparent in her writings, and I believe she achieves that- John has always been one of my very favorite people from the Bible, and in this book Moore opens up his writings, from the Gospel of John to the letters, and finally to the book of Revelations. An excellent examination of those scriptures, plus practical applications.

The Duke’s Ballad by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie A
Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Based off the description from the back of the book: The tale of Aisling, a young witch from a family gifted with a magical power that she must protect from her evil brother, Kirion. She fled as a young girl when he tried to kill her to gain her power. Kirion has hold over the Duke of Kars, and she returns in disguise to undermine Kirion’s power and remove his evil pawn from the throne. My favorite parts of the book: Aisling’s character, her telepathic cat-friend, watching her learn to slip through the machinations and evil of the court-life, and the final defeat of her brother.

WebMage by Kelly McCullough B+
Good. Fairies, technology with a magic twist, ultra-modern. It’s slow to get started, but after the first quarter or so it keeps going. Surprises, and good twists.

Marvel Graphic Novel: EXiles, collected #46-51 B
I admit I’ve read almost all of the Exile comic books. I had a friend who was collecting and reading them, and he loaned a couple of years worth to me. I like the concept: Five heroes are plucked from their alternate universes and then transferred from reality to reality, setting things right and working toward the day when they can return to their former life. So, I checked out a collection from the library that picks up fairly close to the edition I had last read… Six more tales of their missions. One thing- they lost my favorite character from the series: Nocturne, Nightcrawler’s daughter from another reality…

Lirael & Abhorsen by Garth Nix A+
Why have I never read anything by Nix before???! This series has been excellent… A continuation of the tale begun in Sabriel- picks up with another girl character who doesn’t quite fit in to her surroundings. Lirael is one of the Clayr, the group of people within the Old Kingdom tasked with seeing into the future in order to prevent “horrible things” from happening; however, Lirael doesn’t have the gift of the sight. Through the course of the books, she discovers that a much more important task than just seeing the future has been granted her… She meets up with Prince Sam another person born into a role he is unable to fulfill. Together with Mogget & the Disreputable Dog they experience many wonderful & terrifying adventures.

Across the Wall: A Collection of Short Stories by Garth Nix A
I didn’t love everything in here, but those I did like, I LOVED. For one of the tales we return to the Old Kingdom, but all of the rest take place on other worlds and realities.

4th of July by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro A-
The fourth (duh) in a series about Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club. The story follows two different lines- the trial Lindsay faces over a late-night car chase & shooting, and the nasty murders taking place in the small town she retreats to in order to escape the press over the trial. It’s Patterson so there’s some disturbing stuff involved in the murders… Excellent management of the storylines, amazing ratcheting tension and good attention to details. My biggest complaint about this series is that, in my opinion, Patterson doesn’t do such a hot job writing a female character… I thought writing with a woman would help, but I don’t know… She’s a great character- I like her, I understand her, but she feels like a guy dressed up as a woman. Who knows… I’m probably the only person out there with this opinion. It’s still a good mystery.

Creative Beading by Juju Vail B
Not really my style, (hers is ‘chunky with crazy clashing colors’) but there were a couple of pictures I copied for my “beading inspiration file” and will probably use as starting points for other projects. It’s good to see stuff other people are doing ‘cuz it makes me think of how it relates to what I’m already doing and inspires additional projects… Good pictures, although some of her directions are kinda like, “so you start by doing this, do this and then POOF it’s done”. They seem to be missing some of the middle steps…

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