Monday, December 31, 2007

December Books

Seven Wild Sisters by Charles De Lint B
Beth wanted me to read this… She loves De Lint, and I’m just not that enthralled. This is one of his better ones- focused on the story and not just enjoying himself in the magic of words… He writes fairy stories that are half story and half poetry, but this one actually has an interesting story and solid base to it. Many of his books attempt to put into words a very internal, poetic and imagaic world and DO NOT succeed. I think this one succeeds. It was good. Beth loved it. Side Note: The illustrations in this are lovely. A whole lot of fun and very appropriate for the material.

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts A
The first in a new trilogy- Many details in this book reminded me of Stephen King’s IT: friends growing up in a small town, have an experience when they’re 10 which makes them aware of an overwhelming evil, they escape, move on and then come to realize the monster will be coming back, finally as adults they all return to battle the demon/monster. Of course, with Roberts you automatically get a romance... This was very good, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Feathers from My Nest by Beth Moore A++
Reflections on motherhood. Moore looks at specific items, whether a hairbrush or a string tied to a dresser, and reflects on the memories each brings back. Her children have just ‘flown the nest’, gone on to college and she is dealing with the empty nest by going over the precious times and the difficult times. She talks about how God holds a family together and the struggles families must deal with in today’s world. Excellent.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins A
Just when I start thinking I’ve read all the books I’d like to, or found all the good authors in the whole world, God lets me find another one. (by the way, He normally leads me to a really good one when I pray at the library… Funny how kind He is about that.) So, this was really good and I already have the next one in the series! :) Kind of “Alice goes down the rabbit hole and meets the New York plumbing system”. Except Alice is a boy named Gregor and the Mad Hatter & the March Hare are spiders and rats who like to eat people… Really good YA fantasy.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins A
Okay, I devoured this one- first, it’s a quick read. Second, it’s a good read. Continuing the adventures of Gregor and the fireflies/rats/bats and other fiendish Underlanders. Very good. Looking forward to the next ones in the series!

Dead of Night (compilation of 4 paranormal romances)
Here’s the sad truth… My mom buys romances like they’re candy, so there’s always one or more in the house that I haven’t read and probably didn’t/don’t really want to read. I avoid them altogether unless there’s a story by Nora Roberts- I like her characters and stories. She writes solid and interesting stories that stand on their own, which is why she’s moved on out of the romance section of the book store. Most romances are rather like a porn script: stupid lines and obvious plot leading the two (or more) people to a sex scene. In fact, it’s my opinion that most romances are a feminine version of Playboy… They’re just more culturally acceptable than the blatancy of naked pictures. I hate admitting this: I used to read everything my mom brought home- in fact, I read most of my mom's romances through high school & college. I don’t think they were good for me and my impressions of what true love is really like or should be… Okay! Enough. Here’s my thoughts on this particular grouping of romance stories.
Eternity in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) B
This is the story that caused me to pick up the book. Enjoyed this one… I like most of her Eve Dallas mysteries. This one is about a guy who thinks he’s a vampire. Rather nasty when you get into the underbelly of the vamp believers world. This one’s based on vamp culture, not the fictional world of vampires (Anne Rice, Dracula, etc.). Not her best.
Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure D
This one was lousy. Too much waiting for something to happen. Two people go back in time to find out rather silly things and end up falling in love. Predictable and stupid.
Timeless by Ruth Ryan Langan C
I wasn’t too sure about this one, but ended up enjoying it. A woman goes back in time and ends up discovering the secret of love. Predictable until the good ending.
On the Fringe by Mary Kay McComas B+
Really liked this one. A bored wife/teacher has the opportunity to see what her life would have been like if she hadn’t married her high school love. Very good story. Not your typical romance and very much about what day to day love is all about. Wish it didn’t come in this package, ‘cuz it really was a good story.

The Dead Zone by Stephen King B+
Plot: Johnny Smith is in a severe car accident and wakes up after an almost five year coma with the ability to see into the future.
After the Roberts’ book that reminded me of IT, I felt an urge to read some King. I think I liked this one… King is a tad bit dark for me, and I tend to find him rather vulgar and crude… Which is funny, ‘cuz I’ve read other horror and if Laurel K. Hamilton doesn’t qualify as crude I don’t know what does… I guess I like my fiction a bit sweeter. I don’t know. King’s a bittersweet romantic- I do get that. With way more blue collar in him than me. His style is “so in your face”- kind of the opposite of Charles de Lint… I did like the ending, although I didn’t think I would. I fell in love with Johnny, and was pained that life didn’t work out for him and his love, Sarah. I know love doesn’t always work out, but I kind of like it to work out in books, at least… In this situation it just couldn’t. I’m glad Johnny took care of the one thing he had to do- the one great evil he had to destroy, and I’m glad he didn’t really have to kill anyone to do it. Johnny & King circle around this question: If you had the opportunity to go back in time and kill Hitler, would you? You’d probably be caught and tortured, but would you do it if you could? It’s a worthwhile question… Kind of obvious in that: who'd be the guy who'd say no?? A dark question, but worth the asking.

It by Stephen King A-
Okay. Not a bit like Roberts’ Blood Brothers, which finally required me to reread this book. The only thing the two books have got in common is that these guys experienced a ‘bad thing’ when they were young and promised to come back and deal with it later if they had to. I enjoyed It more this time around… I think I relate to being a little older and going back to look at your childhood home. I also took the book a little slower this time around- I still think King reaches a point where the book is just too big and he tries to shut it down and it’s kind of out of control… But not as much as I thought back in college. I’m still upset that they don’t get to at least remember the special friends they had when they were little, even if they don’t get to keep them… I’m still horrified by the evil in this book, maybe even more now than in college…
Because I think that there’s a truth here- that it’s easier to close your eyes, not get involved, and just let evil happen. A Christian doesn’t have that option. We just don’t. We know the true horror- We know that there really is a monster- a lion roaring- who is seeking to steal, kill & destroy. And that we have been called to fight that monster with our faith, our scripture knowledge and the Holy Spirit. It was definitely a better read this time through- But also, more disturbing, more real…

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket A
This book made me laugh. And it’s a VERY quick read. I haven’t been able to read ‘The Series of Unfortunate Event” Books all the way through, because after around 7 or 8 of them I got annoyed, ‘cuz nothing ever seemed to change or get better. Like reading bad romances- boy meets girl, a little sex, bang- they’re married, and baby makes three. In each of the Unfortunate Events books, the kids find someone new to live with, the Uncle shows up, things get bad, and then they get worse. Horseradish was fun, though. Took the concept of those silly inspirational books with a quote on each page and made it hysterical. Much of what he says is quite true, some isn’t very funny, but it was a good quick read.

Servant: The Awakening by L.L. Foster C
I don’t know how I got sucked into reading this one… The title? The cover? The blurb on the back? I just don’t know. I read the first three chapters and thought, ‘wow, this is pretty lousy. Surely it will get better.’ So, I took a break and read the Lemony Snicket book. Then I went back to this and read 3 more chapters. Then I thought well I want to know how it ends, and I’m already half-way thru… It did get better about 2/3rds of the way in, but that’s a long time for it to be so lousy.
It’s actually an interesting idea, but it’s not carried out very well. It’s kind of Frankenstein meets Professor Van Helsing. I got to the end of the book, read the author’s bio and was shocked that she’s written 60 or so books! I did some research, though and they’re all romances. Aah. Now it all becomes clear. Seems that you can get away with writing really lousy stuff if you’re a romance writer or an author of Christian materials…

Coyote Dreams by C.E. Murphy A
The third in Murphy’s Walker series. Loved this one! I admit our heroine is still a little dense, but we’re getting there… I hate it when the reader knows more than the main character! Reading this you spend about a quarter of the time wishing you could prevent her from being stupid. It is good to see her finally dealing with her boss in a different manner, even if it's not what you want for them... However, very good adventure- interesting ideas. Yay!

Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow A/D
I did not like this book, but it had some really good points… There’s truth in here but it’s buried under some rather chauvinistic opinions and hidden by faulty assumptions about women. The church Jake & I attended that most directly fits Murrow’s description of a ‘feminine church’ was controlled by a couple of aging male deacons who didn’t want anything changed ever, loved the term ‘family of God’ and wouldn’t let the pastor do anything that would attract new members. I think Murrow makes valid points about the lack of men in church, their differences and the reasons they don’t attend church; however, it took me a long time to get past his language. Jake read one chapter and a couple pages and refused to read any more…

Without Due Process by J.A. Jance B
Breach of Duty by J.A. Jance A
My mom’s always got mysteries and romances lying around- these are in the first category. They’re mysteries with Detective J.P. Beaumont, an aging life-time cop as the main character. I’ve never read them, but grabbed a couple and gave ‘em a whirl. The first one was good, but the second one was really good. Breach of Duty has buried secrets, nasty crimes, a trail of clues, rather disturbing/disturbed & believable suspects and a sympathetic main character.

Insomnia by Stephen King A
From the inside flap: ‘Ralph Roberts is seeing some strange happenings in Derry, Maine. He sees auras around human beings that show him the horror threatening them. He sees a nice young research chemist like Ed Deepneau turn into a savage wife beater. He sees Charlie Pickering with blood in his eyes and a gleaming knife in his hand. And he sees three little bald doctors in the homes of the dying- and he begins to suspect who they really are. No wonder Ralph stays awake all night. You would, too.’
I really liked this King story... I fell in love with Ralph- the 70 something main character. The situation/mystery of it is arresting and strange and I suspect that this story is more like my normal fantasies than any of his other novels. Also, (apologies to Valette), but I have to say that this is a romance! The story is more about the depth and magic of ‘old’ love than it is really about defeating a horrible monster; although, yes, the horrible monster is defeated. I wish I could say he was destroyed, but this story is more like real life- Evil is defeated in an important & critical maneuver but not destroyed permanently.

Showdown by Ted Dekker C
This should have been better! I’ve read other stuff by Dekker- he writes strange Christian horror/adventure novels about the confrontation between good and evil. The idea was interesting- a stranger shows up in a small town with a message of hope, or is it a message of death? I slogged through the first half, and just felt like I was reading it ‘cuz I should… Beth reminded me that I didn’t have to read the whole thing! (How come I keep forgetting this??) So I skipped to the last quarter to finish it off… It was actually good for that last quarter. I think he just wrote too much. It’s kind of an apocalyptic redemption tale, and it had potential. I just don’t think it lived up to it, and that’s sad.

Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance A
The first book in the Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont series. Very good. Dark and sad. A little girl trapped in the world of her mother’s freaky weird cult is murdered. Finding who killed her is only half of the twisted mystery.

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling A+
I love Harry Potter! This was a re-read.


Valette said...

Oh, I loved Insomnia. Just loved it. It was also my first introduction to the Dark Tower books. Which is a great series that isn't King's usual dark and scary stuff. It's dark and scary in a different fantasy kind of way. But Insomnia ties into it. So do a bunch of others, like The Talisman and Black House, or Salem's Lot, or really just a ton of his other stuff. I highly recommend the Dark Tower series.

The Renzntzman said...

You seem to like the supernatural coming-of-age stories. So do I. Let me recommend a couple to you. These books are among my faves and I think you'd enjoy them.
Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon
The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale
and if you don't mind going a bit darker and scarier there's
The Travelling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon.
If you have to pick one, pick the first one. It's a winner!

Portugal said...

Great read as well - I Loved it, absolutely Loved it