Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

Rating 3/5

What an odd little book. This is the first book I've read in the Cannongate Myths series, which is a collection of stand alone books by different authors. From Byatt's afterword, I gather most of them are written as novels that rework the myths into a modern form, and I like that sort of thing. This book was different - it wasn't really a story, just a retelling of the myths from Byatt's own perspective when she read them as a child in Wagner's Asgard and The Gods. In between forays into the story of Ragnarok (the Norse Gods' Armageddon) we see glimpses of the child's life in a country village during WWII, in which she endlessly names the plants and animals she sees around her and occasionally questions the other myths she learns in church. As such, there isn't really a plot here, which Byatt readily admits. Still, she is obviously a very skilled writer, and I enjoyed the myths.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spell Bound (Women of the Otherworld, #12) by Kelley Armstrong

Rating 2/5

I've never before accused a book of being all-plot and no substance before, and as a fan of Kelley Armstrong I hate to give a negative review, but this book was the worst in the series so far. It felt rushed on every level - as if she'd been rushed in writing it, it had been rushed into publication, and most of all the beyond break-neck pace made me feel like I was being dragged along and rushed while reading it.

This book is setting up an all out war among supernaturals to come in the next of the series, and as such brought every main character together in a tangle of plotlines. There's nothing wrong with the complexity, the problem was the book should not have been written in first person perspective (Savannah's). Setting aside my issues with Savannah as a character for a moment, the choice of perspective forced Armstrong to do a lot of telling rather than showing, and that is really boring. Add to this the necessity of doing background explanations on each character and their history, and this book is just full of explaining. The rest was a repetitive alternation of quick action scenes and regrouping and planning conversations - in person, via text and telephone. These breaks were also the place where Armstrong attempted to develop the relationship between Adam and Savannah.

I'm going against the grain, it seems, in not liking Savannah. Everything about her character seems forced and unoriginal - she reminds me of every other young woman protagonist in urban fantasy these days - tough but with predictable interpersonal issues. That's basically standard in YA urban fantasy lately. But - oh wait - Women of the Otherworld isn't a YA series. It seems like the author forgot that as she was writing Savannah's novels. There's talk of feelings, but no real passion, and obviously no deep romantic involvement here. One of the themes of this book, obviously, is "growing up". Only Savannah's reason to try to be more mature is so a boy will love her, which is kind of a paradox. Adam only comes around after he believes Savannah is dead, and it strikes me as weak that they have to almost die in order to admit their feelings to one another. Especially since Savannah is supposed to be someone who has always been assertive about expressing herself. As I was reading this book I felt like maybe it was Armstrong who had a problem letting Savannah grow up. In any case, as I said above, the story would've been better told had the author used a third person viewpoint instead of insisting on telling it through Savannah's eyes.

I will read the next book in the series to find out how it all ends, but in a way I'm glad it will be over soon, because it seems like the author has had enough, and because of that, so have I.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Envy (The Fallen Angels, #3) by J.R. Ward

Rating 2/5

Ward weaves a decent web of a story, and I can forgive the formulaic lust-mance, but there are a lot of things that annoy me about her language (none of which is the swearing). Tops on my list of annoyances is the ridiculous way the archangel chapters are written. Using a few pretentious-sounding words and a lot of "herein"s does not a Victorian English dialect make. What it does make is a distasteful distraction, and I wish she would just give it up.

All Ratings and Reviews For J.R Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels Series)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bed by David Whitehouse

Rating 4/5

The cynical critic in me wants to point out the flaws in this book, whereas the rest of me wants to praise its emotional resonance. This book makes me want to use all those horrible cliched words like "poignant" and "touching", words that I usually avoid like the plague, but words that are apt in this case.

Cynical critic says: odd and awkward metaphors. The simplistic tone reminiscent of so much of contemporary writing. The oft-repeated message "I was told growing up would be great, but it isn't" from virtually every character's mouth as if the author just invented disillusionment. Occasional hyperbolic accounts of events that stretch the reader's belief.

Otherwise: florid descriptions of Malcolm's body that literally made me nauseous (not sure this is really a positive, but it took talent!) Emotional content spanning all sadness-related feelings in a very truthful fashion. Satisfactorily semi-triumphant conclusion without over-doing it. I enjoyed the the contrast of perspectives between the brothers. Actually, Malcolm's obesity has a different effect on every character in the book, giving them each a unique perspective.

Overall this story was sometimes hard to stomach but also hard to put down.