Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rating 4/5

Gripping and suspenseful, with echoes of other English classics like Jane Eyre. I'm actually surprised I've never read this before, besides the fact that I didn't know anything about it (unlike everyone else in the universe, apparently). I'm not the kind of fan that loves the moody broody heroes like Heathcliff and Rochester - their so-called "passion" sometimes ranges into the abusive and I find it in no way attractive. Mr. de Winter has hints of it in his character, but I found him a lot less violent and thus more sympathetic than similar leading men. This made it a lot easier to root for a happy ending. 

The second Mrs. de Winter is sometimes criticized for being "spineless", but, like the moody hero, her character is a convention in the genre and I actually think it is done particularly well. She's a teenage girl, used to being dismissed, who's been thrust into a new role in a new world with a set of unfamiliar rules. I think du Maurier captures the voice of a self-doubting, self-absorbed, naïve and frightened adolescent very effectively. And while the feminist part of me cringes a little when the turning point of her identity development comes at the behest of a man, the romantic part of me (for whom I read these books in the first place) experiences her triumph with satisfaction. 

This book is also memorable for many characters that create a visceral and emotional response with what seems like very little work. I haven't loathed anyone as much as Mrs. Danvers since I read David Copperfield.

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Rating 4/5

I'm trying to figure out what the message is here. That evil is ineradicable? That violence is inevitable given complexity? That a perfect utopia is impossible because the world never stops changing? I read about the theory that ideas are subject to evolution in On the Origin of Tepees: The Evolution of Ideas, and I think it's fascinating.

I read Genesis cover to cover in a few hours. Considering the way the "story" is presented (as a kind of oral exam/presentation transcript reminiscent of Socratic dialogues) I think it's rather amazing how it held my attention. It's also kind of a story within a story - while the protagonist is telling the story of her people's history, we also get to know her story. Less than half-way through I was able to predict the twist revealed at the end, but that wasn't the only way this book messes with your mind. While I was reading I thought of calling this book a philosophical treatise or manifesto disguised as a YA dystopia, but now that I'm finished I'm no longer sure just what the author was aiming for. Maybe just another, somewhat fresh and unique exploration of common dystopian themes (control, consciousness, humanity, artificial intelligence, evil, etc.)? In any case, it was an excellent read, and well-written - for such a short book to cover so much ground in a thought-provoking and engaging way is a rare feat.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, #2) by Patricia Briggs

Rating 2/5

I have mixed feelings about this series. On the one hand, I feel compelled to read it, and I'm not sure why. Maybe just curiosity? Because I don't like Mercy that much and I have a lot of problems with the story-telling. I will admit the third quarter of this book was compelling, but is 25% really enough to justify the other 75%? Logic says no. I REALLY don't get why so many people think these books are so great. There's so much telling instead of showing, and so many genre clichés. So I ask myself, why do I want to read the next one?

See my review of Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1) by Patricia Briggs

Rating 2.5/5

Meh. It started off alright, but became convoluted and overburdened with too many characters and too much explaining. And the plot conclusion was disappointing, I just didn't believe that the "perp" would go to those lengths for that motivation. I mean there had to be an easier way to achieve his goal without involving so many other people in a giant conspiracy. Mercy reminded me of every other female protagonist in this genre - prideful, stubborn, reckless, self-blaming (Rachel Morgan anyone?) It's sad that all the heroines in this genre are the same woman with different paranormal gifts. I MAY try the next book in this series to see if it improves, but first I need to get over my disappointment and read something I know will be good.

See my review of Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, #3) by Gregory Maguire

Rating 2/5

Finally done with this. Maguire has a nice way of putting words together, but unfortunately that didn't help in any way to create compelling characters or even a real story in this book. I kept finding myself bored and questioning what the point of it was. This series has declined so sharply I can only imagine the fourth book is well and truly unreadable. A Lion Among Men was very close to that itself. I gave it two stars instead of one because there were some nice passages - a few noteworthy sentences here and there and even a couple instances where my interest was sustained for more than a page. But as a whole, it was tedious and pointless.

Friday, October 12, 2012

12.21 by Dustin Thomason

Rating 2.5/5

Not bad. The quality of the writing was good, but it was sometimes a bit dry. The story was interesting, if slightly more slowly paced than I would've liked for this kind of book. It kind of took a lot of the "thrill" out of what I otherwise would have called a "thriller". Also, the romance aspect seemed really forced. I guess it's an expected convention in this type of book, but it was done poorly and i could've done without it entirely. The ending seemed a bit anticlimactic and too "feel-good" for me - I mean the world changed drastically and a whole lot of people died, but it's all good because our protagonists saved the day (eventually) and fell in love? I like my doomsday books a little more doom-y.

Monday, October 8, 2012

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

One Second After by William R. Forstchen 
Rating: 1/5

I didn't make it past chapter 3, the writing was so unbelievably horrible. I couldn't read a single page without having to back-track because of some confusing arrangement. Incoherence, grammar problems, verb tense mix-ups, run-on sentences, commas out the yin-yang, you name it, this book has it. It's also a slow-starter, clichéd and cheesy. Despite the extremely interesting premise, this book fails in every way and I just couldn't give it any more time. The fact that this substandard book has an average goodreads rating of 3.9 makes me sick to my stomach. Does good form count for nothing anymore?

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

Rating: 4/5

This book is has two main characters, the protagonist and the ever-degrading world in which he lives. Some chapters are devoted to the former, some the latter, and some are a mixture of both. As such, it's not your typical novel, but I don't have issues with that. It does create a flow problem, however. I found myself pushed out of the story at the beginning of almost every chapter. I'm also not convinced the over-populated, electricity-laden future America the author has created is entirely believable in every detail. I did like the dark feel and originality of this book a whole lot. I also like that the protagonist's journey was only mildly redemptive, not over-cooked. It seemed to fit.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies, #1) by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies, #1) by Isaac Marion
Rating 5/5

Isaac Marion is a terrific writer. He's good with characters, words, metaphor, plot, story, and message. This book's simplicity allows its heart to shine through. There's not a lot of realism in the post-zombie world he's created, but in the sentiment. Even for a misanthropic cynic like me, who is almost pathologically uninspireable, this book was moving and hopeful. I mean, no, I don't believe "love" can save us from our zombiehood, but it was nice to imagine for a second that it could.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Feed by M.T. Anderson 
Rating 2.5/5

I can see why this book has awards and accolades, but personally I found it kind of boring. It touches on a lot of issues about our culture - technology and privacy, consumerism, American-style fascism, the degradation of the planet - and imagines a world (or rather a country) where each of these things are taken to an extreme. I think this is in fact a pretty good book for young adults (and possibly grown adults who don't think about the consequences of their culture and lifestyles), but for me it was kind of lack luster.