Friday, October 12, 2007

Book Bites

I just realized that I have finished reading several books without doing my mini-reviews or "book bites" on them. So here is a run-down of the things I have read in the last couple of months since my last Book Bite. I've tried to be brief as possible, but since I've read a lot of books, this will still be a long-ish post. So you'd better get a cup of coffee and get settled before you start.

13 Bullets by David Wellington (3 Stars)

Detective Arkeley and his partner destroyed all vampires several years ago. All of them except their queen, who was locked up in solitary confinement. Flashforward several years to present day and it seems the vampires are coming back on the scene. The retired detective is called back into service to help a small town cop fight them off and solve the mystery of how they are being made. This book had lots of fun fast-paced action and a unique take on the nature of the vampire monster. Detective Arkeley seems to have stepped right out of a film noir detective movie. I was interested in his hard-boiled character and wanted more of him, and less of the main character, the small town cop. I had a hard time connecting with her, identifying with her or just plain being interested in her. The plot was pretty basic and thin, and I saw the resolution from about a mile away. This book really annoyed me though, because of the abrupt, unsatisfactory ending, which I complained about in another post.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling (5 Stars)

I can't imagine the pressure J.K. Rowling was under to finish her story in a way that was satisfying both for her as a writer and for her loyal fans. I'm pleased to say she delivered. The final book was bittersweet, in that it was an end to the magic. I'll admit, I cried in a couple of places. I was deeply satisfied with the choices she made with one character arc in particular. She did exactly what I was wanting her to do with that character. I'm being ambiguous with my comments so as not to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it. Feel free to hop over to the comments and I'll chat in more detail with you about it if you like.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (3 Stars)

So...when I picked this book up in the bookstore bin, I had no idea it was "young adult/teen" fiction. I quickly found out though. I couldn't help but wonder, "Was I this melodramatic and moody as a teenage girl?" I didn't care for the teen/angst romance plot line, but the werewolf mythology the author created was really interesting and she played off of the idea of wolf packs which was cool. (It's amazing how a pack of teenage boys can be eerily similar to a pack of wolves.) In short, I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I'm contemplating renting the movie adaptation to see how different it is from the book.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (5 Stars)

I'll admit my bias upfront, I am in love with Neil Gaiman's work. This is a collection of his short stories. He writes sci-fi/fantasy stories, some with dark, horror undertones, all of which are imaginative and great, but the works I love the most are his adult fairy tales. My favorite stories in this collection are ""Chivalry" (about a little old lady who finds the Holy Grail in an antique store), "The Troll Bridge" (a re-telling of the three billy goats gruff fairy tale), "The White Road" (a re-telling of the Mr. Fox fairy tales), "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" (a dark story about a man who hires a hitman and things get out of hand), and "Snow, Glass, Apples" (a dark re-telling of Snow White that has changed my view of the story forever.) Some of the stories have H.P. Lovecraft influences which was fun. There are also a couple of stories that don't seem to work, that frankly, I wish I could have skipped. But all in all Gaiman's joy in writing is infectious as you read his work. His imagination and wry humor are so entertaining. I can't get enough. (By the way, he writes a very witty blog - there's a link to it on my blog list.)

The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation by Paulo Coelho (3 Stars)

A stranger comes to a small town with a tempting proposition for the townsfolk. He is in search for an answer to the question, "Are human beings in, essence, good or evil?" and hopes to find his answer with his dangerous proposition. This novel was an interesting exercise, but the problem with the book is the characters are all allegories for Good and Evil and it's obvious. So you don't really care what happens to them. It was like reading a long philosophical dissertation on God and the nature of humans, with a long illustration to accompany it. It was lacking when it came to literary graces or beauty or even interesting language.

Additionally annoying, was the habit the author had of throwing out different arguments or statements, but then not exploring them, or supporting them. He would just statement them and move on. The characters all have these weird discussions/arguments that seem like their only purpose is to raise a bunch of philosophical questions that seem connected to the main theme of the book but then are never answered and don't really affect the outcome of the story in the long run. So why bother having them?
Also, most of what comes out of the characters' mouths would be totally unbelieveable for that character if they were a real person - for example: a bar maid who gives long soliloquies on the nature of good and evil, free will, etc. Yeah, right. They are obviously vehicles or mouthpieces for the author to spout his own ideas thru. I mean, I know that's all books or any other art is - a vehicle for the artist to get a message across. But this book was very transparent.

Whew! That's all my book bites for now. I need to try and stay on top of these and write them as I finish each book, so I don't have another marathon post like this one! Leave me a comment and let me know what you've been reading lately, or if you've also read one of these books, let me know what you thought about them.


The Trousered Ape said...

I'm interested in reading The Devil and Miss. Prym for, I'm guessing, as reasons as transparent as the authors agenda.

I loved some of the Neil Gaiman stuff you read to me - extremely well written and witty - even the dark stuff had funny, light moments. I have started Gaiman's Stardust and so far it is wonderful - I just love it. Gaiman is quickly moving up the list of my favorite authors that I enjoy.


Kathleen said...

I told you guys Stardust was a good book. :D It is my favorite Neil book so far. Lucky for me I haven't read too many yet, so I have more to look forward to.

Out of your book list, I have only read Harry Potter one and I agree, it was a very satisfying ending to the series and I enjoyed it very much. :D

I saw "Blood and Chocolate" which someone made a film from last year and I liked the mythos in it. It didn't feel too teeny boppy and the teen angst wasn't overbearing. Still, it wasn't my favorite flim, but I did enjoy it. The acting was good and most of the actors were unknown, which I really like to see new tallent like that emerge. I think it should have been in more theaters. Unless you have a big budget these days, the chances of theaters playing your movie to a larger audience are slim. :( It's so sad.