Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: A Gentleman's Daughter and the Pentagram of Death

Pride and Prejudice AND Zombies? Come on! I was so excited! A longstanding Pride and Prejudice/Jane Austen fan, the A&E/BBC television miniseries which featured Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle left me firmly gaga over the story. I got the added benefit of the craze with the Helen Fielding Bridget Jones series- both movies and books parroting P&P (and even talking about Collin Firth's swimming scene) and the Bollywood version-Bride and Prejudice, and I loved them all, except for the Kiera Knightly version, which I thought was okay but why try to remake something so soon after the last one which was perfect in all respects. Though Jennifer Worick does make a good point when she says she wants to punch Mr. Darcy in the face (see her blog post here.) because Darcy ruins all other men for we of the Austen-loving set. How does one measure up? (Unless you're Jamie Fraser, which alas is another literary character and one we won't get into here *sigh*.)

To this book, I say-eh.

Don't get me wrong, it gives me another chance to read Jane Austen. I like zombies. However, I think Seth Grahame-Smith stole some of the non-girliness and integrity that I like about Miss Eliza Bennet. That may sound strange because he does let her be a Chinese-trained zombie killer. She still swoons a little much for my taste. If it weren't for Jane Austen's filched language, I might even pick this as a really good book... but unless you're going to really spin a story with with your own spin... the stolen language left me a feeling a little disappointed and the original is so good that I think this version was a little flat for me.

I still liked it, think it was fun and especially if you're not a big Jane Austen fan, you probably wouldn't know the difference and would really like it.

Read it, it is fun and one can never get enough P&P in my humble opinion.

Review: Terre D'Ange Gets a Fresh Breath of Air

I happily picked up Jacqueline Carey's Namaah's Kiss after reading the other books in this Kushiel Fantasy series, first with Phedre and then with Imriel's stories, but they are the stuff of legend when we finally get to Moirin's story.

Moirin grows up a little bit of a witch in the woods with her mother and discovers that her father was from Terre D'Ange, so the goods of both her parents are speaking to her and giving her guidance. She ends up controlling her powers working with an Asian guru, who takes her on the adventure of her life. She rises to the challenge and helps in the quest to save the Princess... a nice change from the boys always saving the day.

I really like this series, usually a proponent of the George RR Martin or Robin Hobb books, they are a total guilty pleasure and I'll keep reading them as long as Carey keeps churning them out. She does a nice job in creating worlds and with her characters. Sometimes the characters are a little shallow (I admit) and the story is obvious but it does what it advertises and gives me a good fantasy read with a little bit of happy smut for good measure. Enjoy!

Review: Not For Tai Chi Neophytes

So, I asked to review this book hoping for some tips on the basic princilples of Tai Chi. As a stressed out professional, I've been thinking it might be a good outlet for me. However, this is written for an advanced Tai Chi practitioner. Even though I think some beginners would have been better served if there had been more photos to show what poses the author was talking about, but I still enjoyed reading it. And if I ever get past the beginner's stage, I'll definitley go back and reread.
I feel like the author's Tai Chi background is only part of the draw of the book. The instructor seems wise, kind and thoughtful in his presentation, which I really appreciate. I would recommend for anyone who is either 1) an advanced user or 2) someone who has gotten a good head start and can take advise from Mr. Chuckrow. A DVD might be a nice value add for this book.

Review: Scary Vampire Struggles

I write this with a confession, I read the first 20 pages of The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan a few months ago when I received an ARC copy to review. After those pages I stopped off at a local grocer to pick up some dinner and planned to read for hours when I got home. Turns out it fell out of my bag between the store and home and I was devastated. Because I started this book very very excited which caused my imagination to race, I raved about it to friends and told them to expect something really good in June. I thought the book started like a fun Michael Crichton-style of writing. It reads, I told them, like a movie- if you try you can actually see the film as you're reading it. Needless to say, I bought it as soon as it came out.

The hero, a disbelieving scientist, has a romance with a co-worker while struggling to come to terms with his divorce and keep his kid. Meanwhile the 8-foot vamp shows, in a bid to propogate his kind across the US? or maybe just have a big snack. He is a thinking vamp, but it appears the rest of the vamps with the worm-like appendages in their systems are all zombie-vamps... incapable of thought or emotion, just out for brains, um I mean blood.

The scientist works for the CDC and they treat it like the plague... spreading across the islands of NYC. Our hero struggles. He struggles between the ex-wife (and of course her new idiot husband) & the reltationship he is creating with his co-worker hookup. He struggles with alcoholism. He struggles with losing the son that is so much like him. He struggles with being a healing doctor vs. a zombie vampire killer. After just one run-in, he becomes the target of the UberVamp and a couple of the struggles are resolved for him.

The end shows us what the sequel will give us... the Uber-Vamp League of Justice is poised to strike back at the newly arrived blood-sucker for outing them. Hope it is better now that we've met and kind of like the hero... I get the character-building aspect but we hopefully won't have to be introduced to any more of his struggles.

The friends they pick up along the way really make this book for me... the Giles to our hero's Buffy, Setrakian knows and informs and is primed to fight the vamps. The rat-catcher who knows how to eradicate vermin. He's ridiculous and I really like him.Aside from all that, it was a fun story.

I love vamps and their stories (not the lovey-dovey Twillight kind either) and the good definitely outweighs the bad here so I will definitely read the sequel and/or the rest of the trilogy (with hope in my heart that they will surpass this one) and will see the movie. ( )

Review: A Great American Novel

I read America America by Ethan Canin some time ago and neglected to write a review.

Cory Sifter has the good fortune to have a hard-working blue-collar father who has shown his mettle to the rich Metarey family who owns the town nearby. Luckily his worth and value do not go unnoticed by the patriarch of the family who assumes Mr. Sifter's son will have many of the same qualities and sees first-hand that he is a smart hard-working boy. Set in New York, the small-town newspaper man looks back on his story and the story of those who helped him become the man he is.

When I think of this book, I am mindful of authors all of the country striving to write "The Great American Novel." The idea of a poor boy going to a prep school, making all the right contacts and making his way in the world through wits, hard work, reliability and loyalty (all-American, in a Statue of LIberty, apple pie kind of way) while highlighting the entitlement of the rich and the corruption of politics? I think Ethan Canin has moved a step closer to the ideal than any book I've read in a long time. I do see tinges of Richard Russo and John Knowles, but Canin owns this story and I'll be happy to read anything he writes going forward..

The character development is excellent, the story is solid, and the characters have stuck with me. It goes in the pile of books that I know will be reread. Like John Irving novels, I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who appreciates a well-told story.

One caveat is that I do think there are points where the story is a little slow but despite that, I never lost interest.