Book Reviews in Brief

Between my Kindle and newly kindled love of graphic novels, I’ve read a lot in the last several months, always intending to blog a proper review. I’m a little short on the time it takes to summarize and analyze my thoughts at the moment, but I thought I’d throw out a couple of words on the latest additions to my library. Proper reviews will (possibly) turn up on the Goodreads pages linked below.

I finished Kraken by China Mieville back in May after a slow start. In a way, it reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell which I never finished because it was such a beast of a book. At 528 pages, I probably would never have read Kraken either, without my Kindle. It was probably the most dense book I’ve read in a long time, too. I really had to concentrate to get into it. Though it took awhile to build up momentum, and took some profoundly weird turns, I really enjoyed the story of museum curator Billy Harrow who found himself the messiah of a religion that worshipped the giant squid. It’s a rare book that can combine Darwinism and Star Trek without an obvious shift in tones, but Mieville manages it. Not to mention introducing some of the creepiest bad guys and most horrifying concepts urban fantasy has ever seen. The words ‘human radio’ really don’t do the ick-factor justice.

From giant squids I moved onto giant stars with Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants, which is unfortunately not well-formatted for the Kindle. I found it funny, enjoyable, and easy to identify with, but ultimately too short. It’s not long enough for memoir, but not deep enough for a collection of personal essays. Would have loved to read more from her since she’s such a sharp writer.

Started Leviathan by Scott Westerfield and got bored so it’s still waiting to be finished. In June I went to Chicago to meet long-lost relatives, and finally got a chance to read the paperback copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins that had been sitting around my bedroom for months. This really deserves its own post. Like anyone else who’s read the trilogy, I was immediately sucked in, passing my new obsession off to my mother.

I had to wait a few day for the sequels to arrive from, so on the flight home from Chicago I polished off the latest Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays is Missing. It was…different, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Told from the first person PoV of the fictional Thursday Next, most of the story took place in the Bookworld, complete with mind screw as to whether or not Fictional Thursday was actually Real Thursday with amnesia. I love the Thursday series because the world building is so detailed (though some of it just doesn’t work within the parameters of the established rules), but my favorite is still #4, Something Rotten, which would have been a fine place to end the story.

Around this time the next volume of the Parasol Protectorate series came out, Heartless by Gail Carriger. Carriger’s books tend to be a little on the predictable side when it comes to the mystery-du-book, but are fun reads nonetheless. Steampunk-Victorian-Werewolf-Romance-Satire isn’t exactly its own genre, but it should be. Heartless explored the fallout from the previous novel, and ended with the main characters in a rather unusual position, but it was definitely an entertaining romp along the way, and something I share with my group of friends almost like a book club, which gives it a special place on my virtual bookshelf.

Then Comic-Con came around, and while two of my friends discussed the latest Harry Dresden novel, I followed the advice of one and started with #3, Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. It has taken me awhile to come around to the Dresden books because I tried listening to the first one on audio book as read by James Marsters, and quickly grew irritated by his lack of British accent and the rough prose. Encouraged by my geek gal pals on numerous occasions, however, I decided to give the series another chance.

From a plot/concept standpoint, it’s definitely in my genre pool. Urban fantasy with a sense of humor featuring wizards and a decidedly not-pleasant take on vampires? (God, I hate vampires so much these days.) What’s not to like? And I did enjoy the book, enough to pull the next one onto my Kindle, but I had my issues too. First, there’s the problem of physical damage. After Harry Dresden’s fifteenth battle with evil, my suspension of disbelief started to slip. Though the author makes it clear that his movements post-beatings require a lot of effort and are powered by his need to ‘do the right thing,’ it got to the point where I was saying, ‘He really should not be breathing anymore’ – magic or no magic – especially when it’s established that healing spells take a tremendous amount of power.

My other quibble is more easily dismissed due to the use of first person narrator, but I swear Harry Dresden doesn’t meet a single woman who isn’t described in terms of her incredible curves/luscious lips/porcelain skin and the like. It gets nauseating after a time. I realize that most if not all of the women of the supernatural set have an ethereal beauty, but seriously, Harry, get a grip.

And finally, while at Comic-Con I went to the screening of the unaired (unairing?) pilot for Locke & Key, based on a graphic novel. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the show and knew there wasn’t going to be anymore, I went downstairs to the exhibition hall and picked up the comic. Super creepy and richly layered, the central conceit – that there are these magic keys which when used in conjunction with their corresponding locks at Key House do weird things – is right up my alley. Of course, I know there are probably a dozen keys and the first two volumes only introduce 4 of them, so I’m feeling a bit impatient. I want to know what the others do!

Highly recommend this series, the build of suspense is really excellent. That’s the only trouble I’m having with the graphic novel series I’ve invested in – the new volumes can’t come out fast enough.

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  1. I listened to the Bossypants audiobook, and it was hilarious. I kept thinking if I were just reading this, I’d be missing all the wonderful Tiny Fey deliveries and nuances. Josh read the book and then listened to it, and he said it worked much better as an audiobook. So you should listen to it! (Bryan listened to it three times in a row, but he’s a little crazy.)

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