August 19th, 2008

Review - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz
Fiction, Contemporary Literature
After Junot Diaz’s collection of short stories was released some years ago, the eyes of the literary world waited, with much anticipation, for the results of his first full-length attempt.  By all accounts, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao did not disappoint and went on to win the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for long fiction. 
This story of a 300-lb, D&D loving, fantasy-adventure writing, Dominican nerdboy is funny, tragic, pitiful and sweet all at the same time.  Told through the voices of those who know him best, it is a wonderfully fleshed-out account of a young man’s life viewed from the many different angles and points that give us all our form, and never is it clearer than when driving home the point that no one of us is an island, and that no matter how we fight it, we are to some extent – more than most of us would probably like - products of our heritage, our upbringing, and the actions and words of those who love us - and, just as significantly or perhaps even more so, those who don’t. 
This book is all straight talk – nothing flowery here.  At times vulgar and crass, even a little shocking, it might make your eyes widen a few times, but at least it’s with feeling. I particularly enjoyed the viewpoint given by Lola, Oscar’s sister, as she rages with her dying mother, who is no less a controlling tyrant even when facing death.  If I were to express one wish to Mr. Diaz, it would be to write a companion novel just about Lola. 
I don’t think I’ve ever before read a novel where the subject matter varies so widely and vividly, from Oscar’s obsession with the fantasy genre to the brutal reign of Rafael Trujillo, the former president of the Dominican Republic. You might wonder how on earth these two subjects could meet in one book, but they do, and in a way that makes you see how inseparable they really are. The past figures so prevalently in the present – and the future, one presumes – that it can’t be ignored or glossed over. 
Many, like me, have puzzled over the name.  Oscar Wao?  Is he Asian?  I thought he was Dominican?  Does he have an Asian father?  Well, that question too is answered about halfway through, and like every other circumstance surrounding Oscar’s life, it’s both funny and a little sad, and not even close to what you probably think it is!
A good and thought-provoking read, in my opinion. Oscar is a character sure to stay with you for awhile. 


The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson (2007)

In every major city, there are twelve people in each generation who form the Light troop of the Zodiac, individuals with extraordinary abilities of strength, healing and so forth, whose mission is to battle their Shadow counterparts, maintaining peace and balance. Casino heiress Joanna Archer discovers she is the First Sign of the Zodiac troop of Las Vegas, destined to lead them to victory over the Shadows -- and that her real father is the supernatural entity who leads Vegas's Shadow troop...

I may not have implied it very well in that synopsis, but this is actually pretty good -- better than many a book of its genre that I've previously encountered. This is mainly down to unexpected twists in plot and character that set things up nicely for the ongoing series. I wouldn't quite list it as a must-read (the second half lets the book down a bit), but it's worth a look if it sounds interesting to you.

My first published work.

I'm very pleased to announce that my first professional novel has just been published . A brief synopsis:

For fifteen years, the young prince Morgan Craft was raised among royalty in the angelic kingdom of Moralvia. But a terrible act of betrayal thrusts him into an unfamiliar world where he encounters a group of rebellious citizens bent upon usurping his family’s legacy. Soon, Morgan is made aware of an ancient legend that tells of an angel possessed of divine powers strong enough to reshape the kingdom and bring their creator back to the world. The young prince is forced to make a choice about his own future, which may decide the fate of all angelkind…

Check out the cover art at the Barnes & Noble website, if you're interested:

I'm a new author, so I'm still trying to build up a strong readership. If you're interested, please order a copy. I would appreciate it more than you know. Thanks all! :)

Kitty: Angry Calico

Brennan, Marie: Warrior and Witch

Warrior and Witch
Writer: Marie Brennan
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 420

It's been a while since I read the first book of this duology, Doppelganger (or now titled Warrior thanks to the re-release), but I'm glad I finally got around the conclusion (also titled, thanks to the re-release, as Witch). Brennan's prose has improved with this second book, and the problems I had with Doppelganger I don't have with Warrior and Witch, which made me quite a happy camper. And I will add that I feel these books are best read back-to-back. Doppelganger stands on its own, but really, these two books make up a whole, and it's important to read them in order to get the whole story.

The premise: when a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. In order for that witch to achieve her full powers, the doppelganger MUST be killed, or the witch's magic will spin out of control and kill them both. Only Mirei has found a way out of this bloody tradition, and not everyone is so accepting of the change of rules. The witching community has divided, one side determined to embrace Mirei and her new magic, and the other side determined to destroy not only Mirei, but all the other doppelgangers as well. Mirei must protect these girls while trying to help mend the rift between the two camps, and stay alive in the process. Because her new magic is killing her.

The full review, with spoilers, may be found in my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading! :)