October 14th, 2008

Kitty: Angry Calico

Priest, Cherie: Dreadful Skin

Dreadful Skin
Writer: Cherie Priest
Genre: Horror
Pages: 234

The premise: A nun fights werewolves. :) Okay, okay, that's not enough, is it? Eileen Callaghan left an Irish Convent with a secret and a mission, and that mission was to hunt a man by the name of Jack Gabert--a man who's cursed with an unnatural sickness that warps his mind and body, a man who's beyond the redemption of God. Jack and Eileen hunt each other across the United States in the years following the Civil War. Their story is divided into three tales, each building on the other. Priest takes the werewolf cliche and returns it to its roots: horror.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: it was certainly a pleasure to indulge my werewolf fetish even though I'd had no intention of doing so, and once again, I'm in love with Priest's use of settings and details to make her story come alive. Though in some respect, in regards to setting, I'm very familiar with it, as it is my back yard, but even so: she takes larger ideas (werewolves) and stories (Jack the Ripper) and makes them an integral part of myth and folklore here in our history, and that's a very cool thing. She also manages to focus the story just right, and she doesn't pull back her punches when it comes to violence. Not that this is a violent book, but what's needed is what's done, and like I said before, she returns werewolves to their natural state: violent monsters who prey on humans, and she follows the destruction those monsters leave in their wake. It's a great yarn, fast to read even with the different POVs (multiple first in tale #1; third in tale #2; letters and multiple first in tale #3). Werewolf fans definitely ought to give this a go, and those of you who are horror readers, what are you waiting for? I swear, Cherie Priest's work doesn't get NEAR the attention it should, so if you haven't checked out her work yet, drop what you're doing and do so now.

The full review, which does contain some massive spoilers, may be found in my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Book Review

The Final Empire (Mistborn, Book 1)Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

1000 years ago the 'Hero of Ages' was supposed to save the world.  Instead, he turned into a Palpatine-esq Evil God Emperor.  As a result, the world is a dark and terrible place where the majority of the people are enslaved.  Think horribly enslaved.  On top of which the sun has been (mostly) blotted out by the constant clouds of ash thrown up by volcanoes which dot the landscape.  There are no green leaves, no flowers, no 'fresh' air.  This is the world in which Vin lives.  Born a skaa slave with some unusual talents, she falls in with a group of Allomancers who's goal is to overthrow the Evil Guy and rebuild the social order.

Ambitious?  You betchya.  The whole friggen' book is ambitious, but it is very, very well done.  The innovation with which he handles his world building is reminiscent of Garth Nix.  It's sword and sorcery but without the usual Tolkien tropes.  Sanderson was a virtually unknown author but that is likely to change over the next couple years.  He was personally tapped by Robert Jordan's wife to finish the final Wheel of Time novel.  Personally, I've never read WoT, but I was curious about why Sanderson was handpicked for such a prestigious writing assignment.

I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy, and if you are in the market for some well written fantasy that doesn't read like a D&D game, check this guy out.

Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block

I read this book for several reasons. One is that I was interviewed for it by the author (well, online, and it was a survey, but I did fill it out, and you get the idea). Another is that I try to stay current with new books on open relationships, since I have them and not many books get written about them. Those two are the reasons I started reading the book. The third reason came later, and I am not proud of it. I wanted to finish the book so that I could tell you all that it was bad and why I thought so.*

Open is basically an annotated memoir. Author Jenny Block tells the long and meandering story of how she came to be in an open marriage, with many asides and quotes criticizing monogamy and praising "openness" along the way. The introduction is the short version of the story, and each chapter is then introduced with another short paragraph from the introduction which summarizes it.

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I wanted to like this book. The prose was good in places, and I did enjoy somewhat Block's story of how she got into an open marriage. But unless you feel you have been sitting around for years just waiting for someone to write another book on open marriage, I think you should give this one a miss. I'm glad she didn't wind up using any of the quotes I gave her. Two stars. (In the new system I would give this book a D+. I rolled my eyes a lot but I did finish it without throwing it once.)

*I don't really feel right saying, "This book is really bad but I didn't bother to finish it so I don't know for certain that it is bad all the way through." Strange, perhaps, but true.
Kitty: Angry Calico

Allen, Mike: Clockwork Phoenix

Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness
Edited by: Mike Allen
Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy
Pages: 285 (ARC)

Normally, in book reviews, I give you the premise. With short story anthologies, that's a bit trickier, and even reading the whole book doesn't really tell me the idea or theme that gels these tales together. They're mostly fantasy (some are more horror, some have an SF-nal touch), and they're all written well. And as I usually do for anthologies, I'll give each story it's own review (at my journal, that is), and then review the book as a whole at the bottom of the entry.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: of the 18 stories, I really enjoyed 12, and even the ones I wasn't crazy about weren't horrible or anything, but more or less not to my personal taste. I'm surprisingly impressed with the quality of stories and writing in this anthology, and it's an easy book to recommend, especially when you consider my biggest complaints are the cover and the intro, which in the total package, is completely superficial (go me!). My absolute favorites of the book are Grant's, Brennan's, Singh's, and Hoffman's. This book is definitely worth the cash to those readers who enjoy spec-fic shorts, and to those readers who may be tired of the stories offered by the Big Three, especially in regards to fantasy. And this might be random, but I was very impressed with the story order and how the stories sometimes fit together and led into each other. That was very nice. :)

The full review, which does include spoilers for the various stories, may be found at my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

REVIEW: Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness

Anthology contributors are:

Catherynne M. Valente
David Sandner
John Grant
Cat Rambo
Leah Bobet
Michael J. DeLuca
Laird Barron
Ekaterina Sedia
Cat Sparks
Tanith Lee
Marie Brennan
Jennifer Crow
Vandana Singh
John C. Wright
C.S. MacCath
Joanna Galbraith
Deborah Biancotti
Erin Hoffman
Kitty: Angry Calico

Barzak, Christopher: One for Sorrow

One for Sorrow
Writer: Christopher Barzak
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 306

The premise: it's more than a love story about a boy falling in love with the ghost of another boy. It's a love story about life itself: Adam's shocked by the murder of Jamie, a classmate he barely knew but wished he knew better, and that murder brings Adam all kinds of lessons in life: in love (with the girl who found Jamie's body), in family (let's say things are not well on the home front), and of course, death. It isn't long before Jamie seeks Adam out, clinging to every last bit of life possible. But the more Adam tries to help, the more he loses himself, and it's not going to be long before he too becomes a ghost.

My Rating

Must Have: despite my particular issues, I really loved this book and plan on getting Barzak's next novel, which comes out November of this year (I can't wait). The writing is solid, the details lovely, and the characterization and portrayal of family life mostly very honest. This book may remind readers of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, but the two stories are very different: Barzak has a rather complex love story with a boy, a girl, a ghost, life, and death, all wrapped into one package of a book. The ending is solid, good, hopeful in its own way, but by no means does Barzak tidy up this story and wrap it with a pretty bow. It's well worth the read, especially if you can't resist ghost stories.

The full review, which does contain spoilers, may be found in my journal. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)

REVIEW: Christopher Barzak's ONE FOR SORROW

Happy Reading! :)