June 14th, 2009


(no subject)

What is a book that grabbed you at 20 like Harry Potter grabbed you when you were 12?....

Not to say only 12 year olds can read Harry Potter! I guess I'm talking about how affected I was by HP at that age. I just mean, something magical that you couldn't put down, something you wished so bad that it was real; extremely well written and yet easy to read like butter, as you keep turning page after page...

PS; I took down all of your suggestions re. Angela Carter (which I read for the beauty of language and the sensual fairy tale) and George Orwell (which I read more for political reasons)...but I am now in the mood for simply an amazing story.

If you have a suggestion, please tell me just a little bit of what it's about.

Thanks so much!

lunar park

lunar park

There’s a story behind the film Adaptation: scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman had a hard time adapting The Orchid Thief, so what did he do? He wrote a film about him having a hard time adapting The Orchid Thief, writing himself into the script, creating for himself a twin brother, dedicating the finished piece to the sibling who didn’t exist. Author Bret Easton Ellis, creator of American Psycho and other “transgressive” novels, wrote himself into his novel Lunar Park, conjuring for himself a family, a film actress wife, a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs, a son. A series of brutal murders, a haunting, a loss. I write stories but I could never imagine writing myself into one of them, even as an exercise. Of course every writer writes himself into his stories, his fears, his joys, but how terrifying to see your own name on a page, to see yourself as a fictional character running away from fictional horrors. Honesty can be very frightening, so with Lunar Park Ellis was being very brave. Ian McEwan asks, How can a novelist find atonement when, in his novels, he is God? But Ellis found atonement. There was one long passage in the novel that ends with From those of us who are left behind: you will be remembered, you were the one I needed, I loved you in my dreams. Writing these words, would it be too much to say that Ellis found freedom? Perhaps, upon finishing the novel, he had forgiven everyone and everything that had to be forgiven, and in the process also found absolution.

I think this is a remarkable book.


  • Current Mood
fairy tale

The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre

Publisher: Bookviewcafe, 2009
Genre: Science Fiction
Sub-genre: Alternate history/time travel

Read the full, spoiler-free review here.

Originally published by Pocket Books in 1998, The Moon and the Sun won the 1997 Nebula award for best novel of the year. It's now available to be read for free at the bookviewcafe website. Straddling the lines between fantasy and science fiction, science battles against religion in the french court of Louis XIV.

The struggle of science versus religion is not a new one, especially with religion portrayed as being in the wrong (particularly Christianity, it seems), but bringing in the stories told by sailors as reality rather than superstition and fear is clever. The story is told almost entirely from Marie-Josèphe's point of view, and for much of the book she's caught between the two schools of thinking, although it's fairly clear to the reader that while the king may be unreasonable when someone threatens his perceived immortality, the church is even less forgiving.

And herein lies one of the most interesting parts of the novel. Marie-Josèphe is not entirely a reliable narrator, due to the extremely sheltered life she's led, and the reader is left to read a lot between the lines, particularly early in the book. Beneath the glittering surface of the court, there's a lot of corruption and hypocrisy, completely unnoticed by Marie-Josèphe until she's directly confronted with it.

There's a keen attention to detail throughout The Moon and the Sun, from the manners at court to historical figures and covering everything in between. Everything is meticulously researched, and this gives the book a depth and energy often missing from period fiction. On the other hand, all the historical figures running around creates a huge cast of characters often difficult to keep straight.

The love story is sweet and straightforward, notably mostly for the hero, a self-proclaimed dwarf. Despite his "deformities" and the pain constantly plaguing him, Lucien is portrayed as loyal, intelligent, and popular with the ladies. He's also a favourite of the king and set up as the example to follow at court, and while his height is noticeable, it's never a barrier for Marie-Josèphe. The first declaration of love between them is a little out of left field ("But I love you!" says Marie-Josèphe. "Huh what? When did that happen?" says I), but the rest of it fitted together naturally.

The biggest issue I think most people will have with The Moon and the Sun is that the plot moves along with all the speed of a glacier. The intricacies of court politics and the attention to detail means the plot doesn't start moving until about 200 pages into the book, before which we hear a lot about the heights of fashion in the 17th century. It's all interesting stuff and I enjoyed the historical tidbits stuffed in there, but the pacing is very uneven and as a result the book took me forever to read through. Those who prefer a more action-oriented novel take note.
  • ed_rex

Welcome to Kherishdar: Big ideas from a small press

I've never liked the aphoristic form, never warmed to twee, manga-style illustrations and have always been suspicious of Utopias — in my experience, the latter tend to be either fascist or ridiculously simplistic in nature — or both.

Dawn - The Admonishments, by M.C.A. Hogarth
So it was with more than a little trepidation that I leafed through the twin volumes that recently arrived in the mail for me, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar, both written and illustrated by one M.C.A. Hogarth, who — remarkably — read my evisceration of Battlestar Galactica's abysmal finale and asked whether I'd be interested in reviewing her efforts at what I think she called "anthropological science fiction".</p>

Well-bound and printed on good paper, but with covers that feel a little too much like mediocre comic book covers, before even opening either book I was already contemplating a quick email to the author, thanking her for the review copies and informing her that I would not actually review the books. Criticizing Battlestar Galactica or doing my small bit to prick the inflated reputation of the likes of Gregory Maguire is one thing. Slamming a self-published writer of little standing in the world of lit-rah-toor is something very different and not a game I intend to play without good reason.

But still, the author went to the trouble of sending me review copies; the least I could do was to ignore the covers and give the words a chance.

And I'm glad I did; Hogarth has written a diptych quite unlike any I have read before. Collapse )

Kitty: Angry Calico

Freeman, Pamela: Blood Ties

Blood Ties: Book One of the Castings Trilogy (2008)
Written by: Pamela Freeman
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 471

The premise: Thousands of years ago, the Eleven Domains were invaded and its natives were pushed onto the road, to be known as Travelers. Now the Eleven Domains are governed by Warlords, but the natives haven't all forgotten the betrayals of the past, and some seek to right the wrongs done to their people. There's Saker, an enchanter who'll do anything to return the land back to the natives; Ash, a safeguarder who has a talent that feels like a curse; and Bamble, a wild, carefree girl who is forced to the road when she kills a Warlord's man. This book, the first in a trilogy, braids these character's stories together while giving the reader a rich world and its history, and it sets up for a battle that's yet to come.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: I can't say it's a must-have, not yet (but it's very close!), because it's only the first book in a trilogy and the point of ending frustrated me a bit. It's cliffhanger, and it really doesn't resolve anything other than to raise more questions and make the reader wish Freeman had ended in either a more resolved section of the story or a much bigger cliffhanger, if that makes sense. It's not the kind of cliffhanger that had me reaching for the second book right away, but it's enough of one that'll frustrate readers because it just kind of, well, stops. But don't let that knowledge detract from an otherwise fine, beautifully wrought world and story. Yes, the book is set-up, but the format and style of it reminds me of a cross between George R.R. Martin and Ursula K. LeGuin, as does the story itself. It's not political fantasy, but it's not sword-and-sorcery either. Epic is probably the best way to describe it, but the attention to certain issues, like displacement of the Travelers and what becomes of the land in the hands of invaders, has a certain ring to it that keeps you turning the pages. The world-building is fantastic, I can't stress that enough. The use of ghosts, the incorporation of gods, just the simple details are wonderful, so if you're a fantasy reader that craves this kind of thing, you simply have to pick this up. The characterization is also finely-tuned and fantastic, as well it should be, given how many pages are spent focusing on each of the POV characters. That I was able to take a three-month break between readings and pick the book back up with no trouble also speaks well to the craftsmanship of the book. The only real flaws are the way that the POV will head-hop a wee bit, and this is distracting (while done well) because each chapter is marked with the POV character's name, so when we're in someone else's head, it's disconcerting for a bit. But no matter, I've got the second book on my shelf, waiting patiently, and the third and final book of the trilogy comes out late this fall. There's no doubt I'll continue reading, and I'm glad that for once, I could judge a book by its cover. :)

Review style: this one will be a little different. Each character has his or her own story, and unlike more familiar books, like George R.R. Martin, the characters don't meet up (some not at all) until the very end, so we have three stories braided together to form the book, which is more set-up than anything, but very good and enjoyable set-up. So, for the sake of the review, I will be talking spoilers, and I'll divide the review into four sections: one for the three main characters, and one extra that discusses what Freeman does that's a little special in terms of world-building.

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


Happy Reading!

Dinosaur Books

So I just watched Jurassic Park, and now I'm in the mood for a good dinosaur book. If anyone knows of any good novels that fit the bill, that'd be great (and obviously I've read Michael Crichton already! :) ) I'd prefer fiction, but if there's a really awesome non-fiction book out there, I'm open to that as well.