August 15th, 2010

books: is there anything they can't do?

Review: Hurricane Punch, by Tim Dorsey

#68: Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey:

A few miles above Venice, the Tamiami Trail takes a pair of jogs as it swings past Marina Jack's and the bridge to Bird Key, home of lifestyle pace-car and AC/DC front man Brian Johnson.


Synopsis: Serial killer/Florida historian Serge A. Storms and his stoner buddy Coleman take up hurricane-chasing, while another serial killer does his thing. Also along for the ride: a sleazy media empire, the Party Parrot and an unhinged sometimes-FBI agent.

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Book Review: I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak




"If a guy like you can stand up and do what you did, then maybe everyone can.  Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of."

It took me a little longer than I expected to finish Markus Zusak’s I am The Messenger. I thought I would be able to breeze through it during the weekend, but the copy I have has around 350 pages, and it took me exactly a week to finish it.  

Because of the seemingly mature content of the book at times, I find myself constantly turning back to the copyright page to make sure that it really is a "children's book." The protagonist, Ed, a 19-year-old waste of space – a term, I’m sure, he would readily use to describe himself, often indulges in sexual thoughts about Audrey, his so-called best friend; and his choice of vocabulary isn’t what I would call appropriate for “children's book" readers. Likewise, some of the topics presented in the book are also somewhat on the mature side.

The book, essentially, is a “mystery” novel. After unintentionally stopping a bank robbery, Ed finds himself the recipient of mysterious messages written on playing cards, telling him to complete certain tasks, which, more often than not, includes him getting hurt physically. Ed, trying hopelessly to find meaning in his existence, does what he is told, and meets some very interesting, albeit not always friendly, people along the way.

I am the Messenger is an engaging read. The book is divided into four parts which correspond to the four aces in a deck of cards. In each ace, sent mysteriously to Ed, is written the task he has to complete. The messages are usually cryptic and the clues get harder and harder as Ed goes through the four aces. The tasks Ed performs throughout the book are more for himself than it is for the people he helps. By changing other peoples' lives, he is, ultimately, changing his own.

Ed talks directly to the readers as he narrates the events of the book, and his life, in a very casual, laidback, uninhibited way. Obviously, readers will want to know who is sending Ed the cryptic messages, manipulating him to perform certain tasks. It's is, for me, the main pull of the book.

My greatest fear about this book was that, in the end, the mysterious manipulators in his life will turn out to be some supernatural being like god.

Were my fears realized?

Well...not really.

I am the Messenger, like its protagonist, Ed Kennedy, is not really about the "whos" and the "whys" and the "hows," it's more about the "what."

And what exactly is I am the Messenger? It is a book about how ordinary people can accomplish things, and maybe, even make a difference. It's about how seemingly ordinary gestures can mean the world to other people. It's about how ordinary people can rise above their means and capabilities, not only to help others, but to help themselves.

Ultimately, I think it's about hope. Hope that people have the power within themselves to change their lives, if they choose to do so. It doesn't depend on the circumstances surrounding one's life - it just depends on the person's will.

To realize that you are nothing; that your are ordinary, and to want to change that, to want to be a better version of yourself, to want to want...that is the message.
books: is there anything they can't do?

Review: The Navigator, by Clive Cussler

#69: The Navigator by Clive Cussler:
Carina was sitting up on the edge of the bed, trying to put a shoe on her foot. She was having a hard time with her hand-eye coordination. She seemed angrier at her foot than at anyone in particular.

Austin stood in the doorway. "Need a hand?"
Synopsis Naval whatnot investigator Kurt Austin (say it with me: Kurt! Austin!) gets sucked into solving a thousand-year-old mystery by the sight of a beautiful woman in distress.

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Kitty: Angry Calico

Ronald, Margaret: Wild Hunt

Wild Hunt (2010)
Written by: Margaret Ronald
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 311 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Two (ongoing)

The premise: ganked from BN.com: Genevieve Scelan thought she was done with magic.

She was wrong.

Sure, six weeks earlier Evie—bike messenger, supernatural tracker, and avid Red Sox fan—had been instrumental in bringing down the Fiana, the organization of magicians that had ruled Boston's undercurrent for hundreds of years. But now they were gone, Boston could breathe easy again, the Sox had a chance at the pennant, and Evie was ready to relax.

Except it turns out that when you take down the guy on top, everyone assumes you're going to fill his spot, and now Evie finds herself at the center of a whole lot of unwelcome magical attention. On top of that, a new client needs her to call up a family ghost and ask about a stolen inheritance; Evie's friend Nate has a supernatural problem of his own; and a legendary pack of hounds has been terrorizing Boston's undercurrent. And try as Evie might to deny the legacy that runs through her blood, when the Hunt is called, the Hound must run . . .


My Rating

Worth the Cash: this book was a far stronger installment for me, and while I'm torn if that's because the author lightened up on the areas she needed to lighten up on or if it's because I'm just familiar with the world and characters (or both!), I found myself enjoying this book a lot more. It still passes the Bechdel Test in spades (which is something that not all urban fantasies can boast of), and the romance quotient is a wee bit higher than the previous book's 1%, but this book is far from something you'd call a paranormal romance. The overall mystery and focus on the magic system and how the hierarchy works in the city definitely takes the forefront, and I was pretty engaged in the story itself. I still think this is one of the more unique urban fantasies around (and it doesn't hurt that it takes place in Boston), and I'm glad I was able to connect with it more with this book versus the previous book. Fans of the first book, this second installment is a must have. And this time around, I'm looking forward to the third.

Review style: I've been remiss in my reviewing duties, so it's been a little while since I finished this book, and my brain's a bit fuzzy. That's okay. I want to try and pinpoint what grabbed me this time and how that compares to what didn't grab me in Spiral Hunt. Spoilers? Yep, because said spoilers relate to what works this go-around. If you've read the book and/or spoilers just don't bother you, feel free to check out the full review at my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

REVIEW: Margaret Ronald's WILD HUNT

Happy Reading!

ALSO!!!

Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!

August: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
September: So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson
October: Feed by Mira Grant
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I Kill by Giorgio Faletti

The Blurb On The Back:

Monte Carlo.

A ruthless serial killer stalks the rich and famous.

The victims are found horrifically mutilated.

Each kill is announced on the city’s most popular radio show.

The voice on the radio.
The writing, red as blood.
“I kill.”.


For seasoned FBI agent Frank Ottobre, recovering from his wife’s death, and police inspector Nicolas Hulot, this will be the most harrowing case of their careers.

They must track down the enigmatic killer before he strikes again.

But this killer is always one step ahead of their every move ...


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The Verdict:

The kindest thing I can say is that the book loses something in translation and misses out because it’s taken so long for it to be translated into English. Overall though the book is a dull and bloated read with unbelievable characters, ripe dialogue and a murderer who’s scene chewingly dire. All in all, I won’t be rushing to read another translation of Faletti’s work.

Cross-posted to books and bookworming.
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Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell

The Blurb On The Back:

Surgeon Frederick Welin has lived alone on a deserted island, in self-imposed exile, since he was disgraced for trying to cover up a mistake on the operating table. Then, one morning, he sees a figure struggling across the ice and realises that his past is about to cover up with him.

The figure approaching him is Harriet, the only woman he ever loved, the woman he abandoned forty years ago in order to study in America. Now Harriet has tracked him down to ask him to honour a promise made many years ago: to take her to a beautiful lake, hidden deep in the forests of northern Sweden. But Welin soon discovers that Harriet has left his biggest surprise until last.


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The Verdict:

A beautifully written, well observed and reflective novel that has a lot to say about growing old and past regrets, this is a wonderful read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Cross-posted to books and bookworming.