Monday, May 30, 2011


Belinda  is another Anne Rice novel written under the name Anne Rampling.  Again, this is not a vampire novel, which might be why the assumed name.  This novel also deals with some potentially controversial subject matter.  The main character, Jeremy, is a forty-something year-old man who falls in love with a sixteen year old girl.

I had a really hard time getting into this novel.  I really couldn't identify at all with the main character.  To me, he came across as dirty old man despite Rice's efforts to make him not appear that way.  It really didn't help that he falls in love with Belinda the first time he sees her.  She is dressed in a Catholic school girl uniform.  Ew.

In the end, they get married.  It's supposed to be beautiful.  True love and all that.  To me, it's still just a little bit wrong.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blood lines

Blood Lines by Tanya Huff is the third book in a series.  I haven't read the first two.  I think I should have.

Sometimes you can pick up a sequel and know that there were things that came before but not feel like you missed them.  In this case I did.  This story centers around a woman who is in "intimate" relationships with two men.  One of the men is a cop.  The other is a vampire.  The three are attempting to work together to deal with a mummy that is causing chaos.

The situation is awkward.  But I didn't get to fully appreciate why.  Vicki's relationships with each of the men are established before this book begins (I would assume one in each of the previous novels).   This story builds on and deals with those relationships.  Since I didn't see them in their early days, I felt like I was missing part of the story.

This novel also takes it a step further and inserts the question "Which will she choose?"  That question isn't answered in this novel.  I am left feeling like I watched the middle segment of a 30 minute sit-com.  I missed both the intro and the conclusion of the primary issue.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer of night

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons is a long book.  But so worth turning every one of those pages.

The story begins in 1960 with an elementary school eating one of the students.  Things rapidly go downhill from there.  By the end of the novel, several (I lost count) people are dead, including main characters.

At the heart of this story is the fundamental difference between children and adults.  Children believe.  In the boogeyman, the monster under the bed, and things that go bump in the night.  So really it makes perfect sense that they would be the first to detect if something was truly wrong in the world.  Since they would be unable to convince grown-ups that the scary things are real, they would have to defeat them without help from adults.  And they do.

That doesn't mean that the adults in this story are any less important or significant.  They're just different.  Simmons does an amazing job of giving a richness to both the kids and the adults he wrote into this story.  My favorite adult- the alcoholic inventor who invented the answering machine (among other things) but then never followed through to cash in on his inventions.

Read this.  Then check under your bed and in your closet before you go to sleep...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tidings of great joy

Tidings of Great Joy by Sandra Brown was not so great.  This is another of her early romance novels.  And perhaps, my least favorite.   Boy, can you tell it's early in her career. 

Characters are flat.  Plot is ridiculous.  I struggle to find a redeeming feature.  I'll sum it up with this:  you can't replace a baby as easily as you can replace a cat.  (Some of you may be tempted to read the novel to find out what that means.  Trust me, you don't want to know.)

I am still totally fascinated by Brown, however.  Her recent work is so completely different from the early stuff that it amazes me.  I'd love to talk to her about what factors contributed to her writing "growing up." 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The shining

I've decided that people who classify Stephen King as some sort of pop culture sell-out just haven't read his books.

I thought I had read The Shining before.  Soon after I started reading it this time, I realized I was wrong.  I was remembering the movie.  Not a bad movie.  But not the same as the book.

Yes, the movie is scary.  But it doesn't hold a candle to the novel.  The movie characters lack something.  We can't see inside their minds, see what is haunting them before they ever set foot in The Overlook.  That is what the book gives us.  A family of three who carry a variety of skeletons and baggage on their journey to the mountains.  And then are locked up with those issues for the hotel to feed on.

You have to wonder if the same disaster would have plagued a different family.  The Partridge family, for instance.  Maybe they would have been just fine.

One last word of advice: don't cut your shrubbery into animal shapes.  Please.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I was a teenage fairy

Francesca Lia Block's novel I Was a Teenage Fairy is a story about a girl (Barbie) and her fairy (Mab) growing up.  Barbie is forced to be a model by her wanna-be mom (Yes, she named her daughter after the doll) at the age of eleven.  Big surprise, she and several other children are molested.  The parents involved all turn a blind eye and the children are too scared to talk.  Barbie finally comes into her own, speaks up, saves other kids from the same fate and reinvents herself as Selena Moon.

This novel carries a pretty good message for a young adult book.  But it has the same issue I've come across in other YA fiction.  There is not a single decent adult in the story.  Self-sufficiency is good, to a point.  But I'm already seeing a generation of kids who think that adults are oblivious at best, and downright evil at worst.

I desperately hope that we're not all that bad.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Nope, it's not just an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Psycho, by Robert Block, was just as creepy and weird before Hitchcock got ahold of it.  Actually, the movie follows the book very tightly.  Block gives us more insight into Norman's head than the movie does (though some of the info in the novel appears in the movie sequels) and even goes so far as to diagnose his mental disorder.

The biggest difference in the story is the physical characterization of Norman Bates.  In the movie, he is a slim, neat, and physically well put-together.  Only his mind is a bit of a mess.  In the novel, however, Bates is physically slightly off.  He's overweight, and a little unkempt.  There's more of a match between the outside appearance and the mental state. 

I find it scarier when there's a mismatch between what you see and what you get. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wave-swept shore

Wave-Swept Shore by Mimi Koehl is one of those books that people flip through, looking at pictures and maybe reading a few captions.  You should sit down and read the whole thing. 

This book takes a very up-close look at an environment that most people may not know even exists.  Of those that do know it exists, most probably don't realize the complexity of the micro-habitats and the creatures that inhabit them.  Koehl discusses the forces of nature that these organisms must deal with on a daily basis and the adaptations they have that make life on the edge possible. 

The text is supported by some pretty amazing pictures by Anne Wertheim Rosenfeld.  How they got some of these shots despite the waves pounding around them, I don't know.  My four-year old had a fun time playing where's the starfish (a common creature in these pictures). 

The only problem with this book is that it really made me miss the beach.  I think it's time for a visit!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

As I lay dying

Burying a loved one is never easy.  William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is a study on that statement.

Addie's burial begins before she is even dead, with her approving each plank that is used to make her coffin.  She also demands to be buried in the town she came from, several days journey away.  When she finally passes, flash floods, dead mules, broken legs, arson, and failed abortions all conspire to make the journey take even longer.

But in the end she is laid to rest in her homeland.  Her husband wastes no time getting his new teeth and his new wife.  Her children are left to muddle through their various issues.  You are left wondering if they make it through at all.

An interesting look at what happens when the glue is removed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A choir of ill children

All is not well in Kingdom Come.  Tom Piccirilli's A Choir of Ill Children is just as strange as November Mourns.  But I'm starting to figure out the lay of the land.  

There are several similar features in these two novels: voodoo, cults or other interpretations of religion, offspring who fall outside the normal range, and a man haunted by a elusive woman.  The key thing is that you are never allowed to settle in, get comfortable, and take your shoes off.  You wouldn't dare.  You remain slightly on edge, not sure what you are going to witness next.  It's starting to grow on me.

The big difference for me comes in the ending of the story.  Again, there are lots of questions left hanging.  Thomas (main character) even lists off some of them in the final pages.  He has accepted that he won't get those answers, at least for now.  And so can I.  The story reaches a semi-conclusion, but leaves you with a sense that you'd like to go back and visit in ten years and see what happened while you were away. 

I dreamt about the triplets last night.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My sister's keeper

I finished reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult over 24 hours ago.  I had to sit and stew on this one for a while, because I couldn't say what I wanted to say.

What I really want to talk about is the ending.  But, I can't talk about the ending, because I want people to read this book without knowing how it's going to end.  So I will have to leave the ending alone, at least for now.

So what I'm going to talk about is characterization.  Picoult tells this story using six different points of view.  Six characters surrounding the girl who is dying of leukemia give their perspective on the court case that will decide if she gets her sisters kidney.  It's hard enough to get inside one person's head, let alone six.  Picoult makes it look easy.  This story reads as if you are a confessor for the six characters, with them visiting you periodically and telling you what has happened and what they are thinking.  But here's the thing, you can't fully trust any of them.  All six of these people have secrets that they aren't willing to share with anyone.  Some secrets they even manage to keep from themselves.  And you are fully aware that they aren't quite giving you the full truth.  You are left to come to the best conclusions you can with the limited information you have.

And it works perfectly for this story that lives in the world of gray.  If you want black and white answers, leave this book alone.