Saturday, April 21, 2012

"The Selection"—read it before you see it.

Before it gets sucked into the land of CW and it’s array of paranormal dramas and general teen fodder, I wanted to mention The Selection, the first book in what looks to be a promising new series by relative newcomer Kiera Cass. Set in a distant future where many Wars have eliminated the United States as a high powered democracy turning it into a new country, broken into eight very specific casts and ruled by a monarchy, The Selection follows seventeen-year-old America Singer as she is thrown into an situation that will propel her from life as a lower middle class artist, to the tops of the aristocracy.

The Selection, for which the book is named, is essentially a “Bachelor-esque” contest in which 35 girls, one from each district (slightly reminiscent in concept to The Hunger Games) are brought to their ruler’s palace to compete for the hand of their Prince, Maxon. Selected, America must leave her family and love interest behind as she is thrown into a world of wealth, war, and cutthroat feminine sabotage—all for the sake of a royal marriage and cast climbing. Did I mention that this is all done as a mandatory-to-watch, nationally televised show?

While I have never watched that ratings grabbing, mind numbing, piece of tripe, called The Bachelor (pardon my disdain), this book seemed to have all the same trappings. At first glance The Selection really just seems like the authors attempt to cash in on the popular dystopic trend, while adding a touch of reality television, another, albeit more obnoxious trend, but in actuality Kiera Cass manages to elevate the text above that nonsense, creating an interesting group of characters with much more at stake than receiving that (in Bachelor terms) final rose. America, Maxon, and the other teens thrown into this situation have depths and motivations beyond their 15 minutes of fame—they seek food and pay for their families who live paycheck to paycheck, they seek companionship, and in the case of Maxon—they seek someone to share the burdens of a country, and care about what happens beneath those glitzy false public images. Now, don’t get me wrong, this book is not a work of art, but there is more to it than meets the eye, and it’s entertaining without being mind numbing.

In the fall, we could very well be seeing a pilot episode of this new book on the CW, a station that has taken teen books such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and turned them into popular television shows with rabid followings. While, the studio has brought up book sales, and actually, in the case of The Vampire Diaries, turned a mediocre and unintelligent book into an entertaining show, it is always possible that what is great about The Selection could be destroyed in it’s translation to television. So, my suggestion is to read the book now, enjoy it for what it is, prepare for the next in the trilogy, and in the fall, take a peak at the pilot. If it’s good, great—if not, well at least you have a fun book under your belt with just the right amount of romance and intrigue.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

"Anatomy of Murder"-A Brief Review

Imogen Robertson’s sequel to 2011’s Instruments of Darkness reintroduces readers to anatomist/forensic specialist Gabriel Crowther and the seemingly indomitable Mrs. Harriet Westerman, as they are once again thrown into the midst of murder and intrigue. Anatomy of Murder is a more finely crafted work than it’s predecessor, with fuller character development and a smoother (yet still intricate) plot involving spies, opera, and murder. It’s gripping prologue, a Navy battle involving Harriet’s husband Captain Westerman, draws to mind scenes from a Patrick O’Brien novel, and instantly sucks readers into an era of intrigue and American rebellion.

It is in this sequel that Robertson delves a bit more into her main characters, particularly that of the appealing Harriet Westerman, giving readers a bit more insight into her thought process, showing kinks in her rather impenetrable armor, while also providing depth and understanding to her unusual partnership with the somewhat dower Crowther. This depth adds yet another layer to an interesting narrative, filled with more loops and turns, than one might expect at first glance. This is a series that gets remarkably better with each book (the third Island of Bones comes out 10/15/12 and is proving to be even more enjoyable). The characters are slowly gaining more dimensions, the mysteries and story development are stimulating, and Robertson’s overall writing seems to grow by leaps and bounds, almost as though she is honing her craft right before the readers eyes as we progress through her books.

This Georgian era suspense is a perfect fit for fans of such period mysteries as produced by Anne Perry, Jacqueline Winspear, and C.S. Harris. Its characters are appealing and the plot both interesting and entertaining. A great new mystery series to have on your bedside table.

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