Thursday, February 21, 2013

What I’m Reading, February 21, 2013

This week I tore through Benjamin Percy’s upcoming (5/7/13) alternate history/paranormal/horror novel Red Moon, only to be disappointed in the Justin Cronin-like ending ‘ala The Passage, that leaves more questions unanswered than answered. The general plot is intriguing—imagine that instead of civil rights marches in the 60’s, and groups like the Black Panthers, the world was dealing with an altogether different race battle, one between humans, and humans infected with a lobos prion that turns them into lycanthropes—yup, werewolves, or in the case of this book, Lycans. So, think Freedom Marches with Lycans, instead of African Americans and how that history would be reflected in the lived today’s 21st century Lycans.

I liked the alternative history angle, putting the Lycans into the place of African Americans was interesting, and Percy seamlessly ties that past into the stories of the three primary characters living in our current time. Percy integrates college sit-ins, holocaust-like settings and persecutions for Lycans, Occupy-like protests, genetic testing, and dirty politics into a rich and complicated plot. Unfortunately, once the reader has invested time into the 544 page novel; he/she is left hanging, with no real satisfaction. I actually threw the book on the floor in frustration upon finishing it. When you invest that much time into a book you want some sort of payoff, and books that leave you with frustration and not anticipation, rarely get the sequel picked-up by readers. Hence the copy of The Twelve that is still sitting by my bed—I think I bear some resentment to my Passage frustration. I liked Red Moon, but I just don’t know if I will read the next book (whenever it comes out, my guess 2014 or 2015) for fear that I will be just as unsatisfied by the ending, or lack thereof. If that’s a style you enjoy, go for it—the story is really good, but if you are like me, with too many books and too little time for that empty feeling at a book’s conclusion—take a pass on Red Moon.

Right now I’m reading Jennifer McMahon’s The One I Left Behind, a gripping novel that follows the aftermath of a serial killer in a small Connecticut town. Written more in a more literary manner than most serial killer books, The One I Left Behind deals not only with the horror of a serial killer; in fact, its primary focus is relationships; those between outcast teenagers, mothers and daughters, family, and how what we perceive is not always what is. A good one for Book Clubs, I’m a fan—I just hope the ending is written well.


I mentioned in my last post two books I was reading, Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and Carlene Bauer’s Frances and Bernard here's my quick opinion:

Just One Day was a little bit of a disappointment, primarily because the book is clearly set-up for a sequel that is to be told from the perspective of the male protagonist (or antagonist depending on how you look at it), and that takes a bit of the sting out of the emotional impact. Also, perhaps it’s an age thing, but the character’s choices are so off the wall that the believability factor was a bit low. I’ll still read the follow-up, Just One Year, but it will have to be a miraculous piece of storytelling to win me over.

Frances and Bernard was very different than I thought it would be. Slow to start, this epistolary novel was a bit tough to get into. The opening letters were deeply philosophical discussions of faith, dry and dull, with insight into the characters intellects, but lacking the emotional tug that makes readers want to know them more. Yet, once I was able to get into the groove of a story told in letters, both Frances and Bernard’s voices became very clear, with Bauer creating rich and complex characters outside of the bonds of traditional storytelling. Instead, readers are treated to two multifaceted individuals, whose friendship, and complicated love story is both bittersweet and intellectually stimulating. Not my usual “cup of tea”, but highly satisfying in terms of character development and voice. In all, Frances and Bernard was a wonderful surprise of a read.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

A Return to Chick-Lit

I used to be a chick-lit reader. It was fun, escapist, and just what I needed following years of college and graduate school. Now, I tend toward psychological suspense, dystopian futures, and really good fiction, having eschewed my chick-lit reading to my early twenties. And yet, in the midst of my busy and ridiculous schedule this week, I opted to read, not the new Chevy Stevens ARC that’s been sitting next to my bed for a week, and not the fun new Nicola Upson that features my all-time favorite director Alfred Hitchcock as a character, but a book I grabbed from my pile on a whim, The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne—a definite chick-lit novel.

Maybe it’s because I’m over thinking about serious things (I’ve been dealing with political book signings for the past couple of months and am so ready for the last one to come and go), or maybe it’s because I’m in the midst of planning my wedding and I just wanted to have a light-hearted moment, but whatever the reason, I put off the books I’ve been excited about and picked-up a cheap thrill.

The basic plot of this light read follows London garden designer Amy, as she meets Leo, the man of her dreams at a costume party, starts to fall just a little bit in love, and then finds out he’s a prince—one with a super model mother, playboy brother, debonair father, and who happens to be fourth in line for the throne. When circumstances change putting Leo‘s father into the ruling position with Leo right behind him, Amy’s already shaky self-esteem and past family embarrassment lead her into a downward spiral of nerves and mishaps, that just may take her away from her own shining prince.

Predictable—highly. Silly—absolutely. Was the main point of conflict ridiculous—yes. Still, for some reason I still found it enjoyable. Maybe it’s the wedding thing, and the romance (and craziness) of all that comes with falling in love and getting married, but this book was actually fun to read. It’s not exceptional writing, the peripheral characters are poorly developed, and the main character gets a bit annoying with her constant bouts of self-consciousness, but it moves along quickly and for the most part amusingly.

I wouldn’t go around recommending this to everyone. In two months I might even regret writing this piece, but for now if anyone is looking for a no-brainer that is relatively fun, give The Runaway Princess a look. Hopefully, it will give you that chance to breathe, before delving back into the real world and all its madness. Now it’s time to pick-up that new Chevy Stevens suspense.

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