Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: The Awakening by L.J. Smith (Rant included)

Title: The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1)
Author: L.J. Smith
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 320
Rating: 3/5 Stars

I liked this book, but it's a warm-up for the real story that is coming in the rest of the series.

Stefan was too weak for my taste. In this mythology vampires can drink from their victims without draining them. Stefan refuses to drink human blood and abhors himself for even craving it. I don't understand that. Yes, he's kind of a parasite, but he doesn't have to kill anybody to get what he needs (unlike in the Twilight series where the vamps drain their victims. That I understand) so why does he hate himself so much? Silly.

I wasn't sure how I would like Elena given how she seemed to have no redeeming qualities in the beginning, but she actually does have depth and while she's got a very high opinion of herself, she doesn't go around deliberately hurting people. She's not a Mean Girl, she's just knows who she is.

Damon wasn't in it enough to really form an opinion, but I'm inclined to like the bad boys.

Katherine was ridiculous. Apparently, it wasn't just the aging process that was stunted when she became a vamp, her emotional maturity ceased to develop as well. I do not think she's worth all this strife between the brothers at all.

Bonnie and Meredith are good friends to Elena and bravo to them for calling her on her secrecy regarding Stefan.

I don't have much to say about the story. Like I said, it's a warm-up for the real drama. I will be reading the next book.

7/11 Update: I read this...February 2010 and at the time I did intend on reading the whole series. In light of the fact that L.J. Smith was fired by HarperCollins last winter/spring because her vision wasn't what they wanted, I will not be reading any of the other books.

Let's get this out of the way first, L.J. Smith will not be winning any awards for her prose. She's not that talented a writer. As my friend at The Irish Banana Review put it: the demands of her audience matured, her writing style did not. So, my boycotting of the books has nothing to do with L.J. Smith's talent.

What pisses me off is why she was fired. Yes, she was hired to write a series for HarperCollins and technically they own it, but I think it's bullshit that they can interfere in her artistic vision. She made The Vampire Diaries a marketable entity and put it in a position of being popular enough to be brought to the silver screen, thus bringing in even more money making opportunities for HarperCollins. Now, after all that, they want to dictate to her what she can do with the characters she created? Good for her for saying no. Bad on them for firing her over it.

I have no interest in reading something I know was mandated by a publishing company. Whether it happens elsewhere is irrelevant. This is a case of ignorance being bliss. When I read a book I want to live under the assumption that the plot has been created by an author, not dictated by some suits in an office who don't give a crap about words, plot or character and only about numbers on a page.

Of course, there's also the little fact that the publishers demanded the triangle between Damon/Elena/Stefan go the opposite direction of what I want. I won't deny that, but even if that weren't the case I'd have a hard time enjoying the plot knowing that it wasn't the original author's intention. It would seem a hollow victory.

So...farewell Vampire Diaries books. I'll stick to the tv show.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Nevermore by Keith R.A. Candido

Title: Nevermore (Supernatural #1)
Author: Keith R.A. Candido
Publisher: Harper Entertainment
Pages: 352
Rating: 3/5 Stars

I've had this book - along with two other SPN tie-in novels - sitting on my shelf for years and finally decided to give one a try. I got them more out of a freakish obsession with all things connected to the show than an attraction to the plot, so it's really no surprise I never ventured beyond the pretty, pretty covers. ;p That being said, in the spirit of lightening the burden my bookshelf carries I decided now was the time to read them or just put them up on pbs and be done with it.

I don't think I need to tell you which one I went with.

Nevermore is a mediocre book. No two ways about it. DeCandido's prose is not going to win any literary awards. As such it's no wonder that he writes a lot of tie-in novels for tv shows with a built in audience that will probably give him a try because he's writing about their favorite characters/show. I'm morbidly curious to see if he'd have any luck creating his own completely original material.

DeCandido's main job in Nevermore is having a solid grasp of Sam and Dean Winchester and for the purposes of this novel mostly succeeds. The main problem with this and other tie-in novels - as the other Nerd pointed out to me once upon a time- is that they have to fall within the timeline of the show. That means, there can be little or no real character development. As a result we're given charicatures of Sam and Dean rather than fully fleshed out characters. Dean is the wise-cracking, perpetually on the prowl, classic rock and beer loving badass, while Sam is sincere, focused on the job, the font of all knowledge and haunted/conflicted about his life as a hunter. The one moment in Nevermore where Sam tried to get all deep fell incredibly flat because, like Dean, I didn't have the slightest freaking clue what point he was trying to make. I don't know if DeCandido did either. It was simply an attempt to inject Nevermore with a poignant, emotional 'chick-flick' moment that Dean claims to hate but are a staple of SPN.

Sam and Dean's interactions as brothers are very basic and only scratch the surface. Again, it's not really a surprise because character development has to remain static to still be a tie-in novel and not veer into fan fiction territory - an incredibly fine line. They tease each other mercilessly, work very well together as a team and tend to bicker a lot. At the beginning of the book I was concerned we were going to get a Sam-centric POV that only gave us the most extreme aspects of Dean's character, but I was happily proven wrong. Dean gets his due as well and both brothers are written as the heroes they are.

The case the boys are working is servicable, although I was disappointed that the ritual being used was left as a hoax. It would have been cool to see the boys surprised when the Big Bad pulled off the resurrection of Edgar Allen Poe. I wasn't surprised when the identity of the said Big Bad was revealed as I knew he was the guilty party from the first time he was mentioned, but that didn't hurt my enjoyment of the novel any more than it would on the show. I don't need to be surprised all the time. Often the real fun is in watching Sam and Dean (or any characters) get from point A to point B. The side plot with Manfred Afiri, Scottso and the dead Roxy Carmichael was the true supernatural event and DeCandido does a good job of keeping you guessing as to who Roxy was really begging to love her. I thought it was novel to have the boys actually crash in a house for once.

The way DeCandido incorporated the show's famed classic rock soundtrack was cool, if not incredibly original. Dean's aversion to NYC traffic was amusing and a believable detail. I appreciated Dean and Sam learning more about their reputations as hunters and always love when someone tells them they're better hunters than John - much as I love Big Daddy Winchester.

Nevermore isn't a waste of time for the casual fan who wants an extra helping of the Winchester Bros doing what they do best - saving people and hunting things. For the more, ahem, obsessive fan this book and it's lack of depth will fall flat. I won't be reading any more of the tie-ins but I won't discourage anybody from checking them out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Title: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 176
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I love Carrie Fisher. At first I loved her because of Princess Leia and Star Wars but the more I heard about her the more I loved her for her refreshingly candid attitude about not only her life, but life in general. I can't believe it took me this long to read her memoir. Rest assured, should she write another - which I fervently hope she does - I will not take so long.

Wishful Drinking made me wish I was friends with Ms. Fisher and not just in the "Oh, I love Star Wars and I want to be besties with the most badass Princess in the galaxy" way. I want to be friends with the amazing woman who has gone through so much as a human being and still has such a wonderful, amazing outlook on this absurd thing we call life.

Ms. Fisher obviously subscribes to the idea that she'd rather laugh than cry and it's with this outlook that she recounts her existence thus far. Unlike some trainwreck offspring of celebrity parents, she places no blame on them for the choices she's made. On the contrary, she goes out of her way to acknowledge that while her upbringing was definitely not 'normal' in the regular sense of the word, it also wasn't a tragic misery. Ms. Fisher embraces the mistakes she's made and gleefully takes responsibility. Those she's loved, lost, wronged and been wronged by all receive the same treatment. She accepts them, as they are, not blind to their faults, but able to see that no person is all one thing.

I love her way words, her wit, her wry and hilarious observations, wordplay and connections. Her book is written in a messy and at times hilariously bewildering stream of consciousness that manages to never feel accidental. My only complaint is that I wanted more. The book is short and I read it in a matter of a few hours. I could have just as completely enjoyed a book twice or three times long.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

Title: Fallen
Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 452
Rating: 3/5 Stars

This book was a solid 4 (out of 5) stars until the last 4th. Then it slipped into 3 star territory. Kate's characters are engaging and likable, the world of Swords & Cross intriguing and the mystery kept me turning pages.

The ending, unfortunately, left me disappointed, and not simply because as the first book in a series there were some loose ends. I like loose ends. It gives me a reason to anxiously await the next book. What was lacking for me was a solid sense of satisfaction at the threads that were tied up. There just weren't enough of them. Luce solved the who and what of Daniel, found out why Molly, Cam, Roland, Arrianne and Gabbe were all so chummy/hostile toward each other and that was basically it. I would have liked to know why Daniel fell at the very least, although I'm not blind to the implied idea that he was booted from Heaven for falling in love with a mortal.

I realize that events happened quickly and given the story is told from Luce's POV without it actually being a 1st person narrative, it makes sense that she didn't have time to adequately process everything. But I wanted to process more. I wanted more time for certain reveals to sink in, allowing more reveals to materialize.

Kate has me for the 2nd novel. She successfully created a world and characters that make me want to learn more. But I really hope her pace improves with the next novel. If my questions are answered later, I'll probably forgive the way this book ended. If they're not then I probably won't stick around for the 3rd book.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beautiful words...

"It's nice when two people keep each other company without promising to meet up at such and such a place, or to stay together forever. They simply travel together awhile, and if their routes happen to diverge, they both go their way in peace." ~Sophie Scholl, 1939

"I feel no desire for 'heroism' in war. What I seek is purification. I want all the shadows to melt away from me. I'm searching for myself, just myself, because this much I do know: I'll only find the truth inside me." ~Hans Scholl, 1939

Sophie's quote eloquently describes how I often feel and perhaps part of the reason the world wide web appeals to people. It's a type of freedom, knowing that at any moment you can reach out with an email or a post and contact someone who shares your passions, but if life or personal desire pulls you elsewhere, there is no guilt. The messageboard is always there...

As for Hans...I'm struck by how ardently he strives for enlightenment.


2011 Bad Writing Contest Winner

University of Wisconsin professor Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, WI won the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

"Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

Read more here...

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest


At the Heart of the White Rose

At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl

Hans and Sophie Scholl were young Germans, executed by the Nazi's during WWII for their resistance efforts as part of the White Rose. I don't remember how I found out about these two, but I became fascinated and wanted to learn more. I'm finally getting around to it.

Entirely comprised of the personal correspondence of Hans and Sophie, thus far this book is a bit like The Diary of Anne Frank. I like to think that I have a decent grasp of the English language, but these two, Hans in particular, put me to shame. The eloquence in their writing, the personal thoughts and feelings they reveal to friends and family, surpass the emotion I'm willing to share with my diary, let alone another human being. It's amazing, inspiring and a little sad.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Look Upward...

...and share the wonders I've seen.

The title of my blog is a play on Farscape, the most amazing, epic television show in the history of the world. The show has become the bar by which I judge all my entertainment, books included. If a book can come within a stone's throw of the glory that is Farscape, chances are it will get a stellar review from me.

So, thanks for checking this little blog out. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the literary journey though the Uncharted Territories as much as me.