Friday, October 29, 2010

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - Book Review #105

Friday, October 29, 2010
Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6)
by Sophie Kinsella

Nothing comes between Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and her bargains. Neither act of God nor budget crunch can shatter her dreams of wall-to-wall Prada. Every milestone in her well-shopped life (travel, long-lost sister, marriage, pregnancy) inspires new vistas to explore in the name of retail therapy. But now she faces her greatest little challenge yet: Becky’s two-year-old daughter, Minnie.

While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be—Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers—adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “MINE!” and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five.

Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop—not Becky’s personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it’s time for Becky to step in—with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone’s woes. At first.

Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke’s unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.

I think that Confession of Shopaholic was one of the first books I read in chick lit genre and Shopaholic series is definitely my favorite. I’m suspecting that the only reason why I read so many chick lit books is that I was looking for something that would at least remotely resemble it and be at least as half as funny as Sophie Kinsella’s books. For years I’ve been looking for something like this, and I think, now I can say with all the confidence that there are no contemporary authors that can make me laugh out loud and as much as Sophie Kinsella can.

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) is probably one of my favorite characters ever. She is adorably inappropriate; she is hilariously clueless; and she is completely ingenuous. She is so full of energy, crazy ideas and good intentions – it is overwhelming. I could never guess her next actions or words. My brain just doesn’t work this way. I’m always trying to come up with something reasonable and believable; and these are two qualities that Becky is lacking completely.

Mini Shopaholic was a great addition to the series. Sophie Kinsella is one of the rare authors whose books don’t become worse with each next book in a series. I was very happy with the ending of Mini Shopaholic, which almost directly indicated that we should expect another book about Becky.

I think that there is no reason for me to recommend this book to anyone, because if you like chick lit, you most definitely heard and read Sophie Kinsella’s books and you won’t miss this one; and if you haven’t, you are most likely from another dimension. However, I’m sure that even in another dimension or another universe people have heard about Sophie Kinsella, because she has a talent to make even nuclear physics hilarious.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - Book Review #104

Thursday, October 28, 2010
by Kelly Creagh

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

Have you ever met a person who was so enthusiastic about some subject at which you never even look twice before? And more you talk to that person, read that person’s works, more you are getting infected by the enthusiasm towards that particular topic. And after a while you are starting to research the subject yourself and getting more and more involved into something that you were sure you would never be interested in. I have met such people and not once. Kelly Creagh – the author of Nevermore – turned out to be on f these people for me.

I have picked up Nevermore not expecting anything more than another cheesy, predictable, boring, full of clichés, one of a very long line of YA paranormal romances. I was in a mood for something like that. Yeah, I know, it is weird, but I can sometimes be in a mood for something that I know is going to be bad from the beginning.

Fortunately (because it is always a good thing when something is better than you thought it would be) or unfortunately (because I was in a mood for something else) – there is always two sides to everything – Nevermore was something completely different from what I was expecting.

I’m not even sure what made this book a good one. Maybe Kelly Creagh is a good writer. I really enjoyed her writing style. Her descriptions were superb: on one hand she didn’t overdo them, going into unnecessary details; on the other hand, she gave enough to the reader to build in the imagination a personal picture, unique to each reader, based on the author’s details.

Maybe the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe made this book so unique and compelling. I’m not an expert or a big fun of Poe’s works, so I can’t really judge if Creagh did a good job on recreating his worlds or not. The only thing I can tell is that these worlds got into me and under my skin – after reading Nevermore and turning off the light at night, I began to imagine black shadows around the room.

Maybe it was a great cast of likable, fully flashed and interesting characters that made Nevermore a good book. Varen had so much more in himself than your usual – “I’m mysterious, bad guy and I love you for no good reason eternally.” And Isobel was so much more than you regular brainless, boring, “I have no life and no friends” and “my parents let me do anything and anyone” cheerleader.

Maybe it was a spectacular ending that made this book a good one. Yes, I loved the ending. I know that there are a lot of people who are angry at such a cliffhanger, but I, myself, consider it a very good, logical and interesting one.

Maybe it is something else. Maybe it is a sum of all the factors. I really don’t know what made Nevermore a good book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and I also enjoyed “meeting” Kelly Creagh. I’m grateful for her enthusiasm towards Edgar Allan Poe and his works. She made me interested in him and “look” at him again. Maybe I will read more of his stories. After all, so many people think that he was a genius. However, the thing that I’m sure about is that I’m planning to read second book in Nevermore series.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift - Book Review #103

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
A Modest Proposal
by Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public, commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift appears to suggest in his essay that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. By doing this he mocks the authority of the British officials.

A Modest Proposal is a satire in its final glory that follows all the best traditions of Roman satire. It is brilliant, hilarious, completely logical, argumentative and disturbing, at the same time; so it is basically everything that Juvenalian satire should be. It is a must read for everyone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Book Review #102

Monday, October 25, 2010
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

A magnificent drama of vengeance, infidelity, and retribution, Anna Karenina portrays the moving story of people whose emotions conflict with the dominant social mores of their time. Sensual, rebellious Anna falls deeply and passionately in love with the handsome Count Vronsky. When she refuses to conduct the discreet affair that her cold, ambitious husband (and Russian high society) would condone, she is doomed. Set against the tragic love of Anna and Vronsky, the plight of the melancholy nobleman Konstantine Levin unfolds. In doubt about the meaning of life, haunted by thoughts of suicide, Levin's struggles echo Tolstoy's own spiritual crisis. But Anna's inner turmoil mirrors the own emotional imprisonment and mental disintegration of a woman who dares to transgress the strictures of a patriarchal world....In Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy brought to perfection the novel of social realism and created a masterpiece that bared the Russian soul.

It was a long journey for me towards Anna Karenina. My mother recommended it to me when I was thirteen. The way she talked about it made me pick up the book with great enthusiasm. I read it the whole day long, unable to draw my eyes out of it. When it was time to go to bed, I closed the book and next day… I never opened it again. When I was seventeen, after reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, which made an unforgettable impression on me, I decided to give Anna Karenina another try. Unfortunately, the story repeated itself and I didn’t open the book next day. After that for years my thoughts were coming back to Anna Karenina. I was completely clueless what made me read this book for a day, like there was no tomorrow and next day had no desire to open it again. I was obviously interested in it while I was reading, but somehow, over the night, my interest was just magically evaporated. So I was thinking about Anna Karenina, was trying to analyze my experience with it, however, I never made an attempt to read it again, until about a month ago when I felt this unexplainable need to read one of the greatest books that were ever written.

It took me a month (precisely a month, I started it on September 22 and finished it October 22) to read it. Anna Karenina is a book that takes a lot of time to read and not only because of its length (over eighth hundred pages), but mostly because of its content. I loved some pieces of the book beyond imaginable, other pieces was boring and dragged for me. However, the whole book is full of wisdom and I couldn’t just breath through it, I had to stop and think, make some decisions for myself, before I could continue reading it again. So the most time for me took my thought process and not reading.

Anna Karenina is a book about life and not only that; it is a piece of life itself. It seems like Tolstoy covered pretty much every topic of life that might have touched Russian society of 1870th. However, the most amazing thing for me was how Tolstoy could see people, how he knew their thoughts and reasonings, their fears and desires and mostly how extremely well and honest he was able to write about it. It seemed to me that every single emotion I've ever felt and every thought I've ever had, had already been felt and thought and written by Tolstoy generations before I was even born. Reading Anna Karenina was like going through my own thoughts, but on some other, much deeper lever – level where I’ve never been before.

I’m not going to recommend Anna Karenina to anyone, not because I didn’t like it – I loved it, but because to read or not to read Anna Karenina or when to read it in your path of life is a very personal decision and a very big commitment. This is a book that either can ruin you or reborn you from the ashes, depending if you read it during the right moment of your life or not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Splendor by Anna Godbersen - Book Review #101

Friday, October 22, 2010
Splendor (Luxe Series #4)
by Anna Godbersen

New beginnings.

Shocking revelations.

Unexpected endings.

As spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?

Splendor was a very good ending to the quite mediocre series. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this book. I somewhat enjoyed the first book, but after that the series went downhill – second book was worse and the third was a big disappointment to me.

I picked up the fourth book just to finish the series, just to be over with it. And I’m glad that I did. Because of the fourth book, Anna Godbersen grew in my eyes as a writer and as the story teller. As I said already, I didn’t expect much from this book, for quite some time already I started to consider Luxe series a collection of predictable and soap operish clichés. However, Splendor pleasantly surprised me – the plot became stronger, characters more complex, clichés faded out and the ending was superb.

I can’t say that I was surprised by the ending itself, I found it quite logical. However, it was definitely unexpected to me that Anna Godbersen had guts to finish her series this way. I’m very glad that she gave each character what they deserved and didn’t feel a need to sugar coat or pink bow any of the story lines.

I will probably take a pick at Anna Godbersen’s next series – Bright Young Things – just to see if the charge that happened to the author in the fourth book was for the best or simply a pure coincidence.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher - Book Review #100

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)
by Catherine Fisher

Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don't even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world?

All seeking freedom.
Like Sapphique.

After I finished Incarceron (I read it in the late March 2010), I just couldn’t wait almost a year until the US edition of Incarceron’s sequel – Sapphique – will be out (December 28th 2010), so I ordered UK edition and started reading it as soon as it arrived.

If I say that I loved Catherine Fisher’s story of Incarceron, I wouldn’t say anything. Incarceron and Sapphique are probably the best fantasy books of the year, if not of last years. Incarceron’s world was so completely unique, compelling and didn’t resemble the real world (no surprise here, after all it is a fantasy). However, Fisher managed to make it so vivid and realistic, I easily stepped into it as soon as I cracked the book open.

Sapphique, as a sequel, didn’t disappoint. It kept the same incredible pace as the first book had, which made me flip through the pages like crazy. Sapphique is picking up where Incarceron has left off, but not resolving any of the burning-a-hole-through-your-brain questions, rather creating new ones, opening up doors to the new mysteries, binding you down to the book and not letting you down for a moment until it is over.

I enjoyed how Catherine Fisher worked with characterizations. By the moment I thought I had some character figured out, Fisher surprised me with new details, though surprising not in a way that it didn’t make sense, but rather in a way of complete obviousness that somehow I didn’t figure out earlier.

Sapphique gives the reader a new perspective on its characters and the story itself, on a much deeper level, luring you in such depths of the tale that only a strong, guiding hand of the author could help you get out of there alive and in your sane mind. Dive into the story of Incarceron! If you dare…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel - Book Review #99

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Infinite Days
by Rebecca Maizel

Lenah Beaudonte is, in many ways, your average teen: the new girl at Wickham Boarding School, she struggles to fit in enough to survive and stand out enough to catch the eye of the golden-boy lacrosse captain. But Lenah also just happens to be a recovering five-hundred-year-old vampire queen. After centuries of terrorizing Europe, Lenah is able to realize the dream all vampires have -- to be human again. After performing a dangerous ritual to restore her humanity, Lenah entered a century-long hibernation, leaving behind the wicked coven she ruled over and the eternal love who has helped grant her deep-seated wish.

Until, that is, Lenah draws her first natural breath in centuries at Wickham and rediscovers a human life that bears little resemblance to the one she had known. As if suddenly becoming a teenager weren’t stressful enough, each passing hour brings Lenah closer to the moment when her abandoned coven will open the crypt where she should be sleeping and find her gone. As her borrowed days slip by, Lenah resolves to live her newfound life as fully as she can. But, to do so, she must answer ominous questions: Can an ex-vampire survive in an alien time and place? What can Lenah do to protect her new friends from the bloodthirsty menace about to descend upon them? And how is she ever going to pass her biology midterm?

Some time ago I had, as I thought, a brilliant idea – a book idea – about some very old (I’m talking hundreds and maybe even thousands years old) vampire with all his/her wisdom, knowledge and hunting him/her down ruthlessness losing all his/her power – becoming human? – and trying to fit into the society and a live normal, not vampire’s, life. I toyed with this idea for a while and then, on the next day, I found Infinite Days on goodreads. So I had to pick this book up pretty much as soon as it was out to see who “stole” my idea and how it was executed.

My verdict – Infinite Days is a “check your brains out of the door” and “mind candy” sort of book. As I started to read it I realized that it was like a train wreck: you know it is going to be horrible, but you can’t take your eye out of it.

As soon as I was letting myself to think, to analyze events, character’s motivations, their actions, I wanted to close this book and never open it again – so many things just didn’t make any sense. However, as soon as I let it go and made myself to relax and just go with whatever was happening in the story, Infinite Days proved to be a quite entertaining piece of fiction. I’ll tell you more, the moment I let the story to lead me, not minding however senseless and bizarre places it was taking me, I couldn’t put the book down.

The most, I enjoyed pieces of Lenah’s flashbacks of the times when she was a vampire. They added a quite delectable flavor to the story. These flashbacks also showed that vampires in Rebecca Maizel’s world are evil, cruel and don’t care about humanity in general and some human individuals in particular.

Overall, I enjoyed Infinite Days and would recommend it to the people who love paranormal genre and can let go of the sanity for the period while reading the book. I’m planning to read the second book in this series - Stolen Nights, however probably not as soon as it will be out, but when I will not be in overcritical and analytical mood; but rather in the mood to relax and read anything that the author will feed me with, despite of what that would be, because Rebecca Maizel knows how to tell a story.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Shining by Stephen King - Book Review #98

Thursday, October 14, 2010
The Shining
by Stephen King

Danny is only five years old, but he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of an old hotel, his visions grow out of control. Cut off by blizzards, the hotel seems to develop an evil force, and who are the mysterious guests in the supposedly empty hotel?

Why is it so enormously hard for me to write reviews on Stephen King’s books? And the problem is not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s actually quite the opposite – I have so much to say, but somehow I cannot transform my feelings and my thoughts into the written word. I’m usually giving myself time after I finished a book before starting a review. And usually it helps me to write reviews – feeling and emotions are becoming less vital, reason and logic are resurfacing. However, in case of Stephen King’s books no matter how much time I give it for the book to settle in me – emotions are still staying raw and untransferable into the paper.

If I say that Stephen King is a genius, I wouldn’t say anything new… However I still want to say it – he is a genius. I probably won’t say anything new in this review at all: The Shining was published in 1977; it is wildly popular around the globe; thousands, tens thousands, hundreds thousands reviews have been written.

Should I talk about amazing characterizations and character development? It has been said not once already. Should I talk about King’s marvelous writing style – his use of italics, caps, brackets? It has been said. Should I talk how this book is about the evil in the hotel, Danny’s unusual talent, father-son relationship, alcoholism, child abuse, psychosis and dysfunctional family? It has been said million times. Should I talk about incredible pace of the novel? Or should I…?

There is only one thing left for me to say – I loved it, it is a masterpiece. And Stanley Kubrick might be a genius, but I prefer Stephen King anyway.

Red… Rum… Red-Rum… RED-RUM, RED-RUM, REDRUM, REDRUM, REDRUM (feel the beat) and “come out and take your medicine!”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent - Book Review #97

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers, #1)
by Rachel Vincent

She doesn't see dead people, but…

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next…

My Soul to Take is a first book in the Soul Screamers series. After reading the prequel to this series I was really eager to find out more of the Kaylee’s story.

Some call this series a paranormal romance. I would have to disagree with this classification. Even though the romance takes a large part of the story, it still doesn’t dominate it like in some other series (Shiver; Hush, Hush). I would classify Soul Screamers series as the paranormal mystery, because suspense is a main focus driving this story forward. And I would have to admit – doing a pretty good job.

Rachel Vincent wrote a pretty solid, compelling story. I was pleasantly surprised with good characterization, which usually most of the YA novels lack. I liked Kaylee and Nash. I liked their relationship. I really enjoyed the relationship between Kaylee and her cousin. I adored Kaylee’s aunt and uncle, each on their own way. All the characters were unique and well developed; each of them had their own distinct personality.

However, the main asset of the story was its originality. I will not spoil it for these who haven’t read these series and won’t tell what sort of creature with what abilities Kaylee turned out to be (even though you can easily find this information, as far as I saw people telling it openly in their review, not considering that to be a spoiler). I didn’t know what Kaylee’s abilities were when I started reading My Soul to Take, so I went through a lot of paranormal creatures in my head and at the end I weren’t able to guess. The creatures that Rachel Vincent used in her story is widely known, however definitely cannot be called a cliché.

Despite all the positive aspects that I saw in the story, somehow it was missing something… an essence, a spark. I don’t even know what… Somehow, after I finished the book, my eyes didn’t flash with excitement and “wow” didn’t flew out of my mouth on the exhale. No, I can’t say that I didn’t like it, because I did. Maybe the story itself was just too simple; no, it was solid, original, suspensive, but still too simple. Maybe I was not in the mood, maybe something else… So at the end, I thought that My Soul to Take was ok, just ok and no more than that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent - Book Review #96

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
My Soul to Lose (Soul Screamers, #0)
by Rachel Vincent

It was supposed to be a fun day, shopping at the mall with her best friend. Then the panic attack started and Kaylee Cavanaugh finds herself screaming, unable to stop. Her secret fears are exposed and it's the worst day of her life.

Until she wakes up in the psychiatric unit.

She tries to convince everyone she's fine--despite the shadows she sees forming around another patient and the urge to scream which comes burbling up again and again. Everyone thinks she's crazy. Everyone except Lydia, that is. Another patient with some special abilities....

I was planning to read the first book from Soul Screamers series – My Soul to Take – when I learned about prequel novella My Soul to Lose that was available for free download from B&N. (It is no longer free on B&N or Amazon, however you can still read it for free from the author’s site.) I prefer to read books in the sequential order of events in the story, not in the sequence of how they were written or when published. So I put down the first book and downloaded the prequel.

To tell you the truth I was expecting cliché YA paranormal romance. And I definitely wasn’t expecting anything grand from the tiny prequel novella – in length no more than ninety pages that was, as it seemed to me, written only for the promotional purposes. (At what any other case did you see books being given away for free?)

I got hooked on the story from the first pages. Rachel Vincent managed to create a very realistic atmosphere of the tension, confusion, loneliness and despair – the range of emotions main character, Kaylee, was going through. I also think that Rachel Vincent portrayed psychiatric unit very believable. Despite of the depressive emotions, this story was packed with action, adding fear, anxiety and anger into the spotlight of the novella. Vincent also crafted a fully fleshed out main character, endowing her with a very unique paranormal talent. I don’t think that I ever heard about YA book that explored same ability as Kaylee had. It was definitely not a cliché such as vampires and werewolf have become.

My Soul to Lose definitely raises more questions than gives answers. It turned out to be a great teaser prequel: long enough to make you interested, but not long enough to let you get a grab on everything. With more excitement and interested than I was before I read it, I leaned over, reached for the first book in the series - My Soul to Take – and cracked the cover open…

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan - Book Review #95

Monday, October 11, 2010
The Demon's Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon's Lexicon. Turn the page.

The Demon's Lexicon is a compelling, fast paced, packed with action urban fantasy. I didn’t expect that much from this story. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything from it. Even though, I heard a lot of positive review on this book, it seemed to me like another cheese urban fantasy with probably flat characters, undeveloped world and weak plot.

Maybe because of my low expectations, maybe I was just wrong from the beginning, however, one way or another, I’m glad I read it – I found a new urban fantasy book and not just a book, but the first book in the trilogy that I really liked.

There are a lot of things that I liked about this book: likeable, full-flashed, alive characters; wit, funny, at the same time, realistic dialogs (I laughed out loud not once); fast paced, intriguing plot that made me turn pages with the top speed; unexpectedly shocking, on the other hand how-I-couldn’t-see-that coming huge twist on the end; very vivid descriptions of the settings, I could almost smell and touch everything (I especially likes Goblin Market, it reminded me of the market from Stardust); and finally, decent to the reader ending (it still assumed a next book, however, I didn’t end on the huge I-will-bite-my head-off-if-I-can’t-get-my-hands-on-the-next-book-right-now cliffhanger).

There are a lot of things I liked about this book… Unfortunately, there was one thing that almost spoiled everything – there was something really wrong with the writing style. First of all, at least in the copy I was reading, I saw a lot of grammatical mistakes. I’m not a grammar wiz myself (I make a fair share of them myself), so I usually, don’t even notice grammatical errors and even if I do, I usually don’t mention them in my reviews. However, in this case my eyes were tripping over them, which made it hard to keep reading. On the numbered occasions I had to stop and reread a sentence or couple of sentences over again, just to understand what it was talking about. Second, there was something wrong with the style itself. Even after I finished The Demon's Lexicon I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was it: point of view, tense, words chosen, pace, rhythm? I just couldn’t figure out or catch what it was. I just know that for some reason Sarah Rees Brennan’s prose wasn’t flowing for me – I was choking on it, despite the fact that plot itself made me want to read further and further.

Overall, The Demon's Lexicon was fast and enjoyable read. I’m planning to read the second installment in the series - The Demon's Covenant, hopping that Sarah Rees Brennan’s copy editors and Brennan herself fixed grammatical errors and whatever was wrong with the writing style.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Book Review #94

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

So I was confused for the first fifty pages, but I decided it was ok, it will start unveiling soon enough. I read fifty more pages and on the page one hundred I didn’t feel any different, I was still confused. No, something was going on in the book, the story was moving. However, how all these events were connected or what this all actually meant I still couldn’t figure out. I pushed myself for twenty five more pages and I was ready to give up. I remembered I've head bunch of good things about this book, in particular, and about the author, in general. However, I couldn’t remember what these good things were. So before completely giving up on the book, I wanted to read reviews on it. And what did I find? Almost every review started as mine did: I was confused for the first 50/100/150/200 pages. And it when a bit further: You have to push your way through first two hundred pages after that everything will start to become clear. After reading first paragraphs of about a dozen of reviews, I opened my book on the one hundred and twenty fifth page and started to push.

I kept feeling confused, more events were happening and I still didn’t see even one aspect of the story clearly. And I don’t like feeling confused for that long, because when I do, I start feeling stupid. And I don’t like feeling stupid, because when I do, I start feeling angry. As you can see, this is not a pleasant range of emotions.

After all, every reviewer I read was correct, somewhere around page two hundred and fifteen things and events started to become clear. After finishing the book, I have to admit, it was an interesting and touching story, about your basic good things: friendship, loyalty, love, family. However, I have to say this once more with the feeling: Are you fucking kidding me? Half of the book, yes HALF, reads like freaking prologue where reader doesn’t understand a thing and I’m not alone on this one. I’m fine with real prologues in a length of five/seven/fifteen pages, where you don’t understand anything. At least you can come back and reread this type and length of prologue after finishing a book with the knowledge to understand the events. But two hundred pages? Sorry, I can’t start rereading the book I just finished, the book that tortured me for the half of its length.

Even though at the end Jellicoe Road did deliver, I still couldn’t forgive its more than imperfect writing. (I blame this infection of confusion, which got a lot of readers, on the writing style. I believe that the story idea was really good.) I still couldn’t love this book, even though it has what to love it for. I hated the first half and I loved the second. So at the end my impression about the book in general is a mathematical average, which comes to… hmm… it was ok… I guess…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain - Book Review #93

Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain

Frank Chambers, a drifter, is dropped from the back of a truck at a rundown rural diner. When he spots Cora, the owner's wife, he instantly decides to stay. The sexy young woman, married to Nick, a violent and thuggish boor, is equally attracted to the younger man and sees him as her way out of her hopeless, boring life. They begin a clandestine affair and plot to kill Nick, beginning their own journey toward destruction.

James M. Cain with his novel The Postman Always Rings Twice was a pioneer in the noir fiction genre; so I decided that the most appropriate way to introduce myself to the whole genre, I never read anything from, would be to read the book that started the genre itself. I have to confess my introduction went better than I expected.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is a very small novel, just a bit bigger than novella, hundred something pages long. I was always much more impressed by the authors who are known for their short stories or novellas. Somehow it always seems to me that to write a good short story takes much more than to write a series of ten novels. In a very limited space, short story’s author has to introduce the reader to the world, to the characters, show the characters’ development and don’t forget about the plot that brings this all together. Not many writers can create good short stories and novellas, like not many authors can produce a worthwhile poetry. I usually more suspicious to short books rather to huge heavy volumes, I’m uncertain that short books can deliver. No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that it is more certain that book would be good if it is a bigger size. I just think it is easier to spoil short one than the longer one.

I read it in one sitting. It was marvelous. The atmosphere of fatality James M. Cain created with an undying, driving sense of suspense, even though the story is told from one of the murderer’s point of view. These completely immoral at the same time surprisingly likable characters, for whom their own suitability is a reason enough for murder and I was cheering for them all the way through. (Does this make me a bad person or does it make James M. Cain a genius for writing such characters?) I especially loved the interrogation scene in the hospital. It was brilliantly written, radiating such energy, anger, scare, panic and power. I also completely in love with the title and the meaning it represent – how the first ring of postman (God, the higher power, whatever else you like to call it)obviously didn’t reach Frank and Cora, however the second definitely got them. And the fatality itself in the title is genius as well – The Postman ALWAYS Rings Twice – you cannot miss the fist call and consider yourself save, you will always get the second.

So to summarize, I found The Postman Always Rings Twice brilliant, touching, disturbing, moving, sad and hilarious at the same time. This book does really contain all of that an even more.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien - Book Review #92

Monday, October 4, 2010
by Caragh M. O'Brien

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, Birthmarked explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

So I guess there is nothing else left that I “have to do” instead of writing this review. No more excuses. I have to write it now. So here it goes:

I was ready to like this book. I really was. I loved the synopsis. It sounded intriguing and appealing. I loved the cover. In my opinion it showed the atmosphere that synopsis promised to us. So everything was looking greatly with a tiny exception to which I didn’t pay any attention at that moment: I added this book sometime ago to my to-read list and until recently I was more than sure that it still wasn’t released, because I haven’t heard anything about this book. So imagine my surprise when I found out that it was released and not just released but in March 2010. I was pleasantly surprised (I can read this book now!), but as I already said I didn’t pay any attention to this. Maybe I should have…

And so I started reading, impatiently awaiting the great story I was expecting. Unfortunately, it never came. I don’t really know where I should start about what I didn’t like in this book. Should I start from flat, unbelievable, unreal, unlikable characters? Or should I start from one of the weakest plots I could ever remember, full of repetitions, unnecessary explanations that was moving with the speed of a snail? (At least this book had a plot! I probably should mention this as an advantage over some of the YA novels that completely lacking it.) Or maybe I should start from the atmosphere this book failed to create – dystopian world? (There wasn’t an evil, totalitarian government, which I consider one of the main component for the dystopia. Enclave read like small hooligans, not like The Big Brother that is watching you.)

It was a real torture for me to read this book. I was bored out of my mind and even my own sarcasm about one or another scene in this book didn’t make the process of reading it at least bearable. I only finished it to be dead sure that I didn’t miss anything, because I had quite high hopes for this one.

I’m not going to say anything else about Birthmarked, I spent too much time reading it already and I just can’t bear to spent more time to write full, logical, reasonable review with examples from the text. The only thing I’m going to say – it was a great idea and very poor execution.