Thursday, February 28, 2008

John Connolly - Nocturnes

This collection of short stories was truly chilling and a few of these stories certainly gave me the creeps. I thought the two novellas, The Cancer Cowboy Rides and The Reflecting Eye, which featured Charlie Parker from his novels, were excellent. My other favourites were: The New Daughter; The Ritual of the Bones; Miss Froom, Vampire; and Nocturne. The other supernatural/horror stories in this collection were pretty good also, but these were the ones that stuck with me and made me huddle under my blanket after I had turned the lights out. Although this is only the second time that I've had the chance to sample John Connolly's writing, I think he's a remarkable writer with the amazing ability to blend the supernatural and crime thrillers genre so well. I look forward to reading the rest of the Charlie Parker series, as well as his YA novel, The Book of Lost Things, which also comes highly recommended.

MaryJanice Davidson - The Royal Mess

I picked this up from the library last night and couldn't resist starting it, even though I'm in the middle of John Connolly's Nocturnes. The Royal Mess didn't take me long to go through and I finished reading it before I went to bed. Don't take that as a sign that it's a good read though, because it wasn't great. It definitely wasn't horrible, but it sure was lacking in substance, even for an MJD read. The first book in the series, The Royal Treatment, was interesting with the premise of a parallel world where Alaska is its own country with a ridiculously good-looking royal family ruling the nation and its subjects. David, the Crown Prince, falls in love with Christina, a commoner (and American!), and despite a few hiccups, the story ends with happily ever after. The Royal Pain that followed featured David's younger sister and her own love story. In the The Royal Mess, MJD throws in an illegitimate daughter, which for me, just didn't work. I felt that the dynamics between Nicole and her new family felt forced, and MJD's writing was repetitive and there wasn't much distinguishing Nicole from her previous characters -- they all come across the same. This book could have been so much better if the plot was more developed with more care given to the characters. While it was a fun and lighthearted read, ultimately a tad disappointing, especially for a book that is supposed to mark the end of this series.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kerry Greenwood - Trick or Treat

Devil's Food was brilliant, a remarkable improvement over the second book with the sparkle and magic from the first book in the series. In my opinion, Trick or Treat wasn't quite as bad as Heavenly Pleasures but it didn't quite capture me as the third book did. I felt that it was a haphazard plot involving drugs, ancient treasure, unpleasant history and a gathering of witches. These were all weaved together that only just barely held up as a coherent narrative. As much as I love the character of Meroe, I think there was a bit too much of her and the magic in this book. Meroe is great in small doses and when sprinkled throughout the book (for example, the healing of Kepler's hand) makes it digestible and accepting of the magical and unexplained. However, when there's too much, it just borders on the bizarre (like the over-dramatic scene with Barnabas) and makes the skeptic in me pooh-pooh it away. I still love Corinna, Daniel and the whole cast of characters (Meroe included) so it is easy to press on with the story even if it's not drawing me in completely. While this may not be the best of the lot, I'm glad I discovered this series (thanks to BookCrossing!) and I look forward to more Corinna Chapman adventures.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kerry Greenwood - Devil's Food

Absolutely fabulous! This is a great addition to the Corinna Chapman series. The previous book, Heavenly Pleasures, was a bit of a letdown, in my opinion, but boy oh boy, has Kerry Greenwood made a comeback with this one. It was a perfect mixture of a few plot lines that came together so well and made Devil's Food brilliant. Although the climatic peaks in the novel weren't really all that dramatic, it flowed really smoothly and it was such a joy to read. As infuriating as Starshine was, the appearance of Corinna's parents made for some interesting dynamics and provided greater insight to her past. The usual cast of characters are tight-knit as ever and they give a real warmth to the story. Especially when everyone comes together to care for Jason when he falls ill, that is really touching and makes me wish for neighbours like that! I loved the familiarity of the Melbourne setting; I'm not sure if the Insula is a real building in Melbourne but if it is, I sure would love to live there! I hope Kerry Greenwood will keep going with this series as Corinna Chapman is a wonderful character and it will be such a shame if readers don't get to see more of her. On to Book 4, which will be the last book in the series so far. After that, I think I will need to bake some of Jason's chocolate orgasmic muffins till my next Corinna Chapman fix...

Monday, February 18, 2008

C.J. Adams & Cathy Clamp - Hunter's Moon

Hmmm... I felt really ambivalent about this one. I was after a fluff read so I picked this one off my bookshelf. Some parts were interesting, but otherwise, I found most of the book rather tedious -- especially when the authors went on and on about the various scents. I know it's supposed to be a characteristic for Tony, the werewolf in the story, but talk about overkill. Gimme a break! The other protagonist also wasn't all that interesting. Usually when the heroine isn't depicted as drop-dead gorgeous, she will have other quirky and charming qualities that endears her to the reader. Not so much in this case. Sue was portrayed as a plain Jane and a complete pushover -- she just wasn't that likeable. While I did feel a little sorry for her because of her horrid family, I never really found myself cheering for her. (And it was a bit of a stretch to want to off yourself just because of that -- grow a backbone and kick them OUT!) If I chance upon the other books in the series, I will probably give them a go, but only because I'm interested to know more about the Sazi and how they function in the real world. It was a shame that the book didn't turn out as well as I had hoped as I thought it could have been a real gem. Hopefully the later books in the series will be better!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chuck Palahniuk - Survivor

WOW. Bizarre, but strangely compelling. I think that the plot gets a bit messy sometimes, but Palahniuk is such a brilliant storyteller that he draws you in anyway. Palahniuk combines several elements to piece this one together: organized religion; media-driven insanity; obsession with plastic surgery; drug addiction; crazed world of celebrity; psychic phenomena -- they all come together as one heck of a rollercoaster ride. The book really picks up momentum towards the end when someone from Tender Branson’s past shows up. From then on, it’s full throttle, baby! This is a great satirical novel by Chuck Palahniuk and I look forward to reading his other works.

Sam Harris - Letter to a Christian Nation

Although I am agnostic, I have no issues with religion and people having their own set of beliefs. However, fundamentalists (regardless of religion) just amaze me with their intolerance of anything that doesn’t gel with them and their behaviour leaves me dumbfounded. A recent example was when so-called Christians declared they were going to picket at Heath Ledger’s memorial service and the hateful things that were spewing out of their mouths – just absolutely shocking. It’s such behaviour that gets me so frustrated about religion; although I try to remember it’s not religion itself, but the people that get carried away.

Anyway, I digress. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book, Harris does make some compelling arguments. However, he’s merely preaching to the choir and I’m not sure if he will get through to the religious – that is if they even pick up this book. My personal opinion is that this world is big enough for all kinds of people and their differences, and that it should be possible for us to agree to disagree and still get along. I feel dead-set, one-track ways of thinking should change -- single-minded atheist ideologies included -- which the end of Harris’s book smacks a little of. Letter to a Christian Nation is still worth a read if you’re interested in the counter argument to religion, but be sure to keep an open mind.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Charlaine Harris - All Together Dead

I love Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries because Sookie Stackhouse is a great character and you can't help but cheer for her. The first few books in the series have been fabulous reads but the last couple of books have been a little disappointing. They feel unnecessarily complicated with various events thrown in that go nowhere and don't really make sense. This is the case here in Book 7, where there are so many characters that I have to keep reminding myself who is who to keep up with the plot. This love-rectangle thing is also driving me a little batty. I think there needs to be resolution between Sookie and Bill, it just can't keep being a recurring issue. I mean, having Quinn and Eric eyeballing each other for Sookie's affections is quite enough without having Bill remaining in the equation. In the recent books, Bill has already been relegated to minor character status so I reckon closure needs to happen there. The ending is also messy, with so many unanswered questions that I hope will be addressed in the next book. Of course I will keep going with the series, but I sure hope Book 8 will be better than this offering.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Melissa Bank - The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Hmmm... this was an interesting book. I was a little dense at first and didn't pick up immediately that it was not a novel, but rather a collection of short stories that focused mainly on one protagonist, Jane. I just thought it was a quirky way of writing and creating chapters (like how Terry Pratchett just doesn't do any chapters at all) and I was very thrown when one of the stories featured completely new characters. While the short stories were a delight to read, I think it would have been better to have brought the various stories of Jane together as a novel. Certainly in the way it was marketed, it sure made me think it was a novel. The writing was refreshing and witty, which left me wanting more, especially with the last story that left me hanging without a proper ending. I want to know what happens to Jane; I want to see the happy ending that she deserves! Kudos to the author for creating such a delightful character, it's a shame that readers couldn't stick it out to the end with Jane due to the nature of this book.