I like series. You know, those books that take you through the lives of people in a particular region. Doesn’t matter if they are imagained, real or sci fi. I like knowing how someone else envisions their lives, who the interact with and what they do. This author does a good series. Coel could so easily revert to the tried and true banal of “silly little mysteries”, but instead develops characters and situations that are plausible, maybe even probable. She includes threads of history, both ancient and modern, real life situations facing native Americans, and complicated relationships to tie it all together. Yes, it does have a love affair, another guy who wants the woman, and gossip, but it somehow works in her books. Based on the tragedy of Wounded Knee, from the 1970’s, the story takes you through the discovery of a 30 year old murder and the insuing investigation, complete with death threats, more murders and last minute salvation. A nice read.
3 1/2 Stars
I have begun my way through Stephen King’s sci-fi epic series, The Dark Tower. I actually read the first three books, like, fifteen years ago, then waited impatiently as future installments failed to come. Well eventually the series got finished, and finally I am getting around to rereading it.
The first installment in the series is The Gunslinger, which introduces us to Roland and his quest to find the Dark Tower. Throughout his trek across a dead world, bits of Roland’s past are slowly revealed, giving the book a nice flow. It is slow but interesting. The grand mystery of what the whole series is about is also slowly chipped away at, and one shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.
Adrienne made me read this book. The timing was weird, because shortly before I started reading it, I was paging through a copy of the Watchtower magazine that some Jehova’s Witnesses (who fortunately were only looking for Spanish-speaking targets) had left me, when I found a Golden Compass reference. Apparently that was the name that the most prolific bible-printer of the 19th (maybe) century gave to his … printery? It got me wondering, and I eagerly began reading Pullman’s Golden Compass in hopes of finding some devious connection. Alas, I did not, but it was still a good book.
The setting of the book is intriguing. It at first seems kinda like olden-times England, but it’s way not. The fact that Pullman is able to reveal the setting without the characters ever becomming aware of their strangeness, and without ever just coming out and saying what’s going on, is impressive. Probably my favorite thing about this book.
That’s not to say that the story is not good. It follows a girl named Lyra as she travels across Europe experiencing adventures and uncovering mysteries and such. But it is a little ordinary, while the setting is special.
It’s not often that a book comes along that you can sit down and read over and over again, and still be as fascinated the 50th time as you were the first. This is one of those books. I stumbled upon this book several years ago when I was looking for books on tape to listen to while I worked on my thesis research. I picked up the abridged version of The Golden Compass in the children’s section, and found that I just couldn’t stop listening. I couldn’t even work on mindless tasks while listening–I was that into the story. So I looked it up on Amazon and found it is part of a trilogy named “His Dark Materials” and there were two more fabulous books to be read! What a happy day! Anyhow, I bought the set and I haven’t looked back.
This is the first book of the trilogy, and introduces the first main character: Lyra. Lyra is a 12 year old girl residing in a parallel universe. She lives in Oxford in Jordan college, raised by the Scholars who study there. During a visit from her powerful and elusive uncle, Lyra disrupts an attempted assassination and gets sucked into a fascinating adventure involving missing children, armored fighting bears, a band of gypsies, and rip in the sky leading to another world. Oh, and did I mention the daemons? In this universe, a person’s soul is embodied in a companion animal that cannot leave the side of its person. The daemon has the ability to change shape while its person is a child, but as the child matures, his daemon takes on its permanent shape, which just happens to be a reflection on the true personality of its person.
This book (and, incidentally, the trilogy) has a very strong theme of religion running through it. The central aspect of the story involves the struggle of the church against new notions, and its attempt to silence other gods. I generally don’t like these types of themes, but Philip Pullman has the ability to craft the religion in such a way that it works beautifully with the story, and the action would suffer without it. I want to write many, many more pages explaining the story, but I really can’t do it justice. Besides, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet–it’s that good of a book. This is the fourth time I read the book, and I still found myself just sitting and reading for hours on end (and even busting through deadlines and missing dates because of it. How sad am I? It’s such a good book!!). I’m currently reading the next book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife; at least, I’m reading it until my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows shows up this morning, so it may take me a bit longer to finish the trilogy this time around. Stupid Harry Potter!
Maybe it’s books like this that got me into the horror genre. These are written for 5-6 graders and usually involve ghosts or other scary things. I read lots and lots of these things growing up. This is one of those kiddy horror books. A girl goes to live with her distant relatives on a farm and must deal with the spirit that haunts the place. A fun and easy read.
A book written for younger readers, The Great Ghost Rescue tells the story of a group of ghosts who were forced out of their home by the march of progress. The ghosts are rescued by sympathetic humans and taken to a ghost preserve of sorts to live out their after-life. A quick, fun read.
4 1/2 Stars
A young girl is sent by her family to be a maid at the home of a rich artist. The girl deals with the day-to-day indignities of being poor among the rich. The artist takes a fancy to her, however, and she becomes his apprentice, eventually sitting as his model for the famous painting of the same name. The story delves into the girl’s character as she deals with her status and tries to reconcile her desires. It ended up being a supremely enjoyable read steeped in history.
I’ve been going through a female fiction phase. Usually it’s hard to go wrong with this genre; there are a huge number of great books in this area (well, great if you have a vagina…even a virtual vagina. I can’t imagine some of the men I know enjoying reading about interesting and tragic relationships or other stereotypically “girly” subject) so it’s awfully hard to find a bad book of this type. This book did it, though. I don’t know what it was about the book that I hated the most–was it the completely unsympathetic characters? The simpering storyline? The long rambling dialogues about subjects I didn’t want to know about? I simply do not know. This book turned me off the genre for awhile. What more is there to say? I didn’t like it.
Bleh. Bleh bleh bleh bleh bleh. I didn’t like this book at all. I picked this up because it looked interest–gothic cover, small photos of stars, captions like “A light bulb still glows with Judy Garland’s energy” and “The singing of a slow spiritual brings Elvis back from beyond the grave.” How can this disappoint, right? Well, it can. That bulb of Ms. Garland’s? All it was was a keepsake she had given to an friend. It hasn’t yet broken. There’s no glowing, no ghostly activity around it. It just hasn’t shattered yet. And Elvis? A medium claims he speaks to her. That’s how the whole book went–short chapters about one famous person or another and a medium who claims to have heard their voices. The author is all gung-ho about the stories, too, despite many obvious fallacies. That is until the last chapter, which is obviously the obligatory “skeptic” chapter in which he critiques a man claiming to speak with famous dead people such as Mark Twain and JFK. The thing is, this man was no more or less convincing than the other hundred or so mediums that are in the book; the author just decided to pick on him. The only really interesting chapter was about a woman who tape records the voices of the dead. She leaves a blank tape recording for 10 minutes every morning then plays it back to hear messages. I liked this chapter because it peaked my interest. Apparently this woman has created a national association for this sort of thing, and has hundreds of tapes with ghostly voices on them. Now, I want to try this, but I probably won’t, because if a voice does come through I’d freak out. Completely. Just reading about it gave me the willies. Maybe if I could get someone else to listen to the tape afterwards. Creepy! Other than that, this book was a horrible disappointment. It’s only 332 pages long, but took me 7 months to read. I just couldn’t read more than a few pages at once. Don’t get it! Or give it to someone you hate and make them read it–it would make the perfect torture device.