Monday, January 21, 2013

More Vampires sigh...

 I have to admit that I am so sick of vampires!    I have, over the past few years read a few new vampire books, mostly urban fantasy (there's loads of vampire porn out there I kid you not), and then there's all of the young adult crap as well (okay, maybe I shouldn't be so judgemental, but this whole vampire craze has really gone overboard!).  I would not know where to begin reading some of it, so for the most part I have resisted.  Twilight was just a fluke, I just happened to pick it up in a bargain bin and I was curious to see what the furor was about, and after I had read one I wanted to read the rest (because it was refreshingly different).
Fortunately I was put on to the good stuff in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series and I value those books quite a lot..  I have dabbled a little in other collections, only to pitch them before the first chapter is done ( I really, really, really don't care about vampire sex!).  Last year I came up with a vampire reading category which didn't go too far (there is so much mindless sexy fluff and drivel, it was really disappointing), but I had, at least, read the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I did like quite a bit.  I liked him, he's what I expected a vampire to be like, so when I read Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice, I wasn't disappointed.   I was deeply interested in the inner dialogue of vampire Louis, and I could also see how this book had influenced other writers of vampire fiction.

I have mixed feelings about this book, I took a few days to finish it, needing breaks from the heady angst and the suspense, I considered not finishing it at all, but I am glad that I did.  There are nine other vampire books by Rice out there, but I am not sure I would read them for this reason (heady angst etc)...  I know that they would be well written however, so if you want a quality vampire book, she's your gal.  If you do want the sex, then Charlaine's books would be the best bet (compared to others, her's almost seem tame when it comes to the sex, so don't be scared off by that because they are really good stories).  Interview  would even, I think, make an amazing movie... it's just too bad that the one that they did make, I will never, ever watch because they used both Pitt and Cruise in it ugh!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Death is a Lonely Business

 A dozen or so years ago, when I had first read this, I missed some pretty important things.  Naturally, I still enjoyed the book and the vivid imagery that practically every sentence illustrated... I just missed some things, references which this time around I picked up on because I have just recently re-read a few of his books so my memory was fresh.  I found new pleasures in an already heady book, which just blew things up to even greater proportions of fantastic. 
It was overwhelming.  Ray put so much of himself into this book that it was almost suffocating with his art.  I had to stuggle sometimes to keep on task with the story, because his metaphors were very thick on the ground, and I was distracted most of the time with the images of each one.   
It is such a gift to be enriched with such legends and all of his own making.  He truly was a master,  I am so grateful for every word and still grieve that there won't be any more.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

 Whew!  I am relieved on so many levels that this story is finished.  There was so much of it to get through (and not a jot of it was unnecessary).  This last installment of the Millenium Trilogy was just as fast paced as the second book, and even more satisfying in it's conclusions.  There was a lot to the story, so many strands woven together to make this collossal whole and Steig did not miss a single one in this third book... all strands/stories were tied off and completed.  Impressive.
It was still a very stressful story, and had its quota of awful, but this time the tables were turned, and when they (the good guys) finally started to make some progress, it came to fruition in a spectacular way, showing that there are indeed lots of good people out there.
It's nice that after reading through all of the bad stuff, the hopelessness and futility, that I can come away from the experience with some hope because, when we really get down to it, there are a lot of  people out there who do really horrible things, and it can get really hard sometimes to live with that.  Despite that though, is the feeling that some how, and some way, there is enough good in each other to balance out the bad, which is a comfort. 
So maybe there is a merit to such fiction and perhaps I won't be so hesitant to pick up some more in the future.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Girl Who Played With Fire

 Scandinavian Mystery came up again in my reading roster so I picked up the next in the Millenium Series with some slight trepidation.  I was quickly drawn in however.  I really like Mikhael Blomkvist and I adore Lisbeth Salander.  The first time around I was just getting to know these two, and trying to familiarize myself with Sweden so I could get a better picture in my mind.  It was exciting to have new experiences.  While the picture of Sweden is still too vague for my liking (the book I picked up from the library was not very good), I can easily get the food references which is neat (and I have adopted the soup on Thursdays...especially the pea). 
I am rooting for them both, and in this book I got a better picture of Lisbeth's life and why she is the way she is.  Naturally I don't expect them to get together in some great romance at the end... I just want them to get what makes them happy, peace for Lisbeth and justice for Mikhael (he really is a good, caring guy).  Lisbeth has been alone for so long and it is extremely exhausting to have to fight all of the time for peace and quiet.  She has never been given what most people just take for granted, which has hooked me in to her story because I just want to see her get what she really deserves.
It is such a big fat book full of so much action, it really was satisfying in an odd way.  Last time I needed some space before plunging in to the next book, this time I can't wait.  Because of the way it was concluded, I have now jumped ahead to read the next one in line instead of following my planned reading schedule.
The jury is still out on if I will see the movies, I have become very disenchanted with how the movie and television industry has re-written some of today's popular books.   These days I am not too keen on seeing any new shows before I know if there is a book of it or not, because ten times out of ten the book will always be better.  As a result I have not been watching much television and have been devouring my books instead (which really isn't a bad thing).

Living Dead in Dallas

 This is book two of the Southern Vampires series, and the continuing adventures of Sookie Stackhouse.  Things get a little more complicated for Sookie this time, but she handles it with her usual intelligence, spunk and aplomb (I loved the part where she just stuck it to Portia Bellefleur and never gave her a single inch).  
There are two plots (story a and story b) and I just love how Harris has woven them together to make a really good story.    After reading the first book (which I had taken out of the library after  DS#1's brilliant, lovely and  beautiful girlfriend recommended it to me), I promptly went and bought the first eight books (sold in a convenient eight pack on, and rapidly ripped through them. I am really fond of Sookie and her world so I am most anxious to see what will ultimately happen. This time around I am keeping an eye out for the little things and trying not to miss something because I was too eager to find out what happened the first time.  I am savoring all the moments.
The over-all story doesn't progress too far, but lots of things happen to keep it lively and Harris has a real talent for telling a story and keeping you interested which I think is rare (there are many series I have attempted which have just become so incredibly boring or far-fetched after a few books and you can just see that the author has over-extended themselves and lost the plot).
As usual the television show True Blood blew this book all out of proportion in an extremely stupid and pointless way.  It reminds me of the (ahem) 'storyline' to a porn movie, where the writers just sit down together and brainstorm on how they can optimize the sex or depravity to the utmost, and the more boobs and butts the better!  I hate what they have done to Sam's character, and to make something bad even worse, they destroyed Sookie's house which is such an anchor in the books.  I know that people really enjoy the show, and even Charlaine Harris has nothing but good things to say about it, but I'm just really glad that I read the books initially because I would not have given them a second thought if it had been the show I had encountered first.

*Spoiler Alert*  I am going to keep a tally of how many times the girl gets beaten up.  It was twice in the first book, once in this book...  I am amazed at how often she gets hurt by people, and so far it has been because of her involvement with vampires.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


 I love a good romance based in the 1800's.  Even better, a romance/mystery based in the 1800's plus werewolves, vampires, and a steampunk theme!!  Soulless by Gail Carriger has all this and more.  It was a pleasant vacation from some of the stuff I have been reading lately which has been really heavy.  I blame it on Jane Austen, who has for a large chunk of my life influenced me to love the strong, intelligent female protagonist, who never compromises herself for anything or anyone.  And funny!  I had a few laughs which was really needed, so all in all a good romp in an alternate universe full of my favorite things.  What's not to love?

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Anything Box

I was put on to this writer through reading Amongst Others by Jo Walton, and I'm glad I had a look at her stories.  Given that this was a collection of short stories (and I am a little ho hum about that considering the amount of short stories I know I will be reading this year), I wasn't disappointed in this collection.  They were strongly Bradburyesque in their creep-factor, but I really liked them. I was reminded of a Brother's Grimm type of storytelling but with a modern and spacey spin.
Kids, to me, in a science fiction/fantasy story always represent the wild cards... you just don't know what might happen and it can get pretty scary and tense or wonderful.  Throw teachers in to the mix and it goes over the top in potential nastiness or greatness.  I had to laugh at the comment one of the teachers made about just giving a kid a yell and a smack if they don't get in line... how far we have come since Zenna Henderson was a teacher!  

Babel 17

 My first Delany!  I am systematically working through all of the Nebula Award winners, and he was next on the list.  Babel 17 was a little murky, but I grew interested anyway.  Babel-17  has, I believe,  been an influence to other authors I have read, which was neat.
 I strongly suspect that Douglas Adams borrowed the concept of Babel 17 for his very own Babel fish and I have to wonder if David Bowie had read it too, because it was the first thing that popped into my mind when, in a part of the book, the audience applauded with finger clicks (remember the video for Blue Jean?).  If I hadn't raced through the story perhaps I might have traced other future influences, but I was in a hurry to see how this story would end.  Delaney put quite a bit of development into his universe,  though I  felt that there was something lacking to this story, there was something not told or finished yet, so many loose ends flapping about.  Which is always a pain in the arse, but it's worth a re-read in the future. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I have had this book for a while and naturally have been hesitant to read it because of the subject matter (usually I save such things for November).   But I moved this one up to the top of the pile when I heard that a friends ten-year-old had read it as part of his advanced English class.
If you had absolutely no idea what happened in the Holocaust, this would not be such an awful read as there would not be that underlying sense of terrible that flavours the entire novel for someone who knows what is going on.   It would mainly be about a nine-year-old boy who didn’t like his new home, was very unhappy about having to move away from his friends and family, who was very preoccupied with himself (as nine-year-olds would be).   It is (in my opinion) a pretty humdrum coming of age story about a little boy who makes a friend in his new home who manages to come to terms with disappointment and learns to think of others about him a little bit, it's heartwarming to see him really caring for someone else (but what that part at the end of the book was about I would have no way of understanding, even with a childish attempt to explain the strange). 

On the other hand, if you know exactly what was going on, it’s just awful.   You know that nothing good will come from this story, there‘s no happy ending here and never could be, and I have to wonder what the teacher in the advanced English class was thinking of, how did she prepare the kids before, during and after the book was read in class.  Either way it’s pretty bloody ghoulish and I personally do not see how you could present this to a child without hurting them.  
I have tried to imagine someone without prior knowledge reading this book, caring about  the characters, liking the precious friendship between two young boys and then finding out the truth, realising what it really meant,  and what really happened to them.  It hurts, no matter how the book is approached.

It is my feeling that even though a kid has the ability, the vocabulary and comprehension levels to read such a book, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should read such a book at such an age.  There has to be some wisdom and maturity to go along with this subject matter, otherwise it is just a waste of time, and an unnecessary emotional burden for one so young.
And let’s not forget the most important thing…  this is about one of the most despicable, horrific and unforgettable times in history and there are still survivors, friends and family of survivors out there who take exception to stories such as these.  This terrible, shameful past should never be considered as anything but truth, not fiction.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Long After Midnight

 Like I've said recently I haven't read a lot of Bradbury for a while for several different reasons and even when I have they have been pretty specific arrangements (all of a similar theme).   This one was a hodgepodge of whammy!  It is not an easy thing to blog about because this is a collection of short stories... how do you present that?  But I am compelled to put something down because I am still feeling it, so it must need to be said.  Coarsely put, it was a mindfrack.  This collection was so very easy to read, I transitioned from story to story with remarkable ease, not sinking too deeply into any one story, and not being able to put it down until I had finished the lot.  After I was done it was like a cumulative wallop to the body, some sentimentalism, affection, awe, humor, a stab of horror and then something sweet.  It was a lot to process all at once, and really overwhelming.  Read bit by bit or all at once, reading Bradbury is a poignant experience but it will be a while before I do it again.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Lathe of Heaven

I love that Ursula K. Le Guin was so perceptive.  Imagining the future is not for the faint of heart and she pulled it off without getting out of hand or making it so unrecognisable that you couldn't take it seriously.  I was hooked, almost from the start, by my own foreshadowings of what might happen next. I didn't think that anything good could come of it, I just couldn't predict what was going to happen  which was a pleasant suprise.  There is so much to consider after reading this book, it would take a  re-read or two to grasp the most basic of Le Guin's concepts, there are, as she put it in the story 'layers of the onion still not peeled off'.  This is the first adult book of Le Guin's that I have ever read, and I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to start.  I will be making an effort in the future to get my hands on whatever else she has written, because she has earned my esteem and respect with this novel and I would love to see what else this brilliant woman has come up with.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Great Gatsby

 It took three tries before I got into the swing of the book (it was a bedside read initially so I was always too tired to really get into it), so this morning I just sat down with my lap top and re-read it from start to finish.  Fitzgerald was a smooth writer, very similar to P.G. Wodehouse, it felt very restful to me no matter what the subject matter was.    The writer worded it better than I could possibly do when he wrote about the effect of one of his character's voices in the novel, "It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again".  See?  Lovely.    The book is just chockful of such flowery lines, but not so much that you feel a little sick from all the sweetness... it seemed just right to me, like one perfect piece of chocolate cake. It is worth a re-read and I will definitely be looking at his other works.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Scandinavian Mystery

 This is a category in this year's reading challenge.  I have wanted to have a look at  Steig Larrson's Millenium Trilogy for quite a while, but as usual I like to wait until the furor is down and after all the books in the series have been published.  I have to say right now I am not so sure I want to continue.  I can state with absolute certainty that I will not see the movie.  The book was graphic enough. 
First impressions were not good.  After about thirty pages I was thinking about ditching the book as my eyes glazed over from the financialese, but then it got interesting and I didn't want to put the book down (no matter how awful the subject material). 
It did inspire a need to have more information about Sweden since my knowledge is limited to a little music, some mythology,  IKEA  and Kaffe Fassets Quilts in Sweden (which I will be writing about later on this year).  It was amusing for me, after reading an article about Swedish food, that when I went back to the book and Larsson would write about what the main protagonist was eating  I could clearly picture it in my head.  I also listened to Adrian Lux and Peter, Bjorn & John while reading the e-book version of this story.  Lux in particular resonated with the reading experience. 
Which in a way explains why I don't want to see the movie.  I have a pretty good picture in my mind already and I really don't want to have what Hollywood has done to sully that impression in my mind (though the paperback version I own has the two actors on the cover, it just slightly influences my image). 
Will I read the next two?  I actually care about the female protagonist and I'm curious to see what will happen next, and it is interesting to see what will happen with the male protagonist too... but I won't be doing it anytime soon.