Review: Mister B. Gone

TITLE: Mister B. Gone
AUTHOR: Clive Barker
PUBLICATION: 2007 by HarperCollins
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Mister B. was a lowly demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell until he was fished out of the World Below. Hear his words and maybe you’ll give him the relief he begs for, even the great Secret.

 

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I’ve had such a fondness for Clive Barker since reading the copy of Weaveworld that I discovered in the stall of used books selling in the middle of the mall during my teenage years. I did check out Mister B. Gone back when it was first released, but due to silly circumstances that put me out of the mood to read it, it was returned unfinished.

This novel is written as a confession of vile deeds done in the name of survival and fun. The reader gets to find out all about the Ninth Circle of the World Below as resembling some kind of ghetto district of the inner city. Barker has given his main character the backstory of a tragic protagonist instead of just going by the assumption that he’s a demon and therefor evil to the core. Although we don’t actually get any in depth account of vile deeds except for patricide. Time and time again the reader is informed of all the horrible things our demon narrator has done and would do at the slightest chance, but nothing is given concrete except vague allusions.

Our narrator seems… complicated. On the one hand while traveling across the land with his companion they seek to punish priests who sin the very vices that are preached against, but only a couple of pages later he is bathing in the blood of infants. Mister B. is a demon after all. Readers might find themselves confused about whether to root for him, or revile him at the brief glimpses. I find him an object of pity if anything.

The story itself is really rather dull. You can see Barker’s skill with words and crafting prose, but overall Mister B. Gone is nothing to get excited over to be honest. Even though it does have interesting lines such as the following:

Everyone loves a measure of fright in their stories; a revulsion that makes the release into love all the sweeter.

Would I recommend it? No, I can’t. The only reason you’d want to read it was if you were bound and determined to read Clive Barker’s entire body of work (which I probably will do at some point). There was some fine writing, but it felt unfulfilled.

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Review: Ascendant

TITLE: Ascendant (Killer Unicorns #2)
AUTHOR: Diana Peterfreund
PUBLICATION: 2010 by HarperTeen
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Her best friend’s fading abilities, the financial problems of keeping the Cloisters running, and the strain of a long distance relationship are making Astrid’s life as a unicorn hunter complicated enough. However, the chance to work toward finding out the secret of the Remedy calls to her, a girl that still longed to be a savior and not a killer.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I pre-ordered this book so you think I would have read it right away, but no it has languished on my shelves until now. Why do I keep doing this with books? Although I’m glad that I re-read the first book before diving right into this one.

A part of me wrestles with the desire to go on my GoodReads account and lower the rating I gave Rampant because Ascendant proves to be a successful sequel. I was actually pretty surprised that it turned out to be so good. (I don’t think I have entirely recovered from Sphinx’s Queen…) Things happened that I didn’t expect in this book. Let me say it again: Ascendant is better than Rampant! I’m still trying to get over the shock.

I liked Astrid more in this book and I think it’s because she wasn’t spending most of her time wishing to lose her virginity as a way to get out of her life as a unicorn hunter. She was questioning her role and wanted to find a way to be the kind of person she was meant to be, how she could be happy with her talents. And I probably shouldn’t like Brandt, but oddly enough I do. I was wanting Astrid to cheat on Giovanni with him so badly. See? I have problems.

Homosexuality among the hunters is an interesting concept. I was reminded of Gladiatrix where the fighters afraid of pregnancy that would make them ineligible in the arena often turned toward each other for comfort. At any rate I didn’t really see that coming in this type of book either. I hope that doesn’t make me dense? It probably does but I don’t care.

I noticed there was a lot of details paid to the appearance of some of the girls in this book. Every time Cory’s hair could be mentioned it seemed that the reader was reminded of the fact that she had brown curls. It makes me wonder if someone complained about needing to know the color of her hair in the first book. The sudden influx of all these details makes it seem like a first book instead of a second. But thankfully it didn’t continue throughout because honestly that would have been annoying.

Peterfreund’s website states that there is currently no contract for a third book in the Killer Unicorn series. I am conflicted on this point. Part of me wouldn’t mind seeing what happens to Astrid, but another part is worried that after the fear of a plummet in quality that a third book would fulfill such a dread. It doesn’t stand quite so well as a conclusion because you are still left with questions, but a wonderful second book in a trilogy. So I need to suck it up, right? It would be nice to see what comes next in the story, but it didn’t end in such a cliffhanger way that I’m going to be dying to know what happens in the next scene.

If you read the first one and liked it, you have to read this book. I can’t stress this recommendation enough! Come on, readers! It’s killer unicorns, what’s not to love about that?

Review: Rampant

TITLE: Rampant (Killer Unicorns #1)
AUTHOR: Diana Peterfreund
PUBLICATION: 2009 by HarperTeen
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Astrid knows the truth about unicorns, that they’re vicious man-eaters with venom in their alicorns. Luckily they have been extinct for almost two centuries… or so she thought until one of them attacks her boyfriend. Now Astrid is being shipped off to Rome where the virgin unicorn hunters are being trained for this new threat, but no one prepared her for this growing attraction to an art student.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I read this book when it originally came out. I had wanted to use the library in efforts to curb my spending on books, but since no branch had any copies at the time I went to Borders and bought it. I didn’t regret it either. I have since bought the sequel, but felt that I needed a memory refresher before I begin reading Ascendant.

First of all let me gush over the subject. Unicorns. Killer unicorns. This isn’t the first novel to depict them as dangerous creatures to be reckoned with yet it’s the best one from what I’ve had the experience of reading. I have this intense fear of re-reading books because sometimes it ends up being a question of where my good taste ran off to and I wonder why I liked a book in the first place. However, it is with relief that I still enjoy Rampant as much as when I first read it.

Second point: characters. Do I love Astrid? Probably not as much as I should but I do like her. Although I kind of wish that there was more of a feel for the other hunters besides Philippa and Cory. I mean, you get some idea of the other hunters, but they don’t quite feel as substantial to me as the unicorns Bonegrinder or Bucephalus, which seems odd considering that he only makes a few appearances in the whole novel. We get more in depth coverage of Cory and Phil, although Phil’s behavior makes me wonder how fine the line between caution and stupidity is. If I were a hunter with her, I’d probably throw Lilith’s barbs at her too. (It’s unfortunate what happened to her, but do you really behave that way with someone you hardly know?) Yet I must confess that I don’t really like Giovanni. He hardly seems capable of moving the needle on my Fictional Characters Like Radar. I get more of a response from a bloodthirsty kirin. YA novels do not seem to have an abundance of love interests that I like in them, I notice.

Peterfreund leaves some questions open in the novel and I hope to find some of them addressed in Ascendant. I’m left wondering myself if it’s possible for a virgin hunter to have a boyfriend for long. I mean, in a normal relationship the question of celibacy does become an issue as well, but for hunters? Your very ability to hunt depends upon your virtue. The girls discuss their views on virginity and if I remember I think one of them said that she left a boyfriend to come to the Cloisters. Their reasons aren’t all religious, it’s just a choice. And of course I wonder if Astrid ever tracks down Seth and repeatedly stab him with an alicorn.

I’m sure that the crowd of YA addicts will eat this up if they haven’t already. However, the modern fantasy fans may also derive a sense of satisfaction from reading this novel. Or you can be like me and just really dig unicorns.

P.S. For those with a Kindle or compatible app, the short story “Errant” from the Killer Unicorns series is available free here. I do not know if this is going to be a permanent thing, or you will have to pay for it again in the future. The story is also found in the collection Kiss Me Deadly for those who would rather lay their hands on a physical copy.

Review: Between Shades of Gray

TITLE: Between Shades of Gray
AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys
PUBLICATION: 2011 by Philomel Books
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Lina and her family are forced from their home and sent to a labor camp to toil for the Soviets. She draws their life in hell. However, amidst the very worst that people can do, Lina learns of the quiet strength that comes from hope and love…

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I originally became aware of this novel from the NPR article “Two Gray Titles, One Sexy Mix-Up” that I came across during my break at work. Let’s see, erotica versus historical fiction… I wonder what the reader with a bookcase devoted to history is going to pick?! I became encouraged after Kathleen at Diary of a Future Golden Girl said I would like it since I liked The Book Thief.

The book is a young adult novel so I know that some of my blogger friends and followers would definitely like checking it out. The chapters are short, consisting of a few pages each. Most chapters contain a short flashback that detail a brief glimpse into our protagonist’s normal life. While Lina herself is a fictional character, the experiences related in this novel come from those of survivors that the author interviewed while researching for her book. It gives the story that much more weight.

This is the kind of historical fiction that I like to read about. I thought that I would take my time reading this book, but I became captivated and finished the last two hundred pages the next day only because I was too tired the night before to keep my eyes open anymore. This was a very hard book to put down and I do not hesitate in saying that it was definitely one of the best books that I have read this year. Just when I start to believe that anything I read will be average or something I find more wrong with than right to the point that I give up, I have to encounter Between Shades of Gray and endure my heart being ripped out of my chest and handed to me.

I could relate to Lina quite a lot actually. Why? I would never call myself an author or even a writer, but an artist works. It encompasses my passion for words, but also my desire to sketch and create something on the paper. I know that desire to draw. How it’s easier to express yourself with a pencil and paper than any verbal exchange could possibly accomplish…

Seriously why are you people not reading this book? I need others to join me in this emotional trauma!

Review: Bewitching

TITLE: Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles #2)
AUTHOR: Alex Flinn
PUBLICATION: 2012 by HarperTeen
FORMAT: E-book

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Kendra tries to help people with her magic, but sometimes it doesn’t always go swimmingly. However, she can’t sit back and watch as the girl in her new school suffers at the hands of her beautiful yet wicked stepsister. Don’t look for enchanted pumpkins here, but things are about to get a little bewitched.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

Kendra was a character that I liked in both the book and movie versions of Beastly so I liked the idea of hearing more about her adventures. One of the great things about this book is the fact that you can read it without having read Beastly, so if you’re just interested in this novel you don’t have to feel obliged to go and read another book before you start Bewitching. The opening chapter made me think that the book may focus on Kendra’s story exclusively since we discover how she became a witch. I imagined perhaps there would be several such chapters where the reader hears about her deeds, both successes and backfires. But she behaves in the background again with an occasion page or two devoted to her opinions. Now I’m not saying this is bad, it just wasn’t expected from when I started reading the opening story.

After the introduction to Kendra’s beginnings, we have the main story of Emma and Lisette, which is our modern twist on the tale of Cinderella. It’s divided up into three parts with breaks in between where we hear of Kendra’s other exploits in the matter of the French court during the 1700s and how she aids a love-struck mermaid in the creature’s quest to be with the one she loves. Every story is told in first person perspective, but there’s no problem understanding who’s speaking because each narrative is clearly marked with whose story it happens to be.

Still I have to admit that I liked Emma. It’s hard not to like a bookish character who would rather be reading than interacting with other people. I could relate to her desire to just hide and read a book rather than be social. Like all heroines who learn things the hard way you are longing to shout at her, “Don’t you see what’s going on? You’ve read this in countless stories!” I still can’t help but adore her so I was glad in the end that she realized the fruits of her folly (sorry, I’ve been playing the end of Shadow Hearts and Albert Simon was shouting that phrase at me on the screen so I must exorcise it).

I noticed a few typos, but that’s to be expected in most books whether they’re electronic or physical, I suppose.

To be honest I liked this a lot better than Beastly. I want to read more about Kendra and her efforts to help poor unfortunate souls so I hope that Flinn writes more of her adventures. It was a pretty fun read. I found myself staying up as long as possible to read, but since I had my Kindle I didn’t want to fall asleep and drop it so I finally had to stop myself and wait for today to finish it off. I recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys reading those fairy tale retellings!

Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

TITLE: Shades of Milk and Honey (Shades of Milk and Honey #1)
AUTHOR: Mary Robinette Kowal
PUBLICATION: 2010 by Tor Books
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Jane has not the beauty of her younger sister Melody, but she has a great talent for glamour weavings. Still she resigns herself to spinsterhood. Yet can love come to one such as Jane with the appearance of new neighbors and old acquaintances?

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I confess that I only got this book to read because I discovered that the book I had checked out from the library, Glamour in Glass, was its sequel.

The inside flap of the jacket calls this book Pride & Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel. I have not read the latter book in that comparison, but I am quite familiar with the Austen reference since it’s the only Austen book I have completely finished. It very much reads like a Jane Austen novel trapped in a magic world.

Glamour itself is an interesting concept, but I don’t quite understand the mechanics of it. It requires no verbal incantations, but we have these hand gestures conjuring fabulous magic from the ether. I think I would have liked a bit more explanation about it. I think because I don’t understand its magical laws that I can’t accept it quite so easily. And glamour seems to have taken the place of manual labor. When a main character is taken ill, Jane is praised for saving his life with the cold monger (doesn’t that just sound like a spreader of disease?). Wouldn’t applying cold cloths to the victim have produced as much effect as chill spells?

The sisters seem more like the sisters from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility than Pride & Prejudice, but I’m more going by the film adaptation since I haven’t finished that novel. Since the book focuses around Jane I am not sure why the author didn’t just use the first person narrative style to tell this tale. I think it would have been better. I started seeing Jane’s name every other sentence and the repetition was kind of annoying in an indescribable way. The reader sees nothing else except from her perspective so why even have third person if we’re not going to see the inner turmoil of the other characters?

I don’t usually read books like this so would that make Shades of Milk and Honey a guilty pleasure? I liked it a lot more than I feel comfortable admitting. It was finished the day after I started reading it. I can’t really say if this is a book for fans of Clarke’s novel, but if you like Austen go get this book from the library.

Review: From Reverence to Rape

TITLE: From Reverence to Rape
AUTHOR: Molly Haskell
PUBLICATION: 1987 by University of Chicago Press
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

This is an updated edition to Molly Haskell’s film study from the twenties through the sixties and early seventies. It includes a new chapter with perceptions on the role of women in the movies into the decade after the book’s original publication.

 

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I love books. I love movies. Combining the two has been a recipe for success in my opinion. Thanks to books I grew up reading it’s hard to look at some movies the same way again. I was unable to get From Reverence to Rape in the library’s somewhat extensive loan system (which kind of amuses me that I can get a guide on lesbian sex but not a sociology study on the treatment of women in the movies), but luckily one of my favorite bookshops was able to hook me up with a copy.

Most of the chapters are organized by the decades that Haskell is dealing with those particular films. I do like how extensive her knowledge of material is and the way in which she presents her arguments. This particular edition is an updated version with an extra chapter at the end demonstrating another look at the evolution of women in the movies up to the late eighties when the second edition of From Reverence to Rape was published. Haskell devotes one of her chapters to comparing how women in American and European films differed. The last chapter of the original edition shows dismay at the state of the film industry, but the chapter added in the latter portion of the proceeding decade offers a glimmer of hope in the state of movie affairs. It leads me to wonder how things would be if there were chapters on the films from the nineties and the last decade.

There is a passage describing the effect of television on the film industry that begins with the following on page 234:

For in robbing movies of their mass audience, television had stolen more than bodies and box-office figures. It had destroyed the faith: the belief in their fictions and fables by which the movies touched base with millions of viewers and had the authority of received religion…

I immediately thought of all those articles popping up on the entertainment websites about the movie business belly-aching in response to their loss of revenues. They complain about instant streaming taking away their audience instead of looking at the deeper root of their failures to amass audiences. (I won’t discuss it here but this would have the makings of a great post for a future date.)

I have always thought of myself as something of a rabid cinephile. I’ve by no means seen everything (even some of those great classics that I won’t admit to), but my viewing experience has been quite extensive. At least I thought it was until I read Haskell’s book and felt totally owned. There were some movies that I was familiar with so I didn’t have to totally rely on Haskell’s descriptions, Gone with the Wind for example. Most of the others? I was in the dark and this book makes me want to watch them. I believe that From Reverence to Rape is a book that I need to read again in order to fully appreciate the statement that she is trying to make, and I need more of a basic familiarity with all these movies that are referenced if not explicitly described by her. Although I found there were times that I could relate to what Haskell was trying to get at in her portrait. While I did not know the Western films she was talking about, I merely substituted the themes and descriptions for modern films that I had watched enough to form something of a similar example, like American Outlaws.

Do you consider a book life changing if you want to go through your entire film collection and watch all those movies again to see if you look at them differently now? Okay, maybe I haven’t been that altered, but it would be interesting to look at women in films that I’ve always watched. Even before I started reading this book I was falling into the analysis-of-movies mode by seeing things I never realized before in 28 Days Later. (I wanted to refresh my memory of the film for when I planned to pick up 28 Weeks Later from the library the following day.) I’m sure that Haskell hasn’t made it any easier because I watched He’s Just Not that into You when I reached the halfway mark in her book. I had thoughts. Would I have had these thoughts without exposure to this book or would I have just lovingly soaked up the spectacle of Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore on screen?

Did I like this book? Yes, of course. I would recommend it for any cinephile to look into if you can get your hands on a copy.

Review: The Cat Who Went to Paris

TITLE: The Cat Who Went to Paris
AUTHOR: Peter Gethers
PUBLICATION: 1991 by Crown Publishers, Inc.
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Before Peter Gethers met Norton, the publisher, screenwriter, and author was a confirmed cat-hater. Then everything changed. Peter opened his heart to the Scottish Fold kitten and their adventures to Paris, Fire Island, and in the subways of Manhattan took on the color of legend and mutual love. THE CAT WHO WENT TO PARIS proves that sometimes all it takes is paws and personality to change a life.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

When I was looking for cat books on the ILL catalog, I was only half interested in adding this title to the list.  I thought I might have had too many and that would distract from reading my own books this past month.  To date it is the only library book that I have finished in May.

If I was asked to describe this book in one word it would most certainly have to be funny. I laughed. A lot. I laughed so much that my boyfriend, who was sitting beside me playing Skyrim, pulled himself away from gaming long enough to make a comment about my frequent reactions to it. This isn’t a very long book, it doesn’t even go past the 200 pages mark, but it does work it’s magic to charm the reader into loving Norton just as much as Gethers does. (Since seeing Scottish fold cats on that program Cats 101, I’ve thought they were an adorable breed.)

I am embarrassed though because I must admit I did not get a lot of the references that were mentioned in this book. This could be attributed to several reasons. Although when Roman Polanski was mentioned I did perk up a little at that because I wrote a paper on him complete with a film review for Introduction to Films. There was a moment where it was interesting to read someone’s take on the man behind the controversy, but it was very brief because the book is about the man’s cat and not all the people he’s met in his career as a workaholic. Thank Andraste.

It’s not all fun and games though because of the scene with the homeless woman. This was the only really sad part of the entire book outside of the death of Gethers’s father at the end.

There seem to be a lot of cat books on the shelves. I haven’t read them all, but from the small sampling that I have engaged I would recommend The Cat Who Went to Paris as one of the better ones that you can find. Better than that Dewey book about the library cat that everyone seems to rave on. If you like cats this book is for you. If you like to laugh this book is for you. Needless to say I enjoyed myself reading about Norton.

Review: Loki

TITLE: Loki
AUTHOR: Mike Vasich
PUBLICATION: 2011 by Createspace
FORMAT: E-Book

BOOK SYNOPSIS

God of Mischief. Father of Lies. Harbinger of Destruction. Exiled and tortured by the gods, Loki swears vengeance. He will summon the mighty Fenris Wolf and the legendary Midgard Serpent, and they will lead an army of giants and all the dead in Niflheim. Brimming with the power of the most destructive being in the Nine Worlds, he will not rest till Asgard is in ashes.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

This book was my first long term commitment on my new Kindle and I can say that it’s been a pleasure to read on my new e-reader.

The first thing that I noticed about Vasich’s novel was the rather enjoyable prose. There are several moments in the novel where he delivers exquisite passages of what is going on and the emotions experienced by the characters. There are short italicized chapters that recount the traditional tales of the Norse gods, but then we are given Vasich’s version of events in this retelling. I did like how some of the myths were altered for this version of events.

This book wasn’t quite what I expected. I think this novel might have been more aptly titled The Asgardians because the third person perspectives are not only from Loki. In a way this choice is good, but for someone like myself who was expecting a more Loki-centric narrative, it might be a bit disappointing. There were things I wanted to know in the story but didn’t receive… and it made me rail against the relevance of other things that were included. And it’s never satisfactory explained how Hel can be both Loki’s daughter and the eternal mistress of Niflheim since before Loki was even born.

Odin remains caught in and out of time, experiencing past, present, and future. Why does he do nothing to try and prevent the future from happening at the death of his son and the other Aesir? I pondered this question for a spell and can only come to the conclusion that he was an ancient entity that was tired of living. I imagine it gets pretty boring when you live forever, wouldn’t you agree? The other gods were interesting at times too. This is how I want to see Freyja in a story. A dwarf touches her thigh? Boom! She crushes his neck.

I think this title would be a good selection for anyone interested in reading books of Norse mythology. It wasn’t as good as I was hoping to the point where I would love it as much as Runemarks, but I feel that it is still worth a read if you have an interest in the subject.

Review: This Side of Paradise

TITLE: This Side of Paradise
AUTHOR: F. Scott Fitzgerald
PUBLICATION: Project Gutenberg
FORMAT: E-book

BOOK SYNOPSIS

This semiautobiographical story of the handsome, indulged, and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I have had very little exposure to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his lauded works. My previous experience is reduced to Flappers and Philosophers and the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (which I confess that I enjoyed a great deal). I have something of a need to read his books considering my liking of him as a character in the films Last Call and Midnight in Paris. I hesitate to make it a side-project here because I hate to tie myself down to read specific books in any situation.

I thought that Fitzgerald’s philosophical points in the last few dozen pages were quite enjoyable to read. Why couldn’t the whole book have been like this? In a very Mark Twain-like Letters from the Earth experience? Okay, so perhaps I require too much.

Nothing happened. And this bothers me. Amory spends his time dawdling in Princeton and then experiences a few romantic intrigues. I rather half hoped that he would decide to commit suicide and then bring the reader sweet relief. I found nothing to recommend the character and I had one of those moments you experience while reading a book where you get the desire to beat a character with a stick.

I realize that I have a very conflicting relationship with Fitzgerald. On the one hand I could lose myself in his prose and regret nothing about savoring his style. On the other hand his story is rather boring and the characters brought me no end to antagonisms. Most of it was a constant battle to read and the dilemma of wondering whether the notion to read through Fitzgerald’s work is worth the agony of suffering through something that I find exceedingly horrible. If it was a physical book I may have thrown it across the room.

Final verdict? Worst book of 2012.