Friday, July 11, 2014

Halfway to the Grave: A Night Huntress Novel by Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave: The Night Huntress Series
By Jeaniene Frost

I’ve been on an Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance kick lately. This first book in The Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost is more the former but there is a heavy dose of romance to it as well.  One description I heard said that if you could take the romance out and the story line still survived intact then it’s an Urban Fantasy. I’d say you could do that here but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

Cat was going out to kill vampires, just a regular Friday night for her. (Most people don’t believe  vampires exist in this world.) Then a vampire named Bones captures her. When she comes to, she expects him to kill her but he wants information. He is quite convinced that she is human and must be working for a vampire to take out rivals.  Once he cottons to the fact that she is half vampire, he decides he’s going to train her and offers her a partnership. The other choice, of course, is death.

This is the beginning of a very interesting partnership. Bones has his own agenda and it is not quite what he tells Cat. (Once I got done with the book I had to go back and re-read the beginning, knowing what I now knew about Bones.) Bones trains her to fight better, toughens her up and they work together to kill the vampires who kill innocent people.

One complication, her mother, Justina, has always told Cat that she was the product of a rape by a vampire.  From the time she is 16 years old, Cat feels she has to atone for that by killing vampires, who must all be evil, as Justina tells her. It’s a good time as Cat unlearns some of her prejudices.

Just plain good old-fashioned vampire fun.

The series continues with several books, the second one “One Foot in the Grave” is another rollicking good time and I am currently reading the third in the series. I don’t want to give too much away but I am thoroughly enjoying them and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones : Mad About the Boy
By Helen Fielding

Okay, I loved this book! I will say that I didn’t go into this book with many preconceived notions because it has been over a decade since I saw the first movie and I never read the second book. I wasn’t as invested in the characters as someone might have been if they read the second book and were eagerly awaiting the third.

All the friends are still around – Talitha, Tom, Jude and even Daniel though he seems to be on a downward spiral. I won’t tell you what happened to Mark Darcy. It’s sad and a large facet of the story but it doesn’t overwhelm the story.

There’s romance, humor and even some action as Bridget takes care of the kids and attempts to get back into the dating and work worlds.

Bridget is now a single mom of two small children. As a mother I could relate to so many of the sentiments. There’s a point where both kids are sick to their stomachs and in the midst of all the gross out, “Billy’s bewildered expression overwhelmed self with love for Billy.” I felt it when she said that. You can’t help feel sorry for and overwhelmed with love for the sick munchkins.

One bit of the humor is kind of over the top and does maker her seem overwhelmingly stupid.  She’s working on a screenplay adaptation of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen but spells the title wrong and has the wrong author. If you’re adapting it, you must be referring to a copy of it so how do you get those things wrong? However, most of the time the humor is gentle or even a bit slapstick.

The format can take a little getting used to, mostly written in journal type entries with texts, emails, and tweets interspersed with regular prose. Hang in there and you do get used to it. I enjoyed it tremendously on audio CD.

There’s depth to this book, as well as humor. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
This was not the book I thought it would be. At first, I thought it rather boring, with its description of the opulence of the parties. Then it got interesting when Gatsby finally appeared and you thought it was a love story. Then, I thought it was less about love and more about Gatsby obsessing about someone who was out of his reach. It was not a simple book and I have still not decided.
Illustrative of how World War I changed how people thought and felt, the narrator, Carraway, says of returning home after the war, “Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe…”
The narrator’s shifting perceptions of Gatsby take us through the highs and lows of this book. He is not a one sided character, all good or all bad. As with life, it is in large part about perception. He is a self-made man who thinks that the end justifies the means and that he can get what he wants with money. Sound familiar?
 “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
But no, no, you can’t, and the fact that he can’t or won’t see or accept that simple immutable fact tells you something about him.  He is fooling himself. He wants something so much that he is willing to lie to himself. Either that or he’s just plain crazy. Crazy in love? Perhaps, perhaps.
As I said, Carraway goes back and forth, based on events, thinking Gatsby a great guy or a jerk, by measures. His perception of Jordan, the girl he dates a bit, changes, as well as the husband Tom. Oddly enough, Carraway’s perception of Daisy, Tom’s wife, never changes. She is unscathed, though he comes to almost hate Tom.
It’s a short enough book, under two hundred pages, but I felt like I’d really been on a journey with this story. I hadn’t seen the movie and didn’t know a lot about it so I was surprised at every turn. I never saw the car accident coming or, honestly, what happened to Gatsby.
I highly recommend it for the aspiring writer. I learned so much from the most deceptively simple sentence, “As I tiptoed from the porch I heard my taxi feeling its way along the dark road toward the house.” "I heard my taxi feeling its way along the lane in the dark." Wait, what? Yeah, that is a beautiful sentence! The fact that the taxi is “feeling its way” is not possible and yet you know exactly what he meant, how a car moves slowly along a country lane so that the driver can see within the limits of the headlights. Then, the choice of “my taxi” instead of “the taxi” gives it a totally different feel than if he had chosen the other word. I was mightily impressed.
“Literary miracles are the work of writers who come closer than other writers to expressing what is in their minds through innate genius augmented by control, technique, craft.” Matthew J. Bruccoli, The university of South Carolina, 1992, in Preface to the 1995 Scribner edition of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Isn’t that the trick though?
Much like Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, I did not go into the book expecting too much and found a true classic of literature that I soundly recommend people read. If you read it before, read it again. It is the type of book where you will find something new at a different age.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hellraisers : The Life and Inebriated times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris , Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers


*This weeks Story Musing is written by library staff member Christine DeSousa. Thanks Christine!
Hellraisers : The Life and Inebriated times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris , Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed 
by Robert Sellers

This book was funny, crass, raw, and crude - and I loved every second!

Hellraisers is an unapologetic account of the lives of the four most alcoholic, self-indulgent, womanizing men on the planet. Following the lives of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed, it takes you on adventures of naughty nannies, restless school boys, liquor, and starving actors to starlet conquering, fame and fortune, more liquor, love, and up to their greatest last bows.

This wasn’t some expose intended to shock the reader, this read like you happened to walk into a bar and sat down with these men and just listened to their life story over a drink.

Now, in no way am I making saints out of sinners. These guys have crashed more cars, been hospitalized, hospitalized other people and caused more trouble than any star today. It also makes the case that these men were just fun loving guys and they wanted to live life to the fullest. They certainly seemed to, all died with their boots on. They were funny and irreverent but they weren’t malicious.

One of the things you have to be prepared for when reading this book is the colorful uses for words. It’s not a book for those who are easily offended, that is something that needs to be made abundantly clear. There are many cases of violence, profane language, sexual situations and alcoholic brawling.

It certainly never got boring, in part because of all of the different words they came up with to describe physical parts, or the recurring use of the word pissed in all of its definitions.

The most trouble I had was the way it was set up. Each chapter is a different decade and, within that, it covered a couple of years at a time, rotating through  Burton, Harris, O’Toole, and Reed, then back to Burton throughout the decade.

This book was written in 2002 so it was before Peter O’Toole died but it follows him up to that point, remembering each star in his turn - the good, the bad and the drunk. I highly recommend it.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files
By Jim Butcher

How do you review a book like this without giving spoilers? I just loved it. I want to tell you all the wonderful, funny, unbelievable stuff that happened, but I won’t.

Jim Butcher is probably my current favorite author. He consistently writes at a level that I can only aspire to at this point. The books are deep and rich while being action packed.

Harry Dresden is a wizard in modern day Chicago and currently the Winter Knight for Queen Mab. He doesn’t really want to be but a wizard’s got to do what a wizard’s got to do, right? His character has developed throughout the fifteen book series, facing new challenges and growing. The twists and turns the books take are believable and yet surprising.

One of the things that I think makes these books so enjoyable is the “warm point of view” that Butcher talks about in his LiveJournal on writing.  That means that although there is a lot of action, there is a lot of time spent on Harry reacting to what happened, worrying and generally feeling.

And there’s a lot for him to worry about in this book. His friend, Michael, is taking care of his daughter, Maggie, whose mother he had to kill in the last book when she became a vampire. He has no real contact with Maggie, hasn’t even told her he is her father. Meanwhile, there’s a parasite in his head that’s giving him terrible headaches only Demonreach, the island, can suppress.

Then Queen Mab lends his services to his enemy, Nicholas Archleone, for one job in payment of a debt she owes. Archleone is a Knight of the Blackened Denarius and partners, you might say, with a Fallen angel. The job? Break into Hades vault in the Never-never and steal THE Grail. Harry is quite sure that Archleone has no intention of him surviving the job. Harry has other plans.

Hell’s bells. It’s another excellent book and the narration is good too if you prefer to listen. Enjoy!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson Series) by Darynda Jones

Sixth Grave on the Edge
By Darynda Jones

Well, I’ve been in heaven the past week. First, Darynda Jones released her latest novel in the Charley Davidson series, Sixth Grave on the Edge, and I inhaled that in about two and a half days. As a side note, I would like to say how much I appreciate the Amazon Kindle’s ability to dim the screen so I could read while my sick child dozed on my lap.

Then Jim Butcher released the latest in the Harry Dresden Chronicles, Skin Game, and I am currently enjoying that tremendously. It was a particularly welcome distraction yesterday while I was waiting for two new tires to be put on my car because I got a roofing nail in the sidewall of one.  How does that even happen?

Anyway, the thing that I love about both of these characters is that even though the series is ongoing, the main characters continue to grow and change. There are plenty of surprises! I’m going to try not to give anything away, but the last surprise in Sixth Grave on the Edge rocked my socks. I absolutely LOVED it!

This was a bit lighter and more fun than some have been, though there are some pretty scary bits. Lots of time with Reyes with this one, some more background on him, and some interesting subterfuge with her father. There is definitely something going on with her dad.

I can never decide if Charley is really good at self-delusion or if her ADHD just makes it easier for her to skip over some things. I don’t think it will be really giving anything away to say that her Jeep, Misery, didn’t make it through the last novel.

“But at least Misery was okay. Like, really okay. It was weird. Her cough was gone. Her sluggish response time was no longer an issue. Her reluctance to wake up in the mornings as she sputtered in protest every time I tried to fire all engines was nonexistent.”

Hmmm… I wonder why?

Lots of interesting dead people popping up, like naked dead guy. I particularly enjoyed it when his wife showed up looking for him. Aunt Lil, of the blue hair and floral muumuu, is always a joy.  I love her idea of becoming a partner with Charley in the investigation business, though it didn’t seem to go anywhere in this book. Of course, young Angel is summoned up to help, though there is a big surprise waiting there!

Remember the old saying, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye?” Yeah, that seems to apply to Charley’s scheme to get Uncle Bob to finally ask Cookie out on a date.

One of the things I like about Darynda Jones writing is that there’s a balance. One minute you’re galloping along at a good clip, laughing joyously, then she hits you with the serious and you feel the character’s pain. That’s life. Then you have a mission and some humor to lighten the load. Well done.

I’d recommend these books to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, can go with the supernatural angle, and doesn’t blush too terribly easily. As always, you can get this at the library, but I couldn’t wait. I got it through Amazon Kindle and then added the audio, which is perfectly read by Lorelei King.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein

Job: A Comedy of Justice
By Robert A. Heinlein
I guess you could say I’m going back to my roots by choosing a science fiction title today. I grew up in a small town with a small library.  I certainly can’t claim to have read everything in the library and my interests shifted over time.  As a teen, mysteries became my main focus, with authors like Agatha Christie and Phyllis Whitney. Then I was introduced to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and it became my mainstay for many years.  

I still admire Madeleine L’Engle’s writing tremendously. I distinctly remember my father giving me a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert when I was a teenager and I discovered many more wonderful authors on the shelves of the public library in the town where I went to college. I think I read most of the books by Robert A. Heinlein over time and this was a favorite.
(All right, I have to share this one - as I sat here at the Reference desk writing this review, a patron asked me about the book and asked to be put on the waiting list for it so I gave it to her. Apparently she had read and enjoyed many of his books and this sounded interesting to her. Ha!)
Anyway, Job: A Comedy of Justice is a modern retelling of the story of Job. Job, in the person of Alexander Hergensheimer, seems to be a shining of example of faith. As in the original story of Job, Satan argues with God, who agrees to test Job.
Suddenly Alex finds himself living someone else's life, with a mistress, not the sort of thing a fundamentalist minister was brought up to. Then he falls in love with her.

Heinlein had a way of telling a great adventure story that is easy to read, told in the first person with a rollicking pace.

"His automobile was a triumph of baling wire and faith. We went roaring back to the dock at full throttle, frightening chickens and easily outrunning baby goats."

He also offers a tremendous amount of food for thought that is subtly inserted to this great adventure story. In my lifetime, Science Fiction has been a bastion of such thought provoking writing. Heinlein was truly a Grand Master of the genre. I highly recommend it.