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Book Review: Of Saints and Shadows April 29, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy.
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Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden caught my eye as it was an urban fantasy series with a male protagonist.  These are often too rare and I loved the cover and the description of a series that combined a different take on the vampire mythos with secret societies and the underground life of the Vatican.

The set up intrigued me and the writing is good.  It flows well with some interesting characters and ideas.  However…after about 130 pages I’m putting this book down and it will be a do not finish for me.

You have to understand that I consider myself a fairly open reader and most content doesn’t bother me overly much, except I dislike gratuitous and explicit gore or sex.  in some books if I can easily skip said content I’ll finish the book anyway and just note it here for other readers.  In the case of Of Saints and Shadows the main antagonist gets off on killing other people and the more graphic and artistic it is the better.  As well it, thus far, has all the horror themes of sex=death and never go anywhere alone ever.  After seeing the death methods escalate really fast from guns to demons sucking off men’s genitals and crawling up to gore out eyeballs…  I’ve had enough.  I’ve done some forward skimming and the plot looks like it picks up from where I’m at, but I’m just not willing to wade through more blackly exploding bellies and doggie guts to get there.  Particularily not when my TBR pile is deep with books I really want to read.

For some people it may be their cup of tea and I wouldn’t say the series is unreadable, but not for the faint of heart, or those that don’t like their UF served with a large helping of artistic death al la slasher films…I’d give this one a miss.

Genre:  Horror/Urban Fantasy

Age: Adult

Content:  Sexuality, violence, language, explicit killings and torture

Overall:  DNF


Book review: “Como agua para chocolate/Like water for chocolate” April 13, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review.
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I read this book for the first time, although it’s almost sacrilege to say so as a Spanish literature major.  There were elements I enjoyed about this book, particularly how the recipes were tied into the seasons and the storyline, and Laura Esquivel’s masterful use of sensory and sensual imagery, but it’s not one of my favorites of the Spanish language canon.

I have a tough time identifying with any of the characters, as all of them are extreme examples of their characterization. Now, the extreme characterization is a stylistic element important to the social commentary in the novel. “Like water for chocolate” is an examination of the ways that mothers continue to promote anti-female social systems.  I can appreciate the message Laura Esquivel is trying to get across and the innovative twist on the dangers of denying “true love” for foolish reasons is brilliant, but I found the book to be painful to read.

The extreme emotional reactions of the women and the antagonistic but dutiful relationship between the mother and daughters is integral to the purpose of the novel, but it limited my ability to identify and like any of the characters. The plot, as well, was a painful tale of abuse, self-denial, loss, and suffering. Which all contribute to the overall point of the novel.  Of course,  in general, I don’t tend to like soap operas, heart-breakers and Lifetime Channel tragedies of unrequited love and abuse, while many other people love them. However, I also feel that this is one of the novels with which any well-read student of world literature should  at least be familiar. I can’t say I like “Great Expectations” or “The Red Badge of Courage”, but the social messages and the glimpses into a situation different than our own is the value of these novels.

Genre:  Adult fiction/Romance

Age: Adult

Content:  Sexuality and sensuality

Overall:  3/5

Electronic versus Paper April 9, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Musings.
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I love the written word.  I really do.  I like writing.  I like reading.  I prefer communicating in email or IM over telephone for the most part as I can take a moment to think about what I’m saying and how I want to say it.

I like books.  I like books to the degree that dear hubbie and I must buy yet another bookcase because we already have books double stacked and now a pile is growing next to his bead and it’s possible it may eat someone soon.

I like ereaders.  I like the convenience of having the newspaper on my computer screen.  I love my Kindle app and quick access to books when I’m on the go.  I love the idea of being able to have a print on demand option at my local bookstore.  Select what I want, hit the button and have a book pop out, or ready to download to a thumb drive.  It’s an exciting world we live in.

Sometimes I’m asked which I love best and which bandwagon I belong on.  Shall I cling to my paperbacks until someone pries them from my fold dead fingers?  Or shall I dance around a book bound bonfire while praising the name of Kindle and Jeff Bezos?

Honestly…neither.  I see a place in my home for both at least at this time.  For me the swing factor, if there must be one, hinges on three factors.

1:  Size and carrying convenience.  My favorite paperback size is mass market and we’re seeing a swing towards releasing books in trade size (around 12 bucks) or this obnoxious size somewhere between trade and mass market (around 10 bucks).  This size does NOT fit conveniently anywhere.  It takes up too much space in a purse and won’t go neatly into a jacket pocket or coat pocket.  It’s not quite as much pain as a hardback, but I want the convenience of pocket books: lightweight, sized to carry and simple to fit in two layers on a standard bookshelf.  On the other hand an ebook reader is lightweight and easy to carry, but the nice woman on the airplane makes me turn them off for the first and last parts of a flight.  And if I’m somewhere without immediate access to a power cord and my batter runs out I’m simply out of luck.  No amount of begging will make the machine turn back on and give me my book back.  Both formats can work well…but still leave me wondering.

2:  Price.  I am as price conscience as anyone else out there, at least I believe I am, and when it comes to selecting my entertainment I do watch where my dollars are going.  As far as I’m concerned buying books is rarely a bad use for good money and I don’t mind a reasonable price where I feel like I’m receiving a good value for my money and that the author and publisher are both getting their cuts.  The reason I worry about these folks is that they are the ones who keep producing the content I want to read.  If authors are too poor to eat they’re not going to write and then I can’t have their books.  Likewise if publishers are too broke they stop taking chances on new authors, which I’m hoping to be, or midlisters that I love and we see a focus on more celebrity books and popular culture offerings that bring in good money but which I will never personally read.  The right price point for me ranges between 4-8 bucks on a paperback book and or an ebook.  I don’t mind paying less than that, but I don’t insist on the 0.99 model to be happy.  I’ll do the dance of joy when I find a great book for less, but I don’t fuss over picking up my ‘must read’ authors at normal price.  I don’t buy hardbacks for the most part because I don’t like carrying them around, see point one, and I do not see enough value in an ebook copy of something to pay hardback prices for something I download to my computer, using my internet connection, which I may or may not be able to lend to my friends or give away for a contest or sell.  I just won’t do it.

3:  Availability.  This is a place where ebooks tend to shine.  For most books finding them available in many different ereader formats is easy.  Takes a few minutes to download and you’re curled up on the couch with a new option.  Paper books are available at my local brick and mortar based on what they think I might like or what’s seen as hot and new.  Sometimes this works out and I can walk out of a bookstore with a pile of books.  Often, however, I end up frustrated because for each series I want I can get books 2, 4 and 62, but nothing inbetween.  I hit this when I was getting a book for a gift and could get 2, 3 and 4 of the series, but not 1.  I can’t start someone halfway through the series.  That’s…mean…and it doesn’t make much sense.  If I’m not in a hurry I can order a lot of books online through indie places, the big two, ebay, or at wonderful trade places like paperback swap.  This appeals both to my sense of not wanting to go out in the snow and I can often get a deal on my books, but it does mean waiting, so only works when I don’t need a book for myself or others right now.

In the long run I think everyone involved in the publishing industry is in for interesting times.  I don’t think we’ve reached the end of life for paper books, not by a long stretch, but I do think things are changing.  I think the most important part though is that we will always crave things to read and the experience that comes from being immersed in a story.  People have always craved stories and the things they teach and the escapism they offer.  That won’t change…whether it comes from the mouth, on a scroll, in a paper book, or written between the stars…if you write it they will read.

Book Review: Fairest – Gail Carson Lavine April 1, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Uncategorized.
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Whew…another month almost over.  I don’t know how it happens so fast…no one asked my permission.  Though here in Utah the winter is stubbornly holding on and it’s still freezing and cloudy.  Spring in Utah is a fight between Winter and Summer which Summer will eventually win, usually in about a 48 hour turn around from cold to scorching.

Anyway…bookwise I’ve been listening to many books on CD or MP3 lately as the job requires a bit of a commute.  This last week I listened to Fairest by Gail Carson Lavine.  I was in the mood for something light with a happily ever after kind of thing after reading a lot of darker bits.  I kinda wonder if that’s partially because I’m so ready for spring and happily ever afters tie into good weather in my brain.

Fairest is a retelling of Snow White and takes place in the same world as Lavine’s Ella Enchanted retelling of Cinderella.  The maid Aza is abandoned as a baby and raised by an innkeeper and his family.  Unlike the usual spin on step families the family truly loves her and she truly loves them.  (As a step mom meself it appealed immensely to me to see a happy step relationship.)  Physically Aza is an ugly kid, both in her own eyes and the eyes of other, and that theme of chasing beauty and what it means to be beautiful on the inside and the outside is really what the book is about.

The language is not overly difficult save for some of the names, the fantasy spellings are occasionally horrid, but easily readable by around 10 and up.  In a month where I just needed a little ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ this was a fun feel good listen.  The one problem I had with the audio book is that they sing all of the singing parts, which are abundant.  Initially it was kinda cute, like listening to a Bollywood film, but some of the songs are LOONG and I didn’t like the melodies they’d chosen enough to listen.  I became grateful for the fast forward button at a few points.  Despite some of that annoyance, I do really like the full cast audio for this type of book.

A great book for a lazy sunny afternoon or while on vacation.

 

Genre:  Young adult fantasy/retold fairytale

Age: pre-teens and up

Content:  Very minor violence, one character gets turned to stone but recovers, a plot for poisoning

Overall:  4/5