Saturday, January 22, 2011

Twilight Saga

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

This is a four book saga that I've read before but I felt like some light, easy reading that was fast. When I originally read the books they took me roughly a day per book although the last book took about a day and a half just because it was bigger. This time around it took me about 3 days to read these as well as a portion of an un-published book Midnight Sun by the same author.

Midnight Sun is essentially the same as the first book in the series, Twilight, but told from the perspective of the guy whereas Twilight is told in the voice of the girl. Part way through the project, someone leaked a rough draft of Midnight Sun on the internet. This caused the author a great deal of grief and consternation and it halted the project. Since then, she has posted her last rough draft on her website for those interested in reading it. It only covers about the first third of the book Twilight but I enjoyed it more than I thought. Originally, I thought she should write a fifth book to wrap up the series more but in hindsight, I agree with her decision. Too bad it was never completed.

The first book in the series, Twilight, it is a story of teen love and the life of a girl, Bella, who is both insecure and comfortable in her own skin, in a way. The object of her affection turns out to be a vampire, Edward. The difficulties of the relationship are both obvious (he wanting to drink her blood) as well as unusual. When other vampires set their sights on Bella, Edward saves her life and saves her from becoming a vampire as well.

The second book in the series, New Moon, was the most tedious for me to read. Bella falls completely apart when Edward leaves her. He tells her he no longer loves her and the devastation of the news leaves her in a very zombie-like state. Only the friendship of a family friend, Jacob, brings her back to the land of the living. He is an Indian boy from the nearby reservation until, of course, he transforms into a werewolf. Bella is forced to make a decision between her love for Jacob, the werewolf, and her love for Edward, the vampire. She risks her own life in a brave attempt to save Edwards life and succeeds. But by doing so, she begins the breaking of her best friends heart.

The third book, Eclipse, is a tug of war between vampire and werewolf for the love of Bella. The fact that they are natural enemies does not help matters at all. There is some pretty good action in the book as the vampire family must unite with the wolf pack in order to fight an army of newborn vampires intent on killing Bella. Bella is finally able to make her decision about who she loves most but still is unable to release her bond with Jacob.

The fourth book, Breaking Dawn, is the best of all the books. It is broken into 3 parts telling the story from the perspective of Edward then Jacob then Bella. I am reluctant to say much about this book because there are so many surprises that I don't want to be a spoiler. I'll just say that if you read the first two books of this series, keep going. It only gets better.

The movies of the first three books have been made and they are separating the last book into two movies because it was so long and encompassing. If I had made the movies, I would have definitely done a few things differently. The first movie especially was a disappointment.

These books are young adult fiction and are pretty much just chick-flicks with vampires and werewolves. They are fast easy reads. The main thing that bugged me was the co-dependency of the relationship between Bella and Edward. I think there are insecure teen girls that would read this and think that is what a "normal" relationship should be. If you take all the books as a whole though, you see there is a supernatural element to their relationship that isn't really alluded to until book 3 and really talked about until book 4. Anyway, if you want an easy romance read with some supernatural fantasy and myths, these are a good choice.

Company of Liars

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

This is a sort of re-visit of The Canterbury Tales. It is set in 1348 and the Black Plague is sweeping across England. Nine travelers band together for safety as they try to stay one step ahead of the pestilence. Some are seasoned travelers not used to risking their hearts by traveling with others. Others are young and naive and would die without the help of the others. Slowly they form an uneasy alliance as they make their way across the country. Each carries a lie within them and the lie becomes the death of them.

This was a fascinating story of what life may have been in 1348. Alchemy, history, mystery and plain human drama weaves a powerful web in this book.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Sookie is a psychic waitress living in the south with her grandmother. Vampires have come "out of the coffin" so to speak and are living amongst the living. The propaganda is that vampires are not actually dead but have a virus that makes them appear to be dead. Synthetic blood is available at many bars and restaurants. Vampire blood is available on the black market and helps with healing and enhances sexual performance among other things.

Sookie meets her first vampire and within a few hours has saved his life and really angered the people who were trying to steal his blood. Sookie begins a romance with this vampire who is in the process of trying to "mainstream" and has moved into his families house just down the road.

Murder and intrigue follow and Sookies brother appears to be the cause of the murders. Sookie desperately tries to find out the truth before she becomes the next victim.

This is a murder mystery, romance soap opera with vampires. It was a fun book and a fast read. I recommend the book to anyone that this genre might appeal to.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Darcy's Story

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

This is Pride and Prejudice retold from Mr Darcy's perspective. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, I'd say this is a must read.

I would have to vote Pride and Prejudice in the top 5 chick-flick books ever. This is just a new rendition which is just as enjoyable. Aylmer has stuck with the original story and really worked hard to determine what Darcy would and wouldn't have known and when. She works to develop his character more fully so we are not as shocked as Elizabeth Bennet when he proposes during their mutual visits to Kent. She also directly quotes dialog from Austen which allows the reader to match this book with the events of the original quite easily. I know I was replaying the A&E/BBC mini-series in my head as I was reading the book.

This is a light and entertaining read.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Star Trek - Inception

Star Trek - Inception by S.D. Perry and Britta Dennison

This book is a supposition of what may have happened in the early life of James T. Kirk and Spock. The book was written just before the movie, Star Trek, was released. They were projects independent of each other so the publishers held the book until well after the movie release so that the one did not affect the other.

I watched the movie again after finishing the book and thought it interesting that both projects aimed to give Spock a love life but in the book, he does not respond as he does in the movie.

The book is more about Carol Marcus, lover of Jim Kirk, as opposed to Jim Kirk himself. She becomes the mother of Jim's son. She is a scientist and has discovered a way, she believes, to turn non-viable dirt into a viable growing medium. Her goal is to enable each planet to grow their own food so hunger is eradicated. Environmental terrorists tamper with her experiments and almost cause a catastrophic disaster. Through the efforts and ideas of Star Fleet's, Spock and Jim Kirk as well as Carol and her team of scientists, are able to stop the process from taking over and, ultimately, destroying the planet Mars.

The story itself is interesting as is the "science" behind the plot. The book gives us a peek into the early lives of Spock and Jim but no other members of the original Star Trek cast. That is one thing that the movie did in fine Hollywood fashion. They gave us the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and tied it up with a bow. They also gave us an alternate reality line that can be followed in a series of movies or television shows if they so desire. As far as I can tell, the book's reality was right in line with what we know from the original series.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a great book from the two creepy books I had just read. It was light, fun and fast. I would recommend the book to anyone who is a lover of Star Trek or science fiction.


Perfume - the story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind

This is the story of a man with the unfortunate name of Grenouille (frog in French) born with no scent of his own but possessing an acute sense of smell. So acute that he is able to recognize individuals by their scent when they are blocks away. He apprentices himself as a perfumer and quickly masters the mixing process of the oils. He then determines to learn how to extract the oils themselves. After learning several different methods of extraction he devises an horrific plan. A series of grizzly murders ensues culminating in a final 25th murder. The result is a perfume like no other.

This book is creepy beyond creepy. The concept itself is an interesting one but the writing is terribly descriptive. It reads almost like three separate stories. The first being the beginning of his life and his first apprenticeship in Paris. The second part is a bizarre dream sequence where Grenouille had escaped humanity and is living in a cave at the top of the highest mountain. He subsists on eating small amounts of grass, moss and lichen. He drinks water from a minute spring where it takes him over an hour to drink what he needs for the day. I found myself skimming this section because if felt tedious and redundant and somewhat disjointed. After seven years, Grenouille emerges from the cave and begins the third part of his life. The final part of his life is his life as a journeyman in Grasse where he learns the various methods of extracting oils. This is also the culmination of his horrific plan and finally his life. I was surprised by the end but then decided it made sense and poetic justice.

If you like books of grizzly murders, this is the one for you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first in a 5 book series of mysteries. So far, 3 have been published but according to the interview at the end of this book, the author is planning 5 books.

The heroine and narrator is an 11 year old girl named Flavia de Luce. It is 1950 and she lives outside a small village in England. Flavia is devoted to chemistry and, more specifically, the origins, manufacture and antidotes of poisons.

When a strange man dies in front of her in the cucumber patch of the garden, Flavia is completely intrigued. Thus begins her investigation in which she is often crossing paths with the police, much to their dismay.

This is a fun murder mystery and having the investigation done by and told by an 11 year old, makes it more entertaining. The fact of her youth really allows her to go just about anywhere and do most anything without being noticed or questioned. For, who pays attention to the goings on of children?

I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Room by Emma Donoghue

This is a weird but good book. The book begins on the 5th birthday of Jack. A boy who lives in Room with his Ma. Jack narrates the book by telling us all about the daily routines of Jack and Ma. Soon we realize that Jack and Ma are being held captive in Room although Jack knows nothing of this since he was born there. The story tells us how Ma came to be in the room, their lives within the room, their escape plan and their lives shortly after leaving Room to be Outside.

There is a great deal to this book that goes unsaid. Since Jack is only 5 he doesn't grasp much of what is going on. We can understand what has happened based on the very basic information we are given by Jack even if he doesn't. This is an interesting perspective on the relationship between a mother and her son and how she loses herself in becoming a mother while living in isolation then must find herself again when she re-enters the world but must still remain a mother.