Saturday, December 18, 2010

Here Are a Bunch of Book Reviews That I Haven’t Gotten To Lately, so I’m Going to Throw Them All Into One Post, So Bare With Me!

This past fall has been steeped in dystopian literature, horror romance and a short, but complex, classic. I usually write a review for each book, but since I read them in a sort of “sets,” I figured I’d go at it in a less traditional way.

Dystopian Literature

I read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmade’s Tale” and “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and I realize how much I love good dystopian literature. I think I like it because no matter how bad we think we’ve got it right now (the polarizing political parties, the recession and the love/hate relationship people are having with Obama), it could be much worse. Women-losing-their-rights worse (“Handmade”) or Teenagers-forced-to-kill-on-live-reality-TV worse (“Games”).

Plus, regardless of how fantastic and creative these stories are, or how dramatic they can be, or where the characters find themselves, dystopian literature always makes you think. And it doesn’t have to be the type of thinking where you sit in a circle of desks with classmates and dissect. It’s just a personal thought bubble you have that engulfs you for a few minutes, or a few days, and you’re haunted by the story, the characters’ actions and what it all means.

Then you start to panic because, sure, things are rough right now and it’s difficult to navigate through these recent days (especially when the Nightly News with Brian Williams on NBC is a complete and utter downer), but then you begin to think that our world really is headed to a dystopian nightmare and you run outside and start screaming with your sandwich board, “The End is Nigh!”

Just kidding.

I Finally Read Good Dean Koontz’s

I’ve never read such a hit-or-miss author like Dean Koontz. There are novels out there that are total wins (“False Memory” and “The Taking”) and then there are total bombs that are such train wrecks, you have to finish them because you need to know how they end (“The Darkest Night of the Year” and “Velocity”), but the weirdest of them all that I’ve read so far was “Whispers” where the eviliscious bad guy “gets it on” with himself in front of the mirror because he thinks it’s his twin.

Ew. Gross. Stop. It. Dean. Koontz.

Luckily, my faith was restored recently (but I’m not sure how long it’ll last) with “By the Light of the Moon” and “Your Heart Belongs to Me.” The first is a tale where these people are injected with “special stuff” and they begin to realize they are changing in a very supernatural way. It deals with their copings of such a traumatic event. By the end of the book, I realized it was Koontz’s (weird) version of a super hero tale. It was a bit long in parts, but that’s Koontz for you. You get used to skimming certain parts without feeling guilty.

“Your Heart Belongs to Me” was, by far, one of my favorites by him because it was completely unexpected. You read the book jacket and say, “oh, that’s crap” because it sounds redundant and done before. A guy has heart surgery. A mysterious woman starts to terrorize him, saying that it’s hers. Blah, blah, blah. But really, that has nothing to do with it. The book jacket was misleading.

I hate misleading book jackets.

The only reason I read it was because I paid $.50 for it at a garage sale and it wasn’t very long. I’m so glad I found it in a brown grocery bag with a bunch of other Koontz’s. It was a total nod to Edgar Allen Poe and his “Tell-Tale Heart.”

I love when a modern writer nods to a classic one. It lets me know that they are well-read and fairly intelligent, even if some of the tales they weave are not.

Yes, I like Campy Teen-Horror-Romance, Too

Do not judge these books by their covers. They have actually been re-released for a more “modern” audience. I just enjoy the book art (from my teen days) and the paintings, which are far scarier-looking than the more modern covers which just have girls looking at the camera all-smoldering-like.

I wanted something easy and fun to listen to in the car, so I downloaded the first two books in the “Night World” series by L.J. Smith (made re-famous again because an old series of books called “The Vampire Diaries” was made into a TV series by “Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson).

“Secret Vampire” was actually annoying because the narrator sounded like a bouncy red-head. When her high-pitched voice read the dialogue for the male characters, it sounded like she was a little girl making Ken dolls talk. It’s not my favorite story, either, but it’s modern enough: Girl gets diagnosed with cancer. Girl’s best friend is a vampire. Girl falls in love with vampire (long before Bella was even born). Girl goes through with becoming vampire so she can survive cancer. Brother finds out. Brother and girl’s (now) boyfriend have it out. Other issues ensue. Mom can’t find out.

But, it needs to be read first because it’s the first book, and even though I read it when I was a teenager (own it, actually), I couldn’t just skip it…there are RULES, people.

“Daughters of Darkness,” which sounds like some campy, B-grade film from the 70’s (with bad sex scenes), is much better. It has nothing to do with the aforementioned. Instead, three sisters are escaping the Night World to live with their aunt who lives in the “human world.” The sisters’ brother tries to find them, and return them home, but two human neighbors, who loved the aunt, get involved. The girl-neighbor falls for the brother. The boy-neighbor falls for one of the sisters.

The best part is (spoiler alert), the girl-neighbor and the brother-vampire don’t end up together in the end. (What?!)

The narrator was better. The story is better. The violence is better. Smith jumps around from different character P.O.V’s better (she did the same in “Secret Vampire” but it got annoying). I don’t know, it’s just a darker tale and it feels like Smith catches her stride with the second book. The rest of the series follows suit in the same manner, each book getting better. I look forward to listening to all of them.

It’s a series of 10 books. Sadly, the 10th book never came out. Rumor has it, now 10 years later, that it will finally release due to her re-submergence, but we’ll see.

The Classic. Read Thrice.

Great Gatsby

Pushing the big 3-0, I’m glad I re-read this (because Nick, the narrator, just turns 30 in the book). I appreciated the mind frame more. Also, as a teacher, I figured out the metaphors and such easier. The only reason I re-read the book was because my brother-in-law needed some extra help with it. He ended up finishing it up and the semester ended before we could meet again, but I finished it anyway.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love to read about rich people and their problems. It makes you feel better about yourself.

This third-time-around, my blood pressure rose more frequently because the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchannan are so infuriating. I almost yelled at them while listening to the final chapters while doing the dishes, especially when it’s Daisy that kill’s Tom’s mistress with the car and not Gatsby.

I think it’s time to crack open my vintage copy of “Tender is the Night.”