This is a novel I'd heard about for awhile & I think I finally checked it out from the library after seeing it mentioned in a SDMB thread about al...moreThis is a novel I'd heard about for awhile & I think I finally checked it out from the library after seeing it mentioned in a SDMB thread about alternate history stories.
I'm a bit of a sucker for alternate takes on familiar stories, and IMHO Saberhagen's novel is one of the standouts of the genre, not only in terms of age (published in 1975) but in quality as well. While the frame story (Dracula meeting up with the Harker's descendants, and recording his version on cassette tape) is a bit hokey (and now dated), the actual retelling of the events is engrossing.
While I'm no scholar of the Stoker source material; having listened to the Audible full-cast version of the classic fairly recently made reading this novel both more accessible and more enjoyable. Saberhagen obviously covers the same ground as Stoker, but makes Dracula, if not the hero, at least the protagonist. Harker is painted as a well-meaning nebbish, and Van Helsing a scheming malcontent whose claims to scientific knowledge are proven wrong several times by Dracula.
Mina is portrayed as not only a willing accomplice, but a worthy consort to one such as the Count. While I liked her character in the Stoker novel, seeing her as a strong female within the context of the times; Saberhagen gives her even more agency as she is torn between her love for Jonathan and fascination with Dracula.
I would have liked more insight to Renfield, and the ending felt a little rushed, but I'm glad I finally got around to reading this novel, and would recommend it to anyone interested in an alternate take on the classic vampire tale (after reading/re-reading the Stoker version, of course!) I may pursue the sequels at some point, after I check out their reviews here. (less)
I didn't get around to reading this book (courtesy of the local library) until after the holiday, and perhaps it's just as well; the hyper-consumerism...moreI didn't get around to reading this book (courtesy of the local library) until after the holiday, and perhaps it's just as well; the hyper-consumerism of the subjects of the book combined with the author's snark might have made it harder to get into the spirit of season. The book comes off much better post-Christmas, IMHO.
Serendipitously set during the holiday seasons of 2006-2008, Hank Stuever visits with three families of Frisco, Texas - an up-and-coming exurb of Dallas - to examine their holiday preparations from a semi-sociological viewpoint. Starting with Black Friday thru the first week of January, Stuever spends time with the Trykowski's whose extravagant exterior Christmas lights (and yes, in Texas it's "Christmas" not "holiday", bless your heart) have turned into a side-business for the husband; as has Tammie Purnell's penchant for interior Christmas decorating. He also spends time with single mother Carroll Cavasos who provides entry into the megachurch Christmas phenomenon.
And while I mentioned snark earlier, Stuever at no time makes fun of the individuals he interacts with; his sharpened pen treats them almost more as victims of the larger Christmas/Giftsmas madness. As balance, he spends time with the volunteers at Frisco Family Services, helping organize and hand out the donations received as a part of their Angel Tree Drive, as well as picking out gifts for a few angels on his own. Stuever is quick to point out the foibles of his fellow man (and woman), but admits to his own flaws as well, regarding the expectations of the season, both past and present.
It was an interesting read, both in its sociological and personal insights; plenty of human interest without being too glurgey. I'll have to check out more of Stuever's work. (less)
I finally finished the audiobook version of of this biography - I started listening during a road trip in December, put it aside to finish another aud...moreI finally finished the audiobook version of of this biography - I started listening during a road trip in December, put it aside to finish another audiobook in progress, then the weather has cut into my normal audiobook listening time (aka dog walking). Finally, I'd put off listening to the last chapter for about a week, as I knew I'd be a sobbing mess. Jim Henson's untimely death still seems terribly unfair to me; despite the great legacy he left behind.
Jones does a masterly job of sharing Henson's life story; the level of detail is amazing, but not (IMHO) at all dry or overwhelming. He obviously interviewed many of the men and women who knew Jim well; and provides some of their biographical info along the way, when pertinent.
Kirby Heyborne narrated the biography, and did his best to emulate the voices of the directly quoted individuals. His Jim & Kermit imitations are quite good, and for me, added to the overall experience.
Highly recommended to any fan who would like to know more about the man behind the Muppetverse.(less)
Finally got around to this novel; it's one of the SF classics I'd managed to overlook all these years; a mention in Among Others finally spurred me to...moreFinally got around to this novel; it's one of the SF classics I'd managed to overlook all these years; a mention in Among Others finally spurred me to check it out of the library.
Very unorthodox in its writing & story structure and told from multiple viewpoints (including advertising voiceovers), the novel explores a dystopic world dominated by corporations. We meet (among a cast of many) Norman Niblock House and Donald Hogan - two very different men who, thru sheer circumstance, were room-mates for a while. House is an executive, who uses his ethnic heritage (African-American) as a tool to rise thru the ranks. His latest assignment involves the corporate takeover of a small African country whose odd history may hold a vital key to mankind's survival. Hogan, who works as a professional student/synthesist becomes a somewhat unwilling tool in the investigation of a genetic breakthrough in a South East Asian country. This second plotline reminded me a bit of Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which I'd recently read -I wouldn't be surprised if Neal had been inspired by this novel for some of his work.
It did take me a bit to get into this - New Wave SF leaves me cold more often than not; but the unorthodoxy of the writing supports and expands the plot and theme of the novel nicely. Scarily prescient in many ways (powerful corporations; genetic engineering, supercomputers); yet also dated in some ways - the sexual mores of the society felt very "Summer of Love" to me - and while I enjoyed Chad Mulligan and his "HipCrime Vocab" quotes - I couldn't help but see George Carlin in his place.
Of the little Brunner I've read (Players at the Game of People and I think The Shockwave Rider as well as some short stories in various anthologies) - this is the work I've enjoyed the most. I will definitely be returning to it someday, and need to check out more of his work. (less)
I checked this book out from the library based on a mention in Jo Walton's Among Others - I think someone over on the SDMB mentioned it as well, but d...moreI checked this book out from the library based on a mention in Jo Walton's Among Others - I think someone over on the SDMB mentioned it as well, but didn't make note of who.
This historical novel tells the story of Bagoas, a Persian eunuch who became a companion/lover of Alexander the Great - starting with his childhood. I'm up to the start of their relationship, with Bagoas being around 17 and Alexander perhaps in his early 30's.
Having only a basic knowledge of this time period/historical age, I can't speak to Renault's research, but the story has felt very believable and engaging so far, and I feel I'm learning a bit along the way.
I haven't read the first in this series: Fire from Heaven, but don't feel I've missed much. I will probably go back and pick it up at some point, as I'm enjoying the story quite a bit. It reminds me a bit of Richard Adams' Maia, in terms of the court intrigue as well as the role of the main character. Renault's sex scenes are not nearly as ... detailed .. as Adams' mind you, but Bagoas is clearly a courtesan. I would not be surprised to learn that this novel(published in 1972) was an inspiration for Adams.
Recommended to those looking for well-written historical fiction set in the Middle East of the 4th century BC.(less)
I know I'm late to the party, but I finally got around to checking out this novel from the local library. I haven't seen either movie adaptation, but...moreI know I'm late to the party, but I finally got around to checking out this novel from the local library. I haven't seen either movie adaptation, but had a general idea of what to expect. I'd read his Handling the Undead some time ago & really enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the novel and was pleased to see Lindqvist used the same type of tone here.
Oskar is a bullied pre-teen, living in Stockholm in the early 80's with his mother. A series of gruesome murders catches his attention, as does a reclusive new neighbor couple - a father and his daughter. We also meet Jocke and his alcoholic, middle-aged friends, who spend their time making plans that they know they'll probably never achieve; as well as Tommy, Oskar's only friend, whose rebellious actions trouble his mother, Yvonne, and her boyfriend (also a policeman), Steffan, and see how their paths intertwine over the course of the novel.
I really enjoyed how the story wasn't just about the vampire and its relationship* with Oskar); you get to see how the other characters : Oskar and his parents; Tommy, his mother Yvonne and Staffan, her boyfriend; and Jocke, Lacke & Virginia interacting within their own circles as well. Hacke was a quite disturbing character (with an even more disturbing end); while Eli is written as more or less a sympathetic character.
While there are some very gory scenes, and references to pedophilia and other unsavory behaviours, I found it to be a very compelling story that gives the reader a lot to think about above and beyond the basic plot. While existentialism is a Swedish/Scandanavian thing (see Ingmar Bergman); IMHO Lindqvist's works are a lovely and accessible example.
* Don't read too much into that - they become friends, but not really anything more. (less)
Picked up Patrick Ness' latest novel from the library -- thanks to a mention by Dung Beetle & being a huge fan of Ness' writing -- and devoured it...morePicked up Patrick Ness' latest novel from the library -- thanks to a mention by Dung Beetle & being a huge fan of Ness' writing -- and devoured it in just a few days.
Seth has just drowned in the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast... but awakens to find himself alive in the front yard of his childhood home in England. Not only is he weak from hunger and thirst as well as nearly naked (except for some odd bandages wound around him) but the neighborhood is deserted and overgrown. Is he in Hell? Why does he dream so vividly of his past life every time he closes his eyes? The story follows Seth as he explores his surroundings and relives elements of his past life - weaving them both together in a surprising (at least to me) conclusion.
I really enjoyed this story - it's quite different from the [i]Chaos Walking trilogy[/i] (no dialect, for one thing, which I know turned some people off), but IMHO, as well written and as powerful. This novel is more Man vs Himself than Man vs Man, but still has some interesting twists and turns and some genuinely thrilling moments. (less)
In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I've been somewhat theming my reading appropriately, starting with this memoir, which I picked up from the...moreIn honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I've been somewhat theming my reading appropriately, starting with this memoir, which I picked up from the library while searching to see what films of his they had available.
It was published in 2004, so it includes his thoughts on playing Saruman and Count Dooku. He doesn't appear to be a terribly humble man, and is quite prone to name dropping, but he certainly has been a hard-working actor.
I have a feeling there was more to his role in WWII than he let on (or perhaps, *could* let on); for once, parts of his tale felt untold. The memoir was definitely written for a British/European audience, as the historical references sometimes make me draw a blank, and his style is definitely on the old-school side, but still enjoyable.
I wish he'd written a bit more about his friendship with fellow Hammer Films star Peter Cushing (someone else I'd like to learn more about), but overall I enjoyed his autobiography at least as much as other memoirs I've read recently (including John Lithgow's Drama: An Actor's Education).
I knew some of the basics about Lee before (his war service, his roles with Hammer Films & his more recent work), but gained a new appreciation for the man after finishing this memoir. There's a couple of his films (The Wicker Man and The Three Musketeers) that I may have to check out, now. (less)
Found myself quite engaged by this novel. the second in Bachmann's Victorian-era urban fantasy series. It carries over some of the characters from The...moreFound myself quite engaged by this novel. the second in Bachmann's Victorian-era urban fantasy series. It carries over some of the characters from The Peculiar, while giving us new characters to become entranced by. If you liked Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, consider giving these books a shot. (less)
Picked this up from the local library as I'm a fan of Mary Roach and DungBeetle over on the SDMB mentioned it. As noted on the cover, it's a Readers'...morePicked this up from the local library as I'm a fan of Mary Roach and DungBeetle over on the SDMB mentioned it. As noted on the cover, it's a Readers' Digest publication, and is a compilation of essays Roach wrote for the magazine.
While her offbeat sense of humor carries over into this material, the outsider observations Roach was able to make in her previous books (and the occasional snark) are pretty much nonexistent. If Roach was aiming at being a modern-day Erma Bombeck (and considering the audience, I wouldn't be surprised), she succeeded, but it's not the kind of writing I expect from her and I was a bit disappointed.
Recommended as a library read for light, domestic humour - tho IMHO, any of the 3 books mentioned above would be a better use of your time, if not quite adhering to the topic. (less)
Am working my way slowly through this weighty tome borrowed from the library. McCullough does an excellent job of bri...moreFan of author; SDMB SiamSam recco
Am working my way slowly through this weighty tome borrowed from the library. McCullough does an excellent job of bringing in just enough historical background to round out the story of this incredibly ambitious feat of construction and architecture - I've not (yet) seen it in person, but I think having read this book will give me a greater appreciation of The Bridge.
Mind you, the book can be slow going, but not at all tedious, IMHO - reading the descriptions of working in the cassions (and finally getting a clear description of what they are and how they work!) and the danger of "blowouts" made me understand just how so many lives could be & were lost during the construction of a project as massive as this.
ETA: I did skim thru a few sections, but overall found the book a fascinating look at an amazing feat of engineering, as well as the people in charge. I will definitely continue to work my way thru McCullough's body of work; tho I'm personally a bit more interested in this kind of history than straight biographies. (less)
Another library read, recommended over on the SDMB by Alba.
It was an interesting blend of pop-science/sociology and personal experience. Foer explore...moreAnother library read, recommended over on the SDMB by Alba.
It was an interesting blend of pop-science/sociology and personal experience. Foer explored the history of memorization, including the "memory palace" technique first used by the Romans. Foer also touched on at the neuroscience of memory, and visited with a man suffering from one of the most severe cases of amnesia ever documented; he forgets who you are during the course of the conversation. Foer became intrigued by the world of competitive memory training after covering the World Memory Championships, and starts training in order to compete the following year.
Foer's writing is engaging, and the science is solid, tho if you've read Oliver Sachs, you've seen some of this before. I appreciated the detail he went into on the memory palace and PAO (person, action object) techniques, and can see where they would come in handy in certain circumstances; however, as someone who misplaces her keys regularly and has terrible trouble with names, I found this book to be more of a diversion than a self-help manual.
Worth a library read, at least, if you're interested in the topic and/or enjoy participatory journalism. (less)
Another seasonally thematic read - I picked up this YA vampire novel from the local library after reading about it last month in Amazon's Sep 4 Omnivo...moreAnother seasonally thematic read - I picked up this YA vampire novel from the local library after reading about it last month in Amazon's Sep 4 Omnivoracious blog.
I'm no fangbanger, in fact, I tend to get a bit ::rolleyes:: regarding the modern/YA take on vampires. Nevertheless, the worldbuilding in this novel intrigued me - not only the Coldtowns where vampires and the infected (along with starstruck wannabes) are quarantined, but the fact that once bitten, you aren't necessarily doomed. If the infected can be kept from consuming human blood for 88 days, they are safe. They can consume regular food (and, oddly enough, vampire blood) during this time However, their overwhelming craving usually overcomes the best intentions of family and friends.
Tana was an occasionally infuriating protagonist - making stupid, teenage decisions, for example, but still projected a strong, indomitable spirit. Gavriel had an intriguing backstory, and I can totally see how younger readers would swoon over him. I can also see something like the Eternal Ball and the Coldtowns overall becoming an internet media hit, with live feeds and umpteen bloggers discussing the "Cold" lifestyle.
I enjoyed the novel for what it was - while I probably won't be returning to it specifically, I may see what other Holly Black novels are available thru the library. (less)
Picked this up from the library over the weekend & am already more than halfway thru.
It's a lovely, heartbreaking story about a Chinese boy in a S...morePicked this up from the library over the weekend & am already more than halfway thru.
It's a lovely, heartbreaking story about a Chinese boy in a Seattle orphanage in the 1930's. After seeing an actress who resembles what he remembers of his mother, he runs away to meet her. The story alternates between her young adulthood and his current-day situation. It's a fascinating look at a culture and a time, with some wonderful writing and characterizations. (less)
Collins recounts the story behind the murder trial of Levi Weeks - accused of killing fellow boarder Elma Sands (with whom he was rumoured to be romantically involved) and dumping her body in a local well. This trial, held in early 1800 in New York City was the first to be fully documented in the press in America, and featured two of the Founding Fathers as defense lawyers - Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Even amateur students of history (like myself) might find it surprising that these two men would have worked together on anything together after the Revolution, but Collins explains the connection.
There's plenty of research, and plenty of detail - resulting in 45-ish pages in the Notes section! Collins does a good job of weaving it all together into an engaging story, focussing on Sands and Elma, while still providing details on the famous figures as well. Collins delves a bit into New York City history as well - wrapping up the book with not only the story of the Burr/Hamilton duel - but the fallout of the duel as well.
It was an interesting read about a time in history I wasn't very familiar with - recommended as at least a library read. (less)
I forgot to post about reading this novel, the second in Eoin Colfer's Daniel McEvoy series - it was recommended by FoieGrasIsEvil over on the SDMB. I...moreI forgot to post about reading this novel, the second in Eoin Colfer's Daniel McEvoy series - it was recommended by FoieGrasIsEvil over on the SDMB. I didn't realize it was part of a series til I was already in it, but it didn't as if I were missing anything crucial.
Colfer feels a bit like a literary to me chameleon - I've read his extension of the Hitchhiker's series And Another Thing... as well as two YA books - Artemis Fowl & Airman - and they all had pretty distinctive voices/styles - as did this gritty, modern-noir novel. I haven't read much in this genre, and in that respect, I was reminded a bit of Tim Dorsey & Carl Hiaasen, but set in Jersey.
A former military man (UN Ireland), McEvoy is now a New Jersey bouncer/soon-to-be club owner. He is surrounded by colorful characters, and finds himself mixed up in some shady situations, caught between competing mobsters. Equally powered by brawn and brains, McEvoy is one of those guys that stuff just seems to happen to - unsavory and potentially deadly stuff.
Colfer is a fun storyteller, and can build a solid, non-fantasy world as well as his fantastical universes. His characters are on the quirky side, but still believable and as well-rounded as they need to be. I'll probably go back and check out the first novel in this series - Plugged, possibly in audiobook form, as I'm curious to "hear" McEvoy himself. (less)
Thru library hold serendipity, I ended up reading this novel Life After Life and by Kate Atkinson at the same time - they both deal with some form of...moreThru library hold serendipity, I ended up reading this novel Life After Life and by Kate Atkinson at the same time - they both deal with some form of time travel by women protagonists. Both novels must have required quite a bit of plotting and diagramming ahead of time to make things turn out just right and it's been interesting to compare and contrast the two novels.
Here, the main character goes thru electro-convulsive therapy in 1985 and finds herself living alternate versions of her life in 1918 and 1941 - swapping between the three on a semi-regular schedule. She slowly discovers the common elements of her existence going in different directions in each timeline; of course, she (all 3 of her) can't help but meddle a bit, and must ultimately decide which version of herself she wants to be.
I found the parallels of Influenza (1918) War (1918 & 1941) & AIDS (1985) and their influences on NYC society to be an intriguing theme carried through each storyline. I also really enjoyed the character development and the little details* of each timeframe setting. While the ending felt a little pat, it was satisfying and I would consider re-reading this novel at some point, tho I don't feel the need to purchase my own copy.
Quotes "It is almost impossible to capture true sadness; it is a deep sea creature that can never be brought into view."
"I had never considered children. No, that's not true. I had considered children as people consider moving to a foreign country; they know it will change them forever, but it is a change they never see."
-------- * Speaking of details, the Disney lover in me wants to think that the young man dressed as a Genie and named Howard at the Halloween party was a tribute to Howard Ashman(less)
To be honest, I've only read three (edit: 4) of his novels; the first, The World According to Garp when I was much too young (13? 14?) - I saw adults making stupid choices, the sexual elements made me very uncomfortable and the driveway accident was doubly shocking. Roberta Muldoon didn't particularly bother me, however. I probably should read it again someday, but am not in any hurry.
About a decade ago, I read A Prayer for Owen Meany and it pretty much left me cold, as well. I found Owen's ALL CAPS dialog annoying and I didn't think much of the narrator.
(Just recalled that I heard most of Last Night in Twisted River on Dick Estelle's Radio Reader show on NPR back in February 2010 - I believe I liked it better than TWATG and APFOM, but should probably re-read it in its entirety)
I was intrigued when I heard reviews of Irving's latest novel, but it slipped off my radar til last month, when it showed up as a Kindle deal - I checked it out from the library and I'm glad I did.
Told in first person through the eyes of Billy, a bisexual man; we see him growing up fatherless in small town Vermont in the 1960's, pursuing a writing career in NYC in the 1970's, and facing the deaths of friends and acquaintances to AIDS in the 1980's and 1990's. He considers himself "a sexual suspect" - trusted by neither women nor men, yet he forms lifelong bonds with fellow travelers of varying identities.
This novel went a long way towards taking the bad taste of TWATG out of my mouth, so to speak. Not only am I nearly two decades older, but Irving's characters seem much more sympathetic in this novel; even as they make poor choices, hurting each other and themselves.
IMHO, Irving's strength is definitely character development; by the end of the novel, I felt like I knew all of Billy's friends (and enemies) as well as he did; perhaps better.
The narrative isn't chronological, but it was easy enough to adjust to the shifts in timeline. The plot isn't really the point of the novel, but worked well enough - I'm rather disappointed with Irving's portrayal of women (especially mothers); but I wasn't terribly surprised.
I had a bit of a struggle believing that the town of Favorite River would be so accepting of Miss Frost and Grandpa Harry (having grown up in small towns myself); but then again, Vermont was one of the first states to ratify gay marriage. I also found myself wondering how autobiographical the novel was - then realized it really wasn't any of my business. I'd love to hear from any transgendered and/or bisexual readers to see what they thought of the novel.
Will I read it again? Possibly - I passed on the cheap Kindle version offer, but I'm very picky about actually buying books, even in electronic format. I figure it will be easy enough to obtain from the library if I feel the need to revisit it. (less)
I picked up this YA novel per a SDMB recco & despite Skip's 2 star review. Apparently the intro to a new...moreSkip gave 2 stars; SDMB recco: Barking Dog
I picked up this YA novel per a SDMB recco & despite Skip's 2 star review. Apparently the intro to a new series, as it's not set in either the same world as Fforde's Tuesday Next books, or the Nursery Crimes; but in a similarly skewed British Isles - here referred to as the Ununited Kingdom.
We meet Jennifer Strange, an indentured foundling who is the current first in command of Kazam - an employment agency for magicians. The actual first in command has gone missing, and since the wizidrical power in the world is slowly drying up, so is their business. A prediction of the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of an unknown Dragonslayer throws Jennifer's life upside down. With her faithful Quarkbeast ("9/10th velociraptor and kitchen blender and 1/10th Labrador") at her side, she finds herself entwined in some very Big Magic indeed.
While it's marketed as a Young Adult book - it's a fun romp for any age, in my opinion. Fforde's quirky sense of humor runs rampant thru the novel, but Jennifer is a down to earth heroine who reminds me a bit of Pratchett's Tiffany Aching (even if Jennifer herself can't do magic). Worldbuilding is something Fforde excels at (tho as a Yank, I occasionally feel I'm missing some of the in-jokes) and his supporting characters are quite enjoyable. The second in the series - The Song of the Quarkbeast - is due out next month & I'm quite looking forward to it. I listened to the audiobook version (performed wonderfully well by Elizabeth Jasicki) and bought the Kindle version as it is on sale this month - definitely worth the $2.00! (less)