This one was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the author, Michael Fazio, has a fascinating job and a fascinating history (he was a Hollywood ageThis one was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the author, Michael Fazio, has a fascinating job and a fascinating history (he was a Hollywood agent and a concierge at New York’s Intercontinental Hotel before opening his own concierge business), and he’s one of those people you’d love to listen to tell war stories over a few drinks. The book is a lot like that—incredibly juicy in places and he names names (at least he names celebrities—Salma Hayek and Rosie Perez don’t come off very well at all), and the stories of entitled and sometimes downright evil behavior can be jaw-dropping. (What he describes happened in the hotel on 9/11 managed to shock un-shockable me.) And since I come from a service background, I enjoyed the nuts and bolts descriptions as well, especially how he got his business off the ground after leaving the Intercontinental.
On the other hand…well, Mr. Fazio isn’t a professional writer, he’s a concierge, so he hired the interestingly-named Michael Malice to help out with the writing. Let’s just say it didn’t leave me with a burning desire to read Mr. Malice’s “Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History” anytime soon.
It’s also the first book in my recent memory that would make a decent drinking game: just take a drink every time the author uses the word “fancy.” You’ll be on the floor by page 62.
The verdict: fascinating, fun, just a little bit trashy, and well worth reading if the topic (or the strange ways of the rich and famous) interests you. Just don’t bring your red pencil. ...more
“I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”
I hadn’t heard anything about this one until I noticed that it had beate“I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”
I hadn’t heard anything about this one until I noticed that it had beaten both China Miéville and George R.R. Martin in the Best Novel category at this year’s Hugo awards. Curious, I had it downloaded to my Kindle in just a few seconds, and it didn’t take long to completely charm me.
It’s set in 1979 in Wales and England, and is told from the point of view of fifteen year-old Morwenna Phelps, who is ferociously precocious and a voracious reader (of science fiction and fantasy especially.) I was twelve in 1979, somewhat of an age with the character, and had also read and loved a lot of the titles she mentions, which was great fun. The story begins as Morwenna is leaving Wales for England, to live with a father she barely knows following a car accident that killed her twin sister and left her with chronic injuries. Or was that what really happened? There are witches and fairies, a posh boarding school and a really monstrous mother, ghosts and household objects that contain a magic of their own:
“At home I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar’s chair resented anyone else sitting on it as much as he did himself. Gramma’s shirts and jumpers adjusted themselves to hide her missing breast. My mother’s shoes positively vibrated with consciousness. Our toys looked out for us. There was a potato knife in the kitchen that Gramma couldn’t use. It was an ordinary enough brown-handled thing, but she’d cut herself with it once and ever after it wanted more of her blood. If I rummaged through the kitchen drawer, I could feel it brooding. After she died, that faded.”
And everywhere, dozens of literary references, from Douglas Adams to Kurt Vonnegut, and a deep and abiding love of the transformative power of books, something I bet a lot of readers will identify with. I certainly did. Because that’s what this really is in the end—a big valentine to those of us who would rather read than do almost anything else.
Another thing I really enjoyed was that the author has managed to create a character who is believably fifteen; she’s as annoying as any precocious teen I’ve ever known, and can be a horrible literary snob with everything figured out, but you never get the sense that she’s got thirty-five years of life experience behind her, which was the trouble I had with something else I read recently.
I can’t believe I’m the only one of my acquaintance who has read this—fans of Charles de Lint and Peter S. Beagle should really enjoy this, but it would work for anyone who considers books to be a member of their family. ...more
Sometime in the near future (next Thursday, maybe) comes a day known as Gray Wednesday. The Earth’s poles switch, and every human being discovers theySometime in the near future (next Thursday, maybe) comes a day known as Gray Wednesday. The Earth’s poles switch, and every human being discovers they have a constant companion—a ghost that only they can see--usually someone they once knew; a relative, lover, or an enemy. Three years later, the world is in chaos, with massive unemployment, rampant crime, failing governments, unpredictable weather, shortages of just about everything…and the rich have shut themselves away behind high walls guarded by private armies. (Take away the ghostly element and the book really could be describing next Thursday, which is creepy and unsettling all the way through.) Against this unrelentingly bleak backdrop we meet Oscar Mariani, a detective assigned to a division that investigates crimes with occult motives (ghostly companions are a handy alibi for all kinds of nastiness), who is about to encounter the most dangerous case of his life.
The author weaves together several genres—thriller, horror, mystery, detective story and post-apocalyptic dystopia with the greatest of ease, and his incredibly vivid descriptive style put me right in the middle of the action—for heaven’s sake, I could smell the world he’s created here (especially when I didn’t want to.) Uncomfortable and unsettling with some really dark and disturbing images, but so well-crafted it’s worth the ride (and is probably going to trouble me for quite a while.) I only wish it didn’t seem so…possible. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t start hoarding olive oil, soap and tea bags just in case…
A big thank you to the people at Doubleday for the chance to read this AR copy. ...more