Thursday, 29 December 2011

Review: Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson

I do have to say, I absolutely Love my paranormal romances, especially vampire novels. They are the perfect mix of action, sci-fi and romantic fantasy escapism that together are the perfect break from erm... thinking too hard. And Undead and Unwed is one of my favourite low-effort vampire novels, almost entirely because of the protagonist, Betsy Taylor. 

She's fantastic because she is such a cynic, and she's so headstrong and opinionated that she's not automatically half in love with every vampire she meets; in fact, she openly mocks most of them, despite being a vampire herself (although not by choice). Betsy's perspective is really interesting; she's shallow, stubborn, rude, easily distracted and has foul language to boot, but all this makes her incredibly funny. 

Betsy gets fired, ran over by an Aztec Pontiac and killed before waking up a Vampire in a funeral home wearing cheap cast-off shoes *shudders*. And there's some awfully clich├ęd bad-guy whose name she can't remember, who wants Betsy dead. Oh, and she might be the prophesised Vampire Queen. Busy week.

Plus, all of it is in the first person and seeing as Betsy is no pushover, the whole book is wonderfully biased. I suppose it might not be for everyone- those who aren't a fan of sarcasm might not appreciate Betsy's sense of humour, and anyone wanting a simpering Bella-esque character and a perfect heart-melting romance are going to be disappointed. The romantic sub-plot is less of a love-hate relationship and more of a he's-so-sexy-but-I-hate-him relationship, with Sinclair being obscenely swoon worthy, and almost as fiendish (not Evil, but scheming plotting type fiendish).
But, instead of detracting from the book, all of Betsy's personality quirks and all of the character dynamics make it much more fun to read. It pokes fun at the Vampire genre, or at least many of its stereotypes, and yet isn't totally ridiculous. Plus, Undead and Unwed proves that vampires can wear designer shoes, have crude language, and not be unfashionable black cape-wearing denizens of the night.
Sexy, Sarcastic, light-hearted fun. 8.5 stars.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas, Alcohol and NEW BOOKS

Merry Christmas, Boxing Day and all the rest!

I am reading one of my new books Practical Magic, but think I might have to start again when I'm sober so that I remember what's happened.

I am very ill (again, what is wrong with me?), but have warded it off temporarily with large volumes of Amaretto, which I bought to be festive (smells like marzipan), and not absolutely wasted. Hence the drunken reading.

A day of monopoly, family, boyfriend, alcohol and books, what more could a girl want? Snow maybe?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Just a quick little (ish) review to fill in over the Christmas break. I'm mid-re-read of Undead and Unwed, which I will review next week some time, and I've been eyeing up some presents under the tree that look like they might be books, so very excited.

Anyhoo- The Time Traveler's Wife. Basics, its all about the relationship between Clare and Henry, only Henry just happens to be a time traveller, because of some genetic thing. Yes, I am using English spelling of traveller. Because time travel is complicated, their relationship becomes this self-fulfilling prophesy, where Clare falls in love with Henry because he repeatedly time travels to her youth, and he travels back to her youth because he is in love with adult Clare and his time travels are determined by emotional gravity of the subconscious (totally nicked the "emotional gravity" off wikipedia but it was the best way of explaining it). 

Me reading the book was totally a sob-fest (mixture of happy sob and sad bawling my eyes out), and was massively intense to read, as I forced myself to read the entire second half in one sitting to minimise the sob-fest to just one evening. One of the best parts (and worst in terms of cry-inducingness) is that the twist of the story is revealed to Henry part way through the book, roughly just after you decide that all is well and you cant handle any more sad drama- one of the problems with being an accidental time traveller is that you know details of the next chapter of your own story. And then, for most of the book, I sat there thinking that I knew the ending, but Niffenegger doesn't give away the details and uses Clare's ignorance of what Henry knows to help hide some of the information from the reader, and so then, in the final twist, there is an extra twisty bit. and then further untwisty, 'should make it alright but it doesn't really' twists. And all this meant that by the end of the book I was very confused as to whether I was happy or sad. But, important bit is that I cared about the characters and what happened to them, LOTS, and if a book can't make you do that then it's not doing its job properly.
10 tears. 8.5 stars. Would have been 9 if I had the capacity to handle that much sad in one book.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

I've finished A Game of Thrones, and the word Epic has been banned

So I have finally finished A Game of Thrones. It took a lot longer than I had hoped for, as I was simultaneously battling both an essay and a particularly nasty cold that made me sound worryingly like Darth Vader. Since the day that I wrote the first part of this review, I have excessively used the word Epic, and because of disapproving looks shot by some family members, the use of said word might now be banned... well... me saying it at least.
But any-hoo, the second half of the book was even more epic than the first half, and it has made me really impatient to start the next installment, which is frustrating as The Boyfriend is a mighty slow reader and still has over 600 pages to go! 

So Game of Thrones is all politics and battles, dragon eggs and wolves, witchcraft, treachery and corruption, and oh, its all so good! SO good! 

Normally if a main character is killed off (who I like), then I mildly resent the author, even if I see the need for the death. But this time I resented the the character responsible for the death (who is referred to as a little son of a *long-string of profanities*). And I totally like that I was so immersed in the book that I temporarily forgot the presence of the author. 

Plus, I like that only some of the characters truly develop. True, they all react differently as their surroundings change, but I think that only Daenerys truly changes in this books. It's unrealistic to expect all characters in a book to develop, especially as its because of many of the primary characters' faults that most of the plot happens. 
The best bit about the book is definitely its complexity and the way that Martin has made sure that every aspect of the fantasy world that could be thought of is complete, with a back story and motivations and detail in everything, especially in terms of how each character, family or place connects to each other. 

Admittedly the writing isn't the best ever, (as i mentioned before), but there are no glaringly obvious parts of naff-ness to bring it down, and the characters themselves are so well written that it completely outweighs any small problems with the book. Love. It. 9 shiny stars!!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin

So George R. R. Martin, who looks like a fisherman, wrote this Epic fantasy novel set primarily in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and in the land across the narrow sea. Yes, it does deserve a capitalised E. EPIC!

The Epic story (are we sensing a theme yet?) is told from the perspective of 8 people- Eddard Stark, his wife Catelyn, four of Eddard's six children, Tyrion Lannister (the Queen's brother), and Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess. Because of the multi-perspective third person thing going on, its really complicated to start with, trying to work out who is who, and how are they related, and do they like each other or not. Luckily, family trees are included in the back in case you get confused, which was pointed out to me by The Boyfriend after I kept checking with him who was who but then complaining when he accidentally gave away plot points.

So there's all these people, taking turns to have chapters, all with different stories and stuff happening, and time jumps between each of their own chapters, which is epic to write (I would guess), but then there's also all of the story, and the world that Martin has created, which is well... *insert another word for epic*. Its immense. Its enormity is enormous. Large words in a large font vaguely allude to its sheer size and mental scope. I'm 322 pages in, not even half way, and so far all of the different plot lines/ character perspectives are excellently juggled, and could probably hold up separately as much smaller books. Just as you start to think "But what about this character?", the next chapter is about that character. And nothing is filler- every chapter develops the plot some more, and even the bits that you think are filler are shown to be vitally important developments just a chapter or so later.

The language isn't too eloquent or the best of literary script writing, and some of the sexual references are crudely phrased, but I think that fits the tone of the book perfectly- its not a flowery girly book for sure.

But... there are puppies...
Did I mention the PUPPIES?!
*girly look-at-the-puppies squeal*... wolf puppies... erm, super sized dire wolf puppies that are defensive and loyal and vicious, and played by exceedingly cute Northern Innuit dogs. Unfortunately I own neither of these images or any of these dogs... sniffs sadly, but yay for the TV show version being made so that I have a lovely related image of puppies.

Bigger Puppy.. I mean, ferocious man eating wolf... called Lady
The cute/dangerous puppy direwolves are just one of the additions to the fantasy world that Martin has filled with... erm... stuff. animals and objects that a normal person would know of, or recognise, and then some standard fantasy animals and stuff, and then random well-named creatures that Martin has made up and mentions in passing, giving a suggestion of what it is. As to what the hell these things look like, its left up to the readers own imaginative devices.

I will post some kind of have now finished the book and think this thing that I'm about to write post, and probably add in some stuff that I've forgotten to mention no doubt.  Exciting, Epic and Enticing stuff so far. Loving my E words today. Provided the end doesn't disappoint, this is going to have a big score.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Twilight vs Midnight Sun

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, has most probably been reviewed so many times that the combined reviews are now longer than the book itself.

But, for those few people who have managed to avoid the phenomenon that is Twilight, a brief overview... Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington, to live with her Dad, expecting to find a sleepy damp town with little to offer her. Instead, she arrives to find a sleepy damp town occupied by the Cullen family, who are so ridiculously good looking that they must be supernatural in some way. Twilight follows her relationship with the mysterious Edward Cullen, a mind reading vampire, and the danger the relationship holds for everyone. 

And Midnight Sun is the same story from Edward's perspective. The massive problem is that Stephenie Meyer hasn't actually published a finished copy, because it was leaked onto the internet. A copy is available to download from her website, and its well worth the read, even though its only the first half.

When I read Twilight I loved it, but I was 'mildly' annoyed by Bella, and her semi-self imposed loneliness, and just the way she thought. Can you even get annoyed by the way a character thinks? Not necessarily what she thinks, but how she thinks it? But then I read Midnight Sun, and I had an actual "Oh, NOW it makes sense" moment of clarity, where you suddenly get why Edward loves Bella, and how outside of her own head she is a lot less annoying. And then you get to see all these other bits of the story that Bella doesn't see, which makes it a more well rounded book, like Alice's visions, which you see when Edward reads her mind. 
But both books are better than the film, even if its just because the Bella in my head can shut her mouth. (no offence to Kristen Stewart, but her gormless open mouthedness ruins a generally good performance)

Twilight is a 6 out of 10, but Midnight Sun promises to be at least a 8, maybe even a 9, should Meyer ever get around to finishing it.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Getting stuck in 1818

I'm going to start this post by being completely honest; I love reading but I don't read enormous quantities of books. Stress and work and pretending to write my dissertation all get in the way of reading to my heart's desire, and so I tend to have seasonal reading, or weekend reading, or post-essay reading. (Post essay reading is usually a slow process as my brain is turned to mush for the 3 to 5 days following completion of essay, as I forget how to think about anything other than [insert essay subject here])

But anyway, every week or two, I sit down with a book (old or new, to read or reread; it doesn't really matter), having set an hour or two of my evening aside to chill and read something other than journal articles. And, more often than not, something quietly miraculous happens, and suddenly its 3am, and I have finished the entire book, and read the snippet chapter from the next instalment that is placed there to tempt me into spending my student loan. (This sales device works oh-so-often, and has made it difficult to read a series of books and afford weekly shopping simultaneously.)
My lovely boyfriend is unable to understand how I lose this time, and become so immersed in a book that I forget to stop and go to sleep. Similarly, I am at a loss at how he can stop at the end of a chapter when its just getting to a really good bit. 'Tis madness, people, Madness!

Just the other night, I was mid Georgian romance novel, when a pat on my arm made me jump. The boyfriend is sat next to me, and I have no idea when the hell he got there. He's complaining that I'm ignorant or deaf as he had just asked me a question four times without me batting an eyelid, and did I want a cup of tea? The standard answer is now "No, thanks.", as I usually then forget to drink the cup of tea until it is room temperature. But anyway, I ask him how long he's been sat there, and when he tells me half an hour, I meekly apologise and accept the tea offer. Five minutes later and I have a cup of tea warming my hands, as I try to explain how I am able to not only ignore someone talking, but The Boyfriend's presence altogether.

"Sorry, I was in 1818 in Venice. Titus is considering telling Alethea that he loves her, even though she's married, and its getting really really good! I was stuck in 1818." I'm vaguely aware that I'm getting more high pitched with my description of just how good the book was at the particular moment, before he smiles, and I know he isn't too bothered. "Don't you know how hard is it to time-travel?!?" 
Then he laughs and shakes his head at me, "Drink your bloody tea."

This is the difference for me between a good book, and an amazing one. I need to be transported, sucked into the book so entirely that I forget whatever was bothering me before I opened those pages. I want to temporarily become the telepathic barmaid meeting a vampire for the first time, or a medieval doctor solving a mass murder case, or Mr. Darcy's daughter who is falling in love with a man other than her husband. 
And then at the end, I want to feel the urgent need to tell someone else just how good the experience of reading that book was. I think this has been my very round-about way of saying that I want to find more amazing books, and (more relevant to the blogging part) post reviews on those amazing books, so that someone other than The Boyfriend hears just how fantastic they are.

Hmmm, so many choices! Where to start?