Monday, August 17, 2009

Number 25 this year is The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. It seems to me that, after having read two of her novels, that Sebold excels at writing what should be gawd-awful depressing stuff, and yet somehow makes it not depressing.

The Almost Moon starts off with a rather shocking act; the main character, Helen Knightley, kills her elderly, dementia ridden mother. You quickly find out that Helen not only views this as a mercy killing for her mother, but also one for herself, as her relationship with her mother has been, shall we say, contentious.

The novel then slowly unfolds, almost like a murder mystery, Helen's family past as she works through what to do in the present. She has killed her mother, she knows the police will figure it out, and she has to decide what to do. Helen's family history is not easy, her contentious relationship with her mother stems from her mother's mental illness and leads to a very deep love/hate relationship.

The book is a fascinating look at a very damaged family. Sebold doesn't make you feel sorry for Helen though; she's much too unloveable for that (and not because she killed her infirm mother), but you do end up understanding why the way Helen is and why she relates (or doesn't relate) to the world around her.

A good, quick read overall.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yup, I went and did it; number 24 of this year is Twilight by Stephanie Meyers. A good friend of mine had warned me not to read it, that it really wasn't very good, but as with most publishing 'phenomenons', my curiosity got the better of me and so, when finally seeing it at the library, I borrowed it.

No, it's not very good. It starts off fine, a nice teenaged, fish out of water type tale, but it kinda... devolved from there. The character of Edward is so very insufferable and condesending towards the main character it made me wonder why the hell she likes him so much, other than he's really good looking. Oh and a vampire. A nearly 100 year old vampire, masquerading as a high school student, and so I realized this is probably the most creepy May/December romance ever. Dude, a 17 year old girl is the best you can do? Ick...

And this 17 year old girl, Bella, wow is she passive. She's so awkward and not good at anything except being motherly to her parents, and so once again it's like, why does he like her? Because she's pretty and she smells good. Ok yeah... Most of the novel is about how Edward has to rescue her over and over again. He's more like her bodyguard than anything else. It would've been nice had she been able to rescue herself at some point, but no. Although, she does recognize this and so of course, wants to be turned into a vampire. I'm sure that'll happen in some other book.

I guess that's it, this all felt terribly shallow to me. And juvenille. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised really. As far as angsty vampires go, Edward's got nothing on Lestat.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Have actually managed to knock off a few more books, mainly due to reading during sleepless nights and when Laurel's feeding. So number 22 of the year is Firethorn by Sarah Micklen. Rather than sum this book up myself, I shall just reiterate what it says on the Chapters website: Before she was Firethorn, she was Luck, named for her red hair and favored by the goddess of Chance. A lowborn orphan, Luck is destined to a life of servitude. But when her mistress dies, Luck flees to the forest, where she discovers the sacred firethorn tree, whose berries bring her fevered dreams, a new name…and strange gifts. When she emerges from the woods, Firethorn is a new woman, with mysterious powers.

And soon, in the chaos of the UpsideDown Days, when the highborn and the low trade places, Firethorn couples with the warrior Sire Galan, whom she follows to camp with the king's army. There she learns that in her new role as a sheath, a warrior's bedservant, she is but one step above a whore. By day she uses her gifts as a healer to earn a place among the camp's women, and by night she shares Sire Galan's bed, her desire equal to his. But the passion they feel for each other has no place in a world ruled by caste and violence. When her lover makes an ill-considered wager that chances her heart, the consequences are disastrous-and Firethorn will learn how hard it can be to tell honor from dishonor, justice from vengeance.

Honestly, I'm not even sure why I finished this book. I did not like it at all. Rather than some grand romance, most of what she and Sir Galan do is fight and argue, and DAMN it is annoying. Nor does anything really HAPPEN in this book. The whole thing takes place at a camp while they're waiting to go to war, and it just gives them opportunity to do stupid things, talk about their (overly convoluted) pantheon and argue some more. I just wanted to smack both characters all too frequently. So yeah, did not enjoy this book much at all.

Number 23, following in the vein of Toby Young and Anthony Bourdain "industry tell-all books" is The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin. Both authors were nannies for well-healed families in New York City. While this book isn't about a specific family, but rather a pastiche of the various families they worked for over the years. It's a funny book, but also rather heartbreaking story though as she tells of looking after 4 year old Grayer, a smart, loving kid who is basically ignored by his self obsessed parents. His mother does nothing but shop and attend events, whilst complaining that child-rearing is exhausting her. The husband is having an affair, and eventually, the mistress starts asking the Nanny to run errands for her when she's going to be in town for a tryst. The Nanny really wants nothing to do with all that, understandably. Eventually, everything comes to a head when she's on a two week vacation to Nantucket with the family. The husband does not want to be there, the wife desperately wants him to stay (she even goes so far as to invite her mother-in-law to stay with them for a week, without informing her husband first), and the mistress is calling them every hour or so because the husband was supposed to come home a week early and spend it with her. Nanny also finds out they've installed a 'nanny cam' back at the apartment in New York and feels absolutley betrayed (but she should hardly be surprised). But when Grayer falls down and hurts himself and would rather his Nanny's comfort than his mother's, the Nanny's time is up and she's unceremoniously fired and not even given an opportunity to say good bye to Grayer. It's a harsh, but probably rather realistic look at people who probably shouldn't have ever had children, even though they have more than enough money to be able to spend oodles of time with their kids.