Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Number 7 this year is, Dead in Dallas another of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. I guess I'm liking these because they are a nice, quick, popcorn read, and I haven't had too many of those this year.

This book builds on Sookie's world. She and vampire Bill Compton are still dating (although they hit a few snags in their relationship here and there) and must journey to Dallas to do a favour for a nest of vampires when she is 'loaned' out by powerful vampire Eric.

An enjoyable read overall. Harris builds on her world nicely, as we see the impact the outing of vampires has made, from anti-vampire religious fanatics to new businesses set up to cater to the vampires. It all makes sense and doesn't seem outlandish.

Harris also introduces more supernatural beings to her world. She seems to be saying that when one supernatural bunch comes out of the closet, more are soon to follow.

The only thing I didn't like about this book, was if the murder that happens at the beginning crosses over into the tv show True Blood, I'm going to be really upset.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Number 6 is Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. This is a sequel of sorts to her much earlier novel, Swordspoint, which I read and enjoyed. The only thing about it is that I can't remember a darned thing about it. So when I noticed that PotS wasn't a total sequel but just shared a few characters, well that made it easier to decide to pick up. And true to what it said, I didn't need to remember any of the back story from Swordspoint, and any back story I needed was supplied to me.

The story is about Katherine Talbert, the niece of the Mad Duke Tremontaine (Alec Campion from Swordspoint). The Duke takes her from her home (there had been a family feud going) and decides that she will be trained to be a swordsman, which is something women didn't do. So Katherine is plunged into the strange, decadent world of her uncle, a world she doesn't come to embrace, but she certainly comes to appreciate some of the eccentricities.

The novel moved briskly enough to keep my interest, and is pretty much a character study, especially in the person of the Mad Duke. Alec's madness is of the clear-eyed sort that calls into question all of our basic assumptions. In our terms, he is as neurotic as it's possible to be and still function, but he is also cagey, brilliant, and ruthless, and we're never quite sure where the one leaves off and the other starts. He is also an idealist and a humanitarian, and his clear-eyed vision on the follies of privilege is the starting point for much of the satire in the novel.

Katherine herself is a pretty good against-the-type heroine. She is brave (right from the beginning actually, in leaving her family to do her duty for them) and she becomes a good swordsman enough so to win fights against men and to champion her friend Artemisia who was wronged by her fiancee Lord Ferris. Katherine's naievty amidst all the shenanigans of the Mad Duke's world could be trite, but ends up actually working as it is a nice counterpoint, but it also doesn't make her prudish. She is disturbed by some things, but intreigued by others and I liked that, it seems a more natural reaction. And once the Mad Duke actually does start taking an interest in her and they talk, the book becomes even more enjoyable.

I liked this enough to go dig out my copy of Swordspoint and re-read it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

There are a lot of authors out there that I love, but I can safely say that of them all, Guy Gavriel Kay is my absolute favourite. So, whenever he has a new book out, I am absurdly happy. I must rush out and get the new book as soon as I can, and then I want my life to basically cease it's usual pace so that all I have to do is sit down and read the new book and get lost in whatever world Kay has created for me this time. So, new book was acquired last Friday, and I finished it today. Number 5 of the year is Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard this was a book set in a thinly disguised Tang Dynasty-8th Century -type China. I'm not overly fascinated by the Far East, so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy this one or not. I should've known better and trusted in Kay unquestioningly like I usually do.

Under Heaven is gripping and epic and just an utter pleasure to read. He painstakingly builds the lands of Kitai (China) and it's neighbours, and he weaves court and political intreigue just as well as George R. R. Martin does. The main character, Tai, goes off to honour the memory of his recently deceased father by journeying to a remote battlefield and laying to rest the remains of hundreds of soldiers who died there. He does this for two years, and towards the end of it, he is given a great, and extravegant gift by the princess of Tagur (as Tai was also burying their dead, as it was Kitai and Tagur who fought at this place) that changes his life forever. Tai is a good character, resourceful, witty, a little lost about his place in the world, and just... competent , as many of Kay's characters tend to be. His life becomes a grand adventure, and it definitely puts one in the mind of the old proverb; "may you live in interesting times", as that is exactly what Tai is living in and has become intricately intwined in.

I cannot go into all the details about this book, as it has so many plot threads and characters and what have you, which is pretty standard for a Kay novel. His prose is elegant and descriptive, also as usual. It's a big book, but well thought out. It never comes crashing down under it's own weight, and I didn't even really see the ramifications of some characters actions until it was too late. And that's a good thing, for there are surprises, but they make sense.

The ending is, for the most part, a happy one for Tai, which is a good thing, considering Kay doesn't always allow his characters for a most happy ending. But this time there is one, and it is deserved, for which I'm glad.

I mean heck, I still haven't totally forgiven him for Diarmuid ;)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

They're coming a bit quicker now since I put down the huge book and picked up some fun stuff. Number 4 this year is Fool by one of my very favourite authors, Christopher Moore. When I spied this book at a bookstore in Buffalo (there for a lovely day trip to the Albright Knox Art Gallery), I knew I had to have. Christopher Moore doing a retelling of King Lear? I am there. And he did not disappoint.

Moore's books are often hilariously bawdy, and in this one, he gets completely carried away. There's lots of shagging and snogging (this is England afterall), but of course, most of it is in the darker context of the tragedy that is King Lear. It's a very well done juxatposition, managing to make a comedy out of one of Shakespeare's biggest tragedies.

The tale is told (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead style), by King Lear's fool, Pocket. The Fool in Shakespeare's play doesn't even get a name, but here, he gets a name, a background and one hell of a personality. Pocket is completely immersed in the polictical machinations of Lear's horrid daughters (Cordelia excepted of course) and in fact, it is him that causes much of the action to start and finish. Well, he's partly goaded on and aided by Macbeth's Three Witches (seems those girls get around... like most of the other women in this book. heh)

I started trying to remember where and how Moore deviates from the play, but as the man himself said "that way lies madness" (oh, and Moore quoted that too), so I stopped, because it is indeed pretty impossible. So I just let go and enjoyed the ride for what it was, a journey into the bawdy, hilarious, tragedy laced world of Shakespeare but filtered through the wonderfully wicked mind of Christopher Moore.