Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Not what the hardcover edition
will look like, but both are pretty.

NOTE: This book will be released on Tuesday, April 3rd. Go out and take a look at it, it promises to be a bestselling book :)

So anyway, I received this novel as an advance reader's copy through my job as a bookseller, and am quite pleased I grabbed it up before someone else was able to. I've never read a Christopher Moore book before, and after Sacré Bleu, I can't understand why I never have. 5 out of 5 stars for my first Chris Moore novel, and I can't wait to grab some of his earlier works.

From the publisher: In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his life... and then walk a mile to a doctor's house for help? Who was the crooked little "color man" Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of the color blue?
These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent's friends- baker turned painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec- who vow to discover the truth behind van Gogh's untimely death.
Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth century Paris. Along the way, Lucien will learn that, years earlier, his father's friends Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, and Cézanne were all haunted by the same strange little Colorman... and always, eternally, a mysterious woman in blue.

My thoughts: Like I said before, I'm very disappointed in myself for having waited so long to pick up a Chris Moore novel. This was gripping and entrancing, and had the reputed Moore wit and humor that I've heard so much about. 
I am really enjoying this historical/biographical fiction kick that I've been on (see my reviews on the Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik, I've written reviews on the first 5 of them, and here's the fifth and most recent one).
I particularly liked that this was a biographical fiction; so much research was put into this story to ensure that the facts were down straight, and the characters (mostly) accurately portrayed their real-life counterparts. This wasn't just thrown together, and this wasn't a typical mystery thriller set in France. Who would've thought that van Gogh's suicide could, in an alternate world, be just a hint at mystery and intrigue in the art world of late nineteenth century Paris? I certainly couldn't have, as I knew next to nothing about France and the lives of these renowned artists. It was very interesting to learn about how artists obtained their colors before the advent of industrialization and modern color-making techniques, and even more interesting to get a better backstory on these artists. I should really consider reading more nonfiction, particularly memoirs and biographies, because they are always so eye-opening to me. It's always fun to learn about things through a different perspective or light, and alternate histories and historical fictions are a great place to start.

I highly recommend this book (again, 5 of 5 stars), and seriously have plenty of new books to add to my ever growing, never shrinking to-read book list. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Victory of Eagles (Temeraire Series #5) by Naomi Novik

I give this book.... 5 stars out of 5! Well played, Ms. Novik. Well played.

From the hardcover edition:
Naomi Novik’s triumphant debut, His Majesty’s Dragon, introduced a dynamic new pair of heroes to the annals of fantasy fiction: the noble fighting dragon Temeraire and his master and commander, Capt. Will Laurence, who serves Britain’s peerless Aerial Corps in the thick of the raging Napoleonic Wars. Now, in the latest novel of this dazzling series, they soar to new heights of breathtaking action and brilliant imagination.
It is a grim time for the dragon Temeraire. On the heels of his mission to Africa, seeking the cure for a deadly contagion, he has been removed from military service–and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason. 
Separated by their own government and threatened at every turn by Napoleon’s forces, Laurence and Temeraire must struggle to find each other amid the turmoil of war and to aid the resistance against the invasion before Napoleon’s foothold on England’s shores can become a stranglehold. 
If only they can be reunited, master and dragon might rally Britain’s scattered forces and take the fight to the enemy as never before–for king and country, and for their own liberty. But can the French aggressors be well and truly routed, or will a treacherous alliance deliver Britain into the hands of her would-be conquerors?

My thoughts:

I thought this was a very well written book, and I am so pleased that the monotony and predictability of the first few novels has all but vanished. Temeraire's perspective is finally introduced in this book, and it is very interesting to delve into the mind of a dragon, especially Temeraire. I can't even say how happy I was when he and Laurence were finally reunited, after having dealt with the captain's rumored demise aboard a sunk ship. Essentially, I was picturing a smarter, larger dog seeing his owner after a week's vacation. And that's quite a picture to paint.

This book was lacking in happy moments, which of course is to be expected. Laurence has been condemned to death for treason, and Temeraire is an unruly dragon who seeks to reroute the British military and government, asking for better treatment and (dare he ask it?) pay/commission. Shock! I'm on his side though, he's a soldier as much as Laurence or Granby, and the dragons do deserve to earn something from their work.

I'm looking forward to the next installment, Tongues of Serpents. This story started off strong, and only got better throughout. And I really do want a happy story for Laurence and Temeraire, they have been through so much and really do deserve better.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At last, my review of book seven of this massive series. It has been a year since I started this series. While part of it was having to wait for my coworker to bring in the next book after I would finish one, this series took me a long time to read as well. I have to admit that I had moments where I would want to stop reading, I'm pretty glad I made it through to the end of the series. I wouldn't have been able to handle not knowing what happens to Roland and his ka-tet, whether they make it to the Dark Tower or not. The rose's song must have kept me going...

In any case, this book was the longest installment in the series, and so I was taking notes and reviewing it while I read it so I didn't forget anything I wanted to say. These are the notes I took for each step of the way; I'll add a little more to the end but generally what I said stands.

Part One: The Little Red King- Dan-Tete

This book started off incredibly strong, and I have high hopes that this momentum will carry me through the next 80% of the book. Although I'm a little upset about the Pere Callahan, I'm impressed with the fight sequences, and King's ability to rotate through all the characters' plots without confusing or losing the reader. Three separate story lines, Susannah, Jake and Callahan, and Eddie and Roland, being told simultaneously until they finally converge once again, and it was magnificent. Although let's be honest here, Oy is my favorite character, and I'm really surprised and amused that the billy-bumbler was given a voice in this story (and a bigger role, but I'm not surprised by that, only happy). Reading on...

Part Two: Blue Heaven- Devar-Toi

So, Mordred gets a voice in this book too? I was able to tolerate the idea of vampires in this series, even though I was confused and didn't really understand the point, but now there's a creepy were-spider baby crawling around and I don't like it. Not just because there's a spider involved now, but because this is plot is just getting thrown all over the place now. I really hope it redeems itself, or at least remains as interesting as it is now.
Oh, and I don't really like the fact that King keeps throwing in things that could have happened, or things that will happen. This is hard enough to follow, without so many what ifs and what wills.
Best part of this part so far is that Ted's story is finally over. Can't the ka-tet just fight and save the Tower without all this backstory? It's getting so long-winded and frustrating.

Good quote- "A man who can't bear to share his habits is a man who needs to quit them."

New decision- I think I'm better served reading action-packed stories with little backstory and plot. Or at least not reading stories chock full of flashbacks and storytelling. The assault of Algul Siento was well done, even if I'm still shocked at the breaking of the ka-tet. Sincerely hoping King was being truthful when he said "when ka-tet breaks, the end always comes quickly", if only because I've been reading this series for a solid year now and I want to see the ending (finally).

Halfway through the book and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. Let's see how the second half goes, and hopefully I'll feel a little more strongly for or against this tale's conclusion.

Part Three: In This Haze of Green and Gold- Ves'-Ka Gan

Waaaarrrggghhh is everyone going to die in this book?! Two of my favorite characters have been killed off now, and there's gonna be hell to pay if it keeps up. And of course King makes himself this friggin important in the story. He's essentially made himself a sorta god, although he claims that ka is forcing his hand to write this story. Lies and slander! This is YOUR story, stop killing everyone off!

That being said, the story is moving much faster, even though there is still plenty of description and detail at every point anyway. Just a little bit left in this series! I'm amazed that I've been reading this for over a year now, but it has been a great ride.

Part Four: The White Lands of Empathica- Dandelo

Same old, same old. I got through this section pretty quickly, since there was a lot happening. And I sincely hope/doubt that there will be any more backstory or lengthy plot additions to this story now. And if Oy dies, I am going to be VERY, very upset. Stop killing all my favorite characters, you bastard!

Part Five: The Scarlet Field of Can'-Ka No Rey

Okay I'm NOT happy. Why couldn't there be a better happy ending than this? And why did King decide to introduce Patrick Danville in the last book of his series, and make him such an important character? Recycling would have been a little easier, both for him and for his readers who had to make sense of all the characters throughout this series.

And seriously, did he HAVE to kill off so many people? I understand Roland having to enter the 
Dark Tower on his own, as he had originally started his journey, but there are other ways to get rid of characters. Send them all back to New York or something. This was tragic and painful, even if there was a sorta happy ending to the story.

All in all I'm pleased with this series, and recommend it to fantasy and adventure fans. Just be warned, it does take a little time, and a lot of patience and understanding at some points. And don't get emotionally attached to the characters if you can. Although I'm sure you will anyway, King is good like that.

So yes, the ending was pretty weak. I feel like King kinda pushed this one out without really thinking it through. Adding more characters, and making them pivotal and all-important, was in bad taste. I just feel like there was such a lack of continuity throughout this book, and the series in general. King did a fairly good job keeping me interested, but I just feel like I've seen more cohesive stories.

And so, my journey to the Tower is at an end.
I have to admit, I'll miss these characters, this ka-tet..

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wild Thing by Josh Bazell

Wild Thing (Peter Brown #2)Wild Thing by Josh Bazell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I definitely liked this book more than the first one, Beat the Reaper. That being said, Wild Thing was literally ALL over the place. Mafia, corruption, urban legends and monsters, and Sarah freakin Palin were all in this story. What is this, I don't even.

Interesting plot, with plenty of twists and turns and "I have no idea what's going on" moments (some good, some bad.. you'll just have to see for yourself). I personally had a great time reading this, although I feel like the ending was rushed quite a bit.

Plus there were more footnotes than in my last research paper, which shouldn't really be so in a fictional story. The last 40 pages or so were the appendix and other notes, and again, I felt like I was suddenly in a reference book, and not at the end of a novel.

In any case, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea but I still enjoyed reading Wild Thing, and think it's something that were you not looking specifically for it, it would be overlooked by most readers. And that's kind of a shame.