Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (Beautiful Creatures Series #1)

A few weeks ago I read the Secret Circle, a paranormal, young adult romance centering on witches.  I was underwhelmed by that series and felt like I needed to try another representative of the genre, hopefully a better one, and so I turned to Beautiful Creatures.  Beautiful Creatures tells the story of Ethan and Lena.  Their love story is the kind where everyone in the town is against them being together for reasons no one will clearly articulate.  Of course at the end a little more justification is provided for keeping them apart but until then it is simply that he/she is "not one of us".  

When I was in the sixth grade I had to write a book reports for English class.  One of the requirements of said assignment was to explain why I did or did not like a book.  The worse was when I read a book that I didn’t feel strongly about one way or the other because the assignment required picking a side – either you liked the book or you didn’t and you had to justify your opinion either way.  This is a book I would have a hard time writing a book report (or even a blog post) about because I did not love it or hate it.  I enjoyed it well enough while I was reading it but as soon as I finished the last page, it immediately left my mind.  To be blunt, it was not very memorable. In fact, the most memorable parts of the book for me where when libraries were involved (there is a public library and a supernatural library!), but then I am a librarian who loves books and libraries. I especially loved this passage when Ethan talked about his mother and her feelings about books and libraries,

“The library was home away from home to my mom, and my family...My mom used to say, ‘This is church, Ethan. This is how we keep the Sabbath holy in our family.’”

Despite not finding the book particularly memorable, there is a part of me that wants to read the next book in the series.  There are a few holes in the story that I can only hope will be filled in later in books of the series.

As many will already know a movie based on this book recently came out.  The copy of the book I read was the movie-tie version with a movie poster type cover.  I have not yet seen the movie but do really like the cover art, especially the font and how the title intertwines with the gate and tree vines at the top.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Earth (The Book)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race

Earth (The Book) is silly, good fun.  Perfect for picking up here and there for a quick laugh.  Divided into nine chapters, it is designed to provide the aliens who come to this planet after we have all perished with all they need to know about earth, life, man, the life cycle, society, commerce, religion, science and culture.  Be careful when reading in public as you may occasionally burst into uncontrollable laughter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Secret Circle by L. J. Smith

The Initiation and The Captive (Part 1) (Secret Circle Series #1-2)  The Captive (Part 2) and The Power (Secret Circle Series #2-3)

The Secret Circle: The Initiation and The Captive Part I
The Secret Circle: The Captive Part II and The Power

I needed something light, quick, and well, that didn't require a substantial intellectual investment.  These books met the above requirements and had the added bonus of having sat in my unread pile for more than a year.  This is a bonus because this year I'm trying to buy less books and make a dent in the large my pile of unread books sitting in my living room.  I bought The Secret Circle a few years ago when I heard that a television version of the show would be on the CW.  Well the show came and went before I got around to reading the book.  Happily, I can now cross them off my list. 

By them, I mean the two books I read in this series.  Or maybe it's four.  I'm not sure.  I have two books, each of which seems to contain two books.  Arguably it should be read as one book because if you stop at the first story (The Initiation) or the the first physical book (The Initiation and The Captive Part I combined) you'll be left quite satisfied.  The first story/book does not read well as a stand alone story.  The story really doesn't get resolved until the last story (The Power).

Which brings me to the story...It centers around Cassie.  She's on vacation on the east coast, with plans to head back to California in time for her junior year of high school when her mother announces that instead they are going to move to New Salem, her mother's hometown.  Soon after arriving in New Salem, Cassie learns that she comes from a long line of witches. 

There's a love story and a love triangle.  There's a battle between the forces of good and evil.  Long time enemies come together to defeat a greater enemy.  Cassie slowly sheds her shyness and learns to stand up for herself.  I can see why there was an effort to turn this story into a television show.  It is not a great book, but it met my simple reading needs at the time. 

My biggest complaint was that there wasn't enough magic.  I could get past the overly simplistic love story (Cassie and her soul mate fall in love after two conversations, both of which lasts five minutes or less), and the even more simplistic good versus evil battle (a bad guy who is purely evil with no redemptive qualities makes for minimal interesting drama), if only the mythology of witchcraft were better explained.  I mean Cassie and her friends are descendants from a long line of witches.  There should be elaborate spells and rituals.  There should be limitations on their powers and things or circumstances that enhance it.  Instead the witches just make circles in the sand and carry around crystals to enhance their (boring) powers.  I needed more of the supernatural.  Oh well, these books got me through a week when I had a lot of other stuff on my mind, and for that I'm grateful.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

Death Comes to Pemberley

P. D. James is one of my favorite mystery authors.  In fact she is probably my favorite living mystery writer.  I have read all of her fiction.  I am also a fan of Jane Austen, not a super fan but I have read all of her books, some of them more than once.  Death Comes to Pemberley combines these two authors with James continuing the story of Elizabeth and Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame.  Elizabeth and Darcy have been happily married for six years.  They're about to throw their annual autumn ball.  Unfortunately all of their carefully laid plans go awry when Elizabeth's troublesome sister Lydia and her even more troublesome husband George Wickham come calling, bringing with them a murder to be solved.

This was an interesting and odd but not entirely successful pairing of Austen and James.  It was good but it is not the best showcase of either author's work.  I did enjoy James's writing but there was none of the comedy of matters that one gets in Austen's work and though there was a murder to be solved there was no detective, amateur or professional, actively trying to solve it.  Everyone was waiting for the murderer to be found but no one was meticulously looking for clues or questioning suspects.  The mystery seem to serve mostly as a way for various characters to reflect on their past, present, and future.  Not that this was entirely a bad thing, but it seemed that both authors' voices were missing. 

Serious P. D. James fans like myself will probably still want to read this.  Her writing is great even if the mystery here is a bit lackluster.  For Austen fans, I'm not sure this is the right book.  But who knows, maybe give it a try.