Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm falling behind again. Okay, so Spook Country by William Gibson was great. Like Pattern Recognition, it's also set in the present day and involves a cult musician turned journalist writing a story on virtual locative art for a magazine she suspects doesn't really exist. Of course there's a lot of other stuff going on too, and it's fun watching all the players converge and the cat and mouse games play out.

After that I read Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke which was about three girls at a summer cheerleading camp who draw the attention of two local boys while on an outing. Things turn sinister when they start seeing the boys in the forest watching them. The writing was often beautiful and more artful than you usually find in YA books. Once I settled into it, I enjoyed it a lot.

I picked up Body Bags by Christopher Golden at the library book sale because it was the first in a series I've been meaning to check out for a long time. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. College freshman Jenna wants to be a doctor, but the sight of blood makes her ill. When her father suggests getting a job at the medical examiner's office, she is intrigued. The job puts her right in the middle of a mystery involving things too gross to mention right before lunch, and she's drawn in further when her professor, a friend of her father's, dies of the same cause right in front of her. I've checked out or put holds on the rest of the series and I'm hoping the second one comes in before I leave work tomorrow so I can read a bunch of them over the long weekend.

Yesterday I read Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn, which was pretty awesome. It owes an obvious debt to Rosemary's Baby, but instead of a young pregnant woman, it features a teen girl named Beckett (a seriously awesome nickname for Rebecca) who gradually comes to suspect her new stepmother of killing her friends for their blood and making it look like a suicide pact, with Beckett herself as the ultimate target. It succeeds, much like Come Closer, as both an allegory and as a creepy as hell story in its own right. (Obligatory no quotation marks warning for Daisy. Yeah, I know, but it does actually make the writing flow better in this case.)


Monday, August 27, 2007

Knowing that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son was bound to influence my impression of his first novel Heart Shaped Box. I'm not a huge Stephen King fan, but I've read a few of his books and liked most of them. Regardless of my personal opinion of the man's writing, the fact remains that he's a horror mainstay and for Hill to enter the same profession, let alone the same genre, takes some serious cojones. But he can definitely hold his own. In this book an aging heavy metal rock god, Judas Coyne, buys a ghost on an online auction. Well, he buys a deceased man's suit, to which the ghost is supposedly attached. Much to his surprise and increasing dread he does actually receive the ghost, who he finds is out for vengeance against him and anyone who helps him. Of course, things aren't that simple and Jude must fight with everything he has not only to stay alive, but to find out what's really going on. The pacing was swift, the writing was on the literary side, and Hill reveals character depths you wouldn't normally expect from this genre. Plus it was gross and gory and creepy and scary. I hadn't expected much, but it was a nice surprise to find myself enjoying the hell out of it.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff was no Set This House In Order. But it wasn't horrible, either. It was a fast, twisty story of vigilante mayhem as told by Jane, an operative responsible for taking out irredeemably evil people, to a psychiatrist after her capture by the police during an operation gone bad. I didn't see the ending coming, which was a nice surprise. So, while I was a little disappointed it wasn't truly great, I had fun with it.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Vacation roundup:

My first day there I finished up Love And Other Four Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler. It's about a teenager named Sammie who, when her parents separate, has to move to New York City with her emotionally unstable mother. I enjoyed it, but it was a little reminiscent of Sarah Dessen, only slighter and without her more rounded characters.

Coincidentally my cousin was reading River Secrets by Shannon Hale which I'd been waiting for at the library, so I borrowed it after she finished. It's the third of the Goose Girl books and takes Enna and Razo to a hostile neighboring country as part of a diplomatic mission almost undone by factions within the country who want to restart the war. I liked it better than Enna Burning, but I still think Goose Girl is my favorite.

I spent the next couple of days immersed in Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. He was always one of those writers who intimidated me, but after reading and loving Icelander (which was described as a cross between Pale Fire and the Amelia Peabody mysteries) I decided to give him a try. The novel is structured as the forward to a long poem, then the poem itself, followed by a lengthy commentary on the poem written by Charles Kinbote, a friend and neighbor of the poet, who is one seriously unreliable narrator. I was initially surprised at how funny it was and then marveled at how the tone steadily grew more uneasy and serious as the inevitable tragedy approached. It was absolutely brilliant and I can't wait to read all his other books.

While everyone else went on a hike, I stayed home to recover my sanity in peace and read Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. I believe I first encountered Sheffield through Rolling Stone and have enjoyed his writing over the years, so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it downstairs. It's a beautiful elegy for his wife who died suddenly at a very young age after only a few years of marriage. He begins each chapter with the track list of a mixtape and uses the songs as a jumping off point to talk about his wife, their life together, and his grief at her death.

I finished up by reading Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade Of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman. I'd read a bunch of these interviews and essays before and enjoyed revisiting the best of them. There are plenty of unmemorable ones though and the short story at the end wasn't very good. But I can forgive him a lot simply based on the fact that he conducted the single best interview with Radiohead I've ever read.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Before I left on vacation I read Freak Show by James St. James. It's about Billy Bloom, a teenage drag queen (or, rather, a full-on 90's club kid) plopped down in a conservative Florida private school for the rich and troubled. Billy reminded me a little of Kitten Braden from Breakfast On Pluto, especially in the beginning, but Billy is a little more self-aware than Kitten and usually dresses to provoke a reaction or to make a statement with his elaborate costumes. The book doesn't shy away from the hostile and sometimes violent responses Billy encounters from his fellow students, but there is plenty of room for humor and even optimism. The writing style is vintage St. James, very breathless, slightly hysterical, and full of comedic exaggeration which I enjoy, but some people find annoying, so be forewarned.


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