Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book 4: Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey

When I first figured out that I really was sick, not just hungover, I headed to the store to stock up on various medicine and cough drops and tissues and whatnot. I also came to the conclusion that all of the books that I currently had lined up to read were way too hard to concentrate on. So I did what any disease-wracked person wandering aimlessly around the drug store would do; I grabbed a trashy romance novel to distract me. My criteria was very simple: NO SCOTTISH ACCENTS! For some reason, the majority of these ridiculous books are set in Scotland, Ireland or England. Either that or The South, with horses, and yet somehow still with Scottish accents. The last romance novel I read was on some Scottish island and the characters spoke in random Scottish accents and it drove me insane. 
So I skipped over the covers with castles on them, and grabbed Captive Bride because there is an Arabian Nights sort of theme to the cover art. The back talks about how Christina Wakefield (yes, Wakefield, we'll get to that in a minute) can't resist the call of the Arabian desert and gets captured by a sheik and then falls in love with him (hello, Stockholm Syndrome). Sounds racy and totally free of anything related to northwestern Europe, right? WRONG! 
First of all, Christina is English. Secondly, her goddamn housekeeper/nanny is fucking Scottish, accent and all. If I wasn't so weak from being sick, I would have chucked the book across the room. Also, as far as romance novels go, this one is seriously lacking in the sex department. There is only one actual written sex scene. ONE. The rest of the sex is just implied, like "Phillip patiently brought her to life, snatching away her will as he did every night." That's it. That's the majority of the "sex scenes" in this stupid book. Oh, and Phillip? He would be the sheik that kidnaps her and is also English! Seriously, why is everyone English or Scottish in these damn books? 
I guess I should be sort of glad that there weren't more descriptive sex scenes, since Christina's last name was Wakefield. All I could think about whenever I was reminded of her last name was Sweet Valley High and the Wakefield twins. I mean, really, if you're going to write a romance novel, you might not want to name your character after other characters who are sort of ingrained in the minds of a likely significant portion of your target audience. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book 3: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I didn't really know what to expect when I picked this book up. I've never read Vonnegut before, and I know that a lot of people consider this book the greatest thing ever, even getting quotes from it as tattoos. Whatever I could have expected, it certainly was not what I got. I can certainly say that I liked it, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was the greatest thing ever written. It's got a nice jumbled, rambling feel to it, sort of like having a long conversation with your favorite uncle when you're both a little drunk and it's two in the morning so things make a certain kind of sense that they wouldn't at any other time.
One of the most unexpected things for me was the sudden appearance of sci-fi elements. They time-traveling and the aliens seem almost glaringly out of place in this book, but only at first. Once you get into the rhythm of the story and the message that it conveys, these elements make complete sense.
There are also a lot of different topics packed into Slaughterhouse Five, but they are only hinted at and not thrust into your face. Some of the topics even contradict each other, the main example being that there is an anti-war sentiment alongside a pro-war sentiment. I am actually glad that I never read and analyzed this for any class, because I think I would have ended up disliking it. This way I can reflect and re-read it at my own pace and pull things out of it without any pressure.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Adventures in Stupidity

Scene at the bank.
Bank Teller-Twentysomething blonde girl with entirely too much makeup on

Bank Teller: What's your job title?

Me: Um, what?

Bank Teller: Oh, we have to ask you what your job title is now.

Me: Oh, ok. I don't think it will be in you list. Regulatory Affairs Associate.

Bank Teller: [clicks mouse a few times] Hmm...I can pick "other". How about that?

Me: Sure, whatever.

Bank Teller: Ok, I have to type in a description. What did you say again?

Me: [slowly] Regulatory. Associate.

Bank Teller: Hmm, that doesn't fit. Oh , I know! [types while spelling] R-E-G...A-S-S. There!

That's right. I am a Reg Ass. Good job.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book 2: Transformation by Carol Berg

At 506 pages, this book seems longer than it is. This is due in large part to the simple, straightforward style the author uses to tell the story. The story itself is a fairly typical fantasy epic. There is an empire, ruled by a hard fighting warrior class, the Derzhi, whose society has roots in the nomadic tribes of the desert. There are several other "races" in the story aside from the ruling Derzhi. One of these races are the Ezzarians, who were conquered by the Derzhi. The story begins on the day that the narrator, an Ezzarian named Seyonne, was sold as a slave to the crown prince of the Derzhi empire, Aleksander.
The story is told through the first person perspective of Seyonne, the Ezzarian slave, as he uncovers a plot against the empire. through flashbacks to his former life, we learn that the Ezzarians were sort of guardians of human souls in a battle against demons. Seyonne becomes aware that certain members of the royal court are infected with demons. He takes it upon himself to protect the prince, in spite of Aleksander's arrogance and cruelty. As they uncover more of the demon plot, Aleksander and Seyonne escape into the wild to seek out the help of a hidden community of Ezzarians.
Both characters experience inner battles, both figuratively, as they face situations they greatly fear and take responsibility for their actions, and literally, as when Seyonne enters Aleksander's soul to battle the demon that has infected him. Both characters push and pull each other to become more than what they were, and each comes into his own as a result.
I have read Transformation before and I still find that it's an easy and enjoyable read. I tend to pick it up when I am bored with whatever I am currently reading and want to escape into another reality with ease. I also just noticed this very moment that "Book One of the Rai-Kirah" is stated on the cover.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book 1: Dune by Frank Herbert

I've heard a lot of friends talk about the Dune books in way that reflected their deep love of the series as well as their inability to articulate just what it is about the series that they love so much, what keeps them coming back for more. It's a love of books that I understand completely. I find myself being drawn in by the style an author uses, to the point of seeking out every obscure thing that they have written, even under pseudonyms.
And, as much as I want it to, Dune is not speaking to me. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the book. The story is a great epic, I like most of the characters, the writing is good with the bonus of being unique in style. But I am not experiencing that thing, that compulsion to read the next book, to see what happens next. I've been mulling over this, trying to find a specific point where the story lost me, and I'm having a difficult time coming up with any particular thing. It's almost like I'm experiencing the opposite of the compulsion to read more. I don't hate it, I just kind of don't care. I find it strange that I can identify all of the elements that I did like about the book, I can't point my finger at anything I didn't like, but I still wouldn't say that I liked it.
I do believe in giving a story a chance to develop and grow, so I intend to continue reading the series. It certainly has all of the elements working in it's favor, the most important of which is that the author does not feel compelled to explain things to me. Nothing piques my interest more than when information is withheld from me, and this is something that Herbert is great at. He drops you into this huge world and expects you to pay attention. I can even deal with the use of jargon, which I normally detest, because it doesn't cross the line from making up a word for something that doesn't exist in our universe to renaming an existing object just because you can. But it remains to be seen if this story can take root in my mind and grab on.