Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quick Book Reviews: What I've Read Lately

-Bujold, Lois McMaster. Cryoburn- Second time through this one, and while it wasn't the gut-punch it was the first time, I think I was able to read it more slowly and appreciate it more.

SPOILERS coming, SPOILERS, SPOILERS.

I read an Amazon review of this that really frustrated me, because it complained that the ending of this story was just tacked on. FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THE LITTLE FISHIES IN THE OCEANS, PEOPLE. This might be the most thematically brilliant book I've ever read. The entire book was about death. And as soon as I got to that last chapter, and realize what was about to happen, my jaw dropped. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Could anything else have been a fit preparation for the death of the Count? And the last little paragraph, from Cordelia's perspective, reminding us of Ensign Dubauer of long ago . . . it's the glory of the series format that allows you moments like that. Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

And yes, I cried. Again.

Brown, Harriet. Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia

- A book about anorexia as a family problem, and not just an individual one, written by the mother of a daughter with the disease. One of the fascinating things about this book was the way the mother was forced to anthropomorphize her daughter's disorder, in order to have an enemy that wasn't her daughter herself. A hard and hopeful book, but in the end, mostly hard.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium - I was hoping for something Hunger Game-ish in this book, and it is similar in that it's a YA book set in a near-future, corrupt-government, post-apocalyptic setting. Easy to read (I mean that as a compliment - the author did the work for the reader, as the author ought). But I think the story suffered because of the narcissism of the heroine. She was only concerned about herself and not, like Katniss, concerned for others. There is a little sister figure who is in just as much danger as the heroine, and throughout the entire novel, I was waiting for the heroine to worry about the little girl's future and safety, but she never did. That was disappointing.

Also, in this sort of story, the premise always addresses a problem in contemporary society. In the Hunger Games, for instance, we're challenged about our habit of watching other people's pain and destruction for our own entertainment, and about our blindness about the suffering in the rest of the world. In this book, we seem to be challenged about how we view love and passion as something scary and disruptive . . . except that I really don't think that's a danger in our society. Our society embraces love and passion - I mean, we try to sell things by implying that they'll making you passionate and make people fall in love with you. I don't think anyone needs to worry about Americans becoming passionless. So, the whole time I was reading it, I was distracted from the narrative by how misplaced the social commentary seemed to me. The author seemed to be spending all of her time yelling at social conservatives and Puritans who, to be frank, really aren't in command of our culture anymore. Why spend your time yelling at the losers? To push us further off the side of the hill we're falling down anyway?

But, all that said, the narrative is interesting, and just as an entertaining story, this book has a lot to recommend it.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - This time through, what really struck me were the characters of Lupin and of Sirius Black. I admit, I half fell in love with Lupin this time through. He is, possibly, the most heroic person in the whole series. He's almost an archtype of the repentant sinner: a man who knows exactly who he is, and holds himself always ready to be dismissed if his weaknesses are going to cause anyone harm, never complaining about his burden, but always ready to do good when he's allowed a part to play. I think his humility is the most attractive thing about him. Great character.

Sirius Black is a great foil to Lupin, because of his pride. He was fun to watch this time through because this time I knew who he was, and it was easy to see, with his arrogance and his ferocity (watch him drooling in his eagerness to kill Wormtail) how he is related to the Malfoys.

As so often happened, the secondary characters stole the show.


- Moon, Elizabeth. Kings of the North - Follow-up to the book I reviewed here, and another good one. I came downstairs the morning I was reading it, excited about picking up my book . . . and then slumped in disappointment when I realized there was no more to read.



1 comment:

Ann said...

Thanks for the reviews! I read the Hunger Games series this season, and I have been disappointed talking to some young people who didn't understand that WE are the people of the capital. Hmmm.