Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts

Sign of Seven Trilogy:
Blood Brothers
The Hollow
The Pagan Stone

Rating 3/5

I will review the Sign of Seven Trilogy as a whole, rather than each book separately.

The story is great, right out of a Stephen King novel. However, I wish Stephen King had written it. As a King fan, I can't help but compare the depth of the writing and character of this book to something he would write, since the story is so similar to one of his. Roberts is as prolific a writer as King, but her genre is romance (I think), and she prefers to write many shorter novels than the amazing tomes King comes up with. If King had've written this series, it would've been one massive novel. I read all 3 of the Sign of Seven in a row, so it amounts to the same.

However, Roberts' characters are pretty unrealistic and unbelievable. Two of the three women were seriously pushy, and not just assertive or "strong". Women like that are not as easy to get along with in real life as they are in this novel, even for men who respect women. The men were mostly too good to be true, and their families were more or less perfect - especially their mothers (well, the two that were alive). The imperfections of these characters seemed like add-ons to fantasies, like Roberts said - oops, I made them too perfect, let's give them a flaw or two. By contrast, King's characters all have believable dark sides, genuine inner conflicts and grey natures. They are also much more fleshed out and interact authentically with each other.

I suppose it's to be expected that sex and sexual attraction would show up on every page in a book from a romance novelist. It almost seemed like filler in this book though, since the horror story was much more interesting and had much more potential. Again, if King had written this book, it would have been fleshed out and much more detailed, more of the action scenes written in 'real time', and far more riveting. Roberts' descriptions of any kind of action seemed vague. She also has a very clear line of what she will and will not include in her sex scenes, which I found ridiculously prudish considering sex was a huge factor in the story.

Each book focuses on one couple getting together. The first two love stories were not bad, but the third pushed the boundaries of the credible. She tried to keep the loner personalities of the two people in question intact even as they were drawn together, and I can appreciate that effort. Yet in the end, *spoiler* it's impossible to think that all three women could be so content to be pregnant, especially the third.

Despite the embarrassing characters in this book, the horror storyline was good enough to keep me reading. So technically I would've given this series 3.5 stars, because I like the good vs evil, mythology and history in it. I just wish there had been more of that, and less romance.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mania by Craig Larson

RATING: 3/5

This book was like a grade-A steak sandwich on moldy bread. I hated the beginning and end, loved the middle. It started off very slowly, which is an odd thing to say for a story that begins with a murder. Larsen's descriptions of scenery seem like filler rather than setting any mood, and slow the pace down. But with the introduction of the character of Sara Garland, the story becomes much more intriguing. The author's frequent use of flashbacks creates a disorientating effect that echoes and allows us to share the protagonist's experience of mental instability.

The "meat" of this story becomes quick-paced, harrowing and suspenseful. Larsen draws out the mystery and intrigue perfectly to keep us turning the pages. But the ending left me cold and angry, feeling even more duped than the protagonist. Perhaps it's my unfamiliarity with the straight mystery genre that led me to expect a few more clues that would help the answer to "whodunit" make more sense. I felt the character motivations, in the end, were exceedingly shallow and unbelievable.

This book, however voraciously I read it, left me with a foul after-taste. Which is unfortunate, since most of it was excellent.

Note: I won this book free through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway, which in no way influenced my rating or review.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1) by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan

5/5

I'm quite new the the vampire genre - I haven't even read any Anne Rice - but I've got to say *this* is what a vampire horror should be. Reminiscent of I Am Legend, with the same creepy spook-factor (at least as the movie, I haven't yet read the classic book). I've read quite a lot of Stephen King, but have never been as freaked out reading a book as I was from the very first chapter of The Strain. Something about the way it's told, the suspense created...it is literally the scariest book I've ever read. If you like horror, you *must* read this!

Later edit: I re-read this book when the next two books in the trilogy came out, to refresh my memory. It wasn't as good the second time around, so I would revise my rating to 4/5.