Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Rating 2.75/5

I think I made the mistake of approaching this book too seriously. Turns out it is a bit of a farce. There's no denying Heyer knows how to use words in a certain way that gives a nod to regency period romances. It's not quite the same, though.

The plot--if you can call it that--revolves around an extended visit from crazy cousin Sophy. She waltzes in, doesn't approve of what she sees and sets about scheming and conniving until she gets the result she feels is best for everybody. She will stop at absolutely nothing to get her way. She flies in the face of convention, decorum, common decency, and even the law. That's right, she shot a man in the arm as part of her plan to get her cousin Cecilia to marry him. And he thanked her for it, as presumably every character does in the end, even though she's a borderline sociopath. She charms--or fake cries--her way out of everything. Luckily for Sophy (and convenient for the author), everybody seems well satisfied with the results of her manipulative schemes, despite her devious methods, so she's forgiven, and even rewarded with her hard-won-over cousin Charles' hand in marriage. Saw that one coming from a mile away, by the by. While Sophy's tactics may not be predictable, the outcome was never really in doubt, which made for a lack of tension throughout the entire book. There was no real depth of feeling here, either by the reader for the characters, or any of the characters for each other (unless you count Charles' rageful annoyance towards Sophy), or themselves. The level of ridiculousness reaches epic proportions at the climax of the story, where virtually every character shows up to act out his or her own caricature in a frenzy of folly. I truly wish I had been forewarned that this was a silly book--I might have been able to enjoy it a lot more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Rating: 2/5

A bunch of histrionic caricatures run around a haunted castle and a church. I chose to read this book because I'm interested in the genre and this is supposedly the first gothic novel written in English. I hope the rest are more engaging. We have little description of the environs, and not much background on the characters, except what is given in dialogue as part of the story. It makes for a shallow read. Everybody seems ridiculous and overly ruled by emotion. Meh.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ever After (The Hollows #11) by Kim Harrison

RATING: 3/5

The eleventh book in the Hollows series was a decent story, if more of the same. Ivy made only a cameo in this book, and I have to say I didn't miss her at all. As with previous stories, this one deals with demons and elves. It is fairly fast-paced, and follows Harrison's standard pattern - adventures punctuated by stops in Rachel's kitchen. Plans go awry, Rachel is stubborn and impulsive, but somehow it all works out in the end. That's probably a slightly over-simplified summary, but people who read this series will know what I mean.

I'm still trying to figure out why everyone cared so very much about what Rachel was planning to wear to her showdown with Ku'Sox. I'm sure Harrison could've come up with a less ridiculous way for people to speak to Rachel alone than setting up the whole "what are you wearing to save the world, I want to see your closet" thing. Harrison spends a lot of time justifying things that seem illogical but are necessary for her plot to continue the way she wants it. Most of the time I overlook it with an eye-roll, but it tends to make everything less intense and believable. However, I've taken a step back with my constant judging in this genre, and just try to enjoy the read instead of thinking about it too much.

All Ratings and Reviews For Kim Harrison's Hollows Series

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall

Rating: 3/5

If you've read other books on the topic of sleep, you probably will not find any new practical information in this one. It is however, highly readable and contains some interesting stories, like how the CPAP was invented and the problems with prosecuting crimes committed while sleepwalking. This book isn't going to solve your sleep disorder, but it is a nice layman's summary of the current state of sleep science.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles
by Ron Currie Jr
Rating: 3.5/5

It is beginning to look like Ron Currie Jr. may never exhaust his two favorite topics - the death of his father, and his undying love for his childhood sweetheart. Because Flimsy Little Miracles begins by semi-fictionally referencing the author's previous book, I read Everything Matters first. Though the two books are very different - Everything Matters is quasi-science fiction, and FLPM is quasi-memoir - both books centre around these two obsessions, sometimes to the point of redundancy.

If you like books about self-sabotaging anti-heroes, you will enjoy Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. For my part, I discovered I am quite over that kind of protagonist. Witnessing a man destroy himself through alcohol, fistfights and obsession has lost its appeal for me. The protagonist seeks punishment for himself, which in turn hurts everyone in his blast radius and creates a vicious cycle.

Currie is a thought-provoking writer. This book bounces from narrative about his relationship with Emma (the object of his undying love), flashbacks to the long, slow death of his father (who was, in the protagonist's view, a "real" man that he could never live up to), and discussions on the idea of the Singularity (Google it). Currie's protagonist fixates on the Singularity as both a way to resurrect his father and to spend eternity with Emma. But he also recognizes that disembodied existence may render his love meaningless.

This is a complicated book to sum up. The ending (as well as the protagonist's relationship with Emma) brings up the idea of whether "literal veracity means more to us than deeper truths". Does it really matter if memoirs are factual? If you recall the scandal over James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, you may be familiar with this debate. Currie's protagonist finds himself in a similar situation, and halfheartedly tries to explain that veracity has no impact on meaning, and thus the value of a story remains the same whether it's fact or fiction. (An argument I completely agree with, by the way.)

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is a well-written (if somewhat scattered), thought-provoking book with plenty of feeling. Currie's protagonist is self-destructive in the extreme, and often thoroughly frustrating. Sometimes I felt all those slaps he took were well-deserved, because if he'd just manned-up, looked around, and took control of himself, things would have been better for a lot of people. He never quite learns his lesson, and remains self-indulgent, self-absorbed and self-defeating to the end.

I recieved a free Advanced Uncorrected Proof of Flimsy Little Miracles from Penguin Canada via goodreads First Reads Giveaway. This has in no way influenced my review.

See my review of Ron Currie Jr.'s Everything Matters!