Sunday, May 30, 2010

Okay, this Book Really IS at least Partly about Sex

Today, I am reviewing Permanent Obscurity, by Richard Perez. He has a really cool website set up that details his inspiration for the book, and some of the ideas behind it. His book is concerned with some graphic subject matter - chiefly, drugs, sex and massive alcohol consumption. My feelings toward this book are somewhat divided.

I will begin with the cursing. The book primarily takes place in some not-very-nice parts of New York city. It makes sense, then, that the characters swear profusely and have a crude sense of humor. Initially, however, I was having trouble with the book because of the manner of speaking. I don't expect perfect English in novels - people don't talk that way, so neither should fictional characters. I understood WHY the characters talked the way that they did - still, it put distance between me as a reader and the characters, and made the characters less sympathetic.

On a related note, at times, when characters were joking, I wouldn't have known if the author had not specified it. The author may have been doing this on purpose, in an attempt to show that the characters are so inebriated that the things they find humorous aren't really funny. Again, it created emotional distance between myself and the characters.

Now, I will talk about the characters. Obviously, most of them do drugs and drink profusely. Most of them also consider themselves artists, and a big theme in the book regards art. There are the artists who ignore their calling in favor of a regular, 9-5 job so that they can afford to pay rent and buy food. There are the artists who have crappy, low-paying jobs so that they can continue to create art, but who usually favor getting wasted instead. Then, there's Serena. Serena is the protagonist's "best friend." She is a performance artist, but her band's not doing that well. As a result, she picks up some kinky modeling work. She also seems to live off of her male friend, whom she dominates, and whom she doesn't particularly seem to care about.

Serena seems to be one of those charismatic people who gets away with a lot of bullshit for a really long time because those who are close to her are hypnotized by her charm. Her life has been hard, and she has rather sociopathic tendencies, as a result.

Most of the art created by the characters in this book is pornographic in nature. Throughout the book, the idea of the protagonist and Serena creating a fetish pornography film is discussed, planned, and ultimately, carried out. The idea of the slippery slope with regards to modeling, stripping, etc. is introduced and/or implied several times.

The book is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, both with regards to subject matter, and in terms of an unreliable narrator. Ultimately, the book ends with several serious questions.

I will say that the last 100 pages or so flew by. Pairing that with the admittedly slow-going beginning, I would say that overall, the book is okay.

I feel that the author probably accomplished what he was aiming for. The book just wasn't as interesting as I thought I would find it. It did raise some questions that I like thinking about. Then again, I wasn't particularly fond of the narrative tone. Overall, I found this book okay. I'm not sorry that I read it, but I don't know that I would read it, again.

To the right person, however, this book would be amazing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Beautiful Cover Lies

I recently received an advance uncorrected proof of Jenna Black's Glimmerglass. Here's a picture of the cover, which is gorgeous:

Glimmerglass is the first book in a young adult fantasy series. Chronicling the adventures of a teenage girl named Dana, this book follows her from whining about her alcoholic mother to whining about being in Avalon to whining about her father to whining about missing her alcoholic mother to whining about more stuff.

As you might be able to tell, I was not a big fan of this book. The plot was okay -- the plot actually dealt with some pretty interesting ideas. What I came across was something I come across a lot in fantasy: I didn't care about the characters. I've written before about the importance of caring about a character, for me. In the case of this book, I do not feel that the characters take a background to the story and the world-building, however.

I feel like most of the writing is simply not as sympathetic as the author wants it to be.

Having an alcoholic mother and constantly being on the move is hard. Not knowing a parent is hard. Running away is a stupid action that usually doesn't turn out the way a teenager thinks it will.

But I just felt like Dana was whining.

I feel like the writing needs to be refined, like this book should have been further revised.

Then again, I wasn't a huge fan of Twilight, either, and that's a bestselling series. And Twilight has a teenage protagonist who is insecure and annoying and boring, but people love it. And Twilight is a fantasy novel with an interesting plot that could stand to be revised. I do think Twilight is slightly better written. The Glimmerglass plot moves along quickly, but it's not effective due to the way it was written - it feels hurried. There's a lot that happens, but it all feels too fast.

The cover's awesome, but I recommend a pass on buying this book. I think Jenna Black is going to refine her writing. This book has a lot of good elements, but it's not all put together well yet.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Title Alludes to SEX (Kind of, sort of, maybe)

The Book: The Lovers
The Author: Vendela Vida
The Cover (at least, of my uncorrected proof):

The link (to the publisher page w/ information about the book and pre-ordering)

The thoughts:

The Lovers is the tale of a woman named Yvonne and her trip to Turkey.

Yvonne is alone. Literally, she has no traveling companion. On a related note, as the novel progresses, her relationships with family, friends & acquaintances are examined, as well as the idea of relationships, in general.

While in Turkey, Yvonne befriends a young boy who sells shells on the beach (thus the picture on the cover of the book). This friendship is at one point compared to two people in a romantic relationship - an observation by a character in the book, not by the narrator. This passing remark sticks with the reader, both because of the book's title and the fact that numerous romantic relationships in the book have been mentioned. Yvonne and her young friend, while in no way romantically involved, get along in a way that none of the romantic relationships in the book do, but in a way that many romantic relationships are portrayed in the media.

I adored this book. The writing was concise - Vida utilizes her words beautifully. She writes simply about complicated manners, and the result is a poignant novel that stays with you after you've finished the last word. I love that this book makes the reader think and that it's well written - and I think you'll love that about this book, too.

The Release Date: July, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stephenie Meyer Spells Her Name Wrong AND Rips Off Popular Stories

Though I watched the first season of True Blood almost a year ago, I didn't get around to reading Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark until this week. For those who have been woefully ignorant thus far that True Blood has a literary predecessor, the popular television show is based on the popular "Sookie Stackhouse" book series.

(On a random side note, I like this cover so much better than the original cover art.)

The series is told from the point of view of a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, and the strange way things unfold when a vampire openly moves into the small Southern town where she lives.

Yet the reason I'm blogging about it is because it felt really, really familiar. Not just because I had already seen the first season of the television show. It felt familiar because I had already read Stephenie (seriously, what's with the spelling?) Meyer's Twilight.

Both novels have a primary character who can read minds. Both novels have vampire characters who gleam. Both novels have, as protagonist, a beautiful young girl. In both novels, the beautiful female protagonist has two supernatural suitors, one of whom is a vampire, the other of whom is a shapeshifter.

I know I've touched on this issue previously, but those are a lot of similarities between two bestselling book series. You've got to wonder if Stephenie Meyer's "dream" coincided with reading a certain book by Charlaine Harris.

Having read both books, I prefer Dead Until Dark. It's got all of the fun, addicting romantic stuff that's in Twilight (in a more realistic fashion, thank God), but has sex and violence aplenty. I've heard creepy stuff about sex being in the young adult series further down the road. Harris' series is more mature from the beginning.

I wouldn't say that Dead Until Dark is amazing, or a must-read. It's entertaining. It's got its' pros and cons.

I would say that it's disappointing that one of the biggest "pros" in Stephenie Meyer's favor - creativity - has proven to be nothing more than a dilution of the already popular ideas of a better writer.

And reading Dead Until Dark brought a question to the forefront of my mind: when does the number of similarities between two works of art become too great for the differences to matter?