Book Reads Right Now
Now that there is ample time to sit and flip through something non-school related, here are a few reviews from our fave librarian correspondent!
Book 1: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
It's a steampunk novel. Steampunk is the Big New Thing, apparently. Meh.
I wanted to like this book. The premise is excellent, and I am drawn to Briar. Fantasy novels abound with plucky teenage heroines, but it can be difficult to find interesting adult female characters. Most of all, I was impressed by the glowing praise from Scott Westerfeld ("This book is made of irresistible") and Warren Ellis. However, two problems plague the book.
First, a steampunk adventure story requires frequent and detailed descriptions of the settings, i.e., There were pipes and levers and copper thingies everywhere, and don't forget to put on your goggles! Unfortunately, these descriptions bring the pace of the action to a screeching halt. It is difficult to get excited about the zombies when Briar spends as much time describing the surroundings as she does describing the hungry undead.
The second problem is that the writing often becomes so distractingly trite that it pulls me out of the story and into snark-land. Lines like, "He was dead for no reason at all except that he'd once been alive," and "Briar stopped too—or she would have, if she hadn't already," and "She didn't disturb the disturbing silence," give me flashbacks to Creative Writing 101.
But again, the premise is excellent and would lend itself wonderfully to film. When is Boneshaker coming to theaters?
Book 2: The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu
I LOVED THIS. It's a 19th century fairy-tale for grownups. It's light, fun weekend reading.
A hurricane in a skirt named Miss Acacia, a pet hamster named Cunnilingus, tiny bottles filled with one's own tears, and a cameo appearance from Jack the Ripper...What's not to like?!
In The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Jack's life depends on a clock installed in his chest. But Jack must be careful, because anger or love will break his fragile heart. Still, he journeys from Edinburgh to Andalusia in search of his beloved Miss Acacia.
Mathias Malzieu paints delightfully gorgeous and grotesque pictures with words. His lush, fruity, sugar-adorned imagery leaves me hungry for more of his pretty words. Jack's unwavering adoration of Miss Acacia is so fairy-tale perfect that it is rather uninteresting, but Malzieu's lustrous images and amusing supporting characters make up for the dull romance. I love journeying with Jack through laboratories filled with small mysterious bottles, a twinkling 19th century Andalusian circus, and a ghost train decorated with bones dragged up from the catacombs.
Tim Burton fans will especially love the balance of frightening and romantic imagery. The Mechanics of the Heart, an animated film based on the book, comes out in October 2011. (And no, Burton wasn't involved).
Book 3: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stiegg Larsson
This trilogy is HUGE right now. The last book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, comes out next month. But for readers who are a little behind (after all, they have to read for class too!), this might be apropos.
Lisbeth Salander has changed since The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. After spending a year abroad, she is more confident and refined. But demons from her past still loom. In The Girl Who Played With Fire, Salander is suspected of murdering her legal guardian and couple—a journalist and an academic—who are about to expose the major players in Sweden's sex industry. Salander has an excellent motive for killing her guardian, but what is her connection to the couple, and why is everyone involved in the case afraid of a man named Zala? Salander's lover from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Blomkvist, believes she is innocent and begins doing his own research.
I could not put this book down. Larsson switches from character to character without losing narrative tension. And unlike most thrillers, the character development here is marvelous. Even minor supporting characters are fleshed out. The characters do not exist merely to advance the plot from point A to point B; their personalities and backgrounds are unique and drive the story. This is not a typical tale of good versus evil. The good characters often fight back in morally objectionable—or at least questionable—ways. This moral ambiguity makes this book much more interesting than most thrillers.
As you read, be prepared to jump up every five minutes to convert Swedish kronor to American dollars. I was blown away—and extremely jealous!—when I realized how much Salander spent at IKEA. Read this before the final installment in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, out now!