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Book #1 of Summer: Sacred Sins by Nora Roberts [Jul. 2nd, 2007|09:23 am]
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I'm trying to weed out my Nora Roberts collection this summer, but I want to keep track of  what books I HAVE read, so I don't accidentally buy the same one again at the used book store. (Hey, the author has over 100 books to her name -- it's not unheard of!)

Mostly, I consider Nora Roberts to be the master of the Romantic Thriller genre. Her characters are always REAL people to me, and the situations they find themselves in are plausably realistic or even plausably supernatural. That being said, I'm afraid that I have this opinion because I've apparently read her later work. Now that I'm reading her stuff from the early 80's... well, the potential is obviously there, but she hadn't yet come into her own.

This is very true in Sacred Sins.  From Amazon: Dr. Tess Court is a successful psychiatrist who is guilted by her senator grandfather into advising on a serial murder case. Detective Ben Paris hasn't much respect for shrinks after his brother's unsuccessful treatment for post-war depression. However, forces align to put these two together and things turn hot and heavy. As they work to uncover the murderer's motives, Tess and Ben realize that she is both the killer's next likely victim and his best hope for a savior. 

The things I like about her later books are somewhat absent here. Tess is a stereotypical romance heroine - tiny, cute, compassionate, all-around feminine. (Contrast with Roz, a character from the In the Garden trilogy, who's strong and sharp and always has dirt under her fingernails.) Tess is contrasted against Ben, a stereotypical romance hero -- big, buff, macho, meat-and-potatoes protective man. I just... never bought it. I never bought the sparks between them, and their action in bed was more like yowling cats than passionate lovers. 

Don't get me wrong, the story was fantastic. But that's the thing I always about NR -- her plots are more important than the romance. It's really great, in the later paranormal series, when the romance you think is totally separate BECOMES the plot. (Like the Key trilogy). I'm noticing that I keep drifting away from this book when I write, and I think that's because that's how I felt when I read it. It was WORK to read this one all the way through. It got to a point that I honestly didn't CARE who the serial killer was, and I almost hoped he killed Tess.

For a diehard NR fan, this is a must-read, if only to show how much NR has improved over the years. If you like horror thriller romance, give it a shot. Otherwise.....don't bother.

Plot: 4 stars
Characters: 1.5 stars
Writing: 4 stars (knocked down from 5 due to some really incessant slogging)
Rereadability: 1 star (will be donating to the paperback store soon)
Enjoyability: 2 stars

Overall: 2.5 stars.
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Book #2 of 2007 [Jan. 19th, 2007|10:07 pm]
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Dear Reader,

I just finished Naomi, by Junichiro Tanizaki. A friend got me back into my Japanese obsession, and I picked up I am a Cat awhile ago; never got around to reading it. I read fabulous reviews of Naomi, however, and it seemed to have the deeply psychological feel to it – dark and forbidding, exactly what I was looking for. I keep comparing it to a Japanese Lolita.

The story is about a man named Joji, obsessed with all things Western in 1920’s Japan. He finds a Eurasian-looking girl named Naomi (aha! A name both Western AND Japanese!) working in a café. Between her Western looks and name, her childish innocence, and her beauty, he becomes truly captivated. A man twice her age and with a decent amount of money, he takes her in and educates her in Western ways, tolerating her occasional cruelty and selfishness. As things get deeper and deeper (including a secret marriage) he learns to tolerate the extravagances and infidelities of a cold-hearted and cold-eyed woman (no longer a childish teen) due to his increasing sexual obsession with her.

This book was a fantastic study in obsessive love. Deeply psychological, you feel for Joji at the same time you want to slap him and tell him to send his whore packing. Like The Prestige, you can almost see the train wreck at the end of the book coming – Joji discovering the infidelity the audience knows is there, and holding their breath to see if he will stand strong or fall under. For her part, Naomi’s manipulations are absolutely fantastic. Comic book authors cannot pen better villains. You truly, truly see the power that beautiful women can wield in this book.

The book was excellent – I blew through it in two days. Even with that, though, I give the book four and a half stars. I know the spinelessness of Joji was part of the plot, but it still bothered me. A little too much.
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Book #1 of 2007 [Jan. 19th, 2007|09:49 pm]
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Dear Reader,



I just finished The Prestige by Christopher Priest. My husband and I got two copies of this book because we had seen the movie and both fell in love with it -- so much so that we still debate and discuss aspects of it almost daily months later. If the movie managed to be intricate, complex, devious, and enjoyable, we wondered, what must the book be like?



Honestly, without giving things away, it's hard to compare them. Both are accounts of rival magicians at the turn of the century -- two determined men vying to outdo each other, interfering with each others' acts, stealing each others' secrets. But all that says so little! Both harbor one huge secret -- one astounding and mind-boggling, one fantastic (in the original sense of the word) and horrific. Now, having seen the movie, I was prepared for both secrets -- and they still astounded and sickened me! That is the power of Mr. Priest's writing.



The tone of the book is hard to pinpoint. It is told mostly through the journals of the two magicians with some fill-ins by modern-day descendants. It has a gloomy, dream-like feel, like the old Gothic novels. This is partly due, I'm sure, to the secrecy inherent in magicians and the nature of the Victorian time period, where most of the action takes place. Despite the lack of physical descriptions (after all, why would a man journal about his own hair color or how his living room is decorated?) the book still manages to have a sincere sense of period -- there is nothing to indicate that the journal entries were written by a modern writer, and not a 19th century stage magician. One caveat, however: The book is sometimes like a troubled Ferrari. It is hard to start and sometimes stalls out. It took me two false tries before I really got into the book, but once I was into it -- man, was I flying! Then, after awhile, it felt like the engine stuttered and I skidded to a stop. I would pick up the book, read a few sentences, put it down, pick it up again. However, once past the bumps, the book flew gracefully and elegantly towards the crash the reader knows is coming.



And yes, you know that there's tragedy waiting -- perhaps because of the way the two magicians fight with each other, both in the book and on film. I've never seen a book and movie so alike and dissimilar at the same time! The movie changed things many movies do: marital status (married with kids vs widowed), time stream (25ish years vs 10-12 max); but some of the changes are astounding in the way they affected me. In the movie, Borden was the sympathetic character. Malicious, yes, but non-violent and often a victim of crueler things. As an opposite, Angier was rarely seen in a good light. In the book, both are equal in their cruelty and violence and mistakes, but, despite the disgusting nature of his final "illusion", I find Angier to be the more sympathetic character in the book. My husband disagrees. More debating!



It's going to be awhile before I reread this one, but I will. I can only recommend this book to the patient and intelligent readers out there. If you want a fluffy, meaningless book that doesn't tax the brainpower -- look elsewhere! If you want to be taken on a macabre journey through the minds of two extraordinary men - and spend hours debating with other readers about nuances - go get it!



Despite the stalling -- or maybe because the rest was compelling enough to keep me going -- 5 stars.
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(no subject) [Sep. 9th, 2006|09:33 pm]
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I'm in the middle of two books right now -- The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder, which totally rocks. I had to read it for a senior seminar where we examined fiction taking place in the Roman empire. Jay and I are doing a little two-person book club and this is our first book :)

I'm also reading Dates from Hell, an anthology by the "supernatural romance" crowd. Mostly I picked it up because it has a story by Kelley Armstrong and I LOVE her world and writing style. I already gave up on the first story by some author I don't know, and am trying out the second story -- also by someone I don't know. When I finish the book, I'll review it a little better :)
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S is for Silence, by Sue Grafton [Aug. 18th, 2006|09:44 pm]
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I've always enjoyed Grafton's alphabet series. I like Kinsey as a character, but sometimes I find the writing style limiting. For instance, these aren't the types of mystery books where the reader actually has a shot at figuring out whodunnit. The most important, vital clue (who was she sleeping with? what did he take out of his bank box?) is saved until the moment Kinsey figures out the last puzzle piece.

That being said, I might as well admit that I prefer my books like that. That way, it's a fun, easy read. I don't have to worry about trying to be smart and figure it out because there's no way I CAN.

S is for Silence is about a case Kinsey takes on from Daisy Sullivan, whose mother disappeared 34 years ago when Daisy was 7. She wants Kinsey to find out what happened to her mother. Since her mother was fiery, abused by Daisy's father, and sleeping with half the men in town, she has an equal chance of having run away or been killed.

I actually really enjoyed this one -- a little more than the previous ones. Grafton has changed her writing style a little bit, and it felt very much like an episode of Without a Trace. She stepped out of Kinsey for awhile and told old memories from the POV of the person. This is both good and bad -- good because it gives the reader a small break from Kinsey and a deeper look at what was going on, but bad because what really happened and what Kinsey was told were often two different things. Unfortunately, it was necessary for the reader to get the whole picture.

Good read :) I'll pick it up when it comes out in paperback to add to my Kinsey Collection.
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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath [Aug. 18th, 2006|12:34 pm]
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Though chapter 4....Collapse )

Through chapter 8....Collapse )

Through chapter 11....Collapse )

End GameCollapse )
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