Wednesday, May 25, 2011

# 28 - Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

One twisted mothafucker, he is. The only other books of his that I had read were The Great and Secret Show and Cabal and other Short Stories. Those books I quite liked, although I read those in my high school horror novels phase. Cabal had quite a bit of sex and gross stuff, but man did he dial up the ick factor in this one.

Todd Pickett is a Hollywood golden boy, except he's getting just a teensy bit older. Needing to recuperate in secret after a plastic surgery gone horrible wrong, his longtime agent finds him a secluded mansion in an unnamed canyon beside Laurel. But the Canyon isn't really unnamed, it used to be named Coldheart Cayon, and it was the site of decadent parties and orgies, and all manner of sexual perversities. And it was all lead by the Queen, silent film star Katya Lupi, a beautiful but cold and mean woman, dedicated to pleasure. I'm starting to sound like the book jacket, aren't I?

Anyhoo, Todd moves in, weird stuff happens, and different characters come in like his agent and the president of his fan club, excuse me, appreciation society.

What I liked about the book was that the true protagonist wasn't the movie star or his beautiful agent. It was this overweight, obsessive, but also competent, calm, maternal and loving fan. It has themes of redemption and is a cautionary story about addiction, and excess and loneliness. Of Hollywood, actually.

But the ick factor, man, it was icky. Ugh. I mean, I understand why it's there, it is needed in the context of the book, but sometimes it was pointless. I mean, why does *SPOILER. haha* ghost Todd have a perma-hard on before going into the light? huh??!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

# 27 - The Associate by John Grisham

Wow, I haven't read a Grisham book since I was in high school (high school here is from 13 to 16 years old), more than 10 years ago. I think my last was The Partner. To be honest, reading Grisham maybe probably contributed to my desire to be a lawyer, although I have come to realize that practicing law in my little third world is probably worlds different from practicing law as Grisham tells it.

Since my taste in books have changed since I was in high school, I wanted to see if Grisham could still hold my interest the way he did before. The short answer? Yes, definitely. I finished this one in just a few hours. Quick and easy read.

The book is about a graduating Yale law student, Kyle McAvoy, editor of the Yale Law Journal, great grades, promising future. He seemed to be the perfect law grad. Except that he was a bit of a party animal in college, and may have been part of a rape scandal. This bit of darkness in his past us then used by ruthless blackmailers who try to get him to steal information from a huge law firm. Kyle was idealistic, wanting to work in public service for a few years before whoring himself out to a huge law firm. But the blackmail forces him to accept a grueling job as an associate in the biggest law firm in the country.

An so it goes, the story of his blackmail, surveillance, counter-surveillance, and eventually, his extraction from the messy situation. Outside of the basic plot, the book explores such matters such as how it sucks to work in a huge cold law firm, concerned only with billable hours. Huh. I wish I billed by the hour.

The other thing that I guess struck me most is the part about the rape itself. Being a woman, I would think that rape is black and white, but is it possible that otherwise nice young men can commit a rape without knowing it?

Oh well, that discussion is one too serious for a John Grisham book review. Bottom line, he can still make me turn the pages. The writing is serviceable. However, when I finished reading, it didn't leave me satisfied and not just because they don't capture, or even know the bad guys. Maybe I have outgrown him.

Friday, May 20, 2011

#26 Summerland by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon's foray into the YA genre turns into an ode to baseball, and you know, how it's a metaphor for life (no, I don't understand why. we don't play baseball here), and how playing it literally, saved the world from Armageddon.

Ethen Feld lives in a drizzly and dreary island obsessed with baseball. Unfortunately, he is horrible at it, the worst player anyone has ever seen. Then he gets recruited by a worlds-jumping creature to save Summerland, and save the worlds as they know it.

In the book, the universe is a giant tree, with four huge branches. One is the world as we know it, The Middling, then there's the Winterlands, Summerlands and the Gleaming. Cayote is plotting to bring down the tree, or put an end to the universe, by poisoning the well from which the tree universe gets nourishment.

Of course, Ethen Feld and his merry band of misfits (his bestfriend, a yeti, a ferisher, a changeling, a tiny dwarf.. you get the drift) travel and jump from world to world trying to catch up to Cayote and prevent him from ending life. This is done, of course, through baseball.

The book is a charming blend of Norse, Native American and North American mythology (those are all I recognized). It is quirky to the max with lots of amusing details and characters. Sometimes, I feel like it gets weighed down by all the quirk and the extraneous details. And like most children's fantasy, things just seem to fall into place. Sure, there are setbacks, but the protagonists seem to always find the perfect person, or the perfect weapon to escape the scraped they're in.

It is a wonderfully imaginative book, sometimes too much so that it seems sort of silly and random to me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

# 25 Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

I have two beautiful boys. They are 8 and 3 years old. The eight year old is serious and intellectual, while the 3 year old is full of mischief and sunny smiles. My greatest fear (aside from them being future serial killers/mass murderers) is that they might fall into drugs when they get older, and not just experiment, but be an addict.

I've had a lot of experience with drug addicts, as when I was a teen, I couldn't seem to find myself a boyfriends who didn't do drugs. I myself never did drugs, smoked or even liked to drink all that much. It scares me, this drug thing.

This book was sort of peeking into my biggest nightmare. Having an addict boyfriend/husband is ok, you can always leave when you can't take it anymore (at least that's what I did), but what if it's your baby? You can never let go.

David Sheff narrates his son's heartbreaking transformation from a smart, polite, warmhearted beautiful into a underweight, lying, thieving addict. He so vividly describes what it feels like to always be waiting. Waiting for your loved one to come home. That scary scary feeling of not knowing where he is, or even just if he's safe.

I found found David Sheff's reactions to be very believable, if a bit self centered. But, I guess that's the point, because this book is not actually Nic's (his son) story, but his own. Of how he dealt with and lived with having an addict son.

After reading online about the book, I learned that Nic Sheff wrote a memoir about his side of the addiction coin. And I was surprised to see that it was a book I have seen a million times at my favourite local bookstore, and have always thought of buying. I actually thought it was fiction. And as usual, once I have decided that I am going to buy the book, I haven't seen any copies since. Sigh.

Monday, May 9, 2011

# 24 World War Z by Max Brooks

Again, blame the sloooow internet connection at the office leaving me with no other way to goof off that to re read my ebooks. I really liked, no actually, love this book the first time I read it, and the second time was no different.

This book is written as an oral history, collected around 10 years after the great Zombie Wars, or World War Z. The Zombie outbreak started in China, quickly spreading all over the world. The book tells the story of the zombie outbreak from that initial outbreak, through its spread, its peak, and finally, its suppression, through the testimonials of people who played a part in the events.

I love zombie fiction as much as the next Pajiban but I really liked this fresh take in the genre. While most zombie fic focus on a group of survivors, this one is huge in scope, essentially imagining how the world would react in the event of such a catastrophe. I love that it is so realistic, looking at the conditions, politics and general views of a country or group of people, and just trying to see how they would cope.

It was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time, really a lot like those documentaries you would see on National Geographic about WW II or something. Except that the enemies are zombies instead of Nazis. And maybe some zombie nazis.

Again, could not recommend this book enough. My only complaint is that I wish it were longer, with more voices.

Friday, May 6, 2011

# 23 - The Reunion by Sue Walker

Seven teens meet and spend a few months at a progressive adolescent psychiatric unit. Twenty-seven years later, most of them are living their own mostly successful lives, trying their damnedest to forget that they were ever mental cases, studiously avoiding contact with each other. That is, until a phone call comes for Innes, the last teenager to join that batch of patients. Innes ignored the phone call, despite Isabella being one of her closest friends at the Unit. A few days later, Isabella is found dead, supposedly by suicide. Innes finds out that another patient, Danny has also recently died by drowning, and another almost died by a fire and is now semi comatose.

Innes, sensing a connection between the deaths, investigate the mystery of why her co-patients at the Unit are dying. The narrative goes back and forth between the present and 1977. There is also a narrative that is chronologically behind the "main character's" point of view.

Naturally, the kids are hiding a secret, a dark, huge and stomach clenching secret. Innes is actually the most out of the loop out of all of the former former patients. I guess this was necessary to make her not guilty of what the others did, but it was weird to have a main character not really have anything to do with the happenings, except that she knew the people.

The book is suspenseful and fast moving and fairly unpredictable. There were some twists that I did not anticipate. It attempted to flesh out normally "evil" characters, like the former teen sex offender, which I almost felt sympathy for. However, the secret was truly horrible, made me queasy, and totally erased all the sympathy I might have had for the characters involved.