Monday, December 30, 2013

Double Feature by Owen King

What if your biggest failure became the thing you were best known for? Sam Dolan used every leverage, favor, and connection he had to make a film right after he graduated from college. It's a semi-fictional coming-of-age story that's also a serious commentary on modern society. And then tragedy strikes.

This novel swivels back and forth through time - hinged upon Sam's filmmaking experience - to tell the bigger picture about Sam's B-movie famous father, his parents' relationship, Sam's childhood, the making of his movie, and what came after.

Perhaps the only person who doesn't love Sam's dad, Booth, is Sam. As a reader you'll understand why Sam has issues with him, but you'll also secretly want to become part of Booth's fan club. Actually, I loved a lot of the characters in this book, which is nice because Sam's sort of prickly: across the timeline he's confused, pretentious, shattered, scared, and really, epically messed up. It's only through the humanity of the friends and family around him you see his potential; the question is, will he do the same?

Great book - it kept me interested, and the shifts in perspective and time continually reveal more to the story. You'll especially love it if you're a cinephile.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Someone like you

by Susan Mallery

In a search for downloadable books to take on vacation, I came across a Mallery title that was completely new to me.  The best part is: there's also a sequel.  On that note, the foreshadowing has me desperately clinging to hope that either the physical or downloadable hold for the next title will hurry up!  Of course, I finished Someone Like You just before a national holiday.

Jill finds herself filing for divorce, out of a job, and back in her dreaded hometown.  To top it all off, her childhood crush is also back and even more tempting than before.  Too bad he's still hung up on a hands off policy where she's concerned.

Mac pretty much owes his life to Jill's father.  He's also intent on fixing his relationship with his eight year old who will only eat foods that match her outfit.  Jill, her clients, and her family are complications in his life. 

This story will make you want to snuggle under a favorite quilt as you watch the one-time bad boy show that he's not only all grown-up, but also a very good man to boot.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Stopping on the street to help a girl in need changes Richard's life - but not necessarily for the better. Besides the fact that his fiance is apoplectic with rage about the distraction, almost immediately weird things start happening: dangerous-looking men at the door, unbelievable occurrences, and then ... it turns out he's invisible.

See, this one act of kindness has essentially erased Richard from the real London Above world's consciousness; he's now part of London Below, where magic and the improbable rule. Fantasy, mythology, an epic quest - this book has it all. And maybe, just maybe, Richard will turn out to be more than anyone expects of him.

I picked up the book because it was recently banned in a high school in New Mexico; nothing makes me want to read a book more than somebody saying you shouldn't. The novel was created from the story Gaiman originally developed created for UK television, and the version I read is listed as the "author's preferred text" and was in fact an audiobook read by Gaiman himself.

I have to say that Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, but he's also an AMAZING reader for audiobooks. It's a different artform - more acting than storytelling - and the vocalization of different characters is a major part of the audio experience. Gaiman is a stellar audio reader. Is there anything this guy ISN'T good at? I don't want to find out. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mary and O'Neil by Justin Cronin

Looking for a great literary novel to discuss with bookclub? This may be the answer.

The novel's actually a series of stories which deal with the sort of everyday occurrences that make up a life: college love and lovers, the bond between siblings, uneasy imperfect relationships between people who love one another, children and change.

While the book is titled after one couple, the story actually encompasses the lives of an entire family - parents, two children, their spouses, and the eventual grandchildren. It's a literary novel, but accessible and relatable to anyone who's ever wondered where they should be going in life, or if they're ever going to figure things out.

This was Cronin's debut novel (2001), and if you're looking for the vampires found in his newer books, you'll be disappointed. But the same wonderful writing is here, and the same pull of strong characters about whom you care and want to see triumph.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wicked City by Alaya Johnson

In an alternate-reality past, 1920s New York is dealing not only with the Prohibition, but also with a controversial new intoxicant for its vampire population called Faust. Should that also be prohibited? Because the alcohol prohibition has worked out so well (not).

Our do-gooder heroine, Zephyr Hollis, grew up in a famous vampire killing family. But on her own as an adult, she's softened her views and taken up campaigning rather than staking. Her best friend is a mystic, and she's accidentally magically bound to a djinni.

This is the second book in the Zephyr Hollis series, and I occasionally felt like I should have read the first book to give me some additional background, but it wasn't strictly necessary for the story. I had a tough time tracking down the first book, but I'll be giving that a try also, soon. And this book ends with a dramatic phone call, certainly indicating another book in the works.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kiss Kids by Chris Ryall, Tom Waltz and Jose Holder

The band KISS' marketing is a strange and diverse thing - the latest example is the new comics series Kiss Kids; they're juvenile bubblegum versions of the stage characters familiar to the KISS Army.

They're a little cheesy - but that's OK, because so is Archie and he's done alright for himself. They're a little cool, because the band is too. Each character has his own brand of swagger, true to the "characters" they become in makeup ... and they're ALWAYS in makeup in the comics. This is an all-ages read, with kid-size conundrums yet lot of in-jokes for fans in-the-know. The art is excellent.

I can see super-fans introducing their kids to KISS with this, and I think it certainly could work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan

Junior Bender isn't your typical hero - for one, he's a master criminal. But when a burglary-for-hire goes wrong in a million ways (and turns out to be a setup), we discover Junior has a real conscience when it comes to things that matter.

A former child-prodigy actress who fell off the pop culture radar in adolescence is back in the spotlight making an adult film. Junior's "persuaded" to get involved in the film to protect the investors interests. And despite all the trouble, Junior starts to feel protective toward this messed-up young woman - enough to sabotage the plan a bit to get her out of this nasty, icky movie contract.

I really enjoyed this book - the pacing's great, and the characters are compelling. It's a trendy kind of theme (Hollywood's cannibalism of young stars), but doesn't settle into the well-worn grooves.