Saturday, October 24, 2009

58. THE CHILDREN'S BOOK - A.S. Byatt


Nominated for the 2009 Man Booker prize for fiction, The Children's Book is written for fans of epic drama; in this case, the Wellwood family and its friends during the years 1890-WWI.

Philip Warren, a runaway found by Olive Wellwood's son in the South Kensington Museum, states that he, "[...]wants to make..." Looking at pages of his drawings, Olive assumes he wants to make pots, and he is sent to apprentice with a famed friend. However, it is Philip who is the steadying character in this novel.

The Wellwoods are enchanting with a lovely English home called Todefright in the country and loads of children to fill it. Olive writes children's stories, while continuing to write a personal story for each of her own children. Humphrey, the father, works in banking and trashes it in his publications under a pseudonym. They host ravishing parties and invite the most radical of their circle.

However, not all is as misty and magical as it seems. Daughter Dorothy and son Tom worry about their parents' fights. Their cousins worry about boarding school or the lack of education for females. The younger Wellwood children are simply mothered by their aunt Violet.

As children do, they grow up and expand into lives that even creative Olive could not have predicted. In fact, this was the most satisfying part of the book - the first 120 pages were devoted to knowing the huge background of players. The ending left many threads hanging loose from the tapestry, which I appreciated.

I almost gave up on this book. It was difficult to plow through the names, the characterizations, the histories. Once the fairytale gave way to the truth, I became fascinated. It was ugly and raw, but the polite English way of dealing with pain made me wonder at how they survived loss or disappointment. Especially Olive, with her proper endings to each story.

Why did this novel not win the Man Booker? Perhaps because of the beginning. The writing could easily bore some readers who are not interested in the nuances of the characters' actions or dialogue. It could have been too long. Still, I think it became a finalist for these same reasons. It is a novel that I will think about for a while, and that is always considered valuable in my experience.

4.25 out of 5.0 Milk Punch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 - NaNoWriMo


Yes, it is that time of year when people put on silly hats and beg for chocolate. No, not Halloween, silly... NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month - every November, insane idiots from strange places like Mississippi and New Yawk City join this online group and try to write a novel in one month.

I meant to do it last year and the year before. There is never the "right" time to write. It is a matter of getting your butt in the chair and doing it.

So, I am doing it under the sassy nom de plume: KDRockstar. Friend me. I am lonely. And my avatar on NaNoWriMo has zero friend placings as well (*ching* - rimshot - and, thank you, tip your waitresses, I'll be here all weekend).

Click here to join the insanity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

57. AN ECHO IN THE BONE - Diana Gabaldon


In a word: disappointing.

The background of the series - Claire goes back in time to 1700s Scotland, meets and marries Jamie Fraser, yet must go back to her own time because she is already married to Frank.

For Gabaldon fans, anything more would be "spoilers," so for the full review, see the comments section.

2.0 out of 5.0 Bonesetters.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

56. ONE SECOND AFTER - William R. Forstchen


Anyone want nightmares? It is the time of year when people search out ghosts and goblins and witches. Whether it is for All Hallow's Eve, Samhain, or Halloween, nothing will scare you more than this book.

This novel is about the year after three EMF nuclear bombs are set off above the United States - EMF meaning electro-magnetic frequency. All electronics are affected, including newer cars and water pumps. There are no ways to get medicines or travel, except by foot.

John, a history professor and former Looey, is forced by his conscience to help his small North Carolina community. The choices are brutal, and the results are realistic. Even John does not come out of this situation unscathed.

My gripes: there is a definite agenda to this book. The foreward is by Newt Gingrich, and the conclusion is by a doctor who talks about how this is being ignored by current and past administration. The writing is achingly poor... at times, I had no idea who was speaking because of the strange dialogue format. When I read about Hurricane Katrina - well, let's just say I laughed out loud because of the author's politics being inserted into the story.

Still, it is a quick read and will make you have freaky nightmares. And if this happens, don't even think about coming out here. My ranch is already booked for doomsday scenarios.

2.5 out of 5.0 Red Deaths.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

55. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES - Margaret George


Before I get to the review, let me just whinge (I learned how to pronounce this properly last week) a bit. I miss reading. I miss it desperately. Lately, however, I have had to choose between reading and writing. I want to publish in the next decade, so I choose writing. Reading is like taking a hot shower after doing grungy farm work all day. And I am bitter-sad.

So, when I have an eight hundred pager, I expect it to be amazing. The first two-thirds of MARY were great - fast-paced plot, excellent characters, interesting historical elements. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles, is portrayed as a woman who tried her best but was led astray by shifty advisers and loves. However, the last part, when Mary was exiled, needed a strong editorial hand. Slash, cut, burn. Red ink everywhere. There is only so much that one can write about someone in prison. Although the author stuck to the facts, since this was presented as fiction, there needed to be action rather than inaction (off to another prison, brought my sewing).

Still, I am fascinated by the history of the Scots, so if anyone knows of a good book about King James, I would be grateful. If you pick this one up (or use it as a doorstop), skip through the exiled portion. You can thank me later.

3.5 out of 5.0 Queen of Scots.

P.S. Seriously, I am going to try this drink tonight... love it!