Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Beauty and the Werewolf

Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale.  The first time I ever read a version of this tale was from my set of Best In Children’s Books.

best in children's books  I still have the books.  I enjoyed the TV show created as a modern version of Beauty and the Beast and will go back and play it occasionally.   Then during Savvy’s current visit and a trip to the library with me, she found this rendition by Mercedes Lackey, Beauty and the Werewolf.

beauty and the werewolf  First off, I am a fan of Mercedes Lackey.  I really enjoy her work.  This is the latest in her Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.  If you enjoy fairy tales, these are a great spin on well known stories.

First off, if you are reading a story based on an established tale, yes there is a definite element of predictability.  You have to enter into the reading with the premise of unwilling female gets trapped in the castle with the ‘beast’ and falls in love with him, breaking the curse and they all live happily ever after.  The difference is in the details and Lackey provides plenty.

Bella, the heroine, is strong willed and practical.  Sebastian, is the Duke no one ever sees.   Eric, is the gamekeeper who is also Sebastian’s bastard brother and his guardian.  Typical so far.  Then there are the servants.  Really great treatment there.  And the idea of “Tradition”.

If you, like myself, like the story, this is a must read.  A bit predicable, but expected.  There are enough differences to make it a good read.  I really enjoyed the characterization of Bella in this version.  And they did live happily ever after.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Book Review: Calling Invisible Women

At 246 pages this is a quick read.  But then again at 246 pages it is a book which will provoke a lot of thought and discussion.

calling invisible women  Written by Jeanne Ray, this is a book which touched home for me on many levels.  As a 54 year old woman, I have been known as somebody’s wife, the mother of my two daughters and am just now getting to feel my own identity.  However, I have also reached the age where women are often overlooked, regardless.  I am not some ‘cougar’ to stop younger men.  Actually, I identify more with a grizzly bear, but Clover, the main character in the book, isn’t just overlooked, she is actually invisible.  The sad part about it is that no one in her family notices.  Neither do people she passes on the street or in the store.  Fortunately she discovers she is not the only invisible woman around.  There are in fact several women like herself.  Instead of letting her invisibility keep her down, Clover finds it is really empowering.  Especially when they find a combination of drugs, typically given to women of her age, might just be the culprit.

There is much to think about as you read this book, especially if you are a ‘woman of a certain age’.  But the humor of the book keeps it from being depressing.  Imagine a dozen naked, invisible women gathering in the conference room of the local Sheraton Hotel with only their Kleenex in hand to show where they are.  And you won’t look at a plane ride the same way again after reading this book.  Thought provoking and humorous, what more can you wish for in a book.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

With record heat, I have been doing more reading that I usually have time for.  I had come across a review in Book Page, a newspaper carried by my local library and it sounded interesting.  Hit the fantasy angle I usually enjoy, so I requested the book from the library. 

discovery-of-witches-web-195x300   At 579 pages, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is not your usual light summer read.  It’s some heavy reading (pun intended, sorry).  And this weighty a tome means when you can’t put the book down, you better have something propping it up for you.

Diana Bishop is the last of the Bishop witches, a well-known (to witches anyway) witch family.  However, she has spent her life ignoring her abilities and refusing to use her magic, concentrating on her studies in history, alchemy to be specific.  Or so she thinks.  Matthew Clairmont is an ancient vampire (who looks really great for his age), a scientist, is there to protect.  Protect Diana from what?  The other witches, vampires and daemons who are after what she has learned and can learn from the ancient book, Ashmole 782.  Problem is these three groups are not suppose to intermingle, much less form partnerships.  And humans, we have no clue what’s going on and the other three races are trying to keep it that way.

From the hallowed halls of Oxford, to a centuries old estate in France, Diana and Matthew attempt to figure out what she has learned and how to get the book to reappear and most importantly, to protect  her from those who would do her harm.  In order to do so, Diana must come to terms with and acknowledge her tremendous magical abilities and learn how to use and control them.

In the end (or is it?) Diana and Matthew travel back to her home in New England where her grandmother, Sarah, and Sarah’s partner, Em try to help.  Along the way they pick up some extra daemons and vampires who are sworn to help Diana.  And the family home----it gets into the act also.  Diana and Matthew must take a leap of faith and travel to another time and place in order for Diana to learn to use her powers.  We the readers must also take an equal leap of faith that book 2 in the All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night, is as compelling and interesting a read as the first book.

Worth a read?  Well, I have the release date for Book 2 on my calendar and thankfully that is next week.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Book Review: City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris

I have been reading mysteries….forever.  When I finished all the children’s books at my little local library growing up, the librarians pointed me to the adult section and allowed me to check out ‘grown up’ books.  I read Agatha Christie.  And while Gothic romances can’t necessarily be called mysteries, there is a thread of that in there.  I follow Susan Albert Wittig and Diane Mott Davidson, among others, to satisfy my need for ‘who done it’.  When I started City of Veils I realized all my reading in the mystery genre had been almost 100 percent American or European settings.  Elizabeth Peters did set her books in the Nile area, but still, the characters where English.  So I picked up Zoe Ferraris’ book primarily because it was set in modern day Saudi Arabia.

First off I have to say this book is the second in a series.  Normally, I am not firm in that you have to read book 1 and then book 2.  And this is a case where you could skip book 1 and read book 2.  There are some references in City of Veils to things that happened in book 1, but not to the extent you lose content.  However, that said, Finding Nouf is on my table by my bed.

city-of-veils-225  Secondly, the plot of the book is not earth-shattering.  There is an interesting mystery to follow, but nothing that is so novel or clever as to be ‘novel’ (forgive the pun).  Sound story, but not all that new and exciting.  There is one murder and one disappearance to solve, which at first do not seem to be related.  And an American woman thrown in who is having to cope in a strange land and culture.  Ms. Ferraris does a good job of weaving the two different plot lines together into one sound story.  Definitely worth reading just for the plot lines.

What really caught my attention was the rich explanations of the culture and laws concerning women in Saudi Arabia.  Her treatment of showing how women have to work and are allowed to interact in public and with men was fascinating.  I could not image having to have a male escort, which is a family member, to go to the store or run errands.  Of course, wearing a burqa whenever I leave the house might not be a bad idea considering some of the outfits I have thrown on to run to the store in.  However, in 100 plus temperatures, I don’t think even a possible run-in with a religious policeman would convince me to wear one.  The way the females in the book who were allowed to work outside the home and in a public situation, such as the police station, was cause of several moments of contemplation.  If nothing else, the immersion into Saudi life was worth the read.

This is a book well worth reading it only to take you out of the ‘Western’ mode of thinking and expose yourself to a different culture and way of life.