Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Books Read

Ethan FromeEthan Frome by Edith Wharton
rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was a little underwhelmed by this one. I didn't buy the narrator, who had to have filled in a lot of gaps in his imagination to be able to tell this story of Ethan Frome. I wasn't compelled to pull the book from my bedside, where it sat as going-to-sleep reading. Ethan as a tragic character was just kind of lame in his wintry entrapment.

MimusMimus by Lilli Thal (audio)
rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was inspired to listen to this after reading this review. Truthfully, it was her review that kept me going, because I found the character Mimus to be unrelentingly sardonic, and I did not like the reading of his character. Yes, he was a jester, but when was he going to reveal his humanity? To me, while it was clear the author was leading to that, that moment took too long to arrive. Same with the prince getting on with the task at hand. It also didn't help that the name of the King, Theodo, sounded like a speech impediment.

But, since she did love this listen, I got past my initial dislike, and it was indeed a good story. A prince captured and made into a jester and as lowly as an animal is not something you come across in fantasy books.

The Witch's Boy CD The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber (audio)
rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's nothing I didn't like in this book, and everything to love. It's chock full of fairy lore and fairy tales. (I think of fairy lore as those tales of fairies under the hill, magic, and witches, and fairy tales as those we know from the Brothers G and HCA.) The fairy tales are turned inside out from our usual knowledge of them, for instance the parents were bad, the witch was good in Hansel and Gretel. Just what tale corresponds to the story of the witch's boy isn't immediately apparent. The other tales are anecdotes dropped here and there about acquaintances and distant news.

For all that rich detail, the core story doesn't get lost. It is a story of love, and of a boy growing up and experiencing the tension between love for mother and love for a girl. He's raised by a witch with the help of magic, a bear, and a djinni who can't be trusted. Neither he nor his mother are perfect, and there is where the depth of the story can be found.

King Rat King Rat by China MiƩville
rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently learned this falls under the subgenre of Urban Fantasy. I was introduced when that blog linked to a review of that's the kind of fantasy I gravitate toward.

I also gravitate toward views other than mine, and this one coming out of London does not disappoint.

A young man has a fight with his father, nothing unusual there. Then his father is murdered, and the young man is locked up as the number one suspect. It's smelly, bloody, gritty, and dirty. Even as you cover your mouth you keep reading to find out more about that strange rat man that breaks him out of jail, and just who is this kid anyway? You find out there's a culture of animal-people and this kid is destined to be the King Rat. These Kings of the animals have a natural enemy...can he prevail even though he grew up wholly human?

I came across this author when there was a kerfuffle (Leila's word) among YA book lovers and authors when this NYT reviewer showed undue disrespect.

Peace: The Biography of a Symbol Peace: The Biography of a Symbol by Ken Kolsbun
rating: 3 of 5 stars

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the peace symbol. (ND, not broken cross.) Various myths have propagated as to its origins, but this book has the definitive answer, as well as many heretofore little seen photos of the peace sign in counter- and popular culture. This book would also do as a light introduction to the history of the peace movement. It's definitely worth a look if only for the photos, and a quick scan for peace factoids.

View all my reviews.

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