Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: The Goodwill Grimoire

The Goodwill Grimoire
The Goodwill Grimoire by Abramelin Keldor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating is actually 2.5 stars

Starting off this book, I was a little taken back by the opening of it with the character, Stanley. Total sleazy creep - slacker of a B-horror movie producer who stumbled upon a Grimoire in the Goodwill, of all unlikely places. He immediately sets to using it, accidentally of course, as he begins to reanimate a stuffed duck in his home. Once he discovers his ability to reanimate dead bodies, his evil genius plan begins. Remember Stanley is an idiotic sleaze, so his master plan is really quite simply, world domination, one bad, and slightly disgusting, plan after another. He even has creepy sex, but luckily us readers are only spared by hearing one detail of it, and it's told after the fact so we don't have to really visual it along with sleazy Stanley.

Nick, the lych detective, and main character is introduced to the readers as a very ancient supernatural. His character describes the authors world of vampyres, lychs, zombyes (were they spelled this way? there was little mention of zombies, but...) Everything the author describes as being "real" in this story was spelled with a "y" to differentiate between what most of society commonly believes to be real about these supernaturals, and what is actually real. This cracked me up a little, because back in my teens, my friends and I used the same exact logic of spelling those things with a "y". Nick describes this all to Elphaba, his witch companion and assistant. I was a little disappointed that as a practicing witch in a coven, Elphaba wasn't empowered at all, in fact she had little knowledge of any of the supernatural world, which is hard to believe since she is firstly, a witch, and secondly, we are led to feel that she's been working with him for some time so why does she know so little of this world that Nick knows so much about?

Nick is written as a dramatically sweeping kind of character. He's kind, he's chosen good over evil, and he has been around for so long that he has even known some very famous humans in history (more on that later). To increase his presence, he constantly uses phrases and endearments in other languages, but it makes him come across, to me, as a bit of a show-off because they are almost always a different language than the last one, and they just don't feel like it fits. His FBI friend, John, along with Elphaba seem quite like the groupies to he who is Nick, and that part doesn't feel believable to me.

The writing isn't bad overall but it's execution of dialogue is too simplistic in how Nick just educates us all on how it really works in the world. I think part of the trouble is the writing does not lend me to feel invested in the characters, they still felt like characters until the end of the book. There is a moment where you have to make the readers really believe in what's happening, no matter how unrealistic it can be, and because I'm not drawn into the world and taking the characters seriously, it didn't happen.

Nick comes across as feeling that he's so calm and intelligent, but he makes poor choices throughout the story, in order for Stanley to be written as having a reason to gain more power, and this contrast of the ridiculous Stanley who is attempting world domination with an enchanted beer mug, and remote control doesn't mesh enough to make it cohesive. One concept, either serious Nick or comically sleazy Stanley would have worked better to make me get into the story. I was really following pretty good, enjoying it's silliness until about 30% in, when Nick decided to abruptly tell us his story about how he helped bring Rasputin to power in an effort to showcase the characters age and importance in always being around in history. After that portion, it took me until about 80% in, when Nick brought Elphaba to his fortress and suddenly it got interesting again. Sadly, we had to go back and visit Stanley's incompetent war at the high school and get goofy again.

There were a couple of parts where Nick and Elphaba suddenly broke character in the story from how they had been built up so far. Instead of it being a sudden victory in personal power (where Elphaba suddenly saves everyone by reading from the Grimoire to stop Stanley and unfreeze Nick, as well as deanimate everything else), or a quick, dark moment that developed Nicks character further (where he abruptly decided to euthanize Dwaynes family by taking their life force to save them from suffering from the fact that Dwayne had died) they just seemed like very uncharacteristic moments from how these characters had thus far been developed. Perhaps it was because there was not enough cause written into why and how they suddenly deviated from their usual paths in action? I'm not sure of how long the book was, but it read pretty quickly during the times I was reading so I would guess under 200 pages. This might be part of the issue I had; that there wasn't enough dialogue to bring some of the parts to a believable fruition.

I did appreciate the mention of Harry Potter, D & D, & WoW. Definitely I got the impression the author was wanting to prove his personal opinion that people that like Twilight and kids who imitate it know nothing of the "real" world of Vampyres. Luckily for us, Nick, Lych PI does right? :)

This would make a good B-movie premise, and probably TV supernatural show if the elements were combined cohesively (or maybe not!). I just wasn't sure if I was supposed to be reading a parody of vampire stories, or taking Nick's explanations of the supernatural world seriously.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked up this book and began to read it's words. I instantly felt transported to a world of nonsense. Not the fun kind though. It read to me like a mild-mannered acid trip, and at times, some lucidity broke through the haze. It almost read like two or more stories to me, maybe that was the intention, but it felt so disjointed to me. Not cohesive. I normally love whimsical stories, but this one did not speak to me it just kept dragging me along and I almost couldn't remember some parts when I was done reading them.

I will say something about it though, that corroborates the impressions of those that enjoyed the book: Moments of it do stay with you. Whether that is a good reference for one or a negative one depends on how the book affects you. Dreamy, odd, moments of the story, and then the rest of it fading into forgettable gibberish.

One of my favorite books is Alice in Wonderland. I feel that's a lyrical, whimsical, tromp through amusing madness of nonsense and love it immensely. I say that because so many people describe The Last Unicorn as lyrical whimsy. I wanted to love this book, and feeling that I love AIW so much I would have thought this not too far of a cry from something like that. But I felt that The Last Unicorn wanted to be so many things and it ended up falling through in being any of them because it felt like it was reaching in too many directions and didn't complete the path to any because of expelling it's energy before it reached one goal. It was about many things, and nothing at all in the end. A journey that wanted to take you on multiple paths of the mythic symbolism of the unicorn and just fell short for me.

I do wish it had spoke to me fondly, but it had too many whispers instead that I just ended up not fully hearing. I know many people love this book, so it is most definitely one that I believe people love when they read it as a kid, or at just the right moment in their adult life when they need what it offers.

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Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book doesn't seem like the usual type I'd read. Something about the aspect of conspiracy, as well as the promising of a compelling biography drew me in. It ended up being quite a great mix of those plus science, humor, and then somehow it managed to capture me the same way fiction always does.

This author has a unique ability to just make non-fiction read like a fictional story does in it's ability to easily intrigue. One point of her way of storytelling that drew me in was in her manner of not belittling the people she interviewed during her journey to find out who Henrietta Lacks was. She's speaking with uneducated individuals, those that use phrases and words that aren't entirely grammatically correct, and yet, she just offers it as it is. Never speaking down to those people as she spoke with them, and never speaking down to them as the storyteller along her writing. That made this book so enjoyable to read for me. I was able to hear their journeys through their own words, and really capture where those journeys took them because of it. All the while, without prejudice or judgement because they themselves were seen clearly. It made it such a human travel, and you can see that the author really connected with these people along the way.

Whether or not you agree with how the HeLa cells were harvested, or what happened with Henrietta and her family, the tale itself is compassionate, tragic, joyous, and honest. All information and sources were documented in detail at the back of the book, and her research was thorough. It was a fascinating delve into society, culture, and towns that no longer exist. As a lover of history, I ate up every word of it. As a lover of science, the facts and details of the cells use was appreciated. I would love to read future biographies from this author if she writes them.

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