Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #1
Published by Allison & Busby, NAL Jam
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
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Also in this series: The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Kiss of Death, Ghost Town, Bite Club
College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school's social scene: somewhere less than zero. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they come out fighting when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood...
On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.
Okay, I can’t help myself. I have to bitch about the cover* – all the Morganville UK covers in fact. Who on earth are these random girls supposed to be? I am assuming it is supposed to be Claire, if we decide to, you know, ignore her description. Not to mention the painful clashing colours and fonts and just… eww. This is one of those books I just won’t take on the tube. If you can, get the US edition which is fierce. ETA: The covers I was ranting about were these – luckily the publishers reissued these books back in 2010 with much better covers, now including in this review.
Moving on. The book – it was enjoyable, but not amazing. Glass Houses is very different to most YA Vampire books out at the moment, because unlike the House of Night Series or the Twilight Saga – Vampires are so not the good guys. They are soulless SOBs, and the humans in their control are not much better. Monica, a college girl who immediately puts Claire on her hit list, has a violent streak that would make Angelus (BtVS) look like a weakling. She was psychotic, but extremely enjoyable.
With all this evil going around, the book is action packed. There are hospital stays, kidnappings, sieges, breaking-and-enterings, and a lot of run-for-your-life moments. But unlike say, Kelly Armstrong or Rachel Vincent, Caine is not too great at describing the action. I often had to go back a page or two to work out what was going on.
Caine also didn’t succeed in making me feel for any of the characters. All the action meant that character development was left out. It was one of those cases where you are just ohsoclose to relating to the protagonist when, bang, you’re back to apathy. I understood that the characters were supposed to be scared – but the writing just didn’t make me feel it. The romantic tension was pretty un-tense, and the scary scenes were pretty bland.
This book barely gets three stars, although I do plan on getting the rest of the series. Hopefully my interest in the characters will grow the more I read.
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #1
Published by Ace/Roc, Gollancz
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Dead as a Doornail
Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana, but she keeps to herself and doesn't date much because of her "disability" to read minds. When she meets Bill, Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's the type of guy she's waited for all of her life, but he has a disability, too--he's a vampire with a bad reputation. When one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next.
I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. What got me out to the bookstore was seeing the True Blood pilot. I would highly recommend watching it when the season airs and as it totally added to the experience. I bought it mostly out of love for Bill – who reminds me of Edward from the Twilight series despite being nothing like him at all.
Anyhow, this book was so much fun. It was such an amazing look on the whole vampire/human romance because they are all “out of the coffin”. Usually it’s all one big secret, but in this case everyone and their mother knows what Sookie is up to with Bill.
Another thing that I really appreciated was Sookie being just that little bit special and it not being such a good thing. Charlaine Harris deals very well with the fact that a young girl hearing voices in her head is not exactly healthy. Reminds me of the J.K. Rowling quote, “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.“
A Heart So White by Javier Marias
Published by Vintage
Genres: Literary Fiction
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Javier Marías's A Heart So White chronicles with unnerving insistence the relentless power of the past. Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know. Secrecy—its possible convenience, its price, and even its civility—hovers throughout the novel. A Heart So White becomes a sort of anti-detective story of human nature. Intrigue; the sins of the father; the fraudulent and the genuine; marriage and strange repetitions of violence: Marías elegantly sends shafts of inquisitory light into shadows and on to the costs of ambivalence.
I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.
Rec for people who love: Spain, art, languages, the new age whodunnit
Thoughts: This was my first book read because of LibraryThing. I think I was looking for books written by Spanish authors – everyone I know trips over themselves when talking about Arturo Perez-Reverte, but it seems that he is the only Spaniard with any real recognition. Using Wikipedia and Livejournal as my guide, I discovered that Javier Marias writes for El Pais, had an uncle who produced pornography, and a philosopher father imprisoned under Franco. Well, if that didn’t make me love him on the spot – I don’t know what could have.
So, onto my TBR list he went and that was that last I time I thought about him or the book. That is, until I happened to be in an Oxfam bookshop that I rarely visit four months later. And there it was. An unused, unloved and untouched “A Heart so White” begging for a good home. I remembered my five minute online affair with the novel, and snatched it from the shelf. Almost as if I had been afraid someone else had seen it.
And so began a two month long journey with Javier Marias’s narrator – Juan.
Okay, so maybe when I started reading I had my expectations a bit too high. No that’s not right – I just wasn’t ready for the style of the novel, and had had no idea what the book was about when I started to read. In fact, it took me about a month and a half to get past the first thirty pages. Throughout the first thirty pages, I knew the words themselves were beautiful – they were just really difficult. The prose is intense, and lyrical – but it is long. It’s kinda the typical problem a lot of genre fans have with lit fic – the, er, pretentiousness? But JM does not write the way he does merely for gloating rights – it’s just what he is bloody brilliant at. Some authors are can write intense multi-character dialogue, others bloody, brutal fight scenes – and JM is the master at writing a character’s stream of conciousness.
Juan writes – for it is hard for me not to think of him as a real person – the way he thinks. And while his thoughts are stunningly beautiful, until you learn to ride his mind with him, you might be tripping over the plot a bit.
Oh yes, the plot.
Well, I couldn’t quite come up with a decent summary of this book without sounding like a lunatic – that is, until I saw this raving review of Javier Marias’s work in the NYTimes:
A simultaneous translator, recently married to another simultaneous translator, uses the growing friendship between his wife and his father to unravel the mystery behind a suicide that took place before he was born. [ …] If you judged by the summary alone, you might guess that Marías’s fiction is ludicrously melodramatic or cruelly comic or tediously postmodern. It is none of these. On the contrary, all four novels possess an odd combination of true sadness and deeply satisfying wit that I have yet to find in any of Marías’s English or American contemporaries.
At the most basic level, the book is about a man discovering the truth about his father’s life. That’s how the book starts off and ends – but that won’t be why you’ll love this book. Marias’s Juan made me examine my own way of looking at the situations and people around me; inspired the philosopher I had never known was in me.
On another note, this book is excellent for all you armchair travelers out there. We head from Madrid to Havana to New York to the UN to Geneva and back again. Also, I would like to congratulate Margaret Jull Costa on her fabulous translation of this breathtaking novel. ♥
You can read the first chapter of this excellent novel, here.
From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman, Melinda Roth
Published by Lyons Press
Source: Purchased myself
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In From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava, Jay Kopelman tells a story that is both tender and thought-provoking - candidly portraying the ugly conditions in wartime Iraq, while also describing his (and his fellow Marines') growing attachment to a scruffy stray puppy.
Thoughts: I first heard of this book a good year ago, when I heard the author give a beautiful interview on NPR. Being the huge dog lover that I am, not to mention overly romantic, this book was practically made for me. The writing is simple, and the story itself isn’t too long – but its a beautiful one. The Lieutenant Colonel truly cared about this dog, despite himself. And the amount of people who found room in their hearts to help him and this amazing pup is just…. well, astounding considering the circumstances. It made me feel better about this world, just the thought of their being people selfless enough to do the right thing in a world where there is just so much wrong.
I was slightly nervous about any war propaganda that could rear its head, but I found the book completely neutral. Very matter of fact, “we are, and it’s crap, but this is what we signed up for” – while I am completely against the war, there is absolutely nothing in it to insult anyone who swings the other way.
As you can tell, I’m including a few pics of Lava – and I am sure that any dog lover will head straight to amazon after just a glance!