Saturday, March 29, 2008

#11 Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Living in modern day Moscow, the "Others" are an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers. Each Other pledges allegiance to either the Light or the Dark, and each side has a Watch—Night Watch for the Light and Day Watch for the Dark—whose responsibility it is to maintain the balance between the Light and the Dark, Good and Evil, verifying neither side has an unfair advantage.

An uneasy truce has existed between the two groups for several thousand years, but all that could soon change due to an ancient prophecy predicting that one particularly strong Other will rise up and tip the balance, resulting in a catastrophic war between the Light and the Dark, one that could bring about the end of the word as we know it!

I had a bit of a difficult time with this book because the language didn't flow quite as smoothly as if it were written by a native English speaker. The version I read is an English translation from the original Russian, so at times the paragraphs would just go on and on and make little to no sense, or else not fit in with what was going on in the story, and I'd find myself thinking, "Just what the heck is he talking about??" In similar fashion, I'd find he sometimes went off into these way too philosophical discussions in his head for far too long—sometimes for up to two pages or more!—which was enough to put me right to sleep.

Despite the problems I had with the writing, or the translation, or whatever... underneath it all, the story itself was good, and the whole concept of the Others living among us to maintain the balance between Good and Evil, was enough to keep me reading.

I don't have the 2nd book in this series, Day Watch, but I do have the third, Twilight Watch, which I picked up for a couple bucks at Half Price Books while I was in Columbus. So I'll probably try to get my hands on the second one in the hopes that some of the translation issues have been resolved and I can enjoy it a little bit more without the language and style detracting from it.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

#10 A Fool and His Honey: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This is the sixth installment in Charlaine Harris's now defunct Aurora Teagarden mystery series, which go up to book number 8. In A Fool and His Honey, we meet a few new members of Roe's husband Martin's family, including Martin's niece Regina who has shown up on their doorstep with a new baby in tow, not even a month old yet.

Unfortunately, when Regina's new husband Craig turns up dead on the doorsteps leading to the garage apartment, and Regina suddenly goes missing, leaving baby Hayden behind, Roe and Martin need to head up to Regina's hometown in rural Ohio to find answers, and return the baby to... someone... anyone!

For some reason, this particular installment in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries seemed a bit more shallow than the previous ones, though it's hard to put my finger on exactly what was missing. By the end, I was left feeling a little bit empty, and I wonder if maybe that was done on purpose. You've got Roe's whole back story about how she can't conceive children, the fact that Martin was previously married and has an older son who doesn't really acknowledge Roe as his father's new wife and didn't even bother to attend their wedding, and then an even more jaw dropping surprise at the very end.

Overall, a quick and interesting read and definitely a pivotal point in the series. I believe many of the events that happened herein will be fairly significant for the last two books of the series.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

#9 Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

From the publisher: This delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster-girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease-Paint Avenue", Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and soon after, dons trousers and joins the act. In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of a butch rouĂ© to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education—a sort of Moll Flanders in drag—finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.

At 472 pages, this book took me a bit longer to read than I'd anticipated. I can't say I didn't enjoy it however. Only time will tell if it "stays with me" the way many other great books do. I do enjoy this particular time period, late 19th Century, the Victorian era. Back in those times, for a woman to dress as a man, in "trousers" was quite against the accepted norms. I suspect that could be part of the reason that this book appealed to me in the first place, despite being outside of my usual genre. Because it tells the story of a girl who went against society's norms in every possible way. Hmm, kind of reminds me of someone else I know... *whistle*

Nan was a lesbian at a time when society wasn't sure how to handle such "atrocities". Being bisexual myself, I'm always intrigued reading about lesbian girls because they are so very different from bisexuals and travel in completely different social circles. Even back then, it seemed that lesbians usually only hung around with their own kind. Similar to how it's all depicted on the Showtime TV series The L Word, we don't really have these social groups intermingling. Lesbians have lesbian parties and 95% of the guests are lesbians; it's as if they're their own clique. Whereas if you're a woman who prefers both men and women equally for her sexual partners, but perhaps your established living arrangements or life partner happens to be male, then you're kind of outside the lesbian social circle. So that's a whole other aspect of this book that added to it's appeal for me. I don't think I'd read a contemporary lesbian romance novel and enjoy it nearly as much. Yet I truly enjoyed this one because of all the other stuff going on, the time period in which it took place, and simply because the author is a very good writer, and I truly felt I was able to "see" England through the eyes of a young lesbian woman in Victorian England. And that was quite a treat for the senses!

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