28 February 2006

Reads & Listens, February 2006

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak by Kenneth S. Duffeyes
So we're going to run out of oil one of these days -- what can we do to end our crippling dependency on it? Switch over to other non-renewable energy sources like natural gas or coal? Go nuclear? Invest in "alternative" energies like solar, wind, and hydrogen? Duffeyes examines all the possibilities and weighs the pros and cons of each.

Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle
Contessa Viviana Alessandri was, in her youth, an opera singer who got knocked up by the future Earl of Wynwood. Knowing he wouldn't marry her, she returned to her native Venice to marry her father's control freak of a patron. Now widowed, she has returned to England and, of course, runs into the new Earl of Wynwood. Sparks fly. Hearts break. Love conquers all. And so forth. I liked Viviana best when she wasn't with the Earl (who seemed like so much of a cad most of the time) and I really enjoyed her interaction with the secondary characters.

Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash by Liz Perle
I think this book was supposed to serve as some kind of wake-up call and empowerment tool, but all it did was depress me. Also annoyed me at points, because Perle was good at dropping one-line bombshells, but not footnoting them with the statistics or reports she drew that wisdom for. I mean, she sites a lot of different sources, but never on the bits that most interested me. And, damn, couldn't we have had more uplifting stories about women and their money to balance all the nightmare scenarios?

Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Could we have a clone story in which the clone's problems don't have anything to do with her looking just like some dead girl? Clones are not copies. Granted, Haddix did cover the whole "clones don't behave identically" shtick, but still ... this book was than a little preposterous. Who thinks their twelve year old daughter is in danger and then hides her in the same tiny town where her identical dead sister/source lived and died? Hello? I know it's a YA novel, but must the parents be so stupid? And the ending? Must it be so tidy?

Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson
What an enjoyable book! In China, many thousands of years ago, a slave girl rescues a dragon from certain death. They are now "free," but far from safety. They flee across China to the sea and have a whole series of adventures along the way. The witty dialogue, cryptic dragon wisdoms, and good use of historical detail make this book very hard to put down (I devoured it in less than two hours).

Syrup by Maxx Barry
Set in the wonderful world of Coca-Cola, marketing, and Hollywood, this is the first Maxx Barry book. While mostly funny and sharp, it sometimes falls flat. If you've never read any Barry novels, start with Jennifer Government and then try this one.

Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami
The first book in the Bindi Babes series. Amber, Jazz, and Geena are three (seemingly) perfect British Indian girls living with their (frequently absent) widowed father. One day, their "perfect" lives are turned upside down when their very traditional Auntie comes to stay with them. She drives them mad and they want nothing more than to get rid of her. Madcap adventures ensue. Very amusing YA novel and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Bollywood Babes by Narinder Dhami
Bollywood Babes is the second book in the Bindi Babes series and, sadly, not as funny as the first. The sisters don't stand out from each other at all and the story seems rushed and superficial. Still, will probably read Bhangra Babes when it comes out.

Good Girls Do by Cathie Linz
I thought the librarian bits of the story where quite good, but the whole "good girl/bad boy" love story was a bit unbelievable. And her "zany" family? They were so over the top, they were unfunny. On the other hand, I can easily see this novel being used as the basis for a two hour pilot for some cutesy sitcom.

08 February 2006

Oh, Brown Jenkins, Where Is Your Bite?

The Husband gave me a copy of the Library of America's Lovecraft collection and it took me much longer to read than I had anticipated. While I blame some of that on the misleading size of the book, much of it is the author's fault. Sitting on the bedside table, the book looked deceptively manageable. Read it and you discover the pages are tissue thin, the text crammed onto each page as if the publisher had never heard of margins or spacing, and Lovecraft's prose is heavy as cement. I had forgotten how normal it is to come up for air after reading six brain-fucking pages only to discover the plot has not moved an inch and, indeed, the end is far from nigh.

Like most middle school girls, I stumbled upon ol' HP Sauce Lovecraft quite accidentally. I didn't like horror (if by horror you meant Koontz or King) and I wasn't too sure about science fiction, either, but I knew good cover art when I saw it. Yes, blame it all on Michael Whelan. His cover art compelled me -- I owned a copy of The Art of Michael Whelan and was pretty hot for anything with his name on it. (And, yes, I purchased The Art of Michael Whelan largely because of my fixation with Melanie Rawn's faradhi books. What do you want? I was a geeky girl).

Anyway, bought the Del Ray editions with the Whelan cover art and devoured them whole. Sure, they gave me funny dreams and caused me to pile up shit in front of my closet door ("Dreams in the Witch-House" filled my attic with unwholesome possibilities), but I couldn't stop reading. For a while, I was quite drunk on Lovecraft, but then other books and intrusions came along and it was not until The Husband gave me this dubious volume (you could do better, but this one screams Canon most officiously) that I really thought about Lovecraft.

The last real memory I have of reading Lovecraft is during Halloween my freshman year of college. The Best Friend and I crept down to the cavernous laundry room in the basement and took turns reading bits of Lovecraft to each other. The claustrophobic hallway (with the many padlocked doors and the Brown Jenkin sized holes in the walls) that led into the laundry room was just so much icing on the cake. Were we complete dorks? Yes. Was it one of the best Halloweens ever? Oh, yes.

So it was with great nostalgia and more than a little dread that I sat down to read this new edition. And I was not scared by any of it. No. Even Brown Jenkins failed to scare me a whit and he scared the bejeesus out of me the first time I met him -- had to sleep with the light on, that first night. And it's not as if I remembered most of these stories well from previous readings. What I remembered, primarily, was the cloud of dread and horrified delight which surrounded each story. Sadly, now the monsters seem ... laughable. Brown Jenkins doesn't scare me, anymore, and Cthulhu seems just a bit goofy. It's a bit of a bummer.