Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

Books 1-3 (Volume 1) of the Baroque Trilogy

Very intriguing and intensely cerebral, the novel is slightly weighed down by an overabundance of philosophical and scientific discourse. However, it is a truly satisfying read that I recommend to those interested in philosophy or those who are seeking to travel several decades in the baroque period (1660s through the early 1700s in this novel). You will certainly travel with the author as the details are not in short supply, and the descriptions quickly place you into the correct context.

Much of the books follow the real and imagined life of Isaac Newton and his fellow Natural Philosophers and Alchemists. Both Newton and his fellow Royal Society comrades are exquisitely intriguing, both for their minds as well as for the drama that follows them in their lives. Book two departs for a time to the life of Jack Shaftoe and Eliza. "Half-cock Jack" leads an entertaining life, with and without Eliza, leaving the reader wanting much more of his exciting adventures and witty conversations. Although we lose sight of Jack near the end of this volume, we do maintain contact with Eliza and the life that she has chosen to lead.

After the reader has resigned herself to the fact that these are separate stories of a single time period, the link between the seemingly thus far unrelated stories comes later in the volume. As the connection came later than I'd hoped, I was glad to remember that there were another 2000 or so pages in the trilogy.

FOUR and a half of five stars.

Why the Long Face? by Ron MacLean

Review is based on an ARC.

Why the Long Face is a series of short stories that view the normal through a haze. Reading reviews that cast this book as "eerie" and "surreal", I was quite excited to get started. As a longtime fan of eerie and surreal works, I was initially expecting something a little more overt. However, as I read on, I settled into MacLean's subtle approach to eerie and surreal.

The first story was, for me, a disappointment based on these descriptions because, although it arguably contains a ghost, it seemed to me a somewhat common foray into human loss.

The ensuing stories, however, were certainly more disturbing and were, after the first, a pleasant surprise. At times venturing into alternate realities, MacLean generally views ordinary life through unique lenses. A story here or there actually enters into the impossible, but mostly it is his perspective that we readers profit from.

I recommend to anyone, and highly recommend to fans of VanderMeer or Borges (with the reminder of MacLean's subtlty). I look forward to reading more MacLean.

FOUR of five stars.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Review is based on an ARC.

To Twilight readers, this book will feel strikingly familiar at times. However, even with some of the less-than-original concepts, the story and its characters were intriguing and engaging. Better yet, once the story developed further, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was more to it than originally anticipated.

The story develops around a high school girl, more beautiful than she realizes, who has been displaced from her home and family. Enter the gorgeous, too-perfect-to-be-real, faster-than-natural, been-around-the-world guy. Of course he's inexplicably drawn to her and she to him, but she can't help but wonder what lays beneath all that meets the eye. Thus the classic girl-meets-immortal-guy, girl-falls-in-love story ensues. With entertaining characters and an enjoyable sense of humor, Noel kept me eager for more, both within the book and in anticipation of the next.

I recommend to all Twilight fans, as well as to readers who enjoy YA supernatural novels generally. Most age appropriate for middle and high school.

FOUR of five stars