Monday, July 19, 2010

Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job by Ginger Mayerson

Review based on ARC.

This quick pleasure reads like a detective novel.. but without the crime. Dr. Hackenbush is a sarcastic, pessimistic-optimistic, competent, talented 30-something who, at the beginning of the story, loses her ukulele and, as a result, her income. Needing an expensive car repair at the same time, Hackenbush finds herself at a corporate temp agency and is assigned to a difficult law firm to raise enough cash to fix her ukulele and her car.

As someone who has been a temp in a big city, someone who has a love for and a background with music, and someone who has worked as staff in a law firm and, now, as a lawyer... I was impressed with Mayerson's portrayal of the many worlds and the people therein.

The book is set in the 80s and, of course, some things have changed in the past 30 years, but it is still a current tale, highlighting some of the struggles and tensions between artists and the business world, between men and women, and even among people of the same social groups.

The story reads very quickly and the plot is interesting enough, but it is the characters that really move the reader. Hackenbush herself is moderately endearing, and you do care what happens to her. However, I found myself caring more about some of the more peripheral characters - feeling disgust, hope, confusion, and even attachment.

I recommend to anyone who is looking for a light quick read with perhaps a few lessons along the way...

FOUR out of five stars

Dracula's Guest by Michael Sims

Review based on ARC.

This is an excellent introduction/compendium of victorian (as well as some pre-victorian and post-victorian) vampire stories.

Michael Sims does a superb job of not only gathering some of the most noteworthy and influential pieces of the genre, but he introduces the work as a whole and each piece with aplomb.

I typically do not read the introduction to a book until after I've read the book (and only then if I feel that it's "worth my time"). I know that this is counter-intuitive, but generally I want to read the work without someone else's opinion about the work first. (I typically do not read reviews until after I've read the book either.)

In this case, however, I read the introduction as it was meant to be read -- first. What a wonderful introduction. I have dog-earred many pages (I know, gasp!) in the intro for me to follow up on and read more about the topic. I also note that Sims explains his choices effectively and intriguingly. I could not wait to get started.

The stories themselves are wonderful. They represent true vampire culture and fears in the earlier times and we are able to see the morphing of the culture of vampire lore.

All in all, excellent choices and excellent work.

I would not recommend this book to people who think that Twilight is the end-all of vampire tales. But for those of you who are interested in the backdrop of current lore, the history, the progression, and are willing to take the time and energy to read victorian style prose... by all means, sink your teeth in...

FOUR out of five stars.