Monday, September 8, 2014

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Sometimes, you just want to read a book with your guard down. You want to open the pages and see some promise and allow yourself to believe that this time, you're not going to be let down. You want to find that dark and stormy night and wander through it, feeling satisfied when you turn the last page. Marina gave me that present.

Marina has the ambiance of a good gothic novel (though for various reasons, is not true gothic literature). It is technically a young adult novel, but it was Zafon's last (4th of 4) YA novel and definitely feels like a transitional piece. It "stars" a 15-year-old protagonist, but the themes are dark and intense.

Jacob is often bored at his school and wanders the neighborhood in search of something interesting. Occasionally he is with his best friend JF, but more often, he's just alone. One day, he wanders down a particularly desolate part of town to an abandoned old house. For shaky reasons, Jacob decides to enter onto the property, hearing a sort of haunting melody emitting from within the old house. He enters the house, drawing nearer the music when he is surprised by the apparition of an elderly person with long white hair, and Jacob high-tails it out of the house, accidentally taking with him the old watch he had picked up right before the apparition.

The watch is engraved with a loving quote to a "German." Jacob's guilt at having accidentally stolen the memento drives him to return to the house to return the watch, and there he meets Marina. She approaches him from outside the property, referring to him as the watch thief. Marina, intrigued by Jacob's interest in the dark and mysterious, invites him to accompany her the following morning on a mini-adventure. Jacob, entranced by Marina's beauty and personality, agrees. Thus begins the adventure of Marina and Jacob as they wend themselves deeper and deeper into the dark, deathly, and dangerous past and insert themselves into a web of lies, half-truths, cover-ups, and sinister obsession.

The book is eerie, misty, mysterious, dark, and satisfying. It's got flavors of Shadows of the Wind (and, in my opinion, is much butter than Angels Game or Midnight Garden!) and is perfect for a rainy day/night!

FIVE of five stars.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Wasn't blown away... thought it was a disappointing sequel, but still good.

What I didn't like:
I was disappointed in the pace and the plot.. it felt artificially manufactured to create tension, as opposed to those stories where the tension feels real... And I think that might have been in part because of how I felt abo
ut the pictures this round... it felt that at many points, the author was creating words to fit a picture he wanted to add--when it didn't really add to the plot or the characters or the pacing or really anything.

I was also annoyed by the romantic aspect, but disregard that if you like that kind of thing ;) To me, it's always annoying when it's over-the-top cheesy, and I had a hard time finding it realistic in the atmosphere -- ya know, life or death.

I thought that the characters spent WAY too much time NOT using the peculiarities they've spent a LONG time having when they were confronted with danger... I know, in some cases it made sense, but in others it was like this weird inexplicable delay. And I felt that the development of Jacob's peculiarity, while the rest of us could see it coming 100 miles away, took WAY too long to FINALLY show its face.

And I'll say, I just did not like the near-ending. But what and why are spoilers :)

What I did like:
It's still just an interesting concept and I like the idea of having a story with realistic (ish) pictures accompanying it. I really liked some of the development of characters (Bronwyn and Olive in particular), and I liked the addition of some of the new characters (Peter-and-Joel and Joel-and-Peter). I also thought that Riggs had good ideas and some of his plot development was really interesting. Although I felt the pace was off and forced at times, there were other times when it flowed quite nicely -- particularly when they meet.... Althea (I'll say no more).

If you just loved the first, it's likely worth it to read the 2nd. If you can ignore some of the deficiencies, my guess is you'll probably even really enjoy the second! (a lot of people sure have :))  Otherwise, the above notes may give you just the amount of "managed expectations" needed to enjoy the book anyway :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Midnight Riot (a/k/a Rivers of London) by Ben Aaronovitch

Not much to say beyond:
It's a good book, and I'm sure I'll read the others in the series (having started with #3, I may end up re-reading it when I get back to that point...).
It's magic and wizards meets crime fiction -- like Dresden Files but ... a little dryer and a little slower. It was definitely enjoyable and had a nice discussion on London :) I would recommend to people to whom the above brief description appeals.

THREE AND A HALF of five stars!

Also, I am happy to hear that they (London people) are planning on making a tv series from the books!