Deliciously good fantasy

Posted by Marie on Friday, February 27, 2009 in , , , ,
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adults / Children; ISBN 0-380-80734-3; HarperTrophy, 2003.

Let’s face it. Neil Gaiman is a darn good storyteller and the people to complain that his awards were the results of just being popular clearly don’t know what they are talking about. But I have to be honest here – despite being a fan, I only know him for his graphic novels, with the large bulk from his multi-awarded Sandman series, and a smattering of his Marvel projects. This is my first time reading a pure text-based Gaiman work.

And I simply loved it. While it is obviously a children’s book, anyone who can read and love fantasy and all its trappings – quirky characters, wonderland settings and curveball-kind of plot turns – would surely be swept away. It is deliciously creepy to adults, and I imagine it to be scarier to the kids. But it never patronizes the young readers, like many YA and children’s books tend to do. It also doesn’t insult their intelligence and capability to handle strange and/or frightening story twists.

Many of the acclaims and blurb compared Coraline to the Narnia series and Alice in the Wonderland, of which Gaiman obviously borrowed heavily from (Hidden doors? Passageway to another world? Talking cat? A lost girl?). If the story isn't original, what made it a good read then? Well, to answer myself, Gaiman's cleverness springs from hpw he weaves these familiar threads into something that looks inventively new, even if it’s really is not. He is simply a very decent writer who knows how to control and discipline his work into a finely-tuned novel.

I really shouldn’t end this review without saying anything about Dave McKean. McKean and Gaiman had been working together since the Sandman days, and the comfortable relationship between the two shows in their output. While I don’t know the first thing about giving critiques on illustrations, I do like McKean’s quirky and messy style, which compliments Gaiman’s weird story.

Give this book all the stars that you can dole out – it deserves every last one.

Should be given more than 5 out of 5

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Wasting a perfectly good tree

Posted by Marie on Friday, February 27, 2009 in , ,

A Soldier’s Christmas – Rachel Lee, Merline Lovelace,Catherine Mann
Fiction, Romance, Anthology;
ISBN 0-373-77014-6; HQN, 2004.

When I picked up this book, I though, hmm, soldiers and Christmas – might be a nice light romance fluff, something palate-cleansing before reading another “heavier” book. Boy, I was wrong. Such an uninspired nonsense. What a propagandist slop. It heavily doles out sermons of the truth, justice and the American way that even the most patriotic American housewife would roll her eyes and/or give a snicker or two. If you’re not with the good guys (i.e. US armed forces and everyone that are 100% rooting for them), you’re probably a bad guy (i.e. the “terrorists” or “rebels”, terms that the book dispense liberally but is unsurprisingly and conveniently vaguely defined).

This might be my worst book of the year. Better steer away from this one.

1/2 out of 5 stars

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Simple but fun

Posted by Marie on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 in , ,
Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella
Fiction, Chicklit; ISBN 0-385-33548-2; Delta Paperbacks, 2001.

This is my first chicklit. While I try to discard expectations, I do have high hopes for this one as it was highly recommended by friends. And it was indeed such an enjoyable read!

So okay, confession time. I'm a boring shopper. I don't know why some people enjoy it so much or why they get the most expensive labels. I buy what I need, of course, and do the occasional splurging (on books most of the time) but I don't dent even a fraction of my Visa credit limit. Which is why I can't relate with Becky Bloomwood's financial woes or with her greatest shopping triumphs. You're probably asking: if that's the case, why did I still thought that it was a fun read?

My answer is that Sophie Kinsella is a surprisingly decent writer. Never mind the shallow plot (the stuff of many romantic comedy movies); the real engine of the book are the characters. This is a book where most of the secondary characters are interesting (my favorite ones are Becky's parents and neighbors). And even if I can't connect with her shopaholic side, I can relate to her career and image dilemmas. I know how it feels when people and circumstances force you into a pundit role and the only way to get out is to look knowledgeable and say what they want to you to say, even if no one really understands. Or when the friends you knew since forever 'grows up' and change, leaving you behind with your futile dreams. Or even when colleagues, co-workers and bosses don't take you seriously simply because you don't fit the image in their mind. Sigh.

Aside from the great characterization, the humor is fantastic. The story is episodic and many events aren't that important to the sliver of a book plot (not that the readers mind though).

I don't fancy the first part of the book that much (I wasn't interested in all that shopping). For most part of the book, Becky is whiny and annoying with her carelessness, cowardice and selfishness. But she is still entertaining, I'll give you that.

So anyway, the book is a good read despite the flaws, and highly suggested if you want to try the genre.

Four out of Five Stars

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