Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Book Review and other stuff.

So, it’s time for the book review again, but before we get to that, I wanted to talk about a couple of other things.

First, I have a few additions to my ”most embarrassing mix tape”. These songs honestly would’ve made the top 25 except that they were lost in the deep, echoing abyss of what used to be my memory until last night for some reason when they played incessantly in the background of one of my dreams. Whatever. Here they are:

26. “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors. Hey, the lyrics of this song are poetry…pure poetry. Don’t believe me?

“I want a doctor to take your picture So I can look at you from inside as well”

and

“No sex, no drugs, no wine, no womenNo fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it's dark Everyone around me is a total stranger Everyone avoids me like a cyclone ranger"

Okay, what the hell IS a “cyclone ranger” anyway? Never mind, this is ART, people. It doesn’t have to make sense. Who’s with me?

27. “Ballroom Blitz” – Sweet. I mean the original version. Shut up – you sooo know this song totally rocks!

28. “Play that Funky Music, White Boy” – Average White Band. Because white people almost NEVER get to be funky!

Okay, on to “completely unrelated to the book review” topic #2: the conclusion of ”Project Runway” on Wednesday night. Was anyone else surprised besides me? Frankly, I really didn’t think ANY of the three collections was anything to write home about – certainly not when compared with two of the finalists from last season: Jay McCarroll and Kara Saun.

Daniel’s collection was well-made and showed versatility, but I didn’t think it was anything outstanding…just sort of blah-American-sportswear-blah. The brown dress had that awful patch on the front of it AND the model so TOTALLY tripped on the runway while showing it off. In Season 1, Kara Saun got RIPPED APART for making a dress that just made the model’s job a bit difficult, but certain didn’t make her trip!

Chloe’s collection did have some beautiful pieces in it. I loved the color selections and her fit and knowledge of a woman’s body was outstanding. I thought she was overly concentrated with dresses and especially evening-wear dresses and too much of the solid-color heavy, shiny satin-y looking materials. I did think her answer on the runway about what quality she has that sets her apart from her competitors (her real-world business sense) was fantastic and may’ve actually been what turned the tide in her favor. I think it was embarrassing for the forces behind Project Runway when the winner of season 1, Jay McCarroll, not only turned down the $100K prize money, but also rejected the mentorship with Banana Republic. And he’s done…what?...since then? I mean, besides be totally annoying on a briefly-glimpsed reality show of his own.

And then there was Santino. Now, I’ve made no secret that I’ve hated Santino’s work through the whole show. The judges kept saying “how talented” he was, but frankly, I never saw it on the runway. I thought everything he made was ugly, slap-dashed together (heck, one outfit was GLUED together and fell apart during the runway show!) and just showed that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. I figured the only reason he made it as far as he did is because he had the “reality show tvq” going for him – he was weird and obnoxious and everyone loved to hate him. So, of course, he had to make it to the final three…just like Jay and Wendy from last season. But, then, Tim went to his house to check on his collection and he actually held up what I thought were two completely stunning dresses! Here’s one and here’s the other. I wondered “okay where was THIS shi*t during all the competitions?” But, I started to think he might pull it off…or at least provide something I could qualify as “fashion” in his show. He did have a couple of clunkers and he had some fit problems, but overall, I thought the majority of his pieces were innovative and actually PRETTY!

And then what do the judges do? They tell him he’s out because he played it too safe! In fact, it became obvious that he’d never had a chance at all – he was, as I said, only there for “tvq.”

Frankly, I would’ve failed all three of the contestants for not stepping it up enough and for not having COHESIVE collections. Bring back Nick! But, whatever. Chloe won. Um…yay?

Okay, on to the books.

I’ve talked about Anne Bishop before and how I’m a huge fan of her “Black Jewels” books. The “Gaia” series is good, too, if a bit heavy on the sexual politics. So, I looked forward to the first book in her new “Ephemera” series with great anticipation. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.
”Sebastian” once again shows off Bishop’s strengths with creating interesting characters and unique, fully-fleshed-out worlds, but I felt the book didn’t take full advantage of these elements. The whole philosophy behind the bridges and the way they work is confusing and detracts from what otherwise is a fascinating world. The uber-powerful but misunderstood Gloriana Belladonna who, alone, possesses the power to save the world is all too reminiscent of Jaenelle Angelline from the “Black Jewels” series. I’m also not fond of the technique of having some passages from the point of view of the villain…especially as this villain seems rather childish to me. Terrifyingly bad, but childish all the same. Now, having said all that, the book is actually an okay read. I kind of wish I’d waited for the paperback version, but I did enjoy it. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as her earlier works – it doesn’t pack the same punch. But, I’ll get the next book in the series and see how it goes.

My next book was ”The Secret History of the Pink Carnation” by Lauren Willig. It was recommended to me by a friend and when I saw that it was based around the French Revolution and the antics of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his successor, the Purple Gentian, I just had to check it out. I’ve always loved the Pimpernel (and yeah, okay, his alias did NOT travel well into this century, but whatever) and am a sucker for anything that involves that period and swashbuckling and sword fights and masked men. I probably watched too many Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. movies on “The Family Film Festival” when I was a kid or something. The Three Musketeers, Zorro and the Lone Ranger are all favorites, too. What’s your point?

Anyway, this book was a lot of fun. It’s pretty light (in fact, the heroine, Amy, is a bit of a feather-headed twit and I was far more interested in her much brighter, but sadly underused cousin, Jane) and definitely has a couple of scenes of “too much anatomical detail” romance stuff, but was very enjoyable. I thought the modern storyline ended too abruptly and wasn’t resolved, but I suppose that’s what sequels are for. I say, grab the paperback version of this and save it for beach or poolside reading and you’ll have a fun time. Just skip the “icky” parts…like the boat scene.

From Revolutionary France, I moved on to turn-of-the-century England with ”The Beekeeper's Apprentice” by Laurie R. King. In it, we are introduced to Mary Russell, who through a fortuitous meeting on a hillside, becomes the apprentice of the great Sherlock Holmes. Now, it has to be stated that I’m a huge fan of Holmes and the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. I read them all as a kid although only “The Hound of the Baskervilles” remains very firmly entrenched in my aforementioned abyss of a memory. It was great to see Holmes come out of retirement and to see him meet his match in a young Englishwoman. Because this book is the first in a long series, it does take a while to get through all the “set up” and get to the main mystery. Once there, I found the identity of Russell and Holmes’s mysterious “opponent” incredibly easy to discern. However, the clues and puzzles themselves were quite complicated and difficult to work through. There was one jarring note when Russell and Holmes take off to the Holy Land by boat, have adventures and do work for the British government and yet are still able to make it back to England with only a month having passed. I found that difficult to believe. But, other than those few issues, this was a great book and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

I also gained a fascinating insight from this book about one of my favorite TV shows: ”House. M.D.” I’m sure this was totally obvious to everyone else, but I didn’t get it until I re-visited the character of Sherlock Holmes in King’s book. Dr. Gregory House IS Sherlock Holmes re-done for the modern era! Just like Holmes, his keen intellect and ability to make rapid deductions based on tiny bits of evidence overlooked by everyone else make it nearly impossible for him to fit into society. I can see how it must be irritating to be around brains that don’t work as quickly or brilliantly as your own does and to constantly have to explain things to others or wait for them to catch up. It explains the misanthropic behavior displayed by both characters. And yet, at their core, both characters have a deep, abiding concern for the well-being of their fellow humans and a keen desire to wield their mental gifts toward that end.

There are other similarities as well. Holmes played the violin and House has his soap opera and plays piano. As Holmes had Dr. Watson, House has his friend Wilson and his three protégé doctors. Dr. Lisa Cutty is House’s Inpsector LeStrade. And Professor Moriarty, Holmes’s greatest opponent? In “House, M.D.”, Moriarty is played by none other than Death itself as House battles to save the lives of his patients.

I finally get why I so like this show. I just wonder when giant, slavering, phantom hounds will start prowling the corridors of the hospital?

Lastly, I read Patricia Briggs’s latest book, ”Moon Called”. She’s always been so original that I was somewhat disappointed that it’s another werewolf/vampire book. That seems to be so the thing on the market right now. It’s not that I don’t like them, but if you’re going to do something that EVERYONE else is doing right now, you better bring something fresh and original to it. Like, I don’t know, maybe cover art that hasn’t been DONE TO DEATH already?

Briggs does attempt to provide a new element with the main character, Mercy, being a “skinwalker” rather than a werewolf. But instead of following actual skinwalker lore and using that to give a fully-realized character, Briggs just makes Mercy able to instantly shift into being a coyote vs. having to make a longer, more painful transition into a wolf. Oh, and she’s an auto mechanic. Otherwise, the werewolves are werewolves and the vampires are vampires. There are other supernatural beings around (fae, gremlins, trolls, witches, etc.) but the reader isn’t given much more than a tantalizing glimpse of them (sequel(s) coming perhaps?) Frankly, I’d rather have read more about Mercy and what it’s like to be a coyote than all the werewolf stuff that’s already been covered by Laurell K. Hamilton in the “Anita Blake” books. Yes, wolves are pack animals. Yes, there’s an alpha wolf. Yes, there are dominance struggles in the pack. Blah, blah, blah, heard it all before.

Once again, this book is readable and, even enjoyable, I just expected something better from this author based on past experience.

I think the entire theme for this blog entry is that I need to lower my expectations LOL!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and, if you’re in So Cal, don’t get too wet!

Cuz we’re on “Stormwatch,” ya know! And the sky is falling and the world is ending and we’re all gonna diiiieeeeeeeeee….

Whatever. It’s RAIN, people. Little tiny drops of water that can’t hurt you. Get the heck over it already.

KJ

1 comment:

Jenie said...

hee! rain. :) so WITH you on Turning Japanese. Awesome song. I wouldn't even put it on embarrassing music tapes, because it is just that super cool. :) (can you tell i love it?!) With you on Ballroom Blitz, too. And the man in the back said everyone attack, and it turned into a ballroom blitz... :) ps. how are you at french contracts?