Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

Title: The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
Author: Galen Beckett
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2008

Recommendation: For those who like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and magical fantasy novels.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Ivy, Rose, and Lily are three Lockwell sisters living in Victorian-esque alternative universe with their mother. Their father is turned mad while practicing magic and now is taken care of by the family which is struggling to make the ends meet. Mr. Rafferdy and Mr. Garrit are friends from different walks in life who will find out more about magic than they expect.

Reactions: Overall this novel was a pretty good mix of Victorian romance and fantasy. The Victorian setting comes through from the first page in manners, setting descriptions, and the writing style. Charlotte Bronte was a rather obvious inspiration as part of the book's plot greatly resembles Jane Eyre. The major differences are the modern prose and a more likable heroine. Fortunately, despite the resemblance, there is still a large part of the plot that is quite different.

There are also plenty of witty dialogues, family relations, and society scenarios explored during the book. Those who look strictly for action, may not find this the most enjoyable novel (nor would I recommend any Victorian novels to action-seekers). However, this is not to say that the plot dragged on. I found myself reading the book quickly and sometimes late into the night. The ending tied some lose ends, but clearly this is meant to be a part of a longer series as many questions remain unanswered at the end.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience and I think I would consider picking up the next book of the series and seeing where the characters will go. I have certainly discovered an interesting new author in Galen Beckett.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Title: The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Author: Chris Fuhrman
Genre: Fiction
Published: 1994

Recommendation: A rather adult-themed YA fiction novel, well written, but not for everyone.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Francis is a 13-year old boy in 1970s who goes to a Catholic school in Savannah. The book is a story about him and his friends going to school, getting into trouble and growing up.

Reactions: I spent some time trying to decide who is the intended audience of this book. A book full of 13-year olds suggests YA, but the themes present in the book are rather adult and in some ways it seems more of a reminiscence type story.

In some ways this was a fascinating book due to its exposition of life in Savannah in 1970s. The typical life of a family in that time, the religiousness, the racial politics of that time are all present on the sidelines of the book and paint a vivid picture.

At the same time I had trouble connecting to the characters of the book, most of them being adolescent boys. The only girl in the book was probably the hardest to relate to, actually. Also in spite of the upbeat tone of the book, the events of the book often conveyed a rather depressing feeling. Francis drinks non-stop, gets beaten by his father with and without cause, and deals with some rather unpleasant facets of life.

Overall, I did enjoy the reading and I can see how someone whose childhood resonates more with the characters' could really like the book. I did find some of the more adult things that happen in the book a bit disturbing and I think enjoyed it less overall for the lack of a personal connection to the events. Still very well written and I would recommend it to those who can connect to teen boys better than I can.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Echo in the Bone

Title: An Echo in the Bone
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 7
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: 2009

Recommendation: A worthy successor to the series for those who enjoyed the books so far.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: American Revolution has started. Jaime and Claire head to Scotland to pick up Jaime's printing press, but their trip there is more dangerous than they expect. Roger and Brianna are back in the 1900s trying to re-establish their lives. The book also follows William, fighting on the British side of the revolution.

Reactions: I bought this book shortly after it came out. Diana Gabaldon was on a post-release tour and came to my town, telling stories about her characters and reading an excerpt from the book. It was a good author event, though I felt conspicuously 30 years younger than the average fan in the room. When I finally decided to tackle the 800-page hard-cover, I found that my tome says "2 Maria" and that was a nice touch.

I was also somewhat prepared to lower my expectations for this book. The previous novel tied off a lot of loose ends and I saw a number of reviews complaining that not enough of the story was focused on Jamie and Claire. To my relief, I found the book format worked very well for my tastes. The story indeed switched between 3 narratives: Jamie and Claire's, Roger and Brianna's, and William's. However, the large portions of the book still followed Claire, and even the parts that didn't were pretty interesting and tied into the rest of the book quite well.

The book also suited my mood quite well. I picked it up just prior to a camping trip, which made me reflect on the conditions of life in the 1700s and just tied into the rustic feeling very well. As in many other Outlander books, there's plenty of tone-setting and descriptions of the historical events, but at the same time the plot flowed quite well and I spent more than one night reading late.

To sum it up, I suggest the fans of the series should definitely give this book a go. The only downside is that now we have another 3 year wait for the next sequel to come out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

September Recap

In a blink of an eye, September is over. I actually read quite a bit this month, but didn't get a chance to write my review for An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, which I have been reading for the past few weeks and finished yesterday.

I've also bought a couple of new books to boost my dwindling reading pile. The first purchase is Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman, which was recommended to me in the comments on this blog. The other one is The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett which I bought based on a positive review.

Since I didn't write the review yet, the latest book will go into October counts, but for September we have:


Books read: 2
  1. Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks
  2. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Favorite book: Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks