Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hardy har hars

Hey guys,

This made me laugh, thought I would share!

Also, get ready cuz there will be:

(1) Review of Night of the Living Trekkies
(2) Review of Christina Dodd's Lonely Texas Hearts Series
(3) Review of Last Sacrifice (OMG, much!?)

And plenty more, as I assess how I did this year at reading ;)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Lawyering and Reading.

Early November I recieved an email from author Brian Cohen, who asked me to read his debut novel and review it. I recoeved it halfway through November and told him that it would be until after exams before I got to it. Now that I have read it, and wasted a month on exams, I wish I had read it earlier.


On the outside, Nick O’Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally—his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick’s specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest—and possibly final—challenge: a battle for his own survival.

Exploring the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one’s own destiny, The Life O’Reilly reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. Written with great empathy, The Life O’Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable tale that will challenge one’s expectations of the modern love story.

In short, it is a book that starts at the precipice of a young lawyer's patience with the modern day practice of law - and this is, in fact, one of the tenants of the book, I think.

Law, these days, is like a death grip of life, that sucks out all the marrow from yours bones, leaving you listless and bitter inside. Or at least, that's what my dealings in anyone who underwent law school and the legal profession after the mid-90s thinks.

This book opens the same way:

"As usual, I was bogged down with briefs and had to simultaneously juggle a couple of other bullshit tasks that, although unexpected, were very much routine and kept me in the office until eleven-thirty every night."

The life of a lawyer, right? *grumble, why me?, grumble*

Anyways, this all seems to change when Nick, our main character, gets a pro bono (i.e. free, for those among us who are not legalese inclined) case involving a domestic matter for a woman named Dawn and her son. Nick's life then goes from monotony to chaos in a few short months, culminating in the long anticipated, and made me stay up until 4 to get to it, kiss that really begins the chaos of Nick's life.

Since I don't want to spoil this for anyone, I think I will focus on the message this book encompasses: Live life. It takes the main character thirty odd years to discover this, but the whole point of life is to live, not to make money or achieve status. And I think this book really brings home that point with a long discussion of "legacy". Mainly: what do you want your legacy to be?
"His headstone - what does it say on his headstone?"
"How dare you!"
"Oh, shut up already, Phil," I said unflinchingly, staring straight ahead at Will.
"Quite frankly, I don't remember. I haven't been there in a while. And who do you think you are, asking me a question like that?" he said, sternly.
"Why haven't you been there in a while, Will? He was your father, wasn't he?"

This conversation takes place after Nick begins to realize that firm life isn't a life at all, and I must say, the second that line was out of his mouth I cheered. Literally, grinned and went, "Finally!" and the BF was like, "Finally what?" and I told him all about this. (He then gave me a pitying look, and I am not sure if that is because I am a law student and doomed, or because I talk to my books).

It is the moments like that - and the last 3/4 of the book are full of them, that really make this such a great, and heartbreaking story. It was well written and though it dragged at the beginning, and contained a lot of legalese, it was a great read, that made me laugh and tear up.

I highly recommend this for those of you who need a little perspective, and I honestly think that - though usually I hate open endings - the ending for this book reinforces the message of the story, and I think you readers out there would really enjoy it.

Thanks! :)

Links for stuff:
Brian's Website:
Reading Guide (warning: Contains spoilers!)


And now we turn to Devils ...

And by Devils, I mean the evil inside of us, according to Paulo Coelho in The Devil and Miss Prym.


A community devoured by greed, cowardice, and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each will face questions of life, death, and power, and each will choose a path. Will they choose good or evil?

In the remote village of Viscos -- a village too small to be on any map, a place where time seems to stand still -- a stranger arrives, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives.

Paulo Coelho's stunning novel explores the timeless struggle between good and evil, and brings to our everyday dilemmas fresh perspective: incentive to master the fear that prevents us from following our dreams, from being different, from truly living.

The Devil and Miss Prym is a story charged with emotion, in which the integrity of being human meets a terrifying test.

I am a huge fan of Paulo Coelho. I am not sure if it's because he writes in Portuguese (translated in a bazillion languages of course!) Or because I know I can count on ending that will leave me hopeful (Yeah, that actually might be it), but I get super excited when I see his name on the bookshelves at the local store.

This one is not a disappointment.

This book is basically a study of the good and evil that presumably reside in all of us, when there exists a seemingly overwhelming temptation.

You know the phrase, "The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions"? Well, this books takes that and unmasks it for what it is: an excuse.

You know you're doing wrong when you're doing wrong, and rarely is there a time when the little voice in your head fails you. So the real question is: How far will we go when we know we'll get away with it?

This is the question put to the Villagers who are offered a large amount of money, in exchange for the murder of a member among them. There are really four parallel stories that converge in this book: there is that of the Stranger and his moral question - do the events of his past, so terrible that they were, give him the right to exercise this type of power?; there is Miss Prym, the one looking for love and happiness, whose moral dilemma is whether to follow her own dreams or save the village that neither nurtured or prepared her for the world; The Villagers themselves - whether they can, as a group, kill one among them in order to "save" the village?; and Berta, the aged widow who watches the world pass from her porch, who has to come to terms with her fragile place in society.

The way these stories come together and entwine is what makes Paulo Coelho one of those masters of literature - he infuses such meaning into every action, that you cannot miss the undertones of the whole book. Which is good, since it makes you think upon what the answer would be - are people good or evil? The question isn't answered in the book - the play of angels and devils is the stand-in for the fight between a person's own moral compass, and the play between the two - the justifications and acknowledgments for and against evil are what make this book so rich.

In the end you are left with more questions then answers, but you are also left with a peculiar set of stories and experiences that may bear some mentioning in your next discussion about the basic nature of humanity.

My particular favourite, and it is a running theme in Coelho's books, is his own version of Christianity - it seems almost a blend of a few distinct religions that come together to make something much more wonderful then what any of them were on their own. He uses stories we could be familiar with - of saints and sinners, lone wolves and people with blurred faces, and uses them in such a way that they stick in our heads. He is a master of his trade.

I highly recommend this book - it is a complex study and a generally heavy read, but it goes by quickly - you'll want to get to the end, you'll want to see if the villagers have justified their own greed and killed Berta. You'll want to finish it and read it again.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Before all the Angels ...

Hey guys - guess what? No more exams! Yes! Done at of 3:04 pm today!
Xmas Hols - here I come!

But first, some blogging!


I last left you with my thoughts of Becca Fitzpatrick's Fallen Angels series, and why the fallen angels in her series worked for me - and why I think they're successful.

Now I turn to the Angels of Angelology and The Angel's Game.

First, The Angel's Game.
Why? Because the Angel in this one, is THE fallen angel. Yep, you know him - the bug guy. And he is wickedly awesome.

'The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whoever cared to listen.'

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David MartÌn, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has existed - a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

Set in the turbulent 1920s, THE ANGEL'S GAME takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere & Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.

Be warned: this is a prequel book. As such, it is often slow, it is a throwback to the original book (Shadow of the Wind) and it tends to be very dependant on cultural information. Case in point, the Russian Princess read this before me, and she loved it, but when we were talking about it, she missed the subtle Catholic overtones that I, as a raised southern European Catholic, picked up - like the Angel pin and the imagery. That being said, she still enjoyed the book, though she admits it was slow going.

But my focus right now, is the way the angel is portrayed. He is devious, and smart, with an agenda, and he never ages. He is basically a Vampire with superpowers. And I think, moreso then with any of the other angel books - fallen, faltering, nephilim or otherwise, this is why the Angel in this book rocks: he's scary.

There is something to be said about how our culture takes concepts and reduces them to bite sized things that we can quickly consume and run with. There is also something to be said about the way our culture likes heroes to have it all - marble good looks, sparkly or otherwise, long life and a sympathetic past. And there is also something to be said when an author knows this, takes it in stride and runs the opposite direction.

These days, Angels are sympathetic. They're generally male, with egos and dangerous personas - they're vampires with wings. And they represent the idea of redemption.

But then there is The Angel's Game, and I realize that there is a darker side to Angels that has nothing to do with grand plots or other bad guys - but the very nature of fallen angels is suspect. Think about it: it's a fall from grace, from light and perfection and happiness - it is temptation they represent, temptation and the grass is always greener idea.

And Andreas Corelli is the embodiment of that type of Angel - he is scary precisely because he represents this idea of truly falling. There is no saving grace for him, no character qurick that will endear him to us - he is that which tempts our real hero, the near broken David MartÌn, into eternal damnation - he offers the world with a hidden price tag, and the price is deathly steep.

In short, he represents a generally overlooked angel in modern literature - the evil angel, the truly scary one.
(the comparison with Vamp lit is overwhelming - I mean, you have Vampires (see David Wellington) and then you have sparkly, sexy, charistmatic old souls who happen to subsist on a diet of blood; see the similarities?)

And I have to say, I am loving the scary angel thing.

Which brings me to Angelology.

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

This books deals with Nephilim. And boy, does it. It is slow, I will give it that - in the same way that The Ange's Game is slow - it builds up to a climax that is slightly confusing and yet you should totally see it coming. Again, a lot of this is steeped in cultural ideas of angels and demons and what it means for these two entities to exist, and again I fall back to the stories of my sourthern European Catholic childhood to fill in the cultural gaps, but this book is great - and it's the Nephilim that are the scary angels.

And why, I wonder?

Well, mostly, because they are humans - with all the terrible character flaws we have - on crack. Super crack. Super crack that makes them stronger, faster, more ruthless and you know, have wings. And yet the very reason they are scary is also a reason to pity them - like us, they hate themselves. They are critical of one another and would willingly sell each other out in order to get ahead - and for them, it comes with dire consequences.

The difference between nephilim in this book and the devil in the previous, is that in this one - there is still hope. Honestly, it only shows up for a flicker of a moment near the end - our protagonist lady is realizing what is going on, and we're taken into her head to realize that she is confused and almost sad, but then she turns away and leaves.

Honestly, like The Angel's Game, I think that this is a great, gritty interpretation of angels - and I cannot get enough of it!

Angels, as I have said beforem represent the ideal of humanity and the downfall of humanity in one - they are the highest of the high and the lowest of the low, and that is why they are perfect for literature based interpretations of human nature!

Thanks for joining me in my Angel posts!

Now, completely for me to oggle: Cas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Flying, Winged, Non-Monkey Potentital Villains ... and their Offspring.

Part I.
The Angels were all singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon
Or curb a runaway young star or two.
~Lord Byron

Right, so I felt all scholarly (due to this essay I can never seem to be rid of) and used a Byron quote - trust me on this: when in doubt, Byron and Tennyson. Not sure why (I have an inkling it may have to do with the "y" where none should be, but meh) but they always seem to have the right words. Or, at least smart enough sounding words that no one can tell if they're right or not.


Anyways, avid reader that I am, even though I am in this blizzard of harsh exams, I have finished the second book of what I call the Make-Me-Want-To-Scream Angel series by Becca Fitzpatrick - now, I want to scream for a few reasons: One, the woman has managed to write the most annoying teenaged girl possible - it's like listening to my highschool girlfriends back in highschool - full of that, "I like him so I will treat him badly then when he ignores me I will cry and then punch him" magic that always made me grind my teeth (I have very little patience, though BF is constantly telling me I have a sadistic streak that makes me beat him - ha! He doesn't know what beating is!) - Like, honestly, Nora? Grow a pair (meant completely non sexist like). Second, The woman writes an annoying main character but f*cking awesome steam scenes.

What? I am a sucker for steam. Especially when it involves pictures in my head where the love interest hooks fingers into main character's jeans and tugs. Not sure why, but the word "tug" makes me all mushy inside. Must be a past life thing.

Anyways, now that I got that all off my chest, let's go into something more substantive: Reviewing ....
Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, Angeleology by Danielle Trussoni and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruis Zafon.

Oh, and for fun, a look at Angels.
And some Castiel ... love me some Cas.... * insert crazy heart palpitations and girly smile here*

(1) Hush, Hush and Crescendo
(Synopses from the official website - click on images)

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy, Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The further Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim bloodline has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

So basically, these books chronicle the story of Nora (aforementioned irritating damsel) and Patch (kick *ss Fallen Angel) and their weird, often times super hot, always kind of edgy romance, with a backdrop of angel intrigue, secret societies, Maury-like paternity tests, and a whole lot of great convos with my personal favourite character, Vee (token bestie. Totally awesome. Would read a story just for her)

Now, say what you want about the mix - tall, dark mysterious stranger walks into young girl's chaste life and mixes it up with tonnes of danger, some dashing and then words of some type of commitment punctuated with a kiss - but I have always found in my reading life, that it's not so much the predictability of a plot (and all plots are somewhat predictive) but the way its written that ought to matter.

So yes, this is predictable. But again, the steam is hot, the images in my head were definitely not PG (take that you sparkly tease!) and the characters (asides from my issues with Nora) were pretty good.

If you flash back to my review of The Glass House by Rachel Caine, I think the thing that drew me into that book works for this review too: the rawness of it. For The Glass House, it was the beat down scene where our awesome main character, Claire gets her hiney slunged (yes, I make up words) by the nastiest biotch in existence. For this, it's the complete animosity that exists between Nora and Patch as we start out, and the teenage-ness to it. It really took me back, honestly.
Remember those awkward group dates where your bestest friend in the whole world would totally skip off on you for "alone time" - or worse (usually better) so you could have alone time? Yeah, that was there. With the added touch of psychos. Oh, and angels.

And here's the thing of it: I like these books because they recall that in me - that spirit of being in highschool, that awkwardness that still kind of sort of secretly (not so secretly) makes me laugh and reminisce. Against a backdrop of Angels. Like Buffy with her vamps - never losing the sight that the characters are human teenagers.

That, and sex. Like come on, people. No seriously, huge pet peeve: why is it that young adult novelists feel they need to cut out sex? It just ain't realistic anymore, and shame on you, novelists, for thinking that the girls who read your books are all shy, quiet virginial types who want characters like them - I read a lot, and I am definitely not Bella Swan - and when I read a romance, there best actually be romance - and that means action: maybe not sex, maybe not other things, but I imagine the chemistry must be crackling - it's highschool, everything was life or death, everything was so raw and exciting and seemed too real. Stop sugar coating things! So thanks, Fitzpatrick, for giving me a bit of what I want ;)

Now onto this Angel thing: it's huge, have you noticed? Everywhere I turn these days, the wings are flying. Nevermind with Angels & Demons (which had no Angels, sigh), but we have Legion (I think I am (a) the only person who saw that movie, and (b) the only person who LOVED it), Supernatural has a huge Angel and demon vibe to it (yay! Cas!) and now, more and more, authors are cashing in on it: Asides from the above, we have Halo, Angelology, The Angel's Game, The Fallen, etc.

And here is why I think it works, and why I find it so bizarre: Angels are God's messengers (I grew up in a Catholic school, so ... yeah, just bear with - my atheist soul is cringing with each word). I remember at the age of, about 12, I asked my choir teacher, Mr. Richard, whether or not my dead relatives could be my guardian angel. Mr. Richard, a devout Acadian Catholic told me quite firmly that it was a ridiculous and sentimental notion, and that Angels were androgynous messengers of God, created to be tools through which God can control things on earth. Suffice to say, my 12 year old atheist mind had problems with that, esp. the fact that they were all "male" and allegedly had no free will. I mean - they fell, right? That seems to indicate a choice, right?

And it's that ambiguity, that fall from grace that hooks us in, I think. There is something in being close to paradise, and choosing something else that makes us interested. In the same way that 108 year old vampires going to high school makes us interested: it's a way of looking at our own culture through something else. And with Angels - and the myriad of legends, cultural myths, stories and interpretations to go on - those characterizations can come about in tonnes of ways.

It doesn't work when we idealize them, though - when Angels become gods in themselves. The interpretation of angels as seen through my music teacher's eyes - the androgynous, benign messengers of God - like appendages that work mindlessly. I am reminded, kind of, of that show long ago, Touched by an Angel - every time I caught it on tv, I would watch, and at the end I was disappointed, and I never realized why, until I saw that great movie (shuddup about my movie choices) The Prophecy (1995). Angels need choice, they need moral compasses that can be blown off course - or they don't work. They need to get dirty.

And this is why, even though Nora frustrates me, I keep reading for Patch - because he's fallen, and miserable about it, but hell if he wouldn't do it all over again. There is something uniquely human about him, but also something so divinely stubborn, that you're pulled into his story, even if you're spending half of it urging him to forget Nora and her insanity (okay, okay, I know I'm harsh).

Angels, are both the ideal and the warning: they can be full of grace or completely fallen, and it really depends on their story to say whether its true or not. The reason they seem to appeal is the magnitude of the consequences of their falling or the sacrifices associated with their staying in grace.

Stay tuned for Part II, Angelology and the Contrast between humans and Angel Offspring ...



Monday, December 6, 2010

Reviews oh, reviews!

So I am now thoroughly in the exam period - my first exam starts at noon today, the second and the third are on Wednesday and the final two are on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The light at the end of the tunnel: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead, Xmas at home and a box of chocolate turtles my landlord gave me.

That last one may actually be a coping mechanism, actually ...

Anyways, the point of this post is to discuss the book discussions (Oh, you saw what I did there?) for after the exam:

(1) A post of Angels --> I will discuss the Angel frenzy that's one right now. Up for review will be Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and in general, other media where Angels have been a dominant force.

(2) A post of morality. Or rather, good and evil. This will be the Paulo Coelho book review - I just finished The Devil and Miss Prym, and I have yet to review The Witch of Portobello or Brida, so I should get on that, I think. The whole point of it, I think, was when BF actually calls me and I start in on these long winded philosophical debates about the nature of good and evil and so on and so forth. BF is very patient (read. He plays video games while I quote Beauvoir and Heidegger).

(3) A Christina Dodd Special. I will review the Lonely Texas Hearts series and talk about Mrs. Dodd and how awesome she is.
(4) Lawyer Angst! Recently, I got a book from an author and though I said I wouldn't get to it until December, I picked it up in late November and paged through it, and though it is not done yet - I already have a good review forming in my mind for it. The book: The Life of O'Reilly by Brian Cohen.

(5) A Vampire Academy Post! Yes, I left this for last - and why? Well ... Richelle Mead will be in Novi on Dec 12 (yes, it's the day before my second last exam) and I intend to go! And then read everything! And then squeal.

Anyways, that's the plan.
See you on the flipside!