Thursday, March 20, 2008

Midnighters Series by Scott Westerfeld

The Secret Hour
Touching Darkness
Blue Noon
by Scott Westerfeld

Because I recently read a book by him, and they reminded me how much I liked him, I re-read this series again. I LOVE this series.

Like all Westerfeld books I've read so far, they have great tension, are fast-paced, and highly original. They are also peppered with random interesting factoids (he researches his stuff very well, and I love random factoids). I guess the best way to describe his books is with the word "cool." What other word fits them so well?

Like a lot of his other stuff, this one is YA (the main characters are all teenagers). One of the reasons I love this series especially is because it's all about things that go bump in the night. Quite literally. Great spooky read! (Three of the teenagers in the book outcasts, if that means anything to anyone. And there are all sorts of monsters in it.)

The characterization in this series is wonderful, as well. The characters are well-developed and constantly evolving...but I don't want to say anything about any of them—I don't want to spoil the twists of the plot—but...well, it's just cool. Wow, that was vague. Here's one specific: I don't particularly care for math. It was never my best subject, and I always found it a bit boring. Somehow Westerfeld takes math and makes it, not only interesting, but basically into a superpower, and I loved every minute of it. That takes talent.

One more thing I have to say about this series and Westerfeld's ability to create tension: at the close of the first book, I was left believing the second book would HAVE to be a letdown. After all, where could he go from the tension of the first? How could he create something more exciting and interesting than The Secret Hour? And then I read the second, and was amazed. And then picked up the third book thinking, there's no way he could do that again. No way this one has as much suspense as the last...yet, the third was just as good as the others, if not better.

I hope he does another book for this series sometime. I really want to know what happens next...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Carry On, Jeeves
by P.G. Wodehouse

I had heard of Wodehouse before, but never read anything that he wrote, and never had an idea of what he wrote. If I'd known, I would've picked him up much sooner.

This is the first book I've read of the Bertie Wooster series, and I have to say I enjoyed it. The book is basically a series of short stories about the disasters Bertie and some of his gentlemen friends find themselves in, and how Jeeves, Wooster's brilliant valet, manages to extricate them from their messes. Wooster himself if a pleasant fellow, if not a tad stupid and shallow, which may be why I like him so much.

Light-hearted and humorous, and some of the scenes are just funny—and I'm not sure if it's me taking my time getting used to the author's style and slowly picking up his sense of humor—but they seem to get progressively funnier as you progress through the book, and end with a story finally told from Jeeves' point of view, so you know what's going through that wonderful man's head. I'm glad Wooster somehow managed to get himself in such capable hands.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday
by Scott Westerfeld

I've really enjoyed plenty of Westerfeld's books, and I like this one, too. Can't say it was my absolute favorite of his, but it's still a decent read. His books are always adventurous, quick-paced, and suspenseful, fun YA books.

This one deals with what is "cool" and how it gets that way, and how the whole thing is a scam to get you to spend money. Interesting idea, and maybe not too far from the truth (except the truth isn't nearly so cool as the story he spins here).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

The French Lieutenant's Woman
by John Fowles

I've never read anything by Fowles. I have to admit until I saw this book on a friend's page at goodreads, I'm not even sure that I'd heard of it. But I picked it up and read it.

It is unusual: a book set in the Victorian era, but written in our time; a book that proposes to be about that time, and yet is more about our own than anything: it is about religion (or more accurately, agnosticism), madness, evolution, society, self, and sex. (A great deal about sex.) Part historical commentary, a great deal of well-written narrative, and some surprising abandonment on the part of the author of the "suspension of disbelief" (he abandons the traditional narrative voice in several places to tell the reader what he thinks as an author of writing, of the story itself, of what is about to happen to the characters. He even writes himself into the story in two places). Um—it's about a lot of stuff, but mainly a fellow named Charles Smithson. And I really ought to read it again before I attempt any real analysis of it—after all, quite a bit of it, especially the intellectual bits and theories in it went quite over my head (for example, there is a quote from Marx on the first page, as a kind of prelude to what is to follow:
Every emancipation is a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to man himself.
I've turned it over and over in my head, and I still can't decide what I think it means, and what it means in relationship to the book, and as I read it again now, almost all meaning seems to fly away from it, and I am left with nothing but some strange-sounding syllables with no meaning attached. Perfect word disassociation).

The only thing that I can really think about this first reading of this incredible book is what I learned about the anima and animus in college*, and how Charles' infatuation with the namesake of the novel, Sarah Woodruff, or the "French Lieutenant's Woman" is actually a story about Charles (or possibly the narrator) falling for his anima, his true inner self embodied in a woman. By the time I was finished with the story, I was pretty well convinced that Sarah wasn't an actual woman at all, but Charles' (or the author's) anima: how he wanted, above all, to break free of the constraints of society, to be honest, to be true to himself, just as she was, regardless of the consequences.

I have to sit back, though, and wonder if the author thinks the same, or if he really thinks of her as a real character? It must be subconscious...

Anyway, I really need to re-read this one again and see what I can get from it the next time through.

*I am not about to go into all that I learned about the anima and animus and what really is going on when we fall in lovenot here. But I find the theory that Jung suggests about the anima to coincide with my own views about romantic love—that when we fall in love with a person without really knowing them at all, it is really in response to love for self and seeing ourselves reflected in them; and that true love is about loving another, not being infatuated with oneself. Yeah. Not going to go into it here. But there are more things to read if you're interested in that idea, such as We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert A. Johnson, or Human Intimacy by Victor Brown or what was that article on Romance Addiction? Sheesh. I've looked for it, but I can't find it or the woman who wrote it...oh well. Another post, maybe.