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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hey, it's book review time again

Three more books I've polished off lately. Still have a delicious library pile by my bed. Must resist until I finish school for the day.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Very brief summary: Earth has been taken over by alien invaders, which are implanted into human bodies where they take over the brains and bodies of their hosts. Wanderer comes to earth, taking the body of Melanie, who almost died trying to escape capture. As she comes to live in her new body, she realizes that Melanie hasn’t been overcome like the usual host, and Wanderer can hear her in her mind still. She is haunted by Melanie’s old life and loves.

How I heard about it: Well, considering my Twilight obsession, I was sure to find out about any new Stephenie Meyer book.

Where I got the book: I bought it when it came out, or rather David bought it for me. This was my second time through.

What I found most gripping: I have to say that while Stephenie Meyer is not the best writer, she knows how to hold my attention. About 100 pages into the book, I can’t put it down. I love her character development—each one is so distinct and clear. She manages to make each character sympathetic and likeable. She also handles suspense with dexterity and she draws me in. Also, I’m a sucker for a good love triangle.

Any negatives: Hummm, it does take a while to get started. Also, there are a few awkwardly written bits here and there, but overall, a very enjoyable read. It’s got more substance thematically than the Twilight series, but this still isn’t high literature. Despite that, I find Stephenie Meyer knows human nature, which is clearly highlighted in this book. I have one more pet peeve and that is that the other worlds that Wanderer has lived on feel artificial and not very plausible, but maybe it’s just my narrow imagination at work.

Readability: Very high. Another one I finished in less than 24 hours. I would say 4/5 stars.

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick

Genre: Non-Fiction

Very brief summary: Edvard Munch’s The Scream was stolen on the eve of the Winter Olympic Games in Norway, by two thieves who put a ladder up to an outside wall, smashed the window and nabbed the painting. This is the story of how one Scotland Yard undercover agent tries to get it back.

How I heard about it: A reading thread from twopeasinabucket.com.

Where I got the book: The library.

What I found most gripping: I’ve heard about the theft of great art, so I was very interested to learn more about that and Dolnick does a fantastic job of painting the characters—both the thieves who steal great works of art and the people who catch them, particularly Charley Hill, ex-soldier, adrenaline-junkie, fast-talking undercover cop.

Any negatives: There are a few points when the author sort of rambles on describing Charley, but they don’t last too long and most of it is tight and highly interesting.

Readability: High. Exciting and appealing. Someday I’ll have to review a book I didn’t like. I give this 4/5 stars.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Genre: Fiction

Very brief summary: Towner comes from a family gifted with the 2nd sight, but Towner has fled her Salem roots for California and hasn’t been home in 15 years. When her great-aunt dies, she returns home for the funeral and is faced with her past.

How I heard about it: Reading list on twopeasinabucket.com.

Where I got the book: Library

What I found most gripping: Towner is an unreliable narrator and unraveling her story was an interesting journey. I didn’t really get pulled into the book until the last half. On the plus side, there is some stunning imagery and a lot of symbolic meaning, which is highly developed. The prose is quite beautiful at times.

Any negatives: It didn’t grab me at first. A lot of the novel is told backwards, with details from the past revealing as you go. This annoys me most of the time. If you want to tell me something, just tell me. Don’t hint. But ultimately, that is the brilliance of this book.

Readability: Medium to high. I would give it 4/5 stars for literary quality, but only 3/5 for keeping my interest and making me care about the characters. There is a lot of exposition that happens in the first 10 pages and it didn’t draw me in. Around page 15, I started to kind of care and it developed from there.

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