Monday, October 19, 2009

Multi -Genre Lightning Reviews - FOUR FUNNIES AND A FUNERAL

Finished books are stacking up - time for another quickie round of main impressions.

Funny #1: OBAMAS BLACKBERRY by Kasper Hauser
This very funny collection of textmessages to and from the world's most famous man were imagined by a comedy troop. Arguably the best centre on Arnold Schwarzenegger's offer to go after the worlds most infamous man ("....Listen to me. With a parachute, some Red Bulls and a crossbow I could capture Bin Laden in 24 hours. I could even do it naked. I will grow my hair long for this...."), but exchanges with Bill and Hillary Clinton (whose handle is HBomb), Queen Elizabeth, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Palin the outgoing President and others amuse also. The authors do a nice job of supposing what some of the more human manifestations of adjusting to being a new President must be ('To Grounds Maintenance: I'd like to mow the White House lawn. ' 'K. Will have to attach secret-service sidecar and gun mounts.'....). Even the icons on the Blackberry pictured on every page are entertaining: a donkey and elephant corresponding to the big American parties, the First Lady's face, and a mushroom cloud. Not every textmessage is a comedic success, and as a Canuck AW didn't recognize all the names involved. But no matter - this slim hardcover volume is easily read in one sitting, and would be great in a doctor's waiting room or as a gift.
But does it make you laugh? Yes, yes, yes!

Funny #2: GODDESS OF THE HUNT by Tessa Dare
This debut author has received much buzz in the blogosphere with back to back to back releases, three months in a row. These historical romances have a reputation for being light-hearted and funny. Apprentice Writer eagerly tore into the first of the trilogy, and was happy to find that she enjoyed the story. She did, however, feel that it was almost like reading a story and it's sequel in one volume....


....with the clear dividing line being the wedding. Beforehand, when the action takes place in the heroine's childhood home during a house party of age-mates, the tone is indeed lighthearted and often amusing. Afterward, at the hero's own home with just the two of them (and a mass of servants, of course) the feel becomes not dark exactly, but certainly significantly more serious and all drama.


The story is well-written in terms of why difficulties exist and are overcome, and the couple convincing in terms of being a good match for each other - so those parts all work. The midpoint change in tone was something that took a little while for AW to get used to. She will be interested to see how the trilogy continues, but is now more aware of the fact that describing these stories as 'romantic comedies' may be misleading. (Not that they were necessarily represented to her in that manner. It is quite possible that AW developed that impression all on her own.)
But does it make you laugh? Yes, with qualifications.

Funny#3: HOLLY'S INBOX by Holly Denham
This nouveau-chicklit novel is Bridget Jones for the online generation. Holly is like Bridget minus the cigarettes and weight obsession and Becky Bloomwood minus the credit cards and shopping addiction. But instead of diary entries (Bridget) or letter entreaties to bank managers and creditors (Shopaholic), the reader learns about her hapless life through email exchanges with colleagues, friends, family, business contacts. All the classic chicklit ingredients are present: eccentric/demanding parents, quirky friends (including the requisite gay male best bud), urban setting, battles with higher-ups at work, evil/more successful rivals - and it all works. Though there is the rare moment when Holly seems to act like a schoolgirl rather than a professional woman, and there was a sudden out-of-character bit revolving around the best girlfriend (which made AW wonder if this was a setup for the next novel), the novel as a whole was a lighthearted success despite causing near wrist-strain at close to a whopping 700 pages. They fly by, though, because of the enormous amount of white space due to the email format utilized.
But does it make you laugh? For this reader - absolutely.

Funny#4: LOVE CREEPS by Amanda Filipacchi
This novel was an impulse buy, going exclusivly on the quirky cover (chartreuse green background with three black-and-white cartoon characters watching each other through holes cut into newspapers) and it's description as 'comic surrealism'. That it certainly is. It took AW a little while to get used to the deadpan, way-over-the-top style and story, but once she adjusted she enjoyed it a lot. The story opens with the heroine despairing of having lost all passion in life, and noticing that she has acquired a stalker. Thinking that stalking is an act of passion committed by a person obsessed with the object of their desire, she decides to imitate the behavior in an attempt to reawaken passion in her own life. She chooses a victim at random, and begins stalking a strange man. The story skips between points of view of the three people in this chain as the stalking direction goes backward and forward among them, and alliances form and shift. Added on are some secondary characters just as comically surreal as the protagonists, including a psychiatrist whose own form of professional stalking reduced him to streetperson status and who analyzes the patterns of behavior among them and can't stop himself from getting involved. Altogether, the novel is a fascinating 'what if?' kind of story.
But does it make you laugh? Yes, for those readers who appreciate the author's style. First page test recommended.

...and a Funeral (well not really but Apprentice Writer couldn't resist the 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' tie-in. Characters do meet their demise, but if memorial services actually took place they happened off-stage)

THE NIGHTWATCH by Sergei Lukyanenko
A cover blurb describes this extraordinary paranormal/fantasy novel as 'Harry Potter in Moscow'. Turns out, that's not quite accurate, but it was enough with enthusiastic recommendation from a cyberfriend to overcome AW's initial resistance due to belief that it was a vampire tale (the prominently featured fangs on the cover didn't help). There are, in fact, such creatures within, however they play a minor role. More central to the tale are 'regular' humans who have varying degrees of power to practice magic, and delve into a mysterious and almost sentient parallel universe. But even those abilities are secondary to the primary focus of the story: the hero (and others) trying to distinguish right from wrong, good guys from bad guys, greater from lesser evils on an ongoing basis because in real life, things are NEVER black and white. We all function in varying shades of grey, morally speaking, and pinpointing which is the overriding principle to uphold at any given moment is a never-ending puzzle and strain. The parallel world is organized into the Nightwatch, and the Daywatch (the title of the sequel), forces dedicated to upholding order and inciting chaos, respectively, with infractions by individual agents requiring compensation of the other side. The philosophy the author spins is highly thought-provoking; this was the first novel by a Russian federation author written after the fall of Communism which AW has ever read, and it was fascinating to get a taste of how a rapidly changing and sometimes anarchic social environment can influence literature. AW loved it despite not entirely smooth writing style, which she chalks up to bumps in translation.
But does it make you laugh? Not at all, but does it ever make you think.

Gentle Reader - Familiar with any of these titles? Please share!


Julia Smith said...

Wow - GREAT review for Night Watch! I'm SO glad you liked it. I too found the New Russia take on life completely fascinating as it's obviously intertwined within the world of the story. Being a huge Spooks/MI-5 fan, I enjoyed the entire spy-agent element of this world. Not to mention being a certified Russophile. And main character Anton's difficulty with the grey areas makes him one of my favorite fictional characters ever. I'm so not an alpha hero gal. Give me grey, baby, give me grey.

And thanks for the Love Creeps review - that really sounds like I want to run, not walk to the book store to get it.

M. said...

Julia - Yes, Anton was an enormously appealling hero. For sure, I'm going to keep following his story.

'Love Creeps' is very different. This is an abrupt departure from the eccentric and even creepy to the point of absurd but essentially harmless tone near the end of the story that sort of threw me for a loop, but after thinking about it I suppose the author was trying to include a caution that IRL, stalking is a very serious issue. If you read it, I'd love to know what you think

Thomma Lyn said...

Great reviews, all of them, and two of those books I'm very interested in reading: Night Watch and Love Creeps. Gonna add them to my wish list right now -- they sound fascinating.

Wylie Kinson said...

the Obama book sounds like it's going on my Christmas buy and want lists.
Re nightwatch... a book I've almost picked up many times, but always put it back in favor of another. Maybe next time it will stay in the cart :)

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