Showing posts with label "Books". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Books". Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CBRIII #6: Naked Heat by Richard Castle

So I caved and bought the second book that ABC put out for Castle. I got the first book, Heat Wave, a year ago and liked it because the only criteria for enjoying it is that I enjoy Castle the TV show.

I also enjoy Captain Tight Pants.

Naked Heat is pretty much a parallel to the beginning of the third season of Castle. Jameson Rook is being ignored by Nikki Heat and her other detectives because he wrote an article that was overly laudatory of Nikki, and failed to recognize that detective work is a team effort that takes a lot of grunt work. As a result of the article, Nikki has been dealing with the unwanted aspects of celebrity, with people gawking at her when she's trying to investigate a crime.

Celebrity seems to be the theme as the latest murder victim is a Six-Page-style writer that dishes dirt on celebrities. Cassidy Towne is reviled by famous people for her scathing, yet truthful, take downs of them, so Nikki has plenty of suspects on her list when her body turns up in her apartment with signs of having withstood torture. Rook is allowed to ride along on this case again because before Towne was murdered, he was following her to ride an article about the life of a gossip columnist.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a second dead body of a truck driver turns up. The team hits a dead end on this case but, as is usually the case with these stories, the two cases are actually connected.

"I aim to misbehave."

On the personal front, Jameson Rook is not winning any fans in the police precinct. Both the Ryan and Esposito characters (no, I'm not going to look up their names in the book because - what's the point? Same people!) are pissed at Rook for revealing personal, sensitive information about them in the article; and Nikki is pissed that Rook had featured her, and her personal life, so prominently. There's a lot of frosty, punn-y exchanges but of course, in the end, Nikki warms up – or should I say, heats up – to him.

"Oh, I'm going to that special hell..."

Though the plot of this book was better than the last one – and I didn't see the ending coming! – I really should stop reading these Castle books. No, seriously, I need to not buy these books anymore just because I like watching the TV show. Because reading a 200-plus-page book where these characters are mimicked is not the same as watching a silly murder/mystery procedural where Nathan Fillion acts like a complete charming doofus. Sure, Castle is fluffy popcorn, but at least I know it only lasts an hour. With these books, I just feel like I could have had a better experience having actors read lines onscreen versus seeing the back-and-forth being performed stiltedly on page. Some serious TV-watching time was wasted, in my opinion. (For instance, I could have rewatched Firefly.)

Verdict? The plot is good (the writing could use some serious editing though); and the reveal is pretty killer (I'll stop, I'll stop). But it would have still been better on TV. Because everything is better with Nathan's cute smile.

"I really am ruggedly handsome!"

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cannonball Read #14: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Blakspring and Jen K. recommended American Gods to me in my quest for more Gaiman. After reading it, I realized that this book has been reviewed many times by Cannonballers (Pajiba has even previously published a review of it) so I'm not sure if there is much more I can add to it.

The basic premise is that the gods of the old world and the gods of the new world are about to wage a battle, and one man, Shadow, is in for the ride of it. Shadow, a recently convicted gentle giant (I kept thinking that as I read on), was released a couple days early from jail because his wife was killed in a car accident. He is promptly hired by the mysterious Wednesday, who is later revealed to be the Norse god Odin, the All-Father, to just basically be an errand boy. Wednesday is trying to convince all the other old-world gods to join their forces and go to war with the gods of the new world, like the god of Media, or the god of the Internet.

Reading this felt a little like swimming underwater without goggles. I never knew which direction it was going - I was confused whether if this was reality or fantasy, and once I realized it was both, I was confused about the Bigger Picture. There was not much exposition or explanation. I definitely had to read behind the lines of the actual story in order to really understand it, and even then, I'm not sure if I quite get it. It was the story of Shadow that really kept me going. In addition, Gaiman's writing is fantastic. My favorite parts of the book (besides just following Shadow's adventures) were the little sections tucked in between the main story of how the gods are currently living in America.

After reading three books by him (Coraline, Stardust, and this), I still cannot see much similarities in writing except that it is phenomenal. If I had to quibble about this book, I would say that a lot of the events are a little too dream-like and whimsical for me. Hopefully, I will be able to understand it better/get more out of it when I re-read it.

Cannonball Read #13: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

I picked this up in a bookstore in Singapore because the cover looked interesting, and was immediately drawn in by the beginning. It's just the right kind of compelling and quirky and mysterious (ah-hah!) that I decided, after leaving the bookstore without purchasing it there (English books in Singapore are very expensive), to get it on my Kindle. It was my first impulse buy on my Kindle, and I bought it because I wanted to continue reading it. Unfortunately, the middle-to-the-end-parts of the novel do not mirror its beginnings in awesomeness.

The beginning has Reynie Muldoon taking a series of exams after he spotted an ad in the paper. The ad had read, "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" with a phone number. Reynie, being a gifted child who is bored with his studies in the orphanage he lives in, decides to try his luck. The tests were really interesting and clever, and were my favorite parts of the book. Reynie also made some new friends, Sticky and Kate, during the tests, and they all eventually passed them and moved on to meet Mr. Benedict, who wants to send them on a highly dangerous mission. Apparently, children are the best people to send.

The four children (Mr. Benedict randomly introduces a fourth girl named Constance who proves to be very irritable and contrary in nature) are to go under cover into a Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.) where they are to try and learn what the Ultimate Objective is for L.I.V.E's leader, Ledroptha Curtain. Curtain has been sending out subliminal messages through television waves to try and influence the public's thinking, and Benedict wants to know if the subliminal messages will get louder and more aggressive and to what aim. That's why children are the best people to send in as undercover agents: Because they question everything, and their minds are not yet molded to think what society wants them to think.

OK, potential SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER, but this book is like 2 parts Harry Potter (the relationship that Reynie has with his friends is very similar to Harry-Ron-Hermione friendship triangle) and 5 parts Josie and The Pussycats The Movie (guess which parts?) END SPOILER. While reading The Mysterious Benedict Society I kept seeing how much more it could have been. The biggest problem with the story is that Stewart does not think big enough, or even detailed enough for his story to be great. If we think about some of the best, most well-known childrens' books, they were fantastic because the authors were willing to take an idea and just RUN WITH IT. J.K. Rowling created an amazingly detailed world that resembled reality; Philip Pullman boldly transformed metaphorical and allegorical ideas into his book's reality (Crazy Catholics be damned!).

Looking back at those two examples, the books written were clearly fantasy, and The Mysterious Benedict Society seemed to be wavering between reality and fantasy. I kept wishing Stewart would just go crazy and surprise us with something extraordinary, but it never happened. I'm not saying that a children's book has be a fantasy in order for it to be interesting. It's just that some of the ideas (the main conflict in the story, for example) was never properly fleshed out – Mr. Benedict says "SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES!!!" and then we never get a proper explanation of how it works except that the messages are "subliminal." Well, no shit, Sherlock. Stewart tends to gloss over the details of things that could have been used to its full potential, and it's such a pity because instead of aiming for "good," The Mysterious Benedict Society could have been "AWESOME."

All that being said, I will probably read the sequels, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. What? I'm a sucker for children's adventure books! And I'm still searching for the next His Dark Materials...

Friday, December 18, 2009

I should name my Kindle...

I'm having a little bit of trouble falling asleep tonight* so I figure I should entertain a request of Blakspring, who asked me about my experience using a Kindle. As I mentioned in my previous post, my uncle and his girlfriend gave it to me as birthday gift, and I was pretty excited about it. The first thing I read on it was Stardust, and one immediate observation was how... the lack of pages really affects my reading experience. It seems an obvious lack ("What? A Kindle doesn't have pages?") but I honestly did not factor that in when I started the first chapter of Stardust.

If you are like me, you anticipate the turning of the page by holding it between your two fingers. I found myself unconsciously doing that and feeling nothing. Instead, when I first started using it, I had to keep looking down at the "Next Page" button before pressing it. It was not an automatic action.

Once I got the hang of it however, I was just clicking through the pages. It's not hard for your brain to get used to and I can see why there might be many converts out there. You can also highlight a passage, or make a note in your reading by using the typing area. Then later, if you want to go back to that passage, you can go to My Notes, and just click through it until you finally get to the passage you crave to remember.

The other fantastically convenient thing is the Kindle shop, which you can access from your "hand-held device." (When I was reading the instruction manual for the Kindle, those words kept reappearing, which I found kinda funny because 10 years ago, a "hand-held device" was a euphemism for the new-fangled cellular phone.) You can subscribe to newspapers and magazines on it. I didn't, but I wondered if there can be colored pictures if I do subscribe to it. As far as I have been able to tell, everything that appears on my Kindle is black-and-white.

This reminds me of something I read, possibly from Jess and Josh (but I'm just going off memory here), about how if The New York Times bought every one of their subscribers a Kindle, and their readers started getting their news electronically transferred to them, the company could save a fortune on not printing millions of copies everyday, and probably avoid all the layoffs and buyouts we see announced in the paper.

If we are fast approaching a time when we would have to seriously consider giving up on certain items for the sake of the environment, I sincerely hope (very selfishly, I must point out) that it will be a long time til newspapers meet their demise. I love the feel of paper in my hands. All that stuff the old-fashions say about feeling more connected to the news/story is true: As stupid as it sounds, the inability to flip through pages to get to a certain part of the book, and instead having to click click click click to that part, makes it harder for me to feel like those words I'm reading – the story that I am absorbing – is something that should be remembered. Imagine clicking through a PDF document to find a certain piece of information. Does that feel like you are reliving your experience of having read that document?

This could all very well be nostalgia speaking. I don't want you to think that I dislike using it – I get really excited when I find a book worthy of purchase on the Kindle. But I have definitely narrowed my Kindle-reading to books that I hope that I would really like (Stardust, Heat Wave) but that I don't really care if I love yet. When I decide that I love those books, I will buy them in book form.

One more super cool thing about the Kindle: Whenever it goes to power save, a portrait of a famous author will appear. So far, I've had Virginia Wolf, Ralph Ellison (he comes on a lot), Jules Verne, Jane Austen, and John Steinbeck. Probably more, but those are the ones that I remember. Steinbeck has only appeared once so far (we can't choose, unfortunately. If we could, I would choose to have Ellison taken off the sleep screen) and I got so excited about him that I didn't want to "wake" it. Maybe I should name my Kindle Cal, just to psychically encourage it to go to the Steinbeck screen saver.

*I am currently reading a novel about a serial killer in New York in the 1800s and it is so, so interesting and keeping me up with its gruesome facts.