Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sherry Thomas "Delicious' and "Not Quite A Husband'

I really enjoyed Private Arrangements for it's non traditional twists on the historical romance and it's clever yet tortured characters; so I was eager to read her other books. I wasn't disappointed. Delicious is the story of a master cook who inspires lust with her cooking. I liked the fact that the hero was more developed in this story. Both the hero and heroine are people you wished you knew, who have lost true love and struggle to find a way to bring it back into their lives. Wonderfully written.

When I picked up Not Quite A Husband two days later I was worried I was overindulging but well, that's never stopped me before. Bryony is a woman doctor, Leo is a mathematical genius and an intrepid explorer. But Bryony is brittle and when something goes wrong in their marriage it shatters her. This is the story of their recovery. Again, two wonderful characters who are smart, fully developed and tortured. But what actually improves this book is the addition of some suspenseful plot. Normally I'm complaining about too much plot and not enough character, this book pointed out to me again that it's a balance. A bunch of character and relationship exploration (done well) is great but breaking it up with a little plot made this book rise above the first two.

Overall, Sherry Thomas is terrific. Auto buy for sure.

Historical Romance 2008 Delicious: 4.5 of 5 madeleines. Historical Romance 2009 Not Quite: 5 of 5 emergency cesareans.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Carlos Zafon "The Shadow of the Wind"

I took The Shadow of the Wind out of the library about a month ago, before Nook. In an effort to contain costs associated with effortless instantaneous wireless book buying, I have imposed all sorts of artificial restrictions on myself. If I finish off that romance novel I never finished, I can buy a new nook romance. If I finish this library book I can pop for a $9.99 best seller on nook, etc. The games we play.

Anyway, this book was highly recommended by The Book Smugglers, as well as others so I was excited to be able to read it. It is, as everyone says, beautiful lyric prose that sweeps you into a world of betrayal and love. That said, I had a hard time with the lack of fleshed out characters. Fermin, the young protagonist's side kick is by far the most developed character, his extemporaneous discourses on the female form and on religious practices and institutions are wonderful and kept the book moving. But Daniel was such an observer of the story, you never felt him as a strong character. Even Julian, the mysterious author never inhabits the story in a meaningful way. This book was for me, the ultimate in telling, not showing. Arguably its some of the most beautifully elaborate telling you'll come across but in the end the whole thing dragged.

Let's talk about the women characters for a moment. First, Daniel's mother dies when he is young, leaving his father shrouded in sadness and distance. Then young Daniel falls in love with an older beautiful blind girl. This can't help but end badly but the author decides to have Daniel come upon her in bed with her lover, leaving her as acted upon, not an actor (by addressing his crush with him, etc.) Julian falls in love with Penelope at first sight, they are inexorably drawn to each other, she's no character at all except as an object of love for her governess, her father and then for Julian. Nuria Monfort gets involved in the story when she falls in love with Julian through his books. When she meets Daniel she is physically mesmerizing to him, lies to him, and while she is the most real women character, she gets stabbed brutally for her trouble supporting all these men throughout the story. Finally Daniel ends up with another woman, the love of his life and while I give the author credit for putting her in college, the only independent action she takes is to run away from her father, then she waits for Daniel to find her and rescue her (I really would not have depended on this guy; let's just say his spy skills are not impressive.)

The language of this book, translated from the Spanish, is intricate and amazing, but it didn't make up for the lack of true characters and the plodding length of the book. I'm glad I read it because I think it makes for an interesting discussion and the trope of stories within stories was enjoyable but I will probably be buying two books on my nook as reward because my effort on this one was great. :)

Historical Gothic Novel 2004: 2.5 of 5 eyelid-less eyes. (How would you sleep?)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Nookie

Who is that beautiful girl? It must be Nyx, all grown up and ready for college.

Hmm. Today I went to Barnes & Noble to see what the 'extras' are that you get if you go in with your Nook. Confetti did not descend from the ceiling when I walked in, that's for sure. I decided I didn't have enough chutzpa to walk up to the counter and demand coupons, so I read The New York Times, searched for Kristin Cashore's Graceling (no luck, only Fire) and left. Well, I did decide I'm going to force my ten year old to do a book report on Frederick Douglas but other than that, not much excitement.

Don't get me wrong, I love having an e-reader. That part I'm totally sold on, I just think the Nook was a little over hyped. But you're not going to catch me sending it back. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Further Nooking Review

Since I don't have a Kindle I can't confirm this, but I would believe that the 'rhythm" of a Nook (i.e. the refresh rate of pages and the timing of hitting buttons so as not to send yourself overshooting the page) is probably slower than the Kindle. I also have it on good authority that said rhythm is incredibly slow if you are used to an iphone or Pre for instance. I find it slow but not annoyingly so. This seems to be the major complaint of most reviewers of the device and I think its a valid one. There is continuing hope that operating system updates will fix this issue, hasn't happened yet.

On the other hand, as a non-touch device user, I'm good with it. I am surprised how much I really do like being able to see the covers of the books on the color screen part of the Nook. I would not have guessed how much that can influence what books I want to purchase. Those evil marketing folks really do control our minds! And one of my major concerns, the cost of mass market paperbacks in the Nook has been a pleasant surprise. I was afraid that all books would be $9.99 which would increase my costs overall (thus requiring the school related justification for this purchase) but I'm finding that romance novels are typically $6.39, sometimes are $6.99 and can be as little as $2.39 etc. (unless they would have come out as trade paperbacks, like Diana Galbaldon's latest is $9.99 and Nora Roberts' new releases can be more).

Personally, being able to instantly buy books feels a lot like when I got my first credit card, very scary. Until I trust myself not to spend my entire 401K on ebooks by May, I'm buying things very slowly and concentrating on downloading samples as a way of slowing myself down, and searching for classics that are free, both for me and for the kids.

Speaking of kids. I have two major quandaries. Normally I would not let them touch a new electronic toy of mine, both for practical reasons ("For God's Sake, don't touch my nook after you have a peanut butter sandwich!!") and because once the 'seal is broken' it's very hard to enforce any limiting rules. But....we took a trip to Chicago over the holiday break and it's pretty nice to just hand them a book in the car that they are especially interested in reading regardless of cool cover or lack thereof, and to not have to turn on a video to keep them from driving me insane. My younger is now reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the older is reading Edgar Allen Poe, both free content, which I'm not sure I could have pulled off without finding it with a modern cover, etc.

Then there is this other major problem of keeping them from switching over to Dirty by Megan Hart while they are in possession of the Nook. Hmm. If any owners out there have hit upon a way to divide up libraries by users, please let me know. I'm pretty sure I have to solve this problem soon or outlaw my Nook from minor use altogether. Perhaps I could send out a plea to developers to solve this problem? :)

Overall, if you haven't taken the plunge, wait. I think Nook and Kindle both have some improvements to make that will make your money go further soon (not to mention the rumors about apple and islate). My experience so far, yeah, it's a bit kludgy but I love it like only a new electronic gadget can be loved. :)