Abbreviated Review: Hailey’s War (Compton)

July 27, 2010

Because of the largish nature of my current to-review list, I’ve decided to do abbreviated reviews until I get things back under control. Each one will include a teaser and a star rating. I’m terribly sorry to you readers and to the authors who worked so hard on these, to not do the books justice, but regular reviews will return once my workload is down some. Thank you for your patience.

*ARC Alert*

Hailey’s War by Jodi Compton was released on June 15th, 2010 by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House (Hardcover, $22.99, 336 pages; also available as a Kindle edition and in various audio formats).

Hailey Cain is a 24 year-old West Point dropout with a past she doesn’t talk about and no future. She lives in San Francisco, earns her living as a bike messenger, and makes a hobby of discouraging people from jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. She has only two people that she is close to– her successful music-producer cousin CJ and her friend Serena, leader of an all-female gang in L.A. It is when Serena calls asking for a favor that everything in Hailey’s small, precariously built life comes tumbling down.

It doesn’t seem like a terribly big deal. A cousin of one of Serena’s girls needs an escort across the border into Mexico so that she can take care of a sick grandmother. Hailey starts to suspect that maybe there’s more to the story when they’re caught by a bunch of thugs out on the Mexican highway, she’s shot and left for dead, and the cousin is kidnapped. So begins Hailey’s personal mission against a powerful enemy that she knows nothing about, a war which will draw her into complex web of choices about loyalty, self-preservation, courage, and her own past.

Four stars.

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So, Readers…

July 24, 2010

…short story reviews here on Bibliophibia, yea or nay? I’ve never liked them much, but lately I’ve started attending cons and workshops, and I’ve ended up both reading and writing short stories. And I love them.
So, do you guys want short story reviews, and if so should I review by the story or by the anthology/mag? Comment and let me know.

EDIT: Also, guys, huuuuge stack of books to review on my desk right now. Here’s a quick list of the titles, and they’ll all be along when I find the time to read them and put my thoughts in coherent words.

  • The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
  • A Small Death in the Great Glen by A.D. Scott
  • Hailey’s War by Jodi Compton
  • Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters
  • The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
  • You’ll Be Sor-ree! by Sid Phillips
  • Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
  • Permanent Obscurity by Richard Perez

Book Review: Infinite Days (Maizel)

July 22, 2010

*ARC alert*

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel will be released on August 3rd, 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin (Trade Paperback, $9.99, 320 pages). It is the first in the Vampire Queen series and Maizel’s debut novel.

Like the “dog books” from my previous post, “dark” teen dramaromances have a certain formula– an awesomely hot and probably well-off teen girl, attending high school and possibly haunted by her dark past, falls for the hottest, most elite guy at school. He reciprocates. At least one of them is a vampire/faery/something hot and supernatural. The by now well-established minigenre includes books which I actually enjoyed, like Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, and a lot that I didn’t, e.g. the Twilight series and Alyson Noel’s Evermore. Infinite Days, admittedly, falls under that category and shares some of its flaws.

On the other hand, its premise is completely original and quite interesting– after 500-odd years of terrorizing the general populace, Lenah Beaudonte decides that vampirism holds only illusive charms and seeks a way to regain her humanity. After a hundred years of hibernation and a ritual that involved the self-sacrifice of her best friend and lover, she wakes up in the year 2010 and finds herself needing to learn how to be human again in a new and confusing century.

Lenah herself makes for a strong and often funny voice that I was able to connect with emotionally. Though she seemed at times to be a bit too capable, I surprised myself by liking her– she didn’t take the angsty, desperate tone of so many dramaromance “heroines,” and I’m willing to believe that a 592-year old can handle a lot. Her story, too, was well-though out and engaging, though it dragged the tiniest bit toward the end of part one. Overall, I loved her discovery of day-to-day existence and the backdrop of flashbacks to vampire life and lore that she contrasted it with.

I did suffer from some Pretty in Pink syndrome with this, though. You know, where by the end of the movie everyone in the room is going “No, Andie! You have to choose Ducky!” I found myself biased against Lenah’s love interest, Justin, perhaps because he was the Edward of this story (in role only, thank the gods). Personally I liked Lenah’s friend Tony a lot more, but I can’t complain too much since Maizel did give sufficient support for the romance and lack of it, respectively, and didn’t try to run with it too badly.

And as my final point, I want to say that this read like the first novel it is. I don’t mean that in a bad way; Maizel is obviously worthy of having been published and will no doubt have several more books ahead of her. What I mean to say is that you can tell just by reading it that this is her breakout book; the ideas are fresh and vibrant, but the prose is somewhat rough, even choppy in places. I have every faith that she will improve with practice.

So. Go ahead and pick this one up for its original take on the vampire mythos and likable main character, but be ready to accept that it’s a long read for its 320 pages, and that it does contain elements of established stereotype in the romance aspect of the plot. I would nevertheless recommend it to fans of the genre and perhaps those looking for a good book to introduce them to dark teen dramaromance hibbijabba (a genre that really needs a better name than I am providing).


Book Review: Proust’s Overcoat (Foschini)

July 11, 2010

*ARC alert*

Proust’s Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini will be released on August 3, 2010 by Ecco, a division of HarperCollins (Hardcover, $19.99, 144 pages with black-and-white photographs throughout).

This is a toughie for me, because I’ve never read anything by Proust or taken a particular interest in him. Thus, I can’t honestly say that Proust’s Overcoat: The True Story of One Man’s Passion for All Things Proust held much for me. So just as a heads-up, my lukewarm response in this case is not necessarily because the book is bad; we’re just incompatible. I’ll try to be fair.

Proust’s Overcoat is just as the subtitle suggests– a true story detailing Jacques Guerin’s quest to collect and preserve the worldly possessions of his favorite writer years after the man’s death. Among these is Marcel Proust’s famed overcoat, which he used as a blanket while he wrote in bed. Somewhat surprisingly, Guerin’s quest is necessitated and made more difficult by Proust’s own family, who seem ashamed of their deceased son and brother and actively seek to destroy his mementos, especially his handwritten notes, letters, and creative works. Guerin is introduced into the family and the story by Robert Proust, Marcel’s brother, by sheer coincidence– R. Proust, a doctor, is called to Guerin’s bedside and operates to save him from appendicitis. From there Guerin is on a steep learning curve when it comes to Proust and his surviving relations. Apparently the fact that Proust was gay, a shared trait which made him all the more interesting to Guerin, was a large part of his bourgeoisie family’s determination to limit his legacy. Another possible factor is that he was an eccentric writer in a family of doctors. Regardless, Guerin pursues Proust’s memory in spite of the family disapproval, the culmination of his collecting efforts being the overcoat.

From the spare, factual prose to the littering of relevant photographs throughout the book, Foschini shows her beginnings as a journalist (relatively unknown here in America, living in Italy as she does). She nevertheless shows a passion for her literary investigation and for Guerin’s story, and the obvious respect with which she handled a somewhat fanatic man’s life work is touching. Though Proust’s Overcoat is short, it is a work which brings to light a good deal of little-known information about Proust himself and the man responsible for the survival of his physical memory. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who aren’t fans of Proust, but if you do like his work this could be an interesting trip into his life and his impact.