Friday, June 11, 2010

Something Old, Something New

Hey, real catchy title there? Makes you feel like it's part of a wedding or something! But, I can't say that this is as eventful as most weddings. The title didn't really come to me till three days after watching half a Bridezilla's episode and getting 99.9% done with my current book. I decided to pick up a OLD book from a NEW author - to the blog. Yah, it doesn't have much of a ring to it after that's explained. I would like to note that the women that I saw on Bridezilla's were awful(so thankful I didn't get one of those) and that they have no relation to the book other than the fact that the Evil creatures in the book act like those brides. So maybe there is a bit of a relation.... (NOTE: That's not me.. that's the author. I would feel sorry for my wife if that photo was indicative of my age. But, if I was that old and she was young I could use words like Nubile and Lolita - be a perverted old man, not to insinuate that the author is. I've never met him.)

The author this week was Dennis L. McKiernan. I picked up The Dark Tide (Iron Tower Trilogy) (Book 1) at a used book store some time way way way back on a family vacation. Distant memory seems to be that I never finished the first book and I would have to agree that I didn't remember much of it. The book says that this was his first book or foray into published authordom. I have to say that it wasn't that bad coming from one who's main profession was as an engineer. It's written well, and feels like someone well versed in J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, there are many similarities. Wikipedia says that McKiernan wrote a sequel to Lord of the Rings while hospitalized, but was denied by the Tolkien Miscellany Committee (I made that committee up - the rest is true). For OG fantasy, I will finish up this trilogy, and might pick up another one of his series.

The Dark Tide starts with a dormant evil force waking up in the North. The laws that were placed over the evil forces appear to have weakened over the years and now they prepare to attack the land. You are introduced to a small in stature group called the Warrow's, or Buccen. This might remind you of the Hobbits in LOTR - they share many similarities, but the Buccen can be mighty warriors! The Hobbits were not. Also, please don't confuse these with the Bukken from Tad William's The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 1) series. Those were evil, tricksy things! Anyways, you do have your run of the mill Humans, Elves, and Dwarves(haven't seen one yet, but talked about). The Buccoes - Warrow slang! They're so ghetto! - are at the heart of this traditional Good-v-Evil story. Can the good hearts of Men, Elves, and Warrow alike save the world against the likes of Rhuks, Orgrus, and Modru?

McKiernan does an good job with the start of his career. His reading is a little more along the lines of the Dragonlance series than Robert Jordan or Stephen King. That's not a bad thing for the story he's telling. It's a back to basics type feel that you need every once in a while. The gray area that the authors I've been dealing with lately isn't breached in The Dark Tide. It shows that a good story can take many forms.

Rating: 5 CB's - I think I'm pretty easy on books. This one is right in the middle for me. It's not as engaging as Robert Jordan can be, Stephen King has been(the non-naughty stuff), and Glen Cook will aways be. It's a shorter novel(300pgs) so you can have a little story like this between. I'm excited to see how he evolves as a writer over the rest of the trilogy and another novel of his.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the ColdAre you ever reading a book or watching a movie or listening to a song where something about it is so perfect that you get the insane idea in your head that you could do it too?  You could be genius like that person who wrote that or directed that or scored that and you could match them?   I do.  I get inspired sometimes when that perfect song comes on at just the right spot of the movie and I think I want to be that (a music supervisor).  I think, when I read a book so well-written that the scenes from a screenplay just jump off the page, I could be that (a cinematographer, a director, a costume designer).   That's the feeling I got whilst reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John LeCarre.  It is perfect!  It makes me think I could make the movie of it. 
There is a distinct "feel" to the book.  It is portrayed by LeCarre's attention to lighting.  His description of the color, the concentration, the collage of light and darkness pervades every chapter.  It is in the very fabric of the story.  Of course he uses it to demonstrate the maddening world of espionage, where what was illuminated and lucid five minutes ago, now appears opaque and obfuscated.   This novel is a lighting director's dream.  The cinematography one could produce based solely on his use of light would be amazing.  
Of course, you would think the fact that this is a cold-war novel, it would feel very outdated.  It feels less outdated and more perfect.  It is like LeCarre GOT IT and he got it enough to create this story that would translate even years after the war was over.  It is actually amazing the prescient nature of much of what he writes.  I think it is due to the fact that the novel is not gadget-y like the Bond novels.  It is not a technology smorgasbord like Mission: Impossible.  It is a psychological game.  It plays more like the brilliant mini-series "The Company."  You never know if you, the reader, are being played or if the characters are being played, but you are enjoying the adventure so much, you couldn't care less.
Then there is the dialogue.  The dialogue takes over the last four or five chapters beautifully.  LeCarre reminds me of Aaron Sorkin.  I was reading and thinking this and was shocked by the similarities.  It is as though LeCarre taught the master class and Sorkin was his only student.  There was even a courtroom defiance diatribe a la A Few Good Men ("you can't handle the want me on that wall, you need me on that wall).  It is just devastatingly good. 
This is considered the classic spy novel.  I knew that going into it, but I didn't realize it would be this good!  It really does set the standard.  I can't wait to see more from LeCarre!

Rating: 6.5 out of 7


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We're Famous and Stuff

OK, so we haven't made it on "the Soup" yet (which means we would have to have been on "Extra"), but we are famous in the book blog world.  OK, so maybe not the entire book blog world, but a little corner of it.  We got an award and we were "interviewed" for another blog (Page Turners, our Aussie book friend).

So, about the award:  We got the Versatile Blogger award from Pam over at 100 Books, 100 Journeys - a very hearty thanks to her!  The award means new-found fame and riches galore.  We are patiently waiting for these things to materialize.  In order to get them, we have to do the following things: 1.  Wire $10,000 in to an account in Namibia, oh wait that was another award we got.  We have to do the following:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic!
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award

Since we have accomplished the first one already, on to the second task.  Since we are two people, married to one another, you get the facts on the both of us:
1.  The story begins on the humid shores of Lake Grapevine in Texas.  We grew up across a lake from each other and met when we were 20 in another state.  We married 4 years later after dating for 6 months.  It is still going 6 years later. 
2.  He is a complete nerd.  She is a general nerd.  We go together like coke and popcorn.
3.  He puts one space in between his sentences.  She puts two.  See if you can stop noticing it now that you know.
4.  We aren't very interesting when forced to think about it. When not put to the question, we are highly entertaining people.
5. We desperately want a kitten, but we can't get one because we have allergies so bad we would have to call it Self-Assisting Suicide Kitty.  And that's just not a good name.
6. He didn't drink very much when we met, but now is an official tequila snob.  She is allergic to alcohol and fears his parents think she is the one who made their son a lush.
7.  We have other blogs.  We cannot award the Versatile Blogger award to them because it is some form of nepotism; but we can promote them.  Check them out:  The Reliquiarium and SeldomMade.

For the third part:  The winners are:
Freesparrow - our friend who shows off some very creative things.  Love her Friday Favourites.
Sleep Talking Man - link to this blog, laugh uproariously, then forget we ever told you about it.
Mab Blab - currently on hiatus, but very funny blogger writing about what comes into her mind.
Dead White Guys - the funniest book blog out there - love her (the way you love people you have never met)
Then We Came to the Blog - a friend of a friend who is now a friend.  Great book reviews!
New Dork Review of Books - we are not remotely on his radar, but enjoy his posts immensely.
And the Plot Thickens - reads interesting modern fiction and we like thie header
My Kitchen Addiction - great recipes and photos
The Literary Amnesiac - love her posts about new words she finds in books, she also blogs about movies on another blog (Gorging Myself on Movies)

Isn't that enough for you people?  Well, it has to be for now.  Those are the ones we like.

Thanks again to Pam over at 100 Books, 100 Journeys. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Birthday Books

We got some great books for our birthdays this year (some digital, some literal).  Here are the highlights:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Author Unknown

The dilemma of most anonymous writers is that they crave attention without being identified, but "recognition" is a word that cuts both ways.
This week's read came from the bookshelves and until I was half-way through it, I did not realize it was my husband's book and he had read it.  It, surprisingly, appeared unread.  Nonetheless, this book is fascinating (and, thanks to clever book opening techniques, still appears unread). 

Author Unknown: Tales of a Literary Detective by Don Foster is the account of the first literary attribution expert: how he came into the field, and some of the literary who-wrote-its he has unveiled.  It is a little plodding through the preface and the first chapter, but really takes off when discussing modern day mysteries.  This man has worked in every possible genre of literature: poetic (Shakespearean, no less), political, terrorist, down-right weird, and of course Clausian (Santa, that is). 

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the how of the process.  He discusses, with specificity, the methods of discovering the author of a Questioned Document (i.e. one that is "anonymous").  The author's use of diction, structure, punctuation, and literary allusion are the main tricks of his trade.  While he described this process, I considered my own use of these elements of style.  I will most likely never write under anonymity, but if I do, I can only imagine I would be considerably easy to figure out.  The way a writer writes is indeed a sort of fingerprint.  No two authors are alike.  Foster, of course, is also able to spot forgeries, so don't go trying to change just for the purpose of not being found out.  Joe Klein of Newsweek found out the hard way when Foster outed him as the author of Primary Colors

In the trenches of literary detective work, Foster has outed a long-dead eulogizer, a transgender-impersonating murderer, a reclusive author, skillful liars, and smarmy lawyers.  It seems no one is safe from the detective's tools.  Thankfully, he has used his talent for good, helping police investigators and FBI analysts determine the authors of various writing samples.  This book is a great read for those who love thinking about the written word. 

Rating: 5.5 of 7