May 2007: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).


I got this book already loaded onto an ebook reader I bought recently. I’m a fan of romance novels, obviously, so decided to give it a go. I was sorely disappointed. At one point, it was only the costly potential damage to the ebook reader and my own fatigue that kept me from throwing the book across the room. A disappointing buildup to a love affair that doesn’t seem to have any genuine tension, chronically manufactured obstacles, and (my favorite conceit in romance novels) an angelic bastard child who can do no wrong except bring his parents together. The hero is a bully who does nothing to deserve the heroine. The setting was a disappointment– it’s set in Australia, but I thought it was New Jersey for all the local flavor the author had graced the book with. In all– a definite pass.


Another Merry Widows book, entertaining and adorable. I’m intrigued that the author has chosen to set all of these widow romances at the same time, so the little hints at each others’ private romances can come out through the other books as well. However, it does mean that the dramatic tension is eased in later books (especially if you read them out of sequence), so be wary.


After the author dropped by my blog to wish me luck with my endeavors, I decided this would be high on my TBR pile for May. I was pleasantly surprised. I had expected a somewhat formulaic, typical “unrealistically warrior-minded female meets hero and battles him until they fall in love” storyline. Instead, I was treated to a plot involving a physically active heroine meeting a hero she’s already in love with. The only person not terribly realistic to me was the hero, who seemed a bit “soft,” for all that he was himself a warrior. Nonetheless, of the three romances, I would put this one at the top.


King’s pathos is that he’s always writing the same story, and it’s usually in one way or another about himself. Sort of. Lisey’s Story is not really an exception. It’s about Lisey, the wife of a rich and famous, if eccentric, fiction author who taps into the deep pool of interior demons and imagination in order to create his great works. It’s a tremendous answer to “where do you get all your ideas?” as well as the best love letter a man could possibly write to his wife, fictionalized or not (truly, Scott’s repeated admonitions to Lisey about how important she is to him, how she has saved him time and time again, how she is the core of him…. oh, that we could all find such eloquent men!) The plot, the action of the story, is well-done, as only King can write plot, but this is Lisey’s story, so he gives it more cerebral meanderings than his more tightly-plotted action pieces. I enjoyed it very much, and found it tread the line between beauty and horror nicely.


An oral history of the Zombie War, Max Brooks chronicles with great detail and very thorough survivor interviews from all over the globe how the world survived the greatest threat to life on Earth. Truly, a must-read for all survivors of this terrible war.


An amusing satire (like everything Moore writes), about a tiny Micronesian island culture and primitive worship of the friendly natives therein. I’ve read enough of Moore’s work by now to know that when I pick up a book of his, I’m going to be treated to incongruous humor, irreverent gods, a sense of carnivalesque mythology, and, typically, women who are alien and unknowable in some fundamental way (sometimes, literally). Still, the book delivers many good chuckles along the way. I definitely recommend reading it in the same month you tackle The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost. The latter may be non-fiction, but it is every bit as mired in the wanton desolation of the island cultures. If you’re looking for a companion Moore book, you’ll find a very similar “prophetic voice” in Coyote Blue.


Like everything Irving writes, this one is about: extramarital sex, violence towards children, the state of the world in the mid-20th century, and college wrestling. Frankly, if you’ve read The World According to Garp, it covers these and many other topics, and better.


This is the fourth book of Bradley’s I’ve read, and I remain highly entertained and encouraged by her work. The Royal Four is by far her best series. This is the first of the series, and introduces the plucky Willa Trent as heroine, set against her dashing hero and spy, the Cobra. The pace is excellent, the espionage is taken into the background while still playing enough role as to affect the relationship story. Overall, a good read, if for no other reason than to enjoy Bradley’s wit.


This is a sweeter romance (there is still sex in it, so it’s not a “sweetheart”) with a much more reserved heroine. While I enjoy a good fiery miss, I also love it when authors approach a Regency heroine without discarding every societal norm from the 18th century. This story does not disappoint, and I suspect there will be other romances in the future for Mcphee’s secondary characters.