Friday, December 16, 2011

Lady Julia Grey mystery series

by Deanna Raybourn, 1,762 for these 4 titles

I previously reviewed Silent in the Grave, the first novel in this Victorian mystery series. Since then I have read the next four in the series. The Lady Julia Grey novels have a strong first person narration, which means all of the action is seen through the main character's eyes. Since Julia herself is forthright and adventurous this works well most of the time. She teams up with Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator, when her first husband, Lord Edward Grey, is murdered. While on the surface these have a lighter tone, Lady Julia and Brisbane find themselves delving into the darker side of Victorian society, so it's not all tea and roses. The characters travel from London to the Middle East and from there to Darjeeling, a British outpost on the Indian border with Sikkim. These travels give an exotic flavor to the stories, which adds interest to series. Lady Julia comes from a long line of aristocratic eccentrics, so her family is full of characters who liven up the stories with their antics. This series reminds me quite a bit of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, mixing adventure, history and witty social commentary in with the mystery elements. I'd favor Amelia Peabody over Lady Julia, however, because of Amelia's son Ramses Emerson---now there is a hero to savor----I think of him as Victorian version of James Bond. But that's another series.....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems, 2007-2010

by Adrienne Rich p. 89
I enjoyed most of these poems. I liked the title poem "Tonight No Poetry Will Serve" and "Reading the Iliad (as if) For the First Time." Her descriptions can really bring scenes to life in Rich's poems. Sometimes her spacing confused me at the meaning of her lines. Though usually here poetry is very accessible.

"Beauty Queens" by Libba Bray

396 pages

The fifty contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant are in big trouble. On the way to what was supposed to be their final competition, their plane crashes on a remote, deserted tropical island. The thirteen survivors find themselves alone, with no food, no water, and practically no makeup (gasp!). The girls have to get out of their competitive mindset and work together in order to live. And then, just when they think they're getting the hang of survival, a boat full of sexy pirates shows up. On top of that, strange things begin to happen...things suggesting that something sinister is happening on the other side of the island.

Oh, Libba Bray. How you make me laugh! I enjoy Bray's satirical humor, and this "Lost" meets "Miss Congeniality" story is full of it. Sure, the satire is heavy-handed, but it gets the point across. Although most of the characters seem to be just stereotypes at first (exhibit A: the gun-toting, Bible-quoting Miss Texas), the layers peel back as the story progresses and before long I was rooting for every one of them. The story is extremely far-fetched, but isn't that what fiction is for? I rolled with it. In fact, the ridiculousness is one of the things that entertained me the most. Anything goes with this story, so I had no idea what was going to happen next. The ultimate conclusion is a bit predictable, but I'd probably have been upset if it had ended any other way so I'm okay with it. The overall message--"be yourself and don't listen to what society tells you about your worth"--has been preached to teens quite a bit. It's nothing earth-shattering, but I don't think anyone expects it to be after seeing the cover and reading the description. It lives up to what it claims to be: a fun, engaging story that will entertain many adults as well as teens.

"Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus #2)" by Rick Riordan

521 pages

Percy Jackson is confused. He just woke up from a deep sleep, and he doesn't know much more than his name. He's been told that he's a demigod, and somehow he knows how to fight, but he's all alone and doesn't know where he is. Somehow he makes it to Camp Jupiter, a Roman camp for half-bloods. He has the vague sense that he was at a camp like this before, but something seems off about Camp Jupiter. While there, he meets Frank, a klutz who doesn't even know which god is his dad, and Frank's best friend Hazel, the daughter of Pluto. Hazel's supposed to be dead, but she's been given another chance to make up for a huge mistake she made in the past. This mistake was part of the awakening of Gaea (Mother Earth, if you will), who wants to destroy the Greek and Roman gods alike. Now Percy, Frank, and Hazel have to work together to defeat Gaea's giant before he and the rest of Gaea's army get strong enough to take down the gods.

I couldn't get enough of the Percy Jackson series and it looks like The Heroes of Olympus books are going to be just as good. I love the idea--uniting the Greek and Roman demigods against a common enemy--and the way that it introduces new characters while letting us know what's going on with the old Percy Jackson characters. As an individual story, "Son of Neptune" is one of Riordan's best, in my opinion. The pacing is perfect--quick enough to be exciting but not so fast that it's hard to follow. It's full of that goofy, often cheesy humor of Riordan's and I love it. The characters are charismatic but also flawed, and therefore easy to relate to. I can hardly wait for the next book in this series to come out! Please write quickly, Mr. Riordan!

"Damn You, Autocorrect! Awesomely Embarrassing Text Messages You Didn't Mean to Send" by Jillian Madison

277 pages

The title pretty much says it all with this one. Madison collected submissions from followers of her well-known pop culture blog (I started to say "popular pop culture blog" but thought that sounded a little weird). The text messages are divided into categories like Parents, The Office, Love, etc. While I thought that about half were just ho-hum, there are some that totally cracked me up. This is obviously a quick read, and it provided a nice little bit of humor to my reading list. Since it can be read in tiny increments, I'm going to recommend it to my friends who are still in school or new parents because it can give them a quick laugh when they only have a minute or two.