Tuesday, May 5, 2009

27 Things - Sacramento Public Library

To save Internet space (as if it's limited, I know, but there's no use cluttering it up with one more inactive blog), I'm using a blog I set up as an SJSU MLIS graduation requirement. I'm explaining this just in case you're wondering why there are book reviews on the other blog entries. The original intent of this blog was to share book reviews across fiction genres, organized with a variety of tags. So far, I only got around to entering reviews about books I've already read, so you may notice a trend in the materials listed. However, the blog does have a couple of interesting features, such as the images of book covers pulled from my cataloged collection on LibraryThing. That's another site you may want to explore for education and entertainment.

My blogging vision was to create a comprehensive list that can be categorized by a reader's "mood," as well as more common tags. Then I found this in the library: 1001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Ephron. That book not only organizes the book descriptions by mood, but also has a system of icons to mark the reviews (racy material, award winners, family friendly, controversial topics, etc.). It just goes to show that sometimes what the library has to offer can top the Internet for a one-stop information source.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison

Type: Fantasy, Urban
Note: Book 1 in the Rachel Morgan/The Hollows series
Other Rachel Morgan Books:
The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (Book 2)
Every Which Way But Dead (Book 3)
A Fistful of Charms (Book 4)
For a Few Demons More (Book 5)
The Outlaw Demon Wails (Book 6)
White Witch, Black Curse (Book 7)

I'm a rabid fan of the Rachel Morgan series, currently reading book #7. The characters are believable and sympathetic, and the heroine is as flawed as she is powerful. The realistic human emotion is what sets this series above your average blow-'em-up urban fantasy.

Summary from Amazon.com:
The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves—creatures of dreams and nightmares—has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the "Inderlanders" reveal themselves, changing everything.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner . . . and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death . . . not to mention her own roommate.

Hannibal, by Thomas Harris

Type: Thriller, Psychological
Note: 4th in the Hannibal Lecter timeline
Other Hannibal Lecter books:
Hannibal Rising
Red Dragon
Silence of the Lambs

Summary from Amazon.com:
Horror lit's head chef Harris serves up another course in his Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter trilogy, and it's a pièce de résistance for those with strong stomachs. In the first book, Red Dragon (filmed as Manhunter), Hannibal diabolically helps the FBI track a fascinating serial killer. (Takes one to know one.) In The Silence of the Lambs, he advises fledgling FBI manhunter Clarice Starling, then makes a bloody, brilliant escape.

Years later, posing as scholarly Dr. Fell, curator of a grand family's palazzo, Hannibal lives the good life in Florence, playing lovely tunes by serial killer/composer Henry VIII and killing hardly anyone himself. Clarice is unluckier: in the novel's action-film-like opening scene, she survives an FBI shootout gone wrong, and her nemesis, Paul Krendler, makes her the fall guy. Clarice is suspended, so, unfortunately, the first cop who stumbles on Hannibal is an Italian named Pazzi, who takes after his ancestors, greedy betrayers depicted in Dante's Inferno.

Pazzi is on the take from a character as scary as Hannibal: Mason Verger. When Verger was a young man busted for raping children, his vast wealth saved him from jail. All he needed was psychotherapy--with Dr. Lecter. Thanks to the treatment, Verger is now on a respirator, paralyzed except for one crablike hand, watching his enormous, brutal moray eel swim figure eights and devour fish. His obsession is to feed Lecter to some other brutal pets.

What happens when the Italian cop gets alone with Hannibal? How does Clarice's reunion with Lecter go from macabre to worse? Suffice it to say that the plot is Harris's weirdest, but it still has his signature mastery of realistic detail. There are flaws: Hannibal's madness gets a motive, which is creepy but lessens his mystery. If you want an exact duplicate of The Silence of the Lambs's Clarice/Hannibal duel, you'll miss what's cool about this book--that Hannibal is actually upstaged at points by other monsters. And if you think it's all unprecedentedly horrible, you're right. But note that the horrors are described with exquisite taste. Harris's secret recipe for success is restraint. --Tim Appelo

Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris

Type: Thriller, Psychological
Note: 2nd book in the Hannibal Lecter timeline, 1st written
Other Hannibal Lecter books:
Hannibal Rising
Silence of the Lambs

Summary from Amazon.com:
Lying on a cot in his cell with Alexandre Dumas's Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine open on his chest, Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter makes his debut in this legendary horror novel, which is even better than its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. As in Silence, the pulse-pounding suspense plot involves a hypersensitive FBI sleuth who consults psycho psychiatrist Lecter for clues to catching a killer on the loose.

The sleuth, Will Graham, actually quit the FBI after nearly getting killed by Lecter while nabbing him, but fear isn't what bugs him about crime busting. It's just too creepy to get inside a killer's twisted mind. But he comes back to stop a madman who's been butchering entire families. The FBI needs Graham's insight, and Graham needs Lecter's genius. But Lecter is a clever fiend, and he manipulates both Graham and the killer at large from his cell.

That killer, Francis Dolarhyde, works in a film lab, where he picks his victims by studying their home movies. He's obsessed with William Blake's bizarre painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, believing there's a red dragon within him, the personification of his demonic drives. Flashbacks to Dolarhyde's terrifying childhood and superb stream-of-consciousness prose get us right there inside his head. When Dolarhyde does weird things, we understand why. We sympathize when the voice of the cruel dead grandma who raised and crazed him urges him to mayhem--she's way scarier than that old bat in Psycho. When he falls in love with a blind girl at the lab, we hope he doesn't give in to Grandma's violent advice.

This book is awesomely detailed, ingeniously plotted, judiciously gory, and fantastically imagined. If you haven't read it, you've never had the creeps. --Tim Appelo