Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Sleep of Stone, by Louise Cooper

(pb; 1991)

From the back cover:

"Ghysla was one of the Old Folks -- shapeshifters and wielders of magic -- the last of her kind. She lived in the forest far from the dangers of humankind, content with her solitary existence, until she glimpsed Prince Anyr. Anyr's bravery and kindness touched her heart, and she vowed to win her love. But Ghysla dared not reveal her true form to Anyr for fear of frightening him, so she visited her beloved in the forms of the wild and beautiful creatures of the wood. Anyr was enchanted, and as Ghysla accompanied her Prince through field and forest, she became convinced that he returned her love though she had never revealed her true nature to him.

"When Sivorne, Anyr's betrothed, arrived for their wedding day, Ghysla was filled with despair. In desperation, she cast the ancient spell known as the sleep of stone over Sivorne, determined to assume Sivorne's likeness and take her place at the altar. But what would she do when Anyr, who loved Sivorne deeply, found out that he hadn't married the woman he'd waited a lifetime for? Indeed, that he had not married a human woman at all?"


Predictable, YA-in-spirit-and-tone fairy tale. Cooper's writing is solid, but the storyline is by-the-numbers; decent read for a tween reader, otherwise this is a so-so offering from the writer who created the excellent eight-book Indigo series.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk

(hb; 2007)

From the inside flap:

"Rant takes the form of an oral biography of one Buster 'Rant' Casey, who may or may not be the most efficient serial killer of our time.

"A high school rebel who always wins (and a childhood murderer?), Rant Casey escapes from his small hometown of Middleton for the big city. He becomes the leader of an urban demolition derby called Party Crashing. On appointed nights participants recognize one another by such designated car markings as 'Just Married' toothpaste graffiti and then stalk and crash into each other. Rant Casey will die a spectacular highway death, after which his friends gather testimony needed to build an oral history of his short, violent life. Their collected anecdotes explore the possibility that his saliva caused a silent urban plague of rabies and that he found a way to escape the prison house of linear time..."


As subversive, LOL funny, horrific, memorable and clever as Palahniuk's finer works -- Lullaby; Fight Club -- the thematically-familiar Rant weaves seemingly-side trip plot sinews into a cohesive, mindblowing and landmark narrative that demands a second read just to capture all the exciting, plot-supportive minutiae that Palahniuk's crammed into it.

If you can get past the inherent ickiness (Palahniuk has a detailed fascination with bodily fluids) of the story, this is a unique and rewarding read that may easily rewire the way you view that alterable concept we call "reality".

By all means, check this out.

Side note: J.G. Ballard's Crash explored a similar-yet-differentiated theme. If you like Rant, there's a good chance you'll like Crash.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cardington Crescent, by Anne Perry

(hb; 1987: eighth book in the Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series)

From the inside flap:

"When George Ashworth is found dead over his morning coffee, it is clearly a crime of passion. It was unspoken, but common knowledge at Cardington Crescent that George was having an affair with Sybilla, his wife Emily's enchanting young cousin. But in refined Victorian Society, such domestic problems were usually handled quietly and discreetly, without the aid of of a dose of digitalis. Anxious to avoid further scandal, the genteel March family is all too willing to point the finger at Emily. After all, there is no better motive for murder than the wrath of a jealous wife, and indeed, she was never really one of them, having come from a family of inferior standing.

"That family, however, happens to include her sister Charlotte, the irrepressible wife of Inspector Thomas Pitt, and no stranger to murder and intrigue..."


Seven years after their sister (Sarah) was stabbed (in The Cater Street Hangman), the spectre of murder revisits Charlotte, Emily and their family. This time it's George, Emily's husband, who's killed, and the murder is more insidious because one of their family members is the killer.

As if that weren't bad enough, the fact that Emily (always shown as a heroine in the series) may have killed George -- who appeared to be having an indiscreet affair -- makes this one of the more chilling and tragic entries in the Pitt series, with references to Resurrection Row and Death in the Devil's Acre.

The killer isn't easy to spot, at least not initially, but the killer's identity isn't surprising, either.

Another winner from author Perry, followed by Silence in Hanover Close.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Reefer Madness, by Eric Schlosser

(hb; 2003: non-fiction)

From the inside flap:

“The underground economy is vast; it comprises perhaps 10% – perhaps more – of America’s overall economy, and it’s on the rise. Eric Schlosser charts this growth, and finds its roots in the nexus of ingenuity, greed, idealism, and hypocrisy that is American culture. Her reveals the fascinating workings of the shadow economy by focusing on marijuana, one of the nation’s largest cash crops; pornography, whose greatest beneficiaries include Fortune 100 companies; and illegal migrant workers, whose lot often resembles that of medieval serfs.

“All three industries show how the black market has burgeoned over the past three decades, as America’s reckless faith in the free market has combined with a deep-seated Puritanism to create situations both preposterous and tragic. Through pot, porn and migrants, Schlosser traces compelling parallels between underground and overground: how tycoons and gangsters rise and fall, how new technology shapes a market, how government intervention can reinvigorate black markets as well as mainstream ones, how big business learns – and profits – from the underground.”


This is one of those ‘yeah… what he said!’ kind of reviews. An informative, interesting, should-read book, this, one that dramatically changed how I viewed America. Another great muckrake from the author of Fast Food Nation.

<em>The Freak</em> by Eleanor Robinson

(pb; 1980 ─ a.k.a. The Silverleaf Syndrome ) From the back cover “He was born monstrously deformed, a freak of nature. Possessed of ...