Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pretty Dead: Francesca Lia Block

Everyone has one author whom they crave. That one writer who speaks to your soul. The author whose work you wait upon with bated breath. For me, that author is Francesca Lia Block (FLB). Her amazing language skills take me away to a surreal universe where everything is intense and technicolor. FLB has the ability to make the grittiest, most disgusting places on earth seem magical and beautiful. These are all sentiments used to describe her newest novel, Pretty Dead, but I'm afraid I have to disagree.

Oh Francesca, how could you?! The woman who was writing about fairies and magic and angels long before they were part of a young adult genre has succumbed. I can only assume her publisher offered her lots and lots of dollars to use her incredible skill for the insipid writing of a vampire novel. The story goes something like this... Charlotte is a beautiful twin. She and her brother are living happily, going about life apparently carefree. And then her brother dies and Charlotte is understandably devestated. So of course, the obvious choice is to choose immortality so that she can live forever without her brother. Wait--what?! Sure enough, she begs a vampire to turn her, and they proceed to spend countless years, wandering the world, sucking the life out of people. How romantic. At some point she leaves her maker and decides to go it alone. She goes to high school. She makes some new friends. And when tragedy strikes, Charlotte's world is turned upside down and she begins to feel differently than she has in about a hundred years.

I will admit that FLB gives this vamp novel a sweet little twist. But ultimately, it is a tired romance about a vampire and a human. What's worse is that Block doesn't even utilise her best writing skills. The eras pass as clothing descriptions. There is a flood of narration and very little dialogue or action. And while it's not entirely predictable, it's not very palatable either. I still adore Francesca Lia Block and will continue to read everything she writes. I'm hoping we can just put this one under the bed and forget it ever happened.

Rating: $

Beware, Princess Elizabeth: Carolyn Meyer

I randomly stumbled across a marvelous Young Adult series called "The Young Royals" and decided to start with my favorite royal--Elizabeth I. This series is meant for classroom use, to teach young adults the history of the royals before they became rulers, and how they obtained their throne.

It is a young Princess Elizabeth who narrates this slim historical novel. She briefly explains the situation of her father, King Henry VIII, and how his trail of wives left a short list of suitable heirs. Elizabeth has been denied the throne and is forced to watch as first her little brother Edward, and then her older sister Mary are crowned in succession. While she endurs the torturous treatment of Queen Mary, Elizabeth quietly vows that she will restore her fathers kingdom when she becomes Queen of England.

I hesitate to judge Carolyn Meyer just yet, as I've only read one of her works. However, I did grow slightly bored with the lengthy narration. There was very little dialogue which meant a lot of "telling" and not nearly enough "showing" for my taste. I enjoyed the story though, and find Elizabeth to be a very endearing and sympathetic character. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Rating: $$.5

Under The Dome: Stephen King

There is no denying that Stephen King is a master. So much so that with only a few exceptions, I have avoided his gorier novels. Under The Dome has practically no gore, but instead delivers loads of terror through psychological and sociological evil.

In the middle of a perfectly lovely day, the town of Chester's Mill, Maine is suddenly encapsulated behind an imprenetrable barrier. This barrier has come down on the city lines on all edges, leaving a wake of destruction where it was placed. The following 1000+ pages of King's novel are dedicated to illustrating the town of Chester's Mill and it's inhabitants during their time under the dome. They are a cast of diverse folks, not unlike any other small town. The most frightening character of all is second town selectman, Big Jim Rennie. Power hungry and manipulative, Rennie sees the dome as a tool to further his plan for domination. During the short period of imprisonment beneath the dome, the people of Chester's Mill face the best and worst of each other, baring all secrets, and struggling to simply stay alive.

This novel has so much depth that I can't begin to rightly review it. It is mindblowing. The characters are terrifying. The situation is surreal. The horrors are gut-wrenching. I couldn't put it down. The end of every chapter begts the reader to continue. The mystery is engaging. In short, Stephen King has created what may be the perfect thriller novel.

Rating: $$$