Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

[This is a reprint of a previously posted review; it is posted here for posterity]

[No spoilers]

I have to confess I've never been a huge fan of Scorsese films. I always feel he makes great movies with horrible, unfinished endings. Though, to be fair, I've only seen a scant handful of his movies. But, even knowing that I generally don't like his films, I was really kind of excited about Shutter Islands. The trailers made it seem like something entirely up my alley: mystery and mental institutions and gritty, hard-boiled lawmen, yay! Well. Then the whole Roman Polanski petition thing happened and Scorsese permanently excised himself from moviemakers I'm willing to pay money to see. But! Shutter Island! How would I ever know what had happened from these tantalizing tidbits he'd presented me with? Clearly, there was only one recourse. I had to buy the book.

I'd actually never heard of Dennis Lehane before, though after perusing his list, there were a few movies we'd seen that were based on his book, primary among them Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. Funnily enough, I hadn't really loved either movie for the same reason I'm not fond of Scorsese's; great movies with endings that left me cold and unsatisfied. The marriage of Scorsese and Lehane made a lot more sense, but it left me a little worried about what I was going to get, reading Shutter Island.

I needn't have worried. The thing that I really loved most about Shutter Island and Lehane's writing is the fusion of the protagonist, Teddy Daniels, as a tough, hard-boiled lawman with incredibly lyrical, incisive prose. Too often, it doesn't work and with Teddy, it works phenomenally well, creating a really lush, almost oversaturated, atmosphere which I felt entirely surrounded by.

The plot itself has few surprises, but as it was more about the journey—Teddy's journey—it didn't really need surprises to work, only Lehane's smooth, persuasive storytelling. Though I expected the twist in the first third of the book, I didn't feel like the time it took to get there was wasted and I enjoyed the whole thing front to back. I devoured that book like a piece of candy and o, how sweet it was.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

[This is a reprint of a previously posted review; it has been posted her for posterity]

A number of people I know and respect had either loved or recced Santa Olivia to me (or both!) but in my typical contrarian style, it took me a while to get around to reading it. And even now, though I enjoyed the book a lot and look forward to reading it again at some point, I feel unsure about what to say about it.

So here are a collection of random thoughts, in no particular order (Spoilery for Santa Olivia).

I had a problem with the book at first, simply because I'd built up a certain expectation of what story I was going to be reading based on the blurb and the story I was actually reading wasn't much like it.

From Publishers Weekly: Departing from epic fantasy (Kushiel's Dart, etc.), Carey sets this powerful near-future tale in Outpost 12, a small town trapped in a buffer zone shielding Texas from pandemic-stricken Mexico. Two half-siblings chafing under General Argyle's military rule make very different plans to beat the status quo. Tom, the son of a soldier, lives at the gym, where he trains in boxing and hopes to win his freedom from the town by defeating the general's boxing champion. Loup, who has inherited her escaped father's oddly engineered genes, joins a group of church wards called the Santitos, a tight gang of vigilantes who masquerade as the local saint, Santa Olivia.

From that description, I was expecting something more Magnificent Seven or Zorro-esque; a variation on a caper-fic, vigilantes who bring down the corrupt overlord.

But that's not the book Carey wrote. And…that's not her fault, for lack of better phrasing. I formed an expectation, but the fact that I formed it and proceeded on certain assumptions was my fault. I interrogated the text from the wrong perspective (*g*). But in doing so, it took me a while to cotton to the idea that the book was not going to go where I thought and it took me a while longer to be able to relax and experience the story Carey actually wanted to tell me.

In terms of actual, real criticism, I actually have very little. I feel like the story should have actually started many pages later than it did. Most of the information covered about Loup's mother Carmen could've been handled through Loup's eyes and Loup's journey; it felt to me like Carey had sat down to write, started a story that she didn't have a plan for and realized many pages in that it wasn't actually about Carmen or Tommy, Loup's brother. The shift in POVs, from Carmen's, to Tommy's and then finally to settle and stabilize on Loup felt clumsy and unnecessary. It also was less interesting reading about Carmen, or even Tommy. The story didn't feel like it had truly started before it got to Loup and that's a pretty long time to settle into your voice.

But. Once it did get there, Loup's story was completely engrossing. I really like and I was really fascinated by the way that, although Loup was incapable of experiencing fear, as we understand it, she was nonetheless a richly emotional character. I think it would have been very easy to make her more robotic; I think that's the common expectation for that kind of character, but instead, she made Loup openly and joyously and honestly emotional in a way that's completely engaging. And though it wasn't the story I was expecting, I found myself entirely satisfied with the story I got.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

[This is a reprint of a previously posted review; it has been posted here for posterity's sake]

I just finished reading Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. The unqualified review is that it's a real page-turner of a book and I enjoyed it. I'll definitely be looking for Hill's next book.

The qualified review, now with less squee (and lots more spoilers):

Inaugural Post

So. The purpose of this blog is to have a place to post my opinions on various media I consume. That includes books, television and movies and I'm a voracious consumer of them all. My taste is pretty eclectic, though. One week, I may be reading highbrow literature, the next week, smutty romances. More than anything, I'm interested in story-telling and all my thoughts and reviews will probably look at that aspect.

Though I read and watch a variety of media, I do have a strong interest in LGBT media and issues and will look at the media I review through a variety of lenses, including gender, race, body-positivity, ableism, sexuality, etc.

...or, you know. Sometimes I'll just squee.