Monday, August 31, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: August

Well. August was a little sparse on book reviews, wasn't it?

The problem, dear readers, is that I'm sitting on a number of drafted reviews, 3/4ths complete, which don't yet suit me. The books in question are so lovely that my usual dashed-off ramblings would do them a disservice. (I had a hope of finishing at least one tonight, but this Domaine de Canton isn't going to drink itself.)

I may yet crack and post the haphazard ravings that have already been written. In the meantime, enjoy the short version of what I do and do not recommend from the past thirty-one days' worth of books!

August 2015

  • Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (2014, historical romance)
    • Penniless daughter of a famous author and grouchy blinded nobleman inherit the same ruined castle; kissing ensues. -- My first proper "romance" novel was shockingly fantastic--funny, smart, genuinely charming. 5/5 stars.
  • The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (2015, sci-fi thriller)
    • A conscientious hitman antiheroes his way through an apocalyptic dried-up Phoenix, Arizona, joined by the classic "lady journalist" and a luckless refugee. -- The forecast for near-future USA is an interesting playground setting-wise, but the characters and plot developments were nothing uncommon. 3/5 stars.
  • The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox (2000, historical)
    • French winemaker encounters an angel on the hillside above his house every year for half a century. -- It wished to be more dazzling than it was; if you have seen any quotes from it, you have seen the best excerpts already. 2/5 stars.
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909, historical thriller)
    • French opera house haunted, managers blackmailed, singer abducted, investigators murdered. -- Without the Broadway glitter, it's a frightening mystery more in keeping with Poe (or Doyle's serials.) 3/5 stars.
  • Say Yes To The Marquess by Tessa Dare (2014, historical romance)
    • Dissolute boxer arranges his absent diplomat brother's wedding to the woman he'd rather call his own; kissing ensues. -- And with that, I go back to avoiding romance novels. 1/5 stars.
  • Revival by Stephen King (2014, horror)
    • After tragedy strikes, a preacher researches the less-fickle miracle of electricity. -- Can Lovecraftian horrors and faith healings mix? Yes, but this isn't how to do it. 1/5 stars.
  • Into Thin Air by John Krakauer (1999, memoir)
    • Author recounts his experiences climbing Everest during the 1996 disaster. -- A gruesomely close-up record of how quickly things can go wrong, and how little can be done to help another person in lethal atmospheric conditions. 4/5 stars.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950, sci-fi)
    • Short stories chronicling Earth's efforts to reach a populated Mars, only to ruin it. -- A fantastic example of the composite novel, tenderly and sparsely written, no less striking for its "outdated" view of the future. (To "update" it for "modern" audiences is a crime.) 5/5 stars.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969, sci-fi)
    • Solitary ambassador from unified human planets tries to negotiate with the ambisexual society of a frozen world. --It's a classic exploration of alternative gender construction, they said; they never did say it was a good story. 2/5 stars.
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968, fantasy)
    • The only magical creature left in the world searches for her kin and the Red Bull that drove them away, but a unicorn is not a questing beast. -- The prettiest book in the English language, a higher-level commentary on fairy tales that never loses sight of its own story. 5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel (2015, historical)
    • A progressive Indian family strives to secure British advantages for their children. -- A tolerable setpiece for early 20th century India and its complexities, but which substitutes the passage of time for a plot. 3/5 stars.

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