Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpA caveat first - I have not actually read this book - I'm afraid my native masculinity militates against my perusing books of such overwhelming... girliness.  My beloved sister, the Contessa of Haut-Eigenwald, however, has read this book, and apparently quite liked it.  She appreciated its strong characterization of three women living the deep south of the early 1960s:  Skeeter, a white college student trying to avoid immediate marriage, Abileen, a black housemaid mourning her own son, while raising those of her employers, and Missy, Abileen's free-spirited best friend.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Lost SymbolJust the other day, I was out falconing with my good friend and vassal, the 4th Baron of Smyth-Bullard, when he happened to mention my blog.  "You know, Your Grace," said he, "I've been following your electronic journal, and I quite enjoy it.  But I do have a question."  At this point I casually removed my hand from the hilt of my sword, to encourage further candor, and gestured for him to continue.  "Well, it is only that you never seem to dislike any of the books you review - and I for one love to see a bad author savaged in print by a master of vicious sarcasm such as Your Grace." 

"Capital point, Bobo," I replied (for such was his nickname at the Old School), "I shall see to it forthwith!"  And so, without further ado (and a special dedication to my chum Bobo), enjoy the following review of Dan Brown's latest insipid potboiler, The Lost Symbol... 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Further Word From The Vicomte...

Terribly sorry!  It seems as though I erred (very slightly, I'm sure) in suggesting followers look in the upper left menu bar for the follow icon - again, I'm most awfully embarassed.  Please note that I have added a Followers section to the right-hand column, including a Follow button.  Please use it - I'm ashamed that, as of now, I have only two, and one of them is me.  In order to attract more of a following, I am endeavoring to make the blog more responsive to potential followers - please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments window.  I live to serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Dark Matter by Peter Straub

A Dark MatterPeter Straub has been one of my favorite authors for a very long time.  I like the horror genre, within certain limits, but Straub goes beyond mere horror, into the rarely achieved realm of mortal dread, which is so much more effective than a good scare. 

Beyond that, he's a damned good writer in the best literary sense, with a real sense of poetry that manages to convey impressions of the eternal and the sacred, instead of just plot and character.  As such, his novels sometimes be very difficult to review, because their true value is so ethereal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Very Personal Message from the Vicomte - Become a Follower!

If you are enjoying the Ex Libris Experience (or not - I still demand your loyalty), please demonstrate your affection by clicking the Follow link in the upper left hand corner. You'll be glad you did! Eventually.

Ellroy's World

Welcome to Ellroy's World.  It's just like the world you know, only different - all of the same events, but with different causes, rooted in the bad decisions of bad men wallowing in a morass of violence and corruption.  It's the alternate universe created by Neo-Noir madman James Ellroy, and it will twist your mind.

Ellroy's work is probably familiar to most through the movie adaptation of his L.A. Confidential, which simplified his novel considerably, while still managing to capture its essential spirit.  But that book was merely the third part of a quartet - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L. A. Confidential, and White Jazz - all of which feature ambivalent anti-heroes trying to find some kind of salvation in a city so corrupt it makes Sodom look like Branson, Missouri.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A NovelNeil Gaiman is pretty hot right now - The Sandman graphic novels, the children's film (sort of) Coraline, and a brand new biography of the author and his work have been drawing public ardor and critical acclaim for some time.  In my opinion, however, Gaiman's most beautiful, bewitching and rewarding work are delivered by his novels - Stardust, Neverwhere, and most of all, American Gods, a magnum opus on the intersection of global myth and American Culture.

Shadow is an ex-con, just released from prison after serving a due sentence for an instant of bad judgement.  His faithful (he thinks) wife, has just been killed in a spectacular auto wreck with his best friend.  He is utterly alone and drifting, and then he receives a tempting job offer from the very mysterious Mr. Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood: A Novel
Here's a double-header.  I recently reviewed Atwood's 1985 best-seller The Handmaid's Tale (at the request of my good friend Mark) and I found it so enjoyable that, when I saw Atwood's latest, The Year of the Flood, at the library, I was enticed.  Unfortunately, I failed to realize until later that this novel is a sequel, of sorts, to 2003's Oryx and Crake, which I read after The Year of the Flood.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff

Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It BackWow, this book is depressing!  Which doesn't mean I didn't like it - although it was really, really depressing.  The subtitle is "How The World Became A Corporation... And How To Take It Back", but as for the taking it back part, the reader's first strategy might be curling into the fetal position, or maybe arranging for intravenous antidepressants.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Columbine by Dave Cullen

ColumbineI didn't pay too much attention to the Columbine massacre back in 1999.  I was doing drugs, Clinton was President, and all was right with the world, so why bother.  I got the general gist from the constant and unending stream of television news on the subject:  two loner misfits, bullied in school, revenge with guns, shot a bunch of kids, including one religious girl.  End of story.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)
So, what can you say about another story concerning a post-apocalyptic, misogynistic, murderous, far right-wing theocracy plunging the United States into a new Dark Age.  Not much, you would think - I mean considering the Bush years brought us within a wasp's nipple of that possible future.   But think again!  (Now think one more time - OK that's good, you're there.)  The extremely witty and wonderful Canadian (of course) penned this literate and compelling imagination of an America run by James Dobson, back in 1985!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley

Losing Mum and Pup: A MemoirBestselling satirist Christopher Buckley (Thank You for Smoking, Supreme Courtship) lost both his parents in 2007.  Their death was not entirely unexpected - Buckley was 55 years old, and both Mum and Pup (as he called them) were in their eighties, and in failing health.  The interesting part of this memoir is that his Pup was world-famous Conservative author, icon, television personality, and intimate of Presidents William F. Buckley, Jr.; and that his Mum was the almost equally famous society figure, charity fundraiser, extremely tall person (5', 11"), and intimate of everybody Patricia Taylor Buckley.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaDo you believe that positive thinking can improve your health?  Does God take an interest in your prosperity?  Can you think your way to success?  SUCKER!!!

Barbara Ehrenreich's latest title in a long series of non-fiction semi-satirical socialogical observations (see Nickel and Dimed), is a skeptic's dream.  If you are sick to death of your doctor, friends, family, religious personnel, boss, co-workers, or strangers telling you that you can improve your life by being more positive - this book is a must.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

Galileo's DreamNew readers (which is pretty much everyone) will fnd a strong prediliction for Science Fiction here at Ex Libris.  But be assured - I take great care to choose titles that are easily accessible to non-Sci-fi oriented readers (i.e., not geeks).  Kim Stanley Robinson is always a great pick - a seamless blend of big concepts and initmate human feelings.