lost and found

Reading a good piece of women’s fiction is like making a great new friend. Suddenly, you get to share all those little intimate details that make lives unique. Well-written, engaging chick lit always makes me feel like that–as if I just had a reunion with an old friend and managed to catch up on all the moments I missed. Marisa de los Santos’ Falling Together stirs up that kind of emotion, drawing the reader into the lives of three awkward, flawed individuals who made the mistake of drifting apart.

Pen, Will, and Cat meet under the most dramatic of circumstances–while Cat was having a seizure. They can’t help but fall in together after such a meeting. The closest of friends throughout college, these three share an intensity that is nearly impossible to overcome, and so they decide to go their separate ways with the memory of this passion intact and spare themselves the disappointment of growing up and growing apart.

Years later, they are once again drawn together when one of their number is in need, but they soon find that they are all in need of each other and that their impulsive decision to lead entirely separate lives cannot go on forever.

Though not one of my usual chick lit type reads, I found myself enjoying Falling Together. I had never read one of Marisa de los Santos’ books, so it was a new experience and one that I might like to repeat. That’s not to say that it was a perfect read. I found some elements a bit far-fetched… like taking off to another country at the drop of a hat to save someone who may or may not need saving, but that’s why it’s fiction. It’s a bit escapist, but sweet and refreshing after reading too many “serious” books. It’s a perfect read for a lazy weekend or after a long day at work and sure to appeal to a wide readership.

I received my copy of Falling Together from HarperCollins.

loose diamonds

Loose Diamonds by Amy Ephron

Reading Loose Diamonds is almost like reading an old copy of the society pages, where every detail seems a bit surreal and highly glamorous. Composed of a series of auto-biographical vignettes, Ephron’s narrative takes the reader on a nostalgic journey through the L.A. of the late 50s and 60s to the present. Themes such as love, loss, divorce, and motherhood are explored in vivid detail, adding a universal element to stories that the average reader may find somewhat unfamiliar in their description of life in Beverly Hills.

This is a great read for a lazy weekend at home. Entertaining and light.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Loose Diamonds from HarperCollins Publisher.

The Belly of the Whale

Worlds collide aboard the Darwinist airship, Leviathan, a whale-like mashup of species fueled by the hydrogen produced in the beast’s innards. When Deryn Sharp decides to disguise herself as a boy and join the air service, she never expects that she will be drawn into the middle of a political battle. Joining the ranks as Dylan, she works hard to make sure she earns her place in the air. Meanwhile, young Alek, the disenfranchised heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire finds himself in a dangerous position, on the run to avoid becoming embroiled in a battle between the nations of Europe. A chance encounter brings these two together. Can a pair of Clankers and Darwinists work together to survive?

I so wanted to like this book. I was so excited when I first saw the book trailer and when I went to the author event at Books and Books, but while I found the concept intriguing, I just did not find myself caring for the characters or the retro-futuristic Steampunk Europe of the Clankers and the Darwinists.

Like I said, I wanted to enjoy this book, but there were certain elements that just turned me off the story. One was the idea of fabricated animals as weapons and vehicles. In theory, the concept sounded interesting, and the image that Westerfeld portrayed during his lecture was equally so, but reading about imaginary creatures being made to transport people into battle seemed unnecessarily cruel to me. I realize, yes, that horses and other animals were obviously driven into battle in the past, but the distinction between Darwinists and Clankers is specifically that they choose to fabricate creatures to perform these roles. The whale-thing is essentially an airship and that is it; that Deryn describes the creature as an intelligent being that knows what to do in order to serve its crew only adds to my inability to side with the Darwinists’ views on the rationality of choosing animals over machines as their main source of artillery and transport. Alek calls the fabrications “godless” several times in the novel; they’re the sort of creatures you would expect in a sci-fi B-movie about DNA experimentation gone wrong. I can’t explain it very well, but this whole scenario just didn’t seem quite right to me.

Another thing that bothered me about the story was the need to turn write Deryn as a girl. I generally like novels about girls who do things and dress up as boys and go to battle, but there is nothing to hide about Deryn so far as I can tell. Other than the few instances where some reference is made to her sex–Deryn pretends to shave, or Deryn must make sure the medics never disrobe her–Deryn could very well be a boy. Of course, it would throw a wrench into the very obvious feelings she seems to be developing for Alek, but it just seemed a bit gimmicky to me, like an effort to attract girls to the book.

And lastly, the illustrations. The images are wonderful, but the depictions of Deryn and Alek really do affect my interpretation of their characters. At first, I thought Alek was about 10 or 11; he seems so small and young. Turns out he’s 15. Then there’s Deryn, who I could not help but compare to Draco Malfoy, she always seems to be sneering in the illustrations; it might have added to my inability to really like her as a character.

I am not saying I did not enjoy the book at all–it certainly had its moments–but I don’t think I care enough about the story to read the next two installments in the series.

Historical Novel Reviews

My reviews of Elena Maria Vidal’s The Night’s Dark Shade and Jack Hussey’s The Ghosts of Walden have been published on Historical Novels Review Online (February 2010 reviews).