Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming out of hibernation

The days are short and fresh. The nights, long and cold. It's mid-winter and that means report writing, head-colds and that feeling that this month will never end. But finally on the last day of June, I've found time for a catch up post. Rather than go through each book in its own proper review, I think I'll just sum up my recent reading.

I bought The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole by Stephanie Doyon for no other reason than that it had a great cover. I should have known that wouldn't work out so well. It's not that I didn't like this book but it rather felt like time in my life that could have been better spent (on a really good book, say). Doyon peoples her novel about a small and miserable backwoods town in the US with a cast of unlikeable characters. It's not just me, she spends time telling the reader that Cedar Hole is full of losers, which frankly does not make for an exciting reading experience. I don't have to love the characters in a novel but I have to be interested in them. Doyon is a capable writer and there are some interesting moments in the novel. I just don't think this book knows what it wants to be. While Doyon seems to be aiming for a comic novel, some of the quite dark and serious subject matter breaks the mood and left me feeling unsatisfied.

On the hand, I absolutely loved The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. I really can't sum this up and do it any justice so I'll break my word and leave this one for a longer review. Just trust me that it's fantastic.

Finally, I quickly devoured Stephanie Meyer's young adult vampire novel Twilight over the weekend. This novel has been huge amongst girls in the age group that I teach. I would have loved it as a 13 year old but unfortunately it seemed a bit thin to this jaded adult. The novel is about Bella Swan, a teenager who moves to a small town in Washington where she meets and falls for the mysterious and devastatingly handsome Edward Cullen. Surprise, surprise, Edward's not like other boys. It takes about five minutes to work out he's a vampire and about another five to get sick of the total power imbalance between Edward, the dangerous vampire with super strength, and the frail, accident-prone and completely trusting heroine, Bella. Give me Buffy the Vampire Slayer any day. At least it was obvious in that show why a centuries old vampire might find the teenage girl interesting as anything other than food (and satisfying to know she could beat him if it came to a fight). Still there is plenty of seething sexual tension (very inoffensively portrayed) to explain the huge appeal this book has to its audience. Try Peeps by Scott Westerfeld if you want an example of how this sort of thing really ought to be done.


Sarah said...

I've been thinking about reading something by Michael Chabon, so I'm glad to hear The Yiddish Policemen's Union is fantastic! It is hard to write about a book that blows you away- what can you say beyond it's wonderful and you should read it?

The jaded adult in me agrees with you that Twilight is a bit thin, but the 13 year girl enjoys the cheesy adolescent angst of it all.

jess said...

I've just finished The Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and think I liked it even more than the Yiddish Policemen's Union. I try to write a post soon but, yes, I will be a bit lost for words!

I agree, Twilight is quite a lot of fun despite my problems with it. I just read the back of her book, The Host, in a book shop and thought it sounded quite interesting so I might be tempted back to her writing after all...