Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove

Title: Rocket Man
Author: William Elliott Hazelgrove
Publisher: Pantonne Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback, 376 pages
Age Group: Adult

Dale Hammer is a struggling writer who has moved his family to the suburbs in search of the American Dream. Rather than finding suburban bliss, Dale is unable to hold his life together as he faces financial problems, marriage problems, and his failures as a father.

While many reviews of Rocket Man have referred to the book as humorous, I failed to see the humor in Dale Hammer's tremendous failures as a husband and father. (Although to be fair I didn't *get* the humor in The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada either.) Dale is not a very likable or sympathetic character because it is clear that many of his problems stem from his own actions and attitude. At the same time, Dale is examining his life and sees his failures yet is unable to change his course - like a train wreck that one sees coming but is unable to prevent.

My favorite character in the book was actually Dale Hammer, Sr. because he is essentially my father in law with a southern accent. Dale Sr. is also a tremendous failure but the difference is that he has a spark of life that the main character is lacking. Despite Dale Sr.'s problems he continues to move forward with a vigorous new plan. He is loud, crude, and demands attention - a true salesman in all areas of his life.

Rocket Man is an engaging look at the illusion that is the American Dream. The book is also incredibly timely with the collapse of the housing market and current economic conditions that have many people struggling to maintain their customary lifestyle in the face of financial difficulties. The events of the book are occasionally interrupted by Dale's contemplations of his current situation. While these scenes allow readers to understand Dale's thoughts and motivations, the inner monologues come across as a bit pretentious - would such an epic failure as Dale really be that aware of his own life?

As a novel in the literary/general fiction category, which is outside of my usual scope of reading, I enjoyed Rocket Man more than I expected I would. One caveat - the book does contain quite a bit of foul language which could turn some people off to the story.

Thank you to William Elliott Hazelgrove and Pantonne Press for sending me an Advance Review Copy of Rocket Man.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Personal Demon
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Spectra
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Format: Mass market paperback, 544 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: Women of the Otherworld (Book 8)

I am a big fan of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series so I was really looking forward to reading Personal Demon. I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

For anyone unfamiliar with the series, each book is narrated by a female character who is some sort of supernatural. So far there has been a werewolf, a witch, a ghost witch, a necromancer, and now a half-demon. Each story is independent, although the characters do crossover and the books definitely follow a time line. Armstrong also produces online novellas and her characters appear in various short story anthologies.

Personal Demon is narrated by Hope Adams, a half-demon. She takes on an undercover assignment that forces her to face who she is and what she is capable of.

This book had two main differences from the previous books in the series. The first is that Hope is not the only narrator. Some of the chapters a narrated by Lucas, a sorcerer from a very powerful family and the husband of a witch. This is the first time one of the men has actually narrated portions of the novel. Armstrong makes it very clear who is narrating which portions with her chapter headings and I did not find it confusing at all.

The second difference in this book is the amount of sex. It is not an excessive amount by any means but previous books had little to no sex in them at all. I am anticipating that the sex is connected to Hope and not going to be a regular addition for all the characters.

Personal Demon was a great read and really kept me guessing up until the end. The clues were all there but it definitely took a while to put them all together. I liked it that I didn't feel that I was ahead of the characters in figuring out the situation (making them appear dumb) or way behind them in understanding (making me feel dumb). Armstrong also does a great job with wrapping up the story while leaving enough open ends to continue the overall conflict in future books.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Title: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover, 563 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Twilight Saga (Book 2)

New Moon is the second book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series. My review of the first book, Twilight, can be found here.

New Moon continues the story of Bella and Edward's relationship and the troubles that they face together or apart. I really want to enjoy these books but that is difficult when I don't like the main character. Bella is moody and self-absorbed through the entire book. She only decides to hang out with Jacob Black at the insistence of Charlie and to feed her need to hear Edward's voice in her head while doing stupid, dangerous things. Bella is very aware of Jacob's feelings for her but decides to use him anyway. Although the vampire family is not physically present for most of the novel, they are never far from Bella's thoughts and motivate many of her actions. Although I can understand the lure of the handsome, mysterious vampire I also think that most teenagers would have enough sense to understand the danger that the vampires (and other supernatural creatures) pose to a mere human. Instead of running screaming, Bella heads straight toward the danger begging the family to make her one of them.

I did greatly enjoy the section of the story when Bella is thinking about Edward and Jacob and is comparing her situation to Romeo and Juliet. It is clear that Bella is very aware of her actions and how she might hurt Jacob but she manages to rationalize their relationship. Despite knowing how many people she might hurt, Bella continues to forge forward with reckless abandon. I realize that teenagers can be full of angst, especially in first love relationships, however I feel Meyer pushes it a bit over the top in Bella. I do want to like her and these books but I am finding it very difficult to do so.

I will finish reading the series since I'm already halfway through and now I want to know what happens to Bella and Edward but unless Bella becomes more sensible and likable I doubt my reaction to the last two books will be more favorable.