Saturday, December 1, 2007

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy

This is not a Christmas book. It may be red and it may be a new release in December, but it’s not for most casual gift giving. It is a fictional account of the life of Mata Hari (born Margaretha Zelle), the infamous World War I spy and exotic dancer. It is beautifully told both by Margaretha and a third person narrator. It follows her from losing her parents to moving to Java with her abusive husband, to raising her children and then returning to Europe to become a dancer and professional mistress. The descriptions are vivid and the characters so believable, it all feels true even though I know it can’t all be true. I looked up information about Mata Hari (I won’t give too much away here), but I still felt complete sympathy for her as she awaits her fate in prison.
Any book about Mata Hari would also have to be sexy and this book does that so well. Sex in novels, I think, is absolutely the most difficult thing to pull off. So often the descriptions become overly mechanical or pornographic, trying for too much accuracy or titillation, but the author here really manages to make the few sex scenes telling and interesting and just plain sexy.
So, I recommend this book if you need a little escape from sweet holiday stories, from cloying diamond commercials, from insincere well-wishes, if you’re in the mood for just great literary story-telling, and I suppose if there is someone on your list who needs a little sexy…

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

(Any reviews on this blog from before summer of 2012 are reposts from when I worked at Queen Anne Books. I've back-dated them to when they ran in the in-store flyer. I had a good laugh when I found my review of Twilight from February of 2007. I considered not reposting it because of  what a thing it became, but (obviously) I changed my mind. I never really got into the later books in the series and I haven't seen the movies, but I stand by my enthusiasm for the first book.)

This book is the definition of a guilty pleasure. It is a Teen-Vampire-Romance. It doesn’t try to be much more than that. The writing isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. It is not what I normally read. Teens have known about this book for over a year, but it wasn’t until an adult customer came in gushing about it that I considered picking it up. I read it in 2 days, my breath catching in my throat at times, constantly thinking of the first time I saw Sixteen Candles or Valley Girl, and the first time I thought I might actually just die if I didn’t go out with Him. I’m renaming this book Pretty in Black.

The main character is, of course, very cool and pretty but not one of the in-crowd. She has just moved to Forks, WA from Phoenix and she hates it. The other main character is the Vampire, the bad boy (who wants to be good), the tortured soul, the brooding musician, the most beautiful boy in school. Oh, he works on so many levels. And they are destined to fall hopelessly, painfully, endlessly in love. His being a Vampire is no match for their destiny together.

It’s safe to guess that very few men will like this book. It’s also safe to guess that most women (who are craving that perfect guilty/light read/beach read/romance) will like it. If you think too hard about this book, it won’t work. It’s not about thinking. It’s about that flood of emotion, that tingle from your toes to your scalp, that sick but pleasant twist in the stomach, that happens when He walks in the room. It’s best to get a copy now, dedicate a good part of the weekend to it, and then try – just attempt – to hold off buying the 2nd book in hardcover.
Yes, a movie is in the works.