Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Best of Youth Review

The Best of Youth - Michael Dahlie



The fancy goats alone should sell you on this book.

Henry Lang has the best worst (worst best?) luck in the world. His parents die, which is bad, but they leave him with $15 million, which is good. Actually, the $15 million is the most good that happens, but then it sort of covers all the other bad luck of his (massive goat-icide, antique gun-trafficking, to name a couple). Anyway, Henry is a twenty-something-year-old wanna-be writer living in Brooklyn, but thanks to his not-so-small fortune, he doesn't have to have a day job like the rest of us. So, he dabbles in expensive goat-care, invests in an upstart literary magazine, and writes short stories about old people, while trying to get over his crush on his fourth cousin (because really, does that even count as related?). When a literary agent catches a whiff of him, he offers him an opportunity to ghostwrite a young adult book for a celebrity. As seems to be the theme with Henry's life: things do not go well, but nothing is unresolvable.

The overall tone of this book was very low-key and uncomplicated (although things do get rather complicated) and although it does touch on some heavier subjects, was overall a delight. It was humorous, not like HAW HAW HAW *kneeslap* funny, but more like *chortle snort* funny. I would say it's a good pick for readers and aspiring writings (particularly those in their twenties) looking for something quick and light and also very well written, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to non-readers as it is dense in that there's a lot more description than dialogue. Some parts do tend to drag a little, though it's a fairly short book and those parts don't drag on too long.

Though as a side note, I highly doubt a library would get a couple of ex-cons on community service to catalog a collection of old, rare books, when there are oh so many trained library science students desperate for unpaid internships...(guess who gets to spend this summer cataloging DVDs...)

A good, quick, funny read. 

3/5 Fancies. 

City of Dark Magic Review

City of Dark Magic -- Magnus Flyte


Okay, so I am about 7ish books behind right now which is less than ideal because I've already had to return a few of the books I haven't reviewed yet, so forgive me if I'm a little more vague. My classes finally ended this past weekend, and as I'm sure many of you can relate, the last month of classes is always a massive, panicked scramble. Anywho, let's get caught up, shall we?

I wasn't really sure for a while if I wanted to read this book or not because on the one hand, the whole bit about Prague, and Beethoven, and seeeeecrets and mysteriessssss was seemed up my alley, but the other bits about a sexy prince and a sassy dwarf and a devious U.S. Senator felt a bit hokey. But Meg Howrey was one of the co-authors and since I did rather enjoy one of her other books, I figure I ought to give it a shot.

So, first off, Magnus Flyte is actually Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch. And I get the feeling this isn't a great big secret because I found out about this book on Howrey's website. But anyway, it seems like they're trying to amp up the mysteri-ocity with the whole, "Magnus Flyte can be quite elusive and shuns the public eye" thing, except that only really works if you're Lemony Snicket and your main demographic is twelve-year-olds (my childhood ended the day I found out Lemony Snicket isn't real).

But enough about that. Sarah Weston is a musicologist with an oddly acute sense of smell. She is summoned to Prague to replace her professor/mentor after he "falls" out of a window helping the royal family organize their collection of rare sheet music manuscripts, some by Beethoven himself, as they turn the Royal Palace into a museum for the masses.So, she goes to Prague and mysterious things abound...such as bloody corpses appearing over wells and missing crucifixes and other some such that seem to revolve around a drug that causes you to hallucinate history (essentially) and the question of how this, Beethoven, Weston's professor, and some ex-CIA-turned-senator are all related.

So, as I mentioned above, this book had somethings working for it, but also many things working against it. It definitely moved quick, though almost too quick in some parts (see: the end). While it was enjoyable during the reading, it felt more like an action movie that's entertaining to watch, but not terribly cohesive and ultimately unmemorable. Of course, that could have been inferred  by the fact that the front-cover blurb is from Conan O'Brien. I mean, nothing against Conan, he's written some of my favorite Simpsons episodes, but when you're using him to sell a book, I feel like you're not targeting the literary market. My other issue, which isn't a huge deal, but it's billed as a dark and fantastical story, but really it's more reminiscent of a Cold War thriller with alchemical elements and a good dose of Beethoven references. And then the main plot sort of resolved itself and things kept...happening...and I wasn't quite sure why until some new, seemingly random plot point cropped up with not enough time to resolve it which makes me think this is going to be the first in a series. And while the ending wasn't tacked on, and made sense within the frame of the novel (kinda), it felt very rushed.

But, like I said, there were things I liked. As a massive Beethoven fan, it was nice reading a book full of Beethoven references. Sarah herself never seemed all that fleshed out, I mean her sense of smell was a character trait, but liked that she was a sexually independent female character and was a little annoyed by the slut-shaming I saw in a few other reviews. Being a dedicated academic and enjoying casual sex are NOT mutually exclusive, as some people seem to think. So it had that going for it.

Ultimately, it was one of those gripping books that draws you in for the duration, but leaves you wanting something more substantial afterwards.
2.5/5 Fancies