Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WANT - CIndy Pon

WANT by Cindy Pon

Eco-espionage is my aesthetic, apparently.

I really liked Cindy Pon's new book. It’s a kidnap job that becomes an eco-espionage thriller, with some serious conman action and tantalizing romance. It surprised me how much I wanted this book. Jason and Daiyu make great romantic interests, and the whole crew that Jason runs with is interesting, and despite their careful artifice, they do love one another. I’m also really sympathetic to Jason’s preference for a dark wardrobe, ie: he wears black almost all the time. Anyone who likes a science fiction book that is cognizant of today’s half-in attitude on environmental preservation will be sympathetic to the bittersweetness of a neon and smog filled metropolis of Taipei depicted here. Also, if you like boys who throw knives, check it out.

I think I felt early on, when the teens were in their lair, that this book had a celluloid and grit feel of a tech noir on par with Ghost in the Shell, but the questions posed here are more immediate and make your actions resonate. The villain of the piece argues, later on, that we are consumers, and the world was made to be consumed. The trade off for whatever we want whenever we want it, is shorter life spans for the poor and isolated comfort for the rich.

Speaking of the rich, Pon really shines when she describes the sparsity and the luxury, I feel like physicality, no pun, is her strong-suit. The best moments were the ones of intimacy between characters.

Unfortunately I felt like she didn’t have the opportunity to let some characters get as much traction as our main duo, even though the job she did with them almost makes up for it.

In the end however, the mystery leaves it hard to feel the impact.

And I’ve been thinking about it, and there’s something wholly organic about the love that grows. When Jason notices Daiyu’s “toned legs” at one point there’s nothing exploitive or fetishized about it, and that’s kind of stellar. This should be the standard. I don’t know why it almost always feels like a guy is leering when he talks about his love interest. All the other characters, have or have-not, are described in fair terms.

I could have enjoyed some more tension during the heist scenes, but I think I also read this book very quickly. It isn’t terribly long which is both good and bad, this book needs space to breathe, a plan this fool-proof needs time to unfold in your mind. There are month jumps, which Pon does not leave ambiguous, and by the time the story has wrapped up, a year had passed between the covers.

I think my only real quibble is that I would have liked even more growth from Jason, while he did realize the world wasn’t exactly black and white, so I can’t be mad.

My hope though, since there is already plans for a sequel, that we get to focus on other characters since I don’t know how taipei-lovers Daiyu and Jason will leave for Shanghai. (Okay, that one was a pun.)

One last thing, I know Li Bingbing is too old, but she was who I thought of when I imagined Daiyu. Also the cover is gorgeous and totally worth bookstagramming. Make sure you pick this book up when it comes out, it will leave you mourning the blue sky and fresh air while you still have it. Otherwise we’ll be the next fishbowl heads living in a smoggy world.

WANT will be available for purchase June 13th, 2017. I received this ARC without expectation of a review.

Pages: 336
Year: 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Read: 23 May 2017
Stars: 4

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Just before watching the new Netflix adaption, I wolfed down the first book. I'd read the series as a child and adored it, revisiting it was a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Haha, how much things have changed. But this was still enjoyable. I'm looking forward to re-reading all these books and checking out the prequel series, All the Wrong Questions.

It really struck me how vulnerable Klaus is, as opposed to in the show, I guess, when Olaf striking him makes him sob, and I wonder at Lemony Snicket’s choice to include such a moment of emotion. And then for it to be left out in the show. It also was interesting that Klaus is the one who is closer to the baby sister, Sunny, than Violet and almost always carrying her in the book, but in the movie, and the show, he isn’t. I think these little changes are a detriment to the character as they seem to add nothing to the show. I mean, him not crying was an acting/directing choice most likely, but as for him not carrying the baby… It seems a small thing to focus on, considering I forgot immediately the concept each chapter focuses the story though.

It was very nice to re-read it. Even reading it quickly, I did not find the narrative voice to be annoying at my age. I’m looking forward to re-reading the rest and reading the prequel series at last!

Pages: 162
Year: 1999
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers

Read: 13 Jan 2017
Stars: 3.5

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Glad I finally picked this book up off my shelf! The first part on writing tasks, or assignments, or just getting the words onto paper at last, wasn’t terribly mind-blowing. In fact the reason I finally read this, because of the reference that Marlo Skyhorse made to her plot structure, she attributes to another writer!

But the second part, on the writing life, really struck a chord with me, and I’ve dog-eared the passage on morals, and another on the purpose of it all, that I can see myself rereading in the years to come.

This book is very readable, conversational, and quickly moves from philosophical attempts at explaining what it is that is so great about writing, and jokes that made me want to share the book with all my writer friends. I should note that while I understand that Lamott’s humor is off-brand there was only one (as far as I could tell) joke that should have been left out. I think we understand more about each other now than we did even as little twenty years ago when this was published.

Pages: 238
Year: 1994
Publisher: Anchor Books

Read: 7 April 2017 to 9 April 2017
Stars: 4

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