Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tails of Wonder and Imagination edited by Ellen Datlow

About the book: What is it about the cat that captivates the creative imagination? No other creature has inspired so many authors to take pen to page. Mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories have all been written aobut cats.

From the legendary editor ellen Datlow comes Tails of Wonder and Imagination, showcasing forty cat tales by some of today's most popular authors. With uncollected stories by Stephen King, Carol Emshwiller, Tanith Lee, Peter S. Beagle, Elizabeth Hand, Dennis Danvers, and Theodora Goss and a previously unpublished story by Susanna Clarke, plus feline-centric fiction by Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, George R.R. Martin, Lucius Shepard, Joyce Carol Oates, Graham Joyce, Catherynne M. Valente, Michael Marshall Smith, and Many others.

Tails of wonder and Imagination features more than 200,000 words of stories in which cats are heroes and stories in which they're villains; tales of domestic cats, tigers, lions, mythical part-cat beings, people transformed into cats, cats transformed into people. And yes, even a few cute cats.

My thoughts: I chose this book of short stories for two reasons: I like stories about cats and I needed a short story collection for one of my challenges. For the most part I enjoyed this book. It was mostly fantasy with a healthy number of stories falling into dark fantasy and horror. The scariest was Cat in Glass by Nancy Etchemendy. Only two of the stories got me smiling and those were: Gordon, the Self-Made Cat by Peter S. Beagle and The Burglar Takes a Cat by Lawrence Block. One of the cat series I follow is about Midnight Louie and is written by Carole Nelson Douglas so I was happy to see a short Midnight Louie here. One of my favorites was the retelling of a Japanese fairy story called The Poet and the Inkmaker's Daughter by Elizabeth Hand.

I did not like that so many of the stories included the cats coming to some kind of harm. My recommendation will be to those of you who enjoy reading fantasy. I have to say that I love the cover!

Rating: B

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

About the book: In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

First Line: If Patty weren't an atheist, she would thank the good Lord for school athletic programs because they basically saved her life and gave her a chance to realize herself as a person.
My thoughts: I needed a book for the Oprah Book Club portion of my personal challenge. After reading the blurbs for several of them I chose Freedom. They were glowing, telling how absolutely wonderful this book was. I hate to be critical of a book....I am not a writer and I can only imagine the work that goes into writing one, especially one as long as this one. The writing was great but the story was b.o.r.i.n.g. It droned on and on about the lives of characters who were never fleshed out. Way too many details were given about portions of their lives, especially the sections on sex. Yuck. I especially did not understand Walter, one of the main characters, who went from being patient and kind to being a hot head. He was an environmentalist who signed off on a strip mining venture with the understanding that, years from now, it would be a reserve for one species of bird.  ??????? It seemed quite preachy and repetitive to me on subjects such as the environment, social issues, sex, and politics.

The second half was better than the first, the story moved on along and got more interesting. By the end the characters had been through hell, long excruciating hell, but came out the other end with some hope.

Rating: C

Quote: "Each new thing he encountered in life impelled him in a direction that fully convinced him of its rightness, but then the next new thing loomed up and impelled him in the opposite direction, which also felt right. There was no controlling narrative: he seemed to himself a purely reactive pinball in a game whose only object was to stay alive for staying alive's sake."