What’s On My Bookshelf: The Last Werewolf

Last week I was 75 pages, give or take a few on my iBook, from finishing The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say while, thus far, there was much to like and dislike about the book, the last 75 pages were worth the wait. I wrote the review before the very best part of the book (Sorry, Lev Grossman). Did Quentin redeem himself? Well, not exactly, but the action was great and Grossman threw in some interesting curveballs to tie everything together. I admire Grossman for taking Harry Potter and the world of Narnia, turning them sideways, if not totally upside down, and creating a very “human” magical adventure. I might even read the sequel: The Magician King—but not yet, because now I’m reading The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan.

I’m not very far into this book, only 85 pages to be exact. (I’m reading an old-fashioned paper book this time), but I’ve already been furiously highlighting favorite passages. I love Duncan’s style, a sort of dark, twisted, Victorian humor/horror with a modern-day twist. Here’s an example of how the protagonist and coincidentally, the last living werewolf, Jake Marlowe, thinks:

“There’s a reason humans peg-out around eighty: prose fatigue. It looks like organ failure or cancer or stroke but it’s really just the inability to carry on clambering through the assault course of mundane cause and effect. If we ask Sheila then we can’t ask Ron. If I have the kipper now then it’s quiche for tea. Four score years is about all the ifs and thens you can take. Dementia’s the sane realization you just can’t be doing with all that anymore.”

The story is told from Jake’s slightly morose point of view and it’s definitely an interesting one. Both human and wolf intermingle to give you a violently, empathetic character. At this point in the story Jake is more than ready to die; he’s lived (without love) long enough. Some people want him dead and some, surprisingly, are ready to do whatever it takes to keep him alive! More on The Last Werewolf next week.

Before I go, I want to thank Shawn Wickersheim for recommending The Last Werewolf. Be sure to check out Shawn’s blog at: http://inkcompetentwriter.wordpress.com. Also, for you persnickety ones, Yes, I said my next book would be Abarat, Absolute Midnight, by Clive Barker—and I seriously can’t wait to read it—but hey, what can I say? I changed my mind.


The Magicians

This week I’m reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Before I go on, let me state that I only read books I like. If after a few chapters I’m bored, I won’t finish the book. Given that, the books I discuss on this blog, are books I like. (Even if it doesn’t always seem like it.)

I was intrigued when I heard The Magicians described as a Harry Potter for adults—and I would certainly agree, it’s not for children. What’s my take on it? Well…

In The Magicians, Quentin, the main character, is invited to attend Breakbills, a college for magicians. At Breakbills, Quentin, along with other extremely bright students, learn that magic is more about hard work and technique, than talent. Although, only that spark (that unknown quality) allows them to become real magicians. Like other good fictional protagonists, Harry Potter among them, Quentin doesn’t fit in. At least, he feels like he doesn’t. He’s fixated with a Narnia-like series of books about a magical place called Fillory. If only, Quentin thinks, he could live in Fillory, he would be happy. So, when he’s invited to attend Breakbills, it seems like the next best thing. A college for magicians. Real magicians—not your David Copperfield variety. And if only that was the answer. But it isn’t. Grossman does his best to take the magic out of magic (at least, that was my impression). Breakbills is hard work, and in his sophomore year when Quentin joins a group of kids called the Physicals, it also becomes a place of hard liquor, drugs and sex. Your typical college adventure. Somehow, Quentin and the rest of the Physicals, even though they seem to be wasted ninety percent of the time, manage to graduate from Breakbills. They head off into adulthood, back into the real world and with Quentin still managing to hang on to the hope that if only he could live in Fillory, he would be happy—since Breakbills didn’t do it for him. Well, low and behold, Fillory is a real and Quentin and his still wasted pals manage to find their way in. Quentin is in Fillory, he’s even given a quest, but he still isn’t happy.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m 75 pages from the end, give or take a few (I’m reading this on my iPad, so pages remaining depends on font size), and Quentin is still a sniveling, whiney, unlikable lead character. Which is what his girlfriend, Alice (the least often inebriated Physical kid in the group) finally points out. Basically, she says (and I’m not quoting), I love you, Quentin, but stop being such a boob! The world’s not waiting to hand you happiness on a silver platter. You’re in Fillory; if you can’t be happy now, you never will be. And, if I’m not mistaken, that’s the moral of Lev Grossman’s story. Don’t spend your life thinking you’d be happy if only… Rather, be happy right now (or at least, choose not to be so miserable). I couldn’t agree more!

That said, I don’t think I’ve ever both liked and hated a book so much. I don’t like any of the characters, but I keep reading because I want to see them redeemed. Or, from my antiquated point of view—grow up!

As I said, I’m not finished with the book. Quentin still has 75 pages to redeem himself. I’m not sure he’ll be able to do it. Frankly, I don’t see what Alice see’s in him. I kind of wish Grossman had given us a few glimpses of what Quentin could be. Maybe he did. Maybe I missed them.

One more thing, there is a creature called The Beast in the story. The Beast pops us somewhere midway through Quentin’s college days. The Beast is supposed to be important and scary. Well, so far he’s not that scary and with only 75 more pages to go, having shown up only once, he doesn’t seem to be that important either. We’ll see.

Next week I may tell you what I think of the ending. For now, what’s next on my bookshelf? Abarat, Absolute Midnight, by Clive Barker. This is book three in the series and I absolutely loved—no, adored—the first two. In fact, Clive Barker’s Abarat could be my favorite fantasy series of all time. Looking forward to book three.

Happy Reading!

What’s On My Bookshelf: The Penitent Assassin

Welcome to What’s On My Bookshelf. When I was contemplating creating a new blog, one of the things I wanted to incorporate was a middle grade/YA Sci-Fiand Fantasy book critique section. Three things stopped me.

  1. First: It may take me two weeks to read a novel. Sometimes less, sometimes more… but I’m not up to cramming my way through a book a week just to keep up a book reviewblog.
  2. Second: I don’t always read young adult science fiction and fantasy books. In fact, I recently read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. (Loved it—I might add!)
  3. Third: What if I hate a book? A book that some really nice person  put their heart and soul into? Could I give it a bad review? Don’t think so…

As a compromise, I’ve created this page: A running commentary, if you will, rather than a critique of what I happen to be reading.

That said, if you love gritty, hardcore fantasy and adventure, check out a new eBook entitled: The Penitent Assassin, written by my friend, Shawn Wickersheim. He’s an amazing up and coming writer. So amazing, that despite what I said up above, I just had to write a review.

The Penitent Assassin is a nonstop fantasy adventure that is definitely dark, but at times also laugh-out-loud funny. Wickersheim may be a new author, but he has a wicked way with words, world building, and creating memorable lines and characters. He weaves just the right amount of magic and mayhem, as well as plenty of sex, lust, and greed. Download your copy at AmazonSmashwordsBarnes and Noble or the iBook store.

Next week I’ll be talking about The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I have lots to say about this book! Until then…