Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Demon's Daughter by Paula Altenburg

I almost skipped over this book because, despite the hot guy on the cover, it made me think “cowboy” and, in general, I don’t like cowboys. But the title intrigued me because I do like demon stories. (That’s right, I don’t like cowboys, but I do like demons.) I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.

This isn’t a typical old west setting. This is set way into the future, long after civilization as we know it has ended, every once in a while they stumble upon ruins left over from our current world. Goddesses came to this world, followed by demons, and then the goddesses left and somewhere along the way, the world devolved, returning back to its “old west” like ways. Now the people in Freetown live on the edge of the desert, following the orders of a former priestess, in hopes of having some protection from the demons that remained after the goddesses departed.

Hunter is the demon slayer, who possesses an amulet that protects him against demons. He’s hired by the priestess to capture a woman the priestess claims is demon spawn. He doesn’t trust the priestess, knowing of her hatred for women, but he knows if he doesn’t take the job, someone else will. He can’t handle the idea of an innocent woman handed over to the priestess.

But once he meets Airie, his ideas of innocent and guilty become muddled.

Hunter’s instinct is to kill demons, but he can’t bring himself to kill Airie. Even though the fire in her eyes reveals she’s part demon, he’s also seen that she has the ability to heal, cares about people and has a deep respect for life. He’s with her when the priestess who raised her dies, and the mountain she called home is destroyed. He feels obligated to watch over her, at least until he can figure out a better solution.

He isn’t sure what to do, and he’s afraid that his feelings toward her are nothing more than the lure of a demon. The romance between the two takes a while to build. The attraction is instant, but Hunter goes back and forth between wanting her and hating that she’s a demon. At times I found this a bit frustrating, but because they took a while to figure out their feelings for each other, their relationship felt more believable.

I liked that Airie was such a strong character. She’s always ready to fight when necessary to protect herself and those she cares about, and is never content to stand back and let others defend her. She’s a bit na├»ve, but not at all stupid. She’s aware of her limitations and understands there is much about the world she doesn’t know.

A few things did bother me about this book. There are so many people telling lies and keeping secrets, I had moments when I couldn’t even remember what the truth was. It was late at night/early in the morning and maybe I was having reading comprehension problems, but I recall one paragraph saying Airie’s birth caused the fire on the mountain and about two sentences later, it says the Demon Lord caused the fire and he was completely unaware of Airie’s birth. So how did her birth cause the fire? And near the end, when Airie has to make a choice about who she wants to be – goddess or demon – I wasn’t entirely certain I understood her options. I re-read one page a few times and then decided to just move forward and accept that it was complicated.

Also, I felt like there was a very intense love story there between the Demon Lord and the Goddess and as I was reading the book, I kept hoping more would be revealed about them. Maybe a prequel? I would really like a Goddess/Demon love story.

Overall though, I enjoyed this book. It’s a different take on the ideas of demons and goddesses.  This is the first book in a series called Demon Outlaws and I’m looking forward to the next book.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

I finished reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald in the early morning hours before I went to sleep.  when I woke a few hours later, I felt a heavy sadness because I realized the book was over and I would no longer be in Zelda's world and also, sadness because her life had turned out to be so miserable. Even though I knew the outcome, as I read the book, I kept hoping things would somehow get better, that someday she'd have the life she wanted. But as we all know, that didn't happen. 

Being a feminist, I've always been very much Team Zelda.  My fascination with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald began when I was in high school.  After reading and loving The Great Gatsby, I  read Tender is the Night, which is presumably largely autobiographical.  When I read it the first time, it seemed like a beautiful, but tragic love story.  When I read it again, as an adult, after having learned more about life in general, and in particular, the actual lives of Zelda and Scott, it seemed merely tragic.  Dick Diver was cruel to his wife, Nicole.  I despised the character as well as Scott, thinking how absurd he was to think he was writing a sympathetic character when in fact he was confessing to the horrible way he'd treated his wife and their marriage. 
I liked the way this book was written. As the title states, it's a novel, not an biography. The writer has taken liberties to create events as they may have happened, based on her research.  I thought it worked well. The Zelda of this novel sounds and behaves very much the way I have always imagined Zelda to be. 

This book does a great job of drawing us into the world of the Fitzgeralds - the success and the failures, the parties and the fights, but most of all the unrequited desire both Scott and Zelda felt to have something more. They were never satisfied with life, they always wanted something other than what they had - more love, more money, more acclaim, more friends, more booze. Scott wanted a beautiful, independent-minded wife, only to resent her independence and desire to establish a career of her own.  Zelda wanted a successful husband to take her away from her life in Alabama, only to resent being known as nothing more than the wife of a famous man.

The strongest theme of the book though is Zelda's struggle to create her own life, something independent of her husband. She wanted to be a dancer, a painter, a writer, something other than Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Every time she tried, every time she always succeeded, something got in the way - her husband or her health.  She admired feminists and other women who lived their own lives, but she was never brave enough to try and do as they'd done. 

By telling this story in Zelda's words, readers are able to feel as if they are directly involved in this world, they see the glamour, as well as experience the emptiness of that glamour.  It was never quite as fabulous as it seemed.  To the rest of the world, they were the "golden couple" and they worked at maintaining that facade, even as they fell apart at home.  While other marriages ended, they struggled to keep theirs intact because despite in all, they always believed they loved each other.  By hearing these stories told by Zelda, readers have a better understanding as to what they went through - true or not - and no one will ever know exactly what happened between the - it provides an interesting story.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and would like to learn more about Zelda's story.