Building Harlequin’s Moon

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2 1/2 Stars

Larry Niven is famous for writing the Ringworld series, the first book of which I have (mostly) read and not much liked. However I have enjoyed reading other books of his which have been co-written with other authors. This book he wrote with someone named Brenda Cooper, but I did not like it. I takes place in a future where artificial intelligences and nanotechnology have run amok. A bunch of people flea Earth for a far away planet called Ymir, but run into some engine trouble on the way and have to make a pit stop in a barren star system, at a gas giant called Harlequin, where they can spend some time terraforming one of it’s moons into a livable enough planet to build a supercollider, with which they can create antimatter to power their ship the rest of the way to Ymir. Unfortunately, after a generation or two, some friction develops between the moon born labor and the bosses on the ship. This all sounds pretty interesting to me, but after this set-up nothing happens for most of the book. It’s like The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress without all the good bits.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blink

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3.5 Stars

This was one of the two books my friend Dave recommended very highly. It is a very popular productivity book making the rounds, and I can see why. It’s an interesting (albiet not fast) read about how our brains process new information, for better or for worse. It does open one’s eyes to the power of the subconscious, and the author is obviously trying make people understand their own minds.

It was helpful, especially given my new attempt at a PhD. Anyone who is looking for a non-typical self help book, this should be your second to pick up (the first should be Tipping Point).

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Bluest Eye

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3 1/2 Stars

Oprah’s Book Club! Oh, well. When Adrienne put out the list of books that had most frequently been requested to be banned, this one caught my eye because, one, Toni Morrison is a famous, Nobel Prize-winning author and, two, there is a Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli) song with a line in it asking why we “follow the law of the bluest eye.” I always thought that was a peculiar turn of phrase, and when I saw this book on Adie’s list I figured, I like the song, maybe I’ll like the book too.

And I did like the book! It is not the sort of book with an engaging story or a lot of suspense, so it is a bit unusual for me. Instead it focuses on the characters of the story, and the society that has shaped them into what they are. It was very interesting. It looks like some folks want it banned because incest is kinda central to the story. That, and there’s some naughty language, but the book is depicting a dirty world, so the explicitness seems appropriate.

So back to the hip-hop music. The first line of the book is used by Wyclef in “The Year of the Dragon”, and the last-ish paragraph is used as the chorus for that Black Star song “Thieves in the Night” that got me reading this in the first place. Neat.

ben

Published in: on December 3, 2007 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Black Powder War

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3 Stars

In this, the third installment of the Temeraire series, Captain Lawrence and his crew make the long trek from China back to England, experiencing many adventurous encounters along the way.

I am noticing a pattern with these books.  They start off really slow and boring (with the exception of the first one, which had newness going for it), and make me wonder, Why the hell am I reading this garbage.  But then they get super exciting about halfway through, and I can hardly put the book down.  Oh well…

There is a fourth book out now.  I have it on hold at the library and look forward to reading it soon.

ben

Published in: on November 17, 2007 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brother Odd

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3.5 Stars

Oh, Odd. You are my favorite! When Dean Koontz first introduced you in Odd Thomas, I fell in love, and that love affair continues into this third book in the series. While it is nearly impossible to ever meet the expectations of the first, surprising book, Mr. Koontz has continued the series with flair.

In this story, Odd runs from the demons (and the memory of a lost love) in his small town, and goes for some rest and relaxation by temporarily joining a secluded monk’s order, where he continues to wow with the fluffiness of his pancakes. He doesn’t get the relaxation he desires, though, and must once again use his unique gift to solve problems.

I liked this book, albeit not as much as the first (I’m not sure anything can come close to the first) or even the second. Maybe it’s one of those cases where having a character with the ability to see ghosts can only take a story so far. After a point, something new and exciting needs to come in to bring about new success. Whatever the reason, I only give this one slightly above average in terms of plot-line, but I will always read these books with excitement. Such a different character is hard to come by, and I eagerly await the next story.

–Adrienne

Published in: on November 2, 2007 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Book of Dead Days

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3.5 Stars

You know, I really like horror and suspense novels written for children or young adults. Its like the author has such strict perimeters he or she must write within, that the author comes up with uniquely horrible situations meant to terrify a child’s mind. I don’t know about you, but those things that frightened me as a child still secretly frighten me today. 
The lighter creepiness of these novels plays to this fright, and gives a most enjoyable read.

The Book of Dead Days is the first in a series. We follow the adventures of a boy (named, aptly, Boy) as he works as the apprentice of a sorcerer. The sorcerer engages in some sketchy past times, looking for eternal life, selling his soul to the devil, then trying to back out of that sale. You know, usual sorcerer stuff. Boy and his friend must stop the sorcerer from replacing his own soul with Boy’s, and they are naturally on a deadline.

It was a fun and quick read, without the triteness of most horror-for-children novels. I suggest pulling this out for a cozy time by the fire this winter. Enjoy!

–Adrienne

Published in: on November 2, 2007 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

3 Stars

I went through a period where I was trying to read all the new mystery novels in order (or at least in the order that they put them out on the shelves in the library). This was one of those books…I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. You see, I’m not a big fan of the super-serious mystery. I much prefer the silly-little mystery, or, goodness knows, the good mystery. This book looks like your stereotypical super-serious mystery…author’s name at the top, almost bigger than the title; main character a man (even a retired cop!); heinous murders happen that he alone can fix. It was the whole package. This turned out to be a pretty good story.

Apparently, this is part of a series, featuring out hero. He retired to a beautiful home in the English countryside, where murder reaches him on his doorstep. Despite his wife’s protestations, he throws himself into the investigation, which he, of course, solves after numerous adventures.
I liked the story, and I liked the characters. the family was a great group (the wife happily fed the local bums, was a doctor that made low-cost house calls, and cared for her husband in ways not usually seen in a super serious mystery). There was some nice tension built up throughout the plot, but it wasn’t so badly done that I just didn’t want to finish. Over all, a pretty good read.

–Adrienne

Published in: on November 2, 2007 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Blackstone Chronicles

The Blackstone Chronicles

3.5 Stars

I first read this novel (well, technically it’s a collection of short novels..novellas? written and published one at a time in a series. It’s called a serial novel and it seems to come and go in phases–Stephen King started the modern craze with his serial novel The Green Mile, and John Saul thanks King at the end of this book for King’s endless help and advice) several years ago. I’m a sucker for creepy horror stories…especially those that plumb the depths of human depravity.

This is the story of a lonely(ish) man who has moved back to his childhood town. He grew up the son of the mental hospital’s caretaker, and moved away as soon as his father died. Now he’s back, and has to face the demons he ran away from so many years before.

John Saul does a brilliant job of capturing the quaint subtleties of a small town, while impregnating each aspect with just enough creepiness to give you the shivers. I reread this book not to long ago, and liked it just as much as I did the first time. They’ve even made a cute little video game from the book–one of those “hover your mouse around until you find the hotspot” deals where you have to solve riddles and catch a killer. It was pretty well done, if a little trite. I enjoyed it.

–Adrienne

Published in: on November 1, 2007 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Big Over Easy

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3.5 Stars

My friend Tracy started telling me about this book a long time ago. Eventually she dropped it off and I finally got to read about all the fun, imaginative things she had mentioned. I love it when friends give me books they are excited about!
It was a really fun read. The story is about a real place in the world where fairy tales are embodied and live among us. The fairy tale characters (and their inevitable stories) are policed by Jack Sprat (shall eat no fat) and his partner Mary Mary (quite contrary). This particular story revolves around Mary Mary’s first case with underdog Jack (he is forced to work nursery crimes while his ex-partner and frenemy gets the bigger busts) as he investigates the death of Humpty Dumpty. He sat on a wall, you see, and had a great fall. No one could put him together again, and now Jack and Mary Mary must piece together the evidence (hee! I’m clever) and figure out what happened.

The author does a great job brining in all the great nursery rhymes–from Old Mother Hubbard to Wee Willy Winky. It was fun the way he did it–he put each character into the setting of their nursery rhyme, but didn’t spell it out. I found myself reciting the rhymes as each character was introduced. Do you know how hard it is to remember some of these?!? I couldn’t think of the Wee Willy Winky one at all (apparently he ran through town at 8 or something) and I kept getting the real version of Old Mother Hubbard mixed up with Andrew Dice Clay’s version (it went something like this for hours: “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her old dog a bone…something something something, something something else…damnit! And gave her a bone of his own! What the hell is the real rhyme?!?”). Thank goodness for Google.
Anyhow, the story clever, the characters fun, and the chance to revisit some beloved nursery rhymes priceless. There is that annoyance factor of the arch nemesis doing everything to undermine our hero’s work, and I hate that type of thing. You know what would be awesome? Punching fictional characters. Malfoy is next on my list. The great news is this is the first book in a series that follows Mr. Sprat on his investigating duties. Think CSI in nursery land. Fun for us!

–Adrienne

See Tracy’s review of this book!

Published in: on August 18, 2007 at 10:56 am  Comments (1)  

The Big Over Easy

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5/5

Very clever, and especially fun if you know a lot about nursery rhymes. This is the crime story version of what really happened to Humpty Dumpty when he sat on the wall.

There is a town where nursery rhyme characters live and interactive with normal people. Given the unique problems and issues this segment of the population deals with, a division of the police force is put in charge of solving crimes relating to this minority group. Some of the police in this division are nursery rhyme characters themselves, allowing them to really understand the culture.

In this story you get to know Humpty Dumpty, who it turns out is a womanizer who was really more clever with money that you’d probably have given him credit for. When he turns up in pieces at the bottom of his sitting wall, the Nursery Crime division is called in. Detective Jack Spratt takes the case, and even though sometimes he seems to bumble his way through it like Inspector Gadget would, he is very tenacious about getting the bad guy(s). There are plenty of great laughs along the way, and this book would be suitable for any child old enough to understand the language its written in.

It is written as a true crime story, but with a tongue-in-cheek feel to it that will keep you amused. There is also a sequel, called The Fourth Bear, that I recommend.

-TC

See Adrienne’s review of this book!

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Baked to Death

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4 Stars

I just love this series. I think I’m really into vampires…this particular vampire I like a lot. He’s a gay historian in the UK that is able to go out in sunlight due to heavy-duty sunblock and a good hat. He gets involved in a Ren Fair type of thing where a murder takes place. He figures things out while advancing his relationship with his handsome assistant. Ah, love, murder and dress-up. What more can you want?

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:53 am  Leave a Comment  

By the Light of the Moon

2 stars

A SLM. Nothing really stand-outish about this book. It has a moon on the cover.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Black House

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4 Stars

The sequel to The Talisman, Black House pairs Steven King and that other guy again and give us an update on the life of our young protagonist. This time the grown boy must face the evil found inside, yep, you guessed it, a black house. The detailed environment coupled with the sci-fi/horror mix makes this a great book to immerse yourself.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:20 am  Leave a Comment  

The Bone Parade

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4 Stars

A very creepy thriller. A young artist disappears during a summer internship and her mentor goes on a hunt to find her. The artist has been abducted by a psychotic sculptor who uses human victims as his molds. It made me me shiver to read this, and I actually had nightmares. I love that type of thing! A well written, very creepy book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bitter Harvest

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3 1/2 Stars

This was my first introduction to Ann Rule. I had never heard of the crimes in this book, but she brought them to such life that I don’t think I could ever forget them. However, I didn’t really like the people involved. They were all kinda crappy. I did cry when they killed a greyhound, though.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment