The Colour of Magic

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3 Stars

I am in the middle of a crazy Discworld kick.  Normally after two or three, I get sick of the style and stop reading them for a year.  But now I have read, like, six in a row and I am still going strong.  It’s weird.

The Colour of Magic is the first entry in the Discworld series, and this reading of it for me is actually a re-reading.  The story features Rincewind, an untalented wizard and practicing coward who has an uncanny ability to stay alive.  He meets friends and escapes enemies and has all sorts of adventures–like any Discworld book, the plot isn’t really important.  The first time I read this book, I absolutely loved it.  This time I only liked it. It’s not that TCOM is any worse now than it was back then, it is just that the newer books in the series are often better, so in comparison…

Oh, well.  It is still a fun book to read and a good introduction to the series.

ben

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Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Crazy Lady

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3.5 Stars

This was a cute book. Most of the Newbery Award books are pretty short, I’ve noticed, and this one is no exception. The story is of a young boy who, due to a minor indiscretion, must help the local “crazy lady” with her daily chores. The woman is ridiculed by her neighbors, due to her excessive drinking and her subsequent strange behavior, so the boy is upset at his punishment. He’s surprised to find the woman has a son about his age, who has some mental problems. The two boys become friends, much to the embarrassment of the boy’s old gang, and this helps everyone to grow.

It was a nice story, ended like you would expect, and left me feeling a mix of melancholy and happiness. That’s always a good feeling at the end of a powerful book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chindi

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3 1/2 Stars

This here’s a decent science fiction story. It’s a little slow at times, but it has an engaging setting and a decent plot. I don’t think, however, that a non-sci-fi fan would enjoy. It’s about space-faring humans, way in the future, who stumble across some intriguing remnants of older space-faring civilizations. There follows great adventure and intriguing mystery.

This is the first book I read in a series of novels written by Jack McDevitt.  They are not story-dependent upon eachother, but they do involve a lot of the same characters and take place around the same time (24th century).  I am enjoying the series, from which I have read two more books since Chindi, and I expect to read more of them in the future.

ben

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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5 Stars

Here it is; my first 5 Star book for this website! I first heard about this book when I was working the Download Fest at Shoreline Amphitheater (23 consecutive hours on sight). Working the second stage there consists mainly of sitting around, and reading, if you are wise enough to bring a book. I was not, but one of my co-workers was, and this is the book he was reading. Not only did he say how great it was, but numerous pseudo-circus performers, who were set up next our our stage, also mentioned, as they passed by, how much they loved the book. So I figured I had to check it out. Obviously I liked it. In fact, I read it in under a day.

It is about a boy with sever OCD (imagine and adolescent Monk), who finds a murdered dog and sets out to solve the mystery. It is told in the first person, and it has stark sort of humor that is unique in books I have read. I am not going to go into much details, mainly because I read the book, like, a month ago (been having a hard time keeping up with this whole book blogging thing) but I really really liked it.

ben

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Color of Magic

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3.5 Stars

I have to take breaks between reading Terry Pratchett books. My friend summed it up the best, I think, when he asked “Do you ever get the feeling that Terry is sitting in a room, writing and laughing to himself?” Yes, I do get that feeling. It’s kind of like one of those long-running jokes between friends that’s really funny when you forget about it for awhile then bring it up at a dinner sometime. But if you keep harping on it without giving it a break, it just loses the humor it once had. For this reason, I only allow myself one or two Terry Pratchett novels per month, and only one of them can be a Discworld book.

I found The Color of Magic in a discount bookstore when I was looking for something to read during lunch at the mall (it was a marathon shopping day. What?). Anyhow, I was a little Pratchett-ed out, but given this was the very first Discworld book ever, I thought I’d break my two-book-per-month rule and pick this up. Was I ever right! I love delving into the earlier works when I know the world when it’s more fleshed out. It’s interesting to see what the author started out with and see where it goes. Fun!

This is our very first introduction to Discworld, and the beginning of a trilogy (I believe) featuring a failed wizard. This actually follows most Discworld plots, with the whackiness, interesting characters, and strange happenings all in tact.

The book was enjoyable, probably due to its novelty as the first. It also was recognizable as a template for later works, but wasn’t the clone some of the other books became. I over all enjoyed it. It was a fast, simple read that is a great introduction to the never-ending series that is Discworld.

–Adrienne

Published in: on November 2, 2007 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cell

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3.5 Stars

Steven King has become experimental as of late. In his earlier works (after Richard Bachman, but before his car accident) he had a definite style–highly detailed, sickly twisted horror fantasies that tapped into our deepest fears (and gave us some new ones to haunt our dreams). Now, I’m not sure if this is actually what happened, but it seems like ever since Mr. King got hit by that car, his style has changed a bit. Perhaps he was beginning to explore different realms beforehand and the car accident was just a coincidence, but he has changed. His basic style is still there, but he’s adding to it, or taking away from it, or coming from a different direction or something. Whatever he’s doing, the result is different. He doesn’t seem to have a clearly defined point of view anymore…each new book is so different from any other he’s written that it can be hard to recognize it as a Steven King novel. I haven’t decided if this is good or bad yet…the books are hit or miss at the moment but I love this author so much I’m willing to keep trying no matter what I thought of his last work.

Cell is one of his newer books, and harkens back to some of the stories that made him great. It tells of a massive pulse sent out along phone waves that infects anyone who uses a cell phone. Think zombies without having to die first. The newly infected blindly attack anything that moves while the survivors struggle to continue in the living world. Hilarity and horror ensues. The story continues in a typical King fashion all the way until the end–which he just leaves kinda dangling. Strange. The major story was wrapped up mostly, but he ended everything on a cliffhanger which just left a strange taste in my mouth. One of his recent books doesn’t have an ending at all–it’s more the story of someone telling a mystery with no answer. Cell has that same unfinished quality, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. I guess time and more books will tell.

–Adrienne

Published in: on August 18, 2007 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Cirque du Freak

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2.5 stars

I enjoy creepy stories–those ones with the slightly disturbing covers and the uncomfortable premise that stick with you during the dark part of the night well after you closed the back cover. This looked like one of those, and I’ve noticed that creepy tales directed at the teen set are much better in imagination terms than those who target adults. Have you noticed this? Most every adult horror story involves a serial killer; a nearly human monster who is a serial killer; a supernatural being that looks and acts a lot like humans that is a serial killer; or an unknown hostile energy from the great beyond that kills lots of people, like a serial killer. It’s like adult stories work within the parameters of perceived reality, and place the embodiment of horror (read: serial killer) in that reality, or bring to life a character from human mythology that has historically embodied horror and places it in reality. I’ve read countless books about vampires, ghouls and goblins, and evil spirits that prey on the living. But even in the books from the supernatural being’s point of view, I find that a rigid set of physical laws must be followed to make the book “realistic.” After all, if it’s not “realistic” no one will “buy it” in any way, shape or form. I hate this philosophy.
You only really find stretches of imagination in children or young adult literature, and even then it can be iffy. There is a much higher density of good, imaginative horror that takes you completely out of reality and into a whole new world. Isn’t that the point, after all? Well, this is what I was hoping for when I picked up Cirque de Freak. The front cover was suitably creepy with a distorted and screaming face superimposed over a rotted out theater; the pages were decorated with images of spiders, and the title was compelling. The story, however, didn’t quite live up to the hype.
I’m not sure where it fell flat; the premise was good: a group of boys find a flyer advertising a banned freak show taking place at midnight in a rotted out old theater. Only two can go, and these two witness terrible and amazing things. After the show, one boy hangs back to blackmail a vampire (I know!) and ends up rejected, while the other boy plots to steal a deadly spider and ends up begrudgingly becoming the vampire’s assistant. Interesting, no? For some reason, the story just didn’t gel. The characters seemed to constantly act in stupid, unreasonable ways (which I just hate! Hate, hate hate! Honestly, if you’re going to bother to set up a character in a particular way, why have him act out of character constantly? If I can’t imagine myself making those particular decisions given the predefined characteristics, then the character rings very, very false. Forcing a character to act strangely for the sake of the storyline smacks of plot-driven, uncreative writing. In my opinion, of course) and the plot twists themselves, while compelling, just seemed like a prequel. It was almost as if the author wanted to do a series of books (which I later found was true–I think he’s on book 11 of this series now), and simply needed 200 pages to begin the whole thing so he could get started on the real story telling. I don’t like that. Each book should be good in and of itself, regardless of the series to which it is related.
There were some fine points to this story, I must admit. This book is the first in a series about a vampire and his young assistant as they travel the world and have vampiric adventures. This set up also played with the question of what happens when someone becomes a vampire and they have to leave their previous life behind? I’ve noticed in all the other vampire-based books I’ve read, this issue isn’t really confronted. All vampires-to-be either have no ties to the earthly plane, hate what ties they do have, or are in a family that doesn’t mind the thought of an undead relative. This book looks at a normal twelve year old, with a loving family, good friends, and years to go in school. He plays soccer, he does homework, he picks on his little sister…and he makes a deal with a vampire to save the life of his best friend. Once the deal is made, the boy must turn part vampire and become an assistant, thus effectively ending his life. He fakes his own death, but must suffer through his own funeral as he lays comatose in his coffin waiting for the effects of a drug to wear off. It’s an interesting premise, especially as the boy hears the pain his family is going through, and thinks about all the things in his life he will miss. So that was good, but not quite enough to save this obvious attempt at the beginning of a series. I hope the next books make up for it.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cat

2 1/2 Stars

This is one of those books in the Flowers in the Attic series, which is basically teen girl fiction. This involves a girl named Cat who is going through group therapy due to childhood trauma. We get to learn, eventually, what trauma sent Cat to the group, as well as the backgrounds of her group mates. It took me just a couple of hours to read this. If you want a quick, easy book for a trip, I’m betting everything in this series is written the same way.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon

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4 Stars

This is a group of short stories about a fictional saloon where people find what they need when they need it. They also have an insult contest every Tuesday. Alternately funny and moving, this collection tells the stories of a variety of regulars who deal with every day occurrences and supernatural/extraterrestrial encounters with the same compassion and warmth.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  

A Conventional Corpse

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2 1/2 Stars

You know, there’s this rash of SLM’s that are including really, really annoying characters we’re supposed to love because they’re “human” or “real.” BS! I hate the annoying characters. They’re annoying! They fly off the handle for no reason, yell at characters you like and bitch for no reason. This book is chock full of “human” characters that I hope die. Of course, none of them did. The one character that actually told the annoying ones off got killed. Damnit! Then the main character, who isn’t all that annoying herself but has a super annoying teenage daughter, figures everything out. Eh.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Celtic Riddle

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3 Stars

A SLM (silly-little-mystery) made interesting by the inclusion of a riddle that the heirs of the deceased must figure out in-order to receive their inheritance. An outsider helps the family and nearly gets killed for her efforts. Mystery ensues. Someone figures out who did it. The end.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chocolat

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4 1/2 stars

Ah, romance. This is one of those wonderfully romantic stories set in a foreign country and chronicling the unlikely romance between a precocious and strong willed woman and the devastatingly handsome and dangerous drifter. This story revolves around a chocolate shop which our heroin opens in a tiny, church-dominated town. She hits resistance at every turn, yet ends up changing the lives of everyone she meets. The book is short and sweet, and, like most good stories, has been made into a movie that falls far short of the written word (although Johnny Depp did play a fantastically handsome hero). A great weekend read for someone who needs a little infusion of love.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Click Here for Murder

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4 Stars

Usually I can recognize a silly little mystery (one of my favorite genres, by the way) simply by looking at the cover. The jacket art is usually cartoonish, the title clever, and the author’s name is in big yellow letters at the top. This book had all that, except it was really, really good. Not silly-little-mystery good, but really good. The main character of this book is a computer. The computer is an artificial intelligence program written to take care of queries from customers, but has become self aware. Apparently there are other books in this series, and I just came in the middle. The computer interacts with a couple humans who know of its sentience, and together they solve the murder of a programmer. Fascinating! For some reason the mix of characters and the witty dialogue blended perfectly with the simplistic storyline and the secondary story of the computer trying to figure out the meaning of life. An excellent read that I just couldn’t put down.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Club Dead

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4 Stars

I’m fond of vampire books. I like the glamour and mystery that often accompany these mythical creatures, and any author worth her salt creates a fascinating world in which these immortals live. This book is a prime example of a new world. In this story, vampires, werewolves and psychics are all very real and living among traditional humans. The vampires announced their presence to the world years earlier when a substitute to human blood was discovered. Now they live semi-peacefully among us, dealing with the prejudices of every day mortals. The story involves a secret psychic who is engaged to marry a vampire. She is slowly being drawn into the secret world of the vampires and must keep her mind-reading abilities under wraps. Mystery, intrigue and danger follows, and she must learn to trust her fiancee’s friends with her life. The world created was so lush and well thought out that I didn’t want it to end. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to feel this was as well, so the sequel has been checked out of my library for months. You know it’s a good book when I look for a sequel the second I finish reading the first.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Colorado Kid

3 Stars

In the past few years Steven King has started to branch out and experiment with his writing. I enjoy when writers grow in their craft, allow experimentation, and ultimately mature as writers. It takes bravery and a willing to fail to attempt a book that is not in your usual vein. Few writers do this, and the business is poorer for it. Steven King has always been a pioneer, and perhaps his lead will allow other writers to branch out. Anyhow, this book, written in 2005, is billed as the beginning of a new wave of pulp fiction. It is published in paperback, with a drawing of a young woman sitting cross-legged on the front. The tag line says “Would she learn the dead man’s secret?” It’s very reminiscent of old detective novels or film noir. The story itself is rather strange, however. It’s about a young reporter in a tiny Main town who learns the local unsolved mystery from the two older reporters. That’s the story. They tell her the mystery. There’s no going out and solving it, there’s no single bit of information that she brings to the table that sums it all up. The entire book is the old men telling their young protoge a story with no real end. Steven King even writes a short chapter at the end talking about the nature of mysteries and how people always want to figure them out. He also mentions that you’d either love or hate the book. Interesting.

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment