Storm Front

4 Stars

Book One of the Dresden Files! That was my favorite TV show of last season, so of course it got canceled. Then someone told me it was based on a series of books, so I had to check it out. Not surprisingly, I liked the book version too.

Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, using his magic to solve real world problems, in a private eye sort of way. He also, on occasion, consults for the police when they encounter the unexplainable. Storm Front is a fun read because it explores Harry’s attempts to straddle two worlds, the mundane and the magical, without getting into too much trouble in either, and it mixes in a compelling whodunit in the meantime. I look forward to reading more.

ben

Published in: on April 13, 2008 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic

4 stars

Hee! That’s pretty much the entire review for this book. It was hilarious. Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker fame, tells the story of a large luxury space ship that goes a little crazy. Wacky adventures ensue. There’s really no point going more into the detail of the story line–which is honestly secondary to the witty writing and amusing situations. The book is a fast read, simply because it’s nearly impossible to put down, and you end up laughing through every page. Highly recommended

–Adrienne

Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sourcery

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3 1/2 Stars

More of Rincewind and the Luggage!  As far as Discworld characters go, Rincewind is not my favorite, so why am I reading all the Rincewind books at once?  Well I got an omnibus from the Science Fiction Book Club called Rincewind the Wizzard, which has the first four Rincewind-centered Discworld books.  It was sitting on my bookshelf for a while–since I had already read three of the four books, I was in no particular hurry to reread them, but it was something I was planning to do eventually.  Then I rented from the library the fifth Rincewind book, which makes mention of the chaos of Rincewind’s previous adventures, many details of which I could not remember, so I decided to go back for a refresher.

Anyway …. Sourcery is the story of an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son, who is by definition a source of magic, AKA sourcerer.  His extraordinary power sends the Disc all bonky and threatens to really mess things up, and it falls on the shoulders of hapless Rincewind to stop the sourcerer and save the Disc.  Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Sweet as Sugar, Hot as Spice

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2.5 Stars

So I don’t like romance novels…I think I’ve made that clear. However, when a friend handed this to me, saying “I didn’t like the novels either, until I read this!” I thought I’d give them a chance. I should have known better (this is the same friend that started teaching just to meet a boyfriend. They got engaged before the semester ended. That’ll end well).

Anyhow, onto the drama in the book. This story was about an independent woman, who, in an obviously rebellious move, has opened her own sex education firm specializing in naughty videos showing the curious what good sex is really like. Her uptight but rich mother and very conservative and traditionally married sister both disapprove of her chosen profession, and wish she would just settle down and get married. She, of course, has different ideas. Blah blah blah, forbidden-love-cakes. Insert typically boring girlie movie storyline here, but with waaaaaay more uncomfortable sex. Seriously. It was like every page. Wait…maybe that’s why my friend loved these books? Huh. I know way too much about her now.

My overall impression? I still hate romance novels. They aren’t that interesting, the story isn’t great, and they are really just vessels for badly written sex scenes. I mean, at least some of the traditional ones have the laughability aspect going for them.  This book was written as if the author thought “I know…I’ll make the romance novel a real book again!” then wrote this series. Yep, a series. I really, really hope Tracy will decide she wants to read romance and read the entire rest of the section. Bleh. But it was still better than The Eight.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 10:28 pm  Comments (1)  

The Stolen Child

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1/2 Star

So there is apparently an old Irish legend about changelings who abduct small children and replace them with their own kind. This awful book is based on that legend. It tries to be interesting by telling the story of both the changeling now living with people and the young boy now living with changelings. My problem with this book is there is no suspense, no mystery, no antagonist, no excitement–nothing to keep your interest. Just a boring narrative (two, actually, for double the bore) with piles and piles of minutiae.

ben

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 11:14 am  Leave a Comment  

The Subtle Knife

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4 Stars

The second installment of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Subtle Knife was my favorite. It starts off kinda slow, with a rather uninspired catching-up of past events and introduction of new characters, but then it really takes off.

Not only is this the most action packed of the three books, with edge-of-your-seat suspense and chode-numbing close calls, it also is the most surprising. For near the end, a great unmasking occurs. It turns out that while pretending for most of two books to be a better than average kid’s adventure series, His Dark Materials is also a compelling science fiction story. I will go into more details with my review of the final book.

ben

Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Subtle Knife

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4 Stars

This is the second book in His Dark Materials series, and it is a great example of the middle bit of a trilogy. The first book, The Golden Compass, told the story of Lyra, a young girl in a parallel universe who embarks on an adventure. This second book continues her story, sort of. The Subtle Knife switches points of view from Lira to our new hero, Will. He lives in our universe, is about Lyra’s age, and the story opens as Will is hiding his obviously disturbed mother from an unknown force. As Will at the tender age of 12 attempts to find his way out of a very grown up situation, he stumbles upon a window into another dimension where he can hide. There he meets Lyra, who, at the end of the last book, followed her father through the opening in the Aurora.

While this story is a continuation of the last, I like how the author switches from Lyra’s point of view to Will’s. We no longer are privy to Lyra’s secret talks with her daemon, but know what Will is thinking and feeling. The story progresses in true trilogy style, with The Subtle Knife being wrought with strife and ending on a very low note. What is nice about this entire series, though, is each book can stand on its own to a certain extent; there are two major storylines in each: the over-arching story of Lord Asriel’s rebellion against the Authority (of which we get more detail in this book), and the more contained story unique to each book. In the first, it was the story of Lyra and her adventures while trying to reach her father. In the second, it was the story of Will, and his adventures while trying to reach his father. A nice parallel there..our two heroes engaged in identical missions in separate worlds. While the common storyline remains unfinished at the end of this book, Will’s story ends neatly, if unpleasantly, and leaves the final book to take on the main story.

–Adrienne

Published in: on August 12, 2007 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Summerland

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1.5 Stars

Ok. Gah. Alright. *Breath* Well. So there I am, perusing the children’s section (again) and looking for a brightly-colored, interesting cover with a grabbing synopsis to take with me back to my office. There’s nothing better during a busy day than to lose yourself in a fantastical world of magical beings and adventure. Best lunch ever! So I stumble upon Summerland, and it has all the required points: bright cartoonish cover showing a group of young people in a flying car, traveling over a countryside with the hint of fantasy and magic. The summary was even better–a young boy is dragged into the adventure of a lifetime when he finds a way to follow tree branches into another world. Ooohh! Neat! I bet there’s an unlikely hero, a coming of age, and a grand adventure! What fun! Isn’t it horrible when your hopes are dashed? Let me explain.

This book had it all–a beautifully imagined world populated by giants and gnomes and interesting beasts. The young boy from our time is, of course, the outcast with few friends and an inventor father, and he must travel into this new world to save his father from the canine threat that has kidnapped him for his mind. Fun! However, there was one major issue I had with the story–the author’s weird obsession with baseball. The entire book was based on baseball. The story starts with our young hero wanting to quit little league, and his father wanting him to stick with it. Not unsusual…baseball is boring, and the kid wasn’t any good. The first chapter is a tedious account of the little league game. We’re talking a hit by hit, play by play commentary, focusing primarily on how bad this one little boy is at the game. After untold pages of this, the game limps to an end, and we can continue our story…which involves the boy talking to his father about baseball, the father coaching the boy in baseball, the boy’s friends trying to help, and the coach yelling at the boy about baseball. Oh dear lord. It can’t get worse, right?

The story finally gets going as the boy’s father is kidnapped, and a gnome-elf thing approaches the boy and tells him the secret of inter-world travel. Then the boy is approached by a baseball scout. A scout. For baseball. I guess this is the Yoda-type character meant to lead the boy through his coming trials and tribulations. The scout explains mysteries of life to the boy using every baseball analogy in the book, then sends him on his way into another world, armed with a bat and glove. A bat and glove!

The boy proceeds to travel with his closet friends and newly found magical creatures through the new world, where they encounter lots of resistance and must overcome many hurdles. Do they do this by fighting? Wits? Sheer brain power? Of course not! Each and every problem is overcome by, wait for it, a game of baseball. Seriously! We’re talking “hey, a band of giants is going to eat us…let’s play a game of baseball to see if they will! The winners get to do whatever they want!” And are these games just mentioned in passing? No way! We get the hit-by-hit, play-by-play tedium that made the first chapter so damn memorable. Just kill me.

Well, the story ends in good fantasy fashion, with the boy growing up and magically becoming a baseball master, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except me. Because I just spent a million hours (this book was around 700 pages long) reading a book that had all the potential of becoming a great new fantasy, but ending up being bogged down in endless baseball descriptions. Now, I don’t really like baseball, but I don’t outright hate it. Sure, there are usually other things I’d rather be doing than watching a game on TV, but I’ve been to many a game live and it can be a fun outing. It’s not just the fact that the book was full of baseball. That could have worked, had the author spent less time explaining every single moment in the countless games, and used it more as a theme. He started this in the beginning, when he had the Yoda-scout explain that baseball was a way to live a slow summer afternoon. That was nice. I didn’t even mind the scout thing and the analogies between baseball and life. There was a great story in there…it was just impeded by all those innings and details about pop flies and stolen bases. It could have been so much better!

My final word on the matter (maybe): if you love listening to baseball on the radio and you love fantasy books, buy this one immediately. If you’re more concerned about a well-written story that moves, avoid this like the plague.

–Adrienne

Published in: on August 12, 2007 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Son of a Witch

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5/5

I liked this book even better than its prequel, Wicked.  It continues the story from the point of view of someone who was a child in the first book.  It switches back and forth from the past to the present for the first half or so of the book, and does so very cleverly.  When the present is being narrated you are wondering how the characters got to this point, and when the past is being narrated you are wondering how that past led to the present you’ve read about.  Its all very interesting and keeps you into the story.

This book is even more adult than the last, including more than hints of the adult themes that were hinted at in the first book.  There is less political intrigue, which made the second story make more sense to me but makes it feel a little like the author abandoned a piece of the first story without explanation.

The ending is clearly a segue to another sequel, and I would love to read it if there ever is one.  I had a lot of fun with this book, and even think I caught some subtle references to some of the “Wizard of Oz” sequels, including how Ozma was kept hidden.

-TC

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

The Strange Files of Fremont Jones

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4 Stars

I expected this boring-looking paperback to slip nicely into the SLM category. It technically did, but I loved it. The distinguishing feature of this story was the main character–a woman named Fremont Jones. The tale takes place in the late 1800’s when California was just ending it’s gold rush era and San Francisco was a big immigrant town. Fremont flees her father’s house in Boston when she gets wind she will be forced to marry her stepmother’s cousin. She changes her name to Fremont Jones as a tribute to her dead mother, and opens a business in the heart of San Francisco. Her business is typing–not many people were able to type at that time, and Fremont took dictation for letters and typed handwritten notes. One letter involved a murder, and she is quickly sucked into the investigation that nearly leads to a love affair and death. A fantastic tale. I think a great character can really make a book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Soul Music

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3 Stars

Ah, Terry Pratchett. Funny, funny man. This story is about death’s granddaughter. That’s funny. I especially liked the description of Death’s house.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:18 am  Comments (1)  

Season’s Revenge

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2 Stars

I should just come up with a generic review for silly-little mysteries. It would save me a lot of time. This is a mystery. It takes place around christmas, and the decedent dies in a tent. Someone figures out who did it. The end.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slightly Single

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2 1/2

Ah, female fiction. As I read more members of this genre, I am noticing out a formula: Twenty/thirty something female has bad yet handsome boyfriend/husband that wrongs her in some way and she spends the rest of the story either getting over him or getting revenge and growing in the process. Insert happy-if-melocolony-yet-uplifting ending. This book follows that formula exactly. Set it in New York during a hot summer and you’ve already read the book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shoes

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2 stars

No story here–just isolated paragraphs about the history, style and design of shoes stuck among hundreds of glossy photos. If you like shoes, you’ll like looking at them. Not very engaging, though. More of a coffee table book.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Skeleton in the Closet

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3 Stars

Another in the silly-little-mystery series, expect the hero in this story isn’t dashing or brave or interesting. He lives with his mother, and isn’t too proud of himself. Once his mother dies, he has to find the balls to move on with his life. He tries to do so with a mousy woman, much like himself, but their affair is interrupted by a murderous secret. The only think different about this book is the personality of the hero. Interesting, but only barely memorable.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment