The Rule of Four

3.5 Stars

What a good story! This is what a good puzzle mystery should be. There was intrigue, there was mystery, there were fascinating puzzles that just begged to be solved. Now, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but puzzle mysteries can be hard. The author must craft a believably tough puzzle that is still solvable. These puzzles worked really well, but I think they were a bit too complex, and the solutions took too long to explain in a satisfactory manner. It would have been better to not explain them so throughly and just let the reader’s imagination take over.

It was still a great story, however, and was very hard to put down. The ending was most satisfactory, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a good puzzle read steeped in myth and history.

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Published in: on September 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Purrfect Murder, A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

By Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown… the latest in an everlasting series, that highlights the comings and goings and evilness of small town America, this time in Virginia. The typical cozy mystery series, typical action, with the typical cast, though this time a real whiner and bitchy person gets the axe, or knife if you will. Good description of the fall in rural horse country Virginia, including the influx of the rich into typical country life. A simple read, can get it done in a few hours,
not brain stimulating, but a good time waster.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Infinity Beach

3 1/2 Stars

Have you ever noticed that the Mystery and Science Fiction sections are always together, way at the end of the fiction books? That makes sense to me because Sci-Fi books usually have some type of mystery in them. Not necessarily a whodunit sort of story, but a what’s-really-going-on-here type of thing. All the Jack McDevitt books I have read feature this element, Infinity Beach more so than most. Kim Brandywine sets out to discover what really happened thirty years ago when her clone sister disapeared amid interesting circumstances. The book is very good until the end, where is really slows down.

This is a common complaint I have with a lot of books and movies, where they will be very interesting and exciting almost right until the climax or big reveal or whatever, and then go pfft. Sometimes this comes from writers not really having a good explanation for all the weirdness that has been going on (the TV show Lost, for example), but often it seems as it they just get tired of telling the story and give up. It’s disappointing.

ben

Published in: on April 16, 2008 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Eric

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3 1/2 Stars

From the cover art it appears that this is a parody of Faust. I do not know Faust, but I sure enjoyed Eric. It is about a fourteen year old boy who tries to conjure a demon, but gets Rincewind instead. They travel around and have ridiculous adventures, with a pissed off Luggage following them every step of the way. This is the ninth Discworld book, and it exhibits all the irreverent humor and ridiculous disregard for narrative cohesion that I love about the series. This is an improvement over the previous Rincewind novels.

ben

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 7:30 am  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  

The Light Fantastic

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3 Stars

Rincewind is back! This book is a direct sequel to The Color of Magic, perhaps the only direct sequel in the entire Discworld lexicon. This time Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage race across the Disc trying to stop it from crashing into a giant red star. Actually, Rincewind, as per usual, just tries to stay alive, while everyone around him goes crazy about the star. In the process we meet interesting characters and experience satirical adventure. Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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

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  

X Out of Wonderland

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3 Stars

Well, talk about a strange book. This was part of my foray into the general fiction stacks at the library, and it was an interesting find. So here’s the story: A man, with the clever name of “X” is living in a wonderful land where he has a great job, until a natural disaster destroys his house and sends him on a roller coaster ride of  economics (sound like a country you know, much?). His adventure leads him to find the love of his life, land in Mexican (I’m sorry…”Southern Country”) prison, rise to the top of the industrial world, and make friends with a hitch hiker in a seedy bar. You know, your normal, everyday coming of age story.

Despite being really strange, I liked the story. Of course, it was very, very heavy handed with the symbolism and obvious comments on American culture, but over all in was an interesting read. It was also a very short story, which made it a quick read.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Man Without a Counrty

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3 Stars

This collection of anecdotal stories shows off Vonnegut’s writing flair without involving the reader with anything to thought-provoking or memorable. It’s like at the end of an excellent symphony piece when to soloist comes out for an encore. You think, “Oh, that was nice,” but it doesn’t stick with you like the rest of the performance.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deepsix

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3 Stars

This is the second book I have read in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series, about 24th century humanity and their experiences in space exploration. It is also the second book, chronologically. This one is about a planet about to be swallowed up by a rogue gas giant, and the people who try to learn what they can from it before it’s gone. Of course things don’t go according to plan, and drama ensues.

Like the other books in the series, Deepsix is not for you, if you are not a fan of the genre. It can get bogged down in pseudo-sciency detail, and the swashbuckling adventure sequences can get a little repetitive at times. But I really like the picture it paints of future humanity, and McDevitt has a real gift for imagining alien worlds and creating engrossing stories in which to explore them.

ben

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

The Winter Room

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3 Stars

This was a lovely book. It wasn’t really the story itself that was moving, although the story was very nice, but the way the story was told. It had such beautiful writing, and a great descriptive pattern that made it come alive. The general story is about the evening on a working farm  when the patriarch of the family tells stories about his past life.

I think the author was writing in an effort to bring the story to life, using the reader’s senses. The author’s note at the beginning explains it all, and gives easily my favorite quote from a book: “If books could have more, give more, be more, they would still need readers, who bring to them sound and smell and light and all the rest that can’t be in books. The book needs you.”

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:37 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  

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 Westing Game

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3 Stars

Adrienne has moved away, but her legacy remains.   After finishing the last book, and discovering that all my other books are packed, I went rummaging desperately through the piles of stuff that Dean and Adie had left behind, and I found The Westing Game.  A Newberry award winner!  So I read it, and, duh, I liked it.

It is a fun little puzzle/mystery book.  It’s kinda silly, afterall it is a kids book, but still worth the read.

ben

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 11:13 am  Comments (1)