The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Same review as the first, but with a much sunnier feel due to the location change.  I’m glad not all of them are as dismal as the first, since I don’t think I could have taken much more dark/grimy/dirty/sloven/etc. -ness.

-TC

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Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Completely mindless, but fun.  I don’t really see the draw of these books, but they’re harmless and quickly over.  I finished 2 full books in this series while waiting in a waiting room (though admitedly I was there for like 4 hours).

This is the first book in the series, and tells how three main characters become orphans.  But really that’s over with on the third page or so.  After that, there are frequent references to how lonely and sad the children are, but not much more about the circumstances.  The book was clearly written for children, so there are a lot of: “I feel disappointed.  That means I am not happy with how things turned out.”  “We know what disappointed means!  Get to the real point of why you’re disappointed!”  But you read that and thought that was just me complaining about the book not getting to the point, didn’t you?  Nope, I mean that to be a paraphrase of what the characters actually say to each other.  About 20 times in the 30 page book.  Though I didn’t really count.  But the definitions they use aren’t bad, and in some cases I was struck by how applicable the definition given was to the book’s use of it.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend it exactly, but I did enjoy it enough to read the second one I’d already bought.  Probably not enough to buy anymore though.

-TC

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel

I like series. You know, those books that take you through the lives of people in a particular region. Doesn’t matter if they are imagained, real or sci fi. I like knowing how someone else envisions their lives, who the interact with and what they do. This author does a good series. Coel could so easily revert to the tried and true banal of “silly little mysteries”, but instead develops characters and situations that are plausible, maybe even probable. She includes threads of history, both ancient and modern, real life situations facing native Americans, and complicated relationships to tie it all together. Yes, it does have a love affair, another guy who wants the woman, and gossip, but it somehow works in her books. Based on the tragedy of Wounded Knee, from the 1970’s, the story takes you through the discovery of a 30 year old murder and the insuing investigation, complete with death threats, more murders and last minute salvation. A nice read.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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  

Interesting Times

4 Stars

So my Discworld kick of the last couple months (it’s over now) all started because I got this book from the library. It is the fifth Rincewind story, and made some references to his previous exploits, so I thought I ought to freshen up on his earlier adventures. It turns out that was not necessary. Except for the familiar characters, Interesting Times is its own book entirely. Rincewind gets sent to the counterweight continent, the Discword’s version of Asia, where he gets caught up in a variety of ridiculous and hilarious predicaments. This is the best of the Rincewind books so far.

ben

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 7:28 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  

Odyssey

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4 Stars

This, the fifth book (the third I’ve read) in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series, is my favorite so far. The story has the Space Academy setting out to investigate sightings of spherical alien ships, and discovering a few nasty surprises. In this novel you will find all the imaginings of alien wonder that have made the series enjoyable, with extra helpings of adventure an mystery.

Odyssey may end up being the last book in this series, since at the end of the novel the series protagonist, Pricilla Hutchins, retires from the Academy. But you never know.

ben

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

Maskerade

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4 Stars

I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. There are a lot of them, and they are all pretty similar, so what happens is you’ll read a Discworld book, think, “That was awesome! Gimme some more,” read another book or two, then suddenly become sick of it for a few months or years. Right now I am in a Discworld groove, currently reading my third book in two weeks. Maskerade is the book that got back into the groove.

In this one, the Lancre witches travel to Anhk-Moorpork to track down and recruit into their coven Agnes, who is pursuing a career in the opera, but who really came to the big city just to get away from the witches. Of course, as in all Discworld novels, the plot is just a vehicle for the side-splitting hilarity. With a Phantom of the Opera parody as a backdrop, and seeing as how I work in theater, I found this episode to be especially entertaining.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulalia

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4 Stars

You know, it’s a sad day when it takes me more than an month to read (let alone find out about!) the newest Redwall book. Ah, the perils of pursuing a PhD. Anyhow, I took my one day off in two months to power through my favorite of non-science related books.

It’s been awhile since a new Redwall book has come out, and I think the time off has done Mr. Jaques good. That or the time off did my reading brain good. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Some of the more recent books in the series seemed slapped together to me, but this one brought back the beauty of the stories. At one point there was even a sly reference to the very first story, which, admittedly, I first thought was the author reusing an old idea. That got me a bit upset, but he turned the tables on me! What a clever man.

Anyhow, the story is the melding of two historic destinations in the Redwall world: Redwall Abbey and Salamandastron. A hare made is sent on a dangerous mission to find Salamandastron’s new Badger Lord, who is prisoner on a vermin ship. Fates collide with a young thief, a band of shrews, and a cheeky squirrel who join forces to protect the innocents at Redwall.

Overall, this was a great book. There were laughs, daring adventures, and several teary-eyed moments. The ending gave me the predictable goosebumps and misty eyes, and I slowly read the epilogue to try and make it last longer. Interestingly, this was the first book where a Badger Lord mates for more than a few seasons, and the first book where a female badger becomes Lady of Salamandastron. I wonder if Brian Jaques has a daughter–that would explain the sudden shift in badger biology. Anyhow, it was a nice way to spend my Saturday.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

1984 (audio book)

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4 1/2 Stars

This was my first audio book ever! It was cool because it allowed me to “read” while doing other stuff like playing Civ IV or doing bookkeeping or whatever. Unfortunately this also causes me to miss some of the smaller points, but for the most part it is satisfying.

The book itself was great. It was written in 1948 about a future in which the moral authority sees everything and controls everything.  Personal freedom, even of thought, is less than an memory.  It is depressing, frankly, and a little scary in its resemblance with the current American social and political climate.  Overall it was very good.

ben

Published in: on December 29, 2007 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Accidental Time Machine

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4 Stars

This is a fun, easy read about a guy who accidentally creates a time machine that only goes one way–into the future. Joe Haldeman is among my favorite science fiction writers, and while this book is no Forever War, it is still thouroughly enjoyable, from cover to cover.

ben

Published in: on November 21, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

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4 stars

Ah, Avi. This is a master author. He has written numbers Newberry Award winning books, and his style is something to be appreciated. This story involves the adventures of a young, English girl traveling to the new world via ship after her boarding school ends for the year. She must travel alone (a travesty for a proper young lady!) across the Atlantic in the care of the ship’s Captain and his crew. During the voyage, she uncovers a mutiny plot, falls out of the Captain’s favor, and ends up joining the crew as “one of the boys.”

I love how this is a high-seas adventure without having anything to do with pirates. Have you noticed that’s the big theme now-a-days? Everything involving ships or the ocean always has a pirate association. This is just a girl, in a seemly normal situation, who must push her boundaries and decide what is right and wrong. It’s a quick read (a pretty short book) but exceptionally engaging. It didn’t win for its year–it was beaten by Maniac McGee in 1991–but it is a fabulous book, and one that should be read by anyone addicted to oceanic adventures.

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maniac McGee

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4 stars

Have I told you about Newberry Award books yet? No? Well, I’ll just have to write something for you, now won’t I? Anyhow, I collect Newberry Award winners, and will eventually write a series of essays comparing and contrasting the winners each year. Maniac McGee was one of only 2 Newberry Award books in 1991, and beat out True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle for the gold. I must say, I liked Charlotte a little bit better, but then that just could be because I was in a high-adventure mood when I read it.

Maniac McGee is the story of an orphan who lives on his own for a few years after his parents die. He returns to his old town, only to be caught up in a vicious race struggle between the town’s residents. Maniac uses his natural charm to help bridge the gap between the citizens, and has some adventures on his own in the mean time. It was a great, easy read, and passed on a message that is common in Newberry Award winners: race doesn’t matter.

–Adrienne

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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 Golden Compass

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4 stars

Adrienne made me read this book. The timing was weird, because shortly before I started reading it, I was paging through a copy of the Watchtower magazine that some Jehova’s Witnesses (who fortunately were only looking for Spanish-speaking targets) had left me, when I found a Golden Compass reference. Apparently that was the name that the most prolific bible-printer of the 19th (maybe) century gave to his … printery? It got me wondering, and I eagerly began reading Pullman’s Golden Compass in hopes of finding some devious connection. Alas, I did not, but it was still a good book.

The setting of the book is intriguing. It at first seems kinda like olden-times England, but it’s way not. The fact that Pullman is able to reveal the setting without the characters ever becomming aware of their strangeness, and without ever just coming out and saying what’s going on, is impressive. Probably my favorite thing about this book.

That’s not to say that the story is not good. It follows a girl named Lyra as she travels across Europe experiencing adventures and uncovering mysteries and such. But it is a little ordinary, while the setting is special.

ben

Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment