The Eight

The Eight

1 Star

Gah. Heh…ok…breath…. Alright, I think I’m finally ready to write a review for this book. I’ve started several times, and it went something like this; “Hatehatehatehatehatehatehatehate!!!” So I had to get some distance from this story before I could really decide what made me so angry about it. Let’s look at the story itself, first off.

This book is one of the many that came out in the wake of The Davinci Code, touting jacket blurbs like “The next Davinici Code!” and “If you like The Davinci Code, you’ll LOVE The Eight!” Lies, all of them. But I digress. So I got this book from a friend with no real recommendation–he just handed it over and walked away. I see why now. The story is of a woman who gets wrapped up in a mystery. Over several thousand years, a set of chess pieces has been scattered all over the earth. It is rumored these pieces hold a great secret–one which kings have been attempting to harness since the beginning of time. The woman, an American computer contractor in Iraq, follows the clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery. She encounters danger and adventure along the way.

So, sounds good, right? That’s what I thought! That is, until I actually started reading it. The general premise is great–the mystery was interesting, the back story wonderful, the fact that it was a mystery through time just gave it that much more oomph. However, for some reason the author just couldn’t pull it together. A good adventure mystery needs to have pace–a focus on the excitement, buildup to a great payoff, a twist or two, and a grand ending that leaves the reader gasping for breath. This had all the set up for that, but none of the delivery. The author seemed to get bogged down in details–but the wrong details. I remember reading four or five pages describing a meal the main character had, with wonderful descriptions of the drinks and the food and the scenery and the in-house entertainment. All well and good, except it had nothing to do with the story line. No bit of information gathered from that meal ever came up again…the action happened afterwards.

What really irked me was after reading several of these scenes, the author completely crapped out on what could have been a great ride. She has a character enter a scene, and, in three sentences, describe a grand adventure the character embarked upon to find a missing piece of the chess set. Now, this would have been some great reading. There was a puzzle that needed to be solved, major obstacles, a pitched battle, a near death, and grievous injury. How wonderful would that have been?!? But no–instead we get pages about the texture of blended yogurt, and two sentences summing up a major part of the story line that happened somewhere else.

This happened several times. It was almost as if the author didn’t think she had the ability to really craft a great adventure, so relied on recaps to get the information across. Come on! If you’re going to write a mystery, at least do it right! It took me a long, long time to get through this book. I wanted to like it; I love the genre, and there is nothing better than a really great puzzle mystery. But the author just wouldn’t let me–I’m not sure you could write a worse mystery if you tried. If you see this book, run far, run fast, and pick up The Rule of Four instead.


Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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.

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


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

The Dark is Rising


5 Stars

I cannot say enough about this book (you don’t know what you’re talking about Ben!). I first picked up this book when I was in 6th grade, and I’ve made a habit of reading it every few years since. To me, this is the epitome of adventure fantasy. It has it all–an unlikely hero, daring fights, a seemingly insurmountable evil, and just enough humor to take the edge off.

The book is second in the Dark Is Rising series. I liked the first, but not nearly as much as this. The story is of a young boy, Will, who on his 11th birthday finds he is an immortal with an important mission: to unite the signs and turn back the rising evil. The story chronicles his self discovery and mastery of his powers, and the ultimate fight that results between light and dark.

What I especially like about this book is the lack of sugary “good is good and bad is bad” themes that are often present in books of this type for younger audiences. This book has loved ones working for the dark side, and good people doing evil things for the sake of the light. It’s a well written, complex story that is a great introduction into the world of fantasy adventure.

One part has especially stuck with me since the first moment I read this book. A member of the Dark enters into Will’s house on Christmas morning, in an attempt to capture Will’s soul. The Dark has the ability to read surface thoughts, so throughout the whole visit, Will thinks hard about the coming breakfast, instead of the number of secrets running through his mind. As the Dark man leaves, he mentions to Will’s family that they’d better feed him, because he seems to be very hungry. Ever since then, I’ve found myself mildly worried when I’m punching in a password or typing in my pin number. I mean, what if a member of The Dark is around to read my thoughts? So I always think another number while I do it, just in case. : )  Ah, books that stay with you–what more do you want?


Published in: on March 8, 2008 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Crazy Lady


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.


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

Everything on a Waffle


2.5  Stars

It’s usually a pretty safe bet to pick up a Newbery Honor Book…most of the time those panel members really know what they’re talking about. I was a little disappointed with this one, though. Every once in a while, the people who choose the books go a little crazy. In this case, it seemed like the panel members just didn’t want the little readers to have to deal with any heartache or drama. I’ll explain in a minute.

The story was an easy read (as I figured, given the subject and all). It was about a young girl who lost her parents and had to live with her uncle, a real estate developer. He moves to her small town with grand ideas about upgrading it, much to the chagrin of the locals (including the local diner owner, who’s claim to fame is serving all meals on a waffle, hence the name of the book).

I guess the real problem I had with this book was it had the potential to be a real story, but it copped out right at the end. Too bad! It could have been great.


Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Dilly of a Death


2.5 Stars

Ah, silly little mysteries.  This is one of the books I picked up off the new mystery section, and you can just tell by the title that it’s going to be a stereotypical silly little mystery. This one had it all–female main character who has nothing to do with law enforcement (she runs an herb shop in a small town) who gets roped into the mystery and does all the solving.

It was really unmemorable–the only reason I even remember that the woman was an herbalist is because my mom loves these books (she’s an herbalist) and I remember that there was something to do with dill pickles because of the title. Ah well. I’ll probably read the rest of them…it’s still better than reading romance novels. 

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 10:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Sweet as Sugar, Hot as Spice


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.


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

X Out of Wonderland


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.


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



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.


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

The Winter Room


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.”


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

From a Buick 8


1.5 Stars

Oh, Stephen! You dissappoint me. You usually give me gripping tales of terror, or thoughtful insights into your methods, but this…no. I couldn’t stand this. I mean, it was no The Eight, but it’s not far off. I don’t even know how to describe it…Ok, imagine a good, scary book, then fill it with pages and pages and pages of super boring bits, and a badly formed scary bit, and you have this book. Oh, and take away the good part. Yep, that about sums it up.

So the story is basically this: a small town police station finds a Buick 8 which has a portal to an evil land in its trunk. The man who finds this car gets killed in surefire Stephen King fashion (I believe the words “skin peeled off” were used somewhere during the pages of description) , and his son joins the force to follow in his father’s footsteps. Each has an unfathomable interest in the Buick–which involves pages and pages of unreadable stories about dissecting aliens in dank bathrooms. It took me several tries to get through this book, and I finally just had to get the book on CD and listen while I was filling out evaluations for hours on end.

Overall, I didn’t like this book at all. Bleh bleh bleh bleh bleh. Yep, that is my final assesment.


Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  



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).


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

Knock Three Times!


2 1/2 Stars

I do enjoy children’s fiction, and I must say that, given the choice, I will always pick a good classic children’s story over almost anything else. (Unless, of course, the new Odd Thomas is coming out…in which case I’m totally reading that. May 20th baby!).

I got this book on MP3 with my new MP3 player for Christmas, and have spent the last several weeks listening to it during my commute to work and school. It is the story of a brother and sister who receive a grey, pumpkin-shaped pin cushin for their birthday. During the full moon, the cushin comes to life and leads them on an adventure into the Possible World, through the large tree in their garden. There, they meet many intersting characters as they attempt to track the pumpkin down and end its reign of terror.

The story was quaint, and reminded me of The Phantom Toll Booth with its tendency to preach about life. However, it wasn’t nearly as good as Toll Booth, and had a hard times coming to terms with itself. Was it a cute teaching book meant to educate young ones about life’s problems? Or what it a fantasy meant to simply entertain? The story never quite chose a path, which left it wanting. There also seemed to be areas that could have done with more explination or description–it’s almost as if an editor went a little crazy, telling the author she couldn’t put too many descriptives in or she’d lose her target audience. I hate when adults underestimate children.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and looked forward to my 8 minute commute everyday. If you’re looking for a quick read, or know someone who wants to get into fantasy-type literature, this is a good story to start with.


Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  

The Color of Magic


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.


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