Friday, December 21, 2007

Blood is the New Black by Valerie Stivers (2/5 stars)

I picked up this book on a whim in the used book section of a Barnes and Noble near my house. I had been reading some heavier books and wanted something light and funny that I could breeze through before the Christmas holidays. This book fulfilled that need, but didn’t deliver a whole lot more.

The book follows Kate McGraw, a pre-med student, who gets an opportunity to work an internship at a premier fashion magazine called Tasty. Kate is granted the opportunity though contacts that her aunt Victoria has. At first Kate is reluctant to take the job because of some dark history her mother had with the fashion industry. Despite the dark memories of how Kate’s mom abandoned her husband and daughter; Kate decides to look past that and, drawn in by her own love of fashion, accepts the job at Tasty. When Kate starts working there she finds that her co-workers are very different from normal people, and not just in a fashionista way.

There were more things that I disliked about this novel than liked; so lets start with the positive first.

- This was a quick, fun novel to read.
- There were some creative ideas about Vampires. First being that you need the appropriate “vampire-gene” to be turned. Secondly that vampirism actually infects you with a materialistic nature, you have a need to shop and buy expensive cloths.

- All of the characters in the book seemed rather dead (no pun intended; okay maybe a little pun intended) to me. They were very one-dimensional with no depth at all.
- Kate was kind of unemotional about the whole thing. I mean, if I found out my co-workers were literal blood-suckers I would be a lot more shocked about it and not so blasé.
- This book was very much like a sweet snack. It was shallow and unfulfilling. There were no lush descriptions, no strong emotions, and no real point to anything that happened.
- The climax of the book, like the rest of it, fell flat for me.
- The romance between Kate and James also fell flat. It was very choppy with no continuation. Very on again, off again, without much actual development occurring.
- The style of this book is so simplistic that at times it felt like I was reading a novel by a 10 year old who really knows their fashion facts.

Given the extended lists of dislikes, it was still an okay book. It was a light, slightly humorous read. If you are looking for a quick, okay read to pass some time this book might be for you. If you are looking for something original and inspiring, humorous or engaging I would try reading a Sookie Stackhouse book by Charlaine Harris or some other similar writer of this genre.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (4/5 star)

I was very curious about this book; it is a best-selling novel that is primarily about punctuation, how can you go wrong?

The layout to the book is fairly simple and the style is replicated for each chapter. In each chapter Truss tells some funny anecdotes about the punctuation being discussed; she give some examples of how misusing the punctuation can change the meaning of the whole sentence. She then discusses the proper use of the punctuation and follows that with a history of how the punctuation got to be where it is today. Full chapters are given to the discussion of the comma and the apostrophe. Colons, semi-colons, braces, etc. are combined in the two final chapters.

Now you are asking, “How can this book be interesting?” If you have ever wondered if you are doing your punctuation properly, it will be interesting. If you have ever wondered where the strange punctuations we use come from, it will be interesting to you. If you have never wondered any of the above, then the examples of punctuation missteps given will probably have you chuckling anyway.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book and some I disliked. I will give a list of each below.

- I liked the humor in the book.
- Descriptions of how to use the punctuation were easy to understand.
- The brief histories’ of the punctuations were also interesting.
- Truss does a good job of comparing American and English punctuation; so even though Truss in an English author, us Americans don’t feel left out.
- The book was nicely organized and well-written (although this should be a given considering the topic).
- This book really drives home the point of how subjective punctuation is and how flexible and variable the rules of punctuation are.
- It really made me start to pay more attention to my usage of punctuation.
- The anecdotal stories about punctuation usage provide great examples and are interesting.

- In some cases it makes the proper use of punctuation more muddy than ever. It drives home the fact that the more you learn about a thing, the more you realize you don’t (and never will) fully understand it.
- There is a lot of self-gratifying (for the author) ranting about the misusage of punctuation. This could be good or bad depending on if you relate to the author’s rants or not.
- An English author wrote this book; there are many references in English language that might be confusing to an American reader. Many of the punctuations have different names in British English than in American English – the author does make an attempt to address this.
- The topic of “where will books be in the future” is briefly visited in the last chapter. This is such a large and controversial topic that I think it might have been better to not bring it up at all than to mention it, but then say that it’s not going to be discussed.
- This book also makes me think way too much about my punctuation now; I suppose that could be a good thing.

Overall this was a good book to read. It is not that difficult to read and is a great layman’s book on punctuation. It provides great insight into the controversial world of punctuation debate and usage. If you have ever been in doubt over whether or not you have a semi-colon addiction; this is the book for you!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Abarat by Clive Barker (5/5 stars)

This is the first children's book I have ever read by Clive Barker. I know that he is much more well known for his works of horror. However, I was very impressed by this book.

I listened to this book on audio book. The audio book was very well done. I think the guy who read the audio book must be the same person who read Stephen King's Dark Tower series on audio book. At least they sound very similar since I keep getting flashbacks to when I listened to the Dark Tower; maybe it is just that Clive Barker and Stephen King have a somewhat similar writing style. The only bad thing about listening to this on audio book is that I missed out on all the neat color pictures. I have the paper version at home so I still got to see the pictures, just not while I was reading the book.

The tone of this book reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland and is, initially, a similar premise. Candy Quackenbush lives in Chickentown, MN and, during an assignment for school to write a paper on interesting things in Chickentown (a decidedly uninteresting town), runs into a mystery concerning a man who committed suicide in a hotel room. A strange nautical device is found in the dresser drawer of this hotel room. Candy finds herself obsessing about the symbols on the device. Candy is fed up with her boring life in Chickentown, her beaten down mother, and her abusive father. After a particularly bad scene in class at school, where Candy gets sent to the principals office, Candy decides to just leave school and go walking. She finds herself in a vast prairie outside of Chickentown. While there she runs into an 8 headed man, John Mischief, and ends up helping him to light the lighthouse in the prairie (which Candy thought was an abandoned building). Following some crazy events Candy finds herself swept off to Abarat and swept into a crazy adventure there.

This was a really great book. It is wildly imaginative and full of non-stop action. I loved the way Candy accepted her adventures with ease (since *anything* is better than Chickentown). I also loved the numerous quirky characters that Candy ran into along the way. Candy seems to have a knack for getting people's attention and getting drawn into trouble. There are tons of interesting good and neutral characters in this book. There are also some very interesting villains. The villians in this book are particularly special. There are numerous levels of evil, making you wonder who the *real* villain is. All of the villains have a lot of depth to them, you can see multiple sides to their character. This makes them seem somehow less ultimately evil but more scary and unpredictable.

The description in the book is wonderful. The plotline rolls along gracefully taking Candy from one adventure to the next. Even though many different characters are introduced and interact with Candy, none of it seems forced.

The only disappointment I had with this book was that I thought that the storyline with John Mischeif didn't get much closure; I am sure this storyline will be revisited in the next book. I am also curious as to what is happening back in Chickentown; does Candy's mother know she is missing?

This was a great book. I would read it to slightly older children though since at times it is very violent and it deals with issues of suicide and torture at points. Great book, I am excited to read the next one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Lone Drow by R. A. Salvatore (3/5 stars)

The Lone Drow is the second book in The Hunter's Blade trilogy by R. A. Salvatore. This book details the struggle of the Mithril drawven army to hold off increasing numbers of orcs and trolls and tells of the struggle of Drizzt to deal with what he thinks was the demise of all of his friends. Drizzt drops back into the "hunter" mode that he found so useful in Menzoberanzzan; and dispatches many of the orcs in his style. Drizzt continues to struggle with his killing of Le'Lorinel, while the two surface elves work to try and bring Drizzt to reason before he gets himself killed.

This book delivers all of what you expect from a R. A. Salvatore book. There are a lot of well-written action sequences and lots of battle. There are some heart-rending sacrifices in the heat of battle...oh and did I mention some battle?

There were a few things that really annoyed me about this book. The first was Drizzt himself. His story in this book was annoying. He is struggling with the fact that he believes his friends have all been killed, okay I get that. The thing that puzzled me is that he also mentions that he believes that some of his friends are still alive but he is too afraid to go and find out who made it and who didn't. So...he is upset because everyone is dead and he is upset that somebody might be alive? I understand that Drizzt is supposed to be a deeply emotional character but this logical loop is a bit much considering that he is also supposed to be intelligent.

Second thing I didn't like...the title of the book. This book suggests that the majority of the time is spend with Drizzt. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately given Drizzt's addled state of mind, the majority of the time is spent dealing with the dwarves and the orcs and their battle. I have a sneaking suspicion that this title was meant to draw people in to read about their favorite character Drizzt, when in fact Drizzt didn't get the majority of page space.

Third thing that bothered me was how fractionated the story was. I know Salvatore usually bounces between a few different storylines and that is fine. This book was his usual stuff to the nth degree. Sometimes you had less than 1/2 a page to read until he switched perspective on you.

All in all this book was okay. It was a necessary evil to get through the storyline to the next book. I found this book very hard to get through; it took me forever to slog through each page. The story started to pick up again in the end and recaptured my interest in the last couple chapters. I was going to take a break from this series before reading the last book, but the last few chapters convinced me to go on and read the last book of the trilogy right away.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Thousand Orcs by R.A. Salvatore (4/5 stars)

The Thousand Orcs is the first book in The Hunter's Blades trilogy. The Hunter's Blades Trilogy follows Drizzt and his companions starting where the Paths of Darkness series left off. Although I have the collector's edition with the whole trilogy of the books in it, I decided to review the books separately.

Bruenor and company are on a trek to Mithril Hall where Bruenor is to be crowned king. Wanting one last adventure before he is stuck on the throne in Mithril Hall, Bruenor decides to go after some orcs that have been causing trouble throughout the countryside. Bruenor and company quickly find out that the orc trouble is far more extensive than they originally thought.

This book was basically what you would expect from R. A. Salvatore. So with that in mind, if you like Drizzt and his friends and in general like R. A. Salvatore then you should read this book. On a side note though there are some good and bad things about this book.

- Excellent action scenes, just like you would expect from Salvatore.
- Good character development between Cattie-Brie and Drizzt.
- It was interesting to learn more about the frost giants.
- All-in-all a good old classic dungeons and dragons type tale.
- Drizzt's introspective interludes are interesting as always (if a bit predictable)

- The books ends without any wrapping up. Many of the characters are in the middle of literally running for their lives.
- A number of well-liked secondary characters are killed without even a backward glance.
- I got a bit sick of Drizzt *still* whining about how awful he felt for killing Le'Lorinel (I think that's how it's spelled) in the last book.

All in all I got what I expected and wanted out of this book. I think if I hadn't had the whole trilogy I would've been a bit peeved at how this book ended.

Here is a link to the trilogy on amazon:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (3/5 stars)

This is a different book from what I normally read. I heard an interview with the author of this book on the radio and it sounded really interesting. I downloaded it from audible as an audio book.

This book is a fictional account of the rise to power of the Dowager Empress of China Tzu Hsi. Tzu Hsi starts out as a girl from an impoverished family. She is the daughter of a governer of a very poor province. She travels to Peking with her family to bury her father and ends up living in squalor with her "10th uncle", mother and siblings. When her uncle tries to force Orchid (Tzu Hsi) to marry his mentally disabled son. She decides to try and compete for a position as a concubine for the Emperor.

Not only does she end up making the initial cut, she ends up being one of the six wives of the emperor. The trials they endure to achieve this position is interesting. She is not lost in the mix of the 3,000 concubines the emperor also has available to him. Orchid ends up having a son for the emperor and rises to be the most powerful woman in China. This book is very sympathetic to Orchid and shows how she struggled with the isolation of living in the forbidden city, how she had to deal with the treachery of the other wifes, and how she had to work out the scheming of the eunuchs. Her struggles to raise her son to be a good man and not a spoiled imperial brat really resonated with me. How to you raise a divine being to have good manners?

The quality of the audiobook was pretty bad. The reader noisily swallows frequently and it is pretty distracting. The book itself is of mediocre quality. I know that Anchee Min has just recently perfected her English in writing this book. Unfortunately it tells. At one point the author mentions people being "hanged" I think the more correct usage is hung. There are a lot of little things like that in the book. The other thing about the book I didn't like was how the story looses focus and meanders sometimes. You would be reading about a plot in the present then all of the sudden the book would read "At many times in the future....." The author would then digress about a time in the future and sometimes it was difficult to tell when she came back to the present and resumed the story.

I am not sure how historically accurate this book is supposed to be but it is a fascinating topic and a fascinating look into Chinese culture and history. I had a history teacher who told me that "for anyone to fully understand the culture and history of China, they would have to be a genius." Reading this book helps me to understand that teacher's statement more fully.

Some things that I learned about China that were very striking were:

- How little deaths meant to the Emperor. At one point there are 4000 some odd deaths because of a flood and it is mentioned in passing to the Emperor. He is concerned but not overly concerned; that is just a small fraction of the Chinese population.

- How behind in technology the Chinese are compared to the rest of the world in this time frame. The Chinese are trying to sword fight their way through canons and guns...not a pretty fight.

- How isolated the Forbidden City was from the rest of Chinese society. There are people starving in Peking and the wealth of the Forbidden City is unimaginable; there is just such a huge contrast in wealth.

- The very accepted belief of the Emperor as, not a person, but a divine entity.

- The huge impact tradition had on the Chinese and Manchurian culture. It is unbelievable how much work goes into some of the Imperial Rituals.

Overall the book is worth reading because of the interesting subject matter. The quality of the writing isn't great and I would definitely not listen to it on audio book.

Here is a link to the normal book on amazon:

Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher (4/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. This series is quite different from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series but it is just as good. I started reading these books a bit reluctantly since the epic fantasy genre is very different from the paranormal alternate reality genre of the Dresden Files. This series proves that Jim Butcher is just all around a great writer.

The only problem I have with these books is that in the previous books I didn't personally find any of the main characters extremely likable or engaging. They are all okay and fun to read about but none of them really "spoke" to me.

This book changed some of that. Tavi is sent off to join a newly formed legion where he is supposed to be spying for High Lord Gaius. A tragedy kills off all of the leaders of the legion and Tavi is suddenly the ranking officer of the legion. This proves interesting considering Tavi's lack of military background. Amara is sent to do a daring rescue of some captured nobles and is forced to rely on the morally questionable Lady Aquitaine for assistance.

I like Tavi a lot more in this book. I also really like Kitai's part in the book. Kitai is probably one of my favorite characters; I love her wit and daring.

This book was a fun read. It is very fast paced with a lot of action. Tavi takes some great steps toward growing up and becoming a true legendary hero. The book kept me interested and kept me up late at night. Still when all is said and done though I feel like something is lacking in this series in general.

I am not sure what that thing is. I don't know if it's my lack of being able to relate to the characters or if it's just that I keep hearing Harry Dresden in the back of my head while I read these.

Anyway, it's a good book and if you've been reading the series, you have got to read this book. If you haven't been reading the series I would highly recommend it. It is well-written and entertaining. For some reason though I just don't get extremely jumping-for-joy excited about these books and this book is no exception.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Possession (The Turning, Book 2) Jennifer Armintrout (1/5 stars)

Okay I didn't really like the first book in this series much but I already had the second book downloaded on audio so I figured I might as well listen to it. I guess I can't say it was a waste of time because I was driving while I listened to it, but I can say I won't be reading any more of these books.

In this book Cyrus is brought back to life as a human and Nathan runs around mad possessed by something. There you have the majority of the book. Many pages are spent on Cyrus angsting about how he feels guilty for all he did as an "evil" vampire and him wondering how to atone for it. Nathan runs around killing people; as he is insane. This book is primarily about Max and Cyrus. Max comes to help Carrie help Nathan. There is a lot of time spent on Max's and werewolf girl's relationship. There is a lot of time spent on Carrie and her desperate need for Nathan to be alright and Carrie and her desperate need for Cyrus to be alright.

You here about Max not wanting to fall in love, about Carrie not being in love with Cyrus but loving him, and about Carrie loving Nathan but Nathan loving his dead wife. There really is not much plot development. I think you could have condensed this book down to maybe a page and called it done.

There isn't very much gore or violence in this book. There are a couple brief fight scenes. The amount of action is minuscule. Carrie proves herself to be as much of a victim as ever, despite her own thoughts that she has changed so much since killing Cyrus. She is still whinny and incompetent (both emotionally and physically). Even the new female lead character the werewolf woman; despite being less whiny and more competent, ends up needing a man to help here out and constantly shows her "vulnerable" side. This whole book was too much of the swooning woman and big man coming to help me type. I didn't like it at all; I kind of wished that Cyrus would go crazy and wipe out the whole lot of them. Of course, he didn't, he was just as whinny and indecisive as everyone else in the book.

I would recommend skipping this series altogether and reading something worth your time.
Here is a link to the book on amazon:

The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl Book 5) by Eoin Colfer (4/5 stars)

The Artemis Fowl books have continued to be a great series to read. For some reason I always start reading these books with a bit of reluctance because they are, after all, kids books. A few pages into the book though I am always hooked again; this continues to be the case.

In this book Artemis calculates that the time warped island that demons live on is slowly unraveling. He is attempting to prove his calculation by detaining a time warped demon. With a demon as proof he is hoping that fairykind will take him seriously and take action to save the demon race. When he shows up at the next demon appearance he finds that he is not he only one who has made calculations about demon appearances. A girl Artemis's age, name Minerva, kidnaps the displaced demon in hopes of completing research on the demon and hopefully winning the Noble Prize. Of course everyone's plans end up collapsing and chaos ensues.

The book is action packed and non-stop intellectual fun from the beginning to the end. The new characters introduced are wonderful. Minerva is the perfect female counterpart to Artemis and No.1, who revels in his new found English vocabulary, is a hoot. The whole gang is back and ready to deliver. Holly is in for a lot of action and Foaly has a whole new bag of tricks in his mean hoofs. Artemis is taking his turn as a "good guy" seriously and his new outlook on life really endears him to the reader. The addition of Minerva as a possible love interest is very interesting. Finally Artemis has someone to laugh at quark jokes with.

This is another fun book that further enhances the Artemis Fowl series. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Here is a link to this book on amazon:

Magic Study by Maria Snyder (4/5 stars)

This sequel to Poison Study starts off shortly after that book ended. Yelena is on her way to Sitia to meet her family and to start her studies in magic with Iris. Of course nothing goes as planned and Yelena is having a hard time focusing on her studies because of all the things that keep happening to threaten the realm. Once again a threat rises that could be detrimental to both Sitia and Ixia and Yelena finds herself in the middle of it all; trying to find a way to save everyone.

This was a great book, if not quit as astounding to me as the first book. There are a number of new complex characters introduced throughout the book. Unfortunately I didn’t find many of the new characters to be nearly as likeable and engaging as the characters (from Ixia) in the first book. In fact I feel like this book really comes alive once the characters from Ixia join the plot again.

The above being said the book is non-stop action and the plot a complex set of intertwining political and personal events. This is another book that keeps you thinking during the read and wondering how all of the different strands of story will be neatly tied up by the end of the novel.

I think my main complaint about this novel would be an aspect of Yelena’s character. Yelena seems to rush off all the time into extremely dangerous situations without any thought as to the danger of them. I think this aspect of her character is played on too strongly and too often throughout the book. I mean Yelena is supposed to be very smart, yet I found her reasoning and logic as to why she had to be the one to put herself in danger to be unbelievable and not in keeping with her character.

Anway, this is a great book. Well written, smart, sassy, and high action. Valek is still my favorite character of the bunch; he is just so awesome. I am highly anticipating the next book of the series.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (5/5 stars)

I’ve been very curious about this book. Seeing it on Audible I downloaded it to listen to on the second half of our trip to South Dakota. I will start off by saying the audio book was done very well; very high quality production.

Yelena has been imprisoned with the ultimate punishment of death awaiting her; her crime is the murder of a man. As she takes what she believes to be her last steps before hanging by noose she is instead lead into the office of the Commander’s head of security, Valek. There she is given a choice; she can go to the noose or she can go through training to become the Commander’s food taster. Of course she chooses the second action. From this point on her live is full of the danger of food-tasting and of escaping the guards of the father of the man whom she killed. It is also filled with the kindness of a few special people and of Yelena’s exploration of here own abilities.

I loved this book. This book was a breath of fresh air after all the mediocrity I’ve read lately. The characters had a lot of depth and were very intriguing. I loved Yelena’s character and found her training as a food taster to be very interesting; I don’t think I’ve ever read anything on this subject before. The character of Valek is close to the top on my list of male characters that I love. He is just awesome in his skill, his depth, his humor and his loyalty. The Commander is another character with great depth and great interest. You really want to know all of these characters better; you want them to be a part of your life.

The book is exquisitely written and full of lush detail; yet there is wry sense of humor throughout the book that keeps the story from taking itself too seriously. The plot starts off simply and becomes more convoluted and intriguing as the book continues. There are many layers of political intrigue here that really keep your brain thinking and active. The characters are constantly evolving and surprising you. Yet somehow the book is an easy read (or listen). I found myself unable to leave the car because I needed to know what would happen next! This is one of those books that you will think about; I couldn’t wait to start the second one in the series.

A great book. I am very happy that I picked this one up; definitely one I will re-read. I will have to go and by the hardcover book just to have it in my collection of books that I absolutely adore.

Here is a link to the paper book on amazon:

Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson (2/5 stars)

My husband and I listened to this on audio book on a car trip to South Dakota. I downloaded the audiobook out of pure curiosity. I have heard a lot about these novels and MaryJanice has written a ton of them. So I wondered what all of the hubbub was about.

In this book we meet Betsy who has just been fired from her job as a secretary. Betsy has a thing for fancy shoes and lives with her cat. One night after chasing after her cat, she is smacked by an SUV. She wakes up in the morgue only to find that she is a vampire and that she is curiously unaffected by things that seem to plague her fellow undead compatriots. Nostro, the resident evil vampire, who is trying to recruit her into his clan, kidnaps her. Another vampire, the tasty looking Eric Sinclair, is also after her to join his cause. Betsy is trying her best to resume her live before death and wants no part in vampire politics.

The quality of the reading of the audio book was very good and I have no complaints with the production of the audio book.

As a native Minnesotan I loved that this book took place in the Twin Cities. My familiarity with the setting made some parts of the book funnier than they probably would have been to a non-native. This book is not a fine work of literature. It’s full of slang, the jokes are generally stupid jokes on word play, and sometimes slapstickish. Still, the book was mildly entertaining and non-involving. My husband and I chortled at some of the jokes. It was just the right type of book to listen to in the car. I never felt that attached to it. It was easy to leave the car in the middle of the book and easy to get back into the book when we resumed driving.

I guess it depends what you want in a book. This book was an easy read, kind of fun, and very chic-centric if you know what I mean. I was surprised my husband found it as amusing as he did. It is not an intellectual read, not really that well written, and I have to admit a lot of the fashion-speak was lost on me. I am by no means a shoe expert and couldn’t really respect Betsy’s shoe obsession. I did respect the blatant-ness of Betsy’s character; Betsy’s sheer candidness and non-normal reaction to some of the situations she ended up in were hilarious at times.

Will I read more of these books? Probably not. There’s just too much fluff there; the end of this book was already boring me with the over-the-top humor and the uninspired writing. If I was stuck in the car on another trip to South Dakota, and I had absolutely nothing else to do, I might listen to the second audio book. This was just another in a series of mediocre books that I have read lately.

Here is link to the book on amazon:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Rebel Fey by Barb Hendee (3/5 stars)

This book is the fifth installment of The Noble Dead series by Barb and JC Hendee. This has been a pretty good series.

In this book Leesil, Magiere, Wynn, and Chap make their way into the elvish lands to find and rescue Leesil's mother who is being held captive by the very elves she was working for. As you can imagine upon entering the elvish land things start to get complicated. The party run into a number of elves that they have meet before. They are granted guardianship by Sgaile and Leesil finds that the Most Aged Father of the elves wants to make a deal to bargain for the freedom Leesil's mother Nien'a. Chane and Welstial are seen infrequently in the book and their quest to find the place of Welstial's dream doesn't make much progress.

There are many plotline advances and surprises in this book. You find out more about the secret group of elves that Nien'a is part of and what their plans are for Leesil. You find out more about Magiere and what her involvement as the Sister of the Dead is. You find out a lot about Chap. In fact much of this book is centered around Chap and he takes a center role in this book which is a bit unusual for a glorified dog :-) You find out more about Chap's mission and his position with the Fey. There are a few new and endearing characters introduced in this book; I especially like the old elf Glenn, Chap's girlfriend Lily, and we learned a lot more about Botun (not sure of this spelling). The Most Aged Father was also an interesting, if unlikeable, character.

All the above being said I was very disappointed with the pacing of this book. There really isn't much that happens in the first 2/3rd's of the book. It took me forever to get through this book because it just wasn't holding my interest. I feel like we spent a lot of time listening to Leesil whine, listening to Magiere listen to Leesil whine, you listen to Wynn whine, and you listen to Chap whine. It was ridiculous. Thankfully the last third of the book had a ton of action, huge amounts of plot development, and really hooked me again. The main quest in the book is resolved but I felt like a lot more questions were created at the end that will, most likely, be answered in the next book of the series.

Maybe this book should get more then 3 stars but I didn't think it really compared to the other books in the series. In general this whole series had been of mediocre writing quality. I think the only thing that draws me to it and keeps me reading is that these are nice basic swords and sorcery books with a vampire twist to them..oh yeah and they have that whole darkness is going to destroy the world going on in the background. I really hope that this series doesn't continue for more than a couple more books. Any longer than that and I think it will be just barely limping along.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout (3/5 stars)

The book "The Turning" is the first in a series called Blood Ties. So far I believe there are 3 books in the series. I listened to this on audio book. Quit honestly the only reason I "read" it is that I saw it available on and I used one of my credits to download it.

Dr. Carrie Ames is an ER doctor. One of the trauma cases that comes into the ER effects Carrie in a strange way; the viciousness of his injuries make her literally sick. In order to confront what's seen as a weakness in the medical field, she goes to the morgue to assure herself that she can stand the site of such a vicious trauma. In the morgue she is attacked by the supposed dead trauma case and after a lengthy recovery starts to develop strange powers and weaknesses.

The book follows Dr. Ames as she tries to figure what is happening to her. She meets up with Nathan Grant who is a member of a group of vampires for the extinction of vampires; he helps her figure out how to cope with being a vampire. She struggles with the "blood tie" that draws her to her sire; the violent vampire Cyrus.

This is a mediocre book. All in all it was entertaining since I was driving and didn't have anything better to do. On a positive note there were some unique ideas. For example the blood tie is interesting. Typically vampire masters are seen as all powerful; in this book the blood tie works both ways. The blood tie leaves the master somewhat vulnerable to the fledgling vampire. This is an interesting idea. Another interesting idea is that there is a group of vampires solely dedicated to helping the extinction of their own race. I know many books follow a good vampire exterminating bad vampires and this is a variation of that but in a bigger and more organized way.

When I found out this was a harlequin book I almost didn't listen to it. I am not really into the romance genre. Surprisingly there really isn't any mushy horrible romance language in this book. In fact I would classify this book as more of a horror novel. The violence in this book is extremely graphic. Not quit as graphic as the early Laurell Hamilton Vampire Executioner novels; but very close.

Nathan and Cyrus were interesting characters. In fact most of the characters were pretty interesting excepting the most important one. I though Dr. Ames was weak as a female lead and a bit too much of a victim considering the circumstances she got herself into.

As for the quality of the audio book; it was very well read. The only thing that bothered me a bit was that the voices of Ziggy and Dahlia were too close to each other.

Will I read the next book? Probably since I already have it downloaded on audio book. Overall though I think this is another run of the mill vampire series. I am not sure if all these new vampire books are just mediocre or if I am just getting tired of the genre; but I didn't really see anything spectacular here.

Here is a link to it:

Monday, October 1, 2007

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (2/5 stars)

I had been wanting to read this book for some time. It got many reviews and fellow reviewers have lauded the creativity of this book. Here is a link to the book on amazon: The City of Ember

This book details the lives of the people in the city of Ember. The city of Ember is an isolated city where it is always dark. Only the many streetlights dampen the darkness and although people have tried to penetrate the Unknown Regions beyond Ember - no person is known to have successfully made it out of the city. The Builders left instructions on how to exit the city to the Mayor but greed caused the loss of these instructions. This book follows Lina and Doon as they try to figure out a way to help Ember and to find a way out of the city. In Ember power outages are increasing and supplies are running low and the city's survival only seems to be a matter of time.

This book is well written and an easy listen (we listened to it on audio book). The person who reads the book has some very irritating voices for some of the characters. The mayor's voice was especially annoying and had me and my husband cringing everytime he spoke. The initial idea of a lost city where humans dwell in seclusion is not really that unique. We have encountered numerous stories of humans kept in a safe house during a crisis and struggling to survive. What is creative is the cult-like atmosphere that develops in Ember and the supression of human creativity and intelligence that seems to keep this city working.

I thought that this last trait in the book was ridiculous. None of the humans in the last 240 years have figured a way out of the city; it didn't sound like anyone really tried. This is crazy; humans are naturally curious and, unless there was some genetic culling going on, someone would have tried to find a way out of the city. This book also makes big deal out of creating a movable light to explore the Unknown Regions with. Apparently no one can figure this out and it is a major impediment to people leaving the city. Yet, the people in the city have electricity and they even have fire and cooking oil. You can't tell me that no one in 240 years figured out they could use a wick and some cooking oil to create a lantern and explore the area. I mean this isn't rocket science.

In fact all of the adults in this book are lazy and stupid. I know this is a young adult book meant to empower young adults. But is potraying adults as stupid and untrustworthy really doing anyone really good; is it even remotely realistic? On top of that Lina and Doon blindly trust a number of authority figures that *have* given them great cause to not trust them; this is just a plain inconsistency in Lina's and Doon's characters. How can these characters be so brilliant and clever, yet be so inconsistently stupid?

This book was also full of other inconsistencies. I believe at one point Lina or Doon starts talking about cars and then later they don't know what cars are (this isn't the exact way it happened but it's a similar type of reference). If you are going to make a big deal about Lina and Doon not being familiar with an object, you can't have them be familiar with it earlier in the book.

This book addressed an interesting, if over analyzed, topic. And it addressed it in a poorly reasoned way. I won't be reading the second book in the series because, if it mimics the first, it will drive me crazy. This book gets 2 stars because it was readable and somewhat engaging. I still wouldn't recommend it unless you are totally at a loss for something to read. I think the best thing that came out of this book was that it gave my husband and I something to discuss for an hour while we were hiking; we talked about how stupid the characters were and how lame the story was.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (5/5 stars)

I read the first book in this series (A Great and Terrible Beauty) and was surprised at how much I loved the book. I was really hoping that the sequel, Rebel Angels, would live up to my expectations; and guess what? It did!

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

Most of the book takes place during Christmas break with the girls back in London for the holidays. The girls are struggling to find the secret of Circe, figure out how to bind the magic that Gemma released in the first novel, and to discover what the deal is with the newest teacher at Spence. Of course there are struggles with family, potential suitors, etc thrown in with all of the mystery surrounding the Order. The book is well-written and fast-paced. It really kept me interested the whole way through. There is mystery, intrigue, magic, and romance all in perfect amounts. There is the intrigue of the girls' everyday lives woven into the deeper mystery involving the magic of the realms. Sometimes it seems like almost too much is going on but the book is written in a way that makes the events fast-paced rather than frantic.

New depth is added to the current characters. You find out more about Gemma, Ann, Felicity, and Kartik. This book is written in a lovely way and is a pleasure to read. It is a pretty quick read. For some reason I am always surprised at how much I love these books and this book left me again pleasantly surprised. I look forward to the next book in the series "A Sweet and Far Thing".

Friday, September 28, 2007

M is for Magic by Nail Gaiman (4/5 stars)

My husband and I listened to this as an audio book. The audio book was read by Neil Gaiman himself.
As always the stories are wonderfully crafted and Gaiman is able to create worlds that each of the short stories allows you a quick glimpse of. I have always had a bit of a problem with short stories. Mainly my issue is that if the short story is good it usually leaves you wanting more. I am always a bit frustrated with good short stories because they seen to leave me unsatisfied. That being said I love all of Gaiman's works.

I was a bit disappointed though that this is not a new collection of short stories but a compilation of previous short stories that is meant to be appropriate for children. Some of the stories I had read previously in Neil Gaiman's "Smoke and Mirrors". I have not yet read "Fragile Things" but I have heard that the remainder of the stories are from that collection.

Also the reading of the stories was slightly disappointing. We were listening to this in the car and some parts of the stories, especially the troll bridge one, were whispered so softly by Gaiman that even with the radio cranked to full volume we couldn't hear what he was saying.

This book is quality Gaiman work and a great collection to buy for a young adult. If you own "Smoke and Mirrors" and "Fragile Things" and don't have a need for a more young adult focused book I would skip this book because you probably already own most of the stories. Still the stories are great.

Here is a link to it:

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (3/5 stars)

I listened to this book as an audio book. This was a very interesting book. It was a very unique perspective on time traveling. Although the book was less science fiction than I expected and more of a love story.

This book details the lives of Henry and Clare as they cope with Henry's inability to stay in the present, literally. Henry is often forced out of the present time into a time and place unknown to him and out of his control. The story takes you through Henry and Clare's lives and details the effects of time travel on their relationship and there attempt to live normal lives.

There was a lot I liked about this book. Looking at time travel as a genetic disease is very novel and interesting. We always think of genetics as being responsible for physical diseases (which I suppose this is in a way) but we never consider that genetics might be responsible for something so integral to daily life as time itself. The book is done in first person and the events are very deliberately unfolded. Each chapter starts both with the date and the ages of Clare and Henry; this was very helpful in keeping yourself organized with the plot-line. Without this the book would have been too confusing. The book is well written with detailed descriptions and thoughtful ideas.

It's a book that makes you look back on your own life and analyze the decisions you've made. It also makes you look back on the importance of certain events in your life. This is not a science fiction book; this is a drama with a slight slant on science fiction going on in the background. I liked the attempts at humor throughout the book; although they could have been more prevalent.

There are a few things I did not like about the book. Henry looks on everything with a sort of wry wit; Clare is very different. Throughout the whole book it seems like Clare is a woman obsessed. She is obsessed with Henry and then obsessed with having a baby. Clare has no sense of humor; it would have been nice to see a wider range of emotions from Clare then obsessive love and obsessive distress. To be quit honest I didn't like Clare. I thought she was a wee bit mental. I really didn't like the obsession she had with having a baby. Having recently had a baby I found the description of (spoiler coming up here) her miscarriages especially heart-rending. The rest of the whole baby experience was somewhat amusing. I found her unreasonableness when Henry brings up adoption to be especially obsessive and obnoxious. I suppose this is an effort to make Clare seem more human and intense maybe?

There were some inconsistencies in the second half of the book. For example what did they do with the lottery money they won? The second half of the book was much different than the first, it wasn't as interesting and is very depressing. There wasn't as much time travel. I also often wondered (while we heard a lot about Henry's day to day work) we never heard much about what Clare did with her art. Did she sell it? At one point there is mention on an art dealer at their party but that is the only mention I remember.

So all in all this book explored a very interesting concept and keep me hanging on until the end. I do think that the storyline could have been a bit tighter and that the writing style could have stayed more consistent throughout the book. It is an interesting read if you have the time for it; the book brings up a number of interesting questions about society and life in general. I would not classify this as a fun read or an easy read. In fact it's a rather depressing read. I think most people would be hard-pressed to get through this book without clouding up a little.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (4/5 stars)

We have probably all heard that The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper is being released as a movie in October. This prompted me to dig out this series of books from the basement and re-read the first book. I last read this book when I was somewhere around 11 years of age. After that reading I thought the world of this book.

The book is well-written and very descriptive. It's every child's dream to get swept into an adventure like Will is and to find out you are part of an ancient race that lives to defeat all that is evil. This book is a classic. I think every young adult should read it!

All that being said. I wasn't as impressed with this book on my second read through. I think I have just read too many books. And, while the book was enjoyable, the haphazard way in which Will progresses through his quest kind of bothered me. I also thought that the gathering of all of the signs in one book was a bit much. It just made the retrieval of each sign seem more trivial than it should have been and condensed the adventure down, almost making it too simplistic. Still the book is well-written, the character's are likable, and the struggle details the epic struggle between good and evil.

I can't wait to see how well the movie follows the book.

Here is a link to the book:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (2.5/5 stars)

Okay so I am just as prone as anyone else to a pretty book cover and title. That is why I wanted ,and bought on a whim, the book Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. I think that amazon also recommended this book as something I would like.

I was very disappointed. There really isn't all that much unique about this book. It reminds of many other young adult urban fantasy books that I have read. The characters are stereotypical and the writing is mediocre.

This book tells the story of Ash who can see fairies. Ash is stalked by a couple of fairies and gradually comes to find out that one of the fairies stalking her believes that she could become the Summer Queen. That's basically the story.

I didn't really care much for the characters in general; they seemed one dimensional. The story was predictable and easy to read. There weren't any real shockers here. Everything about this book seemed mediocre to me; the writing was okay, the story was good enough to keep your attention (if you were sick in bed all day like I was), and it was a quick, easy read. I think I read the book in 3-4 hours.

I kind of felt like I was reading a pale shadow of one of Holly Black's books (see review of Ironside). Personally if you want to read a young adult urban fantasy I would stick with Holly Black or Stephanie Meyer; someone more like that. If you have exhausted your horde of YA fantasy, find this book used or somehow else cheap, and have a few hours to kill, then by all means read it. The book is not horrible and is mildly entertaining and I am putting it up for sale as we speak.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (4/5 stars)

I received this book as a gift last Christmas from some friends. The writer, Scott Lynch, is their cousin and had given them a number of signed books to distribute as they saw fit. Historically speaking my experience with books that have been gifted to me by friends or family (excluding my direct family of course) have not been all that great. So I put off reading this book for quit some while.

Once I did start reading the book I was pleasantly surprised. This is a good book! The writing is tight, the descriptions are crisp and really take you to the scene. It is a clever book overall and I really enjoyed it.

The book details, as the title suggests, the Lies of the main character Locke Lamora. Locke ends up an orphan after a plague kills his parents. He ends up being sold to an old priest known as Chains. Chains isn't exactly a priest though; he is more of a con artist. Chains teaches his initiates the finer aspects of conning people. The book jumps between the training the Gentlemen Bastards (Chains' gang) go through and Locke's latest scheme to usurp large amounts of money from the nobility of the city.

This book is fun and clever. Initially I found the chapters alternating between present and past to be a bit irritating. It felt like as soon as you got back involved with the main story you were switching back to the past story and visa versa. Then I realized that the interludes to the past were usually revealing something about the characters that was vital to the next part of the current story. Then these interludes became pretty clever.

The book is non-stop action and is a fun read. It is not a quick read; there is a lot of description in these books and a lot going on. You definitely have to keep your wits about you when you read this book. I am definitely interested to see what the next book in the series, Red Skies under Red Seas, brings.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mona Lisa Awakening by Sunny (3.5/5 stars)

When I first started reading this book I thought I had picked up a book by Christine Freehan or Sherrilyn Kenyon. The book started out way too mushy and romancy for me. I mean geez, Mona Lisa was sleeping with her guy very shortly into the book. I actually started snickering at the cheesy descriptions of Gyphon's skin, hair, and eyes. I almost couldn't get past that. But I had borrowed the book from my mom and she wanted to know what I thought of it. I decided to preserver; my mom doesn't recommend bad books to me and I figured why should she start now!

Basically the premise of the story is that Mona Lisa always knew she was different; she finds out rather quickly that she is a Mixed Blood. Her blood is mixed with that of the Monere. Not only that but she is powerful enough to be a Queen Monere. The book follows her struggles to gain a place in Monere society, survive the trickery of the other Queens, and start to form a loyal following of men to be her guards. Mona Lisa is seen as a breath of fresh air for the male Monere who are used to Queens being deadly and treacherous.

This book did get better. As it continued on there was murder, mayhem, and fun galore. Some reviews I have read of this book have lauded the creativity of the Monere race created in this book. I guess I have to disagree with that; the Monere race seemed like a repeat of Freehan's Carpathian race or Kenyon's Dark-Hunter race. As the book continued I began to be reminded of Laurell Hamilton's Meredith Gentry series. The gathering of men that takes place in this book (along with plentiful sex) and the sharing and manifestation of new powers between the characters is very reminiscent of what happens in the Meredith Gentry series. One thing I really didn't like about this book was there was just too much rape in it!

Overall this was a fun book to read. It was a quick read, fairly well written, and (after the first few chapters) face-paced and action-packed. If you are out of Meredith Gentry, Dark Hunter, and Carpathian novels to read this one would be worth picking up. I thought the book leaned more to romance than fantasy. I suppose it is a fine line to draw. But personally where I enjoy Laurell Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris, I do not take much pleasure in the books written by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, and others of that ilk. There is a line for me where a book becomes too much of a romance and this book teetered on that line.

I might go ahead and read the next book in the series since my mom has it already. Personally I am just getting involved in too many of these paranormal type romance series. These types of series seem to go on forever. This book wasn't good enough to trump some of the other series I am in the middle of reading.

Here is a link to this book on Amazon:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Book series I am currently reading.

Below is a chart with the book series that I am currently in the middle of reading. I am not sure if this is a totally comprehensive list. I thought it would be interesting to see how many series I am in the middle of. Click on the image to see a readable view of it!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale by Holly Black (5/5 stars)

I loved this book. So far I have really loved all the books in this series. This books continues where the book Valiant left off. Roiben is set to become king of the Unseelie court. Roiben struggles with what will happen when he is crowned king and the uncomfortable treaty with the Seelie court is broken; he wonders if war is inevitable. Kaye struggles with her place with Roiben and the Unseelie court. She is also struggling with the knowledge that the baby human whose place she grew up in is still alive and Kaye feels that she needs to reunite her "mother" with her true daughter. Corny struggles with his fear of fairy and his grief over the death of his sister. Here is a link to the book: Ironside

This book is an easy read. The characters are all likable. A few new main characters are introduced. Luis is a great character and as likable and angsty as the rest of them. The book is fast paced and is a great book about faery. I have always loved urban fantasy, Charles De Lint being the first urban fantasy author I ever read. This book is a great addition to my collection. There are new fairies, action, duels, riddles, curses, you name it. I love how there is a little romance in the book but it is not overpowering; relationships are kept to simple hugging, kissing, and cuddling. There are too many fantasy book out there that get too physically in depth with the love thing, if you know what I mean (see Laurell Hamilton book review). This book leaves you with a happy pleasant feeling at the conclusion.

That being said I am always surprised that these are considered young adult books. There is a lot of swearing and also more "adult" topics to deal with. For example Corny is gay and the Unseelie court revels in a number of horrific forms of torture and killing. None of these things are gone into in overly explicit detail but still. I would say that mid to upper teens would be okay with these books; they are not books that I would read to my 10 year old or younger.

Still these books are fun and enjoyable. The author definitely has a love of fine literature and I enjoy all of the fine literature quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Black seems to pick these quotes with care so that they reveal and foreshadow the chapter to come. I love it!

I hope there will be another book; although this book is wrapped up pretty nicely so who can say.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Finder by Emma Bull - 3/5 stars

This book is about a character named Orient who has a special power that enables him to "find' things. It is set in the Borderlands; which I didn't realize until after reading the book is the setting for a whole series of books. I may have missed some of the things in this book because of my unfamiliarity with the Borderlands. Basically there is a new drug on the street the promises to change normal humans into elves; the drug is killing lots of people and Orient gets drafted by the police to help "find" the drug.

This was an okay book. It's written in a very fast-paced, non-descriptive, no-nonsense style that is often found in science fiction. I don't read a ton of science fiction because I am not a huge fan of this writing style. I think the action sequences could have been written with more description to help the reader picture what was going on.

Orient was an interesting character, yet for some reason I did not find him especially engaging. The Ticker was a great character and I feel like we didn't get to spend enough time with her. Maybe the Ticker's story is dealt with in a different Borderland novel. I guess my biggest problem with this novel was there were a lot of characters in there that were way more interesting than Orient and they didn't get much page space.

I am a huge Emma Bull fan; I loved her book War for the Oaks. Of course I am from Minnesota so I loved having all of that adventure take place in Minneapolis. Finder was a huge deparature from the type of subject and writing style that she had in War for the Oaks. It is nice to see that she can write in different genres. I am looking forward to her soon to be released book Territory. Hopefully this one will be more in line with what she delivered in War for the Oaks.

Here is a link for Finder on Amazon:

Here is a link for War for the Oaks on Amazon:

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb - 2/5 stars

I read this book because Amazon kept recommending it to me and because the premise sounded interesting.

The premise of the book is that Helen has been a ghost for 130 years; she remembers little more of her past than her name, how long ago she died, and the age at which she died. She also quickly discovered that she needs to cleave onto a host in order to avoid horrible searing pain. Yet she has not figured out how to continue on her journey to heaven beyond. Things all change when she is "seen" by another student in her host's classroom.

I didn't really like this book much. It was too much of a romance for me. I like my books with a little romance but also some action and plot. Initially it seemed like a really interesting idea for a story. It just degraded into too much romance. The two families involved were interesting but it seemed a bit too forced. I mean how would you get two characters involved with such polar opposite families? It was a bit too deliberate.

I was also both disappointed and interested in the ending. The book ended exactly how I expected a book about a ghost to end; there were no surprises. On the other hand it was nice to find out what had happened to Helen. This book was just too boring and predictable for my tastes; the quality of the writing was okay but I don't feel it offset the negatives of the book.

I read this book on the airplane; I don't think I would have finished it if I had been at home. I definitely will not read it again and it is in the "books to sell" pile on my desk at home.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer – 4/5 stars

I really enjoy this series. I am not sure why. This is the third book in the series that has been well-written and easy to read: here is a link to it Eclipse. I hate to mimic some of what I said in the Kushiel’s Avatar review but this is one of those books that is generally peaceful to read. Bella is an interesting heroine mainly because of her normalness; I mean her outstanding qualities are her placid fearlessness and her ability to get into trouble. There is some action in the book but a big part of the book deals more with Bella’s emotions and angst. Bella is on the cusp of deciding whether or not to become a vampire; there is a lot at stake in her decision. Her decision of whether to partake in immortality or not is mirrored in her relationship with Edward versus her relationship with Jacob.
I think Jacob was what really made this book. His unpredictability and his volatility made this book very interesting. I think that Edward in his accepting placidness was boring; but maybe Edward senses that Bella will be attracted to that. That being said (without giving anything away) I think Jacob really get the short end of the stick in a number of ways.
I don’t understand why I love this series. Not much happens and the storyline, while interesting, follows a lot of the werewolf versus vampires stories out there. I guess I am somewhat drawn to the non-violent personality of the vampires in this book. Deep down I know there is also a part of me that wishes it were still a naive young girl in high school waiting to be swept off my feet by some Davidesque looking immortal being that cared for nothing in the world but my well-being. If my husband is reading this; that’s what I thought you were at the time - of course after 7 years of marriage I know that there’s more to you than that and it is all much better than the fantasy ;-) This is a test to see if you are actually reading my book reviews .
Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

Edgar and Ellen – Rare Beasts (4/5 stars) by Charles Ogden and Rick Carton

I picked this book up because I liked the cover and the premise. Two twins living in a creepy house while their parents are on a supposedly permanent holiday; the twins’ goal is to wreck havoc in the small town they live in.

This book is cute and clever. I think kids would really get a kick out of it. It’s a quick read for an adult. It doesn’t really go out of the way to teach any moral; it’s just about mischief and mayhem. In fact I believe the moral of the story was “To never use water based paint and glue.”

It’s written in a cute gothic style that reminds me of a Billy and Mandy cartoon or maybe the Adams Family. It introduced some vocabulary that would probably be new to kids of the age-frame this book is aimed and that is no bad thing. People who were fans of the Spiderwick Chronicles or An Unfortunate Series of Events would probably dig this book. This book is not as much fantasy or as serious as the Spiderwick Chronicles. I can’t compare it directly to An Unfortunate Series of Events because I personally never got into that series.

Definitely a quick fun read; I look forward to reading more of this series.

Here is a link to this book on Amazon:

Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacquline Carey (5/5 stars)

This is my second reading of this book. I am getting ready to start reading the second series having to do with this character set; so I wanted to give the last book in the series a quick read-through. I forget that these are not quick books to read and I also forget how enjoyable they are.

This book follows Phedre’ and Josceline in a whole new set of adventures. Phedre’s quest to free Hyacinthe from the curse of being the Master of the Straights leads her into a greater adventure than she and Josceline could ever imagine. Phedre has further dealings with Melisandre and ends up on a sidequest to recover Melisandre’s missing son. The quest takes Phedre and Josceline on a more hellish journey than either of them could have imagined; the burning question remains will they be able to survive it both physically and in spirit?

I love these books. There is no character that I admire more than Phedre. She seems to be so graceful and at peace with what she needs to do. Even though Phedre often despises herself for what she must do; the book is written so beautifully that you can’t help admire her commitment. Throughout that book I often thought of the phrase that formed the thought behind the previous books “that which yields is not always weak.” (or something to that effect).

The book is beautifully written and wondrously crafted leaving me with a content and peaceful feeling upon reading the book. There is something for everyone; action, love, adventure. Some how Carey makes you really care about the characters; even those that only make a brief appearance. In Melisandre’s son, Imriel, we meet a wonderful new character.

I love the way that Phedre’s and Josceline’s relationship has matured. So often characters are left right after the happily-ever-after happens; we never find out what happens after the boy gets the girl (or vis versa). In this book you see how Phedre and Josceline’s relationship has matured into the type of relationship “normal” people are more often in. Of course throughout the book pervades the premise of these novels; the following of Elua which is simply to “love as thou wilt”. This book reminds us that love comes in many forms from children, to spouses, to the love of the pursuit of knowledge or pursuit of the game.

Again I should say I have just loved this series. Just keep in mind this is not a quick read. The writing is a little bit more advanced and the descriptions take some time to get through. Still the time spent reading is worth it. I am wholeheartedly looking forward to reading the next series; which is written from Imreil’s point of view.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (4/5 stars)

Okay finally the last book of the Harry Potter series. I was expecting a lot from this book. Did I get a lot out of it? I guess I got most of what I wanted :-) There were a few inconsistencies though. I think given the scope of these books there is absolutely no way that Rowling could have written a 5 star book for the finale. All that aside I will try to write this review free of spoilers. I will separate this into the good, the bad, and the ugly (okay maybe I will skip the ugly).

I should note that my husband and I listened to this on audio book. The audio book was read by Jim Dale. He did an excellent job (as he always does); he gets 5/5 stars for his reading of the book.

First the good. This is a great series. All of the story arcs were neatly tied up in this book. There are some fantastic action scenes and battle scenes. The final battle delivers all that we were waiting for and more. Really the end was positive and upbeat; (slight spolier in the next sentence) Rowling didn't kill anyone that we couldn't deal with dying. I am sure there are loads of more good things about this book. Of course, what stuck out the most was the bad, so we will go onto that. Basically you can assume the book was all that you hoped for minus the bad.

Okay, the bad. The first third of the book drove me nutty. They (Ron, Hermonie, and Harry) basically ran around hiding and arguing for what seemed like forever. I mean come on, what's the point? There was too much whining and angsting for my like. I was getting very restless listening to the beginning of the book; my mind kept wandering to things I needed to do, none book related.

Of course the book did get more interesting. This brings me to the next bad thing. That is Harry Potter's inconsistency of character. At points Harry would come up with some brilliant deductions. Case in point, at the end of the book the deal with Malfoy's wand (those who have read the book know what I am talking about). At other points in the book you want to smack Harry in the head and shout "duh!" Point in case here, when he retrieves that item from the Room of Requirement performing a desperate breathtaking maneuver and ends up with said item hanging on his arm. Two seconds later he is outside the room with Ron and Hermonie and Hermonie asks "What's on your arm?" and Harry is like "What are you talking about?" I mean give me a break you just risked your life literally two seconds ago to obtain this and you've forgotten about it? There were a number of inconsistencies like this in the book and I couldn't figure out if they were there to make Harry seem more real and to amplify the sense of stress Harry was under, or if they were just plain inconsistent.

Last couple bad things here. I was disappointed George and Fred didn't have a larger role in this book. They were great in the last couple books and I really missed them. (Next sentence is a spoiler) Lastly, nobody extremely important died. There were a couple good guys that died, but nothing that left the reader just heartbroken (this could be different for you if you have some great personal emotional attachment to one of the good guys that did die). To me the good guys seemed a bit too well protected.

One last vendetta against the Harry Potter series in general. These were great books but I think they degraded as the series went on. The first few books were fantastical wonders. They made me want to be a kid again; with a life full of adventure and fun and interesting puzzle-like problems. As the books went on they got too serious and too emotionally complicated for me. To me these books were supposed to make me feel like a kid again; not be books to stress out over and philosophize about. I understand that Rowling was trending the books with the age group of kids that she aimed them at. I know Rowling intended that as her readers began to grow up they could relate to the problems that Harry and his friends had. They are still great books; I just never got the awed wonderfully warm feeling from the last 3 books that I did from the first ones.

Should you read it? Of course you have too! It's the big finale and not a disappointment. Here's a link to the book:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Macromedia Flash Professional 8 Hands-On Training by James Gonzalez (5/5 stars)

I wasn't planning on reviewing any of my school books on here. This was a great school book though so I couldn't resist.

I got this book for a course that I was taking on Flash. It is a great book and I am happy the teacher recommended it.

The chapters are arranged in easy to follow exercises that teach all the basics of Flash. I really liked this style of teaching because it forces you to open up Flash and do the exercises. Much more useful than a book that you just sit and read.

The author of the book is also very good about telling you multiple ways of doing something. In the course of the exercises there are little colored boxes that will talk about how you could have done the above action this way or this way or this way. The fact that these tips are usually separate is nice if you don't care and want to skip the additional information.

So far I am about 3/4 the way through the course and the book and have been very happy with it. A great book; especially for a newbie that doesn't have any programming background.

Shadow (The Trilogy, Book 1) by K. Parker (3/5 stars)

I read this book last year but was upset by the inaccuracy of the other reviews posted so here is the review that I posted on it.

I ordered this book based on the other reviews I was seeing on Amazon. I have to admit the book is a very interesting concept and really keeps you guessing. Neat concept, very thought provoking. Definitely not what I would call a "candy" book (all good action, entertaining, but you never think twice about it after reading it).

Unfortunately I feel that it could have had more depth and more action. As you follow the character through the book you end up looking at everything very dispassionately. Which may be the way you would see things if you had lost your memory I suppose...but I feel you would still have very strong opinions and views. This approach to writing made it so I didn't really care what happened to any of the characters, I didn't like them, I didn't care about them. I believe these are very important things to make a book engrossing.

The other thing that was lacking was good pacing. The middle of the book plods along...vvveerrryy sslloowwly. I really didn't care what type of buttons the lead character, Poldarn, ended up selling, I mean who really cares. It had no benefit to the story except to show that Poldarn was lost and confused and I picked that up in the first half. If you had cut out about 100 pages and given the characters some passionate opinions then I would rate this book 4-5 stars.

All that being said I will probably read the 2nd book. If you had asked me if I was going to continue the series 3 chapters before the ending of this book I would have told you I am selling this book and shame on me for purchasing the next two in the series. But, the last few chapters were enough to re-spike the curiosity that the first part of the book generated. I am hoping the pace and depth of the characters picks up in the second book.