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: