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!