Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth by Simon Green (5/5 stars)

This is the 6th book in the Nightside series. All I can say is "wow" this was a good book.

Lilith has returned to the Nightside and it is up to John Taylor to stop her from destroying first the Nightside and then the world. The only problem is John knows that a future exists in which the whole world is destroyed and that future is getting more and more certain by the day. How will John oppose Lilith without destroying the world in the process?

For such a slim novel, there was a lot in this book. As usual non-stop action, continuous creativity, and lots and lots of fighting. I couldn't put this book down and the whole time I was holding my breath trying to decide how and if the Nightside would be saved.

Dead Boy returns in this book along with the Oblivion brothers, Shotgun Suzie, Walker, and Eddie Razor. The Powers are out in force seeking to save their city. It was an awesome book and ends quite nicely. If I didn't own the next two books in the series I would be asking myself if this is the end of the series. Since it's not, I am very curious about what the next few books are about. I am glad that there was some closure for this book and I am excited to see what the next book will bring.

Dark Nocturne by Hideyuki Kikuchi (3/5 stars)

This is the 10th novel in the Vampire Hunter D series. This novel is different from previous novels in that it is actually a collection of three novellas. I didn't realize this when I purchased the book. It was interesting to read short stories about D; I think this material lends itself to a short story type format.

The above being said this was probably the worst installment in the Vampire Hunter D series yet. The first story (after which the book is named) is just off. D had a flippant attitude that is very unlike his normal stoic demeanor. In fact the character of D didn't seem to be like D at all; for a second I thought Zorro had stepped in to take D's place. All of the characters in this story were a bit off; the whole story was out of context and out of place.

The remaining two stories were more in keeping with D's character; although D seemed to be a little more chatty than normal in the second story too. I was a bit disappointed overall because part of the reason I enjoy these books is the slow and reluctant unfolding of D's character. These stories undermined that by changing D's character willy-nilly and confusing me about who I was reading about.

The book was okay. The first story awful, the second two somewhat interesting. I am excited for the next book because that is supposed to go back to the original Hunter D format.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein (4/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Anna Strong Chronicles by Jeanne C. Stein.

Anna is a bounty hunter who is savagely attacked while hunting one of her bounties. When she wakes up from the attack she finds out that she is not quite human anymore. This book details the process of her discovering new found abilities and hunting the one who attacked her.

This book was well-written. Stein has a very straight-forward unembellished writing style. The plot was fast-paced and contained enough twists and turns to keep you interested. The vampire concepts she uses in this novel are pretty routine, at least up to the point where this novel leaves off.

Anna Strong is a strong straight-forward character. I like that she wasn't whiny, and that she accepted the changes in her life pretty well. I liked her independence as well. I also like that she was confident, without out being stupidly over confident. Dr. Avery's character didn't do much for me; I thought he was shallow and predictable. That part of the book ended exactly how I thought it would.

However, Anna's boyfriend Max seems like a very interesting character and I look forward to meeting him in more detail. Also the guy who took care of her partner in that hole of a place (I am forgetting his name) who was not human but not vampire could be very interesting.

I like that Stein put sex into the story without having to describe every moment of the act. Sometimes it is sexier to leave some of the sex to the imagination.

I think this series shows promise. Hopefully the coming books develop this world into something more. I would hate for this to be just another vampire series with a female lead. Unfortunately with the book market saturated with these types of books right now; I think Stein is going to have to have something that makes these books really special to keep readers interesting.

It's a promising debut and I will read the next one to see what happens.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (5/5 stars)

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got this book. Needless to say I was very happy and pleasantly surprised at what a great book this was.

Katniss is a 16 year old girl who has been breaking the law to keep her mother and younger sister Prim fed. Katniss regularly hunts in a forbidden area of District 12, but since the locals enjoy her game as much as her family does they leave her alone. Everything is going fairly well until it is again time for the Hunger Games. The Capitol requires two children from each District to fight in a game to the death. When Prim's name is randomly drawn Katniss offers herself in her sister's place and partakes on an amazing and grueling adventure.

I really loved this book. I just couldn't put it down. The world created is intriguing and believable. The characters are very heartfelt and interesting. It was very well-written, action packed, and I just absolutely loved it.

Then only thing that disappointed me was that I thought the ending was left a bit too wide open. I understand that their will be another book; but this one could have been tied up a bit better.

I am really looking forward to the next book.

Betrayed by PC and Kristin Cast (3/5 stars)

This is the 2nd book in the House of Night series by the Casts. It follows in the same vein as the 1st book. The writing is mediocre but the plot is fairly engrossing.

Zoey has only been at the House of Night for a little while yet she is taking over the most prestigious group in the school; the Dark Daughters and Sons. While she struggles to figure out how to make this group a positive one, she is still being haunted by vampire ghosts. She is starting to think things are not what they seem and something deeper and darker may be happening at school. Then there is her ex-boyfriend Heath to deal with and a super-hottie vampire that seems to have an attraction to Zoey; of course she is supposedly dating the drop-dead fledgling Erik, but how is Zoey to deal with all the love problems and the more life threatening ones?

This book just isn't written that well, and neither was the previous one. There is lots of teenage drama and a fair amount of action. Despite the poor writing the story is engaging and interesting to read. I really find myself wondering what will happen to Zoey next. Some of the drama with her boyfriends gets bit old and some of the plot is pretty predictable. Still, it kept my attention so I guess it must be an okay book.

Will I read the next one? Again, maybe if I can find it somewhere for cheap, used.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson (5/5 stars)

What happened before Peter Pan met Wendy? That's what Berry and Pearson try to address in this book. And it's a lot of fun to read about. This book is the first in a trilogy about the orphan Peter and the Starcatchers.

Peter and his orphan buddies are shipped off on a rickety old boat called the Neverland. They are going to be slaves to the king of far off country. Peter befriends a girl on the boat named Molly, who is a starcatcher. When Peter bumps into Molly near a mysterious trunk on the Neverland, things start to get crazy.

This book had lots of things that young children will love. Lots of action, pirates, falling stars, magic, and danger. It was a great book and a fun read. Some parts might be a bit scary for little kids. There is some walking the plank and people held at gunpoint; but it's all part of the wild adventure to obtain the magic trunk.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series!

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (5/5 stars)

This is the conclusion to the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I thought that the conclusion was wonderful, it was all I could have hoped for.

The book starts out with Bella and Edward preparing for their wedding, immediately afterward they are whisked off to their honeymoon. Bella has decided that she wants to stay human for their honeymoon, since after turning into a vampire she will be a fledgling and have a period of time where she can't control her bloodlust.

It's hard to review this book without giving away spoilers; but I will do my best! Overall the book was beautifully written and very engrossing. There wasn't as much action as in previous books; in fact the book was distinctive in the peaceful approach taken to things. I thought this was a perfect decision for this book since this sense of peacefulness embodies what the Cullen family stands for. It was a long book and a lot happened, but I never found myself bored. There was a lot of character development which kept things very interesting.

Okay now for the spoilers...

I partially agree with some of the reviews on amazon that complained about Edward's over-reaction to Bella becoming pregnant. Although I think maybe some of the reviewers talking about this have never been pregnant. It would be very scary for a mother to lose her child and even scarier for the father to think about losing the mother and the child. Especially considering how important Bella and Edward are to each other. All in all I don't think this was over done. I think it was appropriate given that neither Bella or Edward knew what their child was going to be, much less what would happen to Bella throughout the pregnancy.

I thought that Bella not having any trouble with transitioning to a vampire was also appropriate. Bella was surrounding by so much preparation and love, I think it is good that she was able to forgo the fledgling bloodlust. This is part of who Bella is.

I really enjoyed meeting all the other vampires from around the world. They all had interesting personalities and characteristics even though they were only in the book for a short time.

I think the issue with Jacob was resolved elegantly, although that wasn't a surprise. I figured out that Jacob was going to imprint on Bella's daughter pretty darn fast. I also loved Bella and Edward's daughter, she was very interesting.

I loved that the whole conflict with the vampire council was resolved peacefully, even though Bella forced the peace.

Peace and love, as corny as it sounds, seemed to be the theme of this book. So many issues were resolved without violence and the ending was as picture perfect and wonderful as any of the readers could have hoped for. I suppose I could complain about the ending being too perfect; but I mean, let's face it, these characters went through a lot in this book and I personally think that they deserved the perfect ending that they got!

Maybe we will see some additional books or short stories about some of the other vampires we meet in this book. There are definitely a lot of untold stories introduced.

In conclusion I think Meyer did an excellent job wrapping up this series. It didn't seem rushed or contrived; it was just perfect.

Evernight by Claudia Gray (3/5 stars)

This book was more of a romance than a fantasy. That being said it was well-written and kept my attention. It rehashes some subject matter than has (kind of) been visited before in other books. It reminded me a lot of the Twilight series and of The House of Night series. Although it was much higher writing quality than the House of Night series.

Bianca is forced to enroll in the Evernight Academy when her parents move there to become teachers. She doesn't like the academy and doesn't seem to get along with the students there. That's until she bumps into Lucas; Bianca and Lucas seem to have a connection with each other that is beyond a normal teenage crush. With Lucas there Bianca thinks she may just be able to make it through a year at the Academy.

I had one huge problem with this book. I will try my best not to put any spoilers in here... So, let's just say that the revealing of both Bianca's family secret and the school's secret came right out of left field. I wasn't expecting it. To me the book before the secret was revealed and after the secret was revealed, was almost written like two different books. This really bothered me; I almost went back to read the first half of the book over again because I wanted to make sure it remained consistent with the second half of the book. I didn't though, and it still bothers me that there was such a style shift mid-book.

Overall this was a fun, well-written, easy to read book. I didn't think it was incredibly creative; I think it's rehashing too much of a type of young adult genre that we already have a lot out there for. Some of the aspects of the world created here are interesting but they didn't really blow me away. The characters were interesting also but not especially engaging.

As for whether or not I will read the next book in the series (if there is one). I don't know. There is potential for some interesting storytelling here. But at the finish of this book I wasn't dying to read the next one.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paths Not Taken by Simon Green (4/5 stars)

This is the 5th book in the Nightside series by Simon Green. This book followed a similar format to the last book, in that it is more of series book than a self-contained adventure. Still it was a fun read, quick paced, and very creative.

In this book John Taylor travels with Shotgun Suzie and Tommy Oblivion back through time to find out how the Nightside was created. So, pretty much this book is what the last book said it was going to be.

Occasionally because of the time travel the story seems a little disjointed. The only other negative was that the continuous descriptions of how the Nightside looked at each new time point got to be a bit drawn out. This book is also another short one, but that seems to be how this series is.

There were quite a few good things about this book. I liked how a lot of seemingly random events from the past books were given a reason in this book. It was cool that Green tied the events together so well. It was good to see Shotgun Suzie again. Mostly it was just interesting to see how the character's actions in this book affected the future. It begs the question; could they have really changed the future or were they destined to do what their future selves did in the past so that the future would end up how it was? Time travel circular logic, as John Taylor says, does make your head hurt.

Overall, a great book, and a good addition to the series. I am excited to see how this series continues.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon Green (4/5 stars)

This is the first book of Simon Green's Secret Histories series. It is meant to be a kind of tongue in cheek fantasy version of the Bond stories. It does a pretty good job of pulling that off. Although I think, especially in the beginning, some of the story suffers as Simon Green tries to force this style onto his readers.

Edwin Drood is a field agent for the Drood family. With his golden torc that turns into a suit of armor he is well-neigh indestructible. As Eddie sees it he is protecting all of humanity from the evils they don't know about. But when Eddie is declared rogue by the Drood family, he will stop at nothing to find out why he's been declared rogue. Along the way he finds out some very nasty secrets about the family he's revered and served for so long.

This book is longer and more involved than Simon Green's Nightside series. It is fun, well-written, and has a cast of interesting characters in it. I actually listened to it on audio book and the audio book was very good. All in all it was a great pleasure to listen to.

There were only a few things that kept it from being excellent. In the beginning Eddie tends to repeat himself a know saying the same thing in a number of different ways; I think this is supposed to be part of the Bond style but to me it was just irritating. The second thing is that the characters tend to stop in the middle of chase scenes and have long drawn out conversations (maybe also a Bond thing). You couldn't help but wonder what the bad guys were doing while Eddie and whomever sat there and discussed the universe as we know it. This really made me roll my eyes in frustration a few times.

The two complaints above aside; this was a fun read and I will most likely read the next book in the series.

Child of a Dead God by Barb and JC Hendee (3/5 stars)

This is the fifth (and supposedly last) novel in The Noble Dead series by Barb and JC Hendee. It was about what you would expect given the fourth novel.

I would have given this four stars except that the ending really ruined everything for me.

In this book Magiere and crew continue their journey to the castle Magiere keeps seeing in her dreams and to the supposed artifact there. The story of their journey there is twisted with that of the Most Aged Father and the small rebel group of elves run by Leesil's mother.

While it was good to finally make some progress towards the artifact I was disappointed in the story progress of this book. We never really found out what the artifact did or what exactly was guarding it. We also never really found out what the Most Aged Father wanted with the artifact or what the rebel group of elves was trying to accomplish with Leesil.

Given all the above I don't understand how this could be the last book in the series. In fact the book basically ended with all of the characters at the start of a new adventure.

On top of that, the characters' journey home seemed rushed compared to the deliberate journey they took to the castle. It really seemed like the authors suddenly realized the book was getting too long and that they had to quickly tie up some loose ends and get the characters sent home quickly. The ending of the book really did not match the style or pacing of the beginning of the book.

If there is yet another book added to this series, I don't plan on reading it. The last couple books of this series have just been too much of a disappointment and a struggle for me to get through.