Monday, September 29, 2008

Ophelia by Lisa Klein (3/5 stars)

I am a big fan of Hamlet and I have always wondered what the rest of Ophelia's story is. When of saw this reimagining of Hamlet, from Ophelia's prospective, I was wary but interested. Unfortunately, while decently written, the story was just plain boring and at sometimes forced.

The story starts from Ophelia's point of view earlier than the play, back when the court of King Hamlet was a happy place. There is even a brief meeting with Yorick the jester. It seems okay, the author tries to stay true to the writing style of Hamlet but also tries to make it easily readable. This was okay and overall better than trying to mimic Shakespeare. Unfortunately the author forces in famous parts from the original play. She tries to put them in word for word and they seem strange and stilted in with the rest of the story. It is just plain odd.

The back history and Ophelia's life after where the original play ends seem kind of boring. I am sure that the author means Ophelia to seem spirited and rebellious. To me though Ophelia's story seems rather plain; Ophelia takes what seems to me to be a rather typical route of women that were shunned in that time period. There is no stretch of the imagination here. I wonder if that is meant to make the story more realistic or maybe more in keeping with the times? The tragedy of Hamlet is in itself fanciful so I don't understand why you wouldn't stay with that and make Ophelia have a more interesting part in it all.

Despite all the things I didn't like there were some things I did like. I did like that the author stayed true to the major plotline of Hamlet. I liked the glimpse of the court before King Hamlet's death. And, although it was not in keeping with a tragedy, I liked the hopeful ending. Although even this rankled a bit because after having Ophelia rail against the men in her life it seemed odd for the author to hint that Ophelia would feel more complete with the addition of a man to her life. Maybe this was meant to be ironic. It also bothered me that the characters in this book seemed less passionate than in the play; you would think a book would give more license to character development.

All in all this may be a book I could have never really loved no matter who the writer was. It is an almost insurmountable task to fill-out a story written by Shakespeare. I applaud the author for the attempt. I just wish it was a more interesting and more well-written attempt. As it stands this book was okay, but nothing more. I don't think I will read anything more by this author, her writing style definitely didn't grab and take hold of me.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (5/5 stars)

This is the 4th book in the Percy and the Olympians series. I have heard that there are supposed to be 5 books in the series. This book was as good as the previous ones and follows the same basic formula as those ones. I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was very well done!

Percy is going to orientation at yet another new school. This time more is at stake because he was allowed into this school on a recommendation from his mother's boyfriend. As usual trouble ensues and he is attacked right off the bat by evil monster cheerleaders. So starts another fun fast-paced adventure with Percy and his buddies.

Percy flees the scene meeting Annabeth on the way and they end up back at camp half-blood where Annabeth is finally given a quest. Her quest will take her, Tyson, Percy, and Grover through the depths of the fabled Labyrinth and through many other fantastical areas of Greek mythology. As Aphrodite promised Percy's "love life" begins to get difficult with the addition of Elizabeth Rachel Dare to the story.

This was another great book. I continue to love how the Greek myths are woven in with everyday reality. I love the characters. I love how even Percy's everyday normal mortal life is kept track of and not forgotten about. This is just an all-in-all great book. I love this series and am very excited to see how it ends.

Great book!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maledicte by Lane Robins (5/5 stars)

I bought this book because I loved the cover and when I read the premise I was intrigued. I love these kinds of stories and this one was especially heart-rending yet hopeful.

Miranda's childhood sweetheart is stolen from her in the slums that they are raised in. She vows to get back her love, Janus, at any cost. Disguising herself as a young lord named Maledicte she wins over the elderly lord of a house; he decides to foster Maledicte as an heir; for a price. When the lord finds out Maledicte's secret the stakes are even greater.

Miranda adopts Maledicte's persona completely and works to become a ferocious fighter and deadly courtier. This book is full of lush description, great fight scenes, and intrigue galore. There is much contemplation on the topics of love versus power and the values of each.

This book was well-written, impossible for me to put down, and a classic type of story with a twist. It is kind of your classic rage to riches story, but your young man is actually a girl pretending to be a man, and the young man's true love is not exactly what he seems.

The style of writing and court intrigue reminded me of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart series; although the scope of this book is smaller (it is a stand alone novel) and the sex scenes are not explicit (just very sweet and tasteful).

This was a beautiful book and I was sad when it ended. The ending seemed slightly rushed. I was still very impressed and it was awesome to find such a good stand alone novel. It seems like now-a-days everything is part of a series. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this author in the future!

The Watcher by Jeanne C. Stein (3/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Anna Strong Chronicles. It was written in a style consistent with the first two. It was a pretty good book and I think if you liked the first two, you would also like this book.

Anna is signed on to be a Watcher. As normal things get out of control. A lot happens in this book. Anna is involved in everything from helping seek down a witch bent on summoning demons into the world, to retrieving her lost boyfriend Max from what are thought to be more typical enemies.

So much happens in this book that it is almost dizzying. That would be one complaint I have with this book; there is just too much going on. Another complaint I have would be that Anna is *still* making the same mistakes and vowing to correct them. Will the girl ever learn? Her character really needs to start changing and growing. My last complaint is that the secondary characters are not getting enough plot time to develop them into characters you know and love. Maybe there was just too much packed into this novel to be able to do that?

There were a couple things I really like. I liked that we finally got to spend some time with Max; he seems like he is an interesting character and I liked what happened between him and Anna. I also like the inclusion of the witches as another sub species in this book; it is nice to get some new fun things in there.

Will I read the next book? Probably. I do think there are better series out there. But these books are a quick read, fast-paced, and draw me in; so I will keep reading them. I just hope that Anna starts to get herself together a little bit better and grow some as a person.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Anna Strong Chronicles. I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit more than the first.

This book is very much in the same style as the first. No nonsense writing style, fast paced, and a fun-easy read.

In this book Anna has accepted her need for blood but is still struggling to retain her bonds with humanity. When her brother's ex-girlfriend shows up claiming that Anna's niece is possibly involved in a murder; Anna is determined to find the young girl and find out the truth.

The best part of this book was the introduction of Daniel Frey; you also learn more about Calebra (I think that's how you spell it). I was a little disappointed in what Calebra was; I thought he would be something more interesting. Daniel Frey is an interesting and strong character. The addition of the secret underground organization is also interesting.

I was disappointed in a few things. Anna doesn't seem to progress much in understanding who and what she has become; she makes many of the same mistakes she made in the first book. I was also disappointed that Max made such a brief appearance. It's like he shows up once or twice in each book so that Anna can have sex with him and then he's off again. I would like to learn more about him, since the brief glances we see of him make him seem like an interesting character. Maybe in the next book.

Overall, I like the book, it was a quick, fun read, and well-written for what it is. I will definitely read the next one.

Peter and the Shadow Theives by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson (4/5 stars)

This is the second book about Peter and what happened to him before he met Wendy. It was very enjoyable, very well-written, and followed very much in the style and story type of the first book. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one.

A strange group of pirates lands on Mollusk island looking for the chest of starstuff that Peter and Molly had brought there. Of course, we know the starstuff has been returned to Londan. The pirates quickly find out and head off to London. Peter is concerned about one of the pirate crew Lord Ombra who appears to take over people through their shadows. He decides to accompany the pirates back to London in an effort to warn Molly about their intentions. But things aren't always that simple.

This was a fast-paced book, it was very well-written and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I look forward to reading the third and final book of the series. I was a little disappointed that the rest of the Lost Boys played such a small role in this book; but I guess these books are about Peter after all. This book also has a somewhat open ending that will hopefully be resolved in the third book.

Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez (4/5 stars)

I read this book because it sounded funny, and it was pretty funny. Anyone who likes corny zombie movies would like this book.

Two unlikely characters serve as the heroes of this tale. Earl (as in earl of the Vampires) and Duke (as in Duke of the Werewolves) stumble across a diner with a zombie problem on a road trip they're taking. Loretta, the diner's owner, handles the zombies without batting an eye. Unfortunately soon things take a turn for the worse and even Loretta with her shot gun needs a couple of extra bodies to handle all of the trouble.

This is not a beautifully written book, but then I wasn't expecting it to be. It is full of action, gritty, and witty. It was fast-paced, kept me interested, amused me, and (despite the fact that Earl and Duke aren't the most endearing characters I've ever read about) I really became quite fond of them by the end of the book. I knew this was going to be a good book when they got attacked by zombie cows; I mean how can you beat that.

So if you're looking for a quick, fun, and darkly humorous read this is the book for you. I will definitely check out what other books this author has out.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lucky Billy by John Vernon (1/5 stars)

This is another book I got from the Amazon Vine program. It sounded interesting; though not of the type of book I usually read. I was sorely disappointed in it.

It is very rare that I stop in the middle of a book. Unfortunately I had to stop reading this one. I knew I was in for trouble when I had problems getting through the first intro page. Then as I read about Billy's escape in the following chapter I decided that maybe the book would get better as we started to hear about Billy's history. Well it didn't.

Every page of this book was a struggle for me. I had trouble keeping all the names and places straight. When the characters were speaking to each other I had trouble figuring out who was saying what. I was even having trouble keeping events straight. I tried to look at the writing style as being stylized to fit in with the era it was representing, but in the end I think the writing was just bad. I kept pushing on in hopes that at some point this book would gel for me and make more sense. I finally admitted defeat around page 70 and, rubbing my eyes and head in frustration, gave up.

I have too many good books to read to waste my time on this. On the back it lists other books that this author has written and I wonder if those books are better. I am still trying to figure out how this book is getting published. I really intensely disliked it. The chapter with John Tunstall's letters was kind of interesting, it gave you a glimpse into the era. I thought maybe at that point I could get through this book, then it was back to difficult to read, cobbled together events.

I was sorely disappointed. Maybe if I was really into this genre I would have more interest and sympathy for this book. For now I am left trying to figure out what to do with it. I think it might get recycled.

Molecules of Murder by John Emsley (5/5 stars)

So I am chemist by trade and when I saw this book pop up on Amazon Vine I thought I would get it and give it a read. It is a fascinating book. Anyone interested in chemistry, forensics, or even poisons would find this book fascinating; you don't need a technical background.

This book covers 5 poisons found in nature and 5 man-made poisons. Each chapter is very nicely structured and goes through how the poison was discovered, how the poison affects the human body, what remedies there are, and then goes through a case study where the poison was used to murder someone. In some chapters there are sections that give statistics on the number of poisonings with a given poison and how many of these are accidental.

The only parts that might require some technical knowledge are the chemical descriptions of the poisons and how the poison reacts with the enzymes (or whatever) in the human body. Even these parts of the book are presented in such a fashion that someone without a depth of technical knowledge gets a lot out of them.

The book is very well-written. I was worried this would be more of a dry technical read but it wasn't. I was sucked in right from the beginning and had trouble putting the book down. I really, really enjoyed it.

This is not something you would want to use as a handbook for poisoning because for the majority of cases the poisons go wrong and/or the poisoners get caught. My husband did want to know exactly why I need to read a book about poisons. I told him it was in self-defense :-)

Overall a great book. I will definitely keep an eye out for more books from this author. A colleague of mine actually heard John Emsley do a talk on forensic chemistry at an American Chemical Society meeting; supposedly he is also a great speaker.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The White Mary by Kira Salak (5/5stars)

I got this book as an advance reader's edition through the amazon Vine program. Not normally the type of book I read, but it sounded interesting.

Kira Salak herself has a very interesting background. If you go to this book on amazon, she has posted some links to photos she took both in the Congo and Papua New Guinea.

The book itself deals with Marika Vecera; a journalist who covers stories in war torn countries. At a talk she meets a psychologist named Seb; who introduces her to happiness and a different world where Marika isn't constantly under threat of death. After a particularly dangerous assignment in the Congo, Marika hears of the death of Robert Lewis, a man whose journalism she has long admired. When rumors surface of him having been seen in Papau New Guina she decides to check it out. Will her trip to Papau New Guinea destroy Marika's relationship with Seb? Will she find Robert Lewis? Will she live through her trip through the dense jungle? These are all questions the book answers.

The book was very well written and very gripping. It bounces from the past that lead to her trip to Papau New Guinea (PNG) to the present where she is fighting her way through the jungle. I really found the subject intriguing and had a lot of trouble putting this book down. The characters were interesting and the setting very unique. You could really tell that Salak had experienced these places and been here before.

This book was not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of war scenes are vivid as is the the gruesome trip through the jungle. The part of this book I found most interesting were the justifications that war journalists had for why they do this work. It was neat to see into the mind of a war journalist and try to understand what those people get out of doing such a crazily dangerous job.

Of course Marika's journey of learning how to live through happiness versus sadness in also interesting. As is some of her contemplation on why she has such a hard time living a normal day to day live. At one point she explains that listening to Seb in the kitchen seems so unimportant and trivial considering that a day ago she was struggling to survive shootings, bombings and kidnapping in the Congo. It made me grateful for the life I live.

Salak is a great writer and this was an awesome, eye-opening book.

Hell to Pay by Simon Green (3/5 stars)

This is the 7th book in Simon Green's Nightside series. To me this book seemed to be very much a transition book. Being that the 6th book capped off the over arcing storyline, it is not surprising that this book is a bit weak. I still enjoyed reading it; although it just wasn't nearly as good as Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth was.

In the aftermath of Lilith's War the Nightside needs a new leader and with John Taylor stepping aside; Walker is trying to fill that space. If there is anyone who can contend with Walker it is the Griffin family. A very powerful and immortal family the Griffin family is possibly in a position to rule the Nightside. Unfortunately when Griffin's granddaughter disappears John Taylor is called in to find her. Someone very powerful doesn't want her found and is able to shut down John's gift in an effort to stop him. Looks like John's going to have to solve this case the old-fashioned way.

While this was still an enjoyable book; it was probably the weakest one in the series. The action scenes were few and far between and somewhat blase'. The characters were weak. It was good to see Dead Boy some more but he wasn't there for much of the book. The main powers of the Nightside were notable in their absence. Seriously this is the most boring of the Nightside books. It truly seems to be a transition novel, with everyone picking up the pieces of the Nightside after the Lilith War. Unfortunately it seems like Green doesn't know exactly to do with everyone either.

I have high hopes for the next book but if it is as dull and uninspired as this one, I might have to rethink reading this series.