Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Plucker by Brom (4/5 stars)

This is an illustrated novel by Brom. Brom both tells the story and illustrates it. His artwork is both extremely creepy and hauntingly beautiful.

This is the story of Jack, a Jack in the Box toy who belongs to Thomas. Jack is a forgotten toy and has been dwelling in the Underbed. When Thomas's father brings the boy a new toy, Thomas's soul as well as all of the toys are in grave danger. It is left to Jack and Thomas's nanny Mirabel to defeat the evil being and save Thomas.

This book pulls no punches where visciousness and gore comes in. The Plucker is evil incarnate, granted he is torturing toys, but the torture scenes are no less disturbing for the lack of blood. It is a well-written story; a morbid twist on the timeless tale of what happens to the toys when they are forgotten. Think Toy Story meets Stephen King. The artwork is beautiful.

I really enjoyed the book. I was going to sit down and read it with my son but decided to read it on my own first. I am glad I did. While there is no blood, so to speak, there is a lot of torture and toy disembermant. The Plucker has a fowl mouth and swears something awful; we're talking real swearing here. This is a scary book, I am 30 and I thought it was scary. I can't imagine what my boy would have thought. I disagree with the editorial review that says this is Grade 5 and up for reading level; I agree more with the review that says Grade 9 and up. This is some pretty adult stuff and one of the pictures, while artistic, does have some disturbing toy nudity :-) Definitely not a children's fairy tale; this story emits darkness that is more typical of your original Grimm Brothers fairy tales.

The book sends a good message and ends in a very hopeful way. As I mentioned I was impressed with both the artwork and the story; I am excited to see and read more work by Brom.

Breath and Bone by Carol Berg (5/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Lighthouse Duet by Carol Berg. As I mentioned in my review for the first book, Flesh and Spirit, the end of the first book left me needing to read the second book immediately. Unlike the first book I thought this was an amazing book. It continues right where the last book left off; except this time the fast pace of the end of the first book continues throughout the second book.

Valen has been contracted to serve The Bastard, Price Osriel. In service of the Bastard, Valen will come to find out many things about his heritage and about how all of the mysteries of the Brotherhood and the princes of the realm are tied together. He will also discover the truth of what is wrong with the land of Navronne and how it can be healed.

This book was much more like what I expect from a Carol Berg book. The characters are complex, the themes dealt with in the book bring up greater questions of life, of heaven and of hell. Valen really comes into his own in this book. In his effort to keep his vows he takes both a physical and mental journey that is at times heartbreaking and at other times very joyful. The transformation of Valen's character really is amazing. That is not to say that the other characters lack at all; Prince Osriel is intriguing, Valen's brother Max is also interesting, Price Osreil's healer is a delight, and Elene also has great character. The only character complaint I have is that Valen's sister seems to have fallen of the face of the earth in this book; I had hoped to spend more time learning about her.

Although Valen's journey is vast and very busy; at times the book was paced a bit slow. In this book that worked for me because those periods of slow pacing were filled with beautiful writing describing the trials that Valen undertook. I really loved this book. The beauty of the writing reminded me of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. The book ended well; although I was a bit sad when it was over. It makes me wonder if we will see more of this world. There are so many characters in this book, outside of Valen, that have interesting stories to tell. Where the first book was as dark a story as I have ever read, this book was full of light and hope and happiness.

Very good book, definitely redeemed the first book. I still think if some of Valen's time at the monestery had been cut from the first book that this duet could have made a wonderful single book.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brisinger by Christopher Paolini (2/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. It was originally the Inheritance Trilogy. I was a bit disappointed when I heard there was going to be yet another book. I haven't been really ecstatic about this series and I can't understand the allure it has for people. Still, I figure I should probably finish what I started. I listened to this on audio book. The audio book was excellent in quality.

The book starts with Roran and Eragon storming Hellgrind to save Katrina. From there Eragon is stuck trying to please the Varden, finish his training with the elves, and consorting with the dwarves on their new choice for king.

Positive Things:
- This book is, in some ways, a work of art. It is very deliberately crafted, Paolini created his own languages for goodness sake.
- The politics in the novel are detailed and well (too well) thought out.
- The fight scenes are also fairly well written.
- Sephira; she is the best character and without her prescence I would have never finished the first book of the series.
- Paolini is trying to make a masterpiece; unfortunately sometimes a masterpiece isn't all that much fun to read.

Negative Things:
- The language. Where does he get his adjectives from? I felt like Paolini was deliberately trying to use the longest words possible to describe everything.
- The politics were boring, boring, boring. There is a huge reason why a lot of fantasy cuts the politics short...it is boring.
- Eragon as a character. Eragon either does what he wants or whines about what people tell him to do. Then after this immaturity, Eragon suddenly goes off for a chapter on the philosophy of good and evil. It is inconsistent.
- The whole epic scene with Sloan. This scene is silly and ridiculous. It only teaches us more about what we already know about Eragon; he is a pompous whiny hero.
- Inappropriate descriptions during fast-paced scenes. There is one scene where Roran is in the midst of a dire battle. Roran notices and thinks about a beautiful moth flying through the battle; while in battle. This is unrealistic and not the only case where something like this is done.

On a side note the audio book had a bonus interview with Paolini. In this interview he tried to explain the Sloan scene and also explain why all the politics were included. Apparently he thought them necessary. I guess I disagree, but it is his book after all.

If Paolini had shortened the Sloan thing and cut out the unnecessary politics he could have easily finished this "Cycle" in 3 books. Eragon was bored for large portions of the book, and guess what, so was I. I am bitter that I have to slog through, most likely, another 900 pages to finish this series. I am bitter that Paolini will be making money off of me doing that. Given all that I am not sure if I will read the last book. We will see.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Superior Saturday by Garth Nix (4/5 stars)

This is the 6th book in the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This was a good book but the ending left me puzzled. I listened to this on audio book and the quality of the audio book was excellent.

Arthur and Suzy venture into Superior Saturday's realm to try and retrieve the 6th part of the Will. Arthur is finding it harder and harder to stay human, and is really starting to struggle with the part of himself that is turning into something else. The lower house is being destroyed by Nothing and things are looking bleak on all sides.

This was a well written book. I like how Arthur is having to fight with himself as he begins to become something more than (or less than) human. Suzy is by far what makes this book; she has been my favorite character throughout the series. Saturday's part of the house is very interesting and creative. The book is very fast-paced and up until the end I was thoroughly enjoying this book.

All of the sudden the book ends. It ends seriously in the middle of a fight scene with a number of horrible things in the middle of happening. I though that maybe the audio book was broken into two parts and I missed downloading the other part. I went to audible.com and checked. Nope I had the whole book. I was convinced that I had lost part of the audio book somewhere, that's how open the ending was. I finally checked people's reviews on Amazon and found that many other people were also dismayed at the ending.

If you haven't read this book yet, I would strongly suggest you wait until the next book comes out and read the two books together. This really is almost only half a book!

Besides the ending, it was wonderful!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg (3/5 stars)

Flesh and Spirit is the first book in the LIghthouse Duet by Carol Berg. Previous to this book I had read Rai-Kirah series by Carol Berg. I liked that series initially, although I wasn't completely pleased with the final book in the series. Still when I saw this new series I was intrigued. The art-work on the front of the book helped too, it is beautifully done :-)

This book starts with Valen being robbed by his traveling companion and left to die in the road in the freezing cold. Valen drags himself towards a monastery where he is sighted by a monk that serves as the monastery's lookout. The monks nurse Valen back to health and wish for him to take vows to become an initiate there. As time progresses Valen begins to wonder if more is taking place at this monastery than simple worship and charity. During his recovery the land of Navronne continues to be torn apart as the three sons of the dead king who fight for ruler-ship. Valen has his own secrets though, and as the monks place more and more trust in him, his secrets come back for a visit dragging him into even more dire circumstances.

The writing of this book itself is well done. The pacing of the book is horrible. One review on the book states that "Berg describes the difficult dirty work of ordinary live as beatifully as she conveys...." This is very true. The first 200-250 pages of the book go through Valen's day to day life at the monastery in slow, mind-numbing detail. Interesting facts about Valen and the monastery itself are very very slowly revealed. At times I felt like I was having to painstackingly pull facts of interest from this book, akin to pulling teeth. I had a hard time getting through the first part of this book. I told myself that, since I already owned the 2nd book in this duet, I would read at least the first 150 pages before giving up. Luckily there were enough interesting mysteries to pique my curiousity and hold me for another 50 pages or so.

Around page 300 in the book, the pacing picks up dramatically. Things happen crazily and rapidly, non-stop action from page to page. After the deliberate beginning, the rapid descent into darkness that the remainder of the book takes is almost shocking. As the book draws to a close, you realize that suddenly the book is over and nothing is resolved. Making this a very poor stand alone book. The book literally ends in the middle of things; leaving you hanging with no satisfaction gained from struggling through it.

In summary I thought the pacing was poor, the beginning grueling the get through, and the ending unsatisfying. This is not a nice book, the book is dark in detail and had a thick sense of hopelessness about it. Definitely not a book to lift your spirits. Still the mystery involved and Valen as a character are enough to make me want to read the 2nd book.

If you decide to read this book, buy the 2nd one at the same time because this is not a self-contained book.

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Petterson (4/5 stars)

The Scent of Shadows is the First Sign of the Zodiac; the first book in Petterson’s Zodiac series. This book exceeded my expectations. I was braced for yet another paranormal series featuring an angsty heroine; but what I got was so much more than that. This book is something both men and women would greatly enjoy; it is much more of a super hero story than a paranormal romance.

Joanna Archer is an heiress. Her father Xavier Archer is a Las Vegas tycoon who owns a number of casinos in Las Vegas. Joanna’s sister, Olivia, is more your typical playboy bunny type of heiress, while Joanna is kind of the black sheep in the family. In her early teens Joanna suffered a devastating attack that left her different, more brooding than her fun loving sister Olivia. Joanna turned to photography; taking pictures of the dark side of Las Vegas. Then the day before her 25th birthday she was attacked on a blind date, only to be rescued by her childhood sweetheart Ben – now a cop. What Joanna didn’t know was that the streets of Las Vegas were not what they seemed to be, and on her 25th birthday she would undergo a change that she had never imaged.

This is a well-written, fast-paced book. What I really liked though is the complexity and creativity of the Zodiac troop and their alternate realities. This book left behind many typical paranormal series subjects and took me somewhat unexpectedly into the realm of comic book heroes. With the Zodiac troop zipping in and out of alternate realities there was a little sci-fi in here too. The Zodiac fighters of both the Light and Dark troops are intriguing; their powers very superhero-like and also very varied. The comic books that serve as their newspapers are creative, comical, and intriguing. The epic struggle of Light and Dark in a city constantly balanced on the edge of sin is compelling. Joanna is a complicated character, as are many of the characters presented to us in the Zodiac troop.

The major story arc is nicely resolved; but a large number of side stories are left unresolved, leaving me yearning for the next book.

I did have a couple issues with this book. The first is that it *is* complicated. The set-up is a bit confusing, although to Petterson’s credit the idea behind the Zodiac troop is complicated, creative, and something very new to her readers. So, I expected the set-up to take a bit of time for me to be comfortable with; I am happy to say by the end of the book I did understand it and ceased to feel slightly confused. My other complaint with the book would be that the characters superhero powers are not well defined. I am still not quite sure I understand what Joanna’s power is, I am not quite sure I understand what the other characters powers are either. Maybe Petterson wants the unveiling of their powers to be deliberate and purposeful, or maybe she just did a poor job of conveying them in the story…time will tell which it is.

That being said I think this book is much better than the Anna Strong Chronicles or the Mercy Thompson series. It is not quite as good as Kim Harrion’s series. It is more on par with the Dante Valentine books. I hope that the future books can continue to elaborate on this story; I also hope that Joanna doesn’t fall into the pit of darkness that Dante Valentine did and continues to show the Light in her character.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon Green (3/5 stars)

This is the 8th book in the Nightside series by Simon Green. It followed much in the pattern of the last book. Which is to say, it was okay.

In this book someone has promised the Unnatural Inquirer (a Nightside tabloid) exclusive rights to a DVD recording from the Afterlife. The Unnatural Inquirer hires John Taylor to find it when it goes missing. They send Betty Divine along with him to document his findings along the way.

This book was just okay. The series seems to have lost some of it's interest and urgency with the completion of the over-arcing story in "Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth". I am still confused why the series didn't end with that book. The only thing that is left mysteriously unanswered is where Walker's power is coming from now that the Authorities are dead.

This seemed like another transition book. Really I would only think you'd need one of those to wrap up the first main story. Somehow all the characters in this book seem tired and bored. Betty Divine was a pitiful sidekick. She was clingy and unhelpful and painfully uninteresting. Many of the quips that were so amusing up to this point are starting to seem overused. The creativity that amuses me so much was there, but not to the degree it normally is.

Overall this book was a quick, well-written, and fun read...but it was also a bit disappointing as we wait for something big and interesting to start happening again. Hopefully the next book will be better.

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (5/5 stars)

This book concludes the second Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey which features Imriel as the lead character. This book was a perfect conclusion to this trilogy. It's a long book, very long. Imriel's journey in this book is just as immense as in the last book. This book felt like it encompassed more than one story, it could have (again) been more than one book. Unlike the last book, I feel that that worked for this book. This book wasn't a struggle to get through. It flowed beautifully, was action packed, and had you holding your breath until the very end.

Imriel and Sidonie confront Ysandre about their relationship; which threatens to tear the realm apart. Sidonie stands to inherit the throne and her relationship with Imriel is less than appreciated considering his mother was a traitor to the crown. When confronted Ysandre says only one thing will sway her into allowing their relationship; Imriel must find his traitorous mother and bring her back to Terre d'Ange for execution. As Imriel starts this difficult task, there is an unexpected entourage from Carthage. The visit from Carthage sets events into motion that no one could have imagined.

I really enjoyed this book. I was sad that the characters were put through so much torment. There is no one in this book who is left unscathed in the end. As usual Imriel and Sidonie take the brunt of it. One again Carey does an excellent job of character development. We really see Imriel and Sidonie grow into adults and it is wonderful to watch them become comfortable with who they are.

The writing is beautiful and perfect, as with the rest of this series. I thought that the pacing of this book was much better than the last book. The action stays consistent throughout. The only point at which I found myself wanting something to happen was when Leander and Sidonie were spending time in Carthage together. I think this was done for a purpose though and did a good job in conveying the helplessness of their situation there.

Some wonderful new characters were introduced in the way of Leander and Kratos. I am always amazed at Carey's skill in making even minor characters have depth and history.

I have to mention this because the skill with which it was executed amazed me! When Imriel took on Leander's self, the style of writing totally changed to reflect Leander's thoughts and actions. Then as Imriel's love begins to break down the spell that makes him Leander, you slowly see Imriel's personality revert back to Imriel's. I thought it was very cool that Carey could make this personality change so subtle and realistic.
SPOILER ENDED************

I really did love this book. Even though it was lengthy, I was a bit sad when it was over. Then ending was perfect and beautiful as it the rest of the book. I am beginning to wonder if we will see a trilogy focused around Sidonie's sister Alais next. Carey seemed to be hinting that Alais is going to go through some struggles in the future. Hopefully the two catch phrases in that book "Love as thou wilt" and "All knowledge is worth having" will carry on to any future work she does.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Servants by Michael Marshall (2/5 stars)

I got this book through the amazon vine program. It sounded like an interesting premise to a story. Thought the story was well-written, the plot was slow moving, boring, and somewhat anti-climatic.

Mark is forced to move out of London to the vacation town of Brighton with his mother and new step-father. Mark sees his step-father as controlling and doesn't understand his mother's constant illness. This takes a stranger turn when Mark is shown the servant's quarters underneath their new house by an old woman who lives on the bottom floor. When Mark visits this area alone strange things happen; could these events somehow be connected to his mother's illness?

This is a very quick read and a very short book. That being said somehow the story is still very drawn out and somewhat vague. Although the writing style is great, I found myself getting as bored as Mark was. Maybe that was the point. Even as events unfolded under the house I found myself bored. I figured out the link between the house and Mark's mother almost immediately; so I didn't even have that surprise to look forward too.

Overall I found this book to be dull; this book probably could have been cut down to novella size and made a great story. To me this was more of a short-story than a book. I don't think I will be keeping track of this author in the future.

Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff (4/5 stars)

I haven't read a ton of graphic novels. Mainly I have read Neil Gaiman's stuff and scattering of Magna. When I saw this on Amazon Vine it looked interesting and I decided to give it a try.

The artistic style of the graphics wasn't my favorite. It's fairly stylized and looks like it was done in watercolor. This style may appeal to a number of people but I thought it was a little too washed out looking.

The story itself involves a woman who is a firefighter and her encounters with a Mexican immigrant during a colossal series of tornadoes. This is also not usually the type of story that I would enjoy, but despite myself I was very drawn to it.

The story is very engaging and you can't help sympathizing with the characters. I was amazed at the depth of character the characters had, given that this was a graphic novel. Some of the scenes with the Mexican and his god of wanderers were very reminiscent of some of Neil Gaimon's graphic novel stories.

All in all a great book and I am looking forward to more work from this artist/author.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney (5/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. This was an excellent book and a great follow up to the first two books.

In this book Gregory and Tom move to the Spook's winter home after being contacted by a man named Morgan, who is a former apprentice of the Spook's. In Gregory's winter home Tom learns many more secrets about Gregory's past and finally gets to meet the mysterious Meg. Things get more dangerous than Tom ever expected when Morgan starts to dabble in some seriously dangerous magic. Can Tom and Gregory make it through the winter and survive?

This book was great. Easy to read, well-written, fast-paced, and suspenseful. This was a great "horror" book for kids. Tom is a likable character that you can't help rooting for and Alice is also very engaging. Meg made for an interesting addition to the book too. It was great to learn more about Gregory's past and it was also wonderful to spend more time with Tom's Mam.

I eagerly await the next book. What will happen next as the dark continues to rise? What will Tom find in the secret room that Mam has left him? Will Alice be able to stay on the path of the light? I am excited to find out. I love these books there are just such a nice pleasant, and spooky, read.