Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, Book 2) by Ilona Andrews (4.5/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Kate Daniels series. Last I heard Andrews was contacted to do four books in this series; I sure hope she ends up doing more! This is a great paranormal fantasy series; it is not a romance. It is also not for the faint of heart; the language and gore is described in great detail. I listened to this on audio book and the audio book was very well done.

The magic flare is looming closer and closer. Kate gets a request from the pack to retrieve some maps that have been stolen from them. In retrieving the maps she stumbles upon a man named Bran. Bran is a rogue with a wicked shot and wandering hands and his origins are a mystery. Kate also runs into Red, who asks Kate to return his favor by watching a girl named Julie. Julie's mom has disappeared and Kate is going to help Julie find her mom; that is until she finds out that Julie's mom may be involved with Bran's appearance, who may be involved with a struggle between two ancient gods that would rip Atlanta in two.

I really like this series. The second book was just as good, if not better than, the first. The plot was crazy fast, the fight scenes numerous and well-written. The characters are awesome; I am in awe of how interesting Andrews makes all of the characters, even the supporting ones. The enemies are extremely creative and the world Kate lives in increasingly interesting. I love all of the characters in this book and I love that Kate is powerful but not all-powerful. She makes some mistakes and she honestly is growing as a character.

I love the humor in this book; Kate has a wicked mouth and some of the things she says had me laughing out loud. Curran and Bran also were wonderful characters with many witty comebacks. The only thing that I didn't like about this book is that, at times, too much time is spent on Kate mourning the loss of life. It is good to have some of this in there, but at times Kate's remorse was gone into in too much detail and at oddly inappropriate times. I know it is a small thing, but at times I was rolling my eyes and thinking "okay we get it Kate is sad, on with the story". These scenes made the story drag a bit at parts.

This book expands on the relationship between Kate and Curran, we slowly find out a little bit more about Kate's origins and why her blood is so special. Simone(sp?) is one of my favorite characters in this book and I hope his role expands in future books. Overall this was an excellent book in what is turning out to be a really great series. I really hope we see more than just four of these book; I am so excited to read the third book!

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding (4/5 stars)

This is the second book by Chris Wooding that I have had the pleasure to read; the first was Poison. I liked Poison a lot more than this book; but, like Poison, what really stand out in Storm Thief is the ending. This book could best be described as a kind of gothic Sci-Fi young adult novel.

In this book we spend most of our time with Rail and Moa who eke out a living serving as thieves in a ghetto in the city of Orokos. During one of their thieving raids they stumble along a mysterious artifact of enormous value. They decided to take it and run with it; hoping to make their fortune off of the proceedings. Beside this story is the parallel story of Vago; a golem made of muscle and metal whose path intertwines with that of Rail and Moa. Vago is a golem who doesn't know his purpose or maker; yet he finds he is extremely adept as fending off the Revenants in the city of Orokos. Orokos itself is the most interesting part of the book. Orokos is a city plaugued by probability storms that can change reality at the drop of a hat; it is also plagued by Revenants, beings made of energy who are deadly to the human habitants of Orokos. The citizens of Orokos believe that it is the only place in the entire world, but Moa dreams that there must be some place else.

I did not like the characters or the storyline of this book as much as I liked Poison. The story itself is pretty dry, devoid of humor, and I thought the characters were bland and in general not all that likable. The plot of the book itself was also fairly typical; it was very much one of those humans trying to escape from isolation types of stories. Think City of Ember. The thing that really made this book interesting was the setting. Orokos is an interesting setting, the Revenants are an interesting enemy, and the probability storms are an amazing idea.

The book didn't go above an okay (3 star) rating for me until the end. Towards the end (when you find out the story behind Orokos) is when the story really starts to make you think; what happens to a society that has too much order versus one that is steeped in chaos? The ideas presented in the end of the book made this book an above average read for me. I really wish that the characters and plot had been as engaging as they were in Poison. I still have the Haunting of Alaizabel Cray to read; and I have heard that this is an excellent book.

Although I didn't think this book was wonderful, it didn't diminish Chris Wooding as a creative author in my eyes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Game of You (Sandman Vol. 5) by Neil Gaiman (5/5 stars)

I love the Sandman series so far and this book was no exception. Gaiman has a way of telling dark stories that are very creative and really expand your mind and make you think. After reading the House of Night, Book 5, to read something this wonderful was a privilege.

Barbie best friend is a drag queen named Wanda and two lesbians that live in her apartment building. Barbie seems to be dragging a bit because she never dreams. She remembers dreaming as a child; wonderful vivid dreams, but those times are long past. When a creature from her dreams dies in front of her on the street and gives her a treasure, Barbie lapses in to a permanent dream state that lead her back to her dream-land where she is a princess and must save the dream land from the Cuckoo. Barbie's friends walk the path of the moon in a effort to save her. In the end nothing is quite as it seems and Barbie's friends efforts may have put the real world at risk.

The artwork in these books is great. The story is amazing. You really feel for all of the characters and relate with them. The plot pulls you through as you wonder what the next page will bring. Full of creative ideas, intriguing thought, creative world, and of course the God of Dreams; this was another amazing installment to the Sandman series. I love these stories; they always open your mind to new possibilities and wonders. Not to mention that in general the stories are just well told with a deep mythos behind them.

I look forward to reading the next Sandman Volume.

Hunted (House of Night, Book 5) by P.C. and Kristin Cast (2/5 stars)

This is the fifth book in the House of Night series; all in all this series has been very inconsistent. The third book was kind of ho-hum, the fourth book was excellent, and the fifth book, well, it kind of sucked.

In this book Zoey and friends are hiding in the tunnels with Stevie Rae and her red fledglings. Somehow they need to get back into the House of Night to face Neferet and Kalona and somehow break the influence they are having on the vampires and fledglings of the House of Night.

The above is basically the whole story. Sadly the first 2/3's of the story are spent in the tunnels with not a whole lot happening. Zoey spends a lot of time whining about Erik being too possessive. Then, of course, Zoey has to get involved with Heath...again. And because Zoey wouldn't have enough to whine about without being involved in a love triangle, Stark is drug into the picture too. This story felt like it was almost a repeat of the third book; at least in the relationship aspects. Seriously nothing exciting actually happens until the last section of the book. This section was pretty good and dealt with Zoey and friends going back to the House of Night and facing Neferet and Kalona.

This has been a very inconsistent series for me. Some of the books I love and some I hate. I feel that there has been more hate than love for this series for me. There are so many interesting things that could be happening with these characters and this world; it seems though that the majority of page space is lent to Zoey so she can whine about relationship troubles. All of her whining makes me think that maybe she is not the special Priestess that everyone thinks she is; I mean she is one of the weakest heroines I have ever read about.

I had a tough time getting through this book. I am finding that I don't really care about many of the characters all that much. The plot wasn't very exciting or griping. Believe it or not I though Aphrodite was my favorite character of this book; her actions are much more heroic than any of the others. I am not sure I will read the 6th book. My overall reaction when I finished this book was, "Thank goodness I am done, I can read something good now!"

Sorry this is such a scalding review, but I am sooo disappointed that this series can't be more consistent!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Untamed (House of Night, Book 4) by P.C. and Kristin Cast (4/5 stars)

This is the fourth book in the House of Night series and was by far the best book of the series. It is the only book in the series so far that I have felt comfortable saying I really liked it and enjoyed the story.

With the murders of the teachers in the third book things are beginning to come to a head in this book. Zoey is out of boyfriends, so to speak, so of course she is absolutely enchanted by the new kid in school, Stark. With Stevie Rae somewhat her normal self, she takes a back seat in this story but still plays a few big parts as a new type of vampire. The mythos developed in this story around the evil Nefertiti was engaging and very interesting. Nefertiti is here in all her evil glory; and man is she evil.

Zoey without boyfriends is awesome because Zoey is actually focused on the actual plot and this makes for a way more interesting book than the last one was. So, for everyone who hung on with the series despite the barely okay third book, you are rewarded in this book. Things really come to a climax in this book; it makes me extremely grateful that I have book 5 on hand. Things pretty much end in the middle of everything and if you had to wait for the 5th book to come out you would be pulling your hair out.

So, all in all, this was a great book. I hope that things continue to be as good in the fifth book. I love the characters; the writing quality is still mediocre at best, but it is a fun and quick read.

Chosen (House of Night book 3) by P.C and Kristin Cast (3/5 stars)

This is the third book in the House of Night series. I think it was one of the worst books in the series; but it was still engaging and fast to read so I rate it as an "okay".

In this book Zoey returns to school poised to fulfill her obligations as the Leader of the Dark Daughters and Sons; she also needs to find a way to deal with Stevie Rae, she needs to deal with the evil Nefertiti, and she has to do all of this while juggling three hot guys.

Needless to say initially there seems like there is going to be a lot going on in this book; but there isn't much that actually happens. Zoey spends a lot of the book, and I mean a lot of it, complaining about how she can't choose between Erik (the hottest Fledgling boy in the school), Heath (her human boyfriend that she accidentally Imprinted), and Lauren (the Vampire Poet who seems to have the hots for her). This got old really fast. Especially since none of the relationships with any of the guys were really developed in any way. As typical with this series the writing of this book was mediocre and the plot fairly predictable.

The only thing that really redeemed this book was how Zoey interacts with Stevie Rae; this part of the book is really interesting and really tugs at your curiosity. Curiously Nefertiti was absent for almost the whole book, which really sucked a lot of the urgency out of the story.

Still, overall this was a quick and fun read. I still found the story to be engaging (if a bit annoying at times) and I think the series has a lot of potential to get interesting in the next book. This is still a series where I will never go out and buy the books new; they just aren't worth the money. I will continue to read this series mainly because I already have the next two books in the series; I found them used.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Midnight Magic by Avi (3/5 stars)

I have heard about Avi for a long time; he has written a ton of young adult novels and after reading the synopsis for this novel I decided it was probably an Avi novel that I would enjoy. I was mostly curious about what all of the buzz about Avi was about. This book was an okay children's book; nothing spectacular but amusing and interesting.

Fabrizio is the apprentice to the former court Magician; his master stopped practicing magic when he was accused by the King of dark magic. The former Magician has lived in seclusion since the King's accusion and has focused on sharpening his reasoning skills instead of his illusion skills. Then the King is forced to call on the Magician for assisstance when the King's daughter is haunted by a terrifying ghost. Fabrizio comes along to help the Magician solve this mystery. As time goes on Fabrizio begins to wonder if the hauntings are real or if a more elaborate scheme is playing out.

This was a solid mystery story set in medieval times. It was not really a fantasy, as the magic involved is more your traditional slight-of-hand type. All of the characters were okay, but none of them really stood out. They were all your typical types of characters for a story such as this one. The mystery surrounding the hauntings was interesting, but easily solved very early on in the book which was a bit disappointing.

The only thing that really stood out in this book for me was all the clever bits of wisdom that Fabrizio spouts throughout. They were clever and cute; sometimes the banter of clever sayings between Fabrizio and his master were fun to read too.

In general this book was okay, somewhat engaging, yet forgettable. I thought it was more of a children's book than a young adult novel. It didn't make me want to go out and read a ton more of Avi's books.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The City and the City by China Mieville (3/5 stars)

I have read a couple other China Mieville novels. I loved King Rat, I though Un Lun Dun was only so-so, and I just couldn't get through Perido Street Station; so that gives the viewpoint that I rate this novel from. This was a very creative novel in which I though that the creativity was forced on the reader so much that the story itself suffers. It is one of those books that everyone should read, that will generate lots of discussion, and that is an interesting read...unfortunately I did not find it an enjoyable read. It really felt like the story itself (the murder mystery and even the characters) was there as aninconvenience and the point of this book was really to disclose this really creative idea.

Tyador Borlu at the Extreme Crime Division gets pulled into a murder mystery that ends up being about a lot more than a young woman being murdered. His is sucked into a mystery that is bigger than he knows and it is a mystery that will have him challenging all that he believes as a citizen of Beszel. It is written in the style of a detective story; and is much more of a political crime story than a fantasy.

As you can imagine this is a book about two cities. I won't say what the deal with those two cities are because that would spoil the book a bit, but those two cities are very unique. Mieville goes to great ends to make sure that for the first third of the book he never explains to the readers what the deal is with the Beszel and Ul Qoma. He throws lots of strange terminology at you and forces you to just go along for the ride guessing as you go. This is fine, it keeps the reader interested; although it is a bit frustrating to force the reader to go through a lot of work to figure out something that could be briefly stated as part of the story.

After the first 1/3 or so I start to have a problem with this book. About 1/3 of the way through the only thing Mieville does is go through the mechanics of how these two cities work, over and over and over. After assuming we are intelligent readers and can figure things out from the hints given in the first 1/3 of the book; he then does a 180 and assumes that we are stupid and need things explained over and over. It really bothered me.

This come to my second problem with the book. That is that the huge murder story in the beginning seems to be nothing other than a vehicle to talk about the relationship between Beszel and Ul Qoma. In fact as the murder story continues the story turns more into a social commentary than a good mystery story. I agree with the other person who gave this three stars; it seemed like Mieville didn't really care about the mystery and solved it because he knew he should. The whole mystery around the young woman's death was veryminimized.

From me this book gets an okay. It has an extremely interesting and creative premise; so creative and interesting that in an of itself this premise will generate a lot of talk. It is so awesomely creative that everyone should read it just to be exposed to the idea. Unfortunately I don't believe that being creative gives an author license to be lax about the story. At the end of this story it seemed that none of the characters really mattered, even the original mystery of the story didn't matter all that much, the whole deal was about the creative world.

All in all, this is something that you should probably should. Personally I had trouble getting through it. The premise was very intriguing at first, then as the story grew less and less important, I grew bored with the book. It is not a book that has made me like Mieville's writing more. I still have "The Scar" on my shelf to be read and I have heard that is a good book. Hopefully people reading this review will take it as the opinion it is; I realize a lot of people are absolutely loving this book but I was not one of them.

The Fool by Christopher Moore (5/5 stars)

I have only read one Christopher Moore book previous to this one and that was "The Stupidest Angel". While I enjoyed that book, it didn't make me a huge Moore fan...I thought a lot of it was kind of silly. When I heard that Moore was tackling the tale of King Lear and telling it from a fool's perspective; well that got my attention. I actually listened to this on audio book and the audio book production was extremely well done and probably contributed to how much I loved this book.

So you know the tale of King Lear...well if you don't look it up on wikipedia really quick and read a synopsis...this is a re-telling of that story. There are many exceptions, for example the witches from MacBeth are in here too, the timeline the story takes place in is questionable, and the Fool is the main character (he doesn't play that huge of a part in the original). The story is told from the viewpoint of the Black Fool. You have all your King Lear characters plus others, including the Fool's idiot apprentice Drool. There is much murder, foullanguage , and shagging...I mean a ton of it really; really the story is mostly shagging and murder and swearing....still it ends up being a really good story.

If you like Monty Python, or any type of inaccurate crude medieval humor this book is for you. In fact if you get your kicks out of watching British comedy in general; this is the book for you. That is as long as you have a strongstomach for foul language and shagging. I could not believe how much swearing and shagging are in this book...okay well I think I have driven that point home enough. In short this book was a riot, and I mean that in the modern positive sense of the word.

Moore whisks us through the antics of King Lear in a way that is entertaining, hilarious, intelligent, and somehow even a bit heartwarming. The characters are wonderful. The Fool is an amazing character, despite (or maybe because of) all of his antics he is am easy character to love. Lear's daughters are also entertaining, as is Lear himself. I was really impressed with how this book mishmashed so many things together to come up with a darkly humorous story that is actually somewhat touching.

King Lear purists should look away. Moore himself talks about the inaccuracies and liberties he takes with Lear's story in an excerpt at the end of the book; it was interesting to read how Moore prepared for this book and how he choose time settings, etc. Anyone who gets uncomfortable hearing the term "Shagging" in the context of a Shakespearean play may also want to steer clear of this one.

This book is one that will have me picking up more of Moore's books. Hilarious, intelligently witty, and a great all around story this was an excellent read that had me laughing out loud in pure joy, dark humor, and irony.

The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me by Roald Dahl (4/5 stars)

I have read many of Roald Dahl's books and enjoyed them all. I picked up a clearance bundle of Dahl's books so I could read them to my son and this book was in there. I have never even heard of this book. It is just a slip of a novel; around 70 pags or so. It was a cute little read and enjoyable. Nothing outstanding, but a fun read all the same and short enough to keep the attention of a younger child than most of his stories are aimed at.

A little boy lives next to an old shut-down building that used to be a candy shop. Then one day he sees that the building has been cleaned up and now has a sign on it "Ladderless Window Cleaning Company". The cleaning company consists of a pelican, a monkey, and a giraffe. And the little boy is whisked away on a window cleaning adventure that in the end makes all his dreams come true.

This was a cute, short novel. Appropriate for very young children; I think even a 3 or 4 year old would be able to follow it and enjoy it. The pictures are black and white sketches and enduring in their own way. It makes a nice addition to my collection of Dahl books.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion by L. J. Smith (4/5 stars)

This book is the second Omnibus in the Vampire Diaries series. I have also heard that these are the final two books in the original Vampire Diaries that Smith wrote in the 90's. This was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

In the first book (the Fury) Elena has been changed into a vampire. As she struggles to deal with her change, strange things are happening in town. Peoples pets are attacking them and darkness threatens to take over. Can Elena get Stefan and Damon to work together to help stop the forces against them. In the second book (Dark Reunion) dark forces are again converging on the town and Elena needs to work with her friends to stop yet another threat to her home.

These books are much more traditional vampire books than the Twilight series; there is also a lot more fighting in these. I am hard-pressed to discuss these books much without given things away. Suffice to say that if you liked the first couple books in the series, these books won't disappoint. They are non-stop action, with the love triangle between Damon, Stefan, and Elena causing lots of tension. The side characters are well developed too. I enjoyed these books and couldn't put them down; a very quick read.

Everything is nicely wrapped up at the end of Dark Reunion; I don't plan on reading the latest book released in this series because I have heard it's not all the great and not part of the original series. As for reading more of Smith's work, I probably won't do that either. Her writing is good, but it is not all that creative and it is typical to a lot of other young adult series that are out there. If you liked House of Night, Evernight, or the Vampire Academy you will probably like this series; this series has more in common with those series than it does with Twilight.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl Book 6) by Eoin Colfer (3/5 stars)

This was the 6th book in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Sounds like this is going to be the last Artemis Fowl book for a while. There is mention of Colfer writing a seventh book in a couple years, but right now no more books after that seventh one. This was a pretty good book although I didn't like it as much as the previous books.

Artemis Fowl's mother comes down with a mysterious illness that can only be cured with the brain fluid of a specific type of lemur that Artemis himself helped to make extinct four years ago. In order to save his mother Artemis must travel back in time to confront himself and save the lemur. To accomplish this he will need the assistance of many of his old friends; No. 1 and Holly Short are both back to help him.

This book was okay. I didn't think it was as well put together as some of the previous books. It is interesting to read about Artemis as he tries to grow comfortable in his "good-guy" role. From the description of the book I thought we would be treated to moredialogue where Artemis banters with himself, but that really didn't happen. There were a number of times where everything was going well and then oops! something went wrong. In fact this happened so many times in the course of the book that it became kind ofpredictable and I thought made the book much lengthier than it needed to be.

I missed Foaly who was absent through most of the book. I also missed Artemis being clever and all the neat gadgets that the faeries usually bring into play. All the characters were a bit mushy and weak throughout and the witty dialogue that usually packs the pages of these books was conspicuously absent.

Although I liked this book and enjoyed reading it; I think it was one of the weakest books of the series. Most things are tied up at the end of this book, but there are a couple large clif hangers that could fuel a plot for another book. Unfortunately I think Colfer is sick of writing this series and it came across in this book; the characters seemed tired and desperate and the plot did not carry me forward and excite me like it usual does.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Turn Coat (Dresden Files, Book 11) by Jim Butcher (5/5 stars)

Wow I can't believe this is already the 11th book in the Dresden Files series. It's amazing how great these books are and this one doesn't disappoint.

When Morgan turns up almost dead on Harry's doorstep, Harry doesn't know what to think. I mean of all the people to come to for help, why would Morgan chose him? Morgan has been accused of murdering a member of the White Council and Harry knows Morgan didn't do it. Morgan has been able to lead the White Council on a wild goose chase but that will only last for another 48 hours. So Harry has 48 hours to find out who did frame Morgan; after all if Morgan can be wrongly accused how long will it take someone to accuse Harry of murder given his shady past with the Council? Things get more difficult when Harry is attacked by an ancient and evil shapeshifter. All you can do is hold your breath and go along for the ride as questions spin through your head: Will Harry clear Morgan? Will the Black Council finally be recognized as an entity and the Wizards Council torn apart?

This book was excellent and is on par with all the other books of the Dresden series. Action is non-stop, Harry has the stuffing kicked out of him (like usual), and things come to a head with mysterious unacknowledged Black Council. The characters are awesome, the fight scenes fantastic, and the plot complex and interesting. The overall aspects of this story are nicely wrapped up but the mystery around the overall story arc involving the Black Council are still developing at the end of the book. The biting sense of humor that these books are famous for is still there and help to make the books amusing and break up the tension a bit.

Thomas and Molly are in this book quite a bit as are the rest of the White Vampires. You learn quite a bit more about Thomas's family. Michael is conspicuously absent as are the Fallen.

This is a great book and I am disappointed I am finished with it; I am already looking forward to the next book. The next book is supposed to be entitled "Changes" and is scheduled to release April 2010. So far I know Orbit has purchased Dresden books 12 and 13; whether there will be more books after that point I don't know.

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, Book1) by Ilona Andrews (4/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. So far there are three books in this series; on her website Andrews says that she is under contract for 4 books right now. I listened to this as an audio book and the audio book quality was wonderful; the lady who reads it really captures Kate's personality. It was a fast-paced great book.

Kate receives a message from one of The People asking her how her Guardian is. When she calls her Guardian she finds out he's been murdered. Kate is bent on vengeance and decides to join forces with the Order to investigate her Guardian, Greg's, death. She finds out that a number of shapechangers and vampires have also been killed and ends up on the track of a horrid legendary creature. Will the assistance of a crazy Crusader and the Beast Lord be enough for Kate to stop the evil threatening to rip Atlanta apart?

This was a very well done book and a great debut novel. The characters are creative and engaging; and you can't help but like Kate's down to earth attitude, toughness, and dark sense of humor. There are some unexpected twists and turns in the plot that keep you on your toes; and the fight scenes are numerous and well-done. The world is also very creative; it's a world where tech and magic ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. Magic is gaining hold and whenever magic is up; all tech stops working. This interesting alternative version of Earth makes things interesting and forces Kate to come up with creative solutions sometimes as she never knows what weapons and accessories will work at a given time.

The descriptions in this book are not for the faint of heart; Andrews pull no punches when it comes to descriptions of gore, glistening intestines ooze and people are rended into pieces of meat. So if you don't like that type of thing I would stay clear. This book is also by no means a paranormal romance. Kate does go on some dates but that is about the little of the romance of the book; Kate just isn't that kind of girl. The biting humor in this book had me laughing out loud a number of times.

Overall Andrews has created a very interesting world with a lot of depth. Her strong points are her creative characters, her awesome fight scenes, and the fast clip of the plot. The world she creates, while intriguing, is never really explained all that well. The plot could benefit from some more explanation about why the tech and magic wax and wane. Also there is a feeling of dread hanging over Kate as Kate takes so much care to keep her blood from her enemies; Kate's over-protection of her own blood is never explained very well and it was a bit frustrating to try and figure this out as well...I imagine we will get more information about this in the next book.

A great series, I really enjoyed it. I am greatly looking forward to reading the next book. I liked it a lot better than some other paranormal series out there. For example I thought it was better than The Anna Strong Chronicles and the Mercy Thompson series. For me it was about on par with the Dante Valentine books or Jaz Parks series; although both of those series have more romance in them than this book did.

Pool of Fire by John Christopher (4/5 stars)

This is the final book in the Tripods trilogy by John Christopher. It does a great job of wrapping up the story and explaining how the free men take on the Tripods in their golden cities.

In this book the rebel faction of free humans works to recruit others to their cause; they also spend time learning some of the technologies of the ancient people. A plan is put together to infiltrate the Tripod cities and destroys the Masters.

Fast paced and intriguing, this book is a great conclusion to the series. Will still struggles with his brashness and lack of foresight; Beanpole is as clever as ever. A quick read and a great series conclusion; this book really stands the test of time.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (4/5 stars)

I got this book through the Amazon vine program. People who have described this as Artemis Fowl as a chemist who solves mysteries are right on the mark. So far it looks like the author has at least two more books coming out in this series; one in 2010 and one in 2011. This was an enjoyable book overall.

Flavia is character that will put many people in mind of Artemis Fowl or Theodosia. She is a child genius that believes she knows it all; with this book though there are some marked differences from the aforementioned series. Flavia loves chemistry; and as I myself am a chemist this aspect of the book delighted me, it was great to read about the chemistry and how it was involved in the murder in the book. If anyone is really interested in the chemistry of poison: The Molecules of Murder is a very entertaining non-fiction read. Anyway, back to the book...some other differences are that the adults in this book are actually very intelligent and quite crafty in their own right; a change from the mentioned series where adults commonly act like buffoons. Also Flavia is a fairly believable character; she makes mistakes that a girl her age would make; even though she is a genius, she is not a genius at everything.

For the most part the book was well-written and fast-paced. The only problem I had with the book is that there were a ton of points were Flavia made poor assumptions and then she would figure it out and then the plot would twist in a different direction. This would have been okay if it had only happened once, but the plot twists (and Flavia's mistakes) were so numerous that it made the storyline a bit disjointed and at times a bit confusing to follow. I think this twisting also interrupted the flow of the story; which in general was good but towards the end of the book got kind of forced and contrived.

Overall it was an interesting read. I loved the that chemistry was involved in it. It would have been nice to have an afterword from the author stating how accurate all of the chemistry was and where he did his chemical research; but that is just the scientist in me speaking. I do not know if I will read any more books in this series though; Flavia did kind of get on my nerves with how often she was mistaken about things despite being a genius.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (5/5 stars)

I got this book through Amazon vine and when I received it in the mail I was intimidated; it is quite the brick of a book. All I can say is that I was really, really, really impressed with this book. It is the most amazing book I have read in a long time. Previously Sanderson has written the Mistborne Trilogy and a stand alone novel called Elantris. I haven't read any of those books but I wanted too; so getting this book from Vine gave me a chance to check out this work.

A quick side note, I am a bit Wheel of Time fan and when Robert Jordan died I was devastated. Well, it looks like Sanderson has been chosen to conclude the Wheel of Time series; he is going to conclude it in three final books. After reading Warbreaker I think this is an awesome choice. Sanderson's writing style echoes much of Jordan's style but it is much more approachable.

In Warbreaker Halladran and Idris are at the brink of war. Idris sends one of their princesses, Siri, to wed the God King of Halladran in an effort to stall the war. Initially Siri, was not supposed to be the one sent; her sister, the eldest princess, Vivenna had been trained since birth to wed the God King. But in a last minute decision the Kind of Idris sends Siri instead. Siri is thrown into a dangerous city of court intrigue and the mysterious magic of BioChromatic Breath and is left to fend on her own as her country totters on the brink of war. Vivenna is bereft when Siri is sent in her place and decides to journey to Halladran to rescue her sister; when she arrives she finds herself quickly thrown into dangerous city politics. The set is completed with Vasher a deadly man with a darkly humorous sword who has an agenda of his own and Lightsong one of the Halladran's gods; Lightsong is a Returned who can't understand why he was returned to godhood. It all makes for an intricate, exciting, and very enjoyable book.

I can't say "Wow" enough times. This book was executed with brilliance. I really mean it. With epic fantasies such as this book sometimes you run into plots that are too complicated, having too many names thrown at you at once, or having systems of magic that are too complicated to grasp; not to mention epics that need to run 12 books to make a good story. This book did everything right. All of the characters are intriguing and engaging; they are introduced in such a way that you are never confused about who is who or who is on whose side. The system of BioChromatic Breath magic is unbelievably creative, entertaining, and very complex; yet somehow Sanderson introduces this system of magic with an ease that does not confuse the reader and yet delivers great complexity. The plot is immense and complicated yet it is nicely resolved in one book; very satisfyingly resolved...nothing seems rushed.

I really can't believe how good this book is. Sanderson did everything right; I couldn't find a single thing to dislike about this book. It is an immense book but I breezed through it; it was sooo hard to put down. The book propels you forward, the action and suspense is non-stop. It is also so creative, the magic system is like nothing I have ever dreamed up or heard of before. I have put all his previous books on my "to read list" and I am keeping this book safe on my bookshelf so that I can read it again soon. I am also so glad that this is the author chose to finish the Wheel of Time series. Just wow!!

A Taste for Red by Lewis Harris (4/5 stars)

Another book I obtained from Amazon Vine. This is just a little slip of a book but it was an entertaining read.

Svetlana is different from other kids. She only eats red things and likes to sleep under her bed; oh and she can hear people's thoughts. Ms. Larch also only eats red things but to Svetlana Larch smells like the worst of all rotting things. Then three girls at school go missing and Svetlana is convinced that Ms. Larch is involved. Can Svetlana find out the truth before it is too late?

When I started reading this book I wasn't that taken with it but as the story progressed I liked it more and more. Svetlana is like so many young adult girls you read about, she has an attitude problem and is a loner. Oddly enough she is transitioning from being home-schooled at the beginning of the book (just like the character in another book I read called Wings). It is a cute little story and Svetlana is a like-able character.

The book was fast-paced and interesting. I didn't find Svetlana's buddies or enemies to really be all that engaging. Svetlana was a good character and I liked her neighbor Mrs. Bones. Svetlana's plucky attitude put me in mind of other books with outstanding child geniuses in them (Artemis Fowl, Theodosia, Flavia De Luce). Still it was a good opening book. I think this could be a very entertaining series and I do hope we see more books about Svetlana. This is also a book that could be read to younger children; it has come entertaining humor in it and doesn't take itself too seriously.

I will be keeping my eye out for other books about Svetlana Grimm; she could be a riot to read about as she goes on a mission to destroy all things unnatural and evil.

The Skellig by David Almond (5/5 stars)

This book was recommended to me because I like "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman. This book was very much in a similar writing style Gaiman's work. The story telling in this book is superb. The book itself is a short but sweet story.

Michael and his family have just moved into a new home. Unfortunately Michael's baby sister was born way too early and she is very sick. Micheal is struggling with his parents' lack of attention as they try to deal with saving his little sister's life; when he stumbles into the shed in their backyard to find a parched, old crusty man alive in the back corner. The old man calls himself a Skellig; exactly what is a Skellig?

I thought this book was excellent. The story telling was top notch. The characterization was wonderful; I thought Michael's character was well done and even the parents were well characterized. This is a very short book but is a great littlenovella . The plot moved quickly and was full of mystery and suspense. It was interesting that the story ties in with deeper aspects of life; like dreams and spirituality. Some parts were a bit of tear jerker as Micheal's baby sister fights for her life, but the Skellig was a truly intriguing character.

Almond's writing is detailed and brings both the characters and surroundings alive; he manages to add a sort of thought-provokingvagueness to aspects of the story while brushing against some things that humanity struggles with as a whole. I was surprised at how deep and well told this little story was. It's a book that I am keeping on my shelf and it made me want to read many more of David Almond's books. He seems to be a very creative and adept storyteller.