17 October 2011
Fiction, Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction, Short Stories, The Illustrated Man, Mars, Venus, Robots
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury — 9780380973842 — ****
Genre: Science Fiction
Time to Read: Average 1 hour or less per story
A young man on a walking tour of Wisconsin encounters a tall, powerful, tattooed–illustrated–man. The ink on the man’s skin tells of the future. Among the menagerie of art are tales of men on Mars, the rainy jungles of Venus, an Earth occupied by robots and a family that dreams of taking a trip into space. As the young traveler sits with the illustrated man, the latter shares his stories. The future is full of hope and horror, and the illustrated man knows it all.
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury is a collection of short stories that are tied together with an introduction about an illustrated man sharing stories of the future with a young traveler and ending with the illustrated man’s own story. All of the stories in the collection are science fiction, but they are otherwise unconnected, making this a great “book between books” title. I’ve been reading it in morsels for quite a while, but some of the short stories still stay with me, even after having read them months ago. Ray Bradbury is my favorite author, and his style shines through in each word. He is a master of metaphor, and even a one-page short story resonates in the heart and mind of a reader. I did like some of the stories better than others, which is to be expected, but when taken as a whole, The Illustrated Man is an amazing collection, and a must-read for anyone who enjoys Sci-Fi and is looking for a really well-written book.
Check out Ray Bradbury’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
17 October 2011
Adventure, Alexandre Dumas, Anne of Austria, Aramis, Athos, Cardinal Richelieu, Classic Literature, Comte de Rochefort, Constance Bonacieux, D'Artagnan, Duke of Buckingham, Fiction, France, Historical Fiction, Louis XIII of France, Milady de Winter, Porthos, Seventeenth Century France, The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas — 2940000952726 — ****
Time to Read: 43 days
Young D’Artagnan has long dreamed of becoming a musketeer. When he decides it is time for him to join the king’s men, his father sends him with a letter of introduction to his friend, the captain of the king’s Musketeers. Along the way, the young upstart loses his letter of introduction, finds an enemy of the worst sort and has his heart captured by the beautiful Constance Bonacieux. He also finds himself the companion of three musketeers known as the inseparables: Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The four men become close friends, watching out for one another and getting into trouble together. As the Duke of Buckingham is preparing to wage war on France, the four uncover a plot dreamed up by Cardinal Richelieu that could ruin the king of France and mean life or death for many, D’Artagnan included.
A novel filled with sword play, intrigue, humor and love, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is an exciting read through and through. I’ve been vaguely familiar with the story for a long time, but there is so much more to it than I ever imagined! I didn’t expect to read this book, I must admit. It was on my list of books to read, but it was floating loosely among the ranks as a “maybe I’ll get to it someday, maybe I won’t” addition. I just happened to find it for free on my NOOK Color at a point in time when free was just the right price. After reading the first sentence, I was hooked, and The Three Musketeers became my “reading now” title.
It did take me a very long time to get through, partially because I was reading it during one of the busiest points in my year, so I only had 20-30 minutes at a time to read once or twice a day and partially because I started planning my NaNoWriMo novel and got a little carried away. I expect that, if I’d had the time to read, I would have gotten through it much faster just because it was such a good book that, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been able to put it down.
There is a chunk of it maybe 3/4 of the way in that slowed down the plot a good deal, and by the time I was nearing the end, I was ready to move on to my next read, so it seemed to drag a little more slowly than I like, but it picked up again and ended with a whirlwind of plot twists and excitement. I would certainly recommend The Three Musketeers to anyone looking to read more classics since, as far as classic novels go, this one is more fun than challenging.
(As a side note: I started reading this before I knew there was a Three Musketeers movie coming out and, after reading the book, I probably won’t be seeing the movie, because the book is amazing, and the movie looks to me as though it will be a bit of a farce with its airships 160+ years too early.)
Learn more about Alexandre Dumas’s life and works here.
Read it? Rate it!
23 July 2011
Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Friar Tuck, King Raven Trilogy, Little John, Series, Stephen R. Lawhead, The Red King, William Scarlet, William Scatlocke
Tuck (King Raven Trilogy #3) by Stephen R. Lawhead — 9781401685393 – ****
Time to Read: 11 Days
In this conclusion to Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy, Bran ap Brychan (aka Rhi Bran y Hud) and his comrades travel to meet with his kinsmen in hopes that they might help him and his Grellon reclaim his kingdom while Lady Merian–going against Bran’s wishes–does the same and Abbot Hugo seeks to purge the forest of the King Raven once and for all. Tuck–named for the fat friar who is one of Bran’s closest advisors–is full of adventure and peril as the King Raven and his men struggle for their lives and their homes, tricking their enemies in true Robin Hood style along the way.
I must confess that this third novel in the King Raven Trilogy was a slower starter for me than the others. It once again shifted point of view and–after my initial uncertainty upon starting Scarlet–I found that I missed Will Scarlet’s narrative voice (It was not, however, in the Friar’s point of view, instead returning to the third person that Hood was written in). I also have to note that it began to feel a little long toward the end, which may be in part because I haven’t committed to a series in some time, and I was ready for a change of pace.
That being said, however, Tuck was an extraordinary conclusion to Lawhead’s re-imagined Robin Hood series. Too many series that I’ve read have had unsatisfactory endings or ones that were too neat, like a glued jigsaw puzzle. Tuck did not let me down, and it left me wanting to visit more of Stephen R. Lawhead’s books in the future.
(Please forgive the delay in my posting of this review. My new eReader makes it too easy to move on to the next book, and I quickly get lost in it and forget to blog! I promise to get better. There will be two more coming very soon!)
Check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
13 June 2011
Fantasy, Fiction, Friar Tuck, King Raven Trilogy, Little John, Normans, Robin Hood, Scarlet, Stephen R. Lawhead, The Red King, Welsh, William Rufus, William Scarlet, William Scatlocke
Scarlet (King Raven Trilogy #2) by Stephen R. Lawhead – 9781401685393 — *****
Time to Read: 7 Days
The story of one man’s life as it is told by the condemned to his jailor. In Lawhead’s Scarlet, William Scatlocke–better known as Will Scarlet–tells of how the Norman invaders forced him out of his old life and into the wilderness. Inspired by tales of the King Raven, Will sets off to find the outlaw and join him if he can. Upon meeting Bran ap Brychan and his flock of followers, Will finds himself among friends risking his life to help the rightful king of Elfael save his people and drive out the invaders at the risk of his own life and freedom.
Another amazing book by Lawhead. Scarlet threw me off in the beginning due to the fact that the style of it is very different from that of Hood. In most series I’ve read, it is easy to put down the first book and pick up the second and continue on with the tale. In Scarlet, however, Lawhead changes gears. The point of view alters, and it actually changes between present and past tense (this is done very well between chapters and chapter breaks). Instead of picking up right where Hood left off, Scarlet begins well after its predecessor ends, which is maddening at first, because I really wanted to continue the story from Hood‘s conclusion, not pick up some time later. Still, after I became accustomed to the style of this novel, Scarlet was impossible to put down and I even found it in some ways better than Hood.
Because it is a lot of first person narration, the reader gets an intimate insight into the character of Will Scarlet. If you’ve read my other reviews, you already know that I love good characterization, and this is some of the best I’ve seen. Will is proud, loyal, clever and brave. He speaks of himself in the third person, and he enjoys poking fun at the scribe who is writing down his tale despite the noose he knows is waiting for him when he finishes. It is, perhaps, the characterization of Will Scarlet that made me enjoy this novel even more than the first in the series.
The story, itself, is also very enjoyable. Will gives us a more intimate insight into Bran’s camp, and his observances are more human than those of the omniscient narrative voice of the first book, which makes all of the characters seem a little more real. The adventure and excitement is spectacular, and there is more old world magic and less preachiness in it than what was in Hood.
In short, Scarlet is an amazing book that has deepened my appreciation for the King Raven Trilogy even more (Which I am enjoying so much that I haven’t wanted to put down Tuck long enough to write this review, even though I finished Scarlet three days ago). I highly recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, historical fiction and Robin Hood tales.
Check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
4 June 2011
Adventure, Bran ap Brychan, Britians, Fantasy, Fiction, Friar Tuck, Hood, King Raven Trilogy, Little John, Normans, Robin Hood, Stephen R. Lawhead, Welsh
Hood (King Raven Trilogy #1) by Stephen R. Lawhead — 9781401685393 — ****
Time to Read: 8 Days
Norman invaders have killed the king of Elfael, leaving his reluctant heir Bran ap Brychan to reclaim the throne and save his people from tyranny. When the usurper to his crown sends men to hunt him down, Bran is badly wounded, but finds help from a strange woman of the forest who helps him see that he can be a better man and king than his father, if only he can reclaim his birthright.
When I picked up this book, I was expecting a Robin Hood story, but Hood is not your typical re-telling of this age-old legend. Stephen R. Lawhead puts a twist on it, taking Robin out of Sherwood Forest and transforming him into a prince-turned-rogue. The characters we all know and love are there, though their names are slightly different, and Bran’s quest goes above and beyond robbing the rich and giving to the poor as he tries to find a way to save the conquered people of Elfael from the cruel Norman invaders.
This book is better than I’d expected, and I’d expected a lot from it. It has been on my “To Read” list for a long time, and I am very glad I finally decided to actually read it. Now, forgive me if this review is short. I’m off to read the second book in the King Raven Trilogy: Scarlet.
Check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
26 May 2011
Alice Hoffman, Fiction, Gillian Owens, Practical Magic, Sally Owens, Witches
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman — 9781440673757 — ***
Time to Read: 2 Days
It’s no secret: The women of the Owens family are witches. Or, at least the aunts–who use spells and potions to meddle in peoples’ love lives–are. When Sally and Gillian’s parents die in an accident, they go to live with the aunts, who run a lawless household that encourages junk food and discourages bedtimes. Despite this, however, the girls long for some sense of normalcy. Sally insists on cooking healthy dinners, doing laundry and cleaning the house. Gillian grows fed up with the name calling from her peers and runs away with her boyfriend when she turns eighteen.
Although she misses her sister, Sally stays with the aunts, finding love of her own and marrying a kind-natured man with whom she has two daughters: the pretty and spoiled Antonia and the shy and sweet-natured Kylie. When Sally’s husband is killed by a teen-aged drunk driver, she falls into a depression that causes her to spend a year withdrawn from the world. When she begins to recover from the shock of losing her husband, Sally packs up her girls and moves to Long Island, where no one has ever heard of the Owens family. Together, they settle into a normal life. At least until the long-roaming Gillian returns with bruises on her face and a dead boyfriend in the car.
I have to say that, despite my love for the movie that is (very loosely) based off this book, I was less than impressed by Alice Hoffman’s book Practical Magic. I found the writing style difficult to appreciate, as the entire book is written in present-tense and riddled with dizzying flash-backs and flash-forwards. It jumps from scene to scene and character to character with little warning. The transitions are done in such a casual way, that I often found myself flipping back and re-reading, thinking I had missed a page. One sentence might start off talking about the here and now, then jump back in time, forward in time, change characters, or change from Long Island to Texas. Past, present and future tense flip-flop within paragraphs and sentences in a maddening way that made me feel that, were this Alice Hoffman’s first book, an editor would have had a field day with it if he didn’t just turn it down all together. It is almost purely narrative, and the characters are almost impossible to connect with because they seem so detached. Reading it is like standing outside looking through a window and trying to feel involved with the people on the other side of the glass.
The story itself wasn’t bad. In fact, if it had been written a little differently, it might have been cute. Despite the writing style, I was able to enjoy parts of it, and it was a very fast, easy read. This is just one of those rare instances in which the movie is better than the book.
Check out Alice Hoffman’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
22 May 2011
Fiction, Historical Fiction, history, Katherine Howe, Salem, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Witch Craft, Witch Trials
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe — 9781401341336 — ****
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy Fiction
Time to Read: 6 Days
Connie Goodwin–a Harvard student of Colonial History–is in search of a unique source to base her dissertation on when her mother asks her to clean out her deceased grandmother’s long abandoned house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Despite her reluctance, Connie agrees, only to discover that the source she has been looking for was once on the bookshelves of the very house her mother has asked her to prepare for sale. An antique key with the words “Deliverance Dane” on a tiny piece of paper rolled up inside of it fall out of her grandmother’s bible, sending her on a quest for answers. Realizing that Deliverance Dane is the name of a woman who lived in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600s, Connie begins to dig into the past, learning about herself in her quest for Deliverance Dane’s long lost book.
I was a little uncertain about this book at first. The opening, during which Connie takes her oral examination at college, is a little mind boggling, and she does a lot of jumping between 1991 and the 1680s and ’90s before she settles into a good pattern. Once I grew accustomed to Katherine Howe’s writing style, however, I found that the book grew exponentially better as it progressed until I had 100 pages left and wanted to know the ending then and there.
The history in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane feels amazingly well researched and is quite fascinating. Connie’s research is both historical and genealogical, and the added magical element is very well done. Katherine Howe did an excellent job with the herbalism that is the root of the magic, and she shows a great deal of respect for the wiccan religion, skirting the stereotypes and sharing a modern and realistic point of view of the hysteria in Salem. A modern witch will appreciate her tact, a history enthusiast will be pleased with her care and a lover of books with seemingly real magic with be pleased with her story as a whole.
There is also a romantic element in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, but it doesn’t overpower the main story. It just flows along with the plot, enhancing it without changing it. As an anti-romance book reader, I appreciated its subtly.
Over all, this is an excellent book. I would recommend it to anyone with an appreciation for history, magic and realistic characters and plots.
Check out Katherine Howe’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
11 May 2011
****, Adventure, Among Thieves, Douglas Hulick, Fantasy, Fiction, Tales of the Kin
Among Thieves: A Tale of the Kin (Tales of the Kin Series Book 1) by Douglas Hulick — 9780451463906 — ****
Time to Read: 9 Days
Drothe has been a member of the Kin for much of his life, nosing out artifacts and answers for his boss, one of the most notorious crime lords in Ildrecca. His knack for finding information and his well-guarded ability to see in the dark makes him good at his job despite his tendency to find trouble as well as tips, but when his boss sends him after a man who has been causing trouble in his territory, Drothe finds himself in an even worse predicament than he usually gets himself into (and out of). Tangled up in a hunt for an ancient book that has the potential to bring down the empire or put an end to the Kin, Drothe must find a way to survive and decide what side to take in the upcoming Kin war.
This was another of those advanced reader copies that I grabbed because it looked interesting, and I have to say that I’m glad I did, since I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it sitting on the shelf in the bookstore. Among Thieves is Douglas Hulick’s first book, but it certainly won’t be his last.
The plot is as unique as it sounds. Instead of following the stereo-typical fantasy character through the stereo-typical fantasy land as he tries to find the magical book that has the potential to put an end to the evil emperor, if it doesn’t kill him first, we follow Drothe through the slums of a dying city as he tries to find an old book because there are others who think he is after it and are trying to kill him so he won’t find it, and he’s decided that his best chance at survival is to get his hands on it and use it as leverage. The magic that’s involved is dark, dangerous and, in some cases, illegal. It isn’t treated with the typical hopeful awe, actually making things more dire instead of giving hope. The entire book is quite a twist on the stereo-type for the genre, and Douglas Hulick carries it out pretty well.
I didn’t like the main character. At least not at first. Same with the story. I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t sure about it. It was neat, and very well done, but I found it difficult to like a thief whose main interest was staying alive, and it started to sound like a book about gang wars in a magical city. Then the pieces started to come together, and Drothe (who narrates the book) started to see the whole picture. He started to realize that the mess he had gotten himself into was a lot bigger and more sinister than a petty war between two rival crime lords. This war went all the way to the top: To his boss’s boss, a war between two grey princes, and a powerplay that could bring out the end of the Kin if it didn’t rise their society into power to rival the empire.
Needless to say, the further I read, the more I enjoyed it, until I found myself at the end and wanting more. If you’re a fantasy fan looking for something new and different, give this one a try. Douglas Hulick is new, and his writing is a little rough around the edges, but that fits with the world his character is in and the story he is telling, making it perfectly imperfect.
For more on Douglas Hulick and his books, check out his website!
Read it? Rate it!
29 April 2011
A World Without Heroes, Beyonders, Beyonders Series, Brandon Mull, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Readers
A World Without Heroes (Beyonders Series #1) by Brandon Mull — 9781416997924 — ****
Genre: Young Fiction Fantasy
Time to Read: 12 Days
Jason Walker is a relatively ordinary thirteen-year-old boy. He works hard in school, he plays baseball and he likes animals. He even has a job at the local zoo. One day, while cleaning the hippo tank, something strange happens and he finds himself crawling out a hollowed-out tree into a world that looks nothing like Vista, Colorado.
Before long, he learns that he has fallen into a world called Lyrian: A world that is resided by an evil emperor who happens to be the last know wizard. In an attempt to find a way home, Jason stumbles on a secret that will bring about the destruction of Lyrian’s evil emperor, and he finds himself thrust into the role of a hero. Along the way, he meets Rachel, a girl who fell into Lyrian from Olympia, Washington, who is tasked to help him by a blind, defunct king who was Lyrian’s last failed hero. As they quest to find the secret that will be the emperor’s undoing, Jason and Rachel face dangers that are literally out of this world making enemies and friends along the way.
Although A World Without Heroes is written for younger readers, it is a fun story for grown-ups, as well. Personally, I found it to be a fun, light read. Something that would be ideal to take on vacation and relax with. I can also see my 10-year-old niece reading this one with abandon. Brandon Mull is truly a skilled author.
The characters are very compelling. I definitely feel they would be good role models to young readers, because they are smart, hard-working, and they try to do what is right, even if that means taking the harder way. They also respect their elders, but show initiative and independence. Jason, for example loves baseball, but he is careful to balance studying with sports, even when his friends gently tease him for having his biology book with him during practice.
Aside from the great examples Jason and Rachel display throughout, this is just plain fun. It you’re looking for a good book for a child who likes Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Fablehaven (also by Brandon Mull) that is age-appropriate but not “too easy,” this one is a perfect fit. If you’re a grown-up who likes to pick up a young reader book every now and then, this one is too good to be referred to as a “guilty pleasure.” Read it, and enjoy! Then look forward to the sequel, coming in the spring of 2012.
Check out Brandon Mull’s website!
Read it? Rate it!
11 April 2011
Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Kingkiller Chronicles, Kvothe, Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear
The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicle Series #2) by Patrick Rothfuss — 9780756404734 — *****
Time to Read: 13 Days
We return to the Waystone Inn, where the Chronicler is recording the second part of Kvothe’s story. Our young hero-turned-innkeeper tells of more troubles at the university, which inspire one of his professors to convince him to take a little time away to let the air clear and tempers cool. Taking that advise, he sets off in search of a patron and finds himself in court at Vintas. Maer Alveron–a very wealthy man with ties to past kings–has sent for aid in a very private matter that requires someone with a way with words. Soon, the Maer is in Kvothe’s debt, but he sends his young confidant on one more mission that will either solidify that debt or kill him. Kvothe and a small group of mercenaries are tasked with finding a band of thieves who have been stealing from the Maer’s tax collectors, killing them, and collecting all of the stolen money they can find. On his trip, Kvothe encounters a sinister man with ties to his troupe’s murder, a siren of fae, and a legendary community of fighters known as the Adem. As he fights to survive, dispel the negative myths that surround the Edema Ruh, and increase his own reputation, Kvothe learns valuable lessons that he couldn’t learn from his studies because his eyes had been closed by doubt.
Meanwhile, in present time, things are growing steadily worse in the outside world. During one of the interludes between Kvothe’s story-telling, demons arrive at the inn to cause trouble for its keeper and its patrons. The people of the small town are concerned about the harvest, but their minds still continue to turn to darker things as they begin to see that the troubles that have been plaguing the rest of the world are finally upon them.
To start, let me say that my short summary doesn’t give this book justice! So much happens in The Wise Man’s Fear that I can’t put together a good description without giving everything away, so I’ve been forced to settle with this vague shell of a synopsis. Please don’t hold my failings against this book.
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is an amazing continuation of The Name of the Wind. Kvothe continues to display what I have begun to refer to as his “foot-in-mouth disease,” painting himself into corners, burning bridges, and otherwise making his life more difficult. On the other hand, he is beginning to learn. Throughout the book, we get to watch him evolve, beginning his transformation into a hero.
I thought I couldn’t put down The Name of the Wind, until I picked up The Wise Man’s Fear. I was completely consumed by the story. Even now, four days after finishing it, I haven’t been able to pick up a new book because I am too preoccupied with wondering what is going to happen on day three, both in Kvothe’s story, and in the world outside the inn. I am very much looking forward the the third installment of this series and, if history repeats itself, it will be well worth the wait I know I’m in for.
Check out Patrick Rothfuss’s website!
Read it? Rate it!