January 31, 2011

January 2011

I've read 13 books in January.  My total pages for the month is 5133.

1.  Primary Colors by Joe Klein  (3/5)
2.  A Call to Arms by Alan Dean Foster  (4/5)
3.  The False Mirror by Alan Dean Foster  (3/5)
4.  The Spoils of War by Alan Dean Foster  (4/5)
5.  Testament of the Dragon by Margaret Weis & David Baldwin  (1/5)
6.  Yarrow by Charles de Lint  (5/5)
7.  Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs  (3/5)
8.  My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult  (4/5)
9.  The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks  (2/5)
10. The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks  (4/5)
11. The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks  (4/5)
12. The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks  (3/5)
13. The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks (3/5)

Of these, 7 were Fantasy, 3 were Sci-Fi, and then I read one each in the genres Thriller, Political Fiction, and Fiction.  I'd say the 75% being Sci-Fi/Fantasy is no surprise.  That percentage is probably a very good reflection of my entire collection.  I have some other genres but SFF is by far the largest group.

There was only one book I started that I disliked and couldn't finish, The Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings.

Looking at the ratings shown in parenthesis, I think I did pretty well, choosing books to read that I enjoyed for the most part.  I'm proud to say that every book I read in January came off my shelves.

Including books I decided not to read, my To Be Read Pile now stands at 653, which means I reduced it by 23 this month.

Favorite book for the month:  Yarrow by Charles de Lint  (5/5)

January 30, 2011

The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Druid of Shannara
Author:  Terry Brooks
Format:  HC
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1991
ISBN-13:  978-0345362988
Series:  Shannara, Book 5

Favorite Quote:  "There is a difference between nurturing life and making it over," she said.  "It was to nurture that you were charged when given your trust.  You have forgotten how to do so."

Synopsis (Amazon):  In the three hundred years since the death of the Druid Allanon, the mysterious, evil Shadowen have seized control and are ruining the Four Lands. Using Cogline as messenger, the shade of Allanon summons the four scions of Shannara: Par, Coll, Wren, and Walker Boh. To Walker Boh he gives the duty of restoring the lost Druid's Keep, Paranor. For that, Walker needs the black Elfstone, but his search leads him only to a trap.
Meanwhile, the King of the Silver River, a fabulous being as old as mankind, creates a daughter named Quickening and sends her to help. She is joined by Morgan Leah and Pe Ell, an assassin who plans eventually to kill her.

They find Walker Boh dying after an attack by the Shadowen, Rimmer Dall. Quickening heals him and tells him that the Elfstone is in the hands of another ancient being, the Stone King, who seeks to turn all the world to stone.

The journey will lead them to the far north, through the Charnal Mountains and beyond, into a perilous and unknown land. And no one knows what horrible monsters the Stone King has set to guard his citadel.

Review:  This book was better than I'd been expecting.  While not as good as a one or two others in this series, this story was actually quite riveting.  I couldn't put it down.  I'm hoping the next book is as good as this one.  I'm still not sure whether I want to finish this series to it's end or not.  After all, 15 more books is quite an investment of time, when I haven't been completely impressed so far.  I'm trying to make it to Book 9, simply because I have heard such great reviews of the 'Word & Void' trilogy.

Rating:  3 / 5

January 29, 2011

The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Scions of Shannara
Author:  Terry Brooks
Format:  PB
Pages:  419
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1991
ISBN-13:  978-0345370747
Series:  Shannara, Book 4

Favorite Quote:  "Because he's my brother!"  Coll's voice cracked like a whip, and his rough features were hard.  But when he spoke next, his voice was strangely soft.  "It has to be me; it's why I came in the first place.  It's why I'm here at all."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Since the death of Allanon, life in the Four Lands has drastially changed. Yet Par Ohmsford still has some power of the Wishsong. And when a message from the ancient Druid, Allanon, reaches them, Par is ordered to recover the long-lost Sword of Shinnara, and the glory that once was the Four Lands....

Review:  I'm starting to see a trend here.  Terry Brooks seems to have slipped into using the same formula over and over again.  Take young members of the Ohmsford family, add in a druid or a former druid or a druid's ghost, mix in a powerful and evil entity.  Shake it all together and top off with a nearly impossible quest to save the world from said evil entity.  This book wasn't bad.  It wasn't great either.  It was a good enough piece of fiction, but I'm beginning to feel like I shouldn't be trying to read the whole series at once.  The similarities in the story lines are wearing thin.  So far, The Elfstones of Shannara is the only book from this series that I would hate to have missed out on.  However, I've heard the best is yet to come, so I will try to persevere.

Rating:  3 / 5

January 26, 2011

For Theo

A good friend of mine died last night.  He was 57 and had a heart attack.  He was an avid reader and an incredible musician.  He introduced me to Harlan Ellison and Tom Robbins.  I introduced him to Stephen King and John Grisham.  We were complete opposites, but he was one of my best friends.  He'll be sorely missed.

So, in remembrance, I'm suggesting to anybody who will listen -- read some Harlan Ellison and Tom Robbins.  I can personally recommend these fine books:

Paingod and Other Delusions 
by Harlan Ellison

Jitterbug Perfume
by Tom Robbins

Both of these authors write incredible, abstract, wild stories.  Ellison has a great sense of humor if you look for it.  Robbins is just plain odd, but in a really good way.


January 23, 2011

The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Wishsong of Shannara
Author:  Terry Brooks
Format:  PB
Pages:  503
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1988
ISBN-13:  978-0345356369
Series:  Shannara, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  But I am so tired, he thought.  Father, I am so tired.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Horror stalked the Four Lands as the Ildatch, ancient source of evil, sent its ghastly Mord Wraiths to destroy Mankind. Only Druid Allanon held the magic power of wishsong that could make plants bloom instantly or turn trees from green to autumn gold. But she, too, was in mortal danger, and Ildatch waited for Brin to fall into his trap....

Review:  This book was very good.  Not quite as good as the book the preceded it, but still very good.  It's another tale of good versus evil and how easily the line between them becomes blurred, but the characters are likable (especially the gnome named Slanter) and the story well-written and hard to put down.  I'm on to the next book in this series, in hopes that the remainder of them are as good.

Rating:  4 / 5

January 22, 2011

Book Chick City 100+ Books in a Year Reading Challenge 2011

Well, I found another challenge I couldn't resist.  The challenge is to read 100 or more books this year.  I've already read 10 books this year, so I'm already on my way!

January 20, 2011

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Elfstones of Shannara
Author:  Terry Brooks
Format:  PB
Pages:  564
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1984
ISBN-13:  978-0345285546
Series:  Shannara, Book 2

Favorite Quote:  The legend was not legend.  The legend was life.  Evil did indeed lie beyond a Forbidding that the Ellcrys maintained.  Only she kept the Elven people safe.  And now she was dying.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Ancient Evil threatens the Elves: The ancient tree created by long-lost Elven magic, is dying. When Wil Ohmsford is summoned to guard the Amberle on a perilous quest to gather a new seed for a new tree, he is faced with the Reaper, the most fearsome of all Demons. And Wil is without power to control them....

Review:  What a huge difference from Book 1!  This was a really great read.  Adventure, excitement, and an original storyline.  I'm very happy that I decided to continue this series.  I say skip Book 1 all together and start right in with this one.  While the stories are very remotely related, I don't think anything would be missed by doing so.  In fact, I wish I had skipped it to be honest.  I am already beginning Book 3 and can see promise for it as well.  I hope the rest of the series is as good as this book was.

Rating:  4 / 5

January 15, 2011

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Sword of Shannara
Author:  Terry Brooks
Format:  PB
Pages:  726
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 1978
ISBN-13:  978-0345314253
Series:  Shannara, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  "Legends and myths that did not exist in yesterday's world will exist in tomorrow's.  Things of evil, ruthless and cunning, after lying dormant for centuries, will now awaken.  The shadow of the Warlock Lord begins to fall across the four lands."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revaled that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destory the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara--Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him....

Review:  Really, this story is just a rehash of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The basic storyline is so close as to be almost laughable at times.  The Ringwraith wannabes (called Skull Bearers in this version) were almost carbon copies...and that's just one example.  However, it wasn't a horrible version of a well-known fantasy story.  It was okay and certainly an 'easier' read than Tolkien, although the story did move rather slowly in places.  It certainly wasn't original and didn't exactly excite me either.  Since Mr. Brooks is still publishing novels, I'm going to give the next book a try....maybe after he got his Tolkien phase out of his system, he managed to come up with something new and interesting.

Rating:  2 / 5

My Sister's Keeper - The Movie

I just got done watching the movie "My Sister's Keeper", based on Jodi Picoult's novel of the same title.  It was good but ended completely differently than the book.  In fact, a number of the important parts of the book were missing.  Sofia Vassilieva did an incredible job as the terminally ill Kate Fitzgerald.  I've never been a huge fan of Camaron Diaz, but she did play her role as the mother determined to save her child perfectly.  The only actor who came across as one-dimensional was Alec Baldwin...which is really no big shock to me.

It was certainly worth a watch, but do not think it will be exactly the same as the book -- it isn't.  Do, however, make sure you have tissues.  I give this one 7 stars.

January 12, 2011

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Title:  My Sister's Keeper
Author:  Jodi Picoult
Format:  PB
Pages:  423
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Washington Square, 2005
ISBN-13:  978-0743454537
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "It's not God.  It's just my parents," I say, "I want to sue them for the rights to my own body."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.

Review:  I love this author.  This book took me through the entire range of emotions from laughter to tears.  It's a great story.  I'm not convinced it needed to end quite as tragically as it did, but that didn't take away from the story as a whole.  It's recently been made into a movie which I plan to watch soon.  I'll probably review it just in case anyone is interested in the differences between the book & movie.

Rating:  4 / 5

January 11, 2011

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs

Title:  Déjà Dead
Author:  Kathy Reichs
Format:  HC
Pages:  411
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Scribner, 1997
ISBN-13:  978-0684841175
Series:  Temperance Brennan, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  Less than thirty seconds since his arrival and I wanted to rip the sandwich from his hand and insert it forcefully up his nose, or any other orifice.

Synopsis (Amazon):  It's June in Montreal, and Tempe, who has left a shaky marriage back home in North Carolina to take on the challenging assignment of director of forensic anthropology for the province of Quebec, looks forward to a relaxing weekend.

First, though, she must stop at a newly uncovered burial site in the heart of the city. One look at the decomposed and decapitated corpse, stored neatly in plastic bags, tells her she'll spend the weekend in the crime lab. This is homicide of the worst kind. To begin to find some answers, Tempe must first identify the victim. Who is this person with the reddish hair and a small bone structure?

Review:  This set of books is the basis for the television series 'Bones'.  The only similarities I find between the book and the show are:  the name of the main character and the fact that she's a forensic anthropologist.  The Temperance Brennan in the book is emotional, moody, and a little squeamish.  This is far from the character I have come to know and love in the television series, who is sometimes too logical and has trouble with showing even basic emotions.  I've learned something from reading this novel --- if I really already am attached to a character, I don't like when that character is changed....even if the changed version is actually the original, which is the case here.  This was a good book, with all the necessary elements of a thriller.  It kept an exciting pace and kept me guessing.  I just couldn't get past the main character's differences from what I was expecting.  So, it didn't work for me.  I was just too distracted with all the inconsistencies.  I won't be finishing this series.

Rating:  3 / 5

January 9, 2011

Yarrow by Charles de Lint

Title:  Yarrow
Author:  Charles de Lint
Format:  PB
Pages:  244
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ace, 1986
ISBN-13:  978-0441940004
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  There was too much noise beyond the alleyway, too many iron dragons, too many shadows.  Too much of everything and not enough of him.  He was only one very small and frightened gnome.

Synopsis (Amazon):  Cat Midhir had made a reputation as the author of popular fantasy novels. But the secret that her fans didn't know was that her Otherworld was no fantasy. Then, one night, a thief stole her dreams. Since then, she's been trapped in the everyday. And the Others are coming to find her...

Review:  I'd almost forgotten how much I really love Charles de Lint's books.  This book touches on an old theme -- good versus evil, both external and internal, and how easy it is to become that which you despise.  But, it does it so well, with great characters and a great story.  I thought I'd never love another of his books as well as The Riddle of the Wren but now I don't think I could choose between them.  This book has found a permanent home in my collection.  

Rating:  5 / 5

January 8, 2011

Margaret Weis' Testament of the Dragon: An Illustrated Novel by Margaret Weis & David Baldwin

Title:  Margaret Weis' Testament of the Dragon: An Illustrated Novel
Author:  Margaret Weis and David Baldwin
Format:  HC
Pages:  105
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Harper Prism, 1997
ISBN-13:  978-0061055430
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  Banished to the Nether Realm for their occult powers, the Disciples of the Dragon pledge their fealty to their fantastic dragon king in exchange for eternal youth and wealth--all except one Judas in their midst.

Review:  I really just wanted a short book to fill the evening.  I guess that's what I got.  This was one of the oddest books I've ever read.  I didn't really like it and am disappointed since Margaret Weis is one of my favorite authors.  I'm not sure, though, why her name is on the cover since she didn't actually write the story contained in the pages (although she is the 'creative director' according to the back flap)....and the story that was there was crippled by the fact that it was so short and about half of it was (as the title implies) illustrations.  I could use this for the Fantasy Reading Challenge but I think I won't.  Like I said, it's odd, and I will surely read better fantasy this year.

Rating:  1 / 5

The Spoils of War by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  The Spoils of War
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Format:  PB
Pages:  296
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1993
ISBN-13:  978-0345375766
Series:  The Damned, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  He left with a parting wave of one huge hand, an ineloquent but nonetheless affecting gesture...in its crude, primitive fashion.

Synopsis (Amazon):  The Weave was on the verge of winning a decisive victory after a milennia of war, thanks to their new allies from earth. But then the birdlike Wais scholar Lalelelang found evidence that Humans might not adapt well to peace. Researching further, she uncovered a secret group of telepathic Humans called the Core, who were on the verge of starting another war, and then eliminating Lalelang. At the last moment, she was saved by a lone Core commander. He took a chance on her intelligence and compassion, and gambled the fate of Humanity on the possibility that together, they could find an alternative to a galaxy-wide bloodbath....

Review:  This is the final book of this series.  It is a quick read with plenty of intrigue and action.  Lalelelang, a scholar from the avian race Wais, is a brave and humorous character.  She and her human guide, Nevan Straat-ien, make for an interesting combination in what is possibly the best of the books in this series.  They overcome their differences to become friends, which is, of course, what all the rest of the species in the universe need to learn to do.  There were several surprises in the plot that I never saw coming.  This was a really good series and I'm only sorry I procrastinated reading it for as long as I did.

Rating:  4 / 5

January 6, 2011

The False Mirror by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  The False Mirror
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Format:  PB
Pages:  314
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1993
ISBN-13:  978-0345375759
Series:  The Damned, Book 2

Favorite Quote:  By the time he was twelve years old, Ranji knew he liked to kill.  His parents, naturally, encouraged him.

Synopsis (Amazon):  For millennia, the alien union called the Weave had ben at war with evil Amplitur. When its new elite fighting unit appeared, it became frighteningly clear that Amplitur was subjecting humans to vile genetic manipulations. The Weave could reverse the effects, but the result could turn the former warriors into the most despicable creatures in the galaxy....

Review:  While not as good as the first book in this series, this story kept me interested and entertained throughout.  I'm really happy I've discovered this author and plan to start the third book right away.  I did not feel as much connection with the main characters in this story as I did in the last one and the constant reminders of the barbarity of humanity wear just a little thin at times, but the story was definitely worth reading.

Rating:  3 / 5

January 4, 2011

A Call To Arms by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  A Call to Arms
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Format:  PB
Pages:  340
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1992
ISBN-13:  978-0345375742
Series:  The Damned, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  "Since I do not know what a rat is I can hardly take offense at being compared to one."  Caldaq's nose and whiskers twitched feebly in the rain.

Synopsis (Amazon):  For eons, the Amplitur had searched space for intelligent species, each of which was joyously welcomed to take part in the fulfillment of the Amplitur Purpose. Whether it wanted to or not. When the Amplitur and their allies stumbled upon the races called the Weave, the Purpose seemed poised for a great leap forward. But the Weave's surprising unity also gave it the ability to fight the Amplitur and their cause. And fight it did -- for thousands of years.

Will Dulac was a New Orleans composer who thought the tiny reef off Belize would be the perfect spot to drop anchor and finish his latest symphony in solitude. What he found instead was a group of alien visitors -- a scouting party for the Weave, looking. for allies among what they believed to be a uniquely warlike race: Humans.

Will tried to convince the aliens that Man was fundamentally peaceful, for he understood that Human involvement would destroy the race. But all too soon, it didn't matter. The Amplitur had discovered Earth...

Review:  It's always wonderful to find a new author you really like.  This book could be just another first contact book, but it manages to break the mold.  For once, mankind is not shown as some kind of weak race, easily overcome by aliens.  Instead, we are portrayed as actually stronger in many ways (not all of them positive) than our newfound allies and enemies.  The main character is likeable, if almost a parody of pacifism.  My favorite character is Caldaq, the Massood with a conscience, who is torn between the need for any alliance that might help defeat the Amplitur and his fears that the violence of mankind might tear the Weave apart.

Rating:  4 / 5

January 2, 2011

The Elder Gods by David & Leigh Eddings

Title:  The Elder Gods
Author:  David & Leigh Eddings
Format:  HC
Pages:  40 of 403
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Aspect, 2003
ISBN-13:  978-0446532211
Series:  The Dreamers, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  While most continents float freely on the face of Mother Sea, the Land of Dhrall survives anchored by the will of the Gods. All Gods, Elder and Younger, share the people and the land of Dhrall equally. But the one place they never enter is The Wasteland: a barren and hideous wilderness ruled by the Vlagh--a god-like creature whose young are evil spawn. Now, as the Elder Gods are about to transfer their power to the Younger Gods, the Vlagh plans to take advantage of their weakened state and neutralize them, eventually conquering the world. To do so, it is breeding a terrible force borne of monsters and demons. But one ray of hope shines through the darkness: four children called the Dreamers. They alone hold the power to change the course of history...and stop the Vlagh in its quest for total world domination.

Review:  And another of my Series to Be Completed Challenge books goes down in flames.  I'd also hoped to use this for the New Authors Challenge, but it's not to be.  This book is just bad.  It's stilted, boring and reads like a poorly-written children's book.  I managed to reach the 10% point this time, but only barely.  I would take all the books by these authors off my To Be Read Pile but it seems some of their books are actually good.  This series is over for me though.

Rating:  0 / 5

Primary Colors by Joe Klein

Title:  Primary Colors
Author:  Joe Klein (originally published under Anonymous)
Format:  HC
Pages:  366
Genre:  Political Fiction
Publisher:  Random House, 1996
ISBN-13:  978-0679448594
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "And you said, 'No.  Our job is to END all that.  Our job is to make it clean.  Because if it's clean, we win -- because our ideas are better.'  You remember that, Jack?"

Synopsis (Amazon):  A brilliant and penetrating look behind the scenes of modern American politics, Primary Colors is a funny, wise, and dramatic story with characters and events that resemble some familiar, real-life figures. When a former congressional aide becomes part of the staff of the governor of a small Southern state, he watches in horror, admiration, and amazement, as the governor mixes calculation and sincerity in his not-so-above-board campaign for the presidency.

Review:  Most times, the movie isn't as good as the book.  I think, in this instance, the movie is better.  However, the book is quite good.  My favorite character, by far, is the incredible, slightly-deranged, outspoken Libby Holden.  Even though I knew the storyline, it held my interest and was just the right mix of funny, sad and disturbing.  This is not my usual choice of genre, but I'm really glad I read it.

Rating:  3 / 5
Back to Top