April 30, 2011

Millennium - The Movie

I just watched 'Millennium', the movie based on the book by the same title by John Varley.  The credits say that Mr. Varley also wrote the screenplay.  It starred Cheryl Ladd as Louise and Kris Kristofferson as Bill.  It was not a particularly good movie.  I tried to make allowances since it was filmed in 1989 and therefore wouldn't look as realistic as the current films.  It really doesn't matter.  This movie was really cheesy and actually missed quite a few important parts of the book.

It's a shame.  I enjoyed the book thoroughly.  The movie is really not worth the time.  Zero stars.

April 2011

I've read 14 books in April.  My page count for the month is 5165.  My total page count is 20830.  I'm a third of the way through the year and just over a third of the way towards my goal, which is great news.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (9.5/10)
2. The Unloved by John Saul (6.5/10)
3. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue (6/10)
4. The Rising by Brian Keene (4.5/10)
5. Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques (8/10)
6. Magic Time by Marc Zicree & Barbara Hambly (8.5/10)
7. Angelfire by Marc Zicree & Maya Bohnhoff (9/10)
8. Ghostlands by Marc Zicree & Robert Wilson (9.5/10)
9. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (6/10)
10. Abandon by Carla Neggers (4.5/10)
11. Millennium by John Varley (9/10)
12. The Marked Man by Charles Ingrid (5/10)
13. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin (8.5/10)
14. Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin (1/10)

The breakdown is:  5 Fantasy, 5 Horror, 1 Fiction, 1 Romantic Suspense, and 2 Science Fiction.  I seem to be on a Horror kick this month.

I couldn't finish the following:  Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, Never Deal with a Dragon by Robert N. Charrette, and Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman.  My least favorite book for this month was the last, Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin.

I had a hard time this month with finding books I wanted to read and then enjoying them after I chose them.  I read some really good ones, but I also chose some real losers.  I still managed to read a good number of pages though.  And, it's going to be tough choosing a favorite.

My To Be Read Pile now sits at 595, which is 45 less than last month.  Of course, loads of those are due to the series above that I started and then didn't like.

Favorite book for the month:  Ghostlands by Marc Zicree & Robert Wilson

Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin

Title:  Son of Rosemary
Author:  Ira Levin
Format:  PB
Pages:  314
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Onyx, 1998
ISBN-13:  978-0451194725
Series:  Rosemary's Baby, Book 2

Favorite Quote:  "Oh, before I forget, Roast Mules?  Exactly three minutes and twelve seconds by the clock."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Thirty-three years ago, Rosemary gave birth to the Devil's child while under the control of an evil, satanic cult. Now the year is 1999, and humanity dreads the approaching 21st Century, desperately in search of a savior for this troubled world. In New York City, Rosemary's son Andy is believed to be that savior. But is he the force of good his followers accept him to be? Or is he his father's son? Rosemary and Andy will be reunited in a battle of good versus evil which will decide the fate of the world and of humanity....

Review:  It was with a great deal of curiosity that I began this book, written thirty years after the original and also set thirty-some years later.  It was a great disappointment.  Before I get to why the story was so horrible, let me say that the writing style changed dramatically from the last novel.  It was stilted and awkward.  The plot was weak and unbelievable.  The characters were shallow and absurd.

Horror?  Nope, not really.  I'd say more of a vapid thriller.  Sure, Satan and his son are in the book.  The end of the world is supposedly upon us.  It still wasn't exciting or scary.  If anything, I'd choose the adjectives boring and uncomfortable.  The sexual tension between mother and son is grotesque.  The book is full of barely-hidden political commentary and thinly-veiled jibes at the entertainment industry.

While it is a more current novel and therefore more politically-correct than the last one, this book is plain dreadful.  I kept waiting for it to get better since the first one was so darn good.  I suppose the 'was it a dream or was it a psychic vision about to come true' ending is supposed to give me goose pimples.  I just rolled my eyes, grateful to be done.  It was so awful that it left me wondering if I really liked Rosemary's Baby as much as I thought I had.  I am sorry I ever wasted a day on it.

Rating:  1 / 10

April 29, 2011

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

Title:  Rosemary's Baby
Author:  Ira Levin
Format:  PB
Pages:  307
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Signet, 1997
ISBN-13:  978-0451194008
Series:  Rosemary's Baby, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  She opened her eyes and looked into yellow furnace-eyes, smelled sulphur and tannis root, felt wet breath on her mouth, heard lust-grunts and the breathing of onlookers.

Synopsis (Back Cover):  She is a housewife -- young, healthy, blissfully happy.  He is an actor -- charismatic and ambitious.  The spacious, sun-filled apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side is their dream home -- a dream that turns into an unspeakable nightmare...

Enter the chilling world of Ira Levin -- where terror is as near as your new neighbors....and where evil wears the most innocent face of all...

Review:  I have heard so much about this novel and the movie made from it.  But, I'd never read the book nor seen the movie.  I'm glad I finally read the book.

The book seems a little dated, with a parts that are not politically-correct when it comes to race or sex.  However, the obvious fact that this is not a current piece of fiction did not in any way take away from the story itself.  It was riveting.  I finished it in less than a day.  I am already giving the sequel a try although, from what I've seen of the reviews, it may not be as good as this one was.

The main characters are believable, although not all that likable.  Guy, Rosemary's husband, is just selfish and cruel.  Rosemary comes across as weak and too eager to please, at least until the very end when she finally stands up for herself.  But the story stands on its own, being so mundane yet horrifying that I couldn't stop reading it.

The storyline, a woman giving birth to the ultimate evil, has become overused since the original publication of this novel in 1967, but this is the book that started it all.  This is a scary story, horrible and fascinating by turns.  I loved it.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

April 28, 2011

The Marked Man by Charles Ingrid

Title:  The Marked Man
Author:  Charles Ingrid
Format:  PB
Pages:  238
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW, 1989
ISBN-13:  978-0886773960
Series:  Marked Man, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  The young lady raised her chin and said softly, "Children don't come in litters," answering the big, scaled warrior.

Synopsis (Amazon):  When genetic manipulation led to a plague that decimated mankind and created terrifying mutations, a small group of scientists tried to breed humans back to a pure form. And Thomas Blade and his fellow Lord Protectors--gifted with amazing psychic abilities--stood guard against the mutant Denethan, sworn to complete the destruction of the "true" human race.

Review:  This book started out very slow.  After about the first 40 or so pages, it picked up the pace.  The basic storyline is interesting and, while not exactly original, taken in new directions.

The two main characters, Blade and Lady, are well-written until their expected love affair.  After that, they changed greatly and become far less interesting.  The supposedly evil Denethan was far more intriguing.  Unfortunately, he wasn't fully introduced until almost the end of the book.  I would like to have learned more about him.

The androids populating the hidden College Vault are the remnants of the old civilization and they seem willing to go to any lengths to return the human species to what it once was, including killing off the current humans.  Again, old technology going awry is hardly new, but this novel did have some interesting twists.  However, it's just not a book I cared for all that greatly.  I won't be reading the second book in this series.

Rating:  5 / 10  

April 26, 2011

Millennium by John Varley

Title:  Millennium
Author:  John Varley
Format:  PB
Pages:  246
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ace, 1989
ISBN-13:  978-0441531837
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  The sludge I use for blood was being replaced with something that's half fluorocarbons and half mountain dew.  I guarantee it'll get the sleepy dust out of your eyes.

Synopsis (Amazon):  In the skies over Oakland, California, a DC-10 and a 747 are about to collide. And in the far distant future, a time-travel team is preparing to snatch the passengers, leaving prefabricated smoking bodies behind for the rescue teams to find.

Review:  I love when a good Science Fiction novel surprises me.  I really thought I had it all figured out, at least until the last chapter.  Then, I realized, I was seeing exactly what I was supposed to see and everything was absolutely different than I had thought.

This book is full of strange futuristic people and machines.  There was some outlandish science that went over my head, but it didn't take away from the story.  It has some really funny sections and some others that are just depressing.  The main characters, Louise and Bill, are not especially nice or kind people, but I ended up really liking them anyways.

I remember, once again, why I do love John Varley.  This book was just really great, like all the other books I've ever read by him.  I highly recommend this fast-paced novel to anyone who loves a good time-travel story.

Rating:  9 / 10

April 25, 2011

Abandon by Carla Neggers

Title:  Abandon
Author:  Carla Neggers
Format:  PB
Pages:  328
Genre:  Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Mira, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-0778324553
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "The Cupid wallpaper stays."

Synopsis (Amazon):  On what is supposed to be a quiet long weekend in New Hampshire, Deputy U.S. Marshal Mackenzie Stewart is viciously attacked at the lakefront cottage of her friend, federal judge Bernadette Peacham. Mac fends off her attacker, but he manages to escape. Everything suggests he's a deranged drifter—until FBI special agent Andrew Rook arrives.
With Rook, Mac broke her own rule not to get involved with anyone in law enforcement, but she knows he isn't up from Washington, D.C., to set things straight between them. He's on a case.

As the hunt for the mysterious attacker continues, the case takes an unexpected turn when Mac and Rook return to Washington and find Bernadette's ex-husband, a powerful attorney, shot to death. Then Bernadette disappears, and Mac and Rook realize the stakes are higher than either had imagined, and a master criminal with nothing left to lose is prepared to gamble everything.

Review:  This story was very cliche.  Strong woman who stands on her own two feet finds herself embroiled in a murderous plot.  Enter gorgeous, tough man to save the day.  But, they fall in love and they will live happily ever after.  This is the reason I steer clear of romance novels.  I tire of the women being so needy, with lives that just aren't quite complete without the man to step in and take care of them.

The suspense portions of this book were fairly well done.  The bad guy was really bad and had a hidden past which I never guessed until the very end.  The main characters were all interesting to one degree or another.  I just am not a big fan of Romantic Suspense.  I expected this to be more of a thriller with some romance tossed in.  It had more romance in it than I wanted.

I have another of this author's books on my shelf, but after reading this one, I think I'll just pass it on.  While this author does tell a pretty good story, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

April 23, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box
Author:  Joe Hill
Format:  HC
Pages:  373
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  William Morrow, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-0061147937
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "All the world is made of music.  We are all strings on a lyre.  We resonate.  We sing together."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.

I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. . . .

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more?

But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It's the real thing.

And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . .

Review:  It was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I began reading this book.  After all, this is Stephen King's son.  Would he be as good?  Would I find another author to adore as much as Mr. King within the pages of Heart-Shaped Box?  Would I wind up disappointed?

The answer to all three of the questions turned out to be no.  No, he is not as good as Stephen King.  He's good, but not even close to being as great as the King of Horror.  No, I didn't adore the book.  I liked it, but won't be putting it on my 'keeper' shelf.  It just wasn't that great.  But, it is fairly well-written and certainly original.  It had intense moments of true horror and sudden, surprising moments of humor, sentiment, and insight.  So, no, I wasn't disappointed.  This is a fine first novel.

The final question that I am only now asking myself is this:  Should Mr. Hill even be compared to or graded against his father's work?  Again, after thinking about it, my answer is no.  He's chosen to take a pen name, probably to keep from such comparisons and, one hopes, to keep from riding on his father's coattails.  As much as I wanted to be fair, it was hard for me not to make comparisons.

Back to the review of the story itself.  I especially enjoyed the musical references scattered throughout this novel.  It ended very close to happily ever after, perhaps even a little too tidily for my taste.  In the final analysis, I think it was a good read and I will look forward to reading this author's next book.

Rating:  6 / 10

April 21, 2011

Ghostlands by Marc Zicree & Robert Wilson

Title:  Ghostlands
Author:  Marc Zicree & Robert Wilson
Format:  PB
Pages:  476
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Harper, 2005
ISBN-13:  978-0061059605
Series:  Magic Time, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  With her hair like flowing black mercury and sparkling green eyes, she looked a whole hell of a lot like the Evil Queen he'd first seen in that feature-length cartoon, the one that had virtually single-handedly propelled him into puberty.  I mean, after all, she was the real babe in that movie, not that priss of a title character who hung out with the seven vertically challenged nonunion mine workers.

Synopsis (Amazon):  In an altered America where machines no longer work and magic holds sway, former lawyer-turned-visionary leader Cal Griffin guides his small band on a quest toward the Source of the Change -- following a trail he hopes will reunite him with his abducted sister, Christina, transformed into one of the powerful, enigmatic beings called "flares." Armed with little more than compassion and a determination to heal the world, Cal, the warrior Colleen Brooks, Russian physician Doc Lysenko, and bipolar street wizard Herman "Goldie" Goldman encounter old foes and new friends in a landscape of unimaginable beauties and magnificent horrors -- forced to confront the frightful secrets of an emissary from a dread region and to trust in a brilliant triumvirate of grad students who could get things running again ... at a terrible cost—as the final moves in humankind's ultimate nightmare are played out in the depths of the Ghostlands.

Review:  This is the best of this trilogy.  A great story with great characters, plenty of action and just loads of humor all mixed together to form a tale I won't forget soon.  Out in the Badlands, The Source sits like an evil spider.  The companions have made it there but the worst is yet to come.  Goldie is nearly lost, which would have been a real shame, and Cal's sister, Christina, is found.

There is a mostly-successful ending to the quest.  The Source turns out to be just a new type of energy, a new field of science, which was being bent to the malign will of one man.  Humanity, including the changed humans, will learn to live in the changed world with this new power because, really, there's no other good options.  Destroying it would destroy too much else.  The real bad guy is still out there, but he's weakened, and maybe he won't be back (although I wouldn't count on it).

I wish there were more of these stories, but it looks like this road ends here.  I'm satisfied with the ending, but I'll miss the fun.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

April 17, 2011

Angelfire by Marc Zicree & Maya Bohnhoff

Title:  Angelfire
Author:  Marc Zicree & Maya Bohnhoff
Format:  PB
Pages:  399
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Eos, 2003
ISBN-13:  978-0061059582
Series:  Magic Time, Book 2

Favorite Quote:  He shook his head.  "We've all seen it, Doc.  The Source twists people physically who have already been twisted by life.  And Tina ... There was a hole in Tina that I put there.  The Change had plenty to work with."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Across America, technology has been eclipsed by magic, as ordinary people become the embodiments of their darkest desires, deepest fears -- and purest selves. Searching for the source of this terrifying phenomenon -- and to save his sister Tina, transformed by it into one of the ethereal creatures known as flares -- former lawyer Cal Griffin and his band of unlikely heroes follow the visions of the charming lunatic Goldie and the fragile song of a cursed bluesman to a secret haven hidden from its malevolent power. The domain of the bluesman and his protector Magritte -- a callgirl turned flare -- is a wondrous sanctuary from the madness. But how long can it survive if the evil beyond it is allowed to flourish? For the world is unraveling little by little. And the salvation of everything left worth saving requires that Cal and his companions journey deep into the very heart and soul of darkness to confront the beast ruling the Ruby City once called Chicago. But first they must conquer the darkness within themselves.

Review:  This novel was even more riveting than its predecessor.  Chicago and its inhabitants are either minions of Primal or near-slaves.  The city may be safe from the source, but a prison is still a prison.  The evil Primal turns out to be a false trail and the true evil well-hidden, but in the end the companions overcome the being holding Chicago in its thrall.  It becomes more obvious that The Change happens to the weak -- weak at heart, weak willed, or just plain weak at human kindness.

Along the way, we gain the musician Enid and his partner, Magritte.  Goldie, the unbalanced ex-street dweller, falls for Magritte.  And of course, loses her at the end of this book.  I fear that Goldie will not survive these novels with any of his sanity intact. He remains one of my two favorite characters, along with Doc, and I worry for him.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this series.  It is off the beaten track, humorous and terrifying by turns, and just a darn good read.

Rating:  9 / 10

April 15, 2011

Magic Time by Marc Zicree & Barbara Hambly

Title:  Magic Time
Author:  Marc Zicree & Barbara Hambly
Format:  PB
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Harper, 2002
ISBN-13:  978-0061059575
Series:  Magic Time, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  "You may have noticed that certain events have been transpiring around us, demanding we extend ourselves to new and surprising heights.  I think we are in a process of transformation.  Not physical, all of us, but ... in other ways."

Synopsis (Amazon):  For rising young lawyer Cal Griffin, it's just another day in the Big City -- until the lights go off ... for good. Suddenly packs of pale crouched figures are stalking the darkened subways, monsters prowl Times Square, and the people all around Cal are ... changing. Similar weirdness is happening everywhere, from the dank, cold heart of a West Virginia coal mine to a remote lab in South Dakota -- where a team of government scientists has unwittingly invited something catastrophic into the world -- to the highest levels of power in Washington, D.C. And Cal Griffin is not the only one struggling to comprehend the surreal, devouring chaos surrounding him -- nor the only one who will be forced to accept a new role in this brave new world of nightmare and wonder. For the forces bled from the stilled machines are fueling a consciousness both newly born and ancient -- and more than one unlikely hero will be needed for the titanic battle between the darkness and the light.

Review:  I didn't know what to expect from this book.  It is set in modern times and tells the story of a governmental experiment gone horribly wrong.  It could have merely been a rehash of many other stories and it could have paled by comparison.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It is a fast-moving, thrilling novel.  The back-story is unique enough that no comparisons are even necessary.  The main characters are all great, each in their own way.  I especially like Doc, the immigrant doctor from Russia, and Goldie, the psychic homeless man.

The experiment, called by many names, but known mostly as The Source, has changed the world and the people in it.  Some of the changes seem benign, even good.  Many of them seem dark and evil.  Not everyone is even affected and the changes vary from person to person.  At this point, I believe the Change comes upon a person and recreates them to a form most nearly what they deserve, based on their own personality and values.  Whatever the reason for the numerous types of changes, all the changed people have become creatures from fantasy, or very nearly so.

The base of The Source rests somewhere in the Western U.S. and it is calling, dragging, and drawing the changed ones to itself.  Cal's sister is one of these and he must try to save her, with help from his friends.  I have already begun the second book of this trilogy and can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

April 10, 2011

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques

Title:  Castaways of the Flying Dutchman
Author:  Brian Jacques
Format:  HC
Pages:  326
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Publisher:  Philomel, 2001
ISBN-13:  978-0399236013
Series:  Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  "Leave this place, do not stay to watch your friends grow old and die one by one, while you are still young.  You must go!"

Synopsis (Amazon):  The Flying Dutchman! The legend of the wind-tattered ghost ship and its mad sea captain, cursed to sail the seas forever, has been passed down throughout the centuries. But what of the young boy and his dog who were trapped aboard that ship? What became of them?

Review:  I was so sad when I had heard that Brian Jacques passed away.  He's a favorite of mine, as far as children's fiction goes, and now I remember why.  While not as endearing as his Redwall series, the first book of this series is warm and loving, with a little suspense and some thrills thrown in.  There are puzzles to solve, some of which were more than I was capable of.

This book was just a little too sweet, actually, for my taste, but the background of Ben and Ned is original and the characters likable.  It was a fun, quick read, written by an author that will be missed.

Rating:  8 / 10

April 9, 2011

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Title:  Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Author:  Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman
Format:  PB
Pages:  50 of 440
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Wizards of the Coast, 1984
ISBN-13:  978-0880381734
Series:  Dragonlance Chronicles, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them.

Review:  I have come to love Margaret Weis over the years, but I guess every author has to have at least one book that's a dud.  Unfortunately, this book is the first of a series that spans dozens and dozens of books.  I personally own 18 of them.  Not for long; I will be passing the entire set on.  Not only is this 'serial' fantasy, it's serial fantasy based on a role-playing game.  Perhaps I should have known what I was getting into going in.

This was one of the series that I had chosen to complete for my personal challenges.  I will mark them off and move on.  Perhaps someone else will have more patience with one-dimensional cookie-cutter characters and stilted writing than I do.

Rating:  0 / 10

Literary Escapism New Author Challenge 2011

I've just noticed that I've already read 11 of the 15 I'd set as my goal and it's only April.  Obviously, I underestimated how many new authors I read.  I am moving up my goal to the highest level, 50.  I think I can make it.

The Rising by Brian Keene

Title:  The Rising
Author:  Brian Keene
Format:  PB
Pages:  321
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Leisure, 2004
ISBN-13:  978-0843952018
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  In the end, the ghosts of Y2K and September 11th had doomed the world.  Tired of the unending stream of "end-time prophecy" and "destruction of Western Civilization as we know it" disasters of the week, the world had ignored the early media reports.  It was a new century; one that had no room for those medieval fears and extremist paranoid attitudes.

Synopsis (Amazon):  The dead are returning to life as intelligent zombies. Trapped by the undead, escape seems impossible for Jim Thurmond. But Jim’s young son is alive and in dire peril hundreds of miles away. Despite overwhelming odds, Jim vows to find him— or die trying.

Joined by an elderly preacher, a guilt-ridden scientist, and a determined ex-prostitute, Jim embarks on a cross-country rescue mission. They must battle both the living and the living dead. And for Jim and his companions, an even greater evil.

Review:  This was a new twist on an old idea.  These zombies are smart, smarter than some living humans actually.  They are possessed by evil creatures, possibly demons, which have found access to our world through a scientific experiment gone wrong.

There is gratuitous violence, sex, and foul language.  Most of the time, all three are combined together.  The females in this story are not being treated very well.

It was certainly horrific, but the ending was a disappointment.  The entire novel revolved around Jim trying to get to his son.  The book ends with him entering the house and screaming.  Two shots are fired.  His friends rush to the rescue, pursued by zombies.  The end.  It is never revealed if the son survived, although one must assume not.  This is not a great piece of literature, but I suppose it is an entertaining enough way to spend an evening.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

April 7, 2011

Never Deal with a Dragon by Robert N. Charrette

Title:  Never Deal with a Dragon
Author:  Robert N. Charrette
Format:  PB
Pages:  33 of 376
Genre:  SFF
Publisher:  Roc, 1990
ISBN-13:  978-0451450784
Series:  Secrets of Power, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  Not available

Review:  Another new author who isn't what I expected.  I realize that many of these 'serial' SFF books aren't of the same caliber as regular novels, but I've read books before by Weis and Salvatore that were from Forgotten Realms and enjoyed them thoroughly.  It just all depends on the author.  The idea behind the book is good, just the story telling is dry and slow-moving. I am giving it up.  In the past 24 hours, my To Be Read Pile has gotten a lot smaller.

Rating:  0 / 10

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Title:  Pawn of Prophecy
Author:  David Eddings
Format:  PB
Pages:  40 of 257
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1986
ISBN-13:  978-0345335517
Series:  The Belgariad, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...?

Review:  Even though I had such bad luck with another series by this author, I decided to try again.  I guess I have found an author I just can't read.  This book was boring.  I probably could have finished it, but since the series is 10 books long, why would I want to?

Rating:  0 / 10

April 6, 2011

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Title:  The Stolen Child
Author:  Keith Donohue
Format:  PB
Pages:  319
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Anchor, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-1400096534
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  This child and I were bound together.  As boys dream of growing into men, and men dream of the boys they once were, we each took measure of the other half.

Synopsis (Amazon):  “I am a changeling–a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. . . .”  The double story of Henry Day begins in 1949, when he is kidnapped at age seven by a band of wild childlike beings who live in an ancient, secret community in the forest. The changelings rename their captive Aniday and he becomes, like them, unaging and stuck in time. They leave one of their own to take his place, an imposter who must try–with varying success–to hide his true identity from the Day family. As the changeling Henry grows up, he is haunted by glimpses of his lost double and by vague memories of his own childhood a century earlier. Narrated in turns by Henry and Aniday, The Stolen Child follows them as their lives converge, driven by their obsessive search for who they were before they changed places in the world. Moving from a realistic setting in small-town America deep into the forest of humankind’s most basic desires and fears, this remarkable novel is a haunting fable about identity and the illusory innocence of childhood.

Review:  This story was dark, scary and creepy some of the time.  It was had light and funny moments, but these were rarer.  This fairy tale is not for the faint of heart.  It is terrible, both from the point of view of the changeling and the child who is taken.  It's hard to choose which has the more difficult existence.  It's too easy to say that the child asked for none of it and that the changeling chose the path.  The changeling was once the child, too, a century or more ago.

I nearly wanted to call this a fantasy novel, but the story of both the changelings and the children they replace are both told so matter-of-factly, complete with details that you'd almost rather not know, that it seemed more like a biography or true story.  I realize that the fact that one of the main characters (and many of the secondary characters) are of the fey probably lends itself towards being a fantasy novel.  It just didn't feel like one.

The first half of this book moved a little slow in places.  I wondered if I would even finish it at one point.  Then, the second half sped up suddenly, pulling me in and not letting go until the end.  The ending was what it had to be, bittersweet and hopeful.

Rating:  6 / 10

April 4, 2011

The Unloved by John Saul

Title:  The Unloved
Author:  John Saul
Format:  PB
Pages:  358
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Bantam, 1988
ISBN-13:  978-0553272611
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  Ruby settled her weight into the chair opposite him, grunting slightly with the effort.  "You're back, and you'll stay back.  No Devereaux has ever left Sea Oaks yet."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Lush and deceptively tranquil, the secluded island  basks in splendid isolation off the South Carolina coast--as does the Devereaux mansion, a once-great  plantation house now crumbling amidst the ancient oaks. Now, for the first time in two decades, Kevin Devereaux has returned here with his wife and  children to visit Kevin's hated, and frightening  mother. She said she was ill--but is that really why the old woman has summoned the son she has not seen in so many years? Suddenly, horribly, one of the Devereauxs is going to die. And now, all the dark secrets of this once-proud family will emerge  to wrap their evil around the unsuspecting children. Until, in the shadowed corridors and dust-covered rooms of the decaying old house, they learn the true terror of The Unloved.

Review:  It was time for a change of pace and this book was just the ticket, suspense and horror bound together in a aging woman's insanity.  Finished in under 24 hours, this book is reminiscent of a good Koontz or even S. King novel, but this author has a style all his own.  He built up the story until I was on the edge of my seat, knowing something horrible was going to happen, but not what or to whom or when.

When the story reached its peak, it was frightening and full of shudders, the kind of scenes where I would probably want to close my eyes if it were a movie.  And, then, just when I thought it was safe, with the children now-grown and moving on with their lives, the ending came crashing in.  The madness has spread to the next generation.

The story was original enough and the book fast-paced.  The evil grandmother was known from the start, but the aunt suddenly continuing the insanity came in spurts, with just enough uncertainty to leave me barely hoping that I was wrong.  All in all, this book was a good example of horror fiction.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

April 3, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Title:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author:  J. K. Rowling
Format:  PB
Pages:  738
Genre:  Teen Fantasy
Publisher:  Scholastic, 2005
ISBN-13:  978-0545139700
Series:  Harry Potter, Book 7


"Albus Serverus," Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, "you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts.  One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling's spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart -- such revelations, battles, and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong.

The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission -- not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man -- and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.

Review:  This book is wonderful.  Between this one and the last one, there is so much good that it is hard to choose a favorite.  Without a doubt, the final two novels in this series are the best of what turned out to be a fine series of Fantasy fiction.  I still can't quite decide if I want to keep the books or not.  It's the rare set of books that I will reread once I've finished them, but these were so good.  I'll let them sit in the corner for a while and decide in a week or two.

Of course I was saddened by all the deaths.  Dobby dying hit me particularly hard.  But, like in real life, I accept and expect that good people will die if they are fighting for the right to be free.  This didn't make it any easier to bear, but it would have struck me as false if no hard losses had occurred in the effort to save the world.

Whatever anyone else, including the author in an interview, says, I saw no hint of Dumbledore's supposed homosexuality.  There was at least one question in my mind which was left unanswered, but it wasn't central to the story.  Still, I wish I knew what exactly was behind the veil that Sirius fell through.  But, aside from that, this book tied up many loose ends and answered many questions I had, leaving me feeling satisfied.

I think Snape's death and Harry's subsequent viewing of Snape's memories is one of my favorite scenes.  I knew, just knew, that Dumbledore's trust of Snape wasn't misplaced.  I was so relieved to find I was correct. Of course, Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort was what I'd been waiting for throughout the entire series.  It did not disappoint and was, if not quite as terrifying as I'd expected, well worth the wait.

Starting this month, I'm going to have to use ratings 1 through 10.  Just to give myself more leeway, I will even still use .5's where needed.  There just aren't enough numbers between 1 and 5, even with using the .5's.  Since this is the first book in April, now seems a good time to change.  I won't be changing the rating system again.  I guess this is all part of the learning process though.

Rating:  9.5 / 10
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