July 30, 2011

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Title:  The English Patient
Author:  Michael Ondaatje
Format:  PB
Pages:  301
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Vintage, 1993
ISBN-13:  978-0679745204
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

Synopsis (Amazon):  With unsettling beauty and intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II.The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he is, now that his hands are hopelessly maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for hidden bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the center of his labyrinth lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man who is both a riddle and a provocation to his companions—and whose memories of suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

Review:  This book is as beautifully written as it is unsettling.  Four people, torn apart in differing ways by the war, are thrown together and forced to live a strange half-life.

The writing style is poetic and, at times, difficult to understand and follow.  The dialogue is almost never punctuated with quotation marks, so I was often left unsure if it was really dialogue or just a character's thoughts.  This was a tough read, both emotionally and because of the depth of the language, but the descriptions of the scenery left me breathless and the insights into the characters were wonderful.

As a choice for a Read-A-Thon, it was perhaps not my best choice since this is not a book I could read quickly.  This is a book where I needed to reread each passage two times to really comprehend it in its entirety.  I do wish the story had been less difficult to read.  But, it's also been on my list of books I've wanted to read for quite a while, so I am pleased I read it and I did enjoy the experience.  Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as I wanted to.

Rating:  7.5 / 10 

July 25, 2011

High Summer Read-A-Thon Mini Challenge #2

This challenge is being held by Book Snob and the task is to find pictures relating to the book I'm reading.

The main character, the English patient, whose name is as yet unknown to me, often speaks of the sand sea which he crashed into and traveled across to get to the hospital.

The English patient was a WWII pilot who crashed in the desert, burnt and with no memory of who he was.

The Villa San Girolamo, which was formerly a convent, is where the patient and nurse, Hana, stay after the war is over.  This is a picture of the real Villa San Girolamo.

This is a picture of the city of Fiesole, Italy, which is near Florence.  It is the town where the Villa San Girolamo actually is.

And, here is a picture of the front cover artwork.  I've always wanted to go to Italy.  This story and these pictures make me want to go even more.

High Summer Read-A-Thon Mini Challenge

The first mini challenge for the High Summer Read-A-Thon is to post a piece of artwork that reminds me of the book I'm currently reading.  The main character is constantly remembering, talking and writing about the desert, so this picture really brings those parts of the book to life for me.

The story revolves around an English man who is being cared for by a nurse during WWII. He has no memory of who he is or where he's from.  He was badly burnt when his airplane crashed.  I'm nearly done with the book.

High Summer Read-A-Thon Begins!

I have chosen my first book for the read-a-thon, The English Patient!  I'm off to a slow start since I have to get ready for work now, but I'll keep reading as much as I can.

July 24, 2011

Downrigger Drift by James Axler

Title:  Downrigger Drift
Author:  James Axler
Format:  PB
Pages:  313
Genre:  Science Fiction / Action & Adventure
Publisher:  Gold Eagle, 2011
ISBN-13:  978-0373626069
Series:  Deathlands, Book 97

Favorite Quote:  The old man turned sad eyes on him.  "Oh, Ryan, you have no idea what hopes I have every time we come to one of these doors, that each one might hold the secrets of, if not escaping this hellish world, then of somehow making it better for those who are forced to dwell in it every day of their nasty, brutish and short lives."

Synopsis (Amazon):  The nuclear cataclysm that maimed America altered the rules of existence. The new reality guarantees a grim battle for survival, but the higher human instinct to exist in peace and good will lives on. Legends endure and Ryan Cawdor is a warrior of his time. When the good fight needs to be won, Ryan and his band take a stand.

In the nuke-altered region of the Great Lakes, Ryan and his group face the spectrum—from the idyllic to the horrific—of a world reborn. Close to enclaves of peace and sanctuary, Deathlands' most distorted spawn of humanity, cannibals, spread terror. Against the battered shoreline of Lake Michigan, an encounter with an old friend leads to a battle to save Milwaukee from a force of deadly mutant interlopers—and to liberate one of their own.

Review:  This story had many mutants in it, some kindly and some violent.  But, either way, I ended up feeling sorry for all of them and the more regular humans who live beside them.  It is a dark and troubled place, The Deathlands, but somehow also beautiful and hopeful.  It's one of the many things I love about this set of books.

This is the final book I have to read from this series at this time.  More are out there, but I don't have copies yet.  Perhaps I'll visit again later on this year, perhaps not until next year.  Either way, it's not goodbye.

Rating:  8 / 10

High Summer Read-A-Thon

I just joined my first Read-A-Thon.  It starts this Monday and runs all of next week.  Hopefully this will encourage me to read more than I have been lately.

July 22, 2011

Moonfeast by James Axler

Title:  Moonfeast
Author:  James Axler
Format:  PB
Pages:  315
Genre:  Science Fiction / Action & Adventure
Publisher:  Gold Eagle, 2010
ISBN-13:  978-0373626052
Series:  Deathlands, Book 96

Synopsis (Amazon):  In the nuke-conceived birth of Deathlands, a rare breed of warrior-survivor emerged—born into suffering, hardened by circumstance, forged by endurance and sharpened by combat. Yet in the heart of this warrior, the quest to find a place of peace beats on unrelenting....

The pristine coastal waters off San Clemente become a battleground over the island and its abandoned naval station. The rocky shores are rife with the sulfur mines that make Deathlands' richest jack—gunpowder. To maintain hell-fought possession, a ruthless sea baron and his fleet engage rebellion from the land. On this island populated by roaming bio-weap nightmares engineered by predark whitecoats, Ryan Cawdor is caught in a war he has no intention of fighting, but has every determination to survive.
"Too long have these cowardly poltroons feasted upon the flesh of the weak, and the taste of an honest fight fills their bowels with Hobbesian turpulence."
Review:  I just adore these stories.  Call it my closet vice, but these are almost always fast, exciting reads, with non-stop action and adventure, set against a future Earth straight out of a nightmare.  I love the left over technology from our time, the frantic effort to survive, and the loyalty and honor among the main characters.  I laugh out loud at the unintentional humor of Doc.  He's just such a great character.  As is usual, my favorite quote comes from him.

Serial SF can be really good or really bad.  This is one of the good ones.

Rating:  8 / 10

July 18, 2011

The Juror by George Dawes Green

Title:  The Juror
Author:  George Dawes Green
Format:  PB
Pages:  441
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Grand Central, 1995
ISBN-13:  978-0446602693
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "I'm not thinking about the widows of these Troll-Slaves here.  I know that little Troll-Slave children will be crying for their fathers tonight, but I feel good.  Very clear headed.  HOLY CHRIST!  What's that!"
      "It's a spider, Mom.  Just chill.  It's only a Death-Spider."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Annie Laird is Juror 224. A sculptor with a career going nowhere. A single mother struggling to raise a son. A good citizen who has been summoned to what looks like a routine tour of civic duty. But the trial she is called to serve on is no ordinary trial. It is a mob trial, whose outcome has been meticulously orchestrated by a man of insidious power and deadly precision. A man who lives by the teachings of Lao Tsu...whose magnetism is irresistible...whose mind is as brilliant as it is twisted. He is know to some as the Teacher, and he's set his sights on Annie Laird.

Pulled into the most chilling depths of the criminal underworld, Annie will be seduced by double-edged promises, stalked by the spector of terror, then, finally, driven to a shocking decision by the most basic motivation a woman can know. THE JUROR is a tour de force of crime and obsession, evil and innocence -- a story that taps into fears so primal they linger long after the last page has been read.

Review:  This book is incredibly suspenseful.  It is a look inside the mind of a killer, an insane man with an obsession for Annie.  It is also a close look at what a mother will do to protect her child.  While this story could easily be just another legal thriller, it transcends that mold to become something different.  It's about real life more than the courtroom.

Annie's son, Oliver, is by turns a child and almost grown, as he should be.  He is impossibly adorable and horrible, just as you'd expect from a boy who is almost a teenager.  Annie is a strange heroine, sometimes very weak and other times made of steel, but, in the end, she finds the courage to defeat the monster stalking her and her son.

The chapters are short.  The writing is crisp and easy to read.  The story keeps you on the edge of your seat.  I couldn't put this book down.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

July 16, 2011

A Gift of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey

Title:  A Gift of Dragons
Author:  Anne McCaffrey
Format:  HC
Pages:  290
Genre:  Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 2002
ISBN-13:  978-0345456359
Series:  Dragonriders of Pern

Favorite Quote:  But maybe raising runners -- both kinds, four-legged and two -- in the west wasn't a bad idea at all.

Synopsis (Amazon):  For more than thirty years, Pern has conjured visions of brave men and women mounted upon the backs of dragons. As anyone knows who has been touched by the storytelling magic of Anne McCaffrey, to read of the exotic world of Pern is to inhabit it—and to experience its extraordinary dragons is to soar aloft with them and share their dazzling adventures.

Now, A Gift of Dragons brings together three beloved stories and a thrilling new tale of Pern in a single volume illustrated with beautiful artwork by Tom Kidd. In “The Smallest Dragonboy,” Keevan is the youngest dragonrider candidate, determined to impress a dragon when the next clutch of eggs hatches. But what transpires will surprise everyone—Keevan most of all. In “The Girl Who Heard Dragons,” a young girl’s rare ability to communicate with dragons puts her family in danger and will bring her face to face with her greatest fears—and with her most secret desire. The “Runner of Pern” is a girl named Tenna, who follows family tradition by delivering messages—and who will find her destiny on the mossy traces that runners have used for centuries under the dragon-filled sky. And finally, a very special gift: an exciting new Pern adventure, published here for the first time, fresh from the imagination of Anne McCaffrey.

Review:  This book contains four short stories, all related to the Dragonriders of Pern series.  "The Smallest Dragonboy", "The Girl Who Heard Dragons", "Runner of Pern", and "Ever the Twain" are all fine examples of fantasy fiction.  Plus, while I usually am not a huge fan of short stories, the stories in this book all caught my interest.  They drew me in and made me remember, once again, why I love this author and especially her dragon stories.

While I have been reading this series for more years than I care to count, these were all stories I'd never read and I'm pleased to have found them.  As ever, Anne McCaffrey proves herself to be the Queen of SFF.  I loved it.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

July 13, 2011

Celestis by Paul Park

Title:  Celestis
Author:  Paul Park
Format:  PB
Pages:  287
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Tor, 1997
ISBN-13:  978-0312862855
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  Here in this world the sun rose and set only for travelers.  The colonists still talked about day and night and morning and evening, but it was out of a nostalgic habit, a collective memory.  The words had no meaning under the inevitable sun.

Synopsis (Back Cover):  Paul Park has written an extraordinary, challenging, and disturbing novel about a human colony on a distant alien world, the planet Celestis. The native humanoid population is subjugated by the human colonists, but many of the Aboriginals undergo medical procedures involving surgery and drugs to make them look and think more like humans. As support from home wanes, the "improved" Aboriginals launch a rebellion against the colonists. Simon, a political functionary from Earth, and Katherine, the altered daughter of a successful native merchant, are taken hostage by the rebels. Simon falls in love with Katherine, but, cut off from a supply of the medication she needs to maintain her humanlike state, her suppressed alien nature begins to reemerge. As she discovers her true self, hidden vistas of expanded alien perception are revealed in a stunning exploration of the limits of humanity.

Review:  This story was dark.  The two aliens were perhaps humanoid, but definately not human-like.  The colonists came and changed the world, nearly killing off the entirety of one race and completely remaking the other. 

The colonists see what they want to see, which is a world for humans, but the planet was not meant for our kind.  The aliens had a symbiotic type of relationship that we mistook for slavery. 

I'm not sure I understood even half of what I read.  So much, especially the thought processes of the aliens, was beyond my experience or ability to understand.  Even so, I found I couldn't stop reading.  I was actually rooting for the aliens, but, in the end, mankind is standing and the last of one race of aliens is dead.  But I question whether the colonists won.  There were no winners and everyone lost something important.

Rating:  7 / 10

July 8, 2011

The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold

Title:  The Spirit Ring
Author:  Lois McMaster Bujold
Format:  PB
Pages:  369
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Baen, 2000
ISBN-13:  978-0671578701
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  She blinked, rapidly, and rubbed her eyes with a soot-smudged hand.  "I'd be a bad wife.  My tongue is too sharp.  Everybody says so.  You'd get henpecked."

Synopsis (Amazon):  Fiametta Beneforte dreamed of making beautiful and enchanted objets d'art, but alas her magician-goldsmith father was more likely to have her scrub the kiln than study magic. After all, it was a waste to train a mere daughter beyond the needs of the moment.

Thur Ochs dreamed of escaping the icy mines of Bruinwald. But the letter from his brother Uri arranging his apprenticeship to Master Beneforte was not the only force that drew him over the mountains to the Duchy of Montefoglia...

A betrayal at a banquet plunges Thur and Fiametta into a struggle against men who would use vile magic for vile ends. Needs of this desperate moment will require all their wits, all their talents, and all their courage, if they are to rescue both Montefoglia and the souls of those they most love.

Review:  This book is really wonderful.  Thur Ochs, the Swiss miner, and Fiametta Beneforte, the daughter of a master magician, sculptor and goldsmith, are a unique couple who are faced with fighting against an enemy who threatens an entire city.

There is quite a bit of religious dogma associated with the magic and the lives of the people in the story.  It is not over the top, though, and fits in well with the time frame and story line.  I never felt the book was preachy.

There are so many laugh-out-loud funny lines in this book.  There is also plenty of magic.  There are fantastical creatures.  It's the perfect blend of romance, humor and fantasy.  I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time, but I kept putting it off.  I'm so glad I finally read it.  I really loved it.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

July 1, 2011

Killing Moon by Rebecca York

Title:  Killing Moon
Author:  Rebecca York
Format:  PB
Pages:  330
Genre:  Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Berkley, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-0425220276
Series:  Moon Series, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  N/A

Synopsis (Amazon):  The national bestselling author delivers this suspenseful tale of paranormal romance for the new Berkley Sensation romance line. A private investigator on the trail of a serial killer has a secret of his own--an ancient secret that draws a beautiful genetic researcher closer to him.

Review:  The concept seems interesting:  private investigator, Ross Marshall, is a werewolf.  Megan Sheridan is a genetic researcher.  There is a serial killer on the loose.  Unfortunately, this is fluff.  Good enough fluff, but still fluff.  It did have its suspenseful moments but, for the most part, this is a romance novel.  Which is fine if you like romance novels.  I don't especially, although I didn't hate this one.  It was pretty good actually, just not my cup of tea.

Rating:  4.5 / 10
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