Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Ruins of Gorlan – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Ruins of Gorlan by: John Flanagan

The Gone Away World by: Nick Harkaway

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by: Winifred Watson

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by: Jennifer Cody Epstein

The Gift of Rain by: Tan Twan Eng

Fire Along the Sky by: Sara Donati

Other Books I’m Reading:

 Anathem: by Neal Stephenson. 

Okay, I’m just going to own it.  I’m not much on Young Adult anything.  I wasn’t much of a fan even when I was in right age group.  Sure, I read Harry Potter, and really enjoyed all the books.  Other than Harry, I haven’t touched a new YA book since I was a teen.  Maybe younger.  I still keep the old standbys standing by.   On the other hand, I’m a sucker for a good sword and sorcery epic.  I always have been.  So when one of my sisters recommended The Ranger’s Apprentice series I decided to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did.  John Flannagan’s The Ruins of Gorlan is a lively and charming read that reminds me pleasantly of the summer I was eleven and completely obsessed with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.   

 The main character of The Runis of Gorlan is Will, a fifteen year old orphan just about to have his future decided.  One of the Craftmasters needs to choose him to be their apprentice, or he will be sent to work on a farm.  Will is set on going to Battleschool and becoming a warrior, even though he doesn’t have the build to be a warrior.  It quickly become apparent that none of the Craftmasters want Will.  Then Halt the castle Ranger shows up and ends up taking Will under his wing.  Rangers in this incarnation are the feisty, smart, and extremely competent CIA of the kingdom.  Being a Ranger turns out to be an excellent career choice for Will.  Then Will and Halt go out and have adventures.

This book is a very promising start to a much longer series.   So I won’t give away too much.  I will say that the characters are well written, and believable.  I suspect Jenny is destine to be one of my favorites.  The action is plausible and interesting.   I can’t wait to turn these books over to my sons in a few years.   I will absolutely be reading the rest.

Enjoyability:  Five stars, and a fond sigh for that summer when I was eleven.  

 

Where to read this book: Laying on a blanket in the sun. 

 

Further reading: I made the mistake of acquiring some new bookshelves this week, which led to the reorganizing of the library, which led to my must read pile growing yet again.   I’ve really got to stop moving books around our house.  

Triggers – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Ranger’s Apprentice by: John Flanagan

The Gone Away World by: Nick Harkaway

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by: Winifred Watson

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by: Jennifer Cody Epstein

The Gift of Rain by: Tan Twan Eng

Fire Along the Sky by: Sara Donati

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem: by Neal Stephenson.

Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer is 80% of a fantastic novel.  The characters are believable.  The plot moves along at a steady pace.  There are plenty of red herrings and surprises.  There is simply no excuse for happy slappy dappy sloppy ending.  The old trope Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies, would have been an improvement on the ending had the author really run out of ideas.

Triggers starts with the President of the United States giving a speech about several major terrorist attacks that have happened in U.S.  Think three or four September 11th size events.  As the President tries to comfort and encourage the ravaged country, he is shot, and rushed to the hospital.   Things are touch and go in operating theater.

Meanwhile, a young man, recently returned from his military tour in the Middle East is undergoing a new experimental treatment to rid him of his debilitating flashbacks.

Also, a guard on the White House roof finds one of the bombs that has been used to blow up buildings in Chicago, and other cities.  These are not nuclear bombs.  Instead they are very hot explosions, that carry an unusual electromagnetic pulse.    The bomb goes off, which causes the mental experiment to go wrong, and 21 people in the President’s surgery theater and surrounding area are suddenly walking around with someone else’s memories in their heads.

There are some fantastic scenes in Triggers.  For instance, the President ends up with the memories of the young veteran who was the focus of the mental experiment.  Naturally the veteran asks to met the President.   The Secret Service Agent in charge, who is walking around with some extra memories too, works it out.  The veteran walks in and triggers his horrific memories of battle for the President.  The whole scene was a very strong piece of writing.

Likewise all the scenes of the surgery nurse who’s memories are being read by one of the surgeons are very strong.   He rescues her from an abusive relationship.  There are also some very touching scenes of a black Secret Service Agent who has to shepherd a bigoted white Granny around while reading her memories.

Then there is the ending.

Enjoyability:  Before the ending, it was at least a four star book The ending was about one star.  So in total I’m giving it three stars and one prolonged raspberry.  

 

Where to read this book: Somewhere far away from things you can stab with in frustration.    

 

Further reading: The Library had so much great stuff today, I really don’t know.  

 

Flash Forward – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Whale Road by: Robert Low

Ranger’s Apprentice by: John Flanagan

Flash Forward by: Robert J. Sawyer

Triggers by: Robert J. Sawyer

The Gone Away World by: Nick Harkaway

Other Books I’m Reading:

 Anathem: by Neal Stephenson. 

This week, I got over the Viking thing, and decided to clean out my Amazon wish list a little.  I knew I had several books on there that I probably no longer want in dead tree editions.  Flash Forward had been on that list for some time, ever since I watched the first couple episodes of the television show based very loosely on the book.  Basically, great concept, bad show.  So I had promised myself I’d get around to the book.

Flash Forward is also my very first Sawyer.  I’ve been meaning to get around to him.  Mostly the buzz was good.  I also picked up Triggers as a point of comparison.

In the world of Flash Forward, CERN starts a test trying to find the Higgs, just as everyone on the face of the earth has a two minute blackout.  Naturally many people are killed in car crashes, falling down stairs, and many other horrible accidents.  Those who are not killed experience a brief glimpse of their future.  After everyone wakes up and puts their glimpses together, the world finds they have seen twenty-one years into their future for two minutes.  The rest of the book plays out as people try and deal with their futures, or change them.

Now, there is a reason why physicists are not usually the heroes of books.  Generally physicists are cast as super smart people with little or no interpersonal skills, and some crazy huge theories it’s going to cost billions to prove or disprove.  This is where, had the producers of the television show read the book, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and energy.  Most of this book is physicists hanging out in various offices, and swapping huge theories it’s going to cost billions of dollars to prove or disprove about why all the earth thinks they’ve seen the future.  And if they have seen the future, can it be changed?  And if it can be changed will they be changing it for the better?  And if no one is there to see it, does reality go on without us?

Sawyer does it well.  The book is enjoyable to read.  The characters are colorful, and interesting.  There is even some gun play at the end.  Plus Lloyd Simcoe, head researcher, and scapegoat in chief, pulls a pretty impressive Hamlet for much of the book.  But as well written as Flash Forward is, it’s not really an FBI drama.  Even if, like the show, you dispense with the book’s explanation of the event, and try and make it much creepier.

Part of the charm of this book, is that it was published in 1999 and is very near term fiction.  Which is to say, the events in most of the book happen in 2009.  There are many predictions in this book about what 2009 fashion, and society will be like, as well as the future society everyone saw for 2030.  Some of them we know he’s wrong about, others, not so much.   We’ll see.  2030 is on it’s way.

Enjoyability:  Four stars.   

 

Where to read this book: This is a good rainy day book.  It’s not really that long, but it’s interesting.  

 

Further reading: I’ve been waiting to get to The Gone Away World for some time.  Interestingly, the copy from my library has the girlyist pink and green cover I’ve ever seen on a Science Fiction book.  Hum.  

Three by Kerry Greenwood – Reviews

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Greenlanders by: Jane Smiley

Eaters of the Dead by: Michael Crichton

The Whale Road by: Robert Low

Ranger’s Apprentice by: John Flanagan 

Other Books I’m Reading:

Okay, I admit it, I’m still working on Anathem by: Neal Stephenson.  I understand there is an uptick in the action here somewhere.  I just don’t seem to have gotten there yet.  

Today I’m going to do short reviews of the first three books in the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood.  I’m not grouping them together to short change them in any way.  It’s just Kerry is a woman with a theme, or well, several themes to her writing.  I think if I tried to break these down and review them one by one, I’d get tired of typing, and you’d get tired of reading.

The first book in the series is Cocaine Blues.   After several establishing shots of Phryne in England solving one of the silliest attempts at a jewel heist ever, the book quickly moves on to the heart of the plot.  There is a set of parents in England who are worried about their daughter in Australia.  They suspect their daughter is being poisoned by her husband.  So Phryne sets off to solve the mystery, with the intent of staying in Australia.

Since I had already read Unnatural Habits it was fun to read the origins of  some of the characters that figure large in that book.  Mostly the cab drivers, and Phryne’s maid.   The characters are colorful, and interesting, however the plot is a little flat.  Kerry tips her hand pretty early in this book.  I had the cocaine kingpin picked out before I’d read the first quarter.  On the other hand, it is a book clearly intended to establish a series.  Which means the author has to take the time to write the establishing material.  All in all it was a good read.

Flying Too High is the second book in the series.  This book was a bit more of a romp.  There are airplanes, and a perfectly flabbergasting scene of Phryne wing walking.  This book features a murder, which does not get solved almost instantly, and a kidnapping.  The kidnapping plot does get a little weird at the end.  There are several points where I wondered why the kidnappers didn’t just kill the child.  They certainly seemed to have no problem with murder on the whole.   Phryne’s household of crime solvers is added to some more.  Also, if you like detailed descriptions of houses and period decor, this one is for you.

Then I moved on to the third in the series, Murder on the Ballarat Train.  Basically this book is about a murder on a train.   But it’s one of the more convoluted murder plots I’ve read.  Phryne also adopts two more people into her family of crime solvers.  Leaving this reader to wonder who Phryne won’t adopt.  There is more white slavery in this one.  Again it becomes obvious very quickly who the murderer must be.  I do think Murder on the Ballarat Train is the weakest of the four that I’ve read.

Here’s the thing about themes.  While there are no real scenes of corporeal exuberance in any of these books, they are full of sexual politics.  There isn’t a one of the four I’ve read that excludes a woman, or women being abused in some way.  There are many representations of alternative lifestyles, and a child molester figures heavily in Flying Too High.  Phyrne has a simply endless stream of lovers.   Also, I think it’s pretty universally acknowledged that popping into bed with a source is just a bad idea.  I don’t dislike the books for this.  I just find them oppressive.

Enjoyability:  I’m going three and a half stars on these.  I probably won’t read any more of them.  It’s just not my thing.  

Where to read this book:  I bet these are good beach reads.  They are short, easy to carry, and not over involved.  

Further reading: I plugged “viking” into the search engine at the library, and I’m reading the first several of the results.  

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