Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: The Dead and the Gone

The Dead and the Gone (Last Survivors, #2)The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this audiobook from Susan Beth Pfeffer herself. She occasionally gives items away on her blog, and when she offered a few audiobooks, I asked for one. It arrived during the spring, but I waited until winter to listen to it. Some parts of the book take place during extreme cold, and I wanted the extra atmosphere of snow and cold when I listened to Robertson Dean read the book.

I had previously read this book in a print edition, and I loved it. I still loved it as an audiobook, but I did find it slightly more frustrating. Small things that I didn't notice in the print edition--such as the repeated use of "said" as a speech tag, even when asking a question--drew my attention when I heard it spoken. Thankfully, those moments were few and far between.

This is the story of Alex Morales and his sisters Julie and Bri. They're NY Puerto Ricans, and they're home alone the night the asteroid strikes the moon, knocking it closer to earth's orbit. Their mother has been called into work at the hospital and took the subway. Their father is in Puerto Rico for a family funeral. Their older brother is in the Marines. Being alone like this wouldn't be a problem, except that Mami never comes home from work. And, except for one phone call, there's been no contact with Papi. The moon caused massive tidal waves, and Alex doesn't know if anyone in his family is safe. Alex worries over their loss, over all of the dead & the gone, but those worries quickly become secondary in his struggle to keep himself and his sisters alive in this changed and changing world.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the faith. I'm not a religious person, but I love how important faith was in the Morales family, how it kept them alive at the worst of times. Unlike the first of the Moon books, Life As We Knew It, which features a very destructive church, the church of this book is both affirmative and supportive.

All in all, I love this book, and I recommend it highly.

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Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the WindThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When this title was released in 2007, it was massively hyped by its publisher and by Borders. (I can't comment on the commitment to the title at other chains.) The Arborland Borders in Ann Arbor, MI, which was the flagship of the chain at the time, devoted the entire wall behind the cashwrap to displaying the two covers given to the hardcover release of the book. Any time a publisher gives a book two covers in its initial hardcover release, you can guarantee that it's being hyped. The covers did catch my eye, but I was hesitant to buy into a new doorstop series.

Then I attended the Fantasy Matters conference in Minneapolis in November 2007. Patrick Rothfuss was a featured author, and I was blown away by his talk. So I invested in the book when I went home. Luckily, I found a copy with the red-haired man on the cover. The other cover featured a stone face in a wall, and that's a minor detail on my cover. I liked the focus on Kvothe in the cover I chose--the fact that he's carrying his lute over his shoulder, he has a book in his other hand with his finger keeping the page, and the wind. For a book called The Name of the Wind, this cover certainly highlighted it. We can see the way Kvothe's hair is blown back from his face, the way the leaves are being lifted and tossed . . . for all that it's invisible, the wind is present in this cover.

When I finally did read this book for the first time, I was thrilled. Kvothe is exactly the kind of smart narrator that I enjoy. The world-building is carefully done, and the system of magic Rothfuss creates is unique while at the same time alluding to such fantasy greats as Le Guin's Earthsea. When I worked at Waldenbooks, I heavily pushed this title, telling my customers that it was the best fantasy I had read in years. I love fantasy, but I had largely switched to urban fantasy a few years ago when it seemed like all of the medieval fantasy novels were entries in long series or just plain trite. Unfortunately, urban fantasy is now just as bad as the worst high fantasy, but at least I can look forward to Rothfuss' books as well-written revivals of traditional fantasy.

Over the weekend, I bought an ebook edition of this book to read on my nook, and I remembered all over again why I love it so much. I cannot wait for March 1st, and the release of The Wise Man's Fear.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Angel: Only Human

Angel: Only HumanAngel: Only Human by Scott Lobdell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure if I should read this book or not, as if follows after the Angel: After the Fall storyline, and I never had a chance to read the second half of that story. However, once it arrived in the mail today, I simply couldn't resist and jumped in almost right away.

This is the story of Gunn and Illyria, after everything is over. They're both at crossroads within their lives and trying to find a role for themselves in this new present. Fred's parents call to tell her that there's been a death in the family, so Gunn and Illyria decide to go to the funeral--both of them looking for connection and escape.

The narrative moves smoothly between flashbacks to Gunn's childhood and Illyria's first incarnation and shows how that past informs who they are now and the choices they make. I'm not sure just how much of the plot of this episode changes them in their day-to-day lives afterward. However, it is a great short story that allows readers to see the ways in which each character is lost within themselves and seeking connection to others.

I loved this book.

And I still miss Fred.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Review: Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet, #4)Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the last book in the Bride Quartet, Happy Ever After closely followed the format laid out by the books that preceded it. The novel was predictable in the extreme. However, it was also lovely. Reading these books is like eating devil's food cake. You've had it before, but the frosting is so pretty, and it tastes so good, that you really don't care. Instead, you ask for another slice. That's what this series reminds me of: four slices of devil's food cake. Rich, and tasty and warm, with both sweetness and bitterness. Overall, a great cake--even if it is one of the most popular recipes ever.

This is the story of Parker Brown and Malcolm Kavenaugh. They've been dancing around each other since the first book, so it's no surprise that they finally came together in this last book. Parker is the scion of a wealthy Greenwich family. After her parents' deaths, she chose to convert their ginormous home into a wedding resort with her three closest friends providing the major services. This has paid off for all of them quite well. The business allowed them all to stay together, and it's brought a measure of success into their lives that they might not have otherwise found. However, in the middle of managing all of the brides and everyone around them, Parker has managed to stay alone. She's had few long term relationships, and she's been able to scare away any man that flirted with her.

Mal is not what she expected. He's immune to her freeze ray, and he's spent enough time observing her that he understands how she manages people. He won't let her manage their relationship, keeping her confused. He knows he wants Parker, but how much he wants her remains to be seen. What he doesn't realize is that his past will be the one thing that could come to between them.

I shamelessly enjoyed this series, and I'll gladly reread each of the books in it. They're not the greatest books ever written, but Roberts' particular strength here seems to be in making this old, familiar story enjoyable. She does not subvert the genre or try to change it in any way. Instead, she tells a sweet and lovely story about mature, successful adults that would like to have a partner in life. I recommend this highly to anyone that enjoys a good romantic read.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally sat down and read this book as my first read of 2010. I had never read it previously, but most of my friends had. For years, they kept telling me it was wonderful, but it took a prod from my facebook friend Jeff (who I've known, on and off, since I was about 3) to actually give it a chance.

When I went to see the 2005 movie, it was completely new to me. If I'd ever heard a reference to "42" before, I didn't understand it, and promptly forgot it. However, seeing the movie before reading the book meant that too much of the book was familiar to me. The movie had some scenes that were not in the book at all--I honestly don't know if they're in the sequels or not. Several reviews of the movie discussed the fact that Trillian's role was greatly expanded in the movie. That's one change I can approve of. I was disappointed by the lack of any concrete role for female characters in the book. While Trillian is present throughout major parts of the narrative, her primary role seems to be to act as another improbability.

Other than my qualms about the lack of women, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was lighthearted and fun, a fast read, and I thoroughly enjoyed the postmodern interruptions from the Guide itself. The playful nature of this book, with it's occasional biting satire of bureaucracy, was brilliant. I can easily understand why this book has become as important as it is within the geek community.

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