Book Reviews by Title - Sn to Sz

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Book Reviews by Title - Sn to Sz

Post by LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:52 pm

Sn - Sz

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Who couldn't love a hero named Hiro Protagonist? In real space, Hiro delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza, Inc., but in the virtual Metaverse he's a warrior hacker. When a new computer virus turns his friend's brain to mush, Hiro begins a quest to stop its spread with the help of a skateboarder called Y. T. and his old girlfriend, Juanita. The trail leads him, via Sumerian mythology, into a vast conspiracy that will affect both realities.

This is a classic cyberpunk thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's fast paced, even with the necessary exposition about the ancient Sumerians, and the author presents us with an edgy satirical look at a possible techno future that is both startling and laughably familiar. Hiro can be my hero anytime!
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I read this novel as one of my book group selections. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but, quite simply, it blew me away. Through her lyrical writing, the author gives us a vivid picture of 19th century China when women had their feet bound around the age of 7, after which they were forced to live in almost complete seclusion for the rest of their lives. In a remote Hunan county, the women developed their own secret code for communication called nu shu or “women’s writing.” If the portents were good, some of the girls were paired with laotongs (“old sames”) which resulted in friendships that lasted all their lives. By painting letters on fans, composing stories, and embroidering messages on handkerchiefs, they were able to share their hopes and dreams with each other.

When Lily, a poor peasant girl, receives a fan with a poem from Snow Flower, and their life together as “old sames” begins. It is a powerful story filled with love and deep sadness, and it often took my breath away. Both thumbs are raised high for this one.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Found nearly dead in a gully, Liir, the boy who traveled with Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West and who might be her son, is being nursed at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by the quiet novice Candle. The music she plays for him seems to reach down into his coma, and allows him to relive the sinister events that led to his present situation.

I like Maguire's writing and how he weaves the stories we know into his own excellently crafted and wonderfully creative tales. His characters are deep and complex, and his story world is rich and sometimes scary. After reading this one, I had to go right on to his next.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Songs Without Words by Ann Packer
Liz and Sarabeth, childhood neighbors and friends, were brought as close as sisters when Sarabeth’s mother committed suicide when the girls were in their mid-teens. In the decades that follow, the women stay close despite their very different personal lives, but problems with Liz’s teenaged daughter cause a confrontation that reveals the weaknesses in the women’s friendship. How each woman deals with the powerful but too-confining roles of their relationship makes for an excellent and well-told story.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Doctor Impossible—evil genius, mad scientist, diabolical time-traveler, wannabe world dominator—has just broken out of prison…again. He's tried to take over the world in every conceivable way: doomsday devices (nuclear, thermonuclear, nanotechnological), armies (robot, insect, dinosaur, fungus, fish), mass mind control, even a corporate conquest (Impossible Industries LLC). Each time, he has been foiled. This time, it's going to be different.

Fatale, a gleaming technological marvel built by the NSA as the next generation of warfare, is living in Boston, watching TV and listening to the police scanner. A woman of skin and chrome with a long silver ponytail, she's given the chance every superheroine dreams of: to join a once-famous group of beautiful young heroes, newly reunited to stop Dr. Impossible.

In alternating chapters, we see Dr. Impossible plan his comeback, and we watch the good guys—Fatale, Damsel, Blackwolf, Feral, CoreFire—come together in the face of unspeakable evil.

Featuring a cast of superheroes and supervillains with remarkably human emotions who inhabit a world strangely similar to our own, this is an outrageous adventure with a literary bent—a smart take on power and celebrity, glory and responsibility, and those old standbys, truth and justice.

Reasonably enjoyable twist on the superhero genre. A comic book in prose form.

Tells the story from both villian and hero perspective, but the cyborg hero is a tad boring and all the fun comes from the super villian.

Pokes fun at the comic stereotypes and is a realsoble read.

Twas Ok.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Sourcery by Sir (according to Lucien :D) Terry Pratchett: What more can be said about the Discworld novels that hasn't been said before? :) Wickedly funny, crazy, hilarious and simply irresistibly entertaining! I'm reading the novels in order and I think this one is my favourite Discworld novel so far. Can't wait for what else Pratchett has in store in the next novels! :cool:
~Reviewed by Wimli

Spiderman: Back in Black by J. Michael Straczynski et al
In the aftermath of Civil War everyone knows Peter Parker is Spiderman so he goes on the run with his wife, Mary Jane and Aunt May. When Aunt May is shot. Peter loses it and decides to take a stand. Donning the Black suit he goes on the offensive to defend his family by hunting the shooter and the villian behind the attempted hit.

Fun story where Spiderman gets brutal to protect his own. Unfortunatly this leads to the controversial "Brand New Day" storyline that resets the Spiderman universe.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in the garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his unpredictable daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the way he cares about her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by the way the wedding planning gets in the way of her affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

I read Haddon's debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a while ago and was blown away by his ability to put himself into the mind of someone who is autistic, writes from that perspective and offers you a view on the world through his eyes. So I was interested to see what he would do in his follow up novel. With A Spot of Bother Haddon has written a novel that can be best compared to some of the work of John Irving. Both have the ability to describe family life in all its extremes, making it somewhat alienating at first, but turning it into something very recognisable in the end. Haddon switches between the viewpoints of the various characters between chapters and that way creates a well rounded look of each character and each event, while you also become familiar with each character's inner thoughts. When you start the novel you may find most of the characters are rather more pathetic than sympathetic at first, but during the course of the novel you'll come to appreciate and love each and everyone of them. Haddon has written a novel that offers a fresh perspective on family relations, the small and big drama of everyday life, centered around universal themes like love, jealousy, forgiveness, respect and growing as human beings every day. I highly recommend this one!
~Reviewed by Wimli

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi 1: Outcast by Aaron Allston
See Outcast

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi 2: Omen by Christie Golden
See Omen

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi 3: Abyss by Troy Denning
See Abyss

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 1: Betrayal by Aaron Allston
See Betrayal

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 2: Bloodlines by Karen Traviss
See Bloodlines

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 3: Tempest by Troy Denning
See Tempest

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 4: Exile by Aaron Allston
See Exile

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 5: Sacrifice by Karen Traviss
See Sacrifice

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 6: Inferno by Troy Denning
See Inferno

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 7: Fury by Aaron Allston
See Fury

Star Wars Legacy of the Force 8: Revelation by Karen Traviss
See Revelation

Starbook by Ben Okri ***1/2
"Starbook" tells the tale of a prince and a maiden in a mythical land where a golden age is ending. Their fragile story considers the important questions we all face, exploring creativity, wisdom, suffering and transcendence in a time when imagination still ruled the world.

Okri uses the classic fairy tale format to discuss all the mayor themes of love, life, death and everything in between, and does this in beautiful prose that often feels like profound poetry. It's definitely not a book to page-turn through, but one to savour for a long time. Not only because of the language unfortunately, but also because there is actually very little plot to speak of. While Okri's musings are always interesting, and sometimes leads to fascinating insights, he does tend to get repetitive from time to time. All in all, a powerful novel that unfortunately is not without one or two flaws.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Both the story and the way it's crafted are magical! It's one of the best and most delightful fantasies I've read in a long time.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

State of Fear by Michael Crichton
I recommend State of Fear, not so much for the story, which is good if a bit contrived, but for the information given regarding our perceptions of global warming. You will be amazed at what the media and environmental groups for years have been calling facts, and how environmental groups have become big businesses that may have hidden agendas. The bottom line is, the earth's environment is much more complex than we imagined, and much more research needs to be done before we can begin to predict the future.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan
Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap is a legend to all who don't know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteren of the wars against the lizards he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire's slave trade. Where he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives. Archeth - pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race - is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire's borders. Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad, one-time fighter for the Empire finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe's petty gods. Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world. Called upon by an Empire that owes them everything and gave them nothing.Richard Morgan brings his trademark visceral writing style, turbo-driven plotting and thought provoking characterisation to the fantasy genre and produces a landmark work with his first foray.

Best known for his Sci-fi Noir novels starring Takeshi Kovacs (Altered Carbon etc) this is Richard Morgans first foray into the fantasy field in what is intended to be a trilogy.

It is a very easy read and Morgan's style keeps the book flowing. What at first appears to be a normal fantasy tale about old hero set in a grim fantasy world turns out to be more of a character piece about 3 ex-heros who are otherwise outcasts/despised by the majority. Morgan seems intent on tackling predjudice in his recent books. Last year he published the sci-fi novel Black Man (Thirteen in the USA) which tackled racism and in this book he tackles sexuality.

At least 2 of the main characters in the novel are Gay, Ringel is openly homosexual and this is drummed in fairly regularly from the way the other people treat him or from the graphic sex scenes. The other character is more reserved in that it is implied that she is a lesbian, but doen't flaunt it and there are no lesbian sex scenes in this book (maybe book 2 ).

Overall it sets up what could be a decent trilogy with fast paced action, some great dialogue (peppered with lots and lots of swearing) and a decent enemy in the Dwenda. The only thing that could put people off is the rather over the top explicit violence, graphic sex scenes (both gay and straight) and language which at times felt a bit much and gratuitous for the plot.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
This is the first book in the Dresden Files series. I had seen and enjoyed the too-short television series and was curious about the books, so I picked up this first one as a reissued paperback. After reading it, I promptly ordered the next 4 in the series.

Harry Dresden is a wizard with a paranormal investigation practice in Chicago. Because skeptics regarding magic abound, it's difficult making a living as an independent mage, so Harry also consults with the Chicago Police Department on cases that can't be explained through normal channels.

With his rent a couple months overdue, Harry is happy to be called in to help solve a couple of grisly murders that were committed with powerful black magic. Harry has to stop the perpetrator before he strikes again, or the next victim may well be Harry himself.

This is a a great mix of fantasy, horror, and mystery with a gentlemanly hero who knows how to kick backsides when necessary. I'm ready for more of Harry Dresden's world.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
High-concept thriller with a supernatural edge from world-famous director, whose films include Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy. A plane lands at JFK and mysteriously 'goes dark', stopping in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason, all lights off, all doors sealed. The pilots cannot be raised. When the hatch above the wing finally clicks open, it soon becomes clear that everyone on board is dead -- although there is no sign of any trauma or struggle. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Center for Disease Control must work quickly to establish the cause of this strange ocurrence before panic spreads. The first thing they discover is that four of the victims are actually still alive. But that's the only good news. And when all two hundred corpses disappear from various morgues around the city on the same night, things very rapidly get worse. Soon Eph and a small band of helpers will find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the whole city, against an ancient threat to humanity.
I'm a big fan of del Toro's movies (Pan's Labyrinth esp) so I thought that this would be cool. Hogan takes the idea from him and writes a trilogy based on Vampires as a virus running amok in the USA.

Ok so not the most novel idea in the world, but it could have worked. Unfortunatly for about half of this book it's a snore fest.... However.

Once it hits it's stride and the Vampire virus kicks off it hits high gear and is pretty thrilling from then on.

Not sure it deserved a trilogy though. It might have made a thrilling one shot novel with tighter editing and better pacing or it might have made a decent-ish movie, but overall it was pretty dissapointing.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
For Vampire fans, The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan. We have a Boeing 777 arriving at JFK Airport and on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. We have an open casket filled with dirt. We have a virus/worm type Vampire this time around, instead of the handsome cloak wearing Vampire we are use to. We have a Holocaust survivor, who has spent his life searching for this particular Vampire. We have a Doctor/Professor from The Centers for Disease Control searching. Will this be enough to save us Humans? :shaking:
~Reviewed by Stella

Strangers in Paradise - Complete series by Terry Moore
A long running self published series of graphic novels that revolve around a series of high school friends and it follows their adventures and love lives through a period of about 20 years.

Mostly it is about the central relationship between Katchoo and Francine but also their friends David and Casey. Katchoo loves Francine, David loves Katchoo, Francine is deeply confused and Casey loves David.

All very confusing. Throw in a whole back story with Katchoo and a secretive mafia group, Francines obsessive ex-boyfriend Freddie (the comedy character of the series), Family secrets, marriages, tragedy and betrayal and you have one rocky road to true love.

Although there is a part in the middle where the whole on/off relationship between the 2 women verges on being tedious you are still rooting for them in the end.

Even though this is primarily a romance comic there is still plenty of humour, action and excitement to keep me happy. Everyone will probably connect with one of the characters --> like David who is in love with Katchoo even though it's never going to work he can't help it.

A enjoyable series about friendship and love.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
In a little bookstore in Cape May this past spring, I stumbled across this one, which I just finished reading. It's a very well written and often funny guide about our unique ability to imagine the future and our perceptions about what will make us happy, which are often wrong. Unlike a lot of books with a psychological theme, this one flows like a good novel. I recommend it for those who are interested in psychology.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
This is Allen's second novel, her first being the deliciously magical and very satisfying Garden Spells. This one, which has a special magic of its own, is about a 27-year-old woman named Josey who has stayed at home to care for her difficult and always disapproving mother. Her only escape is her secret stash of romance novels, junk food, and her daily inner fantasies about the mailman. One day she finds a local waitress named Della Lee hiding in her closet who says she needs to stay there for a while because of boyfriend problems. Slowly but surely, with Della Lee's prodding, Josey's world begins to change as multiple secrets about her family and town begin to unfold.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
In this fourth book of the Dresden Files, Harry Dresden is mourning the loss of his girlfriend, Susan, who left him to keep him safe from her newly acquired taste for blood. He can’t pay his rent and has alienated his friends as he hunts for an elusive cure for Susan’s affliction.

Just when it seems that things can’t get any worse, it, of course, does, in the form of Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. She makes Harry an offer that could end his streak of bad luck but would also place him in the middle of faerie politics. She wants him to find out who killed the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and to clear Mab’s name. If he doesn’t comply, the balance between Winter and Summer may be destroyed, along with the world as we know it.

Butcher’s stories so far have been fast paced and very inventive, and this one is no exception. I recommend it highly.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
The setting for this novel is Edinburgh, and the main character is the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and sometimes sleuth, Isabel Dalhousie. While attending a concert at Usher Hall, she witnesses a fatal fall of a young man from an upper balcony and begins to wonder if it was accidental or intentional. Despite advice from relatives and friends who think she should mind her own business, Isabel feels she has a moral obligation to solve the case and finds herself questioning the people involved in the young man’s life.

The story, although not unique in its basic plot, is well crafted, and I really enjoyed the philosophical twists and turns that Isabel’s mind takes in sorting things out. She’s a unique character I hope to encounter again. Fortunately, this is the first novel in a series, so I will have my wish in the near future.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Surrogates by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, Illustrator
Sci Fi story where humanity lives lives through a robotic avatar (Surrogate). Humans never leave the house and control a idealised version of themselves via virtual reality and cybernetics. The Surrogates all look like models, can never get sick, are super strong and can be any gender. When a techno terrorist seems hell bent of returning society to living their life in reality rather than through surrogates it is up to Detective Greer to prevent it.

A book about the obsession with external beauty and technology. (Or people who live life online in World of Warcraft) It was recently made into a Bruce Willis movie which manages to miss the point and made a standard action flick.
Read the Graphic novel instead.
~Reviewed by Lucien21
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.