Book Reviews by Title - P, Q, R

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Book Reviews by Title - P, Q, R

Post by LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:10 pm


The Painted Man (aka Warded Man in the USA) by Peter V. Brett
Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark...
Eleven-year-old Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day's ride away from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet's Brook.

As dusk falls upon Arlan's world, a strange mist rises from the ground, a mist carrying nightmares to the surface. A mist that promises a violent death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness, for hungry corelings - demons that cannot be harmed by mortal weapons - materialize from the vapours to feed on the living. As the sun sets, people have no choice but to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the creatures dissolve with the first signs of dawn.

When Arlen's life is shattered by the demon plague, he is forced to see that it is fear, rather than the demons, which truly cripples humanity. Believing that there is more to his world than to live in constant fear, he must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path.

In the small town of Cutter's Hollow, Leesha's perfect future is destroyed by betrayal and a simple lie. Publicly shamed, she is reduced to gathering herbs and tending an old woman more fearsome than the corelings. Yet in her disgrace, she becomes the guardian of dangerous ancient knowledge.

Orphaned and crippled in a demon attack, young Rojer takes solace in mastering the musical arts of a Jongleur, only to learn that his unique talent gives him unexpected power over the night.

Together, these three young people will offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival.
A thrilling new fantasy with an interesting concept.

Humans live in fear trapped in their homes at night living behind magical wards hiding from the Demons. At night the demons rise from the ground and attack the wards looking for weaknesses. The book follows 3 young people each overcoming their fear to fight back against the demons. Humans rarely leave the comfort of their villiages or towns as travelling overnight is extremely dangerous.

I was really hooked by the characters and situations and kept reading desperate to see where the book would go next. It leaves some of the characters in a bad place for the upcoming sequels, but also paves the way to hope for all humans.

Really looking forward to book 2.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Passage by Connie Willis
Dr. Joanna Lander, psychologist, has spent two years interviewing patients who have had near-death experiences. It’s research on the fringes of ordinary science and polluted by those who have points to prove about the afterlife.

When a brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright, comes up with a way to manufacture a safe near-death experience with a psychoactive drug and to map the brain activity as it happens, he asks her for help interviewing his subjects to get unbiased data about their experiences. He feels that an NDE may be a survival mechanism and if doctors could understand how it works, they may be able to delay the dying process or even reverse it.

Unfortunately, the project seems doomed because a key subject in the study drops out, but Joanna volunteers to be a subject and Richard reluctantly agrees. Who better to document the events than a trained psychologist with her experience? Her first NDE is as fascinating as she thought it would be, but it presents her with a puzzle that she must solve by going under again and yet again. Each time, the feelings of familiarity and dread grow equally as she and Richard struggle to make sense of her experiences.

The author built an interesting and believable story around a controversial subject, and she threw in some twists that kept the pages turning for me. For the most part, I liked the characters she developed, but I did wish that Joanna could have stood up to a couple of the other characters that seemed to plague her at every turn in the hospital. She spent quite a bit of the book hiding out from them, and I sometimes wondered why the hospital was paying her for her services. The book was also a bit repetitive in spots, and I think the story would have been better if condensed a bit. However, these were minor annoyances to an overall enjoyable and suspenseful story.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Welcome to New Crobuzon, city of thousands of years and millions of denizens, chief city-state of the planet of Bas-Lag. New Cobruzon is the original melting pot, containing more different races than you can shake a good-sized stick at. Garuda and wyrmen wheel alongside the militia's dirigibles through the skies. The streets throng with humans, Khepri (a race of female humanoids with large beetles where their heads should be), Vodyani (as much frogs as humans), steam-powered robots and myriad even stranger folks. It is a city of immense power, immense poverty, and, after thousands of years, immense pollution. New Cobruzon is home to incredible wonders like the Ribs, the Spike, and Perdido Street Station itself, nexus of the city's skyrail system. It is also a city of malevolent terrors: politico-military despots, criminal overlords, dark magics and a justice system that doles out hideous and permanent tortures.

But this summer, New Cobruzon is facing an even greater evil-one that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of not just the city, but the surreality in which it exists. And it's up to a handful of outcasts to save us all.

Okay, so that last might sound a little cliché. But that's because compared to Miéville's book, anything I write is going to sound cliché. Perdido Street Station is, quite simply, the most original book I've read since William Gibson re-invented science fiction with his masterpiece Neuromancer; and Miéville may well have even topped Gibson (while still borrowing some ideas from the Gibson/Sterling collaboration The Difference Engine). "Genre-busting" is the term that comes to mind. Perdido is both science fiction and fantasy, gothic horror and comedy, love story and high adventure, environmental screed and metaphysical/mathematical treatise. Toward the end, there's even a group of characters who stepped directly out of someone's Saturday night Dungeons & Dragons game. If I had a gun pointed at me and was forced to label Perdido, I suppose I'd say that it most nearly fits into the "steampunk" genre--a sub-genre of SF which sets the dystopian future of cyberpunk in a world where electricity doesn't exist and even household machines are powered by oil, coal and steam.

Miéville's inventiveness turns out to be not only a wondrous pleasure, but essential to enjoying Perdido. This is a long book--around 800 pages, and not much really happens during the first half or so. We spend this time getting to know our main characters. Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a renegade scientist who dabbles in all fields but is particularly obsessed with defining the Unified Field Theorem and building a "crisis engine" which can tap it. Lin is his Khepri lover, a sculptress who has abandoned her race's culture. Derkhan Blueday is a writer for an illegal and seditionist newspaper. Yagharek is a Garuda, proud winged hunters of the desert, who has had his wings torn off in a matter of tribal justice and yearns to fly again. And, most important of all characters we get to know in the first half of the book, is New Crobuzon itself. Again, I know it may sound cliché when I say that the city itself is a major character. But in this case, it's less cliché than understatement. New Crobuzon has actively shaped all the other characters into what they have become, and it continues to act upon them through the course of the book… and the others act upon it. It is the getting to know New Crobuzon that sustains the reader through first chunk of the book. As the other characters move through the city we are dazzled over and over by some magical piece of literary invention. The reader keeps asking himself "Wow! how did he think of that?" until it is almost a litany. While I will admit that I read the first part of Perdido a bit slower than is usual for me, I was never once tempted to give up on it.

Once the action kicks off, Miéville makes up for the early slowness and exposition by cranking the adrenaline and fear factors up to eleven. I hesitate to give away too much of the plot, as I don't want to ruin the reader's surprise and delight and awe as the events unfold. I can tell you that through a series of coincidences, Isaac accidentally unleashes a host of unstoppable, unkillable monsters upon the city. In doing so, he and his band become the target of the government, New Crobuzon's most powerful criminal kingpin, and a secret sect that worship a fledgling Artificial Intelligence. They also pick up some unlikely allies as they set out to tackle the monsters themselves. There is real, pulse-pounding excitement and terror here, interspersed with some truly black humor for comic relief. I read most of the last half of the book in two long sittings, unable to put it down the first time until I was simply too sleepy and exhausted to go on.

If you are a fan of straight science fiction, cyberpunk or steampunk, then Perdido Street Station is an absolute must-read. I also recommend it to fans of fantasy, "urban" fantasy, or horror novels. Or dark adventure novels. Or mathematics. Screw it--anybody who treasures pure inventive originality at its most fecund and prolific will love this amazing masterwork.
~Reviewed by Bacardi Jim

Perfume: Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
I've just finished reading Perfume: Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind. Really a brilliant novel! It's very original, poetic (even though I read a translation, I'm sure the German original is even better), thrilling and stays with you after finishing it.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Peter & Max by Bill Willingham
Set in the imaginative realm of the award-winning comic book series FABLES, PETER and MAX is a stand-alone prose novel –the first ever published starring FABLES characters!

Long ago, in the deepest dark of The Black Forest, two brothers – Peter Piper and his older brother Max - encountered ominous forces that changed them both irreparably. Thus begins an epic tale of sibling rivalry, magic, music and revenge that spans medieval times to the present day, when their deadly conflict surfaces in the placid calm of modern day Fabletown.
As a fan of the comic series I had high hopes for this book. Further expanding the Fables legacy with a closer look at the dysfunctional Piper family.

Peter Piper all grown up now and married to Bo Peep learns that his evil brother Max (Pied Piper) is back in the world of the mundy's and set out to resolve their argument once and forever.

It is an breezy enjoyable read that mixes folklore with some modern day settings as it flits from past to present telling the story of how the Piper brothers got to be such adversaries.

Highly recommended.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
While trying to do research for her doctoral dissertation at Harvard, Connie Goodwin promises to clear out her grandmother's abandoned house in Salem so her mother, living in distant Arizona, can put it up for sale. While delving into the mysteries (and mould) of the family house, Connie discovers an old key with a piece of parchment in it. On the scrap is written Deliverance Dane, a name that will lead Connie on a quest to discover the rare physick book, which may contain lost knowledge. As the modern part of mystery deepens and a romance blossoms, the author takes us back to Salem's darkest days and tells us Deliverance's harrowing story. This is an exciting page-turner, not only for those who love Gothic tales but also for anyone who loves a good mystery.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I also read 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' the other day (or two). I began it pessimistically, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's a darn good read. I recommend it heartily. A genuine Gothic yarn.
~Reviewed by Gelert

Polaris by Jack McDevitt
The luxury space yacht Polaris carried an elite group of the wealthy and curious thousands of light-years from Earth to witness a spectacular stellar phenomenon. It never returned. The search party sent to investigate found the Polaris empty and adrift in space, the fate of its pilot and passengers a mystery.

Sixty years later, prominent antiquities dealer Alex Benedict is determined to find the truth about Polaris-no matter how far he must travel across the stars, no matter the risk.

A fun little mystery adventure set in space. I'm a big fan of McDevitt's and even though this is by no means his best novel it was a pleasent distraction for a day.

The mystery is actually fairly obvious from about half way and the main characters fall for the same sabotage attempts 3 times making them kinda dense, but the dialogue is snappy and the characters reasonble that I continued right to the end.

Solid but not spectacular.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Powers: Volume 1 (Issues 1-37) by Brian Micheal Bendis
Powers is set in a world where superpowers are relatively common but not mundane. It follows the lives of two detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, police officers in a Homicide department devoted to cases that involve "powers" (people with superpowers). Walker himself used to be a costumed superhero named Diamond, but became a police officer after he lost his abilities. Though stripped of his powers, he still retains his contacts within the superhero community, even becoming engaged to an ex-colleague, who is later killed.

This is a pretty unique viewpoint of normal police officers who investigate super crimes. The first storyarc involves finding out who killed Retro Girl a fairly powerful superhero. Drawn in a kinda cartoony way (Think the Batman animated cartoon) I really took to the art style quite quickly and the writing is top notch.

There have been rumours of a possible TV show based on this property.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, Illustrator
Award winning book about the war in Iraq as seen from a pride of lions. Loosly based on a true story of lions who escaped the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid.

It examines the life on the streets of Baghdad during the war as they fight for survival in the rubble in a struggle for freedom.

I loved this tragic story and it is a unique viewpoint on the war.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure; The "Good Parts" Version by William Goldman
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the "S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Eventually to be adapted for the silver screen, THE PRINCESS BRIDE was originally a beautifully simple, insightfully comic story of what happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world--and he turnsout to be a son of a bitch. Guaranteed to entertain both young and old alike by combining scenes of rowsing fantasy with hilarious reality, THE PRINCESS BRIDE secures Goldman's place as a master storyteller
I'm a huge fan of the movie, which IMO is one of the best films ever made, but compared to the book it's been slightly lessened. I can't believe i've never actually gotten around to reading it before now.

This 30th anniversary edition comes with a lot of extras' - 2 introductions and a sample chapter of Buttercup's baby a proposed sequel.

What I realised from reading this is
1. Columbo isn't in the book. :D :shock:
2. Like the author’s dad they left out all the good parts.

By turning it into a childrens movie you miss out on all the satirical comments that litter the novel from the fake autobiographical beginning to the fake translations to the darker subtext of revenge that runs through it. It's hilarious.

So the bones of the story remain the same, true love, the kidnapping , the fire swamp etc etc and all your favourite characters are there and have extended flashbacks so we learn more about Fezzick and Inigo etc interspaced by satirical comments and a different ending (Which I won't spoil).

The only thing left to say is "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. "

~Reviewed by Lucien21

A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks
Princess Mistaya Holiday hasn't been fitting in too well at Carrington Women's Preparatory. People don't seem to appreciate her using her magic to settle matters in the human world. So when she summons a dragon to teach a lesson to the snotty school bully, she finds herself suspended. But Mistaya couldn't care less - she wants nothing more than to continue her studies under Questor the court magician and Abernathy the court scribe. However, her father Ben Holiday, the King of Landover, has rather different plans in mind for her. He thinks he'll teach her about perseverance and compromise by sending her to renovate Libiris, the long-abandoned royal library. How horribly dull. But before long, Mistaya will long for the boredom of cataloguing an unfeasible number of derelict books - for deep within the library there lies a secret so dangerous that it threatens the future of Landover itself ...
A disappointing return to Landover. The plot was too predictable, the characters too cliched and most of them are underused as he rattled through virtually every character from the previous 5. Ben and WIllow take a complete step back in this story as it concentrates on their spoiled 15 year old daughter as she learns a life lesson in growing up.

There was too many new characters and one too many bad guys for such a short novel. The inclusion of the evil Duke was pointless and made the ending muddled as it split the focus away from the main bad guy.

Due to the 14 year gap in the series I think Brooks felt it necessary to constantly put in recaps of previous storylines, but as most people who would buy book 6 in a series are aware of the past it felt completely forced.

So overall it was nice to see Landover again, but it was tinged with dissapointment at such a weak effort.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Book 8 of the Dresden Files series takes Harry into a situation he’d prefer not to experience. He has been drafted as a Warden of the White Council and has been assigned to look into rumors of black magic in Chicago. On top of that, the rebelious daughter of an old friend may be in trouble. Her boyfriend a suspect in a supernatural assault, and dangerous entities that feed on mortal fear are running loose in the city. Finding the source of the problem leads Harry to another place he doesn’t want to go, the Nevernever, where he must face very old foes once again. This is another excellent addition to the series that grabs the reader like one of Harry’s monsters. It holds on and doesn’t let go until the final page is turned.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Psychology of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
This is an interesting, although somewhat dated, book about the way we humans use everyday objects and how good design can make objects easy or impossibly difficult to use. The author points out that we often blame ourselves for mistakes that are really design faults. Objects that take advantage of our natural mappings, such as vertical door plates that can only be pushed, or items that use constraints, such as video tapes that stick out if inserted the wrong way, are examples of good and effective designs.

Although the text can be a bit dry at times, especially when the author is talking about our perceptions, he presents some intriguing problems and possible solutions. Since the book was published in 1988, some of the things he discusses, such as computers and other electronics, have advanced and design improvements have been made. However, for those of us who still have difficulty using a complex remote with multiple functions for each button, his ideas still ring true.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett ***1/2
Being trained by the Assassin's Guild in Ankh-Morpork did not fit Teppic for the task assigned to him by fate. He inherited the throne of the desert kingdom of Djelibeybi rather earlier than he expected (his father wasn't too happy about it either), but that was only the beginning of his problems...

Seventh Discworld novel and Pratchett just keeps the outrageous plots and characters coming! :cool: My favourite character this time was the highly intelligent, math addicted camel You Basterd, comic genius that one! :D I did find the whole novel more chuckle worthy than laugh out loud funny though, in contrast to the previous two. Still, it's hard to find a more constantly entertaining series than the Discworld series!
~Reviewed by Wimli


Queen & Country - Essential Collections 1-4 by Greg Rucka
The series is centred on Tara Chace, an operative of the Special Operations Section of SIS, colloquially known as the Minders. It attempts to portray the bureaucracy and politics which the agents deal with realistically, as well as including the dangerous missions typical of the spy genre.

Other recurring characters in the series alongside Tara Chace include Director of Operations Paul Crocker, Deputy Chief of Service Donald Weldon, Chief of Service Frances Barclay (known colloquially as "C"), Mission Control Officer and Main Communications Officer Alexis and former Head of Special Section Tom Wallace.

British secret service and this ain't no James Bond. It's more of a harder, realistic book about MI6 and the political rang-lings behind the missions.

Loved it.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White
This story takes place in a small town in south Georgia that is populated with quirky but likeable characters. Half the women of the town are in love with kind and serious Roger, the expert on peanut pathology, but Roger is captivated by Della, a flighty bird artist who leaves notes on things she throws away at the dump. Meanwhile, a strange bond has formed between Louise, Roger’s ex-mother-in-law, who is trying to signal space aliens, and the typographer who is renting her house, and the results are quite funny.

This is a gentle slice-of-life tale - a year in review kind of story - told from the different perspectives of the people who interact with Roger and each other. It has no earth-shaking conclusion, but it resolves itself in a quiet and sweet way. Like the characters themselves, it’s likeable and quirky.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel


Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe
Radio Freefall is about a plot to take over the Earth by power-mad, sociopathic computer-geek billionaire, Walter Cheeseman. It's up to a strange cast of rock stars and oddballs to stop him.

Aqualung, a mysterious blues musician who also has superhuman tech skills, might be the catalyst for the resistance--or he might just be the pawn of artificial intelligences.

To thwart the takeover, the orbitals and the moon colonies secede from Earth. And then something like the Singularity happens, but no one is quite sure.
I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would.

While it some very good ideas and concepts of a future world it pushes the most intersting aspects to the background in favour of lots of useless set pieces with the band.

The technology and ideas are well thought out with the AI's, the Digital Carnivore and the "Machine", the idea of rock music and sci fi is a good one and the characters are decent enough. My problem is that it didn't really expand enough on the bits I was looking for.

It spends most of the book with the 2 main characters researching the Carnivore or doing band related stuff and then rather late and abruptly it pushes the political problems and the revolution to the fore. I felt I wanted more background on it and more information on the moon situation etc.

The main villian is a "Bill Gates on steroids" like figure, head of the largest web company in the world, but you never really see his motivation for taking over the world and comes across as a bit one dimensional.

However the 2 main characters and the band members were enough to keep me entertained.

Overall a fun read, but not without some flaws.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Red Thread by Ann Hood
This is a novel about a woman named Maya Lange who opened an adoption agency called The Red Thread after losing her own baby in a freak accident. She finds comfort in placing babies from China with American couples who want to adopt. Because of the reproduction laws in China which limit families to one or two children, and because boy babies are preferred, the orphanages are filled with abandoned female infants. The author deftly weaves the stories of six couples who want to adopt with those of the Chinese birth mothers and families who must give up their children. Their stories, including that of Maya herself, are moving and unforgettable. Quick access to a box of tissues is recommended when reading this one.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Revelation (Star Wars Legacy of the Force 8) by Karen Traviss
During this savage civil war, all efforts to end Jacen Solo’s tyranny of the Galactic Alliance have failed. Now with Jacen approaching the height of his dark powers, no one–not even the Solos and the Skywalkers–knows if anything can stop the Sith Lord before his plan to save the galaxy ends up destroying it.

Jacen Solo’s shadow of influence has threatened many, especially those closest to him. Jaina Solo is determined to bring her brother in, but in order to track him down, she must first learn unfamiliar skills from a man she finds ruthless, repellent, and dangerous. Meanwhile, Ben Skywalker, still haunted by suspicions that Jacen killed his mother, Mara, decides he must know the truth, even if it costs him his life. And as Luke Skywalker contemplates once unthinkable strategies to dethrone his nephew, the hour of reckoning for those on both sides draws near. The galaxy becomes a battlefield where all must face their true nature and darkest secrets, and live–or die–with the consequences.
There really should have been more Boba Fett stuff in this series as this book is immesurable better due to the scenes on Mandalore.

I have preferred the Karen Travis books to the other writers in this series.

Overall it was another exciting addition to the series and sets up the finale pretty well.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon
Rachel Simon has a younger sister who has mental retardation. One day, her sister, who lives on her own with help from a support agency and who has learned all the bus routes in her town, invites Rachel to ride the buses with her for a year. Reluctantly, Rachel agrees, but slowly, throughout the year, a whole new world opens up to her. She meets all the people in her sister's life and gets to know not only her sister better, but herself as well.

This book hit home with me. Rachel is very honest about her feelings concerning her sister, both growing up together and in the present day, and it was as if she got into my head and read my own thoughts about my own sister. She really understands the frustrations, the anger, the guilt, and the love that comes with having a sibling with a handicap. She does not sugar coat the difficulties, but she also shows her own learning as she begins to accept her sister as she is. This is a well-written and hopeful book. I recommend it highly.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.