Book Reviews by Title - A, B

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Book Reviews by Title - A, B

Post by LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:32 pm


A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton:
Kinsey Millhone , a twice- divorced, independent 32- year old private detective, lives and works in southern California. Recently released from an eight- year jail sentence for the murder of her husband, Nikki Fife asks the detective to prove her innocence and find the real murderer.
This novel was on my reading list for a course on American crime writing I followed a few years ago, but for some reason I never got round to finishing it back then. So instead of reading all the recently bought books, I thought I'd pick up this one again. And now I understand why I lost interest in it back then when I had to read so many similar books. Apart from the fact that it was one of the first detective series that featured a female lead character, nothing else about the book really stands out. It's all nice to read, but it never gets to the point where you can't wait to see what happens on the next page, never has the just-one-more-chapter quality I like about the best mysteries. I mean, the novel is only about 200 pages and virtually nothing happened during the first hundred pages.

Has anyone read any more of the Millhone novels? Wondering whether I should read any more. I did like the main character, but there was not enough mystery in this one to keep up my interest.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Abyss (Star Wars Fate of the Jedi 3) by Troy Denning
Following a trail of clues across the galaxy, Luke Skywalker continues his quest to find the reasons behind Jacen Solo’s dark downfall and to win redemption for the Jedi Order. Sojourning among the mysterious Aing-Tii monks has left Luke and his son Ben with no real answers, only the suspicion that the revelations they seek lie in the forbidden reaches of the distant Maw Cluster. There, hidden from the galaxy in a labyrinth of black holes, dwell the Mind Walkers: those whose power to transcend their bodies and be one with the Force is as seductive and intoxicating as it is potentially fatal. But it may be Luke’s only path to the truth.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, the war of wills between Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala and the Jedi Order is escalating. Outraged over the carbonite freezing of young Jedi Knights Valin and Jysella Horn after their inexplicable mental breakdowns, the Jedi are determined to defy Daala’s martial tactics, override Council Master Kenth Hamner’s wavering leadership, and deal on their own terms with the epidemic of madness preying on their ranks. As Han and Leia Solo, along with their daughter Jaina, join the fight to protect more stricken Knights from arrest, Jedi healers race to find a cure for the rapidly spreading affliction. But none of them realize the blaster barrel is already swinging in their direction–and Chief Daala is about to pull the trigger.

Nor do Luke and Ben, deep in the Maw Cluster and pushing their Force abilities beyond known limits, realize how close they are–to the Sith strike squad bent on exterminating the Skywalkers, to a nexus of dark-side energy unprecedented in its power and its hunger, and to an explosive confrontation between opposing wielders of the Force from which only one Master–good or evil–can emerge alive.
Was really disappointed in this one. Some of the stories were fine, the events with the Jedi academy, the Solo's and the Sith were pretty good, but the further adventures of Luke and Ben completely jumped the shark with some strange dream like sequences that really put me off the book. It improved at the end when the Sith crossed their path, but by then I was lost.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

Welcome to Safe Haven, Wisconsin. Miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force. Until now...

A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven's only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn't come to their town by accident...
I read this book in one sitting.

It is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, the pace is relentless, the violence seriously graphic at times. The story is ok (Genetically Engineered Super Soldiers take on a remote US town.) and the characters are sketchy, but the action never lets up and it's a thrill ride.

The equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie in paper form. Light undemanding entertainment that takes you on ride for a couple of hours and leaves you smiling. (although you'll probably forget it pretty quickly.)
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I also finished Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. I had read many excerpts from it, but never in it's entirety. It must be one of the most charming and slightly bizarre children's book ever written, loved it! And I'm looking forward to Tim Burton's film adaptation that comes out somewhere next year!
~Reviewed by Wimli

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
A few days before being released from prison after serving 3 years for aggravated assault and battery, Shadow learns that his wife has been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home early for her funeral, he meets a man called Mr. Wednesday who knows more about him than he has any right to know and who wants to hire him. He warns of a big storm coming that will change everything, and Shadow, reluctantly at first, is drawn into the coming battle between the old gods of the Americas and the new.

This is Gaiman's best book so far. The histories of the people who came here to settle, bringing their beliefs in various gods with them, are fascinating and well told, and the characters with which the author peoples the story are rich and believable. Through myths and legends and with a generous dollop of magic, Shadow takes an amazing journey all over this vast land. It's a journey this reader enjoyed tremendously and will never forget.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Charles Nancy, known to everyone as Fat Charlie, was always very uncomfortable around his flamboyant, unpredictable, and full-of-life father, so when he grew up, he decided to put the Atlantic Ocean between them as a buffer and went to live in England. His father’s death, however, forces him back to the old neighborhood in Florida and into a series of dangerous events that revolve around the brother he never knew he had and soon wished he hadn’t.

This is a loose sequel to Gaiman’s American Gods. It’s a magical, funny, and often spooky tale with memorable characters and a very satisfying ending. I enjoyed it tremendously!
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Fraa Erasmas is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside "saecular" world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. Over the centuries, cities and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. And Erasmas has no fear of the outside—the Extramuros—for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.

Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fraas and suurs prepare to venture beyond the concent's gates—at the same time opening them wide to welcome the curious "extras" in. During his first Apert as a fraa, Erasmas eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn't seen since he was "collected." But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change.

Powerful unforeseen forces jeopardize the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros—a threat that only an unsteady alliance of saecular and avout can oppose—as, one by one, Erasmas and his colleagues, teachers, and friends are summoned forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster. Suddenly burdened with a staggering responsibility, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world—as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.
Stephenson weakest book in years.

It's 800 pages are filled with heavy concepts to go with the size of the novel. Unfortunatly it is bogged down by lengthy debates on philosophy, physics and Parallel worlds.

Maybe I wasn't in the right mood, but it was ok not spectacular and that is a dissappointment from Stephenson.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Like Zafón’s previous book, The Shadow of the Wind, this mysterious Gothic tale also takes place in Barcelona. David Martin, the survivor of a troubled childhood and a writer of sensational fiction, decides to lease an abandoned old house in the heart of the city in order to write something worthy of his talent. The house has a disturbing history which is partly revealed by papers and letters he finds in a locked room. The darkness of the house seems to seep into his very soul when the love he cannot have, the lack of success regarding his book, and illness force him into a deep depression.

Rescue comes from a reclusive editor who makes him an offer he can’t refuse. He will be given a fortune if he writes a book that has never existed - a book that will change the hearts and minds of those who read it. As David begins work on this book, he realizes that there is a tangled web of connections between his work and the previous occupants of the house - connections that could lead to madness or worse.

By blending dark secrets with the magic of books and adding a large dollop of friendship, and love, the author creates an intriguing mystery. The twists and turns of the story and the ending made me doubt my own perceptions. I will be reading this one again.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish
For Katherine, the adventure begins with the arrival of a UPS package containing a pair of red hightop sneakers filled with the ashes of her best friend, Annie, along with arrangements for a traveling funeral. Annie’s last request is that the important women in her life act as pallbearers and carry her ashes to be scattered in specific locations all around the country, locations which were special in Annie’s life.

As these very different women travel together, they grieve and celebrate Annie’s life and begin to form lasting friendships with each other and with the people they meet along the way. The book is a celebration of sisterhood and the human condition. It’s a positive and life affirming story, and it made me think of the legacies left behind by the important people in my life and also how I might want to be remembered someday.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Arabische Melancholie (translated from French: Une Melancolie Arabe) by Abdellah Taïa
This is an autobiographical novella about a gay Moroccan writer looking for his identity. All he wants is to find a place where he feels at home, but so far he has had no success. In his homeland he is an outcast because he is gay, while in his adopted country France he stands out because of his race. While the story is too episodic (built up from short diary fragments), the story really hit me because of its frank honesty and the writer's poetic style.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz
This book was lent to me by my favorite 12-year-old, who hasn’t steered me wrong so far. It’s the 6th book in the Alex Rider series, a mystery/thriller for the younger set, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Fourteen-year-old Alex, who would prefer to be a regular kid, becomes involved in a sinister plot concerning a yet-unfinished hotel in space. It has rip-roaring action and several white-knuckle scene in the best James Bond tradition. It was an enjoyable romp, and I’ll be hounding my young friend for her copies of the previous five in the series.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
This novel is a celebration of racing as told from the point of view of a dog who hopes to come back as a human when he dies. It's a sweet and sad story with a very satisfying ending. You don't have to love racing to enjoy the story, but you'll come out of it with an appreciation of the skill that goes into running a good race.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Assault by Harry Mulisch
I'm currently reading a Dutch book, De Aanslag by Harry Mulisch (translated into English as The Assault). It's about a young boy whose family is brutally murdered by German troops at the very end of WWII for a crime they didn't commit. The book chronicles the entire life of that boy and how these events had a far going impact on it, both on an emotional/psychological level as on his perceptions on the world and life in general. Very moving story, brilliantly written.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. In a tenacious daze, he leaves the city and relocates to a small town in the American heartland. But what is this “escape” really about?

As the story unfolds, moving between the present and the past, we begin to understand this confounding yet fascinating character, and how he’s gotten to where he is. And isn’t. And we meet Hana: a sweet, smart, first-generation Japanese American artist with whom he had made a blissful life. But now she’s gone. Did Asterios do something to drive her away? What has happened to her? Is she even alive? All the questions will be answered, eventually.

In the meantime, we are enthralled by Mazzucchelli’s extraordinarily imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception.
This is one of those Graphic Novels that proves that the picture tells a thousand words. On the surface it is a simple story about how this man, Asterios, meets his wife and then loses her, but it uses a multitude of art techniques to show us the emotions and perspectives of this initially unlikable character who rarely sees anyones opinions but his own.

Some of the techniques in the book blew me away with the use of different colours shapes and art styles ehich tell so much more about the characters than the words alone. For example in this scene where he first meets his wife you can see the blending of their distinct stlyes as they grow closer.
or later on when they are drifting apart. You can see the stark differences.
One of my favourite pages is this one
There are so many parts of this book where the art portrays so much of the story without resorting to lots of dialogue, like the 3 pages with lots of small panels of memories which show small glimpses of his wife at her best or worst and it just protrays how he feels about her and how the smallest look or expression can mean so much.

A truely superb graphic novel.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

At Home in Covington by Joan Medlicott
Three very different female friends of a certain age have established a home together in North Carolina. Each one carries baggage from the past, and the relationships among the women have been strained recently. When one of them proposes they go on a cruise, all agree that it may be just what they need to set things right. Unfortunately, the trip does not solve their problems, and, in fact, nearly tears them apart once and for all. Their long-standing ties do prevail, however, and the end result is a testimony to those who have found family within the bonds of friendship.

This is not an exceptional book, but I liked it because of the relationships established by these 60-something women. The characters remind me of friends I have known and loved (and with whom I have also disagreed). The down side is that the book is the 5th in a series, and much of the character development via critical events happened at an earlier time. I’m going to pick up the first of the series from the library to see if I want to follow the adventures of these ladies further.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel


Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, Illustrator
Batman has a new villian in search of vengenge, who is Hush?

A rogues gallery of villians appear in this series as Bruce Wayne recovers from a head operation, old friend Thomas Elliot does the surgery, while battling Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Riddler, etc.

Fun Batman story and a great new villian.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
Middle book in the series see the anti heroes from book one in various scrapes, Inquisitor Glokta is in a sieged city trying to stop the invaders from the south while hunting a traitor, The Northmen are invading and Collum West and a band of northmen have to stop it, First Magi Bayaz leads a small group to the edge of the world to find a legendary weapon.

Lots of fun
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Springtime in Styria. And that means war. There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king. War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die. Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started... Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.
New stand alone novel from the writer of the First Law trilogy.

Basically it's a brutal revenge tale set in the same world as the trilogy and does have a couple of cameos from the main series.

Great characters, lots of intrigue, action, double crosses and murder most foul. It's a gritty dark novel, but it manages to have a lot of humour in it.

I couldn't recommend it more.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Betrayal (Star Wars Legacy of the Force 1) by Aaron Allston
Honor and duty collide with friendship and blood ties as the Skywalker and Solo clans find themselves on opposing sides of an explosive conflict.

When a mission to uncover an illegal missile factory on the planet Adumar ends in a violent ambush–from which Jedi Knight Jacen Solo and his protégé and cousin, Ben Skywalker, narrowly escape with their lives–it’s the most alarming evidence yet that political unrest is threatening to ignite into total rebellion. The specter of full-scale war looms between a growing cadre of defiant planets and the Galactic Alliance that some fear is becoming a new Empire.

Determined to root out those behind the mayhem, Jacen follows a trail of cryptic clues to a rendezvous with the most shocking of revelations. Meanwhile Luke grapples with something even more troubling: dream visions of a shadowy figure whose Force power and ruthlessness remind him of Darth Vader. If Luke’s visions come to pass, they will bring untold pain to the Jedi Master . . . and to the galaxy.
Set 40 years after Star Wars, this is the fist book in a new 9 book series.

Legacy of the Force sees the 2 great Star Wars families seperated by an impending civil war and the rise of a new dark power.

You get exactly what you expect in these books, all your favourite characters (and their kids) make an appearance, Jedi, lightsabre duels, space battles and non stop action.

Exciting stuff.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
Logan Gyre is king of Cenaria, a country under siege, with a threadbare army and little hope. He has one chance - a desperate gamble, but one that could destroy his kingdom.

In the north, the new Godking has a plan. If it comes to fruition, no one will have the power to stop him.

Kylar Stern has no choice. To save his friends-and perhaps his enemies-he must accomplish the impossible: assassinate a goddess.

Beyond the Shadows is the action-packed conclusion to the Night Angel Trilogy.
And so ends a trilogy from a new author in the fantasy field. It certainly won't win prizes for complexity, but it's full of great characters, rip roaring action, heartbreaking tragedy and huge battles.

The final book seems to tie up all the loose ends from the previous novels and leaves you wanting more. Although I did think that about 3/4 of the way through the final book Weeks took his foot off the gas as the pace slowed quite a bit rather than keep building the tension for the final showdown. I also felt that the main character could be a tad overpowered and that reduced the tension in one area, but overall it was a very enjoyable read.

I look forward to future books in this universe.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis
Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his "consultant", white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself - the very heart of darkness.
Paranormal Investigation novels are ten a penny these days. It's the in-thing to do and probably a result of the Buffy phenomenon that shows no sign of slowing down at the moment.

Unfortunatly this is an unremarkable example. It's not exactly bad, but neither has it the character or excitement of the Dresden Novels.

It's particular niche of the genre is to add a white witch and a vampire hunter tag team together investigating supernatural events (in this case a black witch with an old vendetta). Hopefully the characters will develop further in the sequel, but I couldn't really get into them in this book.

So far i've been mildly entertained.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
First book in a new Fantasy series (The First Law).

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson
Blind Lake is a large federal research facility in Minnesota where scientists are using a type of barely understood quantum technology, called the Eye, to view the life of an alien race in a city on a distant planet. They have no contact with these strange looking aliens, nicknamed the Lobsters because of their red skin and multiple arms, but their behavior is watched continuously and meticulously recorded.

Suddenly, all contact with the outside world is cut off and the military surrounds the installation. Needed supplies are delivered by remote control, and no one knows why the quarantine has been imposed. After protests by the day workers and visitors and an initial period of adjustment, the scientists continue their work.

Among them is Margueritte, who heads the department that studies the Lobsters. Unfortunately, she has to deal with her difficult ex-husband, Ray, who, by default, is head of the facility because the shutdown locked out more senior members who were away at the time. Angry about the divorce and the shared custody of their daughter, Ray tries again and again to undermine Margueritte’s decisions. As the lockdown continues, he begins to talk about shutting down the Eye completely, despite the fact that no one knows what the consequences would be. What follows is a suspenseful climax that leads to a surprising revelation. This one gave me much food for thought.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
For more than a hundred years humans, dwarves, gnomes and elves lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over and now the races once again fight each other - and themselves: dwarves are killing their kinsmen, and elves are murdering humans and elves, at least those elves who are friendly to humans . . . Into this tumultuous time is born a child for whom the witchers of the world have been waiting. Ciri, the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, the Lioness of Cintra, has strange powers and a stranger destiny, for prophecy names her the Flame, one with the power to change the world - for good, or for evil . . . Geralt, the witcher of Rivia, has taken Ciri to the relative safety of the Witchers' Settlement, but it soon becomes clear that Ciri isn't like the other witchers. As the political situation grows ever dimmer and the threat of war hangs almost palpably over the land, Geralt searches for someone to train Ciri's unique powers. But someone else has an eye on the young girl, someone who understand exactly what the prophecy means - and exactly what Ciri's power can do. This time Geralt may have met his match.
The world of the Witcher sees the first novel of the hugely successful Polish series (Last Wish was a series of short stories) finally translated into English.

Great start to the series.

Like the computer game and the previous short story collection the world of the Witchers is an interesting one and this book introduces some decent new characters.

Looking forward to the sequel.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Book six of the Dresden Files has Harry going undercover on the set where an adult film is being made and where the women are dying in mysterious and often spectacular ways. Harry must figure out how and why these deaths are happening before any more occur.

Wrapped up in all this in some way are the vampires from the White Court, especially one of Harry’s aquaintences named Thomas. The secrets he uncovers about Thomas’s family tree will change Harry’s life in profound ways.

I like these Dresden novels because I never know exactly where they are headed but love going along for the entertaining and often white-knuckled ride. Harry is my kind of hero, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him next.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Bloodlines (Star Wars Legacy of the Force 2) by Karen Traviss
Civil war looms as the fledgling Galactic Alliance confronts a growing number of rebellious worlds–and the approaching war is tearing the Skywalker and Solo families apart. Han and Leia return to Han’s homeworld, Corellia, the heart of the resistance. Their children, Jacen and Jaina, are soldiers in the Galactic Alliance’s campaign to crush the insurgents.

Jacen, now a complete master of the Force, has his own plans to bring order to the galaxy. Guided by his Sith mentor, Lumiya, and with Luke’s young son Ben at his side, Jacen embarks on the same path that his grandfather Darth Vader once did. And while Han and Leia watch their only son become a stranger, a secret assassin entangles the couple with a dreaded name from Han’s past: Boba Fett. In the new galactic order, friends and enemies are no longer what they seem. . . .
See review for book 1 :D
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
In this next book in the series, Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency must deal with a cobra in the office, a nurse with suspicions about a doctor’s practices, old superstitions, and a case of blackmail. On the personal front, Mma Makutsi, her assistant, is worried when her fiance misses their customary dinner date and decides to distract herself with a pair of fashionable blue shoes. All these bits and pieces are woven cleverly into the background of life in Botswana. The author’s obvious love of Africa shines through in his richly crafted and delightful characters. These books are a pleasure to read.

I recently watched season one of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the series made for television by HBO, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the episodes reflect the books. The casting is spot on and except for a few simplifications, they have told the stories well and maintained their gentleness and humor. I’m looking forward to season two.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell
The author steps out of her Mallory series to present an intriguing mystery of a teenager's disappearance and his older brother's attempt to resolve the case 20 years later.

On his first day home in years, Oren, an ex-investigator for the Army CID, finds that his brother's remains have been appearing on the front porch of his father's house, one bone at a time. Figuring out where his brother has been buried all these years and who committed the murder leads Oren into the multiple secrets of the long-time residents of his small northern California town. In the author's usual style, the deceptively simple plot takes many unpredictable turns, revealing bits and pieces of those secrets and creating more questions that need to be answered. This is a very well-crafted mystery with complex characters and a satisfying ending. I give it a 5 out of 5.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Temperance Brennan, like her creator Kathy Reichs, is a brilliant, sexy forensic anthropologist, called on to solve the toughest cases. But for Tempe, the discovery of a young girl's skeleton in Acadia, Canada, is more than just another assignment. Evangeline, Tempe's childhood best friend, was also from Acadia. Named for the character in the Longfellow poem, Evangeline was the most exotic person in Tempe's eight-year old world. When Evangeline disappeared, Tempe was warned not to search for her, that the girl was "dangerous." Thirty years later, flooded with memories, Tempe cannot help wondering if this skeleton could be the friend she lost so many years ago. Meanwhile, Tempe's beau, Ryan, investigates a series of cold cases. Two girls dead. Three missing. Could the New Brunswick skeleton be part of the pattern? As Tempe draws on the latest advances in forensic anthropology to penetrate the past, Ryan hunts down a serial predator.
This is my first novel by Kathy Reichs. As a big fan of the TV show I expected there to be differences, but there really isn't any correlation between the books and TV. This Tempe is older, more socially adept, has an ex-husband and a kid sister. Not that this is necessarily a problem.

The book on the surface is a quick read (took me a day), the science is interesting and it's fun to read. I enjoyed the history of the region, the story (for the most part) was interesting, if gruesome.

However, I had a major issue with one aspect of the storyline that ruined it for me. The whole story with the missing friend was far too contrived and unbelievable.

Shame really.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
This book is about the discovery of a letter that hints at a hidden copy of a Shakespeare play, supposedly written in his own hand. The story is told from the point of view of an intellectual property lawyer who has found himself in the middle of deadly conspiracy. The characters are complex and well written, and the story grabbed me from the beginning. I like the way the author allows the reader to see different points of view through his modern characters and the letters written by a contemporary of Shakespeare. It has some excellent twists and turns, and his characters are likable despite (or perhaps because of) their flaws. I recommend it highly.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
This book is probably the most memorable because of the ending. I will never ever forget this book. It is a story about a very poor family and the trials that they go through with a devastating ending.

I also included this review:

I finished "The Book of Ruth" last night and today I miss her terribly. I read some of the book's reviews on today, and I am amazed at how differently we see things, we humans. Because I cherished the experience of reading this book so deeply (and no, I wasn't abused), I can't imagine that those who didn't care for it could possibly have read the same book. I make an assumption about Ruth from the very first chapter: that she is very mildly retarded or in some way subtly disabled. For me, her behaviors and perceptions are off just enough to imply some missing cerebral link. And this is what is so extraordinary to me: that someone without all resources at her disposal can yet perceive herself and her world with such precious, ingenuous, brilliant vision ... well, I would feel honored to have her as a friend. To write from the point of view of a retarded person makes for such creative use of language and imagery. Ruth is like an idiot savant. She is all the best a human being can be, tireless in her effort to find good and truth in her experiences, resilient beyond belief. I think she puts us all to shame, "healthy" though we be. Depressing? No, no, no. That's too easy. I am reminded of Yeats: "...a terrible beauty is born." I am in awe of Ruthy. I laugh through my tears and am comforted. (An Amazon Review that holds my sentiments)
~Reviewed by Ghostlady

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace, not only personally and professionally but geographically. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues-including Pete Marino and her niece, Lucy-offer expert crime-scene investigation and autopsy services to communities lacking local access to modern, competent death investigation technology.

It seems like an ideal situation, until the new battles start-with local politicians, with entrenched interests, with someone whose covert attempts at sabotage are clearly meant to run Scarpetta out of town. And that's before the murders and other violent deaths even begin.

A young man from a well-known family jumps off a water tower. A woman is found ritualistically murdered in her multimillion-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is discovered dumped in a desolate marsh. Meanwhile, in distant New England, problems with a prominent patient at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital begin to hint at interconnections that are as hard to imagine as they are horrible.
The Scarpetta novels used to be be great.

Nowadays they are so burdened with the baggage of the main characters that it ruins the whole experience. Lucy become more annoying as the series goes on, Benton and Scarpetta are so bloody miserable and Cornwell has turned Marino into a psycopath.I get the distinct impression that the increased grumpiness of the main character and general down swing in quality of these novels could be due to a writer being bored of her famous creation. Unable to kill her off or achieve success with another character we get a half arsed attempt to keep the fans and publisher happy.

The main plot is OK, but you would have thought the death of a major Tennis Star would have attracted more attention than it did. In the end the case was more or less solved by a huge info dump from one of the characters confessing the whole sordid ordeal, just in case you hadn't already worked it out.

~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes
The 4th book in the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone fantasy series by Greg Keyes.

The world is at war. Anne Dare sits on the throne of Crotheny, her power growing, surrounded by the armies of the church and neighbouring Hansa. Can she master her new powers before she dies or goes mad? Everyone seeks to sit on the Sedos Throne and either save the world or plung it into an apocylpse.

Aspar White is deep in the old forest after the events of the previous book, trying to stop the demons and his old pald Fend from destroying the forest.

All the characters have there own little part to play as it alternates between them with every new chapter. It is certainly fast paced and exciting end to the series. Although I did think that there was too much build up and the ending seemed rushed to cram in all the loose ends.

A slight disappointing ending, but I enjoyed spending time with these characters and the world they inhabit.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Boys and Girls Together by William Goldman
Even if you think you've never heard of William Goldman, you are quite familiar with his work. He wrote the books and screenplays of The Princess Bride, Magic, and Marathon Man and the screenplays for Misery, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harper, The Ghost and the Darkness, Chaplin and the original The Stepford Wives among many others.

Boys and Girls Together is one of his earlier books and his epic magnum opus. It follows the stories of a disparate ensemble of characters from childhood to their late twenties, where they all collide in the world of Broadway theater. Each of the many characters is fascinating, though few are actually likable, and Goldman has a flair for razor wit dialogue that is unmatched on the printed page. By the time this group all gets together, you are really rooting for some of them and seething with hatred for others.

Sadly, Goldman wrote his last novel in 1984, packed his bags, left New York for Hollywood and has written only screenplays since. The literary world sorely misses him.
~Reviewed by Bacardi Jim

Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Think Bladerunner in the tropics... Be seduced, amazed, and shocked by one of the world's greatest and strangest nations. Past, present, and future Brazil, with all its color, passion, and shifting realities, come together in a novel that is part SF, part history, part mystery, and entirely enthralling. Three separate stories follow three main characters: Edson is a self-made talent impressario one step up from the slums in a near future Sao Paulo of astonishing riches and poverty. A chance encounter draws Edson into the dangerous world of illegal quantum computing, but where can you run in a total surveillance society where every move, face, and centavo is constantly tracked? Marcelina is an ambitious Rio TV producer looking for that big reality TV hit to make her name. When her hot idea leads her on the track of a disgraced World Cup soccer goalkeeper, she becomes enmeshed in an ancient conspiracy that threatens not just her life, but her very soul. Father Luis is a Jesuit missionary sent into the maelstrom of 18th-century Brazil to locate and punish a rogue priest who has strayed beyond the articles of his faith and set up a vast empire in the hinterland. In the company of a French geographer and spy, what he finds in the backwaters of the Amazon tries both his faith and the nature of reality itself to the breaking point. Three characters, three stories, three Brazils, all linked together across time, space, and reality in a hugely ambitious story that will challenge the way you think about everything.

A complicated storyline that spans 3 seperate time periods in Brazil and multiple realities. 2 out of 3 wasn't bad... I never really got into the section set in the past with the Apocalpyse Now trip up the jungle river. His novels are an acquired taste, but worth the effort.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Breathless by Dean Koontz
While walking in the woods, a man and his dog discover some unusual animals romping there. The creatures follow him home, and he and his veterinarian friend establish a relationship with them that could change the world as we know it forever. Finding out the true nature of these animals and where they came from is the essence of the story. Koontz flips back and forth between these characters and the experiences of several others who eventually have a role to play in the main story. Despite the fact that the author stretched scientific theory a tad to make it fit the story, it was still an exciting book that kept me reading well past my bedtime.

Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon
Kay Kenyon, noted for her science fiction world-building, has in this new series created her most vivid and compelling society, the Universe Entire. In a land-locked galaxy that tunnels through our own, the Entire is a bizarre and seductive mix of long-lived quasi-human and alien beings gathered under a sky of fire, called the bright. A land of wonders, the Entire is sustained by monumental storm walls and an exotic, never-ending river. Over all, the elegant and cruel Tarig rule supreme.
Into this rich milieu is thrust Titus Quinn, former star pilot, bereft of his beloved wife and daughter who are assumed dead by everyone on earth except Quinn. Believing them trapped in a parallel universe--one where he himself may have been imprisoned--he returns to the Entire without resources, language, or his memories of that former life. He is assisted by Anzi, a woman of the Chalin people, a Chinese culture copied from our own universe and transformed by the kingdom of the bright. Learning of his daughter's dreadful slavery, Quinn swears to free her. To do so, he must cross the unimaginable distances of the Entire in disguise, for the Tarig are lying in wait for him. As Quinn's memories return, he discovers why. Quinn's goal is to penetrate the exotic culture of the Entire--to the heart of Tarig power, the fabulous city of the Ascendancy, to steal the key to his family's redemption. But will his daughter and wife welcome rescue? Ten years of brutality have forced compromises on everyone. What Quinn will learn to his dismay is what his own choices were, long ago, in the Universe Entire. He will also discover why a fearful multiverse destiny is converging on him and what he must sacrifice to oppose the coming storm.
A strange mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy which for a large portion of the book I found hard to get into.

Titus's journey to regain his memories, secure the means of passage through the "Entire" and find his daughter in a world ruled by a Chinese type political structure and the feared Tarig Lords is slow going for most of the book as she introduces the characters and the Kingdom of the "Entire".

Don't get me wrong it's an interesting world in the vein of Riverworld (and it's a lot more interesting than the Earth she depicts), but nothing really happens for most of the novel. You get glimpses of his past in the Entire which due to time dilation was a lot longer than he was missing from the Earth dimension. You get glimpses of his, now Blind, daughter and the strange horse like creatures (probably the most interesting sections), but you want to know a lot more. Who or what are the Tarig, how did the Entire come to be (is it natural or manufactured) and why did Titus leave the Entire without his wife and daughter in the first place. All questions for the forthcoming sequels I suppose.

It was an interesting and strange world, one that picked up pace towards the end of the novel. The aside with the adventures of his daughter were interesting, the ones in his home dimension less so.

I'll probably pick up the next book out of curiosity rather than excitement as this didn't set my world alight.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King
When I visited Florence in 1971, I remember how impressed I was by the huge dome of the cathedral there and of the beautiful baptistery doors. Unfortunately, my friend and I weren't allowed admission into the cathedral because we were wearing mini-skirts, so I never got to see the interior of the largest dome ever built. That trip, however, did spark a lifetime interest in architecture, so I was very pleased to discover this book. I was afraid it might be a bit dry, but, fortunately, King makes the story of the dome's construction and the life of its builder flow like a novel. The construction itself is fascinating, and the machines Brunelleschi designed to lift and place those heavy stones are fabulous. Also spectacular were the things that didn't work, but when we consider that the physics of architecture was still in its infancy, this is an amazing feat of talent, persistence, and ingenuity.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.