Book Reviews by Title - M

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LadyKestrel
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Book Reviews by Title - M

Postby LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:41 pm

M

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin
When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson In fact, Dr Johnson was only half right. There is in London much more than life - there is power. It ebbs and flows with the rhythms of the city, makes runes from the alignments of ancient streets and hums with the rattle of trains and buses; it waxes and wanes with the patterns of the business day. It is a new kind of magic: urban magic. Enter a London where magicians ride the Last Train, implore favours of The Beggar King and interpret the insane wisdom of The Bag Lady. Enter a London where beings of power soar with the pigeons and scrabble with the rats, and seek insight in the half-whispered madness of the blue electric angels. Enter the London of Matthew Swift, where rival sorcerers, hidden in plain sight, do battle for the very soul of the city ...

When I first picked up the book and read the blurb I immediately thought of Neil Gaiman's excellent Neverwhere.

In fact it was my fondness for Gaiman that probably prompted me to pick it up. It's also the reason I kept comparing the books as I read this one.

As an Urban Fantasy novel it was a pretty cool read, especially if you know London at all I assume (I don't know London) The action is fast faced and scary, The litter monster at the start was excellent, It treds familiar Gaiman territory with Begger Kings, Pidgeons and a secret world of magic that co-exist with London, that is ignored by most normal people and overall the Urban Magic system is pretty unique.

I really enjoyed the book, if you liked Gaiman's take on Secret Magical London, this one is probably worth hunting and giving a go.
3.5/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Magical Kingdom of Landover series - Books 1-5 by Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks is more widely known for his Shannara novels, but he has a lesser known series of short novels set in Landover. More light hearted and humourous than the Shannara novels i've always enjoyed these.

It has been 14 years since the last novel, so in preperation for Book 6 being released this week I re-read the first 5 novels.

Magic Kingdom for Sale/ Sold - First novel in which Ben Holiday greiving for his wife decided to heck with being a lawyer and buys a magical kingdom from a catalogue. What he finds is that Meeks has tricked him into buying a world where the magic is fading, the people are fed up with pretend kings, a demon army banging on the gates and all he has is a talking dog, a useless magician, 2 kobolds and a woman who is sometimes a tree. Can he regain the magic of the Paladin and unite the kingdom before it is too late.

The Black Unicorn - Peeved that Ben Holiday is turning Landover around Meeks tricks Ben into leaving Landover. On his return Meeks puts spell on him so that everyone won't recognise his as Ben. So all alone he must reclaim the throne and save his beloved Willow from the witch Nightshade and capture the legendary Black Unicorn.

Wizard at Large - One of Questers spells goes haywire as usual, sending Abernathy (the talking dog) to Earth and unleashing a demonic imp on Landover.

The Tangle Box - The plot has an inept old wizard, Horris Kew, accidentally releasing an evil creature called the Gorse. The creature soon imprisons Ben, the dragon Strabo, and the witch Nightshade in a device known as the Tangle Box. They must find a way out while Ben's allies find a way to handle the new threat from the Gorse.

Witches Brew - The plot has an usurper who claims to be from another world calling for Ben's abdication from the throne. Upon Ben's refusal, he soon begins to send several evil, magic creatures against him. During this time, Nightshade kidnaps Ben and Willow's new child, Mistaya, in a dangerous attempt to subvert her and use her innate magic. Meanwhile Questor and Abernathy are stuck back in Earth to meet up with an old friend, leaving Ben and Willow alone to deal with the new threat.

Each is a decent quick read and it was fun revisiting the land before the new book is released.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Making Friends with Black People by Nick Adams
I recently finished Making Friends with Black People by Nick Adams, which was a bit of a hodge-podge of comedy routines and essays on music, movies, sports, religion, and race relations. Some of it was funny in an edgy kind of way, but the generation and sports-knowledge gaps loomed large when he started taking about hip-hop and sports teams.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Making Money by Terry Pratchett
Moist von Lipwig, getting restless at the lack of challenges as Postmaster General, has been put in charge of overseeing the printing of Ankh-Morpork’s first paper currency. Fighting the fine banking traditions of sloth, graft, and nepotism may prove more difficult than dealing with an army of ancient Goloms found by his girlfriend, but Moist, the ever-resourceful ex-swindler, should be up for the tasks at hand.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Pratchett’s Discworld books? Just read it!
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

“The Man Who Could Work Miracles” by H. G. Wells
See The Time Machine review

The Manny by Holly Peterson
This is a light summer read about life on the wealthy side of the tracks in NYC, a back-stage look at television news, and a healthy dollop of romance. It has well-developed characters and a good story. It’s lightweight but fun.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Martin Bauman by David Leavitt ***1/2
At the dawn of the Reagan era Martin Bauman, clever, ambitious and insecure, wins a place under the tutelage of the legendary and enigmatic Stanley Flint, a man who can make or break writing careers with the flick of a weary hand. Martin is poised on the threshold of the writing life, his twin desires to get into print and to find his way out of the closet.

Moving through the century's most licentious decade, Martin matures from brilliant student to apprentice in a Manhattan publishing house to fully fledged member of the New York literary brat pack. Subtle, erotic, honest and funny, 'Martin Bauman' lays bare the life of the artist, in all his venal, envious, self-loathing and poignant glory.


I have read a number of previous novels by David Leavitt, and though I liked them, he never seemed to get away from the coming out theme. Here, though only partially, he for the first time succesfully does, as it naturally becomes part of a broader story. Martin Bauman is a fascinating look into literary life in the 80s, combined with interesting background info on a wide range of subjects like politics, sexual liberation, AIDS and feminism. Leavitt does tend to get side tracked from time to time in some slightly long winded episodes, but in general, this certainly was a very interesting, insightful and colourful novel.
~Reviewed by Wimli

Matter by Iain M. Banks
8 long years since we last visited the Culture.
Iain M Banks returns with a dense and complicated book based on a "Shellworld". It deals with a war between levels of this artificial world which seems to be manipulated by another of the Alien races. Returning to the Shellworld to attend her Fathers funeral a special investigator gets drawn into the goings on and eventually leads to a battle to save the shellworld from an ancient machine hell bent on it's destruction.

At first the book seems like a strange meld of fantasy and sci-fi with the original battles being on horseback etc, The pace of the plot is very slow and takes a while to really get going and is very pedestrian in the middle. I found it a struggle to keep reading.

In the end though it is hard to put down once it gets going but it's not the easiest book to like.

Overall, not my favourite Culture book. It was Ok.
3.5/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Maus by Art Spiegelman
A serious graphic novel set in WWII where a Jewish man trying to reconnect with his father interviews him about how he met his mother and in the course of the interview ends up telling the true story of his parents time hiding in the Ghettos from the Nazi's and their time surviving in the concentration camps.

Each race in the novel are drawn as different animals making it easy to identify while reading. The Jews are mice, the Nazi's are cats, the Polish people are drawn as pigs and the Americans are dogs.

The Schindler's List of comic books.
5/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier has played some fine and memorable characters in his career, and I've always been a fan of his. I had bought his autobiography several years ago but never got around to reading it until someone in my book group chose it as one of our selections. I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, Poitier writes well and makes his stories interesting. He tells of his early years on isolated Cat Island in the Bahamas and how poor his family was, their struggles when they had to move to Nassau, and his experiences when he lived with his uncle in Miami and later, by himself, in New York City. I especially enjoyed the stories of his movie-making and theater experiences.

On the other hand, like many who write about their own stories, he leaves out or glosses over much that wouldn't show him in a favorable light. I don't mind that an author would do this, since there are many things most of us wouldn't want to share with the world in a book, but I do mind that he tries to rationalize his behaviors and convert the reader to his point of view. He also pontificates quite a bit, and sometimes loses the reader in a very convoluted personal philosophy that tries to be profound but falls short of the mark.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
In this next book in McCall’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Mma Ramotswe is investigating her latest case, which is that of a woman who doesn’t know her real name nor whether any of her family members are still living. Meanwhile, Precious’s husband has been swayed by the promise of a miracle cure for their foster daughter, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Mma Makutsi is having sleepless nights over the new bed her fiance bought her. As usual, Precious deals with these matters with good humor and consideration for the feelings of those involved. It’s another sweet and compassionate entry in the series, and I enjoyed it very much.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Mirrored Heavens by David J Williams
In this thrilling debut, David J. Williams delivers a hard-hitting blend of military SF and dystopian cyberpunk, set in a futuristic landscape where hostilities rage from the Eastern and Western hemispheres to the outer ranges of space.

In the 22nd century, the first wonder of a brave new world is the Phoenix Space Elevator, designed to give mankind greater access to the frontier beyond Earth. Built by the U.S./Pan-Asian Coalition, the Elevator is also a grand symbol of superpower alliance following a second cold war. And it’s just been destroyed.

The South American insurgent group Autumn Rain claims responsibility for the attack, but with suspicions rampant, armies and espionage teams are mobilized across the globe and beyond. Enter Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe, U.S. counterintelligence agents, and former lovers—though their memories may only be constructs implanted by their spymaster. Forced to set aside the enigma of their past, their agenda is to trust no one. For in a time of shifting loyalties, the enemy could be anyone—from a shadowy assassin working a questionable mission on the dark side of the moon, to a Euro data thief working under deep cover and wooed into a dangerous pact.

As the crisis mounts, and the search for Autumn Rain spans both Earth and Moon, the lives of all those involved will converge in one explosive finale—and a startling aftermath that will rewrite everything they’ve ever known—about their mission, their world, and themselves

Was ok.
2.5/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This is a luscious book that reminds me strongly of Like Water for Chocolate, but with the rich and exotic flavors of India. It's about a woman named Tilo who becomes an immortal trained in the ancient magical art of using spices. As a Mistress of Spice in a small shop in California, she dispenses her wares and advice to cure her customers' ills. Although she can see into the hearts and minds of those who come to her for help, it is her duty to maintain her distance and not get involved in their everyday lives. This is something she cannot resist doing, however, and it brings her into conflict with her teacher and mentor, called "the old one." When she becomes attracted to a handsome stranger, there is a danger that the magic will be lost to her forever. Working to find a balance in the choices she makes, she may destroy all that she loves. Her personal journey is a mesmerizing one, and the glimpses into the Indian traditions and family life are beautifully told. I give it a 5 out of 5.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Aggressive Borogravia is at war again and with nearly everyone, and because they tore down the communication towers, Ankh-Morpork is also involved. Polly Perks, in an effort to find her brother, cuts her hair, dresses as a boy, and heads off to enlist in the army. She is accepted by the Ins and Outs of the Cheesemonger regiment, along with a vampire, a troll, an Igor, a religious fanatic, and two very close friends. Led by larger-than-life Sgt. Jackrum, they head off to battle, but, in typical Discworld style, things do not go as planned.

Only Pratchett can combine the subjects of world and gender politics and not make it preachy. With a generous serving of his wonderful humor, he leads us where he wants us to go and makes us think. This is another excellent novel from a long line of great stories. I'm just sad that reading it has brought me closer to the end of the line.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Mysterious Case of Doctor Jeckyll and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Surprisingly short, but it really pulls you in and each page is full of incident. Recommended even if you think you know the story well enough. Far more readable than 'Dracula', which I found to be hard-going at times. May well read more RLS works after this. He gives the impression that he actually writes quickly (from thought to paper in an instant so to speak - odd mistake here and there... dates, etc.). I got that feeling from the pace of the unfolding story too.
~Reviewed by Gelert
Winter is an etching, spring is a watercolor, summer is an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. -Stanley Horowitz

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