Book Reviews by Title - U, V, W

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Book Reviews by Title - U, V, W

Post by LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:19 pm


Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Read through this on the trains going to and from a small Adventure gamer gathering in London.

Someone who can write well having fun writing. It's a cross between Lewis Carroll and steampunk like Blaylock, suitable for children and above. Nice confounding of expectations.
~Reviewed by Kickaha

The Unblemished by Conrad Williams
Enter the mind of a serial killer who believes he is the rightful son and heir to an ancient dynasty of flesh-eating monsters. Follow the frantic journey of a mother whose daughter is infected with the stuff of nightmare, and look through the eyes of Bo Mulvey, a man upon whom the fate and survival of the entire human race depends. Conrad Williams, who is the future of horror, sets this apocalyptic novel in London. It’s an epic tale of history and destiny, desperation and desire, and atrocity and atonement.

Trashy horror novel high on the gore and violence, but unfortunately short on a good story
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Uncle Bernac by Arthur Conan Doyle
I've, also, been reading 'Uncle Bernac' by Arthur Conan Doyle. A fantastic semi-fictional insight into the life, that was, of Napoleon Buonaparte. There was an incidental story too that was very engaging. I definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in history, especially if you like good yarn wrapped in with it. I'm on the last chapter.
~Reviewed by Gelert

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett **
Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster travelling library outside Buckingham Palace, the Queen finds herself taking out a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Duff read though it is, the following week her choice proves more enjoyable and awakens in Her Majesty a passion for reading so great that her public duties begin to suffer. And so, she devours work by everyone from Hardy to Brookner to Proust to Beckett, her equerries conspire to bring the Queen's literary odyssey to a close.

At only 121 pages, this sounded like a fun in-between novel. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it much. I thought the idea sounded great, but the novel itself is kind of a drag. Either I missed the humour or the social satire so many critics saw in it, or it just wasn't my cup of tea. Normally when a book deals with the love of reading, I can totally recognise myself in that, but this time around reading sounded boring and old fashioned. :sad: Definitely a missed opportunity!
~Reviewed by Wimli

Uneasy Relations by Aaron Elkins
Professor Gideon Oliver jumps at the chance to attend a conference on the Rock of Gibraltar, where the skeleton of a human woman was found embracing the skeleton of a part-human, part-Neanderthal child. However, two deaths, possibly murders, have occurred on the normally peaceful island, and, as Gideon helps the police investigate, his own life could be in danger.

I’ve always liked Elkins’ Gideon Oliver mysteries, and this one is no exception. I also like the loving relationship between the main character and his wife, which is refreshing after the love angst shown by so many of the mystery protagonists I’ve read in the past several years.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
In this hilarious addition to the Discworld series, the wizards of Unseen University must tackle some things totally alien to them - exercize and teamwork. At Lord Vetinari’s encouragement, they must form a team to attempt to play football (soccer with some rugby thrown in), and they are not allowed to use magic.

Meanwhile, back in the Night Kitchen of UU, the sensible cook Glenda bakes pies and befriends a strange young man named Nutt with an unknown past, and Juliet, the kitchen maid, dreams of becoming a model while being courted by Trev, a handsome street-smart kicker. As the big match approaches, their lives become entwined in ways that will change them all.

Like the wizards do with Glenda’s delicious pies, I gobbled up this one. It’s a tasty and wonderful treat from start to finish. Go ahead and dig in!
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel


The Virgin Of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard
Excellent book. A murder mystery that takes place on the lonely and desolate plains of Kansas. A place you normally don't read about. It was very suspenseful with a good twisted end. Nancy Pickard won a nomination for an Edgar award for this book in 2007. I highly recommend!!!!!!!!!!
~Reviewed by Ghostlady


The Walking Dead (Issues 1-62 Ongoing) by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
Black and white zombie apocalpyse comic. Rick a small town policeman wakes up from a coma and finds out the world has gone to hell and zombies have taken over. He goes in search of his wife and son and ends up banding together with a small group of survivors. Constantly looking for shelter and food as they fight for survival.

This book has absolutly georgous art and is fairly gory at times. The artist and writer never pulls any punches in this book as nobody is safe. They have put the characters through the wringer, with shocking deaths, amputations, voilence etc. They have proved that no character is safe from being killed off in this comic. There are plenty of shocks along the way.

I'm hooked into seeing who they will kill off next or while any of them suvive the apocalypse. Bleak and shocking but I can't stop reading.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Told in flashbacks by an old man once employed by the circus as a vet but now in a nursing home, we are given a vivid behind-the-scenes picture of a traveling circus during the depression years in the US. Although the story is fiction, the author researched the time period well. She gives us loveable heros and heroines, dastardly villians, and a well-crafted plot with some unexpected twists.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Watership Down by Richard Adams
I didn't discover this classic until I was in my twenties, And when I did finally read it, I was stunned and perplexed to discover that it is advertised and marketed as a children's book. While on the surface it may seem a simple and gentle adventure story, there is much more here than meets the casual eye. No kiddie book this! It also immediately became my favorite book ever and I re-read it every three years or so.

I suppose part of the magic of the book is that it is multi-layered enough that it can be enjoyed as a simple adventure story by youngsters and appreciated for the deeper religious and philosophical musings it contains by adults. If you read it first as a 13-year old and then again as an 20-year old and then again at age 30, you'll discover three very different books, each deeper, smarter, more touching and more meaningful than the last.

Another factor that makes Watership Down unique is the way in which Adams presents his animal characters. Unlike other authors of animal stories, he doesn't fully anthropomorphize his rabbits. He gives them a language and even a mythology of their own, but still keeps them fully rabbits, making the reader meet the characters halfway. We have to become rabbits as much as the rabbits become human. And by doing so... by accepting the rabbits as real rabbits rather than merely rabbit-shaped cartoons of humans, we sympathize and even empathize with them in a manner completely unique to the genre.

I know Watership Down isn't as popular as it once was. Younger members may have never had the chance to experience its magic. If you are one of the unfortunate ones, RUN, don't walk, to your bookstore immediately and purchase a copy. You can thank me later.
~Reviewed by Bacardi Jim

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.
Maybe not the most original novel, but as a debut novel it is a cracking read. Full of interesting characters, anti-heros and some lite political intrigue. I really enjoyed this book.

Now onto the next 2 books in the series.
~Reviewed by Lucien21

What Are You Doing with the Rest of Your Life: Choices in Midlife by Paula Payne Hardin
I'm a sucker for self-help books, and this one has been on my shelf for ages. In point of fact, most of my midlife choices are well past, but I thought I might glean some usable ideas from this book anyway. The book asks the question, "Why do some people mature successfully and productively and others become bitter, disillusioned, and unhappy?" The author feels that the choices we make in our middle years are the key to aging well, and that the way we lived in the first half of our lives may not work for us in the second. She presents cases and personal stories, often from her own personal experience, to show those who have and haven't made positive choices.

Personally, I feel that most of her ideas are common sense, and I didn't have any ah-ha moments reading her book. This is well-trod territory, and because it was written in 1992, there is a certain naïveté about the world that was common, at least in the USA, prior to the destruction of the twin towers. She does have a list at the back of the book of activities that invite generativity (her term for positive changes), which would be useful at any stage of life. She encourages the reader to divide the activities into 4 categories: 1) What I have accomplished, 2) What I am moving into, 3) What could be my dream, and 4) What is not for me. Although decently written, there wasn't much new here for me.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement by Martin E. P. Seligman
Of the 80+ self-help books I’ve read over the years, this is one of a handful of keepers. The author, a respected clinical psychologist and researcher, has put together a very practical book that explains realistically the techniques, therapies, and drugs which do and do not work and the scientific reasoning behind their success or failure. He covers everyday anxiety, panic, depression, phobias, alcoholism, anger control, sexual dysfunction, and weight management. My only criticizm is that since the book’s publication in 1993, there have been some advances in medications, particularly the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), which would make the section on anxiety more complete. However, for a realistic approach for dealing with psychological problems, this is one of the best I've read.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Balram, the White Tiger, was born in a backwater village on the River Ganges, the son of a rickshaw-puller. He works in a teashop, crushing coal and wiping tables, but nurses a dream of escape. When he learns that a rich village landlord needs a chauffeur, he takes his opportunity, and is soon on his way to Delhi behind the wheel of a Honda. Amid the cockroaches and call-centres, the 36,000,004 gods, the slums, the shopping malls, and the crippling traffic jams, Balram learns of a new morality at the heart of a new India. Driven by desire to better himself, he comes to see how the Tiger might escape his cage…

The White Tiger was the Man Booker Prize winner in 2008 and surely deserved it! The book is a fascinating look into the class divisions in India, its corruption and the pitch dark underbelly of its society. Adiga gives an insightful look into the darker side of India in a direct writing style infused with a dark, sometimes cynical sense of humor. An excellent novel that will stay with me for a long time to come!
~Reviewed by Wimli

Wicked by Jilly Cooper
At the moment I am reading Jilly Cooper's "Wicked" and as usual enjoying the humour she manages to convey. Of course you need to read her novels in publication order to appreciate the way her characters are woven into succeeding story lines. :)
Usually I prefer a good old murder mystery but her books are great for a little relaxing time out and they would certainly amuse an animal lover.
~Reviewed by Sophie

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
This is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz from the witch’s point of view, and it captivated me right from the start. It’s a coming of age novel and a commentary on the nature of good and evil flavored with political intrigue, religious fervor, and good old-fashioned magic. I loved its fresh and often startling views of the familiar story and characters. The author’s understanding of how difficult it can be to be different is right on, too. This story gets an A++ from me.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Without a Map by Meredith Hall
Meredith Hall was 16 when she became pregnant during a casual summer romance. The year was 1965, and she was living with her family and attending high school in a small New Hampshire town. Within days of telling her mother, she was thrown out of everything familiar to her - her school, home, church, and community. Her mother sent her to live with her father and step-mother, who confined her to the house so the neighbors wouldn’t “see” and left her alone most of the time. She was not allowed to see nor hold her baby when he was born, and days later she was enrolled in a boarding school where she was forbidden to talk about her past.

Hall writes with a rare lyrical beauty about her journey through these devastating events and beyond. I ached for the torn and bewildered girl she was, and I greatly admire the brave and talented woman she has become. It’s an amazing and ultimately heart-warming story that touched me deeply.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Wizards’ Den: Spellbinding Stories of Magic and Magicians by Peter Haining, Editor
I recently went back to a book I started a while ago called "The Wizard's Den", it's a collection of short stories about magic by various fantasy writers. The stories are more about kids in school dealing with anything unnatural, than the Harry Potter kind of magic that this book talks about in the introduction.
So far, I didn't like any of the stories I read there, they're all depressing, and some aren't very interesting. I'm thinking of taking another break from it because of this.
~Reviewed by Shany

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
This is right up there with the The Thirteenth Tale.

The house is on a desolate marsh that can only be accessed by a causeway when the tide is out. There are no other houses within miles. So once there, you are stuck. It is quite terrifying when the storms come at night and the lights go out. The house is haunted by a woman dressed in black. She causes desperation and mental anguish. You hear a child crying at night and doors that were once locked are now open. It is a ghost story at it's best!

From a paragraph in the book:
Now, however, as I stared at her, stared until my eyes ached in their sockets, stared in surprise and bewilderment at her presence, now I saw that her face did wear an expression. It was one of what I can only describe -- and the words seem hopelessly inadequate to express what I saw -- as desperate, yearning malevolence; it was as though she were searching for something she wanted, needed -- must have, more than life itself, and which had been taken from her. And, towards whoever had taken it she directed the purest evil and hatred and loathing, with all the force that was available to her. Her face, in extreme pallor, her eyes, sunken but unnaturally bright, were burning with the concentration of passionate emotion which was within her and which streamed from her. Whether or not this hatred and malevolence was directed towards me I had no means of telling -- I had no reason at all to suppose that it could possibly have been, but at that moment I was far from able to base my reactions upon reason and logic.
~Reviewed by Ghostlady

The World According to Garp by John Irving
The book that started it all. Though not his first novel, Garp was a runaway breakthrough hit for Irving and started his 20+ year reign as one of America's bestselling authors. And after all this time, it remains my favorite of his novels.

Garp essentially tells the story of a man who just wants to be a good husband, a good father and a good writer, despite all the weirdness of his upbringing, his family and his circumstances. It set the tragicomic tone that became Irving's trademark for much of the rest of his career. Horrible things happen to good people... but Irving keeps us laughing through the pain.

It may not be Irving's deepest or most "truthful" work. It might not even be his best. But it remains my favorite after more than twenty years and several re-readings.
~Reviewed by Bacardi Jim

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
Witches are not by nature gregarious, and they certainly don't have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have. But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more difficult than some playwrights would have you believe...

Pratchett is still on fire in this sixth Discworld novel. It's hard to find a series that is so imaginative and relentlessly funny than Discworld. I must say that I didn't love the previous witches novel, Equal Rites, as much as the other Discworld novels I've read so far, so I was a bit curious how I would react to this one. But I loved it immediately! Nanny Ogg is a hoot! Can't wait for my next trip to Discworld!
~Reviewed by Wimli
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.