Book Reviews by Title - S to Sm

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LadyKestrel
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Book Reviews by Title - S to Sm

Postby LadyKestrel » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:02 pm

S - Sm

Sacrifice (Star Wars Legacy of the Force 5) by Karen Traviss
Civil war rages as the Galactic Alliance–led by Cal Omas and the Jedi forces of Luke Skywalker–battles a confederation of breakaway planets that rally to the side of rebellious Corellia. Suspected of involvement in an assassination plot against Queen Mother Tenel Ka of the Hapes Consortium, Han and Leia Solo are on the run, hunted by none other than their own son, Jacen, whose increasingly authoritarian tactics as head of GA security have led Luke and Mara Skywalker to fear that their nephew may be treading perilously close to the dark side.

But as his family sees in Jacen the chilling legacy of his Sith grandfather, Darth Vader, many of the frontline troops adore him, and countless citizens see him as a savior. The galaxy has been torn apart by too many wars. All Jacen wants is safety and stability for all–and he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

To end the bloodshed and suffering, what sacrifice would be too great? That is the question tormenting Jacen. Already he has sacrificed much, embracing the pitiless teachings of Lumiya, the Dark Lady of the Sith, who has taught him that a strong will and noble purpose can hold the evil excesses of the dark side at bay, bringing peace and order to the galaxy–but at a price.

For there is one final test that Jacen must pass before he can gain the awesome power of a true Sith Lord: He must bring about the death of someone he values dearly. What troubles Jacen isn’t whether he has the strength to commit murder. He has steeled himself for that, and worse if necessary. No, the question that troubles Jacen is who the sacrifice should be.

As the strands of destiny draw ever more tightly together in a galaxy-spanning web, the shocking answer will shatter two families . . . and cast a grim shadow over the future.

Exciting stuff as Jacen Solo grows in power both politically and in the dark side.

One last hurdle stands in the way of him being a sith lord....the sacrifice of a loved one.

I enjoyed the rollercoaster ride.
4/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Salem's Lot by Stephen King
I can hear the boos already, even from the quiet safety of my computer den. I don't care. I am an unabashed King fan and this remains my favorite, though it was only his second published novel.

I'm sure I don't have to give anyone a synopsis of the plot, so I'll just jump in and say why I so love the book--it's the scariest %@*#ing thing I ever read. Only The Exorcist equaled it in sheer terror factor, and Blatty's book has some pretty dry and clinical passages in it. None of that here... King grabbed me by the throat and the balls from the word go and never let go.

Unfortunately, the success of the book has somewhat spoiled it for later and future readers. I was lucky enough to have read 'Salem's Lot back in 1978, before everyone knew what it was about. And part of the terror of the book is that it isn't until the novel's mid-point that King reveals exactly what the menace is that is claiming this small Maine town. It is the fact that the reader doesn't know (though he likely suspects) what the nature of the growing evil is until this point that makes King's story so effective. Modern readers will never be able to experience that, and thus tend to under-appreciate the book.
~Reviewed by Bacardi Jim

A Season In Purgatory by Dominick Dunne
I've recently started reading A Season In Purgatory which is loosely based on the Martha Moxley murder case, in which a teenage girl was allegedly murdered by the young son of her Kennedy-inlaw neighbors. Dunne re-imagines the murderer as a member of the Kennedy nuclear family: though he calls his fictional wealthy family "the Bradleys" and changes dates and details.

Martha Moxley was 15 years old when she was murdered in 1975 and she was a neighbor to the Skakel's. The man that was indicted in her murder was a nephew to Ethel Skakel who is the widow to Robert F. Kennedy. It is a story about the cover up by the rich and famous Kennedys.

There is a website dedicated to Martha Moxley, which in itself is a fascinating read.

Dominick Dunne also got Mark Fuhrman, the former LAPD detective portrayed as a racist in the first O.J. trial and accused of planting that bloody glove in the back of O.J.'s guest house, interested in the case and he wrote his own book called Murder In Greenwich.

Dominick Dunne currently writes for Vanity Fair magazine.
~Reviewed by Ghostlady

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Young Mary Lennox, living in India with her socialite parents whom she rarely sees, is suddenly orphaned by an outbreak of cholera. Always a sickly child and indulged by the servants, she is shipped to England to live with her only surviving relative, her father’s brother-in-law, Archibald Craven. Craven has been grieving for his dead wife for 10 years, and spends most of his time away from the manor, so Mary is left in the care of the housekeeper. Seeking entertainment, the bored and lonely child discovers the secret garden that was once the pride and joy of Craven’s wife. By tending the garden and developing friendships with the young maid and her nature-loving brother, Mary blossoms herself. She in turns becomes the catalyst for healing another young member of the household.

Although I was aware of the story behind this children’s classic, I had never read it until one of the women in my book group requested that we read and discuss it. I can see now why this has become a classic.

First of all, it is very well written, and the vocabulary the author uses assumes that kids can use their brains to figure out unfamiliar words. It’s not pedantic, but it’s not watered down either.

Second of all, the values of the author, namely the healing properties of nature, are presented as an integral part of the story and not shoved down the reader’s throat. Yes, the results are somewhat idealistic, but the presentation, combined with the characters’ personalities, make this a very likeable book.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
A young woman from Tazmania comes to New York to start a new life after the death of her mother. She gets a job in a large emporium of used and rare books, develops friendships with the quirky employees, and gets involved in an intrigue involving a lost Melville manuscript. The writing is excellent and the characters are memorable in this coming of age story. The author’s love of books shines through clearly in this literary gem.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman
Novel extraordinaire! This is going on my list of best books ever read. Carol Goodman has superb writing skills which made for a fine read. It started off a little slow but it was all part of the story build. The end had a devious and delightful twist.

If you read Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, you will surely love this book.

Here is link to the hotel, a historic landmark hotel in the Catskill Mountains where the hotel in the book was modeled after. MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE

I posted this review by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum because I couldn't have said it any better.
When a writer's debut novel is a smashing success, he or she is subject to second story scrutiny. Such is the case with Carol Goodman whose first book, LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES, is an atmospheric page-turner set at a girls' school in upstate New York. Her new novel, THE SEDUCTION OF WATER, inhabits the same spot on the same geographic location, but traverses the terrain from a completely different point of view. This time readers will find themselves at the Equinox Hotel, which is, according to the author, modeled after The Mohonk Mountain House, a historic landmark hotel in the Catskill Mountains.

As the novel opens, Iris Greenfeder is living her ABD (All But Dissertation) life as a part-time writing instructor. She teaches a group of émigrés in an ESL class, a different set of students in an art school and a number of inmates at the Van Winkle Prison. Here she meets Aiden Barry, a very intelligent and charming felon who turns up on her doorstep one rainy night after he's paroled. Of course "lightening strikes" these unlikely lovers, but that comes later.

Iris grew up in The Equinox where her father was the manager for fifty years and her mother, a former maid, wrote two bestselling fantasy novels. One night, when Iris was ten, her mother took off to attend a conference at The Algonquin Hotel in the city. She never got there. And, the following day, she was found dead in the ashes of a motel fire in Brooklyn -- a tragic accident or a vicious murder? What was Kay Greenfeder doing in that motel? Why was she registered as Mrs. John McGlynn? Whom was she meeting, if anyone? Was the third book in the trilogy in the works? Did she have a draft of it with her? If she did, was it stolen or did it burn up in the fire along with her body?

Iris is haunted by these questions even after thirty years. Mystery and speculation continue to surround the tragedy that took her mother's life and, despite her best efforts, she cannot tame the gremlins that invade her sleep and force themselves into every memory of her mother. Thus, when a series of coincidences (?) result in an offer for her to write a definitive biography of Kay Greenfeder, Iris is determined to unearth the truth behind the events of her death in order to discover who her mother really was and why she died the way she did.

Where to start? Iris decides to analyze the world created in her mother's fiction. Slowly she begins to realize that the stories might be a map to the hidden landscape of Kay's reality; the triptych that can expose why her fantasy fiction was so complicated and so personal an escape device. Surely the stories must hold clues to the "real" woman beneath the facade of seemingly devoted wife, doting mother, hotel hostess extraordinaire and successful novelist.

The tales are based on an Irish legend about the Selkie Girl: a seal-woman who pays a dear price when she morphs from one "skin" to the other and, as events unfold, she must abandon her daughter in order to save her own life. Iris is convinced that, when she unravels the metaphors, the symbols and the allusions that comprise the rich text of her mother's novels, she will find parallels to the family's life that will bring her to the heart of things.

Once this decision is made, she returns to The Equinox to search for the third manuscript her mother was allegedly writing; to question the people still at the hotel who remember Kay; and to put the demons of the past behind her while taking control of her life in the present.

The Equinox is a failing enterprise when the book opens. A hotelier of international fame and fortune buys the dying hotel and makes it the latest "jewel in his crown" of his upscale convention resorts. As it happens, he knows this particular hotel and its history from his sojourns here in the halcyon days of the past. He is a suave, smooth and savvy businessman who dazzles Iris and the staff. But who is he really? And why would he buy an old facility that is off the beaten path with little to offer besides some hiking trails and a spectacular view?

THE SEDUCTION OF WATER is a bildungsroman --- the script of an odyssey imbued with a phantasmagoric setting, full of dead-end leads, nasty people, lies, deception, betrayals and a murder or two. Carol Goodman takes readers on a journey as rich in questions as it is in answers. Her writing is dramatic and accessible. She has a facility for moving back and forth from the past to the present, then from fairytales to Iris's real life that serves the reader well. Fans waiting for her second novel will not be disappointed. Those who don't yet know Goodman's work will delight in finding a new voice with a resounding talent as a storyteller.

~Reviewed by Ghostlady

Seeker by Jack McDevitt
Thousands of years after an entire colony mysteriously disappears, antiquities dealer Alex Benedict comes into possession of a cup that seems to be from the Seeker, one of the colony's ships. Investigating the provenance of the cup, Alex and his assistant Chase follow a deadly trail to the Seeker-strangely adrift in a system barren of habitable worlds. But their discovery raises more questions than it answers, drawing Alex and Chase into the very heart of danger.

Another in the Alex Benedict series sees the enterprising Antiques dealer hunt down a missing 9000 year old colony. These books are always a decent read. Good characters, fast paced action and a wide universe as the playground. Not the deepest book you'll ever read and it was less predictable than the last book so I enjoyed it even though I skimmed through it in a day. P.s These books really should be named after Chase who seems to do all the work in these novels.
3.5/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

The Shack by William Paul Young
A grieving father receives a note, apparently signed by God, inviting him to the remote shack where the evidence of his kidnapped daughter’s abduction and death had been found. At first he thinks it’s a cruel joke, but finally decides to go anyway. What he finds there will make profound changes in him and his view of the world.

This is an uplifting and well-written book, and anyone who has lost a loved one could find hope here. The theology is Christian, but it is presented in an unorthodox way, which may lead the reader to look a his/her own beliefs differently.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
I think Jasper Fforde is one of the most creative and clever writers I have ever read. His Thursday Next series in which the characters take literal leaps into literature is one of my all-time favorites, and now he does it again with a different kind of story.

In this novel, the world, for as long as anyone can remember, is ruled by a Colortocracy. A person’s standing in society is based on his/her color perception, and people of complimentary colors are not allowed to marry. Underground feed pipes keep municipal parks green, and there are healers who use colors to cure illnesses and addicts who use forbidden colors to get high.

Eddie Russett wants to move up in society. With his better-than-average red perception, he has a half promise of marriage to Constance Oxblood, a wealthy family looking to add as much red as possible to strengthen their hue. However, when Eddie and his father, a healer, are relocated to the fringe town of East Carmine, his plans are soon put in disarray by the nasty and spoiled Violet deMauve, a corrupt group of ruling Yellows, and an intriguing Grey named Jane, who opens his eyes to the truth behind the brightly painted facade in which he has always believed.

This is Fforde at his cleverest, and I can’t wait to read his next installment. If you liked Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, then this is the book for you.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I recently finished and highly recommend Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The story takes place in Barcelona in 1945 and is told from the point of view of the son of a seller of used books. It's a coming of age story and a mystery with gothic overtones about an author and the strange disappearance of his books. It has well-drawn and likable characters, a great villain, humor, interesting settings (including an old mansion and the Cemetery of Lost Books), and suspense, and it gives a nice portrait of the city and some of it's history.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin's life. The Godking's successful coup has left Kylar's master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession.

But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?

Carries on where the first book ends. Kylar is trying to settle down with the woman he loves and give up the Killer in him. This proves to be very hard and he is soon pulled back into the fight against the self proclaimed God King.

The pace is pretty breakneck from start to finish with some pretty decent action sequences and twists. This series springs some surprises in that you are never sure who is going to live or die in this book which adds to the tension.

It's a very enjoyable rollercoaster that is now 2/3rds of the way through. I'm sure there are some more twists before the end.
4/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
This collection of short stories fills in the gaps between the Harry Dresden novels. We get to learn more about the familiar characters that populate Harry's world, including Will and his wife, Georgia, Harry's half brother, Thomas, Sergeant Karen Murphy, his close friend and former knight, Michael, and several others. The stories are well-written and contain the same blend of humor, horror, and mystery found in the author's longer works. As a bonus, it also has a novella called Aftermath, which takes place after the frustrating cliff-hanger ending of Changes. It's from Murphy's point of view, but I would say that it promises more to come in the Dresden saga.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Skeleton Dance by Aaron Elkins
This is the first Gideon Oliver story I've read in several years, and I really enjoyed it. In this one, Gideon travels with his wife to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, a small village in France known for having the largest concentration of prehistoric bones in Europe. In addition to doing research for a book on wrong turns and hoaxes in the social sciences, Gideon is asked to help with the identification of some bones dug up by a pet dog. Foul play is suspected, and Gideon becomes involved in an intricate plot involving an old hoax, professional reputations, and multiple murders. The plot, set against the backdrop of a fascinating historic area, is as tasty as the description of the food.
~Reviewed by Lady Kestrel

Small Favour by Jim Butcher
Book 10 if the Dresden Files sees Harry Dresden Wizard for hire once again up to his neck in trouble. Queen Mab of the Winter Court calls in one of her favours to investigate the dissapearance of local Gangster Marcone.

A rip roaring read as usual. Fast paced and some great characters (oh and the Harry Dresden world would make a great adventure game)
4/5
~Reviewed by Lucien21
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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