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[personal profile] othercat
At 328 pages, this book was a very fast read, and follows very closely behind the previous book. Bren has been sent to negotiate with Machigi, the young leader of the Marid, a region that has been causing trouble, and was responsible for the recent coup. His situation is complicated by not having any clear marching orders from Ilisidi on what he can offer Machigi and further complicated by two Guild assassins who had managed to get on the wrong side of everyone by being extremely stupid. Finally, the presence of Barb, who had been kidnapped by unknown persons at the end of the previous book, creates its own unique problems (mainly problems involving Jago wanting to scratch Barb’s eyes out and Barb being hopelessly stupid).

After an initially positive interview with Machigi and Bren deciding that Ilisidi wants him to solve the problem the Marid are having by proposing an alliance between Ilisidi’s eastern associates and the Marid, (which could potentially resolve various conflicts that had resulted in the Marid coup) leads the atevi lord to invoke an ancient negotiation custom. In the past, the white ribbon and clothes that had come to signify the human ambassador-translator had been the uniform of a special kind of (atevi) negotiator who negotiated based on manchi (loyalty or affinity) toward both sides of a conflict.

Betrayer
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[personal profile] othercat
My general impression of this book for the most part was “maybe it’s the translation, because this book is doing nothing for me.” Another reason why I didn’t have much of a feeling for the book was that the writer has a dyslexic character who plays a pivotal role in the story, but couldn’t be bothered to actually research dyslexia. (The writer seems to believe that dyslexic people are across the board completely unable to learn how to read and need to have magical assistance in order to obtain even *basic comprehension. What was I talking about again? Oh, right; the story and my inability to stay interested in it.)

Our Hero is a young lawyer named Jon Campelli who receives word that his estranged father Luca has died. Luca is the owner of a book store and since Luca had no will, Jon now owns the place since he is the next of kin. It turns out that the books store is the meeting place of a secret organization of people with a peculiar psychic or magical talent.

The Library of Shadows
othercat: (journalling this)
[personal profile] othercat
It is occasionally difficult to define why you don’t like a book. It might be otherwise well written and the story might be interesting, but there is something about the book--something in the narration or characterization maybe--that feels a little off. This was largely my reaction to Black Swan Rising. It was a difficult book to start, a difficult book to continue, and I didn’t much care for the ending which is of the “everything goes back to normal wrap-up” variety.

We start with our non-genre-savvy heroine, Garet James, who wanders into one of those stores that turn up and then disappear. She is in a very bad financial situation due to some bad business deals made by her art-gallery-owning father.

Black Swan Rising
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[personal profile] othercat
Chrono Crusade is an eight volume manga series with a twenty four episode anime series that is completely different from the manga. (The manga is superior to the anime series, in my opinion. The anime goes off in a completely different direction and generally weakens a lot of the character interactions and relationships.) Our Heroine and Hero are Rosette Christopher and her partner Chrono.

The setting is the United States during the 1920s. Rosette is an exorcist working with a religious organization known as the Magdalen Order, and organization that fights various supernatural monsters. (Appearance wise they seem to be a Catholic Order though it is Extremely Clueless Japanese Nuns are Miko Manga Catholicism.) This is not a new series, but it is a favorite series and the one that made me actively interested in manga and anime. (I only had a very occasional interest due to not finding anything I really liked until I discovered this series at a library.)

The first volume begins with Chrono and Rosette who are both sleeping in their car after a mission. A phone rings and Rosette picks up the phone and receives orders to head out on another mission. Rosette is exhausted and does not want to go but her superior insists--and Rosette realizes that something bad has just happened because a ship in the harbor bursts into flames. Rosette tries to wake up Chrono who would actually like to sleep a little longer. How long? “About ten hours.” This is not deemed an acceptable amount of time by Rosette's standards.

“The Story of a Girl Exorcist... and Her Demon Partner”
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[personal profile] othercat
Right Hand Magic is a “magic is out in the open” urban fantasy. Our heroine is a young woman named Tate, an aspiring artist in search of a new place to live. (She is a sculptor who works with steel, which does not make her very popular to her yuppie neighbors.) Despite having a trust fund, with rich parents, she is looking for a cheap place to stay. After looking around, she comes across a very cheap room at a boarding house in a part of Manhattan where absolutely no cab or moving company will go: Golgotham.

Golgotham is basically a ghetto in the oldest sense of the word; a segregated section of the city separated by law instead of economic bracket. The inhabitants of Golgotham are various varieties of magical creatures plus a non-human race of magic users called Kymerans. The Kymerans have been living in ghettoes like this for centuries after a “holy war,” that destroyed their country. (This will be the biggest problem I have with the book. It’s like a cross between Harry Potter, a manga and Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni novels, but not in a good way.)

The ghetto environment and accepted segregation of minorities is not the main plot of the story however. Instead, we have a light romance that develops between our heroine and her Kymeran sorcerer landlord. Hexe turns out to be the son of “The Witch-Queen of Golgotham,” and is technically a prince.

Right Hand Magic,
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[personal profile] othercat
Please Stop Laughing at Me, is a painful account of the writer's experience with having been bullied from junior high through high school. Blanco's story is that she was very much a misfit in junior high and became a target for bullies due to having the sort of soft, sensitive personality that tends to get ground under a lot in the face of the kinds of practical jokes and casual cruelty that kids have a tendency to engage in. Her situation is generally made worse by a sincere effort on her part to try getting along with everyone, and trying to fit in. (She does not say this in the book, this is my interpretation of the situation.) In addition, a congenital deformity that only appears in puberty results in making her even more of a target of the students of the school she went to.

Her parents attempted to help her by moving her to different schools, but this did not help very much, as Jodee is still soft and sensitive and kids are still basically twits wherever you go. They tried talking to the schools, but this did not work. They try putting her in therapy, but this does not help a great deal either. One of the few bright spots in her school experience is when she is able to make friends with other kids who are also misfits (and who have absolutely no desire to "be accepted" the way Jodee seems to). Another bright spot was that Jodee had the opportunity to visit Greece one summer, and made friends there as well. The book ends on a positive note and the school reunion that Jodee attends.

Please Stop Laughing at Me
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[personal profile] othercat
Iron Crowned is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series. In this book, Eugenie continues to attempt juggling her role of queen of the Thorn Land with being a Shaman/exorcist in the ordinary world. She is not very successful due to having to fight a war against Katrice of the Rowan Land, whose son had kidnapped and raped Eugenie repeatedly in the previous book in order to fulfill a prophecy that states the Eugenie’s first born son would conquer the ordinary world. (I am still kind of reminded of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series because of this plot point.)

Due to the fall out of the ending of Thorn Queen, Eugenie is now dating and allied with Dorian, King of the Oak Land. Another consequence of the outcome is that Eugenie’s step father Roland is no longer speaking to her. (This sort of nails down the coffin on my dislike of this character, which was born roughly around the time where he didn’t have a problem that a fellow Shaman was kidnapping and selling young “gentry” women.) She is also finding it difficult to take cases in the ordinary world due to how busy she is, (which is causing her assistant/secretary Lara a great deal of frustration).


Iron Crowned
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[personal profile] othercat
Twilight’s Dawn consists of four novellas, some of which answer some unasked questions about things hinted at in Tangled Webs, The Shadow Queen and Shalador’s Lady. If you’re a fan of the Black Jewels series, you will probably like them, if you are not a fan of the series you will probably not be reading this anyway.

I both like and dislike the series simultaneously. The world building drives me insane, and Bishop’s gender dynamics are like a combination of David Eddings, Laurell K. Hamilton and Jennifer Roberson with a dash of Anne Rice--on the other hand I like many of Bishop’s characters, the writing is at least entertaining (if occasionally gross or ridiculously fluffy) and I think the Black Jewels ‘verse is one of the more interesting of her story-worlds.


Twilight's Dawn
othercat: (aion/mary/chrono: happy family)
[personal profile] othercat
Storm Born and Thorn Queen
Two more examples of the “bad ass babe” sub genre of urban fantasy. The basic premise is that shaman long ago banished all magical beings and humans with inherent magical ability to the Otherworld. (Shaman do not have innate magical ability, instead they use their wills to manipulate outer forces, usually after having undergone a traumatic initiation. Also, the humans with inherent magical ability eventually became the sidhe.) It’s the job of modern shaman to serve as a kind of border guard, keeping all supernatural beings on the other side of the border. Our Heroine is one such shaman. (For some reason, I find it very amusing that she’s based in Tucson, Arizona.)

In Storm Born, we’re introduced to our protagonist Eugenie Markham (called Odile Dark Swan by clients and her enemies--something that mister or miss blurb writer utterly failed to realize was a major plot point, that no one had known her real name until recently. Of course, I’m just as bad by giving away the same plot point. However, it’s totally not my fault because I was spoiled by the blurb first, and then confused as heck when her client called her “Odile”) just as she’s about to determine whether or not a sneaker is in fact possessed, or if her client has forgotten his meds. (The author seems to delight in doing this sort of thing to the character. It’s alternately funny and eye-rolling.)
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[personal profile] othercat
War for the Oaks is urban fantasy of the subset known as urban faerie. (While some more recent urban fantasy might tack on faeries in a mostly vampire and werewolf universe, this is primarily a novel dealing with Faerie and its intersection with the mortal world.) This novel originally came out in the 80’s. It has been reprinted by Orb books.

Our heroine is one Eddie McCandry, a young woman who finds herself without a boyfriend and without a band due to said boyfriend’s general incompetence and failure at life. Before she has time to do much more than be annoyed and angry about the situation she is contacted by an emissary from the Seelie Court. This emissary is a phouka (a type of shape-shifting faerie that can turn into a horse, a goat, or in this case a black dog) and he has chosen her for the not very wonderful job of being a participant in an upcoming war with the Unseelie Court. She has absolutely no choice but to sign on because the instant she was chosen by the Seelie Court, she became the target of the Unseelie Court.

The phouka is to serve as her bodyguard, which is something Eddie doesn’t appreciate, but can’t exactly escape. She appreciates it even less when she discovers that her part in the battle is to be a sort of angel of death--she finds out that she is the major component of a spell that ensures that the immortal combatants will have a permanent end should they be fatally wounded on the field.

In short, it really sucks to be her.

War for the Oaks
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[personal profile] othercat
Tinker

I first read Tinker when it came out in 2003. It quickly became one of my favorites because of the heroine Tinker (who is an engineer who runs a junkyard), and a great deal of the world building. The setting is Pittsburgh, which has had a variable location between Earth and Elfhome since the Chinese built an interdimensional gate in orbit. Tinker has lived her entire life in Pittsburgh and many of her inventions take advantage of the magical energy available on Elfhome.

One night during Shutdown (the time when Pittsburgh is on Earth) she rescues an elf who is being chased by giant monster dogs through her junkyard. The elf in question is Windwolf, who had saved her from an escaped saurus when she was a child. (Elfhome has dinosaurs. And carnivorous trees. And river sharks.) After saving her, he subsequently marked her with a spell that she believes will possibly do something horrible to her if Windwolf dies, so she has lots of additional incentive to keep the elf alive and in one piece.


Tinker

Wolf Who Rules

In this sequel to Tinker, Our Heroine has to figure out how to deal with the very large mess she made in the previous book. Tinker has managed to permanently strand Pittsburgh on Elfhome and has also managed to turn Turtle Creek into a mushy dimensional discontinuity that’s been dubbed “the Ghostlands.” On top of that, she has to pick more sekasha for her “Hand” of bodyguards, something she isn’t particularly looking forward to doing and she’s receiving urgent messages and apologies from Riki, the tengu who had betrayed her to the oni in the previous book, and trying to learn magic and receiving “how to be an elf and married to Windwolf” lessons from various sources.

While this is going on, Windwolf must deal with the situation involving the human population of Pittsburgh, and hunt down the oni who have infiltrated the city. This is a very daunting task because Elfhome is a homogenous culture that has never really had to deal extensively with anyone from outside of it. (No, it does not count that Pittsburgh has been a frequent resident for more than a decade.) While he’s hunting for Oni he discovers that some humans have been forced to help the oni, and some of these interactions have resulted in children (which creates many more levels of complication.)

Wolf Who Rules

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[personal profile] othercat
This novel is the story of two very different women who have trouble understanding each other. One is a Japanese woman who had married an American and had come to America shortly after World War II, the other is an American single mother and divorcee who had lived in America her entire life. The reason why they have so much trouble understanding each other is in some ways, because they are mother and daughter.

We begin the story with Shoko, who had never been given the opportunity to do the things she had wanted to do when she was younger--both because she was "only" a girl, and because of the war. After a disastrous relationship and personal tragedy, Shoko marries an American and leaves Japan. Her father is accepting of her marriage, but her brother Taro disowns her, and her only communication with her family is through her younger sister.

Shoko has difficulties assimilating, and her only guide for how to be an American housewife is a housekeeping guide that her husband gives her. This book is not much help in teaching her how to navigate the sometimes hostile waters of 1950s Suburbia. She has a son and then a daughter whom she inadvertently alienates due to impatience and a partial language barrier. The daughter Suiko or "Sue," ends up in a disastrous relationship that leaves her a single mother working in an office.

How to be an American Housewife
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[personal profile] othercat
Tiassa takes place from multiple viewpoints and within a broad timeline. At the center of the story is a silver tiassa, a figurine with great and mysterious powers that had been created by a goddess. Aliera’s time and space travelling (technically paradoxical) daughter Devera steals (okay, borrows) the object and leaves it with whomever she feels needs it the most. The tiassa has an agenda of its own however and almost has as many adventures as the people (particularly Vlad) that come into contact with it.

The first section is “Tag” and takes place when Vlad was still an assassin and crimelord in the Jhereg. (Vlad is also working on the preparations to get married, and the interactions between Cawti and Vlad are very romantic, even though we know how this relationship ends.)

Tiassa


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[personal profile] abigailnicole


I was lonely, and the internet was broken, so I started reading Audrey Niffengger's The Time Traveler's Wife. I don't think this was a fantastic choice for warding off the blues, though....between this and Never Date A Writer I don't know that relationships are worth it or if they're the only thing that's worth it. I need a perspective not-relationship novel.

I love stories about time travel. I'm writing one, after all. And the time travel in this was well-executed...the problem of course is that time travel isn't real and doesn't work, so you have to walk a fine line between the mechanics and the story, and this toes that line well. While technology can be explained by a few sentences of technobabble, time travel affects causality and thus affects the flow of your plot. You can really write yourself into a corner in a hurry. The interesting thing is that The Time Traveler's Wife is written into a corner for an entire book. Henry, the main character, has no choice but to go through these experiences--he's caught in a corner. These are scenes I'd hate writing, but she does them well.

The plot is very well done--time travel is tricky, and she has same scenes reseen from different points of view, by different characters or sometimes the same character at different ages. The situation is profound, moving, the imagery lovely. I cried at the end. He died quoting Andrew Marvell, what do you expect? "Had we but world enough, and time--" ahhh.

But this book didn't quite satisfy me. It did, in some ways: the plot was lovely, well-thought out, the writing was simple, clear, precise, and lovely. What bothered me were the characters. And I didn't really know why until a patron interrupted me, while I was reading this today, to check out Twilight. And then I sat there for a moment and thought about it.

Because it's the same story. Bella and Clare are both pretty, feminine, have long hair, fall in love young and say with that man for life, don't do very much on their own. They both want a child, both have a daughter, both have husbands that are more interesting than they are, both their lives totally revolve around the person they love. The conflict in each depends on the defect of the other person that they love: vampire, time traveler. The intellectualism is better done here, obviously, and the plot is MUCH better written---but the characters remain the same mold. The perfect family save for one thing. A woman whose life depends on her significant other. When Edward/Henry leaves, Bella/Clare sits around and doesn't eat, stares into space, turns into emotionless zombies, stays in bed all day and feel awful. Only Jacob/Gomez is there to distract her but the depth of feeling is friendship and not love.

And this story is much better, don't get me wrong. But the characters irk me. Henry I love. A gaunt, tall, thin, dark, punk-lovin, alcoholic, sort of authentic version of the Arsonist. But he's all fuzzy around the edges. And that's all right--if that's a product of time travel, because he is mostly telling his own story and he feels fuzzy around the edges, then it's great characterization. But Clare is supposed to be his anchor, to hold him down, right? And all I know about her is that she has long red hair. Blue eyes, or maybe green. Part of this is the nature of the characters--from six to forty-three in the course of one book--but some of it is just general characterization. She does physical descriptions of characters well: when you're doing descriptions you stick to main traits that are easily identifiable, and let characters be memorable based on personality. But Clare needs to be solid. She needs to be what is holding him here, and she needs to be firmly fixed in the reader's mind as a solid point, and she's not. They're like twin stars in a solar system: they hold each other in place, and when one is missing the other sort of drifts away. I want them to be more solid, especially Clare. Even if she is the type of woman who spends her whole life waiting on a man, and who ahs a man at the center of her universe...well, maybe that's why she's not a very solid character, if she lets someone else be that much a part of her. But I want to know that, I want details of that, I want Clare to be more than she is. All of their friends, even Charisse and Gomez, feel flat and placeholders, not real and solid and fleshed-out: she's not good at doing little details that make characters really come alive. and for all of Alba's build-up she doesn't have much: part of that is her age, I know, you're not solid when you're that young. But you can have children who are more than a placeholder: look at Pearl, if you want to look at children that symbolize things.

Maybe these character types--interesting male, female who is dependent on him and whose life is mostly him--are more prevalent in literature than I think or realize. But I don't think it has to be this way, and I know it's not. Look at Jane Eyre, for crying out loud. She realized this very thing and had to say no, had to leave it so that this wouldn't be the case. She was solid first, and then she was solid again after he was gone. As a disconnected woman, I have to believe that there is more to life and literature than this: waiting on a man.

So thank you, Audrey Niffenegger--I love your plot, and I love your story, and I love your French poets and your prose. But your characters need to stand on their own.
pale_moonlite: (Default)
[personal profile] pale_moonlite
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Vintage, 2004. 272 pages.


Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, hero and first person narrator of this (not-quite) mystery novel, has a penchant for maths, Sherlock Holmes and dogs. He doesn't like to be touched, eye contact and lies. Fictional stories (he calls them proper novels) he perceives as lies, but he likes murder mysteries because they're puzzles to him, problems to be solved. One night he finds Wellington, a friendly dog in the neighborhood, murdered in his owner's garden. He decides to investigate the case and write a murder mystery novel of his own. It's the beginning of a big adventure which threatens to destroy his small, well-regulated world.


Thoughts:

To write a story from the point of view of an autistic boy is, to begin with, a clever trick. The whole world is a mystery to Christopher and, seen through his eyes, becomes one to the reader. Ordinary things turn into monsters and what we take for granted becomes suddenly a blur. To solve the mystery, we have to read between the lines, but in order to understand Christopher, to get to know him, we also have to immerse ourselves into his world and learn to think the way he does.

The trick works. The Curious Incident ... is a page-turner, as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. There are beautiful moments; among my favorites is a passage about metaphors or another about prime numbers. Christopher talking about his aversion to eye-contact is a perfect example of how the ambiguity of the narrative works:

Read more... )


[x-posted to [community profile] book_reviews and to my journal]
aliritchie: (Default)
[personal profile] aliritchie
*waves* Hi! I love writing book reviews, so I figured I should start posting some here. Hope you enjoy :).

*

High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they're good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he's also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel's interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel's outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.

*

This is the third book I've read by Alex Sanchez. I already own Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High, and enjoyed them both. The God Box is, in some ways, fairly similar. All are about gay teenagers either coming to accept their identities or struggling against homophobia. In The God Box, however, there's an added religious element.

Very minor spoilers )
libelula: Book Plus Pinup Equals Fun (Reading)
[personal profile] libelula
20TH CENTURY BOYS, vols. 1 & 2 by Naoki Urasawa
Viz Media, 2009, 210 pages, 978-1-59116-922-2, Paperback, $12.99
Viz Media, 2009, 206 pages, 978-1-59116-926-0, Paperback, $12.99

Genre: Manga/Science Fiction/Mystery

Synopsis:

Kenji lives an ordinary life running a King Mart with his mother and looking after his sister's infant daughter. Excitement isn't exactly a part of his day to day life, and he certainly doesn't have the time to go looking for it. But when a domino effect of unexplained events begins -- including the disappearance of a university professor, the death of an old school friend, and the sudden outbreak of a viral epidemic -- Kenji finds himself just as involved as anyone else. Central to all of these occurances is a symbol that Kenji finds familiar but can't quite identify, and a cult whose leader is known only as the "friend." Somehow these events are tied into Kenji's childhood, but after so many years he can't quite figure out how, exactly, it all fits together.

Thoughts:

This manga starts out a little slow, but by the end of volume two, you really begin to see where it's all headed, and that destination looks pretty exciting. So far this story has all of the best elements of an Urasawa manga -- an unexpected protagonist, a complex and interweaving plot, extensive background elements, and sinister overtones. Yet for all of its familiar aspects, 20th Century Boys feels as though it's definitely going to be different, and I'm looking forward to that.

Read the full review at The Reader Eclectic.

~
libelula: Book Plus Pinup Equals Fun (Reading)
[personal profile] libelula
STAR TREK (2009 film novelization) by Alan Dean Foster
Pocket Books, 2009, 274 pages, 978-1-4391-5886-9, Trade Paperback, $15.00

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis:

In this particular case, I'm not going to write a synopsis of the book. Either you've seen the movie or you haven't, and if you haven't, you probably don't want a synopsis since you'll either not care at all or not want to be spoiled.

Thoughts:

This book is pretty much what you would expect. It follows the course of the film and does its best to capture the sometimes chaotic events. A lot of times this results in lightning fast point-of-view changes that will leave you feeling dizzy, and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for extra insight into the characters or much of anything else. The story itself moves slowly up until the midway point where, all of a sudden, things start happening at a rapid pace. On the other hand, there are a few additions that fans might appreciate.

Read the full review at The Reader Eclectic.

~
libelula: Book Plus Pinup Equals Fun (Reading)
[personal profile] libelula
Just to get things started, I thought I'd post a review that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch
Bantam Books, 2007, 722 pages, 978-0-553-58894-1, Mass Market, $6.99

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place in the city of Camorr and focuses almost exclusively on the happenings of the city’s underbelly. More specifically, it focuses on Locke, a sometimes rash but always brilliant thief who caused more trouble before the age of ten than some of the city’s veteran criminals managed in their entire careers. The story’s narrative switches between two timelines (which might be a tad confusing at first, but you quickly get used to it), one revolving around Locke’s childhood and training, and one that shows him leading the Gentleman Bastards on a long con job against one of the city’s prominent citizens.

But, naturally, there are complications, and Locke is nothing if not resourceful.

Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this book. Granted, it took me a few chapters to really get my bearings. Lynch's style isn't like anything I'd ever read before (not that was done well, anyway), and I had to get used to it - not to mention, I had to figure out that there were multiple timelines that I needed to keep track of (well, two, but I didn't know that at first). Once I had that straightened out, though, I became quite engaged with both the story and the characters. Locke is a lot of fun, and I was glad that Lynch chose to give enough background for Jean that he became someone I was interested in as well. I'm expecting good things from the second book in the series, so I'll be quite excited to get to that review when it comes around.

Read the full review at The Reader Eclectic.

(There shouldn't be anything terribly spoiler-ish in the full review - at least not that I recall).

~

Welcome!

May. 27th, 2009 08:24 am
libelula: Book Plus Pinup Equals Fun (Reading)
[personal profile] libelula
Welcome to [community profile] book_reviews!

This community exists to provide a forum for book reviews in any genre. Everyone is welcome, and members should feel free to post at will.

For more information about posting and what this community is about, please look at the userinfo. But, most importantly, have fun.

Additionally, feel free to introduce yourselves anytime! :)

~

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