A dark storm raging (tabbyclaw) wrote,
A dark storm raging
tabbyclaw

Reviews, September-December


September

The Great Good Thing, Roderick Townley
One of those books about characters from a book having their own lives. Well-written, with terribly cute characters. There's apparently a sequel, but nowhere i can get to it.

Eight Days of Luke, Diana Wynne Jones
This might well be a good story on its own merits, but I wasn't really able to enjoy it. It seems I have an irrational dislike of stories based in Norse mythology.

Piratica, Tanith Lee
A textbook example of not judgng a book by its cover. Dorkiest title ever, but it's a great book. Funny, good-natured, and with a sense of adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Stained Glass, Michael Bedard
A surreal, fragmented story, which I suppose is only logical since the "framework" is a broken window. A very good read.

Flame and Rise of a Hero, Hilari Bell
The first volume has apprently been retitled Fall of a Kingdom for the second release, which makes me glad that my library got an early edition of the first one; I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. Enjoyable and tightly plotted, though the characters are a little stock.

The Whale Rider, Witi Ihamaera
I was really surprised at how much I liked the movie, so I had high hopes for the book. To my disappointment, it doesn't hold a candle to the film. First off, it's told from the point of view from Pikea's young uncle, who's not even in the same country for several years of her life, years which the author tells us about anyway. Pi is also much less endearing here. Her need for her grandfather's affection is her sole personality trait, and it just made me worry for her future relationships.

Pharaoh's Daughter, Julius Lester
This is one of those, "But why?" books. It's the story of Moses' older sister, Almah. No, you didn't miss a memo. The author apparently decided that the siblings Moses already had weren't interesting enough. Cue blank stares...now.

The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud
Just...not very good. Bartimaeus himself is about a million times less clever and interesting than he or the author think, and the way the story was told was just plain annoying. Half is about Bartimaeus, told by him in all his unfunny arrogance. The other half is about his human master, told by a bland, generic narrator. It's jarring, to say the least.

Incident at Hawk's Hill, Allan W. Eckert
I love badgers, and I love stories about kids surviving on their own in the wild. So you'd think I'd love a story about a kid getting lost in the wilderness and surviving by being adopted by a badger. Not so much.

Missing Mem, Errol Broome
This books was just disjointed. One mouse dies, the rest are in danger, another joins the circus... It never found a common thread, and I have no idea what it was trying to say.

Over Sea, Under Stone, Susan Cooper
I suspect it's mostly my Arthur-hate, but I just found this one of the most tedious books I read all year. I probably won't finish out the series.

Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, and Drowned Wednesday, Garth Nix
These guys, on the other hand? Burned through the first one while on campus, then immediately headed to the school library to see if they could get me the next one faster than the public library. The world that Nix has created is jusat plain fun, but that doesn't stop it from having its own problems and politics and fascinating characters. Consider this one of the strongest recommendations I'll make from the entire year!

October

The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde
An offshoot of the Thursday Next series, but I'm not at all sure exactly how it relates. It seems to contradict the earlier series in some ways, but I can't tell if it's supposed to be the exact same universe or not. I didn't immediately love these characters the way I did Thursday, but I'm certainly looking forward to the next one.

The Complete Andersen, Jean Hersholt (compiler)
I'll confess, I read less than half of this, but that was still enough effort that I felt it merited being placed in the count. My God, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a lot! And there's a whole lot that he wrote that you'll never see except in a million-page volume like this, and there's a reason: A lot of it sucks. I swear, this is a synopsis of a two-page story contained in this" Once upon a time there was a couple who were poor, and their lives were a struggle. One day the wife was even more depressed than usual, and when her husband asked, she said it was because she'd had a dream that God was dead. 'Don't be stupid, God can't die!' he husband said. 'Oh, I'm so happy now!' cried his wife. 'God is in our lives and we shouldn't worry about anything!' So they were happy forever." Gee, I'll have to use that technique next time somebody I know has a spiritual crisis. "Your worries are wrong, yeh dumbass!"

Robin's Country, Monica Furlong
Cute, but unmemorable. I grabbed it mostly for the author name and read it in a couple hours.

The Capture, The Journey, and The Rescue, Kathryn Lasky
Oy. These are the first three books in "The Guardians of Ga'Hoole," a series which I will not be continuing. The story is kind of interesting, but it's muddied up with long and oft-repeated passages about owl biology and society. The end result is like a author's note on every page saying, "See? See how well I researched this and thought out a whole world? Aren't you impressed at my consistency?" No, Kathryn, I'm not.

The Dark Hills Divide, Patrick Carman
Wow, what a disappointing book. That's all I ca nreally say about it. I finished it and went, "Really? That's it?"

Curse the Dark, Laura Anne Gilman
Not as good as the first one, and It's one of those things where you stare at it for hours after finishing it and wonder why. Was it just genuinely not as good as the first? Did the novelty wear off? Did I overhype it in my head? Did the execrable proofreading distract so much from the story that it became unreadable? Or was I just unable to get past the detail that if there were burns all over my body every time I had sex with someone, I'd stop until we could maybe get that checked out?

Passage, Connie Willis
WOW. Connie Willis can do no wrong, can she? This exploration of near-death experiences is brilliant, readable, touching, and impossible to put down. I was almost late to a few classes because I had to find out what would happen next.

Ten Thousand Charms, Leander Watts
I don't remember anything about this one.

Shiva's Fire, Suzanne Fisher Staples
Or this one. I apparently went into a literary fugue state at the end of October.

Lirael and Abhorsen, Garth Nix
These I remember. It's funny, I reread Sabriel before these, and only picked them up because people kept saying, "Yeah, Sabriel is kind of dull, but the other two are awesome." But on reread, I really liked Sabriel and was not at all impressed with the other two. I just didn't really like Lirael as a person, although the Disreputable Dog was excellent.

November

Thud!, Terry Pratchett
Easily one of the best Discworld books ever. I don't think I have higher praise in me. Every once in a while when I was reading it, a little voice would pop up in my ead and say, "Hey, remember how there was a time when you were thoroughly unimpressed with Vimes as a character? What the Hell was wrong with you?"

The Seventh Tower series, Garth Nix
I read four of these before giving up completely. My assessment of every single character was, "Well, you're a useless little ball of entrails, aren't you?"

Fray, Joss Whedon
Yes, that Joss Whedon. It's a comic book miniseries chronicling the life of a Slayer hundreds of years in the future. And here's the shocker: It's excellent. I had no expectations going into it, but I can't imagine asking for more from it. I can't reveal the part that sealed my admiration without giving everything away, but there was a plot twist that made me grit my teeth and mutter unkind things, and then they turned it around brilliantly.

The Dollmage, Martine Leavitt
Okay, this one I'm gonna have to put in a spoiler warning for, because I can't express the sheer WTFness without giving away the ending. We start off with a girl tied to a stake in the middle of the village and her neighbors preparing to stone her for an unspecified crime. Then the titular Dollmage, who's a village wise-woman of sorts, says, "No, you can't judge her until you've heard the whole story!" So they decide to wait, and let this woman go thorugh the girl's entire biography, including parts the old woman has no way of knowing, and about which she even says, "It's not important how I know." Um, yes it is, honey. But anyway, it's a good story. And then we get to the end, and we discover that there are bandits ringing the entire village, and they've burned half of it down and are coming back for everyone else any minute. And they've decided they have time to formally execute this girl for taking back her promise to marry a guy. When she only said she would in the hopes that it would stop him from raping her. Which it didn't. Where in God's name are your priorities, folks?

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, Obert Skye
Okay, remember my thing about Piratica and how you shouldn't toss a book aside because it's got a dorky title? Launch this one out of a cannon. This is PBRC-worthy stuff, here, and I may have to devote more ime to it later. The magic system is ridiculous, the prose is terrible, every single adult who's not one of Our Heroes is hideously ugly and cruel, and the "real world" aspects make me suspect that this man has never actually lived on Earth.

The Book of Dead Days, Marcus Sedgwick
Another that got purged from my head by virtue of just not being interesting at all.

The Safe-Keeper's Secret, Sharon Shinn
Interesting and well-written, with a cleverly designed world. I totally called the "surprise" eding, but that made it no less enjoyable.

The Flight of Dragons, Peter Dickinson
Enh. Fun to see where some of the ideas in the movie came from, but I've read better dragon "textbooks." This one was also not helped by the terrible formatting, with nonsensical quotes and illustrations that seemed to be thrown in wherever the author felt they'd most disrupt the narrative flow.

Five Little Peppers Midway, Margaret Sidney
Argh. Not a good book at all, and I think it may have ruined the first one for me.

The Trumpet of the Swan, E. B. White
I am fond of talking-animal stories and infintely forgiving of E. B. White. So when I get halfway through and mutter, "My God, this is a stupid book," there are problems.

The Truth-Teller's Tale, Sharon Shinn
Not half as good as The Safe-Keeper's Secret. It starts with the main characters being twins named Adele and Eleda, which made me wince from the get-go, even more so when aother character meets them for the first time and goes, "Hey, your names are the same, only backwards!" and Eleda responds, "OMG! I can't believe you got that!" And when you start nitpicking the attempted date-rapist's methods (and can't actually figure out why that incident was in the story in the first place), it's safe to say the main characters have lost you somewhere.

The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
One of those Medieval slice-of-life-lite books. Short, but good.

The Arkadians, Lloyd Alexander
Mm. I liked parts of it, but it was seriously way too simplistic in a lot of ways. Lots of "things are this way because I said so" and "Tee-hee, you're so silly with your independent thought!"

Tokyo Mew Mew, vol.s 1-7, Mia Ikumi and Reiko Yoshida
Oh, don't judge me.

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn and The Demon in the Teahouse, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
Mysteries set in Feudal Japan. Enjoyable, tightly plotted, and with enough info to be interesting without becoming lecturey.

Phoenix Rising, Karen Hesse
A book that doesn't earn its conclusion. It's vague and unsympathetic and ends with a ridiculously heavy-handed "omg nooklyer powr is teh badness" without ever proving it.

Moonwise, Greer Ilene Gilman
I tried to read this once several years ago and gave up after a few pages, but I was desperate and I got into a stubborn mood where I was not going to let this book beat me. I still have no idea what happened in it, at all. I liken it to reading French when I'm very tired: "I have no idea what any of this means, but my goodness, these words are pretty."

Inside Job, Connie Willis
See above about Connie Willis and her inability to do wrong. A bogus channeler gets possessed by the spirit of the most famous skeptic in history, and the results are brilliant.

December

The Dot & the Line, Norton Juster
Have you seen the cartoon short they made of this? Oh, you have to! It won an Oscar and quite deserved it. The book is just as masterful, a bit of incredibly cute storytelling.

Wizards at War, Diane Duane
Like Thud!, this is a classic return to form after a mildly disapponting volume of a brilliant series. Beautiful, thought-provoking, and brilliantly clever. If you've read other Young Wizards books you know what this one's gonna be like and if you haven't, you really really need to.

Harry Potter et l'Ordre du Phenix, J. K. Rowling
I've been told the translation in these books is pretty bad, and while I don't have the language skills necessary to judge, I'm starting to believe it. This book was kind of a plod, as you can probably tell by the fact that I started reading it in August. But much love for maintaining Neville's broken-nose dialogue in the Department of Mysteries.

Goose Chase, Patrice Kindl
Could have been a good plot, but horribly written. Tense changes aplenty, bizarre attempts at archaic language with "thee"s and "dost"s and "whence"s scattered across the text like rice at a wedding. Add to that a heroine who constantly talks about how great she is, a plot that firmly contradicts her claims, and an author who doesn't seem aware that the two don't match up, and you do not get a good story.

Lost in the Labyrinth, Patrice Kindl
A tale about the Minotaur's half-sister. Again, great concept, weak execution. I mean, you already can't take a heroine seriously when she's complaining that her breasts are "small and pointed, like the teats of a goat," but her adoration for her mother just takes me straight out of the story. Every time she goes on about how great her mom is, a voice in my head screams, "Your mom had sex with a cow! Your mom had sex with a cow to punish your dad for something that wasn't his fault!" And for some bizarre reason, it's Eric McCormack's voice.

Where's My Cow?, Terry Pratchett
Oh, this is just precious. No sarcasm at all. I can certainly think of worse ways to end the year's new books.
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