Amph Random Reflections: A Book Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Books and Comics' started by droideka27, May 7, 2006.

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  1. droideka27 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    May 28, 2002
    star 7
    The purpose of this thread is to post reviews/commentaries of random books you read that you don't want to actually start a whole thread on and get a big discussion going.

    I will start!

    Yesterday I read a book called The Smoke Thief, by Shana Abe. I started reading this because it was in my sister?s room, and had a dragon on the cover. Well, apparently it was a romance/fantasy novel, and I have to say, I didn't really enjoy it that much. Firstly, I never read the jacket covers of books unless I am trying to decide to buy them or not, as they always tell too much of the story. Well, in this case, I should have, because it took me like 50 pages to figure out what the heck the author was talking about with her created race of people. After a very confusing prologue, (and a number of pages of text) I realized that her race of people are extraordinarily beautiful, and have the ability to change into dragons, or just smoke, for periods of time. These people normally look human though. Anyways, the plot was pretty predictable, and the willful-rebellious-beautiful-lovesick main female character that had the main male (beautiful, wonderful) character lusting after her all novel was totally trite. The writing style was also a bit weird, almost seemed like she was trying too hard to sound professional. Anyways, it was entertaining, but not really anything I would recommend anyone read, unless it was lying around and they were bored.
  2. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    You're the polar opposite of me, then. Draconic covers abhor me away like vampire breath. :p

    Random book reviews, eh?

    Son of Avonar; Carol Berg

    Carol Berg offers her own garden in Son of Avonar, not the usual drones of contemporary past and present. It stands out enough from other fantasy novels to be distinctive.

    You read a few 1st person narratives you've read them all. The protagonist Serianna, like all outcast, emotionally traumatised females, will of course have that tough-chick-persona. Whether through deliberate attempt or serendipity, Berg has avoided this too much by the interactions her companions impact on her changing emotional spectrum, and how she must adjust to that.

    Setting wise, it's a form of medieval heavily flavoured with Renaissance society. The Leirean king wars offpage with neighbouring independents for conquest, while the middle class nobles indulge in cosy cavorting of invulnerable ideological discourse---a bubble that'll pop in time. Magic is resented and persecuted in Leire, harkening back to a time when its practioners dominated the kingdom with it. A case of lets control everyone to better society that went wrong through self-corruption. The sorcerers were overthrown, and hunted since for revenge.

    Only they actually descend from another world and placed here for reasons you can find out yourself, scattered, forlorn, and abandoned from both homes. Like the vile Spanish Inquisition and the 1492 expulsion that forced select citizenry to adopt covert identities.

    Language is rich with depth and variation. The fight/action scenes are scarce, but mature readers will delight in Berg's mature prose and even occasional witty quips thrown in, even if her companions don't really show much depth and dimensions. It's rare to have such a solid worded book these days, and enjoy it for its rarity.

    Much of the book alternates between present time and four years of flashbacks ten years ago. It's not confusing and spaced out with enough pacing that you are learning as you go. It's during this time you see Seri's close circle of friends swapping liberal ideas and arguing over all sorts of free-thinking ideology. Something you don't actually see in fantasy books, so it's fresh and inventive. Seri meets and mates her hubby Karon, whose intoxicating need to magically heal the needy readers anxiously await and dread to see exposed, as we already know from the present-time state of affairs. Once it's done and Seri's background to current events completed, the flashbacks end and you start moving quickly.

    The quick trip she embarks on to solve her amnesiac's identity and rid herself of that quixotic annoyance starts a game of hide and seek with wizard hunters and dark wizards themselves. Her accompanying companions have their own loyalty, and it's great to see an author who tries to surprise you in the end---if canny readers won't pick up the un/subtle cues along the way. The book goes for 6 weeks, so the pace is reasonable; 3 months with epilogue matters.

    The amnesiac's identity woud have been a surprise if not blatantly revealed in the sequel's backcover, the fool publishers! And the dozens of typos wonders where those editors were.

    The finale confrontation came off as vague, but you can decide for yourself rather than spoil it here. What sets this damn book apart are that the characters Seri has spiderwebbed herself with don't reveal their cards. They're emotionally motivated for different reasons, but believe they're acting for the right reasons, or nefariously induced for others'. What this means is that with Serianna's viewpoint all book long and nobody else's, anyone's true heart is up for grabs until they show it.

    And it's this way of writing, mis/learning as you go, that makes Son of Avonar a worthwhile read in a sea of fantasy drones and blatant ripoffing of each other.

    Orphans of Earth; Sean Williams & Shane Dix

    Orphans of Earth, the second in the Orphans Trilogy, has to be one of the finest novels I have ever read. With all th
  3. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    My book: The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen

    I had already read the Hatchet series by him and wasn't sure what I was going to get when I read this book, but even though it's a survival story Paulsen manages to nail sci-fi dead centre.
    The story begins with Mark camping out in the desert and he falls through this blue light into another world. At first the struggle is for his survival with only minimal supplies (like Hatchet) but eventually he discovers people living some distance away and learns more about the world he has come to live in, called Transall.
    I won't reveal the ending, it's quite a surprise as well as some of the things he finds but I'll make a few point about good elements of the story.
    Language: Obviously there are things you can get away with in a novel that you can't in a film and one of these is alien languages. Paulsen manages to nail this adding to how Mark comes to understand Transall and taking a new identity.
    Fantasy elements: One of these is the idea of a quest, for Mark this is the quest for the blue light as he tries to find his way home and it does leave him quite vulnerable to manipulation.
    Another is his depiction of other cultures. The hardest part of a sci-fi fantasy novel is the back story as this is what makes it convincing. There is the hint or a larger world, a time before when Mark arrives and a few hints as to what happens after the end of the story.
    Characterisation: This is where he falls short as Mark is pretty much the same as Brian in the Hatchet series and the protagonists in Foxman, Harris and Me and undoubtedly a few of his other novels that I can't remember right now. He may even be a Gary Stu but that doesn't mean his character isn't believable, I just wish it wasn't the same as the others he has written.
    Other characters in the story are different, including the antagoists who are very well drawn.

    The only bad part is I no longer have the book as my Dad borrowed it a few months ago, at first he dismissed it as a "kids story" but it does get better as the book goes along. Just keep reading!
  4. Zebra3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2004
    star 5
    Book: Inca Gold by Clive Cussler

    Review: I would say this book is probably at an 8 on the enjoyment scale (out of 10 of course). First of all, what I liked about the book. It really was a fun adventure story. I always like ghost ship/lost ship, treasure hunt/buried treasure, action/adventure stories. There was a lot of really interesting history and background in this story and it really went a long way to filling out the story. The opening chapters with the Incas burying their gold was fascinating. I loved how it gave the treasure history and character. The bad guys were also over the top baddies but I always like that. Introducing a family full of art thieves that also runs an international smuggling ring was a nice touch. I would have liked to have seen more than just three of the brothers, however.

    Now for the gripes, and they really are much the same as my ones for Sahara. The difference here is that I was actually able to finish the book. Dirk Pitt is too perfect. I made a prediction in another thread that the woman he saved in the begining was falling in love with him and I was sort of right. "Sort of" only because not long after they met she started ignoring him, too busy on her archaeological dig and then they parted ways. I thought that was a nice touch, having a woman give Pitt the cold shoulder. Cussler disappointed me when he brought her back into the story and by the end had her regretting the fact that she hadn't been more receptive to his attentions and had her envying this other chick Pitt had hooked up with. Lame. Everything he does is TOO right. TOO many people like him. TOO many people think too highly of him. It's really quite annoying to hear so many people praise him. I'm finding it easier to ignore, however, and I'm trying to not let him distract me from the REAL story. The other thing that bothered me? Cussler stroked his ego once again and put himself into his own story. Tacky. As soon as I saw that he was doing it again I immediately skipped the last part of that chapter.

    The annoyances were easily ignored and I quite liked this book.
  5. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    Time to up this, since it's a great thread.

    I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. It's about a girl who is sentenced to die, who is offered the chance to live and become the poison taster for the military dictator of her country. It's a really well-written book; I couldn't put it down.

    It's written in first-person with a female narrator, so I don't know how much guys would enjoy it, but I got really into it; I couldn't put it down.

    Thte second book, Magic Study, involves Yelena going back to her home country to develope her magical abilities. Not nearly as good as the first one; nevertheless, it drew me in enough that I had a hard time putting it down to go to class. And my favorite character, Valek (the dictator's spy-master, assassin, and right-hand man, as well as Yelena's love interest) comes back, which made me happy :)

    The third book, Fire Study, comes out in 2007, and I'm really excited about it.
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