Wednesday, November 29, 2006

'Wintersmith' by Terry Pratchett

ISBN: 0060890312
ISBN-13: 9780060890315
Format: Hardcover, 336pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Price: $16.99

The best part of a Terry Pratchett novel is the humor. Before you pick one up you have to prepare yourself to burst with laughter. You will laugh out loud in public places (if you read at work, on a plane, train, or automobile) and people will look at you like you have lobsters crawling out of your ears. And the best part? You won‘t be able to help yourself - it‘s Terry Pratchett.

In May 2003 The Wee Free Men hit the shelves of bookstores everywhere and the world came to know Tiffany Aching, another character in the long list of the fantastic Discworld cast. Tiffany is a young witch from the rolling Chalk Hills, where her family owns sheep. Everyone knew that chalk didn’t make a good witch - you need good firm rock for that, but Tiffany proved them all wrong. On June 1, 2004 A Hat Full of Sky brought us Tiffany’s second adventure in which she proves that she could hold her own against the things that go bump in the night, as well as grumpy old witches.

is the third, and hopefully not the last, of Tiffany Aching’s adventures. Tiffany is on the verge of becoming a teenager, as well as in the middle of learning to be a Witch. Not learning magic, no, because she has that in her already, but learning to control and choose things for herself. Learning not only to make the decision but to stand by it as well.

When the Morris Men gather to dance the Black Morris Dance all the witches go to watch. Through the quiet night they stand to bear witness to the dancers bringing in the winter. Tiffany has never been there before and even though she is told to be quiet and be still, she isn‘t. Her feet start to tap and suddenly she leaps into the middle of the dance.

By stepping into the dance Tiffany has come between Winter and Summer, and she has caught Winter’s eye. Winter follows Tiffany home, spinning roses made of ice and returning a lost keepsake but Tiffany knows that under all the sweet puppy love there is only Winter.

For those of you that have read The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky the Feegle’s are back again providing comic relief as well as large acts of small heroism. The tiny blue tattooed men aren’t going to leave Tiffany alone now that she’s 13. They know she still needs looked after even if she doesn’t and if that means reading her diary, well then so be it.

In the end Tiffany finds that there is power in a simple kiss and in the choices that you make. Again she proves herself to be a Witch to be reckoned with, someone with power and of power. Not to mention there are chickens, but I’ll let you find out about those for yourself.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Club George - The Diary of a Central Park Birdwatcher' by Bob Levy

ISBN: 0312341679
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $24.95

Club George is the heartwarming story of George, the extraordinary Red-winged Blackbird who ignites the author’s interest in all things bird. New York's Central Park might be the last place you would expect to see a variety of wildlife but soon you learn differently. The park is a migration stop for many species of birds, and through the book you get to experience the variety for yourself. Not to mention George.

'The mention of Red-winged Blackbirds struck a chord with her. She turned and said, "You’re ‘George’ aren’t you?” I corrected her saying, “I’m Bob, but I’m a fan of George if that’s what you mean." She explained she did not mean to say that my name was George, but that she knew me to be one of George’s admirers.'

With that, you follow Bob Levy’s transformation from your average Joe into an experienced birdwatcher. You get to peek over his shoulder as he feeds George for the first time, while he comes to know the Downy Woodpeckers Morton and Mary, and meets Canada Geese, Mallards, American Robins, Common Grackles, Northern Cardinals, Nighthawks, Black-crowned Night Herons, and many others.

Throughout the book there are wonderful black and white photographs of the subjects that are written about with such wonder and enthusiasm. It was wonderful to be able to put a face to a name with George, as well as a few other individuals Mr. Levy befriended along the way.

My favorite story about George was when he stole the yellow cake. Mr. Levy had gone out to his usual spot to watch George and found it crowded with other visitors. Not all were there to see George; in fact most were oblivious to the bird perched on his favorite spot. A man with a small baby in a papoose was there. In the man’s hand was a piece of plastic-wrapped yellow pound cake that he waved back and fourth.

George was trained on it, little eyes focused on his goal. The man, still oblivious to George, unwrapped the cake and George seized the moment. He flew in, landing on the cake, digging his beak and claws into the object and flew away again with a large chunk of it. That is a bird with gumption.

Club George: The Diary of a Central Park Bird-Watcher is much more than just a diary about one man or about one bird for that matter. It is full of information for the beginner bird watcher, helpful tips and hints sandwiched between wonderfully funny moments of a life enriched by birds. Mr. Levy has done his research completely and knows exactly what direction to point you in if he lacks an answer. He has such a passion for the avian world that by just picking up this book, it will rub off on you as well. Become a member of Club George; it’s an experience not to be missed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

'Valiant' by Holly Black

ISBN: 0689868235
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Price: $7.99

I am a believer in reading everything you can get your hands on - everything from Literature to bargain rack crap. In between all that I come across some teen fiction once in awhile. One of my favorite authors in the genre is Holly Black. Valiant is her second novel. Her first was Tithe, and both are now fast favorites.

Valerie Russell runs away from home to New York after she finds her mother making out with her boyfriend. Heartbroken and lost, she wanders the city until she is found by three teenagers living on the street - Dave, Luis, and Lolli. Lolli takes Val under her wing, taking her to their underground squat, inviting her to stay with them even though Luis warns against it.

But Val’s new friends survive better than most on the streets and in a more unusual way. New York is full of exiled faeries from the Seelie and Unseelie courts, light and dark of the faerie kingdoms. Ravus is a troll who mixes a drug to keep the iron from killing the faeries living in exile. All over the city faeries are dying and many believe it is because of Ravus. Luis acts as a courier for him with occasional help from Dave but the faeries are becoming suspicious of the humans.

Lolli shows Val that the amber sand does more than just protect the faeries. Lolli and the others call it Nevermore and it gives humans the ability to use glamour as the faeries do. The drug has rules: never take it more than once a day, and never more than just a pinch, but Lolli has very little self-control.

Val and Lolli decide to find the troll that Luis deals with. They travel through the labyrinth of subway tunnels until Lolli points to an opening in the wall; through this they find Ravus’ home. Lolli immediately starts to shove things into her bag as Val looks around the room. Her eyes are drawn to a beautiful sword made of glass. Ravus comes home to find them among his things. Val runs but as soon as she realizes that Lolli has be left behind she returns to fight for her friend.

Val strikes a bargain with Ravus: in return for Lolli she will serve Ravus a week for each item that was shoved into Lolli’s backpack. Val is charged to deliver the Nevermore to the faeries that are waiting for it. When Val finds a dead mermaid, Ravus is blamed and attacked by some of the exiled faeries. Val stands up for him, proving herself to be more than just a human - she a valiant human. Ravus looks at her and really sees her for the first time. It‘s a great moment in the book.

Being that faeries are involved — and we all know faeries are tricky — this isn’t the end. The path that leads them all to the end is full of diversions and traps. Val and Ravus must negotiate each to reach the end successfully, as well as whole. Valiant is a book you don’t want to miss. I waited until it came out in paperback to buy it but now that I’ve read it I’ll have to pick up a hardback copy as well. It is more than worth the price.

Monday, November 20, 2006

'Valley of Silence' by Nora Roberts

ISBN: 0515141674
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $7.99

The third book in the Circle Trilogy is by far the best. Finally everything the six have worked for is coming to be. Hoyt, Glenna, Larkin, Blair, Moira, and Cain have raised and trained an army in the legendary land of Geall and are ready for the battle against Lilith and the dark.

In Morrigon’s Cross Hoyt and Glenna fell in love and married, in Dance of the Gods Larkin and Blair admitted that they loved each other and became engaged. Through both of those books I kept wondering when it was going to be Cain’s turn.

Finally in Valley of Silence does Cain do something about the love for Moira that has been eating away at him from the first. Finally there is passion, fire, and yes — this being a vampire romance — a few bite marks as well.

Lilith has been testing the Circle’s strength, feeling out their weaknesses and trying to plant the seed of doubt in their hearts. She has captured and turned away friends and family, sending them back to the Circle to destroy in an attempt to sway them from their path. The Circle shoulders the burden and with the help of each other they move forward, pushing Lilith into retreat.

Cain struggles with his love for Moira, since he is a vampire and she a human. He knows that they have no future together, that he cannot give her the things she desires. Cain can’t help but be with her while he has the chance, knowing that when they finally part it will be like all light has left his world. Moira would do anything to have Cain stay with her in Geall, but she knows that their time is short.

Finally the battle is fought. Vampires crawl from the earth as darkness falls, a dark sorcerer fights the light, and the Circle battles to keep all worlds safe from the darkness that Lilith thirsts for. The battle is bloody and exacts a cost, but the Circle lives to see the run rise.

I read a review that said the book was predictable. Ok, so maybe a little. It’s a romance novel and there are only so many places one can be taken. You know when you pick up the book that it has a happy ending. So what? Keep reading and find out how you get there. The end does have bit of twist which is fantastic, by the way.

The Circle Trilogy is a great series, one I will read again and again. It‘s a comfort thing, a bath time read or a beach book; the kind of thing that is never a bad choice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

'Dance of the Gods' by Nora Roberts

ISBN: 0515141666
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $7.99

In the second installment of the Circle Trilogy, our heroes have crossed worlds and times through the ring of stones known as the Dance of the Gods, to Geall. They have trained and prepared as best they could for the ultimate battle between good and evil. Already having fought skirmishes with Lilith and her army of undead, in Geall they hope to raise an army of their own.

In Morrigan’s Cross Hoyt the sorcerer and Glenna the witch fell in love, working through their differences and fears. In Dance of the Gods demon hunter Blair and shape-shifter Larkin over come their obstacles to find a way to be and stay together.

The circle of six are still trying to come to terms with the evil that is Lilith. Even Cian the vampire and Blair the hunter, are touched by Lilith’s brutality. But together the six, the circle, must believe and trust that they are enough to beat back the dark that threatens to consume all worlds, not just their own. As they get closer and closer to the appointed date they face tests that could not only break them, but kill them.

The circle, once in Geall, must earn the trust of the people. The world has not been exposed to vampires and so many do not believe. Moira, the future queen of Geall as well as the scholar of the circle, asks Cian, Larkin, and Blair to capture two so that she can show the people. Only once the people believe, once they know, can the circle raise the army they need.

The action in this one has an edge to it that the first book lacked. Time is running out as Larkin and Blair fight the love and need that fills them both. There is a sense of urgency about everything. The characters are more developed and solid to me than in the first book and the evil more present and real.

Dance of the Gods is fantastic. I will keep this book on my shelf and read it again and again. I do recommend though that you read the books in order, as they were written. You would lose a lot if you just picked up the second without reading the first.

Friday, November 17, 2006

'Morrigan's Cross' by Nora Roberts

ISBN: 0515141658
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $7.99

Morrigan’s Cross was released August 29, 2006 and is the first book in The Circle Trilogy. Book two, Dance of the Gods, and book three, The Valley of Silence, are already out as well. One of the reasons I finally decided to pick this book up, besides the vampires, was the fact that I wasn’t going to have to wait to get the whole story. The books all came out within weeks of each other — the last one was released at the end of October.

In this first book we meet six people. A sorcerer, a witch, a shape-shifter, a scholar, a warrior, and one who was lost. The sorcerer, Hoyt, is charged by the goddess Morrigan to travel to the future to bring these people together. They will form an army that must defeat evil in the form of Lilith. She is the ultimate vampire, working to destroy humanity and all the good and light in the world.

Hoyt travels through time, arriving in modern day New York to find two of the circle. The one who was lost is Hoyt’s brother Cain, who had been turned into a vampire by Lilith hundreds of years ago. The witch, Glenna, seeks him out after having a nasty run in with a vampire on the subway. The shape-shifter Larkin and scholar Moira come from another world, Geall the land of legends. The warrior Blair shows up almost at the end of the book but proves she deserves to be the one that completes their circle.

This first book is about the characters learning to put their pain behind them and become a team, a unit of good against the evil. There are a few close shaves while they are still at odds with each other but once they learn to work together they can finally work to defeat the enemy.

A thrilling start to a great series, Morrigan’s Cross is the kind of book you hate to put down but love to pick back up. The characters are great and you get involved at once with their personal stories, waiting with breath held as their lives finally start to intertwine. The action is evenly paced; you don’t feel overwhelmed by a bunch of blood-sucking and towards the end you get a look at things from Lilith’s point of view, which is pretty interesting.

I’ve never read a Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb (her pseudonym) novel before, so I can’t compare it to any of her others. But I enjoyed this one and have already picked up Dance of the Gods. Plus, how can you go wrong with a vampire book?

Friday, November 10, 2006

'The Meaning of Night' by Micheal Cox

ISBN: 0393062031
ISBN-13: 9780393062038
Format: Hardcover, 672pp
Publisher: Norton, W.W. & Company,Inc.
Price: $25.95

The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox was published by McClelland & Steward in September of 2006. This book was started over 15 years ago by Michael Cox and when you pick it up, feel the weight of it in your hands, and begin to read, you know that you are about to be consumed completely by a story that has lived inside this man for 15 years.

With the opening lines of this novel you are swallowed by an intricate compelling story.

'After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper. It had been surprisingly - almost laughably - easy. I had followed him for some distance, after observing him in Threadneedle-street I cannot say why I decided it should be him, and not one of the others on whom my searching eye had alighted that evening.'

Immediately you wonder why. Why has this character, whose own name we are unsure of until later in the book, killed a man whose name he does not know? What we do learn is that this man, Edward Glyver, has been wronged in some terrible way. Edward’s whole life has been altered by one man, Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, from being swindled out of his birthright to having his school career damaged beyond repair. Only Edward can see Daunt for what he really is, a charming, petty, self-absorbed thief.

Each part of Edward’s story is told by him to different people in his life. From Bella, the long-time lover he could never truly love, to his best friend from his school days, Le Grice. Little by little you come to know him and his complicated past. He is careful not to reveal too much to each person, but we as the reader see all, just as he intends us to.

Edward is an obsessive character, driven by this theft of his birthright. He is obsessive about books, a dedicated bibliophile and scholar. Edward tells you himself that he does things you will not like, from his occasional opium use to solicitation. He is only human, doing very human things.

Ten years after his mother's death, Edward finally starts to go through her papers. She was a successful novelist and there are stacks of things for him to sort, and while sifting through the drifts, he find her diaries, small, compact black books that reveal to him his true identity. He is not Edward Glyver but Edward Charles Duport.

For the first time he realizes that he belongs to one of the oldest and most powerful families in all of England. Edward decides to reclaim his rights, his standing in the world. He begins his restoration which brings him closer and closer to Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

Beautifully written, this is a classic in the making. This novel has it all - a dark character you have to follow to the end. It covers the full spectrum of human emotion.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

'Creepers' by David Morrell

ISBN: 1593153570
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384pp
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Price: $7.99

Creepers are the people who explore abandoned houses, hotels, subway tunnels, factories, and old department stores. It is highly illegal and there are a lot of fines and penalties out there for those people that get caught, not to mention the danger that an abandoned building poses; have the floors rotted away, will there be homeless people hiding in the corners, and what wild animals have found a way in out of the weather?

At some point in time, mostly in the teenage years, I’m sure a lot of you have wandered into an old building, maybe in the middle of the night with a flashlight and a friend. I must have spent countless hours exploring an abandoned hotel in the city I live in. I could never make myself look in all the closed hotel rooms. I would clutch a shaking flashlight and hurry to the roof, twelve floors up, and then hurry back down. In one of the rooms I did explore I found a copy of a 1960s Playboy in the nightstand next to a copy of the Bible.

Creepers is a book about the people who have the guts to take a look at it all. Open every door, take a look in the basement, and even thoughtful enough to bring a camera to take some pictures. But the abandoned buildings aren’t always truly abandoned and evil never truly leaves a place it has left its mark on.

Frank Balenger is a reporter doing a story on urban explorers for his newspaper. He is invited to join a group of five preparing to explore The Paragon Hotel on the Jersey Shore. The Paragon has a sad history, being built and owned by a man who feared people and the world. It is scheduled to be demolished in a week’s time.

Through tunnels infested with deformed rats and a cat with three hind legs, the group breaks through a metal door and into the hotel. What they find inside is the hotel as it looked in the Victorian era. Lush furnishings and marble that have been slowly rotting all these years. Carefully exploring rooms, they find evidence of the hotel’s brutal and horribly evil past. What they aren’t expecting is that the evil is still alive and waiting just around the corner.

Parts of this book almost made me jump out of my skin. The tension skyrockets and you just can't put down the book until you find out what happens next. Before you know it's 4 o'clock in the morning on a work day.

Monday, November 6, 2006

'Darcy's Story' by Janet Aylmer

ISBN: 0061148709
Format: Paperback, 277pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $13.95

I am a Jane Austen fan. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites. There have been a lot of Lizzys and Darcys out there. Several writers have picked up the classic love story of these two beloved characters: Linda Berdoll the author of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues and Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley and Elizabeth Aston, author of Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, The True Darcy Spirit, and due out in March of 2007, The Second Mrs. Darcy. There are many others and each interpretation is different.

I always pick up any new story involving my favorite characters. I know deep down that most of the time I’ll be disappointed, but I like to give each one a chance. I buy the book, make myself some tea, and curl up to read. I did the same with Darcy’s Story, but unlike some novels I have come across, this one did not disappoint.

One of the reasons I think that Pride and Prejudice is loved so much is Lizzy. After reading the novel, each of us wants to be her; she is such a strong character. Then you get involved in the love story, one that has remained a favorite for the last two centuries.

Darcy's Story lacks the depth of the original, only skimming the surface of the classic love story. But we do see much more of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s relationship with his sister and his friendship with Bingley. We get to see what Darcy was up to while he was away from Lizzy and Netherfield in London as well. The best part, though, was getting to see the biggest moments out of the book from his point of view.

This book doesn’t give us anything new; it just covers the ground we have walked before, hand in hand with Jane Austen. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth picking up. Think of it as a companion book to the classic, something to pick up when you might not have the time to read Pride and Prejudice, or would just like to see it all from Darcy’s point of view.