Sunday, October 7, 2007

Down River by John Hart

Down River by John Hart

Published: 10/07

I know it's been awhile since I've posted a new review. Chalk it up to laziness. Not that I haven't read anything worth reviewing. Actually there's been a few, Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, and a few others have been great books, worth blogging about. I've just been lazy.

But Down River is one of the best books I've read all year. It is a thriller indicative of early John Grisham, (and by early, I mean A Time To Kill early). It grabs you, sucks you in & only finally lets you go at the end.

Down River is a story about family dysfunction, secrets buried deep, and what some people will do to keep those secrets buried.

The story follows Adam Chase as he returns home to Rowan County, North Carolina after five years gone. Five years ago, Chase was accused of murder. The community turned on him, even his stepmother testified against him. And this caused Chase's father to also turn on him. Chase was eventually found innocent, but the damage had been done. Having been shunned by his family, and most of his friends, he takes off for New York.

Until one day he gets a call from an old friend asking him to come home. Chase reluctantly does so, and within minutes of being back, he finds himself wrapped up in new trouble that's been brewing while he was gone.

Chase finds out that a power company wants to buy a good chunk of land in the community to build a nuclear power plant. The deal would make a lot of people in the county very rich. But Chase's father is refusing to sell. And since he holds the biggest chunk of land, the deal hinges upon him.

Also living on Chase's family farm is Dolf, a longtime farmhand & friend to Chase's father, and his Granddaughter, Grace. Minutes after seeing Chase for the first time in five years, Grace is brutally attacked. And naturally with his past, blame starts to fall on Chase.

And to tell you anymore would give it away. But needless to stay, in the grand traditions of good thrillers, a few bodies show up & secrets are revealed.

Down River is a really good read, and my only complaint is that I tore through it too fast. But that's a testament to the book, not bad thing at all.
This was Hart's second book & needless to say, it won't be long till I track down his first book King of Lies!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Published by Ballantine Books 03/07
Rating : 9
448 pages ISBN: 9780345495167

What happens when your best friend is destined to save a world, but she just has jus been put out of commission?

Un Lun Dun answers that question very well!

China Mieville is best known for his dark gritty fantasy novels for adults that are set in the world of Bas-Lag. (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, & Iron Council. Which if you haven't read & like dark, gritty, weird fantasy, run, don't walk to your local bookstore!) But Un Lun Dun is intended for young adults. But don't let that keep you away from this great novel. Like a lot of other great young adult novels, this one can be enjoyed by any ages.

Zanna & her best friend Deeba live in London, and one day after some weird events find themselves transported (Like any great fantasy story.) to Un Lun Dun. Un Lun Dun is an Abcity, a place where all the lost & broken things in London end up. A lot of things in Un Lun Dun are what the locals call Moily, mildly obsolete in London. It is a place where all the rubbish, old currency & broken umbrellas go.

Un Lun Dun is populated by a number of strange people & creatures. (Much like Mieville's other books.) Giraffe's hunt the streets & attack the unwarry, & old milk cartons make good pets.
Once in Un Lun Dun, Zanna & Deebe find out that Zanna is the "Zhwazzy". THe Zhwazzy is the Chosen one who is prophesied to save both Un Lun Dun & London from the dark, mysterious Smog! But shorty after arriving Zanna is attacked & put out of commission. And can no longer act as the chosen one. Can Deeba pick up where she left off & save the world?

Un Lun Dun touches upon a number themes including environmentalism, class, politics, & destiny. But none of the themes with the exception of environmentalism is heavily forced upon you. (And the environmental messgae is a good one.) One of the things that I liked that it touched upon was Choice. We are who we choose to be, not what a prophesy says we are, or who we have to be. A great message for the younger readers venturing into this novel.

The other great thing in this novel is the way Mieville plays with words. Words literally come to life at times in this story. And Mieville's play on words is so wonderfully subtle, sometimes you won't even catch them. And when you do you be giggling at how he does it. And one other really neat thing is that Mieville supplys a number of black & white sketches that help illustrate this world throughout the book.

Overall this is a beautifully written book, with characters you genuinely care about & want to root for. If you like the young adult books that Neil Gaiman & Clive Barker have done over the last few years, then you will love this book!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things: By John Connolly
Publication date: November 2006
Started: 08/01/2006 Finished: 08/07/2006
Rating: 8 3/4 Pages: 339

First of all let me say how much this book surprised me. Connolly is best known for a series of crime novels starring his character of Charlie "Bird" Parker (Starting with the novel Every Dead Thing.). A tough ex-cop who gets involved in crimes with a slight supernatural twist. While these novels are very good, they are somewhat totally different than what Connolly is doing here with The Book of Lost Things. And different here is very good!
The novel starts out in World War II era London. The main character , David, is dealing with the impending death of his Mother who is very sick, and whom he loves very much. So much in fact that he starts little rituals to help "protect" her. These rituals are very OCD like and needless to say they don't work. His Mother passes away, leaving David & his Father to fend for themselves.
As he growing up, David's Mother instilled in him a love of Books & stories. And now David takes solace in those stories to lessen the loss of his Mother.
So time goes by & David & his Father become closer, but eventually his Father falls in love with another woman named Rose. And of course this doesn't sit well with David. He refuses to get along with her. And on top of that, he starts experiencing seizures that are accompanied by weird dreamlike visions of another land. And after the seizures he finds that he can "hear" the books on his shelves. He could "hear" them talking to him & amongst themselves!
It's then that David's Father tells him that Rose is pregnant, and he's going the have a brother, and they'll all going to move out of London to escape the bombings. So they pack up & move to Rose's family's house in the country. A huge crumbled down old mansion covered in Ivy. David gets a room filled with all kinds of old books. At of course not being very happy there, he retreats into them. And his relationship with his new step-mother deteriorates more & more. And he looks upon his new Brother with disinterest & jealousy. He does take solace in exploring the grounds of the house & finds a hidden garden that he uses as his "escape" when he wants to be alone.
One day he's down in this garden & he looks up at the window of his room. And he sees a strange looking man in his room looking through his books. Naturally he freaks out, runs & tells his Father, who then goes up to his room to check it out. The only thing he finds is a bird trapped in the room.
Shortly after this David's relationship with his step-mother comes to a head, and they end up shouting at each other, and Rose slaps him. When David's Father comes home he blames David & sends him to his room. Later, in the middle of the night, something unknown wakes David up. He can't figure out what woke him up, so he sneaks out of the house, down to the hidden garden. As he's heading out there, a German bomber is blown up in the sky above & the wreckage falls towards David in the Garden. David retreats further into the garden & finds himself the hollow of a tree (Which in tales like this, always seem to go deeper than they should.) So he finds his way out & realizes that he's now in another world!
Once he's in the other world he hears what he thinks as his dead Mother's calling to him to come rescue her. So he sets off to find her. Along the way he meets up with different people who try to help him or hinder him. (Some of these characters you may recognize from fairie tales, some you may not.) All while trying to dodge the evil Crooked Man, The man who he saw through his bedroom window earlier in the story. The Crooked Man tempts him with a way home, but at what cost?
The Book of Lost Things is a wonderful coming of age set against a fairie tale world. If you like stories like Stephen King's The Talisman, or Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, you'll love this story.

The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Published by Bantam Books 07/06
Rating: 9, 499 pages

To start off The Lies Of Locke Lamora is probably the most impressive debut novel that I've stumbled across in awhile. I'd been hearing some buzz about this book before it was published, but the cover blurb by George R.R. Martin is what eventually caught my eye. And so I picked it up & was very pleasantly surprised & very happy that I did.

Lynch has done what so many Fantasy writers in the post Harry Potter/ Lord Of the Rings Movies landscape have failed to do, created a living, breathing world in which to tell his stories in. And he's also created a wonderful new character in Locke Lamora.

The best description I seen for this book rings very true. One reviewer stated that Lies read like a "fantasy" Ocean's Eleven.
And I totally agree.

The book follows the main character of Locke Lamora and his "family", The Gentleman Bastards. The Gentleman Bastards are a group of thieves that steal from the wealthy nobles of Camorr simply for the challenge & fun of it. Lynch paints them as slightly "Robin Hood" like.

The book flashes back & forth in time. The stories set in the past tell how Locke Lamora, an orphan, is raised by a master thief named Chains. Chains manages to teach Locke the ways of thieving even though Locke is severely a pain in the ass & very head-strong. The main story focuses on Locke & his band all grown up & planning their "ultimate" con.
However the balance of power among the thieves in Camorr is starting to shift. The local "Godfather", Capa Barsavi, is feeling his crime empire threatened by a mysterious figure known as the Gray King. The Gray King is slowly killing Capa's most trusted men.
Locke & his Gentleman Bastards find themselves caught in the middle of a massive gang war, with the Gray King using them as unwilling pawns in his plan to take over the criminal underworld of Camorr.

The story unfolds at a swashbuckling pace. Lynch manages to mix adventure & humor together in very fine fashion. And the "flashback" chapters are as well done as the main story. Lynch also shapes the world around Locke convincingly. Bringing Camorr to life in my mind's eye as I followed the story.

Overall is Lies is a very enjoyable read & a solid debut from an author that I'm looking forward to reading new things from in the future. Throughout the book Lynch develops a few story threads that go unanswered. Deftly setting up future books set in Locke's world. (Red Seas Under Red Skies, the follow-up is slated for a late July release in hardcover. While Lies comes out in paperback in June.)

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
Publishing date: September 26th 2006
Rating: 9 Pages: 384

First off before I start this review let me say that I may be a bit biased on Gaiman, since he's my favorite author period.

Back 1998 Gaiman published a collection of short stories called Smoke & Mirrors. Published mainly for the hardcore fans, since short story collections usually don't sell very well for an author. Much to Gaiman's surprise S&M did really well. And continues to do really well even now 8 years later. Which brings us to Fragile Things, Gaimans first short story collection since S&M. And like S&M Fragile Things is poised to have a long life. Gaiman in my opinion is one of the masters of the Short Story. Much like Harlan Ellison & Kelly LInk, Gaiman has the ability to shove a lot into just a few pages.

This collection includes several short stories, a few poems, and a novella. Many of which are some of Gaiman's best.

One story crossbreeds a Sherlock Holmes story with a Lovecraftian story with magnificent results. Another finds the months of the year sitting around a campfire telling stories. Instructions is a poems that's exactly that, instructions of what to do if you find yourself in the land of Faerie. Bitter Grounds looks at the coffee girls legend from New Orleans. The Problem of Susan looks at what could have happened to Susan from the Narnia books. And the book's endspiece, The Monarch Of The Glen follows the futher adventures of Shadow, the main character from Gaiman's novel American Gods. And my personal favorite is Harlequin Valentine. A story that plays beautifully with the old Harlequin legend.

Overall this is a strong collection that can serve as an introduction to Gaiman for new fans. Or can be a nice treat for established fans.

Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks

Armageddon's Children: by Terry Brooks
Publication date: August 29th 2006
Rating: 8 1/4 Pages: 384

Terry Brooks is has three series that he's written over the years. His most popular ones are the Shannara books, which are traditional fantasy novels. And another series he has is "The Word & Void" series, which takes place in the modern day, and is a dark urban fantasy series. Brooks has long hinted that the two series are linked. That The Word & Void books are the past history of the Shannara books. And that brings me to the new book. Armageddon's Children is the first book of a new series that begins to string together his two previous series.
This book picks up about 80 years beyond the events of the last book in the "Word & Void" series, Angel Fire East. The world we know has descended into chaos. Anarchy is the norm. Cities are in ruin. And what's left of humanity, are huddled together in walled encampments in a few key cities.
The action revolves around four main story lines. The first one follows Logan Tom. Logan is one of the last Knight of the Word. A Knight of the Word is an agent of the Word. IN this story, since the dawn of time The Word & the Void have struggled for supremacy. An ancient battle between Good & Evil. During the time setting of this story, The Void has the upper hand. And the balance has been shifted towards evil. Plagues have killed thousands. Mutants have begun to emerge from the shadows. And Demons roam the land making slaves of what's left of humanity. Raiding & destroying what's left of the cities.
Logan is sent on a mission by Two Bears, a Native American who is an agent of good, to find a being of immense power that has gone into seclusion since the events of Angel Fire East. Anyone who's read AFE, will remember the Gypsy Morph.
The next group of characters we're introduced to are The Ghosts. The Ghosts are a group of street kids who live on the fringe of what was once Seattle. The Ghosts are lead by the oldest child, Hawk. The Ghosts manage to barely scrape out an existence and survive in the wastes that were once a great city. There is an encampment of of survivors within the city, but they stay behind walls & shun any outsiders.
The city for the Ghosts is starting to become to dangerous to stay in. And Hawk is torn between keeping the Ghosts in the city, or trying to lead them out into the wilderness where they might be safer. But water & supplies are getting harder & harder to find. So he's not sure which would be the best. One day the Ghosts are attacked & their Guard dog Cheney is mortally injured. Hawk is nearly inseparable with Cheney & this weighs heavily upon him. IN the night when he's distraught, Hawk finds, to his surprise, that he's magically able to heal Cheney. Is Hawk more than meets the eye?
The next character we meet is Angel Perez. Angel is also a Knight of the Word. She travels from city to city trying warn who she can about the Demons that are slowly destroying any cities they come across. Angel has also been sent on a mission to find an ancient talisman of power, the Elfstone.
Now since this book is only the beginning of at least a trilogy, these different story-lines only begin to come together. And in typical fashion as of late Brooks leaves you wanting more. There is also another smaller story-line that follows a group of Elves who are also looking for the Elfstone. Overall this is a strong debut for this series & like I said Brooks definitely leaves you wanting. And I'm really interested to see where this story goes.