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Book review thread

Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Mon Dec 13, 2004 10:49 am

Figured I might do so much as to get us all posting about those funny little things that are largely made up of paper and have more text than pictures so...

Acorna, the Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball

And, since I'm reading the third book in this series, here is a good place to start.

This book started a series of what is now seven books. This series details the adventures of Acorna, an alien girl who is found by three prospectors.

The book opens with Acorna's parents as their space cruiser is attacked by a deadly race known as the Khleevi. Unfortunately, there is (of course) only one escape pod, and so young Acorna is sent off while they blow up the ship (and therefore destroy the Khleevi). I should note that Acorna is largely covered by fur, has long hair, hooves for feet and one joint missing in her fingers.

From there, the book gives us three adventures as Acorna is found, then taken through cruel psychological tests (where the examiners threaten to remove her horn--which is used to clean and purify various things), nearly bought by the future's "Neo-Hadithian" answer to the otaku and then swept up in a crusade against the leading political party on a planet where child labour and prostitution are legal and commonplace.

The stories above largely have little to tie them together, but they do serve to introduce characters who become major players in later novels, and set events in motion on the planet Kezdet. That said, it's still a decent book, although hardly up to the classic status of Decision at Doona.

Acorna's Quest by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball

Here, the story settles down a bit. Acorna, the young child who saved so many on Kezdet (and won so many hearts in the process) has decided that she must find her own kind. So off she goes with Calum. Unfortunately, had she waited around a little bit longer, she might have noticed that her own race, the Linyaari, decided to pop in for a visit. This space crew, who talk telepathically, are trying not only to find the missing girl, but also warn anyone they can find that the Khleevi are still around. Meanwhile, a group of terrorists have taken a space station hostage...and Acorna's the only one who can stop them.

This is certainly an improvement here--not only is it funny to see Thariinye being arrogant, but the scenes on the station actually do create a sense of thrill--especially with the fate of an entire planet at hand. Surprisingly, some characters, such as Kisla Manjari, do not appear in this one, but she is not missed.

The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarbrough

Rose Samson is a disgruntled cop who no longer believes in fairy tales. So, when she wishes for a fairy godmother for "the whole damned city of Seattle". she's really surprised when her wish gets answered by a bona fide Godmother named Felicity Fortune. And, from then on, it's all-out chaos. A talking cat helps a homeless man. Two children (Hank and Gertie) are kidnapped by a man with less-than-honourable intentions. The daughter of a superstar runs away from her jealous stepmother, who ends up giving her an incredibly potent joint. And a girl has a horse named Punkin. However, Fairy Godmothers work on a budget, and so things are a little bit harder to resolve...

This is indeed grimmer than Grimm, but it's also hilarious. Apparently, in the original stories, Oedipus and Electra complexes abounded. I should warn you though, that the Hank and Gertie story takes up a substantial part of the book and covers an extremely sensitive subject, so this book isn't for the squeamish in that regard. Otherwise, you'll probably be cacking your head off.
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Thu Jan 13, 2005 12:08 pm

Ummm...ok...I take it nobody wants to recommend any books?

Anyway...

A Place in the Bay (Home and Away) by Jane Anderson

This is the fourth book based on the rather good Aussie soapie Home and Away. Unfortunately, I'm not that big a fan of the soap (although I have seen the comparatively-excellent DVD of Hearts Divided), so I can't tell you whether or not this book is taking place in the continuity of the previous three (which follow on from the Hearts novelization) or just starting its own story based on continuity from a later point--all I really have to go on are a few references to Kane and Kirsty, who now appear to be a couple.

However, this book is not about them or Kirsty's sister Dani. Instead, it's about Tasha Andrews, a girl that Irene Roberts found in the bush. At the beginning, the book gives us a rather helpful backstory--Tasha is actually the daughter of Angie Russel, the most hated woman in Summer Bay. Angie ended up dead at the hands of her own son, Duncan, and Tasha was brought up in a survivalist camp. So when Tasha and Irene go back to the camp to find out more, they discover a chest containing guns, cash and two letters--one of which contains Tasha's real father's name.

Irene decides to bury the guns, but before she and Alf can do so, Tasha stashes one of them in her room. However, Alf's son Duncan somehow finds out, and suddenly it feels as though the whole world has betrayed her. First, Duncan blackmails her in order to get a ticket to New York. Then Kim and Robbie find the gun and dispose of it. Irene finds the letters and reads them. And finally, Kim lies to Tasha to get her to part with her money.

The writing here is about as good as it gets for the show. Which is admittedly not the world's highest standard (although it could give the Americans something to learn from, being only half an hour long). I actually like the show myself (to the extent that I'm holding out for a copy of the next DVD), and my recommendation of the book is pretty much a given.

Oh, and since I have to state a bad thing...I didn't much like the ending.
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Fri Mar 18, 2005 3:24 am

Spiral by Koji Suzuki

I'm a bit of a fan of the Ring franchise. Ive seen all-bar-two of the theatrical movies (the two being the Korean Ring Virus and the American The Ring Two), an episode of Ring Final Chapter (which really REALLY sucked) and read the first two books (I have yet to find the third and fourth).

The second book picks up a week after the first one left off. Ryuji, Asakawa, Shizu and Yoko are all dead, and with them Sadako's curse. But deranged dead psychic girls don't stay dead for very long, and Dr Mitsuo Ando is called in to do an autopsy on Ryuji's body. It's bizarre enough to find Ryuji dead from smallpox. But then a weird message is found in code on a piece of paper. And Ando is given a strange video that was found in Asakawa's car. Now, with Ryuji's girlfriend Mai Takano, Ando must find out exactly what it was that killed Ryuji.

Now here's how to do a sequel. Don't rehash the plot, but instead add a new twist. What's better is that it balances scientific and supernatural explanation--the deaths are easily explained, but the tape is not. This is something that both adaptations (the second one was a TV series) and Ring 2 couldn't do properly--both put the science in front.

Another thing to comment about is the translation--it is excellent. Of course, why I'm saying this about a translation of a best-seller is a good question. Maybe it's because there have been really bad English versions of popular foreign movies (ie Akira, Sailor Moon). Maybe it's also to remind you that the book is easily available.

The book has been adapted for the big screen as Rasen, a rather boring affair where only Hideyuki Nakama and Miki Nakatani appeared as their characters from the first movie. The movie also shows Sadako's face and gets a major detail completely and utterly wrong. It has since been replaced in its official status by Ring 2.
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Post by Cardcaptor Takato » Fri Mar 18, 2005 9:25 am

The Marvelous Land Of Oz-L. Frank Baum.

I'm not sure if this should belong here or in the Oz thread, since it's a review for a book, but it's also about Oz, so I hope I can post this here. ^^;; The Marvelous Land Of Oz is the second book in the Oz series. Dorothy has returned home to Kansas after defeating the Wicked Witch of the East. Peace has returned to Oz and now the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion are ruling different parts in the land of Oz. The story begins with a young boy named Tip who is a slave to the witch, Mombi, who some suspect practice magic arts that are forbidden in Oz. While Mombi is out, Tip devises a scheme to scare the old hag by making a man with a pumpkin head and naming him "Jack Pumpkinhead." His plan works, but Mombi soon catches on to him and instead of destroying Jack, she uses her magic powder of life to turn the tables on Tip by bringing Jack to life. After Mombi finds him, she threatens to turn Tip into a statue, so while she's asleep, he and Jack escape to the Emerald City only to find it about to be captured by the all-female Army of Revolt led by General Jinjur. Tip and Jack help the Scarecrow to escape and they fleed to the Tinman's palace to try and figure out a way to defeat Jinjur and return the Emerald City to its rightful owner, but is that rightful owner the Scarecrow, Jinjur, or someone else?

While The Marvelous Land Of Oz isn't a timeless classic like The Wondeful Wizard Of Oz, it's still a very worthwhile read and a really fun book. It's interesting to read an Oz story that doesn't include Dorothy for a change, and while we do get to see the return of familiar Oz favorites, such as the Scarecrow and the Tinman, we're also introduced to a lot of new characters, my two favorites of the bunch being Jack and the Saw Horse. Jack is just plain silly and I like the arguments he sometimes gets in with the Saw Horse. My least favorite of the new characters would have to be Professor Wooglebug. Although his occasional puns were always funny, there's just something about him and his attitude that really bugs me (no pun intended).

When I first read this book, I was a little confused because the Mombi in this book was so different than the Mombi in Return To Oz, but then I read that Disney had merged her character with another one much like MGM did with the Good Witches in the first film. While the Return To Oz version of Mombi is more creepier than the original version, the Mombi in the book does use some interesting illusion spells that I really liked and wished had been included in Return To Oz. Anyway, my favorite line from this book is "Everything in life is unusual until you become accustomed to it". This is actually very true and I wish more people would apply this to their lives, especially the next time they laugh at someone that they think is "weird". This book also marks the first appearance of Ozma who is certainly an interesting character, but I can't say what I think about her yet because she doesn't appear until late in the story. However, I can say that I'm now looking forward to reading Ozma Of Oz. Overall, this book was just a really fun read and while it's not a personal favorite, I really enjoyed it and recommend it to any Oz or fantasy fan.
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Post by DreamEmpress » Thu Mar 24, 2005 4:35 am

To be honest, I wasn't sure if any of the books I love would be of any interest to anyone. But then again, I won't know till I try.

Beauty: A retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

This is Robin McKinley's first book. It's about Beauty (Whose real name is Honor). She's the odd child of her family. Her older sisters, Hope and Grace, are extremly beautiful and Beauty is very plain, but she's also takes after her father by being very smart and hard working. Grace is engaged to the Captain of one of her father's ships and one day his ships are lost at sea and his entire business fails. They are forced to move to Blue Hill, the home of Hope's husband.

They recieved word of one of the lost ships and the father goes to investigate, only on the way back he gets lost and spends the night in the Beast's castle. He makes the mistake of taking a rose and is forced to send one daughter back or return himself. Beauty goes with him back to the castle, much to the protest of her entire family. She soon discovers the castle is enchanted with invisible servants, halls that correct you if you get lost and a library with books that aren't even written yet. But even she goes through some changes on many different levels.

I don't want to spoil the ending. It's a wonderful read and I encourage it to anyone who loves a good romance and fairy tale.

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

This is a prequel to her other book, The Blue Sword. I recommend reading both. This one is about Aerin, who is the daughter of the King of Damar and a woman of the North, who is whispered to be a witch. She died when Aerin was a baby and was said to morn because the baby wasn't a boy. Aerin is often shunned by the court and considered to be unworthy of her title. Only Tor sees past all of that and wishes to marry her.

But one day she hears about the growing dragon problem and goes on her own to fight them. With her potions to protect her from fire, she slays many of them, but one dragon becomes too much and almost kills her during battle. A mage named Luthe finds her and heals her. He teaches her the truth about her mother and the true terror that lies in the hills beyond Damar. Only with the Blue Sword will she be able to free her people and herself. And decide between Tor and Luthe, who holds her heart.

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

First off, I recommend anything by VVV. She's just an awesome author and you'll love all her books.

This book is about Giannine has a coupon for her birthday to go to the virtual reality archade to play any game she wants. Outside the archade, protesters for the organization Citizens to Protect Our Children are causing a scene. She goes inside and chooses Heir Apparent, the story of an illegitimate heir to the late king's throne who must retreive a magic ring and prove to everyone she is worthy to be the next king, instead of his other sons. Every choice she makes could make or break her. And every time she dies, she goes right back to the start.

But the system malfunctions and she's trapped inside the game. Now she has to finish the game or she's finished for real! Not everything in the game is what it seems and she has to figure out who she can trust and who will stab her in the back.

A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde

Jenny is a plain princess in a poor kingdom. In fact it's sometimes hard to tell her apart from the peasants. However, she is kind and willing to help anyone...even a concieted prince who is looking for a wife. Out of bordom he takes her into the forbidden woods and happen upon the cottage of a very powerful witch. When he decides to steal her mirror, the mirror fights back and curses him to sleep until someone can break the spell. Now Jenny has to find a way to help him. Through her persistance, she gains an ally, the wizard Norman and they travel to the witch's lair to remove the curse from her so called prince charming. Luckily along the way she discovers that your perfect match isn't always the one you expect. (This is just a funny story. You'll love it)

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem and Stories from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by VVV

These are both collected stories by Vivian. They are twisted fairy tales. The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is 6 different takes on the same story. You'll laugh till you drop at some of the crazy ways this story goes. "Straw into Gold" is my favorite because it's a very cute love story.

The next book is all kinds of different fairy tales. One is about a snobby red riding hood, another is about the princess from the Frog Prince and how she gets dumped by him after he's freed (justice is so sweet). Billy Goats Gruff get their revenge on the troll and each other; and the story of Hansel and Gretel turns into a truely scary nightmare. Plus much much more. I don't want to spoil it too much for you. Trust me, it's too awesome not to read.

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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:57 am

Witches' Chillers #1: Witches' Night Out by Silver RavenWolf

Say what you will about Silver Ravenwolf. She is hardly an authority on witchcraft and certainly can be condemned for luring teens over by emphasizing the darker aspects of Christianity's history and the idea that Wicca is based on the old Druid religions. In fact, she's the Wiccan Jack Chick. Or the anti-Schnoebelen. But I will say this: she certainly does a decent imitation of Charmed.

Of course, the concept of the stories is different, but the execution is similar. This time, the series centres around a teen coven called Witches' Night Out, whose only similarity to the Halliwell sisters is that they cast spells. None of these five witches have any special powers, and anything that may look like magic is solely effect--a window explodes and some dogs eat a body. Also, these girls have a mentor. The only other difference is that these books are unafraid to use the word "shit" (although I will admit it does appear awkward and forced).

The leader of the coven is high-school girl Bethany Salem, who has been obsessing over the death of her boyfriend Joe. Joe died in a car crash, but Bethany doesn't think of it as anything but murder. So she calls circle to find the killer, but bites off more than she can chew when she summons the Hounds of the Wild Hunt. Suddenly, the coven's only male member's sister is stalking them, they are betrayed to the world (and nearly expelled by a principal who even vaguely resembles a pig). And their maid suddenly reveals herself.

However much like Charmed the story is and however bunny-like RavenWolf is, her forté is in capturing what it feels like to be a teen. You think adults hate you (in fact, in this book, a few adults are bigoted). School is divided into cliques. And your friends can easily turn against you. It helps that the dialogue--aside from the two occurences of the aforementioned cussword--is fairly well written and believeable.

And, for those suckered in enough, it even contains a spell at the end. Whether or not it works is at this point undetermined (at least by me), but feel free to try it.
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Thu Jul 07, 2005 11:07 am

Fearless #1 by Francine Pascal

I like girly stuff. Not a lot of girly stuff mind you, but I have delighted in playing with my sister's My Little Ponies (well, when she was into that) and reading the Baby-Sitters Club books. I also read two Pine Hollow books but then figured it wasn't worth reading (especially since that TV show of The Saddle Club was so awful). I also saw a few episodes of the Sweet Valley High TV show, although I never read those books. I can, however, safely assume that they were aimed at a similar audience.

Francine Pascal most recently has started writing the Fearless and Fearless FBI series, which is quite unlike most other book series aimed at teens.

This first book introduces Gaia Moore, a high-school senior who, for some reason, was born without whatever makes us afraid. Her parents were murdered several years ago, now she lives with a couple named George and Ella in New York City. And she holds black belts in karate, judo, ju-jitsu and muay thai. Her eyesight is amazing, and her reflexes are off-the-chart. So clearly, she's not someone to mess with.

THe book starts as she starts the first day of school. Well, it actually starts before that, after she beats the shit out of a would-be assailant. She does that several times in the book. Anyway, this book also introduces Gaia's new wheelchair-bound friend Ed, her worst enemy Heather and Heather's boyfriend Sam.

And believe it or not, this ranks right under Deenie and Tomorrow, When the War Began as one of the best teen reads I've ever read. Although it doesn't qualify as more than popular fiction, it does have fleshed-out characters (who do the literary equivalent of turning to the camera every few chapters) and it certainly isn't as awfully written as The Saddle Club (but then again, few books can be). And I certainly wouldn't be cautious about recommending this to a teen--although I still prefer Judy Blume.
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Thu Oct 27, 2005 10:34 am

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

In an old bookstore, a young weakling named Bastian Balthazar Bux encounters a strange book. This book, The Neverending Story, has a strange influence on him--first off, he steals it without thinking. Then, as he reads the story of a young boy's quest to save the fantasy world of Fantastica, he finds himself imagining the events vividly. Then he actually sees a face. And finally, he learns that the book is the embodiment of a whole other world, and he is quite literally drawn in.

And a stunning book it is too. It went on to inspire one really good adaptation and a seemingly infinite number of crappy adaptations (at least the animated version got Atreyu's skin colour right--no other version has). It is certainly a book that could be done right today, especially after Lord of the Rings has made lengthy fantasies bankable. Indeed, I would be interested in seeing a more faithful interpretation of the end of Fantasia/Fantasien/Fantastica.

But enough about that. Now I'm going to go all esoteric on you. The journey Bastian takes is clearly allegorical--he enters Fantastica as a child and returns as an adult. All bits are represented--the sudden gaining of strength in exchange for the loss of the things he's loved, Bastian's idealizing himself as Atreyu, seduction by darkness (represented by the witch Xayide), and his changing relationship with his father. All of these were unceremoniously left out of the movies and TV series--one of which had Bastian learning one lesson an episode, the other playing the story as a conventional kids show (and introducing an unnecessary character). Even if you hated the first movie, I'm sure you'll like the book.
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:48 am

The Jewel Kingdom #3: The Emerald Princess Plays A Trick by "Jahnna N. Malcolm"

I don't know why I have this book under my bed. It was just there, with a lot of books that I've never really expressed interest in. And a lot of other crap from my childhood. This one is in my house thanks to my sister. Who had outgrown this sort of book by four years when it was first released.

Anyway, the Jewel Kingdom series should be gaining notoriety among lovers of good fantasy. It doesn't even get to the height of the Worst Witch books. Basically, it's about a kingdom, ruled over by King Regal and Queen Jemma, who divide it between their four princesses, all of whom are identified by a jewel-shaped birthmark. We have Roxanne (Ruby), Emily (Emerald), Sabrina (Sapphire) and Demetra (Diamond). ALl of these girls are waaaaay too young to take on full responsibility, and all are advised by an animal. oh, and they all have magic items given to them by the great wizard Gallivant.

This one concerns Emily, who rules over Greenwood. Emily's a bit of a practical joker, and she's this close to being overthrown. But then, King Bleak's evil minions the Darklings decide to capture everybody, and so Emily must apologize and do stuff to save the day.

And it's told in the most boring way possible. The book has shoddy exposition--someone should remind the authors of the concept of "show, don't tell" (particularly in reference to Emily's magic pan flute), poor dialogue and a menace that is as threatening as a person in a hood can get without actually being at all threatening. It is quite hard to believe that Roxanne is scared of them.

All in all, if you want a book series to encourage a five-year-old to read, get the Worst Witch series. Not only are they infinitely better, but they've produced an entertaining TV show to boot (and one wonders why this one is overlooked in the Harry Potter furor).
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Post by Jusenkyo no Pikachu » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:24 am

Jane Blonde: Sensational Spylet by Jill Marshall

In the world of spy fiction, you often have a whole bunch of odd organizations creep up. These start with the very real CIA, SIS and KGB, and then branch out into the Gallagher Academy (Hogwarts for spy girls) and Solomon Polificational Industries...which, apparently, recruits spies at a very young age and gives its female members ridiculous names.

Janey Brown is your typical high school outcast--to the point where she has no friends and the only person who'll even talk to her is a cleaner's kid with a strange voice. But then, one day, she gets entrusted with an envelope that turns out to have a message from her elusive Uncle Solomon, an enigmatic man who runs Solomon Polificational Industries (SPI). Yes, an enigmatic man is trusting his important messages to a high school kid. To help her figure out the message, Solomon has sent her godmother, known only as "G-Mamma", to activate her and train her in the ways of the Spylet. It turns out her mother is really Gina Bellarina, and Solomon mindwiped her to keep Janey out of danger. But the Sinerlesse have a way of being total douches and putting everyone in danger (and, to Janey's trained mind, using really silly dingbats).

Here's the thing: Once we're entirely clear on what's going on, it becomes clear that the writer just wants us to believe whatever batshit insane plot twists she can throw at us. We're supposed to expect that the Sinerlesse managed to not only get a marriage record, but also work their way through 37 other people without looking like a bunch of nutters? Or how about spylets dressing in reflective silver catsuits? I would suspect that dressing in something reflective would be least conducive to stealth and therefore a surefire way to not get into Universal Exports, but that's just me. And then there's a really weird reveal that the Sinerlesse are posing under names that are odd anagrams based on a dingbat. It telegraphs the plot point. Badly.

If ypu're looking for a book to entertain a pretten daughter, go for the Gallagher Girls. Or Harry Potter.
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If you're reading this, then you've lost the game.

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