Brother Odd is the best installment of the Odd Thomas series yet. Odd has gone off to a monastery/convent/school for disabled kids in the Sierra mount...moreBrother Odd is the best installment of the Odd Thomas series yet. Odd has gone off to a monastery/convent/school for disabled kids in the Sierra mountains to sort out his problems in peace. He's accompanied by the ghost of Elvis Presley, who has developed quite a personality. While Odd is looking for peace, he doesn't find it. Bodaches, harbingers of disaster, start hanging around the children at the school. Odd tries to figure out what is going to happen and learns some lessons along the way.
This book introduces some great characters whom I hope to meet again. I highly recommend the Odd Thomas series even to people who don't like horror. The little bit of horror in these books is quite easy to take.(less)
I'm going to start by saying that I really enjoyed the most recent movie version of I Am Legend. I thought it was really well-done. I knew that it was...moreI'm going to start by saying that I really enjoyed the most recent movie version of I Am Legend. I thought it was really well-done. I knew that it wasn't anything like the book, but it was a good movie as it was. It's one of those movies that I'm glad I saw without having the book in my head to contrast it to.
That said, I enjoyed the book immensely too. It is very different than the movie, and that's okay. They can be different and each can be judged on it's own merits. I was a bit surprised to learn that I Am Legend was first published in 1954. It's definitely part of the genre of Cold War post-apocalyptic fiction. It's really interesting how much staying power the novel has. The setting is Los Angeles 20 years in the future, from 1954. Robert Neville is the last normal human in a town taken over by bacteria-infested vampire zombies. Matheson always calls them vampires, but they've got some very zombie-like tendencies. I really liked the way the story developed in this short novel and the ending took me a bit by surprise. It didn't seem dated at all, except for the record player. I love Matheson's use of language.
The narration of the audiobook was a bit annoying. The narrator had a tendency to get over-dramatic and it came off as silly. The words alone would have been dramatic enough with out the over-acting.(less)
I'm still not much of a series person, but I'm beginning to see what an author can do by re-visiting a character and setting. The character of Odd is...moreI'm still not much of a series person, but I'm beginning to see what an author can do by re-visiting a character and setting. The character of Odd is developing quite nicely. He suffered a tragic loss in the first novel, but he's determined not to let that happen again. In Forever Odd, Koontz not only further develops the character of Odd, he expands on the history of Pico Mundo(Small World), California. Pico Mundo is a pretty typical California desert town and Koontz makes it very realistic.
I like that the Odd Thomas novels aren't typical horror. They are ghost stories with non-scary ghosts. It's the real world that's a scary place, not the supernatural. Koontz doesn't stoop to blood and gore. I love the insight we're getting into the ghost of Elvis Presley too.
Unlike the first book, which had a definitive ending as a stand-alone novel, Forever Odd spends the last chapter setting up the transition to the next installment of Odd's story, Brother Odd. I'll be checking that out of the library next.(less)
The Knights of the Cornerstone is a well-crafted and entertaining read that doesn't take a huge amount of brain power to work through. I liked the con...moreThe Knights of the Cornerstone is a well-crafted and entertaining read that doesn't take a huge amount of brain power to work through. I liked the conceit of a small town on the banks of the Colorado River where California, Arizona and Nevada meet that's populated by modern-day Knights Templar. The book has a bit of everything: mystery, miracles, adventure and romance. I'd love to see a movie made from this book.(less)
When I was a kid growing up in northern San Diego County in the Sixties and Seventies, we used to make a yearly trek to Disneyland. We'd also make oth...moreWhen I was a kid growing up in northern San Diego County in the Sixties and Seventies, we used to make a yearly trek to Disneyland. We'd also make other treks to points north, especially Long Beach. Up until around 1974 or so, northern San Diego County was a pretty podunk place, but Orange County was even podunkier. Going up I-5 (or I-405), you saw hardly any civilization until you hit Anaheim or Long Beach. Even Anaheim would have been nothing if it weren't for the cheap motels and coffee shops lining Harbor Blvd. to serve the crowds visiting Disneyland. The rest was orange groves. On the coastal side, Huntington Beach was nothing but oil wells that we would call "grasshoppers". The town I live in now barely existed. Most of the homes in my community were built in the Seventies.
California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker does a good job of capturing Orange County life as I imagine it was in 1968. Orange groves are starting to convert to suburbia. Drive-in churches come into existence. The beach life includes plenty of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I recognized a lot of the landmarks described in the story. Unfortunately, it seemed like Parker was trying to squeeze in every detail about 1968 Orange County. The main characters' parents are acquainted with Richard Nixon. The murder victim was a follower/friend of Timothy Leary. We even get to meet a folk-singer named Charles Manson! Sometimes, you just need to stick with the details that are significant, not try to include everything.
Despite its historical accuracy and rich setting, California Girl was a bore. It took way too long for Detective Nick Becker to solve the murder. Heck, I knew who did it about halfway through. The "twist" wasn't even a twist to me. Don't even get me going about the part where Nick and Lobdell go down to Ensenada, Mexico to take their suspect back to Orange County. That whole sequence was completely unbelievable and implausible. I just didn't buy it.
Although I rarely give authors a second chance if I don't like the first book I read by them, I will try to read another of his works. I met him last weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books and he was quite personable. I've heard that he's a good writer and he does live in Orange County. I suspect I just got a lemon with California Girl.(less)
Odd Thomas was recommended to me as a good introduction to Koontz's work. I was really pleased with the experience. I liked Koontz's writing style in this book very much and the story was excellent. Who can resist a ghost story that includes the ghost of Elvis Presley? This books was a great blend of horror, humor and pathos. Odd is a very endearing character. I like how Koontz kept the narrative very concise an didn't over-explain what was going on. He does the first-person POV very well and doesn't tell us stuff the protagonist doesn't know.
As far as horror writers go, I suspect that Koontz is a better writer than Stephen King. I will have to read a few more books by both authors before I say for certain though.(less)
The California Roll: A Novel is a very clever novel. It's basically a cross between "The Sting" and "Paper Moon" set in modern-day Los Angeles. There were moments in the first few chapters when I laughed out loud. Sadly, the cleverness wore thin for me about 50 pages in and it never really picked up the momentum. Vorhaus' writing style reminded me a lot of Tom Wolfe's in The Bonfire of the Vanities, which I loved.
This is one case where I suspect my failure to fully enjoy this book was more my state of mind than the quality of the novel. It is a humorous novel and humor is always subjective.(less)
Tim Powers is not an easy author to read. It took me two tries to get through Declare because it was so densely packed action and ideas. It required w...moreTim Powers is not an easy author to read. It took me two tries to get through Declare because it was so densely packed action and ideas. It required way too much brain power the first time I tried to read it. The Anubis Gates was convoluted and required a bit of knowledge about English Literature (thank goodness I majored) and Egyptian mythology (limited, at best). Both were very good, but required a lot of work out of the reader.
With Three Days to Never, Powers manages to make his fantastically bizarre plot accessible and easy to read. Yeah! It's every bit as creative and weird as Declare and The Anubis Gates, but it's comprehensible without a lot of paging back. I think it's an excellent first choice for someone who is curious about Tim Powers work.(less)
Shanghai Girls is a historical novel that covers twenty years in the life of Pearl and her sister, May, as they move from a life of privele...more(3.5 stars)
Shanghai Girls is a historical novel that covers twenty years in the life of Pearl and her sister, May, as they move from a life of privelege to poverty to escaping Japanese attacks on Shanghai. They are sold in marriage to a couple of Chinese-American brothers and travel to Los Angeles by way of Angel Island in San Francisco. Once in LA, they experience prejudice, poverty and segregation.
The book was a quick and easy read, but I don't think it benefited from that. It really needed to be twice as long to cover everything that it tried to cover. It was rich in historical detail, but fell a bit flat emotionally. It seemed like I should have felt more horror, sympathy, fear and joy about the things that were happening than I did. I felt like I got a detailed, yet somehow superficial view of the mid-century Chinese experience in LA than I did.
I'm in no way saying that I didn't like the book or that I wouldn't recommend it. I did enjoy it, I learned a few things from it, and I would recommend it. I just felt like it could have been so much more.(less)
This book really deserves 4.5 stars. From the cover and the blurb, I expected Norse Code to be a lot fluffier than it was, especially with the tagline...moreThis book really deserves 4.5 stars. From the cover and the blurb, I expected Norse Code to be a lot fluffier than it was, especially with the tagline "Is this Ragnarok, or just California?". What I found was an ambitious re-telling of Norse mythology that encompassed our 21st century world. Greg van Eekhout manages to not only convey the complexity of Norse mythology, but he does it in a way that is completely comprehensible and entertaining. He accomplishes this feat in less than 300 pages.
Norse mythology seems to be an up-and-coming theme in fantasy literature these days. Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Elizabeth Bear's All the Windwracked Stars are both based on Norse myth. However, both seem to require a bit more knowledge of the subject. While knowing something about Norse mythology makes Norse Code more interesting, I think one could learn quite a bit about it just by reading this novel.
Norse Code was thoroughly entertaining and quite exciting. I just wish the publisher had come up with a less misleading cover and blurb.
I think I need to give this my mom rating too. While it is violent, it's no more violent than any ancient mythology. I wouldn't hesitate to give it to any teenager. Despite the cover, I think teenage boys might really like it.(less)
The Sons of Heaven is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to Kage Baker's series about The Company, a corporation that has modified young children to g...moreThe Sons of Heaven is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to Kage Baker's series about The Company, a corporation that has modified young children to grow up into immortals. These immortals spend the centuries collection precious works of art, literature, and genetic material. In The Sons of Heaven, linear time is quickly approaching July 9, 2355. It's on this date that the temporal concordance, the record of all history, ends. Nobody knows why there aren't any entries in the temporal concordance after July 9, 2355, but they're about to find out.
This book is extremely well-paced and ties together the plot threads of the previous novels quite well. It had quite a few surprises and some great twists and turns. It's not the best book in the series. That would be a toss up between The Life of the World to Come or The Machine's Child.
There's really not much more I can say without giving away the whole thing.(less)
So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel is a very interesting read. It's got so many layers and nuances. Set in 1912,the narrator is a Minnesota postal...moreSo Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel is a very interesting read. It's got so many layers and nuances. Set in 1912,the narrator is a Minnesota postal worker who wrote a fabulously successful novel, quit his day job, and hasn't been able to write anything since. He befriends with an old guy who builds boats, and leaves his wife and son to spend six weeks helping his new friend find his long-lost love. It quickly becomes apparent that Monte is either a very poor judge of character or that he is the most unreliable of narrators.
Monte's adventure traveling in the West show us an early 20th century that is changing rapidly. His buddy, Glendon turns out to have been part of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang. He's being pursued by a former Pinkerton detective, Charlie Siringo. Both men are clearly from a bygone era. Horses have pretty much been replaced by cars. Wild West extravaganzas are dying out. Even small Western towns are much more civilized than the Old West frontier outposts.
Reading this book was a pleasure. It was so vivid and poignant. However, it had a lot of complexity that would make it a good subject for serious literary analysis. I highly recommend it.(less)
I have two complaints about this book. First, you can never take Harbor Blvd. to Brookhurst St. The two run parallel and you have to turn somewhere to...moreI have two complaints about this book. First, you can never take Harbor Blvd. to Brookhurst St. The two run parallel and you have to turn somewhere to get from one to the other. Second, the ending is far, far worse than a cliffhanger. It's an ambiguous ending. ARRRRGHHHH!!!!!!
Other that those two flaws, the book was a worthy conclusion to the Marked series. It leaves a lot of room for a fourth volume though.(less)
I just have to say that Tor's marketing for this series is absolute genius. They released the first book, Eve of Darkness, at the end of April. This o...moreI just have to say that Tor's marketing for this series is absolute genius. They released the first book, Eve of Darkness, at the end of April. This one, Eve of Destruction, followed on June 1, and the finale, Eve of Chaos, came out on June 30. I call this genius marketing because they are perfect beach reads and it's hard to imagine having to wait a year (or more) for the next installment. I think the series would probably lose momentum if the reader had to wait for the next volume.
Eve of Destruction starts off after the first scene of Eve of Darkness. (The first book starts at the end and the rest of the story is told as a flashback.) In Eve of Destruction, Eve is coming to terms with having been chosen as a Mark and is beginning her serious training as a hunter of infernals. We learn a lot more about the nature of angels, marks, and infernals. The story zips right along. It's an episode of Ghost Hunters at Camp Crystal Lake. It's got a good mystery and some surprising twists.
Fortunately, I have the third book already. I'll probably start it at the gym tonight.(less)
There's something interesting about reading a book that's the third in a series of which you've read later installments. I've read two of the books th...moreThere's something interesting about reading a book that's the third in a series of which you've read later installments. I've read two of the books that come after Mendoza in Hollywood, so I knew where this book was going. However, I had no idea how it was going to get there. Baker managed to keep me guessing even though I knew what was going to happen. Her story telling abilities are terrific. I even noticed a bit of foreshadowing of later novels. Mendoza in Hollywood is by far the best of the first three books in The Company series.(less)
What would you get if you added space aliens to the HBO series "Entourage"? You'd get John Scalzi's "Agent to the Stars". This book had me rolling wit...moreWhat would you get if you added space aliens to the HBO series "Entourage"? You'd get John Scalzi's "Agent to the Stars". This book had me rolling with laughter. I was up way too late last night finishing it. There's nothing deep here. It's a standard first-contact story in which gelatinous aliens hire a Hollywood agent to figure out a way to introduce them to humanity. They've been watching TV broadcasts from Earth and they realize that they'll have a serious image problem. You see, they bear far too much resemblance to bad aliens like The Blob and not enough resemblance to friendly aliens like E.T. or ALF. "Agent to the Stars" is like a drive on a mountain road, you never know what's around the next bend.
My biggest complaints about "Agent to the Stars" are also my favorite aspects of it. Much of the comedy in the book requires some familiarity with Los Angeles. It's clear that Scalzi is right at home here because he gets it right. He knows that an agent living in the San Gabriel Valley is living in the wrong valley. A Southern Californian knows what the right valley is and why the San Gabriel Valley isn't it. He even gets the freeways right. That's tough to do. I think that this LA provincialism might limit the appeal of the book. I also think he uses way too many pop culture references. Yes, it is appropriate and the references are funny. However, they will make this novel out-of-date very quickly.
This is one of those times when I wish we had half stars. I really, really, really liked this book, but I don't think it's quite worth 4 stars. It is worth more than three though. If you are the least bit interested in reading "Agent to the Stars", do it within the next year or two, before it goes stale.(less)
I was really torn between giving Eve of Darkness three or four stars. From a quality standpoint, it's a 3 star book. In fact, I've read many better bo...moreI was really torn between giving Eve of Darkness three or four stars. From a quality standpoint, it's a 3 star book. In fact, I've read many better books that I've given 3 star ratings. But, 4 stars is labeled as "really liked it" and I did really like it. I had 4 books in progress at the same time and ended up setting all aside to read the last 1/3 of this one. I gave it brownie points for taking place on my home turf. Eve is a Huntington Beach resident who was raised in Anaheim. I live on the HB border and spent several years living next to Anaheim in Fullerton. I do have to say that very little of the geography is accurate, but this is fantasy.
I will warn readers that the story is definitely R-rated. The angels have more wild sex than most mortal humans. I wouldn't recommend basing any of your thoughts about Judeo-Christian theology on the "facts" in this book. I'm pretty sure there's little or no connection. Also, you will need to read on in the series. This book doesn't tie up ANY story lines. It's one giant cliffhanger. (For the record, the cliffhanger is in the first chapter, the rest of the book is flashback.)
What really got me caught up in this book was the character of Eve. She's easy to identify with and care about. She's an ordinary woman who gets caught up in an extraordinary world. I went out and bought the second installment shortly after I started this because I knew I'd want to know the rest of her story. I don't usually stick with series after the first book, so that says something about how much I liked this book.
There is a reason why totalitarian governments ban books. The reason is that books can change the world. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Frederick Douglass' a...moreThere is a reason why totalitarian governments ban books. The reason is that books can change the world. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Frederick Douglass' autobiography opened people's eyes to the evils of slavery; Anne Frank's Diary taught us that genocide kills innocent young girls; "To Kill a Mockingbird" showed us that justice isn't always just and that people should be judged by their character rather than the color of their skin; "The Grapes of Wrath" opened our eyes to the plight of migrant farm workers; "1984" warned us about the perils of a nanny state. Now, in 2008, a new book of power has emerged. "Little Brother" is "1984" for the 21st century, but with more impact.
I don't recall that the book ever states what the year is. It really doesn't matter. It takes place post 9/11. Terrorists blow up San Francisco's Bay Bridge and everyone's constitutional rights get trampled in the aftermath. This book is aimed at teens, but every American adult should read it too. Parents should read it with their teens and discuss it with them. (There are a few scenes of teenage drinking and sex, but the overwhelming message of this book is so strong that even this conservative mother is willing to overlook it.)
My daughter was 18 on 9/11. My son is only 4 years away from being the same age as the protagonist. I remember how idealistic I was a teen. I read this book with all that in my experience. I read it as a mother; I read it as an idealistic teen; and I read it as a true believer in our rights as American citizens. I read thI didn't is book with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. At 47, I thought I was past the age when a book would have the power to move me and change me as profoundly as "Little Brother." I've read thousands of books in my lifetime. I have very fond memories of so many of them. But, when it comes to real power, "Little Brother" is right up there next to "To Kill a Mockingbird." I'd give it 6 stars if I could. It is that good.
I do have to add that I gave this to my son to read before I read it. He is almost 13. He loved this book. He wants to read more books like it. I'm going to have to tell him that it's just a unique book. And, he did ask me why I didn't tell him it had "adult situations." I had to tell him that I didn't know. I really recommend that you let your teens read it before you do. They'll be less embarrassed that way. You can use the "adult situations" as a tool to talk about those touchy subjects of sex, drugs and alcohol.(less)
I read “Snow Crash” when it first came out in paperback nearly 15 years ago. Then, I had a really hard time getting through it. But, I kept thinking a...moreI read “Snow Crash” when it first came out in paperback nearly 15 years ago. Then, I had a really hard time getting through it. But, I kept thinking about different concepts in it over and over again. I never forgot the bimbo boxes—slang for minivans driven by suburban housewives. Talk about a book telling the future!
Upon re-reading the book, I now understand why it was so difficult. First, there’s that tricky slang problem. Stephenson invented a lot of slang for the book and that made reading it like trying to follow a teenager’s text-messaging conversation. Second, the Metaverse, while undeniable fascinating, was a totally foreign concept to a person who was using a computer with DOS-6, a CGA monitor and no mouse. Third, and probably most importantly, the book is just way too full of exposition. There’s a whole “character” devoted to exposition; a computer construct called “Librarian.” Librarian has a tendency to ramble on and is constantly changing the course of his conversations with the protagonist, aptly named “Hiro Protagonist.”
“Snow Crash” is usually placed in the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. I think that’s a bit simplistic. It’s so much more than cyberpunk. It’s an action thriller. It’s full of information about linguistics, brain function, religion, corporate greed, government employees, rock & roll, and the Mafia. Overall, I found “Snow Crash” to be a more enjoyable read in 2008 than I did in the mid-Nineties. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind being bombarded with a gazillion disparate ideas. (less)