Category archives: Books

Brilliance Of The Moon

by Feb. 28, 2012 in Books, Fantasy, Not Recommended

It isn’t a good sign when you start a review of a book as follows: There’s something about writing a bad review that is always easier than writing a good review. If you ask me why my favorite books are my favorites, my discussion will devolve into mumblings about them being ‘so good’. Mediocre, unforgettable books can also be troublesome to articulate. But whenever I come across a book that I think is full of flaws and that I generally dislike, I feel like I could write for hours. Such is Brilliance of the Moon, the third book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn.

I’ve thought a lot over the last week about why I didn’t enjoy this book, especially since I enjoyed so much about the first in the series. I think part of the answer is in the question itself: I really liked the first book, so my expectations were high for the rest of the series. Ok, that’s fair, but why did the second and third not meet my high expectations?

In the first I enjoyed the magic and mystery surrounding the Tribe abilities, I enjoyed watching Takeo learn about them and himself, and I enjoyed the tension surrounding the decisions he was forced to make in respect to the teaching so Shigeru, the Tribe, and his mother.

In this book, however, there is no discovery or mystery surrounding the abilities. They are suddenly taken for granted. Perhaps Takeo no longer finds them interesting, but there are numerous other characters who do. A great example is Taku, the son of Shizuka. At one point Takeo even remarks about how he wants Taku to be the first of many children spies. Now that sounds interesting – why not pursue the avenue of Takeo as the teacher instead of the student? How would he teach compared to the Tribe? Would he instill compassion and mercy in his students, instead of the cruelty the Tribe taught? This is a much more interesting dilemma compared to hundreds of pages of Takeo running from Arai.

I have numerous other complaints about the book, and you can read those in the spoiler-filled database entry. Suffice it to say, I do not recommend this book, no matter how much you may have enjoyed Across the Nightingale Floor.

eBook Library Lending: You're Doing it Wrong

by Feb. 22, 2012 in Books

The LA Times recently posted an article about how Penguin has pulled their eBooks from overdrive, meaning they are no longer available to borrow from many libraries (including my own). It seems to me everyone (except maybe the libraries who probably are actually interested in helping people read more digital books) is doing something wrong with library lending.

First, Publishers: why do you force such strict DRM on library eBooks? If I wanted to steal your book (which I don't), I certainly wouldn't be going to the library to do so. I'm going there because it's ...

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The Bartimaeus Trilogy

by Feb. 16, 2012 in Books, Fantasy, Recommended

I picked up The Amulet of Samarkand last year, the first book in the Bartimaeus trilogy, on a total whim. No one recommended it, and I knew nothing about the book or its author. I simply needed a new audio book and the description looked interesting enough. Grabbing a book like this can be risky, but when it pays off, it’s great. Reading an excellent book with no preconceived notions is one of my things as a reader.

The premise: Nathaniel is an up and coming wizard in London. The twist in this magical world, however, is magicians get ...

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The Problem with eBook Pricing

by Feb. 6, 2012 in Books

I received a Kindle Touch for Christmas and over the last month I’ve read four books on it. I absolutely love reading on the Kindle and would actually prefer to read every book on the device if I had the choice. There are several reasons why:

  • The Kindle is lighter than even the lightest paperback
  • I can look up the definition of words instantly
  • I can highlight passages and take notes without needing a pen and notebook nearby.
  • Highlighted passages and notes can be manually or automatically sent to my computer for easy inclusion in database entries or blog ...

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Giant Thief

by Jan. 31, 2012 in Books, Fantasy, Not Recommended

Note: An electronic copy of Giant Thief was provided to me for review by the publisher Angry Robot Books.

Easie Damasco is a scoundrel and an thief, and everyone seems to want him dead. Despite near constant threats to his life, nothing deters him from continuing his life of crime at every possible moment. As a result, Giant Thief is a fast-paced, non-stop action fantasy novel full of comedy that never lets up from beginning to end.

From the first line, we learn a lot of what we can expect from Giant Thief: “The sun was going down by the ...

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by Jan. 25, 2012 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

You’ve just read a book so good that you want everyone else to read it immediately, but you know that if you approach the subject with too much enthusiasm, you risk overselling the book and causing the opposite outcome. In fact, the more you say, the more likely you’ll mention something that person hates about books, thus ensuring they never read it. Or, in your haste and excitement, you might offer your own rash interpretation, implying the book is about something it isn’t, and thereby cause yet another person to pass on a wonderful piece of literature ...

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

by Jan. 12, 2012 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

I read Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land last year and I didn't enjoy it, despite its strong start. In addition to my disappointment over the book, I was also surprised by the fact that I didn't like it. Here we had what is considered one of the greatest science fiction books of all time, and all I can do is criticize it for being heavy-handed and dull. Shouldn't this be exactly the kind of thing I love to read?

Since my experience with Stranger last year, I really had no intention of reading anything ...

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Pitching Max Werner

by Jan. 9, 2012 in Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Max Werner, 15, can see in the dark - a secret not even his best friend Tom knows. More sly than brave, Max has used his special gift for years to roam the streets of his neighborhood committing petty crimes and various acts of harmless delinquency. He prefers hiding from danger, safe in the shadows that only his sight can penetrate, rather than confronting anything head on.

His misdeeds bring him more than a few stolen goods, however, when he runs across a band of inhuman thieves that don’t take kindly to Max invading their territory. These strange bandits kidnap ...

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The Dragon Rider

by Dec. 17, 2011 in Books, Fantasy, Not Recommended

I think it's important to note that I listened to the audio version of this book because it is, without a doubt, the reason I disliked it so much. Funke's story seems pretty good, and if I had read it, I imagine it would have been closer to 3 or 4 stars.

However, it must be said that the narrator Brendon Fraser is, unequivocally, the worst narrator I have ever heard in the 150+ audio books I have listened to over the last few years. Here are just a few examples of why he is so bad:

  1. He ...

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New Quote Features

by Oct. 31, 2011 in Books

In spite of not posting here for nearly a year, I have been doing a lot of work on the back end functionality of the book database. The biggest and most visible feature is a change to how quotes are being stored. Originally, all quotes were tied to specific "reads" of a book. Now, however, they are separated out into their own table, which gives me a lot more freedom to deploy them independently.

The upshot of all this is that I have deployed a new quotes page which lets you search for quotes by book, by quote type (I ...

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