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Showing posts from December, 2010

Top Eleven Favorite Reads of 2010

I found 2010 to be an interesting reading year.  I'm surprised how many on this list were actually published this year, and I attribute most of those finds to Kathy and Carole.  Others are sequels or written by already-favored authors.

ArchEnemy — The third (and final) installment of the Looking Glass Wars series, the clash between good and evil of Wonderland is as big as author Frank Beddor's imagination.  Who will be sacrificed to save the kingdom?  Is Queen Alyss strong enough to beat Black Imagination?  Will England survive? Begin at the beginning with this series, and enjoy every page.

Black Hills — Paha Sapa is an explosions expert working on carving Mount Rushmore.  Only this Sioux doesn't exactly see the destruction of his holy mountain as a positive effort.  Readers glimpse the history of South Dakota and the nation through a man's life story.  Dan Simmons' sweeping saga with personal anecdotes will make readers think.

The Gates — Samuel Johnson, age eleven, …

Review: The Magicians

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The Magicians is less a novel and more a series of novellas fashioned by Lev Grossman — fascinating, imaginative long story stories centering around self-absorbed teen Quentin Coldwater.  The book jacket throws around words like "Narnia" and "Harry Potter" to suck in readers.  Do not be fooled — this dark, relentless book is nothing like those fantasies.

Grossman creates a world that separates him from C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling like he tries to separate "magic" from "fantasy."  His gritty, cold and brutal approach are startling, unique — and not for everyone.  Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Quentin is a math genius and a fair hand at magician tricks with cards and pulling coins out of ears.  Life is boring: school is easy, his parents are distantly interested, his friends are expanding and contracting.  On his way to an interview with an admissions officer from Princeton, Quentin reviews his options and finds them all lacking.

He also fi…

Spooky Books for Long, Dark Winter Nights

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As the nights grow longer and chilly, spooky stories are the perfect companion.

Nocturnes is a selection of short stories and novellas by John Connolly.   Many of the stories are quick glimpses into the macabre, while others linger a while longer.  Readers will never look at a circus or clowns the same way again.  I'm also a little cautious about mirrors, too.  Expect to meet witches, vampires, fairies, a tormented stranger and a vengeful ghost.  These bite-sized morsels are delicious.




Another short story collection worth checking out is Fancies and Goodnights, written by John Collier in the early 20th century.  Each story has an old-fashioned feel to it, almost like Collier identifies older fears we think we have abandoned.  After tasting a little Collier, just try to enter a department store without looking over your shoulder.  Collier is praised by Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl and other fantasy and science fiction writers, who credit him with inspiration and guidance.  P…

Review: Beatrice and Virgil

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Did you ever have a day you are sorry you spent in a particular pursuit and wished you could get it back?  Thus was the case with Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel.

First of all, what in the world is it about: a fictional author with writer's block, a horrible play, a horrific playwright, taxidermy?  I think it may be the first, but maybe the last.  Still haven't quite figured that one out, sad to say.

Secondly, is this worthy of paper?  The answer is no.  There are no redeeming elements of the story.  I don't like the narrator, his wife, his music teacher, the taxidermist, the waiter.  I kind of like the veterinarian, but that's because he does what has to be done.

That brings me to the gross elements of the story.  Taxidermy isn't my favorite subject, but I stuck with the story because I loved Life of Pi.  It had to get better, right?

Wrong.

I waded through stories of rabid dogs killing cats, torture of a donkey, the slaughter of all of the animals in Eden and …

What to Read for Christmas

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Everyone has their favorite Christmas stories.  Many of us have migrated from the page to the screen, taking in our stories through video.  Just remember: many of them started out as stories themselves.

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash was written by Jean Shepherd, known world-wide for creating Ralphie Parker and his love of Ol' Blue.  The stories take place during the Great Depression, and many of the stories take place outside the Christmas season.  However, with the rich language Shepherd uses to amuse and illustrate the movie, how can someone resist such a read?

Take a walk through a different landscape with science fiction writer Connie Willis in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories.  I just met the author during her East Coast book-signing stop in Maryland, and had I realized I would fall in love with this book a week later, I'd have discovered it earlier. This collection pays tribute to other stories that already had shaped the season, but allow us to fit in a few mor…

Review: A Murderous Procession

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Adelia is back, and better than ever, in A Murderous Procession.

The undercover doctor is, again, doing a favor for that pesky Henry Plantagenet.  This time, however, she is escorting Henry's (and Eleanor's) daughter, Joanna, to Italy to marry a king. Henry, ever the scrupulous and cautious king, is going to get her there safe and sound, at any cost.

As the story opens, Adelia is having way too much fun in her life to want yet another adventure.  Allie is growing up, Mansur and Glytha are settled into domestic bliss, her practice in the quiet hamlet keeps her busy and rewarded.  Lady Emma Wolvercote and Pippy, her four-year-old son, are in the neighborhood.  Aside from Rowley being more available in these outlands, her life couldn't be better — even in the face of rugby in its oldest, purest and most violent form.

However, Henry won't accept refusal.  It is in Allie's best interest to learn how to be a lady, if she is to marry well — and who better a teacher than t…