Friday, July 29, 2005

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

Author: Carl Hiaasen
ISBN # 0552772534
476 pages

My sister-in-law made me take this book when I saw her last weekend. I almost purposely left it behind as, going by the previous reading she was telling me about, I really didn't think it'd be something I would enjoy all that much.

I was wrong.

From the moment Joey Perrone is thrown off a luxury liner by her husband on their 2nd anniversary cruise (which is right on the first page, by the way - hell, it's in the opening paragraph!) I was hooked.

Witty, slick, dark humour, well-written drama; this one has it all.

I might even be tempted to sample Hiaasen's other offerings...

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling

Author: J K Rowling
ISBN # 0747532745
223 pages

Well, I put off reading any of the Harry Potter books for a very long time - they just didn't grab my interest. Besides, I'm a huge Artemis Fowl fan & I couldn't imagine these living up to that example.

I was right - Artemis Fowl was way better than Harry otter & the Philosopher's Stone. That doesn't mean to say this book wasn’t a really good read though! It's easily seen how J K Rowling has managed to become the highest earning woman in the country as her storytelling skills are pretty damned nifty - she spins a really good yarn. The characters are well-written & the reader can easily identify & sympathise with the characters. Even the likes of Draco Malfoy & Professor Snape are written with the same love as Harry & his friends (actually, I have to say that Snape was my favourite character & I wish there'd been more of him!).

If you've managed not to see the film - rent it out, but wait till you've finished the book. I saw the movie first & really it, but I always think it kind of ruins a book a little when you know what's coming, in a way that reading a book first does nothing to harm your enjoyment of the film.

I've no idea why that is but I think that's partially why I took so long to get round to actually reading it!

I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish & would recommend it to anyone of any age. If you haven't got hold of your own copy yet, go out & buy it now.

And while you're at it, get hold of Artemis Fowl too - you won't regret it!

Rating: 7/10

Monday, July 25, 2005

Witch Child by Celia Rees

Author: Celia Rees
ISBN # 0747550093
235 pages

Every now & then I like to read a book that's supposedly been written for children. I'd seen this one on the bookshelves for some time & it caught my interest. I finally bought it at the weekend & I'm so glad I did! This is not a book specifically for children at all, but one that can be enjoyed by readers of any age.

Set in the 1600's & written in diary form, Witch Child charts the journey of Mary, a Warwickshire lass who is orphaned when her only living relative, her grandmother, is executed as a Witch. Packed onto a ship with Puritans, she makes her way to the New World to settle in Beulah, a small town not far from Salem, Massachusetts. Mary's wildness & natural ease in the forest set her apart from the rest of the town & it isn't long before she is in danger of being accused of Witchcraft herself.

I was blown away by how well written this book is & will certainly get hold of the sequel, Sorceress.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Author: Charlaine Harris
ISBN # 1841493708
321 pages

If I hadn't read the previous 3 books in the series (Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas & Club Dead), this book would have made slightly less sense (having none of the background story) but pretty much holds up as a stand-alone story in its own right.

I can't believe I happened upon this author by sheer chance (a bookclub offered the 1st three books as a single choice & they looked interesting, so I ordered them, & boy was I glad I did!). I'll now be looking out for other titles by Harris as well as the 5th installment of the Sookie Stackhouse books.

There's not really much I can say without giving away huge chunks of the plot, so all I'll say is that we have the slightly telepathic Sookie getting embroiled in the business of vampires, weres & Witches while hunting for her missing brother, Jason, with some fiendishly good plot-twists & devilishly well-drawn characters.

I can't wait to get my hands on Dead as a Doornail!

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Author: Kelley Armstrong
ISBN #1841493414
495 pages

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Kelly Armstrong's "Women of the Otherworld" series, but neither Dime Store Magic nor Industrial Magic were a patch on the 1st two books in the series; Bitten & Stolen. What can I say? Armstrong is most definitely back on form with this 5th installment

Focusing on Eve Levine; powerful half-Witch/half-Demon & self-styled "bad-girl", who is now a Supernatural ghost (as opposed to a "normal" ghost), the reader is enticed into the afterlife with her, where she manages to cause as much trouble as she did when she was alive. This time, however, she has to hunt down a most dangerous breed of demi-Demon; a Nix.

As the story is firmly set in the afterlife, we don't tend to see much of the living characters we've grown to love, such as Savannah (Eve's teenaged daughter) & her guardians Paige (a Witch) & Lucas (a Sorcerer), but we have the novel twist of being able to leap in & out of the afterlife to witness events of the past - with an ingenious explanation for the horrific murders committed by Lizzie Borden - which more than makes up for their almost total absence.

We do, however, have time to really get to know Eve a little better, as well as having the chance to see Savannah's father, Kristoff, in a different light, now that he has also passed over to the other side. It makes for interesting reading, to see characters previously thought of as being "bad" people actually turning out to be pretty normal when you are finally able to see things from their point of view without the bias of others who think they are the enemy!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through the various ghost dimensions & can't wait for the next book, Broken, to be published next May (incidentally, a teaser for this next tale is included at the back of the book, so I already know we return to Elena Michaels, the Werewolf from Bitten - hurrah!).

If you haven't already read the previous installments, I heartily recommend picking them up - you'll thank me for it in the end!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Good, The Bad & The Undead by Kim Harrison

Author: Kim Harrison
ISBN # 0-06-057297-3
452 pages

An improvement on the first book, not not hugely so; still not exactly a rip-roaring read.

It seems to me that the first book wasn't really a story in its own right, but a lead-up to this book. Rather extravagant to use an entire 416 pages just to provide background for the next 452 pages. At least this time, Harrison seems to have got a better grip on her writing & the narrative flow is a lot more smooth this time round.

The plot is still lacking that something special, though, & the twist revealed ni this one was no surprised as I had already guessed it about half way through the last book, so that was a bit of a let-down.

So, not exactly a challenge on the old grey matter, but this sequel was easier to read & I managed to get through it without wishing a demon would appear & rip out my eyeballs, preventing me from forcing myself to read on.

Still no clear resolution, which I find annoying to the max, leading me to the conclusion that this book was also just laying down the groundwork for the next one (which, incidentally, I won't be buying, so I suppose I'll never now how the story ends).

No odds to me - I found myself completely failing to give a damn about any of the characters, even going so far as to thinking the lead character; the witch, Rachel Morgan, is incredibly dull (in every sense of the word). I find I cannot sympathise with someone who continually puts herself in ridiculous situations due to her own stupidity, then expects others to get her out of it. Her boyfriend, Nick, isn't any better. I completely fail to understand how anyone would be attracted to such a person.

I think I would have been happier if she'd been killed off in the first chapter of Dead Witch Walking; then we could have focused on Ivy, the non-practicing living-vampire, who could have been an intriguing character if only Harrison had been a skilled & creative writer. Or perhaps Trent, the attractive underworld biodrug dealer - now there's a character I could have happily got my teeth into; but he was left shallow - barely even two-dimensional.

What a waste - of an idea, of characters, & of my time.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

Author: Kim Harrison
ISBN # -0-60-57296-5
416 pages

If I had to sum it up in only one word, it'd have to be "disappointing". There was so much potential there: Harrison had all the right ingredients; various paranormal/supernatural beings mingling with humans in an alternative modern day Cincinnati, where a goodly portion of the human race was killed off by killer tomatoes (I kid you not - it was a bio-engineered virus carried in the popular, red, salad ingredients), unfortunately, the recipe went wrong somewhere in the mix & what you actually get is pretty dull & not particularly well written.

The story itself would be alright, but it takes forever to get started, doesn't really go anywhere in the middle & has no proper ending. I was left feeling rather unsatisfied.

Testimony to the case of the dulls is the length of time I took to read this novel: I started on the 5th & finished it today - that's an astonishing 7 days to work my way through it, & to be perfectly honest, it felt like I was wading through glue, the going was so hard.

If I hadn't already bought the sequel (I got them both as a "same choice" deal through a book club) I wouldn't be bothering with it. As it is, I'm planning on reading the 2nd book, "The Good, The Bad, & The Undead" straight away, just to get it over with.

With any luck, the sequel will turn out better than the opening title. Either way, I don't think I'll be keeping these books as what good is a sequel when the 1st book is so dull you'll never want to read it again?

Rating: 3/10