Category Archives: novel

Shield of Thunder and Fall of Kings: Troy Triology books 2 and 3

I am fascinated with a good story. I love it when I encounter one. I especially appreciate the books that have characters that I come to view as something akin to friends.  When I finished the last book of this trilogy, I was actually sad.   I felt a sense of loss that the story had come to an end.

The characters are deep. They are believable. The choices they make feel real, painful, and alive. The pace of the story is nearly perfect. I bought the first book of this series based on a recommendation unsure of what I would find when I cracked the cover.  The complication of life is found on each page, with each character.  Our choices move us to make other choices. It is often not the intended consequences of our actions that move us but the unintended consequences. The results that we didn’t think about, or that we were not able to consider. Heroes and rarely as glorious as we perceive them and most villains are not nearly as banal as we would like to make them—although they are occasionally every bit as evil as we imagine.

In short, life is a lot of soupy gray, with some clear black and white thrown in.

I found this series to be phenomenal. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story.   It is a classic retelling of the story of Troy, but more than that, it is a retelling of real life.

5 Stars

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I do not understand the hype surrounding this book at all! I’m not sure if the book is bad because of the translation or because it’s just bad. The main character is a borderline sex addict sleeping with anything that moves. The author seems to want to make the case that casual sex doesn’t have an effect on people. I guess, he’s just deciding to ignore the science on that one. The guy has a long time lover who stays married and just sort of floats between Mike and her husband. In the meantime, he’s getting some from the mature and immature alike. In short, the guy seems to have impulse control problems.

Then there’s the plot. It’s not terribly innovative, or ingenious. It is rather superfluous in it’s structure and wording. In a 600-page book, there is about 200 pages of interesting happenings.

Salender is a sympathetic character caught somewhere on the Autism spectrum but other than that, the characters are rather flat and predictable. The plot is also rather predictable. There were exactly two places where I was caught off guard. One was a big caught off guard; the other was rather minor movement that probably happened because I dropped into hyper skim mode.

I kept thinking to myself how happy I was that I borrowed the book from the library on a whim.

And yet…

…I’ll probably borrow the second book and read it, maybe. I’m not sure what that says about the book or me.

3 Stars because it was good enough for me to want to give the second one a chance, even though it left more than a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Change of Heart By Jodi Picoult

I wanted to like this book. I really did. All of my friends love this author and I want to be on the inside. I want to be able to have conversations where we talk lovingly of characters and my lips creep up into a sneer when a bad guy is mentioned.

I saw this book on a Bargain rack and figured that it would be a good segue into the Picoult’s world.  The premise of the book is something I can get behind. I’m not a big fan of the Death Penalty as it currently stands in America. I already know that she tells the story from different perspectives of the different characters in her book. Some of my favorite author’s do that so I figure we’re good to go. She and I will get along like Peanut Butter and Jelly at the very worst and at the best we’ll be more like Peanut Butter and Chocolate.

But the book never did it for me. She never was able to scratch me where I itched. The only character I remotely cared about was the little girl. Her characters never seemed fully committed to me. They just didn’t seem real or all that sympathetic.

Her “surprise, twist ending” can be seen a mile off.

Contrived is the best word for the plot.  Did the convict actually do the killing or was he protecting the child as he claims 11 years later from an abusive stepfather? I came to the point where I just didn’t care. A lot of reviews I have read say that this isn’t the author’s best work. Many of my friends say I need to give her another opportunity. I probably will but this book has brought me to the point where the next Picoult book I read will be a library one so that my investment is minimal.

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Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

Those of us who are disinclined to brevity occasionally undergo an experience that can be quite disheartening and painful. If one is inclined to story-telling, the problem can be even greater.

You have a point and it is well-illustrated by a story. So you start telling the story. Then about 2/3 of the way into the story, you realize, “Oh, no. This story is waaaay too long for the point that I’m trying to make.” But you’ve already burned up the time of your listeners, and you can’t leave them hanging. So you trudge through the rest of the story, wondering if the listeners are as bored with it as you now are — and knowing that it’s not going to end well, either. At least they are mercifully spared this latter foreknowledge.

Such is the problem with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read it on a recommendation from someone, and I’m glad that I don’t remember who it is, so I can’t be mad at them.

The story is told first-person by a Kathy H. She is remembering her days at a boarding school and other finishing programs in Britain. She and her friends are different — they are being prepared for very specific lives. The nature of this preparation and it’s end intention are slowly revealed throughout the book (I won’t go into the details, as it would be a bit spoiler-ish).

About 2/3 of the way into the book, it becomes pretty clear what those details are. And it’s obviously a Bad Thing. But like the listeners in my earlier illustration, the reader of Never Let Me Go is unaware that this isn’t going anywhere — or at least not anywhere that’s worth 304 pages. In fact, there is a bit of misdirection that seems that it would at least somewhat ameliorate the Bad Thing — but then that turns out to be little more than urban legend.

To be sure, there is some pontificating near the end of the book so that the reader is clear that the Bad Thing is, indeed, a Bad Thing. And there is even some value to the pontificating, as Ishiguro raises an issue or two that had not occurred to me. But again, nothing that’s worth 300+ pages.

This is definitely not a plot-driven book (though the misdirection makes you think, temporarily, that it might be becoming one). This is definitely a character study. But there’s one problematic issue. It’s about characters that, in the end, we don’t really care much about.

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Jonathan Rogers: The Bark of the Bog Owl

The Bark of the Bog Owl

The Bark of the Bog Owl

The Bark of the Bog Owl
Jonathan Rogers
(book 1 of The Wilderking Trilogy)

It has been said, regarding many different facets of life, that it is the journey that counts, not the destination. This book is certainly one of those times.

In The Bark of the Bog Owl , Jonathan Rogers borrows from the Biblical story of David in 1 Samuel, setting the story in an adventure/fantasy world. Those familiar with the story of David will know in advance where certain parts of the story are going.

For instance, when the wise and well-respected prophet, Bayard (the book’s analogue of Samuel) shows up at the house of Errol (the book’s Jesse) looking for the Wilderking, we know that he’s going to find him to be the youngest of Errol’s sons, a shepherd boy named Aidan.

And when Corenwald (Israel) goes to battle with Pyrth (Philistia), complete with the giant Pyrthen warrior Greidawl (Goliath) issuing the challenge for one Corenwald warrior to fight him, and blaspheming the name of the One True God, we already know Greidawl’s fate (and by whose hand it will come).

But Rogers doesn’t just ape the Scriptures. Were this a direct re-telling of the story, one would classify it as speculative fiction, as Rogers fills in a lot of details on which the Bible is silent. Also to be noted is the fact that the story arc doesn’t always follow the Biblical narrative either. For instance, after Aidan kills Greidawl, the Pyrthens go back on their word, and the battle isn’t over, as they start employing cannons, a battle “technology” that the men of Corenwald have never seen.

This book appears to be targeted at middle-school age kids, and one can definitely see the influence that Rogers has on Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga series. But like Peterson’s books (or C S Lewis’ Narnia books), this novel is in no way limited to its primary target audience.

If you have kids of this age, and want to use them as an excuse to read this book to them, go ahead. I won’t tell. And even if you don’t, I still won’t tell.

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