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All reviews - Books (22)

A modern ghost story.

Posted : 11 years ago on 26 October 2006 02:43 (A review of The Night Country: A Novel)

It's Halloween & five teenagers are speeding away from the police when their car hits a tree. Three die, one suffers severe brain damage, & one escapes unharmed. A year later, the dead return to try and play pivotal roles in the lives of those involved - the survivor with a terrible plan to honour the dead, the cop still wracked with guilt & anger. It's a modern ghost story that is a great read, if you can handle the somewhat unconventional way it is told.


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Just as good as the movie.

Posted : 11 years ago on 26 October 2006 02:41 (A review of Practical Magic)

If you've seen the movie, you know the story. If you haven't ... Gillian & Sally Owens are sisters who had been raised in their aunts' world of magick & spells but, for different reasons, spent most of their adult lives trying to escape. Gillian is a free spirit moving from man to man & Sally is trying to be the perfect 'normal' mother for her two daughters. Tragedy, however, brings the whole family together. It is different from the movie in a couple of key points - Gillian is a much better character [Nicole Kidman had not done her justice], the aunts aren't featured as much, Sally's girls are in their teens, & the city is less bigoted. I wouldn't say the book is better than the movie - they stand equally on their own.


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A remake of 'Rosemary's Baby'?

Posted : 11 years ago on 26 October 2006 02:39 (A review of Diary)

This is the kind of book that a lay critic can't begin to try and describe. The plot is so complex that all my efforts to sum it up in a few words are either highly ineffective or spoilerish. Basically, it's a 'coma' diary that Misty Marie Wilmot keeps for her husband Peter as he's in stasis. It's a wonderful premise that Chuck completely does justice. Diary is reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby at times, but it is much much better than the classic novel.


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One of Palahniuk's best.

Posted : 11 years ago on 26 October 2006 02:36 (A review of Lullaby)

My review could be just two words long. The two words that came out of my mouth as soon as I closed the book -- f-cking amazing. But really, I had expected no less from the author of Fight Club.

The book jacket bills the core characters as the 'new nuclear family' and that's a pretty good description. Everything starts with Carl Streator, the newspaper reporter who is probably too good at his job. Then there is Helen Hoover Boyle, the real estate broker with a high turnover rate - because she markets 'haunted' houses. Her assistant, Mona Sabbat, is a eager and smart young Wiccan with a sarcastic ecoterrorist boyfriend, Oyster.

Carl and Helen have both dealt with the tragedy dealt by a simple lullaby. Though it's not really a lullaby, but rather an African poem referred to as a 'culling song'. It only has to be said or thought in the direction of someone to be fatal. The foursome engage in a cross-country trip to remove all copies of the poem from existence for it was once printed in an anthology of poems, which has led to a high number of deaths purported to be SIDS.

When Mona was referred to as Wiccan, I groaned audibly. There is so much misinformation and misportrayal of Wiccans in the media today that I was expecting the worst ... but Palahniuk is too good of a writer to fall into stereotypes. I should never have doubted his ability.


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Better for children than adults.

Posted : 11 years ago on 21 October 2006 05:33 (A review of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Laurel Leaf Books))

This was a reread from my younger years, yet another example of my foray into recapturing my childhood literally. Only kidding ... partially. I was rather disappointed. Not necessarily in the book, but more in my recollections of it. As a child, it had read like some sort of great masterpiece and now I discover in my later years that it wasn't as outstanding as I had believed. To the mind of a child though, it is a wonderful read - which is probably why it's a book marketed towards children.

The story is told by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which can sometimes be a bit frustrating as she really shouldn't know some of the details she is narrating about. It is the tale of two young children, Claudia and Jamie Kincaid - ages 11 and 9, respectively. Claude, as her brother affectionately calls her, is dissatisfied at home and thus she brainstorms a plan to get her family to appreciate her more. She persuades Jamie to join her because he is the more practical minded of the two, and he has a large piggy bank.

The brother-&-sister team run away to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City. They wash in the bathrooms, take baths in the fountain, and sleep in a bed that is part of an existing exhibit. It is truly quite an adventure. And, like true adventurers, they soon discover a mystery waiting to be solved. Claudia has fallen in love with a sculpture on display. This sculpture, called 'Angel', is shrouded under secrecy, as it's rumoured to be a work of Michaelangelo's but no real proof exists.

The ending was probably my least favourite part of the book. It reads as if the author wanted to neatly tie up all the loose ends in a few short pages, concluding with a slightly unbelievable ending.


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Great book, whether you like the movie o

Posted : 11 years ago on 21 October 2006 05:29 (A review of The Princess Diaries Volume I)

The Princess Diaries is exactly that. It is the diary [think Bridget Jones] of a young girl who wakes up one morning to discover that she is no longer Mia Thermopolis, the freaky freshman, but she is now Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, princess of Genovia. While some girls would be joyous about the news, Mia rebels against her parents. And then her grandmother, who has traveled to America to give Amelia princess lessons.

Much to Mia's chagrin, her not-so-normal life is turned upside down. A bodyguard shadows her every movement, except for the bathroom; her first kiss is photographed by a horde of photographers; her picture is on the front page of the New York Post even. But as she learns to accept her new destiny, she realises that she is still the same Mia inside, no matter what her title or responsibilities are.


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Good as 'chick lit' ...

Posted : 11 years ago on 21 October 2006 05:25 (A review of Carrie Pilby vs. the World (Red Dress Ink S.))

The title character, Carrie Pilby, is a prodigy. At the age of 18, she graduated with honours from Harvard. It is now a year later & she is living in a flat provided by her father with no clear purpose to her life.

That changes one day during her weekly session with her therapist, Dr. Petrov. He thinks up a multi-step plan for her to help her get accustomed to the world outside her flat. Carrie's execution of each individual goal dominates the rest of the novel. She tries to accomplish each while still existing under her rigid & somewhat arcane life philosophy.

This book was slightly disappointing in the sense that most of the development regarded Carrie in a relationship. She is a wonderful character & I can't help but feel that her sense of self was diminished towards the end of the book. With all that said, I still recommend this book whole-heartedly - just don't expect too much from the intellectual point of view.


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Good conceptual novel for the YA crowd.

Posted : 11 years ago on 21 October 2006 05:22 (A review of Gallows Hill)

The concepts that the book expands on, quite well for a YA novel, are mystical in nature - karma & reincarnation. The Salem Witch Trials are used as the backdrop, but no previous knowledge is necessary. Duncan does a wonderful job of giving just enough information to make the book easily understandable without weighing down the plot with irrelevant facts.

The book's protagonist is a teen named Sarah Zoltanne. She & her mother, Rosemary, have moved from Ventura, California to a small conservative town called Pine Crest in Missouri. They have moved because Rosemary met a soon-to-be divorced man, Ted Thompson, that she fell in love with. Ted has a daughter, Kyra, who is fiercely loyal to her mother - making the Zoltanne home a very tense place when the two families are together.

The plot hinges on the development of two main friendships - Sarah & Charlie Gorman and Kyra & Eric Garrett. Charlie Gorman is an overweight boy who is teased a lot at school but comes from a very liberal & educated home. Most of the talk of karma & reincarnation is started by him. Eric Garrett is probably the most popular boy at the local high school & his friendship with Kyra is key to the plot. There are times when the story, which is almost always told from Sarah's perspective, will divert to a conversation between Eric & Kyra. They move the plot.

There are a number of plot twists, most of which are very subtle but shocking. You need to pay attention as you read, or else you could easily overlook Duncan's great foreshadowing ability.

Though Charlie tends to only be used in the latter part of the book, he is my favourite character. His wit & charm are a welcome distraction from the somewhat morose tone the book sometimes carries.


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A brilliant start to an inspired trilogy

Posted : 11 years ago on 20 October 2006 06:41 (A review of Idlewild)

If the author's name seems familiar, it's because he is the son of the famed Carl Sagan. His debut novel is brilliant; I read it in one sitting & then was depressed that it was over. I'm going to 'borrow' Amazon's summary of it because I feel that I couldn't describe the story right :

Set in the day after tomorrow, Idlewild opens as a young man awakes with amnesia. He cannot remember who he is and doesn't recognize anything around him - all he knows for sure is that someone is trying to kill him. Not certain whom he can trust, he becomes reacquainted with eight companions, all of whom are being trained at a strange school run by an enigmatic figure named Maestro. Working to uncover the identity of the person who has attempted to murder him, the young man quickly starts to unravel a series of truths, making it clear that much more than just his life is at stake.


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One of Neil's v. best novels!

Posted : 11 years ago on 20 October 2006 06:15 (A review of American Gods)

This book was brilliant & I could not put it down. It's an intellectual fantasy novel that only he could write; there is a strong mythical background that is explained so well that a mythology virgin wouldn't even be confused. Shadow is fresh out of prison with nothing left on the outside, as he was told days before his release that his wife is dead. He gets a job working for the mysterious Wednesday. He soon is initiated into the world of the Gods as Wednesday is gathering the world's religious icons together to prepare for a war over the soul of America. There are sub-storylines that are wonderful, plot twists that are totally unexpected & unforeseen. This novel has everything.


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