Marie L. (fencerchica) - Reviews

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All the Weyrs of Pern (Dragonriders of Pern, Bk 11)
All the Weyrs of Pern (Dragonriders of Pern, Bk 11)
Author: Anne Mccaffrey
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 98
Review Date: 2/29/2012


The dragons of Pern boldly go where no dragon has gone before in this volume of the Dragonriders saga. Stumbling upon an ancient fortress carved out by their technologically advanced ancestors, the original colonists of Pern, they accidentally re-awaken its dormant guardian, a sentient artificial intelligence. Under its guidance, will it be possible to not only jump-start their world's technology but also to use it to end Threadfall once and for all? Not only the Dragonrider Weyrs but also the entire political structure of the planet will be thrown into upheaval as a result of their efforts.

Although it involves familiar characters like Jaxom and his white dragon Ruth, this volume is more reminiscent of "Dragonfall" or "Chronicles of Pern" than stories like "The White Dragon", because of the strong focus on the colonists and their legacy. So in other words, this is more of a sci-fi oriented novel than a fantasy one like the core classic Pern novels.


An Emergence of Green
An Emergence of Green
Author: Katherine V. Forrest
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 8/8/2011
Helpful Score: 1


The budding romance and emotional development of the characters unfolds with lush detail. It's sensual without being explicit, and the characters pratically breathe from the pages. They're all engaging -- it's easy to feel the main character's visceral attraction to the gorgeous vitality of her new neighbor, and while despising the brutality of the villain, you feel pity for the terror and confusion that drive him to his deeds. At times the plot development seems a bit pat, but the power of the characters and the vividness of storytelling more than make up for any formulaic aspects of the book. Its status as a classic of lesbian fiction is definitely well-earned.


Beggars and Choosers (Beggars, Bk 2)
Beggars and Choosers (Beggars, Bk 2)
Author: Nancy Kress
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 18
Review Date: 1/18/2010


Entertaining dystopian adventure, combining anthroplogy, wheels-within-wheels conspiracies, and engaging technological speculation.

Human society has developed into three strata: Livers, genetically unmodified humans, constitute the bulk of the population, living pampered and thuggishly ignorant existences, through discontent brews among bands of self-professed freedom fighters who want genetic modifications banned. The caretakers and manipulators of the Liver population are the Donkeys, humans who have undergone slight genetic modifications and generally seek to maintain the present status quo. But when the eccentric and dynamic Sleepless, severely genetically modified, unleash a plan to revolutionize society, an adventurous Donkey decides she must travel incognito in Liver society as she tries to unravel the threads of multiple parallel machinations.


Dark of the Moon
Dark of the Moon
Author: P.C. Hodgell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/26/2010


The lethal environment and the surreal adventures experienced by the characters unfold with dazzling vividness. In part this is perhaps because this is much more of an action-driven narrative than a character-driven narrative. The characters feature remarkable origins and properties, but their personalities, with the exception of the heroine, are blocked out rather than painted with fine strokes. The net effect is a decent balance, with the strong narrative compensating for the relative simplicity of the characters' inner dialogues.

As it's intended as part of an epic series, it's somewhat easy to find oneself growing a bit lost amid a complex network of races, conflicts, and motivations.


Doc and Fluff: The Dystopian Tale of a Girl and Her Biker
Doc and Fluff: The Dystopian Tale of a Girl and Her Biker
Author: Pat Califia
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 2/8/2011


Wild adventure story set in a dystopian near-future America. War, nuclear strikes, mass migrations, and ravaging diseases have left behind a barren anarchic landscape ruled by brutal biker gangs and a few tenacious and well-armed communes.

Butchest of the butch, Doc rides her beloved Medusa alone through the burned out urban wilderness, her trading contacts and well-respected skills as a field medic giving her diplomatic immunity among the hyper-violent biker gangs. Prez, leader of a strong and stable gang, had been a prickly but respectful ally of Doc for years. But when she rescues Fluff, a young woman Prez had been holding as his personal property, he plunges into an abyss of Ahab-like rage as all of his vicious sexual desires become unglued. He flogs his reluctant gang into a maddened pursuit of the two fugitives as they flee toward the uncertain refuge of an all-female fortress/commune, hoping the Harpies' friendship with Doc will be enough to persuade them to enter a gang war for her sake. But resolution may come in an unexpected way when Prez finds his madness and crazed desires matched by the smouldering fury of the witch doctor woman who herself holds the Harpies' true chief as a slave.

This tale is very well written and contains excellent character creation, but readers should be advised it contains some rather exceptionally graphic violence including grisly torture and explicit BDSM adult scenes.


The Easy Way Out
The Easy Way Out
Author: Stephen McCauley
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/6/2010


Like its narrator Patrick, this novel shields its warm heart behind wisecracking ascerbic sarcasm. With bittersweet hilarity, it looks at how different people cope with roads taken (or not taken) in life and love.

Completely by accident, Patrick's stumbled into what anyone else would probably call a perfect relationship and life. But despite feeling genuine affection for his kind, decent, and profoundly boring boyfriend Arthur, Patrick can't shake a guilty feeling of total panic at the placid path he's finding himself more and more deeply sinking into.

Patrick's actually a pretty lazy guy who more readily invests energy in sardonic quips than in actually shaking things up in his life. Besides, even when he's feeling suffocated, he realizes he's undeservedly lucky to have what he does. So maybe nothing would've changed, even when Arthur calmly decides they should buy a house together and doggedly begins marching them towards that goal.

But then Tony, Patrick's dumpy, drearily conventional kid brother, falls desperately in love. And not with the sad-puppy fiancee that their overbearing parents had picked out for him, but with a sophisticated beauty who lights a fire beneath him to clean up his slovenly ways and broaden his previously unimaginative mind. As Tony frantically demands his older brother's advice, Patrick sees his own life flashing before his eyes, mirrored in the life choice his brother's shakily facing down. He can't fend it all off with wiseass humor forever...


Elric of Melnibone (Elric Saga, Bk 1)
Elric of Melnibone (Elric Saga, Bk 1)
Author: Michael Moorcock
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 2/1/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Here is the book that first introduces the greatest anti-hero of high fantasy: Elric the restless, beautiful, fallen king of wicked Melnibone. Every dark elf hero since that time has a small piece of Elric in his or her soul. So, Elric's chilling adventures are not only great stories on their own but also helpful in tracing the development of the modern fantasy epic. In tone, these books are very reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's tales of dreaming Cthulu as they weave a sinister, hypnotic tale of a decayed empire of decadent supermen.

This first book of the Elric saga follows his struggles as a sickly young emperor to maintain his grip on the helm of Melnibone's ebbing glories. He searches desperately for some source of power to aid him in withstanding his thuggish cousin Yrkoon, who seeks to wrest away both his throne and his lover. Like R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt, Elric gradually develops a painful capacity for empathy amongst a starkly, casually amoral society, and this only increases his desolation. Left without other recourse, he casts himself into the service of Arioch, god of Chaos, claims possession of the treacherous black greatsword called Stormbringer, and begins to wander throughout the Young Kingdoms of upstart men.

This paperback edition of the series features really gorgeous Robert Gould illustrations on all the covers.


Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Review Date: 5/23/2011
Helpful Score: 2


"Fair Game" is divided into three major parts which are all necessary for the reader/listener to make sense of it: introduction, main body, and afterward.

In the introduction, Mrs. Wilson provides some background on the unusual format of the main body of her book. She explains that her contractual obligations (as affirmed by a lawsuit won by the CIA) prohibit her from disclosing material deemed confidential by the Agency. This is despite the fact that all the material in question had long since been made public in major media outlets such as the NY Times. Because a coherent presentation of her story requires discussion of these (now extremely public) facts, this effort by the CIA to close the barn doors after the horses had run out was really just an attempt to thwart her ability to publish her side of the story. In the end, Mrs. Wilson decided to simply publish her manuscript with the CIA redactions in place, so although the story becomes a bit framented at times, the reader/listener can plainly tell what kind of ridiculous political game was going on with these redactions.

In the main body, as noted, Mrs. Wilson discusses her training and early experiences as a young CIA agent, the activities of herself and her husband during the scandal concerning the falsely alleged Nigerian yellowcake transfer to Iraq, and the political fallout afterwards as the Office of the Vice President sought to discredit and profesionally ruin the Wilsons.

The most helpful part of the book is actaully the lengthy and exciting afterword by reporter Laura Rozen. Not bound by Mrs. Wilson's CIA contractual obligations, Ms. Rozen goes back and proceeds to fill in all the blanks left in the main body portion of the book. The story unfolds at a dizzying and thrilling pace and leaves the reader in a state of shock that this kind of horrifying corruption and double-dealing could go on in our supposedly fair and transparent society.


Foundation
Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 3/23/2011


The fiercely ambitious premise of the Foundation series is of a repository of knowledge set up as a candle in the dark, against the chaos pressing in on the crumbling edges of the imploding Galactic Empire.

Brilliant social scientist Hari Seldon has realized that the vast, ancient Empire which seemed "too big to fail" (as we might say) should actually be measuring its remaining lifespan on the scale of decades. The aftermath of this collapse will surely be the regression of humanity into barbarism for tens of centuries before civilization can hope to regroup. That is, unless a visionary were to try to establish a last bastion of science, to safeguard human knowledge for the purposes of rebuilding as soon as the dust has settled from the Empire's collapse.

Yet as the protection of the dwindling Empire is gradually withdrawn from Foundation, how will this small community of peace-loving scientists manage to hold off the ring of savage petty kingdoms that lust after the prospect of looting this desperate outpost of human knowledge?

The second half of the book is broken into a series of connected short stories describing activities of the different groups involved in Foundation's struggle for survival. One after another, they must confront a series of desperate crises with only their own ingenuity and the wisdom of the long-dead Hari Seldon to guide them.


Freedom's Challenge (Catteni, Bk 3)
Freedom's Challenge (Catteni, Bk 3)
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 57
Review Date: 3/24/2011


A colony of human freedom fighters, ex-slaves of the mysterious and ruthless Eosi, have now gathered strength enough to use the resources of the Botany colony to attempt the liberation of Earth itself from the Eosi grasp.

Lots of thoughtful detail as Kris Bjornsen, her lover the fugitive Catteni warrior Zainal, and the rest of the human leadership grapple with the logistical, tactical, and management challenges involved with mounting an invasion against a powerful alien foe and resupplying the surviving humans starving on an Earth stripped of its natural resources.


Freedom's Landing (Catteni, Bk 1)
Freedom's Landing (Catteni, Bk 1)
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 12/15/2010


It is the near future and humanity has, after a valiant struggle, been overpowered in an invasion by a fierce warrior race known as the Catteni. These aliens have scouted out other Earth-like planets and come up a simple test to determine if they're fit for habitation: Maroon captured malcontents from conquered races there, and see if they manage to survive.

In a former life, Kris Bjornsen was an ordinary college student in Denver, but now she finds herself in a struggle for survival on a totally unknown world. Equally startling is the deep friendship she finds herself forming with an outlawed Catteni who's been dropped on the planet with humans who want to murder him simply for being of the same species as their oppressors. The only thing worse than being dropped with her fellow ersatz colonists on this place unimaginably far from home is the fact that they do not seem to be alone here. But in addition to the mysterious predators who snatch one's friends away in the night, some of the refugees themselves may be the worst enemies of our Heinlein-esque heroine, as a struggle unfolds to establish a fair and ordered society in the midst of danger and scarcity.


Icefalcon's Quest (Darwath, Bk 5)
Icefalcon's Quest (Darwath, Bk 5)
Author: Barbara Hambly
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 4/20/2011


Previous Darwath books focused on the character development of Rudy (brash young wizard), Gil (stoic scholar-warrior), and Ingold (grizzled yet whimsical wizard-warrior) as the major players, while the grim barbarian known as Icefalcon remained cloaked in mystery.

This book is Icefalcon's turn to shine; our old friends are still around but moved back a little bit to let him take the center. We learn more about the rugged background of Icefalcon's stern tribe, as they wrestled a living from a landscape full of enemies and danger. And we learn of the soul-crushing betrayal that ripped him from his family and his people.

In the present day, Icefalcon must set out on a desperate pursuit after a kidnapped prince, knowing he will have to confront his past in order to survive.


Implementing the Virtual Project Management Office: Proven Strategies for Success
Review Date: 2/22/2013


Please note that this ISBN is for the hardcover book only, not for the multimedia set. (The ISBN for the multimedia set is 9780071459174)


Killashandra (Crystal Singer, Bk 2)
Killashandra (Crystal Singer, Bk 2)
Author: Anne Mccaffrey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 200
Review Date: 2/27/2010
Helpful Score: 2


Saucy romance/mystery set against a science fiction backdrop. When Killashandra Ree is persuaded to leave her crystal-mining claim on Ballybran in order to repair the amazing crystal organ of Optheria, she's in for a lot more than she bargained for when she's abducted by members of a dissident movement. Her wit and ingenuity seem more than a match for any challenge, but what will she do when she falls in love with one of her kidnappers? She learns that the mighty crystal organ is actually an outlawed weapon of the Optherian Elders, who are more sinister than she could've initially imagined. Now it's her and her erstwhile captor against the rulers of a planet.


Lambs of God
Lambs of God
Author: Marele Day
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.7/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 1/18/2010
Helpful Score: 1


The narrative unfolds in a dreamy, hypnotic mood that captures well the timeless quality of the nuns' existence until the arrival of a priest who threatens to bring an end to the life of their community. Creates a highly vivid contrast between the sleepy peace of their agrarian existence versus the purposefulness and often harsh swiftness of modern society. Poses interesting questions about the divergent ways spirituality develops under such different conditions.


The Lawrenceville Stories
The Lawrenceville Stories
Author: Owen McMahon Johnson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 3/23/2011


"The Lawrenceville Stories" is actually an omnibus volume containing two books of interconnected short stories revolving around the adolescent population of the real-life prep school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey during the early 1900's. For the most part, the first book ("The Prodigious Hickey") and the second ("The Tennessee Shad") center around the main characters whose nicknames furnish their titles, but often the short stories within also diverge to relate (mis)adventures of a vast cast of young supporting characters.

Shameless lovers of the English language will delight in Owen Johnson's dry, witty prose. One can let the volume fall open almost anywhere and gorgeous little jewels tumble forth, such as: "And for an hour the tugging souls of forty-two imprisoned little pagans would have to construe, and parse, and decline, secretly cursing the fossils who rediscovered those unnecessary Latin documents."

The stories are also full of lovely little details of life at the turn of the previous century, stories of jiggers consumed at the malt shop, of dickeys and detatchable shirt cuffs, of football strategy in the days before helmets and padding.

And finally, there's something indescribably disarming about how the stunts of these aspiring felons are justaposed with so much tenderness. Such as, the story of a youngster known as "Little Big Man", who benefits from the secret fatherly side of the young tough everyone calls "Butcher" and has an opportunity to return the favor by bravely intervening with the headmaster to save Butcher from expulsion.

Unfortunately, these stories also reflect the negatives of their time, and it's certainly a jarring experience to come across strange, regrettable phrases such as "I say, that was so white of you!" or to notice the stark absence of any significant female characters.


A Letter of Mary (Mary Russell, Bk 3)
A Letter of Mary (Mary Russell, Bk 3)
Author: Laurie R. King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 165
Review Date: 12/2/2010
Helpful Score: 1


A delightful new pursuit by the Russell-Holmes duo!

Prior to her untimely death by foul play, the last action of a beloved old friend of Mary's is to place an ancient treasure in her charge. It's no less a prize than a papyrus letter in the hand of Mary Magdalene, where she is identified as a full-fledged Apostle of Jesus. Was this a prize which the killers too had sought?

Fierce in their grief for the friend who's been stolen from them, Russell and Holmes divide their forces as they go deep undercover, carefully assuming imaginative new personae in somewhat dicey environs.

Perhaps this brutal death was the work of a violent misogynist Christian, driven mad with his rage at the idea of a woman Apostle. Even now, he seems to have turned his eye upon Russell as his next prey. Yet what of the psychotic yet clever and twisty elder sister of the murder victim, in whom the death arouses neither alarm nor grief? But Mycroft, Holmes' brother who sits spiderlike at the center of the networks of political power, warns also that the departed woman was in the midst of playing a complicated political game with the competing ethnic groups beginning the modern struggle for the Holy Land.

Only minimally able to watch one anothers' backs, Russell and Holmes press grimly forward as they struggle to unravel the dark personalities (and potential murder motives) of their respective quarries...


Life of Pi
Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 165
Review Date: 4/16/2010


Unfortunately, for me this was one of those books where I wished I could have the time back that I spent on reading it. I felt that it seemed to be an exercise in self-indulgence on the author's part. I thought the efforts it made towards groping after meaningful truths were feeble and unfocused, that the characters were not terribly interesting or even very likeable, that the plot development was wandering, and that the fantasy elements were condescending and unconvincing. Just not my kind of book, I guess.

I think "Life of Pi" would appeal strongly to those who also enjoyed reading "The Alchemist", which is quite similar in style (and another book I didn't care for).


Lives of the Monster Dogs
Lives of the Monster Dogs
Author: Kirsten Bakis
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 1/26/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Mournful horror-adventure story of human-dog hybrids created by a sadistic mad scientist. Terrible in its vividness. Particularly for an animal lover, the overwhelming take-away is a deep sense of sadness and violation for the suffering of the title characters, who are unable to find community among any other creatures except for their own few comrades.


Lord Brocktree (Redwall, Bk 13)
Lord Brocktree (Redwall, Bk 13)
Author: Brian Jacques
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 80
Review Date: 1/18/2010


Has a story that progresses with the frenetic energy of its furry characters. Lots of adventure and heroism ala Lord of the Rings. The protagonists are pretty straightforward (the intrepid hare-maiden Dotti is a great strong female character), but it was a very intriguing and engaging development that although the antagonists are clearly wicked, we get to see how some of them got that way and discover that they deserve to be pitied even though it's also obvious that they must be destroyed.

Another point this book has in common with the Lord of the Rings trilogy is how the inclusion of songs and ballads performed by the various characters is really integral to the atmosphere. A great touch!


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