About This Blog

This blog was started as a place to post book reviews. The books reviewed here will be mixed. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, General Fiction, NonFiction and more. Both positve and negative reviews will be posted, as well as reviews for books written for all ages and all reading levels.

Many of the books reviewed here are ones that I have purchased for my own reading pleasure. Some, I receive free in exchange for reviews. Beginning in December, 2009 you will know which are the free ones if you read the final paragraph of my reviews.

Also of note: I choose what I will read, attempting to avoid the books on which I would end up writing a negative review... but I have been known to make mistakes. Thus you see some one and two star reviews here. Since I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, I only write them if the review was promised, or if the book was so exceedingly bad, I just had to say so. Regardless of the percentage of positive to negative reviews on this blog, I give my honest opinion each and every time, and have never received financial compensation for posting my reviews.

Note that, except for fair use portions quoted from some of the books reviewed, all copyright in the content of the reviews belongs to Lady Dragoness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Falls Flat in Character Development

By Cory Doctorow
Tor Books (2009)
Hardcover, 416 pages
Rated 3 Stars of 5 Possible

Normally, I can't wait for a good, new, science fiction book to be published, and jump at the chance to get an advance review copy. So, I got the chance and jumped on that chance... Makers is a futuristic account of inventors who dream up things that don't exist and figure out how to make those things work. Not just run-of-the-mill inventions like a new car or kitchen appliance, but really weird things like a 3D printer that will print out any invention you can dream up... no, not the plans, the actual inventions.  So, we have an alternative future, we have crazy inventions, we have likeable characters, and some not so likeable characters; in all a good premise from which to begin.

So, you're probably wondering why I'm only giving this book three stars... well, it's kinda the writing. The tale is told in little vignettes strung together into about three VERY LONG chapters... That's deadly from the start with me. I like my chapters about 30 or 40 pages in length (if something really happens in them) or shorter if less happens.  The chapters in Makers - if you can call them that - are over 100 pages long, and do not really contain  that much action.  I gave up around page 145.

Then, too, it's the characterization.  The characters in this book (both good and bad) are only minimally developed, more like a picture hanging on the wall instead of living people. To really suck me into his world, make me feel as if I belong there, a writer needs to develop both the scenery and the characters.  The scenery is just about well-enough developed, but the characters sure could use some work.

And, then, too, it's those little vignettes connected into the long chapters... yeah I know, I mentioned them already, but they drive me nuts. Sorry, Cory Doctorow, you missed on this one.

This review is simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing... Umm and I've posted a link to Dragonviews on Tor.com too, since that's the publisher's website... and where I found out about this book. Sorry I'm so late with the review; the book was published in hard cover, late October, 2009. Oh, and now the FTC has kicked in a new requirement for us bloggers... I'm told I have to say that Tor Books gave me this copy free to review, but truthfully, that makes no difference in my opinions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not This Author's Best Work

True Detectives
By Jonathan Kellerman
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (2009)
Rated 3 stars of 5 Possible

True Detectives stars two brothers who can't get along with each other, but must work together.  While the antagonism between the brothers is not more than mildly interesting, far too much of that relationship was included in the story.

Of far more interest was the missing persons case the brothers were investigating and the murder case that got tangled up in the initial investigation...  yet True Detectives is only an average thriller.

The first 117 pages makes one think the book is worth reading; the last 62 pages also support that viewpoint... however the pages in the middle of the book do everything possible to destroy the careful construction of the novel begun in those first pages. The middle of the book also does not make a lot of sense when combined with the ending pages.

I'd recommend this only for die-hard Kellerman fans and with the caviat that this is far from his best work. The novels starring Alex Deleware as the main character are much better than this one.

This review was simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing

Friday, December 18, 2009

Something For Everyone

Treasury of Christmas Crafts & Foods
Joan Cravens and Judith Veeder (Editors)
George De Gennaro and William Hopkins (Photographers)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Better Homes & Gardens Books (August 1980)
Rated 5 Stars of 5 Possible

This is an unusual book, every page full of instructions for beautiful crafts or mouth-watering holiday recipes, as well as many pages containing gorgeous photos of either the finished craft projects or the ready-to-eat food that looks as good as it tastes. The recipes are mostly for the average cook, but some are easier and some a bit more difficult to prepare.

While I've had my copy of this book approximately two decades, I find it as interesting to read now as I did then; a timeless and wonderful book to peruse during the holidays. Something for everyone can be found within these pages. Although this book does contain many different nativity scene projects done with different techniques, and requiring different skill levels to complete, there are an abundance of other craft projects so that nobody need feel left out.

Amazon.com no longer sells this new, however many third party sellers have copies available in any condition, including new, most of them at very reasonable prices. If you love crafts and cooking, this is the book for you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Seasonal Ghost Story

A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas
by Charles Dickens
Project Gutenberg e-book edition
based on J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY edition (1915, printed in England)
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Approximately 148 pages
Rated: 4.0 of 5 stars possible

I chose to re-read A Christmas Carol at this time of year (2008) for several reasons.  First, because of the seasonal nature of the story, and second because I was feeling in need of the "lesson" learned by Scrooge.; also to study the illustrations. There are (at minimum) three illustrated editions of this novella, each done by a different artist; the illustrations accompanying each version are quite different than the illustrations for the other versions. Mr. Rackham's style is simple, comical and comfortable... some illustrations are merely line drawings while others are a little more complex and in full color.  They add an incredible amount of enjoyment to reading this book, but are not distracting as some illustrations can be.

Dickens' prose stands out - as usual - partly because of the Victorian phrasing and cadence, partly because of the differences between British English and American English. For a modern-day American scholar, this makes Dickens a challenge to comprehend, but none-the-less an enjoyable challenge. A Christmas Carol deals with two themes which you see frequently occurring in Dickens' work: social injustice and poverty. There's an abundance of symbolism employed in this tale of Christmas, enough so that analysis of the short text is not quick and easy to accomplish. On another level, A Christmas Carol can simply be enjoyed for the excellent tale it is - which is what I wound up doing despite my original intentions.  Deeper analysis will have to wait for another day - and probably not one close to the season depicted in the story.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Bitter-Sweet Christmas Story

First, a comment and then, I promise, I'll get on with the review. :)  As with many of the other books I've read this year, The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck came to me through an online book club that I joined.  Almost without exception, those books have not been something I'd choose for myself, but the vast majority of them have been exceptionally good reading and I'm most certainly glad I joined the group.  If you're looking to broaden your own reading horizons, join a local book club or an online book club.  And now, I've yakked enough... so on with the review!

The Christmas Sweater

By Glenn Beck
Publisher: Threshold Editions (2008)
Format: Hardcover, 284 pages
Rated: 5 stars of 5 possible

Young Eddie was having a hard time adjusting to the fact that life without his father was different. His mother worked four jobs to pay for the necessary things in life, and traded hours with her co-workers so that she could spend more time with him. Eddie really only wanted one thing for Christmas, a shiny new bicycle, but he knew that his mom would have a hard time coming up with the money for that bicycle... so he prayed to God that she would find a way, and promised that he would earn it.  Like the main character in Mitch Albom's For One More Day, and like Ebenezer Scrooge in the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, after a long period of deep soul-searching, young Eddie wants his chance for atonement.

The Christmas Sweater
has another thing in common with the Mitch Albom book mentioned earlier. This is a genre I mostly don't find myself attracted to reading, and would never have chosen for myself. This novel is a tear jerker, which almost caused me not to open it. I don't normally seek those out on purpose. Still, because of my tendency to read almost anything, I decided to give The Christmas Sweater a chance. I'm glad I did. Its smaller than usual size (pages are seven inches high by 5 inches wide) makes this book easy to handle and to carry around, which you may want to do simply because it's so hard to put aside. The novel is well written, easy to read, and is one of those heart-warming stories which stay with you long after you finish. Unlike many other novels, this one ends on a positive note, so I can recommend it to all.