Sunday, September 21, 2008

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

I received this book as a member of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Unlike most recipients, I did not read the free "prequel" short story, so I had no idea what I was getting into. However, I did sort of expect this to be a garden-variety urban fantasy. In this, I was not disappointed.

Elizabeth Phoenix is the main character. She is well developed and feels genuine. Some things about her irritated me for a while - her somewhat dumb-blond approach to figuring things out. But that's part of her character and I came to accept it. Because she is an ex-cop, I assumed the story would be more crime-fighting based and was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't.

In a way, I'm reminded of Karen Chance's Pythia character in regards to Elizabeth's role in the supernatural community. That's not to say that this book is a clone of another already written. I find that most books of this genre have certain similarities, and I'm okay with that. The plot was fast paced and interesting. I enjoyed the mythologies that the author incorporated and found some approaches to be quite unique.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will definitely read future novels in this series. As with most urban fantasy, I found it to be a relatively quick read that was pure entertainment. Don't expect to use your devious investigative powers with this book, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner

I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. The description of the book led me to expect something a bit different than what I actually encountered, though. I have to say that I did not really enjoy this book. I made it through the whole thing and can honestly say that I've read worse, but it just wasn't to my taste.

To begin with, the characters are very flat. Details about them, their past, who they really are, etc. are given out only as necessary. I never felt that any of the characters were really real. By the end of the book Victor is almost three dimensional, but not quite. We know a little of his past and present - but nothing that makes you feel like you could meet him in person in real life.

Secondly, the place descriptions and scenery seemed very random to me. I know next to nothing about Paris, let alone Paris in 1889. I found the constant place association via street name to be very confusing. In addition, the Expo was depicted as an enormous circus of revelry. I couldn't help but view the majority of Paris as having been taken over by ludicrous sights and exotic vendors. Even at the conclusion of the book, I couldn't be sure that I had the proper impressions of exactly where this book too place.

Last, I think the story itself was lacking something. The plot was so basic (which isn't always a bad thing) and the end result so anti-climactic that I felt a little cheated. It was like sitting through a three hour movie that could have been adequately summed up in a half-hour television show.

Perhaps this is what a "real" mystery novel is like. I don't have a basis for comparison as I tend to read the thriller/suspense flavor of mysteries. If that's what you're looking for, this book is not for you. If you want a somewhat aloof who-done-it that doesn't require a commitment to the characters, you might enjoy this.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sandstorm by James Rollins

I started this series with the second book. I had picked it up for two reasons: 1) it sounded interesting and 2) the main character shares my son's name. I enjoyed it so much that I sought out the rest of the Sigma Force books.

Sandstorm is the first of the Sigma Force novels. I was disappointed at first when I discovered that Grayson Pierce was not even a minor character, however, I quickly warmed to Painter Crowe. The story is that of a lost city in Oman. The action was consistent and the history interesting. As with all the books of this sort, there were an obscene number of "well, isn't that convenient" circumstances.

The scenery was amazing. You'd think that endless sands would become boring, but Rollins kept the land alive and moving. Each location was described with enough detail to allow me to form complete pictures in my head. The characters were realistic and vivid for the most part. Clay bothered me. He seemed very on-again-off-again, but he wasn't exactly a main player.

I've enjoyed everything I've read by this author (including the fantasy he writes under the name of James Clemens) and would recommend this book without hesitation. In fact, I've already gotten several family members interested in it. If you like well planned and fleshed out history-mysteries, you'll enjoy this book as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits was a whole world wrapped into a 433 page book. It followed several generations of a very interesting family. Often, while reading, I wondered if the book was every going to actually go anywhere. When I decided (halfway through the book) to try and explain what it was about to my husband, I realized just how much had already happened.

Allende beautifully combined a solid world with a transient one of spirits and magic. Clara was, by far, my favorite character. I was a little disappointed that Esteban was the sometime-narrator. He was one of my least favorite characters - but I think that was intended. He didn't seem to be written to be likable.

The last quarter of the book seemed to not really fit, to me. It sank into politics, government, and misery. I realize these are all part of life, but it was just so concentrated that I felt I was reading a totally different book all of a sudden. The cyclical nature of the characters was evident to me even before Alba spoke of it in closing. The epilogue brought everything to a comfortable finish. I wasn't left feeling like anything was missing or neglected. I've already recommended this book to my husband and would easily recommend it to others as well.