Archive for Books in Brief

Books in Brief: Earthsea

Time has gotten away from me.  Because it’s been a few months since I’ve read some of these titles, the reviews will be more about overall impressions rather than detailed analysis.



A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursala Le Guin.  Sparrowhawk had great magical talent but his reckless pride led him to tamper with magic beyond his training and he loosed a terrible shadow upon the world.  The tragic consequences of his actions sober him.  He applies himself to his studies and grows into a wise mage resolved to capture the shadow and send it back to whence it came.

LOVED this book.  A wonderfully told coming of age story.  A believable story of transformation.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursala Le Guin.  Believed to be the reincarnation of the last high priestess, a young girl is taken from her family and consecrated to the service of the Nameless Ones.  She is isolated and taught the dark rituals she is expected to lead.  Ged (Sparrowhawk) comes to the tombs in search of the lost Ring of Erreth-Akbe.  Arha (Tenar) discovers him and traps him, outraged by his sacrilege.  Her anger gives way to curiosity, however, and she begins to question everything she has been taught.

More horrifying than Ged’s coming-of-age story.  While Ged (Sparrowhawk) brought something terrible into the world, Tenar is ripped from her family when she is only 6 years old and indoctrinated into an evil cult.  And yet, despite this, she is still able to question what she has been taught and choose her path.

The Farthest Shore by Ursala Le Guin Magic is fading quickly from the lands of Earthsea and no one knows why.  Songs are being forgotten and people are going mad.  Archmage Ged (Sparrowhawk) chooses a young prince to accompany him as he searches for the cause.

Le Guin adds more detail to her wonderfully developed world of Earthsea.  She continues to introduce interesting characters.  That said, I struggled a bit with this story.  The Big Bad annoyed me — I think I expected someone Bigger and Badder.  And I didn’t quite get some of the motivations.  I didn’t like the ending — not that it should have ended differently, I just didn’t want it to end the way it did.

Tehanu by Ursala Le Guin.   Le Guin revisits the character Tenar, perhaps the only character more haunted than Ged.  It’s been years since she left the Tombs with Ged; she’s now a widow.  She takes in a severely injured child and names her Therru.  And Ged returns.  Immediately following the events of The Farthest Shore, the dragon Kalessin brings him to Gont, unconscious and near death.  Tenar nurses him back to health . . . but not to his former power.  That is gone.

This was an interesting departure for the series.  Ged has no power; his sense of self is shattered.  And he, Tenar, and Therru are targeted by another Big Bad who has ample magic.  The danger feels more threatening this time around.


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Books in Brief: Fantasy and Sci Fi

Time has gotten away from me.  Because it’s been a few months since I’ve read some of these titles, the reviews will be more about overall impressions rather than detailed analysis.



Parable of Talents by Octavia ButlerThe breakdown of communities within the United States has led to an upsurge in Christian fundamentalism.  The cruelty people inflict upon each other in the name of religion unfortunately feels all too possible.  Lauren’s small community, established in Parable of the Sower, is destroyed.  Her child is kidnapped and she is imprisoned;  she must find a way to escape and begin again.

Love Lauren!  And I mostly loved this continuation of her story.  My only quibble is that I don’t understand Larkin’s feelings about her mother.  She knew what happened.  She knew what the new fundamentalism was like.  She knew that Lauren had searched for her.  She knew that her uncle Marcus had kept her a secret.  And yet, she resented her mother.  I get it but I don’t get it.  If Lauren hadn’t been Lauren, maybe they wouldn’t have been separated.  But the world Larkin lived in would have been a far worse place.

Upside Down Magic:  Sticks and Stones by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins.  Strange things are happening at Dunwiddle Middle School, the kids in the Upside Down Magic class are being blamed, and there’s talk that they will be kicked out of school.  Nory’s tutor encourages her to join a sport and while things get off to a bumpy start, she and her teammates get to know each other and see other as individuals instead of stereotypes.

Fun!!!  What I love about this series is that it gives kids insight into what it feels like to be different — and it demonstrates that being different isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself.

Earthseed by Pamela Sargent.  Based on the title, I wondered if it was based upon Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.  Maybe influenced???  There’s no mention of Lauren Olamina but this is a story about the belief that humanity’s destiny is beyond Earth.  A space ship designed to think for itself is loaded with the history of human culture, as well as the genetic material to create new humans, animals, and crops.  It’s purpose is to create and prepare a new generation of humans for life on another planet.  Once it has a destination in sight, that is.

Eh.  I liked the premise but this story just didn’t work for me and I have no intention of reading its sequels, Farseed and Seed Seeker.  The character development felt off.  Sargent didn’t convince me of much regarding the relationships formed and choices made.  Not only were the characters in general somewhat flat, Sargent employed two narratives I particularly hate:  girls becoming infatuated with bad boys, and sudden transformations of character.  Can a bad boy change his ways?  Sure, but show me and make me believe it — don’t tell me and expect me to take it in stride.


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Books in Brief: Mystery

Time has gotten away from me.  Because it’s been a few months since I’ve read some of these titles, the reviews will be more about overall impressions rather than detailed analysis.



Kilmoon by Lisa Alber.  Merrit Chase leaves the States to travel to an Irish village to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, who has no knowledge of her existence.  Her arrival triggers events which lead to murder and she finds herself a suspect.  Everything eventually comes back to events from thirty years in the past.

Atmospheric, brooding and complex.  Merrit was not an easy character for me to connect with; her father even less so.  That said, it’s still a good read.  Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern stole the story for me.

Whispers in the Mist by Lisa Alber.  A strange fog has rolled in from the Atlantic.  Along with the fog comes tales of the Grey Man . . . and murders.  Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern is on the case.  Until the case strikes too close to home.

Sequel to Kilmoon by Lisa Alber.  While there are references to events which happened in the first book, it’s not necessary to read it first.  Of the two, this is the stronger story, I think:  Danny is a far more interesting character than Merrit or Liam.

Hidden by Karen Olson.   Nicole Jones abandoned her old name and her old life years before the book begins.  She’s been enjoying a quiet life on Block Island, living off of the grid.  When someone from her past finds her, she realizes that she will have to leave and find another place to hide.

What I liked best about this story was Nicole’s reinvention of herself from the girl she used to be.  I like the Nicole who gives bike tours and taught herself to paint beautiful landscapes.  Her past self, which is revealed as the story progresses, is less interesting.  The mystery is so-so.

Shadowed by Karen Olson.   Sequel to Hidden.  Nicole is now Susan McQueen and she’s living on an island in Quebec, Canada.  She’s trying to recreate the life she had on Block Island, living a quiet life, working as an artist.  She’s still off the grid but this time around she has not given up her computer.  The lure of the online chatrooms and the temptation to reach out to an old accomplice proves to be her undoing this time.  Someone else has been lurking in the chatrooms, and they know her well enough to find her, even though she’s using a different name.

Some things are too easy, some things are too hard, but it’s still a light, enjoyable read.  Someday I will have to re-read the first book to see if something that happens in this one matches up.  Someday.

The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy.  Two online friends, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart.  And north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher finds two dead men in her basement.  Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth connect the cases.  When an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home and an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, a link emerges.  Leo and Gino team up with Monkeewrench to solve a mystery sixty years in the making and moments away from disaster.

It’s been several months since I read this.  I remember enjoying it — I love the Monkeewrench crew.  I also remember thinking some of it was too easy.  And that there was one really good twist.

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