Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson teamed up again for this fourth installment in their series of Peter Pan prequels. Peter and the Sword of Mercy begins more than 20 years after Peter and the Secret of Rundoon ended.

Molly has married George Darling and has three children: Wendy, Michael, and John whom she has told stories to about her past adventures with Peter, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, and the other inhabitants of Neverland.

This adventure begins when James, a former Lost Boy, arrives at the Darling house and tells Molly that he suspects the shadow creatures are now controlling Prince Albert Edward, the heir to England's throne. He believes that they're using him to gain access to one of the last known caches of starstuff (pixie dust in the cartoon). Molly begins to investigate what's going on, but she quickly goes missing and this time, it's Wendy that must come to the rescue. She has to somehow find a way to get to Neverland to enlist the help of Peter.

These books are great. They're written for young adults but their appeal is much broader than that. Barry and Pearson provide the perfect combination of talents to take the characters created by J. M. Barrie and give them a whole new life. The next book in the series comes out in just a few days. Both of the authors are making a stop here in Utah to support the book but they're coming to the Provo City library and to get a ticket you need to have a current Provo City Library card which they only give to residents of Provo. So now I have to figure out how to fake residency there. If you see the signing listed here next month, you'll know I was successful.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Drama City

Drama City by George Pelecanos

Lorenzo Brown has gotten his life back in order. Having recently been released from prison for drug and gang-related crimes, he's now gainfully employed as an officer for the Humane Society, walking the streets of D.C. looking for cases of animal neglect and cruelty. He loves what he does, he's good at it, and he's determined to never return to the lifestyle of his youth that led to his incarceration.

That's not going to be as easy as Lorenzo would like though. Walking the same streets now that he was back when he was selling drugs, constantly surrounded by the people and temptations of his past, Lorenzo discovers just how much willpower and internal strength it takes to truly change who they were, if it's even possible at all.

Drama City is another great example of Pelecanos's writing talent. It's a character-driven story containing characters that are well developed who feel real. Pelecanos has the ability to both showcase the character flaws of those characters he gets his readers to pull for as well as give glimpses into the humanity of the characters acting against them. It's this level of talent that is making him quickly become one of my favorite authors writing today.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I know when I reviewed The Name of the Wind I said I was going to wait until book three was announced before reading book two, but I needed a literary rebound after the disappointments of the last couple of books and I was fairly certain The Wise Man's Fear would reverse the recent trend – it did.

This installment leaves the first one in the dust as far as size and scope is concerned. It's just shy of 1,000 pages long and while the first book took place primarily at the University, this one begins there but soon expands when Kvothe’s ongoing feud with his wealthy and privileged nemesis, Ambrose, comes to a head, forcing him to suspend his studies for a year and try to pursue information about the elusive Chandrian out in the world.

I’m really enjoying how Rothfuss has framed his story. He’s done it in a unique and interesting way. On the inside flap of the first book, he has Kvothe describe himself, saying I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep” But when the book begins, we meet Kvothe and he appears in stark contrast to the man he described. He’s the owner of a simple tavern about to tell his tale to the King’s scribe.

The books consist primarily of that tale, interjected occasionally with “real-time” chapters that repeatedly remind the reader that the man telling the story has changed drastically since the events that he’s describing took place. This second book describes his journey to the courts of the Maer, one of the country’s wealthiest men where he uncovers an assassination attempt on the Maer’s life. It describes his journey to the land of Fae and his encounter with the mythical Felurian, and it tells of the time he spent with the Adem, an isolated society of well trained fighters who possess what appears to be unnatural speed and agility.

The Wise Man's Fear is fantastic, just as good as the first one. But now, I’m going to have to pay the price for my impatience and will have to wait a couple of years for the last book in the trilogy  to come out and to find out how things conclude.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

The last (and least enjoyed) road-trip book was Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk. How this book came from the same guy who wrote Fight Club, Rant, and Diary is beyond comprehension. It's almost like Chuck wrote it to entertain himself instead of his readers whose continued loyalty he should be more concerned about. I can only assume that he wanted to test just how loyal his readers were and set out to write an awful book intentionally as some sort of literary experiment.

I don't really have the desire or energy to describe this one. I will say that the one good thing about it is that it's brief, less than 200 pages.

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Inner Circle

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

The second road-trip book was Brad Meltzer's latest, The Inner Circle. I've only read Meltzer's three most recent novels, so I'm not sure what his earlier ones are like, but from the three books I have read along with having watched several episodes of his show Decoded on the History Channel, I'd describe him as a conspiracy theorist with mainstream appeal.

Beecher White leads a fairly mundane life as an archivist employed at the National Archives in Washington D.C., watching over some of our country's government's most important documents. But his life takes a dramatic change in direction the day a childhood girlfriend shows up at the Archives searching for the identity of a father she's never known.

As they begin their search for the identity of Clemintine's father, Beecher decides to make the most of the situation and tries to impress Clementine by showing her the secret vault in the Archives that the President of the United States uses when he's reviewing top secret documents. While there, they discover a hidden book owned by George Washington which contains coded messages and a secret which some at the highest positions of power will do everything to keep hidden.

I like a story that has a good plot twist, and I like it when the protagonists and antagonists change rolls at the end of the book. But Meltzer didn't know when to quit when he wrote this one. He included so many plot twists that eventually the plot had no direction at all. And by continously trying to get me to change my mind about who the good guys and bad ones were, Meltzer got me to stop caring about all of them entirely.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Confession

The Confession by John Grisham

When my family and I take a road trip, I like to listen to a book on my iPod while driving. I usually finish one complete book during the drive which equates to about 1,000 miles or roughly 16 hours round trip. This last one to San Antonio and the Gulf Coast was a three-book trip which equaled about 3,350 miles or about 58 hours round trip. The first of the three was The Confession.

Donte Drumm is about to die. He's days away from being put to death by the state of Texas for a crime he insists he didn't commit. While he's sitting on death row awaiting the decisions on his final appeals and motions, another man walks into a Lutheran minister's office and confesses to having committed that crime.

Travis Boyette was recently released from a Kansas prison after having completed his sentence for multiple sex crimes. He claims to have an inoperable brain tumor that's killing him and says he wants to make restitution for all his past mistakes by stopping the execution of an innocent man.

The Confession is another step back in the right direction for Grisham. It reminded me a lot of The Chamber which I thoroughly enjoyed reading back when it was written. The political ideology in this one is a little heavy-handed at times, (Grisham makes his view on capital punishment quite clear in this one) but
the story was compelling and enjoyable to read, exactly what I'm hoping for when I read one of his books.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

M is for Magic

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

Every time I start a new book I do so with a certain level of excitement because I figure there's a chance it's going to be really really good. Every time I start a book by Neil Gaiman, the excitement level is significantly higher because I KNOW it's going to be really really good.

Gaiman first came on the scene with his very popular Sandman graphic novels series, which have been credited for redefining the comic book genre. Since then he's written children's books (which my kids have enjoyed a lot), novels, short stories, and most recently an episode of Dr. Who. His most mainstream success came with his Young Adult novel Coraline which Tim Burton made into a movie.

The first book of his I read was Neverwhere and I absolutely loved it. I've since read all his other books and none of them have been disappointments. 

M is for Magic is a collection of some of his short stories and is described as "for Young Adults." However, I would recommend that parents read them first before passing them along to their children. My oldest daughter is 12, and I think she needs to be a few years older before reading a couple of the stories. They're not offensive or profane, but the subject matter in some of them is a little more mature than I'm comfortable with her reading right now.

The stories are all classic Gaiman, which means they're extremely creative, a little warped, and a lot of fun to read. I think he's probably one of the most consistent writers alive today in terms of the quality of his writing and he seems to be able to accomplish it effortlessly.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆