Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Books Read In June

Going from the most recent to the earliest, I reviewed a whopping twelve books this month. There's two other books that I read, but I haven't gotten the reviews written for: Brian's Hunt by Gary Paulsen and Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Brian's Return
Gary Paulsen
The fourth book about Brian Robeson. A very quick but enjoyable read where everything is described vividly and with passion.

An excerpt from my review:
In some ways this was the most beautiful of the books, filled with peaceful descriptions of nature and small details about the world. No great disasters such as plane crashes this time, but the story doesn't need them.

Brian's Winter
Gary Paulsen
This is the third book written about the adventures of Brian Robeson after the plane crash. However, this is a unique book as it takes the ending of Hatchet and goes "What If?"

An excerpt from my review:
Just reading about the weather in the Canadian wilderness in winter made me shiver. I've read about trees exploding, but Gary Paulsen's descriptions were so vivid I could almost see it happening, along with other incidents such as the skunk.

The River
Gary Paulsen
After surviving a plane crash and living off of his wits alone in the wilderness, Brian Robeson was rescued at the end of Hatchet. In The River he is asked to go back and do it again in order to teach others how to survive.

A snippet from my review:
I like the way the author has chosen to get into Brian's head, showing his thought processes, and how easy he found it to get back into the mindset he had during his first experience in the wilderness. This time though, he's also exploring (unintentionally) the effects of an extended period without sleep, which are very vividly described.

Hatchet
Gary Paulsen
The Newberry Honor winning survival story and the first of a series of five books about Brian Robeson and his life after he survived a plane crash in the wilderness.

A snippet from my review:
At just under two hundred pages, The Hatchet is quite the quick read I found, finishing it in only a couple of hours, but I also found that I couldn't put the book down until it was finished (when I picked up the next book, The River). This was all true even given the knowledge that Brian had to survive because there are more books about his experiences after the adventures of The Hatchet.

Space Cadet
Robert A. Heinlein
A classic science fiction novel that's stood the test of time, decades of time, and it's still just as exciting and fun to read.

A snippet from my review:
Where Heinlein excels in my mind is in the creation of his characters. They're all very 'real' in these books, with doubts, weak areas, problems, and yet confidence. When working in a group they can come together to overcome separate weaknesses as well. And yet, he's spare with the details and descriptions, making for a fairly short, fast-moving story which can be hard to put down (I ended up finishing the read far too late at night).
Bess Of Hardwick: First Lady Of Chatsworth
Mary S. Lovell
A biography of Elizabeth Shrewsbury (to use just one of her many names), one of the most powerful women in Tudor and Elizabethan times. Interesting, thought-provoking and full of fascinating glimpses into the life of the sixteenth century.

A snippet from my review:
Overall, if you're interested in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods of English history, I highly recommend this book. Not dry in the slightest, and highly readable, Bess of Hardwick also includes two sections of illustrations, photos and paintings, most of which are in full color.
The Tattooed Map
Barbara Hodgson
The first word that comes to mind about this book is "different". The book is lavishly decorated and illustrated, so that it resembles a true diary - sketches, notes, ticket stubs etc. If you kept a travel journal, I'd bet it looks something like this. I know mine did. On top of that, a story that captures you and won't let you go. Having read this book, I'd love to see the places Barbara Hodgson describes, such as Marrakesh.

A snippet from my review:
The Tattooed Map is a moderately quick read, and, in my opinion, one that doesn't disappoint....By the time I'd finished the story, I still knew next to nothing about the characters, but it didn't matter. I was enthralled by their adventures, and I'd still like to know more.
Skin Trade
Laurell K. Hamilton
The most recent of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, Skin Trade picks up where Blood Noir left off. It also is my new favorite of the newest books in the series.

A snippet from my review:
My first reaction on finishing Skin Trade, the latest book in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series was WOW!. Admittedly, this was at somewhere around two this morning. Which should say something. For the last three/four days, this book has kept me up far past my bedtime, because I just had to know what happened next.
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows And Scorpion Bombs
Adrienne Mayor
Focusing on ancient uses of chemical and biological weapons, this is a book which will change your view on Classical and early Medieval attitudes. You don't think they used these horrific weapons? Neither did I. Adrienne Mayor looks at myth, history and archaeology to form this book. Well written and interesting.

A snippet from my review:
We think of weapons of mass destruction, be they chemical or biological as being relatively new things in the scope of history. However, as proved by Adrienne Mayor, clearly they were not. Poisons, fires and disease have been around for thousands of years. Of course people were going to figure out ways to use them for their own purposes.
Blood Noir
Laurell K. Hamilton
The sequel to The Harlequin, and closely followed by Skin Trade, this is one of the books in Hamilton's best-selling Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Not my favorite of the series, but once I got into it, the book was good and left me wanting more. Thankfully I read it just before Skin Trade came out.

A snippet from my review:
This book is shorter than some of Hamilton's books, but the pacing was fast, so the story didn't seem to suffer any. I will definitely agree with some of the reviews I've read that there is a bit too much sex, but that's been the case in all of the books since Narcissus In Chains. It's just become part of the book style now for me.
The Millionaire Next Door
Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
A highly rated and bestselling book on personal finance.

A snippet from my review:
Frankly, I found the book a bit disappointing. First of all, and I should have realized it from the start, the book is entirely focused around the United States. I'm Canadian, so a lot of what the authors are mentioning doesn't apply quite the same. Second, the book only has one small line for any strategy other than the one the authors are following in The Millionaire Next Door.

Sigurd And GudrĂșn
J.R.R. Tolkien

The most recent of Christopher Tolkien's releases of J.R.R. Tolkien's many unpublished works. As far as I'm aware, this is also the most different of the books published for general consumption, being in the form of Norse poetry.

A snippet from my review:
Honestly, I liked this book, and I'm now planning to read more of the Norse sagas, as I came to Sigurd And Gudrun with no background knowledge on the subject at all. Although, in the commentary to this book, Christopher Tolkien has done a very good job of explaining the characters and the references that assume reader knowledge in the poetry, so the background knowledge isn't exactly needed.
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