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Showing posts from April, 2011

CR3 #35: Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Grave Secret is the fourth book in CharlaineHarris's "Harper Connelly" series. Harper was struck by lightning when she was young, and now has the ability to not only sense dead bodies, but to know what killed them. She travels with her former stepbrother/current boyfriend Tolliver, going to whatever clients might request her services. In this book, she and Tolliver return to Texas at the behest of a wealthy ranching family. Unfortunately, Harper senses more than she should, and soon she and Tolliver find their lives in danger. Tied up in all this is their blended family, and the mystery of what happened to Harper's older sister when she vanished eight years ago.

This book is okay, but it's frankly a little bit blah. The plot often seemed far-fetched, and hardly ever made use of Harper's "skills" like the previous novels. Also, a lot of the family dynamics seemed to run off into dead ends. The secondary characters were not as well fleshed-out as they …

CR3 #34: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline, like The Deathly Hallows, is a children's book that is actually slightly inappropriate for children. Although the language is simple and clear, the plot itself is a bit disturbing, and would probably have given me some nightmares as a child.

Coraline is a young girl who moves with her parents to a new house. She spends her time exploring, meeting the eccentric people who share the house with them, and vaguely wishing that her parents had more time and energy to spend with her. Then one day she discovers a door to a parallel world, where her "Other parents" want nothing more to dote on her every moment. Unfortunately, there is something about their black button eyes that Coraline finds disturbing. Pretty soon, she is playing a dangerous game that--if lost--could leave her stuck in the parallel world forever.

The book is a simple, quick read, but I really enjoyed the character of Coraline--she is a smart, capable, and pragmatic child who never became too whiny or a…

CR3 # 33: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Man, was that a ride.

It's tough to write this review without giving spoilers to the six people out there who have yet to read this but are planning to do so. However, I'll do my best.

This final book in the Harry Potter series is the most dramatic and the most bloody. It's basically about the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, with all the other characters taking up arms on one side or the other. Rowling has done a great job of tying together a lot of small points from the previous books which make the revelations in this one feel genuine. None of that "And poof, he was a hamster the whole time!" bull. Nearly everything that happens has its origins in the other books of the series. Plus, the "Battle of Hogwarts" ranks right up there with the battle of Helm's Deep as far as fantasy battles go, IMO.

This book is also a LOT darker than I was expecting. There is a lot of death in this one, and it gets pretty emotional. Yes, I might have been tha…

CR3 # 32: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I LOVE the Disney version of The Three Musketeers. I love it, even though fully 1/2 of the leads are potentially violent children of Hollywood with multiple arrests and a history of substance abuse. I love it even though the actor playing the main character has all the charm and personality of a mung bean. I love it even though there are endless sword fights and yet no one ever loses a single drop of blood, even after being run through. The whole thing is an adorable fairy tale. I always assumed that it is totally historically inaccurate, and figured that it probably deviated from the plot of the book somewhat, because that is how Disney does things. Little did I know...

The main characters--who are named D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis--meet when D'Artagnan arrives in town and accidentally agrees to a duel with each of the other on the same day. There are international plots and a dark lady involved. The Cardinal Richelieu is v…

CR3 #31: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

I know, I know. I am waaaaay behind on this whole Harry Potter thing. Both my parents have managed to finish the entire series at least once (I'm pretty sure my Dad has read them all half a dozen times) and I am just now getting around to it. I am, like, five years behind the rest of civilization. I KNOW. Here's how it happened: in the summer of 2003, when I was living by myself, recovering from the departure of The Sacred Cow and The Prancing Prince, I was quite depressed and didn't leave my house for about two weeks. During that time, my sub-letter loaned me the first five Harry Potter books, which I read over the course of about 3 days. I love the first four, but the fifth? I kind of hated Order of the Phoenix. There was not enough Hogwarts and far too much of Harry's self-absorbed whinging. I thought about pre-ordering book 6, but then wasn't sure if I could take another 500 pages of "Booody-hoo, why must I be special? Woe is me, this is all so annoying fo…

CR3 #30: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

I saw the movie of The First Wives Club before I read the book. It's a cute chick flick, in which scorned women take comedic revenge on their former spouses. They become better friends and everyone winds up happy in the end. I was somewhat surprised (though not much--the differences between film and literature are often wide) at how different the book was--I am used to changes in plot or small character changes (combining two characters into one, or perhaps changing to a more pleasant ending) but the major change here between novel and movie was the tone.

The story is basically the same; After a close friend's suicide, three middle-aged female friends get together and beginning reviewing their lives. They realize that much like their late friend, they have been screwed over by the men in their lives--the men used them to get to their high social and financial positions, then screwed them over both personally and financially. The three women decide to use their wits and their co…

CR3 #29: We Who Are Alive and Remain by Marcus Brotherton

This book is a companion piece of sorts to Stephen Ambrose's incredible work Band of Brothers. Basically, it is the combined recollections of several more soldiers who served in the 101st paratroopers but were not featured in Ambrose's book. It begins with each man's background, then moves through his training, into his combat experiences, and finishes with a little bit about their lives after the war. There are also three chapters written by the children of men who passed away before the books were written.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I really was somewhat unimpressed. My lack of interest had little to do with the actual content--each man had some amazing, touching, impressive recollections--and more with how the book was arranged. Each chapter had a section by each man revolving around a particular topic, like training, or a specific campaign of the war. For example, the chapter on training was particularly confusing, since it spanned nearly two years--most of…

CR3 # 28: Shadows in the Asylum: The Case Files of Dr. Charles Marsh by Dave Stern

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this book. It appeared in a list of recommendations based on some of my recent mental hospital-heavy choices, and the description sounded intriguing. The book had its ups and downs, but on the whole it's an interesting read.

The story is that of Dr. Charles Marsh, a psychiatrist working in an asylum in northern Wisconsin. His first patient is a young girl who had a bad experience out on one of the islands near the asylum. When Dr. Marsh first arrives, she is beginning to have visions of "shadows" that are coming out of the walls and threatening her. Dr. Marsh of course starts out believing that these are mere hallucinations, but soon he is forced to consider other possibilities. As this is going on, it also begins to spread to some of his other patients. Dr. Marsh takes it on himself to document what is happening and what it all might mean.

The book is written in an epistolary style--the story is told via Dr. Marsh's notes, t…