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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis - Jack Whyte

This is the book I've been waiting on.

In The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis, the reader finally gets to see the sword come out of the stone, Arthur crowned high king of Brittain and Merlyn become the famed sorcerer.

The story begins as Merlyn, Arthur and their companions leave back for Camulod. It is becoming time for Arthur to learn the ways of the cavalry and infantry so that he can become the Commander when his time comes.

The first half of the book moved somewhat slowly, the author putting all of his pieces in their spots. During the last third of the book, though, I could hardly put it down.

Merlyn loses many of his loved ones and, because of the madness this brings on, he turns to a collection of potions, poisons and weapons he has had for many years, since the invasion of Lot of Cornwall. His metamorphosis is rapid and complete.

This was an excellent book, despite occasionally feeling that I had to push through the first half. Even then, the author spends lots of time on historical facts of life in this Age.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Fort at River's Bend - Jack Whyte

The Fort at River's Bend is the 5th book in the Arthurian saga called The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte. The Fort, as the author has described it, is located at a place in northern England now called Hardknott Pass. The intent of this book is to have a setting where Arthur can learn in general solitude.

Caius Merlyn Brittanicus has decided to flee Camulod because he perceives a mole in the camp. A mole that he believes to be loyal to his enemy, Peter Ironhair, a man expelled from Camulod many years earlier for his contrary ways and who is trying to kill Arthur. Merlyn takes Arthur and his closest friends to Ravenglass, near River's Bend. King Derek of Ravenglass offers up Mediobogdum, as River's Bend is called in exchange for protection from that side of his kingdom.

Merlyn and company live in general peace during that time, as does Camulod. There are relatively few battle scenes in this book, compared to the others so far. It is a time of development, especially that of Arthur.

But, by the end of the book, Arthur is approching manhood and there are rumbling of Ironhair's influence in Cornwall to the southwest. So Merlyn makes the decision that Arthur's quiet instruction is finished. It is time to move back to Camulod and begin practical growth as a soldier in battle.

A lot of this book was slow,battlewise, but the author did a good job of piling on historical information and keeping mild things happening, keeping the reader's attention. I enjoyed this book and it was a quick read even though it wasn't full of action.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Vampyres of Hollywood"

A well written, interesting twist on the vampyre myth. Loved the way the author incorporated truths into the fiction. Very fast read, as it was hard to put down.
The story centers on a serial killer in hollywood, targeting specific individuals. An interesting crime investigator gets involved, and gets more than he bargains for. Creatively put together, with awesome wit. I'd definitely recommend it!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Front Porch Prophet - Raymond L. Atkins

If you lived in a small town when you were growing up, or are just redneck enough, you'll know exactly what's going on in this story.

That's what makes The Front Porch Prophet so hilarious and relatable. Author Raymond L. Atkins' subtle implementations of dry humor and unlikely-but-possible situations are what drive this otherwise melancholy perspective on a man's slow battle with cancer while residing in the small town of Sequoyah, Georgia. The story's bulk are the family branches of the slowly succumbing Eugene Purdue, bringing in characters with rich personalities and wonderful side stories. Each character is described throughout the entirety of the book; this includes the local eatery's religious owner, Hoghead (who unintentionally renames the drive-in with a combination of Bible tidbits and dining specials); Estelle Chastain (whose mean little dog meets an unexpected demise by an aerial porch); real estate buyer Truth Hannassey (who finds a love match in Eugene's ex-wife); and deputy Slim (who would freak out if he ever found out about that stolen school bus).

The story is rich and lively, easing the emotional break of Eugene's gradual degradation (even with grenades to ease the boredom). But his familial friend A.J.'s reluctant role as caretaker and possible Grim Reaper shows a tenderness and emotion familiar to many who have lost a loved one. Between Estelle's reckless driving and A.J.'s battle of words with Eugene's dog Rufus lies a story of heartbreak, loss, and emotion. A fantastic read.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mage-Guard of Hamor - L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Mage-Guard of Hamor is the latest book in the Recluse series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., fantasy and sci-fi writer. It is 15th book in the series and the second and, presumably, final book about Rahl of Recluse and his adventures on the large island of Hamor.

Rahl, in the previous book, Natural Ordermage, has foiled an attempt to wreck trade between Hamor and Recluse and other states. He is a mage-guard and a natural ordermage, but has problems holding his temper and dealing with not getting his own way. His has been taken under Taryl's wing. Taryl is an older and very powerful ordermage who sees Rahl's potential where the uppity mages of Recluse did not.

The story starts on a boat to Recluse. Rahl is on the delegation to report the problems at the end of the last book. He is met cooly by those in power but he is excited to meet his love, Deybri, a healer. She loves him but does not want to travel to Hamor, where Rahl must stay. She also realizes his power and is afraid of what might happen between them.

Upon his return to Hamor, Taryl and Rahl are ordered to participate in quelling a rebellion. They begin a long trek across Hamor where they meet rebels all the way to the end battle. Along the way, Taryl is trying to teach him how to be a proper mage and deal with those in power.

There were times in this book where the pace was quite slow. The author used this slowing of the pace to make his sudden action seem that much more explosive. Those familiar with his writing did not get anything new. He tends to be very descriptive of surrounding, i.e. colors, shapes of items that otherwise wouldn't be important. It was, otherwise, a good book, continuing to fill out the world that he created.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Clinton Diaries - Fred Petrovsky

Well, if my lack of respect for former president Clinton wasn't solidified before, it is now.

In Petrovsky's novel based on Bill Clinton's sexual escapes with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the affair is shown in a more personal light; though the story is told from the view of Clinton, it does evaluate both sides of the issue, including the public's quickly-changed opinion of their Commander-in-Chief due to lying and perjury, and Clinton's insatiable, unquenched thirst for sexual fulfillment. Okay, the latter goes a bit too deep for my tastes, but it does rather thoroughly demonstrate what Clinton's motive was behind his actions, no matter how gruesomely detailed.

Still, the neutral view goes only so far, as there is progressively more and more pushing of how his actions were wrong and how his perjurous response showed his lacking suitability as the leader of the United States. A closer look at Lewinsky's point-of-view on the issue might've curbed the conservatism and brought back the neutrality.

Though Petrovsky's writing style is strong and supported by beefy, realistically dialogue, there is a certain emotion lacking from the words, something that might've made Clinton's supposed guilt more believable. Nonetheless, the story seems dead-on with the actual happenings, and just proves that none of us really know what goes on behind closed doors...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Killing Rommel" by Steven Pressfield

"We're waiting to hear the first explosions. I've got a bad felling. Rotten luck has plagued this operation since we started. Half a day out of Derna, Te Aroah IV began flooding and stalling; for two nights we've fought shorts in the electrical system, and the patches and bypasses we've rigged are not being helped by this rain."

This is the life of a member of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) on the hunt for the "Desert Fox," German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Hard, dirty, and constantly battling the forces of nature as well as the enemy.

"Killing Rommel" is a "memoir" of R. Lawrence 'Chap' Chapman's life as an officer in the British Special Forces. Steven Pressfield does an excellent job of interweaving WWII battle facts, world events, real life officer memoirs and accurate historical detail into a thrilling tale.

I haven't been one to read too many WWII books, whether they are fiction, fantasy or pure fact. My interest generally lay about 3500 years earlier. However, I am generally impressed and have found myself drawn into this story. I'm currently about halfway through the book and simply can't wait to finish it.

I recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest bit of interest into WWII. Especially when Field Marshal Erwin Rommel once stated that: "The LRDG caused us more damage than any other unit of their size."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Scarecrow Finds a Friend - Blume J. Rifken

To have straw for brains, this scarecrow is one smart cookie.

Blume J. Rifken's crop protector finds himself in a hefty predicament when Tally the friendly witch exhausts her power to grant the scarecrow his wish of trick-or-treating with his family's children, Seth, Sue and Holly. To help her out, the scarecrow devises a plan to get a wish of her own granted with the help of a wishbone...that's in the farmhouse across the field. To retrieve the bone, scarecrow has Tally relieve him of some of his straw so the kids will take him inside to restuff him. Though their sneak-and-snatch trick initially seems unsuccessful, the book takes a twist and ends on a happy note.

The story is adorable, but different, not like many fantasy stories that have a reiterative, straight-forward concept and lesson hidden in its depths. Here, the concept of sharing and helping one another is prevalent right from the beginning, so the suspense of the tale allows the reader to derive more from the words and images than just a life lecture. The illustrations, done by Carl W. Wenzel, are exceptional, painting the exact picture the words portray. A beautiful story, perfect for the youngster in your life.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Saxon Shore - Jack Whyte

Book four of The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte continues the story of Camulod from the point of view of Caius Merlyn Brittanicus. Half Roman noble stock and half Celt of Brittain.

Merlyn has found Arthur, son of Uther, his cousin. Arthur is heir to the throne of the Eire (Irish) and also the rightful heir to the Celtic leadership also, in addition to his importance to Camulod (Camelot). Merlyn takes on the responsibility to be in charge of making sure Arthur is raised noble, educated and strong.

Merlyn is also beginning to seed his reputation as a sorcerer. There were a couple of situations in the previous book, The Eagle's Brood, where Merlyn does some simple trickery. He doesn't think much of it, but it lay the foundation for more seeming magic in The Saxon Shore. One thing that helps this along is his new-found half brother, Ambrose, who could be his identical twin brother, instead of a half-brother only a few months his younger. Ambrose is also instrumental in subtly fanning this growing reputation.

As the title suggests, the continuing Saxon invasion is always a subtext in this story, although, as he has done previously, the author doesn't usually focus his story on the subject of the title. In fact, very little words are wasted on the Saxons. There are many threats to the safety and growth of Camulod and to the general status of Brittain as a whole.

This was a really good book, a bit slow at times, but generally more wide sweeping than the previous book. We begin to see the legend of Merlyn beginning to take shape and Arthur begin to learn and grow to his coming legend.