July 2004: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).


From what I understand, Martin’s not sure when he’ll finish the 4th book. This is the first, and I had never read them before.


Second book I’ve read of hers. These are science fiction romances. Personally, I like a little less rape in my romances.

The first book of hers I read, The Quantum Rose, has the protagonist being raped by a man who tries to dissolve her marriage and take her lands and such. There is no way you could read it as anything other than a rape. In fact, that book dealt with the post-rape trauma a little better than this one.

In Catch the Lightning, the protag is raped by a slaver who uses her husband’s emotional energy to “get off” during the act (he does again later, in front of the husband). Again, it’s pretty cut-and-dried as a rape; you couldn’t read those sections and think that she in any way permitted the act to take place, and yet the protag is much more concerned about the husband’s recovery from his torture than with dealing with her own shock and horror at what’s happened to her.

The rapes are not part of the love story, except as the challenge/threat to the love story. But I still prefer my romance novels to be rape-free. It’s just incredibly hard for me, as a rape survivor, to read a love story, interrupt it with a horrifying rape description, and still be able to feel joy and happiness when the lovers re-unite. I can’t help but feel that there’s a tremendous wound there that isn’t so easily healed, and well, it’s a heckuva lot of negative emotion to draw from a reader and try to dissipate quickly.


Second in the Dark Tower series. I enjoyed it, but whew, what a group of characters he’s brought together in this one!


This was a good book with an interesting, if circuitous story to tell. My only complaint is the one-sidedness of the voice’s gender– not enough time spent in Cal’s head after the transformation to have a good sense of the male voice that it supposed to be the balancer and make the story about being truly in the middle. Still, a good narrative even without the gender identity storyline.


Paolini wrote this book when he was 14, but you would never know it from the language and voice in the story. It does make use of nearly every overused fantasy novel trope– the teenaged orphan (or unknown parentage– they might still even be alive! they could be the king himself!) hero who is Good At Everything, the proud dragon, the wizened old teacher who has a dark secret, the beautiful soul-mate love interest who needs to be rescued, etc. etc. etc. The info-dumps, the obligatory description of flying on dragon-back, the figuring-out-science-without-having-the-theory-or-technology-needed, the magic sword… However, nearly every fantasy novel, especially first novels, fall into these familiar patterns– they are used because they are comfortable, some are archetypes that satisfy the reader, and nobody in the fantasy-reading world expects anything different in a high fantasy story. At the very least, it is not a coupon-collecting plotline (where the focus is to gather the Three Great Plot Devices and bring them together to form the Great Plotdevice to destroy the evil whatever), which is a refreshing change from certain other stories.

I read both of these as unabridged audible.com downloads. Eregon is harder to listen to because there are foreign words that are not from Earth and one would like to see them written out to be able to identify them better. Middlesex makes a lovely listen, and the lack of male perspective is balanced out by having a male narrator.


You can only listen to this book as an audiobook– it’s not available in print. McLarty, a well-known audiobook reader, reads it himself. It’s a wonderful story about a fat man on a quest– a kind of Don Quixote searching for answers about his mentally ill sister, his family, his life.


The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book, but I found it very charming. I would say, though, that the ending leaves something to be desired; it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the book.


I haven’t seen the movie. I picked this up as part of Border’s 4-for-3 Summer Reading Sale. I enjoyed it– I really wanted a light summer reading book yesterday, and this was the perfect fit. I know it’s a YA novel, but I think adults can enjoy the characters and the story, especially the way the different stories are woven together.