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Prince of Ayodhya: The Ramayana, Book 1
Prince of Ayodhya: The Ramayana, Book 1
by Ashok K Banker
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.91

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars an American reader's reaction, Nov. 26 2003
I couldn't really get in to this book. The pacing is off at the beginning, I think, and the first 6 chapters were all set-up. Possibly more. It seems to me that the opening of a book is not something a reader should have to "get through" in order to enjoy the rest. As a famous author once said - if your characters are thin, they're thin *now*; if your plot is weak, it's weak *now*. Nothing in the next chapter or section is going to fix that.
After reading several of the reviews here, I can see this book has started some heated discussions. Can't imagine what has been going on in actual book discussions and message boards, yikes! But let me say that when I picked up this book I was never in any doubt as to what it was - a piece of fiction based on an ancient Indian tale. From the jacket description (which a person should read no matter what it may say on the front cover - if you only go by what's on the front cover when deciding to buy a book, you're going to be dissapointed a lot) I gleaned that this was going to be a fantasy story, somewhat like LOTR, but probably closer to the kinds of fairy tale and myth retellings where the larger than life characters are givien full treatment, fleshed out, and made three-dimensional. So, on that front, I wasn't really dissapointed. I could see that happenening as I read. I wasn't expecting a poetic translation of the Ramayana in English.
The problem, for me, came in having to slog through the endless character introductions and the slow crawl to the main story. You know.. the plot. This endless introduction of characters may have been seen as necessary for people who know the original Ramayana - to show them how the author intended to portray them in this book. I suppose that's fine. If I knew the original work, or if this were based on some epic I was more familiar with, I might have sat still for something like this. Because that aspect would have interested me. But, being a reader who does not know this story already, I just found it rather tedious. If I am not the audience for the book, that's okay, too. But I got the impression that the author wanted to reach a wider audience of not only people familiar with the epic but also fantasy readers in general. If so, then I don't think the book succeeds. Perhaps I am just too impatient, though.
There are too many characters introduced in the first 8 chapters or so. Too many and too few I care about. I could have cared about the Prince from the opening scene more if he hadn't dissapeared right away. I don't *know* any of these people, and that is essential to caring about them, I think. There is just too much telling.
As to the prose - well, it's kind of stiff. I wondered, though, if that wasn't a cultural thing. Or a translation thing. Or maybe the author just doesn't have an ear for poetry. As I said, I wasn't expecting a poem, but the world itself seemed to call out for a poetic sensibility. Prose that flows like water. This prose does not.
Had I gone further, I might have been able to really get in to this book. But I have a rule about novels. I only give the author 6 - 10 chapters to hook me. If I am not hooked by then, I stop. Mainly because I have so many books I want to read that I can't waste time with the ones that don't really wow me.

Hidden Warrior
Hidden Warrior
by Lynn Flewelling
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.42
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much impressed, Nov. 21 2003
I got this book for free at a convention and, upon reading the back description, thought it would be very interesting to read about a boy who has to come to terms with the fact that she's a girl in a fantasy/warrior setting. Perhaps this book does that well, I never stuck around to find out.
A reviewer for The Bone Doll's Twin commented on the fact that nowhere on the book did it say that it was Book 1 of a trilogy. So, he expected to read a full book and got only part one. This book suffers from a similar lack. I don't usually read the inside cover a book, it's just reviews and such. That is the ONLY place I could find that mentioned this might not be a stand-alone book. Thus, when I started reading and all the action was in media res, I thought the author was crazy.
I read six chapters before finally giving up and putting it down. This book starts off right where the last book leaves off, apparently, with only a few little flashbacks to connect them. Thus, I thought that there had been some terrible mistake and I was missing the first three chapters of the novel somehow. It wasn't until coming here to that I discovered it was Book 2. Then things started making sense.
This isn't likely to be a book that one can just pick up and read without having read the first. That's fine, I suppose, but if it's going to be that way, the publisher should make it a lot clearer that this is part of a 3 book thing. I get the feeling that they're trying to trick readers into buying the books. I could be wrong.
In any case, I won't be finishing it. I have no desire to read the Bone Doll's Twin, especially given some of the reviews of it.

Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 19.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Chiang's rep is well-deserved, but many stories I didn't dig, Nov. 20 2003
For years I've been hearing wonderful things about this fantastic writer named Ted Chiang. Ted, the wunderkind whose first published story won a Nebula (accepted before he went to Clarion, even!) who keeps winning awards and is known by all and has the audacity to not write very many stories and not one novel. So, it was with some sense of anticipation that I picked up his first short story collection. I had heard of many of the stories in it--Tower of Babylon, Hell is the Absence of God, Story of Your Life--and was determined to like them.
Oddly, my reaction was mixed.
Part of this collection pleased me to no end; part of it elicited no more than a 'meh'. Why the mix? I'm not sure. The first three selections did not thrill me. I think that I felt as though the stories were high on the idea axis, but low on the other axes. In fact, when I finished reading Babylon I felt kind of cheated, as it seemed to me a long set-up for a punchline-type ending.
But then I read Story of Your Life and everything changed. Oh, how I loved that story. This is where I felt Chiang really got it right. The idea and the characters and the plot and the everything in perfect harmony. I also felt this way about Hell is the Absence of God and Liking What You See: A Documentary (even though this is, apparently, not one of Ted's favorite stories). With these three I saw all the marks of really great talent and storytelling.
Seventy-Two Letters and The Evolution of Science didn't hold any big fascination for me, but didn't produce the same disappointment as the first three I read did.
Chiang's reputation is well-deserved. These are fine stories, and good examples of what they are. Even the ones that I didn't like still had an energy to them that I can't help but admire. And they all had a quality of intelligence that is missing from so much fiction I read. Not talking down to an audience, but instead bringing them up a level or two.
This book is definitely recommended.

Riddle Of The Wren
Riddle Of The Wren
by Lint Charles De
Edition: Paperback
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars I didn't make it past chapter 5, Nov. 19 2003
This review is from: Riddle Of The Wren (Paperback)
Apparently, this is one of de Lint's earliest books and BOY does it show. I read The Dreaming Place and thought it was okay, so decided to try the other de Lint YA I had lying around. First of all, it's the same basic story as The Dreaming Place. In the back of the book de Lint admits he wrote the same story over and over again for a while. I must concur. And even though The Dreaming Place had it's bad moments, they weren't all crowded in front like in Wren.
The book opens in some sort of vaguely English/European small town in the vague past. Sometime after the middle ages, perhaps. But I cannot tell. The clumsy way de Lint introduces characters and sets up the conflict aren't really indicative of his later talents. And he has issues with how to use secondary characters effectively.
This is very clearly an early novel. I'm sure some kids will get some enjoyment out of it, but anyone over 16 or so should probably just move on to de Lint's later, adult novels.

The Dreaming Place
The Dreaming Place
by Charles De Lint
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.58
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars My opinion: Meh, Nov. 19 2003
The Dreaming Place is a YA urban fantasy novel about two cousins, sixteen year old girls, who get tangled up in a magical tug-of-war with a Native American spirit of winter. The story is a sweet one, but I felt just a little too heavy-handed with the moral. It did touch me in some spots, but in others I felt it was being too obvious.
The main characters, Nina and Ash, are so typical they verge on being stereotypes. The book ends up being Caitlin's Way crossed with Sabrina the Teenaged Witch...
I ended up liking Ash more than Nina mainly because I could identify with her pain (she lost her mother). And because, despite her predictability, she showed more personality than her cousin. I kept being annoyed by the book because Nina was acting rather vapid and whiny through most of it, and I could feel the author's preference for her on every page.
De Lint, I think, thought more people (or kids) would identify with Nina, who is smart and thinks math is interesting and worries about boys and complexions and reads Sassy magazine. Ash is the bad one--the girl who skips class and doesn't care about things, and walls off her emotions, and can't deal with the world. But Ash, who often sits in the park and has actual conversations with homeless people (oh my!) is a far more complex character in my view. She has bravery and skill as well as brains. This all comes into play when the conflict rears its ugly head, but the end message seems to be "Only when Ash learns that it's better to be more like her cousin than like herself can she save the day and be happy." I'm not down with that.
The idea for this book is a good one. But I think length worked against de Lint in that some areas of the otherworld and Nina's personal power (not to mention Ash's) and what forces led to this confrontation were not as fleshed out as they could have been. This felt like it should have been a longer book but just... wasn't.
The secondary characters need a lot of help themselves. Nina's parents are doing well in their roles until the end, where they come face to face with the weirdness going on in their daughter and niece's lives. However, at that point they become highly unbelievable and one wonders if things might have gone better had they not ever gotten involved. Better for the reader, anyway, not to have to deal with the thin or unbelievable characterization going on.
The most interesting person in the book is a secondary character: Cassie. At one point Ash realizes that she doesn't know much about this woman she calls friend and regrets it. I regret it, too, because I'm far more interested in her role in this and her past than I am in anyone else in the book.
Once we get beyond Ash and Nina, everyone else starts to take on the veneer of Plot Device.
There is a lot of bandying about with different kinds of magic and belief systems. Native American shamans (or, juju men...) hanging out with women who deal magical tarot cards. Then there is the Dreaming Place itself, which is supposed to be faerie or the dreamtime or any quasi-magical not the real world place in mythology. But it's mostly populated by Native American spirits and creatures. There's also something about a Cornish spirit that didn't come through clear to me.
Basically, de Lint is trying to weave several different systems here to create a mysterious, yet coherent, whole. It's not quite working, in my opinion.
Despite all my grousing, I enjoyed most of the book. It wasn't until the end that things started falling apart and losing steam. The premise is good, the execution not so. A good read for the Tween set, as it isn't truly bad, and may teach them a thing or two.

Pink Pearl
Pink Pearl
Price: CDN$ 15.60
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Jill at her best, Oct. 29 2003
This review is from: Pink Pearl (Audio CD)
You must buy this CD for the first and last tracks at least! But I loved nearly everything on the CD. Jill is the kind of artist I never tire of listening to. I can listen to all of these songs over and over and never get tired of them. What's up with the CD being out of stock? Ah well. If you want this CD, I suggest you hie over to [...] and buy it directly from her. Then buy all of her other CDs, they're amazing!

I Never Learned to Swim: Best of Jill Sobule
I Never Learned to Swim: Best of Jill Sobule
5 used & new from CDN$ 11.69

5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best best best, Oct. 29 2003
Jill Sobule is an awesome artist, and if you like her music you should buy this CD. It's only a sample of her best music. But if you're just getting into Jill, it's a good starting point. It will only whet your appetite for her amazing music.

The Art of Happiness at Work
The Art of Happiness at Work
by Dalai Lama
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars I agree, it's a Chicken Soup for the Buddist Soul, but bad, Oct. 29 2003
This book is worse than the first one. The first Art of Happiness wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either. This one takes the concept - trying to use the Dalai Lama's teachings to create some kind of self-help system - one step too far into hokiness. It's drivel, really. If you're interested in the teachings of HH the DL, then read the books actually written by him. Or just go read some Buddhist texts. This book is a waste of time.

The Art of Happiness
The Art of Happiness
by Dalai Lama
Edition: Hardcover
116 used & new from CDN$ 0.76

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's not as bad as all that, Oct. 29 2003
This review is from: The Art of Happiness (Hardcover)
It is true that this book is a little misleading. When I bought it I thought that it was writtem by the Lama and this Cutler person was his translator or something. Indeed not.
Cutler can be heavy-handed at times, true, but a great deal of this book is the Dalai Lama's own words. Cutler just spends a lot of time trying to get it to fit into his own weird pop-psychology way of thinking. Thus, the book is interesting, but not as great as it could be.
Read the book if you're interested in the concept. But if you want to read the Dalai Lama's own words and nothing else, pick up another of his books. I think he has at least one that's all him.
Oh, and if I were you, I would run away from the new book, The Art of Happiness at Work. Cutler is fast turning the Dalai Lama into the chicken soup for the soul of Buddhism.
(and to the crazy christian weirdo... get a life, hun)

by Karin Lowachee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 27.71
37 used & new from CDN$ 2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Character, structure, emotion are Lowachee's strong points, Oct. 28 2003
This review is from: Warchild (Mass Market Paperback)
Let me start off by saying two things: 1 - I'm not a big fan of hard SF or military SF. They've never been my speed, though I have read a few. 2 - Karin Lowachee is a friend of mine. Ordinarily, I would not have picked Warchild off the shelf simply because it just doesn't look like my type of book. But since Karin is a friend of mine (and also since so many of my friends have read it and said it was wonderful) I decided to at least try the book. The result was that I loved it.
I was drawn in by the smooth writing and by the unusual choice of second person in the opening section. What kept me reading was the excellent characterization. Characters and emotional depth are Karin's strong suits. They are what make this book sing.
I was surprised at how well the structure of the book worked. As I said, it starts out in second person. The very last line of the first section is in first person, the voice of Jos Musey, the protagonist. The change in tone and maturity that line encompasses is amazing. It is a solid punch to end the section and prepares us for the person we're going to get to know in the middle of the book. The mid sections are in first person past tense, then in the last section she switches again to first person present tense. But the switch feels entirely natural and matches the shift in mood and action we get with the last section. In some places she slips in and out of second person present, highlighting Jos's state of mind. So many writers use POV and tense incorrectly. To see it not only being used well, but used to enhance more than one aspect of the story, gave me real pleasure as a reader.
As I said, character is Karin's strong point. Caring about Jos wasn't hard at all. Watching him go through life and grow up, I felt a real connection to him and to the characters he encountered. His relationship with Niko inspired some of the most powerful writing in the book.
I didn't particularly enjoy the training and battle aspects of the book. But, again, I'm not into military SF.
The ending also left me feeling incomplete. The relationship between Niko and Jos isn't as resolved as I thought it would be, and I felt as though the book wasn't quite complete. The denouement, perhaps, was too short. Or maybe it's due to the fact that there are two other books in this world, though they may not be strictly sequels.
I recommend this book to all SF fans, even if hard/military SF isn't your thing. The story here is so strong it would pull even the most reluctant reader along. Now I have to go out and buy Burndive.

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