Review: Mort

Mort Mort by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imagine Death is a real creature, anthropomorphised such that you could have a conversation with him. Would he enjoy his job? What rules must he operate by? Now, imagine for a moment that he takes you under his wing as an apprentice. This is the story of Mort. Young Mort goes looking for an apprenticeship and after being passed over by everyone else in town, is chosen by death. What follows is a humorous tale full of all of the usual tropes you would expect. While this story is set in the Discworld, you could easily choose this as your first book in the series as it only mentions other characters in passing and you lose nothing by missing those references. As with the other books in this series I think this is a fine way to pass the time, say, on the beach or on a long drive. It is not profound literature, but instead a whimsical, lighthearted tale.

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Review: Burning For Revenge

Burning For Revenge Burning For Revenge by John Marsden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being disappointed in the previous book, I'm glad to see Marsden to return to previous form. This episode picks up with the band of teens back in Hell, licking their wounds from their previous failures. The pace quickly picks up with solid action and tension throughout. The relationship between Lee and Ellie takes center stage here while the remaining characters continue to play supporting and mostly unchanging roles.

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Review: Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm enormously conflicted on how to review this book. On the one hand, Perdido street station is incredibly imaginative. There are some really interesting ideas and themes, and a veritable Henson show of humanoid characters. I imagine that playing paper-and-pencil RPGs with a young Mieville would have been fantastically entertaining. The city of New Crobuzon is imagined in grotesque and vivid detail. We learn of a city that is as much a alive as any of the flesh and blood characters.

What Perdido Street offers in fanciful imagination, however, it lacks in compelling storytelling. I checked this book out from my local library, and after two weeks of stubbornly persisting I was barely a hundred pages in. Even so, I was struggling to find the thread of the story. Sure, I'd been introduced to some characters of mild interest and I was learning of their motivations, but I wasn't interested. A second checkout and I pushed to get myself past the 300 page mark where it finally, FINALLY, started to produce something of a plot. I finished the book on a third checkout mostly because I felt invested at that point.

I'm at once excited to talk to other readers about some of the truly novel concepts found here, but also wary of sounding as though I'm recommending this as a good read. I think there are some readers out there who will enjoy the endless detail and creativity of the characters and setting of New Crobuzon. I think there are far more readers who will find this story bizarre and unapproachable.

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Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me all summer, but I finished reading The Graveyard Book to my children. This was not for lack of interest though, just lots of competition for my children's time.

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy whose family was killed when he was a baby and he was taken in by the souls resting at the nearby graveyard. Nobody, or Bod for short, grows up among the dead. Along the way he meets some interesting characters and has an opportunity to mete out justice to his family's killer.

I love the way Gaiman writes the dialogue for each character. I'm not much of a read-aloud person, so it was especially welcome to find that characters had easy and unique speech patterns to pick up, from Irish to Scottish, from whiny to haunting. Each character had a unique voice that my children could pick out even without the story prompting as to who the speaker is.

My kids loved the story too! This made it so rewarding to read it to them. Even with long spans between sessions they could easily recall what Bod was last doing, who he was encountering, and they were eager to find out what would happen next.

Thank you, Neil Gaiman, for crafting a story that is now woven into the fabric of my relationship with my children.

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Review: Supply Limited, Act Now

Supply Limited, Act Now
Supply Limited, Act Now by Helen Marshall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My friend Pepper tipped me off to the Escape Pod podcast, and I've been enjoying the selection of short sci-fi stories they provide. "Supply Limited, Act Now" involves a group of adolescents coming of age at the height of World War II. Each of the children is struggling to deal with their slipping grip on the innocence of their childhood while also confronting the brutality, uncertainty, and fear of a world at war. It's a very nice piece and I'd easily recommend it to anyone with a bit of spare time for reading.

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Review: Darkness, Be My Friend

Darkness, Be My Friend
Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed this series, but this isn't a terribly strong entry. So little happens with regard to the overall story arc that you could probably skip it entirely and be just fine.

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Review: Equal Rites

Equal Rites
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With Pratchett's recent passing I was motivated to try another discworld book. Equal Rites is set on the same works as established in the first two books, but deals with entirely new characters. You could easily jump into the series right here and not feel lost. The story follows Esk, a girl on a mission to become the world's first female wizard. The table is full of Pratchett's usual with and humor, but I was happy to find that it stayed fairly focused on telling the story rather than getting side tracked by zaniness. I did enjoy this book and would recommend it for a beach read, but it is ultimately forgettable.

As a side note, the digital copy I read from my library was flawed. The last 50 pages appeared early, so I wound up reading the book in the order beginning, end, middle. This was a petty big detractor in my ability to enjoy the book. I am not sure if this is a problem only with my library's digital copy, or if this edition is just flawed.

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Jade Mason