Mar 192012
 

Author: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Pages: 440

Publisher: Random House, Wizards of the Coast

Release Date: 4/1/1984

Genre: Fantasy

Characters:

Tanis Half-Elven- Warrior and leader of the companions.

Tasslehoff Burrfoot- Small humanoid called a Kender, thief and lock picker.

Flint Fireforge- Dwarf blacksmith, old and grumpy.

Caramon Majere- Large thickheaded warrior that will do anything to protect his brother.

Raistlin Majere- Caramon’s brother, and morally ambiguous mage that traded his health for more magic power.

Sturm Brightblade- Knight of Solamnia, and honorable to the point of personal injury.

Goldmoon- Barbarian princess with a magic healing staff.

Riverwind- Barbarian warrior in love with Goldmoon, but tribes rules keep them apart.

SynopsisIn the fantasy world of Krynn, a group of friends meet at the Inn of the Last Home after separating years earlier to go out and experience the world. Tanis, Flint, Caramon, Raistlin, Tass, and Sturm find trouble in the form of mysterious strangers dressed in cloaks lurking around their old home. The robed men are searching the blue crystal staff that Riverwind acquired and gave to Goldmoon as a token of his love. The companions take up the quest to protect Riverwind and Goldmoon and to find out what evil is threatening the peace in Krynn.

Analysis: I first read the Dragonlance Chronicles long ago when I was in 4th grade and the book was newly published. Before that I had played Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game that the book is based on. Even though the authors changed some of the rules around, they really brought the game to life.

It has been years since I last played any role-playing games or even read much fantasy, my taste leans more to science fiction, but I picked Dragons of Autumn Twilight at a rummage sale for a quarter this past summer and finally got around to reading it again recently. Reading it took me right back to 4th grade. I was rooting for the heroes, and hating the bad guys. This is a fun book. I hope to find the rest of the series soon!

Pro:

  • Very unique characters like Raistlin and Tasslehoff.
  • Gully dwarves and Fizban are great comic relief.
  • Some great random encounters with monsters like giant slugs.

Con:

  • Book reads like a DND campaign. For instance, the last battle scene is like a typical DND battle with 4 characters battling against a much stronger opponent, but not very heroic in a literary sense. I don’t think Sturm would have taken part.
  • Even though Raistlin is a pretty powerful mage, he is only able to make a few successful spells.

Conclusion:This is the beginning of a grand fantasy adventure. It is like a game of DND with a really good Dungeon Master. Go out and get it and if you find a good deal on the rest of the series, let me know!

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters

3

Plot

2

Imagery

3

Read Again?

4

Average

3

 

Mar 142012
 

Author: Steig Larsson

Pages: 644 Paperback

Publisher: Vintage Crime- Black Lizard

Release Date: 2008 English 2005 Swedish

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery, Revenge

Characters:

Mikael Bloomkvist-Disgraced journalist for the magazine Millennium.  He lost a libel case and must serve some time in prison.

Lisabeth Salander- Freelance surveillance agent and genius hacker, but also has mental issues that do not allow her to associate with people on a normal level.  She has a very strong sense of getting revenge vs going to the police for help.

Henrik Vanger- Rich elderly corporate industrialist.  He hires Mikael to solve the disappearence of his niece Harriet in 1966.

Martin Vanger- Taken over running Vanger Corporation from his uncle Henrik.  He is Harriet’s brother.

Dirch Frode- Henrik’s lawyer and friend.

Synopsis: In SwedenMikael Bloomkvist is a writer for the  political magazine, Millennium. He gets clued into a juicy story of corruption, but after publication his sources dry up and will not back him up.  He is sued for libel, loses, and is forced to temporarily resign from Millennium.   A wealthy elderly man,Henrik Vanger, offers him a job to solve the disappearance of his niece Harriet  the tiny island of  Hedeby in 1966.  Mikael must live on the island while he investigates and at the same time,pretends to be writing a biography of Henrik Vanger.   In exchange for working on the case,  Mikael will receive payment, but more importantly will get information that will help him get revenge against the man that sued him for libel.

Mikael makes strong headway on the case, but eventually finds that there is too much evidence for one person to go though.  To speed up the process, he enlists the help of Lisabeth Salander, a brilliant yet socially stunted surveillance expert and hacker.  Lisabeth had previously been paid to do research on Mikael to see if he was up to the task of finding Harriet and to see what rewards would entice him.

With Lisabeth’s help, Mikael is able to get close to cracking the case.  Only one thing can stop them, at least one person wants the past to stay hidden and are willing to do anything to hide previous crimes!

Analysis: Despite being translated from the original Swedish, this novel seems to flow very well and is easy to understand.  This is a great change of pace because a reader can often quickly tell that a novel has been translate due to unusual sentence structure.

I am also impressed with the creation of the character Lisabeth.  She is a strangely tough and  yet vulnerable character.  Her vulnerability gets her into some bad situations with unscrupulous men which leads to some very dark situations.  She is unwilling to contact the police and this leads to her taking matters into her own hands.  She has a different moral code than others and this leads to some interesting solutions.

Pro:

  • Lisabeth is one of the most unique characters I have seen in a novel.
  • I was genuinely in suspense for almost the whole book.

 Con:

  • The book did drag just a little bit after the climax.
  • Mikael’s easy relationship with a certain female character, not Lisabeth, was a little confusing.

Conclusion: As with most mystery novels, I always try to guess what the ending will be.  I can safely say that I was way off on this one and I love it when that happens!  I have avoided the film versions so far, and now I think I want to continue to avoid the English version because I hear that it differs from the novel in some important aspects.

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 3
Read Again? 4
Average 3.5
Mar 132012
 

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 391

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: September 2009

Genre: Teen Dystopian Future, Science Fiction

Characters: 

Katniss Everdeen- District 12 winner of the 74th Hunger Games, and master of hunting and archery.

Peeta Mellark- Other District 12 winner of the 74th Hunger Games, painter and is in love with Katniss, but it is unrequited.

Gale Hawthrone- Friend of Katniss, also a hunter and may have feelings for her.

Haymitch Abernathy- Mentor of Katniss and Peeta but has had a drinking problem since he won the 50th Hunger Games.

President Snow- Despotic and Psychotic ruler of Panem, fears that Katniss is becoming a symbol for a rebellion

Finnick Odair- Ten years earlier had won the Hunger Games for District 4.  He is very handsome and vain and uses a trident for his weapon.

Beetee- Tribute from District 3 and is a technological genius.

Johanna Mason- District 7 tribute and is sarcastic and dangerous.

Synopsis: Katniss’ hard won victory in the 74th Hunger Games by forcing the Capitol to change the rules has made other districts realize that the Capitol is not all powerful.  Some Districts are even revolting against the Capitol.  When the time comes for the 75th Hunger Games the Capitol calls for a Quarter Quell which means that previous winners of the games must fight against other winners of the games. Since this means that Katniss must fight Peeta,  she vows that she will keep Peeta alive no matter what.  Other contestants have different plans and Katniss must deal with new and strange allies and her feelings for Peeta.

Analysis: Once I finished reading The Hunger Games, I went right out the book store and picked up Catching Fire.  I was excited to find out how Suzanne Collins would continue the story.  My biggest concern was how she would get Katniss back into the area.  I was worried that it would be a repeat of the first book where she took her sister’s place.  How wrong I was!  I loved the introduction of a Quarter Quell where old winners must fight each other. Also, the political intrigue that was briefly touched upon in the previous book takes a greater role in this book.  Due to this, the world of Panem is greatly expanded in the readers mind and it is no longer one dimensional.

Pro: 

  • Hints that other Hunger Games were not won with brute strength or weapon skill but people like Beetee,who won with his intellect.
  • Implication that the game itself is a key to revolt by selecting those that can fight, make loyal friends,  and work together.  Then concentrating them in one arena, causing a perfect storm that ignites the rebellion.

Con:

  • President Snow is a one dimensional villain and his actions only serve to make the resistance stronger.  It should have been obvious to just let Katniss fade away and not egg her on.
  • At times Katniss seems to be less of an active participant and is just carried along with everything.

Conclusion:  Despite the story dragging a bit at times, the payoff in the end was worth the wait!


Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 2
Read Again? 4
Average 3.25