Monday, November 29, 2010

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

This is one of the Discworld books focused on the city Ankh-Morpork's Watch, AKA police-men/women/dwarves/trolls/undead/etc. Feet of Clay takes place after Men at Arms (see post), but I'm not sure exactly when it occurs. There might be a book or two between them.

Plot: Carrot Ironfoundersson is back and this time he's Captain of the Night Watch! Along with his sweetheart Sergeant Angua and rest of the Watch, Carrot is working on another confusing case. A couple of old men have died gruesome deaths from unusual weapons, seemingly unrelated. The only idea they have is that it's got something to do with the golems - huge, "unalive" beings made of clay, created for the sole purpose of labor. Golems apparently are not capable of thinking or feeling, and can only obey the "words in their head". So why are they disobeying, and why does Carrot feel a strange sense of emotion coming from those emotionless red eyes?

Comments: This is a great story, and though it's light-hearted and a fun and easy read, it resembles a social justice (or injustice) novel. The golems are treated like heartless, emotionless robots because that's what they were built to be. Supposedly, they cannot feel pain, both physical or mental, and they are not capable of disobeying their masters. But before abusing them, working them around the clock, and treating them as slaves, wouldn't it be a good idea to be sure they cannot feel? I mean, a golem is unstoppable. It would win a fight against a troll no problem, because it can't be hurt or knocked unconscious and it has incredible strength. And if suddenly you find out that the golem you've been mistreating this whole time resents you and is going to get revenge, you'd probably wished you'd never bought it.

Anyway, though I didn't consider it as hilariously funny as Men at Arms, this book was laugh-out-loud funny and I couldn't put it down. It's rather more of a thriller and mystery, and it'll keep you guessing. I liked the new characters, such as Dorfl the golem, and Constable Visit (his full name, translated, is Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets). They both added a lot to the story. I really felt for Dorfl especially.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten. Fun read!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Insomnia by Stephen King

Plot: when elderly Ralph Roberts loses his wife after a long battle with a deadly illness, he doesn't know what to do with his life. Soon he begins to have trouble sleeping. It starts slowly, but after a while he isn't managing to sleep more than a few hours every night. Strange things start happening in his small town, but apparently he is the only one who can see them. Is Ralph going crazy or is a deadly storm brewing above the unsuspecting townspeoples' heads?

Comments: this book is really long (slightly over 700 pages) and it's not exactly an easy read. It took me a long time to go through it, and sometimes I had to take mini breaks to read something fun and light-hearted. This book is just kind of creepy, and it drags a little long.

Ralph was a nice character. He seemed like your average innocent old man, taking daily walks and sitting on benches in the park. Then he started losing sleep, and after a while he began to see auras. He definitely thought he was going crazy, and for a while, that's what it seemed like. Then the book got even stranger. Little bald doctors, balloon strings attached to everyone's heads...definitely a weird storyline. I didn't really like how Lois, Ralph's friend and sweetheart, was kind of helpless. Sure, she went along for the adventure, but she really didn't do all that much, and it was annoying how she had to depend on Ralph. I guess it's partly because the book's about fifteen years old, and the two main characters are old and therefore old-fashioned. But still. I hate damsels in distress.

Though the writing is great and at time the story was gripping and engaging, it was a little too long and a little too incredible to believe. I understand that it's not written as a biography or historical account, but even fantasy has its limits, in my mind. It was like King just randomly chose details out of a hat and strung them all together. I was rather skeptical that he actually thought up and decided to use some of the ideas. Anyway, read it if you want, but I warn you that it's long, it's graphic, and it's kind of repetitive.

Rating: I rate this book a five and a half out of ten.

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Plot: set in the strange city of Ankh-Morpork, Discworld, this book focuses on a human that thinks he's a dwarf (well, he was adopted by them), Cpl. Carrot Ironfoundersson, and the captain of the Night Watch, Samuel Vimes, who is soon retiring, albeit reluctantly. When a newly invented, deadly weapon is stolen from the Assassin's Guild, the Night Watch face a challenge like never before; find the murderer and the weapon before anyone else is killed and prevent the so-called "gonne" from falling into the wrong hands ever again.

Comments: I love Terry Pratchett novels! They're so light-hearted and humorous. Pratchett excels at satirical humor, and there's something to laugh at on every page. The characters in this book were amazing. Cpl. Carrot is honest and simple - though not stupid - and he's adorably awkward around female Watch"man", Angua. After all, he is only seventeen years old, though his height and powerful build might throw you off (he's 6' 6" and yet still thought he was a dwarf until his 4' adopted parents finally told him). Carrot's very charismatic, and though he's almost always in a good mood, smiling and polite, if he gets ticked off, even trolls back away slowly.

Cpl. Nobby was a delightfully corrupt character, and Colon was rather transparent. There have been earlier books about Cpt. Vimes, so this book didn't explain his character very well. This caused me to lose interest in him, which is unfortunate, because half the time the story was about him. Angua was a good character, because though she was pretty and supposedly only became a Watchman to represent a "minority" group, she was strong, brave, and kick-butt, too. Cuddy the dwarf and Detritus the troll were paired up as Watchmen partners, and dwarves and trolls have had a feud for the longest time. They don't get along well, but after a while they start to grow on each other. Soon they could be considered good friends, and their friendship and partnership is heartwarming and sweet.

The plot was...strange, as most Discworld stories go. Though everything made sense, in a way, it's all rather complicated and twisted. However, it's definitely a fun read and I'm going to continue reading about Ankh-Morpork's City Watch in Feet of Clay. Oh, one more thing: I love how Death speaks and acts in these books. He doesn't have a huge role in this story, but he has a few hilarious conversations with the deceased.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. Great read!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Plot: when the Hogfather (the Ankh-Morpork version of Santa Claus, Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, etc.) vanishes mysteriously, Death steps in to fill the role. Though he is not the most jolly - for lack of a better word - being, Death begins to enjoy handing out presents, flying around the city, and, in general, being the Hogfather. Then Death's granddaughter Susan gets dragged into the situation and has to figure out what happened to the true Hogfather and how to get him back. Good luck.

Comments: I would consider this to be one of Terry Pratchett's best stories. The Hogfather is hilarious, absurd, and also rather touching. Pratchett excels at satirical humor, and apparently enjoys poking fun at the human existence (which, if you stop to think about it, has some very funny aspects). This book made me laugh so many times, I lost count! I love Pratchett's sharp wit and one-liners that make you say "What?" and reread the past few sentences to fully understand the concept.

My favorite character is definitely Death. He's so adorably clueless and oblivious, but you can tell that his heart (metaphorically, of course) is in the right place. Susan reprimands him like he's a child, and in some ways, he is. Pratchett created Death spectacularly, and I guarantee you'll love him. He fits right into the abstract, random plot. I must warn you that this book basically doesn't have a point, and though it has a start and ending, I wouldn't exactly say it has a beginning or conclusion. You'll see what I mean. But the story is so charmingly awkward that it all works in the end.

The only thing I didn't really like was Susan's character. She wasn't really the nicest person, so reading about her wasn't very fun. The circumstances were still hilarious, and she was definitely a strong character, but maybe a little more human next time?

Rating: I rate this book a nine out of ten. It was awesome. :)

Trace Evidence by Elizabeth Becka

Plot: forensic trace expert Evelyn James has seen many things in her life, but this is one of the worst. A young girl has been meticulously murdered; her feet are encased in a bucket full of concrete, chains wrap around her body, and she was found at the bottom of a freezing river. The investigation soon realizes there is a serial killer on the loose, and he will stop at nothing to get his revenge.

Comments: This is a great thriller novel! Suspenseful, dangerous, dark. I've always loved reading murder mysterious, even though I tend to see murderers in the shadows for days afterward. Trace Evidence has a great plot and an interesting way of killing off the victims. Normally I would think of a murderer as an insane, violent person, but the killer in this story is cold-hearted and calculating, which is even more frightening. It feels so real.

I liked the character Evelyn James, because she's not helpless, and she wants to solve this mystery even though it's dangerous for her to be asking questions. One thing I didn't appreciate about this book: it's kind of textbook.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm about to sum up the whole plot. Ending included. Just warning you.

Female officer of some sort gets involved in a dangerous case and acts all gung-ho, tries to solve it by herself and gets in trouble, at which point the handsome guy that has fallen in love with her swoops in all desperate and protective, saves her butt, and they all live happily ever after. Why can't the woman just solve the case without getting herself captured/cornered by the killer, and without falling in love with a man, or at least without needing said man to rescue her from certain death. It's just getting annoying. Am I the only one?

Rating: I rate this book a seven out of ten. Great story, if a little predictable.