Hilarie
Rating:
Genre:  Historical Fiction, US Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi, Racial Discrimination 
Reading Challenges:  17 for 100+ in 2009

Kathryn Stockett's first novel paints a vivid portrait of a way of life which, thankfully, no longer exists, but did once, and not so very long ago.  The novel begins in 1962, and is set in Jackson, Mississippi.  The experiences of three very different women are the focus of the novel.  Aibileen and Minny are black maids, while Skeeter (her proper name is Eugenia) is the awkward daughter of an old southern family, and has herself never really known a world without "the help."  Skeeter is returning home from college, burning with the desire to become a writer, but with no credentials that would help her to reach her ambitions.  The not-so-gentle guidance of Skeeter's would be mentor leads her to write about something that "disturbs her, particularly if it bothers no one else."  Almost through happenstance, Skeeter finds herself deciding to write about the experiences of the black maids that are so integral a part of Jackson life that no one really notices their existence.  At least, no one notices until one of them takes a single step outside of the rigid social rules that govern the interaction between the white mistresses and their "help."  

I was so drawn in by this novel, that once I started reading I literally couldn't stop.  I devoured this book in two days, and was truly sad when I reached the ending.  I was humbled to think of how many people had suffered, and how much those individuals had given just to have a few of the basic rights that I take for granted each day.  I thought I knew a lot about the history of racial discrimination in this country, but this book really gave me an idea of just how far we have come since the advent of the civil rights movement.  

I had chills as I read some of the dialogue between some of the white characters who casually discussed their black maids in some of the most dismissive and disrespectful language you can imagine.  The lack of self awareness was particularly startling to me as I read and I realized that many of the women of that time truly believed their own rhetoric with regards to white superiority.  The novel also features one of the most hateful characters that I have encountered in quite a while.  That being said, Stockett does not demonize the white population in this book.  She somehow balances perfectly between portraying what I believe to be an accurate depiction of the injustices suffered with a description of the sincere kindnesses that were shown during such a difficult time.  This was an eye opening and thought provoking read, as all the best books are.    

This was an excellent book, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Hilarie
Rating:
Genre:  Classic, Indiana, Coming of Age, Rags to Riches
Reading Challenges:  16 for 100+ in 2009, Bonus read for Classics Challenge 2009

This is truly a forgotten classic.  I first read it many years ago, and recently had the desire to pick it up again.  I found that it was not as readily available as many other classics, which is certainly a shame as it is a wonderful book.

The story concerns a young orphan, named Freckles, who has personally experienced many of the worst aspects of humanity in his short life.  Sadly, these experiences have left Freckles with only one hand, no material possessions, little education, and most importantly, no concerned friends or loved ones.  As a result of the kindness of Mr. Mclean, part owner of the grand rapids lumber company, Freckles finds himself serving as the protector of timber in the Limberlost swamp.  The timber itself is very valuable, and there are several unsavory characters who would love to have a chance to sell the timber for themselves.  This employment proves to be life changing for Freckles, and ultimately leads to his discovery of the history of his past.  The book also features a charming love story that is both tender and engaging.

This is a great read, but I did find it slightly less enjoyable than Porter's Girl of the Limberlost, which also takes place in Indiana.  Porter describes Freckles as "plucky," and that really is the best word to describe him.  This book has just enough action to keep the reader engaged, and is a quick and easy read.  What really comes through on each page is Porter's love of nature and all it's wonders.  I am sure I will be rereading this again in years to come.  

If you enjoy listening to audiobooks, you can enjoy listening to this book for free!  There is a great version available at Librivox, which you can find here
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Hilarie
Rating:
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Coming of Age, Mystery
Reading Challenges:  15 for 100+ in 2009

Sally O'Malley knows what's really going on.  At least, she knows more than any of the adults in her life would believe possible.  It is 1959, and Sally is missing her father, who recently died in a car accident which occurred in the company of Sally's uncle and her little sister Troo.   Sally made some promises to her father before he died, and the most important is that she would look after her sister.  Sally, who is delightfully earnest, has every intention of following through to the letter.  In the meantime, someone is murdering and molesting little girls on Vliet street, the street where Sally is now living after her mother's hasty remarriage to her new stepfather, Hall.  Sally thinks she knows who is up to no good, and all she is hoping for is to protect her sister and herself.  This will be difficult, as Sally's mother is in the hospital, and the rumors are that she might never be coming out.  Sally and Troo are on their own.

I so enjoyed this book.  Sally was a wonderful character.  As with all children, Sally was aware of so many of the things going on in the community.  She might have drawn the wrong conclusions, but only because of her lack of experience.  The most difficult part about reading this book was that I longed to throw my arms around both Sally and Troo (they were so lovable), and bring them to my house to protect them from the things that threatened them.  The book is less a mystery than a coming of age story, but the mystery aspect of the story was satisfying as well.  There were also many poignant moments in this book that brought the hint of tears to my eyes, especially those related to parents and children.  I don't want to give anything away as far as storyline, so let me just say, read this book!  You won't be sorry.
Hilarie
Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Here is mine for the day:

    The Help by Kathryn Stockett, page 229

    "On Monday morning, I drive to work rehearsing the whole way. I know I mouhted off... I walk into her kitchen. And I know I was out of place... I set my bag down in the chair, and... and... This is the hard part. And I'm sorry."

    I am loving this book! I have literally put all my other reading aside just so I can finish this one.
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    RunningUtes

    Rating:
    Genre: Science Fiction, Short Stories

    Redshift, a collection of science fiction, edited by Al Sarrantonio, is described as the best collection of new science fiction in recent memory. It contains forty short stories by various science-fiction writers. Sarrantonio describes this book as an anthology of speculative fiction stories. His goal was to collect and expand on works of science fiction. He received submissions from new writers as well as established science fiction writers. This collection contains three novellas, five novelettes, and twenty-two short stories.  

    Their are many stories in this collection, some of them are gems while others seem to lack a plot. Overall I found many of the stories interesting and entertaining. The first story, on K2 with Kanakaredes, a short story by Dan Simmons, really grabbed my attention. It is a story about climbing Everest sometime in the future. The twist to this story is that the three mountain climbers are accompanied by a spider-like alien who is a representative of his visiting species. Immediately following the story, Ursula Le Guin shares her story The Building. After the first story I was expecting more but found the plot to the short story lacking. The next few stories also seem to lack much of a plot. I did find some of the ideas interesting and unique, but there wasn't enough "meat" for me to continue finishing reading the book.  

    I was a little disappointed by this book. I love reading science fiction, but felt that the book could have been edited differently with higher-quality stories. I did not feel that this book lived up to its tagline of "the best collection", or that these authors "had shaped the evolution of science fiction". On the contrary, I would suggest reading classic science-fiction rather than spend time on this compendium.
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    Hilarie
    Valerie, at Hachette Book Group, has kindly given me five copies of this book to giveaway to five lucky readers!  This is our first giveaway contest, and we are very excited, especially as this sounds like a great book.  

    More about:  Made in the USA by Billie Letts (Information provided by Hachette Book Group)

    "The bestselling author of WHERE THE HEART IS returns with a heartrending tale of two children in search of a place to call home.

    Lutie McFee's history has taught her to avoid attachments...to people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Lutie lives in the god-forsaken town of Spearfish, South Dakota with her twelve-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father.

    While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the endangerment of pandas. As if their life is not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac. Choosing the latter, they head off to Las Vegas in search of a father who has no known address, no phone number and, clearly, no interest in the kids he left behind.

    MADE IN THE U.S.A. is the alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming story of two gutsy children who must discover how cruel, unfair and frightening the world is before they come to a place they can finally call home."

     Contest Information and Guidelines:
    The Facts
    The giveaway starts today, April 21st and will run through Tuesday May 12th.  We will use a random number generator to determine the winners at that time and notify them via email.  Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you!  We will also post the winners here on the site.  The contest is only open to residents of the United States and Canada.  Unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.

    Entries
    To enter, simply leave a comment to this post.  You can get an additional entries by:
    1.  Post this giveaway on your blog.  Please provide me with a link to the URL.
    2.  Become a follower or subscriber, or just let us know if you already are.

    Good luck!
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    Hilarie
    Rating:
    Genre:  Historical Fiction, Brazil, South America
    Reading Challenges:  14 for 100+ in 2009, 1 for Do These Chunksters Make My Butt Look Big

    The Seamstress is a good read, and truly an epic in every sense.  The book is set in North Eastern Brazil, spanning from 1928 to 1935.  The novel tells the story of the Dos Santos sisters, Emilia and Luzia; young women who have been raised in an isolated village located in the interior.  The sisters are both talented seamstresses, having been trained by their Aunt since childhood, but they possess very different temperaments.  Emilia is beautiful and desires above all else to escape to one of the cities, such as Sao Paulo, that she has read about in her Fon Fon fashion magazines.  She dreams of being a great lady living in a mansion, far from the dirt floors of her youth.  Luzia, whose deformity in the form of a permanently bent arm as the result of a childhood accident, is referred to as Victrola by the village children and adults alike.  Her disability has already limited many of the dreams and ambitions that she might have held for her future; perhaps her greatest wish is to escape from the village where that very disability defines everything about her.  Of course both sisters do ultimately leave their small village, but not in the way they anticipate.  Luzia is taken by a band of outlaws led by the mysterious Hawk, while Emilia marries a man she hardly knows, the wealthy son of a doctor in Recife.  Their two lives become increasingly polarized by their very different experiences.  Neither finds themselves able to reveal the existence of the other, but always they hold the knowledge of the other close to their hearts.  

    It was clear that this book was a labor of love.  The novel was clearly well-researched, and each phrase seemed carefully and lovingly crafted.  I did enjoy the story and the characters.  At times, I did find the story dragging a bit, but it quickly picked up.  I also found the bond between the sisters to be fascinating.  Perhaps this is because I don't have a sister of my own.  The character of the Hawk was especially intriguing.  He was so enigmatic.  I loved that I could never guess what he was going to do next.  I do have to admit that I found Luzia's story to be the more interesting, and that I found myself hurrying a bit more over the chapters dealing with Emilia's experiences.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, even if it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
    Hilarie
    I have an ever growing list of favorites! So far they are:

    1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
    3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    4. The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
    5. A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot
    6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
    7. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster
    8. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
    9. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
    10. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
    11. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
    12. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    13. Beauty by Robin McKinley
    14. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
    15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    16. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    17. Phantom by Susan Kay
    18. The Hunger Games by Susan Collins
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    Hilarie
    Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    • Here is mine for the day:

      Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, page 152

      "It is a very terrible thing to be far smaller than one's rage. Mosca felt something enormous swell within the knitted stomach that hid behind her fists. It seemed to surge out of her like a wild, black wave, sweeping away stalls and strollers alike and biting the plaster from the walls."
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      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre:  Young Adult, Fiction, Coming of Age, Suspense, Noir
      Reading Challenges:  13 for 100+ in 2009

      What I Saw and How I Lied is several things at once: a coming of age story, a novel of suspense, and a book which captures the moral ambiguity and sexual tension of noir. The novel takes place shortly after the end of World War Two.  The story is narrated by Evelyn Spooner, the fifteen year old heroine, who shares with us the details of her family vacation to Palm Beach Florida in the company of her mother, Beverly, and her stepfather, Joe.  The Spooner family arrives in Palm Beach during the off season, only to find that their opportunities for entertainment are somewhat limited.  Shortly after arriving, they meet up with a man named Paul, who served with Joe in the military. Evelyn, or Evie as she calls herself, is suffering some serious growing pains and soon finds herself falling head over heels for Peter.  Before we reach the end of the novel, Evie's wold will have been turned upside down as she learns some hard lessons and lives through some harrowing experiences.  Most of all, she will come to know truths about those whom she has always trusted to know best, her parents, that will change everything.

      This was an enjoyable read.  The author writes in such a way that we, the reader, can guess long before Evie what is really going on.  The author also did a good job of raising some moral issues.  I read in some other reviews that this was a difficult read for some as they felt that none of the characters were particularly virtuous.  This didn't bother me in the sense that I am familiar with the noir genre, and so I was expecting a resolution that didn't exactly wrap up all the ends neatly.  I also felt that although I wouldn't have made some of the choices that Evie did, that I understood why she chose to do what she did.

      I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy film noir, and coming of age stories as I thought it was a well written and satisfying read.    
      RunningUtes

      Rating:
      Genre:  Self Help

      In the book, The Power of Less, Leo Babauta discusses and outlines his modified system of getting things done. In part one: the principles, he talks about how “less” is a powerful principle. By setting limits we must choose the essential areas of focus in our life, which allows us to create a greater impact , maximizing our time and energy. We start small and create new habits that with time will allow us to be more productive. In part two: in practice, he gives examples of simplifying one's goals and projects to limit our stress and wastefulness.

      Practical tips, like how to simplify e-mail, are used to inspire and motivate the reader. For example, limiting your inboxes, spending less time answering e-mails, reducing your incoming stream, processing your box to empty, and writing less, are discussed and encouraged.

      I liked this book and while reading it I referred to the his website located at Zen Habits. There are many recourses on the website that are also discussed in the book. For a nice introduction, check out his beginners guided tour.

      I give this book 3 stars because I enjoyed reading, but will probably not refer to it again. Many of the ideas were very repetitive, and halfway through the book, my interest started to wane. I found that I actually read more on the website rather in the book about topics that I found interesting. I would suggest this book to anyone who has tried the Getting Things Done method and found it not to their liking. Also be sure to check out the website Zen Habits for more great tips.

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      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre:  Young Adult, Fables
      Reading Challenges:  12 for 100+ in 2009

      After finishing this little book (it is a very quick read, only about 40 pages), I found myself feeling somewhat dissatisfied.  The book tells the story of a family; a fisherman, his wife, and their two small children, a boy and a girl.  The children of the fisherman love to watch their father fish, and the little boy especially longs to catch the beautiful fish that his father seems to capture with ease.  The father sternly reproves his son for trying to cast in his line by himself, an action which almost causes the son to fall into the swift current of the river.  The father's stern words and gruff nature cause problems between himself and his son, and eventually lead the boy to answer the call of the lake and find himself a prisoner of a great glass fish.

      There were several passages of downright beautiful writing in this book.  I loved how the author described the boys eyes as, "full of leaping fish and rainbows."  In some ways, I do appreciate the message that the author was trying to get across, that we must allow our children to experience things and we can't shelter them from life because we are afraid for them.  However, in this case, I felt that this fable was fundamentally flawed.  I am currently in the process of raising a toddler.  While I do try to let my child have many varied experiences, and to maintain my patience, there are times when I do raise my voice and sternly discipline her for her own safety.  I was troubled that the fisherman was portrayed as somehow an unkind parent because he was angry at his son for not taking the dangers of the river seriously.  I found myself agreeing with the fisherman when he told his wife that, "discipline is love."  I was also bothered that the fisherman's wife seemed to blame him entirely for everything that had happened, and that she was untroubled about the disobedience of her son.

      In conclusion, I do feel that this author has some talent, and I would be interested to read what he writes in the future.  I cannot however recommend this book as I don't agree with the moral of the story. 

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      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre:  Fiction, Classics, Horror, Suspense
      Reading Challenges:  11 for 100+ in 2009, 1 of 5 for Classics Challenge 2009

      Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the words conjure up all sorts of images in my mind, mostly from the theatrical and cinematic depictions I've seen at different times in my life.  I thought I knew the story well, and so I didn't expect to find myself surprised by much in the novel.  How wrong I was!  

      The novel is interesting, because there are so many aspects of the story that are left to the imagination of the reader.  Mr. Hyde's appearance, as well as his misdeeds, are never defined in black and white, but are instead only alluded to in a manner that almost makes them more horrifying.  I was also intrigued with the complicated nature of the character of Dr. Jekyll, a man who desires to be seen as an upstanding individual, but is in many ways somewhat fascinated by the evil aspects of his nature.  

      I found this to be a great read, and far more thought provoking than I had anticipated.  It is a very short read, around 100 pages, but provides plenty of "meat" for the reader to chew on.  If you haven't taken the opportunity to try this book before, I would recommend it as a very enjoyable read.  This has been a great start to my Classics Reading Challenge for 2008, and has left me thirsting for more! 
      RunningUtes
      Rating:
      Genre:  Diet, Weightloss

      The book, the Liberation Diet, by Kevin Brown and Annette Presley, is written to describe the history of weight loss, health misinformation, and greatly improve quality of life through safe and effective drug-free weight-loss. Included in the introduction of this book, the authors state their purpose as reeducation of a healthy lifestyle diet system to improve the lives of people often with dramatic results. Through this book, they hope to help others experience freedom from chronic disease to live a full abundant life.

      As a family practice physician, I was very excited about receiving this book to review, with the anticipation that I would use the new information about healthy lifestyles to better educate my patients for improved weight loss. Unfortunately, I was only able to read through the first 30 pages of this book because of the inadequate, illogical, and untrue statements made by the authors regarding healthy weight loss.

      At the opening of the introduction and with every chapter, a basic history is given regarding the topic to be discussed, and the controversy put forth by the vast web of diet industries, educational programs, and media outlets. Building upon the concept of the conspiracy between government agencies, health care industry, pharmaceutical industries, food industry, and physicians, the authors state that through misinformation and for substantial profit the general public has been misled about healthy dietary habits. Quoting from the book:

      Food companies get to use cheaper ingredients so they can increase their bottom line. These cheap ingredients do not nourish the body, so people get sick. Money is poured into the health-care system to treat the sick people. Pharmacological companies make a fortune on drugs designed to treat but not cure these diseases, and most of these drugs have side effects that require additional drugs to combat the other drugs. People get tired of being fat and sick, so they go on a diet. But the diet industry tells people to eat fake food and follow the food guide pyramid, creating more marketing opportunities for diet plans, pills, and potions that don't work, starting the vicious cycle all over again.

      Now I admit as a physician, I could be included amongst the “healthcare conspiracy”, but I'm not. Beginning each chapter with the premise that this is a conspiracy and that healthcare providers are withholding vital information from their patients is both a falsehood and logically impractical.

      Illogical statements like “the pharmaceutical industry invented the drug Viagra for carbohydrate lovers to combat a low sex drive” are both untrue and take away from the topic at hand, and brings to question the general knowledge and accuracy of the authors. Other examples include the concept that sugar reacts with protein and fat destroying their ability to function, and that the more sugar you have in your body the more damage occurs to cell membranes leading to the development of cancer. The initial premise that increased levels of blood sugar can lead to damage in specific tissues is true, but to link this damage to the development of cancer is both illogical and misleading.

      The references provided for each chapter also compound the idea of a deceptive health care industry. Titles like the fluoride deception, the cholesterol myths, life without bread, and the untold story of milk, suggest further misrepresentation by a global conspiracy.

      I give this book one star because I do believe that the authors premise is true, but that the conclusions are false. I would not suggest this book to any of my patients because I believe that there is no conspiracy, and that many of the statements made are misleading and could be harmful. Two of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic are the increase in food portions, and the decrease in general activity levels. The authors would have been more successful if they had focused more on these two principles rather than delve into conspiracy and conjecture.

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      Hilarie
      This giveaway ends today, so if you haven't entered, rush over to Books Ahoy and enter pronto!  She is giving away a copy of Girls in Trunks by Katie Crouch.  This one is on my TBR pile! 
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      Hilarie
      Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
      • Grab your current read
      • Open to a random page
      • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
      • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
      • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

      • Here are mine for the day from my current reads. I may have cheated a bit (it is so hard to stick to only two lines), but I really liked both of these teasers.

        The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Signet Classic Edition) page 71

        "Time ran on; thousands of pounds were offered in reward, for the death of Sir Danvers was resented as a public injury; but Mr. Hyde had disappeared out of the ken of the police as though he had never existed. Much of his past was unearthed, indeed, and all disreputable: tales came out of the man's cruelty, at once so callous and violent; of his vile life, of his strange associates, of the hatred that seemed to have surrounded his career; but of his present whereabouts, not a whisper."

        What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell page 213

        "Headlines. Words that once you read upside down, that popped out at you at a newstand as you roller-skated by, or from the kitchen table as you went by to grab an apple from a yellow bowl on the kitchen counter. BODY and BLONDE and MURDER. Now they were about us."
        Labels: 9 comments | edit post
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        Hilarie
        Rating:
        Genre:  Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Satire, Parody
        Reading Challenges:  10 for 100+ in 2009, Discworld Reading Challenge

        The Light Fantastic, Prachett's 2nd Discworld novel, picks up almost immediately where the first, The Color of Magic ended.  Rincewind, the Discworld's most inept wizard finds himself saved from certain death, by being magically transported to a talking forest after falling off the edge of the Disc.  It turns out that one of the eight great spells, the one trapped inside his head, has plans for him which luckily don't include his demise.  Rincewind and Twoflower the tourist soon find themselves enraging some druids, meeting up with Cohen the "aged" barbarian (seriously, imagine Conan the Barbarian if he lived to the ripe old age of 87), and trying to save the Discworld from the clutches of a power hungry wizard and the mysterious red star which appears to be on a collision course with the Disc itself.

        This is a great read, and an improvement over Pratchett's first Discworld novel, which is saying something.  Pratchett's parody of barbarian heroes and sword-wielding wenches is especially hilarious.  This is a great read, and one that I recommend for those who don't take their fantasy too seriously.  Pratchett is especially fond of wordplay.  I found myself sometimes reading lines a second or third time, just to relish the joke.  This is definitely a read which rewards your full attention.  It isn't especially necessary to read The Color of Magic first, but it will make things a bit easier to understand.  
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