November 29, 2011
November 28, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 835 pages
Published August 16th 2005 by Spectra (first published August 1st 1996)
ISBN 0553588486 (ISBN13: 9780553588484)
Edition Language: English
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com)
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens.
The Song of Ice and Fire series has been around for awhile. Anything you want to know about the plot, or theories about the characters, or conspiracy theories about parentage, or even what dragons are good for, is available elsewhere. With Game of Thrones on HBO, and the release of the latest book, A Dance with Dragons, I really just wanted to read through the books and refresh my memory. So here are some of my thoughts and impressions on my second read through of this series.
By the end of Game of Thrones, I have some very strong opinions about a few characters. First, Catelyn. I don't like her. I know that mothers are supposed to protect their kids. It's that whole mother bear (or better in this case, wolf) mentality. But every single one of her decisions strikes me as wrong-headed and arrogant. She uses her position as the Lady Stark to get what she wants, from her flight to King's Landing, to the capture of Tyrion Lannister, to trying to take control of her son's army. And especially her treatment of Jon Snow. The kid is, what, 14? And she's still trying to convince her husband to turn him out? I try to get what she's about, but I just can't.
And I feel terribly for Jon Snow. His siblings love him (except for Sansa, who I hate), but his Catelyn treats him like trash and constantly berates him for his very existence. So he joins a legendary band of brothers charged with the protection of the realm, only to find out his legendary band of brothers are actually jerks, and no one likes them or takes them seriously. And The Imp is the one to break the news to him. Poor kid. He just can't seem to get a break.
Which brings me to the other children. The daughters, Arya and Sansa. I love Arya. She's got fire, and she's smart, even for a little kid. Sansa, on the other hand, is a simpering idiot. I can't stand her. She is supposed to be older and more mature than Arya, but her entire existence is consumed with daydreams of chivalrous knights and gallant princes and being a princess. Ugh! And then there's the boys. Theon, while not a Stark, is raised by Starks and is still no one I would want my kids hanging out with. Bran is a cute kid, and I feel for him, but he's not in the book enough to get attached. Robb, though. Robb, I like. He's young, but has honor, and wants to do the right thing. And I love the symbolism of the wolf pups.
I hate most of the Lannisters, but I love Tyrion. It's amazing how someone who is despised from birth can grow up having some sense of honor about him. He's manipulative and lascivious, and kind of a jerk, but I still like him.
Most of the story takes place in The Seven Kingdoms, except for the story of Dany, who is 13 years old. I know that back in the day, girls got married as soon as they were capable of getting pregnant. But I can't get passed the wig-factor of a guy who wants to marry a 13 year old girl. Ew. But Dany is at least interesting. Her brother is a crazy piece of crap that deserved his molten crown of gold (kudos to HBO on filming that scene, by the way), but she's cool.
And now, on to Clash of Kings!
November 27, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Tor Books
ISBN 0765330423 (ISBN13: 9780765330420)
Edition Language: English
Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.
One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.
True fans of Brandon Sanderson have come to expect certain things in one of his books. You expect an interesting, original, and cohesive (if crazy) magic system. You expect non-traditional characters. And you expect a certain level of tongue-in-cheek humor. I'm here to tell you, that Alloy of Law did not disappoint.
To start with, we have the same magic systems found in the original Mistborn trilogy, allomancy and feruchemy. However, 300 years after the world ended and was remade, we no longer find true mistborn or feruchemists. No, the mistborn of yore have entered the religious pantheon, and no mention is made of feruchemists. Instead, we have people who either have one allomantic skill or one feruchemical skill, and in rare circumstances we have the Twinborn: those with one allomantic and one feruchemical skill together.
Which brings me to non-traditional characters. In Alloy of Law, the two main characters are Wax and Wayne. Oh yeah, there's that tongue-in-cheek humor, too. Wax is a 40-something sorta-broke lord. Who ran away as a kid to be a lawman. And then came back to be a lord. With no money. Wax, however, is overly observant, always tried to do the right thing, and is pretty smart besides, always good traits to have. His partner, Wayne, however, is also those things. He just hides it better. Because really, who wants to be known as the smart guy? Just gets you into trouble.
I can't remember the last time I read a fantasy novel where the main character was over the age of 25. In fact, it's hard to classify this book as a fantasy. I mean, if you really think about it, it's more like an old western, with gun fights, an evil villain and a damsel in distress. There just happens to be a few magical powers and some fun tech involved, steampunk style.
All in all, this was a very fun read. I can see why Brandon Sanderson says writing this book was his vacation. The book definitely doesn't take itself too seriously, and still manages to tell a really good story that keeps you hooked from start to finish.
My favorite part? Without spoiling too much, the line is Harmony saying "You're welcome."
November 26, 2011
November 25, 2011
August 23, 2011
Disneyland was build in 1955, and it had an area of the park devoted to the future. "Tomorrowland" was supposed to represent the way the world would be with the contribution of science, and over 50 years later, we still don't have all the doodads and gadgets imagined back then.
Is it because the technology hasn't developed? Sure. But the big question is WHY hasn't technology advanced as quickly as we'd hoped? Is it because we aren't smart enough? I don't think so.
I think technology hasn't developed as much as was dreamed in the past, because the writers and dreamers of the past never imagined how EXPENSIVE technological development would be.
Think about it. How many science fiction books have you read where money gets in the way? How much would an enterprise like Jurassic Park cost in todays world? Could we do it? Maybe. But it would probably take the entire GDP of a midsize country to get it done.
Why haven't we started colonizing the moon? Cost.
Why don't we have thriving underwater communities? Cost.
Why don't we have electric cars, smooth roads, and a way to travel cross-country in an hour or less? Cost.
Now, I'm not trying to make some economical-political statement. That's not how I roll, and I realize these issues are a lot more complicated than a simple dollar sign. What I am saying, is that being a lover of science fiction has made it impossible not to look at the world today and wish things could be a little different.
Because I know how innovative we can be. I know how creative our scientists and engineers truly are. And I know why most of them stick to doodling on napkins.
August 21, 2011
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Roc
Primary Language: English
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
Beware Spoilers for the entire Dresden series!
When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.
But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.
To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...
The last scene of Changes was Harry Dresden being shot, falling off a boat, and seeing a white light. When you're reading an ongoing series like this one, you expect a certain level of cliffhanger at the end of the book. You do NOT expect your much loved protagonist to die. So, I was convinced the entire scene was a red herring, and that the next book would open with Harry alive and well.
Boy was I wrong. Harry was very, very dead. And his spirit was sent back as a ghost. It was interesting seeing Harry Dresden, kick-ass wizard, running around with no muscle and no magic. We've always known he was a smart guy, but he's never been in a situation where he was forced to think through his options before running in, guns blazing.
Harry was forced to confront his relationships, and see how much his actions had effected those he loved most. Especially poor Molly. I think her coping with Harry's death was the most heart-wrenching in the book.
Honestly, I was more fascinated by the interpersonal relationships and personal revelations than I was in the mystery. So what if the Corpsetaker was trying to stage a comeback? Who cares about who or what the Fomor are? I know future installments will have a lot to say on the matter. But this book was about Harry. We learned more about his life before we met him in Storm Front.
Because memories turned out to be the source of his ghostly power, we readers had the opportunity to experience many important life experiences Harry has had but not explained. And this leads me to the biggest fear I have after finishing Ghost Story: Harry used his memories to power his spells and fight the big fight. There was no evidence of him regaining those memories in the end. So when Mab brought him back to his body in the end, how much of himself does he remember? I hope he still remembers everything. I really do. But I wonder...
August 19, 2011
The Vampire Diaries By LJ Smith
I borrowed the first 5 installments of The Vampire Diaries from a friend sometime last year. There are a couple of people I know that love the series, in fact. So I borrowed what I could, thinking I would read them and love them as well. Unfortunately, that's not how things turned out. I read the first one, and wasn't impressed. I found the characters annoying and Elena completely unbelievable. But, my friends loved the books, so I kept reading. I read all 5 (I know there's 7 out now, but I only have 5) and really just wasn't all that impressed. I found the story to be one-dimensional and predictable. However, I firmly believe in reading what's popular, just to know what people are talking about, so I'm glad I read them. And, since I've had these books on my shelf for over a year, that's 5 more down on my Off the Shelf Challenge. Only 6 more to go!
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Considering HP7.2 came out this summer, I decided to reread the series prior to seeing the movie. I'm glad I did, considering I'd only read The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows once each. I love these stories. I love how the writing level matures as the characters do. I love how intricate the story is. I love how not everyone comes through in one piece, but we still get a happy ending. It's not perfect. People we love are dead, but life goes on and the survivors make the best out of what they have. There's a reason the Harry Potter franchise is one of the most successful in history, and it's not because it has magic wands. It's because the characters are so very, very real.
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
I freaking love Brent Weeks. I really do. I've met him, and he is friendly and funny and sarcastic (and he has cute freckles*). The best thing about Brent Weeks? He tells a great story. I read the Night Angel Trilogy a few years ago, and something made me pick up The Way of Shadows recently for a reread. I love how Weeks gives all of his characters so many flaws. They are by turns arrogant, ignorant, oblivious, vengeful, hateful, ambivalent and naive, and still manage to show love, honor, faith, and selflessness when the situation calls for it. There are very few stories out there whose main characters not only aren't perfect, but aren't completely good. They get dirty. They make mistakes. And friends and family get hurt because of it. I love reading a story that makes me want to strangle and hug the protagonist in the same chapter.
*I don't really have a crush on Brent Weeks. Not really. I just wanted to see if he's watching… ;-)
June 14, 2011
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2010)
ISBN 1442304340 (ISBN13: 9781442304345)
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
When Tempe is called to the scene of an autoerotic death, she has little idea of the tangled chain of events that will follow. Because the man whose body she examines apparently died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam 40 years before. So who is buried in the soldier's grave?
I love the Tempe Brennan books. I have almost all of them on audio, and they are great books for long car rides. Tempe's latest adventure takes her from Canada to North Carolina to Hawaii and back again, and I'm not sure but I think this may be the first case she works that actually spans both countries.
Tempe is called to the scene of a death that takes place in a pond in the middle of the Canadian countryside, and the specifics surrounding that death are a little less than conventional. However, they ID the body as a US citizen, and former soldier, who supposedly died in combat 40 years ago, and who is supposedly buried in North Carolina. The exhumation of that body leads Tempe to JPAC, the military organization responsible for making sure our men and women in uniform make it home, no matter what.
Reichs is great at setting up a multidimensional mystery. I don't want to say too much about it, because I know I wouldn't be able to do it justice without possibly ruining the ending.
There are a few things I will say:
I learned a lot about the military's devotion to ID'ing it's personnel killed in action and making sure they make it home. I actually found myself looking up a lot of the acronyms and reading about the JPAC online.
There was a the usual dry humor I've grown to expect from Tempe. Her lighthearted internal monologue amuses me.
I love the science that is randomly inserted into the story line. You don't see enough real science in books these days. Usually when I read books that have a scientist as a character, the "science" they talk about makes me want to tear my eyes out.
This book didn't have the suspense and sense of danger the last couple had. I didn't really get the feeling that her life was truly in danger that I would have expected. That's not to say there was no suspense, because there was. It just wasn't the "who buried Tempe in a cave" kind of suspense, like what was in the last book.
Overall, I highly recommend the series. It's still going strong and I'm looking forward to the next installment.
And Spiderbones adds a notch in my "Off the Shelf" Challenge. 4 down, 11 to go!
June 11, 2011
Hardcover, 477 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Harlequin Teen
ISBN 0373210337 (ISBN13: 9780373210336)
Primary Language: English
Source: From the Publisher via NetGalley
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one except the thing inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch.
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits. Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on, even if it seems no one believes her.
Finley Jayne has a good job. She's a ladies maid in a noble house. Of course, it's the third job she's had in three months, but that's okay. She has issues. Like a second personality that likes to hit things. And when the young nobleman of the house tries to rape her, her other self takes over and beats him unconscious. When she realizes what's happened, she runs, and in her panic is hit by Duke Griffin King on a "velocycle".
Finley is then taken to his home, where she meets the mechanical and medical genius Emily, the gentle giant Sam (who happens to be part robot), the American Cowboy Jasper, and the royal psychic Cordelia. There, she learns about things she never imagined, like the Organites Griffin's parents brought up from the center of the Earth. She also learns the true history of her own life, including who her father really was, and how she is truly connected to Griffin.
Finley joins Griffin's little band of super-people in trying to solve the mystery of the Machinist, and how he could be making robots around London come to life and attack people. By the time they solve the mystery, Finley has learned a great deal about life, about the world, about herself, and about her friends.
I want to start by saying I really enjoyed the book. I really did. That being said, though, it had some problems. I was really excited to read it based on the title and the cover art, both of which are absolutely amazing. I expected a lot out of this book because of that, and I think I was setting myself up to be disappointed. I feel there was a lot that could have been done with the story, but in the end, it just missed being the amazing thing I had hoped for.
First of all, the author seemed to be trying too hard with the "steampunk" aspect. I like a good steampunk, but this book seemed to have more random tech gadgets thrown in at odd points just to be more "steampunky" without actually adding to the story at all. I get that Emily was a mechanical genius, but I find it hard to believe someone who was supposed to have been in her late teens would single-handedly invent all of the useful items they happened to need at any given moment with absolutely no prep time. Oh, here, have a flashlight, a voice recorder, a Polaroid camera, and a mechanical cat, I just whipped them up while you all were having breakfast. I do have to give her props for Finley's bulletproof corset, though. That one was unexpected and very cool.
Also, the characters were quite a bit one-sided and shallow, even Finley with her two-sided nature. I kept thinking that less time spent describing some automaton would have meant more time on character development. The most interesting character, to me, was the one with the least screen time, and I think my interest may be unwarranted. Jack Dandy is originally set up as a crime lord and the head of a band of noble-hooligans, and then turns out to be a very polished, educated, and honorable man. I kept wanting to know more about who he was and what he was up to, convinced there had to be some nefarious purpose under it all, but I'm afraid the buildup was all in my head, and not due to any devising on the author's part. I hope that's not the case, but it is my fear.
The mystery was not very mysterious. It's fairly obvious from the get-go who is behind things and what he's trying to do, but I'm willing to forgive on that. I was very confused by the seemingly random POV from the Machinist. It happened once, and was about a page long, and didn't seem to serve any purpose whatsoever.
But, like I said, I really did enjoy the book overall. I read it in one day. The truth behind Finley's dual nature was a very nice twist, and I'd like to see where that goes. I'm very interested to see what is in store for Miss Finley Jayne and her friends in the next installment, though I have my fingers crossed that author learned a lot with this book and will show a great deal of improvement in the next one.
May 24, 2011
May 22, 2011
May 21, 2011
Paperback, 358 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Puffin (first published September 2nd 2004)
ISBN 0142409413 (ISBN13: 9780142409411)
Primary Language: English
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook.
The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss' parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated.
Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
The Looking Glass Wars follows the life of Princess Alyss, from her childhood in Wonderland through her early adulthood in London, England. We meet a variety of interesting characters along the way that one may recognize from Lewis Carroll's books, but not in that "Oh, how cute, a smiling cat" way. More in a "rip a person to pieces while you watch" way.
At the age of seven, young Alyss is having a birthday party when her evil Aunt Redd, possessing the power of Black Imagination, kills Alyss's father, uses her card soldiers to storm the castle, kills everyone she can find, and eventually ends up facing off with Alyss's mother. Alyss's mother sends her bodyguard, the highly skilled fighter Hatter Madigan, through the looking glass (a kind of transport highway) with Alyss before being beheaded by Redd.
Alyss and Hatter are separated when fleeing from Cat, Redd's murderous multi-lived assassin, and Alyss ends up an orphan child on the streets of 19th century London, England. While Hatter spends the next 13 years trying to find her, Alyss has to learn to deal with London society and Wonderland becomes a land filled with darkness, hatred, and fear.
I've always been intrigued with twisted fairy tales. When the video game "Alice" was released many years ago, I was excited because it showed Wonderland as a dark and twisted place. When I read a friend's review of the third book in Beddor's series, I went out and bought this one, and unfortunately, let it sit on my bookshelf for over a year. In that year, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was released, renewing my interest in all things Alice.
I finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago, and I am glad I did! This book was an exciting read from start to finish. While it's a YA novel, it still manages to encompass everything from romance to mental disorders, thrilling chases and tea parties. I liked the set up of the relationship between Wonderland and the real world. It amused me to think there was one person sitting on a throne somewhere deciding what inspiration to send along to us simpletons.
Beddor's characters were real and multi-dimensional. For instance, Hatter was more than a skilled fighter, our heroes had many faults, and even the perfect world of Wonderland had a seedy underbelly. I enjoyed knowing that the heroes I rooted for were so much less than perfect, with prejudices and fears of their own.
I am very much looking forward to reading the remaining two books in this series.
And on a related note of excitement: Alice: The Madness Returns will be released in June, and I am very excited about it!
This marks the third book in my Off The Shelf Challenge!
May 10, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 615 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Tor Fantasy (first published May 1st 2005)
ISBN 0765350378 (ISBN13: 9780765350374)
Primary Language: English
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
I originally read this after it was announced that Brandon Sanderson was going to be completing the Wheel of Time series after the untimely death of Robert Jordan. Recently, however, a couple of friends of mine decided to pick it up for the first time, and their commentary while reading it made me want to read it again. So, here's some thoughts on my second read-through:
I know this was Sanderson's first novel, so it has some rough patches in regards to the writing and some of the continuity, but it was never enough to jar me out of the story, which is good. On my second read, I found myself enjoying the political aspect a lot more than I had the first time around. Serene's manipulation of just about everyone around her amused me greatly, even though I know it shouldn't.
The foreshadowing in this book is subtle, and I missed most of it my first time through, but this time I found myself wanting to yell at Raoden to stop being so thick-headed and figure it out already!
One of Sanderson's strengths is building a magic system that is complex, elegant, and most of all, original. One of things I enjoyed most about Elantris was it's magic system. Aondor was almost scientific in it's rules, and those rules play a fundamental role in the plot of the story, rather than magic just being something to fill space, like you see in some fantasy novels.
I have to say it: Brandon Sanderson is my hero.
May 9, 2011
There was a lot of hype over this book before it was released in 2010, mostly based on the author. I remember reading some of the blurbs and thinking, "Yeah, that sounds kind of cool!" Being the lemming that I am, the more positive hype I saw, the more I wanted to read it. So when it was released, I rushed out and bought it. It took some time for me to get around to reading it, but when I did I was incredibly disappointed. So much so, in fact, that I will most likely review it here at some point just to express my extreme displeasure. What's really frustrating is all the things that made me hate this book are touted by other reviewers as being the reason they like it. And I just found out the sequel was released in January, and I never noticed it. I'm not sure I'll read it.
May 8, 2011
Published February 22nd 2011
Primary Language: English
But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about, she’s got to save herself from the ghosts of her past. Because the past is haunting her. Literally.
After the suspenseful cliffhanger of "The Mage in Black", I was expecting quite a lot from the start of "Green-Eyed Demon", and I was disappointed to find that several weeks pass between the end of the last book and the beginning of this one. The team has basically been driving around looking for leads that lead nowhere.
Luckily for everyone involved, however, they do find a lead that leads them to: New Orleans!
There's a lot of sexual tension building between Adam and Sabina, and I understood her hesitation, even if I found it frustrating at the same time. Giguhl is still his snarky self, providing comedic relief at just the right moments, and not surprisingly, deep and thoughtful personal advice when Sabina needs it most.* Additional comedic relief was provided by the New Orleans cast, even if the voodoo priestess and drag queen struck me as a little too stereotypical "New Orleans Experience" at times.
There's a good sense of mystery about this book. I enjoyed the step-wise clue gathering interspersed with Sabina getting pissy and knocking some heads together, even if I was frustrated and disappointed with her mood swings and decision to go rogue later in the book. The final battle in the end was pretty exciting, though, so it made all the frustrations at Sabina's attitude worth it in the end.
When the next volume comes out, I will certainly be reading it, though I can't say if I'm on the edge of my seat for it.
*If you can't tell, Giguhl is my favorite character.
May 7, 2011
ISBN 1841497576 (ISBN13: 9781841497570)
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com)
Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead. So when she arrives in New York to meet her mage relatives, the reunion puts the fun in dysfunctional. Not only is mage culture completely bizarre, but everyone seems to think she's some kind of 'Chosen' who'll unite the dark races. Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny. But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic old flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple - but it looks like it wants to bite back.
"The Mage in Black" opens immediately after the closing events of "Red-Headed Stepchild" with Sabina, Adam, and Gighul fleeing across the country in an SUV, trying to get to the safety of New York City and Mage-Central before vampire assassins catch up to them. Sabina is wary of meeting her newfound Mage family, but is willing to take the chance. Especially considering vampire family is currently actively seeking her head on a plate. She is surprised to find an ally in not only her twin sister, but also an old boyfriend (who, when they last parted, stole a great deal of cash and left her in an awkward position), who happens to be a pretty decent guy. Even if he does run a demon fight club.
Yes. Just like the movie. Only with demons.
Sabina spent a great deal of time throughout this book whining about not belonging and not fitting in and complaining about her life not being like it used to be. I feel like if it were me, I would have been thrilled to find myself surrounded by people that didn't want to kill me, and I wouldn't have spent all my time complaining to anyone who would listen about how unfair everything was. "Ewww, mages are gross, why do I have to do mage things even though I'm half mage and have mage power???"
While it's true there was a person or two that wanted her dead, her inability to trust and work with people ended up causing a lot of heart-ache in the end. More so than would have happened had she just accepted her new role in life.
That's not to say there wasn't a lot of action and suspense. I love me some explosions and demon-fights. There was more than enough mystery over who was behind the intrigue to keep me interested, and Gighul still cracks me up, especially when he meets his soul mate: a vanity demon who changes into, of course, a peacock.
Luckily, the massive cliff-hanger in the end didn't leave me in too much of a lurch, as I had the third installment loaded on my Kindle, ready to go. I might have been slightly upset if not for that.
May 6, 2011
Published April 1st 2009 by Orbit
ISBN 0316037761 (ISBN13: 9780316037761)
Primary Language: English
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com)
In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina Kane has the only profession fit for an outcast: assassin. But, her latest mission threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races and Sabina must scramble to figure out which side she's on. She's never brought her work home with her---until now.
This time, it's personal.
"Red-Headed Stepchild" introduces us to Sabina Kane: half-vampire, half-mage, in a world where vampires and mages are not the best of friends. Raised by her grandmother (who happens to be the Super-Queen-Bee of the vampires) to be a first class assassin, Sabina has never really known love of any kind. She has always assumed her grandmother loved her, but was unable to show it because of her position. However, Sabina is forced to re-evaluate that position when her grandmother orders her to assassinate the one person in her life that she can call "friend". Being the good little assassin robot that she is, she carries out her mission without hesitation. It's not until after the deed is done that Sabina begins to wonder. Then she is sent on an undercover mission, where she meets people that force her to adjust her world view completely.
It's all pretty typical stuff. Outcast meets dark and handsome stranger bearing bad news/good news/super secret power/all of the above. Powerful, independent female goes all weak and googley eyed over a man that treats her right. And a bald cat demon.
Wait, that's not so typical is it? Truthfully, there are a lot of Urban Fantasy tropes in this story, but the characters make all the difference. There's a not-so-subtle humor to a centuries old demon trying to play at being a punk kid. I think that without Gighul, the whole thing would have fallen a little flat, but as it was, it came together well in the end, even if there were moments where I had to suspend my disbelief to get through.
Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of it, and immediately went and bought the next two after finishing this one. I think I read all three books currently in the series in 4 days.
And this marks the second book in my "Off The Shelf" Challenge. 2 down, 13 to go!
March 31, 2011
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Tor Books (first published July 26th 2010)
ISBN 076532556X (ISBN13: 9780765325563)
Primary Language: English
Source: Won in a drawing at www.rantingdragon.com
LOCUS CHALLENGE: I agreed to review this book before the end of April as a part of the Locus Challenge Giveaway from www.rantingdragon.com
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.
Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
Jane Ellsworth lives with her sister, Melody, her hypochondriac mother, and her pragmatic father in their family home Long Parkmead of Dorchester. As a family of means, Jane's father has set aside dowrys for his daughters, both of whom were raised with the advantage of education and position. At the ripe old age of 28, Jane has resigned herself to be the spinster aunt to whatever children come of her sister's marriage, whenever that may happen. To compensate for her lack of love interests, Jane has devoted herself to the study of art and glamour, a kind of magic used to enhance music and art.
I have to be honest here. I haven't read any Jane Austen outside of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I'm told that doesn't count. I've never really been interested in these 19th century British novels. That being said, I really enjoyed Shades of Milk and Honey. It was a quick read (300 pages, compared to the 1000 page novel I read last), and I found myself rooting for Jane. I wanted her to find happiness, while her beautiful shallow sister was left alone. And when her love came from where she least expected it, I was glad. It wasn't something I didn't see coming, but she didn't see it coming, and that is what matters. So I ended up liking this story more than I expected.
Also, I find myself intrigued by glamour. It seems to be a skill that anyone can learn but few people have a natural aptitude, similar to learning a musical instrument. Jane is one of the gifted, able to weave the threads of glamour with the skill of the masters, lacking only the passion that usually accompanies the truly gifted artists. I like the idea of magic being an every day occurrence, rather than something only those specially blessed can use. If magic were real, I think that's how it would really happen.
March 30, 2011
March 28, 2011
March 27, 2011
Paperback, 361 pages
Published May 15th 2010 by Night Shade Books (first published September 1st 2009)
ISBN 1597801585 (ISBN13: 9781597801584)
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
The blurb (www.goodreads.com):
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.
I finished reading The Windup Girl a couple of weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since, which says a lot about the quality of the work. Part of the problem is that I can't decide whether or not I like it. I really like my day job, and this book kind of makes me out to be the bad guy, and I can't really get over that.
That being said, it is an interesting concept. What would happen if genetic engineering were completely unregulated? Would it be possible for a custom-designed pet to get loose and cause the extinction of multiple species on the planet within a few decades? Could biotech companies design plagues to wipe-out food sources to ensure entire countries are dependent on their product for simple survival? In the world of The Windup Girl, all those questions are answered, and not always in the way you would expect.
Honestly, I think the world-building is the most interesting part of this book. I didn't really relate to most of the characters, not because they were shallow or one-dimensional, because they weren't, but because they were so very uninteresting. Anderson Lake is a scheming puss-nugget, but I can't even get up the energy to dislike him. There were three characters I liked. The first one died, the second one was a child we only see in passing, and the third one was a crochety old man trying to get back the fortunes he'd lost in a religious war. And I only like him because of his backstory and his care for the child.
So to sum up, I can't recommend this book. I think it's a good book to have read, but if you're looking for some lighthearted fun or for an intense thriller with a plot that sums up at the end, this isn't it.
March 25, 2011
Hardcover, 994 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Daw Books
ISBN 0756404738 (ISBN13: 9780756404734)
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble
Warning: There may be some very minor spoilers but I'll try to avoid them...
My name is Kvothe.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view — a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's Road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived...until Kvothe.
I was browsing through Border's one day when a wise old man stopped me in the aisle and asked if I'd read "The Name of the Wind". When I replied that I hadn't, he lifted the book, which I swear he hadn't been holding when he approached me, and placed it in my hands. He said, "You will." And walked away.* Intrigued, I turned to the back to read the blurb, where the opening paragraph caught my attention: "My name is Kvothe. … You may have heard of me." I was hooked, what can I say? I took it home, and left it sitting on my bookshelf for a good 6 months. When I finally got around to reading it, I kicked myself for putting it off so long. I have been anxiously awaiting Day 2 for a little over a year.
In The Wise Man's Fear, we see a lot more of Kvothe at the University. He gets into the swing of classes, and continues to be plagued by the empty state of his purse. He deals a lot with Devi, and gets closer to Denna. His friends prove how much they care for him, and of course, he uses his University access to try and learn more about the Chandrian who killed his family.
But as the blurb indicates, after yet another run-in with Ambrose, he takes a semester off to roam the countryside. And as would be expected, it is out in the world where he learns the most valuable information. He learns how to fight, how to love, and most importantly I think, how dark his soul can become. I really enjoyed his adventures. Tempi was probably my favorite new character from this book. The land of the Adem was interesting, and I got a good chuckle over the "man-mother" comments.
I love Rothfuss' storytelling. Most of the novel borders on poetic. In fact, the interplay between Kvothe and Denna often takes the form of verse (are these two EVER going to stop dancing around each other?). The prologue really got to me, too. I’ve gone back and read it half a dozen times now.
Favorite quote from this book: "I am trying to teach you. Stop grabbing at my tits." I laughed for two days at that.
*You would be surprised how often wise, old men approach me in bookstores.
March 20, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 14, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 11, 2011
March 7, 2011
March 6, 2011
A shrewd investigator and an expert marksman, Special Agent Alexandra LaDuca can handle any case the FBI gives her. Or can she?
While on loan from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alex is tapped to accompany a Secret Service team during an American Presidential visit to Ukraine. Her assignment: to keep personal watch over Yuri Federov, the most charming and most notorious gangster in the region.
Against her better judgment---and fighting a feeling that she's being manipulated---she leaves for Ukraine. But there are more parts to this dangerous mission than anyone suspects, and connecting the dots takes Alex across three continents and through some life-altering discoveries about herself, her work, her faith, and her future.
March 5, 2011
February 1, 2011
I have to pick a favorite??? I don't think I can do that. Every time I look at my bookshelf, I see all these books that I love and have read multiple times. So I'm going to pick one for today. If you ask me again a month from now, I may have forgotten all about this and I'll end up picking something new.
The Order War, by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com)
The deadly White Wizards of Fairhaven, wielding the forces of chaos, have completed their great highway through the Westhorns and now threatened the ancient matriarchy of Sarronnyn, the last bastion of order in Candar. The ruler of Sarronnyn appeals to the Black order wizards of Recluce for help. Justen - a young Black Engineer in the city of Nylan - joins the relief force. Despite their success in destroying more than half the White armies, Sarronnyn falls to the White Wizards, and Justen is chased into the most inhospitable desert in Candar.
These trials are but the beginning, for the White Wizards have all Candar in their grasp. Justen must fight both Recluce and Fairhaven, as well as the highest powers of order and the forbidden technology to harness chaos itself in his efforts to halt the conquest of the chaos wizards.
Here's the thing about this book: When I was in Jr. High (?), a guy my dad worked with either quit or got fired and left a bunch of books in his locker. Dad thought I might like them so he boxed them up and brought them home. This was one of the books in that box, and I've read it at least a dozen times. It was the first real fantasy novel I'd ever read. Up to that point I'd been reading mostly hard sci-fi and some lighter fantasy type children's books. I loved the story and the characters from the very beginning and I had no idea that it was part of a larger series. To this day I haven't read a single other book from the Recluce Saga, because I was always afraid that it would ruin it for me.