Let me start by pointing out that I'm already a huge fan of Sarah Monette. I love everything I've ever read by her. I suppose that could make me biaseLet me start by pointing out that I'm already a huge fan of Sarah Monette. I love everything I've ever read by her. I suppose that could make me biased towards her works, but I'd actually like to think that it only makes me more harshly demanding. Afterall, if I've rated most of her other works 5 stars this one has A LOT to live up to.
But oh look - ANOTHER 5 Star Rating. She's done it again! damn I love this woman.
Kyle Murchison Booth is a quiet, shy, reserved man; an insomniac with very little social life, and seems to spend most of his time at the museum where her works, cataloguing old books and papers. He does however stand out from the crowd, being that he is well over 6 foot tall and all his hair is mysteriously and prematurely pure white. And then add in a brush with necromantic magic that has in some way attuned him to the darker side of life, so that he's practically a ghost magnet. Well. He's certainly my kind of protagonist.
The Bone Key is a collection of 10 short stories (in which Booth is the first person narrator), most of which were originally published separately in various horror zines and publications. Obviously they can each be standalones, but they're much better collected together in one giant ghoulish smorgasboard. Apparently Monette's chief inspiration for Booth was Lovecraftian horror. I'm afraid I can't comment much on that, as I think I was born a little too late in the century and lovecraft completely passed me by! But honestly, this? This was some bloody good horror.
The best things about The Bone Key are probably also the worst things. Hear me out.. The Good: They're scary as f*ck. The Bad: They're SCARY as f*ck. The Good: The individual stories are quite short. You can get through them really quickly. I'd rather not be stuck in the middle of a horror mystery just at bedtime.. I'd 've never get any sleep! The Bad: They're short and they're over quick. Yes they're that good.
Some books, you put off reading for ages, and then finally, you get around to it, and you think "Hey this is good, I wish I'd read this earlier". HereSome books, you put off reading for ages, and then finally, you get around to it, and you think "Hey this is good, I wish I'd read this earlier". Here, I have to say I'm pretty glad I waited to read this one. Not because its bad, but because I enjoyed it so much that I devoured the entire series (5 books) all the way through in about as many days. I couldn't have imagined waiting for each book to be published, it would have tortured me to death!
As it was, it was rather like eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's in one go. So bad for me, a complete guilty pleasure. But SO TASTY! Nom!
Of course reading 5 books in a series back to back, actually makes it kinda hard to review them individually later.. but I'll have a go.
MacKayla (Mac) Lane's life is all American sunshine, rainbows, pink nail polish, and days lounging by the pool. Until her sister Alina is brutally murdered while away at uni in Dublin, Ireland. After 3 weeks the dublin police close the case with no leads. Mac finds this impossible to accept, and jets off to Dublin, initially to try and make them reopen the case, but she ends up investigating her sisters murder herself. But when Mac begins to realise powers that she never knew she had, and discovers that her sisters murderer is more than just a human killer, she soon finds her own life in danger. And her only help is the mysterious and highly unfriendly Jerricho Barrons.
Like others, I didn't think I was going to like Mac at all, all the pink nailvarnish, the obsession with accessorizing, and her extremely good little clean-mouthed white girl upbringing. Just so far apart from me I didn't think I'd connect with her at all. I didn't think I'd like Jerricho Barrons either. Every review tells me he's a complete Jerk (he really is), and wears nothing but impecably ironed expensive suits and ties. But now I've read it, I completely get it. There is much more to both of these characters than can ever be explained at first glance. Mac may seem shallow on the surface, but there is a hardened self-sufficient take-no-shit core to her that really shines through.
Jerricho is still a complete jerk, but he's not making excuses for it, and I quite respect that. It's highly likely that his mysterious character hides a tortured past, but he never uses that as an excuse. He'd rather not talk about it. In fact he'd rather not talk about anything at all. He's a typically agressive alpha male character, and I should be tired of that cliche, but I'm not.
I wish I could recommend this book/series to my friends who appreciate Urban Fantasy but don't like the Romance element. But unfortunately I don't think it would be a good idea. This one might just about be acceptable, but later ones.. I've got no prob with it, I love this guilty pleasure, but I just couldn't recommend it. Which is a crying shame because I really LOVED the fantasy elements in this book. Fae are not just about sparkles and magic.. this stuff is really dark, and really original. The world building is exceptional, I'm not often impressed so much by PNR these days, but this one had me.
If you even only occasionally fancy a UF/PNR series, or you've been tempted and disappointed before. READ THIS ONE. ...more
Dragon Keeper is Robin Hobb's eleventh book set in the Realms of the Elderlings, and the first in a new story arc set immediately after the events inDragon Keeper is Robin Hobb's eleventh book set in the Realms of the Elderlings, and the first in a new story arc set immediately after the events in her Liveship Traders trilogy, but focusing on new characters.
After hundreds of years, the last serpents have finally made their migration up the rainwilds river, and with the help of the rainwilders, and the dragon tintaglia, they make their cocoons for the winter. But the new dragons that hatch out in summer are deformed, slow-witted, and unable to fend for themselves. The rainwilders are unwilling to continue to care for the dragons, and the dragons themselves yearn after ancestral memories of an old elderling city. So a mutual decision is soon reached that the dragons should be escorted upriver in search of the city, Kelsingra.
The novel mainly follows the three main characters, Thymara, Alise and Leftrin.
Thymara is a rainwilder who was born deformed, with scales and claws, (and would have been abandoned at birth if not for her father). Thymara feels a great kinship for the dragons, and is one of the few with an innate ability to understand their speech.
Alise, is the plain and studious daughter of a Bingtown Trader, pushed into marriage for the sake of financial security, by her somewhat unaffectionate parents. Her only love in life is the study of dragons and elderlings, and her great desire is to study the newly hatched dragons in person.
Leftrin, is captain of a liveship, a barge named Tarman. Who is the only ship cabable of pushing further up the shallow acidic rainwilds river.
The novel is interspersed by a series of communications between the birdkeepers (postal service) at Bingtown and Trehaug, which tells a cute little story but nothing momentous, but sort of serves to mark out the passage of time, as the novel passes through several years of time jumping to major events in each main character's time.
The liveship traders is my favourite of Robin Hobb's series, so I loved returning to the same world to hear the continuation of the dragons' story. And I am so eager for more details on the elderlings. But Robin Hobb is so determined to keep them mysterious, we recieve a few tantalising glimpses through Alise's study's and the dragon's remembrances, but nothing wholy new. Robin Hobb is such a tease, I guess I'm just going to have to keep reading the series to find out more.
I did love all the new characters. Thymara especially is fascinating, because she has so much in common with the new dragons because of her deformities, but I'm not sure she even sees things that way yet. She's born into such a harsh society that outcasts their deformed children, and kills the worst of them at birth. And yet she's so young and naive at first, she hasn't properly questioned this regime yet. I enjoyed seeing her conceptions of things change slightly as she talks with the older rain wilds outcasts.
Apart from the elderlings, I'm also curious about Leftrin's liveship Tarman, as he seems different to all other liveships, not just that he's a barge, but he doesn't seem to have a figurehead, just painted eyes on the front of the ship. And I'm so curious as to whether he will still prove to be alive and sentinent in the manner of the other live ships.
There was also a little 'cameo' appearance of my favourites from the liveship series, Althea and Brashen Trell, and their liveship Paragon, which I won't spoil by relating, but it was so good to see them again, like old friends!
I thought the novel progressed a little slowly, and I'm a little bit frustrated by it. but then I have a history of being frustrated with Robin Hobb's novels, no matter how much I love them. Often feeling like I'm struggling to pull more detail out of the story than Hobb is willing to write into it. But I did really like it, and I'm glad I've got the next one ready to read soon. I think this will prove to be another great series....more
Aeriel is a young slave-girl, who serves Eoduin, the pretty daughter of the town syndic. Being only 2 years younger than Eoduin makes them close frienAeriel is a young slave-girl, who serves Eoduin, the pretty daughter of the town syndic. Being only 2 years younger than Eoduin makes them close friends as well as mistress and slave, and Aeriel very much looks up to the older girl.
One day Aeriel and Eoduin are on high on the mountains outside of town, picking flower nectar for a traditional drink for a wedding thats soon to be held in town. But while they are separately wandering on the mountain, a darkangel flies down - a luminous pale being with huge black wings - and captures Eoduin. The darkangel is a considered a mythical being, only talked about in scary stories told to young children, so when Aeriel returns to the village no one believes her tale, and some even believe that she has killed Eoduin.
With no one believing her, Aeriel decides to take it upon herself to return to the top of the mountain, wait for the darkangel, and kill him. But when the darkangel appears again, she is bewitched by his beauty and unable to carry out the deed. And so the darkangel carries her off to his huge abandoned castle, where she is to serve his 13 wives, who are all now emaciated soulless wraiths, (including the latest who is of course Aeriel's friend Eoduin). Aeriel's learns that when the darkangel takes his 14th wife, a year from now, he will finally have enough souls to become a full vampyre. And at that point he will join his 6 other vampyre brothers and they would conquer and divide the entire world between them. Aeriel knows she could be the only one who can kill the vampyre before he takes his 14th wife, if only she can bring herself to do it.
This is novel is an amazing blend of fantasy, fairy-tale and science fiction, in a very similar style and theme to the Narnia books. I thought it was absolutely beautiful, and I wish I had discovered it when I was still a kid, it's just the sort of thing I would have fallen in love with back then.
Aeriel is a lovely main character, she has a lot of complexity of emotion, which it great for a kids book. She is strong and courageous under pressure, and she perserveres in such daunting situations, but without ever becoming overly sure of herself. I also love how she stands up to the darkangel, even tho she is by turns enraptured and then afraid of him.
Although, like other reviewers, I wish there had been a greater depth to her relationship with him, as she never seems truly sure of her feelings towards him, and being that it's her feelings towards him that gives rise to the entire dilemma of whether to save or kill him - and save or doom the world.. well it perhaps requires a little more certainty in her emotions to make it a meaningful conflict and resolution.
I really think the book could have done with a glossary of terms, as there are several things that confused me right up until the end, such as the term 'day-month', which I now gather to mean that it takes a month for the day/night cycle (2 weeks night, two weeks daylight), but I'm still not entirely sure. But this is only a minor quibble compared to how much I really enjoyed the book, so hopefully it won't put off anyone else.
Would recommend this book for both children and adults aged 10 to 100+ and anyone with a love for fantasy and fairytales. ...more
In Emma Bull's own words, Shadow Unit is fan fiction for a tv series that never existed. Bull thought up this fantastic urban fantasy type tv series, taking ideas from her old favourites such as x-files and The Man from UNCLE, and then brought on board some of her writer friends to collaberate and write for it.
To compare it to more recent tv shows, it has a lot in common with Alphas one of my favs. The series revolves around a small branch of the FBI, the 'Anomalous Crimes Task Force' also commonly called 'the shadow unit', whose job it is to identify and track down Gammas. Who are humans infected with an unknown substance (simply called the 'anomaly'). No one knows what the anomaly is, whether parasite, virus, bacteria etc, but it's effect on humans is to give them supernatural abilities, and then to bend their mind subtly to it's own purpose. Most Gammas end up using their abilities to harm or kill, and thats when the shadow unit gets called in.
The format of the book is as a collection of short stories, called episodes, each written by a different author, but all set within the same universe and timeline. The first episode Breathe makes a very good introduction to the series. As it brings in the character Daphne Worth who has just joined the Shadow Unit team, and is as new to all this as we - the readers - are. Worth was originaly an EMT (thats paramedic for us brits), who trained up to join the team after a nasty encounter with a Gamma that resulted in the death of her colleagues. After meeting the team, Daphne gets to go on her first case. Several victims have been found suffocated to death without any apparent external cause. The Gamma that did it is still out ther, and the team are racing against the clock to put all the evidence together and catch the Gamma before the Gamma takes its next victim.
If you can tell from my comment when I first noticed this series, I was a little excited about the authors involved. In my teens, I loved Emma Bull's lesser known cyberpunk novel Bone Dance. And in the last year or two I've turned into a huge fan of Sarah Monette, I just think she's the bees knees when it comes to fantasy involving lgbt characters, and I'm reading everything of hers that I can get my hands on. I haven't actually read any of Elizabeth Bear's solo work, but her collab work with Sarah Monette is really good. Her work on Shadow Unit has further convinced me that I need to explore some of her stuff soon.
The shadow unit series features a really interesting cast of characters that really draw you in, some great writing, and an inovative new twist to the urban fantasy/paranormal genre.
The episodes were all originally published on the Shadow Unit website. They're still all there and available free of charge if you wish to go through them that way. Theres a helpful wiki built thats immensly helpful. The page for reading order of the episodes is the best place to start if you want to go down that route.
Or.. Most of the episodes have been released collected together in ebook format. This being the first novel, a collection of the first four episodes and extra material. It's easier on the eyes than reading on the website, they're really cheaply priced (72 pence, you can't go wrong!), and of course you would be supporting the authors. Available on Amazon....more
Jhereg is a fantasy with a sort of reverse murder-mystery twist; where the protagonist's dilemma is not 'Whodunnit?' but 'How do I do it?'.
Vlad TaltoJhereg is a fantasy with a sort of reverse murder-mystery twist; where the protagonist's dilemma is not 'Whodunnit?' but 'How do I do it?'.
Vlad Taltos is a skilled assassin, but his latest target is a little tricky to tackle and a little hard to find. But luckily Vlad has a small cadre of friends of varied talents to call upon, including his assassin wife, and his psychically bonded pet jhereg (a sort of miniature dragon).
Vlad is also living proof that not all assassin characters have to be darkly brooding, friendless loners. And the banter with his pet jhereg shows how lighthearted a character he can be. Not that he doesn't ever have questions about what he does, but the overall tone is quite light. I suppose in a world where death is not generally a permanent state, this certainly makes some sense. Most assassinations, (if not done with a morganti weapon) can be easily remedied by a sorceror, and the assassination serves more as a threat or a public humiliation than anything else.
Brust has built an interesting world for his series. The incredibly long-lived race of dragaerans, with their occasionally pointed ears, and love of sorcery are reminiscent slightly of elves. But their infighting and their tendency to be not always good guys certainly makes them different. Normal humans do live quite comfortably in this tumultous empire, but are often looked down upon by the 'superior' dragaerans. Vlad himself is a human, but has set himself up quite well, and made some good allies. One major reason why I'm likely to read more of this series is to find out just how Vlad is such an ally of questionable dragaerans like the character Morollan. Hopefully later books in the series will explore Vlad's past in greater detail.
In summation, this is a lighthearted yet detailed fantasy romp, with some good worldbuilding and a troop of interesting characters. If a little tiny bit deus ex machina in places. Recommended to fantasy lovers, especially if you like antihero types....more
I first came across Dr. Schroeder's work back in my teens, when I read an article of his on a aish.com - a popular jewish website - titled "Age of theI first came across Dr. Schroeder's work back in my teens, when I read an article of his on a aish.com - a popular jewish website - titled "Age of the Universe". Schroeder had new theory that the 6 days of creation referred to in Genesis, and the 15billion year figure quoted by modern science as the age of the universe, were not totally irreconcilable. In fact, using einstein's theories of special and general relativity, Dr. Schroeder made the case that these two figures are both entirely correct, but merely measured from different frames of reference.
Schroeder's article really astounded me back then, and the thought of it stuck with me for years. Even later after I had a chance to study relativity in depth at university, and failed to find any flaws in the physics behind his argument. When I realised Schroeder had written books aswell as articles, I decided I had to get hold of one, hoping to hear more of his theories.
Genesis and the Big Bang puts forward essentially the same points as Schroeder's article that I fell in love with years ago: That the biblical creation story can be shown to agree with modern day scientific theories of the creation of the universe, the big bang, and the origins of life on earth.
Schroeder apparently has a double phd in 'Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences', and he really does seem to know his stuff. I can't speak completely for the archeology/paleontology topics that he covers but certainly I have found his physics to be correct, interesting and reasonably easy to understand. Some of the topics Shroeder touches upon, in his main theories and in background explanations include the wave-particle duality of light, general and special relativity, the expansion of the universe and doppler shifts. I would say that you'd probably need some background knowledge of the science to make reading the novel worthwhile, as he doesn't cover the topics quite thoroughly enough to teach a complete novice.
Of course since he's relating scientific theories to biblical scripture, Schroeder does also quote a lot of scripture. He also refers often to Nahmanides and Maimonides, 12th century jewish scholars who are two of the most influential commentors on the Torah. Turns out that these two were seriously ahead of the times in their interpretation of scripture, I'm willing to bet certain modern day christians would be picketing their gravesides if they'd heard some of their ideas.
I honestly find it a breath of fresh air to come across a science writer that doesn't believe that science and religion always have to be in competition with eachother. I know that religious scientist are out there, Hell einstein and most of his contemporaries were christian. But these days it seems like its taboo to bring up your religion whilst practicing science.
Unfortunately, I didn't realise that Genesis and the Big Bang was published several years earlier than the article I originally fell for. So while it does cover several of Schroeders ideas in more detail it doesn't go as far as his article did in actually trying to covert the biblical 6 days into our inertial reference frame. Which was a little bit of downer. I'll probably have to pick up his more recent work in order to read more about that precise theory.
I suppose the question now is, after being so fascinated by his theories am I convinced? Well in a way I think I am; I find his arguments utterly plausible aswell as astoundingly interesting. Like I said before, I don't believe faith and science need to be at odds with one another, and I do think there is much more to the book of Genesis than can be read at surface value. But unlike Schroeder I would have to say that I don't think that the abrahamic religions are the only ones to hold a grain of truth.
All in all though, this book is a fascinating read, even if you don't find yourself convinced by his theories in the end.
Moll Flanders was originally written as though it were a memoir, although it is actually fiction. I think this was a habit of Defoe's, and a trend atMoll Flanders was originally written as though it were a memoir, although it is actually fiction. I think this was a habit of Defoe's, and a trend at the time.
Moll is born into poverty, being the child of a convicted criminal, she was born in Newgate Prison and raised in a sort of poorhouse. But at a young age determined that she wanted to become a gentlewoman, her idea of such being that a gentlewoman is simply a woman that can look after herself. And Moll pretty much holds herselfs to this ideal throughout her life.
Many people find the young Moll amusing for her strange ideas, and she attracts a lot of attention, and fortunately for her ends up being taken into the home of a rich family. Thus getting her first taste at a fine life. Then when Moll grows up a little bit she attracts the attention of both of the sons of the household. The elder son seduces her and showers her with money, but never makes good on his promise to marry her. Instead Moll ends up marrying the younger brother, basically for lack of any other option rather than love. When he dies 5 years later, Moll doesn't take it too badly, but sorts out her money and possessions and sets off to find another man to keep her in the lifestyle she's now accustomed to. And her life basically continues on as a sort of series of fortunes and misfortunes, with Moll carrying on regardless, using only her goodlooks and quick thinking to support herself.
I can't say I truly enjoyed this novel, it was a little difficult to get into. Not so much the old language or spelling, but the manner of the telling. The book has a distinct lack of characterisation, and of conversation. Most people aren't even given names, not even her lovers and husbands. One is simply her 'lancashire husband'. Thats how she tells them apart. Not much of a description, and not much of a romance for some characters. But what Moll really does like to talk about is wealth and posessions. Every other page it seemed there was a tally of how much money she had in her pocket, or how much plate or linen she had, and what was it's value.
What was really striking about this novel, was the fact that it was written in 1722, by a man, about a woman who was at various times a prostitute and a thief. And yet it's not written in a negative light, it's not a censure upon women. As Moll says:
“I am giving an account of what was, not of what ought or ought not to be.”
In fact Moll is shown to be a fairly strong, independent, pragmatic and adaptable woman, with a certain amount of innate wit and cleverness. And her story shows an honest view of the very limited choices available to women in that age. On this.. I admit myself very impressed by Defoe.
Like I say, I didn't exactly enjoy this novel.. but I thought it was worth reading. Which may sound a bit wierd, but there is a difference between the two things. I didn't think it was particularly fun etc. But it was certainly worth the time and trouble to experience. ...more