This weekend I actually started and abandoned a lot of books, but I did so in such rapid succession that I saw no...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
This weekend I actually started and abandoned a lot of books, but I did so in such rapid succession that I saw no point in even mentioning them. But after countless horrible Conan graphic novels and several lack-lustre Science Fiction books, I was hoping to move on to something that was more my sort of thing. Bloodlands was infinitely superior to my previous reading attempts, of course, but it still ended up being yet another book that I picked up only to put it down again fairly quickly.
Ultimately, a vampire cowboy, an Intel Dog whose barks meant words or full sentences, a post-apocalyptic setting, and switching from first to third person point of views in various chapters, did nothing to distract me from the fact that the first 100 or so pages of this book were primarily about two people in a shelter having feelings for one another for no apparent reason so that they can be a couple a few books down the road. Had this book been just about the vampire and his canine sidekick, I would have continued, but I was not loving the female main character and I am not a fan of romantic tensions and lust based solely on proximity.
Truth be told, the odds were probably not in Bloodlands' favor anyway. I have a sizably large To Be Read pile with books about other supernatural cowboys, circuses, goblins, guys with guns, dysfunctional detectives, and precog soldiers to attend to. And an allergic reaction to women and girls behaving irrationally because a vampire, faery, demon or angel showed up. Matters were then made infinitely worse when a copy of A Dance with Dragons showed up on my doorstep this morning, but I digress. After making one last ditch effort this morning, skimming ahead, and also reading other reviews... Well, as a Magic 8 Ball would say, the outlook was not good so I gave up.
In conclusion, no mas. If you are a fan of paranormal romance or vampires in general, you might appreciate this book more than I did... However, I would strongly suggest reading some other reviews first.(less)
4.5 Stars - Note: This review contains mild spoilers for both the movie novelization and the film itself.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book based on a movie and enjoyed it this much. Everything about Conan the Barbarian was done in a way that paid excellent tribute to earlier works and to Robert E. Howard’s impressive albeit brief writing career. Stackpole breathed an amazing amount of life into Conan, pulling from and referencing the original Robert E. Howard stories in a really great way. I really liked the mentioning of the events in “The Tower of the Elephant” and that Stackpole made significant mention of Bêlit from “The Queen of the Black Coast.” I also liked the various Lovecraft-inspired touches from the tentacled Mask of Acheron to the mentioning of Dagon during a summoning spell because Robert E. Howard was very impressed by “The Call of Cthulhu” and they did write letters to one another and yes I am a really big geek and I’ll stop now.
Anyway, the little details in this movie novelization made me so incredibly happy and I think I was at exactly the right point in reading Conan stories to appreciate the best parts of the book. Those were the ones which focused on Conan growing up to become a Cimmerian warrior with the aid of his father and then his grandfather. The story of a boy destined for greatness while wielding a sword is not uncommon, but it is a very entertaining one. I really loved Corin and Connacht as mentors and role models. I especially liked the details about Conan’s mother and the fact that Conan was born on a battlefield while she was fighting right alongside the rest of their people. So basically the early sections of the novel just felt particularly well-crafted and reading them was a delight.
My least favorite parts of the book were focused solely on the original characters created for the movie or moments that Conan wasn’t really a part of, but then that’s hardly too surprising. And I suspect some of my lack of interest in these other characters stemmed from my dismay in realizing that the movie won’t be borrowing too heavily from actual pieces by Howard or those who wrote with or after him. Still, I thought the villains had sort of a cool if over-the-top method and rationale to their madness even if I did have one issue with the main female protagonist, Tamara. I didn’t mind much that she was a special orphan with special blood or a female warrior monk, but the fact that she also became a love interest caused me a decent amount of eye-rolling. It wasn’t unexpected, of course, but it was irksome. I greatly preferred the brief moments Tamara and Conan spent together where they were more like potential allies than potential lovers.
Thankfully, Tamara’s special specialness wasn’t a primary focus in of itself. Instead it was overshadowed by Conan being completely unimpressed with anything magic-related as well as his desire to get things done or people killed. I also loved that Stackpole added in a lot of moments of Conan reflecting on Bêlit, his first love, who would have made for a really awesome character if only someone had thought to put her in the film. In addition, having read “The Queen of the Black Coast” recently, there was simply no way Tamara could measure up to Bêlit.* But I digress.
Ultimately, what appeals to me about the Conan stories is not the really the villains or the women he may or may not meet so much as it is the character himself and his reactions to the circumstances he stumbles upon. So what mattered to me above all else was that Conan was handled properly, and he really, really was. Stackpole didn’t ignore or dismiss Conan the Warrior/Barbarian/Freebooter/Cimmerian as a joke or a stupid thug, but treated him in much the same manner that Howard did. I could not have been more pleased with his characterization or the way his world was presented from beginning to end.
In conclusion, Conan the Barbarian was really, really great and worth the read. Stackpole gave this novel a lot of substance, thought, and care than I could have anticipated or expected. That said, I have no idea if the movie will be able to articulate anything nearly as well as this particular author. I do hope some of the better lines in the novel and references to Howard’s stories are from the movie itself… but I guess I’ll have to wait until August to find out! * Bêlit the pirate queen was simply a more intriguing if sanity-lacking character than Tamara. Both her song and her personality reminded me of H. Rider Haggard’s She and thus endeared her to me forever. It helps that she had her own ship, her own crew, and took Conan as her consort rather than the other way around too.(less)
From start to finish, Prince of Thorns was exactly how I want my fantasy to be: full of dark humor, action, great...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
From start to finish, Prince of Thorns was exactly how I want my fantasy to be: full of dark humor, action, great characters, powerful emotions, menacing forces, and awful people being awful. These things were offered up in spades and there is plenty here that I suppose could offend a reader with more delicate sensibilities, but nothing seemed too excessive or simply there for the sake of shock value. I also felt that everything served a purpose and contributed to the story and the feel of Jorg's journey as well as his world. Ultimately, of course, it is all a matter of taste and I prefer gritty books rife with dark edges than being subjected to the same old books with the same old plots time and time again. While this is definitely a book where I didn't necessarily approve of a lot of the decisions characters made, I didn't mind watching them make them.
I'm not sure how many ways I can say that this book was awesome. I'm also not sure that I could have asked for a better main character. I loved the really fresh and often original ideas Lawrence had, particularly everything about the leucrota, the use of magical manipulations, and the way kingdoms were set up, but Jorg... Wow. I already liked the idea of younger progtagonist who isn't dealing with typical YA things, but nothing could have prepared me for this kid. He was such a powerful, dangerous, forceful, tormented messed of a character that it was impossible for me not to love. So long as it is from a safe distance because he's pretty lethal.
Really I'm hard pressed to come up with any complaints of significant weight or substance that took away from my enjoyment. I definitely found the references to ancient philosophers, thinkers, etc. that really existed to be very distracting, but I am positive there's going to be a great reveal at some point in the series about what it all adds up to so I think it worked albeit not as well as everything else. The secondary characters -- whether they were on Jorg's side, opposing him, or a bit more hapless-- were all over the map in terms of attitudes, motivations, skills, and emotions, which was great. The pacing is quick, the writing was solid and engaging, and the direction the book moves in is very, very cool. Even when I was only at the midway mark, I knew I was going to be longing for the next book in the Broken Empire series (King of Thorns) for months on end. Now that I'm finished, the pining has already started. I can't wait to see what happens next to Jorg or his brothers or the world he's hellbent on ruling over.
In conclusion, awesome! If you like Conan the Barbarian when he's taking names and kicking butt, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Joe Abercrombie's First Law series, or anything along those lines, get a copy of Prince of Thorns as soon as you can. Seriously. ASAP.(less)
I do not read a lot of mainstream fiction, YA or otherwise, but I really found this book to be really engaging in...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
I do not read a lot of mainstream fiction, YA or otherwise, but I really found this book to be really engaging in terms of the writing, voice of the main character, and plot. Tess read like an incredibly likable and real teen narrator. I loved how she was a bit of an outsider and very strong, but still fifteen and still struggling to have something normal in her life in the face of her sister's cancer. And through the hard times, Tess began to learn a lot about herself, the sort of person she is, and the sort of person the people in her life really are.
Throughout I'm Not Her, Tess also grew in really organic ways too. I liked that she didn't change herself or try to usurp Kristina's position but instead had to find ways of connecting to members of her family while looking for support elsewhere. And I think the connections she made were believable and their outcomes were really unexpected as well as touching. I also greatly appreciated that, while the book had a little bit of romance, there wasn't really a romantic plot or even subplot.
It was really sad to learn just how much Tess was used to disappearing into her art or academic pursuits, but also to watch as many of those are taken away from her while her sister undergoes chemo and surgeries. It was even more painful watching her parents break down, disappear, drink too much, or behave badly. I sort of wish there's been a bit more closure or some evidence that either one was going to attempt to be more of use to their daughters, but unlike more parents in YA novels, at least Tess' mom and dad had a proper motivation for becoming as dysfunctional as they did. And I don't think their behavior seemed outlandish or far-fetched at all.
I have to say though that was the focus, slight as it was, on Tess' not-really friend, Melissa, being overweight and therefore a bitter and hateful jerk when it came to dealing with better-looking girls at their school including Kristina really bothered me. Not because it doesn't happen in high school but because the meaner Melissa was, the more mention was made of her physical characteristics as if the two went hand in hand. I don't think or even expect YA books to be any more or less sensitive about all kinds of issues than any other sort of book. I also realize that I'm Not Her is from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old, but I don't think falling back on old, tired clichés makes any sense in a story that was actually sort of a refreshing take on teen sisters, cancer, and difficult times.
In conclusion, this book was very, very good. I think the Picoult comparison is apt in some respects, but I'm Not Her was definitely a better read. I also cannot wait to start reading the ARC I have for If I Tell.(less)
3.75 Stars - This is a difficult book to review because my thoughts are sort of all over the place.
In terms of positives, I was throughily engaged the entire time I was reading. I found the writing in terms of establishing a historical feel to be absolutely excellent and the book was hard to put down. I also really liked the characters and the interactions although mainly I enjoyed the platonic ones. I definitely loved Sebastian and his twin brother Perry. I also liked the subplot about Serena’s young friend Abigail and her trying to find a way to be happy in spite of her mother’s desire to see her daughter become well-to-do and influential. Obviously these aspects of the book were fairly typical of historical fiction and romances, but they were very entertaining.
In terms of negatives, well, I definitely liked this book a lot… But the main romance relied a bit too much on illogical misunderstandings and decisions that seemed more likely to keep the two lovers apart than unite them. I also hated Serena’s hot and cold, yes and no attitude as well as her backward approach to resolving issues. Honestly, this is not rocket science. If someone wants to pimp you out for mortgages and someone else wants to marry you because he has always loved you and vice versa even after you bit a chunk out of his heart and stomped on it for no good reason… I’m pretty sure you eventually stop putting up with the horrible person and get together with the one you love. You definitely stop treating the one you love like he is the source of all your problems at the very least. I’m also pretty sure that no one in their right mind would stay within the sphere of control and influence of someone they need to routinely aim a pistol at, but I digress.
In conclusion, despite suffering a bit due to the illogical wavering and decisions on the part of its main female character, A Wedding Wager definitely managed to be more enjoyable and entertaining than a lot of other Historical Romances I’ve read lately.(less)
A Warrior's Witch was typical, I think, of Paranormal Romance but in a good way. What I mean is that this book is...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
A Warrior's Witch was typical, I think, of Paranormal Romance but in a good way. What I mean is that this book is more along the lines of what I keep expecting this subgenre to ultimately be and so I was quite pleased with it over all.
The story itself worked well for me and I liked the balance of romance, action, and humor. I really thought the opening was great in particular and that the pacing was pretty terrific. There was plenty of interesting dialogue too, and I liked watching the case develop.
Oddly enough, I liked both of the main characters and I actually liked them both equally. This rarely ever happens to me so I am very pleased about that. I also liked the way Zia and Talon approached the case as well as each other because they had plenty of chemistry. (So much chemistry. *fans self*) I definitely liked that they both had priorities that included and didn't include one another like Kyden, Talon's son, and Nexi, Talon's daughter-in-law. Especially Kyden. I am, of course, a sucker for basically single fathers raising sons so I found their conversation towards the end of the book was super sweet. The fact that the case remained just as important as the romance and that the book had a real, solid conclusion were additional perks.
Occasionally I felt more needed to be shown instead of told in terms of the writing. Part of that I think is just unavoidable in a novel that is 132 pages long, of course. And eventually some insight was given into the deep connection leading up to the established relationship between Zia and Talon, but I sort of wish the book had opened with that instead of ended with it.
Don't get me wrong though. Over all, I really, really liked everything about A Warrior's Witch as well as Zia and Talon. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for more Otherworld Romances and hopefully reading more books by Stacey Kennedy in the near future!
In conclusion, if you're a fan of Paranormal Romance who is looking for a fun read with cool characters with a hearty amount of chemistry, check this book out.(less)
It took me awhile though to get through this book because I’m not really much of a short story reader. Happily, I f...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian)
It took me awhile though to get through this book because I’m not really much of a short story reader. Happily, I found this anthology to be wonderful, different, and full of women dealing with magical forces without being solely defined by their sexual orientation. For the most part, the collection flowed from one tale to the next in a really great way too.
The stories that that really stood out to me were “Personal Demons” by Jean Marie Ward, “The Windskimmer” by Connie Wilkins, “Sky Lit Bargains” by Kelly A. Harmon, “D is for Delicious” by Steve Berman, “And Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness” by Lisa Nohealani Morton, “Bridges and Lullabies” by Rrain Prior, and “Thin Spun” by Sunny Moraine.
In some respects, I felt like the other stories needed a bit more pack to the punch. This isn’t to say that the characters weren’t strong or cool throughout the anthology though so much as it is a result of my personal reading preferences. However, the writing, uniqueness, and creativity were solid throughout. I was always engaged and pleasantly surprised by the way the tales developed. I never felt that any of the stories was a waste of time or not worth including either, which is always a sign of a strong collection.
In conclusion, very, very good. If you like well-crafted short fiction and want something refreshingly new in terms of Fantasy, pick up this anthology. (less)
3.5 stars - First and foremost, I have to say I applaud this book's originality and that I am still really pleased...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
3.5 stars - First and foremost, I have to say I applaud this book's originality and that I am still really pleased by how different it was from a lot of the Young Adult titles that have come out in recent months. There were a lot of unique concepts such as the world Cassius and Jesse were living in and what was going on behind the scenes with their technology.
In terms of the main characters, I liked that the book was from two opposing point of views, but I didn't like both characters equally. Jesse was an odd pick as a main character since he was fairly dull and normal with no real drive or motivation. He was a blank slate with potential though so it'll be interesting to see what he becomes as the series continues, but I wouldn't have minded being given more to like about him here in the first book. Cassius, while misguided and dangerous, was far more well-rounded and developed in terms of himself and in terms of his story arc. He also provided a decent amount of forward momentum both for himself and for Jesse. As a result of his competence and personality, he was decidedly my favorite part of the book.
When it came to the minor characters, I felt like everyone was entirely too underdeveloped. This was particularly and unfortunately true of Madame and Captain Alkine, adult leaders in charge of opposing governing forces. Alkine comes across as the Good Guy and Madame definitely comes across as the Bad Guy. Several characters attempted to suggest there was a gray area somewhere though so I'm sort of hopeful that one will emerge as the series moves forward. I also hope there's a bit more of Eva and Skandar in the next book.
Plot-wise, I felt like the opening and ending were a lot stronger than the follow-up to the initial action-packed introduction to both protagonists. The book didn't seem to go anywhere for the longest time and when it did, a lot of sections and chapters still seemed sort of irrelevant. I liked the sort of graphic novel vibe I got from The Pearl Wars though. What was going on with the Pearls was fascinating and I'm excited to see where this series is headed. I think my only concern is that the story itself will be overshadowed by very awesome concepts, world-building, and plot twists. This isn't a very bad thing, but it can certainly be problematic for character-driven readers like myself.
In conclusion, a cool and engaging series opener. While not a completely flawless read, I devoured the book quickly and I am certainly eager to read the next Skyship Academy book once it comes out. I would definitely suggest getting a hold of a copy of The Pearl Wars if you have a chance. Particularly if you're a fan of adventurous Young Adult Fiction.(less)
(Originally posted at CSI:Librarian. Contains the mildest of spoilers.)
4.5 Stars - Magic Slays is right up there with Magic Strikes in terms of qualit...more(Originally posted at CSI:Librarian. Contains the mildest of spoilers.)
4.5 Stars - Magic Slays is right up there with Magic Strikes in terms of quality, and both of them are currently my favorite books in the Kate Daniels series. Everything I've enjoyed about previous installments really shone through in this book. Gone were the really irritating juvenile relationship antics, the bizarre dramas, and the stubborn pigheadedness for no apparent reason. Instead of wishing Curran and Kate would get over themselves, I laughed out loud at their exchanges which never happened to me with earlier books. And I really loved seeing them taking significant steps towards being a functional couple and a team.
Not only that, but I finally can say that I've come full circle with Kate. I've gone from being unable to stand her on any level to really, really caring about her. Why? In Magic Slays, it finally becomes clear that she's made real progress as a main character and a fictional supernatural being. For once Kate didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book at all, but actively contributed to it in significant ways. I liked seeing her coming fully into her own, developing a working partnership with Andrea, mentoring troubled teenage shapeshifters, learning more about her actual history, solving problems without just cracking wise at everyone, and being willing to admit how much she cared about the people in life. Especially Curran, but I loved seeing her becoming responsible for various shapeshiter teens in need of guidance and mentor-ship.
Kate did do a bit of weird angsting, but it wasn't obnoxious at all. Considering some of these things she learns in this book, it made a lot of sense although I'm surprised she didn't Curran some of her questions a lot sooner. She also continues to become really, really powerful and almost mythic in a way that I find really fascinating. At the same time I like that she remains human and that even with all her abilities, there are some things she can't or at least won't do. It also helps that most of the other characters have crazy, unique, and sometimes sordid histories too.
Like every other book, the world-building in Magic Slays was awesome and the writing was solid. There is such a richness of detail in these books particularly in regards to the shapeshifter types and behaviors, complex supernatural hierarchies that are in place all over the city, and the various religions/myths/magic users exist in the same fictional setting. Every book reveals one more layer of weird or at least some bizarre new order somewhere and I love it. Barabas, Jezebel, and Ascanio were easily as terrific an addition as Julie, Derek, Saiman, Doolittle, Ghastek, Aunt B, and Andrea continue to be. I definitely missed Raphael, but there was a lot going on without him being here. And Doolittle quoted McCoy, which was hilarious. I could not love that were-honey-badger doctor anymore than I do now.
Surprisingly, the only annoying feature in this book ended up being a very nit-picky one: the continuous and distracting use of the word "Aha." It shows up a bit in the beginning, but in the second half of Magic Slays, "Aha" shows up time and time again. And what's odd is that not only Kate but other people to say it too. Sometimes for no good reason. So I definitely understood Abigail at All Things Urban Fantasy's frustrations when she expressed them in her 4 Star Review. Still, if my choices are a main character that I loathe to the nth degree or distracting exclamations, I'm more than willing to put up copious amounts of the word "Aha." Even if I still don't get why even the Rabbi said it.
In conclusion, so awesome! At long last, I can say honestly say that I cannot wait for the next book in this series and that I really, truly enjoyed the heck out of a book about Kate Daniels. If you didn't enjoy the first or second book, I'd say just skip to the third book and go from there. You could very easily just start with Magic Slays, of course, but I think you'd miss out on some of the cooler elements of the series if you just went straight to book five.(less)
3.5 Stars - Much like the first book in this series, Scandal in Scotland was a fun, light-hearted, and quick read...more(Originally posted at CSI:Librarian.)
3.5 Stars - Much like the first book in this series, Scandal in Scotland was a fun, light-hearted, and quick read for me, but it was also a bit more enjoyable than One Night in Scotland. For one thing, I liked the couple. There was a history between William and Marcail that allowed for me to believe in their chemistry and longing to be together. I liked that William's siblings and spouses had minor roles to play, but even when they were no longer around the main characters, I thought the way they interacted was much better. It was certainly on a more even playing field than the way things were for Mary and Angus.
So the romance got much better, but I think I ended up just expecting something completely different as I continued reading. I kept imagining that there would be a sense of urgency. That because William was a ship captain, Marcail had a vicious blackmailer, and the amulet still needed to get delivered to the right people, they’d end up having a really exciting adventure and falling madly back into love as they raced to Egypt. Instead, they fell madly back in love while having an adventure that wasn't too bad but was more chock full of stealing boxes, sitting, and having some clever and/or steamy exchanges than anything else. This is all very well and good, of course, but even knowing that Michael couldn’t possibly be saved until the last book in this series, I was sort of upset by how little actually got done in terms of ensuring his safety in even the smallest of ways.
In conclusion, while Hawkins is a good writer and this was not a bad book by any means, I’ve come to realize that I am just not a fan of fluffy, fun historical romances. If you are a fan, you ought to pick up this book. If, like me, you find yourself wishing that characters would postpone getting it on until actually saving siblings from mortal peril, you ought to read something else. (less)
**spoiler alert** (Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian. Contains spoilers, but nothing relating to the overall plot of the book.)
3.5 Stars - Hoo boy, th...more**spoiler alert** (Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian. Contains spoilers, but nothing relating to the overall plot of the book.)
3.5 Stars - Hoo boy, this is a tough one. Let's start with the good stuff, but let me note that whenever I use a last name beginning with K I'm talking about the same author. I use Kimball when I am talking about this book specifically and Konrath when I am referring to the author's works in general.
The premise of Timecaster was not only nifty, but very well-executed and fascinating for the most part. Talon was a pretty great main character even though his inability to deal with his wife's profession got old quickly in the way that such issues always do in fiction for me.
Over all, his story was very action-packed that was original in some ways and other ways pretty common fare. It was sort of like if Quentin Tarantino and Roberto Rodriguez decided to together on another Grindhouse film that combined Minority Report, The Fugitive, and Sin City into one film and added a lot of nature, weirdness, and time-rewinding. So basically the book was fairly rich in humor, sort of gross, and pretty entertaining.
What really makes this book stand out in a fun way is everything in it that contributes to what Konrath has termed as Ecopunk. The world is sort of... well, sort of what you could easily (and sadly imagine) our world morphing into, but with a lot more quirk and a lot more awkward kinks. I can't say I liked the characters using acronyms like AFAIK and WTF, but I liked the idea that people had to be way more eco-friendly than they are in the present day and way less caught up on religion. The notion that people would get caught up in technological devices while keeping far away from the internet and the idea of being able to look back in time ultimately eliminating crime were both pretty cool too.
Now the bad stuff, and believe me when I say I wish I didn't have to tell you about any sort of bad stuff. But there's two scenes in this book that really took the wind right out of my reading sails because of their focus on very non-consensual, awkward sex. Sex that amounted to Talon being uninterested but deciding he might as well take it and participate because oh well even though he states both times that he does not want sex.
In fact, the only reason Talon does anything about it in the second scene is that a guy tries to join in and then he finally decides maybe, just maybe, he doesn't want the sex that he didn't want to begin with. I also don't get why that element had to be added to the whole thing. Why did it have to be so clearly not what he wanted that later on the phone to his wife he even says it wasn't consensual? What was the point of making Talon not interested but willing to put up with it? Was that supposed to be sexy or entertaining somehow?
You might think this reaction stems from my having no clue as to what Konrath's books are like and thus went into this book expecting pure, clean fun, but that's not true. I have read plenty of other books by this author in other genres besides science fiction so I definitely went into this book expecting violence, action, weirdness, and sex. Most of Timecaster seemed pretty much par for the course in terms of his writing. Most of that was enjoyable and some of it was sort of like an inside joke that you wouldn't get without reading other books by Konrath or at least knowing he has several pseudonyms including Kimball.
The over-the-top bad guy in here was pretty tame compared to bad guys in other books especially the serial killers, but he was an interesting pick. I liked Harry McGlade III because he's pretty much like his predecessors and whacky hijinks are fun especially when they involve owning a miniature elephant. I also didn't mind Talon being sort of a jerk to this poor dumb schmuck who likes his wife. Or the relentless mentioning all of Konrath's many aliases and how awesome they are. I actually found that mildly funny, but I cannot and will not ever think it is funny or entertaining for women or men to force sex on other people.
Part of me feels weird about not abandoning the book after those two scenes and also still really wanting to read the sequel as soon as it comes out. I guess my reason for continuing boils down to the rest of the book being really original and unique in a lot of ways that I just didn't want to give up on it. I also need the sequel anyway because of the humungous cliffhanger at the end of Timecaster.
I will also admit that part of me feels even worse about spending so much time dwelling on these two scenes because the rest of Timecaster was a lot of fun. Ultimately though I figure that what bothered me might bother other readers and I really couldn't imagine writing this review without mentioning this element of the book. To be honest, you could simply skip over them and still enjoy everything else about the book... But that doesn't make their being there any more or less unacceptable for me as a reader.
In conclusion, if you enjoy strange science fiction taking place in an eco-friendly future and featuring a lot of action? Like me, you'll enjoy most of this book but beyond that our mileage may vary.(less)
3.5 Stars - Dead on the Delta is a hard book for me to rate and review in a lot of ways. It was certainly a fun re...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
3.5 Stars - Dead on the Delta is a hard book for me to rate and review in a lot of ways. It was certainly a fun read and I enjoyed a lot of aspects of the book, but I felt like my reading was slightly hindered by others.
Annabelle was a fascinating main character albeit a master in the art of self-sabotage and a stellar underachiever. I liked her, but I sort of didn't like a lot of what was going on in her personal life. Don't get me wrong. I wanted Annabelle and Cane to be together if they could make things work, but I really didn't like that there is this new trope in Urban Fantasy where female characters who are a mess and not in a good way only to still end up with healthy, kind male characters willing to put up with with whatever is going on with the female character because at least she's a hot mess or something along those lines.
At least Annabelle was a really well-developed and relatable character. Throughout the book, she seemed to be struggling more with herself than anyone else, and I liked that she was working towards getting her act together. She definitely seemed to be on the right track to becoming something by the end of the book. And in spite of her desire to be as mediocre as possible at everything but quitting and selling herself short.
In terms of the world-building, I really applaud Jay's creativity, originality, humor, and skill. Instead of sexy fairies, Jay introduces dangerous and creepy fairies that are being changed by what is happening to the natural world they live in which in turn changes life for humans living in same areas. The swamplands as well as the nasty turn that Annabelle's world has taken are presented vividly and with excellent detail. The idea of people being hooked on Breeze (aka fairy dust/leavings) was also pretty awesome.* And the idea of fairy bites infecting people and messing them up permanently was very cool too.
In terms of other characters and various plots, there was definitely a lot going on in the book. Most of the subplots and action were juggled very well, but I didn't get to know a lot of the other characters in the book well enough to develop any real attachments to most of them. Having Annabelle's ex, Hitch, show up added conflict and drama, of course, but I had a hard time caring when anyone else besides Annabelle and Cane were in trouble or even mortal peril.
Probably the biggest issue for me while reading, and this is definitely a matter of personal preference, was that I didn't really like that Dead on the Delta was in present tense. Something about that tripped me up time and time again. Maybe because so many of the books I typically read are all in past tense? I don't know but it definitely posed a problem for me.
In conclusion, Dead on the Delta is definitely an unique and refreshing start to what promises to be yet another interesting and unusual Urban Fantasy series. It wasn't a smooth, flawless read for me, but it was an enjoyable one. I'll certainly be keeping my eye out for the next book.
* A similar concept gets used in Dust City by Robert Paul Weston. The books aren't much alike in many other respect, but I think it's cool that this idea is getting toyed with in both YA and Adult fiction titles. (less)
2.5 Stars - Let me start off by saying that I really wanted to love this book and appreciate it for what it was. I also don’t need every book I read to break the mold or shrug off the conventions of its genre, but in the case of Sword of Fire and Sea, I felt like I was doing the reading equivalent of playing a mildly entertaining video game with neat visuals and a very so-so storyline. Sometimes I was dazzled by the ideas at work, but most of the time I was too confused or let down by the way the ideas were ultimately utilized.
In terms of the setting and the writing in of themselves, Sword of Fire and Sea was quite good. I think there were a lot of great details, a very neat magic system, and a very interesting new world for readers to visit. There was certainly plenty of potential and quite a number of unique concepts as well, but nothing got developed in a way that made me care about what was at stake or any of events unfolding in said fictional world. Even now that I’m done reading, I don’t know that I feel like this book did what it set off to accomplish and I certainly feel like its very awesome summary lead me to expect way more than I received.
In terms of the characters and plot, Sword of Fire and Sea was okay but erred too often on the side of bland caution. Being sort of middle-of-the-road is not always a horrible thing for a book to be, but it can be really disheartening. I went into this particular title thinking I’d be thrilled by the high seas adventure idea or the griffins, but I felt like neither element got enough time or focus compared to the aspects of the book that didn’t gel for me. Although I liked Vidarian and found him to be fairly endearing, I couldn’t stand Ariadel. I also couldn’t stand Vidarian’s milquetoast- and vanilla-flavored interest in her that eventually resulted in them being a couple in spite of any real motivation, chemistry, or tension. I still have no idea what to make of their relationship, but I do know that it sprang up out of nowhere and really added nothing to the story.
In conclusion, if you want to read a mild and inoffensive Fantasy adventure that is perfect for the beach, this isn’t a bad pick. Honestly, nothing was so badly done or handled that Sword of Fire and Sea ought to be avoided if you like your Fantasies to be cozy and comfortable. I’m also fairly certain that the book will go over very well with teens or even tweens who are just beginning to seek out Fantasy titles. Personally I think that Fantasy works out much better when given a bite or edge to it, and I would much rather concentrate on series or stand-alone titles that deliver on those sorts of things. (less)
I might get back to this book at some point, but right now I just can't even muster up the energy. I like the main character and the concept well enou...moreI might get back to this book at some point, but right now I just can't even muster up the energy. I like the main character and the concept well enough, but I just don't care enough to continue. Nor do I really want to read about her magically falling in love in the second half of the book. (less)
In Hard Spell, the first book of the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series, Stan, his partner, their boss, and t...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
In Hard Spell, the first book of the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series, Stan, his partner, their boss, and their other associates work to ensure that normal and supernatural people (aka 'supes') get along by whatever means necessary. After dealing with some difficult cases, Stan Markowski finds himself investigating a series of gruesome vampire murders that might be part of a sacrificial ritual while also dealing with wizards, a cursed book, witchfinders, even more vampires, and a cultist out for revenge.
Despite the backwards way that information was occasionally passed on,* Gustainis' writing was very solid and very engaging throughout. There were also a few typos, but that was nothing compared to a terrific amount of details, an excellent pace, the flow of events, and Stan Markowski and Karl Renfer's partnership. Stan was very much a loner and very much --and somewhat desperately-- married to his work. I loved his first person point of view. His sarcastic, more-than-slightly jaded take on things made sense given his job and really just the dangers lurking around every corner of Scranton. However, I was very thankful for Karl being there. He was able to provide a really great sidekick element to the book and also prevented Stan from retreating too deeply in on himself.
Over all, the world-building was excellent and wonderfully well-executed. Gustainis paints a very dark, gritty, edgy picture of a town swarming with supernatural and paranormal activity. While there are plenty of gray areas throughout the novel in regards to supes and several aspects of Stan's primary case, I liked that the vampires, werewolves, ghouls, witches, and cultists were a lot more complicated than simply being good or evil. The way things were fleshed out in terms of the Occult Crimes Investigation Unit was very convincing and well-developed too. In addition, there is no romance here, plenty of swearing, and no real happy endings to be had, which I appreciated. Really, I was incredibly impressed by the level of believability this book had despite how very unbelievable everything was. I also enjoyed the humor of the book, particularly the darker aspects of it, as well as all of the pop-culture references. Particularly Karl's love of all things Bond and Stan mentioning both Night Gallery and the Necronomicon.
All of that said, I did sort of wish that the female characters in Hard Spell hadn't been so obviously assigned specific roles and relegated primarily to the background. There were women in a lot of scenes and a few of them were important minor characters like Rachel Proctor and Christine, but really they didn't get to kick butt and take names so much as be rescued from overwhelming trouble and/or danger. I also find it a bit weird that the only female member of a SWAT team featured later on in the book has to be bailed out by male teammates and that even the female Hellhound thrown into the mix was described as not being as intimidating as the male of the species.
Not wanting to focus too often or too hard on female characters is fine, of course. I have enjoyed plenty of books that has taken that approach such as the first two books of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, which does include female characters but is mostly about a druid named Attitcus, his dog, and his supernatural lawyers. But there's also no reason to have a lot of female characters around only to have them read as very or at least slightly inferior to their male counterparts. Granted, this element of the book didn't ruin the story for me or make me care any less for Stan or Karl, but it was --and still is-- a bit troubling.
In conclusion, very, very good and pretty much exactly what I'd been hoping for. If you've been finding Urban Fantasy far too light on substance, far too heavy on romance, or far too light in general, I'd highly suggest checking out Hard Spell towards the end of July. I am also incredibly glad that this is the first book in the series because I definitely want more. I do hope that Evil Dark utilizes female characters in a better way, but for the most part I simply can't wait to see what happens in book two.
* Occasionally, I had to wait until the end of the chapter or section for Gustainis to reveal something Stan had known for a long, long time or that the person Stan had been talking to was a friend, relative, or colleague.(less)
4.5 Stars - Dark Descendant was a really good book that I think will appeal to Urban Fantasy fans. And possibly older fans of the Percy Jackson series...more4.5 Stars - Dark Descendant was a really good book that I think will appeal to Urban Fantasy fans. And possibly older fans of the Percy Jackson series who want an edgier, grittier, and much darker look at gods from a wide variety of places and their messed-up relations. (Click here to read the rest of my review.)(less)
4.5 Stars - My Life As A White Trash Zombie was remarkably enjoyable and probably one of the few zombie books I've...more(Originally posted @ CSI:Librarian.)
4.5 Stars - My Life As A White Trash Zombie was remarkably enjoyable and probably one of the few zombie books I've enjoyed in recent memory mostly because so many of those books don't even focus much on zombies. In fact most of the ones I've attempted focus on people who are recovering from trauma or writing pretentious articles while hunting zombies and struggling with their own issues or realizing that human beings are the true walking dead blah blah blah insert more serious contemplation of the human condition here. As if now that all the fun has been sucked --no pun intended-- out of vampires by making them capable of falling in love with uncoordinated teenagers, authors have no choice but to ruin the hilariously baffling concept that is zombie by taking them seriously in order to make them metaphors for the emptiness of modern society and the Evil that Man does to Man. Personally, I find it really, really nauseating. So you can only imagine my delight that there is finally a book that doesn't take zombies too seriously and that actually focuses on them for a change.
There was, as a result, very little that I did not love about My Life As A White Trash Zombie. I loved the setting, the humor, the idea of a character's life becoming better because of their transformation from human to zombie, and I loved the way the plot developed. The way zombies were used in the book wasn't particularly new in of itself, I suppose, but Angel's point of view added originality and refreshing twists as she learns about how to maintain her newly undead body while trying to catch a serial killer and find her maker. The book had a lot of sort of horror-esque moments, but maintained a healthy sense of humor throughout. And it did actually focus on zombies literally craving and going mad from lack of brains, which was amusing in of itself.
I also rejoiced in being able to care about Angel immediately, which is something I've struggled with in terms of a lot of female main characters in Urban Fantasy books in the recent past. I think it helped that, although Angel was a bit of a loser, I didn't feel like she'd given up on herself or was willing to remain in the position she was in once alternatives presented themselves. Given a chance and given the actual means, Angel was willing to fight to make her life work. And while the book had some hints of romance going on, its focus remained on Angel and her growth as an individual/zombie, which was awesome.
I do have to admit that the ending to this book was sort of disappointing. I didn't want the book to end at all anyway, but it felt like too many things got shoved into the last few chapters without so much as a hint of them being possible earlier on. I also felt that the identity of the serial killer as well as that of Angel's maker just really seemed way too convenient. I definitely think both revelations also took away from what Angel had come and what she had accomplished to some degree. But happily, none of this kept me from enjoying the book or makes me any less eager to learn if there will be more sequels or not because I would love to read more about Angel Crawford.
In conclusion, really, really terrific in nearly all respects. My Life As A White Trash Zombie is exactly what I wish more zombie books would strive to be like, and I'm so glad I read it. So if you want a fun, engaging story about a young woman whose life becomes much, much better after she becomes a zombie and has to forage for brains, I would suggest picking this book up as soon as it comes out.(less)