Often, when I pick up a new book, by an author who is unfamiliar to me, theThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. rated 5.0 of 5
Often, when I pick up a new book, by an author who is unfamiliar to me, there is both a sense of excitement, wonderment, but also a little sense of dread, wondering what I might be about to throw myself in to. It's a game of trust betwen me, the author, the editor, and the publisher. And when the author, and his/her book hooks me and takes me on a fantastic adventure and in to a land of people and places that I don't want to leave, I am thrilled to have been so surprised.
Rod Duncan's The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, has thrilled me.
Our protagonist is Elizabeth Barnabus, a spy/detective who disguises herself as her own brother. We meet her as she takes on a new job for a Dutchess, the Lady Bletchley, tracking down a person while avoiding capture and the loss of her home and discovering what makes a few new machines so valuable. Along the way she encounters a travelling circus that may be concealing some of the information she's looking for, and an agent for the Patent Office ... perhaps the most powerful of all agencies.
Elizabeth is resourceful and intelligent. If she can't talk or disguise her way out of trouble, she likely can use guile and prowess to physically escape. Author Duncan weaves in Elizabeth's back story with masterful ease. So nicely intertwined, we often don't realize that we've stepped out of the present story to get some background. This is precisely how it should be done - it is a wonderful balance of being story-driven and character-driven.
Everything about this world felt real. Elizabeth and author Duncan don't spend time marvelling over little things that would be very natural to them (and as Elizabeth was raised in a circus environment, even the most strange would appear natural to her). Instead, the world/environment is created through the action of the story. It ocurred to me at some point that this book might be considered 'steampunk' given the era and the modern marvels within. Typically, I haven't been impressed with steampunk precisely because so much attention is paid to showing off how 'cool' the concepts are. But when a story isn't about concept, it is much easier to make it real.
It's almost impossible to have a book without some sort of romance, but here again, Duncan gets it just right. There are hints of romance that satisfy, amuse, and promise more for another time.
There wasn't a single moment that I felt bored or wanted to skip ahead a little. I was mesmerized early and the story and characters blossomed before me with precision. This is the book I was hoping to read back when I delved in to The Night Circus and again with Hang Wire. Now it's been done correctly and I want more!
Looking for a good book? Mystery, duplicity, secret societies, alchemy, romance, action ... The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan has it all and promises to be the talked-about/must-read book for sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts this year!...more
I hadn't realized how much I have missed reading Varley until getting into this.
The title, and the premise as described on the jacket, didn't do anythI hadn't realized how much I have missed reading Varley until getting into this.
The title, and the premise as described on the jacket, didn't do anything for me, but as I have always enjoyed a John Varley book I decided to read this as well, and am glad I did!
Varley has a way of engaging the reader, bringing us into his story, rather than keeping us as observers.
This is not Varley's best ... there are a number of "problems" I had with it, and it was moderately easy to predict the outcome, but a mediocre Varley is still better than most.
Part of the problem was the dual focus that was distracting rather than intriquing. The idea of creating new mammoths from the DNA of a found mammoth implanted in modern elephants would be enough for a book, but then that's been done with Jurasic Park. The modern creation of the time machine would also be enough for a book, but has also been done in abundance. The idea of the protesters didn't really go anywhere even though there was a slight tie to them later.
Still, despite the faults, this was a fun science fiction read....more
This really is a wonderful fairy tale. It has all the good qualities of a classic fairy tale -- imaginative, journeys, adventures, colorful charactersThis really is a wonderful fairy tale. It has all the good qualities of a classic fairy tale -- imaginative, journeys, adventures, colorful characters, and bad-guys who are obviously bad.
The young boy, Jack, has sense enough to know that everything is quite odd -- what with his master being a turnip-headed scarecrow -- but has the youthful imagination to go along with it.
If there is a down-side to this book, it's that it did get to be a little long. Perhaps one too many adventures for the scarecrow. Did he really need to become a Captain in an army? Did it serve any purpose to the rest of the story, or was it just a further adventure. If anything, I thought the army portion of the story was the least effective, particularly when both the scarecrow and the boy had had negative experiences with soldiers earlier in the book.
Still, not many authors are writing wonderful tales of this sort, and it definitely adds to my respect for Pullman, the author.
This third installment in the "Shift" series is a bit of a departure, thoughThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. rated 4.25/5
This third installment in the "Shift" series is a bit of a departure, though a strong one. Whereas the first two books were sci-fi adventure, this one is much more of a psychological drama/adventure with touches of sci-fi. It is a brilliant conclusion to the story set up in Control.
**SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER**
At the end of Control (which wasn't an ending so much as a cliff-hanger to this book), teenaged ARES (Agency for the Regulation and Evaluation of Shifters) agent Scott Tyler is in a battle to restore the world to its rightful path as a rogue shifter (someone, like Scott, who has the ability to change events by 'shifting' to an alternate reality) has brought about much destruction. His plan works, but a little too well. The rogue shifter changes almost everything that had been shifted, putting Scott in to a reality so vastly different, he couldn't possibly have anticipated it. Among the many and varied differences with this new reality from what he knew before, he is the Commander of ARES; he and Aubrey not only don't have a relationship, she's a soldier for ARES and only knows him by his title; there is a war going on and a group of radicals looking to eliminate all shifters; his sister is about to take a shifter test to determine her abilities.
To complicate this new life (as if it needed any more complication), Scott is of a rare breed of shifters who remembers all his past realities ... those realities that he's shifted out of. But in this book, he goes one step further ... he is in a constant battle with himself. His psyche, the one that lived and grew in his body since birth and for whom this reality has been a constant, is pushing for Scott to act in a specific manner ... the manner which got him put in command of ARES and is much stronger and more aggressive. But the Scott Tyler who shifted into the body...the Scott Tyler we've been reading about for two and a half books, is trying to right things that he thinks is wrong, having to learn how things happen along the way and trying to shove his own psyche aside.
It's a tremendous challenge to write, and author Kim Curran weaves the story quite well. The obstacles Scott faces are strong. He's up against his new reality ("man vs nature"); other people, some who were friends, and some former enemies who are now friends )"man vs man"); and of course he's battling his own inner psyche ("man vs himself"). These are strong, high concepts, realized efficiently in an adventure book for teen readers.
Having read the three books successively, the characters and the situations were quite clear to me. I'm not sure how well this would read if I hadn't read Control right before it. However, I think this would read much better alone than Control would read on its own.
I couldn't help but wonder how Scott was going to get out of his situation, and I think Curran brings the story to a very appropriate conclusion.
Strange Chemistry has proven itself as a powerhouse in the YA market, and this series adds to that reputation.
Looking for a good book? Delete by Kim Curran is a strong, rousing book in the Shift series. Highly recommended....more
I have ALWAYS enjoyed works of the absurd; the theatre of Eugene Ionesco, the stories of NikOriginally reviewed in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5.
I have ALWAYS enjoyed works of the absurd; the theatre of Eugene Ionesco, the stories of Nikolai Gogol, the books of Roald Dahl. Now I'll include Philippa Dowding to that list!
This book is about twelve year old Jake who is off to visit his grandfather. Jake spends some time with some older kids who live nearby, and who love to tell scary stories that are supposed to be true, about their town. On this particular night, they tell the story about when a local farmer discovered a giant hand, wearing a wedding ring, in the middle of his field, and how giant flies, as large as birds, buzzed the area. Jake doesn't want to believe the story, but when he questions the local adults, they all try to change the subject, even Jake's grandpa! Jake does a little investigating, and gets a little more than he bargained for!
Written for young readers (Fourth grade? Fifth grade?), it manages to treat the reader with respect; it doesn't write 'down' to them, or try to explain every moment. It puts us, reader, in the story by letting us experience what Jake experiences, without explaining it all away. We are just as lost and scared as Jake, and we come to the same conclusions that Jake does (especially what the mysterious white stone is, down in the ground, that he and his grandfather uncovered while digging a post hole). The fear that builds is completely accurate and in line with the sort of fear a twelve year old might have after listening to a scary story.
The best part of the book, however, as I alluded to earlier, is the absurdity that this horrific, spooky story, could actually be true. There is no clear answer. In fact, all the evidence -- physical evidence! -- suggests the tale is true, but Jake also knows that it can't possibly be true, and yet .... This is a great way to maintain creative thinking and a love of reading in our young readers.
I highly recommend this book!
Looking for a good book? Jake and Giant Hand is part mystery, part young-reader-horror, part adventure, which rolled together under Philippa Dowding's creativity, is all genius....more
It's sad that there aren't more reviews for this book, because this is really a great book!
I will admit that this has been on my bookshelf for the lasIt's sad that there aren't more reviews for this book, because this is really a great book!
I will admit that this has been on my bookshelf for the last decade, and I was never really looking forward to it -- something about the title, and the cover, and the description seemed just a bit less that exciting. But once you crack it open and read a chapter or two, it's totally enthralling.
This book is geared toward the middle school reader. It's four main characters are junior high students [two boys, two girls:] who are transported back in time through a miraculous accident by a machine made by the brainy student of the bunch -- but there's a twist to this time-travel tale ... the students are in the bodies of dinosaurs!
Being written for the student, there are some lessons to be learned, but Ciencin does a fantastic job of weaving the lessons nicely into the plot.
Ciencin is a wonderful writer for youth. I bought this book based on how much I enjoyed his books in the "Dinotopia" series.
When I finished the book, I handed it to my 12 year old son who might be labeled a 'reluctant reader.' He read it through and absolutely loved it. He said that it was "Fantastic!" and that he learned a lot, too! He said, the only bad thing is..."He didn't write a sequel! How can anybody who writes this good NOT write a sequel to it!" He's so upset about there not being a sequel that he's decided to read it again.
Bruce Coville is one of the best fantasy writers out there. Because he tends to write toward the younger market, many adults aren't familiar with him,Bruce Coville is one of the best fantasy writers out there. Because he tends to write toward the younger market, many adults aren't familiar with him, which is a shame.
I first read this many years ago, when I was reading children's books at a tremendous rate. It's possible that this was one of the first Coville books I read. I immediately became enchanted by the book and by Coville's work, which I have sought out on a regular basis.
This book came off the shelf again the other day as I was looking for something to read aloud to my boys (ages 10 & 12) at bedtime. Although both will read on their own, they enjoy having me read to them. I chose this book because I knew they weren't likely to read it on their own (unicorns and a female protagonist made this seem a little too 'girly' for them). They absolutely loved it!
It was hard to stop at night, because both boys would want 'just one more chapter'.
Coville does a good job here by making the unicorns male, to balance the fact that the main human character is female. Throw in a creature that resembles a half man, half bear; a Disney-ish squirrel-like creature called a Squijum; a dwarf, a dragon, and a whole glory of unicorns, and you have one of the most unique fantasy stories around.
The book is a quick and easy read, and we're already well in to book #2....more
I'm very familiar with The Dresden Files, having seen episodes of the serieThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
I'm very familiar with The Dresden Files, having seen episodes of the series on the SciFi Network; read some of the graphic novels; and read short stories of the series in various anthologies, but I'd yet to read the actual book series. And while I've been fortunate to receive a LOT of Advance Reader's Copy of new books from many publishers, this particular title has been around for a few years, so scoring a 'free' copy from the publisher wasn't likely. Enter Benjamin Franklin and his FREE Public Library.
I have to admit that I was a little surprised to discover a science fiction/fantasy series that was well over a dozen books in to its series and yet I hadn't read any of the books. I'm very pleased to find that this series (at least this first book) is well worth the attention it has been getting.
Harry Dresden is a wizard. Harry Dresden is also a private detective. occasionally the two work together.
A council of wizards is keeping a close eye on Harry, believing that Harry is performing black magic and killing people. When the local police call Harry in on a double homicide case, he discovers that there is someone with incredible magic powers and because the council believes Harry is the one responsible, Harry is on his own to find and take down whoever it is.
Author Jim Butcher captures a noir-ish detective 'voice' for the character while keeping him modern with the magical abilities.
This isn't deep, intensely provacative literature, but it is great fun. Those Harry Potter fans who are now in their mid-twenties might really enjoy this step up in fantasy literature.
Looking for a good book? Storm Front, the first in the Harry Dresden series really satisfies. ...more
I have to admit that I am not particularly familiar with Jack Williamson's work. I am aware of his work, but I don't think that I've ever read any ofI have to admit that I am not particularly familiar with Jack Williamson's work. I am aware of his work, but I don't think that I've ever read any of his books. So why buy and read this collection of short stories written in tribute to Williamson? Because it was edited by Roger Zelazny ... whose work I AM familiar with and greatly admire.
It shouldn't come as a surprise then that I found myself really enjoying this stories and now am looking forward to reading some Williamson work.
It has been awhile since I actually finished reading this collection, so the stories are not fresh in my mind, but I don't think that there are any obvious stand-outs for being excellent. Instead, unlike so many collections I read, nearly all the stories piqued my interest, touching on something which I assume is that talent of Jack Williamson.
Fred Saberhagen's story, "The Bad Machines," has made me want to read both Williamson's The Humanoids and Saberhange's 'Berserker' books. Poul Anderson's "Inside Passage" has got me looking for Jack's Darker Than You Think. And I'm very curious to read more of The Legion of Time, and see how much Giles Habibula really is like Falstaff. John Brunner is a fantastic writer, and his "Thinkertoy" was a delight.
All around, this is a fantastic collection. It's a book like this that has me really enjoying short fiction. I've read some great fiction and hopefully discovered a new author or two.
Some people have comfort foods or comfort clothes, I have comfort books. A comfort book is one in which the characters are already familiar figures, fSome people have comfort foods or comfort clothes, I have comfort books. A comfort book is one in which the characters are already familiar figures, for some reason or another, and I can pick up a book to read about old friends -- enjoying their adventure(s) with them.
This book falls into that category for me.
Green Lantern was one of my comic book favorites, and I looked forward to reading his adentures, even if without the aid of the wonderful, colorful drawings. It wasn't an outstanding adventure -- paled, compared to some of the comic book adventure that I remember, but I'm still glad to have gone on the journey. It was a nice way to get in some reading time, without having to put forth a lot of mental effort.
Not recommended to anyone not already familiar with the green unitard-clad hero....more
James Morrow's The Madonna and the Starship is the sort of book you just don'tThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75
James Morrow's The Madonna and the Starship is the sort of book you just don't want to put down. Fortunately, because it's a quick read, you shouldn't have to!
The story: It is the 1950's. Kurt Jastrow writes pulp science fiction stories. Because he can't make a living selling short stories, he also works in television broadcasting as a writer on Brock Barton and His Rocket Rangers, and also as a character actor for Uncle Wonder's Attic. The television programs have found an audience in space aliens (creatures that appear quite lobster-like) who appear to Kurt as fans of his works. Unfortunately they also plan to vaporize two million people within the next two days. Kurt turns to fellow writer Connie Osborn (head writer for the religious program Not By Bread Alone) for help. Or perhaps he turns to her because it might be his last chance to tell her how he feels about her. In either case, Kurt and Connie have two days to send forth a broadcast that will convince the aliens to leave Earth alone.
Author Morrow captures the language and soul of the 1950's very well. This could easily be a story from the very pulps that Kurt Jastrow writes for. If anyone had told me that this was a reissue of a book originally released in the mid-fifties, I'd likely believe them. The nods to popular culture of the time (from the early days of television, to pulp editors like Hugo Gernsbach) are a delight to catch.
The book is filled with humor, reminding me of the likes of Joseph Heller, Richard Hooker, and Ron Goulart. Yet underneath that humor is a remarkably touching, philosophical story.
Morrow loves to question organized religion and encourage humanism, and this book is no stranger to these themes. There's a nice juxtaposition of having the religious broadcast be a part of the response to the lobster-like aliens who wield god-like power.
I don't read books a second time very often (there are too many I haven't read to spend time reading some twice!), but with this I expect I'll make an exception ... there's a lot packed in to this book, and I think I'll enjoy it even more the second time around.
Looking for a good book? The Madonna and the Starship will have you laughing out loud while you think about what it means to be human....more
Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notor
The Goodreads blurb on the book:
Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer.
Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.
Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!
This book starts out in such awesome fashion, I was hooked and couldn't wait to throw myself in to this urban fantasy.
It was evident, early, that there was a lot going on, and that the characters needed to be followed with care. I typically don't mind a book that jumps around in time...some of the story taking place in the present, some of it in various periods in the past, so when I saw that this book was going to be of that genre that skipped around in time and place, I knew I'd be in for a wild ride.
And I was. And wild rides can be a lot of fun. But they can also be wild rides that leave your head numb instead of full of excitement and energy.
This book was a wild ride that left me numb.
There is an awful lot going on, and I read with painstaking care at first, to make sure I was following it. But nothing ever felt like it was actually releasing new information to me. Instead of a tease with something that would have me anxious to find out more, it simply kept plodding along, telling new parts of the story, but never felt like it was getting anywhere.
The jumping around to the past got old, fast. Instead of learning something vital to the story, it began to feel like an interlude simply to take our mind away from the action ... as if we might be getting exhausted and needing a break.
But the biggest problem, I think, was the lack of buy-in to any of the characters. I wasn't really sure who I was supposed to be following or caring about. The fact that almost every character had more than one identity and might be referred to by their mortal name or by their deity name, added to the (my) confusion. As I started to feel some sort of 'attachment' to a character, we'd either not see them for awhile, or they would continue on to doing something that would separate me from having any sort of empathy or care toward them.
The deeper I got in to this book, the more I felt that the weight of the story was suffocating the progress of the story. I think this is why author Adam Christopher took the time jaunts, but it hindered rather than helped.
The story-telling itself was dry and at one level. A lack of energy (except for the early bits with the opening chapter and the early circus portions) really sucked the wind out of this.
I really, really wanted to like this. An engaging beginning, a publisher that has done so many awesome books lately, and a story that seemed right up my alley, but instead, I struggled to get through it.
Looking for a good book? This one fails to break through the clutter it heaps upon itself.
Bruce Sterling is easily one of the most original writers out there today. So many works in the sci-fi/fantasy field are simply remixes of Lord of theBruce Sterling is easily one of the most original writers out there today. So many works in the sci-fi/fantasy field are simply remixes of Lord of the Rings, or Conan, or a Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke/Niven novel. But when you open a Bruce Sterling novel you know you will be getting something that isn't like anything you've ever read before.
And for this alone, bonus points.
But I'll be honest...I'm not sure what I read. I liked the style, I got caught up in the characters, but I'm just not sure I'm clear on how the sub-plots and story lines all tied together. What's with the father? Was he really living his life Merlin-like? Arms dealers? Drug smuggling? What did Leggy know? How much did he approve of? Why the importance on getting the girls out alive?
Perhaps I didn't read it carefully enough, or perhaps much of these didn't matter. Chances are I'll read this again, because I am intriqued. The ending, with the observations that Leggy's daughter declared, and her goals, struck a chord. I think she did indeed "get it."
If you've never read a Bruce Sterling novel, then don't start with this one. Pick up Involution Ocean or Heavy Weather. If you have enjoyed Sterling before, then definitely give this a read. If you just want something that is so incredibly original, then this is the book for you....more
First, a big "thank you" to Netgalley and publisher Nan A. Talese for makiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
First, a big "thank you" to Netgalley and publisher Nan A. Talese for making this book available. Margaret Atwood is not an author who needs advance reviews from the average 'Joe' or small-time blogger. Still, it's great for us to have the opportunity to see a copy of a book like this, from a well-known, well-respected author. So thank you.
I've written before about how much I enjoy reading short fiction. One of the first collections of short stories that I remember reading and really enjoying (surprisingly, at the time, as it wasn't sci-fi genre fiction which was all I read for a time) was Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg. it was, in fact, the book that turned me on to her writing. Fortunately, for anyone who enjoys good writing, Atwood hasn't lost a step through the decades. Stone Mattress is a strong, strong collection.
Some of these stories, much like her novel The Handmaid's Tale, have a slight sci-fi bent to them, while there is also a hint of horror and touch of mystery. Each of them is a strong story, and while not all will resonate with every reader, every reader is bound to find something that appeals among these nine tales.
The first three stories are related. In "Alphinland," a widowed writer (Constance) is continually thinking of her late husband (Gavin) and how he'd react as she moves throughout her day. She recalls sometimes painful memories, such as when she discovered his infidelity. In the second story, "Revenant," Gavin is a grumpy old man who doesn't think much of Constance's 'pulp' writing work, despite the fact that it supported them. The third story of the trilogy, "The Dark Lady," is told through the eyes of the woman with whom Gavin had his affair.
Any time I read a collection such as this, I can't help but try to determine which stories were my favorites. That's difficult here because I liked all the stories so well. I would probably look at "Alphinland" and "The Dead Hand Loves You" and "Stone Mattress" as my top three picks. "The Dead Hand" is the story of a successful horror writer who forged an agreement as a youth with his friends that each would share, evenly, their financial success should they achieve fame/success. And "Stone Mattress" is a revenge story of a woman who accidentally runs in to a man who ruined her life and she plots ways to kill him.
Many (MANY) years ago I attended a conference/convention of noted authors. At a panel a question was asked, "Other than length, what are the differences between short stories and novels?" One author (I'll leave his name out of it in case I am remembering it incorrectly) said that he had heard, from another author considered to be a 'grand master' that the short story was about things people do and the novel was about people who do things. I've often thought back to this and realized that there is a great deal of truth to this. A novel, by virtue of its length, gets to explore people in-depth, while they are doing things, while the short story doesn't allow us the time to get to know people and we only see snapshots of what they are doing. However... Margaret Atwood bucks this simplified version of the difference between the story and the novel. Atwood's stories are about people, and as I read through this collection and came to that realization, I also realized that this is why her stories stand out so much from other short fiction I read. A story about people, especially when well told, will often be much more interesting than a story about 'things.'
The stories (about people) in this collection are:
"Alphinland" "Revenant" "Dark Lady" "Lusus Naturae" "The Freeze-Dried Groom" "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth" "The Dead Hand Loves You" "Stone Mattress" "Torching the Dusties"
Looking for a good book? Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood is a collection of nine tales that you really should own and read. ...more
This is one of the most original science fiction books I’ve read in years!
Imagine Philip K. Dick and Franz Kafka and John Norman and Henry Miller writThis is one of the most original science fiction books I’ve read in years!
Imagine Philip K. Dick and Franz Kafka and John Norman and Henry Miller writing a story together in a world created by Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, and Quentin Tarantino, and you come close to the strange normalcy that is Blope.
Author Sean Benham starts his book with the ending, confusing the heck out of the reader, with body-part transplants and a description of characters that doesn’t seem real. But staying with the book pays off, and I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t go back and read the beginning once reaching the end. I know I did, and I ‘m sure I’ve never done that before.
Benham gives us just enough background to understand that in another version of history, the American Southwest becomes part of a Taiwan and its ageless ruler uses it as an experiment, segregating the territory into hexagonally shaped Prefectures — the citizens of each sent based on the pigment of their skin — the darkest to Prefecture A, the lightest to ‘M’ and a variety in between.
Our hero, Billy Lopez manages to live first in ‘F’ Prefecture, and then ‘M,’ where he realizes his first and only love (the prostitute/porn-slut Mona) and the worst that humanity can deliver. The citizens of ‘M’ are dying out — slaving away at mindless factory jobs and trading their meager wages for porn VCR tapes from a business which Billy inherits.
I was constantly surprised at each little curve that Benham throws at the reader. From the invented drug to the Frankenstein-like plastic surgery. But because this is some strange, skewed form of alternative history, and not future sci-fi, per se, there’s a weird (ie, ‘nice’) juxtaposition of new and old. New: full body transplants. Old: VCRs.
Even once I got used to this world and didn’t think there were any more curves that would surprise me, Benham wallops the reader with still more (for me, it was information about Dr. Timothy).
I can’t recommend this highly original, dystopic, fantastic world enough. If you want to read sci-fi that is different than the rest of what’s on the bookshelves, then click on the photo above, go straight to Amazon, and don’t leave until you’ve ordered your copy. You won’t be disappointed. Fair warning, though: this book is not for the weakly constituted or faint-of-heart....more
The book could have used some trimming or serious editing!
I was engaged with the story in the beginning, and I was caught up again as I approached theThe book could have used some trimming or serious editing!
I was engaged with the story in the beginning, and I was caught up again as I approached the last 100+ pages, but the 300+ pages in the middle became a morass of verbiage which did little to nothing to advance the plot, nor did it set mood or location.
Something I've seen only one other reviewer mention is the confusion over who is narrating any particular chapter. Imagine my surprise after a hundred pages, thinking my narrator was a woman (and I'm sure it was when I started), and to suddenly have someone refer to the narrator as "Paul."
I've long enjoyed the Dracula mythology and looked forward to this book. I struggled to stay interested in it, and I'm not sure that my valiance paid off in the end.
This is one book that may actually be served well to have a Reader's Digest Condensed Version....more
The very first thing that strikes me as I read this is that this is NOT Roger Zelazny writing. In fact, if it were not for the fact that I recognize BThe very first thing that strikes me as I read this is that this is NOT Roger Zelazny writing. In fact, if it were not for the fact that I recognize Betancourt's name, I would wonder if this was even a professional writer -- the opening chapter came across as very amateurish. Lot's of telling, and no "showing" -- no making us feel a part of the action.
While that sense of "low" writing never entirely vanished, I did become more engrossed in the story itself. Even there, however, I knew that I wasn't reading Zelazny. Zelazny could weave a story with intricate threads of characters and sub-plots and story lines. And if Zelazny was a master weaver, producing a solitary fine work of excellent quality, Betancourt is a machine producing a cheap replica that might satisfy those who can't tell the difference.
In general, I also dislike any series which requires one to purchase multiple books to get a sense of the story. Each book should be able to stand on it's own as a book. I don't believe this one accomplishes that.
I may read the others in the trilogy, but only because I'm curious about the story. I will most certainly seek out library books or used copies....more
If you're a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast, how often have you read a book and, whether or not you liked the story-telling, felt like it was really nothingIf you're a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast, how often have you read a book and, whether or not you liked the story-telling, felt like it was really nothing but a rehash of an already over-used scenario? Move over stale f/sf themes; enter: Peacemaker, a wholly original and thrilling fantasy adventure.
Set in the future, when urban sprawl has decimated much of the earth, Australia's Birrimun Park, an ecological haven in the middle of a coastal megalopolis, the story focuses on Virgin Jackson, the park's ranger. Virgin is asked to look after visiting US Marshall, Nate Sixkiller. Virgin, who can be a bit strong-willed and bullish, takes her job very seriously. She loves the park, as did her father (who died under suspicious circumstances). There's a police officer determined to pin a murder wrap on Virgin, and her on-again-off-again boyfriend stripper boyfriend seems a bit jealous of Marshall Sixkiller. To add to Virgin's troubles, she's having visions of an 'imaginary' eagle, a sort of familiar or totem, which she has seen since she was a child. No one else has ever seen her eagle ... until Nate Sixkiller!
This book is a fascinating blend of western, fantasy, mystery, thriller. I was exciting by the western-ness of the story, while understanding the fantasy aspect at the same time. It's a blending of genres that typically haven't worked well together (with the possible exception of Joss Whedon's Firefly television series). Then, just a little bit in to the book, I was excited by what I felt was a strong Native American sensibility. It was more than just Nate Sixkiller's background and name... it was a conveyance of tone and theme such as one might find in N. Scott Momaday or Leslie Marmon Silko. It was beautiful.
On top of the Native American and American Western genres comes the mystery. Or rather ... mysteries. Who killed the man Virgin found in the park? Who attacked Virgin in her home, and why? Who killed Virgin's father, and is there a connection? Who is Nate Sixkiller? Who is Virgin's boyfriend, Heart Williams? Who is...who is...who is... and why, why, why? You can practically see the rings around Virgin's head as she tries to piece together all the different variables in her life, but just as she seems to be about to get a handle on one, she is thrown a curve.
The mega-city is filled with lawless and organized gangs, and Virgin works every angle she can, drawing some of the criminal element in to her circle in order to protect the park.
Author Marianne de Pierres has done a remarkable job creating a world that is at once totally recognizable and believable. She has also given us a large variety of characters who are unique from one another and also totally believable in their environment. And she's given us a story with non-stop action and plenty of mystery.
But I think what impresses me the most is the incredible blending of genres. Listed as science fiction/fantasy in the publisher's catalog, this is just as easily a mystery with fantasy elements, or a thriller, or... I haven't been this excited about a book that engages me on so many different levels, in a long time.
With all my praise and hype, there are two down-sides to the book. The first being my usual issue with 'serial' books in that there are too many questions left unanswered. Clearly an attempt to get us excited for the next book in the series, this has the effect of not being a complete book, to me. Nate Sixkiller can't tell Virgin what division of the U.S. Marshall's he belongs to without our wanting to know more. Virgin's offer at the end of the book, and Nate's declaration are clear plot points for an over-arching storyline, but leave this particular book with an unsatisfying ending. As a book-buyer, I may have to start doing with books, what I did with comics years ago...stop buying the individual issues/books and wait for the compilation graphic novel/book set. This move, which I suspect is more publisher oriented than writer oriented, is certainly not regarded in high favor. Plenty of successful authors have written books in a series with a recurring character and each book is a complete story. I could list them, but any reader older than thirteen could also list them.
The second point that was less than remarkable was Virgin's super-heroic ability to take punishment and keep on going. The attack on Virgin and Nate near the end of the book was over-done and their survival seemed super-human. Interestingly, I've recently read Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane with a similar styled attack.
I will look forward to the next book in this incredibly original adventure, and I hope I see more of the same cross-blending of genres. It works very well.
Looking for a good book? This action-packed, genre-blending sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/western will have you turning pages quickly as you get sucked in to the story.
From urban noir, to urban dark fantasy, to simple, urban gut fiction (that fiction which shows us the underbelly of society), R. Narvaez's collection,From urban noir, to urban dark fantasy, to simple, urban gut fiction (that fiction which shows us the underbelly of society), R. Narvaez's collection, Roachkiller and other Stories, is simply good writing.
Two things struck me as I read this collection: 1) Narvaez is a really good writer, and 2) there's a very strong 'street' element to most of the works here, which generally would have me feeling like a complete outsider, but Narvaez writes it in such a way that it pulls the reader in and makes him feel at home (a dirty roach-infested, stale-beer-smelling, coke-in-the-carpet home, but home none-the-less).
In most short story collections that I've read, I tend to know what I'm going to get ... some awesome sci-fi or some dark horror or some great mysteries or some slice-of-life fiction ... but Narvaez manages to pull the rug out from under us and surprise us with each passing story. This is both attractive to the collection, and a distraction. Attractive, because who doesn't like a good surprise (and these are good). But a distraction because after two or three stories that are so urban...filled with street talk and the plight of those who inhabit this lifestyle...to suddenly read something so noir-ish, takes the reader back a bit. Or, as was my case, I recall thinking...'wait a minute...did he...is this...? When did this become a sci-fi/Phil Dick type of collection?' and then I had to start the story over.
I don't know why Narvaez isn't a house-hold name. Anyone who likes good fiction, or well-defined characters, or strong writing ...
It's a little surprising, when I think back on it, but with as much fantasy asThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.75
It's a little surprising, when I think back on it, but with as much fantasy as I have read over the years, I can't recall a single book that has dealt with mermaids. With our planet being nearly three-quarters water surface, and our oceans being largely unexplored, it would seem to me that fantasy stories of mermaids, mermen, and underwater cities should almost be a glut on our market. But since it's not, the setting for Deep Blue was a welcome breath of ... salt water?
Deep Blue is the first book in a four-part series, which will be fairly obvious once you start reading it. There is no clear conclusion and the book can really be seen as the introduction and set-up for the series.
The story: Princess Serafina is coming of age and preparing for her coming out and wedding to Prince Mahdi. During a public ceremony (her performing of a 'songspell') she and the people of Miromara are attacked. Serafina and her friend, Neela, get away in the chaos of the invasion. Here Serafina experiences quite an adventure as she tries to stay one step ahead of the marauders. She learns who is behind the attack and that she, and her neighboring princesses (all about her age) must form a bond to fight off the attacks. Something bad happens ... end of the book.
Yes...if you know me, you know how much I do not like this serializing of books in such a way that you can NOT get a full story with one book. To me, this is nothing more than a publisher's marketing ploy and it's a no-no. A book has a beginning a middle and an end. I rate this book ... check back tomorrow, I'll tell you then what I rate the book. ... No, I won't do that just to try to get more blog hits. That would seem unethical. Wouldn't it? And if not unethical, it's at least a cheap, sleazy way of trying to get more attention.
Aside from my feelings about the lack of ending, while there was much to enjoy, the book did have some other troubles.
The world-building (under the seas) was fun, but author Jennifer Donnelly went a little overboard (pun unintended) with trying to be cute and having fun with sea/underwater items. Things like:
"Oh, super yum. Candied flatworm with eelgrass honey. My favorite!"
and the "map, etched in squid ink on kelp parchment" and the crazy woman with too many catfish (which I admit got me to chuckle).
I remember listening to author Bruce Coville once talking about a fantasy book's CTPP quotient (that is: Cool Things Per Page), and how books like the Harry Potter series were so high with CTPP, which is a big part of the fascination. Here, Donnelly tries too hard, in my mind, to make that CTPP high. These little snippets (ala 'candied flatworm and eelgrass') don't lend an air of 'realness' to the story (as I expect they are intended) but become a distraction.
Eye-roll moment.... I don't typically groan out loud or roll my eyes while reading, but I did here. Through one of Serafina's magic powers, she goes in through a mirror to another underwater dimension (CTPP moment ... all mirrors connect from the back side!) and meets a dangerous foe. His name is Rirrom Drol. Rirrom. Drol. He rules the land behind the mirrors. Eye rolls all together now....
One of my biggest issues with the story is that Serfina goes from mini-dangerous-adventure to mini-dangerous-adventure, such as a few seemingly helpless moments with Rirrom Drol, which don't actively advance the over-all arc of the story. When a mini-adventure starts, of course i don't know that it's a mini-adventure, and I'm caught up and interested, but once it's done and Serafina moves on, I still wonder how it will all tie together, but at the conclusion of the book, the ties are very frayed and I feel we've been led on a romp purely for the sake of the adventure.
However...! While the first third of the book is all set up and introductions and CTPP gimmicks, and the second third is filled with mini-adventures, the final portion of the book is actually quite interesting and exciting. I admit I was hooked (again, pun unintended) when a sea witch tells Serafina and the other princesses:
Never before have six direct descendants been of the same age at the same time -- just as the original six were. ... your powers -- and those of your friends' -- strengthen when you're in proximity to each other.
Now that's cool! This is exciting and I really want to know more. Unfortunately, we're almost done with the book when this comes up. Yes, it paves the way for what, hopefully, will be three more, very exciting books. But this book, being a preface, simply sinks as a book.
Looking for a good book? Deep Blue promises an exciting undersea adventure as part of the Waterfire Saga, but this first book is filled with unnecessary actions and language trying to build the world and plot. If you're okay with a book only as a preface and not a complete story, this might be just right for you....more
Miriam Black has a talent (or curse) of being able to tell when and how a person will die, simply by making contact with that other person. She has usMiriam Black has a talent (or curse) of being able to tell when and how a person will die, simply by making contact with that other person. She has used this gift to try to alter a person's destiny, and while the 'how' might change, the when doesn't seem to. Now, Miriam heads off to Florida at the behest of a wealthy, mysterious person who wants to know how and when he will die. But this trip could be a ruse.
That's the basic plot, but of course there's so much more to it.
If you've read many of my previous reviews, you've probably noticed that I often comment on the likeability of a character. If the reader doesn't 'like' your main character, what motivation does the reader have to invest in the story? Character, in a novel, is probably 80% of the book. I recall hearing someone (I think it was Theodore Sturgeon, quoting someone else) say, "Shorts stories are about things people do. Novels are about people who do things."
I like Miriam Black.
I don't know why...she has everything going against her it seems. She abrasive, she's rude, she's foul-mouthed, she's a killer, she loathes herself, and respects no one. Yet somehow, through the magic of the author's writing, Miriam is a character we are able to rally behind. Despite all the strikes against her, I liked her. I wanted her to succeed.
Although I came to realize somewhat early on in the book that this is a third book in a series, it doesn't detract from enjoy the book itself. While I am curious as to Miriam's history and will very likely go back to read the previous two novels, this book does seem to stand alone ... it might be nice to know some history on Miriam Black, but it doesn't appear to be a requirement to reading this book.
Author Chuck Wendig keeps the pace moving very well and it does seem as though there is non-stop action. It helps that Wendig has woven the story quite well with snippets of her life from different moments in time that all seem to converge near the end. How appropriate that we have the story of someone who can see the future, told from bits of the past, present, and future.
There are moments when the book seems to go on for just a little too long and Miriam relies just a little too much on luck (causing a crash of an FBI-driven vehicle?). She rushes a little too blindly in to danger, knowing the danger, and she also too often pays the price for this foolhardiness. Perhaps that's part of what we like about her, but at the same time, it strikes me as immature.
Which brings up a question ... who is this book geared toward? Initially I wondered if it were to be considered a YA book, but some of the language is pretty fierce. Perhaps I'm just more old-fashioned than I care to admit, and I'm a little out of touch with the nature of YA books today? Would I let my kids read this (ages 14,16, and 18)? Yes.
Looking for a good book? This is strong writing, engaging characters, and fast-paced action.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the strangest show off Earth! ... We've got cThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25
"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the strangest show off Earth! ... We've got chills, we've got thrills, but most of all ... we've got madness!" So announces a ringmaster, who could very well be defining the book, Night Terrors, itself!
Tim Waggoner's first book in the Shadow Watch series is a highly imaginative, wholly original sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/dark fantasy mashup.
Audra Hawthorne is an "Ideator" -- someone who makes her nightmare come to life. The Incubus (the Ideator's nightmare) takes on two forms ... a day form, typically fairly mellow and ordinary, and a night form -- the opposite of the day appearance ... frightening and dangerous. Audra's incubus is a clown named jinx; a deadly, loose-cannon clown. Together, they are officers of the Shadow Watch, protecting both the earth and Nod, the night terror realm.
The plot is fairly basic -- there is an uprising in Nod, an uprising that is crossing over to earth, and despite being taken off the case, only Audra and Jinx have the wherewithal and moxy (and sledgehammers) to stop it.
The plot being simple (but effective),it is therefore the characters that hold this work together and drive the story. Not just Audra and Jinx, though their relationship is a wonderful narcissistic balance - they need each other -- and author Waggoner toys with this relationship in very effective ways. The symbiotic relationship between Ideator and Incubus (not just Audra and Jinx) is fun to read. Everyone's is slightly different (naturally), yet there are some constants in effect for all pairings. In addition to the Ideator/Incubus partnerings, there are the individual characters (human and Incubus alike) that are also unique and fun (who isn't going to like the Candyman?).
The noir mystery/cop aspect takes a back seat to the fantasy and humor, but it works. There are hints of romance which fortunately did not overwhelm this story. It was just enough to plant a seed for future books.
The writing moves along quickly -- almost too quickly at times. More than once I stopped and thought to myself, "We were just told that entire section, rather than have it shown to us." Usually this was in regards to Jinx's hijinks. But upon thinking about it, I realize that it was often the telling, rather than showing, that kept the pace moving frantically along.
This really was a fun read. I'm hooked, and will be looking forward to the next Shadow Watch book.
Looking for a good book? Night Terrors is a rollicking fun mystery in the creepiest sorts of ways!...more
Referring to something as 'space opera' has a demeaning connotation (it makes it sound cheap or cheesy) but the reality is, this book is more than jusReferring to something as 'space opera' has a demeaning connotation (it makes it sound cheap or cheesy) but the reality is, this book is more than just simple sf fare. This book is about people, individuals we get to know and care about, who through fate, take on the entities bigger than themselves.
The strong characters are what make this book sing, but the action that drives the characters is strong and absorbing. The scope of the action is long-reaching.
This was a hard book to put down and I never got bored with any aspects of it. I liked the characters, they seemed to stay true to themselves and didn't do anything 'out' of character.
The politics seemed real and as confusing as real politics do. The politics of big business also seemed frighteningly real.
This book was my choice for the Hugo Award -- the results yet to be announced as I write this.
Although I've been reading sci-fi for forty years, I was never a Heinlein reader. Not sure why, he was just not someone I had discovered and followed.Although I've been reading sci-fi for forty years, I was never a Heinlein reader. Not sure why, he was just not someone I had discovered and followed. But of course I was familiar with him. And so, in the late '80's I read The Cat Who Walked Through Walls and had picked up this book, a follow-up (and Heinlein's last) novel. This has been on my shelf all these years and I finally got around to reading it. And I'm sorry that I did.
My perception here is that as he was ending his career and life, Heinlein became a dirty old man. There is nothing in this book other than a great deal of sex, described in moderately good detail, though rather clinically (ie boring) so.
I'm hardly a prude, and the sex itself didn't bother me (though the incest and the rape, handled so cavalierly, strikes me as morally wrong), but I saw no purpose to the sex. It's character-defining, sure, but 400 pages of character and no plot is just, frankly, dull.
Although this is an homage to many of his previous books, I would still never recommend this to anyone. ...more
Despite growing up reading nothing but science fiction and fantasy, I've never been a reader of Heinlein -- considered the Grand Master of the sci-fiDespite growing up reading nothing but science fiction and fantasy, I've never been a reader of Heinlein -- considered the Grand Master of the sci-fi genre. I decided that perhaps I'm at the right point in my life to enjoy looking back and reading some classic YA sci-fi.
From the beginning pages, I was hooked and enjoyed the youthful, clearly 50's sounding voice of the protagonist. I began thinking that this was just what I needed to read to my boys at night.
But then came the science and math.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all opposed to science in my science fiction, but I found this to be long-winded and dull in what was, up until then, an interesting and exciting story. Instead of enhancing the story, the science seemed to be added as a teaching tool.
If you are new to Heinlein, beware the didacticism. I enjoyed the beginning and I enjoyed the end. The middle was too muddled with unnecessary science and math to tell the story....more
This book seemed new to me again, it had been so long since I last read it.
Zelazny most definitely has a distinctive "style," though I'm hard-pressedThis book seemed new to me again, it had been so long since I last read it.
Zelazny most definitely has a distinctive "style," though I'm hard-pressed to define just what that is. In part, his descriptions are short, and concise. He uses dry wit to get some points across. his characters are always fallible -- even the infallible ones.
Here, "Conrad" has a history that goes back further than anyone can really trace. He has the strength that others can only imagine, and he is very subtle about all of this. He is assigned to guide and protect a Vegan who wants to visit the historical sites of Earth. A friend/acquaintance of Conrad's, Hasan, is assigned to assasinate the Vegan to protect Earth's interests. Conrad also wants to protect Eearth's interests, and believes that the Vegan must be protected to do so.
This sounds rather simplistic, and the truth is, Zelazny weaves a tale full of sub-plots better than most. He also isn't afraid to dump you into a story without giving you and history, letting the reader discover the history by reading what's current. It's masterful!
I highly recommend this book, and nearly all books by Roger Zelazny....more
Mood. That's what this book does well -- it creates a mood that is enticing, exciting, and entrancing.
As readers, we want to keep reading, not so mucMood. That's what this book does well -- it creates a mood that is enticing, exciting, and entrancing.
As readers, we want to keep reading, not so much to find out what the characters are doing, but because we are 'rêveurs,' circus groupies who enjoy spending our nights exploring the tents.
For this, novice novelist Erin Morgenstern is somewhat brilliant. The atmosphere here is unlike anything I've read. Darker and more mysterious than Harry Potter. Sexier than The Magician.
But we have to be thankful for this mood, because without it, the book is empty.
There is a very nice twist to the story (no spoilers here), but of course it involves the circus directly.
The basic plot involves a pair of magic-touched lovers who are pitted against one another by their guardians, ancient magicians who play some cruel game against one another using real people.
The set-up is fun, but the game gets boring and the characters, at best, two dimensional. Still...there is the circus, and anytime Morgenstern brings us back with all that is magical, we're sucked in and settling down among the sawdust, waiting for daylight.
In case you can't tell, I liked the circus. I liked the characters that inhabited the circus. I even liked Celia and Marco, our love interest -- at least I liked them when they were macigians, planning and practicing for their competition. I liked them much less when they were Romeo and Juliet clones, defying their destinies and families to come together.
The mood was the great. The atmoshpere. But when all is read and done, I'm not left with anything remarkable. I'm not hanging on to the story, and I'm not wishing or waiting for the inevitable sequel. It was a fun read at the time because I enjoyed the magic of the book....more
The book definitely suffers from the usual second book syndrome. Trying to recreate the magic of the first book, by altering just a few things. KeepinThe book definitely suffers from the usual second book syndrome. Trying to recreate the magic of the first book, by altering just a few things. Keeping a few of the characters from the original book as a tie to the story's roots, Baum places a boy in the main role (Tip) instead of the girl, Dorothy. Jack Pumpkinhead replaces the Scarecrow as the "idiot" for whom everything needs explaining.
I've been reading this aloud to my boys at bed-time, and they've been enjoying it, remembering even minor details, even if we happen to have a week between nights that I read. From their point of view, it's a wonderful story and certainly had them engaged, even though some of the language was hard to follow.
I've enjoyed reading it because I've never read anything but the first in the series. We will read more of the Baum Oz books, but I will read something else in bewteen Oz stories.
While I didn't necessarily care for the story so much, I will say that the characters and interactions between characters was so incredibly different from anything else I've read. Perhaps that's why the boys have been enjoying it as much as they have. Even Harry Potter doesn't compare to absurdities and uniqueness in these Oz books.
Although I've had some fun reading this, I can't exactly give it a recommendation. It's just a bit too slow and with no real plot....more
Maybe five stars isn't entirely accurate...let's say it's four and a half and rounded up.
I struggled with the first chapter (half a star gone) and losMaybe five stars isn't entirely accurate...let's say it's four and a half and rounded up.
I struggled with the first chapter (half a star gone) and lost interest early and had to put the book down and come back to it. I struggled again but pushed through and am very glad I did. (Though there really was no question that I would ... it's a Newbery winner, and it's a Gaiman).
I became completely absorbed by the characters and kept reading because I wanted to know where the story was going (shouldn't that usually be why we keep reading?)
Something that occurred to me as I got further along, was that I couldn't remember reading anything quite like it. Reading something tremendously new (for me, at least) made it just that much sweeter. I don't want to dwell on the plot -- you can find lots of plot summaries here. Just know that there's a reason Gaiman has become such a treasured authored -- he writes like nobody else. And that's not just the way he puts his words together ... it starts with his way at looking at the story and then deciding how best to tell it. He comes at a story from a very unique view-point and he manages to make his characters very human -- even when they're not....more
In my review of Book One (for which I've taken many pot shots from readers who feel my opinions are wrong) I said that I wouldn't be reading Book TwoIn my review of Book One (for which I've taken many pot shots from readers who feel my opinions are wrong) I said that I wouldn't be reading Book Two because I don't like being played for a sucker, and the cliffhanger ending played me big time.
Well, I'm eating those words. I just read Book Two, and of course this time I went in knowing that it was part of a series and OF COURSE it would end in a cliff-hanger moment, so I wasn't disappointed when I read it.
Why did I read it? Because my daughter read it and I wanted to stay tuned to what she's reading. And...I didn't dislike the first book. I thought it was quite well written, in fact, I just didn't like being surprised by the non-ending (I read it before all the hype and before it was ever printed anywhere that it was the first book in a series).
This book isn't quite as strong as the first book. There's plenty of the same old characters, and there are a few new ones tossed in. There's a plot that can be seen coming all the way from the far side of the game field, and there's still the main character who's like-able, but just doesn't seem to catch on to things until late. Still, it's fun to see what's happened to our favorite characters, and we want to cheer them on as if they really were stars of a game.
It is a quick, easy read, and I can't imagine any teenager NOT reading it if they'd read the first book. Fortunately, it can be picked up and read without having read the first book. It explains enough of the back story that a person could read this book first.
On to the third, which my daughter read in one afternoon.......more