Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

6567843We are back with the witches in an operatic drama at the mystery dinner theater.  While I'm very glad that Magrat is now gone, I'm not sure if I enjoy the replacement.  I'll need more time with Perdita X. Dream to know for sure--because first impressions are not too strong here.

A cheese baron has bought the oft suffering opera house on the cheap.  Probably because it has a phan--hmm, hmm--ghost and all the actors have superstitions and egos the size of Ankh-Morpork.  But what is our ego in the space of our destiny?  The wit is certainly on point in this novel even if the mystery is wide open.  

I also appreciate the extra scenes with Death, who happens to be my favorite discworld character (though Rincewind runs a tight race with him), especially when he is interacting with Granny Weatherwax.

Nanny Ogg does an exceptionally Ogg job explaining, “You needed at least three witches for a coven. Two witches was just an argument.” She can't just make Agnes join the coven so she tells Granny about her book, The Joy of Snacks, and the money.  How can you not want to read Terry Pratchett's puns?

As the book never gets around to saying, it's not over until the fat lady sings.  I hope you enjoy your night at the opera, but whatever you do, don't sit in Box number eight.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Unicorn Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle

I was incredibly disappointed in this collection.  When I pick up an anthology, I do not expect to love every story.  I am picking up a mixed bag of authors to expose myself to different works and see if there might be an author I have been missing.  

Unicorns are very popular creatures right now, and I know very little of their lore or tales throughout time.  I thought this anthology would be a great way to see where the humble unicorn has been.  Plus, there are some serious powerhouse authors gathered here and it opens with such a promising introduction.  

The first story starts to give me pause into how this anthology is going to turn out.  Story two kept the down slide continuing.  I couldn't even finish reading the third story.  Story four was dark, but I finished it.  The ending sentence made me truly wonder if there was really any hope for this anthology having anything good.  

Then I read story five, Ghost Town by Jack Haldeman II from 1992.  I loved it.  It was the gem I was looking for, a new author to check out.

Story six was some kind of modern folktale that got a little confusing and I just skimmed through it.  Never made it through story seven either.  Story eight was another dark and sad version of unicorns.  

Story nine, The Highest Justice by Garth Nix, brought me in touch with a prodigious fantasy author I had been wondering about.  His writing tone was one I think I could enjoy and will be interested in trying out some of his full novels.

Story ten through twelve went back to the dark and disturbing. 

I had lost all hope of this anthology being any good.  Then I reached Unicorn Triangle by Patricia McKillip and My Son Heydari and the Karkadann by Peter S. Beagle.  The two powerhouse authors.  

Even though McKillip's writing can be haunting and sad, she always has a brilliance and poignancy.  Good is always trying to shine through the darkness.  And Beagle's eastern look at the unicorn was just amazing.  I'm so glad that I decided to push through for those two.

Then I reached another unknown-to-me author, Jane Yolen, and her tale The Transfigured Hart.  A tender coming of age story that was excellently told and beautiful for its shortness.

For creatures that are supposed to be about purity, this anthology was disturbing.  I was very disappointed to have to skip complete stories and skim through others.  Most of the stories were just down right grotesque and had atrocious language and themes.  The four stories I did enjoy, I'm still wondering if the whole was worth the sum of its parts.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Rebel Born by Amy Bartol

I was trying to read another ARC and get the review published before its release date but failing miserably.  The book clearly had never seen an editor, and I just could not immerse into the story.  Then a reminder popped up that Rebel Born released this week, and I had not read it yet.  I immediately switched books and could not put down Rebel Born.  I read it in 16 hours.

Let me start by saying I loved this book.  It is one of the best books I have ever read.  Though it is sci-fi, the feel of fiction borders so close to the science.  The fiction part of Rebel Born felt well researched and incredibly plausible in the world today.  (While I love sci-fi like Star Trek, the reality of it is just never there for me.  It will always remain an alien story in the space of make believe.)  The implications of the neurochemistry and quantum mechanics kept this novel from escaping into the world of pure imagination.

The evolution of Roselle and the relationships around her are all incredibly well done compared to the first two novels, which teetered incredibly close over the romance border.  I was very pleased with the direction this novel took and did not feel let down with the resolutions made.

I was also incredibly pleased with the provocative treatment of the gods and our understanding of them.  Let's just throw some ancient history in with our provocative, futuristic science.  Yes, please!  I mean, are they really different anyway?  Think about it.

The entire novel was close to complete perfection until we got to the ending.  Ouch!  Up until the last chapter I had been incredibly reticent to ever have to take a break.  Who needs eating and sleeping?  We are getting the peppiest prep talk before the battle for our very existence when the book just ends.  Fists half-raised in the air.  And it ends with one of those look-into-the-future chapters.  

There is some allusion that another story lies in the ending somewhere, but it is not a guarantee.  It was kind of a slap in the face to end the book that way.  Still one of the best stories to get there, though.  And still highly deserves five stars.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception

8130012Nobody is smarter than Artemis Fowl.  And that might just be a good thing for Holly Short this time.  She is going to need the boy genius to save all of fairy civilization from the ultimate arch nemesis.

Another fantastic addition to the Artemis Fowl series.  Quick paced and fun to read, these novels are an excellent selection when I'm looking for lighthearted reads before bed.

While I was once leery to continue this series, I will now see them out to the end.  Even when they have their slow moments, they still fill a purpose in my reading schedule.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer

Image result for The Eternity CodeThere are just times when a middle grade novel is what I need to read.  That is usually after a heavy dose of academic reading.  While Appalachian Reckoning was fascinating and had the ability to spark some very interesting conversation in the house, it was extremely exhausting to read.

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code was a great way to wind down and relax my brain.  It was entertaining as any other heist story you may come across.  Artemis senior is home and ready to get on the straight and narrow.  This does not sit well with Artemis junior, however.  How are they supposed to keep their vast hordes of gold incoming with legitimate business?

In his final scheme, Artemis plans to make enough gold to keep the status quo.  Our favorite boy genius uses stolen fairy tech to entice the head of the competing big shot to set up the Fowls for life.  Unfortunately, Artemis bites off more than he can chew by trying to swindle one of the most pompous, greedy villains and almost reveals all of fairy existence to a manipulative jerk at the same time.

It becomes incredibly easy to root for the complete destruction of Jon Spiro.  The heist of the century unfolds as Artemis most enlist the help of fairy kind to save Butler and himself from his own miscalculations.

It was a fun, fast-paced read for the quick entertainment I needed after a slog through academia.  The emotions are all over the map on this one, and I just could not put it down.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy by et al.

I had never heard of Hillbilly Elegy.  (I must have been living under a rock or something.)  When Appalachian Reckoning showed up on my Netgalley list, I was instantly interested.  The subject matter is incredibly close to my heart.  I looked up Hillbilly Elegy and read some synopses.  I was aggravated.  My family made the same diaspora from Appalachia to the Rust Belt during the Great Depression.  They moved into the very town Vance worked his way out of.  They lead incredibly similar lives, but we came to very different conclusions on how to handle our situations.

I was very interested to read responses from others who live in the same region.  Were others as offended with Vance's representation as I was, or did I stand alone?  Well, honestly, I got a little more than I bargained for in Appalachian Reckoning.  The first half of the book is a collection of response essays of an academic nature.  The second half is more personal responses in all kinds of literary formats.

The high brow academic section was exhaustive to read.  Lots of citations and little heart.  While it was more than I was looking to read at the time, it was exactly as to be expected with a collection of academic essays.  I was more impressed with the second half of the book.  All in all, various authors made excellent points for and against the concepts Vance preaches to his readers. 

The appeal of reading the responses from people who come from the same place and have led similar lives is just human nature.  That sense of connectivity is something we all seek.  I was drawn to this collection by its subject and relativity to my life.  I kept reading because of the social questions it raised and the intellectual conversation it sparked. 

My brain needed a good workout after lots of fiction reading.  Appalachian Reckoning provided.  This book certainly isn't for everyone, but it should make everyone who takes the time to read it think a great deal on how human nature works.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame sans Merci by Joe Benitoz

45170944What another wonderful segment in the world of Lady Mechanika.  I have absolutely loved this series.  The steampunk ascetic, the myths, the atmosphere, the great characters.  I could absolutely go on to list a hundred things I enjoy about this series.  It makes me understand why people buy serial comics when the subject is something they enjoy so thoroughly.

Volume 4 was becoming a little gruesome and dark as Mr. Lewis confronted his past.  I actually put off reading La Belle Dame sans Merci until it was published as Volume 5 actually.

Mr. Lewis's only solace was at the bottom of a bottle until he meets a beautiful and mysterious widow.  Love is certainly in the air.  But what happens when that love turns deadly?  It's old, reliable friend pitted against an irresistible spark of light.  The emotions are running high and deep in Volume 5. 

The level of fantasy in La Belle Dame sans Merci is over 9,000.  We are talking fairies, people.  The steampunk was very low key this arc, and I'm not hating it.  I felt a complete revitalization for the series.  There is enough mystery and intrigue to the overarching plot to keep me coming back for the next arc.

Can I just say--buy this volume just for the art on page 62.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  It is available now.