Friday, January 11, 2019

A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis

This little gem got lost in a very large physical to-read pile.  After a very serious purging and rationalizing what I was realistically going to read from that pile and what needed to go to my local library, I finally managed to get A Riddle in Ruby to the top of the reading list.  

Thanksgiving had left behind gratitude for a cleaner house and the company of family in town for the holiday.  I wanted to keep the spirit of good nature going through to Christmas on out to the New Year.  This meant picking up that middle grade novel that had been buried in my to-read pile for three long years.  

 A Riddle in Ruby centers around a group of pirates who are actually involved in a deep underground conglomerate with a false name.  The leading lady is on her way to becoming a professional lock-pick for her pirate crew when a chemystral powered carriage charges down a collision course.

The action is well placed and dispersed between excellent bouts of character building and some truly humorous dialogue.  My main gripe with the story is the alternate fiction of the novel setting in Revolutionary Philadelphia.  (All who have read my blog before know I don't like muddying the historical waters with alternate fiction when the story could easily have just been written in a completely make believe world.)

The premise of magical chemistry and the cast of characters are all incredibly entertaining; even the villains are enjoyable to read.  Younger grades will need to be strong readers to handle the antiquated terminology that goes along with the Colonial setting, but older readers should appreciate the length of the story along with the swashbuckling action.

Davis makes a story that is uplifting, humorous and clean--while perhaps not entirely wholesome with all the lock-picking and secret societies.

Plus side to finding this ARC three years later is the entire series is now published.  Guess that means I don't have to wait to continue along with Aruba Teach.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

11295643I have been reading long enough that I no longer remember how exactly I got pulled into the fantasy genre.  

In elementary school, I mostly I read Boxcar Children, Shiloh, Sidewise Stories, Bailey School Kids and Boys Against Girls.  While the Bailey series has mythical creatures, they weren't what I would really call fantasy novels.

During school, I dutifully read my curriculum, which was heavy in Paulsen, London, Hinton, and other very realistic coming of age stories.  It wasn't until I was in high school where I had well outgrown my curriculum and had quite a bit of extra time on my hands.  I needed extracurricular reading.  I asked friends for their favorite reads.  Fantasy books were the ones that I added to my shelves.

Lord of the Rings was one of my favorite trilogies until Brandon Sanderson came along.  I loved the high fantasy of Tolkien.  His elves were specifically most alluring to me.

Then I read Pratchett.  Oh how Pratchett can shine a light on something and make all the warts visible.  The Lords and Ladies of Discworld really are no different from Tolkien's elves, but you don't close Lords and Ladies and want to be an elf.

This was easily my favorite of the Discworld series that focuses on the witches.  I enjoyed their traveling abroad, but this one has lessons.  The novel has quantum mechanics, quashing romantic frippery, the importance of semantics, and being comfortable with who you are.

In fact, my favorite section in the whole book is when Nanny Ogg describes the elves, and she explains semantics.  Words are powerful.  Most of them have been forgotten in modern language, especially since we have somehow bastardized meanings to better suit our moods.

Remember... elves are glamorous.  They project glamour.  No one ever said elves were nice.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Outlaw and the Upstart King by Rod Duncan

Sorry to the author and publishers for not getting out a release day review.  Best laid plans and all that...  I had a very exciting holiday season dealing with a credit card thief, but countered it with Christmas caroling and excellent friends at church.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King made me glad that I gave Duncan another shot.  I was very vocal that The Queen of All Crows left me seriously underwhelmed with the "Gas-Lit Empire" series.  I felt it was a poorly contrived attempt at New Age feminism that just did not fit well with the Elizabeth Barnabus built in the first trilogy.  

Duncan refreshes the series with an entirely new character.  Heck, we don't even see Elizabeth until Part Two.  Once Elizabeth introduces herself to Elias, we finish the novel switching between perspectives.

The new leading gent Elias No-Thumbs has a name you just have to get the story behind.  The small blurb showing him as a leading character on Netgalley is the sole reason I requested the ARC and headed back to the Gas-Lit Empire at all.

Elias is a man down on his luck and living off the scrapings of the rich and mighty he used to rub shoulders with.  He sells his freedom for a ride on an unwelcome smugglers rig and gets enslaved in a glycer factory.  He then sells his future for revenge.  Little did he know what we would find on that return trip when he signed the oath with his blood.

This is not a happy novel.  It is filled with disgust, shame, dirt and hardship.  There is pain.  There is angst.  But I read every last sentence with rapt attention.  I haven't read a book ensconced in the darker side of human emotions combined with the hopes of faith and love in ages.  Too often you get the dark ennui with only the devil for company or you get a pink-spewed rainbow of endless joy.  The lack of balance has sunk many a great story.  

Congratulations, Duncan, on making a story that showed sides of the human experience I haven't read in a long while and bringing me back to why I loved the "Gas-Lit Empire."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl was fun and witty with plenty of action and development to keep the pages turning.  I went to my local library to see if the action and good humor continued in the rest of the series.

The Arctic Incident stepped the game up a notch.  The stakes were higher.  A new villain was born.  Old enemies became new alliances.  

Standard spy book stuff.  A bit to human spy, though.  The magic and fairy essence just seems to be missing from this novel despite it taking place in the fairy realm.  I was actually quite disappointed.

Unfortunately, my library only had up to book two, so I'm not going to see if the series rights itself any time soon.  (I have to hope that it must since it continues on for six more books.)

Sorry for such a brief review, I just had such lukewarm feelings.  No hate, but no love either.  Makes for short thoughts.

Monday, December 10, 2018

An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle

177363Had quite an odd moment with this novel.  I reached a point in the story where a Bible quote is discussed.  Immediately after my morning read, I watched the funeral for George H. W. Bush where the exact same Bible quote was read.  I have never had reading so relevant to my life.  It was a very eerie day.  But it really highlighted the beauty of Madeleine L'Engle to me.

To the book itself...  

Polly, the oldest child of Meg and Calvin, is sent to the Murrys farm for the summer to help her education.  There she runs into a fellow she met on a random beach on a vacation in Greece--which is just down right odd.  I know the world is a small place, but it just felt forced in the book.

Not only does she run into such an unusual suspect, but she also manages to walk herself right through a tesseract to ancient America.  (Remember those people we read about in ASTP?  They're kind of back.)

While I did not like the premise one bit, the book is certainly filled with excellent drama.  This is a book about death that triggers some serious philosophical debate.  Because it is about death, it is also very much a book about life.  

Polly is presented with challenges that mean the difference between childhood and adulthood.  I respect L'Engle presenting growing up as maturing, not overly flamboyant rebelling.  The young adult genre could stand to remember that.

This was not my favorite in the "Time Quintet," but I see the series as more of a thematic collection--the concept of spirituality inside science.  (Sometimes this novel isn't even boxed in the set.)

You can really read them in whichever order you please because the story lines are unique and finite.  But as I stated above, this is a thematic series, and reading them in published order builds the themes and ideas.  The characters aren't the main point.  Something that no longer seems done in today's writing.

Overall, I think the series is worth more than its individual parts, but I feel An Acceptable Time is well worth the time reading.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Small Gods by Terry PratchettThis is most commonly cited as grand poobah when I ask people which Discworld novel is their favorite.  I'm not sure why.

Now, now--don't pull out the torch and pitchforks just yet.  Terry Pratchett is preeminent in the writing of fantasy satire.  I even rank religious satire at the peak.  I'm just saying I'm not sure why Small Gods is listed in the coveted number one slot of Discworld novels.  I mean, who doesn't love trumped up turtles?  But even the cute, shelled geniuses can't sway me.

The pacing is incredibly slow, however.  It took me forever to read this novel and was honestly sluggish enough I chose to read several other novels before finishing Small Gods.  This is the first book I've struggled to complete in some time, and I was surprised it was a Discworld novel. 

We clearly are poking fun at organized religion and its disingenuous past in Small Gods.  It just isn't as well handled as many of Pratchett's other works.  The satire is clunky and pushed full in our face with exhaustive dialogue.  Subtlety has been completely lost in the desert with the small gods apparently.  

The philosophy versus religion, as well as the crisis of faith, undertones are in some places aggressive and in others passive.  Passive-aggressive is annoying.  No one likes it.  It jars the story telling.

The characters were some of the most lackluster in the Disc's part of the multiverse of any novel I have read so far.  I think I may have even liked the Faustian characters better--shiver.

I really didn't like Moving Pictures either, so I guess I just want my satire without cliche.  (Is that statement even really allowed to exist?)  

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

A look at what the future holds.  Or does it?  That is the beauty behind this collection of short stories by Arwen Elys Dayton.  It will make you think and debate about a topic that is very real.  Are we meant for modification?  Where do we draw the line in the sand?  Are humans capable of playing God?

You may remember that I reviewed the start of the "Seeker" series from Arwen Elys Dayton a few years ago.  They were an excellent set of young adult fantasies with serious depth of character.  When Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful hit Netgalley, I had to request a copy.  (You can check out my "Seeker" reviews here and here.)

This is not an anthology, but it is a series of short stories.  This novel is a timeline of human evolution.  Each story revolves around a character experiencing our transition from human to something evolved.  Their stories are relative.  Through Reverend Tadd, we even get to see how the human reaction evolves.

This book will seriously make you think about our future.  It lays the foundation for conversations that are being had now in the scientific community but will be had around the kitchen table soon. 

At first, I was a little off with the short story chapter style.  I really got involved with the characters and their part of the human equation when their story would be over.  Every chapter has a conclusion to the individual voice with little bridge to the next chapter.  It was a little jarring.  However, each short story is beautifully built, and I really appreciated the short story format by the end of the book.

You will be able to get your copy Tuesday, December 4.  Head here to pre-order your very own copy.  You won't be disappointed.