Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The final journey with Temeraire

We have just two weeks left before we say goodbye to Temeraire the dragon. For more information on the novel, visit Naomi Novik's page. There will be a contest for an autographed copy announced soon as well!! My thoughts on the series that has spanned a decade and captivated me from the beginning are below.

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

The concluding novel of the "Temeraire" series has arrived. After many, many months of anticipation (and a full circle of my time on Netgalley), I had chills picking up League of Dragons. It is the conclusion to a nine book series with which I have had my ups and downs. The bar has been set pretty high, even for a dragon. Utmost honesty and realization here--the level of hype means I was going to be undoubtedly left wanting with this novel. 

I was not disappointed with this novel, just left a little flat because I had an entire year to hype it up in my head despite my best efforts not to do so. The war with Napolean is on its last legs and all stops must be pulled to ensure a victory. The precarious balance of Lawrence and Temeraire's position in society with their battle prowess is felt the most in this novel. There is plenty of tension to keep the pages turning.

Where it all fell a little flat for me was the politics. Wars are not won through their heroic battles; they are won afterwards in a drawing room. I get that. Showing me all the sides of the war is novel worthy. Lawrence's decisions are very guided by the reception of his sense of duty compared to the leadership. I was just disappointed to see so much precious page space dedicated to the politic maneuverings when I fell in love with this series for the dragons in the war for Europe. I got a lot of verbage and very little action. There were many characters missing that I would have liked at minimum a cameo for the final novel.

The ending was finite, but again, flat and slightly rushed. Overall the book felt like a trope of socioeconomic commentary instead of the fantasy debate on how the world would have been if we had dragons. I still happily recommend everyone read the "Temeraire" series. Being able to read the series all the way through without interruption is a large recommending factor as well.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Monday

On this day of sunshine, grills, and pool season, remember why you are able to do all those fun things. As summer unofficially begins, it is the season of vacations and beach reads (even if you have no beach, pool, or deck, there is sunshine and a greater need to get away from your kids). Go pick up a book and start the unofficial summer season in the best possible bookworm way.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

I took another zany break with Terry Pratchett this month. When I seem to be taking life too seriously, it helps to read some Pratchett. His satire can really put your perspective back into order.

This is the seventh book of Discworld. While they are absolutely not required to read in order, as many are standalone novels, I find that it gives each book the best flow. The overall atmosphere gains traction with each story that can be missed if you just breeze in midway.

This twisted tale of the Egyptian and Greek ancient civilizations is not my favorite of Pratchett's pieces. Something is just missing from the characters and scenery. The satire of religion and beliefs was spot on, though. Pratchett just has a way of pointing out the obvious flaws in something without tearing the system down.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Call of the Syren

Thankfully the sunshine has decided to linger around a little extra for me today. Clouds are definitely brewing, but they are happy, fluffy white puffballs for right now. I actually kind of feel like a Bob Ross painting sitting on my deck right now. With the springtime blossoming all around, I have been in a mood for light-hearted reading. I continue with the "Septimus Heap" series today.

Syren by Angie Sage

Another good showing from Angie Sage. The whole series has been enthusiastically fun while being about some pretty serious business. I guess I just appreciate the style of making our mundane, modern things Magyckal with twisted spellings and exaggerated capitalization. Not to mention the actual magic being activities we have been doing as household chores all these years. (Seems legit that a medieval serf time-traveler would find a Toaster magical.) The series has given me a boost of imagination and flair. I really look forward to the next novel--and maybe even the next series, "TodHunter Moon".

The characters pick up right after the close of Queste.  While everyone in the previous couple of books have been scattering about on their individual journeys, we see a complete collision course of destiny in Syren. The villains are up to no good as usual, but there is nothing exceptionally dark about these books. They don't take themselves seriously, yet they have some really good things to say about family, friendship, loyalty, and all those other good morals you want your kids to learn. I really enjoy the lessons imparted from Septimus' and Wolf Boy's time spent in the Young Army. If you are ever flying off to deserted islands on your dragon, remember your Hostile Territory pack.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Riding the waves of imagination

It is new book Tuesday! I have one for you today that is so new, it isn't even on the shelves yet. Ha! Check out below what I had to say about a collection of short stories by one of fantasy's legends.

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

This is a compilation of short stories, which was a refreshing pace to read for me. I could easily pick it up in the middle of my hectic day, read a quick fantasy, and get back to work after I had finished the story. The stories are the quintessential escape for the lunch hour. Warning side effect of these stories: I did find myself daydreaming for most of the day after reading just small pieces. These are the types of fantasies that open you to the fae and just don't let go immediately. I felt like I had become part of the wind and words, floating around waiting to be reality.

No two stories focused on the same characters or places, or time for that matter, but there were some common themes that could tie all the stories together. Pure fantasy and fae mysticism. We meet witches, gorgons, sea deities, and mermaids. Humans and imagination blend until you aren't sure which are there in front of you. The words are lyrics that just sweep you away in the siren's song. Overall, most of the stories seem to have some pull to the sea. I have not read that many sea-faring fantasies in my day, but these ones would be sure to compete with the best.

My favorite of the collection was "Gorgon in the Cupboard." I already want to go back and re-read that story. McKillip's writing just swept me away into such a vivid world of words come to life. I was so unaware that the ending had even happened, though on reflection it made perfect sense. Many of the others had that seem ethereal hold over me, but others just never seemed to capture me. I will easily give this collection 4 stars. The novella being my least enjoyed story keeps it from getting all the stars; since it was the longest story in the collection, I was hoping for the most interaction there. I will still be recommending this to any and all people with imagination.

I have not read many compilations, but this one just cannot be missed. Check it out June 14, 2016 from Tachyon Publications. Amazon has an awesome pre-order sale going on now.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'm feeling glad, I got sunshine in a bag

After enjoying a long morning in the sunshine to recharge the batteries after so much rain, I am back with some more reviews. I really needed these blue skies; I must be part reptile. The sunshine just makes me wake up. Now I may be able to actually keep up to date with my reviews.

Queste by Angie Sage

Every novel, I have been progressively impressed with the "Septimus Heap" series. I started them as a filler for my "Harry Potter" whole, and now I have a respect for them in their own right. The wit and humor are stellar. The writing style is light and easy to get through making these books perfect to keep your spirits up during a week of rain. There is a constant sense of sarcasm that just fits my personality perfectly. The magic in the book is fun and everything has flair. This series creates a vivid journey into my imagination.

Queste does not deviate from any of the beauty of the first 3 novels. The characters continue along with their charm in a new journey to discover the House of Foryx. We get a handful of new characters to build out the story and keep everything interesting while maintaining all the great qualities to have come before this story. I seriously can find no fault with these novels if you are looking for something happy, witty, and adventuresome.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

From Muspelheim to Niflheim

Time just seems to disappear completely on me these days. I was doing such a brilliant job of keeping up to date with everything, and then-bam!-one day missed turns into a week later. I was busy with organizing the house, cleaning up the yard after 10 days of rain and travelling with the husband. There was definitely some reading in there to recuperate from massive amounts of cleaning and yardwork. The briefest of reviews will come today as I get back on track with my upcoming novels for Netgalley and an interview with Anna Kashina. An exciting conclusion to the week, in my humble opinion.

Iceberg by Clive Cussler

I enjoyed The Mediterranean Caper so much, I picked up Iceberg to see if it was a fluke or maybe, just maybe, I actually like something out of the adventure/spy genre. I think I managed to come across an author that has plenty published to give me a genre shake up every now and again. The novelty might lie largely in the date of publication and the removal of the PC filter. There is actually some pretty forward thinking stuff in these novels when you just let an author write the character as he comes out of imagination.

Dirk Pitt entertains me. I was even thrown off the scent a couple of times because the plot became over the top conspiracy level. I just never would have gone there in a million years, and I didn't hate that the author did. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

New week, new genre

It's a new week, so let's get it kicked off with a new genre. Well, to be accurate, a new genre for me to be reading and reviewing on my blog. I have never liked the mystery/thriller/suspense/adventure genre and have often made note of that when I read books that walk the line with other genres I do read from regularly. I feel that too often the authors from the world of intrigue never seem to develop foreshadowing correctly. They play their hands much too early, and I am left reading a book for which I know the ending.

The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

Reasons I read this book:
  1. Recommendation. When I worked as a bookseller, it was my job to know all the sections in my store. I needed to not just know the best sellers from each genre, but what made them best sellers. I also interacted with many readers who held different opinions to mine. (This is a very healthy way to get your dose of reality for the day.) Clive Cussler was recommended to me when I got into a conversation with a customer in regards to my aversion to their favorite genre. I was told that Cussler is not an average intrigue writer. His stories aren't about spies or detectives in the stereotypical sense, and the mysteries are always a little bit unusual. It seems only fair of me to keep an open literature mind if I am to successfully recommend books to other readers, and my library had a copy of the first in the series. (Weird pet peeve: I must always start with the very first book or video game in a series; even if the current plot is completely independent of prequels. This can be tricky when a series or franchise began before 2000.)
  2. Publication Date. The book was published in 1973. It is a whole other world. I almost felt like I was reading a fantasy book in a way. The dialogue used is from another era; the jargon is a little before my time and places have changed names, though most of the technology is an overlap so I never felt completely adrift. There were often references I had to search because they have become dated.  
  3. Publication Date, part 2. I am also completely in love with the lack of a PC filter. These books say what comes to mind about the people and places around them without worrying about hurting someones' feelings. I miss that in literature. Why do we always have to make every single demographic happy? It's unrealistic.
  4. Burn out. I seriously had a fantasy/literary burn out; to the level a young adult/middle grade book wasn't going to palate cleanse. I really needed to get a book way outside my reading pay grade. This one did that with flying colors.
I loved it. Actually, I read the book in one day. They do not appear to be long term reads (as I am now half way through Iceberg in just half a day). This adventure was the exact break I needed from the epic journey of fantasy. Even light, fast young adult reads can really get you bogged down in the emotions. Dirk Pitt keeps you interested but not overly invested. I now understand a little more clearly why people get addicted to this genre. I was also pleased that I never really knew exactly what was going to happen. I had several hunches that ended up being spot on but could still be surprised by some of the information. The story was a great escape and has me renewed for the amazing line of fantasy coming out this summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The most mind-boggling book I've ever read

... and the mind-boggled review to go with it. This book was the most unique reading experience I have ever had in decades of reading.

Assassin Queen by Anna Kashina

This week we have the final novel of the "Majat Code" trilogy. I previously reviewed the first and second novels and have read a short companion novella as well. Some may recall me raving about the first novel and being slightly disappointed about the turn of the second novel. The novella was more in tune with Blades of the Old Empire and added to the hype for The Guild of Assassins. So with the letdown from the latter book, why did I get the third? More importantly, how did I feel about it?

Redeemed and exacerbated. How can you feel both of those at once? That is the mystery of the third novel of the "Majat Code." There were some extremely awesome, butt-kicking scenes reminiscent of "Blades," and the romance from "Guild" was still included. I was excited and disappointed at the same time reading this book. I can easily say I have never read anything with that emotion set previously. 

The plot devices were mostly formulaic, but a couple of instances just really threw me off my guard. Many times, characters would monologue for pages while I had already figured out the decision. There were no completely-did-not-see-that-coming moments, more wow-she-really-went-there-with-that moments. When I was lagging in my reading, one of these moments would come up. Then, five chapters later I realized I was supposed to stop reading an hour ago.

The final estimation of this book: just read it for yourself. The experience will boggle your mind. It truly was a great way to end the series. Despite the down moments and some pet peeves on writing style, I found it hard to break from reading. It was a unique reading experience and I recommend everyone else try it for themselves. I feel that the uniqueness will include incredibly varying opinions for decades to come.

Visit Angry Robot Books for more information, author interviews, and where to find your own copy. Assassin Queen publishes June 2, 2016.