Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

Image result for anne perry face of a strangerI decided to depart from my usual reading list again for a change of scenery.  I pulled a list of LDS authors and found Anne Perry.  She writes in the mystery genre, and I thought this would be a good chance to try a mystery that could be more than just the murder. 

I wasn't disappointed on that front.  The story wasn't just about the murder of Joscelin Grey.  There was a bigger argument going on with the characters.  I was also very smitten with the Victorian setting; the hansoms, the elite, the urchins.  It was all reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.

What I did not find entertaining, and almost made this novel impossible to read, was Inspector William Monk.  The major premise of his introductory novel revolves around a London detective waking up in hospital with amnesia.  

And he deals with that tragedy through the whole book with feet dragging, whining, blubbering annoyance.  This was very much a case where the author told too much instead of showing the reader the landscape and letting them wander.

The second negative was the matter of the who-dun-it portion.  I figured that out at the half-way point and had to slog through the rest of the novel dealing with the long winded red herrings. 

The clue that proves the killer's identity was not very well hidden in the foreshadowing.  It kind of stuck out like a sore thumb in the dialogue, and then the author pointed it out two more times.  Not very subtle.

I keep trying to find someone in the mystery genre worth reading, but I don't think I've found it just yet.  I'm going to give the second novel a shot because I enjoyed the Victorian setting and moral undertones of Anne Perry.  Hopefully she gets better at hiding the clues as she gains experience.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11)
Halloween decorations and candy are filling the store shelves.  Pumpkin spice has been spotted in its staple foods.  Fall is getting ready to gear up, and I'm getting ready for my favorite season.

I have never been one for seasonal reading.  Beach books, fall favorites, spring flings have never really made a difference to me.  I read what I'm feeling at the given present and be damned if it is out of season.

However, this fall, I have a couple of stories that really just go with the weather too perfectly.  I didn't read them in the fall, but I'll recommend them for fall reading.

Reaper Man is one of those fall books.  You can certainly read this book whenever you feel like; because as with any Pratchett novel it is good for time immemorial.  This is a satire of consumerism and the life of Death.

It revolves around the harvest in plot and motif, which makes it an exceptional fall novel. Death has been given the chance to Live, which makes the perfect storm of excess life for consumerism to breed.  Who doesn't want to read about soldier trolleys?

The Color of Magic, Guards! Guards!, and Reaper Man are the top of the Discworld favorites list fighting it out for the championship.  Every time I reread this one it scythes it way a little bit closer to the top--one stalk at a time, one click, one grain of sand.

This is a 5 star novel anytime, but also a perfect read to get yourself all geared for fall and the harvest.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sacred Seas by Karen Amanda Hooper

Sacred Seas (The Sea Monster Memoirs, #3)I read Tangled Tides and Dangerous Depths in 2014.  Somehow I only managed to review one of them for the blog.  Whoops.  The conclusion of the trilogy took four years to make it to print, so I reread the first two novels one weekend to catch myself up with the characters before starting in on the finale.

You can read my thoughts on Tangled Tides here.  Sorry you can't read my thoughts on novel number two.  I remember now that the story was good, but not great.  I was never inspired to write a review, and then time happened.

I have waited four years for the conclusion, plus I bought it--and I read every book I spend money on no matter what.  Now that I had reimmersed myself in the world of Yara and company, I was ready to start Sacred Seas.  

On rereading them, I still enjoyed the first novel and its fresh look at mythology, but my interest in the story has paled quite a bit.  I'm in a different point in my life.  These novels do not resonant in the same manner they did in 2014.

The conclusion was an excellent conclusion in technical terms.  It tied up all the ribbons of story line that had been floating through the waters.  It achieved what all finales require--an end.  However, I was mostly disappointed in this novel.  

Despite this being the story of Treygan and Yara, Koraline played the leading lady more often this time.  It seemed odd to throw in a whole new side of the story in the last act.  There were new characters and new plot devices.  This is probably due to taking four years to write the story.  A sudden inspiration for the ending meant that connecting pieces had to be inserted, if somewhat awkwardly.

Maybe a spin-off in the between years would have been better suited.  I would have really enjoyed a spin-off novella instead.  It would have set up the plot and Koraline would have had her own space, which she deserved being such an excellent character.

The modernizing of myth by giving the Kraken a personality and an existence beyond ship swallowing monster was fantastic.  There was so much room for him as a villain.  A love triangle, though.  Flat.

The ending saved the series for me.  Making the mythology their own and bringing ancient history into our modern times was worthy of all the time I spent rereading the first two novels and the third.

In conclusion, I'm disappointed, but I largely put that on myself.  I couldn't connect with these books at this stage in my life.  That happens when a series takes a hiatus.  No fault to the author.  Time is the enemy to all.  

I will still gladly recommend this series to anyone looking for a story steeped in Greek mythology.  It gives a nice modern twist to the classics that is reinvigorating.  These books are also probably well suited for the YA audience they are geared towards.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lady Mechanika: The Clockwork Assassin

Lady Mechanika Vol. 4: The Clockwork AssassinWe have, today, the fourth installment in the world of Lady Mechanika.  You can catch up with Vols. 1-3 here, here and here.

Our steampunk mystery for today revolves around Mr. Lewis's past colliding with his present.  There is a dark secret behind the work of Blackpool engineers, and Lady Mechanika is the leading suspect for their crimes (insert dramatic mystery music).

The first volume suitably pulled me in with its steampunk Holmesian heroine, Lady Mechanika, and her endearing drunk engineer, Mr. Lewis.  The original duo are back in action, and we get to figure out why Mr. Lewis is always drunk.

I must admit, I almost lost my way with the truncated Volume 3 and non-arc short La Dama de la Muerte.  But I persisted.  The short wasn't related to the main story and was kind of like those holiday specials of your favorite show--you watch them but wouldn't mind if they didn't find their way to the DVD release.  I wasn't going to be deterred from returning for Volume 4.

The true pull to this series is the why of Lady Mechanika, not her individual escapades.  I'm glad my curiosity prevailed because Volume 4 brought back the action and intrigue of the first volume.  Sure, I knew who-dun-it before the big reveal, but there were enough little twists and turns in the story to make it worth the investment.  Plus the gizmos and gadgets and artwork certainly more than made up for the plot simplicity.

For the numbering confusion of readers out there, this is Volume 4 of Lady Mechanika's story to find her creator.  Purchasing websites list it as Volume 5 because they consider the non-related short La Dama de la Muerte to be Volume 4.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Traitor Born by Amy Bartol

This whole novel is just page after page of tension.  I really didn't even care that this is just a repurposed Kricket series.  The world and characters are different enough to make this an entirely different read.  The author found a plot formula that works for her writing style and created another success.

While this is a book about political intrigue and love at its heart, there is something about the world and characters that make me want to read more.  Sure, the male characters are all identical in appearance and personality--and Roselle seems to fall in love with them at the drop of a hat despite having fallen in love with someone else 10 pages ago.  

Sure, the plot has been done and done again in YA novels presently--it's a badass young woman who is learning how to be herself while contending with being a badass.  The action scenes are fast-paced and thrilling while being completely unrealistic.  So many cliches!

But, that just doesn't seem to matter as I kept turning the page to find out what came next.  There is a magic to Amy Bartol that makes me read her books despite having obvious character flaws and stereotypical plots.  Her twists and turns in the action mean that 5-6 hours later I've read the entire book and emerge in the real world dazed that the day is gone.  Magic I tell you.

The path has been set for Roselle to escape her conniving mother in the Fate of Virtues.  She has become the most protected Secondborn in existence.  What will she be expected to do now?  And who will she be expected to crown the victor?  So many people and factions are trying to make Roselle their icon and their hero they have forgotten she is person, even if Secondborn and raised to fulfill her duty without question.

I'm ready to be reading the conclusion in all its glorious trope ridden plot that I won't be able to put down.  I want to be back in the worlds that Amy Bartol builds.  They are full ecosystems I just want to visit time and again.  That's what reading for entertainment is all about.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Happy Labor Day

Thanks to all those who labor and sacrifice so the people in their lives have an easier existence.  To the farmers and ranchers who work long hours so we can eat.  To the technicians and operators who destroy their health so we can have manufactured products.  Thank you one and all.  You are underappreciated and often unrecognized.

The Plastic Magician by Charlie Holmberg

My absolute go-to author when I need a perk in my reading list.  I have yet to be disappointed by a single story she has written.

The Plastic Magician is a continuation to "The Paper Magician" trilogy.  Ceony's story was wrapped up wonderfully at the end of The Master Magician, but the world still exists and time keeps on ticking.

We are now a few years along when we meet our new protagonist, Alvie Brechenmacher.  She is a character near and dear to my heart as we are identical twins.  

Alvie is an American girl heading across the pond to take an internship in Polymaking--plastic magic.  In England, she meets an incredible new cast of characters along with some excellent cameos from our favorite Folders.

The new characters are a delight and interact as well as the original cast.  While reading "The Paper Magician" trilogy will help you understand the magic system, The Plastic Magician needs to remain a story read on its own merits.  They are not the same characters and should not be compared with the originals.  This is a continuation not a copy.

Their is conspiracy and intrigue as Magicians deal with the harsh reality of inventions and intellectual protection.  Holmberg once again gives us quite a large concept to consider on progress and what does "for the greater good" really mean.  That's why I love her writing so much.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson

I was disappointed in this one.  Another grab on Netgalley that didn't pan out quite they way I was hoping.  Picking new books is tough.  When I have high hopes for a story from the synopses and it doesn't deliver on the premise advertised, I find it very hard to support the novel.

This novel plus The Queen of All Crows really put me in a bad place when trying to write helpful, objective reviews.  Even when I dislike a book, I try to remain objective that others may find what I consider faults to be entertaining or essential to their reading experience.  

Now that I have recuperated with some very excellent reading--reviews on those in the next couple days--I feel ready to write about The New Dark

This is a book about an EMP future.  There are no electronics, there is no grid; there are only mutants.  That was the hook that made me pick it off the "shelf."

I am really attracted to the idea of a world without the grid.  I gravitate towards books that have this premise.  Then the author threw in mutants.  How very X-Men.  Plenty of room to make a book impossible to put down.  Except that didn't happen.  I never really made a connection with the story and didn't feel the need to invest my time in it.

Then Sorrel comes across the Free People.  Wow.  I could be reading it completely wrong, but I really just did not like this section.  I felt like the story had stepped away from itself and onto a soapbox.  The reader was left there to wallow in the politics.  We also end up in a major metropolis run on slave labor.  Mutant and human race relations abound.  How many tropes can we shove in one manuscript?

Unfortunately, the story suffered from mediocre editing.  Maybe in ten years they can get a new editor on it and release a reboot edition.  While they're there, they can eliminate a few of the extraneous YA stereotypes.  Best of luck to any who go forward and try this novel.  I hope you find something to enlighten you.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Catching up

When we moved to the mountains, we inherited a landscape I knew very little about.  With an increased liking to be outdoors, I endeavored to spend more time outside this spring.  I learned about all the local plants and what was growing in my garden.  I revitalized the things I wanted growing and rooted out what I didn't.

It all kind of fit in with my revitalization towards reading.  Modern authors were really starting to bum me out.  I wasn't falling in love with series they way I once did.  I read a few new books this spring--and those reviews will be following in the coming days as all my plants start to go dormant and I head back indoors--but mostly I reread old favorites or got my humor back with Terry Pratchett.

What I read in the lull of gardening:

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)This just cracked me up.  Dragons and old people love story.  Prime satire of epic fantasy.  Just when I thought I was tired of epic fantasy, I just needed to read something that poked fun at to love it all again.

Eric (Discworld, #9)

Not my favorite of the series.  But Rincewind is always a great character to go with on a misadventure.  Maybe it's just because I never read Faust I didn't get to suck up as much of the satirical beauty of Pratchett.

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10)

Full on satire of the movie industry.  Even the name Holy Wood should have you in tears from laughing.  This one is in my top favorites of Discworld.

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

I read this just to compare to the Netflix series.  I'm kind of a nerd for comparing silver screen to the printed word.  I actually did enjoy the books and may dedicate some time to finishing the series--maybe...some day...

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)  Seeing Redd (The Looking Glass Wars, #2)  ArchEnemy (The Looking Glass Wars, #3)
I discussed this trilogy back when I was granted an ARC for the graphic novel continuation.  I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  This trilogy is the only retelling I approve.  You can catch up with what I think of the series here.

I'll be spending the rest of this weekend working on full reviews of the more current books I've read--some with disappointment and some with great energy.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn (Mistborn, #1)  The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)  The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)
After a soul crushing read of The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan, I was really in the mood to backtrack to some classic authors that made me a bookworm.  I needed to reassert that there are good authors out there.  There are good novels of magic and wonder and epic awesomeness.

I went back and reread the "Mistborn" trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.  I fell in love with the series immediately and they left a very lasting impression with me.  They are what all these modern authors should be aspiring to do when they create these dystopian worlds and female protagonists.

I was not disappointed in the reread.  While this time around I knew everything that was coming, I was able to absorb even more goodness from the story.  This is the absolute hallmark of a master author.  No matter how many times you read a story there is always a new angle to view and new lessons to learn.  

Vin is amazing, but she is not the story.  She is merely part of a lesson to be learned.  The world that Sanderson creates around her is cosmic and complete.  The magic system of Allomancy and Feruchemy is well thought out and dependent on the story.

A decade later and I still feel the same way about these stories.  I recommend them to every person looking to get into epic fantasy.  They are epic.  They have it all.  They are the real deal.

The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan

I actually ended up finishing this book at the end of last year, but I needed to step away before writing my review.  When I "closed" the book, I was antagonistic and aggressive towards it.  If it hadn't been on my Kindle, I probably would have thrown it out the window, down the mountain.  Now that I am sitting down to finally write up the review a lot of that emotion is coming back so I will be keeping this review incredibly brief.  

To say I am disappointed by this novel would be an understatement.  I truly enjoyed The Bullet Catcher's Daughter immensely.  The trilogy was strong, but the first novel was something new and exciting that pulled me in from the first chapter.  The series lagged a little in the middle, but it finished strong and I continued to have high hopes for the author.  I even bought Kindle and paperback copies of each.  

I knew The Queen of All Crows was going to be a new trilogy.  It would have the same protagonist and some supporting characters, but they would be in a whole new situation.  I just wish that situation hadn't felt like an overdrawn, exhausting propaganda pamphlet.  This work was so, so disappointing.

If you were a fan of The Bullet Catcher's Daughter, I would not recommend this book to you.  If you are looking for pirates, political intrigue at every corner and an all woman society, then please pick this up and find some entertainment where I just couldn't.  

I'll continue to check in with the author to see if Elizabeth handles her predicament better than my current predictions and for any new works that might go back to those bullet catching days.  But for now, I will certainly not be supporting this work. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy New Year and Happy Release Day

2017 was a big year for Slavic influence--I read The Bear and the Nightingale, Uprooted, and The Fifth Doll; I also played several video games that centered around Slavic myths.  When Penguin sent me an ARC for The Girl in the Tower, I was ready to close out my year with more cheryti and snow.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The holidays kept my reading time somewhat limited, but The Girl in the Tower was a tale that just kept pulling at me to read chapters whenever I could squeeze them in.  

I was more impressed with this novel than I was with The Bear and the Nightingale.  I don't often enjoy the second novel in a trilogy more than the first because it often seems like the author is trying way too hard to write a second novel.  Those forceful pages were not present here.  There was a growth in writing that made the cohesion of storytelling better this time around.

While Vasilisa wandered the woods and mingled with cheryti in the first novel, she was a truly wild spirit in this novel.  The magic was more present and more real.  Perhaps it was all because we knew the characters and the myths now, the author didn't have to invest as much setup and we, the readers, got to enjoy the wild ride.  There even managed to be some tiny little twists.

I'm really glad that I got introduced to this series.  It has been an exciting set of reads and new stories.  For any bookworm, that's all we can ask.  The conclusion of the trilogy is due to be released this year as well.

The novel releases today, and I will be giving a hardback copy, direct from the publisher, of The Bear and the Nightingale to one lucky reader so they can get caught up before picking up The Girl in the Tower.  Check out my Giveaway tab for your entry.

Here's to another wonderful year of the printed word.