Monday, December 20, 2010

An Update in the Kingdom

There haven't been a lot of reviews in the Book Kingdom lately, and I apologize for that. Things have not been going well on this end for a while. In the past three years, 9 of my family members have passed away. Some were from natural causes or illnesses. My great-aunt and great-uncle were in their nineties. One of my uncles died in an accident.

This weekend, my cousin passed away. She was 35 years old, and was the victim of a violent attack. My family is quite obviously devastated. It makes blogging take a very far backseat to everything else. I've been doing a lot of reading because it helps to keep the grief at bay, gives me time to process. A lot of it is re-reading books I've already read. It's like spending time with old friends, a comfort.

The plan is to return to regularly scheduled reviews starting after Christmas. New reviews will be posted on Mondays, with specials at other times during the week as they occur.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Staying Dead and Curse the Dark by Laura Anne Gilman

I think that these books are one of the most interesting concepts that I've read in a while. I picked them up thinking they were going to be paranormal romance. They are definitely paranormal, but there's not anywhere near as much romance as I expected. Don't get me wrong, there is romance. It's a much smaller part of the novels than usual. This one fits much better into the newer urban fantasy subgenre. It's quickly becoming my favorite genre overall. Who doesn't like it when a heroine kicks some major baddie butt?

Wren is a Retriever. If someone has something stolen and wants it back, she's your go-to girl. Her partner Sergei handles the business side. Wren is the Talent of the partnership, handling Current in order to get the job done. Usually, a Talent of her caliber is governed by the Council. Wren operates outside of Council boundaries as a Lonejack, one of many freelance magicians in the city. She is also a friend to the Fatae, the supernatural beings who live in the city. As a side-effect of her Current-use, she shorts out the fuses in her apartment on a regular basis, can't use cell phones, and can only use dial-up for her internet connection.

In Staying Dead, Wren is asked to retrieve the cornerstone of a building that includes protective spells. She has to get information through her unusual sources: a four foot tall demon with white fur and red eyes that looks like a miniature polar bear, and a wizzart, a Talent user who has taken in too much Current and has gone insane as a side effect. She ends up encountering a ghost in a deadly situation.

In Curse the Dark, her task is to retrieve a particularly nasty parchment that makes anyone who reads it disappear. It has been stolen from the House of Holding, a building where no magic can be worked that is guarded by monks. Wren and Sergei track the parchment across Italy and back to the United States where they discover it has ended up in their own city. Meanwhile, the Council, the Lonejacks, and the Fatae are at odds. Fatae are being beaten by a hate group, and lives are at stake.

I have to say that I was not a fan of Gilman's writing at first. In Staying Dead, she does a poor job of explaining her version of magic, and doesn't do a very good job of setting up the mythos of her novels. I was totally confused about what she was talking about for the first ten or fifteen pages. The writing was unclear and not set out in a logical way. As I kept reading, the writing got better, and I was hooked by the end of the first book. It is very clear that Gilman has set these books up as a series. There are quite a few events in the novels that have no resolution and even seem out of place at times.

I really enjoyed both books, and I would highly recommend them. Gilman's novels are plot-driven as opposed to being character-driven, and I don't read enough of that type of book in the paranormal romance genre. I think that I would totally not be able to be a Talent in Wren's world--I couldn't give up my electronic gizmos! Be prepared to be confused at the beginning of the first book. It's worth it to muddle through to the magicky goodness on the other side.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's books. I think that when I began delving into the world of paranormal romance, her Dark Hunters series was one of the first I discovered, along with J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. It has been a while since I read through the Dark Hunters books, and I plan to pick them up again here soon. The TBR pile never gets smaller...

I hadn't read any of Kenyon's League novels until now. I picked this one up because of a conversation I overheard at a Kelly Armstrong signing, actually. I've read a few futuristic novels, but most of them are at best oddly done. Kenyon's was fantastic. I had no problem with believing in the setting like I have in other books.

I loved the characters, too. How can you not love a man named Syn? I loved the wordplay between him and Shahara about what the C.I. stood for. The characters were intelligent, and they were people I could have quite happily spent time with.

Here's a quick synopsis: Shahara is responsible for the care and feeding of her three siblings as the oldest. One of her sisters has a gambling problem and has landed herself in the hospital. In the future, hospitals won't continue to provide care if you don't pay. Shahara has only a few days to come up with the money to pay for her sister's health care or they will turn her out, resulting in her death.

Shahara, a bounty hunter, takes a contract for C.I. Syn. Syn is convicted of the rape and murder of Kiara, the daughter of a government official. Shahara doesn't know that Kiara is still alive and in love with Nyk, one of Syn's compatriots. She's already convicted him in her mind and is committed to bringing him in. Syn convinces her to let him go, but then Shahara strikes a deal with some of Syn's enemies. The two of them learn about each other as they search for the evidence that will keep Syn safe.

If you like Kenyon's Dark Hunter novels, you will certainly enjoy this book. I think that if you've read other futuristic novels and think they're hard to swallow, this one will make you try again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hornet Flight by Ken Follett

I have a huge TBR pile, as does pretty much any book blogger or reader. I've been working my way through slowly but surely. I think I'm about 5 books into a box that holds at least 50...It's a marathon, people!

I would say that most of the books I'm going to be reviewing for a while are books that are a little older. I'll try to throw in some other books--I've got a Sherrilyn Kenyon book and a new Elizabeth Moon book review coming up soon. There will also be an interview!

But on to the book! I have a confession. I love reading about World War II. It's an absolutely fascinating time period. There was so much going on, so much corruption, so much amazing sacrifice, and so much triumph of the human spirit. Most of the time, the books that you find about this time period are set in Germany. This book was set in Denmark. 

I learned a lot about Denmark's history reading this book. I know that the author does quite a bit of historical writing, so I'm assuming that he's historically accurate. I'm just thinking in terms of the big facts--Denmark's king gave up to Nazi occupation with no resistance. The Nazis occupied with little difference in the country other than to institute a curfew, require ration cards, and prevent the Air Force from flying anything other than gliders. There was a Danish resistance, and the Author's Note at the back states that the Danish resistance was the most successful resistance during the war.

There were quite a few characters in the book, and Follett kept jumping about telling their stories in different places. I had a bit of trouble keeping up with exactly where each person was because I am not familiar with Denmark and its cities other than Copenhagen. The people were very distinct, and I had no difficulty following who he was writing about.

The main characters were Hermia, a British government official who has helped to set up Danish Resistance, her fiancee Arne, and Arne's younger brother Harald. Arne and Harald are pulled into the Danish Resistance despite Hermia's attempts to keep them uninvolved. Harald takes a shortcut through the German camp one night and discovers a radar array that is helping the Germans shoot down the RAF planes. He is asked to take photos by one of the resistance members, Poul, who is then blown up by a vengeful Danish police officer.

Harald is left with no way to get the photos to Britain, although he tries to meet up with Hermia who has crossed over into Denmark because her resistance fighters have been disappearing. He has fallen in love with Karen, the twin sister of one of his classmates and is living in an abandoned monastery on the family's property after a fight with his very conservative Puritan father. Karen's family has an old Hornet Moth airplane stored in the monastery, and Harald's only chance to get the photos to the British in advance of the next raid is to repair the airplane, steal the gasoline, and fly to England with the film.

The book was exciting and interesting. Of course, it was made even more so because I enjoy the time period. I was never quite sure what was going to happen next, and if there would be a happy ending or not. I would absolutely recommend this book, especially if you are interested in World War II history.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

Have you ever read a book that drew you in immediately, that captured your heart and your imagination so deeply that it brought you to tears? I just finished reading this trilogy for the 3rd, possibly 4th time, and am transported to another world, inspired, and no less entranced than I was the first time I read the book.

Originally written as three novels, Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold, Moon's trilogy is the story of a common girl who leaves home to join the army instead of fulfilling the betrothal her father has arranged for her. I feel like saying anything more than that about the novels will spoil the story!

There are so many things I love about the trilogy that it's hard to narrow it down. I love that there are women who are active in the military in a medieval fantasy. I appreciate the casual treatment of a homosexual relationship. I love the sword fighting! There's magic, elves, royalty, the fulfillment of the daydreams of a young girl. I think I most love the epic triumph of good over evil. The good guys and the bad guys are easy to identify, and that's something I wish was true about "real" life. How amazing is that book cover, btw? It's the UK version, and I wish it was available here in the States! I would buy it in a heartbeat.

This is on my list of Top 5 Books I would want on a deserted island. If you've never read it, go pick it up! Right now!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

This book is so full of twists and turns and moral dilemmas that my mind is boggled.

The heroine, Justine, is a hypochondriac obsessed with a malady called vein star syndrome. Her mother was convinced that she had it, despite a lack of symptoms and died because of it when Justine was 13. Justine drives away friends, colleagues, and boyfriends with her trips to the ER, her constant research, and general paranoia.

Then she meets Packard. He's the head of a group of disillusionists, people who take their own paranoia and push that negative energy into others. Justine is able to push her fears about vein star syndrome into Packard and maintain a normal life. For a time.

Justine doesn't want to join Packard's group, but is forced to when she realizes that she must continue to zap her fears into Packard or risk brain damage. She ends up helping to break down criminals who have committed horrible crimes and yet can't be convicted. These criminals become different people, those who work for good due to the degree of their disillusionment.

Justine feels uneasy about her position in the group and the disillusionment that she causes. At the same time, she is drawn to Packard and committed to finding his nemesis, a man who has trapped him in a restaurant for the past 8 years. Then she meets another man who challenges her ideas about disillusionment and about Packard.

I have to admit that this novel really challenged my ideas of good and evil. I wasn't sure who the good guys and who the bad guys were. The morality of the groups' actions was a fine grey line, and I wasn't sure where anything fell. At the very least, I'll be thinking about what constitutes good and evil for quite a while.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get Your Towel!

It doesn't seem like it to look at the books I review, but fantasy is my favorite genre. I love all things mystical and magical. I love Sci-fi as well, but I have trouble getting a mental image for what the author is talking about sometimes. I prefer my sci-fi on television so I can see what they're talking about.

One sci-fi book that I fell in love with is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. What's not to love? Vogon poetry? The meaning of life? Towels, anyone?

I found out (via Facebook, naturally!) that today is Towel Day. I thought I'd mention it on my blog because it's a reading thing and I take every opportunity to flaunt just exactly how geeky I am.

So, grab your towel and get your thumb ready to honor the late Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker's Guide and its subsequent sequels. No Vogon poetry, please.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Warrior Ascended by Addison Fox

The first in the Sons of the Zodiac series and the debut novel for author Addison Fox, Warrior Ascended sets the bar high for the series. Themis, the Greek goddess of Justice has been allowed by Zeus to create 12 groups of 13 immortal warriors to protect humankind from evil. However, he has pitted her against his daughter Enyo, goddess of war.

Immortal Leo warrior Brody Talbot is working undercover as an archaeologist on a mission to translate the Prophecy of the Summoning Stones. He meets Ava Harrison, curator of the stones' exhibit and daughter of the archaeologist who originally discovered the stones, Russell Harrison. Brody is immediately drawn to Ava, despite her horrid gray sweater. He follows her home and protects her from Enyo's warriors, the Destroyers.

Eventually Brody is forced to reveal exactly who and what he is to Ava after his lion tattoo manifests itself in the middle of the streets of London in order to aid Brody in fighting yet another set of Destroyers. She accepts this supernatural aspect of Brody's with much less questioning than I would have, presumably because each time she gets near one of the Stones, she sees visions.

Brody and Ava end up fighting to avert an Apocalypse, and I began wondering how she will top that for her next book! Buffy did it show after show, so I have no doubt that Ms. Fox can as well. I can just imagine the warriors asking Themis what they're going to do and Themis replying "Same thing we do every day, boys. Try to save the world from an Apocalypse," a la Pinky and the Brain.

This was a quick, enjoyable read. I will definitely pick up another one of Ms. Fox's books again in the future. If you like astrology, romance, and the paranormal, you'll enjoy this book.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow

I feel like I've been missing out on this awesome author! Lilith Saintcrow has published several different series, both for adults and for young adults. I am in the midst of reading the Jill Kismet series, but picked up this first of the Dante Valentine novels while I was waiting for the next.

I love the strong female characters in Saintcrow's books. They're the type of women that I would love to hang out with myself, the type of woman that I want to be.

Danny Valentine is a Necromance, a psionic trained to raise the dead for the legal purposes--to discover who murdered them or to clear up contract issues. One day, as she is about to consult her tarot cards, there is a knock at the door. It is Japhrimel, a servant of the Prince of Hell. He's come to escort Danny to Hell for an audience with the Prince. Turns out that the Prince wants Danny to work for him, and he doesn't give her much of a choice. However, he also gives her a familiar, the demon Japhrimel.

Danny has a reason to want revenge on Santino Vardimal. Her best friend Doreen was killed by this demon escapee. Japhrimel also has a reason to want Vardimal dead--he escaped while being guarded by Jaf. Danny gets help from another Necromance, Gabriele aka Gabe and her partner Eddie, a dirtwitch. She also runs into Jace, a former lover and former Mob enforcer.

Along the way, there is magic, there is action, there is romance and discovery. There are so many twists and turns in this novel that if I share too much about it, I'll spoil it. I highly recommend this one--it will rock your socks off!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Rogue Mage Trilogy by Faith Hunter

This is my new favorite trilogy and my new favorite author. I can't say enough good things about this trilogy. I couldn't put the books down. I really, really didn't want to finish the last book because I didn't want the trilogy to be over. The characters were so real to me.

The trilogy is set in a post-Apocalyptic world where the Bible's apocalyptic prophecies came true. Angels, seraphs appeared on Earth and carried out plagues of disease and famine. Now, there is a fraction of the population still living, angels appear periodically, mages have been born, and law is kept by church officials.

Throughout the trilogy, there was a question of whether or not the Seraphs were truly agents of the Most High God or if they were aliens who had used Biblical prophecy to their advantage. I like the books that make you question your beliefs--I think it is healthier for your faith to question, ponder, and reaffirm the things you believe than to remain stagnant. That was one of my favorite things about the trilogy.

Thorn is a mage living in North Carolina. She is in hiding because she is an unlicensed mage and cannot live in the mage enclaves because she can hear the thoughts of all the other neomages. She is a stone mage with an affinity for gemstones. While angels have come to Earth, so have demons. Unfortunately, they live under the mountain next to Thorn's haven.

Thorn and her friends battle the darkness living under the mountain, meet seraphs and cherubim, use magic, and generally have great adventures in the three books. I don't even want to share any of it because I know that whatever I have to say won't do it any justice! Please, go get these books and read them! You won't be sorry.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Steamed by Katie MacAlister

I hadn't heard of this book until my lovely friend Red over at Texas Red Books reviewed it. Steampunk has hovered at the edges of my sci-fi interest for several years, but I'd never really made a foray into the genre until recently. During my trip to DragonCon last fall, there were quite a few people dressed in Steampunk gear. The most amazing, awesome Steampunk gear was someone who had kitted out his wheelchair! It was so well-done.

My dad was caught up in the Steampunk trend and since getting back home has made his own Steampunk jewelry. I'm glad that he's found a new hobby, and I keep hassling him to get his things up on Etsy. Once he finally does, I'll post a link for all those who might be interested. I think he does a great job, and I hope everyone else does, too!

Anyway! The book! I love the cover art to begin with. It's so well done! I feel like it really captured the essence of Steampunk. I was expecting a book that was set completely in an alternate Steampunk universe, but this book wasn't. Two of the main characters were catapulted into the Steampunk universe through an accident of nanotechnology.

I found the point of view rather confusing. MacAlister used first person and switched between telling the story from the girl's point of view to the guy's point of view. It was hard to keep track of who was telling the story sometimes.

I also ended up feeling like MacAlister was advocating the advantages of living in our universe as opposed to a Steampunk universe. I don't feel like that was true to the Steampunk "code," so to speak. If I read Steampunk or dress Steampunk or write Steampunk, I believe in Steampunk. I believe that it is better than the way we live. That wasn't the feeling I got from MacAlister.

I got a sort of deux ex machina feeling from the book as well. The heroine always knew just the right person in order to pull their bacon out of the frying pan each time. It felt just a little too contrived for me.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, even though I had some criticisms. I enjoyed the foray into the Steampunk world, I enjoyed the romance, and I hope that MacAlister is going to continue to tell the story of the Steampunk universe she has created.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Absentee Blogger

December is a busy month for everyone. That's no surprise with all the parties, Christmas shopping and the usual day-to-day events. In addition, I'm a crafter, so I end up making quite a few of my Christmas gifts. My December flew by without reviews, but certainly not without reading! I have two fantastic series that I've just discovered in the past month that I'm going to share with my blog followers, so stay tuned.