Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Round Up

Book round up time.  This is what I’ve been doing with my free time this month.  You know, all those times when I should have been out running or having a life.  This is the good, the mediocre and the ugly of the trash I’ve consumed.  Well, this month, not so much of the ugly.  Which is a good thing for me, but hard on the snark factor.  It is what it is.

The Good:
Deathless by Cat Valente

So, it's graded lower, but placed higher?  How does that work?  This is where things get unfair.  Apples are not organs and they cannot be judged against each other.  So the A- given to one book doesn’t necessarily trump the A of another.  This is a solid book, and damn near great.  The trick is that it’s not quite brisk/fluff/easy enough to be Urban Fantasy, but not good enough to be literature either.  Since I think it tried for the later, I judge by literature standards, but to be honest, it might get the same grade as UF because while I’m all for liminal spaces and interstitial genre bending, it has to actually work as both but succeed at the highest end.  The book has its challenges, and in places the plot stutters, sputters and damn near goes out.  At others, the lyricism and theme take hits to keep the pace up.  It tried to be both a little too hard.  I love Valente’s work, and I think anyone with a gram of patience and a curiosity about history will enjoy this.  It’s different, and the take on real Russian events is fascinating.  Pick it up.

The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere
This is a labor intensive act of love.  There are threads of The Neverending Story, Neverwhere, Stranger than Fiction, Supernatural, and, maybe this one is just me, Labyrinth.  And lots of other things too.  But it’s a good weave.  Despite some moments of “okay, stop that, your readers know these tropes already” thatI just chalk it up to the writer being Canadian. Or something.  This makes a good car book, as it’s broken into interconnected short stories that I can swallow in the doctor’s office or waiting for a tire rotation.  Some of them are creepy, some of them will blow you out of the water.  Some of them are a little flat.  Overall, I think it requires a bit of effort to get the most out of this one.  This is not a book you just open and it opens itself to you.  This is more an open yourself to it and see what you can do with it type of book.  Which can be either a good or bad thing.  But this is the guy who gave me Objects of Worship, and I love him lots.  It is a little friendlier to the uncommitted, and I think you should go and buy it.  Yes, right now.  The internet is always open.

Circle of Enemies by Harry Connoly
This is a series to root for.  Each book gets progressively better, the characters make choices that seem not just reasonable but well reasoned, and the plot gets tighter and better executed with each outing.  They grow, and their personal growth interacts with both the plot and the other characters, which is like finding a fricking virgin unicorn in Urban Fanstasy these days.  This time we get a nice chunk of Ray’s back story, and still manage to further the overarching plot of the 20 Palaces society being maybe not the good guys so much as the only option guys.  All the while moving the indivual plot forward and never seeming like an info dump or the Voice of The Author.  The book whips by, and it will keep you up to till the finish without apology.  These books are hard core.  No romance, no ponies, no fairies, and a body count best measured in piles.  Start at the beginning, because they don’t make a lot of allowances for folks jumping into the boat midstream, (Why the hell should they?) but go in with the understanding that it gets better.  Loads better. 

Coronets and Steel By Sherwood Smith
It’s fun.  But be warned from the gate, buy the two together.  This is one story split in two books.  And the second is still hardcover only.  It’s not worth almost 30 dollars.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but that’s a lot of money for a couple of hours of fluff.  So I’ll just stick to the 1st book.  SoCal girl journeys to Eastern Europe on a genealogy quest (which I persisted in reading as “gynecology” with hilarious results) and meets up with adventure of a “Princess Diaries” type.  Turns out she’s a lost princess, sorta.  Upside?  It’s pretty darn fun.  Downside?  There’s a lot of “we’re over-educated superiority” to be wound around.  Upside? The heroine actually does heroine shaped things rather than really dumb ones.  Downside?  I totally played “Name the Novel this was Cribbed From” a ton.  Hell, the biggest one is Smith’s own Crown Duel, a YA version of this written long ago.  Yet I still like it.  It’s totally worth the paperback price.  Just wait to buy it until the sequel/second half is also available in pocket or be prepared to shell out.

The Mediocre:

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
You know that old line about the definition of insanity being repetition with the expectation of a variant outcome?  Pretty sure that’s me and this author at this point.  A salesgirl at our now defunct borders recommended the “Diesel” outshoot books to me, so I nabbed this one at my used book hook-up.  Does this book suck down hours of your time with no reward but misery? No.  But the heroine ends up covered in food.  Sometimes I forgot her name wasn’t Stephanie.  I came THEEis close to putting the book down when a Certain Event straight from the Plum novels occured.  BUT, it reads quickly, and dialogue is brisk, so I read till the end.  Sadly, however, the hijinxs . . . not so much fun.  That’s where the real hit comes for me.  The Plum books started out hilarious, the kind of crazy where I’d laugh out loud.  I’d hoped that with fresh characters not tied into the same old loops, some of that might come back.  Nope.  The plot, as it has with newer Plum books, is silly and oddly lacking in either real danger or rational sense.  Some weird things happen.  Our leads roll with it while complaining about their ineptitude and picking up wacky sidekicks.  Offbeat characters take up way too much time.  The end is super abrupt and not all that well thought out.  The mystery is in no way, shape or even pro forma, mysterious.  And the treasure hunt plot line means she intends to write at least 8 of these.  Goody.  The only remaining question is just how insane am I prepared to be?

The Ugly:
Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott
Now, I’m the girl typically championing LESS icky sex in books shelved in PNR, but for some reason, this one felt ½ assed because it got squeamish about the icky sex.  The premise is that of an assassin sent by her vamp master (yes, literally) to kill a healer.  You do the romantic triangle math, trust me, you’ll get it right.  The twist is that she’s been forced to drink her master’s orgasm inducing and highly addictive blood.  Yep, you read that right.  But the weird thing is that the author tiptoes around the slavery, the pain/pleasure problem, and the dynamic of the relationship any of which might have saved this from being more than just a disturbing sidebar distraction.  The author lacked to balls to go all in, and in return got a result that’s lackluster despite the brisk plot.  Warning: this is a heavier dose of religion than I will normally put up with.  The templars factor in and god gets sort of a walk on role a few times.  Overall, it was interesting plot, plus tired plot tropes, plus cardboard characters, plus whiplash plot switches only the CW could love, plus awkward sex(ish) scenes held all together with bubblegum and a novena.  Will I get the next one? I will not.

A note on Grading: on my Scale A=I might buy the hardback; B=pay trade cover price; C=get it used or from the bargain bin; D=used if you’re in to self flagellation; F=what, are you stupid?

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