Happy Thanksgiving to all the U.S. readers!
Happy Thanksgiving to all the U.S. readers!
I’ve been seeing these books around … at the bookstore, at the library, on-line … and they’ve really captured my attention. The sexy cover certainly helps, but as an avid reader of fantasy and ‘dark’ fantasy, I decided I couldn’t keep passing these up. I had to give this a try.
A Fistful of Charms is the fourth book in a long-running series by Kim Harrison, referred to as ‘The Hollows’ series. I’d like to say that there are currently thirteen books in the series, but I could be dead wrong, since there is a book #0.5 and a #2.5 and #13.1 and … you get the idea.
Rachel Morgan is a bounty hunter and her specialty is the dark arts, which has captured the attention of a lot of people, live, dead, and undead alike. Some want to see her dead, some want to see her in their bed, and some want to take possession of her very brave and powerful soul.
The book started off with a bang and I was really interested. Rachel gets into and out of some jams right out of the gate and this looked like it would be a wicked thriller with some hot action (in more than one sense). But then I got a little lost and I got very bored. Yes, bored! When there was some action – any action – I perked up, but the plot itself didn’t mean a thing to me. I got the feeling that this was because I wasn’t familiar with the characters.
As much as I hoped I could just jump in to the series, it appears that one really needs to know who is who and why they are behaving the way that they do, which is a process throughout the various books. I’ve missed three (or four or five) books’ worth of character building and it’s important stuff.
I am still interested enough to go back and start over, at the beginning, but based on this one read, I can’t recommend this very highly.
Looking for a good book? A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison is the fourth book in a dark fantasy series and it may serve the reader to read the first few books before venturing into this novel.
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A Fistful of Charms
author: Kim Harrison
series: The Hollows #4
paperback, 528 pages
This book features three novellas: Victoria, Hottentots, Walt and Emily. It also includes some of the most excruciatingly dull genre fiction that I’ve ever come across.
In “Victoria,” the soon-to-be queen disappears and so as to not worry the people, a scientist has created a Victoria-look-alike. This doppelgänger is created from a human/lizard hybrid, though it still manages to be remarkable realistic in form. It does have one draw-back, however … it has a voracious sexual appetite and tends to wander off in search of brothels to visit.
Okay…kind of a bizarre idea. But I read plenty of sci-fi and fantasy, so I’m no stranger to bizarre ideas. And this could have been fun if I was bored with the writing style.
“Hottentots” may be one of the worst things I’ve ever read. Scientist Louis Agassiz abandons his family and heads to America to educate the Americans on a variety of sciences. He is approached by a white South African and his black ‘hottentot’ wife who seek his help in finding a magical artifact. An artifact that is sexual in nature.
I don’t know what to say about this. The character of Agassiz, as presented by author Paul di Filippo, is simply a vile human-being. The story itself holds little-to-no interest and it isn’t helped by featuring such a despicable character whose thick accent is carefully written out.
Let us zit down, und I vill explain all. Perhaps dot decanter of zherry I zee dere vould help lubricate mine zpeech— … You are Cuvier’s zientific heir, und bear der responsibility for his deeds. It ist your moral obligation to help zet right vot he ztarted. Und you are a man of zome influence here, und can zpeed up der zearch
Has this ever worked well in written form?
Although one-third of the work in the book, this story alone is reason enough to avoid the collection.
Let it not be said that there’s no theme running through these stories. I would argue their ‘steampunk-ness’ but they all definitely are set in the Victorian era (not really reason enough to be considered steampunk) and they all deal with sex as a primary motivator to the characters.
In “Walt and Emily” Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman hook up and they both write about it in their own ways.
The best part about reading this collection was coming away with the awareness that I’m not interested in reading any more di Filippo.
Looking for a good book? Me, too.
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The Steampunk Trilogy
author: Paul di Filippo
publisher: Open Road Media
paperback, 396 pages
Audio made easy? Yeah…that’s something I need since I have an interest but zero background in it. But … wait a minute … where’s the ‘easy’ part?
To be fair, author Ira White does a nice job of explaining the equipment an audio engineer would likely use, in the simplest of terms. But he does also presume that the reader already has a basic background in sound as some basic terms are not define, leaving me scrambling to understand them. They may be basic for the average sound engineer, but for the person interested in getting started in audio…? Not so much.
I did get some valuable information here but nearly enough to feel confident to even start to think about going in to some sort of sound engineering.
Also… while it might seem to be the obvious direction, this book really focuses on sound engineering for music recording. Recording for audio books is one of the largest growing industries and is in fact why I was interested in this, and it didn’t really address this (other than the basic audio engineering terms).
The subtitle is clever (“Or How to be a Sound Engineer Without Really Trying”) but is in fact misleading and definitely not true.
Looking or a good book? Audio Made Easy (5th Edition) by Ira White is a good primer for audio engineering work, but does expect the reader to come in with a general sound knowledge.
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Audio Made Easy: Or How to Be a Sound Engineer Without Really Trying (5th Edition)
author: Ira White
publisher: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation
paperback, 160 pages
If you follow my reviews at all you’ll probably know that I think Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is one of the best writers of urban fantasy currently writing/publishing. Her newer ‘Wayward Children’ series is a slight departure from the urban fantasy setting of her popular October Daye series but it is equally impressive and powerful.
The book/series is a dark look at the Jack and Jill fairy tale. Jack and Jill are twin sisters (Jacqueline and Jill) and the story is of their childhood (such as it was) up to the point where we see them in the previous book (Every Heart a Doorway) (meaning, of course, that this is a prequel).
Jack is the girly-girl. She was her mother’s project to dress up in frill and lace, whereas Jill is the tomboy – the son her father wished for and tried to raise.
Like many siblings, they don’t always get along, but when they discover a doorway to a strange, magical land, they will need each other (and each others’ strengths) much more than they might expect.
Seanan McGuire not only writes lyrical prose that is haunting and beautiful and really holds a reader, but stories such as this reach further into social themes than one might ordinarily expect with an urban fantasy. Parenthood, gender identification, parent/child expectations are a few of the themes explored in this fairy tale and in McGuire’s hands we can be sure that answers to questions won’t be easily forthcoming (if at all).
The only downside to this book is that if you’ve read Every Heart a Doorway you will know how this ends. As such, for those just beginning to discover the magical words and worlds of Seanan McGuire, it might have been nice if the publisher listed this as book #.5 instead of book #2. But that’s a pretty minor complaint. Read the books in whatever order you want, but do read them.
Looking for a good book? Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a short book by Seanan McGuire … short in terms of page numbers, but full-bodied in terms of theme and story. It is a must-read for lovers of fantasy fiction.
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Down Among the Sticks and Bones
author: Seanan McGuire
series: Wayward Children #2
hardcover, 189 pages
I think I am a member of a dying breed … a reader of ‘western’ fiction. There are very few new westerns being published (believe me, I’ve been looking), though there are a few, the majority of the westerns that I’ve been seeing are reprints of classic works. Ramrod, by Luke Short, is one such reprint.
First published in 1943, Ramrod tells the story of Dave Nash the ranch foreman (a ‘ramrod’) who will do anything for his boss, Walt Shipley, because Shipley took a chance on him and gave him a job when no one else would. But what Dave doesn’t expect to have to face off against is … a woman.
Connie Dickason is a strong, seductive woman and Shipley has his mind set on marrying her. When Shipley is driven out-of-town by a range war, Dave and Connie have to fight together to save the ranch and the ramrod discovers just how strong and determined Connie can be.
This book was made into a movie of the same title, starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake.
I’ve only read one other Luke Short novel (which I have already reviewed). That other book, I felt, rambled too much – it didn’t present a very straight-forward story. This book, on the other hand, is pretty clear-cut. The story is set up very well right from the start and it drives forward without much deviation (not a lot of sub-plot here).
Unfortunately, I found it just a little bit dull.
While Dave was a character that I could see, follow, and understand right from the get-go, Connie was a bit of an enigma for me. I didn’t understand her motivations, though I think Luke Short tried to get it across.
This is not what many people expect when they think of a ‘western’ – it’s not a big shoot-’em up. It’s also not really a romance in the sense of ‘boy-meets-girl-tries-to-woo-girl’. This tends to have characters who are a little more ‘real.’ They aren’t obvious good or bad characters … just regular people trying to make a go of their every-day lives.
But ‘real’ people trying to live their everyday lives can be a bit dull if you are reading about them.
Once again I can see some real strengths in Luke Short’s writing and story-telling, but this one just doesn’t strike a powerful chord with me.
Looking for a good book? Luke Short’s western tale, Ramrod, has some very real characters but the story is just a bit on the dull side.
* * * * * *
author: Luke Short
publisher: Open Road Media
Kindle Edition, 181 pages
**WARNING — POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!**
I like to borrow audio books from my local library for my commute and this book looked really interesting, though I had absolutely no idea what it was about. This is a YA book about how one young girl survived when aliens invaded earth and shuttled all the humans to one location.
The audio book narrator, Bahni Turpin, was a struggle to listen to at the beginning – she had an unusual intonation – but by the end of the book, I had grown to actually looking forward to hearing her tell this story.
This was a rather unusual sci-fi YA story, though perhaps ‘original’ is a better term than ‘unusual.’ Aliens have invaded and sent everyone to Florida. Our story narrator, Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, stayed behind looking for her mother who disappeared earlier than most. Now pre-teen Tip is making her way to Florida on her own. She encounters one of the aliens (called “Boov”) who is on the run himself and they team up to get across the country.
In good YA fashion, Tip learns a little about herself and the human race by befriending an alien. They have quite the adventure, which is what drives the plot, and includes a second group of aliens invading and chasing off the Boov.
There were a couple of small plot points that I thought were extraneous and did not propel the story forward but seemed to be included simply for the sake of action. But these actually slowed the story down. Also…the ‘purpose’ of the story changed about three-quarters of the way through. From a goal of finding her mother, the story switched gears to become one about stopping some humans from making bad decisions. All fine ideas, but it really became like a book and a novella rolled into one.
Still, this was fun and I’d encourage anyone looking for a sci-fi type story for a young reader.
Looking for a good book? The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex is a YA sci-fi romp across the country with some powerful, but ‘simple’ aliens and a little girl.
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The True Meaning of Smekday
author: Adam Rex
narrator: Bahni Turpin
publisher: Books on Tape/Disney-Hyperion
audio, 10 hours, 37 minutes
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