Welcome to 2007 in which drastic household budget cuts have forced me to give up my dream of becoming the Shoe Queen of the World. Since I can still (for the time being) afford books, here’s a review of my most recent reading material. Don’t get too excited – good stuff has been notoriously hard to find lately. I find that odd as usually December is a good time for books. Publishers plan all those hot, new releases to coincide with the Christmas gift-buying season. Sadly, that was not the case so I’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel and even (gasp!) been perusing some “new” authors. That’s always a risk which too often leads to disappointment and the occasional hurling of a piece-of-crap book across the room.
Fortunately, Simon R. Green managed to drop a new “Nightside” novel in early January which provided a lone bright spot.
“Hell to Pay” chronicles the continuing adventures of John Taylor in the Nightside – that seedy underbelly of London that’s not quite of this world. It’s a relief to know that there will be more Nightside books in the wake of the “Lilith War” which all but destroyed that world in the previous book and led to rampant speculation that Green was done with this series.
Still, I was left with mixed feelings about this particular installment. While it was nice to take a break from the relentless action and rather-more-than-necessary violence of the last few books and see Taylor get back to being a detective, I found it a little “obvious” that his gift gets shut down thus forcing him to “detect” via the old-fashioned question-and-answer method. That is not Taylor’s forte – as is proved when he meanders around having conversations with all the “likely suspects” which end up leading him exactly nowhere. I found the identity of the kidnapper to be patently obvious from early on and yet Taylor never actually solves the mystery. The guilty party identifies himself/herself (which has to be one of my biggest pet peeves EVER – why do authors do this? Sheer laziness?) in the threadbare “ha ha I’m so brilliant and evil and you’ll never stop my nefarious plot BWAHAHAHA” speech given by every villain of all time and used by authors to allow the hero of the story the time to thwart said villain’s brilliant plan.
As always, the strength of these books is the endless imagination of Green when it comes to creating unusual characters, powers and situations. However, other than brief appearances by Dead Boy and Larry Oblivion, and a few brushes with minor new characters, this strength is not used to its best effect. Suzie Shooter doesn’t even appear – perhaps Green is saving a furthering of her relationship with Taylor for another book? Dead Boy’s “car” gets more stage time than just about anyone else.
I would probably give this book a more negative review if I hadn’t been so starved for anything even remotely decent to read. I hope future installments take the series back to its better self.
Sadly, the lack of good reading material caused me to fall even further off the path of good taste when, after reading reviews that hinted that this might not be as bad in the sex department as previous books had been, I broke a long-held resolution and picked up "Stroke of Midnight" , Laurell. K. Hamilton’s latest “Meredith Gentry” novel.
I do agree with the reviews – there is SLIGHTLY less obnoxious and graphic sex in this book. There is even an attempt at a plot (solving two mysterious murders). So, overall, this book represents a SLIGHT improvement, BUT, my fundamental issues with the series remain firmly in place. It is so incredibly frustrating to me that Hamilton has created this fantastic world and peopled it with such potentially interesting characters and yet she makes no use out of them. We get these tantalizing hints of their pasts and previous powers, but those never lead anywhere because oops! time for another gratuitous sex scene. And while the sex scenes are overly graphic and “porno” for my personal tastes, it’s not the sex that bothers me so much. It’s the constant interruption of the action and plot line that occurs because these characters can’t take three damn steps down a hallway without having to stop and boink each other. Once again, the guilty party “confesses” (helped out by some extreme torture courtesy of the Queen of Air and Darkness...which leads one to wonder whether the “confession” is worth the blood...er...paper it’s printed on) so what little detective work Meredith manages to fit in between orgasms is pointless.
Then, the book ends so suddenly that I was left wondering “wha’ happen?” After reading the on-line reviews of the next installment in the series, “Mistral’s Kiss”, (now out in hardback), it becomes patently obvious that it was meant to be the last few chapters of “Stroke of Midnight” but either greediness (on the part of the editor/publisher) or laziness (on Hamilton’s part) caused the hatchet job which split this book into two pieces – neither of which can really stand on their own. Urggh. Well, it’s my own fault for breaking my resolution not to buy any more of her crap, but hey, it was out in paperback and I was trying to be fair and hope that she’d learned a little something and made some improvements. I really need to stop giving in to my nobler impulses.
Hmmm...this review is turning into something of a downer. Maybe it’s just me because I ran into another disappointment...this time from one of my very favorite authors, Katherine Kurtz. For those of you not familiar with her, run, don’t walk, and pick up her “Deryni” or “Adept” books. Both are some of my top reads of all time. Plus, the woman lives in and is personally renovating a castle in Ireland. It even comes complete with its own ghosts (according to her http://www.deryni.net website, anyway). How cool is that?
Sadly, she writes with glacial slowness so a new offering from her is a rarity. I was quite thrilled to find out that her latest book came out during this “dead” period when there’s not much else available.
“Childe Morgan” is the sequel to “In the King’s Service” and is a part of the Deryni series. Unfortunately, it’s just not very good. Despite the title of the book, the plot (such as it is) focuses more on Alaric Morgan’s mother, the Lady Alyce de Corwyn Morgan, than on Alaric himself (being that he is only 3 years old). And, there really isn’t much plot to speak of, after all. There’s a lot of knightings and meandering back and forth between various castles. The Camberian Council makes a couple of brief appearances and some major characters make their exits, but all in all, the book reads more like “background” to the Deryni series rather than something that can stand by itself in a novel. Plus, it was awfully short to justify it coming out in hardback. I understand there’s a third installment in this part of the series that is planned for the future and I can only hope that it focuses on Alaric coming of age and the challenges he faces supporting King Brion in the early part of his reign. On the plus side, Kurtz’s knowledge and use of medieval history, heraldry, and religion is spot-on as always and makes the world of Gwynedd come alive. Her magical rituals are also particularly well thought out and well written although they don’t play a major part in this particular book.
Next, I picked up the latest offering from Mary Janice Davidson (author of the Betsy Taylor “Undead” series). And, in a continuing theme,
“Sleeping With The Fishes” was another disappointment from an author whose work I usually enjoy. Fredrika Bimm is just a watered-down version of Betsy Taylor...with fins instead of fangs The male leads (whose names I can’t even remember now...which should tell you something) are silly and one-dimensional. There was less than zero chemistry between either of them and Fredrika so that makes another area in which this book can’t hold a candle to the “Undead” series. The humorous banter and strong friendships that make that series come alive are totally lacking in “Fishes.” I did like the cover art, though (she says in a lame attempt to come up with something positive to say).
Lastly, I have a gripe. Because of the dearth of good reading material right now, I practically mowed down a whole bunch of people to race to the bookstore when I saw that Tanya Huff had come out with another installment to her “Valor” series. Imagine my disgust when I actually picked up the book in the store and realized that it was nothing but a re-issue of the two previous books bound together under one cover. Now, don’t get me wrong, both books are excellent and if you don’t already have them, then I highly recommend adding “Confederation of Valor” to your collection. I just thought there ought to be a “buyer beware” notice somewhere to alert those of us who already have the earlier editions that buying this one would be redundant. At least I realized the problem before I actually paid for it and brought it home.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m getting over a cold, but am looking forward to a nice, relaxing, three-day weekend. I’d like to hope that I could get some jewelry made and watch some football, but given the amount of chores around the house that need to be done, that’s looking rather doubtful. I also have to do all the preparation for the kidlet’s 4th birthday party next weekend. My baby is turning 4! Happy Birthday, Ry Ry!
Take care, everyone, and if I don’t get to post again, have a good weekend!