Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Latest Book Review

Finding time to read has been a bit tough lately…hence the long lag time between reviews. Never thought I would get to a place in my life where I didn’t devour at least 3-4 books a week, but looks like I’m there. Still, thanks to a week of vacation, I’ve gotten caught up a bit on the “to be read” pile so here are the reviews.

First up is Mark Del Franco’s “Unshapely Things.” It’s a bit “Harry Dresden Lite” (does EVERYONE have to be a private investigator?), but there are a couple of changes that make it interesting enough to stand on its own. Whereas Harry is very powerful, but has a hard time with his personal life, Del Franco’s main character USED to have it all. Power, wealth, fame, etc. Then he lost everything courtesy of a magical accident. Now he’s sort of like a has-been rock-star…can’t get into clubs that used to keep an entire room reserved for him and can’t perform more than a basic protection spell. Also different here is the status of the otherworldly creatures. They are, with a few exceptions, the down-and-out denizens of a magic-laden ghetto. When they become the targets of a serial killer, neither the magical authorities nor the mundane police seem to much care. Enter our hero who, despite his fallen status, still considers his non-human “kin” to be worth saving. While there are some definite “first novel” issues, this could shape up into a decent series as the writer becomes more practiced and if he is able to further differentiate his characters and world from the Dresden books

Side note: The Dresden Files TV series on SciFi is definitely improving. Each episode has been better than the last and I have a serious crush on Paul Blackthorne (the actor who plays Harry). Still not crazy about the guy playing Bob – he looks so damn mournful all the time – but he’s starting to bother me less. Anyway, it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. Wish I could say the same for Lifetime’s take on Tanya Huff’s “Vicky Nelson” series. I didn’t even know they’d made those books into a show until I accidentally stumbled across it while channel surfing one night a few weeks ago. Always a bad sign when there’s no pre-premiere publicity. The only good thing I can say about it is that the guy playing Henry Fitzroy is H-O-T. Too bad he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. He also seems like he’s trying to suppress (not always successfully) a major surfer-boy accent. Like, dude, I’m like a total vampire. Sweet. Yeah, just how I’d expect a son of Henry the VIIIth to talk. The guy playing Mike Celucci is WAY too good-looking to be a cop. The gal playing Vicki is decent, but somehow I think of Vicki as being more hard-nosed and pissed-off or something. Plus, I wonder how Ms. Huff feels about Lifetime scrubbing even the merest HINT of homosexuality (a MAJOR part of the book series) out of the TV show. Tony’s not even in it for heaven’s sake and Henry is suddenly all-hetero-all-the-time. Anyway, I suppose it’s worth checking out for the eye candy quotient, but there’s not much else there.

So, back to the books.

Y’all know how I feel about Linnea Sinclair so I was really excited to pick up her latest book, “Games of Command.” It’s good, but it’s definitely not my favorite of her works so far (that would be “Finders, Keepers”). I kept having the feeling that I’d been dropped into the second novel in a series and maybe that’s the case, but none of my searches have turned up an earlier book featuring these same characters. Maybe there were short stories or unpublished pieces? I dunno, but it sure seems like a lot happened off stage to lead up to this story and I was frustrated that I didn’t get to read THAT part. As always in a Sinclair book, the romance, characters and the pacing of the action are top notch. I could’ve done with a bit less furzel-talk (cuteness overload) and there was, for me, a rather jarring plot twist about halfway through the book that had me going “what the ___?” for a bit, but those are my de rigueur nitpicks and shouldn’t deter anyone from buying and enjoying the book. I’m looking forward to her next book which has the fun and interesting title of “The Down-Home Zombie Blues.”

Next comes “Nylon Angel”, the first in the Parrish Plessis series. Usually, I kind of enjoy a good cyberpunk novel, but while the world background in this book is interesting, about halfway through it I realized I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the character or whether she made it through or not. And the whole alien virus thing seems like a weird addition that got tacked on and doesn’t really belong. I bought the second novel in the series at the same time I bought the first book, but I doubt I’ll read it. I’m looking for the receipt to take it back.

Fortunately, Carrie Vaughn’s “Kitty Takes a Holiday”, the third installment in the Kitty the Werewolf series, was a good way to recover from the whole Parrish Plessis debacle. I usually find that series tend to get weaker as they go along, but this one keeps getting better. Despite the use of the incredibly tired “skinwalker” device (seriously, people, there ARE other mythologies in the world…go plunder one of those for your ideas and spare us the umpty-zillionth re-tread on this one), I really enjoyed this book. Vaughn takes a risk by having a main character undergo a major and permanent change which completely alters the dynamic between him and Kitty and between Kitty and another prominent character. It’s nice to see a storyline really moving forward and evolving. I look forward to seeing where Kitty goes next.

You guys know what happens when I venture out and try a new author, right? It’s almost never good. And this time, I just got sucked in by the incredible cover art for Alan Campbell’s “Scar Night.” Too bad the book doesn’t live up to the picture on the outside. Despite starting out with a fascinating premise of a city built entirely on chains and suspended over a seemingly bottomless abyss, Campbell fails to deliver with his characters. It’s a shame. I hate it when a great world goes to waste. I gave up and didn’t finish the book because I got tired of waiting to care about these people.

And that’s when the vacation ended. At least I had the new Kim Harrison book to look forward to when I got home. Still reading it so the review will have to wait until next time.


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