Friday, April 18, 2008

Caveat Lector

Remember that “write more blog entries/book reviews” resolution I made back in January? Yeah, doing really well with that so far.


But, in the spirit of “it’s never too late to quit being a slacker,” I bring you the first book review of 2008.

(insert annoying trumpet fanfare here)

In my never-ending quest to try to find a decent replacement for the early days of the Anita Blake books, I decided to check out the Anna Strong series by Jeanne C. Stein. There are three books available in the series thus far: “The Becoming”, “The Watcher”, and “Blood Drive.” And overall I have to say: “not bad.” Although I found that here and there the plot advances by way of the character doing something stupid (you know, that moment where you scream at the book “are you STUPID????” and then, in a few more sentences, realize that yes, the character really is having a brain fart moment), the books are mostly enjoyable. The author has her own take on vampirism and its “rules” which makes her universe (vamp-i-verse?) stand out from the scads of other vamp books out there. I have a bit of an objection to the way Anna is “turned” initially because it’s pretty offensive to me, but then it does make sense and is consistent with the rules the author has set up so I’m not sure how else it could’ve been handled. Best of all, these books are out in paperback so no having to shell out for the pricey hardback versions here (at least for the time being).

Then I tried Vicki Petersson’s “Sign of the Zodiac” series which, thus far, consists of “Scent of Shadows” and “The Taste of Night.” A third installment, “The Touch of Twilight,” comes out on May 27, 2008. Again, I give these books an overall “not bad” rating. The pluses: unique, interesting universe and characters along with more-than-coincidental nod to the comic book hero genre of the past complete with secret identities and an internally tortured heroine. The minuses: the main character’s tendency to blaze ahead with no forethought or planning (giving rise to the whole “stupid moment” issue again) and a plot (especially in the first volume) that tends to meander around a bit before getting to the point. The rape element rears its ugly head in these books as well and while it’s handled well and definitely makes sense in terms of the character’s background, I completely understand now why Marion Zimmer Bradley banned any and all “rape and revenge” submissions to her short story anthologies. It’s just become an overused device. Surely strong female characters can be motivated by SOMETHING other than having a rape in their pasts?

Then, I moved on to try the “Morganville Vampires” series by Rachel Caine. Ms. Caine writes one of my other favorite series, “Weather Wardens,” so I thought I’d give her new venture a go. I bought the books without realizing that they are actually written for a teen audience, but I’m going to review them anyway because, guess what? They were not “dumbed down” and I really enjoyed them. They can certainly hold their own against a lot of the other vampire schlock that’s hitting the shelves in the regular sci-fi/fantasy section. And, if you happen to have a teenager (especially a teenage girl) who’s into sci-fi/fantasy, you’ll hit a slam dunk getting these books for her. There are three installments out so far: “Glass Houses”, “The Dead Girls’ Dance”, and “Midnight Alley.” A fourth book, “Feast of Fools,” comes out on June 3, 2008. Again, all are in paperback which means not such a massive tireprint left on the old wallet.

Then, it was off to another visit with John Taylor and the fabulous world of “The Nightside” in Simon R. Green’s latest book, “The Unnatural Inquirer.” I don’t think I’ll ever get truly tired of this series, but I have thought that the more recent installments (those occurring in the wake of the Lilith War) have just not been quite up to snuff. As in the previous book, John Taylor’s major power, his “private eye,” gets switched off by some unrevealed force and he once again wanders the Nightside doing his detective work the hard way. Not that he ever learns anything helpful while doing this (which bugs me). However, I did like his temporary partner in this book – the cute little demon reporter girl from the Nightside’s very own tabloid rag. It certainly seems like she’d be a healthier choice for a girlfriend than his strange, but poignant, romance with Shotgun Suzie. While I still enjoy these books, I think they’ve hit the point where it’s worth waiting for them to come out in paperback. Oh, and a note to the author, PLEASE bring back Razor Eddy!!

And last, but certainly not least, is the latest installment in Jim Butcher’s “Codex Alera” series: “Captain’s Fury.” I have to eat major crow about this series. I read the first book and, while I didn’t hate it, I was a bit disappointed in it. I thought it was slow and took too long to get going and Butcher definitely gives new meaning to the whole “ridiculously overwhelming odds” idea (a theme which continues to recur and get worse throughout the rest of the books but everything else is so good you just sort of have to let that point go and enjoy the ride). Every book since then has gotten better and better and this one is no exception. Plus, readers FINALLY get the satisfaction of finding out what the $)*#)@& is up with Tavi’s furycrafting powers! Thank heavens – I don’t think I could’ve gone too many more books without knowing what the deal was with that.

Whew! Okay, that catches up my reading list to about, oh, February or so, but I’ll save the others for future installments.

Now, I’m off to get a head start on my weekend with a trip to the nail salon and preparations for the “Great Lizard Hunt of 2008” (more about this in a future entry – because, trust me, at my house, we are now ALL ABOUT THE LIZARDS) scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Happy Friday, everyone!


Music: “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra (and how much does this song totally kick ass, by the way?)

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