Monday, August 11, 2008

Les livres sont magnifiques...

...ou, comme on dit en anglais*: "Books rule!"

For some reason, I am having problems writing book reviews this year. I’m not sure why, but it’s been like wading through tar to get one done. Hence the reason this one is about 10 miles long – I’m clearing the backlog.

So, first up is Simon R. Green’s “Daemons are Forever” which is the sequel to his first Eddie Drood book: “Man with the Golden Torc.” Although the first book was good, I actually preferred the second one. It’s unusual for the second book in a series to eclipse he first one, but the characters are so busy running around trying not to get killed that there’s not much time for character development. In “Daemons,” Green has more time for insight into Eddie’s character and the further development of his relationship with Molly Metcalf. The side-plot involving Mr. Stab is also interesting. If I have any negative critique, it’s that Green borrows a little too heavily from his “Nightside” books in creating all the odd characters and archetypes that the Drood family runs into. While none of the characters are the same, they have the same “feel” as who (or what) you might run across in the “Nightside” books.

Books 2 and 3 of Kelly McCullough’s “Ravirn” series are “Cybermancy” and “Codespell.” These books are run romps – especially if you are a Greek mythology buff. I wonder if they might be a bit confusing to someone who isn’t up to date on Homer, though. While the computer-tech-geek stuff can be a little overwhelming for anyone who’s not an IT specialist (hello? I’m lucky I can find the power button on my computer), it’s only intrusive in a few spots. I’m not sure I’d be quite as happy with these books if I were paying hardback prices for them because they are sort of “fluff” reading, but as long as they’re paperback, I recommend ‘em.

Tanya Huff’s latest installment in her Torin Kerr series, “Valor’s Trial,” is not quite as enjoyable as the earlier books. I’m getting a bit tired of the “Gunnery Sergeant Kerr is practically God and can do no wrong” bit. Plus, I thought one particular element of the plot should have been totally obvious from the beginning – especially given Torin’s previous encounters with a certain alien intelligence. Still, while this book may be a tad bit mediocre compared to the earlier entries in the series, Huff is such a great writer that this book is still head and shoulders above a lot of other stuff out there. I’d just wait for the paperback version, but definitely pick it up – especially if you’re already a fan of the series.

And now we come to what I like to call the “bite” section of the review i.e. the vampire books.

First is the latest in Rachel Caine’s “Morganville” books, “Feast of Fools.” And yeah, okay, I know this is a “teen” book, but in my defense, I offer the following:

1. It’s better written and more entertaining than a lot of the regular stuff in this genre.

2. Caine’s next “Weather Warden” book just came out last week and I needed to keep occupied until it did.

3. Part of being an adult means getting to make your own choices without having to justify ‘em to anybody so if I want to get my 16-year-old-girl-with-cute-boys-and-vampires groove on, then I will. And you can’t stop me. So THERE!

And as for what I thought of the book:

1. Good book (as is the rest of the series)

2. Sucky ending (don’t buy it until the next book comes out in January and then buy ‘em both together so you don’t get pissed off, like I did.

Then there’s E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth” series, which, admittedly, are not really true vampire books (the Kurians being some sort of interdimensional, aura-sucking, alien leeches) and which, also admittedly, are not my normal fave kind of story. They are strangely addicting, nonetheless. I find it especially eerie the way Knight posits how the takeover of Earth and destruction of human civilization might have come about. When you think about some of the recent natural disasters (Katrina, the earthquake in China, the cyclone in Myanmar), the current military situation (our forces spread too thinly on multiple fronts) and the current economic conditions (sucking big green ones), it’s all too easy to see how a slight increase in any of these things could really overburden mankind’s ability to cope. On the downside, I wish there was a bit more in the way of character development and personal relationships in these books, but the action is sure non-stop. I also have a bit of a nit to pick with the transition between book 5 and book. The upside is that there are 6 of these books out in paperback and the 7th just came out in hardback so there’s a lot of reading to do here to catch up if you get hooked (like I did).

At this point, I found myself in a book wasteland as there was nothing new from any of my favorite authors for most of June and July. So, I grabbed a few old faves and re-read them beginning with Sharon Shinn’s “Mystic and Rider.” If you haven’t yet found your way to this wonderful author, you’re really missing out. But if you hurry, you can get caught up on the three published books in her “Twelve Houses” series before the fourth one comes out this November!

Another perennial favorite of mine is Linnea Sinclair. All her books are good, but I’m particularly fond of “Finders Keepers.” “Gabriel’s Ghost” is my second favorite and the sequel to that book, “Shades of Dark”, just hit the bookstores last week. It’s already on my nightstand in the “to be read” pile! I can’t wait!

Then, in the “I don’t know why I didn’t read this eons ago” category, I finally decided to pick up a copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” I’ve always loved the film adaptations of Austen’s work and have read most other major works of English literature (during that time period where I thought I would be an English major before I switched over to majoring in French at which point I had to read all the major French authors…in French), for some reason I’d never gotten around to actually reading her books. Frankly, I wondered if I’d find them as delightful to read as the stores were when presented on the big screen. I’m happy to report that their delightfulness is in no way diminished when encountered in its original form. I confess that I find myself strongly tempted to tackle “Sense and Sensibility” next.

Paying homage to approximately the same time in history is Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series – the latest of which is “Victory of Eagles.” A sort of “Horatio Hornblower” meets “Pern” idea, the Temeraire books are smartly written and very enjoyable. For the most part, that is. I had a few problems with this latest book – possibly due to how miserable the main characters are as a result of their actions in the last book. Also, the dragons come off as a bit more immature and greedy in “Victory” than they have before. I particularly noticed this with relation to Temeraire himself as he’d always seemed to be a bit more advanced in both intelligence and maturity than some of his scaled compatriots. I can only hope that the next installment brings both the dragon and his long-suffering captain some long-deserved happiness and peace.

Okay, that catches things up on the book front. I should have some fun jewelry things to post over the next few days so stay tuned!


*Hey - my parents spent all that money on that fancy French degree and I like to feel they are getting their money's worth out of it ;-)

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