Tag Archives: good fun books

Support Kickass Rachel Caine’s Kickstarter!

  I’m so late to the game that I nearly missed it, but one of my very favorite authors, Rachel Caine, has a Kickstarter active now for a new book in her fascinating, wonderful, brilliantly creative Weather Wardens series.

Go back it now (only one day left!!!) and then come back here to read more about why this is amazing. I’ll wait…

This Kickstarter amazes me, not only because backing it means I’ll have more personal(ish) contact with one of my writing idols, but that it exists at all.

She says in her video that publishers have told her that the Weather Warden genre, urban fantasy, won’t sell right now, and that’s at least part of why she has decided to self-publish this book. But that amazes me–mostly for sad reasons. Ms. Caine is an established, highly respected author who has written at least three immensely popular series. She’s a known brand. And the story she wants to write is part of an existing universe that has already spawned a fun three-book mini-series. And yet…a publisher wouldn’t back her?

It’s hard to know if there may be more to the story, but I fear there isn’t. Perhaps Caine just leapt at the opportunity to self-publish and thought this would be a good way to try–and considering her Kickstarter has already far exceeded its goal, it’s a worthy cause.

But it does worry me about the industry as a whole. Has there ever been any inherent stability, or is it all an illusion?

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Review: Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This fourth book is different from the rest. Then again, that has been true of all the books in this series so far, but this one might be a little more distinctive. The first, Leviathan Wakes is a murder mystery on a grand scale; Caliban’s War is about grappling with an unknowable alien enemy; Abaddon’s Gate is largely a political intrigue; and then there’s Cibola Burn…which is alternatively a man vs. man and a man vs. nature story. So it’s a little bit different.
Yet again we’re brought along with Captain Holden and his crew as he tries to not screw things up, and we’re again introduced to a new cast of characters to guide us: the well-intentioned but misguided colonist Basia; the clinical and laser-focused scientist Elvi; and the security chief, Havelock, who is most definitely a reflection of our pal Miller from book one.
The writing duo that make up Jame S.A. Corey remain outstanding, as this series knows how to ramp up the problem like none I’ve ever seen. Just when you think you’ve got one disaster big enough to ruin everything, they throw another bomb into the mix. It makes this a harrowing, exciting read, as you try to imagine how anyone could survive that.
My issue with this book is the antagonist. He’s just too mustache-twirling evil, and though he has motivations, I find it hard to believe that anyone would be so staunch in that kind of view. He ends up just being a bigger-than-realistic baddie who I hoped got put out of his misery early on–but of course, he didn’t, and I had to keep suffering through his appearances. Maybe I’m naive to think no one would be like that guy, but I really didn’t want to read about him all the time. I’m seriously disappointed he wasn’t killed by a death-slug (oh yeah, death-slugs are a thing).
The ending feels a little too pat, but then they fix that by adding a short coda from our political hero and war heroes from the prior books. Now we’re talking.
Then again, the character exposition I got for some of the crew of the Rocinante was so fabulous it might have made the whole book worthwhile…
Yet again, this book is a lot of fun and an incredible journey, even if this one wasn’t my favorite.

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Review: Pyramids

Pyramids (Discworld, #7)Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Djelibeybi, not much has changed…in thousands of years. But all it takes is one king with wild ideas about such nonsense as “indoor plumbing” and “mattresses”–and one seriously large pyramid–for the kingdom to get forced into the modern day.
This story jumps around a bit, but generally follows Teppic, the prince of Djelibeybi (which is totally-not-Egypt). What with the kingdom being rather in debt, someone has to earn a living, so he goes of to Ankh-Morpork to learn an honest living as an assassin. Meanwhile, his father has a bit of an existential crisis about being the god-king responsible for sunrises…without knowing how he does it every day. His realization that gravity does indeed apply to him sets Teppic on a path back home to discover his own godhood and to begin the wrestling of his country into time with the rest of the world. There is then a lot of quantum mechanics and fooling around with far-too-large pyramidal magics, and then there’s a mess that not even Dios, high priest for as long as anyone can remember, knows how to handle.
This story was a lot of fun, as all Pratchett books are, but it didn’t quite captivate me as some of his others. It was a good time filler but nothing exemplary. It jumped between main characters more often, or rather, seemed to, and so it was a little hard to follow at first. Of course, everything came together and made perfect sense in the end, right down to the silly naming of the two royal embalmers. Pratchett, as always, had a plan.

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Review: Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because I got to hear author Charlaine Harris speak at a conference—and everything about her was adorable. I felt I owed it to her to actually read her work. I’d seen (some of) the TV show TrueBlood based on the books, so I was a little worried I’d ruined the experience for myself. Luckily, it just left me well-prepared.

Let me give an aside on Ms. Harris. She has a gentle Southern accent, just a touch, and a modest demeanor. Judging by her appearance and her publicity photos, she’s partial to the long, elegant, drapey fabric looks. But underneath, just below the surface, is a sharp wit and a snappy bite. She’s the epitome of the Southern women I know: all cookies and Bless your hearts on the surface, but acute observation and rapier wit hiding just below the surface, where it’s modest and ok to whisper behind your hands.

So, in that way, Dead Until Dark is very true to life for me. My absolute favorite character was Sookie’s grandmother (which…may be unfortunate). She doesn’t hold truck with people being discriminatory for no good reason; she cooks a damn good spread and keeps a tidy house; and hopes against hope that her granddaughter will just get a date already–even if he IS dead.

The writing in this book was warm and cool like a glass of iced tea on a hot, sticky day. The story is certainly original: rather than Anne Rice’s cool and distant, extremely frightening vampires, Harris’ vamps come in a range–still spooky, maybe even deadly, but much more approachable. You’re invited to fangirl right next to Sookie as she swoons over the hunks in the vampire community. And hunks there are, of both the male and female variety. You can immediately see why HBO wanted this for their channel.
That said, the book is more tame than the TV series, by far. It almost feels that Harris wanted sex scenes, but felt they were rather too icky to actually write down (that Southern discretion again). Much of the scenes are…left to the readers’ imagination. Which is good. Because it seems vampires don’t particularly invest in foreplay; I imagine a more realistic rendition would involve bruising.

A lot happens in the story, and it pulls you right along. I find it a little hard to get into, for the same reason I eventually dropped out of the TV show—the townspeople in Bon Temps seem to roll with an awful lot of punches, without asking too many questions. Convenient for the author, perhaps, but it took me out of the story a bit. Plus, there’s so much action, so much I want to know…and then the story stopped as suddenly as if we’d crashed into a tree. I actually put my Kindle down and exclaimed,”That’s IT?!”

I guess it’s supposed to make you want to read more–and maybe I will–but it was also frustrating. Overall, these books will make excellent vacation reads, or perhaps an All Hallow’s Read book for those who can’t handle spooky stuff. They’re brain candy, as rich as Sookie’s grandmother’s hummingbird cake.

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Review: Eric

Eric (Discworld, #9)Eric by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads doesn’t aptly display the cover of this book, so let me describe it. It has “Faust” written in normal typography, crossed out with fat red marker and “Eric” written in its place. And that perfectly well sets you up for this misguided teenager’s wish-fulfillment disaster.
As always, Pratchett is insightful and hilarious. This time he takes on Homer, which not enough authors are brave enough to do. This is the line that made me love the book: “He tried to remember what little he knew of classical history, but it was just a confusion of battles, one-eyed giants and women launching thousands of ships with their faces.”
Glorious!
Anyway, this short little jaunt is about a jerky prepubescent teenager, Eric, who manages to call up the hapless/cowardly/useless wizard Rincewind, convinced Rincewind is a demon who can grant wishes. Eric makes wishes–bad ones, of course, or rather traditional ones that come to bad ends–and much to his surprise, Rincewind hurtles him toward it. Or at least, seems to.
Goethe, Homer, and Dante all get a thorough Pratchett treatment, and it’s a delight. Plus it’s only about 200 pages, so it’s a quick read. You’ll be giggling right through bedtime.
That old blind classical guy doesn’t get teased enough, I say. Pratchett to the rescue!

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Review: Abaddon’s Gate

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another riveting book in the Expanse series! Only pick these books up when you’ve got some time to read, because otherwise you’ll stay up too late to read “just one more page.”
Abaddon’s Gate follows in the footsteps of Caliban’s War, dealing with the ongoing repercussions of the discovery of the protomolecule by Capt. James Holden and his crew.

And, as is now typical, things get bad fast—the mysterious molecule has constructed a large portal. To where?

For what purpose? Is something coming…or are humans being called?
We’re introduced to a new set of characters for this group, including a no-nonsense security chief, an annoying socialite along for the ride, and a minister who just can’t stop helping people, even when it means putting her life at risk. Through these characters–particularly Pastor Anna–Abaddon’s Gate reaches out to try to explore some of the greater mysteries of life: what is our purpose? How should we interact with each other? Is there a God in all the great expanse of the universe? If there are hyper-intelligent alien species, what does it mean for Earth and for religion?

Sidenote: I love that a character is gay with a family and that it is absolutely no big deal at all. Hurrah for a more inclusive future!

It’s an interesting book, if a little more philosophical and yet action-oriented than the prior two. While I still very much enjoyed it and would recommend it to sci-fi fans, this story just didn’t resonate with me quite as much as the first two. I even found a handful of glaring editing mistakes, adding to my feeling that this one was a smidge rushed. I miss some of the characters we’ve met before (though they do get notable mentions). Some parts were a little far-out, which is hard to believe when we’re dealing with hyper-advanced space-zombie-making molecules.

It’s still absolutely worth the read, but I’m hoping the next book in the series “gels” a little better.

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Review: Atlanta Burns

Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1-2)Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Atlanta Burns is what Veronica Mars would have been if, instead of growing up in sunny California with an understanding father, she’d been transplanted suddenly into “Pennsyltucky”—the rural/backwoods center of Pennsylvania—with an impoverished lost-soul mother and no one to fall back on. Atlanta Burns is Veronica Mars with red hair, a cut lip, dirt all over her face, and the vocabulary your momma wouldn’t approve of.

The story is good, but rough, hard to take. Atlanta is still recovering from the sexual assault she suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, and her unwanted legendary status she earned with a well-placed shotgun hit to his bait-and-tackle. It is in part because of this reputation, however, that she attracts the downtrodden, the friendless, and begins to help them fight back, too.

The only thing you can really say Atlanta has going for her is grit. She’s not always the smartest girl; she’s into way more drugs than I am even familiar with, often in tandem; she makes really shitty decisions and has a hard time remembering who her friends are. But she doesn’t give up, doesn’t back down, even as she stumbles into bigger and greater crimes against those who can’t fight back.

Chuck Wendig spins a good story, but I think he inserts a little bit too much of himself sometimes, making his agenda too clear and creating a gap in the fourth wall, like when his drug-dealing lowlife happens to be a frequent reader of Margaret Atwood. I don’t disagree with his message, and, true, it’s one of these clear agenda items that makes up the overall story arch, but there were times it drew me out of the story and had me rolling my eyes.

Overall, Wendig does good work here: it doesn’t always get better. Sometimes the bad guys are too big to fight. Sometimes you’re the dog in the ring, just having to fight to survive. It’s a good story, with a hard message to swallow, but it’s a bit too gritty and intense for me. Tread carefully, readers; this is a solid book but you’re going to need a steel stomach to get through it.

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