An actual review? Yes, I still write them!

Yes, I’m still reading and I’m still writing. The writing is mostly my own and not fit for public view yet but I have been getting back into reviewing books.

I’ve been writing reviews on and off for the Book Reporter for a few years now and recently picked up The Ghost Clause by Norman Howard. If you’re interested, you can read my thoughts here. It would be a great vacation read, just saying.

Clearly, I have no photography skills

I’ve also joined a new Instagram read along hosted by @RedStarReviews. The July read was Jhereg by Steven Brust and if you haven’t heard of this series — GO FIND IT NOW! It’s awesome. It’s about a crime lord, Vlad Taltos, who moonlights as a security specialist, and yea, he also kills people because why not be an assassin too. And, there are dragons! Yes, I know that’s a lot but trust me, it’s worth it.

Next up on the read along is Horus Rising by Dan Abnett which I’m looking forward too. I’d offer up another bad pic but I just ordered it from my local bookstore today. You’ll have to wait for that beauty.

In the mean time, look at all my new library holds that came in. Where to start…

Look at me being all artistic with the black and white
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Review – The Book of Apex: Volume 4

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When I got an email from Andrea at Little Red Reviewer saying that she was organizing a blog tour for The Book of Apex, I readily agreed because it was on my list of books to purchase and it sounded like all the awesome.

Luckily, the publisher was willing to share a copy with me and I read it like the obsessed reader I can be. Except for when I got down to the last few stories, in which I drug my reading feet. Seriously, getting to the end was a joy but also sad because all the stories, which are so amazing, different, macabre, scary, creepy, and excellent were over. But the good news is that I now get to talk about them.

First, I’m going to share the full list of stories because there are some amazing writers in this anthology and all deserve a mention.

Table of Contents:

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

The Leavings of the Wolf by Elizabeth Bear

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak

Faithful City by Michael Pevzner

So Glad We Had This Time Together by Cat Rambo

Sweetheart Showdown by Sarah Dalton

Bear in Contradicting Landscape by David J. Schwartz

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise

A Member of the Wedding of Heaven and Hell by Richard Bowes

Copper, Iron, Blood and Love by Mari Ness

The Second Card of the Major Arcana by Thoraiya Dyer

Love is a Parasite Meme by Lavie Tidhar

Decomposition by Rachel Swirsky

Tomorrow’s Dictator by Rahul Kanakia

Winter Scheming by Brit Mandelo

In the Dark by Ian Nichols

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu

Ironheart by Alec Austin

Coyote Gets His Own Back by Sarah Monette

Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan

Murdered Sleep by Kat Howard

Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine

Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro

Weaving Dreams by Mary Robinette Kowal

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci

Sprig by Alex Bledsoe

Splinter by Shira Lipkin

Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman

Labyrinth by Mari Ness

Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell

I want to talk about every single story here because they were all that good but in terms of space, here are a few of my favorites.

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak — This story will bring out all the feels. It traces the 24 hour life of boy as seen through the eyes of his older brother, who is only a child himself. The baby, then unruly teenager, and then old man, is so sad and absolutely amazing at the same time.

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise — A man gives his body, and his soul, to a woman he loves — an artist who doesn’t even see him as a person, only a canvas for her art. She calls on him when she needs to expel personal demons, and he answers her call each time.

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu — A Young man wants to know the secret of the finest silk in all the world. He finds his answer, right next to his broken heart.

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci — A zombie story, but a zombie story where the zombies are, well, more than just zombies. They evolve.

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro — Your planet is about the be destroyed and we have a message for you. We are here to tell just how horrible your last few minutes of life will be. Aliens, please stay away.

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster — Trixie, a godmobile, and farting pandas. I laughed so hard at this one. A vengeful god, a self-doubting god, a god with farting pandas.

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell — This is the last story in the anthology and it’s simply one of the most amazing. It’s also terrifying. A performance artist puts herself on display, downloads herself into a machine, and becomes the installation.

If you missed it, I posted a few thoughts from author Cecil Castellucci earlier this month. Take a look.

Final thoughts: buy this one.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4

Edited by Lynne M. Thomas

An Apex Publications Book

ISBN: 9781937009205

Review – The Descent

The Descent by Alma KatsuThe Descent is the third book in The Taker trilogy. If you haven’t read The Taker and The Reckoning yet, you need to fix that in 2014. This trilogy is certainly one of the more interesting ones to come along. There are some great characters and plot lines that keep you guessing — even after you read the ending first, like I do.

Lanore McIlvrae, Lanny as she’s known, spent years living in fear of Adair, the man who made her immortal. Their relationship, while heated and insanely passionate, is not a stable one by any means. The things these two have done to each other — both mentally and physically — are horrific, and yet, they can’t seem to escape each other. Beyond the immortal bond the two share, there’s something else that keeps them returning to each other even after all the hurt they’ve caused.

After Lanny’s current partner, Luke, dies of cancer, she begins having nightmares about her former lover, and one could say, the great love of her life, Jonathan. Believing the nightmares are more than just guilt induced dreams, Lanny goes looking for the only man she knows who can help her — Adair. She knows he possesses the power to alleviate her nightmares and find answers to her questions. Unfortunately, she’s not sure how well she’ll be received, especially coming on business concerning Jonathan. While Lanny and Adair’s relationship has changed significantly over the intervening years, Jonathan is very much a sore spot between the two. There are things in life that are constant and Jonathan is that one thing for Lanny and Adair.

When Lanny finds Adair, she finds a changed man. He’s living on a deserted island in the Mediterranean and is a much calmer person but she knows there’s still much to fear from Adair and the power he can yield. She comes to an understanding of her feelings for him but knows she must still help Jonathan if possible and that’s when things get complicated.

My dilemma — how do I tell readers about this book when it’s the third in a series and I don’t want to give anything away? Instead, I’m going to talk about a larger theme in the series — love. I’m not one for love stories, especially ones that get wrapped up all nice and neat in the end. But, I liked that love had such a large and messy role in this story, and let’s not forget the mess the mere thought of the word brought to Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan and the catastrophe that is their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I didn’t like Adair at all. He’s cruel, hateful, and isn’t much for honor or respect. Jonathan, while Lanny can’t help but love him, isn’t exactly a loveable person either leaving a trail of heartbroken women in his path. In fact, Lanny, while she obviously loves the idea of love, gets burned so many times it would be easier for her to just walk away from everyone. Maybe her willingness to keep believing that love can work is what makes her likable after all.

It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series especially one that was so good. Alma Katsu gave her characters immortality, beat them up and teased them with death, and in the end, threw in love and let everything fall to the ground in a gigantic messy heap of humanity. At certain points, you won’t like any of the characters — who can all be crazy, manipulative, sad, and demented — but you’re rewarded with a tale that’s full of the supernatural. What’s the good news about this series coming to an end? New readers get to read from start to finish getting wrapped up in Lanny’s strange and enticing world without being left to wonder what will happen next. For me, there’s a satisfaction in finally getting the chance to see what becomes of Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Descent

By Alma Katsu

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781451651829

Review – The Wise Man’s Fear

The Wise Man's FearRound two at writing this review… Obviously, round one was not a success.

First, warning time. This is the sequel to Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind (review here) and while I will do my best to avoid spoilers, I will tell you upfront that it might still happen so either stop reading or go on. Your choice.

We are back with Kvothe, Baste, and Chronicler sitting at a table at The Waystone Inn discussing, or rather, Chronicler is listening and writing down, Kvothe’s life story. While the first day spent with Chronicler focused on his life at the university, on day two, Kvothe takes his story outside the world of scholarly learning and into the actual world — a place he did his best to avoid and no one can blame him. As we learned on day one, Kvothe was orphaned at a young age and managed to stay alive with little help. He was accepted at the university with almost no prior training. We come to learn that he is an extremely gifted individual, someone to be admired, and we soon find out on day two of his storytelling, one to also fear. Letting both Baste and Chronicler in, he talks of his love interest, Denna, a relationship he blunders beyond words time and time again. Eventually, he takes a position in Severen with the Maer Alveron (King of Vint) in which he agrees to help do some matchmaking. It’s during this trip that he meets a mysterious Adem warrior, and after a slight debacle, ends up studying the Adem’s warrior philosophy. After his time in Ademre, and a few more successes and debacles, he returns to the university, a place he can’t seem to do without, with the promise of tuition paid. Sadly, even after all the information Kvothe shares, we’re still left to wonder. And it’s a great thing.

There’s a reason the description is so long and that reason is that I don’t know what to say about this book. What I want to do is tell you everything but I said I wouldn’t so I had to stop. Truthfully, it’s one of those books that when you finally get around to picking it up that you can’t, and don’t want, to put it down. It’s also a huge book — mine counted in at 1,000 pages exactly — so it’s also a commitment.

Kvothe is telling this story to Chronicler and the whole time it feels as though he’s speaking directly to the reader. It’s intimately told like you’re in on some sort of secret. In another post where I rambled on about long books, I mentioned this one because I had just finished it, and mentioned that I wondered how editors let long books like this one through without major editing. And plagiarizing myself, I say again, Rothfuss is a talented writer and the way he tells this story cannot be told any other way. Well, I imagine it could but the impact wouldn’t be the same. Epic. Yes, it is. Meandering. Yes, that too. Engrossing. Most definitely yes.

This is not a book to be trifled with. By that I mean you won’t be able to simply put it down and pick it up at random. You’ll want to continue reading it, and when it’s over, you’ll want to it to continue. You’ll want Rothfuss to write faster but you won’t want to pester him about it because you want the last book in this trilogy to be just as good as the first two. Obviously, these things can’t be rushed. They shouldn’t be rushed. A story like this one doesn’t appear overnight. It’s a labor and I’m willing to wait that out.

The Wise Man’s Fear – The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two
By Patrick Rothfuss

Daw Books, Inc.

 

Review – The Shunned House

The Shunned HouseI’ve never read Lovecraft; I always had good intentions though. Time got away from me and I kept saying I would get to it. I never did, until recently that is. I found a story, this one in fact, while browsing the Gutenberg Project website. It was the only Lovecraft story they had listed and I thought why not, I always meant to read one of his stories.

An abandoned house sits on Benefit Street in the New England town of Providence, Rhode Island. The house, empty for years, is the source of many rumors, and many of these rumors have easily been explained away by most of the town’s people. Then one man and his uncle decide to finally put an end to the rumors. Both have a very strong interest in the house and have been actively researching it for years. They plan to spend the night in the basement of the house and discover the source of the supernatural rumors.

For a short story, about 35 pages, The Shunned House packs in so much. I loved the rumors, all neatly explained away by stoic New Englanders, the research done on the house and all its inhabitants, and the guesses as to the source of the possible supernatural on-goings at the place. It had a great creepy feeling, yet, having read it at lunch, it didn’t scare me much but I’m not sure if I’d go in for reading this while cozy in bed. At least not without all the lights on…but that would be a great way to read Lovecraft, if you aren’t attached to sleeping at all.

The Shunned House
By H.P. Lovecraft
A Gutenberg Project Ebook

Review – A Crystal Time

A Crystal TimeSmith wakes up to find himself dirty and in an unknown place. Realizing the gravity of his situation, he decides he must get to the nearest town to clean up and find out what has happened. He begins his journey but recognizes nothing along the way. When he comes upon a group of people, a funeral in fact, he makes himself known and they take him home with them. During his time with the people kind enough to take him in, he begins to fall deeply in love with a woman named Yolette. His inability to understand his new situation and new home, lead to dire consequences.

It’s a great anthropological sort of story. Smith doesn’t understand the culture he’s now a part of. In some ways, he doesn’t want to understand it either and makes no attempt to figure things out with the exception of basic language skills. What he’s learned is all to his advantage though, it’s not to understand or even be able to thank the people who have taken him in, fed him, clothed him, and cared for him. He makes no effort to embrace this new life even after it’s clear that he isn’t going back to his world or time. While there, he becomes obsesses with a woman named Yolette. The love he professes to her is more an all consuming obsession and possession which she doesn’t understand, and by all rights, should feel uncomfortable with. I was uncomfortable with his weird obsession with her as the reader and wouldn’t want to be the receiver of those types of feelings. Smith, however, doesn’t think any of his actions are outside the bounds of normalcy.

There’s no explanation as to how Smith got to this new place or what happened to his old world. Smith doesn’t seem overly curious about it either which is rightly frustrating. He wants so much for things to be what they were but he doesn’t seem to miss the old place just what was familiar and understandable to him. He’s a very odd character that way which is frustrating because it would have been wonderful to see this world through his eyes. Instead we’re stuck with his complaining and pining for what he knew.

I kept thinking of The Left Hand of Darkness with the anthropological aspects and the story of an explorer who comes to a new land that is very different from his own. I liked that Smith was somewhat interested (even if it was only to get something to his advantage) but didn’t on some level have the ability to understand whereas the character in The Left Hand of Darkness did understand but didn’t, to me anyway, seem interested as he was supposed to be observing and not getting involved per se.

The ending, while not giving it away, is a total cop out. In dealing with his feeling for Yolette, Smith succumbs to a depression. The black wolf that follows him and waits patiently for him to wake each morning to become his shadow is the physical embodiment of this depression. It’s effective but letting that get the better of him felt wrong to me. It’s also a matter of his ignorance and the culture he has become integrated with. All around, Smith was a frustrating character and somewhat unlikeable.

It’s an interesting story though and I’m glad to have picked it up even if I can’t say it was a great book. It has its moments and there were more than enough appealing bits to keep me reading.

A Crystal Time

W.H. Hudson

Gutenberg Project Ebook

Review – The Anubis Gates

The Anubis GatesWhen a book comes highly recommended, I want to love it. Sometimes I like the book just fine but I don’t love it but I wholeheartedly wanted to. This is the case with The Anubis Gates. It’s a good book, don’t get me wrong, but I had such high hopes for it that I think it just didn’t live up to my very high expectations.

So what’s this book about? So many things. The contentious relationship between Britain and Egypt in the very early 19th Century, powerful Egyptian gods, time travel, body swapping, magic, and a few historical literary figures all mixed up in a plot that can go anywhere.

Let’s start at the beginning… The early 1980s, an aging billionaire discovers a gate, for lack of a better word, that allows him to travel back in time. He organizes a trip with several other wealthy individuals, and a lone English professor, to attend a lecture by a well-known poet. A magician who happened to open the time travel gates way back when, happens to spy the travelers and kidnaps Brendan Doyle, the hapless English professor brought along for some educational tidbits. Brendan ends up stranded in 1810. Completely unequipped to deal with life in 1810, he ends up a beggar, a rather bad one at that, in a beggars guild, and manages to get caught up in a body swapping scheme being perpetrated by the billionaire who brought him back in time. In a new body, Brendan, now a well-known poet, or at least a poet who will become well-known, lives out an unexpected life.

I hope you understand that description because that damn thing took forever to write. There are so many plot lines in this book that at one point I needed to go back a chapter just to figure out who was in what body and, well, what the hell was going on. Now, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining, it was (there are many good things about this book), but there was more than one time when I found myself confused. To be honest, I read fast sometimes and I think this was one of those moments when that habit didn’t help me at all.

I want to say read this one because there are some really great parts of this book. And I think I will say that because I wasn’t disappointed with this book, but I think I picked it up at the wrong time and we weren’t a good fit.

One thing I loved about the book, and the reason I’m telling you to read it, is the way the travel was incorporated into the story. Having magical gates that transport people in time is just cool and I want one. I also liked the body swapping for all that it threw me off at one point in the story. I guess at that point if you’re going to go with time travel, why not swap a few bodies too.

So tell me, is there another Tim Powers book I should read? I want to give him another try.

The Anubis Gates
By Tim Powers
An Ace Book

ISBN: 9781101575895