Reading much?

It’s hard to believe I managed to accidentally take off almost all of August. It’s even harder to believe I’ve had this blog for four years now. Time does go by quickly anymore.

So, I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of what I’ve been reading this summer, and for the most part, not talking about. What do I see in my future? Plans for some regular blogging…

I finally, finally gave in and read A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. It took me forever to finish (my copy is 1100 pages) but I didn’t mind at all because it was all the characters I like, unlike the fourth book which was all characters I could do without. Although, I was left wondering who he’d have left to talk about since he kills almost everyone in this book and there are two more books left in this series. I’ll guess I’ll have to wait and see.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was another good book. I’m torn about all the comparisons she’s getting to The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series though. This is the first book in a seven book series and the setting is a bit Panem like but this is the first book and I think we need to give her time to sort it out. I did a review for The Book Reporter if you’re curious.

I have this huge stack of books staring me down (in a good way!) and I decided to finally give in. I was also in a read all the fantasy mode and went with Sabriel by Garth Nix. A good choice it was. Can I tell you how happy I am to find out this is a trilogy!? The dead, necromancers, old kingdoms, dark magic, free magic. Yes, please.

Kindred by Octavia Butler has been on my list forever. Elizabeth at Dark Cargo was nice enough to send this one to me. Actually, she sent me a ton of awesome books! Sabriel was also in that stack. She’s been keeping me in fantasy and science fiction lately. Time travel with an historical fiction take — it’s amazing. I think I might read it again because I know I missed so many details because I was rushing through to make sure a character lived.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of this book. There are so many great reviews out that I don’t think my telling you to go and read it will matter much. If you love Gaiman, you’ll love this. What everyone has been saying about this one is true.

Right now, I’m reading Broken Harbor by Tana French. It’s her fourth book and I’m still impressed, even a mere 50 pages in.

I think I’ll do another wrap-up in the next few days because as it turns out, I read several more books I do want to talk about.

Tell me what you’ve been reading. Anything good?

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

Review – Timeless Desire

I don’t read much romance but throw in time travel and a Scottish man and I’m in. All in.

Actually, I do read romance novels about once or twice a year. It’s not part of my regular reading feast but I like to change things up every few months and romance seems to be the thing for me. So when this book came along I was happy to find myself totally in the story and hoping for a happy ending.

Panna Kennedy is a librarian in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s in her 30s and a widow — her husband Charlie died two years earlier after a long and painful illness. She’s tried dating but doesn’t feel ready for a commitment yet. One night, a well-meaning friend sets her up on a blind date. As she’s getting ready to leave work, she stumbles upon a door in the library that is a time portal to 1706, and more precisely the border of England and Scotland which is about to erupt in battle. After going through the portal, she finds herself in a chapel. Not wanting to be seen, Panna runs off and ends up hiding in the library with a man named Captain James Bridgewater. He owns the castle and the library that she can’t help but admire. Trying to come up with a believable story for how she ended up in his house, she finds herself attracted to Bridgewater and keeps coming up with reasons to stay. Panna finally goes back to her own time but can’t stop thinking of Bridgewater and what might happen to him. Rushing back to the library, she hurls back in time and ends up in a whole mess of trouble that might get her and Bridgewater killed.

I loved that Panna was a librarian and pretty much fell in love with every book she came in contact with. It was a quirk I found very endearing. Being a young widow, she has her sad moments but it doesn’t consume her and while Panna professes she’s not ready for new love, well, it’s a romance so we all know what’s going to happen. And sometimes that predictability about a story is what I want. I wasn’t reading this book because I thought she might find a new man, I was all out waiting for him to appear, past or future.

Now James Bridgewater (Jamie to his friends) is likable in that gruff sort of way. A man without a family, floating between being a Captain in the English army and the grandson of a Scottish Clan leader, he’s more than stuck in the middle. Panna doesn’t make his life easier but she certainly makes it more enjoyable.

I’m a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and while I’m not out to make comparisons, I will anyway. Woman is the time traveler, meets Scot named Jamie, battle brewing between English and Scottish, two people marry under duress, find they really do love each other. You get the picture. Don’t take any of this as negative because it’s certainly not. I liked all these elements in the Outlander series and I liked them in this book. The story had a familiarity to it but didn’t feel the same for me. This happens when I read books with similar settings, which I do often especially with historical fiction, and while I wanted to mention it, it certainly wasn’t a drawback for me.

Here’s what it comes down to — Timeless Desire was a fast and entertaining read. The characters were likable, the setting a favorite time period of mine, and I can’t pass up a hot Scot. I was looking for a change in my reading and this book was a perfect summer evening read for me. I really I have to say I enjoyed it. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be adding more romance to my regularly scheduled reading but it did make me realize I need to give it a chance more often.

Timeless Desire: An Outlander Love Story

By Gwyn Cready

Astor + Blue Editions LLC

ISBN: 9781938231292

4 stars

Review – 11/22/63

11/22/63

By Stephen King

Scribner

eISBN: 9781451627282

4.75 stars

Yes, Stephen King, the man who writes the scariest characters on earth, wrote a time travel book.

Jake Epping, a recently divorced teacher, lives a quiet life in a small Maine town. His divorce has left him despondent about life in general but he trudges on day after day. One of those days, he’s approached by a friend, Al Templeton, a local restaurant owner who says he has something to show him. Jake meets Al at his restaurant and is surprised to see his friend in the last stages of cancer and struggles to understand when all this happened. Unfortunately, he ends up with more questions than answers when Al shows him the time portal in the back closet of his restaurant. Jake is skeptical but goes through. Al then ropes him into his scheme — he wants Jake to go back in time to kill Lee Harvey Oswald and save John F. Kennedy.

Oh, the tale Mr. King weaves. This book feels part science fiction, part alternate reality, part fantasy. But what it really is is all wonderful. There was a time when King was a comfort read for me. That might sound strange considering he’s known more for horror but I read Carrie, Christine, Salem’s Lot, The Running Man, and The Long Walk over and over again. Each time amazed by the tension, the twists and turns, and I loved being scared by him. Eventually, I moved away from his books, not for lack of books (the man is more than prolific) but because there were other books that caught my attention. Admittedly, I probably burned myself out. A few years ago, I asked a colleague’s husband if I could borrow one of his King books. It was Duma Key and I was once again left wondering why I didn’t read more King.

When 11/22/63 came out everyone fell hard for it. I decided to wait. I wanted to read it but I tend to shy away from bestsellers and give myself space from all the wonderful reviews. And there were many wonderful reviews of this one. Then Twitter happened. Natalie over at Coffee and a Book Chick was talking about how she loved it. I asked if it was really worth it (the answer was a resounding YES) and then decided that since I needed a book for my Thanksgiving travels, I would buy it. What can I say — it was fabulous.

There’s nothing particularly scary about this book, so if you’re judging on that level, walk away. In some respects, that made it feel like I wasn’t reading a King book but I was OK with that outcome because the characters are amazing. I cared so much about what would happen to them and I came very close to tears at the end. I didn’t want it to end.

It was a rush of a story too. While it’s slow in the middle and you start wondering what if anything Jake is going to do about Oswald, you’re too caught up in his alternate life to care. It’s the life he was looking for and you’re so glad to see him finally find it that you start hoping that he won’t go through with it so he can continue with what he found.

This was a book I fell for hard. It also made me thankful that King is an author with many tomes to his name. While I can’t recreate this reading, I can revel in his other books.

Believe the hype on this one. It is that good.

Review – The Revisionists

The Revisionists

By Matthew Mullen

Mulholland Books

ISBN: 9780316176729

3.5 stars

Time travel can be an iffy subject. How much can you mess with the timeline and keep readers stretching their grasp on reality before it snaps. In The Revisionists, Mullen asks both the reader and his main character to do just that.

Zed is an agent sent back to present day Washington, DC by the Department of Historical Integrity to ensure an event, a catastrophic event involving the death of millions of people, takes place and guarantees his society’s existence and way of life. In his timeframe, all of society’s problems have been solved — there is no hunger, no war, just a happy peace. Or that’s what the leaders in his time want him to believe. He begins questioning the need for his so-called mission wondering if letting people die will in fact lead to the perfect society he lives in.

Lonely and convincing himself it’s research, Zed begins interacting with contemporary individuals finding their lives and problems are not far from his own. Part of his mission is to leave as small a trace as possible of his existence. Zed’s footprint is huge and continues to grow. There are too many openings and far too many people involved for him to walk away unnoticed. Another problem — it seems the Department didn’t do a very good job with his cover identity since individuals keep recognizing him. He wonders if it could be a coincidence or if there is something mentally wrong with him. He knows he should break off all contact with the people he’s now interested in — especially a young Washington lawyer, Tasha, reeling from the death of her brother in Iraq — but he can’t. The circle widens and Zed can’t step back and soon ends up on the CIA, FBI, and a covert intelligence group’s radar.

Mullen plays with the concepts of history and time making for one confusing story but not in a bad way. In a few areas, I had no idea why things were happening, and while some things are tied up neatly, I was left wondering where all this was going but wasn’t that the point? This is a book about a time traveler with questions about his future and how the past plays into it but he has no real answers because he doesn’t understand the implications of his mission anymore than you do. Mullen plays with you. Dangles clues in front of you and doesn’t give you the answers you want. From the perspective of the time traveler, Zed, it’s brilliantly done. You agonize over his questions too with no answers or solutions forthcoming.

Zed’s mission involves stopping people from the future — he calls them hags — who are trying to impede the great conflagration from taking place and hopefully save lives in the process. He wrestles with whether or not it’s right to let these people die so individuals in his time can live as they do. But he also wonders about his time and if it is as truly perfect as he’s been led to believe. Has he been lied to? Zed can’t forget the questions he has and this uncertainty takes a toll on him mentally and physically. Every character in this book struggles with right and wrong and where those lines intersect. While there’s no predicting how someone will react, or what will actually happen if someone who was supposed to die lives, Zed starts taking chances. It’s interesting to see where it leads him and several of the characters.

Mullen creates a captivating theme throughout — do the decisions we make really change anything but our own fate? What you’ll find is that there are no answers but an interesting story full of questions along the way.

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.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

Today’s teaser is from The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen.  It takes place in D.C. and this particular snippet has to do with driving.  It’s why people say we’re the nation’s worst drivers.

“People in D.C. like to drive in the middle of road, Leo had noticed. The narrow side streets lacked lane markers, so each car tended to glide down the center, staying clear of the parallel-parked cars on either side, seemingly confident no other traffic would dare come its way.  Opposing drivers waited until the last possible moment to pull to their own sides.” (page 29)

Review – The Map of Time

The Map of Time

By Félix J. Palma

Atria Books

ISBN: 97814391673097

4.5 stars

If truth be told, the idea of time travel has fascinated me for a long time, since I read The Time Machine as a teenager in a high school English class. The complicated systems, consequences, and the mechanisms by which time travel is possible are the making of stories I love dearly. Then there are the questions: can the past be changed and should it be? So much potential for a fantasy lover like me! In The Map of Time, three stories intertwine to make Victorian England the birth place of time travel with the author, H.G. Wells, crisscrossing stories to investigate instances of time travel.

Andrew Harrington is a man in mourning for a woman brutally murdered by Jack the Ripper. Years pass and yet he still can’t forget the harlot he met in the dark, dank, back alleys of London. He had hopes of bringing her home to his comfortable mansion and making a true lady of her; a dream now lost. His cousin, however, has plans to change his grieving by means of time travel. If Andrew could travel back in time, he would be able to rescue his girl and move on with his life. Game for anything that will stop his pain and possibly save the love of his life, Andrew agrees and the plot to kill Jack the Ripper is set in motion with the aid of H.G. Wells.

On the other side of London, Gilliam Murray, the proprietor of Murray’s Time Travel, an expedition taking patrons to witness a great future battle between man and automaton, is happily filling his coffers thanks to a time traveling device and fabulous marketing tactics. It is on this expedition that Claire Haggerty, a woman attempting to escape to the future and a new exciting life free of Victorian ideals, falls for the brave Captain Derek Shakleton, the man who saves humankind. But has she really fallen for a man from the future?

Pondering the affect his work, The Time Machine, has had on readers and literature in general, H.G. Wells is approached by a man claiming to be a true time traveler and a man in need of his help in order to save great works of literature from destruction. Skeptical, Mr. Wells becomes a detective of sorts to understand what and who he is dealing with — is the man a true time traveler? Can he be believed? Should he be? Can time travel really exist? Unsure what to believe, he decides to meet with the man anyway and see what his future, and fate, have in store for him.

What Palma does so well is make everything believable even for the most skeptical of his characters, H.G. Wells. He is also a master of tying up loose ends; creating an amazing web of intricate tales that all have similar elements yet are so very different. He’s a fascinating writer able to bring alive the time period of Victorian England with its fascination with new inventions as well as imagining a future world that would entrance. Each of the three stories have common themes, love being the main one, and he treats each story gently to make everything plausible — even if some of the characters are not sure of what they’ve gotten themselves into.

The Map of Time is an intricate story set in a brightly imaged Victorian England but with a fantasy subplot that causes each and every character to re-think their actions and lives. This story is a cautionary tale about the use of science and the foibles of love for his characters but above all, it’s an utterly fascinating and readable book. You won’t want to put this one down.

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.