Skyler Luiken captains the Melville, a typical smuggler ship with a typical smuggler crew doing typical smuggler things. At least, that’s how it seems, but from the first few moments spent with Skyler, it’s obvious that he’s anything but the typical cocky captain that we know from scifi classics like Star Wars and Firefly. In fact, Skyler’s not a particularly good captain at all because he’s too damn nice. Well, not so nice that he’s annoying. No one likes *those* kind of nice people. But he’s just nice enough to make his crew question his suitability for the role of captain after their original captain simply walked away. It’s hard not to like Skyler. He’s a good man trying to take care of his crew in a bad situation. I wanted to give him a hug and let him know it would be okay, but what I really appreciated about the character was the way Hough made him vulnerable, without tipping him into the realm of needing our pity. He’s heroic, without having to go out of his way to prove himself a hero. Doing what has to be done simply comes natural to him, and he does it with awkward and charming competence.
With thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey Books for the opportunity to read an advanced reader copy! And to NaNoWriMo for providing the motivation for Jason M. Hough to get this incredible story out of his head and onto our bookshelf!
If you’re breathing, you’ve heard about The Walking Dead thanks to the critical success the television series has garnered. This book is basically about a group of survivors in Georgia trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. It focuses on the dynamics between the ever changing group as they try to survive their ordeal, not knowing where this path will ultimately lead them. Admittedly, I’m a little sick of zombies, and I have been for quite some time thanks to overexposure through books, games, and television/movies. However, every now and again, I’ll find something that’ll pique my interest in the genre, and I do love anything that explores characters and their machinations.
I’d been meaning to read this series for ages. However, I didn’t start reading this until the television show inspired me to get started. I think I didn’t rate this higher because my views of the comic have been tempered by the television series. It wasn’t a terrible comic. Far from it and I enjoyed it. The television series really added more depth of character while fattening up the story, of course. I loved how many of the scenes they did keep from this initial book. I just found that I thought the events in this book happened far quicker than I like because of the pacing I’d grown accustomed to with the television series, and the characters that I found compelling in the show felt very hollow here (ex: Carol and Shane). As I move forward with the series, my opinions may change, and I may be able to appreciate this without the television series looming over its shoulder.
Volume two follows the survivors as they make the decision to leave the camp near Atlanta and find a more secure location. The group has decided that, with the removal of Shane (who they were starting to distrust anyway), Rick should be their new leader. He isn’t asked if he wants this position. He’s just informed by Dale that the other survivors have talked, and they’re going to put this burden on Rick. Rick accepts the position without a fuss. He actually just says, “Okay then.” No questioning as to why this should happen, just meek acceptance. This volume also introduces the Greene family, Tyreese, and Tyreese’s daughter Julie (and her boyfriend, Chris).
I am really starting to regret not reading this series before watching the show. I’m typically able to separate comics books/books from their television/movie counterparts, but I think I’ve just been too spoiled by the show. I like these comics, but I’m not moved by them as I am the television show. As I said in my bite about the first volume, everything moves too fast. The story feels gutted to me because things are happening in such rapid succession. Where on the show certain events were built up, such as Rick increasingly becoming the leader of the group and eventually forming a Ricktatorship, the comic just seems to hands these events to the characters. However, I really do love seeing many of the scenes from the show in these books.
Disclosure. I’ve only read the first two volumes and, as of this writing, I’m reading the novel, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to read this because it was going to be all about Michonne’s life before meeting up with Rick and the gang, and I wouldn’t be lost. Right? Ha!
The story begins with Michonne running home from work during the start of the zombie apocalypse. We meet her boyfriend and his idiot best friend (who inadvertently doomed the both of them). We learn that she turned them into her pet zombies to help her bypass the walkers. We learn that she talks to them to remind herself of who they were before turning and to have someone to talk, but that’s about it. After that, I’m guessing the rest of her story coincides with one of the comics in the main arc because she saves Otis and is granted admission into the prison. I don’t think it’s really accurate to say that this is a Michonne special since so few pages were actually dedicated to her actual personal story. It wasn’t poorly written, but just disappointing and misleading.
Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill I grabbed the hardcover copies of these books the moment I saw them and warned the librarian that they would look lovely on my bookshelf. She politely reminded me that she has my address on file. I’ve heard good things about this series from friends, but I had no idea how good. In fact, I intended to wait until I’d finished all five volumes before completing a proper review, but after finishing volume one last night, all I could think was “ffffuuuuuuuuuuhhh…”
Fortunately, I’m of sounder mind today and can explain why I’m giving this entire series five stars before I am even finished with it. Volume one introduces the Locke family, with particular focus on the kids, Ty, Kinsey and little Bode. Their lives are destroyed by the brutal murder of their father and rape of their mother by two extremely troubled youths. In the aftermath, they move to the old Locke homestead, Keyhouse, in hopes of recovering some vague semblance of normality.
First of all, I have to speak about the art. This is a violent, brutal, frightening story that could easily have been depicted with much darker imagery typically attributed to the genre. However, Rodriguez’s more cartoony characters and bright colours make everything all the creepier once things really get going. Similar to Japanese manga, the large eyes of the characters can express a lot of emotion within a still image and intense emotional facial expressions and body language (or lack there of) are very important to all of the scenes.
There is also a great sense of stillness. Some of the panels repeat themselves, sometimes with minute changes, but always with a sense of time passing by slowly while the character contemplates the situation. I love that more than two entire pages were spent with Ty at the funeral home following his father’s death. A complaint I have with a lot of comics I’ve read lately is that they jump through the story. There seems to be so much more story they should be telling between each panel, but because of page constraints, they have to skip panels to get to the point. Locke & Key gets to the point without ever losing a panel along the way. I give credit to both artist and writer for this, as presumably Rodriguez is working under Hill’s instructions and clearly, Hill understands the show-don’t-just-tell power of the medium.
So the story goes, Keyhouse is an unusual place. Early in 6yo Bode’s exploration, he discovers a strange key and, when inserted into the back door, it causes him to die when he steps outside, becoming a ghost that’s able to move around the house at will, then return to his body with no harm done. As the story progresses, we learn that there are several other keys (beautifully front and centre on the covers of each volume) and that their father knew about the house’s secrets, but hid the keys for a reason. It is also implied that grown ups tend to forget the importance of such things, so its up to Bode to discover the secrets – especially if he wants to help the mysterious echo at the bottom of the well…
The story focuses mainly on the children, often times with their individual point of views encompassing an entire issue. Each copes differently with the loss of their father and their actions during the assault. Hill and Rodriguez delve deep into the exploration of their emotions, demanding that you feel for them and worry about their well being. The weight of Ty’s guilt is almost palpable and Kinsey’s angst is far more than just whiny, selfish teen mourning. And Bode’s innocent exploration leads to some of the creepiest and intense moments of all.
By the end of volume one, with the mystery box wide open and my compassion for the Locke children firmly established, it was only my responsible adultness that prevented me from staying up all night to read the other volumes in a single, spine-tingling go.
Expected Date of Publication: August 6, 2013
Thank you to Netgalley and Baen for providing me with an e-ARC of Warbound in exchange for an honest review. This is the third book of bestselling author Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles series, and because I had such a blast with the two previous books, I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one and find out the conclusion!
As you can probably guess, I highly recommend the rest of the novels in this series, Hard Magic and Spellbound — definitely read those first if you are interested in tackling the third installment. This being a sequel, the usual caveats will apply for this review regarding possible minor spoilers for the books that came before.
It is the 1930s in a world where a portion of the population possess magical abilities. Naming these people “Actives”, the American government is seeking a way to keep track of and control them, while the magical community and certain special interest groups fight back. One of these groups is the Grimnoir, a secret society of Actives who have dedicated themselves to protecting their own people from anti-Active violence as well as the world from magical threats.
In the course of their war against the Japanese Imperium, the Grimnoir have discovered the source of humanity’s magic actually comes from a cosmic creature dubbed the Pathfinder. It is a predator which devours magic, leaving whole worlds destroyed in its wake. Jake Sullivan, a Knight of the Grimnoir now leads a team to stop the Pathfinder, to prevent Earth from being its next victim. Faye Vierra, the young farm girl from Oklahoma with a sweetness and naivete which belies the fact she is the most powerful Active in the world is perhaps the Grimnoir’s only chance to succeed — but she is missing and on the run, hiding a dangerous secret of her own.
As with the two previous books in this series, I had myself a heck of a time trying to categorize or describe this novel. It is undoubtedly an urban fantasy, and also has elements of historical fiction and alternate history and even steampunk. The Grimnoir Chronicles is fun and full of action, but unlike Correia’s other series Monster Hunter International (which I also adore) it feels darker and a little more serious to me, thanks also to the few nods given to the genre of Noir fiction.
On some level, I also can’t help but think of these books as “Superhero fiction”. The characters in the Grimnoir are certainly not superheroes in the traditional sense, but it’s hard to read the blurb to these novels and not picture the X-Men and remember some of the comic series’ story arcs. The Actives’ struggles with discrimination, government control and the mistrust and fear of the populace certainly bring to my mind the Marvel mutants’ plight, and the Grimnoir society’s noble goals are similar to those of the X-Men for sure. Some of the Actives’ powers which comes from magic are even analogous to X-Men powers, like the manipulation of weather, elements like ice and fire, teleportation, telekinesis, etc. Despite all this, I’m still reluctant to call this series “superhero fiction”, but I’m guessing those who are fans of superheroes or comics will feel right at home with the Grimnoir books. After all, I did.
Speaking of powers, I’m amazed that even now in the third book we’re still being introduced to new types of Actives. Of most interest to me is the “Alienist” whom Jake Sullivan recruits for his team in his war against the Pathfinder. Again, I liken the plot of these novels to those story arcs in a comic book, and in a good way, because one of the coolest thing about this series for me has always been the Grimnoir characters’ use of their magic, working together and applying the almost limitless possibilities against their foes.
One of the downsides though, that in feeling like superhero archetypes, the characters also come off a bit like caricatures and underdeveloped. After three books, characters like Sullivan and Faye still feel predictable and flat like templates. Toru, the Iron Guard who had decided to join the Grimnoir in destroying the Pathfinder, is the worst when it comes to this. It always irks me somewhat when an entire group of people is painted with the same personalities, characteristics and cultural values, and I see now that Toru and the whole Imperium does not stray from the mold.
There’s also a lot going on in this novel, which can be good and bad. Because of the breakneck pace of this novel and all the things happening, my face was constantly buried in this book, that’s for sure. But with several plot threads going forward at the same time (there are at least four, including dealing with the government, Faye’s own struggle with her destiny as Spellbound, Jake Sullivan bringing the fight to the Pathfinder, and ending the Imperium threat) there may have been too much to cover, and the last 10% of the book felt really rushed, like it was eager to wrap everything up. This also made it so that several of those characters like Francis and Dan and Jane and Hammer that I liked so much in the previous books had much less screen time in this one.
All in all, I thought this was a great conclusion even if it wasn’t entirely satisfying, but I still think very highly of the Grimnoir Chronicles as a whole. If you’re looking for something fun and action-filled in the urban fantasy genre with great world building that’s also really cool but a bit different from the norm, I can’t recommend this series enough.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of Seduction by M.J. Rose to read and review, and I found I really enjoyed it. The novel was actually the fifth installment in a series called The Reincarnationist, and even though each book can be read as a one-shot, I’d learned that the protagonist Jac L’Etoile actually first appeared in the previous book. Long story short, I was intrigued enough by her character after reading Seduction that I was motivated to pick up its predecessor, and that’s how I came to read The Book of Lost Fragrances.
I went backwards in the reading order, so here we’re given a formal introduction of Jac L’Etoile and her brother Robbie, heirs to a preeminent French perfume company. Haunted by memories of her mother’s suicide, however, Jac moves to America to become a TV host of a show about mythology, leaving her sibling to take care of the family business.
Like all the other books in the series, this one explores themes around the idea of reincarnation and other paranormal occurrences. While going through the old archives, Robbie stumbles across a collection of ancient pottery shards and a family secret about a scent rumored to enable a person to remember past lives. Robbie has big plans for the discovery, but there are others who would do anything to stop them from happening. When Robbie goes missing, leaving the dead body of a stranger at the scene of the crime, Jac and her former lover Griffin North are drawn into the search, becoming embroiled in politics, suspense, passion, and a mystery that goes back thousands of years.
The first thing I gleaned about this book is that it suffers from a problem I also noticed in its sequel, except to a greater degree — the fact that there’s so much going on! We have multiple plot threads and multiple character points-of-view, and when some of these character perspectives are also past reincarnations, it just makes this book feel even more complicated and jumbled. In addition to Jac, Robbie and Griffin, we also have the story lines about the Panchen Lama, the members of the Chinese mafia, the Parisian police, flashback sequences involving a L’Etoile ancestor and his lover, flashback sequences about an affair in ancient Egypt involving Cleopatra’s perfume maker, sections about Jac’s past and her psychological disorder, sections focusing on Jac’s doctor Malachai…I think I’ve caught most of them, but it’s possible I still missed some.
Despite being called “A Novel of Suspense”, I didn’t find this to be very suspenseful at all, and I have a feeling this is because all the plot threads going on might have “watered” it down a little. I once saw an interview with M.J. Rose in which she said that booksellers often have trouble categorizing her books, and I can see why this would be the case since this series appears to cross multiple genres, including suspense, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, mystery and paranormal. I loved Seduction because it managed to incorporate all these genre elements and still made it work, but I didn’t think it did so much in The Book of Lost Fragrances.
In some ways, the writing and characters feel completely different when I compare the two books, almost like they were written by two separate people. TBoLF felt awkward whereas Seduction was incredible; it’s like the latter was a more refined and improved presentation of all the ideas put forth in the former. Perhaps it was because of all the subjects crammed into this novel, ranging from ancient Egypt to Chinese politics to Tibetan Buddhism, and how some of the character perspectives jump all over the place in history. The author tried to weave it all together, but it didn’t end up very well. The last few chapters of the book started to fizzle out after what I suppose was the climax, because it still had to wrap up all the other story lines.
Also, Robbie and Griffin had little to no presence in Seduction, which might be another reason why I liked that book so much more. I found both their characters extremely unlikeable in TBoLF; Robbie was more like a stubborn child than a grown man in many ways, and Griffin made for a very frustrating and unsympathetic romantic interest. I have to say though, M.J. Rose can write one hell of a love scene. That one torrid and intense chapter notwithstanding, I still couldn’t really get into the Jac/Griffin relationship at all, and that was even with the “eternal love” and “soulmates” angle the book was emphasizing.
Anyway, my opinion would be to save this one, and pick up Seduction instead if you can. And one final note: I half read this and half listened to the audiobook. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have opted for the Whispersync bundle. Phil Gigante is a narrator I’ve listened to and enjoyed for many books in the past, but I admit was a little surprised he was chosen for this one, since it doesn’t seem like a book suited for his voice. He also mispronounces a lot of French words, which was a pretty big distraction.
In my most recent exploration of BookCloseOuts, the Aetherial Tales series by Freda Warrington was recommended to me. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful cover art and the reviews for the series convinced me that the story was well worth the purchase.
I make a point of finishing every book I pick up. There have been some that I haven’t made it through in the past, but since founding a book club and working on this site, I’ve felt compelled to make sure I get through every book, even if it sometimes means skimming pages of the less enjoyable ones.
But lately, I’ve had a few that, even after a significant chunk of pages under my belt, have failed to pull me in. I’m certainly not alone on this. Goodreads recently polled members on their “did not finish” reading habits. You can see the results here. It’s not uncommon for books to start slow and end extremely well, but in these cases, my problem has been as much with style as with content. The content might become more interesting later on, but can I endure the style for 200+ more pages?
Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby. If the thought of picking up that book on my currently-reading shelf is weighing on me, it means I have to reconsider my life choices. My to-read mountain is filled with lots of other books that are demanding my attention, so why should I waste my time on books that are not pleasing me?
The particular books in question are all critically acclaimed, but acclaim does not mean they are for everyone and no one should ever feel obliged to finish, much less like a book just because the rest of the world does. I’d intended these books to be part of my Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, but I’d rather free up their slots for more enjoyable reads.
These three books all have one thing in common though: They are unique entries into their genres – in fact, their individuality might even transcend their respective genres and for that, I can appreciate the acclaim they receive. But at the end of the day, they just aren’t for me. As LeVar Burton says, “Reading is a trip,” but these aren’t trips I really want to take.
The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
This is actually the book that made me decide to write this post and create a DNF shelf on Goodreads. A recent Nebula Awards nominee, it won the vote as this month’s read for my bookclub. While I like the concept of a haunted schizophrenic girl and the way art and fairy tales play so heavily in her memoiors of her own madness, I just could not take the writing. I didn’t even mind the moments where Imp seems to stop and instruct herself. I just didn’t enjoy the meandering, long paragraphs of her stream of consciousness.
This book is heading to my library for donation. hopefully someone else will find and enjoy it far more than I did.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
This is as far away from urban fantasy as you can get, which is what made it appeal to me. Zinzi December lives in Zoo City, a slum for criminals, easily identified by the animal familiars emotionally/psychologically bonded to them. The creatures are manifestations of their guilt, though not necessarily their culpability. Somewhere along the way, we eventually learn that Zinzi’s sloth is the result of her guilt over her brother’s death that she did not seem to have caused, which makes it a little difficult to understand why she was imprisoned in the first place.
Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things but the first client in the story ends up brutally murdered and Zinzi is suspected. Only, that is not the main story line. In fact, the story walks away from this entirely and I had to go back to see if I actually had skimmed pages without intending to. But nope. Apparently, we’ve moved on to Zinzi finding a lost pop star despite her usual refusal to track people.
Where things go from there, well, I’m curious, but not enough to continue for now. I also have issue with the writing style, which contains a lot of local (Johannesburg) vernacular that is difficult to comprehend as the context rarely offers clarity beyond a word being an obvious insult, in some cases.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Reading The Handmaid’s Tale in highschool and recently rereading and loving it made me want to finally try out one of Atwood’s other books. Unfortunately, this one resulted in disappointment. I actually did finish The Blind Assassin, but I did skim a lot of pages. Or, I should say, I loved The Blind Assassin, but I skimmed the pages that weren’t telling that story. This is a story within a story and I loved how everything tied together, but got tired of the monologues surrounding the story of the blind boy and tongueless girl. I just wanted to read about the latter!
I love the movie Red Sonja. It’s a hunt-through-bargain-bins treasure that has been with me since the ‘80s, yet I’ve never read or even been inspired to read the comics. Until I learned that Gail Simone was going to be penning this issue (Does she have a thing for redheads?). This means no more excuses not to read about the metal bikini adventures of Red Sonja. It’s only fair, after recently checking out the other pulp fiction warrior princess, Dejah Thoris.
The book was introduced this Wednesday with six fantastic covers by female talents in the industry. These are my favourites, by Fiona Staples, Amanda Conner and Jenny Frison:
In a recent ComiXology interview, Gail Simone explained that this reboot presents a Sonja that is no longer the ice queen of the past. She’s still the woman that will kneel to no one, but earn her respect, and she will keep her promises. Save her from a captivity of fighting for her life everyday, then she’ll be willing to train your kingdom to defend themselves against a pending attack from a deadly enemy.
In her re-introduction, the deadly swordswoman is clearly deadly, her sword poking menacingly from the ground, but she is also clearly drunk, something that the previously stodgy Sonja would likely never have allowed. Her stupor is interrupted by would-be thieves and the predictable display of her prowess, in spite of her condition is revealed. It’s a fantastic scene though, perfectly hinted at in the second cover above, by Amanda Conner. At the end of issue one, we also get a look of this scene through the revelation of Gail Simone’s writing process for the first few pages.
Now that I’ve checked out both pulp princesses, the differences between them really are striking to me. Despite the similarities in barely there metal costumes, Red Sonja has always worn hers with far more nobility than Dejah Thoris ever thought she did. The new Dejah Thoris comics seem to have tried to make her more of a warrior woman, but they still rely on the damsel in distress/every male wants to get with her storyline. Sonja has always denied men, believing them unworthy of her time. In the reboot, she seems to be less about the misandry, but she remains a woman that I can respect. As in, metal bikini and deadly sword aside, her demeanour is of a person who takes and gives no quarter, demands respect and expects you to earn hers. Just because she has impressive cleavage (which is praised by her admiring twin acolytes) and is comfortable with her body and blade, doesn’t mean it’s there for anyone else’s purposes but her own.
Ganta has gone through many changes since arriving at Deadman Wonderland and has overcome many challenges, but I was completely blown away by the story about the Scar Chain gang, which is yet another community within the prison. Their goal is to not escape the prison, but to destroy it completely. However, they’re hindered by betrayals and a person who seems to be immune to their powers. To me, this arc was flawless, a real masterpiece that brought a powerful emotional punch, and it’s a story that will stay with me long after I’ve finished reading this series. I wasn’t too thrilled about the introduction of the “rock super-monk” Genkaku or the Scar Chain gang when I first got into this, though. I thought things were going to take a schlocky turn. I didn’t think I was in for bad writing, but I didn’t expect it to be as well executed.
I’m happy to report that I was wrong. As I learned more about Genkaku and the Scar Chain gang leaders, the story just really culminated into a beautiful disaster of a narrative with so many complex issues weaved around each other to tell the story. Once I finished reading it, I needed a moment to process and reread parts that hit me the hardest, which were basically all of Owl’s parts near the end of the story. He was the breakout character for me, and later in that same arc, the brief glimpse of Genkaku’s background really added something intricate to him that made me reflect on who he was. Excellent volume.