Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Delusion in Death, J.D. Robb

After reading the epic 11/22/63, I was glad to find my self back in the future - pun intended. JD Robb is Nora Roberts' nom de plume. Now, I've read a few of her other books, under her own name, and I honestly can't say I'm a fan, but I do love this series.

The In Death series follows the enchanting Lt. Eve Dallas, NYPSD Homicide detective, through her life and her cases. And I've got to be honest, this is one of my favorite series. I know, it seems like I say that a lot, right? Well, I keep reading the ones I like, so it's kinda bound to happen.

When we meet Eve, her whole life is homicide. She has one friend (no exaggeration, one), and no life outside her job. She is the job, as she likes to say. She's also a victim - no, a survivor. She was abused and enslaved as a child, finally escaping at the age of eight by killing the man who provided sperm. His plan was to torture her into a life as the "perfect" prostitute - as a special treat for the ball-less wonders called pedophiles and then as a broken women who will tolerate anything.

But she's made herself. She became a cop. She's strong, smart, confident, brave, capable, and not afraid of sexuality. In the first book, her life changes. She meets Roarke (rich, gorgeous, and, the raison d'etre: Irish). One of my favorite things of this series is the complete lack of the will-they-won't-they plot device. By book three, or somewhere around there, they're married. Fast, yes, but I prefer that over 25 books of dating and breaking up and getting back together. Roarke opens the door to a life beyond the job for her. He opens the door to friends and life, not just survival.

Monday, May 27, 2013

11/22/63, Stephen King

King is my favorite author, so I was super excited to read this one. And I wasn't disappointed.

The basic idea, if you don't already know, is that you can go back in time and save JFK. Of course, it doesn't go well. No spoiler there, if you visited the book's website or, you know, ever picked up one of his other book.

The basic run down is this: high school English teacher gets roped into the plan to save JFK by an acquaintance. The acquaintance is a diner owner named Al whose pantry is a rabbit hole (King's phrase) into September 1958. Same time, same place, every trip. Each trip is a reset. Al's changed a few things to see if it's possible, but decides it's time for something big. No matter how long you stay in the past, you're only gone from 2011 for two minutes.

Al attempts to save Kennedy, but has to come back before November 1963 because he is diagnosed with lung cancer. The dying man looks to the English teacher to take up the mission. The teacher tests out the idea, and finally agrees.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Omen Machine, Terry Goodkind

I've been trying to figure out what to say about this book. As I thought, and struggled, I realized the only way to explain how and why I was disappointed in this book was to explain why I enjoyed the old series so much.

So, Goodkind wrote the Sword of Truth series, the last of which came out in 2003. The series follows Richard and Kahlan, and assorted other characters, as they fight to save the world. It's kind of an interpretation of the King Arthur legend.

As I've said before, characters can make or break a plot, and these made it. Richard is kind hearted, smart, curious, and...almost guileless  That's not to say he was some fool, he can deceive when necessary, he just prefers honesty. It fits his role as the Seeker of Truth and the weapon that goes with that role, the Sword of Truth. Kahlan is similar: smart, powerful (no really, not only does she rule, but she has a wicked magic power), and definitely kind hearted. While she definitely needs saving on occasion, the role of damsel in distress she plays in this book just doesn't suit her.

There are other characters that make the story fantastic. Zedd, Richard's grandfather, cranky old man, and mischievous wizard. Nicci, a bad guy, who turns good when she truly sees and understands Richard. Cara, Nathan...and so on.

And that's one of the downfalls of this book, I think. Goodkind seems to forget who they really are. This book starts one day after the finale in Confessor. Let me repeat: one. day. Now, the Confessor has a few of it's own issues. The ending feels a bit...forced. Some have called it a cop-out. I don't know if it's that, but it certainly seemed anticlimactic. But then, the next day, the characters are almost completely different. There is one scene where the old Kahlan seems apparent. A woman tries to kill her, a poor attempt, because she doesn't want Kahlan to suffer the horrible death the woman saw in a vision. She's already killed her children for the same reason. Kahlan uses her power and questions the woman. She is regal and powerful and cold. She knows who and what she is, and will use it when necessary; yet she mourns the children who needlessly died.

The plot has it's merits. Angry and misguided rulers, prophecy, a malevolent force out to rule the world, and a mysterious machine. If you ignore some of the missteps, the general plan of the story works. It's the details that hurt it. I've already talked about the character issues. It also feels slow. Scenes that should take one chapter, takes five. Richard in particular seems a bit slow. He finds he can talk to the machine, and waits about 100 pages to actually ask the machine questions. Seems very un-Richard like.

My other issue is with the purpose. Sword of Truth definitely ended. This book says "A Richard and Kahlan Novel" on the cover, indicating this is a new adventure. Yet, as I said, it's only one day later. It seems to be the start of a new series - the bad guy is definitely still lurking - but it starts with hardly a breath for the characters. Are we starting a new saga? Did Goodkind decide that Confessor wasn't really the end? Or maybe it never was and it was a misunderstanding with the readers? The blurb for Confessor calls it the "concluding novel," so I don't see how.

I will read the next book, The Third Kingdom, because I hope it will improve. As far as this book...well, if you're a fan, give it a shot. Hopefully, you'll disagree with me. If you're not a fan, then you should be starting with Wizard's First Rule anyway. I would recommend the original series, so have at it! As far as this one goes. Well, it's just a bit.....limp.

Omen Machine, Terry Goodkind

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Headed for Trouble, Suzanne Brockmann

Another collection of short stories, like Twilight's Dawn, only for a romance series called Troubleshooters. Now, I've proposed my 60/40 rule before, and I stand by it. Brockmann is excellent at making sure the romance doesn't swallow the plot. She's actually the author that convinced me I didn't hate all romance.

The series starts with characters from a navy SEAL team, and ripples out into the FBI and a private security company called Troubleshooters. You don't really have to read this series in order, but there is some crossover - minor characters in one book are main characters in another and things that happen to them while they're minor effect their main story. Every now and then the plots, being suspense, get a little hard to believe but for the most part these are really good reads. The ones in the beginning have a little extra ooph, adding a flashback story line. Like WWII spies or gay soldiers. That's not to say the series gets boring. It keeps up, just without some nice historical side plots.

That's another thing: the characters are really diverse - by race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. It makes the whole thing more complex and real. And the characters never go completely away, so the ones you love are always floating around.

As I said, this is an anthology. I'm not going to go over everything, because, dude, there are a lot. There is a timeline in the beginning, so if you're already a fan of the series, you'll know where everything fits. If you're not, you won't be lost for much of it. There are a might be a reference or 2, but very limited. There are short stories, but there also interviews and conversations. Sounds kinda weird, right? They're entertaining, though. The interviews are between characters and Suz. The conversations are similar. All the characters are aware of their status in a book...and that Suz is the author.

Some of the stories can be found on ebook or at the end of other books, so there may be some repeats if you've read the series. If you're new, this may give you a little taste - various characters and situations. Another thing about this book is Shane's Last Stand at the end. It's a short story to go with Brockmann's new paranormal series, Fighting Destiny.

Definitely recommend this one for fans and for those thinking about becoming fans.

Headed for Trouble, Suzanne Brockmann

Monday, May 13, 2013

Twilight's Dawn, Anne Bishop

Another Anne Bishop, so you already know I liked it.

This is a collection of 4 short stories from the Black Jewels Series. This world is a flip flop of what you typically find for fantasy imagery. The Darkness is good - in fact the darker something is, the better. Gender roles are turned on their head. Men have to protect their virtue and reputation. Women rule and men bow to their wishes - for the most part - and are happily sexually liberated. Unfortunately, men are also more vulnerable to sexual predators. The characters are named Lucivar, Daemon, and Saeten, High Lord of Hell. They're also the good guys.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bridge of Dreams, Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop is one of my favorite authors! I love her. I enjoy fantasy generally because of the worlds the fantasy genre can create. You can do things you just can't do when you have to adhere to, say...physics.

Bishop, for me, is one of the best. Yes, Tolkien et al are epic, I don't mean to  downplay the the greats, but Bishop creates such unique and inventive worlds. I just look forward to whatever she writes.

This is the third book in the Ephemera series. Ephemera is the name of the world. It has been broken by a war, and pieces are adrift. Say, you're in Spain, maybe even right on the border of France. But because the world is broken, you can't get to France. That's not true for every piece of Ephemera, but some are completely unconnected.

Ephemera is also... sentient, it has a personality. It's childlike and grants its peoples wishes, changing the world to fit those wishes. So, in this world, there are Landscapers and Bridges.

A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

*sigh* Another awesome book. Another awesome book from a story that's not complete. Unlike City of Dark Magic and the Gale Women books, this story isn't even complete! It ends in a cliffhanger!

Admittedly, this books is a love story, but it doesn't feel like a romance. For one, the characters take time to get to know each other. While they may develop feelings quickly, they don't act on them. In fact, at the end they're married, but haven't consummated the marriage yet. Not that romances are all about sex, I just mean this had a different feel than romance novels. The main characters' first date is so adorably awkward!

One of my favorite things about this book are the vampires. Now, I know it wasn't long ago I was reading about Anita Blake and talking vampires, but this is completely different.

A couple weeks ago I saw this picture while browsing facebook:

My thoughts were, "Yeah! Good point! How come vampires don't use their time more wisely!? WTF?!"

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Wild Ways, Tanya Huff

I liked this book better than the first one. I don't think it was as predictable as the first book of the series.

This book is from Charlie Gales' point of view. Charlie is Allie's (the first book's main character) best friend and lover....and yes, distant cousin. Charlie's powers are part of what make her more interesting. Charlie is what the Gales call a wild power. One of the things Charlie can do is travel the wood, which gets her from point A to point B in the blink of an eye. She uses music and her guitar to make her magic work.

As far as her character, she's....well, she's called a slacker in the book, and while that's not entirely untrue, it's not quite right either. She's never needed to apply herself. She bounces from band to band; she doesn't like to be tied to one place; she uses her magic to ease her way. She's more carefree than slacker. When Allie needed her in The Enchantment Emporium, she was there. She mainly acted as a support system for Allie instead of a power, but she was where she was needed.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Enchantment Emporium, Tanya Huff

The Gale Women series. Another series to get involved in. SMH.

Not that it's wasn't good. I really enjoyed it. In fact, the 2nd book is out and I plan on reading that next. Unfortunately that's where it stops for the time being.

I think one of my favorite things about this book is also one of the most difficult to deal with. Typically, these fantasy or urban fantasy genre books seem to involve the main character being thrust into a new, and previously impossible, situation and having to find their way - find out who they are. Even in stories where the character knows about the real world they live in, they usually involve some kind of self discovery.

On the other hand, this book thrusts the reader into a new, and previously impossible, world and it's the reader who has to find their way. There are few explanations as to what's going on and what the Gale family is. We meet Allie, a twenty-something Gale woman. She's grown up around the family and their magic - she doesn't need explanations. While I do enjoy this tactic, it did leave me lost a few times. It's hard to catch the subtext when you're not entirely sure what the characters are talking about.

City of Dark Magic, Magnus Flyte

"This deliciously madcap novel has it all: murder in Prague, time travel, a misanthropic Beethoven, tantric sex, and a dwarf with an attitude." – Conan O'Brien

While I probably wouldn't have put it quite that way, I cannot disagree: this book was fantastic! It had everything: Boston, Prague, music, spies, murder, politics, traitors, love, sex, jealousy, alchemy, science, royalty, communists, Nazis, and, yes, time travel (though, it's a bit of a misnomer). I've always been of the mind that a so-so plot with really good characters can make a really good story, and a really good plot with bad characters can make a pretty shitty story. This book has both: great characters immersed in a great plot.