Archive for the 'books' Category

Best Books of 2015

5 January, 2016

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1) The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (The Cinder Spires

When I first heard of this new series I was actually a bit annoyed as it meant less time for Butcher to spend crafting new books in the Dresden series.  About 20 pages into The Aeronaut’s Windlass I forgave him.  This is a richly detailed fantasy world with unique peoples, cultures and magics.  Humanity lives in spires high above the uncertain and dangerous mists of Earth.  Butcher peoples these spires with unique and entertaining species and races (this is where I should mention the scene stealing Cats).  The Spires are run like nations, with armadas of stunningly crafted mist-sailing ships.  Butcher has grown really, really good at creating wonderful series- each individual book is satisfying on its own but also part of a larger, more complicated and multifacted story.

2) Red-Rose Chain Seanan McGuire

I truly adore this series– I took this one camping, in thirty degree rain. I curled inside my sleeping bag, exhausted and drained and yet unable to stop reading until my eyes closed of their own volition. McGuire’s characters grow and change; they do so subtly, gradually and with realistic growing pains. I wonder sometimes if these stories would be as effective if they were a little less violent but really, I don’t really care– I’ll keep reading until the series ends (please don’t end)

3) Sitting Pretty by Richard Kadrey

Man, this series. I love it. It’s dark and violent and funny. I’ve mentioned before that James (“Jimmy”) Stark is the perfect anti-hero, glittering in his scarred and tarnished armor, but it’s worth repeating. I appreciate an author who makes Satan a relatable character without resorting to cheesy-ness (although there is a strong element of camp).
I usually download the audiobooks in this series as soon as they are released– the narrator does a fantastic job. His female voices can sound pretty similar, but it almost never detracts from the story

4) Armada by Ernest Cline

I feel kinda bad for this book because I think I would have liked it more if the author’s first book hadn’t been so damn good

5) The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

I honestly haven’t been able to read it yet, because when I do… Well…

July is over. August is not.

1 August, 2012

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In an attempt to escape the constant attention demanded by my uterus and its inhabitant, I read. A lot. And count down weeks I have left of something weighing around 5 pounds standing headfirst on my flattened bladder like some kind of naked mini break-dancer. (Which, by the way, is only 5 weeks or approximately 33 days).

July’s books:

Flight, Sherman Alexie
Alexie is one of my favorite authors, and possibly my absolute favorite, so it’s probably not surprising that I found ‘Flight’ fantastic, current, and beautiful… So many poignant moments told so well, so accessibly…

Some quotes: “And anger is never added to anger. It multiplies.”

“Then I remember that God is really really old. So maybe God has God arthritis. And maybe that’s why the world sucks. Maybe God’s hands and fingers dont work as well as they used to”.

“Every part of you has different memories. Your fingers remember the feel of a velvet coat. Your feet remember a warm sandy beach. Your eyes remember a face”. (5/5)

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
A pretty, pretty book. Short, simple and deep. “I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you”. (4/5)

Pest Control, Bill Fitzhugh
Funny, quick and with a happy ending. And, lots of information about bugs. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had had illustrations. I looked for this book at Powell’s for about 15 minutes before Eli found it for me. He asked me how it was when he saw I’d finished it and I literally spent the next 30 minutes describing the plot to him. No offense to Fitzhugh, but I think my version of his plot was a bit funnier than the original… The parts that were funniest could have been made funnier and more comprehensive, and in my retelling I made Eli laugh, so… (4/5)

The Folk of the Air, Peter S. Beagle
Such an interesting concept- a marriage of madrigal and magic, of reality and fantasy, of beautiful prose and action. It wasn’t the most believe-able fantasy I’ve read by Beagle, or the most beautiful, but it passed away the summer hours most delightfully. It left me trying to talk in Olde English… (3/4)

The Devil You Know, Mike Carey
Wonderful urban fantasy. Felix Castor makes a wonderful protagonist, both likeable and funny (without trying too hard), and sardonic and cynical (without being too hard-edged). While some of the aspects of the story’s reality were left a bit un-explored the story moved along at a fast pace and remained interesting. I’m already looking for the second in the series. (4/5)

Viscous Circle, Mike Carey
It’s simply amazing how many words I had to look up in this novel. I adored it, and the hero, Felix ‘Fix’ Castor. He’s so dark and funny and caustic and self-effacing I can’t help but like him.
The author apparently writes for Marvel and Virgin comics, which while surprising in some ways puts other things into place– the action scenes dragged a bit for me, which they tend to do in comics too, even with the pretty pictures to carry along the plot. It wasn’t necessarily a visual text- the dialog and action moved it along far more than description. Still, a fantastic plot, fantastic characters and the possibility of more in this series in the future while maturing the characters and momentum. (4/5)

Serenity: Those Left Behind, Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad (illustrator)
Comic books have always been hard for me to read– I always find myself distracted by the pictures or the text, instead of marrying them together. This particular comic, however, was a bridge between a TV series I loved (Firefly) and a movie I didn’t really like (Serenity). so I found the story interesting and fulfilling, and the artistry somewhat appealing (although some of the artists were clearly better at capturing the likeness of the characters than others). (3/4).

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
Sweet book with Kingsolver’s usual beautiful throw-away lines- simple, kind of dated, but so pretty and light. I read this the first time a long while ago and it surprised me the lines and parts I remembered and that have lasted through the years. (4/5).

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, Donna Andrews
If you like your mystery super-sweet and light you might like this series. Randomly picking up titles at the library the other day this seemed like a good choice for an animal lover like myself. However, it was just too damn saccharine for my taste. The main character is put-upon and mostly un-relatable with a giant, loving, well-meaning but overall highly annoying family and fiance. I finished it because it only took a few hours to read. If it had been any longer I would have put it down, even though it did feature a zoo of adorable animals. (2/5).

Night Train, Martin Amis
That was weird. This what I get for randomly selecting books off the library shelf, I guess: weird, pretty much un-relatable and unsatisfying mysteries. It had an interesting style and moved rather quickly but there wasn’t any pay off for the angst. I read it immediately after reading a teeth-rottingly sweet mystery that was, ironically, right in front of it on the shelf, and they couldn’t have been more different.
It was pretty clear the female character was written by a man– something just didn’t ring true. I was surprised to read the author was from London though– the grizzled, depressed and beaten tone felt fairly urban american (2/5).

Home For a Spell, Madelyn Alt
Couldn’t finish this crap-tastic book for the life of me. I kept thinking ‘maybe once they find a dead body it will get interesting’. Close to half-way through the book, reading painful text and over-wrought dialog (from what I can only assume is a 17 year old writer on a red bull binge) I still didn’t have a body, a plot, or any desire to keep reading. (1/5).

Snuff, Terry Pratchett
I literally applauded when I finished this book- Terry Pratchett’s books make me like life more. Sam Vimes is one of my all time favorite characters– I love it when the discworld novels center around him or the city watch– you get a fantasy, a mystery and an extrapolation of what it means to be human all in one hilarious novel. Bravo Sir Pratchett, and thanks. (5/5)

Butcher Bird, Richard Kadrey
The Sandman Slim novels are my new favorite series, but this book, written before the series started took a bit to get into. The second half was much better than the first and I’m glad I picked it back up, even if it did read a bit like an immature version of Sandman Slim. There was fantastic imagery in this novel (On the cover a William Gibson review likens it to something from Juxtapose, which I pretty much agree with), but the characters (theoretically different) where pretty much the same characters used later in the Sandman Slim novels. (4/5).

The Last of the Menu Girls, Denise Chavez
I found this book in the 1 dollar shelf of Powell’s. It is either comprised of a series of short stories or of a series of rather disconnected chapters surrounding the main character Rocio. At times it is brilliant and well crafted narrative and at others it is almost schizophrenic stream of consciousness. Sometimes it’s both at once: “I have decided to buy the gift package of ‘Evening in Paris Cologne and Bath Water’ for my Mother. “I’ll take this please,” my voice falters. I don’t remember how to speak, I am afraid, my clothes are all wrong. Can’t you cover me up? Shape my doubts, pluck the nervousness away, mask the fear and seal the lips with hope for self. Dynamite Red of course.” (70).
I liked/understood the first chapters better than the last few– they got more confusing as I went along, and didn’t seem to follow a chronological time-line… perhaps there was some great meaning for that, but I didn’t get it… Also they were a bit depressing. (2/5).

The Dark Lord of Derkholm, Diana Wynne Jones
I’ve recently become obsessed with dragons and much to my pleasure and surprise this book had them. A light, fun, easy read- perfect for distracting myself and easy enough to finish while really physically uncomfortable. Unfortunately my copy from the library was either much loved or much abused– it split down the middle and tried to separate itself from the cover, causing me to worry about it’s physical form almost as much as I enjoyed the text. (4/5).

Very Bad Deaths, Spider Robinson
My (new to me) local library drives me batty with the way it shelves fiction– especially genre fiction like mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve taken to randomly pulling books that catch my eye and hoping I get lucky. This book was one of those randomly pulled from the mystery section– I probably would have called it Sci-Fi or a thriller (thrillers, oddly enough, are housed with the Adult fiction), but it was, honestly, a mystery book as well.
Normally I’m not a fan of serial killer themed mysteries, but this book had enough else going for it that I didn’t mind so much– it was funny, it had a well-developed telepathic character and it was fairly current (even though the cover art looks like it belongs in the early 1980s).
It wasn’t the best book in the world, but it makes me want to look the author up and see what else he’s written. I’ll put up with any number of flaws for a writer with an apparent sense of humor. (3/5).

burning books to keep warm

5 July, 2012

northwest purples

It’s July 5th. My heater is currently on. In the annals of my personal history 2012 will be known as either ‘the coldest summer of my life’ or ‘the year without a summer’. Pity me, as I surely pity myself. Also, I paid an extravagant price for a peach of most inferior flavor… I miss warm, swimming, ripe fruit… I am trying to tell myself that at least I am not in the death-grip of a heatwave… but it’s not really working. Cue self pity. And books. Bring on the books:

A Nameless Witch. A. Lee Martinez
meh. It was cleverly conceived but rather dull to read. (2 of 5 stars)

The Song Reader. Lisa Tucker
I read this for a book club. Very angsty. Angst, angst, angst. My mother-in-law would like it, for it’s references to 80’s music. The rest of you can skip it. (2 / 5)

Odd Thomas. Dean Koontz
Speaking of my mother-in-law, she’s been telling me to read this series… I told her it was cute, quick and fun… until the ending. I did not like the ending. (3 / 5)

Castle in the Air. Diana Wynne Jones
I’d been wanting to read something by Diana Wynne Jones for quite a while, and this was the only one I could find in the library, so I picked it up. It wasn’t until page 136 (of 199) that I realized it was a continuation of Howl’s Moving Castle– and it was, interestingly enough, at that point the book really picked up and became wonderful. This is a fairy tale at it’s best, I think, and I loved the last half of it immensely. The ending was super sweet without being treacle– I’m definitely going to read more of her!! (4 / 5).

Bite Me. Chistopher Moore
I love the cover. And the insults (and pretty much all of the colorful language). And the irreverent, doesn’t take itself seriously at all humor. I’ll have to read more by Moore. (4 / 5 [for the cover art alone )
bite me cover

Kill the Dead. Richard Kadrey
Sandman Slim is so goddamn cool. If he wasn’t so tragic I’d wish I was his friend. He’s just such a like-able asshole… The book reads like a movie, one I’d watch again and again and probably end up quoting. But then I always did love a good zombie movie. I audibly cheered when half-way through the book I realized there were going to be zombies.

Some randomly wonderful quotes:

“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces. Someday the right one will catch you in between the eyes and you’ll never see it coming. There’ll just be a flash of a face or a smell or her touch. Then bang, you’re gone. The only rational thing to do is kill memory. Get it before it gets you. One more drink should do it. It hasn’t worked before, but what the hell, maybe this time I’ll get lucky” (145).

“I pour a tumbler of JD and take a long sip. Whiskey doesn’t mix well with toothpaste, but I already filled the glass, and once whiskey’s been let loose you have to deal with it, like love or a rabid dog” (154).

“That good?”
“Worse. It’s like a dog with cancer ate a rat with leprosy and shit it down my throat” (177).

(5 / 5)

Forever Odd. Dean Koontz
I’m not sure I really enjoyed the story. The main character is almost too friendly, too sweet, too… something. As a second novel in a series I thought it did a rather poor job of relating to the last story– too much backstory for readers already familiar with Odd and not enough detail for those without… I wouldn’t have liked the book at all, but it did teach me a couple new words. There are worse things to read though and I didn’t *dislike* it by any means. (2 / 5)

Howl’s Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones
This book flows wonderfully, fantastically, magically. It’s pretty and sweet and Diana Wynne Jones is one of my new favorite authors. I realized while reading it that a lot of my favorite fantasy authors must have also read it, and been influenced by it, yet It didn’t seem dated at all, it could have been written today and stand just as tall. All the things I loved about the movie are still there (imperfect characters, magic, fun) plus dozens of cute things that were missing from the animation. I adore how sweet it is without being cloying. It’s a fantastic story. (5 / 5).

V is for Vengeance. Sue Grafton
I’ve been a fan of the series for as long as I can remember– and her latest was highly enjoyable. Ordinarily I find it slightly annoying when she switches narrators, but this time it really worked- it was awesome to ‘see’ Kinsey from someone else’s perspective, towards the end of the novel. This particular novel’s ending left me feeling satisfied and happy- justice was served!! (4 / 5)

Sweet and Deadly. Charlaine Harris
I thought I’d check out Charlaine Harris after seeing her name as a reviewer for my current favorite series Sandman Slim, but my oh my is this a different kind of story. I barely got through the first half, which felt dated and un-polished and really dated. I kept reading though, and the story got a little better- it was her first of many many novels, so I’m willing to cut the author a little slack. It was super quick and easy to read and occasionally suspenseful. (2 / 5)

Shakespeare’s Counselor. Charlaine Harris
It was a quick read but ultimately not great. I wish I’d picked up one of the author’s other series, as this one was hard to relate to. (2 of 5)

Aloha from Hell. Richard Kadrey
So. Fucking. Good. I love the glittering anti-hero, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, aka the nephilim abomination. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as the first two in the series, but it did leave lots of room for future adventures (!). I wish I had bought this series instead of borrowing it from the library, as I can easily see myself reading each novel several times. I wish the powers-that-be would make these into movies- and hey, they take place in hell and L.A, so they could save the money from shooting somewhere more geographically foreign by crafting awesome special effects.
The reviews of the series on the back are pretty right-on, especially the ones written by William Gibson. It’s a dirty, funny, enjoyable and just plain awesome series. (5 / 5).

Sweet Silver Blues. Glen Cook
Not the kind of book I’ll remember for long. I was kind of disappointed in how boring it was– I expected more from the mystery-fantasy-crime solving promised in the description… I wish I didn’t have the next two in the series on the bookshelf, but oh well… I guess there are worse ways I could spend my time. (2 / 5)

Bitter Gold Hearts. Glen Cook
Better than the first in the series but still lacking something. Really, a P.I working in the fantasy realm has such possibility…