Mini Reviews #8

I’ve been fairly crook over the past couple of weeks, and have moved house! Despite both those things (or perhaps even because of them, as I’ve needed stress relief!), I’ve managed to trawl through a heap of books! Three reviews off to Fiction Focus, and a fair few owed to ASIF over the coming weeks:

Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold – Well, THAT was a day lost! I simply couldn’t tear myself away from this book very long at all! Excellent writing, characters and plot, and although a *touch* more predictable than The Curse of Chalion was, it still held me thoroughly hooked, and I loved it. This is what I’ve been MISSING in my fantasy!

, PC Cast and Kristen Cast, 307pp – This is book three of the House of Night series. I read book 1 but missed book 2, but it didn’t really matter. The Casts are pretty good about recapping without boring, which I’m fairly impressed with. Of all the YA vampire (soft) porn about these days, I recommend this series as one of the better ones. I like the premise, I like the characters, and there’s a reasonable plot too. A *little* adolescent in places, but given the target audience, that’s okay!

Bloodhound (Beka Cooper Book 2), Tamora Pierce, 552pp – This book is very hard to gauge. On one hand, it was a fairly good story. On the other, I don’t think it was told as well as a) I would have expected or b) as well as it could have been. I loved Pierce’s Lioness Quartet when I was 15, and can still reread without too much cringe. Bloodhound has the same elements, in a less privileged setting, with a more complex character I think, but it doesn’t have the same grab. Part of this is the writing style. Bloodhound is told through Beka’s diary entries, and this means that the reader is continually distanced from the events, and knocked out of the story by odd changes in story tense (many of which simply felt like poor writing). I have no idea why Pierce would have used this diary technique, as a first person narration would have worked FAR more effectively. I like what Pierce does with gender and sexuality in her books, but I think she’s done herself a disservice with style. Possibly better than some of the Circle of Magic books, but not equal to Lioness.

Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris, 312pp – Interesting repackaging of the covers to go with the popularity and success of the new TV series "True Blood". I think this is better than the previous book. Some issues that bother me with these series books are the cast of thousands that continues to grow, and the ever changing "politics" and relationships – can’t Sookie just enjoy one relationship? This one has a pretty decent plot though, and I enjoyed reading it.

The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street    Serling/Kneece/Ellis    Graphic Novel                   
The Twilight Zone: The After Hours    Serling/Kneece/Isaacs    Graphic Novel                   
The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33    Serling/Kneece/McHargue    Graphic Novel                   
The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance    Serling/Kneece/Grabe    Graphic Novel   
I reviewed these for Fiction Focus – quite enjoyed them, although certainly not something I’d generally pick up. Recommend for fans of original Twilight Zone, but don’t go looking for anything new here except format – these are squarely revisiting original series episodes.
Nation, Terry Pratchett, 404pp – This was a wonderful reading experience. Pure Pratchett genius, although less manically overt than some of the Discworld books, but deeply thought-provoking while at the same time being a great read and even laugh out loud funny at times. Well worth it!

The Edge of the World: Book One of Terra Incognita, Kevin J Anderson, 574pp – An overpopulated cast of characters makes for a bit of confusion in the plot of this massive fat fantasy, but Anderson also manages to draw the reader in and make you want to know what happens next. I’m not sure all the characterisations worked for me, and much of the plot seemed overly contrived (although I wouldn’t be surprised if this aspect improves in subsequent books), but it was an interesting new high fantasy world.

Heritage of the Xandim: Chronicles of the Xandim Volume One
, Maggie Furey, 408pp – I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I was a huge fan of the original Aurian series some years ago, and although I recognise the flaws of those books, they were a good read. I wasn’t sure how I’d go with this one, with the benefit of a lot more books and years under my belt, but this was actually better than the Artifacts of Power books in many ways – more mature plotting and writing, interesting characters, and an enjoyable read. I look forward to the next one.

New Moon, Stephenie Meyer, 563pp – I decided to reread this after watching Twilight. I really enjoyed it when I read it the first time (it was the first I read of the series), and there was still a lot about it that I enjoyed this time. The writing is woeful, the premise is shonky, but the richness of adolescent emotion is what makes this book, and it overshadows all the other rubbish. I don’t agree with the subtext of the books, but I can certainly see what the kids love about it.

Curse the Dawn, Karen Chance, 386pp – Better than the last one, with a lot more character development and plot movement. Still falling prey to the perennial problem of bigger and better bad guys equalling bigger and better powers for the goodies, but a fun read.

Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi, 406pp – Pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this, given it’s really just a retelling of The Last Colony. Much more YA, but a great yarn, with some laugh out loud and tear jerking moments.

Fray, Joss Whedon – I hadn’t realised this was a continuation of Joss’s slayer world. I had imagined it to be something different, but I thought it worked really well, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Joss rulez .

Beguilement: The Sharing Knife Volume One, Lois McMaster Bujold, 361pp – An interesting and unusual fantasy that’s primarily a romance between two unlikely protagonists. I really enjoyed this, but not sure where Bujold will take it.

Legacy: The Sharing Knife Volume Two
, Lois McMaster Bujold, 348pp – I don’t think the Sharing Knife books are as good as Bujold’s scifi. They are almost romance rather than fantasy, and while that’s not a bad thing, they just don’t have the wonderful depth of the Vorkosigan books. Still, I’m enjoying the stories and have just ordered the next two.

Pick of the bunch would have to be Nation by Terry Pratchett and I highly recommend it. However there were some other excellent books in this batch and I’ve been enjoying my reading thoroughly.


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10 responses to “Mini Reviews #8

  1. Anonymous

    Heh. I actually liked Bloodhound much better than the Lioness series. I thought the Lioness series suffered a bit from Mary Sue syndrome. I really liked the Circle of Magic, which has a much more well-developed worldbuilding (and no Mary Sue in sight), but thought the two books after the second series (Will of the empress and another I can’t remember) were pure authorly indulgence. Quite poorly-written (all tell and no show) and heavy on the themes forced down readers’ throats.
    I thought Bloodhound was a refreshing break from all that, and loved the book, especially the voice.

    • Anonymous

      I thought Bloodhound was poorly constructed. There’s whole segments of the story where you feel you’re watching the character’s actions and then, clunk, you have internal monologue about some crap or another completely unrelated to the plot at hand. There were definitely problems with tense too. Just didn’t think the “diary” format was necessary to the story. At all.
      It’s good to remember too that the Lioness series is decades old. I think it stands the test of time fairly well. Bloodhound was released on a little while ago, and I very much doubt it will still be in print 25 years from now…

      • Anonymous

        Ah, yes, but you know why the girls love reading the Lioness series, don’t you? 😉 They can get magic in any ol’ book, but the Lioness series contains an accurate description of the process of menstruation and what it feels like for a first-timer (as yet quite rare in fantasy sold in bookshops today). And later all the sexual awkwardness that goes with being a teenager. It they’re not into ‘everyone hates me at school’ type of books, the girls (my daughters’ friends at least) devoured the books that were a little bit more up-close and personal about this stage in their lives, which for most, had still to come.

      • Anonymous

        Really? Hmmm. I read and fell in love with Lioness at age 15, and reread the series again last year, and I don’t recall any of that.

      • Anonymous

        LOL. I’m starting to get the embarrassing feeling I may be talking about a different book (oops). I mean the book where Alanna first comes to the city dressed as boy and meets George and Jonathan. It is one of a four-book series, but I looked and we don’t have it on our shelves (must have borrowed from the library). When my girls were in year 6, these books were being passed around like hotcakes and my eldest daughter came to me rather embarrassed and asked me if it was true. I mean – they’d been told about menstruation, but had no idea what it might be like from a personal perspective. I definitely think there is a role for fiction to play in the early YA age bracket.

      • Anonymous

        No, that’s the Lioness books. That bit just didn’t jump at me obviously.

  2. Anonymous

    That there’s a heap of reading.
    I’ve got most of those Bujold’s lying around. At some point I should read them.

    • Anonymous

      I’m in love with Lois. LOVE I tell you! Love the Vorkosigans best, but yes, you should most definitely read them all. 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    I enjoyed Fray. I enjoyed the Buffy/Fray crossover considerably less…

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