Tag Archives: mini-reviews

Mini-Reviews #18 – My reading lately

Ahem. When "lately" is given to mean for almost the entire year to date! I kind of forgot to post updates. I think I actually recorded my reading almost all the time, but with the lump of WA Premier’s Book Awards reading, I didn’t make notes on quite a few! 

Solace and Grief: The Rare book 1, Foz Meadows – Not bad for a first novel – a few too many characters and plot threads, and the writing wasn’t always engaging, but a good first book.

Single White Vampire, Lynsay Sands – An okay read, but some offensive attitudes and behaviours by the male vamps. Believable world-building.

Twilight: the graphic novel Vol. 1, Stephenie Meyer & Young Kim – Beautiful artwork, minimalist text, works very well even without the Twilight juggernaut behind it.

The Dead-Tossed Waves, Carrie Ryan – As with the first book, this story totally drags you along for the ride. It’s not all that deep, although it is dark, but it’s compelling. A bleak post-apocolyptic tale.

Candleman, Glenn Dakin – Quite good steampunkish fantasy on the dark side. A bit caricaturish at times, but engaging.

Shalador’s Lady, 
Anne Bishop – I loved this! Bishop is definitely on form with this Black Jewels novel. Literally could not put it down!

Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke – Thoroughly enjoyed this – stands alone quite well, even though it’s the second of the trilogy. Action packed and great characters. A must-read of the year for fantasy lovers.

Dracula the Un-Dead, Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt – The best bit about the book was the essay at the end by the authors on how the book came to be, and why they made the choices they did in terms of story, character and so on, particularly in terms of reference to the original Dracula. A little clunky in the writing and I never really became immersed in the story because the narrative seemed very distant.

The Griffin’s Flight (The Fallen Moon Book Two), KJ Taylor – Sadly didn’t live up to the wonderful promise of the first book, which I really enjoyed. Still a reasonable read, but I wanted more.

Kitty and the House of Horrors, Carrie Vaughn – Carrie Vaughn has made it on to my automatic "must read" list. These books are fun, pacy and character driven. Look forward to the next!

The Fall of Ossard, Colin Taber – Interesting premise, executed dully. Not at all engaging although one of the more competently written self-published books I’ve read.

The Painted Man, Peter V Brett – Largely enjoyed, although a bit disappointed by some events at the end. A solid fantasy read.

Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson – Fantastic debut novel from a skilful and compelling writer. Loved reading this and looking forward to the next book!

The Desert Spear, Peter V Brett – Another good read, lots of action, although the characterisation is a bit uneven. Not pleased there’s such a long wait til book 3!

The Wildkin’s Curse, Kate Forsyth – Took a while to get into, but really got good. I often find Forsyth’s books are slow to start – a bit offputting for the younger readers the books are aimed at, but worth the payoff.

The White Cat, Holly Black – Couldn’t put this down. Captivating characters, premise and plot.

Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott – Took a long time to get into, but really kicked in about halfway through – second half of the book compelling

Dead in the Family, Charlaine Harris – Need to have read the short story "Gift Wrap" to get everything in this novel, and it’s very same old same old. Fans will love, newbies should not start here.

Hourglass, Claudia Gray – Really not a book to read if you haven’t read the rest of the series and seemed to drag a bit. Could have been shorter and tighter for a more effective story. 

The Hotel under the Sand, Kage Baker – This was lovely! At Alice in Wonderland end of the fantasy scale, I really enjoyed it. Clever and sad and sweet.

Ice, Sarah Beth Durst – This was different – it riffs on a non-European fairytale which is nice, but I’m not sure it really fits my definition of YA, which is what it is. An 18 year old getting pregnant to a man she knows mostly as a bear is a bit different…

Ceremony in Death, JD Robb – This is one of the early In Death books, and amazingly, one I hadn’t read. I’m gradually building up my collection of these, so was delighted to find one I hadn’t borrow-read from elsewhere! However, this is absolutely not one of the best of the series. Apart from the supernatural elements (which detracted from the usual SF feel of the books), there is a LOT of point-of-view jumping around, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph, which is, to me, a sign of lazy writing. A bit of a disappointment, and that’s the first time I’ve ever said that about one of these books!

Marvel 1602: Fantastic Four, Peter David & Pascal Alixe – Interesting, but not as good as the original Gaiman-authored Marvel 1602.

Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts – Absolutely adored this. Can’t wait for the next volume!

Fables 13: the Great Fables Crossover, Willingham etal – Crossing over with Jack of the Fables and the new Literals titles, the 13th Fables compilation is probably the best in a while. I love the Page sisters, so any story that has them kicking butt is a good ‘un 🙂

Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs – Patricia Briggs really is one of the best authors writing paranormal fantasy at the moment. In the fourth and fifth instalments of the Mercy Thompson series, she manages to maintain her cast of characters and her pace, without devolving into over the top plotting. Mercy is not super human (even if she is supernatural) – she’s been badly hurt, and it’s taking time to recover, rather than her just getting over it. I love the secondary characters in these books too, and devoured these two in only a couple of days!

Silver Borne, Patricia Briggs  

Demon Angel, Meljean Brook – Meh. This book was WAAAY too long and seemed really convoluted. I bought this (and books 2 & 3 set in the world) because of a short story by the author I read in an anthology, but this novel didn’t quite live up to it. I hope the series gets better (tighter), because I like the premise and the characters!

The King’s Bastard (The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin book 1), Rowena Cory Daniells – I really enjoyed this – very big fat fantasy, but action-packed and draws you through quickly. Might just be me, but it actually felt quite YA-ish in style and plot. Loved the characters, but Rowena is truly a NASTY person for what she puts them through! Can’t wait to read book 2.

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad book 1) David Eddings
    
Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad book 2) David Eddings     

Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad book 3) David Eddings     

Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad book 4) David Eddings

Enchanter’s End Game (The Belgariad book 5) David Eddings

Soulless, Gail Carriger – Love these!!

Changeless,
Gail Carriger  

Cinderella: from Fabletown with love,
Roberson, McManus etal – I’m such a big fan of Fabletown, so am really enjoying the spin offs so far. Cinderella is cool!

Lost Girls, Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie – I really liked the premise of this series and the stories are very clever. Got perhaps a bit too over the top erotic, but it’s well done.

Rose by any other name, Maureen McCarthy – I’ve been meaning to read Maureen McCarthy for SO long, and I finally picked up the audio book at the library last week. I love listening to audio books in the car, but unless I’m travelling by myself on decent journeys, they take SO long to get through! This one I got so involved in, that yesterday when we went to the library again, I got the book, because I couldn’t wait to finish it. Yes, is good. Will be reading more.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle, Jim Butcher etal – Having read a few Dresden novellas and the first two books of the series, I thoroughly enjoyed this original graphic novel of Harry. And while it was EASIER to follow because of that background, I think the authors did a great job laying backstory without overloading the plot at hand. Really good stuff, and will probably bring more readers to the series.

House of Mystery: Room and Boredom, Sturges, M, Willingham, B & Rossi, L – Picked this up on the strength of the Willingham name, and glad I did. Interesting, dark, unusual. I enjoyed it.
Spider-Girl: Marked for Death, Marvel – Cool! A "What-If" turned YA series. Great characters, lots of action, lots of hear – good stuff and I’ll be looking for more!

Avalon High Coronation Vol 3: Hunter’s Moon, Meg Cabot 

Wolverine 1: Prodigal Son, Marvel  

Serenity: Better Days, Whedon etal 

Serenity: Those left behind, Whedon etal 

Huntress: Year One, Ivory Madison etal – Really enjoyed this – dark and sad and action packed.

Batman: Hush, Loeb, Lee, Williams – This was BRILLIANT – absolutely loved it, read in one sitting – it’s great writing, great art, great colour. Favourite Batman EVA (could have something to do with showings by Huntress, Catwoman and Poison Ivy).

Moonshine, Alaya Johnson – Best urban fantasy I’ve read in ages. Couple of minor quibbles relating to modern dialogue in historical setting, which contributed to not feeling the setting, but the characters, story etc were great.
WA Premier’s Judging Books listed below

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Mini-Reviews #17

Yep, reading has DEFINITELY dropped off lately. On the plus side, now that bub is sleeping in his own room, I’m reading a bit more at night without fear of waking him, so getting a little more in! Biggest problem at the moment is that I’m reading things I’ve BOUGHT, rather than the review books piling up in the shelf! Tsk, bad reviewer! Ah well, will get back into reviews soon, I’m sure.

Gladiatrix: Kannon Dupree Timestalker, Rhonda Roberts – Early Traci Harding fans will enjoy – dialogue not at all believable, but pacy and action-packed. Reviewed for ASif! (but not yet up on the site).

Federations, John Joseph Adams (ed.) – Thoroughly enjoyed this – mix of reprint and original works, some very light, some very deep, almost all excellent. A quality collection.

Geektastic, Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (eds.) – I’m not usually a fan of editors who publish their own stories in anthologies, but Holly Black has the cred. and the story (which inspired the anthology) totally works for me! They got one thing wrong though – there IS a market for stories like that! I totally would have published it in either ASIM or Shiny!

Angels’ Blood, Nalini Singh – Horrible cover, but I enjoyed the story. Some of the "adult content" felt a bit forced, but the action was good and I liked the worldbuilding a lot. This is one of the series books I bought because I read a short set in the world in an anthology. Worth it!

Archangel’s Kiss, Nalini Singh – Enjoyed the second in this series too, even though it was a very different beast from the first, focussing almost entirely on the angel world building with little emphasis on the "hunting" that I really liked in the first. Adult content still feeling forced, but not as heavy.

Dragon Haven (Book Two of the Rain Wild Chronicles), Robin Hobb –  I didn’t want this book to end. Loved it to bits – very much a love story (or, more realistically, a bunch of love stories!) as opposed to the dark political and social fantasies we generally get from Hobb, beautifully written with the unfolding story of dragons. I have particularly enjoyed the little story that has come out of the notes exchanged by the pigeon keepers!

Ash, Malinda Lo – The writing is lovely, and the story has gained a LOT of publicity for being a YA lesbian Cinderella story. However, the pacing was off for me, and I think that the book could have benefitted from being longer, with more attention being paid to all the three "love" storylines (the Prince, the fairy, the huntress) and resolving them a bit better. I would have liked to see more about the mother as well, and the greenwitch side of things seemed to get a bit lost. It’s a nice story though, with an important look at sexuality and fairytale reinterpretation. And the cover is GORGEOUS (I’ve got the non-Twilight looking one that is green with the girl in the woods on the front!).

Superman: True Brit, Cleese etal (Graphic Novel) – Weird. Okay to read but not really my thing. I like the What If type things, but this was just odd…

The Awakening, Kelley Armstrong – Not a bad read – don’t know it was as good as the first book, as it seemed that nothing really happened action-wise, although there was a bit of backstory development.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan – Wish I’d read this a couple of years ago so I could have been recommending it to all and sundry! Finally picked it up because I really enjoyed the movie (and the benefits of that are visible – of eight copies of books in the series we have, this was the only one on the shelf in my school library!), and really enjoyed it as well. Quite different in both plot and character from the movie – anyone who’s read the book before seeing the movie will not be bored and vice versa. Interestingly, in the book, Percy is 12, whereas he’s quite a lot older in the movie, and it makes far more sense for him to be older – he reads a lot older than 12 in the book, that’s for sure! And in the book, Annabeth is blonde! I like her Xena look in the film better 🙂 Enjoyed thoroughly and will definitely go back for more (and recommend it to all my eager kiddies!).

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Mini-Reviews #16

It recently occurred to me that what with the new baby and all, I hadn’t had a chance to post any mini-reviews since very early January! So, here’s my reading for the past six weeks or so – yes, I HAVE managed a bit, despite bub’s best efforts 🙂

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2, Trisha Telep (ed.) – Nothing stood out in this over-large collection. I think the editor should have looked for more quality (and depth of story) and less quantity.

Must love Hellhounds
, Harris, Singh, Andrews, Brook, 361p. – Good enough to make me go and buy a bunch of books in the series two of these novellas spring from. Really enjoyed it!

Vacations from Hell,
Bray, Clare, Gray, Johnson, Mlynowski, 280p. – Really enjoyed this, particularly the last two stories. One story read just like a horror movie, which was great! Not all happy endings, which makes a very nice change…

Fantasy in Death
, JD Robb – A lot more futuristic than most of the other books, but a great read, as always. Only disappointment was some terrible typesetting, which bugged the heck out of me!

Slice of Life,
Paul Haines – Urk! Haines scares me – he seems like such a nice guy in real life, but what comes out of his head is truly revolting. Well written but urk…

Naked in Death
, JD Robb, 313pp. – I’m revisiting the "In Death" series from the beginning. I’m pretty sure I’ve read them all, but I don’t own them all, because I borrowed from friends and the library for most. Am going to gradually fill in the gaps in my collection (the series just hit 30!), and I started with #1 here. Been a long time since I’d read it, and didn’t remember much of it at all. Lovely to see Roarke and Eve’s beginnings, but it feels odd without Peabody and all the usual characters – I missed them! I love this series…

Flirt
, Laurell K Hamilton – Can’t quite believe I paid full price for this very short novel (it’s a novella, let’s be honest, despite what it boasts on the cover!). Ah the perils of being a collector! In truth, I think this is overlong for the story being told, and it could have been slotted in to a larger work (because it’s not a really big story and could have been a slice of a proper book), or, alternatively, been well-edited and pulled down to a short story for inclusion in a collection or anthology. Not my favourite, but not hideously bad.

Jack of the Fables 6: Book of War
, Bill Willingham etal – I’m a Fables fan – I don’t love Jack as much, but I always enjoy reading these anyway. Looking forward to the forthcoming Willingham Fables NOVEL!

Love Bites,
Lynsay Sands, 373p. – Heavy on the romance, not bad on the erotica, and a different but interesting approach to vampirism. A bit obvious in places and very much in the style of romance.

The Dark Griffin
(Book 1 of The Fallen Moon), KJ Taylor, 513p. – thoroughly enjoyed this! Got it as a review copy, but would purchase subsequent books, which is the best recommendation I can give!

Fallen, Lauren Kate – Fallen Angels are the new vampires in YA paranormals… Not bad, but nothing all that exciting. Teens will like.

Oathbreaker Assassin’s Apprentice, SR Vaught & JB Redmond, 384p. – Surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. Dark fantasy at a quality level.

Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, 626p. – does itself a disservice by plugging itself as being the next Twilight – better written by far!

Blood Promise (a Vampire Academy novel), Richelle Mead, 503p. – Moving out of the YA realm and into adult novels.

Dragon of Trelian, Michelle Knudsen – A great fantasy for younger readers. Cover art does it no favours, but don’t judge!

Lonely Werewolf Girl, Martin Millar, 599p. – Did not finish – absolutely woefully written, simply couldn’t justify the effort it would take to plough through it.

Wizard Squared, KE Mills – First half a bit confusing (but for the right reasons!), but a well put together story. Enjoyed.

Kiss of Life
, Daniel Waters, 410p. – Not a fan of zombies in YA Paranormal – just seems icky. A competent book though.

Blade’s Edge
, Maya Snow, 261p. – Fast, action-packed read – not wholly plausible, but okay for the genre and age group aimed at.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
, Eoin Colfer et al – Great adaptation able to bring new readers to the novels and as a great read on its own!

The Cold Kiss of Death
, Suzanne McLeod, 376p. – Surprisingly good – didn’t realise it was the second of a series, but one worth looking at.

A Touch of Death: the Sookie Stories, Charlaine Harris – I’ve read most of these shorts set in Sookie’s world before, but reading them in chronological order, and with a few more novels behind me, I found them enjoyable to read again. The only one I wasn’t impressed with was the last (which I hadn’t read before), set quite late in the world chronology, because the I thought it was quite offensively controlling, and bordering on sexual predator-ness masquerading as a sweet story. That was ick. The rest were good.

Storm Front, Jim Butcher
Fool Moon    Jim Butcher  – Thoroughly enjoyed these two books – nice to see a male protagonist in the paranormal genre…

The Time Traveller’s Wife
, Audrey Niffenegger  – Almost impossible to put down – extremely clever, well-written and a wonderful if sad story.

Lots of these were reviewed at ASif!, Fiction Focus and Magpies. I also did an article on angels in YA for Shiny 6 that was published in early Feb!

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2009 in books

This is the first year I’ve ever tried to record all the books I read during the year. I was pretty successful up until the last six weeks or so of the year, when Aurealis reading and madness at work kind of took priority over recording. However, this is reasonably accurate in terms of numbers. It does not, however, reflect some of the Last Short Story reading I did online. If I read the complete anthology, it’s recorded, but if I picked only some stories, or they were individual online works (such as Clarkesworld or Tor), they’re not here. This is pretty much a record of all the books and graphic novel compilations (not individual issues of comics…) that I read in 2009 – almost all have been commented on throughout the year – see the #mini-reviews tag if you want more details!

Own Books (ie: those I purchased this year or read/re-read off the bookshelf – 90
eBooks1 (this is not entirely accurate – I stopped using my eReader fairly early in the year due to technical difficulties, but did read a lot onscreen – this is only reflective of a book I read on the reader that I had downloaded for it… Anticipate much larger numbers here in 2010 when new computer is configured)
Review Books38 (included books received direct from publishers, from ASIF! and Fiction Focus – almost all are reviewed in one of those places, sometimes in both, sometimes blogged)
Judging Books38 (mostly 2009 Aurealis, but a couple from last year’s judging in other categories, that more rightly should fall under borrowed books!)
Borrowed Books37 (from library or friends)

GRAND TOTAL: 204

I don’t think this is completely correct, as I’m certain I’ve missed some, and as I said, it’s not fully reflective of short stories (and doesn’t include Twelfth Planet Press stuff like New Ceres Nights, Horn and Siren Beat…), but still, a reasonable estimate 🙂

Looking through them, I’d say that the best books I read this year (receiving scores of at least 4.5/5) are:

Dragonhaven, Robin McKinley (YA Fantasy)
Beyond the Shadows, Brett Weeks (Fantasy) – this whole series sucked me right in – got the first as a review copy, but was so blown away I went out and bought books 2&3 – that almost NEVER happens! This book was the closest I came to giving a perfect score this year.
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (YA Fantasy) – audio book, read by Neil – a sublime experience.
Miles Errant (Omnibus of "Borders of Infinity", Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance), Lois McMaster Bujold (SF) – I read a lot of Lois this year, and haven’t come across a single one I didn’t enjoy.
Identity Crisis, Brad Meltzer (Graphic Novel)
Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold (SF)
Kushiel’s Justice, Jacqueline Carey (Fantasy)
Kushiel’s Mercy, Jacqueline Carey (Fantasy)
Eclipse 3, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Short stories)
Fire, Kristin Cashore (YA Fantasy)
Liar, Justine Larbalestier (YA) – another almost perfect score
Preacher Vol. 2 : Until the end of the world, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (Graphic Novel)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of these came from books I’d bought. This list excludes any top scores that came from Aurealis Awards reading, as the winners aren’t announced until January 23. I liked a lot of them though 🙂 I would also include Horn, Siren Beat and New Ceres Nights on this list, were I not attempting to be unbiased! If I were to include scores of 4 and over, the list would be a WHOLE lot longer, and 4 is a pretty darn good score – I read a lot of books I really enjoyed in 2009. Here’s hoping 2010 sees me devouring even more!

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Mini-Reviews #15

This is the second last mini-reviews for the year – I know I’ve not properly updated my spreadsheet for the past few weeks, and while reading has been lighter with the madness of the final weeks of the year, I’m certain I’ve missed some. However, today is not the day for cross-checking the shelves and spreadsheet. Today I’m mainly posting because I wanted to post my thoughts about Slights, by Kaaron Warren – I’m sure there will be people out there who disagree with my opinions on this one, but I needed to get them down while they were fresh! Thus, I had to list what was in the spreadsheet along with it…

Eclipse 3, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) – Top quality and engaging stories. If I have any complaint, it is that quite a few of the stories are extremely light on in spec fic content, but all are excellent!

Salvation in Death
, JD Robb – Still good!

Crime Spells
, Martin H Greenberg & Loren L Coleman, 309pp. – Possibly the best DAW antho I’ve read this year – quite a dark collection, but not always from the criminal POV – enjoyed it a lot!

Embrace the Twilight/Edge of Twilight,
Maggie Shayne – Issued under a single cover, these two books in Shayne’s "Wings in the Night" series are the first of her novels I’ve read, although I’ve come across at least one short set in the same world. Didn’t suffer for not having read the others, and thought both books were a great blend of paranormal and romance. Will be keeping an eye out for others in the series, as they were among the better ones I’ve read in recent times.

Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K Hamilton, 333pp. – Hamilton herself says this is the start of a new story arc for Merry and her band of men, and it shows. Reading far more like early Anita Blake than the previous seven faerie books, Divine Misdemeanors has a strong focus on actual plot and, gasp, crime investigation! And there’s no sex until almost halfway through (although it is, as usual, wild and heavy once it starts). An enjoyable read, and it really seems as if Hamilton has listened to her fans and started to get back to the origins of her stories.

Hunger Games Book 2: Catching Fire
, Suzanne Collins – Considering I haven’t read the first Hunger Games book, I was impressed by how much I enjoyed this. Collins has done a good job in this sequel, and it was both readable and exciting. If I have one complaint, it’s that things got wrapped up very quickly at the end, which left me feeling a little unsatisfied, but otherwise, pace and character were engaging and enjoyable.

Earth to Hell (Journey to Wudang Book One), Kylie Chan –  Almost gave up on this a number of times. I’ve read the previous trilogy, and I was completely lost as to character and plot. Chan does NOT have the ability to layer backstory in any way, and there are so many characters in this book, that the plot gets lost under the weight of the faces. And nothing really seemed to happen. Not recommended unless you’ve read the first trilogy, and recently.

Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick & Fallen, Lauren Kate – Hush, Hush and Fallen pretty much sit on a par for me – writing standard similar, similar premise (fallen angels), nothing all that innovative, but a solid YA read that the vampire fans will no doubt migrate to. Fallen was perhaps the darker of the two angel stories, and I think if I had to pick, Hush Hush would slightly edge it out for a better story.

Slights, Kaaron Warren – While this has been one of the most talked about books this year, I didn’t get as much out of it as I thought I would. Admittedly, horror isn’t really my genre, but I do enjoy a good horror story, having been a long-time fan of King, Koontz and the like. Horror is a difficult genre though, and the stuff I like best is more the supernatural horror – I find psychological horror doesn’t interest me as much, and this book, despite my expectations, is more psychological and situational horror than anything else. The subject matter is horrible, but not, to my, horrifying. The writing is very good, but the book felt overlong to me. By halfway through, I was over the shock value of it, and just wanted to know what happened in the end. I’m a big fan of Warren’s writing, and think she does both subtle and shocking creepiness and horror extraordinarily well, but I’m not sure Slights actually demonstrates this as well as some of the short form of hers that I’ve read.

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