The four books I read this time are all interesting, and from just two publishers.

K. E. Mills' The Accidental Sorcerer is a fantasy, set in a world that has an early electric age feel with a lot of magic. Gerald Dunwoody is our title character who has all the good fortune of a plague victim without the blessed death at the end. We start off the book with him in the middle of a magic wand factory that is about to explode. Politicians and bureaucrats being the same everywhere he is blamed for it despite evidence to the contrary. This job was of course his last shot at success and the explosion yet another disaster in an life that could be the highlight reel from I Love Lucy. A fun book overall with a some interesting insights hidden amongst the litter of fantasy tropes.
Three Urban Fantasy's also got onto the list, and all three are written by people from different areas of the nation. Each has recognizable regional quirks that make their work distinct.

Anton Strout's Dead To Me features a thief gone straight who has decided to use his ability to read objects for something other than lining his pockets. As part of proving that there's no saint like a reformed sinner he's joined a pseudo government agency. Strout's Big Apple is replete with scenes that demonstrate all the shades of gray that color scale life in any large group. Some of Simon's superiors are not as nice as even Simon's low opinion of them, some are not as pure as he'd believe, it's a mantra we see more than once to good effect. The quips about New York life, and various denziens of the city are a hoot.

Jennifer Rardin;s Once Bitten Twice Shy is the first UF i've read from Orbit, and the first book by the author. Jaz Parks is like the author from the Midwest, although i doubt the authors boss is a vampire. Jaz, is a CIA assasin, and she's good at her job, aside from wrecking cars and her boss's nerves. Jaz has a personality that utterly fits her battle scarred experiences to her her pragmatic midwest roots.

Mark Del Francos Unshapely Things is quite the tour of Boston, and his imagination with a well concealed smattering of New England common sense. Connor Grey is medically, or at least magically retired Druid who has to eek out a living working as a private investigator with the shreds of his once formidable power. Connor's Boston is one where Elves, Fairies and other creatures of legend have come to live. Unfortunatly someone is making ritual killings in his neck of the woods. Connor Grey is not the type to stand around and let things like this happen, especially when he can do something and irritate the powers that be at the same time.

A fun, and contrasting four books.

edited since i conflated the real and pen names of the first author.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Dec. 23rd, 2008 09:29 am)
This one has exactly two entries because between slush of both varieties, and other aspects of real life, I haven't done much reading.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

Excellent. I'm not much of a fan of short fiction, and most anthologies I pick up I end up reading two pages of about a third of the stories and jumping to the next one. This one I read all of them front to back except one. Some of the writers I've read and loved before, Carrie Vaughn's story was a real treat just as I expected. Donna Andrews put in a fun tale, Alan Gordon penned a story about true bonds and J.A. Kornath's story of blackouts and well bowel movements is one of the better ones in the anthology. Patricia Briggs Star of David is another one of the top stories. But my hands down favorite in this collection is Rob Thurmans Milk & Cookies is the product of the type of delightfully demented mind I'm looking for in a future wife.

The other book is Slow Train to Arcturus. Yes I did get to read it in unfinished form half an eon ago, but I just read it in final form for the first time. I love this story.

So for those of you (like me) who haven't finished their holiday shopping, go forth and book!.

Happy whatever you're celebrating!



First up was Amsterdam by the redoubtable Elizabeth Bear. I really liked this one, it has an episodic feel with each chapter leading into the next, but semi distinct. The first chapter feels like The Orient Express which I suspect is as accidental as pulling your own teeth. The main characters are fun, and the settings, dialogue and language have that fell that instantly lets you know who the writer is.


Next up was a book I bought half expecting to hate just based on the cover. Sorry, but it’s true, I mostly hate the cover art on books. Children of Chaos I mostly picked up because I noticed the number of titles on the shelf by David Duncan who I’d never before read. David Duncan has the unforgivable habit of doing things I hate, and doing them well enough to make me overlook those things. Epic, multigenerational, ensemble fantasy is very difficult to do and do well. I will be reading more.


Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence is one of the best pieces of history I’ve read in a long time. It has the ease of reading of a good novel, includes writings by the principals, and discusses how various historical actions were perceived at the time, and since. For understanding foreign cultures this is hugely valuable. I already knew from other readings that Simon Bolivar was an interesting character and almost a living caricature, this fills in more of the forces that shape him, and the other men who helped break the various colonies free. Anyone who wants something good to read or people to base characters off of should read this. Robert Harvey has done a truly masterful job with this.

 And last,

 Draw One in the Dark was a fun book and had a small number of the inherent edges a first book is gifted with simply by its birth. Gentleman Takes a Chance, shows the coherence of character and world that normally takes an author at least four or five books to achieve. Tom and Kyrie grow more, take their odd relationship into new ground, and in general are just fun people to read. We learn more about the world, more about the characters, and about how good a writer Sarah Hoyt is.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Oct. 15th, 2008 01:45 pm)
The following people owe me sleep and should make reparations quickly.

First up is the delightful Carrie Vaughn. I got to meet her in the lobby of one of the three hundred hotels attendees of Denvetion were spread across. I'm possibly the last person on the planet to read Kitty And the Midnight Hour, but if I'm not, and you're among those who hasn't go do so. The characters are very real, the plot is solid and the story is very internally consistent. I was hesitant to pick this one up because well, the werewolf is named Kitty. I'm glad i did finally read it, but i had no intention of reading it all in one night.

Jocelyn Drake writes the other type of fanged fiend of the night, and does so with a few variations that make her vampires distinct. NightWalker follows a vampire who is called upon to confront enemies she thought were dead, by an unlikely enemy of her enemies who is not her friend. After that it gets complicated.

Bill Fawcett's collection of major military blunders How to Lose a Battle is a great read and the type of history i wish people would send me. It covers battlefield blunders including those in the Punic Wars, the Napoleonic wars, and World War Two. One of the highlights is a day by day dissection of Gettysburg. It is not intended to be a bone deep guide to any of the battles it covers, but it is a great place to get a look at how to realistically screw up your characters lives.

Don't forget that Dave Freer's Pyramid Power and Slowtrain are both on the shelves, and that most stores will order at not extra charge if you ask.

Since the last ASR I've read a lot of slush, some client work, way to many traffic signs and license plates. I've also managed
to read, or in one case reread three things with cover art that I liked.

First up is a reread of Mercedes Lackey's Magic's Pawn. I haven't had the time to reread this is a few years. Partly because my last copy died after several rereads, and spilled drinks, and partly because I've been busy. This is truly one of her best works, and one of the better pieces of fantasy of the last quarter century. Very few people have the skill to take a whiny, self centered, and rather well damaged individual and make him carry a story. I think I respect this story more now than I did the first dozen times I read it.

Second up is Caitlin Kitterdge's Night Life. My only real hesitancy about this book is my inability to call it either an urban fantasy or paranormal romance, fortunately it's not that important in a story that's done well. I've decided to call it a mystery with dark fantastic setting and romantic elements instead. Sure it'd make the buyers and marketing critters at the major chains a bit loopy if they ever saw a slew of books get sent to them labeled that way, but it fits. Night Life is well told, and gently sidesteps the peril of being a generic fantasy female who kicks ass story. Very nice.

And last, Joshua Palmatier. In The Skewed Throne half a dozen rules of good writing are broken along the way. I like this story for the unwavering fidelity to the character and the matrix of things that made the character. A great many writers decide to take their diamond in the rough character, pull them out of the hard scrabble ways that created them and a few turns of the page later we have a perfect member of the upper class. A perfect member of the upper class, only harder, sharper and more cunning. In general, those stories make me want to gag.

For those who haven't read these books yet, it's probably past time you did.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jan. 26th, 2008 02:17 pm)
I've been reading a lot lately. I've blazed through months of slush. Some of which got rejected in the first three or four pages, some which held me until the end but didn't quite tip the scale to being something I'd pick up. Some of the common problems have been; redundancy, black and white universes, and sloppy language use. Fortunately for me there are these wonderful things called books. Some, much like the slush is decent, some has a very bad case of meh, and some is anti-slush. Some of the latter category that I've been reading is detailed below. Mild Spoilers, i don't expect that anything in the commentary takes place after the first 1/4 of the book.

First up was a YA novel that I'm pretty certain was in my WFC gift bag. Magic or Madness . Justine Larbalestier's is an entertaining yarn about a young girl who had been raised by her slightly loopy mother and moved all over Australia never staying in one place for long. Reason, our young heroine finds herself in the clutches of the person her mother feared most. Reason's Grandmother. All of Reason's young life has been spent avoiding the woman she has been raised to believe is evil incarnate. There are one or two very minor things in this I could live with having been buffed down a bit, but then I'm not the intended audience. All in all this was an excellent read and held up better to a critical adult reader than most of the YA on the market.

Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey was something i wanted to read since the first time i saw the cover. While the main characters aren't the sort of people some would ever give anything except a nervous glare, they are the right characters for the story and the setting. If you're looking for a typical formulaic fantasy novel, go elsewhere. Butcher Bird is anything but another cookie cutter fantasy novel. Kadrey smoothly take your expectation and slaps you in the head with them in this twisted tale. Fun.

I got the immense pleasure of reading my first Elizabeth Bear book recently. Undertow is really a top notch novel. It has that dim, smoky aura thats right out of a prohibition era speakeasy that has all but gone by the wayside in todays science fiction. Undertow is set on a corporate colony. The levels of tech in the book are a very interesting mix, the culture is very solidly drawn and despite never drawing a single parallel to our world today has relevant things to say and better still relevant questions to ask. One of the things I like best about this book is that Elizabeth wastes not even a single sentence. Undertow, like the dangerous pull under the surface of the water will suck you in so smoothly you won't know it's even happened until its too late.

The last of todays books was C.E. Murphy's Heart of Stone. I was almost afraid to read this book, and its certainly the one I had the highest expectations and hence the largest worries about. Having read all three of the books in Catie's The Walking Papers series, and having read the first three chapters before interviewing her at Pi-Con last August, I knew this was going to be very different. I knew Margrit was unlike Joanne, and that she wasn't gifted with a octogenarian cab driver to remind her to either look before she leaped or sprout wings. The differences between the two ladies were stark, as was the tone. To me, the Walker Papers all have a lighter tone.Heart of Stone is by no means dark, but for those of you who haven't yet read it (go do so) expecting a carbon copy of the other series will lead straight to disappointment. On the other hand this book clearly demonstrates the breadth of Murphy's story telling ability. Magrit is fun in a completely different way than Jo is. The internal monologues are different, the women have no physical resemblance, and lead different types of lives. But the important thing isn't what separates them, its what binds the two together. That tie is simply the exquisite way they are written. This is an excellent read in and of itself and will make Murphy many new fans.


onyxhawke: (Default)


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