Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon Monk

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon MonkStone Cold on 2014-04-01
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
The latest Broken Magic novel from national bestselling author Devon Monk. Marked by Life and Death magic, Shame Flynn and Terric Conley are “breakers”—those who can use magic to its full extent. Most of the time, they can barely stand each other, but they know they have to work together to defeat a common enemy—rogue magic user Eli Collins. Backed by the government, Eli is trying to use magic as a weapon by carving spells into the flesh of innocents and turning them into brainless walking bombs. To stop him, Shame and Terric will need to call on their magic, even as it threatens to consume them—because the price they must pay to wield Life and Death could change the very fate of the world...and magic itself.

I don’t know what to tell you except I loved this book. Okay, so I’m still a little bit traumatized by That Thing that happened in the first book, which, if it could have been overcome or maybe not happened so that Shame could’ve had a happier ending, I would have loved. I know I’m being vague, but we’re talking Major Spoiler for the first book, so deal with it. I realize that it wouldn’t fit in with Shame’s character for him to have a *truly* happy ending, but oh, man… Did I want that for him. I really did.

As much as I love Shame, Zayvion is still my favorite character in this world. I don’t think that will ever change. I just needed to say that. I mean Shame is bitter & snarky (which I love) but Zayvion is tall, dark, Zen, and snarky which just pings all my buttons. (Hello, let me introduce you to my husband…)

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you about this book that’s not a super-powered spoiler. This is only a duology, but honestly it wouldn’t make sense for me to urge you to read these if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series. (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO READ.)

Basically, this was one of those rare books that made me resent absolutely everything that interfered with reading it: work, sleep, eating, showering, using the bathroom. I finished it in two nights and even that took too long because I had to Know! I was unhappy with one of the elements in the ending, but even I have to admit that the book ended just where it should have. Just because I wanted it to happen doesn’t mean that it was a good idea for the story. I find it fascinating that Devon Monk can do that. That ending was absolutely perfect and yet completely agonizing and I hate it and I love it and… and…

If there is ever an opportunity to hear Devon Monk teach about writing I will figure out a way to fly cross-country to do it. And the people who know that my first and last plane flight gave me anxiety dreams for six solid months know what it means to me that I would say that. (Note for the curious: it’s not the flying that gets me, it’s the airports. ::shudder:: Seriously. I never worried about the plane having problems, but having my ticket? Getting through security? Oh, yes! Basically, flying alone is the worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety, in my opinion.)

The writing here is tense and flawless and I’m both envious and deliriously thrilled by that. If you haven’t read Devon Monk, we might need to seriously reconsider our friendship. Think about that.

Seriously though… Do you like that “dropped into the middle of a strange world with weird magic rules that haven’t been explained yet” feeling that you get from Sanderson’s Way of Kings? Then you will feel right at home here. Fans of the series shouldn’t need me to tell them to read it. This is a fabulous, and fitting, end to Shame and Terric’s story.

For those of you who sat through all that, we now have something special for you. Enter to win one of two copies of Stone Cold for your very own.

What: One of two print copies of Devon Monk’s Stone Cold.

When: Beginning at 8a.m. EDT on March 31st and ending approximately midnight on Monday, April 7th (Sunday night/Monday morning). End time subject to change without notice.

Who: Anyone with a valid US or Canada mailing address.

Details: You must be willing to share your email address for the contest and your mailing address if you win. Your information will be used by me for those purposes only. As prizes will be mailed by the publisher, you also agree to share your mailing address with them. As such, Waiting for Fairies cannot be held responsible for the shipping or arrival of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith SaintcrowThe Red Plague Affair on May 21, 2013
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart--or conscience...

Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon's excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.

Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen's Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon's loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most...

The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.

I almost feel bad reviewing this book, because I didn’t love it nearly as much as I wanted to. I adore Bannon and Clare. I love that their relationship is a platonic love and not romantic. The parallels with all the various modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes make me very happy. The fact that Bannon is a kick-ass damsel who is very rarely in distress (and when she is, she is most likely to get herself out of it rather than being in need of rescue) is one of my favorite things about this series.

Saintcrow’s worlds are like dream-scapes, almost familiar but not quite: Londinium, Britannia, Queen Victrix. These things are almost history, but instead serve to disorient the reader and further immerse them in a world of ephemera. The reader is set adrift in this world with only the occasional touchstone of familiarity to acclimatize themselves. This isn’t a problem for your typical fantasy reader. I’ve had plenty of practice forging ahead with a story despite not knowing what the hell is going on in all the deeper layers of the world. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sanderson.)

Plenty of mysteries still remain: why was View Spoiler » ? What is the secret of Mikal’s past that Emma is so determined not to know? What about Ludo’s past? Or, for that matter, what exactly has led to Emma’s current dissatisfaction with her service to the Empire? I think the problem with this story in particular was that most of the mystery either happened in the past, or has yet to surface, which makes for a frustrating read.

I love the characters. I love the steampunk-fantasy amalgam of the world. It’s only that something about this particular plot was pedestrian. It feels like a stepping through of routine that we must endure to get somewhere significant but that doesn’t make much impact itself. Since a  highly viral plague gets released into the middle of Londinium in this novel, it’s rather stunning to me that this book felt so… well… boring.

I kept waiting for the emotional impact to hit but it never did. I don’t even know if I can say why it didn’t. I felt absolutely no connection to a couple of characters that I love in a world that I find fascinating with a plot involving a race against time to keep thousands of people from dying horribly.

I honestly can’t say if the problem with this book even IS a problem or if I just wasn’t in a good place to appreciate it when I read it. I am completely bewildered that I didn’t love this. That said, I won’t be abandoning this series because of said adorable characters and alluring world. I look forward to the next installment getting back on the usual exciting track.

three-stars

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck WendigThe Blue Blazes on May 28th 2013
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Meet Mookie Pearl.
Criminal underworld? He runs it.
Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.
Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.
But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

The Blue Blazes – the first in a new urban fantasy series in which lovable thug Mookie Pearl must contend with the criminal underworld, the supernatural underworld, a new drug that makes the invisible visible, and a rebellious teen daughter who opposes him at every turn.

Oh, Mookie Pearl. Just an average boy living in a mafia world. One populated by creatures of the Great Below: goblins, snake-faced men, demon gods and other things that would sooner eat you than look at you.

Mookie’s got problems. He’s addicted to a (supernatural) underworld drug, his boss is ill, his daughter hates him, and he hasn’t seen his ex-wife in years. To top it all off, his boss’ grandson, heir to the (criminal) underworld throne has asked him to complete an impossible task: find the potentially mythological supernatural cure for Mafia Grandpa’s sickness. But when Mookie starts searching through both underworlds for this magic elixir, he starts to become aware of — and opposed by — other factions with their own sinister goals. Now more than his boss’ life and his daughter’s love are on the line. Now, the entirety of New York City is in jeopardy.

Let’s be honest here: Mookie Pearl is not the kind of guy you’d really want to entrust with the fate of an entire city. Oh, he’s honorable enough in his own way. If Mookie says he’s going to do something, he damn well does it. But he’s also a mafia grunt, a bruiser, a guy who maybe doesn’t enjoy killing but it certainly doesn’t seem to keep him up at night either. He’s the guy we all have nightmares of becoming. He’s the guy who made all the wrong choices in his youth: wrong job, wrong priorities, wrong people in his life.

Now he’s woken up and realized that all the things he should have spent his life fighting for are the ones he’s neglected into dust. Mookie’s whole life is rotten. It’s as filled with holes and demons and monsters as the rest of New York City, and one wrong move forward could blow the whole thing to hell, collapsing it into a big pile of rubble and blood and bodies. Extend this metaphor farther, and on bad days you can wonder if this isn’t the problem with the whole damn world.

This book kicked a big face-full of sand into my teeth and here I am days later still spitting out grit. It’s not for the faint of heart (Wendig’s books never are). While you’re looking up at that one dazzling ray of hope at the end, you’re also getting a knife in the chest. I’m not even sure yet if I even *liked* this book, but that’s not really the point. What we have here is a new flavor of urban fantasy in a genre that was starting to get a bit bland. There are interesting, full-fleshed characters whose choices drive the narrative into believable consequences. We have some interesting new monsters for a change built into an intriguing world with it’s own complete mythology.

The Blue Blazes is an iceberg kind of book. There’s so much going on under the surface (in more ways than one) that you are quite dazzled by it. And Wendig takes advantage of that bedazzlement to give you several swift kicks in the gut.

(Ed Note: Edited from original because repetitive word choice is repetitive.)

four-stars

Review: Oz Reimagined Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: Oz Reimagined Edited by John Joseph AdamsOz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond on February 26 2013
Pages: 365
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
When L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy and friends to the American public in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became an instant, bestselling hit. Today the whimsical tale remains a cultural phenomenon that continues to spawn wildly popular books, movies, and musicals. Now, editors John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen have brought together leading fantasy writers such as Orson Scott Card and Seanan McGuire to create the ultimate anthology for Oz fans—and, really, any reader with an appetite for richly imagined worlds.

Stories include: Seanan McGuire’s “Emeralds to Emeralds, Dst to Dust” finds Dorothy grown up, bitter, and still living in Oz. And she has a murder to solve—assuming Ozma will stop interfering with her life long enough to let her do her job. In “Blown Away,” Jane Yolen asks: What if Toto was dead and stuffed, Ozma was a circus freak, and everything you thought you knew as Oz was really right here in Kansas? “The Cobbler of Oz” by Jonathan Maberry explores a Winged Monkey with wings too small to let her fly. Her only chance to change that rests with the Silver Slippers. In Tad Williams’s futuristic “The Boy Detective of Oz,” Orlando investigates the corrupt Oz simulation of the Otherland network. Frank Baum’s son has the real experiences that his father later fictionalized in Orson Scott Card’s “Off to See the Emperor.”

Some stories are dystopian... Some are dreamlike... All are undeniably Oz.

I think I burned myself out on Oz with this. I was reading these short stories interchanged with the actual 1st Oz book by Frank Baum. I got about halfway through this collection before I had to put it down for something else. Not because I didn’t like it, but just because I was on Oz Overload (or O², if you wish).

I particularly liked Seanen McGuire’s story in this, which was the whole reason I picked up the collection. Tad William’s futuristic, cyberpunk version of Oz was also enjoyable. I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about this right now… I do plan to pick up and read the rest of the stories at some point, but since this is a NetGalley read, I need to do a review sooner rather than later.

I’ve enjoyed anthologies edited by John Joseph Adams far more than a lot of others I’ve picked up, so if you’re an Oz fan, you really can’t go wrong picking this up and giving it a try. There’s plenty here to catch your fancy: from dystopian, cyberpunk, or gritty urban fantasy types to the more traditional whimsy of the original Oz.

three-stars

In Honor of May the 4th

Okay, I am about to open up to you all, for realsies. I don’t do this very often because my brain is a scary place, and I don’t want all my friends to run screaming into the ether never to return. But it’s May the 4th today, which in nerd circles is pretty important. (Because what nerd doesn’t love a geek reference AND a horrible pun in the same sentence, am I right?)

So I’m going to tell you a little story, in keeping with the special day.

Two days ago, I overslept my alarm by quite a bit. My sleep schedule has been messed up since at least Jordancon and I had taken some Nyquil in order to (hopefully) get a good night’s rest. Eventually, my husband had to come wake me up or I might not have gotten up at all. But before I did, this was the scene playing out in my dreams….

{Imagine wavery, dream sequence harp music segue here.} 

The scene takes place in a nameless retail store. Probably a strip mall type store, because this one had manual glass doors that you had to pull open. No Automatic Caution Doors* here. It was one of those stores with the little foyer, so you open one set of doors, take two steps, and then have to open another door before you’re actually shopping.

*Don't these things look like they say "Automatic Caution Door" to you, too?
*Don’t these things look like they say “Automatic Caution Door” to you, too?

So now that we have our setting, we can talk about characters. The first character is leaning around the half-open glass door, having a duel with the second character, who is dancing around the foyer area trying to stay out of reach. Now for the contextually appropriate part: the first character is Darth Vader. The second character is a helmet-less Dark Helmet (also known as: Rick Moranis).

Darth Vader, who is pissed off about who even knows what — I don’t read minds, even in my dreams it seems — is trying desperately to cut down the Rumpelstiltskin-esque figure of Dark Helmet with his lightsaber-that-looks-like-the-top-end-of-a-wooden-cane. (Don’t question the dream logic. Just don’t do it.) Except he can’t really reach around the door in order to make death upon his enemy.

Queue a voice-over of Dark Helmet’s thoughts: “I have to stay out of reach of the end of that cane-saber! If I let it touch me, I will disintegrate into nothingness!”

And then, a thought passes over Dark Helmet’s face. You can see it forming like someone who just had thirteen four-bean burritos and is about to have really, really bad gas. The most horrible gas to ever grace the universe. This is a Death Star of a fart moving around the moon and coming into firing position.

“Wait a minute!” Dark Helmet cries. He dances into Vader’s reach, past the end of the cane-saber, and grabs the (apparently safe) middle. Jerking it out of the hand of his stunned enemy, Helmet steps back, whips the end of the can around and presses it to Vader’s arm.

“Ah-ha!” he exclaims as Darth Vader disappears in a puff of smoke. Then I woke up.

And that was how I dreamed that Mel Brooks’ character kicked the ass of George Lucas’ in a fake cane-saber duel.

Enjoy your weekend, folks, and May the Fourth be with you! 

JordanCon V Report

paige shawl - JCon 2013
Desert Aes Sedai Sees Rain

This past weekend, I spent 5 glorious days and 4 late nights in sunny (mostly), sparkling-with-tree-pollen Atlanta, Georgia at the 5th annual JordanCon! In case you don’t know, JordanCon is a weekend-long convention in honor of the late author Robert Jordan. The last novel in the fourteen-volume main series was completed in January 2013, after more than twenty years since the debut book, The Eye of the World.

This was my first ever JordanCon, even though several of my friends have either attended or been intimately involved with the Con since its inception. (Hi, Tiff! Hi, Jen!) I have to say that, despite Atlanta in spring time being an absolutely miserable place for someone with allergies, I am very glad that I went. JordanCon isn’t just for fans of Robert Jordan (though that helps!), but has plenty to offer for other SF/F fans. I had only ever been to Dragon*Con before, and – in my opinion – JordanCon has nearly all the benefits of a larger con with a much smaller and more pleasant crowd.

My husband and me at lunch.
My husband and me at lunch.

My husband and I arrived on Thursday afternoon, with enough time to check into our rooms and have a sit down before most of our other friends arrived. We wandered down the street to a local sports bar for dinner. They were having a trivia night, which was entertaining and I had the best burger of the weekend there. If I could remember the name of the place, I would certainly share it, but I don’t. Also, I’m too lazy to look it up now. I had tickets for the Atlanta ghost tour scheduled as extracurricular to the Con on Thursday night, but sadly my allergies didn’t like Atlanta’s peak tree pollen season. I let a friend go in my place and stayed indoors with several varieties of medications instead.

The hosting hotel, the Doubletree Roswell, is very well-appointed. They have a bar and restaurant downstairs that had a special menu for the occasion, complete with the Raken Chicken Salad. The Con had every square inch of the hotels communal space booked, including the ballrooms, conference rooms, and even something called the “board room”. The dealer hall was combined into one room with the art show. The fan in me wanted more booths, but my wallet appreciates that there were only a handful of carefully selected vendors. I am also proud that I didn’t spend half of what I could have there!

CAH  - JCon 2013
The worst best game you’ll ever play!

My friends and I ended the evening early by retreating to our rooms for pizza and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. If you haven’t heard of or played this card game before – you honestly should. We decided pretty quickly that we’re all going to hell for some of our answers. I’m okay with that though… At least all of my friends will be there right beside me!

Brandon II - JCon 2013
Brandon’s signing

One of the best things about JordanCon is that the day’s panels don’t usually start until late morning, so one doesn’t need to feel as if you’re missing anything by getting a proper amount of sleep after a late night. Our Saturday started off with an unexpected detour. What we intended as a quick trip up to the Con Suite for breakfast turned into a nearly hour-long chat with Wilson Grooms (WoT fans will recognize the name), his wife, and Lisa, the fabulous jewelry artist featured in the Art Show. We were able to hear some off-panel personal stories about Jim (Robert Jordan) from people who knew him, including his niece and grand-niece who showed up later. Wilson kept insisting throughout the discussion that he and Jim were just regular folks. And they are, I know, but it doesn’t make those stories less important to us. Authors are a reader’s gateway into another world. Most of the time, we readers only see that world, so those “just folks” stories are precious to us. Even more so for an author who is gone.

Rithmatist - JCon 2013
She’s thinking about stealing it.

There was also a reading by Brandon Sanderson on Saturday of his upcoming middle grade novel, The Rithmatist. A friend of mine took video, so I’m hoping that shows up somewhere that I can view it again. What I could tell from the snippet, however, is that this will be an awesome book for kids and adults alike. This one has one of those wonderfully strange magic systems that Brandon is famous for, and I can’t wait to read it.

Unfortunately for me, my allergies started doing their tired old song and dance again as my friend Paige and I hit the Con Suite for lunch. This meant instead of attending the really awesome Urban Fantasy panel, during which Chuck Wendig was named the panel’s mascot/spirit animal, I was lying flat on my back in my room waiting for two different kinds of allergy meds to kick in. I am still pissed off about this, as it rumor has it it was the best panel of the entire weekend. I did manage to see the Memory of Light panel and the costume contest, however, before packing it in for the night and retreating to our rooms for Cards Against Humanity 2: Drunken Boogaloo!

Panel I - JCon 2013
Panels!

Sunday’s panels included Theological & Mythological Influences in the Wheel of Time, during which Harriet made me get kind of misty eyed. (She said, paraphrased, that the closest we come to our own Creator is through the act of Creation ourselves. This is quite Significant to me.) There was also a super cool slide show of Michael Whelan’s art where he explained the thought process and some of the history and metaphors behind each painting. Steampunk Hour and the Writer’s track Pacing & Plotting panel rounded out my weekend.

There are more personal anecdotes however. Such as how my friend Paige (from New Mexico) has become almost famous. We discovered Brandon has been telling the story of Paige-from-New-Mexico at signings. Presumably it is the story of how a group of fans as wide-spread as Ohio, Nebraska, LA and Australia mentioned her name to Brandon at several of his signings, until she was so familiar that she seemed like an old friend when she finally showed up at an event in Albuquerque. She has such extraordinary luck (and nerve!) We found her deep in conversation with Michael Whelan in the dealer’s hall, discussing the merits of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaption. This is on top of the fact that it was Paige who initially started up our talk with Wilson. My friends? They are some pretty cool people.Paige Badge - JCon 2013

Other anecdotes are either not worthy of blog space, or are private. But I hope you’ve enjoyed my little recap. If this has tempted you in any way towards attending JordanCon VI (at which Patrick Rothfuss will be the Guest of Honor!), then I hope you’ll attend. I will definitely be there! Don’t forget to say “Hi” if you see  an Aes Sedai running around in a green shawl with the name Kiara on her badge.

(I’m not anti-social. Just shy.)

🙂

(Special note: Most of the above photos were shamelessly stolen borrowed from my dear friend Paige. See the rest.)

 

 

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph AdamsThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination on February 19, 2013
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
four-stars
From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?

If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

Everyone knows that superheroes are boring. Villains are more interesting: more complex in their madness, more brilliant in their darkness. When the villains are also genius scientists… Well, then you have something remarkable. The authors writing for this collection go in all sorts of different directions. Some of their villains are well intentioned, others are narcissistic, some are spurred on by achievement, others by revenge. And some of them are truly, genuinely mad.

I’ve been trying to decide on a favorite story, but I don’t think that I can. They are all wonderful and unique in their own way.

  • Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List (Austin Grossman),  in which a mad scientist/villain apologizes to his girlfriend for deceiving her, is a perfect opener.
  • Father of the Groom (Harry Turtledove) seems to be the weakest in the set, telling the story of what happens when the Bridezilla’s new father in law is a mad scientist.
  • Seanan McGuire’s Laughter at the Academy is the mind-bender of the bunch.
  • Letter to the Editor (David D. Levine) is an unexpected twist.
  • Instead of a Loving Heart (Jeremiah Tolbert) is the kind of story I wish The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (see my last review) would have been.
  • The Executor (Daniel H. Wilson) is one of the best in the book, and probably the most touching.
  • The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan (Heather Lindsley) reminds us why evil geniuses should work alone. This one made me smile, and is one of my favorites.
  • Homo Perfectus (David Farland) was the most disturbing of the bunch, featuring a power-hungry, rapist CEO.
  • The narrator of Ancient Equations (LA Banks) had me rolling my eyes.
  • Alan Dean Foster’s Rural Singularity could be the best in the book and certainly has the most unique mad scientist.
  • Captain Justice Saves the Day (Genevieve Valentine) takes a refreshing approach.
  • I’d love it if The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss) became a series. How cool would it be to have more stories of popular fiction’s most mad scientists’ daughters?
  • The anthology’s headliner Diana Gabaldon has the longest story in The Space Between. It’s well-written but ill-explained and wasn’t in the running for favorite.
  • Carrie Vaughn’s Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution is another story I hope we might see more of eventually.
  • Blood & Stardust (Laird Barron) was entertaining, but hard to follow at times.
  • I’d say L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has the creepiest villain — a political mad scientist — in A More Perfect Union.
  • Naomi Novik’s Rocks Fall is brief but particularly special. I found it intriguing.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s We Interrupt This Broadcast reminds us that she can do much more than her long form fantastical Victorian romance and do it very, very well.
  • Marjorie M. Liu gives us the interesting tale of a man dealing with the legacy of his name: Lex Luthor in The Last Dignity of Man. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and will make a tug or two on the heartstrings.
  • The Pittsburgh Technology (Jeffrey Ford) is the only one who doesn’t show us the face of the mad scientist behind the sinister plot. Not the strongest story in the bunch, but worth a read if you have the time.
  • Mofongo Knows by Grady Hendrix takes us back to pulp novels, stories of simian villains, and their inevitable conclusion. If you liked Chuck Wendig’s Dinocalypse Now, you’ll like this story.
  • I found The Food Taster’s Boy by Ben H. Winters the most thought-provoking and a good final note. It reminded me somehow of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.

I read this book when I was sick one weekend, so all the stories have a certain surreal quality in my memory now. (This is the sick weekend that ended with me washing my face with shampoo accidentally because I was that exhausted and disoriented from being awake for what seemed like 473 hours in a row.) I received a digital ARC from Netgalley but ended up buying it anyway. Overall, I’m pretty glad I did. 

four-stars

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose ClarkeThe Mad Scientist's Daughter on January 29, 2013
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars

“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.

But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world. 

I didn’t like this book, yet I read every single word from cover to cover. Why did I do this if I didn’t like it? Honestly I have no idea. I tried to put it down, but every time I tried it would burn and itch at me from the back of mind. It was as if the story infected me, got in my head and rattled around tearing up the place until I threw my hands in the air and gave it what it wanted.

At first blush, it makes sense that I’d like this book. A coming of age story in the far distant future where robots are about to take on all the trappings of full human hood? Yes, please. I expected a mishmash of I, Robot and Chester 5000 XYV. What I got was more like Twilight, but with a robot instead of a sparkly emo-kid. Don’t get me wrong, this book is much more well-written than that one, but our main character is about the same: vain, selfish and shallow.

I appreciate that lots of teenagers are able to make the journey through vain, selfish, and shallow and grow to be a better person. The problem is: I don’t think Cat every really grew into anything. I empathized with her a lot as a lonely kid to distant parents who never took the time to really know her. I even had sympathy for the reckless teenager. What I disliked was the selfish young woman who grew into a careless, deceitful woman. She spends her whole life lying: to her parents, her tutor, her friends, her eventual husband — and, worst of all, to herself.

Maybe it’s my fault for reading this book with a mind toward the past. I thought of things like segregation and voting rights for women and minorities (especially minorities). I heard echoes while reading of white plantation owner’s daughters having illicit affairs with slaves. (Spoiler alert: those affairs very rarely ended well for the slaves.) Could the slave ever really say no, without suffering consequences? Does Finn, by the end of the book, really love Cat or is it just that this connection was foisted on him somehow by his programming and circumstance?

I suppose that’s a bit like asking if the people in our lives *really* love us by design, or if they love us merely because we were convenient in the moment when they needed to fall in love. It’s an interesting conundrum – certainly something to think about. I think this question is really what kept me coming back to the book. It seems intolerably cruel to me that the first robot capable of love is doomed to love someone so completely – in my eyes at least – unlovable.

I have to give the author props for realistic characters and a well-thought-out political progression. The world, what we get to see of it, was fascinating. I wish we would’ve seen a lot more of it, but Cat doesn’t spend much time thinking about anything but herself, unfortunately. The writing itself got into my brain like an infection and I couldn’t get the voice out of my head. Obviously, this author has a lot of skill. It’s too bad that ultimately, skill doesn’t win out over an unlikable protagonist.

This is not a book to be read strictly for entertainment, but could – and I say this grudgingly, but it is true – be read for the expansion of the mind. If I could rate this separately, I would give it four stars for skill and two for ability to entertain. So I will rate it a three and be done with it.

three-stars

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

This book is the first in a series from debut author Jay Kristoff called The Lotus War. It will be released on September 18, 2012 from St. Martin’s Press in hard cover and digital. Buy it here.

The Blurb

A DYING LAND 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever. 

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. 

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire. [Goodreads]

The Review

Do I really need to tell you anything besides “Psychic teenager and her freaking griffin  fighting Japanese steampunk empire”? No? I didn’t think so, but here’s the rest of my review anyway.

Airships. Griffins. Crazy hallucinogenic drugs made from lotus flowers. Evil dictator. Endless war. Vast expanses of wilderness. And one small girl just trying to stay alive. All of this plays out under the ominous blood-red sky — a sign of man’s destruction of his own world.

It’s really much too soon to be naming anyone as Brandon Sanderson’s successor, but if we needed to appoint one then Jay Kristoff would have my nomination. Stormdancer has some of the same mind-boggling world-building that one would expect from one of Sanderson’s door-stoppers (but in a much more bite-size format at only 366 pages for the hardcover).

I adore Yukiko. Everything from her stubborn refusal to forgive her father for her mother’s disappearance, to her defiance of emperor and rebels alike, to her teenage pining over a boy, to her brutal reprisals for betrayal: I love everything about her. Have you heard people talking lately about what a role model Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games) is for teenage girls? Well, as much as I agree with them, I have to say – move over, Katniss, because Yukiko is going to kick your ass. The Girl on Fire is a sputtering candle flame next to the inferno that is this Girl with the Thunder Tiger.

Does it sound like I’m gushing? I think it sounds like I’m gushing… I seriously didn’t realize how much I loved this book until I sat down to write this review. But – I love it. Not to mention the cover is gorgeous. My bet is that Kristoff is going to be a guy to watch in the next few years, and I look forward to being proven right. (No, I have no doubt that I will be proven 100% correct in this and many other things.)

If I hadn’t also read Libriomancer, then Stormdancer would be my favorite book of the year. Please note, however, that though I compare this book to a YA novel, and while it has appeared on many a YA list over on Goodreads: this book is being published as an adult title. It does contain lots of violence and at least one instance of “sexeh time”. I doubt a teenager would have many issues reading this, but your mileage may vary.

I’m giving this 4 & 3/4 out of 5 stars, only because I want the sequel to have some room to grow.

[xrr rating=4.75/5 imageset=default]

 

Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

This is the second book in Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. It was released from Angry Robot on August 28th. Continuing the tradition of the first in the series, Blackbirds, this one also has a kick ass cover.

The Blurb

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

The Review

If I had a literary id, I think Miriam Black would be the personification of it. She’s a broken, vulgar-mouthed, anti-social, unapologetically selfish woman who seems to be developing this nasty habit of risking her life for the sake of other people’s. If we met in real life we’d either be instant friends or enemies for life. Maybe both. What is a certainty is that neither one of us should ever work retail again. I love Miriam because she’s just so damned fascinating. It’s like she can’t help herself but to make bad choices, and reading her is like watching a slow-motion train wreck made of blood and broken steel and sarcasm.

If you’ve read Blackbirds (and why haven’t you?) and you thought that story was a twisty mind-fuck of a tale, then you’re in for a real treat with Mockingbird. Just the title, that seemingly deceptive single word, contains layers of meaning that echo through the whole book. That’s some damned talent. So much talent, in fact, that it just makes the writer in me sick with jealousy. Sick, I tell you.

I was waxing poetic here about broken stained-glass and how this book’s complete picture is both unknowable and cutting. But you know what? Fuck that noise. This is a good damned book that’ll scare the daylights out of you, and if you like that kind of thing you should read it. Chuck Wendig is the only author I know of who can manage to be subtle with his message while beating you bloody in the face with the violent action of his story. Like I said: that’s some damned talent.

[xrr rating=3.75/5 imageset=default]