New ARCs

Source: Publisher

The ARC fairy has been kind to me lately. Here are some of the ones I’ve received recently.

New ARCS – I’m particularly interested in the Beth Cato and Claire O’Dell. Can’t wait to find some time to read these!

Review: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson & Kevin Hearne

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

Review: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson & Kevin HearneKill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson, Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell #1
Also by this author: A Plague of Giants
Published by Random House Publishing Group on July 17th 2018
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction, Humorous
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett and Monty Python, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasma reinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.  Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.             This is not that fairy tale.             There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.             And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.             There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

If you’ve read a lot of epic fantasy, you know a lot of tropes. Well, this book is what you’ve been reading for. You’ll take great pleasure in checking each trope off your list as it’s twisted over and turned on its head (and then kicked in its upturned pants for good measure). You’ll snort up your sleeve. You’ll roll your eyes (a lot). And you’ll occasionally laugh out loud.

  • Plucky farm boy ready for his destiny? Check.
  • Talking goat sidekick who just wants to be sarcastic and eat boots? Check.
  • Sleeping princess in a thorn covered castle? Check.
  • Dark Lord who wants the farm boy dead and whose most evil spell is making stale bread rain from the sky? Uh. Check.
  • Rogue assassin who can’t sneak to save her life? Check. (Also see: terrified of chickens).
  • Sonja-esque barbarian warrior in a chain mail bikini (and very unhappy about it)? Check. (Cross-reference: blood-thirsty semi-sentient sword).
  • Seductive enchantress whose biggest secret is that she’s gotten old beneath all her spells? Check.
  • Reluctant bard from the castle who also happened to have gotten turned into a bunny? Also check.
  • And let’s not forget: Dread Necromancer Steve.
  • Does this book on a rare occasion get too clever for its own good? Yep.

The laughter and the fun that the authors clearly had writing this book shine through in every pun and joke and reference. If  you don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously you’ll have a lot of fun too.

There was at least one moment when I groaned and slapped my own forehead at a terrible joke and had the urge to fling the book across the room — the downside of reading an eBook is that you can’t do that when you need to — but for the most part I’m glad I read it. I can just imagine Delilah and Kevin snickering to themselves as they send off their latest terrible puns to the other. That somehow made the book even better for me. Their joy is in every line. The world could use a little of that right now.

Book is due out July 17th and you can preorder it right here. (affiliate link)

 

four-stars

Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

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

Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin HearneA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Also by this author: Kill the Farm Boy
Published by Random House Publishing Group on October 17th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 640
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

So I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley, and then ended up with a(n annotated by the author) hardcover copy when I subscribed to PageHabit. The annotated copy was quite interesting, and I’m glad that I waited until after I finished the book before reading those.

I really don’t know what to say about this book except it was practically perfect. I’m only giving it 4.5 stars so that the series has some room to grow. It is a brutal book. It deals with an invasion and war, after all. I say war, but that war really begins with several massacres and while they’re not gratuitous, there is no guarantee in this novel that your favorite character(s) won’t end up dead. In fact, if this first volume is any indication, they probably will.

An aside (not actual spoilers): View Spoiler »

More than war, though, is that this book deals with the effects of war on ordinary people. You see all the different responses to horror and loss that one would see in real life – when one is so unlucky as to encounter it. The characters run the gamut in their responses to trauma and grief, and this book holds them up to the light and turns them about in interesting ways.

I think this book is a sign of the times. I think dealing with the aftereffects of horror and war and grieving for loved ones taken far too soon is something a lot of us are worrying about these days.

This isn’t a happy book. It’s not a depressing one either. Reading these characters’ stories gives me hope, and strength. I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Purchase your copy here [affiliate link].

four-half-stars

What I’ve Read So Far in 2017

  1. The Broken Earth  by NK Jemisin 5 Stars
    • I would give this series 7 stars if I could.
  2. Girl Over Paris #1 by Kate Leth/Ming Doyle/Gwenda Bond 4 Stars
    • I liked it. Great art. Need to get back to the rest of it.
  3. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman 4 Stars
    • It’s Neil-Freaking-Gaiman.
  4. The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe 4 Stars
    • Loved these as a kid & I’ve been re-reading them. They still capture me.
  5. Mirabile by Janet Kagan 4 Stars
    • Actually a series of short stories. Funny & compelling.
  6. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine 3.5 Stars
    • An interesting premise, but the narrator is unlikable. Will read the rest eventually.
  7. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings 5 Stars
    • Has it’s issues, but this is a childhood favorite. I re-read it for a gender-flipped retelling I’m writing to amuse myself with.
  8. Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe 4 Stars
  9. Acorna’s People by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • I take issue with the “Every Woman MUST Reproduce” narrative in ALL of McCaffrey’s writing. But damned if I won’t admit that she writes a good story.
  10. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • A beautiful, lyrical, cautionary tale of suicide and ghosts. Also, can be abbreviated to DoDoDoD (I’m pronouncing it doo doo dodd), which provides me endless entertainment.
  11. Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe 4 Stars
  12. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flwelling 4.5 Stars
    • A fantasy world where all* sexualities are shown as valid. Heroes are bisexual — though the author doesn’t use the B word. *The only maybe-ace individual in the book isn’t outright named as such, and there’s a tiresome bit about how she’s in looooove but they can’t be together because no sex. Or something. In between everyone figuring out their sexy feelings, there are some damned good female secondary characters, a matriarchal monarchy, and a decent start to a hero’s journey tale.
  13. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe (DNF) 2 Stars
    • I’ve met Alex at Jordancon and he seemed like a decent enough guy, but after the 4th brutal death of a female character in 1.25 books, I decided this series isn’t for me. YMMV.
  14. Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars
    • I give this entire series 4 1/2 stars. I love mad gods and monsters and the humans trying to rebuild the world around them.
  15. Stalking Darkness by Lynn Flwelling 4 Stars
    • Book 2 in series above. Also good. Wishing there was a female narrator. Sigh.
  16. Rebel Flight by Mindy Klasky 3.5 Stars
    • Won this from LibraryThing! Seems like a really short book (novella?), and it’s a YA tale, but I really liked it. Part of a series.
  17. Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe 4 Stars
    • No one will ever drain my love for Bunnicula, okay? (Get it?)
  18. Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen 5 Stars
    • Transgender biracial cowboy in a fantastical Old West. I almost cheered at the moment when Rhett’s pronouns changed. (It was night. It would have been rude.)
  19. Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter 4 Stars
    • I like this series even better than Jane Yellowrock (sorry, Jane).
  20. Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • I went into this book not wanting to like Annie because Verity is my favorite girl. By the end, I was cheering (and weeping) for her. If you haven’t picked up this series, I have to question your intelligence.
  21. Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop 4.5 Stars
    • Still has that icky self-harm theme running through it, and I’m still not sure she’s doing anything constructive with it. But *dammit*, I love this world.
  22. The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman 4 Stars
    • Man, is Isobel in over her head. I have a tendency to mix up Bowen’s & Gilman’s worlds because the 1st volumes came out around the same time. Not since the 2016 elections have I worried so much about America’s ill-intentions. (Naw. I’ve been worrying this whole time. But that’s another article.)
  23. First Test by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Can you believe I haven’t read all of Tamora Pierce’s work yet? I’m ashamed.
  24. Power Lines by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3 Stars
    • This series shouldn’t make any sense. Sentient planet? Seal shape-shifters? A whole world with *gasp!* NO ELECTRICITY?!? I’m in the middle of the sequel anyway.
  25. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch 4 Stars
    • I feel like this series is moving So. Slowly. Would like it to be a TV show so I can binge watch, pls.
  26. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (DNF)
    • I knew this was popular but had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up because I hadn’t heard much of the story. The 4th time I fell asleep before the time-traveling even started was when I gave up. No rating.
  27. Acorna’s World by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • Why do I like this series so much? Pacifist bipedal unicorn people and giant evil bugs make literally no sense. (And why are insects always your villains, Anne? Isn’t human evil enough of a big bad for you?? It certainly is for me.)
  28. Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L Howard 4 Stars
    • Johannes Cabal is a bad guy. He’s a bad guy with a pretty standard supervillain origin story, actually. If I think too much about this, I would probably feel like I shouldn’t read it. So I’m not going to, because I like the steam-punk-y world.
  29. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
    • Someone tried to get me to put down this series (written by a woman) to read Honor Harrington (written by a man). This individual tried to persuade me by saying Weber’s work was “more feminist”. So I’m continuing this series 75% for spite.
  30. Power Play by Anne McCaffrey – CURRENT READING!

 

You may notice that not many of these books are brand new. This is because I probably have 2,000 books on my TBR shelf (virtually, thank goddess, because I’m not sure where I’d put them otherwise.) If there are any immortals out there willing to share their secrets, I could really use the reading time. Thanks.

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

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

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith HunterBlood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Series:
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Urban
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth. When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her. Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville. Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

Releasing today, this is a second series in Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock universe. The only problem I had with this book is that I’m at least 3 books behind on the JY series (soo many books to read!) and so I spent the whole book thinking that this series was a prequel to Jane’s story and kept trying to figure out how it fit together. I’m still not sure whether it is or not, because I like to get my thoughts on paper before I start reading too much information about the book.

Not having been in an actual cult, but having grown up around a Southern Baptist church, I believe the author has done a really good job here of depicting the kind of misogyny that can breed in an evangelical, uber-religious setting while also being careful not to paint everyone involved as either evil or stupid. Don’t get me wrong! There’s certainly some evil in the book! Our protagonist needs something to fight against. But the people are also fully realized and not at all one-dimensional. View Spoiler » in particular are depicted as being good people who have some less-than-mainstream beliefs but are trying to do the best they can with what they have — including with their cultural history and the way that they’ve been raised.

Nell’s powers are mysteriously powerful… She spends most of the book unsure of how to use them or where they come from but always manages to instinctively save the day. I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed Nell’s interaction with the PsyLED team so much. It would feel fake to complain about how powerful Nell is in a book that has vampires and werecats and magic. It makes sense within the world, and her power is balanced by what is effectively PTSD from her upbringing. Nell is a lonely, solitary woman, and I loved seeing her being forced out of her self and into the world.

All in all, an entertaining read that doesn’t make you think too hard, and — given my lack of keeping up with Jane  — there’s no need to have read anything else first. This is an excellent jumping on point for someone who doesn’t want to commit to Hunter’s extensive Jane series.

four-stars

Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

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.

Review: Zer0es by Chuck WendigZeroes by Chuck Wendig
Published by HarperCollins on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Political, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of "progress."

Cross Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother with The Matrix, add a dash of I, Robot and you’ll have the plot of Zeroes. The scariest part of this book is how absolutely plausible the scenario is. Perhaps the technology isn’t quite ready yet, but with NSA spying, Citizens United, and all the other craziness going on in our government over the last couple of presidencies, it’s not really all that far-fetched to think about the kind of shadowy conspiracies that could be happening behind the scenes. Which is why I usually avoid this type of book. Our world is getting dystopian enough in real life, I don’t need it in my fiction too.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t recommend this book to folks who disagree with that need. Written in Wendig’s signature third person present, this book vibrates with intensity. Which is hard to do when half of it involves the main characters sitting around in front of computers. Far less technical than Doctorow’s Little Brother, you won’t need to know much about computers here.

I’ll be honest — this is no Miriam Black book. None of the characters here have Miriam’s dark anti-heroic charisma. These are just regular, flawed, unextraordinary people. The “Anonymous-style rabble rouser” is a loser hick whose best tricks are all social engineering and who’s exposing rapists in order to make up for high school inaction that resulted in a girl’s suicide. The “Arab spring hactivist” acts self-righteous because her hacking skills are being used as political leverage for the oppressed. (Not that she’s wrong, just that she gets annoying about it.) The old school cipherpunk is a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist and doomsday “prepper”.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the “black hat hacker”, who was just trying to buy his mom a house when the SWAT team burst in and arrested him. Sure, he was purchasing it with the ill-gotten gains of a credit card skimming scam, but since he was the most Leverage-like of a crew which has been compared to the Leverage team, I might be a little prejudiced. I always liked Hardison the best. (Just a note: this book is, in my opinion, only by the barest of margins comparable to Leverage. They seem almost totally different in both character and operation to me.)

I liked the troll the least. I will always like the trolls the least. Wendig does a good job of humanizing her with her own checkered past, and she does have a redemption arc of her own. But she’s also the worst kind of mean girl — humiliating and tearing down other people to make herself feel better. She even uses the old troll victim-blaming logic: if they didn’t want their secrets being found, they shouldn’t be stupid enough to have them in the first place. The sick sense of superiority is palpable.

I always feel like if the characters are real enough for me to dislike, then the author has done their job. None of the characters in this novel are heroes. They are ordinary people, with skills that anyone could learn, whose bad choices lead them almost by accident to discover a conspiracy. They step up to fight the conspiracy not out of any real heroism, but more out of self-preservation. Most of them aren’t even particularly likable, but they don’t have to be. In the end, it doesn’t matter why they stepped up — only that they did. Ordinary people, people who were convinced they were screw ups or criminals or just lesser in every way, who took a breath, grabbed hold of their courage, and fought back.

With the Hugo awards being announced the night prior to my writing this, the lesson becomes more powerful. Little people, ordinary people — screw ups and rejects and weirdos, like we all think that we are — when we join together, we can make a difference. We can save the world.

four-stars

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk

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

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon MonkInfinity Bell by Devon Monk
Published by Penguin on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Science Fiction, Urban
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Return to national bestselling author Devon Monk's heartpounding House Immortal series, where eleven powerful Houses control the world and all its resources. But now, the treaty between them has been broken, and no one—not even the immortal galvanized—is safe....Matilda Case isn’t normal. Normal people aren’t stitched together, inhumanly strong, and ageless, as she and the other galvanized are. Normal people’s bodies don’t hold the secret to immortality—something the powerful Houses will kill to possess. And normal people don’t know that they’re going to die in a few days.Matilda’s fight to protect the people she loves triggered a chaotic war between the Houses and shattered the world’s peace. On the run, she must find a way to stop the repeat of the ancient time experiment that gifted her and the other galvanized with immortality. Because this time, it will destroy her and everything she holds dear.Caught in a cat-and-mouse game of lies, betrayal, and unseen foes, Matilda must fight to save the world from utter destruction. But time itself is her enemy, and every second brings her one step closer to disaster....

I love this series. I apparently forgot to do a review of the first book in the series, House Immortal. Oops. Suffice to say that Monk is one of my favorite writers, since her Allie Beckstrom series. If you’d like a bit of a preview to this author’s work, I recommend her short fiction collection, A Cup of Normal. It’s quite good, only $4.99 in ebook, and you’ll see a very early version of House Immortal’s heroine, Matilda Case. Note that the story is no longer canon, but it’s interesting to me to see the changes that happened between then and now.

This world is a futuristic steampunk Frankenstein story with time travel. The world has suffered an apocalypse and is now controlled by feudalistic Houses, to which everyone must owe a fealty. Each House controls a different world resource: technology, healing, farming, etc. The Houses, of course, play their own politics and none of them are headed by very nice people: kidnapping, blackmail, and backstabbing are typical and expected.

The immortals of the story are a group of undying Frankenstein’s monster types, each having survived the explosive apocalypse generations before, each enslaved to a House by their own choice, to save the now underground and previously defeated House Brown from complete extermination. All of them except our heroine, Matilda Case. View Spoiler » This process is wanted desperately by the heads of most of the Houses, as who doesn’t wish to live forever?

This series is unique and wonderful and if you don’t mind that anguished feeling of reaching the end of the book and there still being mysteries unsolved, then you will love this one*. (*Series is not complete.) Monk is the Grand High Poobah of the Victory-Only-Makes-Things-More-Complicated Writers’ Association. She did it in the Beckstrom series and practice has only improved her skill. As soon as our heroes have achieved the victory they supposedly wanted, things get turned completely on their head and an entirely new set of problems arise.

This is a world we’ve never seen with supernaturals that aren’t cliche.  A story fraught with action, adventure, and tight with tension, a heroine you can root for, and Monk’s signature victory with a plot twist ending, makes this a can’t miss series. You won’t regret reading this one.

four-half-stars

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)

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.

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)The Diamond Conspiracy on 2015-03-31
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment... Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun's emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun's street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately. But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro's dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally--a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself...

This is one of my favorite series, and the duo of (Wellington) Books and (Eliza) Braun is just delightful, both in reading and in wordplay.  I love the gender reversal of the male main character being the “Books” and the leading lady being the “Braun”.

Sure, it would have been delicious (for a while at least) if Welly had been truly helpless and not a crack-shot-in-hiding, but I suppose the dude in distress thing would have gotten old eventually. (Eventually.) Eliza, however, is by far my favorite: a trouser-wearing Aussie lass with an explosive reputation (literally) and a habit for naming her weapons, who takes no-nonsense from friends, strangers, or her love interest.

What I love particularly about a steam punk setting is that wonderfully strange mixture of science and the occult that pops up. It just gets so weird. I bet that says more about people today than about the real Victorian era, honestly, but as long as I get books like this one, I don’t care. I’d love to spoil it all for you by telling you what I enjoyed most, but I will do you all the favor of sparing you the details so you can read it yourself.

I will tell you that Warehouse 13 ruined any other depiction of H.G. Wells for me, but if not for that character, the one we find here in this book would be my favorite. I won’t tell you how or where Wells turns up, because that would be a major spoiler. Suffice to say that the revelation is giggle-inducing, and I’m still trying to decide whether that was a Natural Progression or a Jump the Shark moment.

I was honestly a bit lost there in the middle for a while. That tends to happen when the author(s) jumps a year into the future… But the story recovered quite well and the conclusion was satisfying while also promising a hint of more to come. You can’t really ask for more than that!

This series is fabulously written with real characters and I came to care about them very quickly. It’s a lot steampunk-y, a bit pulpy, very much girl-powered, and has a Jaeger-sized heart. (Read the book, you’ll understand the metaphor.)

four-half-stars

Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2

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.

Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 on 2014-05-06
Pages: 160
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
five-stars
Filled with more than 300 images, the official illustrated tie-in to the second chapter of the DreamWorks Animation critically acclaimed Academy Award® nominated How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is based on the characters in Cressida Cowell’s bestselling series and features an introduction by the voice of Stoick the Vast, Gerard Butler.Mirroring the style of the bestselling The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, this outstanding insider’s guide introduces fans to the creative process behind the film, from the story and the characters to the visual development art and animation, to the rigging, surfacing, and lighting. The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 includes more than 300 concept sketches, preliminary drawings, architectural plans, and digital artwork that reveal how teams of artists bring the Dragon and Viking worlds to life with modern cinematic energy.Starring the voice talent of the original cast—Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristin Wiig—along with Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, and Djimon Hounsou, this action packed comedy adventure continues the story of Hiccup and Toothless five years after they have successfully united dragons and Vikings on the Island of Berk. While Astrid, Snoutlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds.When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.

I’ll be honest: I don’t really know how to review an art book. Much to my artist husband’s sorrow, my appreciation of art is usually limited to such devastatingly acute thoughts as, “Wow. Pretty.” I’m still training myself to read comic books. If I don’t stop to think about it, my eyes go right to the text and completely pass over the art.

When this book arrived in the mail, it was difficult for me to see anything but the gorgeous art. In fact, I had a hard time not completely devouring all the pages right there. I tried to set the book aside until I’d seen the movie (spoiler alert: I still haven’t), but that didn’t work. After a week or so, I saw it sitting there next to my usual work space and couldn’t resist. Yes, that means that I’ve read all of the spoilers the book contains for the movie. Whoops.

Toothless

I’m going to tell you a secret: the only degree I have to my name is an AAS in Multimedia Technology. What does this vague description mean? It means I spent two years and way too much cash studying GUIs, web design, and… 3D animation. So when I tell you that this book contains line drawings, characters sketches, and full renders of landscapes that just boggle the mind, I actually do know a little bit of what I’m talking about (unusual for me,  I know :P).

I decided, when it was far too late financially to extricate myself, that 3D animation was not for me. Despite the fact that I had a desperate dream of working for Pixar, when I realized that 1) I could not draw. At all. And 2) 3D animation requires hours upon hours of teensy, tiny, painstaking tweaks to every single aspect in every single dimension for even the smallest of objects… Well, at that point, I was out on animation as a career.

What it does mean is that I can appreciate the thoughtful work behind these gorgeous, full-color renders of not only dragons and Viking ships, but strange northern landscapes covered in icebergs like giant, glittering knives. It’s beautiful, and sometimes scary, and seeing the progression of the character sketches is amazing.

This hardcover has heft, too. Even the cover is thick and glossy, slick and beautiful in the hands. If you have an appreciation for animation or even just love How to Train Your Dragon (there are some character sketches from part 1 as well as those from part 2), then this book is worth a look through. It’s certainly built to make it worth the hefty hardcover price. I even sold a copy myself, as after showing a co-worker the book, she immediately put it on her wishlist to buy for her son.

I’m extremely grateful to the publisher for sending me this hardcover book to review. It isn’t something I would have picked up on my own, but I’m certainly glad I had the opportunity to see it. Five of five stars for people who love art or dragons or these movies in particular.

five-stars

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin

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.

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z MartinDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Published by Solaris on June 24th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Welcome to Trifles & Folly, a store with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 ? acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It?s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market.When a trip to a haunted hotel unearths a statue steeped in malevolent power, and a string of murders draws a trail to the abandoned old Navy yard, Cassidy and Sorren discover a diabolical plot to unleash a supernatural onslaught on their city.It?s time for Kincaide and her team to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

Some of us have gotten more than tired of UF stories with extraordinary main characters. Super speed? Super strength? Y.A.W.N. The beasties are no fun when you can beat the hell out of them. Which is why, I think, I found Gail Z Martin’s new book so intriguing. Cassidy Kincaide has one unique ability: psychometry. She can read an object’s past by touching it. Usually this doesn’t amount to much except old memories… Unless the object has a particularly nasty history.

I also love the name of Cassidy’s shop: Trifles and Folly is just a hilarious name for an antique shop, especially considering the deviant nature of some of the objects she runs across. The “trifles” are sold to tourists as antiques and the “follies” are handed over to Cassidy’s centuries old vampire partner to be locked away before they do more damage. Vampires have been so generally overdone as to be boring, but at least Sorren is mostly a secondary character and not the focus of the story.

This book is why I had a strange dream about a malevolent, possessed kitchen table. Now, I’ve always had odd dreams and strange nightmares. I taught myself lucid dreaming as a pre-pubescent so I could realize when I was asleep and not wake myself and my little sister up by screaming. I can say, however, with 100% certainty that I had never before encountered sinister furniture before in any of my previous nighttime wanderings.

If you like your urban fantasy to lean less toward paranormal romance and more toward horror, Deadly Curiosities is a solid book with which to spend some time. The later half of the book is so drawn with tension that I was practically jumping at shadows. I also love a book where the setting is practically its own character, and Charleston certainly fits that bill. I’d give this a solid four of five stars.

four-stars