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Author Topic: Recent Reads  (Read 7514 times)

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Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #25 on: September 17, 2011, 11:36:14 AM »
Shadow Unit 1 by Will Shatterly, Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

The first ebook adaptation of an ongoing internet serial, Shadow Unit is an urban fantasy (yes I know I said I was going to stay away from them, but itís co-written by one of my favourite authors and I am weak!) written by four creative authors who decided to create a TV programme in short story form, with great success. The whole series is free-to-read, just follow the link below to the official website, which also has several amusing extras that allow you to become even deeper submerged in the Shadow Unit world.

The world in question is much like our own, with the Ďfantasyí part of the urban fantasy genre being mostly hidden from the public. When a person is under stress, they become weak to outside influences. They might catch the flu Ė or they might become host to an ĎAnomalyí which cranks the hostís metabolism into overdrive and gives them a special, usually aggressive, super power. Normal police wouldnít be able to take on a super-powered killer, so when things start to look odd, they call in this FBI team, lovingly dubbed WTF by other units.

The team are a close knit group, each with their own distinct personality, flaws and drives. The POV of each Ďepisodeí usually flicks between one or two of the team, allowing the reader to get to know each member of the unit over the course of the book without being overwhelming or confusing. I believe each Ďepisodeí has one main writer, so each short story has a different style, yet this does not detract from the enjoyment of reading. No matter who holds the pen, the characters ring true, their interactions, quirks and reactions consistent and fluid. It reminds me strongly of the BBC programme, Torchwood, the writers showing the same fearlessness about including minorities and different sexualities in their characters. There isnít as much sex or violence as Torchwood, however, and for that I am somewhat pleased.

The novel I purchased contained the first half (and then some) of the first Ďseasoní, of which three are completed and the fourth is just starting. I bought the second book as soon as I finished the first. I found it a wonderful, relaxing read, entertaining and humours  at times and chilling and suspenseful at others, short enough to let my mind wind down after the marathon struggle Iíd had to read The Blade Itself above. The plots were not very complicated, the conclusions sometimes a touch too swift to arrive, but these grievances are minor. It was, all in all, and easy and enjoyable read.

Characters: 7/10
Setting: 5/10
Plot: 7/10
Dialogue: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

Official Website



Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The first book in The Dresden Files series, of which there are thirteen, is an urban fantasy (I said I was weak) where magic is present in the sceptical scientific world. The main character is Harry Dresden, who is a wizard for hire, a PI with a magical staff and a talking skull in the basement. Told from first person perspective, it lets you right inside the wizards head, and what a very interesting place it is, too.

This is the second time I have read this book, the first time I was rather quick to judge and dismissed it as a waste of time, but upon a second attempt, I found myself enjoying it immensely. While I did find there to be something a touch hollow about Harry Dresdenís character, it was easy to forgive when sided with the humour that wound through Harryís thoughts. I am also impressed with the handling of the characterisation, not just of Harry Dresden, but of the side characters. I know I was put off the book by the unlikely ratio of beautiful women around, but they have facets and flaws, and believability.

The plot also is much more interesting than I remember, with Harry Dresden doing some actual sleuthing. I hope this continues throughout the series. Overall, I found it well done and a glorious introduction to the series.

Characters: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Dialogue: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Authorís Website



Currently Reading    
The Last Days Of Newgate by Andrew Pepper
My Fair Captain by J L Langly
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Offline Lilias

Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #26 on: September 17, 2011, 12:03:53 PM »
Bob: The sidekick we all dig, but none of us would want for ourselves. ;D Stand by for Dresden #14 (Cold Days) - I know I am!

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #27 on: September 17, 2011, 12:17:13 PM »
*chuckles* I love how pervy he is. I wouldn't mind having one of him around.

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2011, 04:49:43 AM »
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Second book of the Dresden Files, I found it a very fine quality sequel to Storm Front. As the title might suggest, this one is all to do with werewolves and the different type they come in. Now, Iím not a big fan of werewolves, as they seem too mindless and weak most of the time. They donít seem to have anything to do with wolves at all. Yet, as I read this book, I was more and more in awe of Jim Butcherís work building. Half a dozen different forms of werewolf, with fascinating lore behind each one.

There was still something a little off about the characters, but it was easily forgivable, as the dialogue Ė internal and external Ė was very fun to read. Iíve yet to be really wowed by this series, but of what Iíve read, itís one of the strongest ones Iíve come across.

Characters: 8/10
Setting: 6/10
Plot: 7/10
Dialogue: 8/10
Overall: 7.5/10

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

The third of the same series (I, uh, kindda like to read the whole series in one go. Iím not the best at remembering details) takes place about six months to a year after Fool Moon, Iím not sure what the time line is. And yes, this one is crammed full with ghosts. Oh, and vampires. We didnít get any of the lovely crime king-pin in this one. I forget what his name is, but I missed his presence in this book, though there was some others who intrigued me; Tomas, a sex vampire with a insane girl as his companion  and Michael, a Knight of some holy order. They were both really fun characters.

This book felt a little off balance from the get-go, as something important happened a few months earlier that was the keystone of the unfolding events. I also think it started rather weakly, the first two scenes switched around to hook the reader with action and then force them to read a little backstory from an hour beforehand which really rather annoyed me. 

Itís the weakest of the series so far. Ah well, itís still better than a lot of the urban fantasy detritus out there.

Characters: 8/10
Setting: 5/10
Plot: 6/10
Dialogue: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

Author's website



Currently Reading
The Last Days Of Newgate by Andrew Pepper
My Fair Captain by J L Langly
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

« Last Edit: October 01, 2011, 04:52:09 AM by Eden »

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2011, 04:06:32 AM »
The Last Days Of Newgate by Andrew Pepper

First book of a currently five novel series titles ĎA Pyke Mysteryí which is set in 1800s London. The series follows an acutely unpleasant man called Pyke as he investigates a mystery.

I picked this up in a bookshop, as I had read a little of one of the later novels and liked it, and was interested in reading the series. It was a mistake. The only think that is commendable about this book is the cover. I only managed to read a little over a hundred pages, and it was absolute agony. The main character is a foul creature of a man who inspires no sympathy with the reader, his whole attitude repulsive and his personality stunted. The rest of the characters are ridiculously caricaturised with the only women worthy of his attention being the noble born women who are for some reason attracted to Pyke. Itís so frustrating, reading a book by someone with obvious skill but zero ability. I wanted to like this book, so badly. The time frame is fascinating, the murders intriguing, the social tensions well researched, but it doesnít matter when the author canít create one single character who is in the least bit interesting enough to make me care what happens to them.

Another issue I had with the book was the way the author refused to let the reader live in the moment. He constantly rammed home that this book was a tale being told, not a story to submerge into. He did this by cutting out huge chunks of conversation, and instead giving the condensed version. Over and over again, he would decide not to show that his characters had character and just give the highlights in a very dull paragraph. It was a highly alienating and boring method.

A third issue was the scene changes. The most clumsy effort was within the first three pages of the book where Pyke is first in a bar brawl, then dragging a man to jail and then arriving at a nobleís household. There was no grace to it, no pause or lingering so the reader could realise what was happening or why.

I couldnít read any more. I can usually manage to, no matter what Iím presented with, but when a book is so unskilfully managed as this, and with no characters to keep me interested, I donít see the point in trying.

Characters: 2/10
Setting: 6/10
Plot: 4/10
Dialogue: 0/10
Overall: 2/10     



Currently Reading
My Fair Captain by J L Langly
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
Ash by Malinda Lo

« Last Edit: October 02, 2011, 08:09:39 AM by Eden »

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #30 on: October 04, 2011, 05:57:17 AM »
Ash by Malinda Lo
First book of the Huntress trilogy, it is set in a world where magic has faded to nothing but rituals and fairy tales. The story follows the coming-of-age of a girl called Aisling (nicknamed Ash for no given reason) and is pretty much the retelling of the Cinderella story.

I heard about this book when I was on the hunt for some homosexual erotica. This book isnít that, it isnít porn. Itís most defiantly a YA book. Iím not a huge fan of teen lit, as I like dark and gritty, but something to do with this book just begged me to pick it up and read it. No, it wasnít the lesbians. How dare you, Iím not that shallow. Why are you scoffing? I can have other reasons for reading books other than the gay. I mean, for one, thereís the pretty covers and... um... the.... ah...

Oh fine, yes. I bought it because of lesbians. Iíve had it for a few months, wafting its tempting lesbianism at me but I resisted because I usually find lesbian lit to be rather grating and low quality. I just assumed it wouldnít be any good. I finally broke because Ė well, my recent reads have had so few positive views of women in them, I was feeling rather stifled.

It began on a very weak note. The author not only uses clichťs but rather frustratingly says things in a pointlessly embroidered manner. Some might find it charming and old-world, but to me it was just a waste of lesbians time. I want to read something more, not just the night was both shadowy and dark. Itís night, your readership ought to know what that means.

Happily this word-abuse fades and we get to follow Ash through her life. It is a somewhat miserable one, as youíd expect from a Cinderella retelling, but she isnít meek about it, which is what I had been fearing. Iím very pleased the author gave her some fight.

The book doesnít really have much depth to it, though what there is has been crafted very finely. I adored the way the author wrote about the fairies, and how while she kept the power predominantly masculine, women were given power too, though this had grown simply symbolic due to the fade of magic in the world.

The characters were interesting, to a point. They each had their own motives, their own desires, but they still seemed sadly 2D to me. I liked Kaisa, the huntress, for her calm confidence and hesitant joy and Sidhean, the fairy, for his feral and alien manners.

I am not one for romance, but I found the one that this book leads to to be a delight, gentle and cautious and lovely.

The ending was regretfully rushed, and something of a let down. After all the stories that Ash and Kaisa tell each other, I thought there was going to be more to it. Yes, I was disappointed at how the book ended, but the why is rather spoiler-heavy, so Iíll leave it out.

Despite that, I liked it for what it was, a lighthearted diversion with just enough dark notes in it to hint that, if the book were set a few hundred years before, things would not be so easy for Ash. In all honesty, I would have loved it if the book were less safe, but I keep reminding myself itís YA so itís hindered in that aspect. I donít think I will be getting the next book, Huntress. 

Characters: 7/10
Setting: 7/10
Plot: 5/10
Dialogue: 5/10
Overall: 6/10

Author's website


Currently Reading
My Fair Captain by J L Langly
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 06:27:43 AM by Eden »

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #31 on: October 17, 2011, 02:06:18 PM »
My Fair Captain by J L Langley

The first book in the Sci-fi Regency series, this book mostly follows the developing relationship between the two main characters, Nate, a starship captain, and Aiden, the youngest prince of a royal family. A friend highly recommended me the series and I decided to give it a go.

The mix of such diverse genres seems impossible to execute, but the author manages to do so with a surprising believability. While there is space travel and advanced technology infusing the universe, several planets decided to revert their culture back to Regency era. There are several gaping plotholes, however, that I wish had been noticed by the author or her publisher, but I was able to suspend my disbelief for most of the book. It got to the point 30 pages to the end when I couldnít forgive and gave up trying.

The thing that I struggled with as a reader the most was the culture set up on the main planet the book was set on. Not only was it male dominated, it had been set up so that all the upper class were male, and all the children they produced were genetically altered to be attracted to men. This aspect made me feel sick. Sexuality is not a genetically programmable aspect. A reason that was given to support this is that before they settled on the planet, its hierarchy were a team of elite soldiers who were paired together and encouraged to be sexual with their fighting partner so they would be braver and more vicious on the battlefield. This holds no water as it could be used with any gender pairing. Another reason the author uses is that a male run society is safer than one with a female aspect. Ah, right. Thatís why one of the main characters was almost kidnapped, raped and murdered in the second chapter. Really safe society you have there.

I hate it when books have almost no gender diversity. It aggravates me.

Sorry, I was meant to talk about the movement of the plot. Well, itís a mystery, mostly. The royal children turn off the house computer and sneak out the house, and while they do that something kept on the grounds is stolen. No, I donít understand how a computer elegant enough to understand vocal commands is so easy to turn off. Or why there isnít a backup system for the royal palace. Urgh. Anyway Ė this thing that is stolen is something to do with a galactic peace keeping fleet who send a captain to discover who took the thing and where its gone. There is then more romance than investigation as the captain and the youngest prince circle each other. Then someone tries to assassinate Aiden (I donít know why) which forces Aiden and Nate to get married. No, I donít understand either.

All right, well, I made my grievance with the culture clear already. Now itís the turn of the characters. They are very dull. There is no humour in any of them, nothing that spark any interest. It was the characters that were the reason I gave up so close to the end. I lost all interest I had in them. Even the sex scenes were boring. 

I wish I could be sorry about stopping, but all I feel is a massive amount of indifference.

Characters: 4/10
Setting: 2/10
Plot: 4/10
Dialogue: 3/10
Overall: 3.5/10

Author's Website

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #32 on: January 02, 2012, 12:55:32 AM »
Louisa The Poisoner by Tanith Lee

Told in the style of Grimmís fairy tales, this short novel is a dark fantasy with a delightful attitude. The story follows Louisa, a penniless yet beautiful girl raised in the marshes on her mission to gather wealth by means of marrying wealthy men and then murdering them with an untraceable poison.

I found this in my quest to add more Tanith Lee to my collection. No one can have too much Tanith Lee, and I have woefully little. She is favourite author of mine, though there is much of her work I have yet to read. I am gradually amassing more, but it is a slow process, alas!

As I made mention above, the style Tanith Lee uses in this book is a very quaint and very creepy sing-song fairy tale. The childlike manner of its deliver make what happens all the more unnerving, and gives us a very warped and disturbing view of the world. It is very easy to believe that Louisaís thought patterns run in such a pattern, where she is the heroine no matter what evil she does, and those in her path are the enemy and so, ugly.

The book starts with Louisa and her aunt in the marsh where they have lived for almost twenty years, very alone and very unusually. The aunt, obsessed with her witchcraft and teaching Louisa the perfect manners of a lady, and Louisa with her own reflection, with hardly any outside interaction. It is no wonder Louisa is rather mad. Wonderfully so. She has no empathy, no desire but to gather the wealth that her aunt had told her of, no skills but pretty manners. She is so hauntingly empty of humanity.

Rather early in, Louisa has already killed her first victim and has left the marsh behind in a rather unpleasant storm. She is rescued from the roadside by a lord and his nephew who take her to their manor and she is introduced to the lordís family. The lord is deeply enamoured, and so Louisa sets to work making herself room in the family.

I want to go on and explain what and how and why, but the book is very short, barely long enough to be classed as a novel, so saying so would be the meat of it, but I shall say this; it is amusing, and a pleasure and not exactly unexpected but still well worth picking up.

Characters: 7/10
Setting: 8/10
Plot: 7/10
Dialogue: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Authorís Website   

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #33 on: March 15, 2013, 07:59:03 AM »
The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicles, a high fantasy series which focuses on the male protagonist Kvothe.

The blurb on the back sketches the main character to be ridiculously overpowered, so I started to read this with my “Larry Stu” goggles firmly in place to protect myself from being overwhelmed. Alas, the goggles, they do nothing in the face of this much cliche.

This book... it’s a good book. I’ve read worse. I really enjoyed some parts of it, in fact. It could have been a great book, had the protagonist not been a mage, a swordfighter, a thief, a bard, an assassin and drop dead gorgeous. I wouldn’t have minded him *trying* to be all of these things, had he failed at something. Really, anything. Unfortunately, Kvothe is awesome at everything he does. No amount of good writing can make that sin forgivable.

Another serious gripe that kept me from liking the book was the diversity of the side characters (or lack thereof). Rothfuss writes a good selection of male characters, all different sizes and shapes, all with different personalities. The sort of side characters who can say a line and you’ll probably be able to guess who said it. Not so for his female characters. All of them are beautiful, or at least pretty. All of them want to bone Kvothe. All of them have the same personality. It staggered me to see how much Rothfuss struggled to construct half a dozen female characters, when he had about a hundred or more male characters rolling around, each with their own unique voice. Even his main female character was bland and uninteresting. Kindda matched Kvothe in that regard, however. 

Characters are really the only place where Rothfuss fails. He creates a world that’s so complex and interesting, I could happily read another dozen books set in that landscape, and explore its depth with relish. The history is magnificent, it’s the most amazing thing about the book I think. If only his characters weren’t so pathetic.

The plot... well, there wasn’t one. The book is entirely Kvothe telling someone his life story. And because we *know* Kvothe survived to tell his story, there’s no tension in the scenes where there would be otherwise. We are distanced from the danger in a way that dulls what would have been an interesting, even thrilling book to something very safe.

I am currently reading the second of the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, but I doubt it’ll be much improved. Such a shame, when the worldbuilding is so lovely.

Characters: 4/10
Setting: 8/10
Plot: 2/10
Dialogue: 5/10
Overall: 4.5/10

Author's Website
« Last Edit: March 24, 2013, 01:49:03 PM by Dim Hon »

Offline Dim HonTopic starter

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Re: Recent Reads
« Reply #34 on: March 24, 2013, 05:36:21 PM »
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

The Bone Key is a collection of short stories by Sarah Monette, all focused on the supernatural trials of the socially awkward Kyle Murchison Booth. Set in 1930s America, the stories carry with them a tense, near claustrophobic energy with them, much to the stylings of Lovecraft, but offering up a character with much more complexity and depth than many of the original Lovecraft tales failed to give. 

The first story of the collection opens the unnatural world up to both the reader and the protagonist, giving reason for why Booth is put through the horrors he faces. The necromancy he takes part in tears what barriers stood between him and the Otherworldly aspects of the universe, leaving him vulnerable to its influences.  It is amazingly well done, a very impressive start to a beautiful collection. More that that, we get to connect with Booth himself, who is so awkward and heartbreakingly lonely you cannot help but pity him. The story carries a sense of foreboding and foreshadowing, as if he knew even from the start of his cursed life heíd never find the peace he yearns for.

Continuing through the novel, Sarah Monette takes delight in creating a world so similar to ours but with such terrifying differences. The realism in her world building and character creation is without flaw, the plots all manage to spark fresh interest and deliver highly satisfying (if not always happy) endings. We get to know Booth intimately, become his friend without ever speaking to him, and that is a mark of a highly skillful author.

Each story can stand under its own weight, but some effects are felt throughout the stories that come after it. I feel like the horror aspects in the book are perhaps not horrifying enough to meet with todayís standards of the genre, but if you consider how short  each story is, how little time the tension has to mount, and the fact that the style of writing is from closer to antiquity than not, I think Sarah Monette shows a masterful skill with this collection.

I adore her. I will never stop singing her praises until she gets the attention she deserves. And probably not even then.

Characters: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Plot: 8.5/10
Dialogue: 9/10
Overall: 9/10