Monthly Archives: December 2012

Worth Any Price (Lisa Kleypas, Bow Street Runners #3)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’ve been dreading the conclusion to this three-book series mostly because the first two were merely slightly above average.  Yet this entry, which features our quasi-villain from the second novel, was the best of the three. Nick Gentry is a very believably torn and tormented hero: he hates his past, himself, his brother-in-law, some of his clients…just life in general.  He’s the type who takes risks to feel alive, and his immediate attraction for Lottie (who is escaping from a past of her own) makes sense.  These are two people who have both made some tough decisions to stay alive and be independent, so their growing affection for one another logically makes them feel vulnerable in ways that are easy to empathize with.  Still, the best of a slightly-above-average series isn’t a hearty recommendation, and there definitely some scenarios in here that will turn off many people (see spoilers below).
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Posted in Romance

Crystal Rain (Tobias S. Buckell)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Crystal Rain has one of the most unique and imaginative settings I have seen in a sci-fi novel: basically, a Caribbean-inspired steampunk civilization battle the evil machinations of a rival Aztec civilization and its bloodthirsty, human-sacrifice-seeking living gods.  It’s really even stranger than it sounds.  Due to the fact that the antagonists are obsessed with bloody human sacrifice, potential readers should be aware that there is quite a bit of horrific violence, but it really is necessary for the setting to work, so I didn’t feel it was gratuitous.  Even though the premise is fairly bizarre, the author does an admirable job of creating sympathetic, relatable characters, and the overarching plot moves along well and has a logical progression.  My main complaints are that there are perhaps a few too many characters, and the story would be a bit more compelling if the pace were a bit quicker.  I would definately recommend this book to anyone who likes a great big sprawling sci-fi experience with a unique setting and a lot to offer to even the most jaded sci-fi fan.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Maybe a Bear Ate It! (Robie H. Harris)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a very cute book for a probably limited toddler and slightly up age group — it starts with several pages without any text at all, showing a kiddie critter bonding with his favorite book.  In the morning, the book is gone, and the critter imagines a variety of scenarios for what might have happened (a shark swallowed it, an elephant sat on it, etc). The pictures and scenarios are all wildly entertaining, and the blank pages at the beginning will draw your toddlers’ eyes while giving you, the parent, an opportunity to narrate in any way you like.  The story is a simple one, so the age range your kid will enjoy this is probably limited, but for toddlers whose vocabularies are just emerging, this is perfect.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Prison Ship (Michael Bowers)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Much of the plot of this book is contained in the name.  To encompass the entire plot, the name would only need to be changed to the somewhat unwieldy “Disgraced Military Officer is Put in Charge of a Prison Space Ship Intended to be Used for Military Purposes Which He Uses to Try to Uncover the Conspiracy that Disgraced Him.”  I liked this book even though it has some serious flaws ,mostly that the characters are fairly one dimensional and most of the tension is caused by everyone in the book being an idiot most of the time.   The setting is pretty much generic faster-than-light sci-fi as well, which doesn’t really recommend it.  The reason I recommend the book, guardedly I must admit, is that the initial premise is inherently fairly interesting, the plot moves along well without any real deadly dull spots, and it feels like the book is well put together overall, without tons of extraneous characters or sub plots that don’t contribute to the whole.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Micah Persell, Operation: Middle of the Garden, #2)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A really interesting followup to her debut novel, Persell’s second novel (with its too-long title) has far more interesting characters — our female protagonist, Dahlia, was the secondary villain in the first novel, and our male lead, Jericho, is a tortured man who lost his true mate eight years ago.  We start at the heart of the action this time, with Dahlia going on the run, and Jericho being sent to chase her.  The fact that they’re both immortals, and have impulse-paired (think of it as a chemically or spiritually induced love-at-first-sight) is seen by both of our leads as more inconvenient than celebratory — because both characters struggle against the pairing, we get an interesting combination of they’re-meant-to-be-together with they’re-truly-falling-in-love.  I was torn between a 4 or 4.5 star review for this because though I found the characters and storyline stronger than the first, there are bits of the writing that feel a little less polished or more rushed than her debut.  Either way, it was an enjoyable, quick read, and I liked it enough to be looking forward to her future works.
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Posted in Romance

The Dog of the Marriage (Amy Hempel)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hempel is a powerful, emotional, often sparse writer — the stories here, which all seem to deal with love in one way or another, range from two sentences to 27 pages long. The stories are easy to read and will often linger in your memory, but as a true modern artist, she is a master of not writing past the ending, so much so that you will find some of the stories ending (often a bit abruptly) just as they’re getting interesting.  Still, these characters are powerful, witty, and intense.
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Posted in Literary Fiction

Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners (Henry Alford)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This meandering, long-winded, only occasionally amusing book sorely tested my patience. Though I normally have a high tolerance for fluff, and find myself interested in and by a variety of genres and writing styles, I found this book truly hard to finish: points that could have been made in one sentence would drag on for pages, and I was so irritated by the end that I was tempted to act out, to go through some of the pet peeves/ examples of poor manners listed in the book just to vent some steam. Ultimately, even if you agree that “Thanks, Henry!” should never be shortened to “thx,” that email has given us a convenient excuse to write more aggressively and gossip more than we would normally, or that there are certain rules of polite society that should be observed, you end up not caring by the end of this book.  I’ve never read a book on etiquette before, and now, I’m not sure if I ever can again…
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Posted in Nonfiction

Lady Sophia’s Lover (Lisa Kleypas, Bow Street Runners #2)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A historical romance heroine who is neither a virgin nor a widow sets the scene of a very unique and creative regency romance.  Yet ultimately, though Lady Sophia Sydney is a headstrong, believable character and Sir Ross Cannon is a suitably evasive, worthy hero for us to vicariously lust over, there’s something not very satisfying about the novel.  Maybe it’s that the first half, where the characters are getting to know one another, and each is trying to overcome a seemingly blinding physical attraction for each other, where Lady Sophia believes she is seducing Sir Ross out of vengeance for her dead brother is just all so much more intriguing than the resolution, which drags.  I still enjoyed reading it, I just think there are better representations of this genre.
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Posted in Romance

Disappearing Act (Margaret Ball)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Disappearing Act is a big, imaginative, sprawling, hi-tech sci-fi fantasy novel.  The story does a good job of taking you through several interesting politically and technologically diverse societies before ending in a fairly satisfactory fashion.  My only complaints might be that it is quite long, has a lot of characters, skips around a bit, and gets a bit slow in places.  It doesn’t really qualify as hard sci-fi as there isn’t a lot to really think about in the story as you are constantly shuttled from one viewpoint to another without having the opportunity to reach your own conclusions; the bad guys are very clearly bad and the good guys are quite clearly good.  It really isn’t a good book to plow through in a rainy afternoon or evening, as it’s simply too big (425 pages in the paperback edition).  Despite all this, I found reading it a very enjoyable experience.  Sometimes you just want to sit down and read a big complicated story, and I would recommend Disappearing Act for this purpose wholeheartedly.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

No Matter What (Debi Gliori)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a wonderfully illustrated book with a universal message — that there is no limit to a parent’s love for their child.  Here, Small (a young fox) anxiously asks his/her parent (Large) a string of questions — all intended to test the limits of Large’s love for Small.  (No gender is assigned to either the parent or the child, so that it’s suitable for either parent to read to their children).  The young fox asks what would happen if he/she were stinky, grumpy, or somehow became a grizzly bear or a stinky bug.  Large, the older fox, continuously reassures that he/she would love Small, no matter what.  It’s nicely rhymed, full of colorful pictures as Small transforms into a variety of imagined animals and moods, and though a bit saccharine, still a wonderful addition to the nighttime library, probably most suitable for older toddlers through preschool-aged children.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult