Monthly Archives: January 2013

Dragon Precinct (Keith RA DeCandido)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Dragon Precinct is a swords-and-sorcery fantasy police procedural murder mystery detective novel. I don’t regret reading Dragon Precinct by any means, but I can’t really recommend it either. The characters are fairly bland and uninteresting, the setting is standard swords-and-sorcery fantasy with almost no distinguishing unique touches, and the plot is standard “interview people until you discover the culprit” mystery. I didn’t have a bad time reading Dragon Precinct given that all the elements were so familiar, but I just can’t recommend something so forgettable.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad (James Rumford)

Recommended, Not Repeatable

Ali lives in Baghdad and loves soccer, music, and calligraphy. When his city is bombed, he turns toward calligraphy to help him cope with all that is happening around him. While this is an important story, and definitely can inspire discussions with your children about war, peace, and how one is far easier to achieve than the other, it’s also not exactly light bedtime reading. Though it’s a worthy celebration of art and youth, I think it’s more something you read and perhaps then have a long discussion around, rather than something you keep as a staple in your library.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Amortals (Matt Forbeck)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Amortals is a near future sci-fi thriller that deals with the concept of longevity extending technology and its potential to stagnate society into a dystopia. This is definitely a thriller first and sci-fi second. You won’t get a lot of long winded explanations on society or philosophical spiels on the preciousness of life due to the fact that in every other paragraph the protagonist is tossed around in flying cars, shot at with missiles, or having fistfights. There is definitely a sci-fi component here, and some non fully articulated thoughts on the nature of man, but it’s kept mostly to the margins and serves more as set piece for the protagonist to fight around rather than the driving force of the book. As a thriller it’s good. The characters are interesting enough for you to invest in them without being overly complicated enough to slow down the story, the action is well visualized and exciting with actual tension, and the plot moves along quickly enough that you don’t get bored. I wouldn’t recommend Amortals to every hard sci-fi fan out there, but for someone looking for a quick action thriller with enough sci-fi elements to make you think a bit between fist fights, then I don’t think you’d go wrong with Amortals.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Four in Hand (Stephanie Laurens)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
What happens when a womanizing rake inherits not one, but four beautiful young women as his wards?  Four interlaced romance stories!  This is early, early Laurens (before she became famous for her steamy sex scenes and intrigue-filled subplots), and in many ways because it’s not overwhelmed by sex (almost none!) and villains, it’s actually a very quick, enjoyable read.  Each of the four sisters chooses a different (until now) confirmed bachelor/rake, and each goes about getting her man with a different strategy (and for all of the younger ones, there is definitely a lot of not just love, but active strategizing about how to get their man to the altar).  It’s a fun read that I picked up years ago, and returned to recently… I found it just as good, if not better, than I remembered.  It’s soothing, fun, escapist romance, uncluttered by too much sex!
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Posted in Romance

Leaf Storm and Other Stories (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The stories that work in this novel are powerful and enthralling… the first line, spoken by a young boy, is “I’ve seen a corpse for the first time.”  Each of the stories in this collection is dense, seeming to reach beyond the dramas of each character’s individual events and tragedies, but it is the title story which most diligently holds and mesmerizes us. Though the other stories in the collection are well-written and constructed, I have to admit that they didn’t pull me in the same way – many are fable-like: a man with wings, a vicious miracle-seller swindler whose child assistant becomes a true miracle-worker, an unidentified drowned man who seems to have such fantastical proportions that he eventually changes the way the villages think as well as how they construct and design their houses. The pacing also slows down after the title story, and while the passages are often quite poetic and beautiful, there is often very little action to push the story forward. The stories are still entertaining, just less involving, depending more on lyrical language than compelling or realistic characters.
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Posted in Literary Fiction

2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (Chuck Sambuchino)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you’re writing (or better yet, have already finished writing) a young adult novel and need a step-by-step guide on how to write a query letter and who to send it to, this is for you. Otherwise, though there are helpful lists and indices detailing agents, most of the information covered in the earlier chapters is readily available online via a variety of blogs on how to publish. For example, chapters covering things like writing a query letter only include a few examples, and most of the examples throughout the book seemed to be geared towards the young adult end of the children’s market (despite the title). Further, many of the examples feature up-and-coming as opposed to new authors (e.g. one agent shared a query letter from a woman who had already published several books and had won awards), though the book is clearly marketed towards aspiring and starting writers. I think it was useful for the indices and some of pet peeves agents share, and it was clearly written, but, again, the examples were few and far between; it also doesn’t cover self- and/or online publishing, which may be a wasted opportunity.
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Posted in Nonfiction

Flavorful Seductions (Patti Shenberger)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While I get that novellas are going to be short by nature, it wasn’t just the plot and pacing that felt rushed in this novella (yes, because it’s shorter, it has to progress more rapidly).  The writing seemed to trip along itself, and other than the fact that these two characters are very, very attracted to one another, you never quite get anything to hold onto in order to believe that they will be together, or make it, in the long haul.  Though the sex is sensual, I would have almost preferred a little less sex (gasp!) and a little more interaction to let me believe that these two characters are meant to be together.  Otherwise, I’m left with interesting, funny characters who get together, but in a way that makes it more believable they’ll have a passionate affair that burns out than a longer lasting happily-ever-after.
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Posted in Romance

Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace (Maryjanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi, Jennifer Scales #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace is a coming of age contemporary fantasy story of a young teenage girl who discovers that she is a weredragon (like a werewolf with scales and fiery breath). The fact that this is the first of a series of books leads to some compromises that detract a little from the overall quality, but nothing especially egregious. It is probably aimed primarily at younger readers, but I found the earnestness and unapologeticness of the book quite refreshing. The characters aren’t especially sophisticated, but they function fairly well even if they aren’t entrancing with their multitude of fascinating facets and subtleties. The story, similarly, is a little stereotypical for the genre but proceeds along quickly and smoothly, still managing some unexpected twists that keep you entertained. Overall, I was quite surprised that I enjoyed myself and would recommend the book especially to younger readers or those with an aversion to darker themes.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Penguin Post (Debi Gliori)

Recommended, Not Repeatable

I pretty much just have to see Debi Gliori’s name on a book now to make me at least check it out — the art is always vibrant, and the stories almost always feature a cute, usually adorable and fluffy, cast of animals. And that’s what this is: a cute story about a penguin delivering various objects to other animals (a sling for a baby moose, feathers for a baby bear’s quilt, and so on), all while awaiting the delivery of his own baby sibling. It’s got nice pictures, and it’s a cute story, but ultimately, it’s also fairly forgettable. Definitely something to check out from the library, read once, and then probably forget. She’s got much better work out there (like No Matter What).

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

White Tiger (Kylie Chan, Dark Heavens #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
White Tiger is a middling quality kung fu themed urban fantasy with lots of tragic romantic elements.  The fact that it is book one in quite a large series is quite obvious, and probably the greatest issue I had with the book.  The story threads it introduces aren’t especially interesting, and most of them are left unresolved for use in a later book in the series.  This book felt a bit too much like an introduction to the series rather than an actual, self-contained book, and this is especially reflected in the ending, which just sort of arrives out of nowhere concealed by a very lengthy glossary and introduction to the mythology introduced in the book.  Despite these issues, White Tiger is an imaginative interpretation of Chinese mythology, the world is well developed, and there is an undertone of cheerfulness and fun that is very refreshing in the often maudlin urban fantasy genre.  Overall, I would recommend White Tiger because it has all the ingredients I want in a fantasy book: the story isn’t much more than an introduction, but it is definitely present, the setting is imaginative and engaging, and the story is fun.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy