Monthly Archives: April 2013

Space Vulture (Gary K Wolf and Archbishop John J Myers)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Space Vulture is a modern throwback to the era of sci-fi serials of the 1940s.  The heroes are larger than life, with perfect morality, and the villains are debased and evil just for the sake of being evil.  The largest departure from something actually from this period is that this book has sections that are significantly more violent and gory than anything you could produce at the time.  As a longtime fan of this era of sci-fi, I found this book to be a delightful homage and thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are certainly some major issues stemming from doing anything in this style, largely somewhat one dimensional characters, a primary focus on violent fights, and a plotting designed more to link battles together with interesting backdrops than to create a cohesive, overarching plot. Given its limitations, I think Space Vulture is one of the best things I’ve read in its genre and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who isn’t put off by lack of strong plot or characters.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

A Rogue’s Proposal (Stephanie Laurens, Cynsters #4)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
My reaction to this book can probably be summed up in one word: meh. While all the necessary elements are there (the dashing rake of a bachelor who sees no use for marriage and desperately wants to escape the matchmaking mamas, the innocent and somewhat flighty heroine, the subplot that has elements of mystery)… there just wasn’t anything that I ultimately connected with or to in this book. Laurens is a talented writer, and I didn’t regret my time reading this book, but parts of it were definitely skim-worthy, and overall, it just felt kind of mediocre… and meh.

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Posted in Romance

The Whore’s Child and Other Stories (Richard Russo)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
On the one hand, Russo is a talented writer (a Pulitzer winner) who has a melodic style that I never regret reading… on the other, I feel fairly strongly that Russo’s far more suited towards long novels than the short story format. (In fact, I think that’s a direct correlation between the length of his work and my enjoyment of it). Though there are interesting characters here (a Belgian nun who’s the titular character of the collection, a photographer who learns more about his wife after she’s dead, and so on), there just isn’t enough depth developed in the characters or plot lines to really move me. As a whole, the collection feels a bit like something that was published to capitalize on his Pulitzer, as opposed to a work that would have stood up on its own.

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Posted in Literary Fiction

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction (Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This book is full of well written prose that gives opinions and examples on a variety of things that go into “good writing:” everything from characterization and choice of first vs. third person narration to the placement of essayists in the literary hierarchy. The story also details the almost lifetime of friendship between Kidder and Todd in a very interesting, introspective way. I didn’t always agree with the “advice,” and found some of the example they chose to be somewhat contradictory to the points they were making, but still, it was well written, interesting, and kind of like a collapsed recommended-reading list (in that they were often quoting from other books, some of which I had never heard of, but now want to look up).

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Posted in Nonfiction

Unclaimed (Courtney Milan, Turner #2)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Undoubtedly one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a long time. I found the premise a little hard to come around to: a courtesan looking to get out of the business takes a contract to seduce and defame a famous male virgin. But… the writing is so good: crisp, clear, and almost lyrical at times, and the characters are drawn so clearly that you can’t help but be drawn in. If I had to nitpick (which I am wont to do), parts of the climax might have been a tiny bit slow, and also, there are times when the pacing meanders a tiny bit… but still! Overall, this is really, by far, one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a long, long time — I recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in this genre as a wonderful example of historical romance.

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Posted in Romance

Giant Thief (David Tallerman)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Giant Thief is a fun swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel centered on a thief and a giant that he ends up stealing.  I think the author probably would have been better served if he had gone for a more whimsical tone, because while the premise is essentially kind of fun, the author consistently darkens it with people being kind of dour all the time and having fairly bloody battles with heads being chopped off and such.   The setting is pretty much generic low magic fantasy.  The giant, I think, is the only magical element in the book.  In my thinking, if you are going to introduce magic, you might as well go about it wholeheartedly and throw as much fantasy as you can into the mix, but the more restrained approach works all right for this author even if it is a bit less imaginative and fun.  I enjoyed myself while reading this book and didn’t at any point regret having picked it up, so I would recommend it as lite fantasy fare.  You won’t find yourself thinking deeply about anything in the book, but it is a pleasant enough to read.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book (Dr. Seuss)

Recommended, Repeatable

I think the Dr. Seuss books are, you know, famous for a reason! Though a lot of the text is nonsensical, the pictures are engaging and bright and and text is the silly wordings that make it enjoyable for the reader and the toddler (and some of the phrases, like “barber, baby, bubbles and a bumblebee…” will become endlessly-repeated ones). I would definitely buy the board book version so that your toddler can drag it around everywhere, repeating “baby, or Aunt Annie’s alligator…”

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Spin (Robert Charles Wilson)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Spin attempts to combine a fairly intriguing and original hard sci-fi concept with a deep personal story.  The sci-fi elements really don’t take up that much room; you could probably write them all out in about 10 pages, so the bulk of the book is comprised of the story of one man’s events during this sci-fi event.  Unfortunately, while the sci-fi elements are compelling, the human side of things is maudlin and boring.  The characters are as deep as I have ever seen in a book, with detailed backstories and personal dramas, but at their core they are fundamentally very, very uninteresting and uncompelling characters.  I enjoyed finishing this book, and once the whole sci-fi aspect had been revealed I found myself having fun thinking about it, but the actual experience of reading the book was tedious and unpleasant.  As a genre, hard sci-fi can and should do better at marrying intriguing concepts with compelling stories, so I do not recommend this book.
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Simply Sam (Deana Brauer)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you’re in the mood for a quick and light Silhouette (before there were so many subgenres and longer, lengthier tomes), this is a fun one: we’ve got Samantha Smith, who’s literally the girl next door, and her neighbor Jake Silvercloud (whom she’s always “hankered” after). Their parents decide that it’s past time the two make a match of it, decide to meddle, and of course, hilarity ensues. It’s a nice ugly duckling transformation story mixed in with girlhood crush finally realized: a fun afternoon read.

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Posted in Romance

Different Seasons (Stephen King)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a collection of four different novellas, and I don’t think that they all deserve 5 out of 5 star ratings, but I think that the first, Hope Springs Eternal, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, is worthy of that rating, and makes the entire collection worth buying. Overall, this is a superbly written tome, with different subject matters and storytelling styles… the characters are thoroughly compelling (three of these have been turned into movies, some of which were Oscar-nominated), and the writing is somehow both crisp and evocative.

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Posted in Literary Fiction