Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Betty Neels Christmas: A Christmas Proposal and Winter Wedding (Betty Neels)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I love the first novella in this collection. Though I don’t normally even like novellas, A Christmas Proposal is probably the best modern-day Cinderella rewriting I’ve read. It’s not overly exciting or even particularly innovative, it’s just… nice, in a very lingering way. And Winter Wedding, though not my favorite, is still… good. These are two heroines that you really relate to and root for — they’re more mousy than pretty, and more gentle than spirited. They’re the true underdog wallflowers that you want to have a happy ending.

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Posted in Romance

The Shape-Changer’s Wife (Sharon Shinn)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Shape-Changer’s Wife is a traditional, almost fairytale-esque fantasy. It wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it felt a little old fashioned, the story seemed a bit simplistic, the characters seemed a little one dimensional, and the setting was a little flat. The protagonist is quite passive and almost seems lost throughout most of the book until the conclusion. This is a short book and yet it still feels padded for length. I really can’t recommend this; it wasn’t terrible, but there just isn’t anything exceptional about it that other authors don’t consistently do better.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Elmo’s World First Flap-Book Library

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

This is a set of four books, all of which ostensibly will build your toddler’s vocabulary and/or interest in reading. The books are simple — one focuses on balls, the others on food, puppies and babies. The flaps are poorly constructed/cheaply made, and will break easily. And really? Do we need a whole flap book on balls (which mostly highlights sports, like Elmo playing football?) I purchased it because my toddler is obsessed with Elmo, but I wish I hadn’t because it just isn’t durable or interesting.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

WWW:Wake (Robert J Sawyer, WWW Trilogy #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
WWW:Wake is a contemporary hard sci-fi coming of age story. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy, but I was rather surprised to learn this, since this book stands so well on its own. This is one of the best hard sci-fi books I have read. I’ve read quite a lot of sci-fi dealing with the emergence of machine intelligence, but this is first one I found at all believable or well thought out. The human side isn’t neglected, either, as it often is in hard sci-fi; the author also does well here. The characters are vivid and unique, deep without a great deal of exposition. The author does a great job of condensing an intrinsically complicated story until it is both manageable and quick moving. With the exception of one brief scene (fairly PG, but non-consensual, groping) which might disturb some readers who are sensitive to such things, I would unhesitatingly recommend WWW:Wake to anyone with even a passing interest in sci-fi; I doubt you will be disappointed by this book.

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

Nonesuch (Georgette Heyer)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is probably one of my favorite Heyer works… it’s got the sensible, older female lead who isn’t looking for romance and roses, as well as a wordly-wise hero (one of those men whom all the women are after). There’s plenty of banter, an amusing cast of side characters, and a very believable journey between two consenting adults who just… get each other. They just seem to have an understanding, a comfort level, with each other. It’s highly enjoyable, and though the ending “conflict” was a little more contrived than usual, it’s a wonderfully entertaining read overall (probably my third or fourth favorite Heyer novel).

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Posted in Romance

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you haven’t read this perennial Hemingway before, and are wondering if you should… well… I’m not sure what to tell you. I recently had an excuse to reread it, and I can totally see why high school English teachers are always assigning it. It has a lot of subtext, and a lot of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. The dialogue is crisp, the writing clear. But… if I were reading it without knowing it were Hemingway, would I give it a rave review? Probably not. Are there modern books that are just as good (if not better) that were influenced by this? Almost certainly. Worth reading on its own merit? Maybe.

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Posted in Literary Fiction

The Duchess War (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
It pains me to put a 3 star rating on a Courtney Milan novel, as I am really, really a fan of her writing — normally she creates clear, clever, multilayered characters in a richly constructed drama. The characters makes me swoon and cry… sometimes all at once. But… this particular effort, while still very, very readable, doesn’t shine quite as brightly for me as Milan’s other works. While all of the side characters are richly drawn… they’re SO convincing and interesting that you almost lose interest in the main characters (especially our hero, who feels curiously muted). I still enjoyed the novel (hence 3 stars), but compared to other Milan novels, it just doesn’t feel up to snuff.

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Posted in Romance

The Edge of Reason (Melinda Snodgrass, Edge #1)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Edge of Reason initially promised to be an intriguing and unique urban fantasy but somehow lost its way and doesn’t have much to recommend it after the initial setup. I recognize that this is the first in a series and this first book was probably intended to mostly establish the setting and characters for the subsequent books, but I don’t think it stands alone very well. I don’t think I’ve encountered a book before with such an encouraging start that just completely lost its way after the premise had been established and just sort of wandered around purposelessly until the cliffhanger conclusion. I really wanted to like this book, and the subsequent books in the series might be as brilliant as this one was initially, but as a standalone I can’t recommend it, and I’m not personally motivated to read something else by this author after this disappointment.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Elmo & Friends (My First Look and Find)

Recommended, Repeatable

Truthfully, this is as good (or I should say functional) as any “look and find” book. The objects you’re looking for are just right for your 2-3 year old toddler, everything is colorful and bright, and there are “secondary” things to find on your second, third… fiftieth… time through the book. It’s really the same, quality-wise, as other books in its class (the Baby Einstein Series, etc), but this is the one we’re currently repeating as our particular toddler hearts Elmo… If you have a toddler who isn’t particularly Elmo-obsessed, really I would say almost all the look-and-finds we’ve bought or have been given are similar quality.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

After the Golden Age (Carrie Vaughn)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
After the Golden Age is a contemporary fantasy story set in a comic book style city featuring the powerless adult child of the city’s penultimate superhero group.  I really found this to be a fun book.  The superhero genre seems to be spilling into just about every medium besides comic books nowadays, but this is probably the best adaptation I have seen for making superheros feel organic and like something that could actually be part of everyday life.  The characters are mostly well developed and interesting.  The plot has a few issues (uniting the protagonist’s day-to-day,  introducing new characters, and the overarching storyline), but the book still reads well even if the flow isn’t the smoothest.  The title is a bit misleading, since I would consider the superheros much too complex and angsty to have anything to do with the Golden Age comic book heroes, but I guess it at least indicates that this is a super hero comic themed book.  I would definitely recommend After the Golden Age.  There is a little bit of sex and violence in it, but other than that possible objection, pretty much anyone should enjoy this book.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy