Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I enjoyed this as much as I’ve ever enjoyed a historical romance novella. You’ve got a strong female protagonist with a rough past: she was deceived by a married man, lost a baby, and, (surprisingly) with the support of her family, has fought through it all and come out with a still-happy, almost-by-sheer-force-optimistic viewpoint. As her foil, you’ve got an overly sarcastic, kind of awkward doctor who makes jokes about gonorrhea instead of talking about poetry and roses (because that’s just what he knows about). He’s always been in love with her, and you can really see how they’re both made for each other, and also why they would naturally struggle learning to deal with one another.

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Posted in Romance

The Lady Always Wins (Courtney Milan)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I will start by saying that it’s possible my rating here is unfair. I don’t usually like novellas, and I thought that this was quite well-written… but because it’s a novella (and a very, very short one at that), I felt almost as though I blinked and it was over. You’ve got an interesting set of childhood friends who have always been in love with one another: Ginny, who refused to marry someone who was destitute, and Simon, whose parents had threatened to disown him if he married her. So… Ginny marries someone else; the story starts seven years later, after Ginny’s husband has passed away and Simon has come back for her.

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Posted in Romance

Mainspring (Jay Lake, Clockwork Earth #1)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mainspring is an adventure with an intriguing and innovative style, melding a magical steampunk clockwork world with traditional Judeo-Christian spiritual elements. Unfortunately, this initially promising premise is ruined by jarring and disturbing sexual elements and a plot that reads more like a travelogue than a coherent interlinked story. With the exception of the protagonist, there aren’t any strong characters, and with the exception of a distinct beginning and end, the events in the story don’t really develop in any logical progression other than the fact that things generally get weirder the further into the book you go. I can’t recommend this book despite a somewhat promising setting because the execution was too poor and the elements that the author deliberately included were too disturbing.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Softly Say Goodbye (KC Sprayberry)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This novel has a very moving story but occasionally gets a little too didactic for comfort. The story follows a female protagonist, Erin, who is navigating her way through senior year of high school while facing the issue of teenage drinking among her peers, which often results in tragedy. Teenage drinking is the main theme of the book, and Sprayberry makes sure the reader does not forget how damaging it can be to the lives of young people. I haven’t been in high school of over a decade, but the amount of focus and energy given to alcohol at the school of the protagonist seems a bit overblown. However, Sprayberry’s points are well made, and if a little exaggeration is present, it does not undermine the story enough to destroy the enjoyment of the book.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

The Dwarves of Whiskey Island (S Andrew Swann, Cleveland Portal #2)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Dwarves of Whiskey Island is a contemporary mystery fantasy novel that shows great promise in its well-crafted and interesting setting, but is unfortunately hampered by a very poor story that doesn’t make much sense. This is apparently the sequel to another book using the same setting, so perhaps the first one is better. Still, I really wanted to like this book. The setting is very imaginative and captivating, but the plot was almost painful to read. The characters are all idiots who just wander about in ways that happen to progress the plot rather than based on any possible internal motivations or desires. The protagonist is only involved with the plot for the thinnest of contrived reasons, and his continued involvement from the very earliest stages could only stem from lazy writing on the author’s part (or madness on the part of the protagonist which isn’t detailed in the book). I really can’t recommend this book even though I would sort of like to, given my initial attraction to the setting.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

When Two Paths Meet (Betty Neels)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Ok, you have to be in the mood for a Cinderella story where the evil stepmother has been recast as a managing, manipulative older brother, and where the prince has been replaced by a sometimes-arrogant doctor. Once you’ve done that, and assured yourself that you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned romance where they’ll drink lots of tea, be very awkward around each other while enjoying many, many well-described meals, kiss twice and live happily-ever-after… well, this is your book. Betty Neels… she had a certain type of book she wrote (see the “Comparisons” section below), but if you like that type, this is at the top of that small niche.

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Posted in Romance

The Little Dragon (Betty Neels)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Constantia is a more fiery female character than we normally get from Neels. She’s still a nurse, and our hero is still a doctor (as they almost always are in Neels books!), but she’s got firm opinions and is very, very capable. In particular, Constantia is prejudiced against rich people, and though she is attracted to Jeroen van der Giessen, she almost takes pride in the fact that he’s a lowly, hard-working GP. They marry fairly quickly, and of course, we spend the rest of the book wondering when she’s going to find out that Jeroen is a rich doctor (by picking up a Neels book, we, as the reader, already knew that the male protagonist would be both a doctor, and a rich one…)

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Saturn Returns (Sean Williams, Astropolis #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Saturn Returns is the first in a series of very strange far future sci-fi mystery/action novels.  It has one of the stranger interpretations of far future technology I have seen: people exist in multiple bodies, copy themselves, can alter how they experience time at will, and can be recreated based purely on data.  As you might imagine, this makes the story take some very strange directions.  I was a bit conflicted on whether to recommend the book or not.  I didn’t feel like the characters were particularly strong, the plot sort of meanders around demonstrating that there is probably a bit of filler, and the conclusion was entirely unsatisfying.  On the plus side, though, the setting is incredibly rich, unique, and imaginative, so overall I am inclined to recommend the book for readers who read sci-fi for exotic experiences more so than character driven adventure.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Flying Hockey Stick (Jolly Roger Bradfield)

Recommended, Repeatable

Though this isn’t my favorite childhood-fantasy story, it is definitely decent and repeatable. The main idea is a young boy who dreams of flying and eventually, through trial and error, makes a contraption with an umbrella, a fan, a hockey stick, and lots and lots of extension cords. He flies off on his great adventure, rescues some people, and lives to tell the tale. It’s kind of in a curious no-man’s-land in that it’s really best for slightly older children (maybe 4-5), but not quite as developed as I think it should be to properly hold their attention. Still, kids seem to like it and the drawings and that should be the ultimate test, right?

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

The 13th Immortal (Robert Silverberg)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The 13th Immortal is an old fashioned far future dystopian sci-fi adventure story. Although I often enjoy looking at the roots of sci-fi history to see how they have influenced modern authors, The 13th Immortal proved to be overly simplistic and something of a pain to get through. The protagonist is a generic amnesiac strong man, and he basically just wanders around through an uninteresting dystopian world going through a series of uninteresting encounters with its unmemorable inhabitants that don’t really contribute much to an overall story arc despite filling up pages between the introduction and the exposition-spattered conclusion. Even if your interest in the genre is composed entirely of digging through the works of sci-fi’s golden age looking for forgotten treasures, I wouldn’t recommend The 13th Immortal.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy