Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Stupids Step Out (Harry G Allard, Jr; James Marshall)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

As a kid, I remember liking this book and thinking it was funny. Now that I’m a parent (and perhaps this makes me a hypocrite), I thought that this book was kind of mean. More than that, it seems to be teaching kids that some people are stupid, and it’s okay to laugh at them for being… dumb. Some of what they do is just crazy (like putting a cat on their head and calling it a hat), but some of it… you could almost imagine someone saying or doing some of it. So it’s about letting your kid read a book where they get to feel smart and superior and laugh at others. But yeah… it’s a little mean, and thus, I don’t know if it’s something you should pick for your kid…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Three Days to Dead (Kelly Meding, Dreg City #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Three Days to Dead is a conventional urban fantasy monster hunting adventure with a strong female protagonist. This is the first in a series. There are some supernatural romance elements, but the majority of the story focuses on overcoming supernatural challenges rather than amorous ones, so I would definitely call this urban fantasy rather than supernatural romance. The pacing is good, the story doesn’t drag anywhere in particular, and the characters are decent. The protagonist has some strange issues that aren’t immediately addressed when you would think they would be, but this is actually an intentional story element rather than an oversight (I think). The setting is original and interesting, but sadly, the whole experience of the book is somewhat tainted to me by the fact that yet again the antagonist’s plan is tortuously complicated when there is no reason for it to be and doesn’t entirely make sense. Still, I would recommend this book, largely because I found it enjoyable to read, and despite its issues it is still superior to most urban fantasy offerings.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

What to Read, What Not to Read: Julia Quinn

Strengths:

Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue: Quinn’s ability to write witty banter is truly amazing. Whether she’s having her characters invent and argue over imaginary words or laughing at debutantes who think that “inclement” weather means weather “in Clement” she’s just fun, and entertaining. When the dialogue works, it truly sparkles, with back-and-forth quickness that carries you along.

The Un-pretty Heroine: While none of Quinn’s heroines are described as being ugly, Quinn’s best protagonists are pretty, or comely-enough, without being the belle of the ball. They’re women you’d have a good time hanging out with, who feel real and interesting and not overly-dramatic.

Connected Worlds: Quinn’s great at creating characters that are memorable, and that float from book to book. Lady Whistledown’s writings hold many of the Bridgertons books together (and were kind of a brilliant invention), but there are also details like the Smythe-Smith musicals (which start as a joke and later become their own spin-off series) and, of course, Lady Danbury. When you read a Quinn book, you know that you’re stepping firmly into her universe, and that we’ll be revisiting many familiar landmarks.

Good, Lighthearted Fun: With Quinn, you rarely have any dangerous kidnappings (meaning even when there are kidnappings, or highway robberies, nothing ever feels truly dangerous in a someone-might-die way), or terrible villains. Instead, you have people who might be nice or not nice, and might or might not mean well, but basically, you have semi-villains alongside your heros and heroines. There are quick, light, escapist reads and you don’t really have to worry that something terrible is lurking around the corner.

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Posted in Author Pages, Best of, Romance

The Heiress Effect (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #2)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Oh, the highs and lows of reading ambitious works from highly skilled authors. On the one hand, you have an amazing beginning and setup, subplots and side characters that are funny, moving, and multilayered — so much so that you’ll forget (in both a good and bad way) that you’re reading a historical romance. You’ve got the super-strong and independent female protagonist who feels completely believable: she’s an heiress, but not super pretty, and socially, she’s a disaster (on purpose)! There’s also a male protagonist who’s ambitious, thoughtful and almost overly cautious about his five-, ten- and twenty-year life plans. But… there are several times when the subplots and side characters overwhelm the main storyline, and I would say that the main thrust of the romance was perhaps the weakest part of the book. Still, it’s a must because it’s an integral part of the series (which is strong), and further, the good parts are great, though the novel as a whole… is merely pretty good.

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Posted in Romance

The Covenant Rising (Stan Nicholls, Dreamtime #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Covenant Rising is a swords-and-sorcery dystopian adventure novel. This is the first in a series, and while it isn’t constantly apparent, there is clearly a lot of groundwork being laid throughout the course of the book. The characters are enjoyable. I’m not sure if they are the most unique, but they are entertaining enough and well written. The setting is fairly standard swords-and-sorcery with an overlay of political dystopia. It’s interesting to see things that are familiar fantasy conventions being employed by a magical police state. There are a few too many prospective characters for my tastes, and the author has an annoying habit of cramming all the descriptions of places into the first two paragraphs every time the perspective changes, but overall there isn’t too much to complain about. This book really excels in the action sequences. They are really well described and feel very dynamic. I would recommend this book if you like lots of action and fighting, but maybe not so much if you just like to luxuriate in the fantastical and the strange, as much of what is in the book will be familiar to fantasy fans even though it is repurposed here.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Germs (Ross Collins)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a super-clever picture book about a germ (Pox, 12087-2) that is appropriate probably for advanced 4+ year olds/students who enjoy sciences. Parents will get a kick out of the idea of the germ as a hero, though the language is a bit adult in the puns department (the bubonic bus for example). The tough part is that the drawings make it seem appropriate for the toddler age group, but your toddler isn’t going to get much out of this book (other than cute pictures). I still would recommend it, because it’s clever and worth the read… it’s just hard to know (between the language and the storyline) what age it’s really meant for.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Blood Engines (TA Pratt, Marla Mason #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Blood Engines is an edgy, violent urban fantasy. This is apparently the first in a series, which surprised me. The author throws you right into the action with very little explanation of who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing and just lets the story unfold from there. It’s nice for an author to actually give the audience some credit and not explain every little detail all the time. The only attempts I spotted to lay groundwork for further books in the series are references to people who never actually appear in the book, but this really made sense and worked well in context. You very often get the impression that people just sort of make urban fantasy up as they go along, and this book was a nice departure from that. You feel like you are immediately immersed in a fully thought out world with believable characters and well defined rules. I would definitely recommend Blood Engines to anyone looking for a darker take on the urban fantasy genre.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Again the Magic (Lisa Kleypas, Wallflowers Prequel)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a great lovers-reunited tale. They were almost-lovers as young adults, were separated, and are now related, amidst many misunderstandings and (in their eyes) larger-than-life obstacles. There are some parts where you get a little frustrated; there are moments of: come on already, just tell them the truth! But still, Kleypas is a talented writer, and this is a believably moving lovers-reunited tale. What’s more, because you see the beginning of their relationship, and then pick up right where they left off, after the time jump, you don’t feel like you’ve missed any of the real love story. The cast of side characters is well developed (almost too-well developed, more on that later), the writing is crisp and clear, and the characters really draw you in… a solid read!

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Posted in Romance

Silk is for Seduction (Loretta Chase, Dressmakers #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There are some lovely details and characterization, not the least of which is a female protagonist who is ambitious, confident, determined, and very, very intelligent. The way she’s described she could almost be the male lead, which is kind of great! Also, there are some nice side plots and characters who are interesting and are allowed to act in sometimes surprising ways… but what ultimately weighs this novel down is a male protagonist who comes across as being a bit too easy to manipulate (where’s the fun in that?) and the overriding tension holding the main couple apart doesn’t feel like it’s novel-length sustainable. I still enjoyed it enough to finish it, but it’s certainly not at the top of my recommended list. (I have to add the caveat that if you like fashion, or regency-era fashion, you might still enjoy this… I found the details about dressmaking a little overwhelming, but someone who’s interested in that field might find those details intriguing.)

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Posted in Romance

Spiral Hunt (Margaret Roland, Evie Scelan #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Spiral Hunt is a contemporary magical urban fantasy adventure story. The setting borrows heavily from mythological sources and interprets their use in present day. Everything magical is, as standard, hidden from mundane eyes, and only a few magical practitioners know the true nature of the world. This is the first in a series of novels, but any groundwork the author lays here for future novels in the series doesn’t adversely affect the course of this book. The characters were fairly complex and interesting, and although I’m not fond of the technique of cribbing from ancient mythology to flesh out your setting, the author does a decent enough job of it that I wasn’t overly offended. The story progresses smoothly, and although the author has a tendency to succumb for the inexplicable urban fantasy fascination of turning their fantasy novel temporarily into sightseeing tours of their respective locations (this time it’s Boston), the pacing is generally brisk and exciting. I would recommend this as a good, although not exemplary, urban fantasy novel.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy