Monthly Archives: July 2013

Creepy Crawly Calypso (Tony Langham and Debbie Harter)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a fun, brightly-colored, toddler-appropriate book (with a CD if you want the song portion) that is appropriate for a kid who’s learning to count. You’ll be counting cockroaches, spiders, and centipedes, but the pictures are clear and attention-getting, and it’s definitely age appropriate. It’s not really about the story (there isn’t one) or the informational section at the end (which won’t hold your toddler’s attention), it’s more about counting army ants with flutes…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Murphy’s Gambit (Syne Mitchell)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Murphy’s Gambit is a hard sci-fi, traditional faster-than-light travel spaceship themed adventure story. The protagonist is unique, I think this is the only sci-fi story I’ve read where the protagonist is adapted to zero gravity and has trouble under normal Earth conditions. The supporting cast isn’t quite as engaging, and the villain borders on being evil for the sake of evil even though there are much easier ways to accomplish their goals of supervillainy. The setting is a standard corporation-controlled space dystopia, which I wasn’t especially thrilled with, but was serviceable for the story the author was trying to tell. The pacing is good, and the author keeps the stretches of exposition brief, which is a definite mark of distinction among far-future sci-fi. I would recommend this book as good hard sci-fi that’s very accessible.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Royal’s Bride (Kat Martin, Bride’s Trilogy #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
It’s a bit uneven, with some really smashingly written parts sandwiched between some really forgettable, cliched scenes; it also suffers from having a genuinely mediocre climactic sequence. Still, it’s a solid Martin read, with a lot of her trademark action/plot, strong/driven protagonists, and sensuality. I think Martin fans, who like her particular brand of fast-moving drama, will have few complaints. I thought that the side characters were, in some ways, more interesting than the hero and heroine at times… but still, this is an above-average, enjoyable escapist book.

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Posted in Romance

A Fate Worse Than Dragons (John Moore)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A Fate Worse Than Dragons is a fun, lighthearted swords-and-sorcery style fantasy adventure novel. The characters aren’t particularly deep, but they don’t get in the way of the playful narrative. Their motives are so straightforward it is difficult not to root for them even though you know everything is going to turn out in the end. The setting is pretty much generic swords-and-sorcery, with knights, princesses, and dragons. The story progresses quickly and, while there aren’t a ton of surprises, I was favorably impressed with the inventiveness and acumen in handling a standard plot well. I would definitely recommend this book because even though this isn’t a particularly deep or thought provoking fantasy, if you want a fun adventure with a few laughs you will be well served here.

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Oh, Say Can You Say? (Dr. Seuss)

Not Recommended, Repeatable

This is definitely not my favorite Dr. Seuss… but it’s something your toddler will enjoy. If your child can already read, this is probably a great book for them to test out a series of nonsensical (but whimsically so, since it’s Dr. Seuss) words. If, however, you’re still reading to your toddler — be forewarned, these are terribly different tongue twisters! Each rhyme is its own little story, which makes it harder to get into the normal rhythm of a full-fledged story, but, the stories all sound fun when read aloud, and your toddler will laugh at your mistakes and your successes alike!

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Mortal Coils (Eric Nylund)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mortal Coils is a contemporary mythologically inspired coming of age fantasy novel with a definite young adultish slant. I wasn’t too put off by the lack of mature content, and the young adult elements have more to do with the coming of age story and the protagonist’s relationships and perspective rather than an overly simplified story or dumbed down vocabulary. Honestly, I find the inclusion of traditional mythological elements into contemporary fantasy books a tiresome trend that I wish would disappear given that, in my opinion, any somewhat talented author should be able to come up with more interesting setting material than something produced by, at best, iron age primitives, but the mythological elements are handled adroitly enough here that they didn’t unduly detract from my enjoyment of the book. The pacing is decent and keeps you entertained, although the author could definitely have eliminated substantial largely superfluous sections. This material isn’t boring ,and it fits with the overall setting of the book, but it doesn’t always contribute substantially to the overall narrative. The setting is where the book really shines; it’s a weird, dangerous, magical place that actually feels like it would work. I enjoyed reading this book, so I would recommend it, especially for people who really like re-imaginings of traditional mythological figures, coming of age stories, or the idea of a strange, threatening magical reality overlaid upon our mundane lives.

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

The Edge of Desire (Stephanie Laurens, Bastion Club #7)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The hyperbole simply goes too far in this book: the Vaux family are described as being so similar that they seem more like clones than individual people, and the members of the Bastion club are all suitably arrogant and all-knowing, but again… completely interchangeable. The hero and heroine struggle over who can be more managing (and often… more annoying), and there is Laurens’s usual sensuality and heaving. Yet this lovers-reunited tale just doesn’t work on too many levels. It’s long, the murder mystery is far too drawn out, and (though I hate to say it about Laurens), even the most sensual scenes feel repetitive and thus are a bit of a bore.

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Posted in Romance

When the Duke Returns (Eloisa James, Desperate Duchesses #4)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While James is clearly a talented and educated writer (there are quirky historical details that have obviously been researched, and her background as a Shakespeare professor is evident in some of the well-worked dialogue), this novel just didn’t work for me. Our heroine, though independent, is almost willfully, inexplicably so: she’s not just headstrong, she’s often purposefully impulsive, almost foolish. Her husband, who has traveled widely and known kings and traders alike, is a bit of a lump: he’s handsome, he has a temper, he has ideals he’s unwilling to change, and then… nothing. There’s no real development, just two purportedly strong-willed people who are attracted to one another, and whose connection never seems to rise above sexual desire.

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Posted in Romance

Black Blade Blues (JA Pitts, Sarah Beauhall #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Black Blade Blues is a fairly standard urban fantasy “normal person discovers the world of the supernatural” origin story with the twist that the protagonist is a lesbian. I wouldn’t normally mention something like sexual orientation, but the book places a significant degree of emphasis on it, so I thought it was best to mention it as it is a core component of the story. As urban fantasy, the book is all right, but not stellar. This is apparently the first in a series, but I’m not sure I would be inclined to pick up the subsequent volumes. For the most part the book moves well, and the protagonist’s profession as a blacksmith/prop manager is kind of interesting and fun. There are some issues with the way the action is written, and the climax and conclusion drag on quite a bit longer than they really should. There is some hackneyed magical prophesy/chosen one business, but overall the story feels fairly original and interesting. I would overall recommend the book as decent urban fantasy.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

In Elmo’s Easter Parade (Naomi Kleinberg)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

Even relative to the Elmo universe, this is a meh story with meh-level writing. It’s wordy (for the age group), and the story is just not interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention. Your toddler might get a kick out of the fact that there’s felt-like material on several pages, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly high quality, meaning the felt comes off, and gets all over your kid… and everything else…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult