Monthly Archives: August 2013

Scandal Wears Satin (Loretta Chase, Dressmakers #2)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While I don’t think that this book is for everyone (not even everyone who normally likes historical romances), it’s well-written, excellently executed, and sparkles with both wit and a certain melodramatic flair (costumes, scandals, and runaways — oh my!). Chase has given us a strong, thoroughly independent female who’s ambitious and driven… about dressmaking, as well as a boring (initially classified as just plain stupid) male lead whose main interests are usually his own. They get into a series of hijinks, none of which I would have believed could seem at all interesting: rescuing a young felon/pickpocket and a young innocent sister from a disastrous marriage, and of course, a dressmaking shop on the brink of financial ruin, but yet, all of which I found thoroughly entertaining (almost addictively so).

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Touched By An Alien (Gini Koch, Alien Novels #1)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a fairly standard sexy woman empowerment urban fantasy, with the requisite romance side plot. This is the first in a series, and it really shows. There is a lot more establishing material than really deserves to be in one book, there are too many characters for too little plot, and the story feels a bit like something the author mushed together as an introduction without disturbing the real plot. Books like this make me think the author is just following a checklist of things usually included in the genre rather than trying to create anything unique. I wouldn’t recommend this book because if this were the only urban fantasy ever written I suppose it would pass muster as it outlines most of the ideas in the genre, but when there are other books out there that are simply better in every way, I don’t know why anyone would bother with this one.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Bye Bye, Big Bad Bullybug (Ed Emberley)

Not Recommended, Repeatable

The illustrations are fun and colorful — you have fireflies talking back to a big, bad, bullybug who gets revealed in stages (his three fearsome eyes, his teeth, his claws, etc… all via clever cutouts that are really engaging for your young kids). The story is a bit violent (the big, bad, bullybug keeps threatening to do ALL sorts of harm to the little bugs, and at the end (spoiler alert) gets smooshed by a shoe). If you’re okay with the violence, and the bullying, this is a very bright, visually engaged story that young kids seem to like (though as the adult, I’m not sure how I felt, thus the “not recommended” yet “repeatable” rating).

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Discount Armageddon (Seannan McGuire, InCryptid #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Discount Armageddon is a fairly standard kick-butt-yet-sexy-woman-monster-hunter style urban fantasy. In a refreshing twist, the author doesn’t seem to take her genre as deadly seriously as many in the genre do, and focuses more on fun than trying to gross the the reader out with gore or merely masquerading as fantasy when the real goal of the book is an attempt at pornography. There’s still some gore and sex, but it isn’t the emphasis, and the rest of the book is more about fun and silliness. The characters are better than average for urban fantasy, with the exception of the rather uninteresting love interest, but to actually make an interesting male love interest seems like it might violate a rule of the genre. The story is fine without any egregious plot holes, the pacing is quick, and there isn’t any endless sightseeing endemic to urban fantasy books set in real cities. Even though it isn’t deep or nuanced, I would recommend Discount Armageddon; it succeeds in its goal of just being fun and deserves to be recommended based on that fact.

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Don’t Tempt Me (Loretta Chase, Fallen Women #2)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase
This is a bit of a fake-out. Calling a series of women fallen implies to me that they actually should be… fallen, and thus different and distinct from the youthful virgins and/or managing spinster virgins we so often get within the genre. Instead, this particular novel would probably be more enjoyable for a male, rather than a female, reader: Zoe, our heroine, is a girl who’s spent the last 12 years in a harem, being trained by experts in how to seduce a man… except, she’s still a virgin. Somehow, somewhere, someone’s fantasy is coming true. Too bad the book is riddled with every cliche you could possibly imagine about the “exotic east” and comes off as having stilted leads, coupled with an ungainly, impossible-to-believe setup, as well as second-act villains that don’t really make sense.

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Mr. Cavendish, I Presume (Julia Quinn, Two Dukes of Wyndham #2)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a book of wasted potential. It had a great set-up as the companion novel, happening at almost the same time as Lost Duke of Wyndham, but told from a completely different perspective. There are lots of books about the new duke/earl/viscount and how they’ve suddenly risen to power/wealth, etc; there are very few that really address what it’s like to be the deposed, former nobleman, the riches to rags portion of the story. But… this just wasn’t different enough. There are swaths of the book that literally could have been cut and pasted from the first book, there are no surprises, no pay-offs for any number of potentially very interesting side characters and stories, and it was ultimately very, very boring. It’s something that could (and should) have just been edited and combined with the first book to be one, fully-functional novel: the dialogue drags, the plot isn’t just predictable, but redundant, and it’s just a waste!

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The Age of Ra (James Lovegrove, The Pantheon Trilogy #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not really sure what category to put The Age of Ra in. The story is basically what I would think of as military sci-fi, and it has quite a few elements of that type. That said, it also has an active sentient Egyptian pantheon that powers most of the weapons. I suppose I will just call it both fantasy and military sci-fi and move on. The story isn’t great, as is common with military sci-fi. There’s a lot of exciting fighting, which is fairly well done, but it is described in that genre’s typically detached, removed manner that lessens the excitement somewhat. The characters aren’t great either. The protagonist is a bit flat, and the love interest is barely there. I don’t hold any particular fascination with the Egyptian pantheon of gods, and someone who does might have a lot more interest here, as they are portrayed very well for their traditional strange personalities from what I can remember. Everything comes together in this book fairly well, but the elements it is composed of just aren’t good or interesting enough for me to recommend the book overall.

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Miss Nelson is Missing (Harry G Allard, Jr)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a cute teacher-appreciation story where a classroom of miscreants is used to taking advantage of their too-nice teacher Miss Nelson. They ignore her instructions, they make paper airplanes, don’t focus during story time, and so on. They’re finally forced to behave when Miss Nelson goes missing and is replaced by a horrible, mean, dictatorial substitute teacher. They’re thrilled when she comes back… and it’s cute. The art is the kind of ugly-on-purpose drawings that are actually quite well done, and it’ll keep your toddler’s attention, even if it will get old for you upon repetition.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Hunter’s Run (George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hunter’s Run is an anomaly in my experience, a book that was worked on for several decades by several authors that actually came out well. I’m not a particular fan of any of the authors involved in the project, and yet together they managed to make something that I really liked. The story is a straight up hard sci-fi adventure, but there are a lot of more subtle psychological elements thrown in that give the book real emotional hooks to sink into the readers. The setting is standard profligate expansionist, capitalist, ecologically disastrous, humanity exploiting a beautiful, pristine, wild, alien world, but other than this tired device, everything is quite original and interesting. The protagonist shows real character growth throughout the book, and while initially the bizarre alien scenery is more interesting than his personal journey, eventually the psychological element proves to be the real strength of the book. I would definately recommend this book to any hard sci-fi fans and I hope you will pick up a copy yourself.

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To Sir Phillip With Love (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #5)

0 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I hated almost everything about this book: the heroine is supposedly to be charmingly awkward, but spends most of her time being head-palm-strikingly-annoying, the hero is supposed to be tragic-backstory-brooding, but instead feels inept and borderline unlikeable. Throw in some poorly drawn side characters, and a plot that has no forward momentum, and you get a tedious snoozefest. What’s worse: the “tragic” backstory of Sir Phillip is that he had a depressed wife he had no idea how to help, which means the novel literally begins with her suicide attempt, her death, followed by her husband and children comforting each other that she’s probably in a better place, since she was always crying when she was alive… this is my fluffy escapist fiction?? I think not.

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