Book Review: Lily Bard Mysteries

10 05 2010

This is actually a review of 3 books: Shakespeare’s Landlord, Shakespeare’s Champion, and Shakespeare’s Christmas.

Back Cover, Shakespeare’s Landlord: Lily Bard is a loner. Other than the day-to-day workings of her cleaning and errand-running service, she pays little attention to the town around her. But when her landlord is murdered, Lily is singled out as the prime suspect, and proving her innocence will depend on finding the real killer in quiet, secretive Shakespeare.

Back Cover, Shakespeare’s Champion: There’s something rotten in Shakespeare… Lily Bard was running from shattering memories when she moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas.  Now cleaning houses pays her bills.  Working out helps her heal.  Still protecting her scars, she hides a hard body and impressive skill at martial arts under baggy sweats.  And nobody knows how strong she is until racial violence has her looking behind closed doors for a killer–doors to which a housecleaner might have the key.

Back Cover, Shakespeare’s Christmas: Even in a sleepy Arkansas town, the holidays can be murder. Lily Bard is going home for the holidays. More comfortable in baggy sweats than bridesmaid’s frills, Lily isn’t thrilled about attending her estranged sister’s wedding. She has moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, to start a new life, cleaning houses for a living, trying to forget the violence that once nearly destroyed her. Now she’s heading back to home and hearth–just in time for murder.

I’m a big fan of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books. Big Fan. I had been meaning to read some of her stuff for a while now and while looking for something to entertain myself while waiting in line at the courthouse I bought the first one for my iPhone-Kindle.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. I bought the next two books hoping the first one was a fluke, but after the same problems with all three books, I can’t make myself buy the fourth (there’s 5 so far in the series if memory serves).

The plot is very well done. Harris is excellent at this aspect of writing. Plotting, pacing, setting… she’s got it down. In this series it’s the characters that fall short. Lily is just… flat. She’s one dimensional. It’s not that I don’t like Lily, I think I do, she just doesn’t jump off the page at me the way Sookie does. I don’t feel like she grows or changes as a person.

All three of the books felt really short. Maybe I just read them fast, but every time I got to the last page and thought “Really? That’s it?” I think I wanted there to be more, that maybe the books would have been better if there was more to them.

Summary

Unfortunately, the best I can give these books is a big, fat, “Meh.” I’ll give them 2 *’s. If you decide to read them, don’t buy, get them from the library.

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Book Review: Changes

4 05 2010

Spoiler Warning: This is book 12 (yes, I said book 12) in a series. It’s a series I HIGHLY recommend for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy and/or paranormal mystery. If you haven’t read the books, go, right now, and buy Storm Front. Read all the way through the series until you get to this book, you won’t be disappointed. There’s no slumpy middle books (at least not yet), they’re all good. All 5*’s IMHO. Anywhoo, I’ll do my best, not to spoil anything for readers new to the series but I can’t make any promises… You know what, please don’t read at all if spoilers bother you, just the synopsis on the back of this book will spoil a few things. I’m inserting a “More” link for your protection. Read on at your own risk!

Read the rest of this entry »





Book Review: City of Bones

26 04 2010

Back Cover: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

As you can probably guess this book falls under the Young Adult category. I was poking around the book store a while back and decided to look for Percy Jackson and the Olympians since I liked the movie and knew it was based on a book. For the life of me I couldn’t find it in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. I went up to the desk and asked where I might find the books, thinking they were on an end-cap or table somewhere. The lovely sales person directed me to the Teen section. I don’t know about you, but when I was a “teen” I didn’t have my own section in the book store. It went straight from Kids to Fiction or Sci-Fi or whatever. I do seem to remember part of the Kids section being dedicated to novel length books, but it was mostly Judy Bloom/Ramona Quimby/James and the Giant Peach type of books. Not YA Urban Fantasy. Apparently the genre’s changed a bit! I didn’t end up actually getting Percy Jackson, but I did pick up this one. I’m not entirely sure what drew me to this book… maybe it was the shirt-less guy on the cover…

Anywhoo, as befits a novel in the YA genre, it’s a tale of teenagers discovering who they are and who they want to be. It’s about a broken family learning their secrets and loving each other anyway. It’s a story of betrayal and redemption. Clarke doesn’t shy away from difficult situations as some YA authors tend to do. She’s not heavy handed with the moral lessons either.

The pacing sags a bit in the middle and the end felt a little long as well, I wanted resolution of the conflict a bit before it happened. That being said, neither of those things detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Clary is cute and clutzy (though Clarke talks about her being clutzy a lot more than actually showing that she’s clutzy). She’s a character that I like and can identify with. I thought Jace (the other primary protagonist, not mentioned in the synopsis above) was a bit over the top, I didn’t like him at first but by the end he had won me over.

Summary

I’ll give it 3.5*’s depending on your like of the YA genre it may be worth a purchase, but either way worth a check-out from the library!





E-Readers – Someone Shares My Opinion

16 12 2009

I just had to share this from Tycho over at Penny Arcade:

I mentioned to Gabe that the LendMe feature didn’t extend to all books, and he was surprised to learn this, as “lending” a book digitally removes it from your device. It is, in many ways, like lending a person a real book. I suggested to him that this was precisely what they didn’t like – you have to warp your mind to perceive it, to understand why a publisher of books would hate the book as a concept, but there you have it. They don’t like that books are immutable, transferable objects whose payload never degrades. A digital “book” – caged on a device, licensed, not purchased – is the sort of thing that greases their mandibles with digestive enzymes.

Imagine what these people must think of libraries.

I’d like to reiterate that I called it first  🙂

Apparently the LendMe function is much like the Zune’s sharing functionality. It’s there… it’s chock full of DRM.. but not many publishers want to let you use it. What a way to take an awesome (and in my opinion, necessary) feature and render it useless.





Book Review: Academ’s Fury

10 12 2009

Spoiler Warning:  This is the second book in a series (first book’s review here) and I will probably give away spoilers for the first book. If that bothers you please mark as read and come back when you’ve read the first book.

Brief Synopsis: For one thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the Furies–elementals of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Metal. But now, the unity of the Alerians hangs in precarious balance. The First Lord of Alera has fallen in his efforts to protect his people from the vicious attacks of their enemies. Now, the fate of the Alerians lies in the hands of Tavi, a young man who must use all of his courage and resourcefulness to save his people–and himself.

Tavi has grown up a bit from the first book. If you consider this series to be the tale of Tavi’s life (which it appears to be) this is the college years. He’s figuring out who and what are important to him.  Some of his naiveté is falling away as he realizes that not everyone is who and what they appear to be. He makes some good friends and some bad enemies along the way.

As Tami mentioned in my review of the previous novel, Furies of Calderon toed the line between young adult fiction and high fantasy. Academ’s Fury aaaaaaalmost crossed the line over into high fantasy. The next book, Cursor’s Fury which I’m about 150 pages into, makes it all the way over the line. 

It seems to me that we see a bit more of the other characters in this book than the first. Most of the events in FoC occur in Calderon Valley, and everything is basically part of the same plot arc. In AC you split your time between the capital city and the valley with two distinct plot lines. I think it’s a major factor in bringing this book out of the YA genre and into high fantasy. You get a better sense that the fate of the world hangs in the balance and there’s a much clearer battle between good and evil (as opposed to one guy against another).

As before, the world building and character development are superb! I think it’s Jim Butcher’s strength as a writer; characters you really identify with and a rich, immersive world. He never disappoints!

Summary

Another excellent read from Jim Butcher, 4.5 *’s

Trivia

Player: [after pushing an opponent all the way off the field] Sorry coach, I stopped when I heard the whistle.
Coach: Where were you taking him?
Player: The bus, it was time for him to go home.





Book Review: Riddle Master Trilogy

3 11 2009

Riddle MasterIn a land where wizards have long since vanished, Morogon, Prince of Hed, is confronted with a challenge much different from that faced by Hed’s land-bound rulers before him.  Although he wants only to rule and work the land of his birth, Morogon must search out a very different destiny – given to him by the stars imprinted on his forehead since he was born.  He must wander strange, foreign lands full of untamed magic in the form of riddling wraiths, mysterious harpists, a lost crown, a magical sword, and an all-knowing High One who rules over all.  But in his quest for a new life for himself and his people, he must face great dangers – not only to himself and his people, but to his promised bride, his land, and his very way of life…

The Good

The Riddle-Master trilogy was definitely a good read.  The characters are very real.  Morogon and Raederle are a couple I really enjoyed reading.  All of the supporting characters were well written, even the villains (and you don’t really know who they are until the end anyway) are understandable if not likable.

The action moves along at a nice pace, though I’m glad I read the trilogy in a single volume, the cliffhanger at the end of book 1 is a doosie!  The story is intriguing.  At its heart it’s a coming of age story, though it’s definitely high fantasy with a battle to save the entire realm.

The No-So-Good

There wasn’t anything truly bad about this story but there are a few downsides.  The story is hard to follow at times.  The main characters are riddlers, they put pieces of the puzzle together to figure out what happened and why.  Sometimes the author expects you to do the same which means remembering lots of little details.  She doesn’t tell you anything twice and you kind of need to remember everything for it all to make sense.  This makes it a good read for a vacation where you can read the whole thing in a relatively short amount of time! 

You can tell this was the author’s first novels, and the second and third are leaps and bounds ahead of the first book.  I think the best way I can put it is that it’s lacking in polish.  You don’t really understand why Morogon and Raederle love each other so much, when you get to the final battle at the end it’s kind of anti-climactic, you get the big reveal of who the good and bad guys really are and bam, Morogon defeats them.  It kind of makes sense when you know all the little details but it doesn’t flow well.

Summary

I’m going to give this one 3 *’s.  It was a good read, just not great.  Pick it up at the library or used book store.

Trivia

Guy 1: Why do this?
Guy 2: Why not do it?
[Guy 1 shakes his head]
Guy 2: Cause yesterday I walked out of the joint after losing four years of my life and you’re cold-decking “Teen Beat” cover boys.
[pause]
Guy 2: Cause the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.
[another pause]
Guy 1: Been practicing this speech, haven’t you?
Guy 2: Little bit. Did I rush it? Felt I rushed it.
Guy 1: No, it was good, I liked it. The “Teen Beat” thing was harsh.





E-Readers: Fabulous or Foolish?

12 10 2009

Recently Tami and Bre did a podcast discussing E-Readers.  This got me thinking, which almost always leads to a blog post so here we are.  Their opinion, if I may summarize, is that E-Readers are good in theory, the technology is cool.  In practice however, they’re still likely to buy dead-tree books of titles they enjoy and DRM issues (as with all digital media these days) are a hassle.  My thoughts are much the same.  Allow me to elaborate:

A Story

My first, an so far only, experience with E-Readers was when I found the Kindle app for the iPhone.  I was practically giddy.  The Hubby and I had talked about the Kindle before, which basically came down to “I want one” and “I think they’re srupid.”  I’m sure you can immagine the circular conversation.  I promptly downloaded the app and bought my first Kindle Book, Twilight.  That month I read all 4 of the Twilight books, 8 of the Dresden Files books, and another fantasy book.  I spent $80 all told in a series of $5-15 (edited to reflect the more expensive new eBooks) purchases.  After that month I decided my impulse control wasn’t strong enough to allow me to use the Kindle on a regular basis.  I went back to dead-tree books.

I’m a Geek

After listening to the podcast I was trying to organize my thoughts into something cogent that I could write a comment about (I quickly realized that I needed to make a blog post!).  A question floated to the top.  Why do I want an E-Reader?  I bounced that around for a while…  Convience of carrying many books around in a small package… cheaper than new dead-tree books… free previews of books…  portable web browsing… All that’s great but what it really came down to is that I’m a geek at heart.  I love technology.  I love bright, shiny, new things.  I want the latest and greatest.  Once I realized that it was just my inner geek I was able to more rationally evaluate the idea.

DRM

Love it or hate it, I think DRM is here to stay.  I don’t have a problem with DRM, but I do have a problem with how much is charged for digital media.  Paying for 1’s and 0’s has never set well with me.  Looking at it objectively, $5 for a digital book seems ridiculous from a major publisher, there’s no paper, there’s no shipping, there’s almost no overhead for the ebook that’s not already going to be spent for the dead-tree book (indie publishers/authors I think it’s ok, for example Wil Wheaton charges $5 for digital copies of his books; it’s an issue of volume).  I feel like I’m getting riped off. 

Ok, back on topic, I was talking about DRM.  I regretted almost immediately that I couldn’t share the books I bought in Kindle versions.  For me, talking about a book with a friend is half the fun.  I actually have a solution for this.  What if you could “beam” your eBook to a friend and it would “delete” your copy as long as your friend has it.  You could even put a time limit on the borrowed file (no more borrowed books lost forever).  It would exist just like a dead-tree book.  For every book paid for, only one copy exists and I can share it with anyone who has an E-Reader.  Just like with a dead-tree book I could buy/sell/trade it as I saw fit.  As with everything some will figure a way to thwart the system, but that’s nothing new.

Thin Ice

E-Readers are expensive.  There’s no way around it.  I can go to Wal-Mart and buy a laptop for less than a Kindle.  E-Readers don’t really do anything else.  Sure they have portable (and with the Kindle, free) web browsing, but I get that much better and on a better screen with my iPhone.  I’m not going to drop my data package on my cell phone bill because I get an E-Reader.  Some play MP3’s… meh, I’ve got an iPhone and an iPod for that. 

I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on a uni-tasker who’s function I’m not even sure I like.  That’s the bottome line for me.

Trivia

Guy: That thing is a damned hazard! 
Girl: It’s just a toaster!
Guy: Well, insertion of bread into that so-called toaster produces no toast at all, merely warm bread! Inserting the bread twice produces charcoal. So, clearly, to make proper toast it requires one and a half insertions, which is something for which the apparatus doesn’t begin to allow! One assumes that when the General of Electric built it, he might have tried using it. One assumes the General might take pride in his creations instead of just foisting them on an unsuspecting public.
Girl: You know something? Nobody gives a rat’s ass that you have to push the toast down twice. You know why? Because everybody pushes their toast down twice!
Guy: Not where I come from.