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review 2017-08-12 18:21
Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovksy
Dragonfly Falling - Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: Shadows of the Apt #2


Adrian Tchaikovsky's earlier books aren't quite as good as his later books, but they're still entertaining. This one took me quite a while to get through for a variety of reasons, but in my defence, it's a good 700 pages.


This installment brings war to the Lowlands in the form of battles for ant cities and a siege of Collegium. Each city battle doesn't actually take all that long, so I'm not sure they quite qualify as sieges, but I'm not sure what other word would be more appropriate. The plot was interesting and the battles were handled well, but I think the sheer amount of war in this one became a bit of a grind. Part of that was the subplot with Totho, which I wasn't sure I really liked at first.


I'll admit that I was starting to doubt whether I really wanted to continue with this series partway through the book because of the aforementioned sensation of the machinery of war just grinding along, but the ending and resolution helped rekindle my interest so I'll definitely slot the next one into my reading schedule at some point. This is most definitely not a series I'd want to read all ten books of at once though.


My copy had the newer cover:



I like it better, so I'm adding it here.

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review 2017-08-02 01:09
Dies the Fire
Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

On March 17, 1998 there was a brilliant flash of light, and afterwards explosives (including gunpowder), internal combustion, and electricity no longer work.  Dies the Fire follows two small bands trying to stay alive during the first months immediately after The Change.  Clan MacKenzie, led by Ren Fair singer and Wiccan High Priestess Juniper MacKenzie, quickly bolts to her cabin in the foothills and settles into a communal kibbutz-like agrarian lifestyle in the Willamette Valley.  Clan Bear, led by ex-marine pilot Mike Havel with his deputies an African American horse trainer and a female live-steel sword fighting veterinarian, develop into a wandering militia as they wend their way from Idaho back to the Willamette.


Other reviewers appear to love Dies the Fire or hate it (Reviews are either 1 star or 4 stars).  I do agree that in many way’s Dies the Fire is an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and Renaissance Fair fan’s wet dream – folks who play Middle Ages have an advantage on the fighting and crafting skills to survive.  Similarly, the villain, the so-called Protector of Portland, is a lawful evil stereotype with medieval history background who tries to start a Feudal setup with him as kingpin and the local gangs as levies.


The writing is a bit more polished than that of S.M. Stirling’s earlier Nantucket Trilogy, but still descends into detailed inventory and infodump from time to time.  On this re-read, I’m also painfully aware of some of the odd tokenization of certain characters – Will Dutton, Mike Havel’s African American 2nd and his Mexican wife are the primary non-Caucasians except for the Nez Perce.  Is that because there just aren’t many people of color in that part of the world, or it is because Stirling is consciously trying to be diverse? He’s not quite succeeding at avoiding the magical Negro stereotype.  Juniper’s daughter, Eilir is congenitally deaf due to measles but preternaturally good at reading lips and unusually Juniper’s inner circle appear to all be fluent in sign and a potential best friend picks up signing effortlessly.  Is that because Stirling is indulging in building the world he wishes, or because he feels the need to include someone with disabilities and then doesn’t quite make it realistic? And despite these criticisms, of all the post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction I've read, Dies the Fire is the one that haunts me and that I dream about.  


The Emberverse, as this series is now known, is up to 13 volumes with the 14th, which follows the grandchildren of the original characters, expected out later in 2017. I read the first few books when they were originally released, but lost interest. I got back into the series because the audiobook is available on Hoopla from my library. Taking the time that an audiobook enforces, I’m more aware of the number of times that certain descriptions and concepts are repeated than I was the first time I read Dies the Fire.  I was talking to my husband about this and we came to the conclusion that S.M. Stirling, much like L.E. Modesitt, comes up with interesting premises and is a reasonable wordsmith but they both have favorite set pieces and conceits that they reach for just a bit too often – they can become their own cliché.


I wasn’t impressed with the Tantor Audiobook.  While Todd McLaren had a reasonably pleasant voice, the frequent mispronunciations were annoying and point to a lack of research and sloppy preparation.  (He mispronounces Chuchulian, Samhain, Lunasadh, Athame, céilidh, and ballista, among other things).


Audiobook started during #24in48.  Prorated portion of 431 of 1319* minutes or 187 of the 573 page paperback used as my last Free Friday selection for Booklikes-opoly. I finished it up while listening in the car on the way to camp to pick up my son and while sitting with Ozzie last night.


*I’d been calculating based on 1380 minutes since the downloaded file said 23 hours, but the book actually finished in 21 hours and 59 minutes

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review 2017-07-31 22:19
After the Funeral
After the Funeral - Agatha Christie

Should murder make sense? Mr Entwhistle wondered. Academically the answer was yes. But many pointless crimes were on record. It depended, Mr Entwhistle reflected, on the mentality of the murderer.

This was my first time reading After the Funeral, but, of course, it is the story that is loosely used as the story in Murder at the Gallop, that classic Marple film starring the incomparable Margaret Rutherford. 



This is all wrong, of course. After the Funeral is a Poirot mystery, not a Marple. 


But other than this, the main plot is the same: a family gathering, a vague accusation, a brutal murder.


Poirot joins the plot relatively late, and then potters about as Poirot does.


Which brings me to following: Poirot is the worst person to ever try and disguise himself. This is not the first time he does it, and every time I've seen him do it, it is just ridiculous.

Surely, Christie wrote this "disguise" malarkey as a bit of fun with the oh so famous and infallible Belgian.

And his name isn’t Pontarlier – it’s Hercules something.’ ‘Hercule Poirot – at your service.’ Poirot bowed. There were no gasps of astonishment or of apprehension. His name seemed to mean nothing at all to them. They were less alarmed by it than they had been by the single word ‘detective’.

After the Funeral is a fairly standard Poirot story, not the best, not the worst. There are a couple of things that do not work, like Poirot's attempt at making people confess to him. That was just plain silly.


However, I liked disliking most of the characters. It's a bit of dark satire, more than a murder mystery, but it isn't as good as other Poirot stories.











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review 2017-07-31 20:46
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
Ugly Love - Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love is the second book by Colleen Hoover that I’ve read and I had so much fun. It was completely different to the other one of hers I read, It Ends With Us. That one was to do with physical abuse and as hard as the topic matter was to read about, I thought the book itself was amasing and it got to me a way that few books ever have. Similarly, this one tackled difficult themes, but nowhere near the same level. It was mostly just a really fun read.


The story followed Tate and Miles who meet each other under dubious circumstances and a physical attraction develops between them. Miles doesn’t want a relationship, just something casual. He propositions Tate and she agrees.


This is a novel of dual perspectives. The chapters in the present day are written in Tate's, while Miles narrates the alternate chapters that take place six years in the past. The chapters from the past illuminate the reasons why Miles can’t bear the thought of falling in love again and only wants a sexual relationship.


I loved virtually all of the characters. Tate was fun and quirky and she showed such vulnerability when she began to see Miles as more than just a casual fling. All she wanted was for Miles to feel the same way about her and I could almost taste her disappointment when he kept shooting her down. There were several times when I wished Tate would walk away because I couldn’t bear to see her hurt anymore, but she kept coming back for more. This was infuriating to a degree, but communicated  the depth of her feelings for Miles.


Miles himself was a very stoic character who it was hard to get a measure of. His chapters, which were often written in verse  (I didn’t get that at all), really helped to shine light on his character. I preferred the chapters written in the present day as I did find the angst a little too much in Miles’s chapters, but they were okay.


A lot of people go on about Cap (one of the side characters), an old man who operated the lift for residents at the tower block where Tate and Miles lived .I liked him, but I really don’t get why people were so enamoured with him. He was fun, though, and I certainly didn’t dislike his parts.


This was such a fun read that was perfectly paced and really addictive. If you’re in need of a light read go check it out. It left me with such a warm glow!


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review 2017-07-31 20:02
Series Review: Extrasensory Agents
Cold Sight - Leslie Parrish
Cold Touch: Extrasensory Agents - Leslie Parrish
Cold Memory (Extrasensory Agents) - Leslie A. Kelly

Extrasensory Agents
by Leslie Parrish (Leslie A. Kelly)
Book #1: Cold Sight | Rating:  3.0 Stars -- Previously Reviewed
Book #2: Cold Touch | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #3: Cold Memory | Rating:  3.0 stars

Average Series Rating:  3.0 stars

First of all, this only bugs me a little after staring at the covers and realizing that they're not of the same set.  Cold Sight and Cold Touch were written a few years prior to Cold Memory (six or seven years, I think), and if you go to the Amazon pages, the first two books have new book cover illustrations that are a bit more cohesive with the newest book.  The covers I have chosen to display for the first two books are from the original paperbacks.

HOWEVER, unless you really care to look, you don't really notice the differences, aside from where the series' title is situated, the font type, and the author's name (Leslie Kelly used to write under the pseudonym 'Leslie Parrish' for her romantic suspense novels, but has recently chosen to simply add an 'A.' to her name for this genre instead.).

Otherwise, it's a cover illustration of a person standing in front of a dark background.  So... no biggie... if I don't stare at it for too long, because it will probably, eventually bug me into just changing out the cover illustrations so they all look like they're from the same set...

In fact, here you go:


I can't really say which covers I like better, or if there really is much of a difference aside from the cover models.  But I'm anal retentive enough to care about aesthetics on my blog.

Anyway....  Onto the actual review...

To be fair, I don't know if this series is finished yet or not (Leslie Kelly's author's note at the end of Cold Memory promises more books, but we'll see), so the average series rating is only for these first three books.  Almost two years ago, I stumbled upon Leslie Parrish's Extrasensory Agents and found the concept very intriguing.  But there hadn't been word on the continuing of this series, so I thought it was finished as a duology, even though there's room enough for even more expansion into this world--there are still other characters who have great potential for story.

About two or three months before the publication of the third book, Cold Memory, I stumbled across its existence and was quite pleased.

This series is getting a series review because I just never got around to reviewing Cold Touch.  As a matter of fact, I didn't even realize I'd reviewed the first book, Cold Sight, until I randomly fell onto its Goodreads book page and found that I'd written a few sentences about it.  You can click on the above link to see the original review, transferred to this blog.

Then the publication of Cold Memory was announced, and suddenly the idea of an individual review of Cold Sight, a review of Cold Touch as part of a bundle of other book highlights, and a subsequent, possible individual review of Cold Memory sort of felt unbalanced.  (Don't ask, my mind works in ways that I will NEVER understand myself, so everyone else need not try.)

Long story short, I really still don't have much to say about these books individually.  Once again, the concept of a group of psychic investigators holds much potential, and as many will know, is one type of plot device that I absolutely love!

Cold Sight was already reviewed, and had been really good if I could remember anything about it without consulting my previously written thoughts--again, see the link above.  If I get a chance, or even if, maybe this book is released as an audio, I might reread it.  According to Kelly's author note at the end of Cold Memory, both Cold Sight and Cold Touch were edited and re-released with some new short story content at the end of each book.  Even though these books only netted a mediocre 3-Star rating from me, I'm curious enough to go back and see what might have changed... if I even remember what was in the original to begin with.

Aiden McConnell is a straight-up psychic, is how his teammates describe him; and he was burned by the media and law enforcement on his last case, prior to the beginning of this book.  He's on sabbatical to recover his own peace of mind until investigative reporter Lexie Nolan stumbles into his life with a plea to help her uncover what she believes to be a serial killer targeting teenage girls.  No one in town believes her, so she turns to Aiden as a last resort.

As I recall, the pairing was a great working team, and I also loved that, while an investigative reporter, Lexie truly feels that something sinister is going on.  She's more interested in trying to save the teenagers than getting her next big story, because if what she suspects is true, then another girl will disappear soon.  Although since I really don't remember a whole lot about this book other than that I enjoyed, it, I'll leave my thoughts here for now.

Cold Touch was an enjoyable, dark and gritty read with a character who has an interesting, if depressing psychic ability--Olivia can touch a dead body and experience the last few moments of that victim's life before death.  So if said victim had been murdered, then Olivia will experience that exact murder.  Needless to say, it's obviously a trying skill to have--to die multiple times, in multiple ways, for the sake of investigating the truth of someone's death.

While I feel like Olivia could live without this kind of skill, and feel bad for her, I didn't like the way Detective Gabe Cooper goes about trying to tell her what she needs to do with her life.  I get that he's concerned about her mental health, but it's none of his business how she lives her life.  I found him a bit of a hypocrite and a jackass, even if I DID like Olivia, as well as the rest of her psychic team.

This particular story got very personal, as it also delves into some of Olivia's childhood, specifically a time when she'd been kidnapped, and would have died if not for a young boy whom she believes risked his life to save her.  And, once again, this book, much like the first, wasn't all that memorable, even if it was quite enjoyable when I read it.

Cold Memory is a study in conflicted feelings for me.  As enjoyable as the book was, and as much as I liked our main characters, the few things that stood out about this book included how bloody and gory the murders were, and how many grammatical errors and typos I found scattered throughout the book.  I'm not intentionally picky about typos--they happen and I usually ignore them... until they become abundant enough for me to notice and start caring.  Because this is a finished product, and I expect a more complete finished product.

But this is Leslie Kelly, and I'm willing to overlook some of these errors in publishing.  Because at least the book was still quite enjoyable, even if a little bloody and gory--goodness the murders in this book were bloody and gory.

Secondly, I found the mystery pretty predictable once the ball got rolling.  Members of a carnival community start dying--very gruesome deaths--and the killer decided to leave behind a vague clue at the first crime scene: a black feather.  Somehow, it gets missed, so the killer takes pains to point out that this piece of evidence got missed.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Gypsy Bell and eXtreme Investigations agent Mick Tanner have teamed up to find out who would want to kill an old man who was dying of cancer.  And as they continue their investigation, a few dark underbelly secrets of the carnival start to surface.

I hate to say that this book was predictable because of how obvious our author makes the clues; but it's true.  Specifically, a lot of the clues come from our killer, himself, via his POV of the book narration.  Because as soon as the killer gets his first scene, I had pretty much figured out who he was and why he was killing, even if there was a slight twist that, while I didn't really guess, I wasn't surprised about.

The romantic relationship between Gypsy and Mick was sweet and nice, if a little too quickly progressed.  The "I love yous" seemed a bit premature, yes, even after all they went through.  Though it helps that they were attracted to each other first, and completely honest with each other throughout their interactions about their feelings, and also that they knew each other as kids.  So I have little complaints about the romance, but it DID feel kind of bland.

Finally, the conclusion felt a little loose.  The murder mystery was solved, but felt a little forced.  Other loose ends weren't really tied together.  I'm not sure how I feel about the open-ended-ness of tangential story lines, such as the ordeal between Mick and his grandfather--maybe it was never meant to be resolved, despite the fact that there might have been a hint that something could potentially happen.

Nonetheless, this series has a great concept, and Kelly's writing can be enjoyable.  The truth is, I really DO look forward to the next book, and will hope that we get Derek's story first.  Because, the truth of the matter is, Julia's story is going to be a hard one for Kelly to create.

What I DID find a little disappointing, however, was the outcome of a certain character in Cold Memory that I hadn't been expecting, if mainly because of the build up Kelly gave to said character, that gave great potential for a future book.  A pity, that one.



Roll #34:  Last roll!
Cold Memory was read for this game space
--the book involves a carnival.

Page Count:  260
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $274.00











Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/07/series-review-extrasensory-agents.html
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