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Search tags: february-2017
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review 2017-02-21 20:27
Fire Touched / Patricia Briggs
Fire Touched - Patricia Briggs

Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

 

Plenty of Fae goodness in this installment of Mercy Thompson! They are absolutely the best frenemies—devious, slippery, powerful, and power-hungry. Mercy has to be careful even with her friendly Fae!

Mercy & her shape-shifting gang beat a powerful troll, then Mercy “claims” the Tri-Cities area à la Kate Daniels of the Ilona Andrews series. Just like Kate, Mercy finds that her spur of the moment solution causes more headaches than she anticipated.

Excellent things about this book? Mercy finally gets some female friends! She gets to have a heart-to-heart talk with The Flanagan, a fabulous Fae woman—the only reservation I have is that its “girl talk” as they discuss the men in their lives. Soooo close to Bechdel test territory, but no cigar. But there is less hostility from the female werewolves and Baba Yaga makes some friendly overtures, giving me hope that Mercy may get some normal friendships out of the deal.

Secondly, Mercy doesn’t get absolutely bashed up in this installment. For once, someone else gets crushed by troll-tossed cars, fae-flung boulders, and any other bone-crushing missiles. Just a few bruises this time for our heroine.

If there are any minuses, it’s that the vampires are virtually absent. Yes, we get Thomas Hao, as The Flanagan’s prospective love interest, but Stefan never makes an appearance at all and even Wulfe only gets one little phone call to be creepy in.

A perennial complaint of mine—cover art. This one seems particularly bad to me, depicting Mercy with far less clothing that I picture her wearing. I just don’t see that shirt being too practical for all the butt-kicking that she does.

I wonder if we might get a spin-off series featuring Thomas Hao & The Flanagan? I’d read those!

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review 2017-02-21 19:55
Agent of Change / Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Agent of Change - Sharon Lee,Steve Miller

Once a brilliant First-in Scout, Val Con yos'Phelium was "recruited" by the mysterious Liaden Department of Interior and brainwashed into an Agent of Change—a ruthless covert operative who kills without remorse.

Fleeing the scene of his latest murderous mission, he finds himself saving the life of ex-mercenary Miri Robertson, a tough Terran on the run from a team of interplanetary assassins. Thrown together by circumstances, Val Con and Miri struggle to elude their enemies and stay alive without slaying each other—or surrendering to the unexpected passion that flares between them.

 

The Liaden Universe entertains again—I stayed up past bedtime last night to finish this novel and absolutely had to know how things ended. Except I now know that I will have to consult another title for “the rest of the story.” That’s okay, this was a fun romp.

What do you do when you are a hardened, take-no-prisoners spy who almost incidentally rescues someone and then you find yourself quite taken with her? Val Con yos’Phelium suddenly can’t just leave Miri Robertson in the lurch. He saved her life once and now it seems the two of them have become interdependent. Neither one of them is sure how they feel about it.

Although their developing relationship definitely has a starring role in the novel, there is plenty of action & adventure too. A new species is introduced to the Liaden series, that of the large, sentient turtles (The Clutch). The most prominent of them, Edger, reminds me of the Ents in LOTR—living & doing business at a stately pace, watching short-lived humans whip through the world at a frantic rate. I’m looking forward to seeing how these reptilian characters feature in future adventures. Not to mention the space mafia that they seem to be set up to oppose.

The ever-so-complicated Liaden world barely impinges on this book—our main characters never get near Liaden society, so there is less of the societal machinations prominent in Local Custom or Scout’s Progress. I look forward to future stories of Val Con and Miri.

Book 245 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-02-21 18:16
Leonard / William Shatner
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man - David Fisher,William Shatner

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.

Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.

 

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Star Trek fan—I started watching the original series while in my tweens. It was “must see” after school TV (even though the show was cancelled by this point & I was watching re-runs). Mr. Spock was my absolute favourite character and I was happy to see him popping up in later incarnations of Star Trek, especially the new series of movies. So I was saddened by Leonard Nimoy’s death in 2015. I appreciate that he did many other roles, by it is Spock that I will remember him for.

In January, I was able to see his son’s documentary For the Love of Spock while flying to Johannesburg. I enjoyed seeing Nimoy & Spock from his son’s perspective, even the difficult parts of that relationship. Naturally, when I got home, it seemed appropriate to read William Shatner’s memoir concerning Leonard Nimoy as well.

I was pleasantly surprised at how honest Shatner seemed to be in this memoir. I think that it takes courage to admit that you don’t have many friends, that you don’t know how to make or maintain friendships, and that you screw up friendships & don’t know why. His co-writer, David Fisher, lets Shatner’s voice shine through and I felt some empathy for a man who may have career success, but seems like a lonely old guy.

Mind you, this book is replete with Shatner’s two favourite words, “I” and “me.” While nominally about Leonard, the memoir reveals far more about Shatner than it does about Nimoy. Shatner can’t be an easy man to befriend—he doesn’t seem to fully understand concepts like teasing, for example. He tries to participate, but more like a person following a ritual than like someone who truly understands what’s going on and as a result, he often misses the mark.

Although his egoism is obvious, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Shatner at the book’s end, when it seems that he and Nimoy were estranged. Shatner quite honestly couldn’t understand why and seemed honestly distressed by the situation. Despite their rift, he has written an honest and moving account of their 50 year association and has tried to give a fair portrayal of their relationship.

If you too are a Star Trek devotee, you will probably enjoy this memoir. Others may not find it quite as interesting.

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review 2017-02-16 17:02
Magic's Pawn / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Pawn - Mercedes Lackey

Though Vanyel has been born with near-legendary abilities to work both Herald and Mage magic, he wants no part of such things. Nor does he seek a warrior's path, wishing instead to become a Bard. Yet such talent as his if left untrained may prove a menace not only to Vanyel but to others as well. So he is sent to be fostered with his aunt, Savil, one of the famed Herald-Mages of Valdemar.

But, strong-willed and self-centered, Vanyel is a challenge which even Savil can not master alone. For soon he will become the focus of frightening forces, lending his raw magic to a spell that unleashes terrifying wyr-hunters on the land. And by the time Savil seeks the assistance of a Shin'a'in Adept, Vanyel's wild talent may have already grown beyond anyone's ability to contain, placing Vanyel, Savil, and Valdemar itself in desperate peril...

 

Oh, what a validating novel this would be for a child who had no sports talent, but was being forced to participate anyway! Every boy convinced by his father to set aside his violin or book in order to fail dismally at baseball or hockey would be able to relate to Vanyel. Music is everything to Vanyel with academics running a close second, but his father only wants him to become a brutal swordsman.

Others who may relate: those who excelled in their own small pond (small town or small school), but find themselves out-shone by talented peers when they arrived at university. Vanyel is considered smart and musically talented at home, but once he is sent to his Aunt Savil at the school for Herald-Mages, his talents fall short of the mark.

Also a book for a youngster (in the 1980s) struggling with his/her sexual orientation. The good thing that comes out of this new situation is that Vanyel realizes that he is interested in boys—that’s why bedding girls at home was never alluring to him. And although some people are prejudiced against him for his orientation, the author makes it clear that they are “provincial” and not to be listened to. I was pleasantly surprised to find this viewpoint expressed so unequivocally in literature from the 1980s.

Like most teenagers, Vanyel is very self-centered. It goes with the territory, but it does make the kid hard to like (at least for a woman in her 50s). However, it was also disappointing that the instructors at the mage school made so little effort to see behind the arrogant pose that Vanyel used to protect himself. The situation improves as the book progresses, with Aunt Savil realizing that there is a great deal more to her nephew that she had previously realized and that maybe her brother was even thicker than she had thought. This is also a pretty standard plot device—I think of Simon in The Dragonbone Chair, who also starts as a self-involved teen (with fewer talents than Vanyel), but eventually becomes a person of character.

I had to wonder at the addition of the horse-like Companions—in order to become a Herald-Mage, one must be “chosen” by one of these superior, magical beings, who reminded me very much of the Houyhnhnms from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Maybe in the next book, I will figure out why the Companions are necessary to this world.

Book 244 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-02-16 14:58
Rimrunners / C.J. Cherryh
Rimrunners - C.J. Cherryh

Meet Elizabeth Yeager, "Spacer, machinist, temp." A refugee waiting for a ship to call home, Bet Yeager was once a marine.

Now she's on the run.

 

In this world Yeager has hit bottom, she's jobless, homeless, and starving on Thule, a nearly abandoned station in the by-passed Hinder Stars. Sleeping in toilets, killing to save her body, stealing to stay alive, she feels her hopes die ... until the Loki docks. It's a spook: a mercenary warship barely legitimated by Alliance documents as a free-lance bounty hunter and spy vessel—a ship whose captain has no qualms about signing on a "machinist" with no papers and a shady past, not to mention murder charges hanging over her head.

 

 

Not my favourite Cherryh book, but I still liked it. She has an uncanny knack for exploring aspects of the future that wouldn’t occur to me. Like this book—what happens when you’re a spacer and you lose your job and become homeless? Is it possible to conceal your identity in such an advanced society? Considering that this book was written in the 1980s, when it was considerably easier to take on a new identity, it would be interesting to read something along the same lines written in this century. It would seem to me to be almost impossible to disappear today, though I understand that there are books which give instruction on how to do that—erasing traces of yourself, both physical and electronic.

Bet Yeager is a difficult woman to relate to, but despite that I found myself rooting for her, especially as she started making connections with the people around her, despite herself. Funny how friendship can change the shape of a life, pushing people in different directions than they would normally go.

Rimrunners is a tribute to the power of personal connections to pull people out of difficult situations.

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