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review 2017-03-24 15:27
Hot Lead, Cold Iron / Ari Marmell
Hot Lead, Cold Iron: A Mick Oberon Job Book 1 by Marmell, Ari (2014) Paperback - Ari Marmell

Chicago, 1932. Mick Oberon may look like just another private detective, but beneath the fedora and the overcoat, he's got pointy ears and he's packing a wand. 

Oberon's used to solving supernatural crimes, but the latest one's extra weird. A mobster's daughter was kidnapped sixteen years ago, replaced with a changeling, and Mick's been hired to find the real child. The trail's gone cold, but what there is leads Sideways, to the world of the Fae, where the Seelie Court rules. And Mick's not really welcome in the Seelie Court any more. He'll have to wade through Fae politics and mob power struggles to find the kidnapper – and of course it's the last person he expected.

 

Hard-boiled detective + the Fae = an interesting first book.

When I ran across this title in my public library’s catalog, I was intrigued. Those of you who read my reviews regularly will know that I am a sucker for books that feature Fae characters. I love them! Plus, I am an enormous fan of Raymond Chandler, so this combo was irresistible.

I enjoyed Marmell’s take on the Fae. Mick Oberon (yes, he’s related to THAT Oberon) has a penchant for milk, cream when he’s needs something a bit stronger. He doesn’t always ask for money to pay for his jobs—but he has an instinct for asking for something which later helps with a new problem. He’s also extremely reluctant to head back Underhill for any reason.

Marmell is obviously fully conversant with the whole hard-boiled genre. Mick is tough-talking, hard-(milk)-drinking, and wise-cracking. He gets beat on and thumps others in return. All the correct boxes are ticked. It would be unfair to compare his writing to Chandler—very few can live up to those standards. If I have a niggling annoyance, it’s that I felt the Chicago gangland vocabulary was laid on awfully thick (with a trowel, really).

Still, it’s a fun fantasy world and I will definitely continue on with the series. Not, however, a series that I will want to own.

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review 2017-03-23 15:01
Hyperion / Dan Simmons
Hyperion - Dan Simmons

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

 

Canterbury Tales in space. With the plotting of Agatha Christie.

Earth is just a memory, destroyed long ago, but it looms large in the galactic consciousness. Hyperion is a world on the edge of things—not really part of the Hegemony of Man, not really part of the opposition either. Ruled or haunted by a being known as The Shrike.

As a birder, I am familiar with shrikes. They are songbirds that think they are raptors. When you find one of their larders, you feel like you’ve discovered a serial killer’s lair—they use thorn bushes or barbed wire to impale their prey until needed to feed chicks or themselves. Simmons borrows this behaviour for his creation and it feels ominous.

As for the Canterbury Tales aspect, seven pilgrims are traveling to Hyperion on the eve of galactic war. As they make their way to the Time Tombs on Hyperion, they agree to tell their tales of what has prompted their participation in the expedition. As their stories unfold, we acquire the background that we need to learn more about Simmons’ universe and enough to tantalize us about what may be happening.

As to the Christie angle, I realized as I enjoyed each character’s story that Simmons had skillfully crafted all of the tales to fit together in interesting and intricate ways. Events in each person’s life, reaching back many years in every case, have drawn them to be where they currently are. Have they been manipulated by the Shrike? Or is this a case of massive synchronicity?

I loved the ending of this book and if it was a stand-alone, I could live with that. However, I am pleased that there are three more books to explore this intriguing universe.

Book 251 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-03-21 21:05
Ashes of Honor / Seanan McGuire
Ashes of Honor - Seanan McGuire

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

 

Yay! This is book, folks, where Toby Daye finally wakes up and smells the coffee, both literally and figuratively. Indeed, she is as obsessed with coffee drinking as I am and all the people in her life have learned to make it to her specifications. Plus, she has learned about those people in her life—she cares about them, they care about her, and she should probably get used to that.

It was great to see her accept and even solicit help from her regular crew of friends and to see them all win the day as a team. No more isolation! She & Tybalt are officially great at co-operating to get things done, save each other’s lives, and defend the innocent. Not to mention their excellent chemistry! I also appreciate that this romance element to the story doesn’t over-power the novel. It’s an excellent side dish to a satisfying meal.

I think the major reason that I love October is because she is a flawed main character. She has obstacles to overcome, probably as many of them in her own mind as in the real world. And, like all of us, she has to work through her issues until she reaches a place where she can claim a little more happiness.

This is the series that started my serious love-affair with all things Fae. It’s a good time to love Fae fantasies, they are everywhere now, but this will always be my first love in that category. Thanks, Seanan McGuire, for hours of happy entertainment.

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review 2017-03-21 21:02
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, V.3
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 3 - Holly Black,Peter S. Beagle,Stephen Baxter,Stephen King,Hannu Rajaniemi,Jeff VanderMeer,Meghan McCarron,Ted Kosmatka,Rachel Swirsky,Ken Scholes,Richard Bowes,Ted Chiang,Robert Reed,Elizabeth Bear,Kij Johnson,Paolo Bacigalupi,M. Rickert,Margo Lanagan,Maure
 
The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer.
 
Short story anthologies like these are a wonderful way to find new authors that interest you. I should probably limit my intake, since my “to read” list is already over 1600 titles, but being the book lover that I am, I can’t resist having a peek sometimes.

As with all collections, some stories were fun, some were confusing, some were boring for me. But I can think of three in this book that made me think I wanted more from those authors.

The Dust Assassin, by Ian McDonald. Mostly because it is set in Asia and I think entirely too much science fiction & fantasy is set in North America. Plus this was a gripping story and I’d like to read more in this world.

Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel. I love a good mash-up. This story used both Shelley’s Frankenstein and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to create a little side-adventure that really tickled me. I will definitely be looking for more of Kessel’s work.

26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss, by Kij Johnson. Okay, so I have a huge soft spot for animals, plus I love it when an author gets the biology right! Acknowledgement that chimpanzees and gibbons aren’t monkeys, but they’re still in the circus act. The story left me with questions, something that I also love.

If you’re having difficulty choosing your next book, may I suggest an anthology in whatever genre you enjoy? Sure, there may be some duds, but at least one story in the collection will probably send you off on a whole new reading tangent!
 
 
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text 2017-03-21 21:00
Stone of Farewell / Tad Williams
Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

It is a time of darkness, dread, and ultimate testing for the realm of Osten Ard, for the wild magic and terrifying minions of the undead Sithi ruler, Ineluki the Storm King, are spreading their seemingly undefeatable evil across the kingdom.

With the very land blighted by the power of Ineluki’s wrath, the tattered remnants of a once-proud human army flee in search of a last sanctuary and rallying point—the Stone of Farewell, a place shrouded in mystery and ancient sorrow.

An even as Prince Josua seeks to rally his scattered forces, Simon and the surviving members of the League of the Scroll are desperately struggling to discover the truth behind an almost-forgotten legend, which will take them from the fallen citadels of humans to the secret heartland of the Sithi—where near-immortals must at last decide whether to ally with the race of men in a final war against those of their own blood.


As I look back on the reading experience for Stone of Farewell, I wonder exactly why I enjoyed it so much? I mean, not an awful lot happens. Simon returns to being a pouty, immature boy more often than not. There’s an awful lot of walking, while keeping a look-out for the bad guys. In fact, you could probably sum up the whole book in one sentence: Most of the good guys get to the Stone of Farewell.

I guess what made it worthwhile for me was learning quite a bit more about the Sithi (Williams’ version of Elves). Plus getting some back-story for Ineluki, the Storm King, to find out what turned him into the vengeful creature that is threatening all of Osten Ard. There’s also a peek into Troll culture and a love interest for poor, patient old Binibik.

The character who really gets left in the lurch in this volume is Miriamele, King Elias’ daughter. I would be reading book three regardless, but it is her fate that really is pulling me along at this point. I must know what happens!

This is pretty standard fantasy fare and if you enjoy high fantasy, you are likely to enjoy the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Those who don’t like elves, trolls, and magic swords should definitely pass this series by!

Book 250 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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