Tag Archives: Books

Chapter 10: Hard Magic

I realized it was time for another library run (despite probably still having books on my shelf at home I need to read) and picked up this little gem by chance.  Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman is exactly what I was looking for in terms of an urban fantasy novel involving a female protagonist and was everything that Night Shift lacked.  This was the first book in a relatively new series called “Paranormal Scene Investigations.”  As it says on the tin, this series is about a small, new group of magic users (called Talent) who use their magic (Current) to solve crime scenes created by other Talent users.  Set in NYC, our main character is Bonnie Torres, a young Talent with a knack for detail and trying to find her place in the world after living between Council and Lonejacks her entire life (Council and Lonejacks being two factions of the Talent community).

See those gem stones down there? Completely irrelevant to the story.

First, I’d like to say that Bonnie was a refreshing character to have after Jill.  She felt like a real person as opposed to just a stereotype of a “badass action chick.”  Jill runs around in ridiculous leather pants, trench coat, and all black and had a very limited personality.  Bonnie, on the other hand, had actual issues both female related and just plain human problems.  She dressed NORMAL and was actually struggling to get a job at the beginning of the novel.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like a “badass action chick”, but if that is all I can say about you at the end of the day then you MIGHT be a bit flat.  And, while it is true that Bonnie isn’t COMPLETELY fleshed out in this first novel, we do learn a lot about her and the key points of her personality and history.  I like having a more belieable female protagonist though.  She’s strong, independent, funny, and smart but she has her flaws as well since she’s stubborn, disregards authority, and can sometimes let her feelings cloud her judgement.  True, Bonnie does flirt and day dream about some of her co-workers, but the romance is barely present in this story and is more of a passing “man he’s hot” as opposed to “I want to jump his bones right this minute.”  It’s honestly refreshing and, again, completely believable.  Not to mention Bonnie is a bit of a pansexual anyway.

Plus, Hard Magic may be told from Bonnie’s POV, but several of the other characters are major players in this book (which is probably why it’s not called “The Case Files of Bonnie Torres” or something).  Gilman does a great job of building an ensemble cast which is a little different from most urban fantasies I’ve read recently where there is the main protagonist who usually plays lone wolf (but ends up getting a few side character support along the way).  I loved each and every character in this series from Nick to Pietr to Sharon, Nifty, and “The Guys.”  And, again, while these characters are still part mystery, I do feel like I got to know some good things about them and have a desire to learn more.

While all of the characters are great and very realistic, I will say that the overall story left something to be desired.  It’s a little slow at points since not only are we establishing the universe and the laws of magic in this world, but the characters themselves are setting up something entirely new: the Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations (PUPI).  A good first half of the book is the characters learning to work together and figuring out just what they can do with Current and crime investigation.  This is NOT a story that begins in medias res, the organization is brand new and we the readers get to experience its creation along with the characters which is kind of fun.  Still, a real case doesn’t crop up until several chapters into the book and the case itself is never completely solved.   I believe it might be in the next installation or, at the very least, the same killer will strike again.  However, that’s not to say that ALL the loose ends are left as loose ends.  Plus, it does make it a bit more realistic that a case isn’t completely solved since sometimes that happens in the real world.

I also have to say that I enjoyed the mythos set up in this series.  It reminds me a lot of the magic system in The Dresden Files in that Current is a source both inside a person and can be pulled from outside as well.  Not only that but Current users have to be careful that they don’t short out electronics when they’re doing their stuff.  Another aspect is, of course, the Council who don’t seem like they always have the individuals’ best interest at heart.  Of course, I might have also been drawing TDF comparisons because the characters kept traveling between NYC and Chicago.

Overall, I’d say if you’re looking for a good urban fantasy series with a decent female protagonist who ISN’T trying to screw a vampire/werewolf/demon, then this might be more your cup of tea.

I give this a 4 *sunglasses* out of 5 CSI parodies.


52 Books in 2012 – The Halfway Mark

While I haven’t really talked about it on this blog much (though you can see my official list over on the sidebar) this year not only marks my first attempt at book reviews and blogging, but also my first attempt at a reading challenge.  I started this challenge actually on livejournal, before the site became crappy and there was even a community of us doing this.  Heck, I was so organized with this I had a book picked out for every week that I was going to read (52 weeks in a year after all).  As you can imagine, a lot of that has fallen through.  I no longer pick books ahead of time or have a list of works I’m going to read and I no longer check livejournal, but…

a) I’m the kind of person who sometimes just grabs a book on a whim and goes “I’M GOING TO READ THIS NOW”

and b) Game of Thrones happened which, as you know, takes MUUUUUCH longer than a week to read (at least for me).

I had also planned on reading more “classical” novels since there are SEVERAL works of literature out there that I never encountered during my undergraduate OR graduate studies in college.  Sometimes that makes me feel like I missed out but other times I realize that I spent over 5 years reading “required” works and wanted to read my own selection of literature for a change.  True, I trudged my way through Dracula and The Scarlet Letter , but so far the majority of my books have been pleasure reading.  I really want to fix this in the next couple of months and I will likely be forced to as I prepare to teach high school kids and will need to refresh myself on various works of literature that they will be required to read.

So far though I am pretty pleased with myself.  Yes, I should read more of the “classics,” but it is just nice to know that I’ve been able to maintain a decent reading pace through the year.  Granted, seeing as I’ve been unemployed since January that hasn’t been difficult.  The true test will come in August when I have to juggle my reading with classes and teaching (fun).  However, I am halfway through my goal and it is halfway through the year so I figure I’m doing pretty good.  I know in the past I have read a lot, but this is my first time actually trying to see just how many books I can read in a year.  The first half has been promising…I can only hope that this continues.

Chapter 9: Night Shift

After finishing up A Storm of Swords and that taking up a good chunk of my reading time, I have finally finished another book.  This was something that shouldn’t have taken me as long to read as it did, but for one reason or another I spent a few weeks on it.  I think part of the problem was ASoS was sucking me in and this one took awhile to grip my attention.  However, I know the first book in a series can often be the most difficult to get into so I pushed onward.  Which brings us to today’s review: Jill Kismet #1: Night Shift.

I’ve got nothing witty for this, sorry.

I’ve really been in the market for another supernatural series to grab me like The Dresden Files and Iron Druid Chronicles but with a female protagonist.  The tricky part is, of course, finding a series that DOESN’T rely too heavy on the “supernatural romance” that seems to plague supernatural books with female protagonists.  Oh, sure, it can HAVE romance, but I don’t want that to be the focus of the work.  Sorry, I would just rather READ about women kicking demon ass, not sleeping with it.

Which was the main reason I picked this book up.  The cover was promising because it did not feature our female lead posing provocatively with a sword and/or gun in her hand.  It was sitting on my shelf for some time, however, before I actually cracked it open.  The story is basically this: Jill is a hunter who takes care of demons/hellbreed.   She gets help from the police on occasion, as well as, Weres.  She has also made a contract with one of the hellbreed in order to gain extra abilities…a contract that comes with a price.  Her current job, however, is hunting down a rogue Were who seems to be working with a hellbreed, something that was thought to be an IMPOSSIBLE match.  And Jill has to do this while juggling with the lingering loss of her former teacher, her guilt, and budding feelings for a certain were-male.

So, as I stated previously, while I’m not a fan of supernatural romance (or paranormal romance as I think it’s called), this one worked for me.  Mostly because it is NOT the main focus of the book and it is NOT something that is immediate.  Jill has bigger things on her plate than who she wants to date and even when she DOES start to have feelings for the guy, there are other priorities first. This made me really like Jill because she wasn’t pining over some guy.

However, while the romance works, I will say that the set-up of this first novel is a little shaky.  I had trouble getting into it and Jill doesn’t seem to have much of a personality at first.  She’s about what you have come to expect a woman in this genre to be like and it would be nice if she had some traits OUTSIDE of her job as a hunter.  The author does eventually convey how damaged Jill is, but I think I had trouble getting sucked into this world because the first couple of chapters are just not that exciting.  I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily dull and it’s not like she sits down and tells you everything about the world she is setting up.  It’s just…not enticing.  It took me a few chapters to really feel like I should be invested in these characters and keep reading.

That being said, once the book got going it was good.  Some excellent characters in here, although I found myself wanting to learn more about the weres involved than the main character which is probably not a good sign.  I did start to like Jill however and sympathize with her.  In a way, she reminded me of what we know about Natasha/Black Widow in Avengers which helped keep my interest because I’m still dealing with an Avengers high.

I guess the question really is: Will I read the next book?  While I am not sure I would rank this with Iron Druid Chronicles or The Dresden Files just yet, it does hold promise.  I would like to see what Jill can do and, as I said, it’s difficult to judge a series based on the first book alone.  The first book is for establishing things, setting up the characters and the world, and getting our feet wet.  I might not read the next book any time SOON, but I do plan to follow the series at least a little longer.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Ass-Kicking Chicks Who Get Stuff DONE.

Chapter 8: Blackout

Well, I sure as heck haven’t been posting to this blog as often as I thought I would.  I’d like to apologize for that.  Half the point of keeping a blog is to post to it on a regular basis and here it has been at least TWO WEEKS since I last posted anything.  Shame on me!

Regardless, let’s see if I can’t fix that now, shall we?  As you all know I started this blog partly because of what I read in Newsflesh #1: Feed and since then the last part of that trilogy has come out.  So who do you think ran out and bought it as soon as they could?  This girl right here, that’s who!  Which brings us to the book I’m looking at today: Blackout.

Now with zombie bears!

Blackout picks up immediately where our last novel left off: Georgia is dead, Shaun is talking to his imaginary copy of his sister and slowly going insane, and there is a new strain of the zombie plague out there which is passed on by mosquitoes.  Well, let me refresh one of those points.  Georgia isn’t actually dead…she’s been cloned and the conspiracy is just getting worse from there.

This book is different from the past two in that we flip back and forth between George and Shaun as narrators, at least until they converge paths and even then the chapters are still divided between them.  I liked that aspect a lot since we spent the majority of the first book with George, the second book with Shaun, and so it seems only right to culminate the trilogy with their joint perspectives.  I know not a lot of people like shifting perspectives in novels, but I feel as though it worked here because obviously you want to find out what Shaun is up to but you also want to be with Georgia as she discovers more about the clone problem and the CDC behind it.  It certainly had me curious as to how the two would converge and, sure enough, it’s done in such a way that it DOESN’T feel like pure coincidence that they find each other.

I will say that the zombie problem isn’t as forward in this book but, again, it makes sense given what we are dealing with.  Sure there are a few scenes with zombie hoards and killing zombies, but the protagonists are no longer journalists going out their and poking zombies with sticks.  Our characters are now on the run and underground trying to solve a huge conspiracy involving the CDC and the government.  The zombies are still very much a part of that, but you aren’t going to get the same kind of action.  But, oh, is there a lot of action in this one.  It’s not the same as going out and poking dead things with sticks…but this novel is still very much a part of the same page turner series that I’ve come to love.

I’m honestly not sure what else I can say about this book that I haven’t already said in the reviews of the first two parts.  It’s a nice end to the trilogy.  It brings closure without completely ending the world.  After all, this is set in a very realistic world and life goes on even after the final chapter of a book.  You know that George and Shaun continue their lives in as much peace as you can get in the zombie apocalypse and that is satisfying enough.  I wouldn’t say it wraps things neatly in a bow, mind you, but it’s a very nice end to a trilogy without leaving everything wide open.

Rating: 5 out of 5 zombies dancing in a music video.

Chapter 7: Fear

First real review in awhile.  I’m still not sure I like the format I’ve been using but I’m also not quite sure how to tweak it either (mostly because I get sick of copy/pasting the format every time I got to post a review).  So, gonna change things up a little today…or try to.  We’ll see since old habits are hard to break.

Anyway, today’s review is on Michael Grant’s latest release: Fear.  

Don’t be afraid. At least the flesh eating bugs are gone.

Fear is the fifth book in the Gone novel series, a series that is planned for six books.  At some point I should probably go back and talk about the first four books, but as I’ve stated before on this blog: I review as I read them.  But, a quick summary for those of you who AREN’T familiar with Grant’s series, Gone is a young adult dystopian series set in present day California.  The story begins when everyone over the age of 15 vanishes from a 20 mile radius of the town, leaving behind a bunch of scared kids and a dome that means the children are now all cut off from the outside world.  Things, as you can imagine, take a very dark turn from there.  The series has been described in the past as “Lord of the Flies meets Stephen King” and I tend to repeat that summary a lot because it is a VERY good short summary of what to expect from this book.  I’m sure you can guess where the LotF aspects come in, but the King aspects are apparent when you start to realize that the dome isn’t the first strange thing to happen to this town in California.  Grant gives us a series with mutant animals, cannibalism, radioactive Eldritch abominations, and kids with special powers fighting against the kids without special powers.

The Gone novel series quickly became one of my favorite examples of dystopian literature and Fear proved to be just as exciting as its predecessors.  It follows the same layout as books before it: jumping between character scenes and starting each chapter with a countdown to an unspecified event.  I will say that I’m still not a fan of the jumping between characters aspect of these novels, but really that is its one weakness and it DOES tend to stick to the same handful of characters when it switches.  The confusing part, however, is when it switches mid-chapter, which it does…a lot.  However, on the plus side, it does give you a sense of how one character’s actions effect the actions of another who, int turn, effects the actions of another and so on.  My favorite thing about the series has always been the countdown at the start of each chapter.  It really helps to up the tension in the novels because you never can be sure what the countdown is FOR, only that each chapter decreases in time.  There’s something about seeing a chapter go from “5 hours, 15 minutes” to “3 hours” that just really gets your heart racing.

Fear itself deals with Sam and the others’ continuing adventures inside the FAYZ.  The dome around them is starting to change and the communities have been split between those that still live near the beach with Albert and Cain and those that have moved to the lake with Sam.  Everyone is, of course, still dealing with the bugs epidemic of the last book and Astrid is still in shock over what she did to her own brother: Little Pete.  Diana is pregnant with a rapidly growing fetus who is the child of Cain and a mysterious force is messing with some of the children, turning them into abominations.  Worst of all the gaiaphage is starting to stir again and seems to be deeply afraid about the changes occurring to the dome as much as anyone else.  This is also the first book where we get to see outside the dome and find out what the parents have been up to and how things are being handled by the world.

I can’t say for sure if this was my favorite of the series, but it was certainly a fun buildup.  You can tell this is a penultimate book because a lot of things are set-up that you know are going to be paid off in the sequel (Diana’s baby, the dome becoming transparent, Little Pete’s transformation, etc.).  I think, however, that if you have liked the previous installments of the series that you will find a great deal of enjoyment in this one.  As usual it is EXTREMELY difficult to put down and I know I personally finished it in about a day’s time.

If any of this interests you, I suggest starting from the first novel because this is NOT a series you can jump in halfway through.  In fact, it’s kind of difficult to talk about if you haven’t read the series either.  I think my favorite part about this particular installment was finding out just what has been going on OUTSIDE the dome and then seeing the parents’ reactions when they get to see what their kids have been up to.  I can only IMAGINE the kind of horror THAT’S going to bring, especially since by the book’s end the kids are now like a bunch of fish in an aquarium.  That’s going to present some interesting things in the last installment, I can already tell.

Rating: 4 out of 5 crazy, psychopathic children

The Second Game of Thronesday: Thoughts on The Imp

Skipping another Top Ten Tuesday to, instead, talk about A Game of Thrones.  I’m still currently on the third book A Storm of Swords and I still feel like I’m trudging along, although I feel that there is much less trudging in this book.  Probably because so much is happening what with Jon dealing with identity issues, Arya so close and yet still so far from her family, Robb screwing everything up politically for the Starks, Bran heading North, and Sanya having to marry the Imp.  That’s not even going into half the other plots being weaved together.

I think today, however, I’d like to focus on the Imp aka Tyrion Lannister.  He is a member of my least favorite house and yet is one of the characters I get the most enjoyment out of reading.  I’ve liked Tyrion for awhile now, at least since the first book.  He’s a fun character to follow and manages to be evil and sympathetic at the same time.  Of course, he got bonus points from me when he continued to threaten Joffrey.  He reminds me a lot of some of my favorite Shakespeare villains (Iago and Richard the III come to mind) in that he is completely devious, but you still end up feeling a bit of sympathy for him in the end.  He’s always been treated as the outcast and seeing how bad the rest of his family is, you start to feel sorry for him.  True, he is crude, manipulative, and deceptive, but his appearance means that he has always been treated as “inferior” and as such has had to work for everything that has been given to him (and even THAT sometimes doesn’t work in his favor).  I enjoy the fact that while he does “love” his family, he hardly puts them first.  I think the only person Tyrion cares about is himself.

A lot of the time I find myself hoping that Tyrion WILL be given the credit he deserves, but I very much doubt it.  This isn’t the kind of society that is going to give much to a dwarf.  Even his current marriage is a failure, since he won’t consummate the relationship with Sansa.  However, I really like the fact that he didn’t force himself on her since, given the nature of this series, it would not have surprised me if he had.  Still, Tyrion has a bigger heart than most of his family and that’s what makes him so sympathetic.  He doesn’t really deserve the treatment he gets since, aside from his deformed figure, he is quite a capable individual.  I suppose the Beauty and the Beast fan in me wants the relationship between Sansa and Tyrion to work out…but I really do not see it playing out that way.  It’s not as though Tyrion loves her either, he mostly just seems to be concerned for her well-being and not in getting her to care about him.

I suppose we’ll see where this particular plot goes though.  I certainly don’t see Tyrion slipping out of my favorite characters any time soon.

The First Game of Thronesday

So as you may have noticed I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday list in a while.  Mainly, because the past few memes posted haven’t exactly been something I can do a top ten list WITH but also because I will be honest and say I forgot a few times. On top of that (get it? top?) my reading has slowed down considerably due to a variety of factors including reading the Game of Thrones series.  And, since I want to be able to blog more than just once every week or so, I decided it might be interesting to spend one or two days a week talking about the Song of Ice and Fire series.

Welcome to A Game of Thronesday.  For starters, I am calling it that because I plan to do it on Tuesday and/or Thursday each week and it is shorter than going for “A Song of Ice and Firesday” (Friday).  It will be, as I said, a look into the series from my perspective every Tuesday (if I don’t do a Top Ten Tuesday list) and Thursday (since I want to do it at SOME point).  I thought about reviewing the series like books I have in the past, but there is just SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT with this series and because of its length it definitely takes me MUCH longer to get through just one book.  Not to mention despite liking these books tremendously, they do seem to have the unusual habit of putting me to sleep when I read them.  Four or five pages in and then I’m out like a light.  So, you can probably see my problem in reading these at any decent speed.  Anyway, since I don’t want to review these in a normal capacity I will probably hop around when it comes to talking about the books.  I might spend one session talking about Eddard Stark and then maybe spend the next session just talking about what crazy thing happened in the part of the series I’m currently in.

However, I think for today I will just spend some time talking about my feelings for the series overall.  I have my aunt to thank for getting me into this series.  She came down recently from the D.C. area and had a copy of A Game of Thrones with her and the challenge to read it in two weeks before she had to return (because she hadn’t read it yet and planned to do so eventually).  Understand, that this was a ~1000 page book and while I like to think I’m a fast reader, A Game of Thrones is no walk in the park.  Reading A Game of Thrones and its sequels has proven to be more like trying to trek through the North towards the Wall: long, dangerous, and tiring.  However, it was a challenge I was willing to accept since my aunt and I share many of the same interests in books.

So, I read it in about a week.  I’m not sure how I made it through the first one so quickly and haven’t had that sort of success with the others.  They’re exciting, don’t get me wrong, but the language is very dense and a LOT happens in each chapter.  It really bogs you down in reading.  I finished the first book though and quickly ran out to buy a copy of it and the sequels for myself.  I tried to also get my mom into the series, but she got even more bogged down than I did.

As of right now, I am on book three: A Storm of Swords and not even half way done.  Still, I like where some of the plot threads are going and find myself really invested in some characters.  I’ll get into who my favorites are and who can go throw themselves to the Others in future installments, but let’s just say that if they have Stark in their blood and a direwolf by their side I tend to be a fan.

Despite its ability to put me right to sleep I do enjoy the series.  True, some parts are more enjoyable than others and there are some character perspectives I could care less about, but I am a fan of the series as a whole.  I haven’t had the chance to check out the television series based on it, but I’ve heard that it, too, is pretty decent.  Sometimes I wish it didn’t jump around as much from character to character but I have to say I am impressed the author can juggle so many fleshed out and distinct characters without tripping over everyone.

I would say if you plan to check out this series be prepared to have a long read ahead of you and don’t be afraid to read other books on the side (which is what I’ve been doing).  Also, it is likely that if you get attached to a character they will die or get injured or SOMETHING before the day is done.  George R. R. Martin is a cruel author that way.  I don’t think it’s just for fantasy fans either.  While there ARE fantasy elements they aren’t as abundant as you would think (or hope for).  There are some mystic creatures involved, especially later with dragons, but it isn’t like elves traipsing everywhere and dwarves being surly in a mine somewhere (though it certainly leans more towards the epic fantasy world of Lord of the Rings than anything else).  I typically don’t go for the high fantasy stuff anyway but something about A Game of Thrones just called to me and here we are three books in.

One thing I should probably ask and say before finishing this introduction up.  Please do not spoil the books for me or others.  I don’t want to know what’s going to happen to characters before I get there (as a note I am on page 336 of book 3).  However, also keep in mind that this is MY blog so I might talk about spoilers for parts of the series I’m in.  I’ll try to remember to warn about such things though.

Until next Game of Thronesday remember: Winter is Coming.