Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler

Posted by Simcha 6:25 PM, under | 8 comments

It’s been four months since Jane helped bring down the murderer who had been after her and the other Halflings and she is now kept busy learning about her new powers and daydreaming about her long-distance vampire boyfriend. Ryu. As Valentine’s Day approaches Jane receives a special gift from Ryu, an airline ticket to Boston, so that she can come visit him. With no additional encouragement needed, Jane is on a plane to Boston, eager to make up for lost time in the bedroom

But the romantic weekend comes to a halt when Jane and Ryu are attacked by an angry Halfling seeking vengeance. Jane rushes home to Rockabilly as Ryu sets out the catch the Halfling, Conleth, who is on a rampage, bringing a fiery death to those he believes to have wronged him.

Unfortunately Jane quickly discovers that returning to Rockabilly is not a solution as Conleth has taken a sudden interest in her and comes after her personally. In order to keep her friends and family safe, Jane returns to Boston where she insists on participating in the investigation, despite Ryu’s protests. Though, Jane will soon begin to regret her involvement as the murders get more personal and the villains more frightening and dangerous.

Tracking the Tempest is a fun fast-paced adventure that rarely slows down once the story gets moving. Jane is delightful protagonist who reminds me of Sookie from Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire books. She is an average girl who finds herself a part of a world she never new existed, and now has to do her best to straddle the two worlds while developing her own magical skills. Jane is a funny, down to earth heroine who readers will enjoy spending time with. There are also plenty of interesting and quirky side-characters that add additional flavor to the story

With that said, Tracking the Tempest didn’t really charm me quite as much as its predecessor, Tempest Rising. The first book was an adventure of discovery where we met Jane for the first time and were won over by her personality even as we sympathized with her struggles. We also learned about the interesting supernatural world that Peeler created and watched as Jane developed a romance with the suave vampire Ryu.

Tracking the Tempest has a lot of themes found in many other urban fantasies, such as a werewolf vs. vampire love triangle (a situation which is still only being set up), a heated search for a dangerous villain, political intrigue involving a possible traitor, and lots of dead bodies. There is just not as much fresh and unique material here as there was in Tempest Rising.

Jane and Ryu are now a couple and I found their relationship to be far less interesting than it was in the introductory stages. There is no real romance here, though there is plenty of lustful thoughts and sex, which some people might enjoy reading about but I don’t really find entertaining. Though things do a get a bit more interesting when the barghest Anyan appears…

It’s mostly Jane’s personality that differentiates Tracking the Tempest from other books in the genre, though there are some interesting supernatural creatures here that I haven't yet seen elsewhere, which also gave the book a bit of an edge. So while
Tracking the Tempest didn't quite live up to my expectations I did still enjoy it enough to complete the book in one day and I do look forward to following it up with the sequel, Tempest's Legacy.


Tracking The Tempest
is scheduled to be released on July 1st though my copy was preordered through The Book Depository and was received early.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 4:04 AM, under | No comments

This week's quotes are mostly from Graceling, which I had read last week and there is one from Charmed Life, the first in Diana Wynne's Jones Chrestomanci series, which I shall review next week. And last night instead of working on reviews or reading some of the many books I'm currently in the middle of, I ended up watching some old Gilmore Girls episodes, which I haven't done in years and is just like picking up a favorite book that you forgot how much you loved. So I have one quote from their as well because Lorelai is just so darn funny.

Enjoy the quotes and have a great weekend!

****************************************************************************************
Graceling, Kristin Cashore

  • "I'm not going to wear a red dress,' she said.
    It would look stunning, My Lady,' she called.
    She spoke to the bubbles gathered on the surface of the water. "If there's anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I'll hit him in the face."


  • "What are you grinning at?" Katsa demanded for the third or fourth time.
    "Is the ceiling about to cave in on my head or something? You look like we're both on the verge of an enormous joke."
    "Katsa, only you would consider the collapse of the ceiling a good joke."
    - Po and Katsa

  • Something caught in her throat at this second thanks, when she'd threatened him so brutally. When you're a monster, she thought, you are thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster. She would like to restrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.

Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones

It’s a pity…that I’ve no right to open your letters. I hope you don’t get many, or my conscience will give me no peace.
(Chrestomanci to Gwendolen)


Gilmore Girls (season 1, episode 3)

Babette: Is there a problem?
Lorelai: Oh nothing Shakespeare couldn’t have turned into a really great play

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character: Alanna

Posted by Simcha 6:08 PM, under | 6 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

I've been thinking quite a lot lately about some of my favorite fantasy books from when I was younger, and there is one series of books that stands out in my mind in particular, because of how much I loved its main character, Alanna.

I used to read a lot of fantasies in which young boys went out into the world to fight evil and discover their magical capabilities, and sometimes a noble heritage as well. But Alanna, from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series, was one of the first female characters that I came across who had the temerity to cross the boundaries set for her by society and leave home in search of adventure, though she did have to pretend to be a boy in order to do so.

Although in Alanna's homeland women were forbidden to become warriors, that was the only thing she wanted for herself, unlike her brother who hated fighting and wanted to learn magic. So the two siblings, who were practicably identical, traded places. Alanna went off to the castle to train as a warrior and her brother went to the monastery to study magic.

Living at the castle, Alanna had to remain on guard at all times keeping the truth of her identity hidden. At the same time she had to frequently defend herself against the larger and stronger boys who saw her small stature as a sign of weakness, and by never backing down from the bullies she eventually did manage to prove herself, gaining the friendship of the prince along the way.

I think I must have been about twelve when I first read these books and I just felt such a strong connection to Alanna that I would read these books over and over again. I loved her strength and bravery as well as her determination to achieve her dreams, despite all the sacrifices it required of her. Especially considering she was only ten when she left home. And even despite her deceptions Alanna managed to find love and become the knight that she set out to be.

Such strong female characters in fantasy were not as common when I was younger as they are now and my discovery of Alanna delighted me. It was a nice change of pace from all the young male heroes gallivanting about and is one of the reasons she has stayed with me after all these years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Childhood Books Revisited

Posted by Simcha 9:25 AM, under | 5 comments

In my post last week about Diana Wynne Jones I had mentioned that I would try to read, and in some cases reread, as many of her books as I can during the next week or so. And since many of her books were favorites of mine when I was younger, I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of revisiting them.

At the same time, I’m also a little nervous.


Even though I have been reading fantasy since I was a eleven, I rarely go back and read my childhood favorites, although I do like to keep them on a shelf close by. I suppose I’m just afraid that the books that I had loved so much as a child might not live up to my expectations, now that I’m an adult.

I remember the first time I had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an adult, expecting to be fully entranced by this magical book which had so captivated me when I was younger. Instead I was disappointed that the book seemed more simplistic than I remembered it. With a critical eye honed over years of steady reading, I couldn’t help examining the characters and their developments and finding them lacking. My acceptance of Aslan as good and gracious wasn’t as forthcoming as when I was younger. My adult-self wanted more evidence to back up claims about characters and events, which my child-self had easily accepted.

In short, this rereading experience was a disaster and I therefore decided it would be best to leave my childhood books untouched, so that they may preserved in my memory in all their original perfection.


But now as I prepare to read Jones’s
The Lives of Christopher Chant for the first time in fifteen years, I will be breaking this rule that I had set for myself, and I am a bit apprehensive about it.

I really can’t avoid reading this, and other of my childhood books, forever, since I would really love to share them with my own children, who are almost at an age to read them themselves. I also really do want to return again to those worlds and characters that had so strongly sparked my imagination and sent me searching for more adventures of fantasy and magic. But I just need to go about it the right way.
I think I need to set aside the critical analysis which is so much a part of my reading these days, and try to reclaim the easy acceptance and pure enjoyment that I once found in the simple telling of a story.

And I think I’m ready.


So I’m off to revisit the world of magic, witches and the Christomanci. And if all goes well, I’m going to get all my old books off the shelves and give them some longer-overdue attention.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Posted by Simcha 9:26 AM, under | 7 comments

Katsa’s eyes, one blue one green, have marked her as Graced since infancy, though it’s when she accidentally kills her cousin, at the age of eight, that the nature of her grace is revealed, that of killing. Katsa’s uncle, the King, quickly takes advantage of Katsa’s newly revealed Grace and turns her into his personal weapon, used to mete out cruel punishments to those who disobey him

As Katsa grows up, friendless and feared by all, she comes to view herself as nothing more than an animal, a leashed pet of the king. But the sudden realization that there may be a way for Katsa to use her Grace to help others, and not just maim and kill, gives her a new sense of purpose.

While on a secret mission to rescue the kidnapped father of the Lienid King, Katsa runs into a mysterious Graced man unlike anyone she has ever met before. As Katsa and her friends attempt to discover the purpose of the kidnapping, the Graced man, Po, reappears in Katsa’s home with information about the kidnapped victim and his own ideas as to who might have been behind it.

While at first suspicious of Po, Katsa hesitantly begins to respond to his overtures of friendship and with his encouragement discovers a new core of strength within herself which will help her break free. Together they set off to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping, discovering more about themselves and each other along the way. But as they journey towards their suspected culprit, they come to realize the extent of the danger that they are heading into, and the true darkness as the heart of the villain who they are about to confront.

I really, really liked Graceling. I actually hadn’t been expecting to as I was somewhat disappointed by Cashore’s other book, Fire, which had received such high acclaim. I also have not been particularly impressed with many of the young adult books I have read recently and didn't have such high hopes for this one.

To my delight, Graceling far exceeded my expectations, reminding me of some of my favorite YA fantasy books from when I was younger. I enjoyed every moment of this well- paced, page-turning adventure filled with well-drawn characters and interesting magical elements. Katsa is a wonderfully sympathetic character who struggles to cling to her own humanity even as she is forced to repeatedly cause pain to others. Po’s entrance into Katsa’s life causes her to reevaluate herself and her life, as he teachers her about a new kind of strength and introduces her to the idea of friendship, and then love.

Po, as a character, is just a little too perfect and understanding to seem realistic, but I loved him anyways. He is the perfect balance for Katsa, never demanding more then she can give but also standing firm when he knows she is wrong. There were some other interesting side-characters as well, including the child-princess Bitterblue and Katsa’s cousin Raffin, each of whom I would be interested in reading more about.

The idea of Grace really intrigued me and I hope that Cashore will explore it further in additional books. So far, the two books of hers that I read involved Graced members of the nobility but I would would really like to read about how being Graced effects the lower class, as well.

The pacing was well done, inviting readers into the action from the very beginning and keeping the story moving steadily forward. There were scenes of heart-pounding intensity that had me flying through the pages and slower moments of humor and romance that had me smiling to myself. Graceling fully succeeded in keeping me thoroughly engaged and entertained.

There were just a couple of flaws that gave me pause during my reading, though they didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the book. Bitterblue’s dialogue seemed to me unnaturally mature for the young girl she was meant to be, and as I mentioned previously, Po was just a little perfect to be fully believable. Katsa, who is very unemotional in the beginning of the story and is surprised the first time she finds herself crying, is suddenly tearing up all the time, which seemed very uncharacteristic of her. And then when the story reaches one of the climaxes that it has been heading towards, the problem gets solved a little too quickly and neatly, leaving me rather surprised. I quite liked the ending though, which provides some interesting surprises and closes the story on a satisfying note, without offering a pat happily-ever after.

After finishing Graceling I went over to Krisitn Cashore’s website to see what information it offers about future books, and was pleased to see there will be a sequel featuring princess Bitterblue. While no publication date is given for this book I’m really looking forward to rejoining Katsa, Po and Bitterblue in whatever thrilling adventure Cashore will cook up next.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Authors A-Z

Posted by Simcha 5:35 PM, under | No comments

A

Joe Abercrombie

  • The Blade Itself (The First Law, Book 1)

Ann Aguirre

  • Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, Book 1)

Ilona Andrews

  • Bayou Moon (Edge, Book 2)
  • Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, Bk 4)
  • On The Edge

B

Galen Beckett

  • The Magicians and Mrs. Quent

Kate Bernheimer

  • My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me

Holly Black

  • White Cat

Alexandra Bracken

  • Brightly Woven

Sarah Rees Brennan

  • The Demon’s Lexicon

Peter Brett

  • The Warded Man (aka The Painted Man)

Patricia Briggs

  • Moon Called
  • Hunting Ground (Alpha & Omega, Book 2)

John Brown

  • Servant of a Dark God

Jim Butcher

  • Fool Moon (Dresden Files, Bk 2

Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Paladin of Souls
  • The Warrior’s Apprentice

C

Gail Carriger

  • Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, Book 1)
  • Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, Book 2)
  • Blameless (the Parasol Protectorate, Book 3)

Kristin Cashore

  • Graceling

Blake Charlton

  • Spellwright

Susanna Clark

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Justin Cronin

  • The Passage

Jennifer Crusie

  • Maybe This Time

D

Shannon Dale

  • Book of a Thousand Days

James Dashner

  • The Maze Runner

Stephen Deas

  • The Adamantine Palace

Philip K. Dick

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Lisa Desrochers

  • Personal Demons

Cory Doctorow

  • For the Win

E

Kate Elliott

  • Spirit Gate (Crossroads, Bk 1)
  • Cold Magic

P.N Elrod

  • Bloodlist (audiobook)

F

Nancy Farmer

  • The House of the Scorpion

Jasper Fforde

  • The Eyre Affair(Thursday Next, Bk 1)
  • Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, Bk 2)
  • Shades of Grey
  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next, Bk 4)

Kate Forsyth

  • The Witches of Eileanan

G

Lev Grossman

  • The Magicians

H

Lisa Haines

  • Girl in the Arena

Molly Harper

  • Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs

Charlaine Harris

  • Dead and Gone(Sookies Stackhouse, Bk 9)
  • Dead in the Family(Sookie Stackhouse, Bk 10)

Robert Heinlein

  • Stranger in a Strange Land

Leanna Renee Hieber

  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
  • The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker

Ninni Holmqvist

  • The Unit

K

Caitlin Kittredge

  • Street Magic

Mary Robinette Kowal

  • Shades of Milk and Honey

L

Ursula K. Le Guin

  • The Left Hand of Darkness

Scott Lynch

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies (Audio book)

M

Lisa Mantchev

  • Eyes Like Stars (Audiobook)

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

  • Just Plain Bad (Bad-Ass Fairies, Book 2)

China MiƩville

  • The City & The City

Elizabeth Moon

  • Sheepfarmer’s Daughter (Audiobook Review)

N

Naomi Novik

  • His Majesty’s Dragon

O


P

Nicole Peeler

  • Tracking the Tempest (Jane True, Book 2)

Frederik Pohl

  • Gateway

R

Patrick Rothfuss

  • The Name of the Wind

Kristine Rusch

  • Diving into the Wreck

S

Brandon Sanderson

  • Mistborn : The Final Empire
  • Warbreaker

John Sprunk

  • Shadow’s Son

Rebecca Stead

  • When You Reach Me

Neal Stephenson

  • Cryptonomicon

T

Lavie Tidhar

  • The Apex Book of World SF
  • Tel Aviv Dossier
  • The Bookman

Heather Tomlinson

  • Toads and Diamonds

V

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

  • The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals

W

James White

  • Beginning Operations (A Sector General Omnibus)

C.L Wilson

  • Lord of the Fading Lands

Patricia Wrede

  • A Matter of Magic
  • Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Y

Nir Yaniv

  • Tel Aviv Dossier

Z

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

  • The Shadow of the Wind

New scifi and fantasy releases: Week of June 13

Posted by Simcha 10:32 AM, under | 6 comments

After much searching I only managed to uncover two new book releases for this week, Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey and a short story anthology edited by Neil Gaiman. If you are big Gaiman or Carey fan then perhaps this is the week you have been excitedly waiting for, otherwise you'll just have to wait it out until next week when there will be a whole slew of awesome new books hitting the bookstores.

I also somehow managed to leave out of last week's lineup one of the year's most anticipated novels, Justin Cronin's The Passage (an oversight that I am deeply ashamed of), so I am including it today.

If you know of any other new scifi or fantasy releases for this week please let me know and I will add them to the list.

As for me, my week's reading includes Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate, a book I've already started and am really enjoying so far, and as many Diana Wynne Jones books as I can fit in to my week.

Hope you have a great reading week!





****************************************************************************************

Naamah's Curse
by Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher:Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 14


Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of the Kushiel's Legacy series, delivers book two in her new lushly imagined trilogy featuring daughter of Alba, Moirin.

NAAMAH'S CURSE

Far from the land of her birth, Moirin sets out across Tatar territory to find Bao, the proud and virile Ch'in fighter who holds the missing half of her diadh-anam, the divine soul-spark of her mother's people. After a long ordeal, she not only succeeds, but surrenders to a passion the likes of which she's never known. But the lovers' happiness is short lived, for Bao is entangled in a complication that soon leads to their betrayal.


Stories: All-New Tales
Edited by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy anthology
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 15

The best stories pull readers in and keep them turning the pages, eager to discover more—to find the answer to the question: "And then what happened?" The true hallmark of great literature is great imagination, and as Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio prove with this outstanding collection, when it comes to great fiction, all genres are equal.

Stories is a groundbreaking anthology that reinvigorates, expands, and redefines the limits of imaginative fiction and affords some of the best writers in the world—from Peter Straub and Chuck Palahniuk to Roddy Doyle and Diana Wynne Jones, Stewart O'Nan and Joyce Carol Oates to Walter Mosley and Jodi Picoult—the opportunity to work together, defend their craft, and realign misconceptions. Gaiman, a literary magician whose acclaimed work defies easy categorization and transcends all boundaries, and "master anthologist" (Booklist) Sarrantonio personally invited, read, and selected all the stories in this collection, and their standard for this "new literature of the imagination" is high. "We wanted to read stories that used a lightning-flash of magic as a way of showing us something we have already seen a thousand times as if we have never seen it at all."

Joe Hill boldly aligns theme and form in his disturbing tale of a man's descent into evil in "Devil on the Staircase." In "Catch and Release," Lawrence Block tells of a seasoned fisherman with a talent for catching a bite of another sort. Carolyn Parkhurst adds a dark twist to sibling rivalry in "Unwell." Joanne Harris weaves a tale of ancient gods in modern New York in "Wildfire in Manhattan." Vengeance is the heart of Richard Adams's "The Knife." Jeffery Deaver introduces a dedicated psychologist whose mission in life is to save people in "The Therapist." A chilling punishment befitting an unspeakable crime is at the dark heart of Neil Gaiman's novelette "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains."

As it transforms your view of the world, this brilliant and visionary volume—sure to become a classic—will ignite a new appreciation for the limitless realm of exceptional fiction.


The Passage
by Justin Cronin
Genre: science fiction/ post apocolypse
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: June 8

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

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