February 2009

Booking Through Thursday

* Hardcover? Or paperback?
* Illustrations? Or just text?
* First editions? Or you don’t care?
* Signed by the author? Or not?

These days I only collect books which I plan to read and those that I plan to reread. If I don’t plan on rereading a book then no matter how great and wonderful it was, it will go to BookMooch. It’s simply a matter of space. However, I do collect ebooks because they don’t take any physical space and usually they cost less than print books. Also, once I’ve bought one, I’m stuck with it. They can’t be given away. Sure, I can delete them from my computer but that’s not the same thing.

I prefer paperbacks over hardcovers because of cost and space. Of course, ebooks beat both.

I tend to associate illustrated books with children’s books. So, I prefer without, thanks.

I don’t care about edition numbers. Signing would be nice but only a few authors bother to come here. I do have a few books signed by Neil Gaiman, though. He’s been here more than a couple of times.

The first in Mercy Thompson urban fantasy –series. I decided to get this one after all because I was curious to what all the fuss was about. I’m also fan of the first person point of view and Briggs does that very, very well.

Mercedes Thompson is a car mechanic and a walker, a Native American shape changer. She can change her shape into a coyote which is faster and stronger than a human. However, she knows a lot about werewolves because she was raised in a werewolf pack.

The story starts when a teenaged werewolf comes to Mercy’s garage looking for work. Mercy isn’t too trilled about it because she knows that a werewolf without a pack is likely to be in trouble and so might be the people who help him. However, she thinks that the boy is probably a runaway and decides to help him. So, she hires him and decides to tell about him to the local pack’s Alpha who conveniently lives next door to her.

However, before Mercy can call Adam, the Alpha, she overhears a conversation between the kid, Mac, and two strangers. One of the strangers wants to take Mac back and return him to the cage and medical experiments. Not surprisingly, Mac doesn’t want that. Mercy can’t let that happen, either. She changes into a coyote and intends to draw off the men from Mac. The other stranger is a werewolf who chases Mercy. After Mercy kills him, the other stranger drives off.

Mercy calls Adam and the witchy cleaning crew. Adam takes Mac under his wing (so to speak) and everyone goes home. However, in the morning Mercy wakes up when someone dumps Mac’s body to her doorstep. There’s a fight going on at Adam’s house. Mercy kills the last of the strange werewolves and takes the barely alive Adam away. She also notices that Adam’s teenaged daughter Jesse has been kidnapped. She’s afraid that one of Adam’s pack members is a traitor and so she takes Adam to the North America’s strongest Alpha. That Alpha leads the pack where Mercy grew up. She’s about to return to a place she called home and to the people she knew a long time ago.

Mercy is a very sympathetic heroine. She isn’t a tough talking, ass kicking Urban Fantasy heroine but rather the kind of woman who bakes cookies when she’s a little blue. Or when a teenager comes along to visit. Even though she doesn’t really have a biological family, she’s not a loner but relies on her friends to help her. She plays practical jokes on her neighbor.

Most of the other characters are also supernatural beings: Adam, Mac, and the rest of the werewolves. Samuel, Mercy’s teenaged sweetheart, is also a werewolf. His reasons for wanting sixteen-years old, love struck Mercy (as she was then) have nothing to do with love and therefore make him a user and a jerk. On the other hand, he’s a doctor and not as much macho as the other werewolves in the book. Adam is very much a domineering Alpha who is very possessive about Mercy, even though she has repeatedly said that she’s not interested.

Adam’s teenaged daughter Jesse seems to be rather ordinary; she colors her hair to make her father mad. She knows the basic things about werewolves even though she’s not one herself.

Moon Called has a mystery plot where things often aren’t what they seem to be. I rather enjoyed the twist in the ending.

The world has many supernatural creatures: werewolves, witches, vampires, fae. The lesser fae are the ones who are known to the ordinary people. Their leaders, the Gray Lords, decided that modern technology is so advanced that it makes it far too difficult for fae to hide and so forced the less powerful, and more human looking, fae to reveal themselves to the general public.

Overall: While this doesn’t go to my top 10 list, I’ll be getting the next one in the series.

This is part of my 2nds challenge.

Thomas the Rhymer is based on the ballad of the same name and is the life story of Thomas who is first a wandering minstrel who is then seduced by the Queen of Elfland and spends seven years in her court. Then he has to live with the consequences.

The book has four parts and each has a different, first person point-of-view narrator. The first part is told by Gavin who is an elderly sheep herder. He lives with his wife in a cottage outside any villages and Thomas happens to ask a place to stay for a while. The young man is sick and the couple nurses him back to health. He grows fond of the old couple and returns from time to time to tell about his travels and to play his songs. Here he also meets Elspeth, a girl from the neighboring farm. In due course, the youngsters fall in love but Thomas isn’t ready to stay in any one place for too long. And then, one time he stays away for a very long time.

The second part is told by Thomas himself; about the way he met the Queen and about his time in the Faerie Court which isn’t a friendly place to a human. The third part is narrated by Gavin’s wife Meg and the third by Elspeth.

I’ve heard people complain that despite the first person POV, the characters are all pretty distant. I felt that the narrators weren’t distant to my tastes but I can see how other people might feel differently. After all, they are indeed narrators; they are telling the story to the reader rather than allowing the reader access right into their thoughts. That’s why the secondary characters might feel rather cold, too. We never see what the narrator really thinks about them but just what s/he tells us. I rather liked Gavin, Elspeth, and Meg but Thomas felt more distant. I guess partly because the Elfland Court and the people there aren’t human so they can’t be described that way, either.

The Court had a definite impact on Thomas but I felt that he didn’t impact them or the Queen in the end. But I guess it’s to be expected that the little mortal can’t change much, or anything, in an immortal court.

The parts of the story that where set on Earth were well described and vivid. Unfortunately, Elfland didn’t feel as vivid to me.

Overall: I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who wants more thoughtful fantasy or fairy tale fantasy.

The last of my first in a series –audiobooks. This is another military science fiction series and set in the far future. The Republic is made up of all sorts of species and humans are one of them. They are, of course, in a war against the Teroni Federation. However, the book isn’t centered on battles but instead on the fringes of the Republic.

Wilson Cole is quite a legend among the soldiers of the Republic. Unfortunately, he has been successful while defying orders and so he’s an embarrassment to the Navy Command. Therefore, he has been assigned to the Theodore Roosevelt, which is an old ship patrolling far away from the battles. The crew hasn’t seen any action in years and so they are rather lax, lazy, and even smuggling drugs into the ship.

Good: multiple species although we don’t really know much about them, the open ending.
No-so-good: all commanding officers are idiots? Really? I also don’t really like it when the writer calls his Space Force a Navy and borrows wholesale things from their country’s Navy. There should be a difference between sailing a sea and traveling through the interstellar void.
Bad: –

Cole has been assigned as the second officer aboard the Teddy R. as the crew calls the ship. Their captain Fuzijama (spelling?) is basically competent but he has lost his wife and children in the war and is now so depressed that he doesn’t much care what’s going on in the ship. The first officer, Commander Podok, is an alien woman who only cares about doing things by the book – and yet apparently things like crewmembers who are drunk or stoned doesn’t bother her. She takes an instant dislike to Cole.

Fortunately, the security chief, Colonel Sharon Blacksmith likes Cole and decides to help him to get the crew back in control. One of Cole’s old friends is also serving aboard. Together they try to whip the crew back to shape.

Characters: nothing really quirky or special but entertaining enough.

Plot: Pretty straight-forward although the ending was surprising.

Setting: pretty standard military space fleet. The higher-ups are pretty ruthless and ego-centric, though.

Overall: quick and entertaining read.

Another first in a series – audiobook. This is set in the historical Venice and even though it’s listed as fantasy, it has only one fantasy element. I really liked the setting of Renaissance Venice. This is also a mystery story where the amateur detective has to find the murderer.

The first chapters are available at Amazon.com’s Shorts –program for less than a dollar.

Alfeo Zeno is the apprentice of the alchemist, astrologer, and healer Maestro Nostradamus. Although he’s not the famous Nostradamus but his nephew. Alfeo was born as a noble but his family is very poor and so he must work.

Nostradamus is famous and his clients are the wealthy and occasionally noble as well. Usually, this is a good thing because they can afford to pay Nostradamus well and give Alfeo generous tips, too. However, when one of the clients dies mysteriously, Nostradamus turns out to be the prime suspect.

Earlier, the maestro had done the victim’s horoscope and foreseen that he would die just when he did. People are starting to suspect that the maestro had poisoned the unfortunate man in order to make his prediction come through. The victim himself was a rather powerful figure: a rich nobleman and a procurator of the Doge. He died during a small gathering of people who came to view a book which might be very old and valuable. Nostradamus was present, of course, but Alfeo wasn’t.

Alfeo has the honor of trying to save both his master’s and his own neck from the hangman. Fortunately, he is quick-witted and has a lot of quirky friends. He can also use his master’s connections among the nobility. And if all else fails, magic might provide the answer.

Alfeo narrates the story in first person. He’s likable but not too meek. He knows when he should take advantage of his noble bloodline and when to play the humble servant. He also usually knows more than he tells others.

The book has a lot of fun, quirky characters. Nostradamus himself is a cranky old man whose feet are so bad that he can’t walk but must be carried on the rare occasions when he ventures outside. His carrier is a mute giant who has been taught a few, simple signs. Alfeo’s lover is a very highly paid (or not exactly paid – she only accepts very expensive gifts) courtesan Violetta. She’s the ultimate actress who can change her voice and expression to be one moment a chaste nun and the next a vigorous lover. She’s also highly intelligent and, of course, well connected. The barbarous Englishmen are quite funny, too, as are the rather dour lawmen who are trying to catch Alfeo almost at every turn.

Characters: great!

Setting: I really, really liked this historical place and I’m going to get at least one history book about Venice. The one magical element seem quite fitting to me.

Plot: I was rather distracted by the setting and the characters. The plot seemed complex enough to me, though. Centers on political intrigue and solving the murder instead of battles or lightning bolts.

Overall: I liked this book a lot and I’m likely to listen through again. (Usually I don’t reread much.) I hope I can get the next in the series this year.

Booking Through Thursday

I recently got new bookshelves for my room, and I’m just loving them. Spent the afternoon putting up my books and sharing it on my blog . One of my friends asked a question and I thought it would be a great BTT question. So from Tina & myself, we’d like to know “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”

My books seem to be shelved haphazardly but I do have a system, sort of.

Firstly, read books are in the back and the books in the front are usually in my to-read-pile. I also tend to shelf hardbacks separately because they are just too big to put in the middle of paperbacks. Non-fiction are at top and the reference books I need most often are close at hand.

I also tend to put books by the same author together.

Comics and trades have their own shelves.

Well, that’s what I had at my previous place. Now, they are mostly shelves that way, too, I haven’t yet had the energy to shelf anything properly. Marvel and DC comics are still in the piles and the newest books are on top of the comic piles…

This is a short story available for free at Book View Café’s fantasy section.

“When Reedy Watson was still a young man, he determined he must find a way to avoid Death. He came to this determination as a result of the death of his father, a very direct and uncomplicated man who, as the cliché goes, died young and left a good-looking corpse. He also left a sorrowing wife and perplexed child. His father’s death impressed Reedy. Within a few years, Death dominated his thoughts.”

And so Reedy flees Death. He changes his looks and name and enrolls into various collages one at the time. He studies Sciences, Archeology, Anthropology… He gets a degree after another from different collages and all the while he tries to see Death so that he can avoid it. When he accomplishes something, he sees Death and flees again. So he learns not to be remarkable.

Because he has to move and change his name every couple of years, he has few friends and no partner. He never even visits his mother.

This story is strange and compelling and thoughtful.

This is another first in a series –audiobook. It’s military science fiction and I’m tempted to call it hard space opera because while it does have faster-than-light space ships, when they aren’t going FTL they have to deal with things like time lag in communications. Also, the high speeds that space travel requires makes targeting and hitting other space ships quite hard.

This is, once again, a story about war. The sides are the Alliance and the Syndics. Our Hero is on the side of the Alliance and we aren’t told much about the Syndics. The Alliance seems to be a gathering of more or less independent, democratic planets where individual freedoms are valued (expect in the military, of course. This always strikes to me as ironic). The Syndics seem to have a very strong central governing body which the members of the Alliance seem to consider oppressive. Humans on both sides.

The Alliance fleet is at a bad place: they have been at war with the Syndics for over a century and the majority of their fleet has been lured into a trap by a false traitor who has given Alliance the key to Syndics’ FTL-ways. The military leaders decide to send in the majority of the fleet to hit the Syndics by surprise. Unfortunately, the Syndics’ fleet was waiting and hit the Alliance fleet badly. Now they want to negotiate terms of surrender with all of the senior Alliance fleet officers. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Syndics decide to kill all of the senior officers when they arrive to negotiate. The individual ship captains on Alliance’s side are unsure what to do next; their way to their FTL-jumpgate is blocked and it seems like the confrontation is going to end in slaughter.

However, Commander John “Black Jack” Geary isn’t going to give up. He was put in charge of the fleet when the admirals left and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He’s also no ordinary military commander. After his supposed death about a century ago, his exploits have become the stuff of legend to the Alliance. Half of the fleet worships the legends and the other half isn’t convinced that Geary is who he says he is. A short while ago, he was found hibernating in an escape pod and revived. Some times he still has trouble believing that that had really happened and he has some difficulty coping with the modern technology and especially the cult that has been built around him.

Still, he’s determined to find a way for the fleet to escape the deadly trap and he finds it, too. After he has talked the ship captains to actually following himself, he manages to take the fleet to temporary safety. Unfortunately, they are still a long way from home and the enemy is waiting at the obvious FLTjump points so they have to return the hard and long way home. At least, if Geary manages to keep the disparate captains together, repair the ships enough, and find enough food and other resources on their way.

Dauntless rolls along smoothly. The Alliance fleet turns out to be less than uniform and Geary has to constantly maneuver like a politician to get the captains to do what he wants and needs. If he isn’t constantly vigilant, one or the other of the captains is going take his position away from him quickly. On the other hand, some of the soldiers hero-worship Geary who finds that uncomfortable, too. Although even the worshipping crowd hardly obeys him without question.

The science parts are more emphasized that usual in space opera and there’s a lot of tactics as well.

The book has some weaknesses, though: Geary’s friends are constantly made out to be the most competent ones in the fleet and the ones who resent his quick escalation to power are themselves not only power hungry but also incompetent back stabbers. Also, I find it very hard to believe that any military would survive long if all of their experienced officers had died out before they got more than twenty years of combat duty. I also find it hard to believe that any military would just forget tactics training. Doesn’t Alliance have at least one Academy to train the new officers in, say, even the most basic starship tactics?

Characters: none of them stands out as really original but they’re a pretty interesting bunch of different military personnel and even a couple of politicians. Geary himself is the most interesting one of them because he has to at the same time down play his legend and try to milk it all that he can to coax the captains to agree with him. Also, he finds out just how much things have changed in a hundred years and not all to the better.

Plot: rather straight-forward and a lot is done just to set the mood and the setting.

Setting: more hard SF than space opera usually is. No aliens, no instant communication or even universal translators.

Overall: Solid, entertaining read and I’ll probably continue the series at some point.

By Waid, Augustyn, and Kitson

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

This is the retelling of how the Justice League of America came to band together and to stay together despite mutual distrust. The trade concentrates on things that happen in the background, so to speak. In other words, sometimes the characters speak about fights and villains which aren’t shown here.

Green Lantern, Flash, Black Canary, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter each battle a powerful alien on their own but then they track down the sixth invader and defeat it together. Afterwards, they get back together to give the aliens to the US military and naturally have to fight another group which is trying to steal the aliens. The other group succeeds in taking some of the aliens with them. Even so, the heroes decide to band together at least for a while.

All the time, there are mysterious group of people who watches the newly forming alliance and researches the heroes so that they can be defeated more easily. They are, of course, the main villains; a group called Locust which is determined on no less that the apocalypse which they themselves would survive.

The new JLA has to beat villains but also their distrust towards each other. A mysterious benefactor offers to fund them and offers them a new headquarters. A bit naively, the JLA accepts.

We also get glimpses of the heroes every day lives and how they are trying to cope with their dual identities and a doubled workload.

Overall: another pretty standard JLA romp

Booking Through Thursday

Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

As you ca see from by blogroll, I read the blogs of Lynn Viehl, Carrie Vaughn, Jeff VanderMeer, and Neil Gaiman. I also read group blogs by various authors.

I look for the usual things: entertainment and perhaps information. Their blogs are usually both.

Next Page »