Tales for another time. Here's what I've read!
Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris. (2009) (Urban Fantasy, Female, Series)
Amazon Blurb: Except for Sookie Stackhouse, folks in Bon Temps, Louisiana, knew little about vamps-and nothing about weres. Until now. The weres and shifters have finally revealed their existence to the ordinary world. And the backlash may have claimed the life of someone Sookie knew well. But her determination to find out who was responsible for the murder is put aside in the face of a far greater danger. A race of unhuman beings-older, more powerful, and more secretive than vampires or werewolves-is preparing for war. And Sookie will find herself an all- too human pawn in their battle...
Thoughts: I definitely wanted a break from the heavier material I'd been reading. Ironically, this wasn't it. This was Sookie experiencing darkness and tragedy and having terrible experiences. While a quick read, this isn't the strongest book in the series. However... please. If you've read this far in the series, you're going to enjoy this. Are some of the cozy, familiar elements missing? Does the story move forward in a reasonable manner? Yes and yes.
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris. (2010) (Urban Fantasy, Female, Series)
Amazon Blurb: After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she's angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he's under scrutiny by the new Vampire King because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the Shifters coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie's connection to the Shreveport pack draws her into the debate. Worst of all, though the door to Faery has been closed, there are still some Fae on the human side-and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry...
Thoughts: This was better, and a necessary transition from the tragic events of the previous volume(s) into the reformation of Sookie, the sexy, stubborn, quick-witted, hard-nosed girl that readers (presumably) have grown to love. No matter what, this is good storytelling, just for the record. It's light, fast, and challenging enough. Urban fantasy has the advantage of not having to bog down with epic secondary world building, which leaves more room for character development and plot complications. My goal is to get caught up this series before the time True Blood returns for Season 5. I'm on track and enjoying it thoroughly.
Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn. (2006). (Urban Fantasy, Female, Series)
Amazon Blurb: Celebrity werewolf and late-night radio host Kitty Norville prefers to be heard and not seen. So when she's invited to testify at a Senate hearing on behalf of supernaturals, and her face gets plastered on national TV, she inherits a new set of friends, and enemies, including the vampire mistress of the city; an über-hot Brazilian were-jaguar; and a Bible-thumping senator who wants to expose Kitty as a monster. Kitty quickly learns that in this city of dirty politicians and backstabbing pundits, everyone's itching for a fight.
Thoughts: I didn't intentionally go on an Urban Fantasy bender, it just so happened that I had an Amazon gift certificate and this was in my TBR pile. Second in the series, this book presumably came with a lot of expectations, at the time. Vaughn is an exquisite storyteller, and while she broadened the stage towards the end of the first book, she cements her character's global reach and influence with this one. The story and character get relevant and meaningful in an epic way by the end of this tale. Mostly, however, I read Carrie Vaughn because I think she does a fantastic job of characterizing strong females who are still feminine. Kitty, as a character, while being the expected 'badass' heroine found in this genre, is also intelligent, vulnerable, sensitive and flawed. Kitty is a girl that's portrayed so realistically in contemporary terms (not the whole "I change into a wolf" thing, of course), you nearly expect to turn on the radio and catch her show, when you're done reading.
P.S. Dear Carrie Vaughn, if you ever read this, (Hi!) I think you should pursue doing a movie about female aviators, ala the story you did for the Warriors Anthology. Your sense of what works in a movie is pretty keen, based on your blog, and your approach and knowledge would (and has) make for excellent storytelling. Based upon the hype of the recent movie about the Tuskegee airmen, I think that your vision and writing would tell a story that would be a million times more provocative and appealing. For everyone else, I remind you that I am the Lord of IToldUSo. ;-)
The Winds of Khalakovo (The Lays of Anuskaya) - by Bradley P Beaulieu. (2011) (Fantasy, Male, New Author, Series)
Amazon Blurb: Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future.
When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo...
Thoughts: This was Beaulieu's debut novel, and is getting some additional promotion lately due to the release of the sequel, The Straits of Galahesh. Due to promotional pricing, I read this on my Kindle, but I can't recommend that to you, unless you're better with the technology than I am. There's a notable Eastern European / Russian flavor to the worldbuilding, which is great - except for all the words that you are going to want to look up via the glossary. I liked the magical system, (I'm biased towards Elemental systems anyway); I felt it was complicated, costly, and powerful and bordered on the spiritual as well. Without giving the game away, there were some aspects that I really appreciated. The story was suitably complex and interesting, with reasonable plot twists and turns. There was some decent character development, perhaps with room for more - which is the downside of a debut novel which also begins a trilogy... there has to be room for the character to grow. I think some of the secondary characters were overly idealized, a little two-dimensional, but again, this has room in the storyline to be addressed. Overall, even with some slow parts here and there (and strange words aside), this was an enjoyably fresh take on the genre - the worldbuilding alone is worth further exploration. I suspect those who are looking for something different in epic fantasy would be pretty well pleased with Beaulieu's debut.
The Games - By Ted Kosmatka (2012) (Science Fiction/Horror, Male, New Author, Stand Alone.)
Amazon Blurb: This stunning first novel from Nebula Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist Ted Kosmatka is a riveting tale of science cut loose from ethics. Set in an amoral future where genetically engineered monstrosities fight each other to the death in an Olympic event, The Games envisions a harrowing world that may arrive sooner than you think.
Silas Williams is the brilliant geneticist in charge of preparing the U.S. entry into the Olympic Gladiator competition, an internationally sanctioned bloodsport with only one rule: no human DNA is permitted in the design of the entrants. Silas lives and breathes genetics; his designs have led the United States to the gold in every previous event. But the other countries are catching up. Now, desperate for an edge in the upcoming Games, Silas’s boss engages an experimental supercomputer to design the genetic code for a gladiator that cannot be beaten.
The result is a highly specialized killing machine, its genome never before seen on earth. Not even Silas, with all his genius and experience, can understand the horror he had a hand in making. And no one, he fears, can anticipate the consequences of entrusting the act of creation to a computer’s cold logic.
Now Silas races to understand what the computer has wrought, aided by a beautiful xenobiologist, Vidonia João. Yet as the fast-growing gladiator demonstrates preternatural strength, speed, and—most disquietingly—intelligence, Silas and Vidonia find their scientific curiosity giving way to a most unexpected emotion: sheer terror.
Thoughts: This was received for Librarything.com's Early Reviewer program. I'll just say I loved it, and would be reading a lot more sci-fi horror if they were all like this. It will get its own post here within the week.
Update: Review is here: http://zherlios.blogspot.com/2012/06/games-by-ted-kosmatka.html
Well! I've been putting this post off for weeks! I'm sorry if the descriptions are somewhat rough, but I felt it was better to get it written and out of my head. I'd be happy to go into more detail about these books if anyone wants to chat about them.
While I'm recovering from - "things" - and getting back on track, I suspect my posting to be curtailed to about once a week. Please feel free to soak up the links on both sides of this blog, for entertainment and good book ideas and other such random fun stuff. Til the next.