Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Currently Reading

Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison

Like Zoo Story, we received this book (and the second, Shadow Fall) as an ARC (Advance Reader Copy). When I first saw it in the breakroom, I didn't give it too much thought. I was already reading oodles of Karen Marie Moning, so more urban fantasy with romance involved would sort of make my cup spill over. That and I admit, I'm not too fond of specialized institutes (government or otherwise) that seek to root out/understand/destroy strange things in our world. I've seen plenty of those.

But when I saw that Jessica Faust, agent for BookEnds LLC, was representing this book, I had to go back and get it. Why? I'm also a writer, and I want an agent, and what better way to understand agents than to understand what books they represent? No offense to Erin Kellison. After all, since I'm working my way toward the middle of the book now, I enjoy her character Talia and her intersting powers. I hope to see more of the strange world of Twilight (no, not that one), and see how all things end up connecting - and just what the hell happened to Custo for him to get his own book after this one. We shall see...

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Cry Little Sister" by Gerard McMann

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Recommended for Sunday Comic Readers

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Honestly, I should have saved the money I intended to use on all 10 of my Calvin & Hobbes books and bought the huge massive all-inclusive set they have now. But what's done is done and I don't have any regrets anyway. I love Calvin & Hobbes. Even if when I was a kid I didn't always understand what the heck Watterson/Calvin was talking about. Hah. Still, I loved Calvin's imagination - Spaceman Spiff, T-rex dinosaurs flying fighter jets, his mother's cooking trying to eat him, among other things - and how much fun he and Hobbes had together. I once even tried to recreate Calvinball but it didn't really work. My books are all dog-eared and have been read over and over. It's hard not to smile when Calvin & Hobbes are around.

Maybe someday I'll buy the fancy complete version...

Notes from the playlist: "One Last Message" by Andrew Lockington

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recently Finished

All by Karen Marie Moning

I didn't actually finish all of these that recently, per se, but within the last month I finally tackled the remaining four of the series. I've been reading the Fever Series, and since characters in this series are involved in that one, I want all the pieces of the puzzle. For the record, I don't think that Jericho Barrons is Adam Black. Aside from that, it's neat because you can see how Moning's writing improves, and I think some of the stories get better. If you like big, brawny (and practically perfect) men (I prefer them a little leaner and no one is perfect), these books are definitely for you. That's also true if you like magic, romance, some serious sexual tension, and a good story, then try this series. Moning is busy finishing up the Fever Series right now, but has no intentions of stopping with the Highlander series. Will I keep reading it? Sure, if I'm in the mood for a romantic romp.

Read the Epinions reviews!

Notes from the playlist: "The Secret Wedding" by James Horner

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - Award Winning for a Reason

Pros: A fantastic mix of story, comedy, and somberness
Cons: None

The Bottom Line: This novel surprised me in many ways and I enjoyed every second of it.

I shouldn't, I really shouldn't, but I have an image in my mind of what a science fiction novel includes. I'm a total moron for thinking that, but at least I know it. Suffice to say, I expected something completely different when I finally got around to reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I'd been told to read it several times and it's been on my reading list f o r e v e r, but I've only just finished it a few days ago.

What a chump I've been.

In a nutshell, protagonist John Perry has decided to join up with the Colonial Defense Forces, and once he's 75, he's ready to go. They want people to be older for a reason, but you don't stay old once you're up there. You never get to come back to Earth, and you have to fight anywhere from two to ten years, but you get to be younger and you get to live happily ever after on a new planet. That is, if you live that long. And what's out there waiting for Perry? Just about everything he can imagine - and everything he can't.

While it is a little Starship Troopers, that's fine with me. Scalzi got this down, ace in the hole. From what I can tell, his science is solid and his military goodies are believable (though you can pretty much make up anything you want once you've escaped Earth rules).

Honestly, what I didn't expect in the least was the humor. Never in a million years did I ever expect this book to be funny. The protagonist tells his story in first person and he's just a guy. That's it. He's not super special or anything, he's just a guy who misses his dead wife and is tired of being old. I laughed out loud several times during the first half of this book, before they head off into battles with strange beings and with souped up technology and hardware I half wish existed now (the other half of me is glad it doesn't).

I mean, I had a really good time reading this. I liked Perry a lot. I wanted all his friends to survive, even if just for his sake, and even though I knew they wouldn't. Scalzi threw me for a loop numerous times too, from the number of creatures the CDF soldiers have to fight to the sneaky science he uses near the end to what Perry finds out there in all that black space. The second half of the book focuses on the battles and Perry dealing with the fighting, but it never loses it's edge, it never slows down, and even though you won't be laughing out loud anymore, you'll probably crack a grin or two because Perry just can't stop himself from making snarky jokes.

The battles are well thought out, fairly easy to visualize, and in some ways, I wondered if maybe James Cameron read this book and used bits of it to influence his Avatar movie (though considering time tables, probably not). Another thing that truly surprised me was how new this book is. Ok, so it was published back in 2005, but for some reason I was under the impression that it was much older, as in before 2000. I look at that actually and think that maybe my story has hope.

But if you enjoy science fiction and don't want it to be too hard (as in, too much science dumped in your face), you'll find this to be a good balance. It's got humor, friendship, fierce battles in space and on the ground, strange planets with strange creatures, loss, and the shock of finding something you'd never thought you'd find again. I read this in a day and know that in the future I'll probably have to read it again.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "Invincible" by Adelitas Way

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recommended for Kids and People Who Appreciate Meticulous Detail

I Spy Treasure Hunt by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Yay! More I Spy books! This one takes you from one place to another as you hunt for treasure and look for all sorts of little goodies along the way. From shiny coins to shadows on the walls, you never know what you'll have to look for, and you never know where it might be. I think there's at least one thing I have yet to find in this book. And I've found everything in all the other books, but for the life of me, I cannot find...

...the lady in The Cave. I just found it. Haha. I love these books.

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "The Kraken" by Hans Zimmer

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Currently Reading

Zoo Story by Thomas French

One of the great things about working at a bookstore are the ARCs. ARC stands for Advance Reading Copy. These books aren't proofed, don't always have the same covers, and may have other tweaks that the publisher will adjust before shipping out the final product. Frankly, I kind of like the cover on the copy I have better than this one. Hah. The point of these is so booksellers like me will read it, enjoy it, and then talk people up about it to help sell the book. Sometimes it works. A book like Zoo Story is one I would be comfortable telling people they ought to read. French uses his journalistic skills to bring out the dichotomy of the zoo to the reader as well as the lives (human and animal alike) within the zoo. It's a fascinating read so far, and one I don't doubt will end up in a Staff Recommends spot in the store.

Notes from the playlist: "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas

Sunday, July 4, 2010

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Pros: Very unique, fun times, phouka!
Cons: I wanted just a little more?

The Bottom Line: If it can happen in Minneapolis, then by golly, it can happen anywhere.

I’m looking into publishing a book of mine in the fantasy genre. Naturally I have to look for suitable publishers. On my search I found Windstorm Creative – but they have very specific guidelines. One of the requirements is the writer of a possible submission must read two books from their list of suggestions in order to get a feel for what they publish. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull is one of them.

I got an old copy (the cover is nothing like the picture) from my library and read with great interest. After all, it’s not often you find a book set in Minneapolis, Minnesota with faeries and brownies running around.

Eddi plays guitar in a band; it’s what she’s known most of her life. But the band pretty much sucks. So it’s quite early on in the book when Eddi leaves the band (and subsequently her boyfriend and previous band leader Stuart). She’s on her way home when she finds herself being chased by a man…or a large black dog…or both. It’s not long before she finds herself caught by him. The “him” turns out to be both man and dog, or at least has the ability to shift between one and the other. He’s a phouka and he’s sought Eddi out for a very special reason. Those of faerie are about to have a war; the Seelie Court vs. the Unseelie Court. The problem is that they’re all immortal so a war is pretty much useless. To solve that problem, Eddi is to grace the battlefield with her presence – and mortality, thus allowing death to seep into things.

Eddi, however, is not too thrilled. Being the mortal for the Seelie Court isn’t something she’s too keen on doing. The people of the Seelie Court are all high and mighty and don’t seem to be much different from the bad guys, the phouka is constantly on her heels being annoying, and members of the Unseelie Court are highly interested in killing her. But with her good friend Carla on her side, the phouka’s protection, and the friendship found in the formation of a new band lead by Eddi, it is her courage, love, and power in music that may save them all.

Good times kiddos. The pull of this book for me was the simple fact that it was set in Minneapolis. Now honestly, how often do you come across books set there? The second pull was Eddi and the fact that she was all rockin’ with her guitar and singing. Not a likely hero in most places – I like unlikely heroes (and I mean somewhat abstract, not “You’re the descendent of the king/sorcerer/etc.” or the stable boy who has untapped hidden strengths). No, Eddi loves music, and the phouka mentions how artists sort of stand on both sides of things; our world and the Faerie world. Makes sense to me! It engaged me and whenever they were playing and lyrics appeared on the pages, I always tried to make my own tune to them and sing in my head, picturing Eddi rocking out with her band. And it’s ironic, but the descriptions were good enough that I had the right music popping into my head for the right time – the book was published in 1987.

The writing is very good. The dialogue was great and I absolutely loved the phouka. Loved the phouka. The things he kept calling her, “my heart,” “my primrose” and all casually, they fit him so well. He wore some neat clothes too – from casual suits to ruffled collars and heeled boots. Sha-zam. Snazzy puppy. There was a lot of description so I always knew what he was wearing.

…In fact I pretty much knew what everyone was wearing – all the time. True, I’m a fan of description, but sometimes I started to think Emma Bull was going a tad bit overboard with the clothing descriptions. I basically got a wardrobe every day, and sometimes I don’t think it was entirely necessary. On the note of descriptions, there were a few times when there was a lot of action going on and I seemed to be unable to quite follow it. However, I do admit that may be partly my fault as I get excited and my eyes tend to jump ahead before I’m done with a particular sentence.

Another problem I had was that I felt like the book was a little anti-climatic. I guess it was because of the bargain that was made – one party won and that was that. The real climax would probably be in the actual music (if there were any to hear) and then maybe I’d be happy, but after one character died after all that was done, I felt like there should have been more, maybe a celebration or some kind, I don’t know. I was just left itching for a little something extra.

I do give Emma Bull credit for doing something I have a hard time doing – killing off characters you know the audience will like (and you probably do too). Still, don’t let that discourage you. It’s a good book and even if you don’t like dogs, you’ll love the phouka, you’ll want a brownie to visit your house, and start wondering if there are fey folk looking at you right now...


Originally published on

Notes from the playlist: "Black Roses Red" by Alana Grace

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...