Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? Stephen King has blown me away again. I've been reading him for 30 years or more and I'm rarely disappointed.

There were a couple of flaws in this towards the end, but I won't go into that in the interest of saving spoilers. They were fairly minor points though, and didn't take away from my overall enjoyment.

Great concept, great characters, great sequel. It's awesome to see Danny Torrance all grown up, and I really felt for his character and all he'd had to endure, just in the process of living. The normal stuff he had to go through as well as the gift/burden of having the shining.

Then there's Abra Stone. I loved her - a great second protagonist to go along with Dan. Like a next generation Shining, of sorts.

The True Knot was a pretty cool concept too, though I won't go into the whys of that here. Other secondary characters were great, mainly Dan's friends.

And lots of little nuggets/Easter eggs for the longtime fan to pick up. Heh. 5-stars, for keeping me engaged with every single word.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

UnteachableUnteachable by Leah Raeder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Would you believe it? I raced through this book like I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I was hooked on the first page, and surprised on the last page that it was over already.

Was this romance?? Erotic romance to boot?

Yes, and no.

I mean, it was both. But again, it was more than either. More importantly, it was a story, and an intriguing one at that.

I kept thinking of the Stanley Kubrick directed Lolita. The original, not the shitty remake. Add some sex scenes and bring it to the modern age, and you've got it. Sorta. It's probably not surprising to think of that movie, as Raeder refers back to both Kubrick the director and the original book by Nabakov (which I've never gotten around to reading). But if you liked the movie, this book might do it for you. While the plot and scenery are much different, it has a dark brush with taboo feel to it that's similar.

Well, maybe more than brush. More like full penetration.

But hey. Where the majority of sex descriptions in books are awkward and silly, Raeder's come out alright. She has a knack for making it real, not using a bunch of stupid fluffy words to pump up the action and make it bigger than life. It feels authentic and isn't clunky at all. (All innuendos are at least partially intentional).

The romance isn't heavy handed either. Well, without it you don't have much story, but at the same time it's not sparkly and unrealistic.

I picked this up after seeing something of a craze for it on GoodReads, though the author had my attention a couple of months back when I'd seen her posts on the site. I found that I liked the way she thought, as a reader of great books. All authors should be readers first, and she pulled that off. Not only that, but she seemed cool and funny too. So what the hell? I saw her book getting great reviews and even scoring a write-in voting on the Choice Awards. It was worth $0.99 to give it a try. It was well worth full price, as it turned out.

So how should a book like this end? Sappy and fairy-taleish? Or depressing and wrist-slittish? Or somewhere in between?

I won't say how it went. I won't even say how I wanted it to end. I will only say that I was pleased with it, as a fan of good story writing.

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Review: Rot and Ruin

Rot and Ruin
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's finally over. That felt like the longest audiobook I've ever listened to.

It was actually a decent, if slowly paced story. It was like the zombie book with the second most zzzzzzz's that I've read. (See Boneshaker). I did enjoy the post apocalyptic world Maberry set up and the characters. It just seemed to take a long time to get anywhere.

That's the book. Now for the audio. The reader wasn't bad or difficult to listen to, but he talked so slowly I thought I would be a shambling corpse before he finished. And then...

There was a chapter where a few of the teenage boys got together and we're talking about their friend that was a girl. We'll, as teen boys will do, the convo soon drifted to her boobs. This reader. Through that part, he sounded just like Butt-Head.

From that point on, I could not get that out of my head. Huh huh huh uh huh huh. He said "boobs". Huh huh uh huh.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: The Secret Lives of Married Women

The Secret Lives of Married Women
The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher.

That was different. That is, while I didn't know whether to expect a "hard case crime" noir type story or a story about repressed sexuality, I didn't get either. Or I got both. Sorta.

Anyway, it wasn't what I would have expected had I any expectations. It was good, however. I did find there was more "hard" than "crime", but then again....well. I don't want to spoil anything.

What I can say is that it was intriguing, and that the prose was excellent. Wald's flow and style bumped this thing a whole star by itself. It was very comfortable to read, even during uncomfortable moments. Yes, I'm being vague.

There is so much to explore here that it just needs to be explored. Rather than put it all in a review, I'd rather tell people to just read the book itself.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Go the F--k to Sleep

Go the F--k to Sleep
Go the F--k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read along with a pdf copy of the book while I listened to Samuel L. Jackson's brilliant reading.

Did I say it was brilliant? That doesn't do it justice. It was motherfuckin' brilliant.

Everything that Jackson touches turns to motherfuckin' gold. Not just Pulp Fiction, but lightsabers and S.H.I.E.L.D. too. What's in your wallet?

That said, the book itself is hilarious. For anyone that's had small children that you've read to before bed, you'll love this. What starts out as a shared love of reading often turns into a war of endurance, frequently won by the smallest combatant. It's instinctual how these kids can wear you down. Great that I read it on Veteran's Day, eh?

Still, humor aside, I wouldn't trade those memories of reading to my kids for anything.

Just writing this review made me tired. I think it won't be long now before I go the fuck to sleep.....

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller

What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller
What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller by Max Allan Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher.

Wow. That was a thrill-ride. It is so great to pick up a book that does that, jumps right into it and hooks you from the first words. Then carries a story across the years and pages, building a great story surrounding the action. Then it throws you back into the action and doesn't let up.

There were probably a few minor issues with the structure of the plot and some of the character relationships, but I say that vaguely because it was easily overlooked as I rode along with the progress of the story. So yeah, it was a lot of fun and kept my interest start to finish. What more could I ask for?

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition by Paula Guran

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the editor, and the publisher.

“No Ghosts in London” by Helen Marshall. Eh. While it had some cool concepts of ghost traditions, I wasn’t wowed. The sometimes shift to second person was strange here. It was short though, so I didn’t feel bogged down. 2 stars.

“Fake Plastic Trees” by Caitlin R. Kiernan. A post apocalyptic diary-type short where a girl remembers a particular incident. The ideas behind the “EVENT” and the moved-on world 12 years later were very cool. I’d be interested in a novel set in this world. 4 stars.

“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman. Intriguing little story. I jumped ahead to read this one because it was Gaiman, and because it was short. That part of the plan backfired a bit, as I had to slow way down to comprehend what was happening. If you pick it up and read the story, that will make sense (even if some of what you read does not). Beautifully written homage to Bradbury. 4 stars.

“The Natural History of Autumn” by Jeffrey Ford. Ahh, I liked this one. Full of intrigue and surprises. I really enjoyed the India setting too. Great characters and imagery. 4.5 stars.

“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” by Peter S. Beagle. Another great one. Spooky and weird, and just twisted enough to appeal to my darker side. Don’t mess with Great-Grandmother! 4.5 stars.

“Renfrew’s Course” by John Langan. Eh. Didn’t really care for this one. There were a few moments of intrigue, but they were buried. Some drug tripping going on, but it was hard to tell which character was which. 1.5 stars.

“End of White” by Ekaterina Sedia. I wanted to like this, as I’ve been curious about the author. But alas, didn’t care for it. It was too abstract to get a hold of. 2 stars.

“Who is Arvid Pekon?” By Karin Tidbeck. That was just weird. It started out interesting, but got even more strange by the end. 2.5 stars.

“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey. This was awesome. Best story so far. It has a nice slow reveal, so I won’t spoil it here. But I was glued to every page. 5 stars.

“Slaughterhouse Blues” by Tim Lebbon. This started out with promise, a tale switching between modern time and an event 40 years previous. It got to be pretty out-there by the time the stories converged. 2.5 stars.

“England Under the White Witch” by Theodora Goss. I really enjoyed this one. Great alt-history what-if story. 4 stars.

“The Sea of Trees” by Rachel Swirsky. Right away, I didn’t think I would like this. The language was a bit off, and it had a dreamy/not-making-sense kind of feel. But I kept on, and decided that I did like it. I cared about the characters, and was intrigued with the direction Swirsky was going with it. 3.5 stars.
“The Education of a Witch” by Ellen Klages. Loved it. Of course, I often pull for the villains, so when a little girl came along that did the same, I had to smile. 4.5 stars.

“Welcome to the Reptile House” by Stephen Graham Jones. Decent creepy story, but not all that memorable. 3 stars.

“Glamour of Madness” by Peter Bell. Eh. Didn’t really get it. 2 stars.

“Bigfoot on Campus” by Jim Butcher. This was the one story I’ve read previously, but I read it again while it was here. It was that good. I love all of the Harry Dresden stories, and this was a fine example. 5 stars.

“Everything Must Go” by Brooke Wonders. A sale ad for a house interspersed with the backstory of how it became vacant. It started out a cool concept, but got a bit tiring by the end. 3 stars.

“Nightside Eye” by Terry Dowling. Cool little story about changing perspective to see what’s hidden. The ending wasn’t fantastic, but the story had good buildup to it. 4 stars.

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood. Creep-fest. One of those cool stories that deals with art that’s inspired (or created) by the supernatural. 4.5 stars.

“Good Hunting” by Ken Liu. A good story I would have like to seen expanded. Liu has some good ideas he could really run with. 3.5 stars.

“Go Home Again” by Simon Strantzas. Eh. Not so much. 1.5 stars.

“The Bird Country” by K.M. Ferebee. Eh. Not so much either. 1.5 stars.

“Sinking Among Lilies” by Cory Skerry. Eh. Only marginally better. 2 stars.

“Down in the Valley” by Joseph Bruchac. This was a cool one. American Indian folklore meets the modern age kind of stuff. 3.5 stars.

“Armless Maidens of the American West” by Genevieve Valentine. I skipped ahead again to sneak in a short one before bed. This was, well, odd. Good, but odd. Another ghost story with some second person narrative, but this time it worked better than in the Marshall story. It might have been better if expanded. 3 stars.

“Blue Lace Agate” by Sarah Monette. Yes. This is the type of story I read an anthology for. I’ll be looking for more stories about Jamie and Mick. 4.5 stars.

“The Eyes of Water” by Alison Littlewood. Another good one. Creepy and well paced. 4 stars.

“The Tall Grass” by Joe R. Lansdale. This one was short, and felt a little like the idea is overdone (I read Stephen King), but it was well executed and engaging. 4 stars.

“Game” by Maria Dahvana Headley. This started out good, but dragged a lot. By the end it wasn’t so bad, though. I can’t help but cheer for the tiger that’s hunted, truth be told. 2.5 stars.

“Pearls” by Priya Sharma. An interesting take on Greek mythology. It was short, but effective. 3 stars.

“Forget You” by Marc Laidlaw. Another short one, really short. But damn, the imagery was very cool. 3.5 stars.

“When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley. Another with a cool concept that went on for too long. By the end, I didn’t care. 2 stars.

“Dahlias” by Melanie Tem. Sometimes shorter is better. These last few short ones were well done, and this one would probably not have worked as well had it been longer. It was the perfect length for the story being told. 3.5 stars.

“Bedtime Stories for Yasmin” by Robert Shearman. I liked this. Kind of a fable, showing how reading at an early age is a good thing. Or should be. “She was frightened of what the story might have let in.” 4.5 stars.

“Hand of Glory” by Laird Barron. This is the final tale in the book, and the longest. Oh, gangsters! Capone-era gangsters at that. So it’s an Untouchables with paranormal? Kinda. Anyway, it’s pretty good. 3.5 stars.

So now, here’s the tl;dr version of my review:

Solid anthology with lots of good dark fantasy tales mixed in with a few clunkers. The nice thing about these kind of books is that when you find a story you don’t like, it won’t be long before it ends and a new one starts.

Favorites are the stories by Butcher and Carey. Runners up would be those by Beagle, Ford, Hood, Shearman, Monette, and Klages.

A few weren’t great, but they were short enough that I didn’t feel the need to gouge out my eyeballs or anything.

Recommended. 3.5 stars overall.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: The Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

4.5 stars. Wow. We've had a long wait for this book, and for the introduction of the character of Sabetha. Both were satisfying.

Lynch's books are always like a big fun chess match. Full of intrigue and funny as hell banter, you never know what to expect. He really knows how to get into a character's head, and then get that character into the reader's head. In the first two books, Lynch made us love the Gentlemen Bastards. In this one, he reaffirms that affection, and brings it around to Sabetha as well.

And some of the side characters have their own charm as well. And those damn bondsmagi!

Seriously, read it. If you haven't read the first two, do that first. Then read this.

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Review: Under the Black Ensign

Under the Black  EnsignUnder the Black Ensign by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads, so thanks to them and to the publisher (Galaxy Press).

That was fun. I've read L. Ron Hubbard before, but mainly the Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth books. While those were epic and sprawling, this book is an example of Hubbard's early work, his many pulp adventures.

This one is a pirate tale. It was quickly paced and enjoyable, with lots of action and even a bit of intrigue. A damsel (not always in distress) is also included.

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