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Archive for April, 2011

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You Believers

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Author: Jane Bradley

Format: galley (also available in hardcover)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 5/03/2011

Length: 416 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

You Believers is a powerful, cathartic story of casual evil and of how the worst things can be faced so that we might not only survive, but grow. A young woman goes missing, and her mother uproots her life to find her daughter.

But it is not just the heartbreak or the deep mystery of the hunt for lost loved ones that Bradley so convincingly explores. Rather, with the help of an amazingly dedicated searcher, family and friends somehow learn to move past unspeakable horror and celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit.

Offering a vision that is at once ruthless and utterly compassionate, Bradley renders the search for logic, meaning, redemption and even hope in the domino force that is human nature. Part Southern gothic, part crime, part haunting suspense story, You Believers takes us on an infinitely harrowing journey that rewards the reader with insight into how we might endure horrible events with faith, strength, and grace even while it reveals the ripple effects of random violence.

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My thoughts, some spoilers included:

Shelby Waters finds the missing. Sometimes she finds them alive. More often… she doesn’t. And so her job isn’t only about organizing searches, traipsing through fields, forests and marshes or questioning friends, loved ones and potential witnesses to the disappearance of the missing, it’s also about preparing those friends and loved ones for the worst, even if they don’t realize precisely what she’s doing. She tries to incite hope in those whose loved one stepped out the front door one day and just never came home, even as she quietly prepares them for the worst, while using every resource at her disposal to find that person, alive or dead.

Shelby knows loss. She knows tragedy. She was once one of those people who lost someone she loved… her sister Darly. From the start of their search for her sister to the tragic end, she experienced the wide range of emotions that one goes through when looking for a missing loved one: fear, hope, grief, horror, hatred, loss, never-ending sorrow. The loss of her sister prompted her to start REV, or Rescue Effort Volunteers, in order to help people bring their loved ones home, one way or another. She’s seen the worst of people and she’s seen the best. It just seems some days that the worst far outweighs the best and it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of the horrors that human beings can sometimes inflict upon one another.

Not only do we see the story of the disappearance of 30-year-old Katy unfold from Shelby’s point of view, we also see the thoughts and emotions of Billy, Katy’s fiance as well as those of Livy, her mother, as they hope for the best while fearing the worst. Despite Katy’s step-father and local police playing down the disappearance and making assumptions about where Katy may be, both Billy and Livy know that something bad has happened. Despite Katy’s proclivity to party and run off with other men, those closest to her know that’s not what happened. And as the weeks pass and become months, the hope of finding Katy alive sadly turns into the hope of just finding her, putting her to rest and punishing whoever was responsible for taking her from them.

Lastly, we see the points of view of the men responsible for Katy’s disappearance. We see their thoughts and motivations and their fears. At least, the fears of one of them. The other is fearless. He is evil incarnate and he is scary as hell because he can pretty much pass himself off as a nice, normal kid. But he is far from normal. We don’t see how truly despicable he is until he commits his second crime during the course of the book. The crime that will be his undoing… because his victim escapes.

She tells afterward of a voice that spoke to her in her mind and talked her through her ordeal. A voice that kept her from panicking and essentially gave her the means to not only escape but also to garner enough information from her attacker finger him for another crime… the crime against the missing Katy Connor. She swears afterward that Katy was the one who spoke to her and while she’s sad about the implications of her believe, she’s grateful to have had Katy’s voice and her help. She knows that Katy helped her to survive.

This is a powerful story of loss and grief, and how Katy’s loved ones begin to deal with the pain of her loss and look forward to the future. It’s also a cautionary tale, I think… as it warns of potential evil walking around disguised as someone normal, someone like you, that can change your life and the lives of your loved ones in an instant.


Fave quotes:

‘Katy Connor thought she was safe. She was supposed to be safe at three o’clock in the afternoon in the parking lot of a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in town. She did nothing wrong. She bought a bag of clothes and walked to her truck.’

‘There was still the kindness of strangers out there, even at thirty thousand feet above the world.’ ~Livy Baines

‘Some nights I just want my mind clear of all the awful.’ ~Shelby


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The Strangely Beautiful Tale

of Miss Percy Parker

Strangely Beautiful #1

Author: Leanna Renee Heiber

Format: paperback

Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.

Length:  324 pages

Release Date: 10/01/2009

Acquired: borrowed from a friend

Excerpts available here

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Publisher’s Summary:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy?  Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside.

She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts.

But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and  an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…


My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

As children, Alexi Rychman and five others were possessed by ancient spirits. They didn’t lose any sense of themselves but they were changed. While still themselves, they were also now The Guard and were each given powers and charged with The Grand Work: to “maintain the balance between this world and the one beyond” and to “guard the living from the dead wandering the earth”.

As Alexi explains later in the book, “There is a group charged with maintaining the relative peace of day-to-day mortality, protecting it from the dead by the mix of their own mortal talents and a few… special forces.”

On the night of their possession, the children are given instructions by a goddess who appeared to them from a portal inside the chapel of the Athens Academy school in London. She tells them that they must await a seventh member of their group, Prophecy, who will appear among portents and signs to join them in their fight against Darkness, who wishes to overrun the world of the living. And so the six -Alexi, Rebecca, Michael, Lucy, Elijah and Josephine- tend to the tasks given unto them as they wait for their prophesied seventh. They wait for 21 long years before not one, but two prospects are placed in their path, as the goddess foretold when she warned them to take care in their choice.

First comes Miss Percy Parker. Orphaned and raised in a convent, she is an outcast due to her unusually pale skin, hair and eyes. Of course, she’s albino but in 1888, that’s no more normal than it is today, perhaps even less so. Her most prized possession is a phoenix pendant left to her by her mother before she died and her only friends are the spirits of the dead, which she can both see and speak with. She is accepted into Athens Academy at the age of 18 (going on 19) by the Headmistress, Rebecca Thomson who also happens to be one of The Guard. Due to her less than stellar performance in mathematics, Percy is soon getting private lessons from her mathematics professor whom she is quite enamored of, one Alexi Rychman.

Percy is both a source of frustration and fascination to Alexi. He attempts to prod her into being less timid, in part by ordering that she remove the gloves, scarf and colored glasses that she wears all the time. Though it’s difficult for Percy to remove her protective coverings, she does so during their tutoring sessions and is pleased when her professor doesn’t look at her any differently. All the while, he’s wondering if she could be the seventh that he’s waited for.

Next on the scene is Lucille Linden, a beautiful and mysterious woman who appears out of nowhere, seeking protection and the help of Alexi and The Guard. To all but Alexi, she seems to fit the profile of their seventh but of course, she is anything but. She is what the goddess warned them of on that first night so many years before. And so there is division in the ranks of The Guard: Alexi’s choice of Percy as the seventh against, well… everyone else, who like Lucille for the job.

I absolutely loved the setting of this story… Victorian London, where the Ripper is running rampant and is a supernatural being rather than a man. I also got a kick out of the tie-in to the mythological story of Persephone. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters and that Heiber makes them so believable. They’re funny and expressive, they have secret desires and hopes, they have difficulty coping with the weight of duty that they carry and Heiber imparts all of this emotion profoundly yet efficiently. I grew to like and care about all of them, even the ones that we really don’t get as much face time as Percy, Alexi and even Rebecca.

Finally, the language… ahh, the language. It’s beautiful and dramatic and I was truly captivated while reading this book. I’m happy to have received the second book in the series (signed and inscribed by the author, yay!), ‘The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker’ as a prize in an online giveaway so that I can jump right in and hopefully be ready for book #3 when it’s released next week!


Fave quotes:

‘When left to her own devices, Miss Parker was neither shy nor awkward; she was radiant.’ ~Alexi’s thoughts upon seeing Percy dancing with the ghosts

“Come, mein Leibe, there are errands to run, flowers to gather and dreams yet to be planned.” ~Marianna to Percy

“Come into the light, Miss Parker, for I’ll not allow you to slink in the shadows. To do so would be to eclipse the moon.” ~Edward

“Hello again, you filthy creature of hell!” ~Alexi

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The Warded Man

Demon Cycle Trilogy #1

Author: Peter V. Brett

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: Pete Bradbury

Publisher: Recorded Books

Length:  18 hrs and 14 mins

Audio Release Date: 11/25/2009 (Published in the US by Del Rey, 03/10/2009. Published in the UK by HarperCollins as The Painted Man, 09/01/2008)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com

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Publisher’s Summary:

Mankind has ceded the night to the corelings, demons that rise up out of the ground each day at dusk, killing and destroying at will until dawn, when the sun banishes them back to the Core. As darkness falls, the world’s few surviving humans hide behind magical wards, praying the magic can see them through another night. As years pass, the distances between each tiny village seem longer and longer. It seems nothing can harm the corelings, or bring humanity back together.

Born into these isolated hamlets are three children. A Messenger teaches young Arlen that fear, more than the demons, has crippled humanity. Leesha finds her perfect life destroyed by a simple lie, and is reduced to gathering herbs for an old woman more fearsome than the demons at night. And Rojer’s life is changed forever when a traveling minstrel comes to his town and plays his fiddle.

But these three children all have something in common. They are all stubborn, and know that there is more to the world than what they’ve been told, if only they can risk leaving their safe wards to find it.


My thoughts, which may contain minor spoilers:

The story opens with the introduction of 11 year old Arlen, who goes to the nearby village with his parents to help clean up and repair what they can after a demon attack leaves dozens of villagers dead. While there, a Messenger comes from the Free Cities and Arlen learns that people once fought the corelings, demons that rise from the core of the earth each sundown to wreak havoc on the lives of mankind. Arlen tires of cowering in fear behind warded walls so when tragedy strikes his own family, he sets out alone to follow the Messenger, who braves the night with portable wards.

Next, we meet 13 year old Leesha, who aspires to become a woman so that she can marry and get away from her oppressive and abusive mother. After a demon attack on her own village, the life she thought she would have crumbles to dust and she becomes apprenticed to the local healer.

Finally there is Rojer, who loses his parents to a coreling attack at the age of 3 and is left in the care of the sole survivor of the attack, a Jongleur who has come to the village with a Messenger. Sadly, his mother may have survived if the Jongleur, Arrick, hadn’t shoved her out of the way to save his own hide. Still, despite his selfishness, he honors her last wish to care for Rojer and so raises and apprentices him.

The story follows each of the children as they grow up, over the course of about 14 years. The main focus of the story is on Arlen who was found on the road by the Messenger Regan, shortly after running away from his father. Regan takes the boy home and arranges for him to become apprenticed to a Warder, in order to become adept at that very necessary skill of all Messengers. Regan’s wife grows to love Arlen and blindly hopes that he will stay within the warded walls of the city in order to remain a Warder, marry and have children.

Arlen has other plans, however and eventually sets out to see the world. He seeks the ruins of old cities in the hope that he might learn about the people who once inhabited them and how they had fought the corelings. He travels many roads and learns many things before finally meeting Leesha and Rojer near the end of the book. Each of the others have also grown and changed after 14 years, though not nearly as much as Arlen has changed.

I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that mention that Brett was trying to move the story along too quickly, skipping months and years from one page to the next which gave the story a rushed feel. I didn’t have this issue with the book, not in the least. I thought that the fast-forward tempo was rather fitting because as the reader, I was indeed expecting this to be the story of a warded man and not a warded boy. I wasn’t left feeling like I was missing anything and despite a rather long section that didn’t feature Leesha at all, I didn’t even feel cheated in regards to her story. Brett did a good job of ‘catching up’ on each character if their plot line had been skipped over for multiple chapters and the story flowed rather well.

Also, before I get to the meat of this post, a quick word about the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed Pete Bradbury’s performance and had no trouble whatsoever getting into the story. I’d never listened to Bradbury read and worried that I’d have difficulty getting used to his voice and his style but he was great and I look forward to him reading the rest of the books!

Now, the story. The demons. The utter terror that most of the people of this world live under night after night after night. The characters living in constant fear that causes some to freeze when faced with the abominations that rule the night while prompting others to risk themselves to save loved ones or neighbors from an unthinkable fate. The isolation and loneliness experienced by those who live far from the Free Cities accentuates their bleak survival against all odds. The emotions of the main characters… their grief and worry, their defiance and determination… are palpable and it’s as simple as breathing to get completely caught up in their stories.

The world, the people and their hopeless plight, the horrors that stalk the nights, the helplessness and desperation that permeate their lives are all painted so vividly by Brett that I was utterly captivated. The story grabbed me from the get-go and I was drawn into this grim world where every single person’s life is ruled by the sun… or rather, by the lack of sunlight. Every chore and errand must be completed by dark. Everything you don’t want destroyed must be safe behind wards when the sun sets. Wards must be checked for wear regularly or a family may wake up to fire demons and rock demons burning and smashing their way through their home… from which there is no escape. For if they were to flee outside, they would only be met by more demons and certain death.

Not only do the people live in constant fear, the threat of the demons rules every aspect of their lives. They marry off their daughters as soon as they reach puberty, essentially hoping that they procreate as much as possible. The demons kill so many people that the population struggles to keep up and bearing many children is a point of pride to most women. The people are generally isolated and most that don’t live in the Free Cties only interact with those that live close, in the same village or in close proximity. The only people that regularly travel for days at a time are the Messengers and some people only see one of those once a year.

Even in the Free Cities, life is less than ideal and ruled by the presence of the demons each night. Each city relies on the others to provide supplies and food and in turn, has its own commodity to offer to the other cities. Most of the handful of cities are ruled by Dukes and they generally don’t get along very well, arguing amongst themselves over trade and who’s to pay for caravans lost to demon attacks, among other things. There is political unrest aplenty and I suspect that unrest will come to play a bit more in the second book, The Desert Spear.

Sprinkled here and there throughout the story are tidbits of the lives of men before they cowered in fear behind warded walls. There are mentions of science. Of machinery. Of a demon war in which mankind didn’t hide from the night but instead fought the demons when they rose from the Core and eventually defeated them, banishing them back to their own world beneath the ground. But then mankind forgot about the demons. About many of the life-saving wards. The offensive wards. And so they were left totally unprepared when the demons began to rise again. A second demon war ensued and mankind was decimated, having forgotten all but the basic defense wards.  Three hundred years have passed since the second demon war and mankind waits for the fabled Deliverer to drive the demons from their midst once more. But will he ever come?

At the close of the story, Arlen, Rojer and Leesha have decided to spread the knowledge that each has been taught or discovered on their own, to as many people as possible so that others can begin to fight back, rather than hiding behind their wards. Each of them has a deep hatred for the corelings and an urgent wish for mankind to live without fear once more.

I’m lucky to have the audio book of The Desert Spear (excerpt here) waiting for me but once I’m finished with it, I’ll have to wait right along with everyone else for the release of book #3, The Daylight War. Let’s hope we’re not waiting for too long.

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Fave quotes:

“My throat’s dry. I’ll need a drink before I sing. Not water, bring me wine. I need a claw from the demon that cored me.” ~Eric to Rojer

“Get on your Core-spawned scary horse and be on your way!” ~Leesha to Arlen

“I was so occupied with what I was fighting against that I’d forgotten what I was fighting for.” ~Arlen

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The Wise Man’s Fear

The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 2

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: Nick Podehl

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Length:  42 hrs and 59 mins

Release Date: 03/03/2011 (Hardcover published by DAW: 03/01/2011)

Acquired: purchased from Audible.com


Publisher’s Summary:

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “quothe.” Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree. 

My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.

But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant “to know.”

I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.


My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

Since I had a super-awesome friend from Indiana picking up an autographed hardcover for me from an author signing, I bought the audio book from Audible as soon as it was released (two. long. days after the HC release!) and set to it. But as I started listening, I was torn between plugging in my headphones day and night to get through it as quickly as possible so I could find out what was going to happen and the alternative… taking it in small doses to make it last.

I had this same issue with Robert Jordan’s (& Brandon Sanderson’s) Towers of Midnight last November and ended up doing the same with this book as I did then. I tried to take it in small doses but then plowed through the last third of the book in a day or two. I just had to hear one more chapter… had to get through this scene… HAD to see what Kvothe would do next. Since finishing the book, it’s taken me a while to collect my thoughts, and get proper spellings for some names as I only heard them and was guessing, but I’ve got the book in my embrace… erm, I mean in my hands (thank you, J!) so it’s time to review!

Again, I do discuss spoilers for this book and most likely the first so if you’ve not read either book and are wary of spoilers, now would be a good time to stop reading. On with it!

Knowing before even reading The Name of the Wind that Kvothe would be kicked out of the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in, I was anxious as Day 2 of his recitation of his legendary story to Chronicler would start. I really enjoyed hearing of his time at the University in Wind and was worried that he’d be ousted from that revered place of arcane learning early on in Fear and that I’d not get to see much of Wilem and Simmon, Auri and Elodin. Kvothe did end up leaving the University in the course of this book but it was by his own choice, and he had many adventures before returning. So I get to experience that OMG what’s going to happen that will result in his explusion?! anxiety again at the start of Day 3 of Kvothe’s story, when that book is published. Thanks, Pat!

All kidding aside… okay, some kidding aside, a LOT happened in this book as one might expect from a 43 hour long audio book. The hardcover is a massive 1,000 pages that you could most likely use to clobber a troll, or Ambrose, to death. As for the audio and my listening experience, I was fully used to the reading of Nick Podhel so I didn’t have a hard time getting into the story as I did with Wind.

On the morning of Day 2 of Chronicler’s stay at the Waystone Inn, Kvothe continues his story of his time at the University.  The pace easily settles back into Kvothe’s life as a student at the Arcanum and we again see him struggling to pay tuition and dealing once again with Devi, struggling in his feud with Ambrose and trying in vain to become closer to Denna while not crowding her and scaring her away. One of my favorite parts of this book was Kvothe planning and executing some much-deserved revenge on Ambrose. This took place after, of course, Kvothe kind of did a stoopid thing and made himself a target of malfeasance. He had to find a way to protect himself from Ambrose’s revenge and then pulled a hell of a whammy on his hated nemesis. It. was. fabulous!

Things escalate between the two and Kvothe decides to take a semester or two off which was a fortuitous decision as his friend, the nobleman Threpe, has a proposition for him. It would seem that Threpe received a letter from the Maer Alveron of Vintas a very rich and powerful noble, who was looking for a discreet and well-spoken person, preferably a musician to assist him in a delicate matter. Kvothe happily accepts the challenge, thinking that the Maer may be able to assist him with his search for the Amyr, the better to seek his revenge on the Chandrian. And so he sets off on what turns out to be rather a perilous journey that we unfortunately don’t get to hear much about.

Upon his acceptance into the Maer’s employ in Severen, Kvothe promptly foils an assassination attempt, reunites with Denna, learns a secret about her, helps the Maer woo a would-be bride and assists some mercenaries in the annihilation of a group of bandits that have been stealing the Maer’s taxes. I enjoyed Kvothe’s time with the mercenaries and found that the Adem, Tempi was  quite entertaining as well as an adequate substitute for the comic relief that had been absent since Kvothe left his friends Simmon and especially Wilem behind at the University. Kvothe displayed some incredible bindings during the altercation with the bandits and proved himself to be quite formidable and a little bit scary in that respect.

Shortly thereafter, Kvothe has a rather drawn-out visit with Felurian, the incredibly beautiful fairy of legend that is known to lure human men into her reality and very literally pleasure them to death. Kvothe composes a less than flattering song about Felurian and manages to convince her to release him so that he might gain more experience with women in order to better praise her many talents. He convinces her that he’s being truthful in saying that she’s the first experience he’s had and goes on to explain that he can’t very well tout her superiority over human women as he’d never been intimate with one. And so he escapes her clutches with some new skills, a promise to return to her, a pretty bad-ass cloak made of shadow and some disturbing words from the Cthaeh, a being he encountered while in the land of the Fae who seems to know a great many things about Kvothe.

At this point, we experience an interlude that’s very unlike the previous sort, when Bast interrupts Kvothe’s re-telling with an outburst. He’s very upset that Kvothe never mentioned his talk with the Cthaeh and predicts doom upon anyone who seeks advice from it and on anything that person does henceforth after meeting with the being. I’m guessing that we’ll see or hear more of this in the next book but the interruption was a bit disjointed and left my curiosity on the matter unfulfilled since there was no more mention of it in the book.

Shortly after leaving Felurian, Kvothe travels to Ademre with Tempi, who has been teaching Kvothe of the Lethani and the ways of his people… and is kind of in trouble for it. So Kvothe, intending to defend his new friend, lands himself in a trial during which he must prove himself worthy to learn the Lethani or… die. Once he learns a few fighting skills and shows that he understands the Lethani, thus proving himself, he is gifted with some very valuable information about the Chandrian. Content with his newfound knowledge, he returns to the Maer in Severen for a short time before returning to the University to continue his studies. He has another solo adventure on his way from Ademre to Severen and is touted a hero though he must seek a pardon from persecution from the Maer.

While he was unable obtain the patronage of the Maer before leaving Severen as he had hoped he would, having revealed his ancestry and forever alienating the Maer’s prejudiced young wife, he was gifted with his University tuition paid in any amount for as long as he was to attend. So despite the unfortunate cessation of his time in Severen, Kovthe was in a much better place financially upon his return than he had been since losing his parents to the Chandrian.

There’s not much revealed about the goings on in the world during the interludes when we revisit “Kote” and The Waystone Inn. A few villagers saunter in to have Chronicler write up wills for them and we see Kvothe set upon by bandits but other than that, we don’t hear any more of what’s happening in ‘current times’ and I hope to see some more of that aspect of the story in the next book.

I absolutely loved this book and I suspect that I’ll reread it and book #1, The Name of the Wind at least once more before book #3 is released. I hope the wait isn’t too terribly long!

 

Fave quotes:

‘We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because, that’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite? To know the flaws and love them, too. That is rare, and pure, and perfect.’

“Ambrose, your presence is the horseshit frosting on the horseshit cake that is the admissions interview process.” ~Kvothe

“Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.” ~Elodin to Kvothe’s classmate

“After all this is done we can have a symposium on how stupid I am.” ~Kvothe to Simmon and Wilem

“Do all of the women in the world secretly know each other? Because that would explain a lot.” ~Simmon

“All I want is someone who likes me.” “All I want is  a clear sign.” “I want a magical horse that fits in my pocket, and a ring of red amber that gives me power over demons, and an endless supply of cake.” ~Simmon, Kvothe and Wilem, while drinking

‘I don’t mind being called a liar. I am. I am a marvelous liar. But I hate being called a liar when I’m telling the perfect truth.’

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Badlands

Author: Seleste deLaney

Format: galley (available for purchase as an audio book at Audible.com or as a Kindle ebook)

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date: 2/28/2011

Length: 104 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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.Publisher’s summary:

After a brutal Civil War, America is a land divided. As commander of her nation’s border guards, Ever is a warrior sworn to protect her country and her queen. When an airship attacks and kills the monarch, Ever must infiltrate enemy territory to bring home the heir to the throne, and the dirigible Dark Hawk is her fastest way to the Union.

Captain Spencer Pierce just wants to pay off the debt he owes on the Dark Hawk and make a life for himself trading across the border. When the queen’s assassination puts the shipping routes at risk, he finds himself Ever’s reluctant ally.

As they fly into danger, Ever and Spencer must battle not only the enemy but also their growing attraction. She refuses to place her heart before duty, and he has always put the needs of his ship and crew above his own desires. Once the princess is rescued, perhaps they can find love in the Badlands— if death doesn’t find them first…


My thoughts:

The idea of an America forever divided by Civil War was intriguing to me and along with the seriously cool cover art was what prompted me to request the galley for review. I assumed upon reading the summary that romance of some sort would enter into the story but even a few dozen pages into the book, it became evident to me that the romance was the prominent plot factor and the cool, post-Civil War storyline was mere background noise.

The idea of Ever charging into battle topless is not a wholly unreal development. I’ve read books which feature warriors, male and female, who were made all the more fierce and deadly by their willingness to leap to the battle clad in naught but their skin. The fact that Ever remained topless for over a third of the rather short story took it a little far though, I think. Still, once she was clothed, I enjoyed the book much more.

My biggest complaint is that the story felt much too rushed. It seemed to take place over just a few days and I felt that it could have taken longer. That it should have taken longer. There could have been much more explanation to the scenes than a few paragraphs and not only would doing this have made for a longer book, but a more fleshed out and enjoyable book. A bit less of the main characters staring at each other with longing and/or tortured expressions and a bit more background and descriptive text would have made me like the story a lot more.

That being said, I felt that deLaney did a fine job of fleshing out the characters in such a short time. I came to like and care about almost all of them more than I thought I could, considering the length of the story. I think I was especially impressed with the way she wrote Henri. I wanted to loathe this character but found myself rather liking her instead, in part due to the way she performed her medical duties so capably despite very obviously not liking Ever in the least… but even more so because of her care for her crew mates when she herself was betrayed and injured.

Ever had a hell of a temper and seemed to let it cause her to lose sight of her goal in the story, which was a bit surprising, as duty-oriented as she was. I was left wondering what it was that caused her to express so much rage than was warranted at certain moments in the story.

While I can’t find any information regarding a continuation of this story, I’d most likely be interested in reading one were it written. I’d like to see what happens next, now that all of the yearning and denial is over with! I’m mostly curious about what, if anything will happen in the Badlands in regards to their resources and the state of the Monarchy (also how women became the dominant sex in that society), who will be the president of Texas (*wink*) and whether the Civil War was actually our Civil War and this reality is what came of the Union losing.

 

 

 

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Theories of Flight

The Metrozone Series #2

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

Read an excerpt  here.

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Publisher’s summary:

THEOREM: Petrovitch has a lot of secrets.

PROOF: Secrets like how to make anti-gravity for one. For another, he’s keeping a sentient computer program on a secret server farm – the same program that nearly destroyed the Metrozone a few months back.

THEOREM: The city is broken.

PROOF: The people of the OutZone want what the citizens of the Metrozone have. And then to burn it to the ground. Now, with the heart of the city destroyed by the New Machine Jihad, the Outies finally see their chance.

THEOREM: These events are not unconnected.

PROOF: Someone is trying to kill Petrovitch and they’re willing to sink the whole city to do it.


My somewhat spoilerish thoughts:

How does one top a book like Equations of Life, which featured the near destruction of post-Armageddon London when an AI methodically killed hundreds of thousands of people while destroying pretty much… everything? Why, with a book like Theories of Flight of course, in which our good guy, Dr. Samuil Petrovitch not only makes the greatest scientific breakthrough in living memory but is betrayed, avoids assassination at least twice, narrowly escapes the revenge of a pissed-off American woman and then single-handedly takes control of the New Machine Jihad in an attempt to thwart a hostile take-over of the northern Metrozone. And that’s just in the first half of the book!

“A revolution. A whole new way of doing things. No one has to die, no one has to be overthrown. There’ll be no blood or fire–just light. It’s going to be brilliant.” Unfortunately, Sam’s vision as he told it to Sonja Oshicora four months after the events of book 1, dubbed The Long Night (the events, not the book), didn’t come to pass and there is plenty of blood and plenty of fire. Sadly, blood and fire was what was needed to save the Metrozone and Sam stepped up to care of business.

Of course, the whole thing came to pass when he set out to rescue Maddy, to whom he was wed in the four months since the end of Equations of Life. Maddy has joined the newly-formed MEA, the Metrozone Emergency Authority where her prodigious talents have been no doubt put to good use and Sam has also been busy, what with his whole discovery of artificial gravity thing.

But other events overshadow his historic scientific breakthrough: former Detective Harry Chain, who now also works for MEA asks Sam’s assistance on a case involving the CIA, assassins are out to get him, his wife is injured in the line of duty and finally, there is an incursion into the Metrozone by the Outies who, despite sounding like a bunch of people with protruding belly buttons, are actually a massive group of uneducated yet murderous outcasts. And they don’t just want to just invade and take the Metrozone as their own, they want to destroy it and everyone in it. What’s more, they’re fully capable of doing just that. It rather makes the term ‘Outies’ sound less amusing and more foreboding, yes?

Upon learning that Maddy has been called in to assist in the defense of the city, Sam sets out to rescue her from an invading force that appears to be much more formidable than was originally determined. He’s accompanied only by Miyamoto, sent by Sonja to protect him and by the artificial intelligence which is all that’s left of VirtualJapan, the AI that became the New Machine Jihad when Sonja’s father, Oshicora-san was betrayed and murdered.

At first it looks like an in and out job, grab the girl and go… only a whole bunch of other stuff comes up to distract Sam and divert his attention from his single-minded task. The odds are against him reaching Maddy, against the Metrozone surviving the invasion intact, against survival… so Sam is left with no choice but to unleash the New Machine Jihad, which is as powerful as ever but happily, less insane this time around.

Still, despite the horrors that may arise, Sam sets the AI loose to do what it can to help him save what can be saved of the Metrozone which it does. And which, unfortunately might start a war with the United States. So we have a few questions: can Sam survive and save the Metrozone? Again? Can he save the AI from those who would destroy it? And can he do all of this without bringing the wrath of the world’s sole remaining superpower down on all of their heads? As he tells Miyamoto: “What’s the point of being the smartest guy I know if I don’t use those smarts to do something?”

As with book 1, Theories is vividly orchestrated and action-packed, mildly graphic and chock full of grim humor, as evidenced by my extensive ‘fave quote’ section below. We also get a tantalizing peek into Sam’s past in St. Petersburg, Russia which of course, only left me wanting more of the back story… namely of Sam’s history and of Armageddon. I also want to know how the US became the sole super power -a ruthless and utterly amoral super power- in the world? I rather got a kick out of Sam threatening to take the whole country down, super-power or no. Bad-ass much, Dr. Petrovitch? Indeed, he is!

I also need to point out how tickled I was with Sam’s “One Ring” comments in reference to the AI and New Machine Jihad. Being a lifetime fan of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I particularly enjoyed looking at the AI/NMJ as “one ring to rule them all”. Nicely done, Mr. Morden.

I’ll definitely be checking out Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, once I finish with book 3 of the trilogy, Degrees of Freedom. The collection is available as a free PDF download at the link I provided to the author’s site but I highly suggest reading the series before biting into the short stories. Though I know little about what they cover, there’s just something about an agonizing wait that makes the attainment of literary gratification that much more potent.

One last comment. I would love to have these books in audio format so that I could listen to Sam swear in Russian. That would be awesome. That is all.

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Fave quotes and yes, I realize that there are a lot but the awesome quotes in this book are rather like Lay’s potato chips, I think:

“Out of the way. Science coming through.” ~Sam

Yobany stos! I’m trying to conduct an epoch-making experiment which will turn this place into a shrine for future generations. So shut the huy up.” ~Sam

“Everyone’s allowed to make a stupid mistake now and then, and this is your turn.” ~Sam to Andersson

“The CIA are in town, apparently, and not in an ‘if you have a few moments, I’d like to ask you some questions’ sort of way.” ~Sam to Sonja

“We can swear loudly and point guns at each other in a vodka-fueled frenzy: just like old times.” ~Sam to Grigori re: Marchenkho

“I have to catch a plane at stupid-o’clock in the morning.” ~Pif to Sam

“You idiot. You genius-level idiot.” ~Pif to Sam

Miyamoto: “What are you doing?”  Sam: “I’m being awesome Don’t interrupt.”

“I’m reluctant to threaten the only person in a position to help me. But I have a gun in my pocket that I’m very tempted to use on you.” ~Sam to Dr. Stephanopolis

[There is no logic behind your statement. Simply wishing for something to be so does not make it so.] ~AI, Michael to Sam

‘He had not been quite this angry for a very long time… Days, at least.’

“When I first met you, you were incapable of talking to a woman without insulting her. Now you have a harem.” ~Sonja to Sam

Sam: “Are you familiar with Schrödinger’s Cat?”  CIA assassin: “No.”  Sam: “And another metaphor dies whimpering on the altar of ignorance.”

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Would you like to win the entire Metrozone series? Of course, you would! Visit Deranged Book Lovers’ blog and enter the contest!

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Savannah Grey

Author: Cliff McNish

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover or for Kindle)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Release Date: 4/1/2011

Length: 266 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

15 year old Savannah Grey has never felt she’s belonged. She keeps her distance, so she’s surprised by her attraction to the new boy Reece.

Then strange things begin to happen: nature, it seems, is exerting an overpowering force on the world. Birds behave strangely; gusts of wind blow leaves so fiercely they seem to lure people away. And Savannah learns she has supernatural powers.

Nature has a purpose for Savannah and her friends. For they are on course to meet the vile and evil Orcrassa, who wants to destroy the world by corrupting nature. And it wants Savannah Grey to help realise its savage intent.


My thoughts, which will definitely include some mild major spoilers:

While I’m not exactly within the target audience for this book, I requested the galley and did my best to find something good in it. I have read and enjoyed many YA books and then recommended them to teens and adults, alike. That won’t happen with this book. Aside from asking my 16 year old daughter to give it a try, that is. I wanted the opinion of someone actually in the target audience to see if perhaps she had a different impression of it. Upon finding out why I wanted her to read the book, however, my daughter declined. She said that if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t like it.

The book blurb, while short, sounded interesting to me, hence my request for the galley. Even now, I think that something good could have been done with this story idea but as it’s written? No. It just doesn’t work. I’ll give a quick run-down of the story and then explain why.

Savannah Grey, the main character, is a hapless orphan who moves from foster home to foster home, never truly feeling at home. She’s had the same best friend for years and Nina is the only person in Savannah’s life that she feels a real connection with. Until she meets Reece. She feels a kinship with him that she can’t explain, she feels drawn to him.

Then she discovers that they both appear to have the same affliction in their throats and realize that it’s a weapon that they’ll need to fight a monster. In order to protect this weapon until it’s ready to fight the monster, Savannah can and will attack anyone who gets near her. Rather, her body will attack them, since she can hardly maintain control of her extremities or her voice if her ‘weapon’ feels threatened in any way.

Also, interspersed with Savannah’s point of view chapters were sections from the point of view of one or another of the monsters in the story, namely the Ocrassa, an ancient entity with no earthly predators. Some reviews I read enjoyed the inclusion of the monster POVs but I found them distracting and perhaps a bit overkill because in light of the ending of the book, it seems that the Ocrassa’s power and infallibility were trumped up.

Okay… there’s really not much more run-down to cover. Unfortunately, I have more to say in picking it apart though I really feel the need to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book. Again, spoilers will abound so if you have any  desire to read this book, consider yourself warned.

First, I need to cover how awkward it was to read about the main character’s throat trying to attack people. I felt from the get-go that it was her voice that was the weapon and while there was something in her throat that was causing her voice to create monster-killing sounds, it was not her throat that was ‘attacking’ people. It was her voice and every time I read something about her ‘throat’ feeling threatened, etc., it just resonated poorly with me. Further, the idea of a sound, a ‘detonation’ according to the story, from one’s throat literally knocking them to the floor was a bit over-the-top for me.

My second biggest problem was with the inconsistency of the writing. At this point, I don’t recall precisely everything that I found so off-putting but there are a couple of instances that spring to mind. At one point, Savannah was testing her newly developed powers that she assumed would assist her in the fight against the monster and she realized that while her vision was greatly enhanced, she was unable to see in the dark. A few pages later, she mentally lists night vision as one of her powers. Later in the story, Savannah was looking through a window into a parking lot and then a couple of sentences later, she “ran to the window” to look out. Of course, this is an uncorrected galley so my hope is that the published book will have taken care of inconsistencies like this.

Savannah’s connection with Reece was understandable, especially considering the twist at the end of the book, but to chat for a few minutes and then simultaneously realize that this weird growth in their throats is a weapon that’s getting ready to fight a monster? It seemed like quite a stretch and I had to check to make sure the galley wasn’t missing a page or three of dialogue in which they’d had an involved discussion or perhaps saw or discovered something that made them realize that a horrible, nightmarish creature was after them and that it was their duty to fight it with their throats. Of course, that intuition could possibly be explained by the aforementioned big twist but it still lacks believability. One plus I saw with the twist that McNish added was that it would at least explain why Savannah’s ‘throat’ wouldn’t even allow her to kiss Reece.

The rest of it, though? Why the monster allowed her to live while researching her weaknesses? Knowing that a weapon is gaining strength to kill it, it rings hollow to me that an ancient and intelligent force would bother with research. When it kills anything that might be construed as a threat and it knows that Savannah is a threat, why would it go to great lengths to gather information about her? It wants to be sure this strip of a girl is a worthy opponent before it killed her? In a book full of hard to swallow occurrences, that one took the cake for me.

Finally, the coup de grâce on my unfortunate reading experience was the ending.

The very.

Abrupt.

Ending.

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