23 October, 2014

Catching Up On Reviews - Kinda - Among Others, Bitter Seeds, The Crown Tower

There's no arguing I've been slacking lately. Suddenly my schedule blossomed and I've got hearing after hearing in court the last couple weeks and the next couple as well. I do family law and I have a really hard time turning anyone away and everyone's got a story.

Anyway, here are some catch up reviews. It's ... been a while since I read them. I've been on a good roll the last couple days and I plan on keeping it up for a bit. This will not be the last of these.

Among Others by Jo Walton

This book got rave reviews when it came out, even won the Nebula Award, which I can see. However, I didn't absolutely love it as seems to be the norm.

What I loved:

I did love a few things. I loved that I really wanted to go back and read all the classics of science fiction and fantasy. Walton writes with such a love of the genre that you can't help but become enamored yourself. 

I loved that if you are a fantasy nerd like me and the main protagonist Mori (and it may be safe to assume, Jo Walton), then you can completely relate to living two lives. One in a fantasy land you never want to leave and one in the "real" world where you don't quite completely fit in ... whatever that means.

What I thought was more three stars out five:

This was really a love note to SFF with a story at the far background, if any. It's obviously there, but only mildly mentioned and then all of a sudden some stuff happens in the end. 

I think I expected more of a blend of the two; references to classic SFF stories and a story itself as opposed to more of the former and less of the latter. 

It's still a decent story, but not really a classic. I see why it won the Nebula, it's essentially a love letter to the Nebula Award and, therefore, a dead-ringer from the get-go, but it didn't quite work for me.

I'll leave with a couple great quotes for your nerdy heart:
"Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization."
"Glory Road is deeply disappointing ... I love Heinlein but he clearly doesn't get fantasy. It's just stupid." (I felt the exact same way reading Glory Road. Starship Troopers is amazing, but I don't know if I'll attempt his fantasy again)
3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with reservations)

Bitter Seeds (Milkweed Triptych #1) by Ian Tregillis

I don't always get behind alternate histories. There's something in me that screams for the truth. These are definitely not the truth, look in a history book.

Yeah, that's from the guy who reads 99 fantasy books out of 100.

Oh and one of my favorites is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (though that's much more magical and fairyland-ish). But once you change the past, that just throws me off too much. I don't know why. Still haven't read a thing by Harry Turtledove.

But throw superheros into an alternate World War Two and for some reason that just clicked with me.

I had a great time with this book. I guess it doesn't hurt that I lived in Germany for a while, speak German and all that. It did kill me during a part where the English-speaker gets by speaking flawless German (which is just close to impossible without speaking it as a child), but otherwise, I enjoyed this from start to finish.

I got this as a review copy on audio, but publishers have this problem with not sending the sequels ever. I know, wo is me, I have to buy a book, but that explains why I haven't made it any further. Got sidetracked with other books while waiting for the sequel.

Kevin Pariseau did an excellent job on the narration, did a fine German accent, which is what really counted in this one. :)

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

The Crown Tower (Riyria Chronicles #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

I love Michael J. Sullivan and this book's no exception. Before The Crown Tower was released, I'd read that Michael was wary going into a prequel series, because let's face it, they rarely go well, but that he would only do it if there was something good there to write about. I.e., he didn't want to beat a dead horse.

I'm so glad he went for it. The Crown Tower ranks up there with the best of the original series (that I've read, still two more if you can believe it!). Michael writes fun fantasy that's hard to put down. What more could you ask for? There's always room for more of his work. What need I say more? Definitely no more of these questions?

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

08 October, 2014

Review - The Fortress in Orion (Dead Enders #1) by Mike Resnick

Review #1:

"Hey guys, who wants to go to an impenetrable fortress on an impossible mission where everyone will certainly die?" says Coolguy.

"Me!" says Muscles.

"Me too!" says Thief.

"Of course! I don't need reasons for going on missions where I will certainly die!" says Powers.

"Even though you cloned me and I have no actual reasons for believing your society is better than my alien one, I too can't wait to go die!" says Clone.

Spaceship time.

"Wow, it's really dangerous out here, but somehow things are going really easy," says Coolguy, "we made it all the way here with not even a minor hiccup, but remember about the danger!"

Impenetrable fortress time.

"I can't believe how easy this is going, how is it so easy? we got into this impossibly impenetrable fortress without even one problem and we already got our badguy, but watch out for all the danger!"

Leaving impenetrable fortress.

"You guessed it, it's dangerous out here guys! How did we make it back to safety with what can barely be described as a slight stir? We're one crazy team of course!"

Review #2:

How this story should have been written: 
A group of people with different, yet exceptional talents are given a mission, which they perform flawlessly and without incident. 
In other words, the events of this book could be summed up in the beginning of the first page of another book, possibly making up an entire prologue, though that's stretching it still. I'm honestly not joking when I say this.

Review #3:

What started out grabbing my attention, literally from the first page, quickly had me completely baffled. This group of characters seemed cool and fun and then nothing happened. At first, I thought it was the author trying to quickly get from A to B because all the good stuff was going to happen at B. But then it didn't ... literally nothing happened.

Why would anyone need or want to read a whole novel about the lives of these people and this event that literally went off without a single hitch? That's not something for the history books ... for any books. It's obviously an important moment ... to capture in a blip, an epigraph, something besides a whole book.

Luckily it's less than 300 pages, but like I said at the beginning of this review #3, I kept thinking that finally something would actually happen. Something! Please, Mike Resnick fans, please tell me this isn't representative. I don't know if I can read any more of his work that's won Hugos and stuff. How, if this is the product? Let me know.

2 out of 5 Stars (I finished it so I guess that's something)

06 October, 2014

Halloween Giveaway - The Legend of Sleep Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving with Introduction and Notes by Elizabeth L. Bradley

I thought this would be a nice way to get into the holiday spirit, run a giveaway for a creepy book! Who doesn't love the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen found in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Enough someone's made a popular television show about it I guess.


This new addition to this classic, which was just released last month, not only includes other stories from Washington Irving, but has notes from Elizabeth Bradley, who wrote Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York and who's literary consultant to the caretakers of Irving's Tarrytown, New York home. She may know a thing or two about the author and the legend.


If you'd like a chance at this newly fancified version of the classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, here's what it takes:

1. Please include your name and physical address (you know, where the books goes)
2. Also make sure that physical address is in the US or Canada (because I obviously hate the rest of the world ... no, you know I don't mean that, sorry!! **ducks fruit**)
3. Email the above to onlythebestsff@[remove this]gmail.com
4. Snark increases your chance of winning, and I mean really good snark. Let me have it. It's not hard, I suck at lots of things.

30 September, 2014

Review - American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

I gotta get this out of my system right off the bat. I don't like the cover to this book. It doesn't stand out, it's only mildly representative of the story, which is rich and vibrant (i.e., bland and boring), and it's just plain blah. Hate it.

Whew, that felt good. Now back to our regularly-scheduled review.

Other than the cover, this novel, American Elsewhere, was brilliant. This was not unexpected after reading only one other book by Robert Jackson Bennett. That book, The Troupe, happened to be my favorite book of 2012 as well and he does not disappoint in this instance.

I hesitate to make comparisons, but there are elements of H.P. Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman. But the problem is, no one compares to Bennett's imagination. That's what I learned in The Troupe and what's reinforced in American Elsewhere.

The prologue grabs you right away, I recommend reading it asap. I'm sure it's free somewhere, just keep your wallet ready. Then the mysteries keep building up until about 200 pages into this 660 page book, when suddenly the reveals begin and the whole entire two third plus of the book is one crazy ride. It's compelling from page one and though large, this book doesn't let up.

I've strayed from actually describing events. I guess I'll leave that to the description on Goodreads (linked above) because if I told you, I'd have to kill you ... erm ... actually, I really have no clue how to describe this book without giving way too many spoilers.

Suffice it to say, go read it, it's creepy, weird, gross, creepy, and super creepy. And awesome. Oh, and it's stand-alone.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)