Some Various Short Reviews

 

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1) and Death in a Strange Country  by Donna Leon

I really like both of these mysteries. I really like the main character, and I felt the supporting characters were well done too!

The setting of Venice is unique and gave both books  a very cool feel. They were very moody books full of interesting characters and I never got bored of them.

As a plus, I never figured out who the murderer was or what their motivation was in either book until the end. That seems like it should be commonplace, but in so many mysteries it can be sometimes very easy to figure out. Which is disappointing.

But not here! I found this to be a very engaging couple of books overall and I look forward to tracking down a few more to read.

 Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

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I thought this was a very interesting book that I just couldn’t get into. The premise is great and the story was pretty interesting but a lot of it just left me cold. I had to force myself to finish this book so I could get started on others I wanted to read more.

Dead Things (Eric Carter #1) by Stephen Blackmoore

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Short review: This was a very fast read, one which I finished in a day, but I found it engaging and interesting. The book was filled with interesting characters and an intriguing mystery. Recommended!

Longer review: Eric Carter is what many call a necromancer, a term he hates, yet he can’t deny the facts: He sees, talks to, and interacts with dead people. He’s turned it into a pretty great career putting troublesome spirits to rest, provided he gets paid. Then his sister is brutally murdered and he is pulled back to a place he ran from 15 years ago: L.A.

He gets pulled into a plot involving angry gangsters, vengeful ghosts, hobos, and the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte. The mystery is interesting and well thought out. This is a shorter read, but a fun one! Eric Carter himself is cynical and sarcastic. He is also not some sort of superhuman, he regularly gets beat up and abused by people who get them jump on him.

while this was a quick read, it was pretty fun. I picked it up on a whim and it didn’t disappoint. I would definitely recommend this to people looking for something fast and fun to read!

Silver on the Road (The Devil’s West #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

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I picked this book up on the strength of the description alone and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought the characters were strong and the plot is fascinating. It was basically exactly what I wanted to read right now weirdly enough: A western dark fantasy.

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.

The world that was created for this book is vast and complicated and yet it feels very lived in and realistic. Part of it might be because although it is a alternative United States where the Devil rules over the unsettled West, it still reflects the feeling of that time. It is a wild, lawless place where anything can happen. The towns Isobel visits along her path feel true to the time period and full of real people. There isn’t really anything I would describe in this book as cardboard or 2 dimensional which has been a real problem in the books I’ve been reading lately.

Speaking of Isobel, and all the other characters that inhabit this world, they are fantastic. At 16 years old, Isobel makes a very big decision to work for the Devil and it isn’t at all what she thought it would be. Isobel hoped to remain in Flood the town where she grew up, but the Devil has other ideas naming her his Left Hand and sending her out into the vast Territories to keep the peace. She is helped on this venture by what I would call the  secondary main character, Gabriel. He is a young man who comes into the Devil’s bar in Flood and leaves after making a bargain to protect Isobel. It was interesting to see their friendship develop over the course of the book. He is primarily a teacher and then later a friend. His job is to teach Isobel how to survive on The Road and to help her navigate her new job/abilities. He is a very dry character for me which made it a bit difficult to get into his narration sections in the book, but I ended up liking him quite a bit.

The plot of the book comes into better focus when we start to learn of ominous and terrifying things happening to settlers and towns around the territory. It was a pretty intriguing little mystery with some pretty fantastic set pieces. It really helps that the story is written very lyrically or poetically. Things happen that take on a very appropriately dream-like quality and I was a big fan of the writing in this book.

If I had to point to anything that annoyed me in the book it was the amount of whining Isobel does throughout the story. I get it, she’s 16 years old, but it can get pretty tiresome during some sections of this story. Also, this negativity means that she remains pretty passive throughout the whole story until the end when she finally steps up and fights back.

Overall, I really liked this book and I definitely recommend it! I’m certainly going to look for the second book soon.

My Favorite Books of 2016

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Heeeeey kind-of dormant blog! I still remember i have you! To be honest, this blog has been pretty quiet lately because I’ve been deep into a re-reading marathon. nothing really sounded good on my TBR bookshelf, so I went back into my older books.

Really quickly, here is what I’ve been re-reading:

  • The Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch. (One of my favorite series!)
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. (I re-read these every year)
  • The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

But this post isn’t about *those* books! This is about my favorite books I read last year. This isn’t all books published last year, just my favorites that I read!

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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This book was just delightful. I liked it from start to finish, I was utterly charmed by it. It is very much a fairytale but a really cute, endearing one. Plus it takes place in a bookstore which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel-Miranda

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An amazing look behind the scenes at one f the best new Broadway shows! I have become slowly obsessed with the musical Hamilton ever since i first picked up the cast recording. this book is a great way to immerse yourself in the complexities of the musical itself and what it actually took to get it onstage.

This might be as close as I ever get to seeing the original cast and its an amazing up-close look at it. This is full of great profiles of many of the main cast and a look a the support players. The pictures are amazing as well.

 

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

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I wrote a review of this book (for this blog even!), but I loved it greatly. to quote myself:

I love the whole steampunk aesthetic and I love the idea of airships.  The idea of the book is that society has moved off the planet and now lives completely up in “spires” which are gigantic towers made of stone. People use airships to travel up and down the spires (and also travel to other spires), with the richest and most well off at the top and the poorest closest to the ground. Captain Grimm is one such captain of an airship named Predator and when he has a run-in with a bigger ship that leaves him grounded on Spire Albion waiting for repairs, the Spire is attacked by another,Spire Aurora. Thus starts WAR! Captain Grimm and a band of allies are charged with finding out where a conspiracy starts (and who is involved). Unbeknownst to everyone an old evil is maneuvering and pulling the strings on its puppets for mysterious purposes….

The naval airships with their awesome battles in the mists were the highlight of the book for me. They were very well written. I’ve read other books with airship battles that left me confused and ultimately cold to the story as a whole, but these were thrilling and fast-paced.

Butcher also has a great way of making things very tense and exciting that I really like.

I found this book to be a fast read and I am really looking forward to the next book and the rest of the series.

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

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I love Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie Lacrosse series so I picked this up on a whim one day, and I wasn’t disappointed!  I really loved this book. I like books about fairies, The Fae, etc. quite a bit but I was looking for something unique, and I think I found it inside this book.

The story is pretty simple, yet it is really compelling. As the first in a series, I expected it to be sort-of clunky and full of world-building exposition, but I was happily surprised. The is world-building but it doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae which I liked a lot


 

There you go! As I said, I didn’t really read too many books this year and what I did read was older books and series I had already read once.

I look forward to new amazing books to read in 2017!

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my Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2057281-sarah

 

The Hum and Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

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Hey! This Blog still exists! Even though This blog is basically just for me alone, I still feel guilty when I neglect it. Truthfully, I just haven’t been reading that many new books. It has been so cold and snowy where I live that all I feel like reading are old “comfort” books.

I did however borrow this book out of the library on the advice of a friend, and I’m *so* glad I did! I feel like most everything in the book delighted me. It had a unique setting and also an interesting view of the Fae.

I really loved this book. I like books about fairies, The Fae, etc. quite a bit but I was looking for something unique, and I think I found it inside this book.

The story is pretty simple, yet it is really compelling. As the first in a series, I expected it to be sort-of clunky and full of world-building exposition, but I was happily surprised. The is world-building but it doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae which I liked a lot.

Probably technically called “Urban Fiction” this book is way more rural then urban. The Smokey Mountains of Tennessee is where this is set and it gave this book a very interesting flavor. Our main protagonist is Bronwyn Hyatt, a daughter of the Tufa – a mysterious people who live in Appalachian country in Tennessee.

This is a very character focused story and if some of those characters annoy you, as they did me, you might have trouble staying engaged.

Basically, I liked it enough (and felt that the characters were compelling enough), that I will at least read the next book in the series.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda

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An amazing look behind the scenes at one f the best new Broadway shows! I have become slowly obsessed with the musical Hamilton ever since i first picked up the cast recording. this book is a great way to immerse yourself in the complexities of the musical itself and what it actually took to get it onstage. This shows the amount of hard work and determination and pure unadulterated stubbornness that went into this musical. Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius as far as I’m concerned. He is also basically sunshine in human form and something he has written puts a smile on my face almost daily.

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This might be as close as I ever get to seeing the original cast and its an amazing up-close look at it. This is full of great profiles of many of the main cast and a look a the support players. The pictures are amazing as well.

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I can not adequately express how much I truly do love this musical and how much I love everyone who stars in it. This is an amazing book to have if you are interested in the hard work and inspiration it takes to put on a successful musical (or you are just as obsessed as I am…)

Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey

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James Holden and his crew are back in another adventure in The Expanse series!

On Ganymede things are going pretty well. We have engineered a way to make enough food to feed the whole system. Women from all around the solar system come here to have their babies because of the lower radiation levels. And it’s all about to be ruined.

The book opens with a platoon of Martian marines as they observe the movements of their Earth counterparts on Ganymede, soon both teams are attacked and slaughtered by a “monster” that can only be a part of the protomolecule. A protomolecule that is currently changing Venus in strange, upsetting, and fascinating ways ever since it crashed in the last book.

James Holden and his crew have been spending their time keeping the peace for the OPA, hunting down pirates and just generally being space cops.It has been a year since the last book and Holden isn’t taking the horrors of Eros very well and has adopted a more shoot first, question later approach to cleaning up the system.

Really the whole crew is more likable in this story. Most of them have settled into their characterization and are just more comfortable with each other here. They seem better connected and more like a true family and close friends. When they do have disagreements (such as Naomi’s understandable reaction to new gunslinger Holden) they are handled well and they speak to each other like the grown-ups they are. There is no unnecessary manufactured drama here, you can clearly see why each character feels the way they do. Naomi wants her altruistic, short-sighted, yet lovable Holden back and Holden is deeply affected by what he saw and experienced on Eros. This has led him to be very afraid and he reacts to that fear by becoming more ruthless and cold.

A job dropping off much needed supplies on Ganymede after the destruction finds the crew helping a scientist search Ganymede (and later the system) for his lost and possibly kidnapped daughter. When we first meet him Prax is a hollow shell of the man he used to be. He is frantic and starving, the loss of his livelihood and the kidnapping of his daughter have done a number on his psyche. The whole book finds him to be nervous and a bit trigger happy, although he gets better slightly throughout the book.

This is also the book that introduces two characters who might be my favorites. Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie.

Avasarala is a deft politician from Earth. She is cold and calculating when she needs to be and warm and inviting when she needs to be. She moves through the political sphere with the ease of a long career and woe betide anyone who crosses her. She is also hilariously foul-mouthed. It is a very great juxtaposition: a kindly grandmother and a foul-mouthed sailor. She makes me laugh and then turn around and vow to never get on her bad side.

Bobbie is a Martian marine soldier who you meet in the beginning of the book. She is very tall (because of her low G upbringing) and very imposing. I suppose most people write her off as just a meat head, but she gets some great moments in this book to prove her intelligence and worthiness as an ally to Avasarala.

Both characters are great additions to the cast in these books and I hope they come back into the later books as well.

This is another excellent entry into this series. It is fast-paced, and engaging. The characters are all fleshed out a lot and have understandable conflicts. I am really looking forward to reading the next book!

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

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This might be my new favorite Sci-fi series. It has just enough science-y, techno space stuff that it feels believable but it isn’t too dense. Everything reads plausible and is easily understood.

Humanity has conquered the stars! Or at least our own solar system. Earth is maxed out and so humanity has moved out to other locations. Mars, where the people are all working hard towards terreforming and settling the notoriously difficult planet. And the people living out on the Belt, called “belters” by most people, who most treat like second-class citizens at best and non-human slaves at worst. This is definitely a book that looks at what it would mean to actually grow up in a zero G environment. What sort of changes would humanity go though? how would others treat you if you no longer looked 100 percent “human”? The answer, of course, is terribly.

Earth views themselves as the top dogs. This is where we came from and they have the most resources for living comfortably. What they don’t have is space. We have taken all the available space and now most people on Earth don’t even work anymore. Mars on the other hand are tough and resourceful. Everyone who is on Mars is working for a single goal: Colonizing and terreforming the planet. They view the Earthers as weak and lazy. They gained their independence from Earth a while ago and now Earth and Mars are stuck in a Cold War. Each of them stands to lose everything if they fight it out, so they just pretend everything is fine between them and plot to out gun the other.

Then there are the Belters. They have grown up on The Belt and as such their bodies have changed. They have heads that look to large with extremely long bodies and limbs. They have lived so long in zero G that they can’t go to Earth anymore, they can’t handle the gravity. They also do all the mining work and terrible jobs and most people treat them like slaves.

Jim Holden is our main character. At the start of the book he is the XO of an ice hauling ship called The Canterbury. He is relaxed, sarcastic, and doesn’t take anything very seriously. As the book opens they are attacked and tragedy occurs and a small band of people must pull together to survive.The other characters in the group are: Naomi, a Belter engineer who is smart and tough. Alex, the navigator from Mars who is nice and easy-going. Amos, a mechanic who is nice on the surface but has a deep anger just under the surface. I found myself really rooting for Holden and his small crew. They have their differences, and they do fight a lot but when needed they pull together and have each others backs. In the end they become a small family who would literally die for each other.

The other character I consider a Main Character is Miller. Detective Miller is a Belter who lives on Ceres Station and tries to uphold the Law. Or at least keep people from killing each other. He has been doing this job for a long time and it has worn him out and turned him very cynical. He is given a kidnapping job, a rich couple wants him to find their daughter and ship her home. He just shrugs and takes it. Another shitty job to do in a shitty place. This story-line is very noir. Through the days of searching he grows to respect and even love the missing girl, Julie Mao. She is tough and is a true believer in the rights of the Belters to be treated better than slaves.

I liked that the authors went with different viewpoints for each chapter in a very Game of Thrones style. Since I am used to the style I found it very easy to follow and I was never confused about the plot. Which was a good thing because this plot MOVES. After SPOILERS The Canterbury is blown up END SPOILERS  the plot never really slows down. Twists and turns come fast and steady, and I never felt the book drag at all. The separate plot threads in the book come together very nicely in the end in a very thrilling way and leaves us with a nice hook for future books.

I found all the characters to be believable and compelling even if I wasn’t sure I liked them much. The plot moved quickly and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down! I am extremely excited and happy I started this series. I was on the hunt for a lighthearted space adventure and that is exactly what I got here. A fantastic Book!