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Book Reviews for January

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I’ve been slacking on my book reviews, and I want to say right now that it isn’t because I haven’t been reading. It’s because I’ve been reading things I don’t think are worth reviewing. And I’ve been busy. And the dog ate my…blog work. 🙂 However, I have found a few really good books in the last month that I’d love to share with you. I think there’s something for everyone!

Readers in the UK are the lucky ones with this series, because I believe the whole trilogy is out there. The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie, was one of the best reviewed debuts last year, behind Name of the Wind and Acacia (Both of which I have reviewed and loved.) I agree that this is a quality, fantastic book. It reminded me of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, by Fritz Leiber, if you’ve read those stories. The Blade Itself is an adventure story with original characters and a great gritty atmosphere that is so popular in fantasy at the moment. There are all the requisite cliches, foolish nobility, evil conquerer in the wings, but they are twisted just slightly to make things feel fresh and interesting. The zen Barbarian, the nebulously moral torturer, these characters made me so eager to follow them that I almost finished the book in one sitting. The author has a great way of making the language inobtrusive, so that you are immersed in the story rather than distracted by “fancy prose.” Interestingly, the author is a film editor, and I see that in the visual way he sets out his story. The fight scenes are particularly well written, and I found myself reading a few of them over again, just to get in one the action.

Things I didn’t like about this book: The lack of a map. It drove me batty. Now, I don’t believe you HAVE to have a map in a fantasy book, but if you’re going to refer to geography all the time, and have your characters scattered across the world and jump back and forth between them, then PLEASE give me a visual reference! Maybe it’s my spacial awareness that’s lacking, but I still don’t understand where things are in relation to each other after finishing the book, except for the nebulous bad people in “the North.” I also thought that one of the main characters, I won’t say which one, was very well drawn and interesting until about halfway through, and then I felt like he became a little whiney and cliched. It seemed to defy the story arc that was set up, and I’m eager to have the character more fully fleshed out in the next books, which I hear pay off the quality of the first one, and then some! The second one, Before They Are Hanged is due out here in March, and I will be at the store waiting!

Next is Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin. I bought this book on recommendation of a fantasy blog I can’t remember. I stuck it in my Amazon cart without really looking closely. When I opened the package and saw this cover…holy hell. It’s Teri Polo with a broadsword. Meet the Parents I guess didn’t do that well for her, LOL.

I don’t want to be mean because I love this book SO MUCH. But the cover…my boyfriend kept teasing me when I was reading it, and I kept threatening to put it under his pillow so it would make his “man parts” would shrivel up during the night. 😀

But bottom line: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I can’t even tell you guys how much I love this book. I would turn the page thinking, “Man, I want to write a book like this!” The characters are fun, there’s a sense of humor throughout that makes everything feel like a romp with friends. There’s some really scrumptious love interest stuff going on, a good mystery, fun world building…this book had everything I wanted, and I stayed up until 3 am to finish. It has the plotting of all these popular urban fantasy series, but with a lightness and humor that doesn’t feel forced or artificial (despite the cover.) If you like the Sookie Stackhouse series, this is definitely a book for you, and if you’re a Buffy fan (maybe a few out there? :D) you will like this as well. The cover blurb says “Enjoyable” and I wholeheartedly agree, except double it. The joy of reading was definitely sparked in me by this book. Hell, I’d love to play an adventure game based on it! This is a girl-power fantasy for everyone to read!

Lastly, I have a mystery, GASP! I know, crazy change, but in fact, mystery books were my first love. I read all the Perry Masons and Ellery Queens after I plowed through the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys at age 8 or so. Every so often, I’ll find a mystery series I love, mostly of the historical sub-genre, and I’ll eat them up like candy. This is one of those books. Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn, is set in the Victorian era, and follows a very privileged woman who becomes a widow. Of course I don’t want to give anything away, but murder is suspected, and it follows her journey of discovery, both plot-wise and character-wise. This doesn’t read like a typical mystery, it’s more of a tale of self-discovery, spurred by the death of her husband. I loved the characters, and the depth with which the author explores the main character’s past as she tries to find herself without a man in her life. There’s a possible romance, a vividly painted era that feels perfectly real, and I really enjoyed the deliberate pacing that, when the actual mystery plot kicked in full force, took me by surprise and kept me glued for the last 100 pages. There are very modern elements mixed in with the Victorian sensibilities, and I would recommend this to mystery or historical fans alike.

  • S o m a

    there was a jeopardy question today that involved
    the translation of a vietnamese word..

    the tonal inflection could change the meaning completely!..

    *digress..

    my comic book collections grows. i picked up Joss Whedon’s
    Angel: After the Fall.. 1 2 3

    how i wish these could have been turned into a spare no
    expense finale on the show.. but whatev..

    the only books ive been able to read are for class.

    we just finished Conversations in Sicily. about a guy named
    silvestro who is on a journey to find who he is and an allegorical
    reference to early fascism in italy.

    i stopped playing the depths of peril demo. i like the
    premise, but id just rather have D2.. and if i must play
    D2 [as opposed to all my friends who want me in TF2]..
    i must stick with HgL..

    last few eps of boondocks were good.

    long weekend

  • Mike

    Novels: The Dresden Files. ‘Nuff said.

    Cheers!

  • I second Mike’s opinion: The Dresden Files rock. Jim Butcher is a genius.

    Felicia, I just wanted to thank you not only for your generous and gracious review of Magic Lost, Trouble Found, but for what is the most hilarious trashing of my cover that I’ve ever read. ; ) I LOVED IT!

    It was such a great review that I posted a link to it on my blog for today. http://www.lisashearin.com

    I emailed you at your admin@feliciaday.net address. If you have a moment to respond, great. If not, no problemo.

    Thank you again,
    Lisa Shearin

  • I love Dresden Files too…the show, not so much (canceled though.)
    OMG Lisa Shearin! How exciting to have you post, did you know how gorked out I was about your book?! I guess it shows a little, I was tripping over my feet about it in the review! I’m glad you have a sense of humor about my cover trashing, it tends to be a focus of my blog, books that I adore that have assy covers 🙂

    I’ll go look for that email right away!
    PS: I loved your book.

  • edgar

    Haha, its fun when Felicia trashes someone’s novel cover (but likes it) then the author comes on over and posts.

  • Gotta love Google Alerts — no mention of my book slips past me. ; )

  • I’ll have to take a look at your recommendations as soon as I’ve cleared my impressive backlog. I’ve been spending all my money on things like “The Complete Book Of Drawing Manga” and “Watchmen” recently.

    Of course, if I buck the cover’s sexual stereotyping and get “Magic Lost, Trouble Found”, I’ll also have to get some wallpaper; my mum always used to jacket my schoolbooks in wallpaper, and the technique might be necessary to preserve my illusory masculinity…

  • I’ve been telling potential male readers to take the “plain brown wrapper” approach. Makes people think you’re reading something naughty and nasty. ; )

  • Thanks for mentioning ACACIA (again)! Nice to be hanging out in close proximity to Joe and Pat. I love it that we’re each quite different, but are often getting read by the same people. (With the exception of Pat, who is getting read by quite a few MORE people in general.)

    Be well!

    -David.

  • Kristin

    Thanks for all the suggestions for future reading fantasy material. I just finished the 3 books in the First Rider series by Kristen Britain. I fell in love with this series and highly recommend it if you love female lead characters who kick butt. Karigan rocks! 😛 I am now sadly awaiting the next book in the series which I fear is a ways off. (grabbed the first book just cause she had the same first name as me lol but so glad I did hehe).

  • BreakAtmo

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll try and find some of these if I can escape the grasp of the copy of Portal I just bought:P.

    If you really like fantasy books, you should read the Word and the Void Trilogy and Genesis of Shannara series by Terry Brooks. They serve as a prequel to his Shannara books (which began in 1977). The Word/Void Trilogy was written from 1997 to 1999 ( the 3 books are Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word and Angel Fire East), and is set in the present day (1997-2012), and you can get all three books in a single paperback. The Genesis of Shannara Trilogy is unfinished – Armageddon’s Children was released in 2006, The Elves of Cintra in 2007, and the third book will be out sometime this year, probably September. GoS is set in an apocalyptic future in around 2090. The many Shannara books that have been published since 1977 (I haven’t yet read any, as I’ve decided to wait until GoS is finished) are set even further in the future – the earliest in the chronology is set about 1000 years after GoS.

    I hope you find them and enjoy them – they are deep, intricate and emotionally powerful, and GoS features some action scenes that obliterate Hollywood.

  • Your review makes me want to read this book. It sounds like something I would enjoy. A good fantasy story with great humor can be hard to find. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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