Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Daylight War

The Daylight War (Demon Cycle, #3)The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The corelings will rise en masse under the new moon and Arlen and company only have a month to prepare for it. Can they survive the month and the Krasians that draw near Deliverer's Hollow?

After three years of waiting, the third book in the Demon Cycle is upon us. Was it worth the wait?

Meh. I don't know if it's because I've just devoured five George R.R. Martin books in record time or because three years have passed since I read the Desert Spear but The Daylight War didn't blow my doors off the way I thought it would. It wasn't bad but I guess was expecting a whole lot more. Maybe it's just that the newness has worn off but it felt like cotton candy compared to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Much like the Desert Spear, about half of the book is a long flashback involving a secondary character, in this case, Jardir's first wife, Inevera. Inevera's tale is an interesting one of scheming and betrayal. Unfortunately, it is by far the most interesting part of the book, way more engaging than the main story in my opinion. The way things are going, I'm expecting the next book to have an extended sequence from a demon's point of view.

Worse, both Arlen and Leesha were really getting on my nerves for most of the book. Arlen is now ridiculously powerful and also kind of annoying with his inspirational speeches and modesty. Arlen's relationship with Renna doesn't seem even slightly real to me and feels like a stalling tactic until he inevitably ends up with Leesha. And Leesha is just a mess. She's 28 years old and a healer so she likely knows how babies are made and therefore shouldn't be the least bit surprised when it turns out she's pregnant with Jardir's baby after they've spent quite a bit of time going at it like particularly randy rabbits on a Spring Break field trip to the Viagra factory. Rojer is about the only character I still really like. In fact, his relationship with his two wives is my favorite part of the book with all the maneuvering by various Krasians a close second.

For most of the book, there's too much talking and preparing and not enough payoff. The fights with corelings were good but nothing revolutionary. The last fifty or so pages seemed rushed, however, and end in a cliffhanger. We've been waiting a long time for Arlen and Jardir to square off and we're denied any sort resolution. What we got was good but making us wait untold years before we find out how the fight ends is kind of a cheap shot.

I guess this all sounds kind of harsh. I did like the book overall. Three stars and I'll likely be picking up the next one.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Dance With Dragons

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stannis Baratheon marches on Winterfell from the Wall. Daenerys's empire is threatened from within. Tyrion finds himself enslaved. Cercei finds herself in chains. The Crow's Eye desires Daenerys for his own but so do several other would-be suitors. And Jon Snow faces dissent from his brothers of the Watch...

In the latest installment of Incest and Intrigue, more of the pieces are placed on the board. Daenerys can't trust anyone. Jon Snow can't trust anyone. Iron Lords cannot trust their own brothers. Sellswords in general cannot be trusted. In short, no one can trust anyone while the Game of Thrones is being played.

This one had its share of memorable moments, both good and ill. I really like how Arya's story is developing but I don't see how it's going to tie back into things. The revelation of Young Griff's true identity was a game changer and its repercussions will be felt in the next couple books. I liked that Brienne is still alive and that Jaime Lannister chose to follow her instead of rushing to Cercei's defense. Jon Snow getting knifed on the Wall by his sworn brothers didn't sit well with me. I'm really hoping he's still alive come next book, whenever that may be.

It looks like Theon is headed for redemption but I'd rather see him dead or taking the black. Bran is progressing nicely. Whatever happened to Ricken and that bastard of Robert's that isn't Gendry? And who is Cercei's new champion Robert Strong, the Mountain, perhaps?

I honestly don't think Martin will be able to wrap things up in two more books, not with all the balls he has in the air. Plus, it would be all too easy for him to throw more players into the mix to keep the saga going. Still, with A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin has made an Oathbreaker out of me. I once swore I'd never get caught up in a neverending fantasy series. In fact, I believe I said I'd rather eat my own testicles. However, I'm pretty caught up in this one. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to join the tent city on George R.R. Martin's front lawn, to wail and gnash my teeth every night until the next book is ready.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Feast For Crows

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The throne of the Iron Isles is contested. Queen Cercei conspires to keep King Tommen's young queen from influencing him. Jaime Lannister adjusts to having only one hand. Sam Tarly and Gilly head south. Brienne quests for the missing Stark daughters. Littlefinger holds the Vale. A lot of stuff happens in Dorne. Arya Stark continues being one of the more interesting characters in fantasy...

After a years-long void, the Song of Ice and Fire returns. Well, they can't all be home runs. Sometimes you have to settle for a triple.

Aside from the lack of Jon Snow, Dany and the dragons, and one Tyrion Lannister, I enjoyed A Feast for Crows as much as the previous volumes. At this point, Jaime Lannister is hot on the heels of Arya, Jon Snow, and Tyrion as my favorite character. I could read a few hundred pages of Jaime Lannister walking around being an asshole. Sam got some time to shine and I think he'll do big things before the series is over. I love what's going on with Arya. I still don't care about Sansa or Catelyn Stark.

The bits with the Iron Isles and Dorne got a little wearisome, feeling like Martin might have wanted to keep the biscuit wheels on his gravy train for a little while longer. Still, I liked where things went despite not involving any of my favorite characters.

It's a testament to Martin's skill that he has made me care about the Lannister twins, first Jaime and now Cercei. I'm chomping at the bit to find out Cercei's fate and to see if Brienne is really dead.

On a final note, there were way too many characters whose names started with the letter E in the same chapter. Mix it up a little, George.

Four stars, although I'd probably give it a high three if I'd been one of the people who had to wait years between books.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three kings contend for the throne and King Joffrey's wedding day grows near. Can he hold the throne with Robb Stark and Stannis Baratheon nipping at his heels?

Yeah, that's a woefully inadequate summary but it's not laden with spoilers, either.

Here we are, the third installment of Weddings, Beddings, and Beheadings, and my favorite one so far. In fact, I was thinking about downgrading them to 4's just so I could show how great I thought this one was. Martin outdid himself this time.

First of all, there were quite a few deaths in this one. I wasn't expecting Robb Stark to go out like that. Tywin and Joffrey more than had it coming, however. The Red Wedding was pretty surprising, as was the trial by combat for Tyrion's fate. Speaking of Tyrion, his wedding to Sansa was also quite unexpected. I'm still not sure where things are going with Davos Seaworth but I'm already itching to find out.

Jon Snow continued to be my favorite character, from his stint with the wildlings to his defense of the Wall to his imprisonment and eventual election to commander of the Night's Watch. The prospect of Snow becoming Lord of Winterfell is an intriguing one and I'm anxious to see how it unfolds.

Another plotline I'm particularly enjoying is that of Arya and the Hound. The Hound could easily be a scene-chewing villain but is a surprisingly deep character. Arya is shockingly bad ass for a preteen.

One character I'm surprised I've grown to like is Jaime Lannister. He's an arrogant unapologetic bastard and I love him for it. I'd read a whole book of Jaime's exploits.

Also, how about Petyr Baelish? What a bastard!

I'm giving this five stars with an exclamation point next to it. After a short break, I'll be devouring the two remaining volumes.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the wake of King Robert's death, four men lay claim to his crown. The Mother of Dragons builds her khalazar as magic slowly returns to the world. Jon Snow braves the wilds beyond the Wall. Tyrion Lannister struggles to hold the power behind the Throne. And Winterfell harbors a viper in its midst...

Like I said before, it's hard to write a teaser for a book this size. Look at it! You could club a narwhal to death with it if you were so inclined.

The epic of The Song of Ice and Fire continues to unfold in the second volume. Robb Stark, the King in the North, continues his campaign to avenge his father and take the Iron Throne. His sister Sansa remains in King's Landing, still betrothed to the vile Joffrey. Arya, well, she has quite a bit going on. Jon Snow continues being my favorite character as he ventures beyond the wall, probably marking him for death sometime soon. I'm wondering if the Starks will ever be reunited.

In non-Stark news, Tyrion Lannister continues being the best character in the series and pulls the strings behind the scenes. The conflict between Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly came to a head much earlier than I thought. Jaime Lannister is still in the clink and I'm hoping he and Robb Stark get more screen time in the next book. And Theon! What a colossal douche! Cercei Lannister has a lot more facets to her character than I originally thought.

Much like the last book, most of the action happens near the end. I love the constant intrigue behind the scenes. The battle of Blackwater Bay was my favorite battle in the series so far.

Since I read this without seeing season 2 of Game of Thrones, I'm looking forward to the following events being depicted on the show:
1. Jon Snow beyond the Wall
2. Tyrion's dialog with Cercei early on
3. the battle of Blackwater

That's about all I have to say. I liked Clash of Kings almost as much as the first book.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dead Aim

Dead AimDead Aim by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When their friend Marvin Hanson offers them a job, Hap, Leonard, and an axe handle Hap named Agnes find themselves putting the fear of God into a woman's abusive ex-husband. The ex winds up dead with Hap in the wrong place at the wrong time when the cops show up. Can Hap and Leonard clear their names and figure out who killed the ex-husband?

Here we are, another installment in Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series. For those of you who don't know, Hap and Leonard are like Spenser and Hawk, if they lived in Texas, didn't have any money, and Hawk was openly gay. In this particular installment, Hap and Leonard find themselves caught up in a scam involving gambling debts, insurance money, the Dixie Mafia, and people lying their asses off.

Hap and Leonard are in fine form. As usual with a Hap and Leonard book, I found myself laughing and wanting to read lines out loud. It's a little light on action until the end but it's a very quick read and the web of lies actually seemed pretty believable.

But it's not all bacon and avocado sandwiches. First off all, the story is only about 100 pages long. After Devil Red, Hyenas, and this one, I'd really like another Hap and Leonard that's over 275 pages at some point. My other gripe is the cover art. In and of itself, it's good art by Glen Orbik. However, the characters are about 20 years too young and look like the stars of a CW network show, not the grizzled tough guys depicted in the novel. Hap's talking about being old enough to be a grandfather in the book but the guy meant to be Hap on the cover looks about 25.

I'm giving this four stars since it was hilarious but I'm putting a frowny face next to the four since it's so short.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Retribution Falls

Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay, #1)Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When they accidentally blow up The Ace of Skulls, and with it, the archduke's son, in a misguided act of piracy, Darian Frey and the misfit crew of the Ketty Jay wind up in the soup. Their salvation seems to be the mythical pirate port, Retribution Falls. But can they reach their safe haven before they wind up dead?

Retribution Falls is one of those books that's hard to classify. At first glance, it might be called steampunk, but it's more like fantasy with an odd tech level. There are airships that remind me of something out of Firefly, late 19th century level guns, and magical things like golems and daemons. Low tech science fantasy, maybe?

The crew of the Ketty Jay are a lof losers. There's the cowardly selfish captain, Darian Frey, Jez, the mysterious new navigator, the daemonist, Crake, and the rest. Actually, Frey, Jez, and Crake are the only ones that are developed enough to really care about, although I did have soft spots for Slag the cat and Bess the golem. By the end of the book, the pasts and personalities of all three are fleshed out and Frey proves to have some redeeming qualities after all.

It took a while for the story to get going but once the Ace of Skulls was destroyed, there was a lot of running, fighting, and airship battles. The action reminded me of some of the old Star Wars X-Wing books, only better written. Speaking of the writing, there's a surprising amount of humor in the dialog and the writing itself is actually fairly good.

Retribution Falls is a fun read. I wasn't ass over tea kettle in love with it but I liked it enough that I'll read the next book in the series. Three stars.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Her Fingers

Her FingersHer Fingers by Tamara Romero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a bionic red haired witch washed up from the Adrenaline River near his house, Volatile nurses her back to health and chooses to reveal some fundamental truths about the world to her. But will the truth destroy them both?

The 2012-2013 New Bizarro Author Series rolls on. Tamera Romero has been a friend of mine on Goodreads for years but I've had little interaction with her apart from reading her reviews. Also, I miss her old avatar photo where she's pretending her hands are goggles. Anyway, she's crafted quite an odd tale.

Her Fingers takes place in a oppressed state populated by persecuted witches, bionic people, and all sorts of other strangeness. It's dark fantasy at times and cyberpunk at others. It reminds me a little of Athena Villaverde's Starfish Girl but the book it really reminds me of is Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer. It also had the slight taste of Steppenwolf, but I can't articulate why I feel that way.

Romero does a lot of good world-building in 60 pages, making me want to read another book set in the same world. I love the crazy concepts like the tree mothers, teenagers getting bionic implants as an act of rebellion, and The Gag, a horrible disease. I also like the shifting viewpoints between Miadora and Volatile, making the climax of the story have that much more impact.

One last thing I want to note: even though this was translated from Spanish, it is typo-free, which is rare for even English bizarro books these days.

Anyway, Her Fingers was a quirky read and a good way to spend a lunch hour.

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PenetraliaPenetralia by Jordan Krall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Serial killer Philip and his nymphomaniac sister Elizabeth continue their father, The Plague Doctor,'s unholy experiments on hapless young men until a letter arrives. Daddy's coming home...

I've been reading bizarro fiction for a couple years now and I've learned Jordan Krall always delivers the goods. When I heard about Penetralia, I snapped it up. More akin to gore-horror like Edward Lee, Penetralia is some disturbing stuff. Philip and Elizabeth torture young men in the name of research, continuing their father's research in exchange for living in his house rent-free in his absence, all the while thinking of their upbringing by the Plague Doctor. What will they do when he comes home?

Penetralia is not for the weak of heart. There is lots of incest, deviant sex, torture, necrophilia, and disturbing imagery. Disturbing imagery other than the incest, deviant sex, torture, and necrophilia, I mean. Funny thing, if you strip all that stuff away, it's kind of a coming of age story, Philip and Elizabeth finally standing up to their father.

I'm not really sure how to rate it. It's pretty powerful but I can't say I actually liked it or enjoyed it.

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Parliament of Crows

A Parliament of CrowsA Parliament of Crows by Alan M. Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The three Mortlow sisters, Vertiline, Carolee, and Mary, lead wicked lives, starting at the time of the Civil War and into their old age, leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. When the Orphia, the daughter of Carolee, winds up dead in a bathtub, they are arrested and go on trial. Has the law finally caught up with them?

First of all, I'm pretty sure a group of crows is called a murder and a group of owls is called a parliament.

The Parliament of Crows is a historical novel inspired in part by the real life Wardlaw sisters and a chilling group they must have been. Elder sister Vertiline will do whatever it takes to protect her family, and the twins Carolee and Mary make her job very tough. While Parliament of Crows was published by Lazy Fascist, which is primarily a bizarro publisher, there are very few bizarre elements in it. Mary and Carolee seem to share an empathic link but that's about it. It's mostly a straight-up historical novel.

The story shifts back and forth between the sisters' childhood during the Civil War and their adulthood in the early 20th century, ensnared in a hell of their own making after Orphia's death. The shifting builds suspense and does a lot to develop the characters of Vertiline and her sisters. The way they go from behind girls in Milledgeville during the Civil War with a deceased mother to cold hearted killers later in life was both believable and horrifying. Pushing a maid down the stairs for fun? Insurance scams? Poisonings? These are just a few things the sisters perpetrate.

The writing is really good. In addition to the gothic and horror elemetns, there's a fair amount of dark humor. Even though the Mortlows are horrible people and probably sociopaths to some degree, I caught myself hoping they'd stay out of jail a few times.

Four stars. I'd like to read a longer book by Alan M. Clark.

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