Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comparison of Car Security Protection

 Car for many people these days is not just part of their daily transportation support but it can also be part of their happiness because many people think that their car is kind of their best friend and they just want to have the best friend for accompanying them reaching any place they have to go. People will choose the car carefully so it will be suitable with their taste and moreover with their budget. They even will try to apply anything which can make the car look and feel better.

These kinds of effort can be more extreme for them who really think that the car is part of their spare time interest. They will not mind to spend large amount of their money for customizing their car with various application inside and outside. There is nothing wrong with the whole efforts for making the best vehicle but the option of auto insurance should also be thought carefully because there is no one who wants to see their car which is built with hard work and money is damaged.

When the damage or risk cannot be avoided, they do not have to be worried and frustrated because there is coverage is provided by the insurance which should be chosen by making detail comparison.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Nature of Life Insurance Policies

This excellent versatile come to being assurance quotes is extremely popular in the you as well as provides an accurate different to plain phase as well as mortgage life policies anywhere the client doesn't normally money directly from the insurance coverage investment, unless they're diagnosed since terminally sick. Universal being assurance also offers policyholders when using the flexibility to obtain interest upon their existence assurance charges - one thing a normal existence policy doesn't .

Universal existence assurance is permanent existence assurance that offers you flexibility. For example: as soon as choosing the original premium as well as also the number of death edges, you'll be able to decide as soon as and also the way abundant you wish to get the policy. you will be able to increase the payment to ascertain the value of the additional cash, cut back the sheer number of death sides, reduce costs or perhaps skip costs as long as your money value is equal to cowl the worth of insurance coverage standards as well as alternative connected prices.

Variable life insurance quotes preference the same as universal life assurance, however it's not price your cash growing at just a hard as well as fast speed, you'll be able to desire to shop for the policy factors that will increase or perhaps decrease in value.

Debt Homes and Tips for Couples Options

Controlling funds fiscal gain eventualities may be an issue usually. however which a tale about this brand new variety, complete as soon as you begin married existence. operational along with your fund because several eventualities might be difficult given the economic sides precisely and also payment of the couple and also upcoming semester one is more useful. A lot of the assorted eventualities combine their revenue that may build way larger than the fiscal benefit from. Some the vast majority of popular to remain personal individual accounts stay their individual economic gain circumstances.

A particular analysis of mortgage loans can also aim for several design of diverse economic debts aside from mortgage loan interest number assortment. If in case many factors apply to the mortgage quantity, along they'll relish some financial flexibility. while indeed there square measure dangers caused by increasing costs, partners can have the advantage of the value reduction. whenever costs fall, it might mean a month-to-month installment can fall to individuals who secured mortgage number differs.

For those which started wedding receptions, the most basic factor will be undertake as well as check out specialists and also online payday loan corporations. the couple will have to disclose their condition extremely the broker to keep coming back through a listing of the leading probably call.will feel important notably mortgage loan credit analysis since it could be a thought lent cash mortgage given election.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lance of Earth and Sky

I think I've mentioned before how I like to see authorial “progress” from one book to the next. Seeing them get better in at least one aspect of their craft with each progressive offering to the reading masses gives me hope that there will, someday, be more authors that I love to read. In general, I think that most authors fall into this category. It's hardly ever that I find one that seems to have regressed further from the goal that I think each of them should strive for: greatness in storytelling. As I'm sure you can guess by now, this book is one of those.

LANCE OF EARTH AND SKY is the second in the planned Chaos Knight trilogy and continues the story of Vidarian Rulorat and the empire of Alorea. Mostly, however, this is a story about the empire, as Vidarian factors so little in what actually happens.

After the end of SWORD OF FIRE AND SEA (spoiler for the first book!), a dimensional portal of sorts has been opened and all sorts of chaos has been spread across the land. The natural magic present in the world has quickly faded away and been replaced by an elementally-based magic system that feels very much like Wheel of Time run through the rule-based powers of Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) from the Incredibles. Use the element—water, air, fire, earth—that is available and channel it into streams that you can ultimately weave together and blast people with.

The replacement of this magic has upended the entire world, killing off a large number of leaders that have been magically lengthening their lives. In the wake of this chaos, the trading company that has been dictating what the government of Alorea was doing, begins to take a decidedly more direct route to governing. Additionally, the opening of the gate has brought in magical items and constructs that have been absent for centuries. The changes that have come in the wake of the open portal are constantly reiterated throughout the book. Almost like a mantra.

Ohmmmm...

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. Regression.

The crux of the problem with the book was that where SWORD was very linear but adventurous, LANCE is very linear and pointless. The main character, instead of doing anything of import, spends nearly every waking moment meeting someone new, introducing himself to them, drinking another cup of kava, or listening to other people talk. It was uber-frustrating. When he finally does do something vaguely interesting, the outcome feels more like he did it so that the author could showcase another part of the world-building.

If anything, further world-building seemed to be at the heart of the book, and yet none of it really did anything to develop the world. Thus, instead of the presentation of the world feeling like an oil slick riding across the surface of an abyss-deep ocean (good), it comes across more like a puddle of water spread across the concrete (severely lacking).

There were a couple aspects of the story that stayed consistent between the two books: there are still a ton of characters surrounding Vidarian, nearly every one of them able to communicate telepathically. About half of them this time can shape-change as well though. The ending was also incredibly lacking in impact again. Incredibly, the largest-seeming event in the entire book is given away on the back cover. There was very little in the book that held what I like to see, and that's a solid reason in my mind to stay away from the rest of this series.

On the up-tick, if you're looking for a book to just stroll through, with no real thinking necessary, and give you a great way to suck up a few hours, grab this one. It'll definitely be good for that.

Recommended Age: 15+
Sex: None
Violence: Very low key, no gore
Profanity: Very mild and infrequent

Want it? Get it here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Sea Watch

Over the last couple of years, Adrian Tchaikovsky has become one of my favorite authors. Very few authors actually take their setting and story and move it forward technologically. In Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series, we get exactly that, along with huge amounts of character progression, thrilling large-scale battles, and intense small-scale fights.

THE SEA WATCH is the sixth book in this projected 10-book story. I guess the best way to describe it is by saying THE SEA WATCH, in a way, is the Shadows of the Apt series 20,000 leagues under the sea. The results overall are great, but that doesn't mean the novel is absent some missteps.

THE SEA WATCH is Stenwold Maker's book. By this point in the series he feels he has lost nearly everyone. For all the good he has done, the people of the Collegium look at him like he is a warmonger and a lodestone for misery. Then, when ships start going missing, Stenwold is the only one who listens and sees the threat.

The first thing to point out about THE SEA WATCH is how slow it is. This is easily the slowest novel in the series due in large part to the politics of the first 1/3 of the novel. Since the novel is almost entirely from Sten's PoV this isn't surprising, but it still is noticeable. There are lots of meetings and behind-closed-doors discussions. As a fan of the series, if you know this going in, it likely won't bother you.

Another reason this book feels so slow is due to how much explanation is needed in the midpoint of the story. Without getting into too many specifics, this novel is about, unsurprisingly, sea-kinden. Throughout this series we've been introduced directly--or in passing--to so many kinds of kinden. But that was done over the course of five novels. Now, we are introduced to an equal number of sea kinden in ONE book. These new people, their cultures, the way they live, their own abilities, and the unique dangers in the water. It's SO MUCH to digest all at once that the story bogs down.

I feel I should clarify that last bit. Yes it bogs the story down. However, it is still completely fascinating. Up at the beginning of this review I talked about how the evolution of the technology--that progression of setting and world--was so awesome in this series. THE SEA WATCH does something similar, but in the sense of giving the readers the piece of the puzzle we have been missing. What happened when the societies when from inapt to apt? What was that change like? We get this picture from Sten's eyes as he sees the sea-kinden go through this evolution. Absolutely, positively fascinating.

There are some chunks in the middle of the novel that seem repetitive, and maybe could have been condensed to make the pacing a tad better, but overall I was pleased with this novel. The banter between Stenwold and the Spider Teornis was fantastic, and the subplots dealing with the Spider held so much weight. Just the story being told here, and the spy-novel undertones make THE SEA WATCH a great read.

And then that ending...man. Stenwold showing just why he is soooooo awesome. That final bit alone made the entire novel a must-read.

THE SEA WATCH is one of the better novels in the series, and it shows how much Tchaikovsky has grown as an author. As a huge fan of Tchaikovsky's work, I was not let down in the least. In fact, I was blown away by how massive he has made this wonderful world. Not to mention, I love Tchaikovsky's characters and the way they have grown over time. I cannot wait to see were the series goes from here.

Simply put, The Shadows of the Apt is a series that every reader of Fantasy should be devouring.

Recommended Age: 16+
Profanity: Some, but not much.
Violence: Oh yeah. Tchaikovsky does it right.
Sex: Nope.

Look, you really should be reading this series. It's one of the most unique out there. Here are your links:

EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD
DRAGONFLY FALLING
BLOOD OF THE MANTIS
SALUTE THE DARK
THE SCARAB PATH
THE SEA WATCH

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sharps

Anyone out there like movies that are based on actual historical events? I think there's something to be said for them, but in general I find that regardless of how much I love them, the endings always end up being particularly less that I had anticipated. This book was totally like that. Steve's going to love this, because this time around, I totally agree with his overall opinion of Ms. Parker's latest offering, SHARPS: full of unfulfilled promises. I do still disagree that this description applies to the Engineer Trilogy, but in this case, he's totally spot-on.

SHARPS is another stand-alone from the veritable K.J. Parker, an author whom the reading public still knows so little about. It's another book about war, and what people are willing to do to get what they want. It's another book full of sarcasm, and multi-hued characters. It's another book of swords and mayhem. And if she didn't write it so dang well, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much as I did.

But I did. Cause, boy, was it fun.

Permia and Scheria have been at war with one another for the last forty years. Their history is chuck-full of battle and death and betrayal and hatred, but the two countries are on the mend now, and in an effort to try and bring closure to the differences between them, to help being them together instead of driving them further apart, a fencing tournament has been organized, and four of Scheria's finest have been dispatched on a tour of Permia in which their techniques and skill will be on display. Unfortunately, things don't exactly turn out for our heroes, our “bringers of peace” so to speak, because there are players in the background that aren't so keen on seeing peace between the two nations happen at all.

This was rather an intriguing novel, and one that I dove into with a good bit of fervor. I've always enjoyed Parker's novels – haven't read one that I didn't like yet – and this one didn't disappoint. It was full of sarcastic wit and dry, dark humor. I could hardly read for more than several minutes without finding myself laughing along with the story.

SHARPS is a bit of something new from Ms. Parker, as the story focuses upon several characters, instead of just a single one. Giraut is a playboy that has gotten himself into a bit of trouble; Suidas, is a war veteran with a very bloody past; Phrantzes, an aging fencing champion with more than just a little self-esteem problem; Addo, the son of a war hero, the Irrigator, who was responsible for drowning an entire Permian city; and Iseutz, the lonely girl on the team, of which we ultimately learn so very little.

In the beginning, this host of characters gives a very busy feel to the book, and at times it was difficult for me to distinguish between each of the male characters because of their out-of-the-ordinary names and the fact that all of them fought with swords. Parker has always been good for having unique names, but with the multiple POVs this time around, it became a bit distracting at times.

One of the aspects that I've always loved about Parker's writing is her level of detail and that feeling like I'm just keeping my head above water when it comes to understanding the larger world behind the story and characters of interest. There's more there behind the story than what I'm reading. This is helped in some small measure by the fact that this story, as well as her others, seem to fall into the same “world”, in fantasy-speak. Even though each of the stories told in her novels are probably spread from each other by large quantities of distance and time, there are bits and pieces that come through occasionally to remind you that they are all indeed connected to one another by something much larger.

The pacing and development of the story were great. As each of the individual characters learn more about one another and each of their histories, the plot thickens. Also, as the fencing team as a whole learns more about the situation that they're in, and the citizens of Permia respond to events occurring within their own country, we get a larger sense of what is going on, and it made me really excited to get to the end of the book and find out how it'd all play out.

Unfortunately, the ending wasn't anything like I'd expected. It wasn't a complete let down, but it was significantly more low-key. More of a this-is-how-everyone-turned-out kind of ending, which is what I've come to expect from movies that are based on historical events. Fiction is more exciting, in general, than history, and that's why I love Fiction! The author gets to decide the ending. And even though the ending of this one was a bit of a disappointment, I still have to recommend the book as a good read. I mean, I still tell everyone how much I loved the movie Valkyrie, and the ending of that movie was a complete bummer.

If you're a fan of Parker's stuff, pick this one up. It won't disappoint. If you're one that gets hung up on the "unfulfilled promises" thing or aren't a fan of hers in general, take a pass. SHARPS is very much a Parker novel.

Recommended Age: 17+.
Profanity: Infrequent, but strong.
Violence: Several injuries by sword and subsequent fixing by doctors, fairly grisly in a few parts.
Sex: Brief, but somewhat descriptive scene, at the beginning.

Want to give it a try? Here's your link:

SHARPS

Friday, October 5, 2012

London Eye

My first introduction to Tim Lebbon was in the SWORDS & DARK MAGIC anthology a while back. In a collection of stories full of absolute WIN, Tim Lebbon's "The Deification of Dal Bamore" was one of the best. After that I read ECHO CITY and was similarly impressed. Lebbon's ability to write Horror the way MiƩville writes Weird Fiction is astounding.

And then I heard Lebbon was going to write a YA novel, and it would be published through Pyr SF&F. Holy anticipation, Batman!

LONDON EYE, Lebbon's YA novel, is the first in a series that follows a group of teens as they enter London in search of their families, and the truth about what really is happening in the city. You see, London isn't what it used to be. A terrorist attack poisons the city, killing a majority of the people there (just imagine the numbers) as the city is quarantined.

The setting is the the first thing that jumps out. I love the idea. I love that London has been quarantined, and the mystery surrounding it. The characters in the novel all wonder what really goes on in that poisoned city, and it sets up the mystery and suspense well.

This being a YA novel, the characters are the most important part of the novel. It is my opinion that all great YA novels have one thing in common: strong, likable characters. In the few works of Lebbon's that I have read, it usually took me a bit to warm up to the characters. LONDON EYE is no exception. For whatever reason I just couldn't make myself care too much about the teenagers. Jack, the main character, just didn't draw me in. Neither did his kid sister, or his girlfriend, Lucy Anne (who becomes ridiculously annoying in the last part of the novel). Two other friends round out the group, but I never really felt they mattered much.

Can you see why this is an issue to me? All of the characters are just...there. They are stuck reacting to every situation, and really never make any actual decisions on their own until the end of the book--literally, the very end. They begin making active decisions, and the book just ends. In a book that is so short, hardly anything happens. The teens go into the city, get attacked, meet a few of London's survivors, then the book ends. I wasn't left thinking about this book once I had finished it. I turned the last page, closed the book, and moved on to the next one. For me, this all comes down to the characters not holding my interest.

All this said, there is a lot to like in LONDON EYE. I've already mentioned the setting. Did I mention the paranormal elements? Yeah. See, this poison (or whatever it actually is) that caused untold numbers of people to to die also evolves a small number of humans. They develop powers that allow them to heal, seek out bloodlines, employ telekinesis, use voices as weapons, control animals...you name it, someone can do it. To go along with this is a group of people--Choppers--that hunt out these evolved survivors to capture and experiment on them. It's all very grim and horrific.

This leads me to my next criticism. I can't help but feel like Lebbon was holding back. He does the weird and horrible better than most authors. It is one of his greatest strengths as an author. In LONDON EYE it feels like he is just about to do something awesome...then remembers he is writing YA. The perception while reading is that Lebbon is worried about his ideas being too much for the readers. The novel is already for the upper end of YA--what the cool kids call New Adult--but it ends up in a sort of limbo. I do think that as Lebbon writes some more YA, he'll find his stride. I mean, he's freaking Tim Lebbon.

LONDON EYE, when you really look at the full body of work, feels like the first half of a novel. Right when things started to get interesting, the book ended. I was left wondering if my ARC was missing 150 pages. The setup is good, but by the time a sequel comes out, I worry that any small measure of interest I had in the characters will be lost. The setting and paranormal elements were enough to carry the story for me, but I feel like we are missing out on a huge amount of potential so far.

Will I read the sequel? Probably. I do want to see what happens next. I want to see Lebbon really grab this new type of novel (for him) by the horns. I trust Lebbon, so I'll give this series another chance. I just wish the "sequel" had been the second half of this novel so there was the tiniest bit of resolution.

Recommended Age: 15+.
Language: Fairly strong for a YA novel, but not frequent.
Violence: In some scenes, Lebbon goes absolutely crazy. He lets loose. Then in others he totally holds back. Inconsistently, insanely violent.
Sex: These are older teens in a dystopian future. They talk about sex, and have sex. Nothing detailed, but it's there.

Want to give this a shot? Here's the link:

LONDON EYE

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blue Remembered Earth

I was a little late to get on board with Alastair Reynolds. I only picked up a book of his two or so years ago, but once I found him he quickly became one of my favorite authors. He writes the type of book I love: big, grand space operas with vast ideas that can take place over thousands of years and span across galaxies.

Recently I’ve tried to get my dad to try Reynold’s books out. He kept asking me which book of his to start with. I honestly didn’t have an answer. It seemed like everything he had written (that I had read) had some great stuff in it. I enjoyed all of his books.

Sadly after reading BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH, I can tell him which book not to start with.

While BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH had some great moments and certainly showed that this series can become something really cool and special, this book sadly wasn’t up to the usual standards that I hold Reynolds too. Which isn’t to say it’s not a good book. It really is. It’s a lot of fun and would be a great book by some authors. But it’s not Reynolds best in my opinion.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon: One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…

Like I said earlier, the book is fun, and I really did have a good time reading it. It just didn’t hold up after the fact. You know what I mean? There are those books that you read and read and enjoy, but then after you’ve put it down, it kind of wanders out of your head. You don’t think about it much, it doesn’t leave a big impression on you. This is one of those books. It just didn’t stay. And even now looking back on it, I can see some really fun scenes and some big ideas, but that’s all it is, fun scenes. Not great characters for me, not a compelling story, just moments.

The weird thing about BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH is the end of it really did leave me wanting to read the next one. The book, in and of itself, didn’t blow me away but DID manage to set me up to where I’m anxious about reading the next in the series. With most authors I would be wary. I naturally ask myself, "Sure he set me up for some cool things to happen, but is he going to come through on those ideas?" Or, "Is the next book going to wow me where this one only showed the potential of wowing me?" I’ve read enough of Reynolds' work to believe that this book was just the slow set up to something big and amazing to come. I could look back on this book as the beginning of a great epic story.

Like I said, with someone of Reynolds caliber, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now, BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH falls right on the line of "Mediocre" and "Like", but good follow ups could make this the start of a fantastic series.

Age Recommendation: I dunno, 14+? 16+? There’s nothing really bad here, it’s just a bit complex and full of science explanatory stuff.
Language: Not much that I remember
Violence: Nothing to be upset about
Sex: I don’t remember any. Maybe referenced, but that’s about it.

Want to read it? Here is your link: BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH

Monday, October 1, 2012

Feedback

Did you read VARIANT by Robison Wells? If you answer, "Yes" then by all means read on. If you answer, "No" then STOP. Just stop. Go on Amazon and buy a copy, read it, and then you can come back to browse this review. VARIANT is one of the best YA books of 2011, far superior to the YA fiction behemoth that is THE HUNGER GAMES in my not-so-humble opinion. Now here is the highly anticipated sequel, FEEDBACK. I'm going to try and give away as few spoilers as possible but if you haven't read the first book please check out our review of VARIANT here instead of continuing on.

Here's the Amazon book description (if you find this spoilerish send them your hate mail): 

Benson Fisher escaped from Maxfield Academy's deadly rules and brutal gangs. The worst was over. Or so he thought. But now he's trapped on the other side of the wall, in a different kind of prison. A town filled with familiar faces. People from Maxfield who Benson had seen die. Friends he was afraid he had killed. They are all pawns in the school's twisted experiment, held captive and controlled by an unseen force. And while Benson struggles to figure out who, if anyone, can be trusted, he discovers that Maxfield Academy's plans are darker than anything he imagined—and they may be impossible to stop.

VARIANT was like a beautiful thriller conglomeration of THE HUNGER GAMES (the ideas not the execution), LORD OF THE FLIES, and the psychological horror/thriller film CUBE. It was streamlined and focused and creepy and brilliant. Reading it brought to mind the controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, and even bits of ENDER'S GAME. Too much name dropping? Probably, but you'll live. The point is that VARIANT kicked serious butt and because of this my expectations going into FEEDBACK were incredibly high. By now you've probably noticed I do this thing where I build up expectations that can't possibly be met.

FEEDBACK starts off right where VARIANT left off. Benson and Becky have escaped the Academy but are surrounded by miles of forest. They are actively being pursued and have no idea where to go or what to do when they get there. Becky is badly injured. And then Benson discovers that some friends he thought dead are actually very much alive.

The sense of mystery and paranoia that permeated life at Maxfield Academy in VARIANT was the most compelling aspect. Student life at Maxfield was this strange mixture of clashing gangs, constant surveillance, and paintball. Yeah, I said it. Paintball. Benson and Becky have escaped all this and made it to a town inhabited by friends they previously thought lost. So Benson and Becky trade one kind of prison for another. In FEEDBACK there are no bars, no rules, and no gangs. And that is largely where the problem is. This newly introduced town just comes across as a sort of limbo, much like that long and tedious camping section of that last Harry Potter book. There are no gangs but the town is divided into two factions: those dedicated to escaping and those who have resigned themselves to their fate. Unfortunately the faction dynamics aren't explored to a great degree. The psychological themes of VARIANT that I found so absorbing (the banality of evil) are mostly missing in FEEDBACK. There is however one scene that really struck a chord with me, a sort of trial by mob that carries the same dark weight as the first book.

The same could be said of the characters. I was already a fan of Benson. Yes, when this series gets made into a huge blockbuster movie you will likely catch me wearing a "Team Benson" t-shirt. Don't judge. Benson struck me as a great YA character. He's not overly angsty. He's not a vampire/werewolf. He takes charge of his own fate. He's a troublemaker and he wants to be free. He's still great in FEEDBACK but he gets another degree of depth as he tries to cope with the guilt and responsibility that comes with the consequences of the end of VARIANT. The rest of the cast falls a little flat though in the sequel. So many of the characters have returned from the first book that there just isn't enough time spent developing or examining relationships. Returning characters feel vaguely like strangers and new characters feel even more indistinct.

The good news is that readers will gets answers. The ending feels rushed (and a bit contrived) after so long spent hiding in the town but Wells does provide an answer to the big question. Some readers are bound to take the reveal better than others, and I'm sure some already suspect what it may be. Those who took the twist of VARIANT in stride will be fine. Those who didn't probably won't. I'm still considering the implications of the finale.

I'm disappointed and it's not even because FEEDBACK is a bad novel. It's not a bad novel. I recognize the things I love about the first book in it. Benson is a great character and I was very invested in how his story turned out. I love the thriller elements of this setting Wells has created. FEEDBACK needs more. More character development, more exploration of the themes, and more time spent on the conclusion. Additionally, the clarity of writing just wasn't as clear in the sequel as it was in the original. VARIANT proves that Wells has the talent for all of this, FEEDBACK is just lacking. Then again it could just be my expectations tainting things. Regardless, if you haven't read VARIANT and chose to disregard my initial warning GO BUY IT and then you can decide whether or not to read the sequel.

Recommended Age: 14+
Language: Very, very little. Almost none.
Violence: Yes, some...sci-fi violence and some more disturbing violence.
Sex: Nope.

Buy VARIANT here.
Buy FEEDBACK here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Chasing the Skip

One of the hardest things about being a reviewer is not letting yourself fall into a routine. By that, I mean only reading one type of book, or only reading books you are positive you are going to like. I think it is something most reviewers struggle with when we get sent a pile of novels to read. Hmm, do I choose the Steven Erikson epic...or a novel about fairies in historical London. For me, the choice would seem obvious--Erikson. However, I think it is healthy as a reviewer to read outside your comfort zone. Often times the results are astounding. Reading outside my comfort zone is how I discovered Marie Brennan (fairies in historical London) and Robert Jackson Bennett. It's how rediscovered that elves can be OK with James Barclay, and that YA can be entertaining.

A little while ago I was sent a review copy of Janci Patterson's debut YA novel, CHASING THE SKIP. Normally I would have given this novel directly to one of my reviewers who would be more in the target audience, but I decided it was time for me to read outside my comfort zone again. Why? Because I'm always trying to broaden my reading and become a better reviewer.

Guess what happened? I ended up enjoying the novel. As a reviewer, I love when I take a risk that is rewarded like this.

CHASING THE SKIP follows the PoV of Ricki, a teenage girl who is now stuck on the road with her estranged father. Oh, and her dad is a freaking bounty hunter. As an adult guy reading a book targeted at young females, this immediately gave me a character I could root for. I cannot overstate how important this is for a new author trying to gobble up as many readers as possible.

The novel picks up with Ricki's mother having left nearly a month earlier. Her mom does this from time to time. She just leaves. Ricki will go and stay with her grandmother, but she gets abandoned on a fairly regular basis. This time though it is a lot longer than usual. Enter Ricki's dad. He has virtually stayed out of his daughter's life until recently. Now, the two are on the road together as Ricki's father is on the tail of another "skip"--the term used for parole evaders. As this is a YA novel, it comes as no surprise when the new "skip" is a teenage boy. He's easy on the eyes and slightly mysterious.

I know what you are thinking. This really doesn't seem like the type of story I would normally enjoy. You're right, of course. So let me tell you exactly why I did end up enjoying this novel.

First, CHASING THE SKIP reads extremely fast. I read it in one sitting, before bed, without much effort. It was a nice, easy read that I never felt any desire to stop reading. I think this was because Patterson's writing was very smooth. The story is told in First Person, which helps the reader understand exactly how confused and conflicted Ricki is. This is essential in a novel like this. Additionally, the ease of reading the novel can easily be attributed to how focused it was. There is no wasted space in CHASING THE SKIP. Everything is done with reason and direction--something I feel many YA novels lack.

Ultimately, CHASING THE SKIP is about the relationship between a teenage girl and her father. I think this is why I liked this novel. To me, as a reviewer and reader, the characters are what make any novel work. The setting can be a tad "meh", and the plot can be familiar...but if the characters and their relationships are interesting, then I am able to sit back and enjoy what I am reading. Over the short space of this novel, we get to see tremendous character growth both with Ricki and her father. THAT is what kept me reading. THAT is what made me glad I read this novel.

Now, I'm not going to ruin the ending for you, but I will say that it all felt natural and in-character. It was a tense moment, and paced extremely well. As a father myself, I found the resolution of the father's character arc to be satisfying in every way, and oddly found that I was picturing Ricki in much the same way her father was.

I am not the target audience of CHASING THE SKIP. Not even close. But it is easy for me to recognize and well-written, well-paced YA novel with realistic and relatable characters. What does this tell me? If a guy so far removed from the target audience and be thoroughly entertained by CHASING THE SKIP, then all those YA readers out there are really going to love it. Janci Patterson's debut is well worth your time.

Recommended Age: 12+.
Language: Hardly any.
Violence: Some tense situations, but nothing crazy.
Sex: Nope. Some crude references, but this is a clean novel.


Are you a YA reader who wants a little less genre-fiction? Want to grab this novel? Here is your link:

CHASING THE SKIP

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Broken Universe

Do you guys know who Paul Melko is? No? Then let me introduce you. Paul Melko is great. He writes good, funny, quick-paced Science Fiction novels. I love them. There are times when I’m in the mood for some heavy Hard SF. There are times when I want Weird Fantasy. Then there are times when I want just a fun Science Fiction read that makes me smile as I read it. Paul Melko writes those.

THE BROKEN UNIVERSE is actually a sequel to his novel THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE which in turn was a novel length version of his Hugo nominated short fiction story (also called the "The Walls of the Universe"). Instead of just telling you what the THE BROKEN UNIVERSE is about, I’m also going to tell you the set up for THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE and why this is such a fun place to be in. In a way, this review will serve as a review for both novels.

THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE is a story about Johnny Rayburn. One day Johnny--who works on his parents' farm and is saving up for college--runs into himself. This is another John from another universe who has a device that can skip between universes. Trusting himself, Johnny uses the device to check out another universe. What can the harm be, he can always skip back right? Wrong. The device can only move the wearer forward to the next universe and not back to the previous one. The novel follows the two Johns. One who is trying to understand the device so he can get home and get revenge on being swindled of his life. And the other is an imposter John who starts to try and build a life in the (to him) new universe.

It’s a great book. The characters are fun and easy to relate to. The prose is neat and concise. It’s the type of book that you read and suddenly realize you’ve been reading it for a couple hours.

I won’t give away the ending to the THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE or much about THE BROKEN UNIVERSE. Let’s just say that the story escalates beyond what is happening to two Johnnys in this multiverse. There are powers at work and several factions that also know about skipping from one place to the next.

Both books are just plain fun. There’s a nice balance of big ideas and grand schemes mixed in with smaller human moments and actions. The solutions that are come up with in some cases aren’t brilliant mind bogglingly complex schemes, but rather simple elegant solutions that feel real.

Surprisingly the stuff I enjoyed most about the books were the small things, the relatable bits. I’m usually a sucker for a good space opera and weird stuff, but here I found myself wanting to read about these characters and how these ordinary people would deal with extraordinary circumstances.

THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE and THE BROKEN UNIVERSE are both great starter SF books (THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE was featured in our SF 101 post). If you know someone who wants to give the genre a shot this is as good a way to introduce it to them as any I’ve found. Read them yourself while you’re at it.

Age Recommendation: 14+ maybe. Things get a little more complicated and confusing in Broken Universe.
Violence: A few not very detailed scenes.
Language: A smattering of words, not much.
Sex: Referenced, and not much.


Here are your links to grab these:

THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSETHE BROKEN UNIVERSE

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flesh & Bone

Jonathan Maberry makes it all look so easy, doesn't he? Book after book is released with his name gracing the cover, and we all snatch them up greedily. Why? Because a Jonathan Maberry novel never disappoints.

FLESH & BONE is no different.

The third novel in the Benny Imura series continues a short time after the events of the second novel, DUST & DECAY. Before I go on, I should mention (in case you have yet to begin this fantastic series) that the Benny Imura series is YA following a small group of teenagers living in a world after the zombie apocalypse has happened. As the first novel, ROT & RUIN, closes, the group of teens sees a jumbo jet flying in the sky. This incident pushes them to go out into the wild to find it.

Like the previous novels, FLESH & BONE follows Benny Imura, Nix, Lilah and Chong. In my review of DUST & DECAY, I said that it felt like that novel was more like an alternate ending to the first book more than a true sequel. I enjoyed the novel, but I still wanted more. I wanted more details. I wanted to see more of the world. I wanted new and different dangers. FLESH & BONE does all of these things, and Maberry literally starts throwing them at you from the first page.

It turns out that in the Rot & Ruin (the name for the wilderness in this series), there is a strange death cult growing in numbers. They go from place to place, settlement to settlement, and...free...people from their existences.

Oh, and there are zombies out there. Lots and lots of zombies. And they are acting far different than usual.

The great thing about this novel, apart from the refreshing plot, is the emphasis on character growth and relationships. Each of these characters have been through a lot, and it isn't until this novel that they really begin to deal with the emotional fallout of the terrible experiences they've participated in. It really becomes a question of loss, and how these characters deal with it.

The villains of FLESH & BONE are very entertaining. To me, Maberry is fantastic at portraying each villain as a unique character with unique motivations. It would be easy, especially in a YA novel (as we've all seen so many times), to make the villains flat and boring. Many authors seem to think that villains in YA novels don't need to be fully developed, and don't develop them. Maberry's villains come to life on the page. Sure, sometimes they are a bit over-the-top, but they are always developed.

As for new characters...well, I can't say much without ruining the surprise. Let's just say one of the new characters introduced brings a whole different light to the series.

FLESH & BONE may actually be the darkest of the Benny Imura series. The toil on the characters is high, and Maberry doesn't pull punches when putting his characters in danger.

I've read a lot of YA lately, and still I find Jonathan Maberry's Benny Imura series sits towards the top of it all. His knack for writing action and character drama makes all his works highly entertaining.

Recommended Age: 13+.
Language: Hardly any.
Violence: Yup. Nothing insane, but some of the situations are pretty terrible.
Sex: Nope.


Here are your links. You should be reading this series:

ROT & RUIN
DUST & DECAY
FLESH & BONE

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In the Lion's Mouth

I'm just not getting it. Science Fiction. I hate the fact that I sometimes sound like a broken record, but there's just so little SF out there that I've read to prove me wrong that I just can't help but feel jaded. The up-side is that as long as it's well-written, I'm not going to rip into too much, because if there's one thing that is consistent and good about these books, it's the prose.

IN THE LION'S MOUTH by Michael Flynn is the third installment in his most recent space opera series featuring the inimitable Donovan Buigh.  I wasn't very keen on the second, UP JIM RIVER, but I decided that to be fair, I had better read the first, THE JANUARY DANCER, before diving into this one.  Unfortunately, I needn't have bothered, for I just found more of the same:  a beautifully-written story with a swiss cheese of a plot that ended with me asking, "What was the point of that?"

The story this time around is framed by an agent of the Shadow, Ravn Olafsdotter, and is relayed to Donovan's daughter, Mearana, and his sometime lover, the Hound Bridget Ban, by Ravn because Donovan has, for reasons known to Ravn, gone missing.  Mearana and Bridget are eager to find Donovan, and so they abide the Shadow's presence in their home, instead of instantly killing her as an enemy, and settle down to listen to Ravn's words.

Ravn spins a tale that is varied and complicated.  Told from the point of view of Donovan, instead of through Ravn's eyes (don't ask me how this works--Donovan already has so many people in his head though that it didn't bother me too much that Ravn was, technically, now another one).  Donovan has chosen to return to Commonwealth space, and finds a civil war brewing, in which he becomes somewhat involved.

Similar to JANUARY DANCER, none of the details of the story seem to matter, as the tale jumps from one setting to the next with little to no connection other than through the vague intricacies of the Shadows and Hounds, the two major powers, of known space.  In the end, it is not the story that matters, but the unknown motives of Ravn in telling the story in the first place.  In this way, IN THE LION'S MOUTH was very much like the other two books in the series.  This similar structure was what had led me to the same final question each time:

What was the point of that?

In this case, it seems to be to elicit a particular response from a person of interest.

And that's all.

Sorry, but I just can't get behind that.  Despite the awesome writing, despite the cool history and universe that Mr. Flynn has developed here, despite the way in which--for very small periods of time--he grabs my interest in full by the characters or the world or the events of the story (before, in my opinion, quickly throwing it all down the drain), I have come to the conclusion that this is all nothing more than what I've come to expect, in general, from Science Fiction.  If you, like me, would rather enjoy both the beginning, middle, and end of a story, would rather read about awesome characters and powerful stories, why don't you try some of the Science Fiction authors we love instead.  After this read, I'm definitely going to be heading back that direction.

Recommended Age: 16+, though you should probably recommend something they'll enjoy better
Language: Very little
Violence: Gets pretty gory in the various deaths described
Sex: A handful of references.

Interested in this series?  Find it here:

THE JANUARY DANCER

UP JIM RIVER

IN THE LION'S MOUTH

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hidden Things

I've been on a bit of an urban fantasy kick of late. So much of the genre is about gritty, inner city vampire staking that HIDDEN THINGS by Doyce Testerman registered to me as an original. HIDDEN THINGS isn't urban fantasy so much as a modern rural fairytale. It features folkloric fantasy creatures (dragons and satyrs instead of vampires and werewolves) and tells a moral story. I found this novel approach endearing and as a result I quite liked HIDDEN THINGS despite some flaws.

Calliope's partner has been declared dead. The police are investigating the matter and suspect foul play. Calliope knows little of the case Josh had been working but refuses to accept that he is gone for good...because she has a message on her answering machine from him that was taken two hours after his alleged demise. Now Calliope must travel to Iowa in search of answers with hopes of finding her ex-lover/best-friend/business-partner. The only clue she has is a warning, "Watch out for the hidden things."

Iowa! Surely nothing magical happens in Iowa! What a great setting for an urban fantasy novel! I love it. This isn't your typical, shades of gray, dreary detective story. This is a dustland fairytale, heartland noir of the Springsteen variety. And it mostly works. Because lets be honest, the genre needs a change of scenery. And with all that nothingness out there it seems completely reasonable that trolls and goblins could hide from the information age. It's a sly use of setting and I'd love to give Testerman a high-five for taking advantage of the Mid West.

Calliope Jenkins is an almost immediately likable protagonist. How could you not be with a name like Calliope? She is one badass chick. A disagreeable and scathingly sarcastic female private investigator with confrontation issues. What's not to love? So Calli can be a bit prickly on the outside but she's no Amazonian on a warpath. She is very human. HIDDEN THINGS is filled with brief flashbacks that fill out the details of Calli's past, particularly her relationship with Josh. In any other book the surplus of flashbacks could have been too much but here it works. Her's is a sad past and Josh's even more so. The relationship between the two of them is convincing.

Calliope's guide and companion on her journey to the Hidden Lands is none other than a hobo demon clown. Yeah, you read that right. Vikous might just win an award for Most Sympathetic Creepy Clown in the history of literature. The relationship between Calli and Vikous starts off on rocky ground (poor, poor Vikous) but grows into an unexpected bond.

Vikous is but one example of the monsters that hide amongst us in plain sight. Much that once was is now lost, as Vikous says, "...there's nothing magical in this world anymore - that's the nature of the people who control it." What magic is left is all about knowing how the world goes together, what pieces fit where, and how to rearrange it a bit. Calliope takes all the supernatural stuff like a champ. On one hand this is great. Readers don't have to endure a lengthy denial period, rolling their eyes the whole time as the protagonist struggles to comprehend the nature of the world they really live in. On the other hand she almost seems a little too accepting given some of the awesome and terrible things she experiences.

This leads to another of the few problems I had with HIDDEN THINGS - there's not enough exploration of the fantastical elements. There is a Stephen King influence to this story, but a more streamlined and less pretentious Stephen King. Testerman tells a tale in 300 pages that would have taken King 1000 pages (and a completely unsatisfactory ending) to tell. And for the most part I applaud the economy of prose. The problem is that there is enough material here to fill out a much longer story and delve into some of the deeper details that are underdeveloped. Some of characters (Walker for example) and concepts need more and the story is engaging enough that Testerman could have easily pulled off extra exposition. My last complaint is that as subtly creepy and satisfying as the last chapter is, after reading the epilogue I couldn't help but feel that Calliope hadn't solved the case so much as come upon the answer. For a fan of detective fiction this was a bit of a bummer.

Then again, maybe HIDDEN THINGS isn't so much about the fantastical. The human element is the driving force of the story. You could cut out the magic and still have a powerful story about maturing and relationships and change. HIDDEN THINGS is a modern day fairytale, complete with a moral message that I won't spoil for you. I'm glad I read HIDDEN THINGS and I would like to see Testerman return to Calliope and Vikous in the future.

Recommended Age: 15+
Language: There is cursing, not overdone per se, but there are F-bombs.
Violence: There's a little bit but nothing gruesome.
Sex: Nope, just a little bit of innuendo.

Want it? Get it here.

I would recommend listening to the album “Rise Ye Sunken Ships” by We Are Augustines or “Sam’s Town” by The Killers to get in the mood while reading this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Isis Collar

Celia's life hasn't been easy since she was turned into an abomination in BLOOD SONG--not quite human, but not quite vampire, either. At the same time her siren abilities manifested, giving her supernatural skills she only wished she had in a profession (bodyguard) that needs all the advantages she can get.

Be careful what you wish for.

THE ISIS COLLAR starts out with a bomb at an elementary school. Someone really despicable wants to cause a pandemic with a magical necrosis that essentially turns people into zombies. Despite a tip-off, Celia couldn't stop the bomb and is infected, but her vampire side is having trouble beating the infection. It becomes a race against time to find the source of the bomb and an antidote--for herself and for those even less resistant to the disease.

Like before, Celia is a great protagonist with the right amount of attitude and kick-butt skills, who's still a girlie at heart. I enjoyed Celia's romantic entanglements that she can't seem to resolve through no fault of her own. She attracts these men not because she's a fair maid in danger, but because she's a good person trying to do the right thing, who takes her friendships seriously, and is the kind of woman you want fighting in your corner. However, by this point in the series the cast is a little unwieldy. There are new characters with ties to people Celia knows, there are several people from previous books, and even more with back story--all of this would make new readers feel lost.

For some reason Tor never sent DEMON SONG (boo! And I wanted to read it!), although they sent the first two in the series, BLOOD SONG and SIREN SONG . Either way THE ISIS COLLAR is a bit of a letdown after the clean writing of books 1 and 2. We're caught in subplots carried over from previous books that interfere with the pacing. There are also some seemingly random events that matter later in the story, but aren't explainable and still feel random. Heck, we don't even know what the Isis Collar is until the last quarter of the book and it's the title! Adams tries to tie everything together, but the novel still felt like a random sequence of events, making the pacing a little off, even if there was consistent forward movement.

It's less the plot than it's the characters and the setting that will keep readers hooked. It's a world of vampires, sirens, mages, witches, demons, and everything in between. It's a world that's familiar to us and yet very, very different. Adams adds fun details to this world, such as the Isaac's store, where Celia gets her gear altered to hide her guns, but to also purchase magic charms, a special brand of spray holy water, and anything else a girl would need to defend herself from the supernatural.

If you liked the previous books, ISIS is more of the same: same Celia and friends, same pacing and exciting storyline. If you haven't read any, start with BLOOD SONG. As for the series, despite its flaws, its interesting characters and engaging setting is what will keep me reading in the future.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: A handful of harsher language, but still average for Urban Fantasy
Violence: Plenty of danger from bombs, demons, witches--with the zombie descriptions being the grossest part of the book
Sex: Innuendo and references without detail

The books in The Blood Singer Series:
BLOOD SONG
SIREN SONG
DEMON SONG
THE ISIS COLLAR

Monday, September 10, 2012

Endurance

I like being proven wrong. Well, let my qualify that statement, because I hate being told that I'm wrong.  I do, however, enjoy being surprised by finding out for myself that something is not the way that I thought it was. After reading several short stories and a novel by Mr. Lake, I'd pretty much written him off as someone that I wouldn't enjoy reading any more of.  So having this book land in my pile was an interesting experience to say the least.  As with my most recent foray into Science Fiction, I of course felt obligated to read the first book in the series before I read this one. 
ENDURANCE is the second book in the "Green Universe" authored by the prolific Jay Lake.  I had previously read the first book in his "Mainspring Universe", MAINSPRING, and was less than enthused by what I found.  In essence, great writing, interesting characters, a decent--if slightly wandering--plot, with a horrible lack of an ending.  It is a tribute to Mr. Lake's prose and storytelling ability that he made me forget about that final point when I dove into GREEN and subsequently with ENDURANCE.

The main character of both novels is Green.  Her tale begins as she is sold at a very young age by her father to a foreign man from far across the sea.  She knows neither why her father has sold her, nor where she is bound--only that she doesn't want to leave her home, her family, or her Ox, Endurance.

Catch that reference?  Uh huh.  So did I.  Don't worry about it too much though, as it didn't make very much difference.

GREEN covers the tale of her life as she grows from youth to young woman within the confines of the Pomegranate Court where she is being groomed to be a trophy wife for the nobility of the cities of the Stone Coast.  The abusive teaching methods of her instructors, and her secondary, more lethal Pardine (cat-woman) instructor, mold Green into a woman that is both proper and deadly.  A wicked combination that some would like to exploit.  I loved the book right up until the end, when it took a serious turn into left field.  On Amazon, I found a wide array of reviews all across the board.  After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that the book was amazing, but lacked any kind of foreshadowing to support the ending.  I didn't necessarily hate what happened.  It was seriously just unexpected.  Despite the title of the second book.

ENDURANCE picks up pretty quickly from the end of GREEN, and deals with several of the political entities that Green interacted with in the first book as they converge upon her at the same time for reasons unknown.  Where GREEN was very intimately structured around Green and her life and growth, ENDURANCE becomes very wrapped up in how all these other various parties influence her choices.  She also has to deal with the consequences of several of the choices she made in the previous story.  One of those choices, has to do with her Ox, Endurance.

This was perhaps one of the facets of the story that I most enjoyed.  Seeing direct consequence to Green's ignorant and/or poor choices impact her life in this book solidified her character for me. Lake does a really good job with Green's character and the way that she interacts with the world around her.  It's so easy to get caught up in this story, and indeed that happened very easily for me.

It wasn't until I finished the book and stepped back that I got annoyed.  Because after all this story, do you want to guess what happened at the end?  Yup.  Big fat orange right over the first baseman's head. Another big "boo" from left field.  I was seriously annoyed. Again? Really? Argh! How am I supposed to like a book that doesn't have a decent ending? If the whole book is bogus, okay, fine. I'm not expecting anything amazing. But good book + a wth ending? How am I supposed to respond to that?  Reminded me of the frustration I had at the ending of PERDIDO STREET STATION by MiĆ©ville.  Then again, maybe I'm just jaded.  Fool me once, and all that jazz.

Reading these books has given me one thing though:  a realization that Mr. Lake is getting better.  I mean, he moved from the total lack of any ending at all to an ending that I completely didn't expect or understand.  The sad thing is that he has everything else that a great fantasy novelist needs!  So many ideas and skills to weave these tales that readers like me love to read.  If you can enjoy a book with a poor ending, seriously pick this one up.  If you're more of a reader like me, I'd give the guy another few passes or so.  He'll get it eventually.  Well, hopefully.  I really hope he does because this guy could be one of the greats.

Recommended Age: 18+ (GREEN), 14+ (ENDURANCE)
Language: Very little, but pretty strong at times
Violence: Physical violence, but relatively little blood or gore
Sex: A few strong scenes and references (GREEN) and a few references (ENDURANCE)

Interested?  Take a trip to Lake's Green-land:
GREEN
ENDURANCE

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Dusk Watchman

Oh man. I don't even hardly know where to begin. It seems like only yesterday that Pyr's Lou Anders was talking up this new series he had acquired. It all started with Tom Lloyd's THE STORMCALLER, and Lou Anders was telling everyone who would listen that it was the start of a series that would please all those rabid Steven Erikson fans. Being one of those Erikson fans myself, I was intrigued. I personally picked it up based solely on Anders' description.

Fast-forward several years later, and here we are with the fifth and final novel in The Twilight Reign. THE DUSK WATCHMAN. I had the privilege of reading this novel quite a while ago, and it's been absolute agony not having anyone to talk with about it. I was going to wait for the US release of the novel to write up this review, but I just can't do it. Not enough willpower.

I'm just too dang excited to tell you what I think of this novel, and the series as a whole.

THE DUSK WATCHMAN was incredible. Absolutely stunning. One of the best Fantasy novels I've read.

It's extremely hard to write a review like this. I just want to keep screaming out that the novel is awesome over and over again. I mean, what else do I need to say? Just buy the freaking book! The whole series! Get it for family, friends and strangers! Most importantly, send me the UK versions of books 4 and 5 so I have a matching set!

Then I take a deep breath, and let the reviewer take over.

THE DUSK WATCHMAN takes place right after the carnage of book 4, THE RAGGED MAN. I really, really want to talk about that ending, because it plays heavily into the motivations of Isak, Vesna, Emin and the rest, but that would be spoiling both novels. Instead, lets talk a bit about the themes of THE DUSK WATCHMAN, and the overall feel of it.

First, THE DUSK WATCHMAN deals with consequences. The cast of the series has put themselves on the line countless times, and they've sacrificed literally everything to stop the evil which is now present in the world. And guess what? It hasn't been enough. All that sacrifice. All that pain. All that anguish. It's barely kept The Land afloat. To get a little bit into the plot of the novel (without spoiling any of the surprise), our heroes discover further hints as to a weapon that could potentially alter the downward spiral of the world.

That's all the characters of THE DUSK WATCHMAN have. Hope.

This is a very bleak novel. Every character has been shattered in either their body or mind--or sometimes both. And even with all the death and destruction--and yes, even MORE sacrifice--there is that tiny, delicate thread of hope that has somehow been woven into the novel. If there is one thing that I can point at with Tom Lloyd's progressing work, it is his ability to successfully weave a variety of contradicting emotions into his novels. Every time you read a section with Isak, you will feel this. Every time you read a section from Vesna, you will feel this. All I can do is applaud the author for such a deft handling of heavy material.

In my review of THE RAGGED MAN, I asked for some more variety in the locations the readers would visit. Lloyd did it. He gave me exactly what I wanted, and I loved it. You want details? Too bad. Go buy the novel and read those details for yourself.

The ending. Wow. Just...wow. This isn't just an ending for a novel. This is the ending for an entire series. When an author begins a series, he makes a promise. This promise usually goes unfulfilled. I've read so many series that fail at this critical junction. The endings fall flat, or characters do stupid things so the plot can progress...or we don't even get the final book at all. I've read very few finale novels where the ending made the entire series completely worth it.

THE DUSK WATCHMAN has one of the most insane, awesome endings of any series I've read...and then the Epilogue completely makes you rethink EVERYTHING.  It's the type of ending that you read two or three times, not because it isn't clear, but because it is sooooooo good. Again, it is equally heart-wrenching and triumphant. The last time I felt this satisfied by a series finale was when I read Erikson's THE CRIPPLED GOD.

I suppose that the best compliment I can give Tom Lloyd is that I was 100% impressed by THE DUSK WATCHMAN. He scratched every itch I had, and even a few I didn't know existed. I hesitate to use the word "perfect"...but I'm just so blown away by how this all came together. Is there another word? Stunning? Exceptional? Pick one, and it will likely be true.

I'll just say this: THE DUSK WATCHMAN not only is the best novel in Tom Lloyd's The Twilight Reign, but it masterfully serves as a capstone to one of the most entertaining and enjoyable fantasy series I've ever read. Every fan of Steven Erikson should be reading Tom Lloyd's The Twilight Reign.

Recommended Age: 17+
Language: The characters don't shy away from swearing. It can be pretty strong at times.
Violence: Crazy, crazy violent. But as usual, Lloyd handles it in such a way that it never feels like shock-value.
Sex: I don't remember anything explicit, but there are references.

The US release date for THE DUSK WATCHMAN seems to be November, but it seems fuzzy. Hopefully this means we'll see it then, or maybe (fingers crossed!) a tad earlier. If for some reason you haven't started this series, you need to drop everything and give it a go. The opening novel, like Erikson's work, has a steep learning-curve...but it is worth it. Here are your links to the full series:


THE STORMCALLER
THE TWILIGHT HERALD
THE GRAVE THIEF
THE RAGGED MAN
THE DUSK WATCHMAN

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monster Hunter Legion

It's that time of the year again folks. That magical time signaling the announce of another book release from the reigning champion of urban fantasy. May I humbly present to you MONSTER HUNTER LEGION, fourth book of the New York Times Best-Selling series written by pulp fiction juggernaut Larry Correia.

Disclaimer: Larry Correia is my favorite author. I am a Monster Hunter/Grimnoir Chronicles fanboy. This does not, however, mean that I will ever give Larry a free pass when it comes to a review. I am a critic first and foremost and I do not believe in coddling authors. That said, MONSTER HUNTER LEGION is Larry's most flawless book to date. Not my favorite of his novels, mind you, but certainly the most complete and substantial.

Hunters from around the world travel to Las Vegas for the first ever monster eradication conference. Not long into the conference a World War II weapon experiment awakes in the desert and goes on a rampage, spurring a race amongst the international hunting community to bag this rare monster. There is trouble brewing and it will be up to Owen Zastava Pitt and his co-workers at Monster Hunter International to prevent a nightmare creature from turning Sin City into hell.

Book four of the Monster Hunter series and going strong. After a brief stint with Earl Harbinger in Northern Michigan during MONSTER HUNTER ALPHA I was pleased to be back under the narration of Owen Pitt, combat accountant. First person narrative requires a strong personality to succeed and I had forgotten just how lovable Owen is. Only Owen could be set loose in Las Vegas with tons of cash and end up at a buffet. The first ever monster hunting conference provides an excellent opportunity to really expand the hunting community. We haven't really seen a lot of competition from rival companies so far in the series, and that makes a large gathering of them that much cooler. Owen turns out to be a bit of a celebrity among the crowd, being the God Slayer and all, and a very disturbing pattern starts to emerge when the hunters start comparing notes...Something very, very bad is on the horizon. Something worse than anything our heroes have faced to date.

The pacing doesn't skip a bit. MONSTER HUNTER LEGION starts out slow but strong. Readers are introduced to new allies and new enemies, including the extremely creepy Mr Stricken. It would appear that there are some government organizations worse than the Monster Control Bureau and Special Task Force Unicorn is one of them. With our own government playing hardball and an impending war of supernatural proportions inching ever closer, the tension is palpable. Whereas the other books in the series give off a more action-oriented vibe, MONSTER HUNTER LEGION just oozes menace. This is a horror novel through and through. It is just a horror novel where the horny college kids are replaced by heavily armed professionals.

The characters are the best you'll find in the urban fantasy genre or any other. Owen is the very essence of restrained violence with an incredibly dysfunctional family, and yet he is an impossibly upbeat man. No lame anti-heroes here. The things Owen says are frequently funny (there is a ton of humor to balance out all the terror of this book) and his can-do attitude is only tempered by his extraordinary ability to inflict pain on the undead and unnatural. Then we have Owen's wife, Julie, who is living with the ever present threat of her curse. This go-around we don't get a lot of Earl or Agent Franks but that's fine because Earl just had his own novel and the Agent Franks novel is on the way. Skippy and Edward get plenty of stage time. The MHI crew is also joined by Tanya, the trailer park elf. Trip, Holly, and Owen's brother Mosh get some extra depth, which I felt was a nice touch. Throw in a bunch of professional monster hunters from overseas and you have a pretty rockin' party.

Then there are the villains. I already touched on Mr Stricken, the strange and vile fellow that makes Agent Myers and Agent Franks look like Boy Scouts. I am eager to learn more about Stricken and Special Task Force Unicorn in future entries. I love that the main villain of each book is so completely different. One of Larry's specialties (because he has quite a few) is writing sympathetic bad guys. They may be completely evil, or even lesser degrees of evil, but he always makes them possible to relate to. No mustache-twirling ne'er-do-wells here. The villain this time around has a tragic story from a dark time in American history. At the same time, that doesn't make the baddie any less dangerous. The Big Bad this time is pretty awful, while still only being a precursor for what is to come. And if Owen's past opponents are any indicator the war humanity is facing will not be pretty.

When it comes to Correia novels I save describing the action for the end. Larry is the gold standard when it comes to writing action. I have even recommended that publishers slap a Larry Correia Seal of Approval on books that meet the necessary action requirements. The thing is, the man knows his guns. He knows how to orchestrate beautiful battles with explosions that would make Michael Bay weep. As I mentioned earlier, MONSTER HUNTER LEGION is a little more subdued than its predecessors. This time around the steady build of tension is the primary thrilling factor but you better believe that when the finale comes around it is pure adrenaline overdrive.

Larry Correia is sort of like Raymond Chandler meets H.P. Lovecraft with a fully automatic shotgun. If all the literary snobs want to get together and declare his novels to be pulp then fine, Larry is the King of Pulp. MONSTER HUNTER LEGION is a superb continuation of the series, not the man's best novel to date but easily his most solid. If you have read his books before then you are just reading this review to humor me - you've already ordered this book. If you haven't read any Correia yet and you wonder what Twilight would have been like if Bella's dad had brought out the twelve gauge and plugged Edward the glittery vampire, then this is the series for you.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: More than I remember from the rest of the series but it's not overabundant.
Violence: Hah! Hahaha! Are you kidding me? This is the man that INVENTED violence.
Sex: Nada.

Want it? Of course you do. While you are at it, grab the first three novels in one handy (and heavy) omnibus. You know, so your set matches.

THE MONSTER HUNTERS
MONSTER HUNTER LEGION.