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2009 book log

Book Log

One last 2009 ebook bonanza

As 2009 leaves us I wanted to get in one last gasp of ebooky goodness on the Fictionwise sale, so I’ve done a slew of buying tonight off of Fictionwise! And for the sake of thoroughness, I shall also count the books I’ve picked up courtesy of the shiny gift card that gave me for Christmas:

  • Pandemonium, by Daryl Gregory; fantasy
  • The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, by Jennifer Ashley; romance
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig; mystery
  • The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, by Galen Beckett; fantasy
  • Fall of Light, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; fantasy
  • Consequences of Sin, by Clare Langley-Hawthorne; mystery, re-buy
  • Wicked Game, by Jeri Smith-Ready; urban fantasy, re-buy
  • Bad to the Bone, by Jeri Smith-Ready; urban fantasy
  • The Silver Wolf, by Alice Borchardt; fantasy, re-buy
  • Code of Conduct, by Kristine Smith; SF, re-buy
  • Skinwalker, by Faith Hunter; urban fantasy
  • Matters of the Blood, by Maria Lima; urban fantasy
  • Amazon Ink, by Lori Devoti; urban fantasy
  • Madhouse, by Rob Thurman; urban fantasy
  • Unleashed, by John Levitt; urban fantasy
  • The Family Tree, by Sheri S. Tepper; urban fantasy
  • Deathwish, by Rob Thurman; urban fantasy
  • Ghost Whisperer: Revenge, by Doranna Durgin; fantasy, media tie-in

The official final grand tally of books purchased by me in 2009 is therefore 210!

And for the record, the official tally of books READ by me in 2009 is 108. I am not caught up on book reviews but I will be writing the rest of them over this weekend and getting those posted for you all before I start the 2010 book log.

Hee, and adds that the official tally of books PUBLISHED by me is two! Here’s to 2010 adding to that tally. It’s been a great year for books, folks. Here’s to me beating all of these records in 2010.

Book Log

Book Log #101: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

It was pretty much inevitable that, after loving Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as much as I did, I’d have to check out Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the followup offering by the same press. In a nutshell: not as fun for me as P&P&Z, although it did still have its redeeming qualities.

I’ll say right out that unlike Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility never seized my attention nearly so much–in no small part because S&S didn’t have the absolutely amazing A&E adaptation to recommend it. (Mmm, Colin Firth as Darcy!) I do actually own a copy of S&S, but I didn’t remember a thing about it. So I went into Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters not knowing at all what to expect. Aside from, well, sea monsters.

This is a Britain where for reasons that are never revealed, all aquatic life in the world has suddenly turned seethingly hostile to humanity. Humanity has had to respond accordingly by altering social customs to place high value upon swimming, sailing, fishing, and any other skill that will improve one’s chances against oceangoing menance. In this setting, we have the Dashwood sisters exiled from their childhood home (as per the original) and embarking upon adventures involving monsters, pirates, a suitor cursed with slimy tentacles growing on his chin, and mysterious natives chanting prayers to unspeakable creatures of the deep (not really as per the original at all). There’s even a bit of steampunky interest when the sisters visit Sub-Marine Station Beta.

All of which are fun elements to throw into a story, but for me, they just didn’t mesh nearly as seamlessly as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies did. There are moments of humor–and I will give this book props for never descending into blatant sexual innuendo or jokes about bodily functions, which was P&P&Z’s one failing.

But it never quite got to the point of unrepentantly sailing past stupid and all the way into “awesome”, I fear. That said? “That was pretty neat” is still not bad at all. Three stars.

Book Log

Book Log #100: Confessions of the Creature, by Gary Inbinder

It’s a challenge and a half to try to write a sequel to no less august a book than Frankenstein, and for that alone, I must give my fellow Drollerie author Gary Inbinder props. I’m also pleased to say that although there were parts of the book that didn’t work as much for me, by and large, I feel he did an excellent job at his appointed task!

The opening of the book does ask you to accept the idea that sorcery of a kind exists in the Frankenstein universe, since the entire plot only gets underway when the monster, fresh from killing his creator, is taken in by an old Russian witch. In repayment for his working for her, she grants him his greatest wish: to be human and to be able to have a real life of his own. If you’re used to the version of the Frankenstein story more popularly depicted in the movies, the presence of magic may be jarring; however, my spouse pointed out quite correctly that the original story does heavily pursue the idea that Victor Frankenstein was dabbling as much in black magic as he was forbidden science in creating his monster. So it’s not too much of a stretch for me to allow for actual magic existing in this world.

But. This is really only the start of the plot, and the greatest portion of it by far is taken up by the creature–now calling himself Viktor Viktorovich–not only winning himself a life and a family in Russia, but achieving a meteoric rise to power. In fact, the vast majority of the plot is taken up with his participation in the wars against Napoleon. For me as a reader this had quite a bit of interest, but the real heart of the story doesn’t come until the final third, when the truth of Viktor’s origins begins to come back to haunt him.

And this is also where the story ultimately let me down a bit, since I was expecting more creepiness than I actually got, and one plot device in particular that was used as part of Frankenstein’s backstory struck me as quite unnecessary. But that said, overall I did find this a gripping read, and it’s worth checking out if you liked the original. Four stars.

Book Log

Book Log #99: Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead, by Steve Perry

I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan. To the tune of Raiders of the Lost Ark remaining my all-time favorite movie ever, and collecting every one of the novels I could get my hands on. I even went to go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull twice.

So this should give you the proper context when I say that I really, really wanted to like Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead. It combines two of my favorite things: Indy and zombies! Plus, it’s a story that’s set during World War II and which included Mac, the character we saw in Crystal Skull. So, cool, I thought, we can get a glimpse into what actually happened to Indy during World War II, which was one of the interesting little side details about the movie.

The big problem is, the character occupying the lead role of this story is not the Indiana Jones I know and love. He’s too prone to bursting into dry, didactic lectures, a habit we never once saw him have in any of the movies, including the last one. This character failure alone distracted me a lot from the story, and made it difficult for me to enjoy some of the other aspects of this version of Indy that I did like–for example, since this is an Indy up in his 40’s, it did seem reasonable to me that he was starting to get sensitive about his age and yet was still quite capable of being charmed by, and charming to, the young female lead.

A similar lack of character development pretty much plagued the bad guys as well, for the most part: the German and Japanese commanders. Since this is a WWII setting, it’s pretty much inevitable that we’d have Japanese forces involved along with the Nazis, and to be fair, this does add a bit of nice variety. And there’s quite a bit of plotting and counter-plotting between the two commanders as they both try to catch up with Indy and Mac to get the final MacGuffin. But none of it had quite the punch it should have had for me, and only occasionally did either of the commanders ever seem like real characters. They definitely paled in comparison to the actual primary bad guy: the voodoo sorcerer who was controlling the zombies.

And I will say that okay, sure, the zombie part of the plot was entertaining enough. But on the whole the story didn’t feel enough like a proper Indiana Jones story to me–because Indy just didn’t feel enough like Indy. Two stars.

Book Log

Book Log #98: Undone, by Rachel Caine

Undone is the first of ‘s new series Outcast Season, the offshoot from the Weather Warden books, and as series starters go it’s not bad. We’re introduced to Cassiel, a djinn who’s forced into human shape–and, as a result, forced to work with the Wardens on whose power she depends to keep herself alive. But when the Warden assigned to work with her is killed along with his wife, she must turn to his brother instead to track down their killers. And all the while she has to cope with the unwelcome side effects of prolonged incarnation in human form.

The story’s not without flaws, most of which are repeatedly played too heavily: how much Cassiel hates being human, the cute child insisting on calling her Cassie despite being told repeatedly that she prefers to be called Cassiel, how the Wardens keep assuming that if something goes wrong it’s clearly Cassiel’s fault, how Cassiel being incarnated into human form is part of a Greater Plan(TM). Taken individually, none of these quibbles are too bad, but as a whole, for me as a reader, I could have liked all of them toned down just a tad.

Also: the token appearance of David and Jo at the very beginning of the story honestly detracted from the rest of the story for me, and it really felt like a question of “let’s put them in here just to prove to the reader that this is the same universe as Jo’s stories”, since David and Jo didn’t really provide any other plot relevance to the story–and we’re not even told why Cassiel, incarnated into human shape, is dumped on David and Jo to begin with. Lewis has far more pertinent reason to show up at the beginning, since he’s the one that lays it out to Cassiel how it’ll have to go if she expects the Wardens to work with her. But much as I’ve enjoyed David and Jo’s story over in the Weather Warden books, they just didn’t need to be in this one.

All this said? There’s still a good solid story here. I liked the edgy interaction between Cassiel and Luis, still very much too edgy to be a proper romance yet, and hopefully it’ll be a relationship that takes a while to develop. The Big Bad of the story intrigued me, as did the backstory there between the Big Bad and Cassiel herself. And yeah, I’ll be checking out Book Two. For this one, three stars.

Book Log

Book Log #97: Rot, by Michele Lee

Michele Lee delivers a compact little horror story in Rot, a novella that goes into the ramifications of people in society being able to bring back loved ones from the dead–only in this case, rather than true resurrection, it’s the capturing of a living spirit inside an otherwise still-dead body. Yes, folks, this is a zombie story, but one where the zombies retain sentience for as long as their bodies retain enough physical cohesion for their brains to work.

And this opens up a host of unhappy results as nursing homes for the undead crop up as locations to dump your resurrected zombie loved ones when you no longer want them. Not to mention the myriad unpleasant excuses for reviving your loved ones to begin with, such as Patrick, a gay young man who’s brought back by his fundamentalist Christian parents who promise to put him back in his grave if he’ll “repent”.

With this as a background, the story’s protagonist, Dean, a watchman at one of these zombie retirement homes, discovers that certain ones of the residents are going unaccounted for–and as he’s moved to investigate, he discovers that these zombies, already rendered pretty much non-people by the sad circumstances of their existence, are helpless prey for even darker motivations than the ones that put them there to start with.

What circumstances give society the ability to create zombies is only glossed over, but really, that’s fine; this story is short enough that that really doesn’t need to be explained in depth. The focus is where it rightfully belongs, on Dean, on Patrick, and upon Amy, who is the latest of the zombies in the facility to go missing. Dean must bring himself to trust Patrick enough to take him out of the facility with him as he tracks Amy down, and the dynamic between the two is very nicely done indeed.

All in all, it’s a tight little tale and worth checking out. Four stars.

Book Log

Book Log #96: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

I haven’t read every single thing Cherie Priest has published quite yet, but I love me some Eden Moore novels, and I have a healthy respect for Fathom. But those other books? They’re just going to have to stand aside and make way for Boneshaker, because I mean, DAMN.

It’s got everything: alternate history! Steampunky mad science! 1880’s Seattle! Airships! Air pirates! A plucky young lad and his fierce and fearsome mother! And, which is what really pushed it over the top for me, zombies! What’s not to love?

Boneshaker is set in an alternate timeline where the Civil War has dragged out for an extra fifteen years and where the Klondike Gold Rush came early, spurring an earlier settlement of the Pacific Northwest–and a Russian-sponsored contest to build a mining machine capable of digging into the frozen ice of the north for gold. Dr. Leviticus Blue and his Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine would have had the contest in the bag. But his machine went horribly awry, destroying much of downtown Seattle. And to add horrific insult to already dire injury, the Boneshaker dug deep into the earth and unleashed the Blight gas that turned its victims into shambling undead.

Now it’s sixteen years later. Those who escaped the devastation of Seattle have erected a two-hundred-foot wall around its remains to keep in not only the undead victims of the Blight, but the continuing rising of the gas itself. Blue’s widow Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel are among those settled in the Outskirts around the wall, until Zeke gets it into his head to penetrate the city in search of evidence to clear his father’s infamous name. He is trapped within by an earthquake, and Briar must go in to save him.

I had a few quibbles with certain bits of pacing, but honestly? They’re small enough quibbles that I just didn’t care. Briar was too much fun as a heroine, cut from the same tough-mother cloth as Sarah Connor, only with a quieter, less desperate strength to her, and she was a lovely complement to the innocence and intrinsic bravery and goodness of her son. Many of the characters they meet within the Wall are equally memorable: Lucy the one-armed barmaid, whose single arm is mechanical; Jeremiah Swakhammer, clad in the best badassed armor a steampunk hero could ask for and armed with the best badassed zombie-stunning gun; and, of course, the mysterious Dr. Minnericht, who is said to be responsible for much of what holds what’s left of Seattle together and who is deeply feared nonetheless.

Moreoever, as a Seattle resident, I had great fun reading Priest’s descriptions of this alternate downtown Seattle. I walk these streets on a daily basis, and what really sold me on the realism was the mentions of the sidewalk letter markers to tell you what street you’re on. With that kind of detail, I kept catching myself looking out for “rotters” on my way home from work. More importantly, I burned through this book as fast as I possibly could and am quite anxious for a sequel! Five stars.