Browsing Tag

2012 book log

Book Log

2012 Book Log #9: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm, by Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick

Richard Castle's Deadly Storm: A Derrick Storm Mystery (Derrick Storm, #1)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As any good fan of the TV show Castle knows, Nikki Heat is by no means Richard Castle’s first famous character. The show starts off with his concluding his long-running Derrick Storm series, and the particular explosive ending he gives those books is a nice little character development point for Castle since it leads right into why he tags along with the NYPD. And given the success of the Nikki Heat tie-in novels, it was pretty much inevitable that additional material involving Derrick Storm would be eventually made available to us fans. This time around, though, they’ve elected to give us a graphic novelization of the “first Derrick Storm novel”.

It’s a clever choice, and certainly provides some nice variety for the Castle tie-in material as well as general versimilitude–since quite a few well-known authors in SF have graphic novelizations of their work going, such as Jim Butcher and Richelle Mead. But the important question is, as a graphic novel, does Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm work?

Art-wise, it will probably surprise no one who glances through this work that Derrick Storm comes out looking suspiciously Nathan-Fillion-esque. Other than that, I vacillated between quite liking several panels and being indifferent to several others, so I ultimately came out uncertain if I liked the art style. Story-wise, I was definitely ambivalent. It read like a truncated version of a meatier story–certainly, given the overall style of the Nikki Heat novels, this seemed much jerkier of pacing by comparison. And while this might only add to the versimilitude of a “graphic novel adaptation”, it nonetheless left me wishing I’d actually gotten a novel version of this story instead.

All in all if you’re enough of a Castle fan to be a completist, you might want to pick this up. Otherwise, for now, the Nikki Heat novels are actually more amusing. Two stars.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #8: Those Who Went Remain There Still, by Cherie Priest

Those Who Went Remain There Still

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the big reasons I’ve picked up everything Cherie Priest has written is her propensity for taking established SF/F tropes and finding not only new ways to look at them, but actively odd ones as well–and in a run of intriguingly odd books, Those Who Went Remain There Still stands out as particularly strange.

And that’s a good thing. I haven’t read very much non-steampunk fantasy out there set in the early history of the United States and to find this one was a pleasure in no small part because it’s set in my home state of Kentucky. Moreover, Daniel Boone features prominently in the earlier prong of a two-prong plot, and any kid who grew up in Kentucky knows all about Daniel Boone. Any kid in Kentucky will, however, be a trifle surprised at this tale of how Boone and his men are cutting a road through the Kentucky wilderness, only to be harried by a monster who takes vicious pleasure in hunting them down one at a time.

Fast forward a hundred years or so, to when the cantankerous old son of one of the survivors of Boone’s party has passed away. His grandchildren are called home for the reading of his will, only to discover that it’s been hidden in a cavern near their valley. And by the terms of said will, six men must venture into the cave–and risk coming afoul of the creature Boone’s men had abandoned there to die.

Except it’s not dead. And its descendants are pissed.

I very much liked the dual plotlines as long as they ran through the bulk of the story, simultaneously showing us the stalking of Boone’s men as well as the reactions of two of Heaster Wharton’s kin who are called in to find the will. There’s great tension in both plotlines, especially as you slowly learn more and more about what the monster actually is.

But the final third or so felt rushed to me, perhaps because of this being a novella. Once the group of six contenders for the will is thrown together, we have barely enough time for them to fight through their own differences before they’re hurled into mortal danger–and before the end of the story. As is often the case with Priest’s shorter works, I found myself wishing at the end of this one that it hadn’t finished so soon. Three stars.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #7: Bloodshot, by Cherie Priest

Bloodshot (The Cheshire Red Reports, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy has to work very, very hard to seize and hold my attention these days, and I say this fully cognizant of how there are a great number of authors out there writing awesome books. For me, it’s just been a matter of wanting to read so many things–and having read so much urban fantasy the last several years–that more of it is generally pretty far down my reading queue.

For Cherie Priest, though, I’ll totally make exceptions. I’ve unilaterally liked every single thing of hers I’ve read, and Bloodshot, the first of her Cheshire Red Reports series, is no exception. It doesn’t engage me quite as hard as the Clockwork Century books do, I’ll cheerfully admit. But on the other hand, “slightly less awesome than Boneshaker” is still pretty goddamned awesome.

Here’s the thing for me about Bloodshot: it made me actively like a vampire protagonist, and it did it by making her an engaging character entirely aside from her being a badassed vampire thief. Yeah yeah yeah, badassed vampire thief, seen too much of that; see previous commentary re: reading a whole LOT of urban fantasy. What I haven’t seen, though, is a vampire who was a flapper before she was turned. Who sets off being a badassed thief with being thoroughly neurotic, to the degree of preparing for her heists to obsessive levels of detail. And who, even while she swears up and down to the reader that she’s not interested in forming lasting attachments, nonetheless has adopted two homeless children in her Seattle base of operations–and who proceeds to take a very personal interest in the case her latest client brings her, when he turns out to be a blinded vampire seeking to steal information about what happened to him while he was the captive of a secret government experiment.

Nor was it enough that Raylene rocked. Backing her up in this story is one of the most awesome male lead characters it has been my pleasure to read in some time: Adrian deJesus, a.k.a. Sister Rose, an ex-Navy SEAL turned drag queen. I adore Adrian. I adore that he is the reason why Raylene has to struggle with the question of how to address his gender identity, in a reasonable and non-angstful way, and that it’s a struggle that doesn’t take Raylene much time to figure out. I adore that he is both thoroughly badassed AND very, very comfortable with makeup. I adore that he is, in fact, the second most badassed character in the book, only slightly less badassed than the vampire protagonist. And godDAMN, that boy can dance.

With these two highly engaging main characters to blaze the way, it was no effort at all to enjoy the hell out of this book. I very much liked the exploration of the aforementioned secret government experiment, and how it dovetails with Adrian’s own backstory, as he’s on the hunt for his missing sister, who has herself become a vampire. And I quite like the exploration of the idea that a vampire, Raylene’s client Ian, has to live with the strong likelihood that he’ll be permanently disabled.

In short, there’s a great deal I liked here and not very much at all I didn’t care for. I found the kids a bit too plot-moppety for my liking, as they’re mostly there to provide character development for Raylene, and a couple of the details revealed about what happened to Ian a bit too predictable. But that’s about the extent of my problems with it, and all in all, we’re talking four strong stars here.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #6: Ganymede, by Cherie Priest

Ganymede (The Clockwork Century, #4)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The fourth installment in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series, Ganymede is now finally getting into actual sequel territory. Like Clementine and Dreadnought, it’s a standalone story–but this time, one of the spotlight characters in fact someone who previously showed up in Boneshaker, and we’ve got clear followup to the events in that book. So if you want to jump in on this series–and if you like steampunk, zombies, and/or the Civil War era, you should–this is not the place to start.

New Orleans madam Josephine Early is spearheading a secret Confederate attempt to hand over the submersible Ganymede to the Union, in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of the ongoing war. But no one’s left alive who knows how to safely operate the machine, and so Josephine’s forced to call for help to an old flame. She’s fiercely hoping that the airship pilot Andan Cly will be able to use his skills to pilot a machine that goes underwater instead of through the air, and she’s desperate enough that she isn’t exactly ready to tell him that the machine’s drowned all its previous crews.

And without a doubt, the relationship and backstory between Josephine and Andan is one of the high points of the book. I’ve found Priest to always be excellent at what romantic notes she introduces into a story, and this one’s no exception; the prior state of this relationship is played off with the exact right understated note against the bigger picture of the current intrigues. Toss in some glimpses at New Orleans’ zombie problem AND the issue of how the problem’s spreading across the country, references back to characters in all three of the previous books, and a supporting cast of colorful characters (one of whom has a secret revealed that amusingly blows Andan’s mind) and there’s a whole lot to like here.

Bonus points as well for the amusing use of actual Civil War history. It was particularly amusing to me to see a news link going around about the restoration of the Hunley–the actual vehicle named for the man who’s referenced in this novel as the creator of the Ganymede.

All in all, great fun. Five stars.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #5: Unclaimed, by Courtney Milan

Unclaimed (Turner, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a romance staple to do a series of interconnected books all featuring siblings in the same family, or employees of the same agency, or what have you. Courtney Milan’s Turner series is no exception. And happily, Unclaimed, the second book in the series, turned out to be just as much fun for me as the first.

Book 1 was the story of Ash, the oldest of the three brothers; Book 2 picks up with his younger brother Mark. Mark’s an example of Milan cheerfully subverting another romance trope–because here, it’s Mark, not the heroine of the novel, who’s the one without sexual experience. This is by no means not Mark’s only defining trait, but it’s an important one that sets the course for the entire plot.

Mr. Turner–or rather, I should say, Sir Mark Turner, because the Queen has knighted him for his service to the nation’s morality–has written a treatise, the Gentlemen’s Practical Guide to Chastity. In her intro to the novel, Milan talks about how she wanted to write about a character with a rock star’s level of fame, but since she’s a writer of historicals, she had to figure out how to work it into the book in a period-appropriate fashion. Hence, Sir Mark’s Guide!

Exactly how berserk England goes over his work is one of the somewhat sillier things about the novel, but in the context of the story I was willing to go along with it. Why Mark wrote it and how he reacts to the scores of young men (and older women towing their young daughters) who fawn over him are hugely important aspects of his character. And I’ve got to say, I found his resolve to remain chaste until he finds the exact right woman for him refreshing and charming, especially after all the reading of urban fantasy and paranormal romance I’ve done for the last several years.

Set off in strong contrast to Mark is our heroine, Jessica, a courtesan who’s been paid to seduce him and ruin him in the eyes of the public. And as with Book 1, Jessica finds out fast that she genuinely likes Mark, and it doesn’t take her long at all to back away hard from the idea of causing his public downfall.

There’s all sorts of stuff that could be said here about the roles of gender and sexuality in this situation. And the book does, in fact, say them. Happily, it does so in a way that came across to me as natural for the characters and their interactions, without ever getting preachy. Mark calls out the hypocrisy of society’s encouraging men to express their lusts, or at any rate not punishing them for it, while holding women to far stricter standards. An oh-so-modern and enlightened attitude for a man in the 1830’s? Sure. But as put forth by Mark, it’s sincere and believable. It helps a lot as well that Jessica has a great deal of agency as the plot progresses, especially in the final third of the story. And it helps, too, that there’s a reasonably small amount of angst and drama as Jessica’s initial goal is inevitably revealed.

As with Book 1, I had some minor quibbles with plausibility–but only minor ones. And I’m eagerly heading on to read Book 3! Four stars.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #4: Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of old-school romantic suspense, then you cannot go wrong at all with Daphne du Maurier. Especially if you pick up Rebecca, which I was very pleased to finally do. Many of the elements in this book are classically Gothic: the innocent young new bride, the brooding husband, the dead first wife, the remote mansion, the creepy housekeeper, and such. They are in fact Gothic enough that it took me a bit to realize that the novel was in fact set in a modern (as of the time it was written) time frame! In that respect, du Maurier reads a lot like Mary Stewart, and if you like Stewart you’ll probably like du Maurier very much.

Our story starts off with a young woman working as a companion in Monte Carlo to the odious Mrs. Van Hopper. She’s saved from exile to New York in Mrs. Van Hopper’s company by falling in love with an older man, Maxim de Winter, who is said to be haunted by the recent death of his first wife. To our heroine’s amazement, Maxim proposes to her, and she is whisked off to his mansion in Cornwall, Manderley, as the new Mrs. de Winter.

Once there, she discovers that Maxim, his housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and the rest of the staff in the house are all still dominated by the memory of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter–who, even after her death, is such a potent force that our shy young heroine is driven to despair. But as this is indeed a Gothic-style suspense novel, that is of course not all. For there are suspicious circumstances indeed about how Rebecca died!

It must be noted that our heroine is never actually given a name–which, it turns out, was a deliberate choice of the author. The edition I have includes a section at the end in which du Maurier explains to her readers that she never actually thought of a name for the character. It works wonderfully, though, as a symbol of how so thoroughly the second Mrs. de Winter is overwhelmed by the impact her predecessor had on Manderley even after her death.

There’s an original version of the book’s ending included with my edition, too, which is worth reading and comparing against the beginning of the finished story, since du Maurier moved a lot of that material into the initial chapter of the book. From a writer’s perspective it’s fun to see her explanations for why she did that, and from a reader’s perspective and a writer’s perspective alike, I can appreciate her choices. Without going into detail, I’ll say that for me as a reader, it seemed that du Maurier absolutely made the right choice, since her original ending was way too reminiscent of Jane Eyre.

I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, even though this novel’s old enough that many of you out there who are my age or older may have already read it, or may have seen the Hitchcock film that was based on this work. (And if you’re a Hitchcock fan, I can add too that I can absolutely see why Hitchcock made this into a movie; it’s very much right up his alley.) As with Mary Stewart, the pacing is slower than a modern reader may expect. But if you don’t mind taking your time, and in fact like to indulge in an author’s rich and slowly building prose, Rebecca will reward you. Five stars.

Book Log

2012 Book Log #3: Dreadful Skin, by Cherie Priest

Dreadful Skin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you like werewolves, and you like the Old West, then Cherie Priest’s short story collection Dreadful Skin is a decent way to spend your time. We’ve got three interconnected stories here, featuring the werewolf Jack Gabert and the woman who hunts him, Eileen Callaghan, an Irish ex-nun who’s tracked him all the way to America.

The characters are sketched in with Priest’s usual deft touch, though due to the length of each story and to the propensity to change points of view with each scene change, ‘sketched in’ was about all each tale had time for. I found this frustrating, for Priest’s skill with her prose did indeed mean that each story gave me pieces of a much bigger story, one that I quite wanted to experience in greater depth.

Still, this was a fun read, if quick. Fans of werewolf-based urban fantasy may find this a trifle disappointing in that the werewolves in these tales are, in fact, monsters. As such, they are not intended to be sympathetic. I myself found this a refreshing change of pace, and a nice palette cleanser after the heavy diet of urban fantasy I’ve had these last several years. Three stars.