Monday, July 27, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Title: Finger Lickin' Fifteen
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Plum Novel, book 15
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009

Recommendation: Won't disappoint any Evanovich fans.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Someone is out to get Ranger's security firm clients and it looks like an inside job. Ranger hires Stephanie to work at Rangeman and secretly investigate. Lula witnesses a murder and now the two killers are after her.

Reactions: Anyone who has gotten to book 15 of any series usually knows what they are in for. Finger Lickin' Fifteen is no exception. As expected Stephanie and Lula are trying re-capture
skips and in the process get hit, paintballed, shot, and have their cars blown up. There are several mystery plotlines meanwhile and lots of typical Evanovich humour on Stephanie & Lula's expense.

I was happy to see plenty of Ranger in this book. Sparks fly between him and Stephanie and of course there's Morelli in the picture. The book went fast and I finished reading it in just a couple hours. Overall, it was quite satisfying: a quick, fun read of the guilty pleasure kind.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Title: Sunshine
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2003

Recommendation: A mediocre urban fantasy novel with a few interesting characters.
Rating: 6/10

Summary: Rae Seddon aka Sunshine is a baker at Charlie's Coffeehouse. One evening she goes for a drive and gets captured by a gang of vampires who bring her to an empty mansion and chain her together with another vampire. There an unlikely alliance starts and Sunshine begins to discover her powers.

Reactions: The back cover of the book has the following quote which I found very promising:

McKinley [balances] the dark drama with light touches of humor. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will feel at home.
--Orlando Sentinel

Considering I like the above mentioned show A LOT, I figured this might be the book for me to enjoy. The plot summary sounded quite interesting too if not particularly original.

However, there is one huge problem with the novel. Writing. McKinley seems to be a huge fan of long info dumps, thought purges and just random ranting. I imagine the reader is meant to feel as if they are in the protagonist's head (it is a first person narrative), but I found the paragraphs and paragraphs of thoughts to introduce the history of the world to be overwhelmingly distracting from the story. In fact throughout the book there would be long pauses in action to fill us in on some piece of Sunshine's history or her thoughts on family, etc. Overall, the back story was not supplied very well.

The second source of my irritation with the novel are a few very contrived plot devices. For example, Sunshine figures out the means to escape her vampire antagonists in a memory-dream. Her proficiency in magic once she starts to use it also feels like a bit of a stretch. Overall, I had some trouble suspending my disbelief in several spots. It would have probably been easier to swallow if the book moved a bit faster overall, but much time is spent on Sunshine's thoughts.

It was not all bad, however. I enjoyed the character of Sunshine, having her be a baker and seriously into baking was an interesting twist. Her family and other characters were all pretty well drawn and fun to read about. I never quite figured out what made her relationship with Mel work, but most of Sunshine's relationships seemed somewhat dysfunctional, so I let it slide.

Overall, it was a mediocre read. I found there were too many problems with the writing and plotting to enjoy it thoroughly, but there were interesting characters and some fun action every so often to keep me going.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence

Title: I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence
Author: Amy Sedaris
Genre: Non-fiction, cookbook
Published: 2006

Recommendation: A good collection of advice and recipes to get if you like snarky humour and lots of butter in your cooking.
Rating: 6/10

Reactions: I read very little non-fiction in book form. In fact this is probably the very first cookbook I've read from cover to cover. I've been reading it on and off for several month now and I finally finished. Phew.

Starting the book, it was a pretty fun read. This is not so much a cookbook as a manual to housekeeping & entertaining guests with recipes interspersed in between. At first the tongue-in-cheek commentary keeps things pretty fun. For example, Amy Sedaris lists the suggests the following topics for a blind date:
  • Does the sun make noise?
  • Do you tip a cobbler?
  • How do you tech hope?
  • When can we see each other again?
These fairly random lists permeate the book from cover to cover and range from funny to somewhat tasteless. A lot of time is spent on dealing with drunk people and making money off of the guests. By about mid-book I was started to wince at all the mentions of the tip jar for your house.

There is a lot more discourse in the beginning of the book, whereas the last third is pretty much just recipes. I am somewhat tempted to try out the cheese balls recipe mentioned quite a few times, but the fat content of the recipe is more than a little scary.

The recipes are somewhat balanced, there are some very simple ones (i.e. mashed potatoes or baked chicken) and some slightly more elaborate cakes and dishes. For myself I didn't find that many interesting new things to cook. Many of the items just didn't seem that interesting from cooking viewpoint and were targeted towards casual cooking. Perhaps I should give them more of a chance, but I felt disappointed that recipes were not that tempting. Though I suppose that's more practical than a fancy cookbook where you don't have ingredients to prepare half the meals. Somehow I find the latter a more interesting reading though.

Overall the book was decent, but didn't sweep me off the feet. You might enjoy her humour more than me, so if the date conversations list made you laugh and you are looking to expand your recipe pool, perhaps it's a good book for you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Title: Grimspace
Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax, Book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2008

Recommendation: A quick and easy to read story, would make a good beach read.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Sirantha Jax is held prisoner by Corp following a landing on Matins IV which only Sirantha survived. She is losing her mind, when March sneaks in and gives her a chance to escape. Together with a new crew, Sirantha heads off to discover if Corp's monopoly on trade can be broken and the truth surrounding the Matins IV accident.

Reactions: I finished this paperback very quickly. It was easy to get into the story and the pacing kept up pretty well until the end of the book. I felt the ending itself was a little rushed. It also felt like the resolution was a bit too easy while the impact somewhat extreme.

Character-wise the story is pretty interesting. Jax is a jumper who thanks to her J-gene is able to navigate a ship through grimspace. March, is a strong and handsome pilot who is also able to read minds. The ship's mechanic Dina is bitchy, while Doc Saul is calm, and finally Loras is an alien with talent for languages. The crew interaction while predictable is pretty well written and fun to observe.

Overall, it was a fun, action-packed read. Nothing deep, a good book for a day out at the beach.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Angel's Game

Title: The Angel's Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009 (US)

Recommendation: Enjoyable, dark, and moody mystery in the style of The Shadow of the Wind. Read it.
Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: David Martin starts out as a paper boy at The Voice of Industry. Given a chance to write by his rich patron Pedro Vidal, he proceeds to become a low-key mystery novelist. David acquires a mysterious tower house that no one else wants, and slowly living there get entangled into the mysteries of the previous owner and some of his own.

Reactions: With The Shadow of the Wind being my favourite read this year, I was very much looking forward to this novel by Zafon. The book takes place earlier, in 1920s Barcelona and is a stand-alone tome. The only ties to The Shadow of the Wind are two fairly minor characters appearing in both and the presence of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

The style and the voice of The Angel's Game are reminiscent of the previous novel. The mood settings and the descriptions of Barcelona are uniquely Zafon's. If I were given this book without a cover, I would not have trouble placing the author.

Thematically, The Angel's Game revolves around literature as much as about David's life, romance, and mysteries. The cast includes the writer Martin, aspiring writers Pedro Vidal and Isabella, mysterious writer of Lux Aeterna Diego Marlasca, and bookseller Sempere. Much of the book is spent discovering what it means to be a writer and the effect of writing on one's soul. It's a homage to the importance of books and one I appreciate as a reader.

The plot is dark, and has many magical realism threads woven through it. While the plot kept my attention throughout, I didn't find the book as captivating as the first one. One of the things I enjoyed a lot in The Shadow of the Wind was Daniel's coming of age. Well, David starts out being rather mature in a sense and I didn't connect to him nearly as well. Also the ending does not feel as conclusive, with many questions in my mind still unanswered.

Still, it's a very good read, one I would certainly recommend, especially to those who have enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind.

First Line:
A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday Books

It was my birthday last month and I've got a whole lot of books as a present off of my Amazon wish list. Now they are all sitting on my shelf tempting me to read them all at once.

1. Acacia by David Anthony Durham
This is a fantasy novel someone recommended to me. I have not been reading a whole lot of fantasy lately, but I have a feeling I'll enjoy this one. The premise looks interesting and the story sounds rather dark.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
This book made a big splash when it first came out 5 years ago. There were a lot of people who loved it for its language, and new subject matter. This is going to be my chance to see whether all the fame is well-deserved.

3. Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
This is a steampunk book that has been reviewed quite a bit in the blogosphere. With all the positive reviews, I decided it will be worth reading even though I am not a huge fan of the genre as a rule.

4. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Tia Nevitt from Fantasy Debut wrote a post discussing The Name Of The Wind as a Character Development (CD) book. In the same post she spoke of this book as being one of her favorite CD books. Since I am a huge fan of Rothfuss's work and think that characters are the most important attribute of any book for me, I decided this might be a very worthwhile read.

5. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Sunshine was recommended to me at a forum where I requested recommendations. The main character sounded interesting and all the positive reviews got me convinced I'll enjoy the book.

6. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
I was in the midst of evangelizing The Shadow of the Wind to everyone who would listen, when a friend suggested I might enjoy Alan Furst's historic fiction. It is not a genre I have read much of, but if his name is spoken in the same sentence as Zafon's, then I am certainly willing to give it a try.

7. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Considering I love all the Kushiel books by Carey, I couldn't possibly skip her new book. The reviews I have seen so far are positive and I hope her new world and characters are as exciting as those of her previous books.

8. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
There were a whole lot of reviews of Scalzi's latest book Zoe's Tale. And it seems he got quite a few fans for every single book out there. Aliens invading Hollywood sounded like a pretty fun theme to me and it's nice to have some science fiction in the mix.

9. The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
For the life of me, I cannot remember adding this book to my Amazon wish list. It looks like a collection of fairy tales and I don't know why I picked it out, but I hope I had good reason's back then. We'll see.

So nine new shiny books sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. I'd better get going.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mid-Year Recap

Time flies! It's already been half a year since I started this blog. It's been fun to keep track of my reviews here even though I haven't had as much time for the blog lately.

First the summary for June:

Books Read: 3
  1. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  2. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  3. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Favorite book: Naamah's Kiss

Male: 0
Female: 2

Posts: 5

Now looking over the past 6 months:

Total # of books read: 20
Total # of stories read: 13

Total Male Authors: 15
Total Female Authors: 14

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books this year. Looks like I am consistently reading fewer books/month than I need to reach that goal. Still, I will be happy if I can reach 40. I am sure I only read maybe half that last year.

Now my top 3 favorite books read so far:
1. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
3. Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Favorite Story:
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang

Overall, I am really happy about how many interesting books I've got to read and how few of them have been disappointing. I am looking forward to reading many more exciting books this year and I hope you might try some of my favorites from this year too.