Monday, November 30, 2009

Kitty Takes a Holiday

Title: Kitty Takes a Holiday
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, book 3
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 2007

Recommendation: Any Kitty fans won't be disappointed in this one.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Kitty rents a cabin far off from civilization to take some time off and write a memoir. All of a sudden Ben and Cormac show up at her door after Ben has been attacked by a werewolf. Now Kitty has to deal with the tension in the house and also find out why there are dead animals showing up around her house.

Reactions: Kitty Takes a Holiday is an enjoyable continuation of Kitty's saga. The setting is dramatically different from her last stint in Washington and Vaughn keeps the plotline different enough to make the series fun to read.

There's some sexual tension between Kitty, Cormac, and Ben going on in this book and the relationship dynamic is pretty explosive. There is also quite an interesting set of supporting characters. From Tony, the helpful curandero to small town sheriff Marks to skinwalkers and gun-pointing shop owners, there are plenty of personages to enjoy.

The plot keeps moving along pretty well throughout and the ending is somewhat unexpected. It's definitely a quick read and the ending makes me want to pick up the next book very very soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Agent to the Stars

Title: Agent to the Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2005

Recommendation: Amusing first contact story with well-written characters.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: Thomas Stein is an enterprising Hollywood agent who has just closed the biggest deal of his career. He gets an unexpected meeting with his boss who asks him to take on a new client: an alien of race Yherajk who looks like a pile of green goo. The challenge ahead of Tom is to figure out how to present the alien to humanity.

Reactions: The premise of the novel is pretty great. Aliens come to Earth and hire a Hollywood agent to get the best representation. As you might expect with a premise like that the novel is not entirely serious. There are a number of comic moments in the book and there were some places I laughed out loud.

The good news is that funniness of the book doesn't get in the way of character development. Tom's character is very sympathetic despite being a negotiations shark. We get to learn a lot about him and he is definitely my favorite human in the novel (some of the Yherajk are pretty great characters too). The least believable part for me was Tom's budding romantic relationship, which I honestly wasn't feeling. It was a little sudden and in my opinion not very well done.

In a number of places I also had some trouble suspending disbelief. Some things work out a little too easily and certain characters don't react in a way I would expect them to react. But overall, the motivations are there and the ending is quite satisfying.

I was also pleasantly surprised that Scalzi didn't skirt around creating the new culture for aliens and came up with both technology and art for the culture which were coherent and fascinating at the same time. He also didn't bog down in any sort of info dumps on the aliens along the way, which is definitely a plus in a story.

Overall, it was an action-adventure plot with well-developed main character and amusing supporting cast that was easy to read and enjoy. There were some pretty interesting thoughts in the book on managing perceptions and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Royal Pain

Title: A Royal Pain
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery, book 2
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2008

Recommendation: A fun continuation of Gergie's adventures.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Georgie is still penniless living in London when the queen asks her to host visiting princes of Bavaria whom the queen would like to marry her son to. But between dealing with the princess and her grumpy chaperon several deaths occur and it may be up to Georgie to find out what really happened.

Reactions: When I mentioned in my last review that I'll pick up the next book in the series, I really meant it. Yearning for more adventures of Georgie, I went to Borders, picked up this sequel and finished reading the book same night. As you may guess I found it enjoyable.

The book has a slightly different cast with the princess of Bavaria featuring in many of the adventures. But it's now clear that the queen Mary, Belinda, and Darcy are going to be recurring characters in the series. I am looking forward to seeing where Georgie's relationship with Darcy is going to go.

The mystery itself once again revealed itself to be pretty much as I expected, but with a few details I didn't pick up on. Georgie got quite a bit of detective action this time and was more clearly going out of her way to solve the mystery. Overall it was a slightly simplistic, but fun romp and I definitely recommend this book for those who enjoyed the first one.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Her Royal Spyness

Title: Her Royal Spyness
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery, book 1
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2007

Recommendation: A funny light read that is almost more adventure than mystery.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Georgie is a great granddaughter of queen Victoria, 34th in line to the throne and completely penniless in 1930s. She escapes her dreary life in Castle Rannoch to go to London and desperately attempts to make some money and fend for herself there. Until a murder occurs in her house and now she has to figure out who the murderer is and clear her family name.

Reactions: I picked up this book completely randomly on my last visit to the bookstore. I think the bright purple cover attracted my attention and the summary on the back looked quite witty, so I bought it. And the novel completely met my expectations: it was fun, witty, character driven, and a quick read.

The main character, Georgie, feels very modern. She is all about doing it herself, getting places and figuring things out. In fact I feel she was too modern, her thoughts seemed more like those of a contemporary woman than a pampered royal 70 years back. I ignored this aspect and found the rest of the story believable (mostly).

It's not a heavy mystery in terms of plot. The final resolution is not obvious, but not completely unexpected and the plot lacked the twists of more "serious" mysteries. Instead Gerogie gets into trouble, digs herself out and then gets into trouble again. It's fun to follow her adventures and the book resolution is fairly satisfying.

I finished the book quickly and had a lot of trouble putting it down while I was reading. I will definitely consider picking up more Georgie novels.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Title: Flashforward
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Science fiction
Published: 1999

Rating: 6.5/10
Recommendation: Middling science fiction novel with few interesting ideas.

Summary: Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides schedule their Large Hadron Collider experiment for 5pm sharp. Except instead of producing the Boson particle they expect, they find the whole world displaced 21 years into the future for a little over 2 minutes. Everyone experiences their lives 21 years from today. But how did this happen and what do the visions really mean is left to the interpretation of the world.

Reactions: I thought the premise of this science fiction novel was pretty neat. Being able to see what happened to you in 21 years and then return to deal with what you have seen can open many avenues for discussion. Robert Sawyer picks up one of the more obvious themes: predestination vs free will. Though there are some interesting discussions present, I felt the author didn't go in depth on many of them and didn't contribute anything particularly new to the discussion. His physics explanation for the phenomenon didn't interest me too much and I felt a lot of time was spent discussing various physics particles.

My biggest problem with the book though were the characters. I didn't particularly like the scientists in the novel, though I somewhat warmed up to them by the end of the book. But at least for the first third of Flashforward I struggled to keep my interest because I didn't like the characters too much.

Overall, it was an okay read. I was a little disappointed with the lack of interesting ideas and characters. But I did enjoy some very realistic glimpses of Toronto described in this book.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October Recap

And before I know it, October is all over. I spent last night giving out candy, but still have way too much left over. I don't even know what to do with the rest.

Once again, I finish the month and I'm low on my book count. I only finished the two Diana Gabaldon's novels, but since they were pretty thick can we count them as four? :) No? I didn't think so.

Books read: 2

Favorite book: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Male: 0
Female: 1

Posts: 2

Now I am off to read some more of Robert Sawyer's Flashforward. Planning to finish the book in the next few days.