Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book 46: Green Rider

Green Rider, by Kristen Britain

Here we are, trying to get through the books we acquired at Comic-Con, and we keep finding great reads. How are we ever going to finish. Fortunately (or not, depending on one's point of view) there are only five books in this series. 

The member who unknowingly picked this book is not a big swords and sorcery fantasy fan, though she likes the Lord of the Rings books. She's more of an urban fantasy fan, loving the books set in the world we live in. Books like the Hallows and Greywalker series, and Supernatural on TV.

She loved this book because it creates a world full of well-drawn characters and makes you feel like you know them. The heroine is engaging and acts the way a normal person would under the circumstances she finds herself in, caught up in things she cannot understand. 

The first half of the book is one long chase and the other half is what happens when the chase ends. At the end the heroine does not do what most such characters do. She goes home.

Our member is half way through the second book and has promised not to read the third until she finishes the rest of her assigned books. We are all getting down to the ones we put off, but we will complete our quest if we have to drag each other to the finish line. We're half way there!

Update on Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

We discovered Naomi Novik at the Mysterious Galaxy booth at WonderCon. She was signing samplers of her new book, Uprooted. She was all by herself so we talked to her for a while. We told about standing in book lines at ComicCon, surrounded by people reading the sampler for Uprooted. How excited we all were to read the book. How angry we all were when we saw the publication date, which wasn't revealed until the very last page. It was crummy to get us all excited for a book that doesn't come out until May 2015.

Ms Novik laughed and apologized. When our scribe told her book was on preorder, she signed a special bookplate for it. A great WonderCon souvenir.

Your scribe's other favorite acquisitions at WonderCon? Two volumes of Russ Manning's comic strips (half price at Tony Raoli's booth) and The Centennial Celebration Tarzan from the Edgar Rice Burroughs booth. There were lots of other goodies, but these and the bookplate are the favorites.

Book 45: Greywalker

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

We've reported that publishers give away books to encourage people to read more works by the author. We've also reported that this tactic has been worked several times already, causing us to buy & read more books by Kim Harrison, Kevin Hearne, Naomi Novik, Darynda Jones, Joseph Nassie and Scott Lynch. Greywalker, by Kat Richardson, is another.

Harper Blaine, the greywalker of the title, is a PI with unusual abilities, acquired when she was briefly dead. She has a ferret, or a carpet shark, as she calls it, for a pet. How cool is that? 

She has interesting friends, like a witch, a vampire, a mage and a computer expert, among others. The mysteries involve Seattle's supernatural, all those things that most of us will never know about or encounter. Hopefully. If we do, it's nice to know there are people like Harper Blaine and the Winchesters to help us out.

There are nine books in the series, the last one was just published. The setting is usually Seattle and at the end of each book Ms Richardson explains what locations and events are real and what aren't. Very helpful if you want to visit the city.

In each book there's a mystery solved. As the series progresses Harper makes friends, finds love and learns to deal with her unique ability. There's also a story arc involving one character's parent's obsession. That arc was all resolved in the last book, Revenant.

We hope Ms Richardson writes more about Harper Blaine and Quentin solving mysteries in Seattle. There have to be more places like the lake that need help.

Book 44: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

Several of us came back from Comic-Con with copies of this book. This last weekend the Random House representatives at Literary Orange had copies of it on their recommended reads table in the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore there. One of our members was delighted to see a fantasy book there and immediately bought it. 

So several of our members have read it now and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is an incredibly rich book in that a very complicated story is told in a very complicated manner. It is full of flashbacks as the main character's history is told in bits here and there throughout the book. It's the story of a very complicated scheme involving many characters, intricate planning and deception. 

Mr. Lynch has written two sequels and we're going to pass them around the group. After we've reviewed all the books.

"The Book of Souls" and Other Great Reads–James Oswald

"The Book of Souls" and Other Great Reads, by James Oswald

One of our members went to BoucherCon in Long Beach last November. It's a conference for mystery writers and readers, with panels of authors talking about all things related to mysteries and the writing of them. She had a ball and came back with 62 books.

That new collection interfered with her commitment to reading the books acquired at Comic-Con. We all know how hard it is to force yourself to read a book you really don't want to read when there is one you do want to read waiting for you to open its covers. 

One book she couldn't put off because her interest had been aroused at a panel of Scottish authors. From what she said it must have been a great panel, despite their thick accents. The crime in Edinburgh and Glasgow sound very different, reflecting the differences between the two cities. Who knew there was such a rivalry between them? The only thing they seemed to have in common was a low opinion of Aberdeen.

Anyway, one of the authors mentioned his bad guys are supernatural forces and that grabbed our member's attention because his mysteries had sounded as gritty as the other authors' works. There were booksellers at BoucherCon and she found one selling a James Oswald book. It wasn't the first one, and after pouring over the back cover she decided to order it and read the four books in order. 

It was totally worth the wait. The books are so good she pre-ordered his fifth one from Amazon.UK instead of waiting for US publication.

The first book, Natural Causes, introduces an Edinburgh police detective with a very complicated past, a solitary present and an uncertain future who solves a crime with a supernatural element. Every subsequent book builds on the previous ones. They are atmospheric, a bit creepy and very, very good.

Book 43: The Heist

The Heist, by Janet Evanovich

You either like Evanovich or you don't. Stephanie Plum is a beloved character to many mystery readers   . The books we brought back from Comic-Con were assigned randomly, as in shut your eyes, reach in a bag and pull out a book randomly. The member who pulled out this book is not a Plum fan (she said she likes the fruit). In fact, she said the closest she came to liking Stephanie Plum is the Supernatural FanFiction story she read where the Winchesters run into her.

Our reader was heartened to learn this book was not about Plum but a new character. But the book still didn't please her. She read the first fifty pages and the last ten and went on to her next book.

Imagine her reaction to finding this book in her goodie bag at BoucherCon. Fortunately she traded it for something she liked. A book she liked so well she made the scribe promise to post a review of it, though it won't be a numbered book.

Book 42: Rain of the Ghosts

Rain of the Ghosts, by Greg Weisman

The Pals have decided, after much discussion, arguing, whining and general complaining, decided to discontinue the form we have filled out at the start of every book review. It has been pointed out that:
  • it is a pain to look up all this stuff
  • some of it is ridiculously unuseful, like putting None when there's obviously no illustrator because the book was written for adults, who illustrate words in our minds
  • we don't always bring the book when we report on it to the scribe
  • in the age of the internet all you really need is title and author
  • and we're never going to post reviews of all 92 books if we wallow in trivial details.
This is the first book to be reviewed without all that stuff at the top.

Our reader didn't like this book because she didn't like the main character or the story. Can't get much simpler than that.

The writing was OK but the setup for sequels at the end wasn't.

Book 41: SEAL Survival Guide

Seal Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL's Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, by Cade Courtley

Illustrator: Jesse Peterson
Publisher: Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster
Published: 2011
Genre: Non-fiction
Target Audience/Age Group: Adults
Part of a Series? No
Will the Reviewer Keep It In His/Her Library? Yes
First line: What enables someone to carry a 250-pound man up three flights of stairs while taking enemy fire or spend six sleepless days and nights running around with a fractured right leg?

I did not know Pres. John F. Kennedy announced his plans to create the SEALS during the same speech he promised to put a man on the moon. I didn't know anything about the SEALS except they'd killed Osama Bin Laden and rescued Tom Hanks from Somalian pirates.

Now I do and I am impressed. Actually, that's too shallow a word. I am awed by anyone who could put themselves through what each and every one of them has to become a Seal.

This book is for the rest of us. Buy it and keep it handy because you never know when disaster might strike. At the very least you can pick it up whenever you're feeling down and read how much worse things might be, read how to deal with it and gain a feeling of empowerment.

I gave copies of this book as Christmas presents to everyone I cared about. Maybe, someday, it will help one of them out.