Monday, August 14, 2023

City of Bones by Martha Wells

As I have said before, Murderbot is one of the absolute best characters to come out of SF in years. I remember when I read the description of Martha Wells’s All Systems Red and thought to myself “I’ve got to put that on hold at the library!”  And I was right - it was excellent. I have eagerly awaited each new Murderbot book and also read some of the Rakusa series when it was nominated for the Best Series Hugo,  it I have not made the time to dive into Ms. Wells's back catalog.  So I was excited when NetGalley and the publisher gave me an eARC of the reprint of City of Bones, one of Martha Wells’s earlier works, in exchange for an honest review. 

I enjoyed this novel.  We follow an unscrupulous relic dealer and a more naive trainee wizard as they work together to track down some ancient secrets.  The world building was very interesting in the novel - the striated society made sense and felt real.  Khat was an interesting protagonist - selfish but not unlikable.  The book was a little long,  it nonetheless enjoyable.  A satisfying early work by this author.  

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Gryphon in Light by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

I have loved Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books for thirty years. As I said in my review of her last Valdemar book, I still have the SFBC omnibus of the Last Herald Mage trilogy on my shelf and I can’t tell you how many times I read it. 

Until recently, I haven’t read many of her Valdemar books in the last few years. I listened to the audiobooks of the Collegium Chronicles series, which was fun, but I felt it dragged on too long, with too many kidnappings, and Mags’s accent drove me bananas. I lost touch with the series when my library stopped buying the ebooks of the Herald Spy series after Closer to Home, and I was disappointed in Spy, Spy Again, the third volume in the series focusing on Mags’s kids. 

Two years ago, I really enjoyed Beyond, her new novel about the origins of the kingdom of Valdemar. I also enjoyed the sequel, Into the West, although it was a weird book and the pacing felt off.

But what I have been wanted for decades now is a continuation of the main timeline. We see Elsepth grow from the brat in the Arrows trilogy into a strong, powerful young woman during the Mage Storms.  But what happens next? Well, here is the beginning of a new trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon to tell you.  

Larry Dixon is Mercedes Lackey's husband and sometimes co-writer on Valdemar books, specifically the Owlknight trilogy and the Mage Wars etiology focusing on the gryphons.  As I kid, I really dreaded reading the books co-written by Mr. Dixon.  I felt that they were not as well written as Ms. Lackey's solo Valdemar novels.  So I had some trepidation going in to this book, an eARC of which I got from DAW and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  

My fear was not completely unfounded here, but neither was my eager anticipation.  This book did continue the story! Finally!! We see Elspeth again, if briefly! We are told what is going on in Valdemar, politically speaking, and it seems like some “Make Valdemar Great Again” types are causing all sorts of troubles.  Writing style-wise, this book did not seem markedly worse than the last few solo Valdemar books I have read.

But oh is this book a sloooooooooow slog! It takes forever for anything to happen! We get a lot of internal navel gazing of the main human and gryphon protagonists with a lot of telling, not showing, of their characters.  The human is a little too perfect, which is saying something in a series about white clad heroes on white horses, and the gryphon is a little too stupid and selfish for me to deal with at times.  But my main gripe is that we get like 50 pages worth of plot spread out over the whole book, and all of it seems to be prologue for the sequel when the real story begins.  A book needs to stand on its own, not just be setup for the next book, and this book falls down there.  

But I did enjoy it, and I am excited to see where the story goes from here.  Totally recommended for completists,  not a great place to start the series. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

I was very curious about this book. I really enjoyed the Extraordinaries trilogy by TJ Klune (although his strong pro- and anti- police stands in different oils gave me whiplash), but I didn’t really vibe with Under the Whispering Door. I enjoyed the sentiments of House on a Cerulean Sea but felt the world building was weak in a way that took me out of the book.  I was full of anticipation when NetGalley and Tor gave me an eARC of Wolfsong, a reprint (revision?) of the first book of Klune’s Green Creek series. 

Going in, I thought it was going to be more urban fantasy than paranormal romance. I was wrong. It was totally a paranormal romance, which was interesting because I don’t usually read in that sub genre. The world building was ok, if vague. But it kept such a tight focus on this small town and small cast of characters that it was alright that the world building was fuzzy around the edges. 

I really enjoyed the voice and character of Ox, the protagonist. He felt very real and his emotions rang true. Most of the other characters felt flat, and I have fundamental qualms about the romance since the couple met when one was a teenager an the other was ten. Even though nothing physical occurred until the younger one was 17, this still felt emotionally icky to me. 

And it was soooooo loooooong! There’s like a novella’s worth of story here and the book is like 500+ pages. It’s too much. I enjoyed it but there were times when it felt like a slog. 

But I’m just curious enough to try the next one. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Circumference of the World by Lavie Tidhar


What a trip this book was! I have heard the name Lavie Tidhar for years but had never read anything by this author - I didn’t even know his gender. But I had always heard good things so when I saw a book by him on NetGalley, I requested and received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

The description talked about a mystery involving a science fiction book that didn’t exit that held the secrets of the universe. Sounded interesting, I thought, I’ll give it a go. 

Wow! I can’t remember the last book I read like this that wasn’t written by Phillip K. Dick! The book was trippy and weird, leaving me wondering what really happened in it in all the best ways. 

Each section is from the point of view from a different character - the wife of the missing mathematician, the face-blind bookseller, the erudite ex-Bratva thug, and so on. Each section is in a different writing style and tone that fit the character. A large chunk towards the end is told in epistolary format, advancing the story through fictitious correspondence of golden age science fiction writers. 

I’m still not exactly sure how it ended,  but I keep thinking about it, so I guess I liked this book! Give it a shot and you may like it too. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Unicorn for a Day by Dana Simpson

My my oldest daughter was five, one of the librarians at our local library asked me if my daughter liked unicorns. I believe I responded, “Who doesn’t?” At which point she insisted I put a copy of Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson on hold. 

The moral of this story is: always trust your librarian. 

My oldest daughter is ten now, and I think she feels too old for Phoebe and her Unicorn, but I don’t! (And I think it’s time to start reading it with my youngest daughter who is now 5). 

For those of you who don’t know, the Phoebe and her Unicorn series is about a young girl who feels a little bit weird who happens to befriend a unicorn with the fantastic name of Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. It’s a sweet, funny comic without being treacly. It is exactly what I would have wanted to read as a child in between Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side. I would go so far as to say it is the Calvin and Hobbes of today. (BTW, parts of Calvin and Hobbes does not hold up so well anymore. In our current world of school shootings and unapologetic misogynists, it feels uncomfortable at times.)

This volume is a collection of comic strips and I am amazed that newspaper comic strips are still a thing. This book is sweet and funny and surprisingly insightful when Phoebe’s parents talk about old tv shows and movies not aging well because of the inherent sexism, racism, and homophobia that went unexplored at the time. 

I highly recommend this volume and this series to readers of all ages. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.