book reviews


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Hurog Duology:
Dragon Bones & Dragon Blood

by Patricia Briggs
narrated by Joe Manganiello

dragon bones & dragon blood - audio books covers
Audiobooks published by
Buzzy Multimedia
Dragon Bones (book #1)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9827792-1-7
Dragon Blood (book #2)
ISBN-13: 978-0982779231
http://www.buzzymultimedia.com

Rating:
5 bookmarks (out of 5)

Also available as Mass Market Paperbacks published by Ace

I’ve been a fan of Patty Briggs for years. I own and have read all her books, even to having a original edition of Masques, which I’m told had a first printing of two thousand copies. I saw it on the bookstore shelf and picked it up, ’cause it sounded like something I wanted to read. And indeed it was. I do that a lot–it may be a family thing*.

I had previously read and enjoyed the Hurog books, and Buzzy Multimedia and I go way back. And I am positively addicted to listening to audiobooks in the car, particularly when I have to drive anywhere longer than five minutes away.

Dragon Bones, and its sequel Dragon Blood are the story of Wardwick of Hurog, who grew out of a hard childhood in his beloved homeland of Chauvig into a reluctant hero. He has a good-heart, loves his family, and has a magical bond [of sorts] to the land that he doesn’t understand.

Ward struggles to grow into his destiny and hold his part of the kingdom together.
It isn’t easy for him. He has to make some really hard choices, and get involved in a lot of politics he’d just as soon avoid.

Patty Briggs has created a complex, richly textured world full of interesting characters. The plot is twisty and unpredictable and the writing (listening) wonderfully descriptive. While each book is complete in and of itself, they leave you wishing there was more.

While these are the only books set in this particular world, Patty Briggs has written many others, some stand alone, and several series. All are worth reading.

A sample of each of these audiobooks can be heard at the buzzy website.
One of the terrific things Buzzy does with their audiobooks is a cross-pollination of fandoms thing. They start with a book(s) that are popular on their own, and try to bring in new fans by using a reader from another segment of fandom, with their own following. In this case the books are read by Joe Manganiello, currently in the HBO series True Blood playing “Alcide Herveux.” Hopefully, some of Joe’s fans have tried the audiobooks, and discovered Patty Briggs . . . .

*My dad [D] once brought home an album and played it for the family. Said he thought the guy was going to “make it someday.” The album was Tapestry by Don McLean. A year later he would release American Pie. D did that a lot.

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Classified as Murder: A Cat in the Stacks Mystery
by Miranda James

Mass Market Paperback 2011
Berkeley Prime Crime Books
ISBN: 978-0-425-24157-8

Rating: 4 paws (out of 5)
four poly paws on trans background

Classified as Murder is the follow up to last year’s Murder is Due. Even though it’s part of a series, this is a solid stand alone story. I found it a stronger book, probably because it was less bogged down with character background than Murder is Due.

In typical cozy mystery fashion, life is strolling along merrily until a body drops into the story. From that point on, the pace really picks up as everyone is trying to figure out whodunnit. Charlie Harris is a very down-to-earth, realistic character, and it’s terrific fun to watch him investigate while determined to not run afoul of the local police presence. Or upset the killer enough to wind up dead himself. Once again, providing both clues and some comic relief is Charlie’s constant companion Diesel, his exceptionally well-trained maine coon cat.

The plot centers around a privately-owned rare book collection that Charlie the librarian is hired to help catalogue. The family surrounding the owner of the collection is eccentric to say the least, Charlie’s grown son has turned up for a visit with no notice, and a very valuable book may have gone missing. Suspects abound, as do twists and turns, and even when you have it figured out–you don’t.

I was especially pleased that Diesel’s extreme size (33 pounds) is covered early on in the book, noting that he is exceptionally large for the breed. I was at a cat show this weekend with a 15-pound maine coon boy and I fielded a ton of questions, most of them “How much does he weigh?” followed by comments about how much larger he is than the average cat. Diesel is very, very big indeed.

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Ghost Ship
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

published by Baen Books
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3455-9

Rating:
5 bookmarks (out of 5)

Ghost Ship is two books-in-one. I can make a case for it being two-and-a-half or even three books-in-one, each of them a gem. Let me explain.

This is a stand alone story in the greater world of the Liaden UniverseTM, although those who start their journey here will take some time to figure things out. There are a lot of things packed into this book: star travel, family, adventure, relationships, parties, “Bosses”, pilots, juntavas, scouts, 8-foot-tall clutch turtles, scholars, scholarly research, cats, AIs, Department of Interior, strange new ports of call, couriers, traders, trade ships, and The Tree.

First and foremost though, this is the continuation of Theo Waitley’s story, begun in the coming of age duology Fledgling/Saltation. But it is also the long-awaited sequel to I Dare, telling the story of Clan Korval’s exit from Liad and the start of their resettlement on Surebleak. In addition to packing in all of those elements, Lee & Miller also slip in some tantalizing scenes that belong in the sequel to Mouse and Dragon, a book that takes place chronologically quite a bit earlier, but was only released into the wild last year.

I enjoyed every moment of the book, and devoured it as soon as I could pry it out of my husband’s hands. Inside of two days we had both read it. Among my favorite parts were the interactions of Theo with various members and associates of Clan Korval–Theo has been on her own for a while now, and it’s interesting to see her discover a whole new family she didn’t know she had–consisting mostly of pilots.

It was also nice to visit with so many old friends and catch up with them. And to get some insight into just what Bechimo (the Ghost Ship of the title) was doing. And even where the PODs came from.

Ghost Ship is complex, layered, fast-paced and fun. It’s recommended to everyone who likes science fiction, space opera or adventure.

Mike thinks the book wasn’t long enough. I think it needed more turtles. We both loved it and we’re waiting eagerly for the next one.

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Wayfinder
by C.E. Murphy

published by Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-51607-7

Rating:
5 bookmarks (out of 5)

Wayfinder is the conclusion to the story begun in Truthseeker, and picks up right where that book ends. For those who haven’t read the first half of the tale, or don’t remember it well, there is a brief recap included to get you up to speed. However, Truthseeker is well worth the time, and also highly endorsed.

Wayfinder is set almost entirely in the Barrow-lands (faerie), as Lara Jansen struggles to master the innate power of the truthseeker. Originally just able to determine whether someone was lying to her or not, the scope of Lara’s power continues to expand, even as she endeavors to ferret out several different truths.

There is the original quest that drove elven prince Daffydd out of the Barrow-lands and into our world seeking a truthseeker. There is the question of what happened so very long ago that created The Drowned Lands, a section of the Barrow-lands that has been underwater for as long as anyone can remember. And Lara has acquired an ancient artifact along the way that she needs to master, before someone misuses it and destroys one world or the other.

The seelie and unseelie are at the precipice of full-out war and only mortal Lara has any hope of stopping it before the barrow-lands are totally annihilated. Will she survive the attempt? And what about the developing romance between her and Daffydd–is there any hope for love between mortal and immortal?

This is a beautifully crafted tale, and a wonderfully complex world of magic and music. I was cheering for Lara through every bump and bruise, watching her learn and grow into her power. Despite the numerous plot threads and tangles, everything is tidily resolved by the ending, yet I was still left wanting more.

Highly recommended, as are all of C.E. Murphy’s books.

I was lucky enough to win an arc of Wayfinder and I got to read it early (thank you Catie!)–most folks will need to wait until September. I don’t envy you.

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The Literary Handyman
by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

published by Dark Quest, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-93705-100-6

Rating:
4 bookmarks (out of 5)

The Literary Handyman is not a linear how-to-write book–it doesn’t take you from A to Z in ten easy steps. It’s more like a book full of classic recipes–open it to any page and get a single tasty delicacy, full of layered flavors and satisfying combinations.

The Literary Handyman is a collection of articles, some published before in at various diverse times and venues, each a thoughtful look at a single aspect of writing. From “The Naming of Names” through “Coming to Your Senses” and finally to “Promoting for the Beginner”, each essay takes a fresh look at the topic, giving insights in a light conversational tone that is comfortable to read. The book is divided into two main sections, the first on the craft of writing, the second covering aspects of the business of writing. Separating the two sections are some writing exercises to keep the reader on their toes!

One of the most intriguing articles is “Spend Your Words Wisely,” a very careful analysis of how changing just a few words can totally alter the meaning of a paragraph. The super value here is in the analysis of each variation, the why of the differences. It’s a clever exercise, and one I enjoyed immensely.

Overall, this is a valuable collection to add to your literary reference shelf and one I recommend. It’s a part of my library.

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The Theory of Cat Gravity
by Robin Wood

Chapbook 2000
Livingtree Books
ISBN: 978-0-9652984-2-1
available at http://www.robinwood.com

Rating: 5 paws (out of 5)
five poly paws on trans background

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to get up when a cat’s been sitting in your lap? Or why so much stuff just accumulates under the bed, even when you vacuum regularly? Why is it harder for you to move around as you get older? The Theory of Cat Gravity answers all these questions and more. It will have you laughing out loud, with its sensible, logical explanations for some of life’s odd little phenomena–all of which are actually caused by your cat.

I’ve owned The Theory of Cat Gravity for years, and I never tire of re-reading it. Robin Wood’s Unified Pet Theory holds together as it is built up step-by-step, and will have you reading it aloud to your friends and family. This edition includes not only the theory, but also its proofs and its corollaries (for the completist in you).

The entire chapbook is decorated (illustrated) throughout by the whimsical art of Diana Harlan Stein, which enhances it even further. It’s highly recommended for anyone who has ever lived with a cat and suitable is for all ages, although young children may prefer to use the illustrations as a coloring book.

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Goblin Tales
by Jim C. Hines

Cover for Goblin Tales by Jim C. Hines, art by Daniel Ernle

art by Daniel Ernle

published by Jim C. Hines 2011
ISBN: 978-1-257-04941-7

available at http://www.lulu.com
also available as an ebook

Rating:
5 bookmarks (out of 5)


This is a collection of five short stories, all featuring various characters from Jim Hines’ Goblin books [Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, Goblin War] that help fill in some interesting background. While all of the stories have been previously published in various collections and magazines, it was wonderfully convenient to have them all assembled in one place
In general, I’m a big fan of writers who fill in bits and pieces around a series with short fiction–it’s like going to the movies and running into an old friend in the ticket line. You not only enjoy the film, but you have someone to chat about it over coffee afterward.
The stories are basically in chronological order. They start at the very beginning of our interest in goblins with Jig as a not-so-adorable baby goblin in “Goblin Lullaby,” which focuses on another goblin with a lot of ingenuity: Grell. In some ways it reminded me of the fight scene in Hellboy involving a large monster and a box of kittens.
Next up is “The Haunting of Jig’s Ear,” showing Jig as a young goblin, already being picked on for his small stature, and already refusing to just go along to get along. So we see the beginnings of him using his mind to overcome his size disadvantage. But never forget he is a goblin.
“Goblin Hunter” is the important introduction of Smudge, Jig’s fire-spider “pet” and staunch companion. Smudge is my favorite character from the series, and it’s nice to know how he and Jig got together.
“School Spirit” moves out of the Goblin caves with an episode from the the life of Veda (from Goblin Hero). She has made it to a magician’s school, but is facing the inevitable prejudice because she is a goblin.
My favorite story in the collection is the last one, “Mightier Than the Sword.” This one introduces the concept of the libriomancer, someone who can breech the barriers between our reality and the world of various books. Smudge even has a cameo in the story. There will be an upcoming trilogy featuring the world of the libriomancer–I know I’m looking forward to it!

For more information about Jim C. Hines, his writing or Goblins, visit http://www.jimchines.com

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Murder Past Due: A Cat in the Stacks Mystery
by Miranda James

Mass Market Paperback 2010
Berkeley Prime Crime Books
ISBN: 978-0-425-23603-1

Rating: 4 paws (out of 5)
four poly paws on trans background

Murder Past Due is a typical cozy mystery in many ways–it’s set in a small southern town, it doesn’t include any graphic descriptions of violence, and much of the investigating is done by someone who isn’t in law enforcement. But it’s a far above average read. The plot twists and turns lead Charlie Harris on a merry, yet very feasible chase that keep him and the reader guessing until the very last scene.

Charlie also has a somewhat unusual sidekick–Diesel. Diesel is a maine coon, albeit a very intuitive, well-trained one. He is painstakingly well-described, other than a minor exaggeration of coon size. Charlie is in the unique position of being able to take his cat with him almost everywhere he goes (even his parttime job!), and both his attitude toward Diesel and Diesel himself resonated with the cat owner in me.

Charlie is a nicely developed character and is easy to identify with. I found his actions logical and reasonable, making for a cohesive, believable plot. The pacing was fairly steady throughout, never boring, and picks up just a bit near the end as things get more exciting. More than anything else, this is a fun read.

This book will appeal to anyone in the cat fancy who likes a good mystery! And there’s more to come: Classified as Murder, the next book in the series, will be published in May 2011.

What is a cozy mystery? The first example that comes to mind of a typical cozy mystery is Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote, aptly portrayed by Angela Landsbury on everyone’s television. Typically, a cozy mystery takes place in a village where everyone knows nearly everyone else. The crime-solver (often, but not always, a woman) is a bright, intuitive, likeable person that most members of the community will talk freely to, even though they are not officially a part of the law enforcement community. And there is almost always a cat involved somewhere . . . .
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I am now the “official” book reviewer for the TICA Trend (the official magazine of The International Cat Association). I’ll be reviewing both fiction and non-fiction, the only requirement being that the books be relevant for the Trend’s audience–the Cat Fancy. So look for books about cats, and books where cats are prominent characters.

Once the reviews have been published, I’ll also be posting them here as well. From time to time I will also be posting reviews of books by this year’s guests at Darkovercon, to help get people excited about the con. And possibly other books that strike my fancy.

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