Monthly Archives: June 2008

Series Challenge Season Two

I missed the first season of the Series Challenge but I’ve decided to participate in the second season.  The challenge is run by Crazy Cozy Murders and you can find out more about it here.

Again, the challenge will be for 6 months, from June 1st, 2008 until November 30th, 2008. And the rules are:

1. There is no set number of books you have to read, you just have to read the books so that you are all up-to-date with the series.

2. Post your review of the books on your blog, no matter how long.

3. Post a link to your reviews with the Mr Linky that I will set up as soon as this challenge starts.

4. Always remember this is for fun!

I’ve decided that for the challenge, I will try to finish three series I’ve been working on.  The first is the Temeraire series by Naomi Novak.  Yes, it’s cheating since I put the fourth book as part of the To Be Read Challenge…

The second is Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. I’ve read the first six books and will work on the other four.

Finally, I will try to read the rest of Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker series.  I’ve read the first and second book and, again, have the third on the list for the To Be Read Challenge.   But I figure why not at least try and finish the entire series this year.

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The Deceived by Brett Battles

Jonathan Quinn is a freelance cleaner and the man you call when you’ve got a mess than needs cleaning up. Quinn can get rid of any and all evidence and erase any trail that leads to you up to and including the disposal of a dead body.

When Quinn is called on to dispose of the body of a former associate and close friend Steven Markoff, Quinn takes it on himself to contact Markoff’s girlfriend, Jenny Fuentes. When he finds Jenny has disappeared, Quinn puts his skills and resources into finding out where Jenny is and what’s happened to her.

Battles writes a fast-paced, spy-thriller. Quinn is one part James Bond, one part Jason Bourne. The story moves along at a nice pace, giving us action pieces and suspense while keeping the clues coming at enough of a clip to keep you interested. As Quinn investigates the conspiracy and cover-ups, you’ll find yourself more and more intrigued by what’s happening and eager to find out the truth. And when Quinn does find out what’s going on, it’s brought together in a satisfying way.

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TBR (To Be Read) Challenge

Surfing around some of the book blogs out there, I stumbled across the TBR (To Be Read) Challenge.  The idea is to make a list of those books you’ve had on your to be read shelf and read at least 12 of them during 2008. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t start this blog until the first quarter of 2008 and only found the challenge a few days ago.  But I decided to go ahead and play anyway for the rest of the year and hopefully I can play along for the entire challenge in 2009.

So, here’s my list of books for the rest of 2008.

June: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novak
July: Darkness of the Light by Peter David
August: Simple Favor by Jim Butcher
September: Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card
October: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
November: Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
December: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

June: Star Trek: Titan: Sword of Damocles
July: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
August: On the Beach by Nevil Shute
September: The Truth by Terry Pratchett
October: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
November: Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson
December: The Deep Blue Alibi by Paul Levine

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Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

It’s been four years since we last caught up with Inspector Thomas Lynley and Sgt. Barbara Havers.   Four very long years.

Four years made longer by the fact that at the end of With No One As Witness, Elizabeth George left Lynley and the entire series as a cross-roads.  Something big happened at the end of the book that left me stunned at the audacity of George to contemplate it, much less pull it off.  And it left me eager for more.

And then we got her last book, What Came Before He Shot Her, which was good but didn’t quite satisfy the craving and yearning I had for more Lynley and Havers.

Finally, we get Careless in Red. 

And it was worth every last day she made us wait for it.

Careless in Red opens a few months after the events of With No One as Witness.  Lynley, in his depression over his wife and unborn child’s death, has gone on a walk and a rather long one. He’s wandering up the British coast, trying to get away from places and things that remind him of Helen and those well-meaning friends and family who are trying to understand what he’s going through.  On the forty-third day of his walk, he discovers the body of Santo Kerne on the rocks, apparently killed while cliff climbing.  Lynley tries to report the crime and soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation (early on, he’s as suspect, but soon he’s dismissed as such and made part of the investigation, though his role is entirely unofficial).

As she’s done with the last few Lynley and Havers novels, George expands the focus beyond our two protagonists.  George introduces a myriad of characters who knew the deceased, many of which have a very good reason to wish harm to the eighteen-year old boy.  Kerne was part of the surfing commuity as well as a ladies’ man and had burned more than his fair share of bridges.  Add that to mysterious ties to the past by his parents and you’ve got the usual George tapestry of colorful suspects, all of whom had a very good motive for bumping off Santo Kerne.

All of these lead to a satisfying conclusion to the mystery, which I won’t give away here. 

And while the mystery itself is absorbing, it’s the pyschological aspects of the novel that make it compelling.  From a literary standpoint, George is head and shoulders above any mystery novelist writing today because she does more than just present the facts of the case.  She take the time to get inside the lives of each of the suspects, having them be characters rather than simply suspects.  We get to see why they’d each have a myriad of reasons to comit the crime and why they have a myriad of reason to not comit each crime.  In Careless in Red, George takes the time to develop each of the people of the setting into something more than just a standard suspect. 

But the character development doesn’t stop there.  The story is about Thomas Lynley and his journey through the healing process.   When we first meet Lynley in Red, he’s still reeling from the death of his wife.  The novel provides Lynley with a way to reconnect with the world and become part of it again.  Yes, it’s a bit of convienence that Lynley is walking on the coast and happens across a dead body. But that event serves as a catalyst that allows Lynley’s healing process to continue and bring him back to the things of his life that matter–his friends, his family and his work at New Scotland Yard.  You can take Lynley out of Scotland Yard, but you can’t take out his essential instincts as a detective.  George highlights this in a subplot when Lynley assigned to watch and discover more about a mysterious vet. 

And the book includes Havers, who may be my favorite character of the novels.  When Lynley calls her for help around page 200, I was literally cheering.  Bringing the two together is a delight and it’s always a pleasure to see how others outside of the Lynley/Havers circle react to the give and take of the characters.

In short, Careless in Red is everything that I was hoping for and more.  Well-drawn characters, a well-executed mystery and our chance to explore more about Lynley and Havers.  I won’t say this is an ideal place for a new fan to step in, but certainly you could if you wanted to.  Instead, I’d say if you want to find out why everyone loves Elizabeth George, start with her first novel A Great Deliverance and explore the Lynley and Havers universe from the beginning. 

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Infected by Scott Sigler

Scott Sigler is one of those new fangled podcast novelists who is revolutionizing the publishing industry.   Sigler offered audiences his first couple of novels free to the whoever wanted to download them.  Through hard work and shameless self-promotion, Sigler got his name out there, drew in audiences and created a network of 30,000 plus rabid fans who couldn’t wait for the next insallment or novel.

Eventually, the publishing industry took notice and signed Sigler to a contract to put his stories in the old-fashioned brick and mortar stores.  And unlike some first-time authors of this kind, Sigler wasn’t going out in paperback or a trade paperback.  He was going hardcover with a full-on marketing push and blitz.

The first major label publication is Sigler’s popular story “Infected.”  Not only because it’s one of his better books, but also becuase it’s creating the universe that Sigler plays in other novels.  Hopefully the blitz and the publication will create new fans for Sigler as they realize what many of his podcast fans have known for years–the man can write one hell of a novel.

“Infected” is an alien invasion story, of sorts.  Every-man Perry March’s body has been invaded by some kind of alien virus.  It starts out as a rash, but slowly evolves into something worse, to the point that the virus can communicate telepathically with Perry.  The organisms are slowly turning into something, something sinister.  But what they are and where they came from aren’t exactly know to Perry.

Meanwhile, a government team is trying to find a connection between a set of seemingly well-adjusted people who suddenly go mad and on a killing spree.  One connection is the crazy person become suicidal and their bodies decay quickly after death. 

These plot threads slowly and inevitably come on a collision course.

The first thing to warn readers is that “Infected” is not for the faint of heart. Perry’s attempts to get the sores out of his body become more and more intense as the story goes along.  This is not a book to be read while eating or even if you’ve eaten lately or if you’re thinking of eating later.  It is, however, a great book to lose weight by reading.  Sigler finds the perfect balance between giving enough information on what’s unfolding and allowing our imaginations to fill in the rest.

The portions of the story with March are the most compelling of the book.   Sigler seems to channel Stephen King or Richard Matheson in finding the everyman who is in some bizarre circumstance and trying to figure out how to react to it.  March’s descent into madness works because Sigler lays out the journey and the decisions that eventually lead to his actions.  That said, you’ll never look at chicken scissors in quite the same way again. 

Where the story does drag a bit is in the governmental pursuit of the virus.  While March’s story has a definite beginning, middle and end, the story of what the virus is and the pursuit of it feels more like the opening salvo of a larger storyline.  If you’re looking for a lot of answers on that front, you’re going to come away being disappointed.  “Infected” clearly leaves itself open for a sequel and I just hope sales justify the next installment of this series.

Of course, I guess even if they don’t the good news is that Sigler would still deliver the novel via podcast.

But why not pick up the book and encourage them to give us more?  At times, “Infected” is a white-knuckle thriller that will keep the pages turning and there are certain scenes that will huant you long after the final page is turned.  It’s a bloody, dark, violent gruesome affair and one of the best “first novels” I’ve read in a long time.  Some day we may all look back and say, “Oh yeah, I read Sigler back when….”

Get on board the train now.  You won’t regret it.


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The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Wanderer is part of a symbiotic alien race that is conquering the Earth.   She and her race are implanted inside human subjects, bonding with them and taking over their bodies.

Melanie was one of the last few members of the human resistance, trying to fight back against the alien invaders and cling to their fragile humanity before the human race as we know it is wiped out. She has a brother and family in the resistance.  She was on the way to join a larger resistance cell with her lover, Jared, when she is captured and bonded with Wanderer.

Wanderer’s consciousness takes over, but buried deep inside of the two is Melanie.  Melanie is supposed to be gone, but she slowly begins to exert control and influence over Wanderer, much to the alarm of the female Seeker charged with Wanderer’s transition to life on Earth.  During a trip for California to a new home, Wanderer decides to go off the path, find Jared and reconnect with Melanie’s life. 

If you think I’m giving away too much of Stephenie Meyer’s new novel, “The Host,” I can tell you that all of what I’ve told you here happens in the first hundred or so pages.  What follows is a character-driven sci-fi novel that offers up an exploration of what it means to be human, the nature of love and the questions of identity.  If you’re looking for a hard and fast explanation of just how the bonding process works or the exact nature of the alien plan, you will be disappointed.  But if you’re looking for a character driven, love story that uses elements of the invasion story and sci-fi to tell an interesting and compelling story about the human condition, this is definitely one to put on your “to be read” list.

Meyer’s central concept of having two personalities that talk to each other is one that could easily crumble under its own weight or become confusing for readers.  But it never does.  The story is told from Wanderer’s (later she takes the name Wanda) point of view with Melanie comig into things from time to time.  The journey Wanda takes from being an alien outsider (even an outsider to her own culture) to becoming a part of our community is fascinating and compelling.  At first, Wanda seems a bit cold, but as her journey unfolds, she becomes a fast-friend, even to the point that you can forget this is someone who is genuine alien narrating the events of the story.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of the Twilight series. I find the first book good, but the next two lost my interest.  Part of it was the immaturity of the first-person narrator Bella. 

So, I admit I approached “The Host” with equal parts anticipation and reservation.  But by having a more mature first-person narrator, Meyer avoids the traps of the Twilight novels, giving readers a richer, more meaningful story.   By half-way through the novel, it became difficult to decide which side of the personality I wanted to win out and have the ultimate decision making authority and control.    That is a true testiment to Meyer’s character creation.

At its essence, “The Host” is a love-story that uses sci-fi elements to tell the story.  A love quadrangle develops in the course of the story.  Meyer never simplifies things or makes them easy for her characters.  Each character has to make some truly hard decisions and live with their consequences.   In this universe, all is not fair in love and war.  And as you read the book, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

That’s not to say “The Host” is perfect.  It does drag a bit in the middle chapters. But they are necessary to the character-building Meyer is doing. 

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