Sunday, February 16, 2020

Muy silencio

So, while we had a hint some of Mercedes Lackey's old series were getting revamped with new characters, Breaking Silence (Co-written with Cody Martin) at least mentions characters from the series as it existed prior to the reboot. (Yes, I know this is the second book in the reboot. However, this one actually talks much more about Fairgrove Industries.)

Anyway, we're again following around Staci and Tim, mages, and Wanda and Seth, who aren't.

Anyway, Tim is training Staci to be a mage, which she's having some success with. Wand is learning to fight, and Seth is becoming an accomplished trapper. Silence is finally lifting from the horror of Unseeleigh rule under the Blackthorns, but...

In the meantime, Fairgrove is in town, and trying to get the industries restarted, with some success. Mind you, Tim bears prejudice again the elves, Staci still feels betrayed by Dylan, and the elf clan in Maine doesn't trust humans.

And something is in the woods and unhappy.

All of which literally blows up in the last third, as we find out Beth's secret, David's secret, how the preacher has actually been healing people, and why a rather large storm is trying to level the town.

While this is really centered around Young Adult readers, it does bring back good memories of the original novels. I'm happy to think that new readers are getting to enjoy the series now.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Cape May Capers

I couldn't help but feel that reading Morgan Brice's new series intro, Treasure Trail, that the new characters and plotlines were less there for entertainment, but more to serve as a tentpole for a mege novel at some point, since again, more characters from series written under Brice and her Gail S. Martin characters show up at various point. Indeed, the epilogue includes a stinger on par with Samuel L. Jackson showing up and asking Iron Man about the Avengers Initiative.

But anyway, We're in Cape May, New Jersey, as former art fraud and art theft investigator Erik is preparing his new shop, Trinkets, for opening. He's also dealing with a pushy agent who wants him to narrate a PBS show dealing with art and antiquities fraud. He's a recent transplant, deciding to get out of his old business after a cursed Faberge Egg investigation in Flanders goes very badly, followed by walking in on his boyfriend at the time screwing his junior partner on the dining room table.

Then we meet Ben, the possible new owner of a local rental agency, who was formerly a Newark cop. Whose boyfriend also dumped him. Erik's aunt has semi retired, and her son doesn't want to run the business.

Eventually, the two meet, when Erik thinks his date is Ben. This does wind up working out, as they eventually do end up meeting under different circumstances as Ben and his cousin find a fake clock that's somehow wrapped up in a murder at a cursed local hotel that burned down prior to the start of the story. I shoudl mention here that Erik has a form of touch magic, where he can see glimpses of the past of objects and spirits attached to them, while Ben sees ghosts. It's a match made in Urban Romance heaven.

Anyway, it doesn't take long before a few people who showed up for a page start dying off, old Mafia hits start popping up as ghosts, and one of the pair winds up in serious danger.

I mean, it's a fun read, but I feel like we're really getting bones here instead of fully fleshed out characters, and even then, those bones are trying to support a larger support beam for some kind of paranormal romance meganovel.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Abi Normal

So, as is prone to happening, I had missed the release of Mercedes Lackey's continuation of her Family Spies Series, Eye Spy, following around the second child of Megs and Amily, Abi.

Like her brother before her, Abi has a gift that doesn't quite fit in with the mind-magic so prevalent in Valdemar. In her case, she discovers early on she can detect stress in architecture, and indeed, figure out when something is going to collapse. She figures this out when the bridge she's crossing starts to go.

From there, she gets enrolled in with the Artificers and learns to use her gift for other things, like finding hidden rooms. Mind you, while in school, she also has to defend herself from Dudley, who ends up saying the quiet part out loud. (Much of Dudley's actions seem to be a cypher for certain people. "When you're rich, they let you get away with it.")

And then, after coming up with her Masterwork, a bridge to replace the one that collapsed at the beginning, she, along with 3 other Master Artificers get sent to a strip outside Valdemar and Menmellith that wants to join Valdemar. Unfortunately, while things go well at first, their third stop results in agents who came ahead before and ruined the reputation of the Valdemarians.

As we go about trying to resolve that, we find out the Merc escorting them is a lesbian, and after she kissed Abi, we find that Abi is Asexual.

While I enjoyed reading this, and indeed enjoyed some rather thinly veiled political commentary and a few hidden memes, the plot stretches over several years, and it reads less like a novel than a series of connected stories. Still fun.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Hero with 1000 Snarky Remarks

A friend of mine recently brought up Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O'Brien while we were building Magic: the Gathering decks, and I found out the library had a copy.

So, where to start with this.

While the title suggests retelling of Greek mythology, O'Brien retells almost globally, including snarky retelling from several civilizations including a few modern ones. (One could quibble and say Paul Bunyon isn't really a myth, as much as advertising, and whether or not L. Ron Hubbard is meant to be taken at face value...)

Anyway.

Of the mythos he has stories in that I have familiarity with, he does a good job for the most part (I had quibbles with a few, in particular, his retelling of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is all about murder and manliness, and leaves out all the man on man action among the murder.)

Much of his retelling is really funny, although I noticed that the longer I read, the more the snark wore thin on my patience. If you read at home, read a few chapters and come back later. It would likely help alleviate this.

I enjoyed that he referenced Campbell quite a bit throughout, since many of Campbell's observations influence my thoughts on the materials, and I can't help but agree that the stories do benefit from being retold, since retellings from a new perspective help us all make sense of them and relate to them in new ways.

TLDR: Not great for serious study, but wonderful as an overview and laughs.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Birdman of Alcatraz

So, the library finally got a physical copy of Lois McMaster Bujold's The Prisoner of Limnos, which continues the story coming out of Penric's Mission, in which Penric is figuring out why he's staying in Orbas, instead of returning home. The answer, of course has to do with lovely Nykis, whom Penric loves, but who remains less than comfortable with the foreign Temple Sorcerer and physician.

However, when word comes to Nykis that her mother is being held prisoner in Cedona, on the Island of Limnos, a convent sacred to the Daughter of Spring. As such, Nykis suckers Penric and Desdemona into breaking her mother out of the place.

Which involves finding Nykis's soon to be Sister-in-Law, befriending her secretary/eunuch, taking said castrato with them to Limnos and breaking out Mom.

Which they do find success in, but it does leave Penric trapped on Limnos temporarily, and the method of escape employed is absolutely breathtaking in its rube Goldberg nature.

I'm very much in love with Penric and Desdemona. I just wish I was more into ebooks to read them quicker.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Haunted Honeymoon

I remain amused at how well Simon R. Green's Ishmael Jones series manages to channel his cheeky, over the top writing into fun little cozy mysteries without delving into the complete oddity of his other series.

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part is more proof of this, as again, even if the supernatural may make an appearance, much like Scooby Doo, the monsters are all human.

We open on Ishmael and Penny enjoying a weekend together, even as Ishmael is dealing with his fear of the alien within him. A morning walk through SoHo brings the Colonel to their attention, as someone from Ishmael's shrouded past has called in a favor through their old employer to get Ishmael through his new employer to come help up on the moors.

A train ride to the middle of nowhere later, Ishmael and Penny are with Robert, who has the good sense to note that Ishmael has not aged at all in the intervening years. Robert, who's daughter is getting married, has a slight problem as the death of the local vicar is being blamed on his family curse, something about husbands marrying into the family dying on the wedding night due to a curse from the 18th century. Although the curse says nothing about the minister being hung from the bull rope. Or the maid of honor being suffocated in the top tier of the wedding cake, or a local reporter drowning in the baptismal font.

There are numerous suspects besides an invisible demon, and everyone involved has known each other since childhood, mostly. Indeed, it was like reading a cozy set in my hometown.

Anyway, while I figured out whodunnit about halfway through, there is a supernatural moment after the reveal, and a bit of silliness to end on.


Honestly, a fun read. Nothing particularly mind bending, but good.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Part of your world

I'll start this with the irritation I had when seeing Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill's The Waters and the Wild is listed as being a new entry in Bedlam's Bard. It makes sense, given they wrote several volumes in the series, however, it would have been more honest to refer to it as a SERRAted Edge novel, given NONE of the Bedlam characters show up in this. (I mean, it's a shared world, but still... no flute or banjo playing bard?)

With that said, this is actually a fairly solid entry in fairie filled world, even if given the number of fae related books in the Urban Fantasy market means shifting around a few definitions and mythos related to the central concepts. (The few land courts we hear about make it know Oberon and the Queens are still around, among other things, although here Mab/Maeve is referred to as the Morrigan.)

We're centered rather firmly on Olivia, who just turned 18 in Sacramento, who's on summer vacation with her boyfriend, Blake. Blake is in the running to become an Olympic swimmer, and is generally not much liked by the folks at the Lake Endor resort in New York's Adirondacks. (His family is fairly well off, so the can't say much, but the father loves to try to get his way in everything.) Blake has 2 younger brothers, and a drunken mother. Oh, and he has a girlfriend at the Lake from Boston, Audrey. And Olivia spends much of the book playing mother to the family, since Blake's mother is either usually drunk or asleep.

And then we meet Dylan, itinerant watercraft repairman and lifeguard, who also turns into a seal and is the champion of one faction of the seafolk, who's bound to fight Tiamat in a Duel to the Death under the sea someplace. He's rightfully in hiding above hill, wearing an amber necklace that prevents most magic from working on him or by him. Most. Given he's a selkie, he can't prevent their bane, which Olivia sets off on accident after hearing Audrey and Blake discussing what to do with Olivia; she goes and cries into the lake, which makes Dylan fall in love with her. Which he can't really explain to Olivia, but he does court her as best he can.

Anyway, he makes his true self known about the time Audrey tips a canoe over in the middle of the lake while the two girls are supposed to be timing Blake's swim times. Mind you, after she does this, Audrey is revealed to also be a Lamia...

Much happens, as Olivia tries running away, gets caught, and even with Dylan's magical protection, can't help herself against physical threats of a non magical variety. Which is fine, since Dylan's removal of the necklace also reveals his location, so we get a visit from a rather irate sea monster in the middle of a finger lake.

There are a few undeveloped characters floating around in here, like Mandy and her gran, who run a diner in the closest town to the resort. One gets the impression Gran knows more than she lets on, but what she actually does know is never really discussed. We also find out later on Olivia's Mom knows more than what we were lead to believe, even if it is vaguely foreshadowed in the opening chapter.

There's also a shot fired at a certain movie, as Audrey talks about eating an insipid mermaid who surrounded herself with manmade treasures.

I will give Olivia and the authors credit though, since the do a fairly good job showing us Olivia's clinical depression, although the adventures she goes through do seem to lighten it up a little, which isn't particularly realistic.

All in all, it's a good, if quick read; I just wish they'd have given it a different series title.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Oops, I ran out of books...

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I let my TBR pile dwindle down to nothing, and I couldn't find the books I had from various sales, Amazon's shipping takes time, particularly when preordering, and the library doesn't have copies of stuff at your preferred location....

Anyway, this lead to rereading Keith Hartman's The Gumshoe, The Witch, and the Virtual Corpse. Which I've already read several times and actually have a review posted of on here already.

As such, I'm not going to rereview the book, merely point out the original review, and then mention that the edition I have currently is not the original Meisha Merlin edition (which I loaned to someone and never got returned), but the more recent revised version, complete with artwork, moving the story 20 years after where it was originally, and a few changed references. Interestingly enough, my copy of the follow up is the Meisha Merlin edition without all the new bells and whistles, and it's up next just to finish the story. Eventually, I will replace my original edition and get the revised edition of the follow up, but not today.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Begin the beguine

So, until I bought the boxed set of John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy, I had no idea he'd written a prequel 20 years after the original trilogy was released.

Which brings us to When The Tripods Came. The plot is fairly straight forward, as we meet Laurie and Andy, off camping on the moors when the first Tripod appears in England. Three arrived at the same time, one in England, one in Russia, and one in Montana. While the American tripod self destructs, the other two are defeated by the military of the respective nations.

Much fun is made of our first extraterrestrial encounter, as they really didn't do much besides die. Indeed, a new show about the tripods hits the televisions a few months after, seemingly poking fun at the alien objects. And then people get really obsessed with the show. Laurie watches one episode, and notices how realistic some of it seems to be. His sister becomes a Trippie, one of the obsessed fans of the show. She gets hypnotized by a psychologist, who gets her out of it, but everyone wonders why a show would be hypnotizing people.

Long story short, despite Laurie's parents being decidedly British about things, stiff upper lip and all, they do wind up fleeing after a cousin drops by to put helmets on those who won't voluntarily Hail the Tripod. Well, that and Tripods setting down and making their way to population centers, with Trippies hanging off all the legs to prevent attack.

By the time the family flees to try to reach Switzerland with Andy in tow, most forms of mass transit have shut down. Indeed, they take a boat to Gloustershire, get shipped back to the mainland, then hijack the plane. Which leads to tense moments getting across Germany into Geneva. After quite a bit of effort, we see the family and a few additions setting up shop atop a mountain in a train tunnel. The book does end with some hope, even as seemingly all of humanity over 13 is capped by the Tripods.

By far the best part of this is the forward he wrote for this edition, discussing how the 80s BBC series (which evidently started deviating quite a bit about halfway through the first season) was panned by a Famous British Sci-Fi author, who sniffed about how the Tripods didn't even have infrared. As the author points out, Sci-Fi often misses things as the eras progress, pointing out that almost no science fiction predicted the rise of the internet. So, after the first attack, when England is laughing about the
Tripod's lack of infrared....

Also, unlike the original trilogy, there are more than a few female characters running around, and Laurie's sister even smacks him for suggesting that women don't belong in the resistance.

The one thing that did amuse me unrelated to anything else was that, in the original trilogy, every measure was Imperial. In this one, we gets meters and kilograms, which makes much more sense in the setting.

Honestly, I like that he wrote this, even if he did use it to correct things that became problematic as the originals aged. I enjoyed seeing the beginning, and remain amused that a kids show would brainwash the populace into accepting the peace of the herd instead of buying toys. On the whole, the series remains something I'd happily hand down to my nieces and nephews as they get older.