Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Done: "Ink Mage" by Victor Gischler

Done: Ink Mage by Victor Gischler, 2014, 9781477849309.

Took a while to get this thing cataloged.  The library's current cataloging source is not good.

First, the complaints:
1. Gischler says, "'in need of an editor' is the current smarty pants reviewer go-to move on Amazon. Makes them feel smart."  Yeah, well 47North should hire some more copy editors because one page had three instances of "solider" instead of soldier. EDIT: After some thought I realize that comment may sound snotty.  It's not meant to be, I see typo errors in plenty of books.  But, it still annoyed me and, after all, this is the internet where nitpicking is king.
2.  No map in the print edition.  What the heck?  The e-book has a freaking map.There is no way I missed it somewhere in the novel. Is a map really needed?  No, but I like maps.

Second, the comments:
1.  It's Gischler, so you know it's good.  Even if you don't usually read fantasy.  Hopefully he'll sell enough of these to put out a sequel.
2.  Swords and magic in a make-believe land with made-up fantasy names.  
3.  Klaar is a smaller duchy in the large kingdom of Helva.  The kingdon is invaded by the Parnassians (or something like that). Rina, the Duke's daughter, witnesses the murder of her parents - under the invader's flag of truce no less - and escapes with her bodyguard into a winter storm.  Bodyguard takes her immediately to a mountain cave where a real old wizard lives.  The wizard tattoos a couple spells onto Rina.  The spells are built into the tattoos and give her power.  The wizard gives her the Prime tattoo down her back and a strength tattoo. 
4.  Meanwhile we've met Alem and Tosh, two Klaarian dudes.  One is a stable boy - Head Stable Boy - and the other is a soldier who escaped the invasion slaughter.  Alem ends up aiding Rina along with a loutish but charming RoyalOfSomeSort.  Tosh tries to escape the city, fails, and is taken in by a bordello and is hired as a cook.
5. Rina's plan is to escape the mountain ringed Duchy of Klaar and inform the wider kingdom of the invasion.  Rina gets another tattoo from a gypsy wizard.  Rina travels across the kingdom - Rina doesn't have a map either but remembers her dad's maps - to another wizard for another tattoo.
6. Tosh starts training the prostitutes in sword play.  No pun intended. The patriotic prostitutes are pointedly plotting resistance to the invaders.
7.  Rina, Tosh and Alem all end up back in Klaar to try and take the city.  This is more easily done since Gischler, I mean the Parnassian commander, quartered most soldiers outside the city walls.
8.  Everyone lives happily ever after as the invaders leave.  Except for all the dead people from the war.
9.  A good book.  No surprise about that.  With Gischler-style humor. No long, drawn out battle scenes.  
10.  No over emphasis on creating detailed religious, cultural, or political systems for Klaar and Helva.  Gischler keeps things going and gives us good characters, a couple brief sex scenes, and chopped off heads.  Not much sword play either.  No detail on weapons and giving swords names and histories.
11.  No outdoor grilling.

EDIT: I should note that this was first published as a Kindle serial in 2013.  I had to wait for the paperback version to release.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Heard: "Gods of Guilt" by Michael Connelly

Heard: Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly, 2013, Overdrive download.

This makes a jump in time from Fifth Witness where Haller ran for District Attorney and was defeated when one of his clients was freed from custody and killed two people in a drunken wreck.  I was thinking I must have missed a novel in the series but just looked at the bib on Connelly's website and I've read all the Haller novels. That election defeat also estranged Haller from his teenage daughter who was questioned by her classmates about her scumbag father.  Even worse, the car collision victims were parents from Haller's daughter's school.

Anyway.  Haller still works with the same group of people.  Lorna the secretary, Cisco the investigator, Bullocks the firm's attorney, Earl the driver.  Haller's practice has been up and down over the years and the foreclosure cases that were keeping him solvent have not been as steady.  Lorna receives a jail phone call straight from a suspected murderer who says he can pay.  Pay?  That's the magic word.

Haller meets the guy.  He is an internet pimp.  He creates the websites, does the bookings, and takes a cut.  The pimp's prostitute/client was murdered and the pimp was seen at her place, questioned by the cops, and arrested.  Haller takes the case.  Haller finds out the dead woman is the same prostitute the he used to regularly defend until he gifted her the money to travel to Hawaii and start over in legal work.  IN the years since Haller would receive Hawaiian postcards from Prostitute but never noticed the Riverside, CA postage stamps.

Anyway.  Haller sees a connection between the dead woman and the case that Haller negotiated for her to turn evidence on a drug dealer and get out of a charge.  Haller learns Prostitute was under the heavy thumb of a DEA agent who made her plant a gun in the drug dealer's room.  Imprisoned Drug Dealer learned about this and has been subpoenaing people involved.

Haller digs. Haller is threatened.  Haller lies.  Haller is indignant when accused of lying.  Haller bullies.  Haller is an asshole.  Haller admits to being an asshole.  Haller says he is an asshole when his clients are on the line.  Baloney, Haller is an asshole and liar no matter what.  Haller has issues.

Legal scheming and maneuvering.  DEA bad guy.  Pimp is actually innocent.  Series character is murdered.  Everyone gets their just desserts and Haller is victorious in court.

1. An enjoyable series.
2.  This felt more straightforward than previous Haller novels that would have twists in the end.  I was expecting the pimp to be guilty after all, but he wasn't.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Listened: "Suddenly, A Knock on the Door" by Etgar Keret

Listened: Suddenly, A Knock On the Door by Etgar Keret, 2012, Overdrive download.

A bunch of keret short stories with a bunch of guest narrators.  Some readers were okay and some stunk.  The collection felt uneen because of the constantly changing narrators.  By my quick count there were 34 readers.

Typical Keret themes: madness, depression, death, guilt, sex and lust.  He takes unpleasant topics and injects a good bit of black humor.  Many have the fantasy aspect - like a chronic liar who goes into a blank white space and meets his lies.  Lies like the dead relative - who never existed - and was used to get out of work.  Or, the nonexistent dog that was struck by a car that The Liar rushed to the vet to his explain tardiness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Quickish Read: "Code Zero" by Jonathan Maberry

Quickish Read: Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry, 2014, 9781250033437.

Another in the Joe Ledger shoot-em-up series.  Maberry brings back some evil science but with a new villain.

A recap: Ledger was a Baltimore cop recruited by the Department of Military Sciences (DMS).  The DMS is ultra-secretive and run by the mysterious Mr. Church who has influence throughout the government and several private industries. The DMS recruits the smartest scientists and best soldiers and cops to fight sci-fi grade threats from evil scientists, North Korean spies, and scheming politicians and billionaires.  The DMS's main tool is the MindReader computer system that can defeat any software protection and cover all traces of its presence.  MindReader both protects super secret information and searches out patterns and data to reveal bad guys.

Artemisia Bliss was a genius level scientist who started stealing secrets, was arrested, tried, convicted, and murdered in jail.  Except the murder was faked and Bliss has spent two years building the persona of Mother Night and gathering a wide group of disaffected computer and gaming geeks to be her violent minions.  Bliss stole the science for a zombie virus, genetic mutations, and other biological weapons that Maberry had in previous Leger novels.

Ledger and co. are spread thin as Bliss's followers set off pressure cooker bombs, release plague diseases and cause general mayhem.  But, what is Bliss's motivation?  And how can DMS stop her when Bliss stole the predecessor to MindReader and has built her own updated version?  Lots of shooting ensues.  Lots of death ensues.  Lots of drama ensues. Some sex ensues.  Ledger gets mopey.  Ledger emotes on his stress and lovey-dover for his girlfriend.

1. Fun stuff and Maberry packs a lot of action and intrigue into the book.  He had to.  He took 470 pages to tell the damn story.
2.  Not a good starting point within the series.  A new reader is better off starting with an earlier book. I was thinking some characters were too rapidly introduced.
3. Plenty of pop culture and gaming references. I had no idea what computer games they were referring to but it did not matter.
4.  Lots of short chapters.  I've heard one or two audio versions from this series and the narrator really chews up the dialogue and description and makes for a good listen.

Finished: "Pepperland" by Mark Delaney

Finished: Pepperland by Mark Delaney, 2004, 9781561453177.

This was supposed to be a committee book.  There is a 2013 title but when I checked the catalog I reserved the first Pepperland I saw.  Oh well. I enjoyed this YA one anyway.

Star is in therapy after her mother's recent cancer death in 1980.  Star lives with her step-dad Sykes - who is a good dad - has a best male friend names Dooley, and plays guitar a lot. Star's mom loved the Beatles so Star loves the Beatles.

Star is having some grief issues so it's good she has a therapist.  Throughout the book she gets better.  Dooley is accused of being gay and gets his locker graffitied with "fag".  Star finds her mother's old acoustic guitar which withered and split in the warm LA air.  Star takes the guitar to a shop and strikes a deal with shop owner to help in the shop in lieu of the $300 repair bill.  Dooley proclaims himself straight and tries to prove it by impulsively swapping spit with Star.  Star looks though her mom's old stuff and finds an unmailed letter to John Lennon written in 1964.  Star is intent on hand delivering the letter when Lennon appears in concert with Elton John in LA.

1. A decent story and Star's first person narrative was entertaining.
2.  Delaney's afterword mentions how he took liberties in creating a Lennon/John concert for the story.
3.  I wonder how would Star have reacted to Lennon's murder. I think the girl would have been devastated.  Not just because of her own love for Lennon but for her deceased mom's.
4.  I think the Dooley kid is gayer than gay and is faking it because of anti-gay pressure from others and by himself.  But, these are teenagers and awkwardness is normal so why shouldn't he be a teeth colliding kisser and unable to turn from pal to boyfriend?  If Dooley is gay I wonder how that character would fair as a young guy in the AIDS disasters of the 1980s. Reminds me of the Karen Finley book I read where almost all her friends and colleagues died within just a couple years.  What a freaking health disaster that was. 
5.  Kid lit cliche of helping out in exchange for services.  How the kid character and storekeeper bond and learn and grow through their problems.  Bleagh.

Read: "The Edge of the Earth" by Christina Schwarz

Read: The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz, 2013, 9781451683677.

Committee book.  Not too bad.

Short version: Spoiled girl in 1890s Milwaukee marries a bum, moves to CA, husband takes job at lighthouse, woman starts scientific study and intrigue ensues.

Long version: Trudy is the child of a prosperous tugboat owner in Milwaukee.  She has been attending a woman's college (with a curriculum that is more of a finishing school).  Trudy has a scientific bent but is scheduled to marry the son of family friends.  Her fiancee's cousin, Oskar, comes to live in Milwaukee.  The cousin and Trudy fall for each other, marry, and head out to California.  Trudy gets clues about Oskar's flighty, impulsive behavior and wishful thinking when he pawns some of her belongings in San Francisco.

Oskar gets hired as assistant lighthouse keeper at remote Point Lucia on the CA coast.  The lighthouse is manned by Mr. Crawley who lives there with his wife and four kids and his brother-in-law, Mr. Johnston.  The lighthouse is several days ride from civilization and is resupplied every 3-4 months.  The ships have no place to dock and anchor offshore and send in longboats.  Oskar, Mr. Crawley, and Mr. Johnston have daily shifts to man and maintain the lighthouse equipment.

The island is windswept and lonely by Trudy manages pretty well.  Oskar has big plans to invent and build electrical equipment but his intelligence is not up to the task.  Mrs. Crawley is grouchy but Trudy likes the kids and is drafted as school teacher.  Trudy starts studying tidal pools and the creatures within.  Trudy mails a former teacher offering samples.  Trudy and Mrs. Crawley start selling tidal pool samples through the mail.

One day Trudy discovers that a woman is leaving in a cave among the shore.  Trudy finds the woman was discovered by loggers living alone in the woods.  Wild Woman was presumed last Indian of a tribe and taken by Mrs. Crawley.  Mr. Johnston leers for Wild Woman, gets her pregnant, and Wild Woman skips out to hide in the caves. 

There is some mystery about a dead infant.  About Wild Woman who the kids think is a mermaid.  By Oskar who is intent on studying Wild Woman and is posing as a scholar by stealing Wild Woman's stuff and scheming to kidnap her to UC-Berkley.  A couple people drown and everyone lives happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Read: "Wise Men" by Stuart Nadler

Read: Wise Men by Stuart Nadler, 2013, 9780316126489.

Committee book but the ending was no surprise. Spoilers ahead.

Told by Hilton "Hilly" Wise whose rich and famous father Arthur was a major dickhead.  Arthur becomes hugely successful after suing an airline for a crash.  Arthur buys a small house and lots of land on Cape Cod in 1952 and they move in for the summer.  Hilly kinda makes friends with the poorly paid and poorly treated black guy who works as caretaker, Lem. 

Hilly meets and goes loopy for Lem's teen niece, Savvanah. Savannah's dad is a washed up pitcher and gambling addict.  Arthur is a jerk to Lem.  Arthur's law partner, Robert, lives in a cottage on the same property and Arthur and Robert are constantly having Lem shuttle boxes and boxes of legal papers back and forth as they work on more airline lawsuits. Lem is sweating over the sand in the summer sun for $8 a week.

Hilly finds Lem reading legal papers in the sand.  Hilly wouldn't say anything but is mad at Lem so Hilly tells his father.  Papers are missing and Arthur has Lem arrested. Lem is killed in jail.  Hilly carries a bunch of guilt.

Twenty years later Arthur is mega-rich and a big political player in New York and Washington, D.C.  Hilly has forsaken his dad's money, "blood money' he calls it, and is estranged from his parents with little contact.  Hilly works for a small Boston paper and lives in a leaking apartment with his girlfriend and a broken fridge.

Hilly covers race-related stories and scours the AP wire every day looking for mention of Savannah.  He's sees Savannah's father's name in the paper for a broken window in Iowa.  Hilly flies right out.  Savannah's dad not happy to see him.  Hilly finds out Savannah is there but married. She is not happy to see Hilly.  Hilly seems to be bad luck for Savannah. Hilly gets a call from his dad while in Iowa - Hilly's girlfriend is pregnant.  Hilly heads home because what else can he do?

Thirty years later and Hilly accepted his dad's money, got married, had three daughters, his wife died, and Hilly lives in the Cape Cod house. Arthur is a still a money and power loving jerk but he does love his kid and Hilly deals with him okay.  More things happen and Hilly meets Savannah again. Hilly assuages some of his guilt over Lem.

1.  Well done book but not really my thing.
2.  Nadler has Arthur as the man who started litigation business against airlines.  He became known as the airline suing guy but also built a career as the law firm that contracted with airlines to prepare against lawsuits with disclaimers on the back of tickets.
3. Anyone could see the ending coming between Arthur and his legal partner and lifelong pal Robert.  Everyone but Hilly that is.

Finally: "Red Moon" by Benjamin Percy

Finally: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, 2013, 9781455501663.

Committee book.  This one took forever.  533 freaking pages.  I would have enjoyed the novel much more if he cut 200 pages out.  Anyway, it was okay but too long.  Just not my bag.

Werewolf novel.  Set in an alternate world with a nice mix of history and modern day where werewolves fit into everyday society.  Percy takes a mix of things where werewolves are second class citizens and under terror watch lists and blood testing.  Parallels to AIDS, paranoia about Muslims, radicals versus rational people, Middle Eastern politics, Israel, military engagement overseas, 9/11, domestic terrorism, 1960s activism.

Werewolves have been around for millenia. As the novel U.S. werewolves are required to take a drug that prevents them from transform from human to werewolf.  The U.S. has had troops in the Lycan Republic (carved out in the forests between Finland and Russia after WWII) for decades to protect the valuable uranium mines there.  The troops in the Lycan Republic there have been fighting an insurgency that whole time.

1. So, U.S. radicals send werewolves on domestic flights.  Those werewolves transform on the flight and kill everyone.  The only survivor out of four planes is teenaged Patrick. 
2. Immediately after the plane attacks the WI home of teenaged Claire's activist werewolf parents is raided and her parents shot dead.  Claire escapes and goes cross coutnry to Oregon to find her reclusive werewolf aunt. 
3.  Oregon Governor Douchebag is a former Army officer who fought in the Lycan Republic.  Douchebag is a loudmouth, boozer and whoremonger.  Is forwardness is appreciated by many and he starts ranting against werewolves - even after a werewolf prostitutes bites and infects him - and his political cachet grows. 
4. Patrick's father is deployed to the Lycan Republic. Patrick is traumatized from the plane attack and makes friends with students at his new H.S. who anti-wolf skinheads.

Things happen. Love blooms between Claire and Patrick.  Governor Douchebag becomes President.  Claire's uncle is a nutbag terrorist.  Other bad guys show up.  Patrick's father goes missing.  Patrick enlists and goes to the Lycan Republic and is sole survivor of ambush and finds his now werewolf father.  A werewolf vaccine is created.  A werewolf flies a explosive filled plane into a Oregon nuke plant and the entire NW is a Geiger counter paradise.  Patrick hunts Oregon for the vaccine.  Patrick finds Claire.  Some bad guy werewolves are killed and others carry out plan to spread infection through grain processing plants around the Midwest.

1.  According to author bio Percy is a dirty Ole.  At least he is not from Carleton.
2.  Set-up for a sequel.
3.  Percy put a lot into the science of werewolf infection and the politics of the issues he created.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Listened: "Suddenly, a Knock at the Door" by Etgar Keret

Listened:  Suddenly, a Knock at the Door by Etgar Keret, 2012, Overdrive download.

I bought the print version but never got to it.  This has a ton of different narrators.  Some are good, some are bleah. 

Short stories of Israeli life.  More I could say but I don't want to right now.  Maybe later.

Heard: "Revenge of the Witch" by Joseph Delaney

Heard: Revenge of the Witch: Wardstone Chronicles: Last Apprentice Series, Book 1 by Joseph Delaney, 2005 (for audio), Overdrive download.

Boy #1 was reading this series and chose one of them for a stories at bedtime.  I enjoyed reading the book out loud and found the audio online.

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of his family and only one of two to still live at home.  His oldest brother lives at home with his pregnant wife and is about to take over the family farm.  Thomas is about 15 years-old-old (I cannot recall exactly) and needs to find a trade and leave home.  Thomas finds out that The Spook has agreed to take Thomas on and Thomas will be leaving home in a few days.

The Spook is tall and everyone avoids him.  The Spook deals with ghosts, boggarts, witches, and other unpleasant beings.  The Spook is relied upon under desperate circumstances but the mysterious and dangerous nature of his work makes him a outcast.  The Spook promises to take Thomas on for one month and see how things go.

Well, things happen.  Thomas has a hard adjustment leaving home and learning at the knee of a guy who can sometimes be hard.  But, The Spook can also be a caring and understanding fella for a young teen.  After all, Spook has already had 29 other apprentices and some even survived.

Anyway.  Thomas chooses to stay on as apprentice.  He is slightly taken with a local girl who does him a favor.  Spook has to leave town and leaves Thomas to care for his house and land.  Part of the land is burial for the living and the dead.  The living include a witch who was captured by the Spook.  Local Girl asks Thomas to feed Witch some cakes.  He does so and the witch grows stronger and presses aside the bars of her tomb to escape.

Thomas pursues.  Thomas catches.  Thomas barely survives but kills Witch by chance.  Thomas threatened by other witches and chased.  Thomas rescued by Spook.  Thomas told to take Local Girl to her relatives.  Dead Witch too strong to die.  He spirit is wick and can travel and take over another body.  Thomas stops at home and has to figure out which relation or visitor has been possessed.  Everything ends happily ever after.

1.  I know I liked the novel because I wrote a lot up above.
2.  Nice YA fiction with a kid sorting himself out and dealing with new challenges and people.
3.  I'll compare this favorably with The Book of Three.  Young hero has to leave home and learn how to deal with a girl his own age, with adults, and new and dangerous demands.