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Book Review: Entangled edited by Edie Ramer

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 29-07-2012

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EntangledEntan­gled by Edie Ramer
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this anthol­o­gy up because all pro­ceeds go to the Breast Can­cer Research Foun­da­tion, which is a won­der­ful cause. Many of the authors’ lives have been touched by can­cer in one way or anoth­er, some first-hand. The vol­ume is Hal­loween-themed, as well.

I don’t believe I’ve read any­thing but short sto­ries by any of these authors in the past except for Jen­nifer Estep, and I haven’t read the Mythos Acad­e­my series in which her sto­ry is set. I’m more like­ly to read it now than I was before.

“Hal­loween Frost” by Estep and “Ghost­ly Jus­tice” by Alli­son Bren­nan (set in her Sev­en Dead­ly Sins series) were the most pol­ished sto­ries in the anthol­o­gy. Too many of the oth­ers had plot holes, or felt like teasers to get a read­er to pur­sue more of the author’s work. A short sto­ry should be self-con­tained.

Some of the authors let the “romance” get in the way of the plot­ting. If the main char­ac­ter acts like an idiot because she’s dis­tract­ed by the bulge in a man’s pants, why make her the main char­ac­ter of a sto­ry? Espe­cial­ly if, as in “Sin­ful­ly Sweet” by Michelle Miles, you fail to resolve the major plot issue you raise?

While I admire the cause for which these ladies are writ­ing, I can’t help but think a short­er, high­er-qual­i­ty anthol­o­gy might have been a bet­ter bet.

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Book Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 27-07-2012

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Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, #11)Dead Reck­on­ing by Char­laine Har­ris
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

For fluff, it’s got some real­ly dark scenes. It doesn’t have enough of a plot to be any­thing more than fluff, though. It absolute­ly does NOT stand alone, so don’t con­sid­er read­ing this book unless you’ve read all that went before it — you’ll be hope­less­ly lost.

Sook­ie has changed so much over the course of this series that she is hav­ing trou­ble rec­og­niz­ing her­self, and is trou­bled over it, with good rea­son. Hav­ing a main char­ac­ter change is good, and I’ll say that some of that change is growth, but I can’t say it’s all growth, or all to the good. (Can any of us say that, though, about the changes we go through in our lives?)

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Book Review: Tricked by Kevin Hearne

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 26-07-2012

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Tricked (Iron Druid Chronicles, #4)Tricked by Kevin Hearne
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

That was so good. Just so very good. Like the last three — well plot­ted, with good char­ac­ter devel­op­ment from a fas­ci­nat­ing cast of char­ac­ters. This time most of the mythol­o­gy is Native Amer­i­can (specif­i­cal­ly Nava­jo) instead of Norse or Celtic, but there’s a lit­tle spice from oth­er tra­di­tions thrown in as well. And as before, there are always con­se­quences get­ting involved, even in good caus­es. I think that’s one of the biggest ways this series reminds me of the Dres­den Files by Jim Butch­er.

I am absolute­ly going to be on ten­ter­hooks until Trapped is released!

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Book Review: Hammered by Kevin Hearne

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 24-07-2012

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Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles, #3)Ham­mered by Kevin Hearne
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This book has a non-stop pace, for rea­sons that will be obvi­ous to the read­er but can­not be explained to oth­ers with­out spoil­ers. I’ll just say “clear your cal­en­dar” because you’ll not find ANY good stop­ping places.

One of the things that tru­ly impress­es me is that Kevin Hearne doesn’t just show his char­ac­ters doing amaz­ing things, but shows them expe­ri­enc­ing the con­se­quences of their actions — some expect­ed, some total­ly unex­pect­ed. I tru­ly enjoy his views of arche­types and myth, espe­cial­ly com­ing from a char­ac­ter who walks around speak­ing to gods, hav­ing a beer with Jesus and throw­ing down with Thor.

I’m so glad that I have Tricked on hand, but I wish Trapped were out already! At least I have the extra A Test of Met­tle to read, too. I just can’t get enough of Atti­cus.

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Book Review: Places to Be, People to Kill edited by Brittiany A. Koren & Martin H. Greenberg

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 23-07-2012

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Places To Be, People To KillPlaces To Be, Peo­ple To Kill by Brit­tiany A. Koren
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this anthol­o­gy more than one might expect from a col­lec­tion of sto­ries about killers, but then I’ve read a cou­ple of vol­umes edit­ed by Brit­tiany A. Koren and Mar­tin H. Green­berg now, and I trust the pair. (Green­berg has turned out so many antholo­gies that I don’t assume any­thing at all when I see his name.)

I had to explain to my fam­i­ly why I kept laugh­ing while read­ing “Exact­ly” by Tanya Huff. I’m a long-time fan of her work, so was already famil­iar with sib­ling assas­sins Vree and Ban­non from Fifth Quar­ter and No Quar­ter. While all of Huff’s work includes some humor, this sto­ry is par­tic­u­lar­ly fun­ny.

“Breia’s Dia­mond” by Cat Collins was a mem­o­rable low in the book. In addi­tion to the inap­pro­pri­ate and inept use of romance clichés, it’s all too obvi­ous ear­ly on that the mer­ce­nar­ies are being paid far too much for too lit­tle work by the necro­mancer. That isn’t fore­shad­ow­ing, it’s fore­shout­ing — or just plain stu­pid­i­ty on the part of the mer­ce­nar­ies. They are mur­der­ers for hire, noth­ing else, and I’ve nev­er felt any sym­pa­thy for such. Why would I start now, sim­ply because a sto­ry is told from their point of view?

Bradley H. Sinor’s “Money’s Worth” has the feel of some­thing excerpt­ed from a larg­er work. It’s good and I enjoyed it, but I think I would have enjoyed it far more in its prop­er con­text.

The only oth­er sto­ry that is mem­o­rable enough to sin­gle out is “The Hun­dredth Kill” by John Mar­co. It is a love­ly jew­el of a sto­ry, one that stands for itself, leav­ing lit­tle to be said oth­er than “read it.” I don’t believe that I’ve read any of Marco’s nov­els, but obvi­ous­ly I’ve missed out on some­thing very good. I intend to rem­e­dy that omis­sion short­ly.

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Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 22-07-2012

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Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles, #1)Hound­ed by Kevin Hearne
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I just can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s well-plot­ted. There’s an excel­lent cast of char­ac­ters, and they devel­op in inter­est­ing ways. The world-build­ing is won­der­ful­ly rich.

I have the same incred­i­ble, bub­bly feel­ing that I did when read­ing the very first Dres­den Files nov­el by Jim Butch­er – gimme more! For­tu­nate­ly, there are already three more books avail­able in the series (Hexed, Ham­mered and Tricked) with a fifth (Trapped) on the way.

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Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 18-07-2012

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Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t intend to read this book, as I’d large­ly heard snark about it. A dear friend rec­om­mend­ed it, though, so I final­ly gave it a read.

The writ­ing def­i­nite­ly needs pol­ish and a good edi­tor – I couldn’t pos­si­bly give it more than 3 stars due to that alone. The sexy is there, though, and that’s the whole pur­pose of the book. It does fol­low most of the tra­di­tion­al romance tropes, which explains most of its accep­tance, but the addi­tion of spici­er sex seems to be what has every­one talk­ing. (I’d call it spicy more than tru­ly kinky.)

The entire plot takes place in just three weeks, which isn’t bad in the romance world. That doesn’t leave much time for char­ac­ter growth, but there is a lit­tle. That brings the book up a star from where I’d put most romance nov­els.

If you want some light, sexy sum­mer read­ing and don’t mind the fact that this is so very obvi­ous­ly a self-pub­lished first nov­el, go for it. Some peo­ple will want to read it just because of all the uproar, I imag­ine. If you’re look­ing for lit­er­a­ture or true erot­i­ca, pass this one up.

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Book Review: JavaScript in Easy Steps

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 17-07-2012

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JavaScript in Easy StepsJavaScript in Easy Steps by Mike McGrath
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

This book isn’t worth the paper on which it’s print­ed, unless you’re already a devel­op­er. If you aren’t, don’t both­er. McGrath intro­duces con­cepts with lit­tle to no expla­na­tion, tells you to type some­thing in, says it should do X, then moves on to the next thing. An aver­age of two pages per con­cept, with the code descrip­tions.

He doesn’t address best prac­tices (at least, not a quar­ter of the way through the book). He always puts the scripts in the head of the doc­u­ment, which is (accord­ing to oth­ers I’ve been learn­ing from) a bad idea unless there’s a good rea­son for it.

Along with all that, there’s sup­posed to be a web site that goes with the book, where you can down­load the sam­ple code. There’s no men­tion of the fact that the site is only acces­si­ble to those in the U.K. Why do that, then mar­ket the book in North Amer­i­ca?

I think it deserves no stars, but GoodReads won’t let me do that.

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Review: So Mote It Be by Isobel Bird

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 01-07-2012

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Note: This is an ancient review, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished 10 March 2001, that I’m just now con­vert­ing to Word­Press.

Last night I took advan­tage of the qui­et due to hav­ing two kids gone on a camp­ing trip to read So Mote It Be, the first book of Iso­bel Bird’s Cir­cle of Three series.

I’d heard about this series on a cou­ple of pagan mail­ing lists, but nobody seemed to have actu­al­ly read them yet. I was, how­ev­er, some­what intrigued by the thought of a Wic­can (sup­pos­ed­ly one with 20 years of expe­ri­ence and a good rep­u­ta­tion) writ­ing books aimed at the teen mar­ket that loves Charmed and Buffy and so on. The books were sup­posed to be bet­ter done and more respon­si­bly writ­ten than the sim­i­lar series Sil­ver Raven­wolf has start­ed, and I knew my daugh­ter would be want­i­ng to read them as soon as she saw or heard about them, so I fig­ured I’d go ahead and screen book one.

(Yes, we do gen­er­al­ly screen music, books and movies before our kids are exposed to them — we don’t cen­sor much except graph­ic vio­lence, but we do choose to dis­cuss our con­cerns about var­i­ous media very open­ly with our kids.)

I don’t real­ly like teen genre books — it’s been a few too many years since I obsessed over look­ing right at school and whether a par­tic­u­lar per­son would ask me to a dance for me to relate. And I didn’t even like the few that were out when I was a teen — I was read­ing C.S. Lewis, Robert Hein­lein, Frank Her­bert and Mar­i­on Zim­mer Bradley. But I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that the book wasn’t that painful, and for the genre it was real­ly very well done.

As a pagan, I was impressed with how the rule of three and the rede were worked into the nov­el and made very real. The main char­ac­ter is Kate, and her con­flict between being drawn to Wic­ca (which is pre­sent­ed as a reli­gion) and being a fair­ly devout Chris­t­ian is han­dled del­i­cate­ly and cer­tain­ly not resolved in the first book, which is, I think, real­is­tic. Kate’s fears of being ostra­cized if her old friends (the pop­u­lar crowd in their high school) found out she was prac­tic­ing witch­craft are very real. The prac­tic­ing Wic­cans are por­trayed very pos­i­tive­ly, and tarot read­ing is pre­sent­ed as a method of explor­ing choic­es and gain­ing insight rather than some sil­ly card trick.

In short, I have absolute­ly no reser­va­tions about let­ting my 10-year-old daugh­ter read this book and the oth­ers in the series (although I plan to read them, as well, first.) I do think the appeal of the books will be among 9 – 12 year olds, but real­ize that my per­cep­tions there may be skewed. (Katie just bought her own copy of The Mists of Aval­on because she loves that book so much, so she isn’t real­ly read­ing on what the pub­lic school sys­tem would con­sid­er her “grade lev­el.”)

I did have two lit­tle gripes about the books — the author must not know many 9-year-olds, because she por­trayed one briefly with behav­ior and dia­logue more appro­pri­ate to a 5-year-old. Our kids are 9, 10 and 12 and we have anoth­er 9-year-old who spends a lot of time here. We host kids’ gam­ing groups here every week­end or at least every oth­er week­end, when 10 to 15 kids from who are 8 to 13 years old are here for much of the week­end. I know kids in that age range very well, and don’t know even one who would even think of speak­ing the dia­logue giv­en to Meg. And the idea that the main char­ac­ters found a book of spells in their high school library pushed tripped my unbe­liev­abil­i­ty trig­ger — do you real­ly think any pub­lic school in the US would have such a thing on their shelves in this day and age, when even Madeleine L’Engle is often con­sid­ered too witchy?

Any­way, we’ll prob­a­bly be buy­ing the oth­er books in this series as they come out, and I can only rec­om­mend them to oth­er par­ents and their young read­ers. Do read them and dis­cuss them with your kids. If your kids like these, I’d sug­gest that they check out Diane Duane’s Wiz­ardry series, too (So You Want to Be a Wiz­ard is book one) and maybe the Chrestom­an­ci series by Diana Wynne Jones. Robin Wood’s mar­velous exam­i­na­tion of ethics, When, Why… If, also pro­vides excel­lent mate­r­i­al for fam­i­ly dis­cus­sions (and if the char­ac­ters of So Mote It Be had read Robin’s book first, there prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been a plot).

Ooo! Bad Author! No Author Biscuit!

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Kvetching, Reading | Posted on 30-06-2012

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I just fin­ished read­ing the all three books that are cur­rent­ly avail­able in the Mor­ris & Chas­tain Super­nat­ur­al Inves­ti­ga­tions series by Justin Gus­tai­nis. I have no com­plaints about Black Mag­ic Woman or Evil Ways, which hang togeth­er pret­ty close­ly.

Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il, though, end­ed with a cliffhang­er! How dare he! The read­er is left com­plete­ly unsure of the fate of one of the main two char­ac­ters, as well as sev­er­al oth­ers who were piv­otal to the plot. Hon­est­ly, any­body who is read­ing vol­ume three of a series has proven enough com­mit­ment that there’s sim­ply no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for such a cheap tac­tic. Bah!