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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!

Review: Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 28-05-2011

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Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, #1)Spider’s Bite by Jen­nifer Estep
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it this book, and plan to go on to the next book in the series, Web of Lies. I’m hop­ing that Jen­nifer Estep grows as an author, though, as the fore­shad­ow­ing regard­ing the real “big bad” as well as the rev­e­la­tion of a fact impor­tant to the main char­ac­ter were both rather clum­si­ly done, in my opinion. 

I’m aware of anoth­er series by Estep, Big­time. I was think­ing of read­ing it, but it was writ­ten ear­li­er than the Ele­men­tal Assas­sin series, and now I’m not so sure about whether I want to read it or not. Estep’s char­ac­ters are inter­est­ing, but I’m not sure that they’re inter­est­ing enough to hold me through writ­ing that’s less pol­ished than Spider’s Bite. Then again, I’ve cer­tain­ly read worse. I sup­pose it all depends on what I hap­pen to have in hand at any giv­en time. I’d be more like­ly to read it if there were short sto­ries avail­able sim­i­lar to the ones on Estep’s web site that drew me in to this series. 

I didn’t do reviews for those, but there are three sto­ries that occur chrono­log­i­cal­ly before Spider’s Bite: Poi­son Web of Deceit and Spider’s Bar­gain. Read­ing them cer­tain­ly isn’t nec­es­sary to enjoy the nov­el, and it’s def­i­nite­ly bet­ter to avoid read­ing Web of Deceit first. They are good sto­ries, though, and I do rec­om­mend that any­one who enjoys Estep’s work seek them out in order to enjoy the addi­tion­al bits of infor­ma­tion gained in them. For instance, Spider’s Bar­gain is the sto­ry of an event that is piv­otal to Gin and Caine’s rela­tion­ship, and its con­se­quences are like­ly to con­tin­ue echo­ing through the next few vol­umes of the series. 

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Review: Moon Fever (anthology)

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 27-05-2011

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Moon Fever (Includes: Primes, #6.5)Moon Fever by Susan Size­more
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

This was one of those “I fin­ished the last thing I was read­ing and I’m bored, what’s already loaded on the iTouch?” reads. It was on there because the anthol­o­gy includes Lori Han­de­land’s “Cob­webs Over the Moon” (Night­crea­tures, #10) and I read all of that series a while back. I didn’t care to read the rest of the anthol­o­gy at the time, but I hadn’t got­ten around to delet­ing the book. Ah, hap­py dig­i­tal pack­rat am I! 

If I’ve read any­thing by Susan Size­more oth­er than “Tempt­ing Fate” (Primes #6.5), it was emi­nent­ly for­get­table. I’m absolute­ly sure that I haven’t read any­thing else in her Primes series, because I prob­a­bly would have thrown said mate­r­i­al firm­ly into the near­est hard sur­face (or what­ev­er the equiv­a­lent is with bytes) because of the insane­ly annoy­ing num­ber of times Size­more feels it nec­es­sary to remind us that her vam­pires are Primes! Alpha Primes! They are! Real­ly! And that means they fight a lot! Espe­cial­ly over women! Oth­er­wise, it’s a Mary Jane sto­ry set in New Orleans. I have a strong feel­ing that most of the Primes series is Mary Jane-ish, but I may at some point be trapped and forced with the prospect of star­ing at the inside of my eye­balls or read­ing more of Sizemore’s stuff. I’m not sure which would be worse right now. I’ll get back to you on that. 

“The Dark­ness With­in” by Mag­gie Shayne feels ter­ri­bly famil­iar, although I’m sure I haven’t read it before. I have, how­ev­er, read oth­er Shayne novel­las in oth­er antholo­gies, and this sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar pat­tern. Sexy gal who doesn’t think she’s attrac­tive has had a run of hard luck and may lose the house she has bought rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly and loves. Said house has a spooky past that she didn’t know about when she bought it. Stal­wart too-sexy-for-her man gets involved some­how, prefer­ably in a way that allows her to ques­tion his motives. They are inex­plic­a­bly drawn to each oth­er and screw like bun­nies (or near as makes no dif­fer­ence), then blame their lapse in judge­ment on what­ev­er weird­ness is going on in the house. (Yep, that’s what they all say — and no safer sex any­where! Does para­nor­mal activ­i­ty pre­clude dis­cus­sion of sex­u­al his­to­ry and pre­vent STD transmission?) 

“Cob­webs Over the Moon” by Lori Han­de­land (Night­crea­tures, #10) isn’t the most log­i­cal entry in that series. Nei­ther is it the most illog­i­cal — but by the tenth entry, the series’ mythol­o­gy has got­ten a bit ridicu­lous, so I don’t know why I even both­er bring­ing up some­thing as irrel­e­vant as log­ic. Sil­ly me! In every book, we’re intro­duced to a woman who is in some way tan­gled up with were­wolves, then to a man who is tan­gled up with her and/​or the crea­tures and, of course, whose loy­al­ties are uncer­tain. There is always an ele­ment of dan­ger to add spice to the romance that has to grow between the two. The for­mu­la nev­er changes at all. There are always evil were­wolves, but some­times there are also good ones. If you like pre­dictabil­i­ty in your para­nor­mal romance, Night­crea­tures is a great series for you. 

I sup­pose Cari­dad Piñeiro’s “Crazy for the Cat” isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly any bet­ter or worse than any of the oth­er three sto­ries. There’s more vari­ety in the shapeshift­ing and the main set­ting is the Ama­zon jun­gle. I couldn’t get past the big­otry and colo­nial­ism, though. Dark is bad, light is good, of course! Those poor benight­ed natives couldn’t pos­si­bly han­dle a few rogues with­out that white woman, could they? Spare me. 

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Book Review: The Horns of Elfland edited by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 08-06-2010

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The Horns of Elfland The Horns of Elfland by Ellen Kush­n­er

My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars
It took a while to track down this vol­ume, as it has long been out of print. Inter­li­brary loan was, once again, my friend. But how odd to read an actu­al phys­i­cal book again, when I’ve been read­ing ebooks almost exclu­sive­ly lately!