Wednesday, July 29, 2015

[Book Review] The Demon's Librarian

The Demon's Librarian / Lilith Saintcrow

Demons, magic, and kick ass librarians.  How could I not read this.  It even comes with a dedication to librarians (awww).

Chess used to be your regular librarian, coming across a bit all buns, cardigans, and comfortable shoes at work, with her own life outside where she could let her hair down.  Well, somewhere along the line things went a little wrong and in taking things into her own hands her life goes down the rabbit hole.  Nasty tentacle things that go bump in the night are a good reason to start watching over your shoulder, and little does she know what's coming her way or what newly waking powers she possesses.

Ryan is something of a "hulk smash" alpha male, but it's balanced by his awareness of his need to control his "animalistic" urges.  Rather brooding and over-protective, but his job is literally to be over-protective.


Where do I even start with him?  He's the type of character that I wanted to punch in the face pretty much from the start.  He's the type of character who's only a "good guy" based on his faction, other wise he's pretty much a sleeze doing the bare minimum for his job until something better comes along.  You want him to be a villain so you can hate him without guilt.

Chess is pretty bad ass, she ends up as a damsel in distress situations here and there, but those are largely to being dropped into dangerous situations that she has no preparation for.  When push comes to shove, she will (and does) fight her way out and hold her own.

The cover on this particular edition is all glistening pectorals and other muscles.  I was definitely expecting something bordering into raunchy.  It really isn't, with very light romance and nearly no lusting, and any consummation happening completely off screen.  The focus is on the dark fantasy and danger.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of BelleBooks via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

[Book Review] The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts / M. R. Carey (Powell's Books)
M. R. Carey masterfully balances narrative and exposition, sharing details and knowledge of the world the characters navigate with a purpose to the plot and the action immediately at hand.  The characters are convincing in their and sympathetic, even if unlikable.  I was quickly drawn into the story and stayed entranced through the end.

The Girl with All the Gifts is the story of the extinction of humanity, and just maybe what comes next.
See full review here.
I am not big into horror (my preferences for LARP settings aside).  I can read terrifying stories without issue during the day, but inevitably as I try to go to sleep my imagination goes into overdrive.  So for me to find a zombie novel about the end of humanity and love it is unusual.  The Girl With All the Gifts was like nothing I had ever read before, so I put it into the reading list as the July pick for the Virtual Speculation Bookclub.  I honestly don't have a really in depth discussion list, but I think it's a great book to read and share.

Discussion Fodder:
  • Did you have any expectations going into this book?  Were they confirmed, were you surprised?
  • What do you think of the setting and world building?  Do you find it believable or too fantastical? 
  • The main characters in the story are all products of their environment, all desperate and flawed.  What do you think of the characterizations and character growth?  Are there villains?
  • Melanie loves the story of Pandora, in what ways does The Girl With All The Gifts mirror the myth of Pandora's Box?  Do you think it's a fitting analogy?
  • The 'hungry' children clearly show intelligence and reasoning, yet they are viewed as not only inhuman but as unthinking and not worthy of names.  Do you think this is a defensive measure, or a state of denial?  Are the children human, or are they something completely other?  How important is the distinction between the children's ability to think and reason versus the full hungries' unreasoning instinct?
  • Did Melanie do the right thing by triggering the spore release?  Are the children humanity's last hope?
  • Zombies traditionally represent various societal flaws and fears, in particular overwhelming mindless consumerism and forced conformity/erasure of individuality.  How does The Girl With All The Gifts match or differ from these metaphors?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

[Book Review] 30 Days

30 Days / Christine d'Abo

Losing someone you love, someone who completes you, is never easy.  Two years ago Alyssa lost her one and only to cancer.  Now a widow in her 30's surrounded by friends happily in relationships of their own and still feeling the loss of Rob, Alyssa is faced with his final urgings that she move on with her life.  As a last gift Rob gave her a set of 30 cards, 30 cards for 30 days of refinding her sensuality, her sexuality, and happiness within herself and others.

When someone new moves in to the neighboring condo, a friendly someone with a cute behind and devilish grin.  Harrison definitely catches Alyssa's eye, and as a temporary resident a relationship is off the books, maybe making him the perfect man to help her get back into the proverbial saddle again.

Christine d'Abo perfectly captures the grief and loss, the struggle of maintaining a sense of normalcy, the feelings of guilt when you realize the ways in which you have healed and moved on.  She also created an incredibly hot and sexy story.  The plot progression falls within expectation, with quickly developing emotional connection, attempts to ignore true feelings, and ultimately a happy relationship.  30 Days surprised me in the best way possible, proving to be convincing and well written (well, I'm not completely convinced on the whole bit involving a grapefruit...), portraying grief and healing without becoming sickly sweet.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Kensington Books via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Challenge - Recommend Away

Normally I wouldn't classify recommending books as a challenge, but A Throne of Books over on Booklikes has presented a very through list.  The fact that they're not all necessarily "favorites" in said category makes it a little bit easier.

I made this a little harder on myself by limiting to just books I've read and trying not to repeat books or authors, since often a single book fits in multiple categories.  For example, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance clearly works for both "unreliable narrator" and "character with mental illness," but I liked it better under wanderlust.

Some of my choices may be a bit odd, but I'm pretty happy with myself for coming up with something unique for each with the self-imposed restrictions.

1. Favorite books in all categories - The Last Unicorn / Peter S. Beagle
2. Start to a series - The Atrocity Archives / Charles Stross
3. By an author who's written over 5 books total - The Deed of Paksenarrion / Elizabeth Moon
4. Classic Literature - The Hobbit / J. R. R. Tolkein
5. Banned Books - Catch-22 / Joseph Heller
6. Featuring an assassin - Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) / Robin Hobb
7. In a world with Dragons - Dragon Prince / Melanie Rawn
8. Male Main Character - Alif the Unseen / A. Willow Wilson
9. Female Main Character - He, She, and It / Marge Piercy
10. Retelling of another story - Beauty / Robin McKinley
11. Book with a Gorgeous Cover - Ink and Bone / Rachel Caine
12. Debut book of any author - Ancillary Justice / Ann Leckie
13. Fantasy in general - Uprooted / Naomi Novik
14. Finale for a series - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / J. K. Rowling
15. Graphic Novel - Transmetropolitan / Warren Ellis
16. That you paid over $15 for (and was worth every penny) - Lost Girls / Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
17. Published after 2010 - Ready Player One / Ernest Cline
18. Featuring a Princess/Prince or Queen/King - Kushiel's Dart / Jacqueline Carey
19. Thriller - Cthulhurotica / Carrie Cuinn (ed)

20. You read because it was a bestseller - The Last Werewolf / Glen Duncan
21. Involving drugs - Junky / William S. Burroughs
22. Memoir - She's Not There : A Life in Two Genders / Jennifer Finney Boylan
23. Favorite completed series as a whole - Otherworld / Kelley Armstrong
24. Book with witches/warlocks - The Necromancer's House / Christopher Buehlman
25. Historical Fiction - The Golem and the Jinni / Helene Wecker
26. Ugly Cry book - Watership Down / Richard Adams
27. Realistic Fiction - Strip Tease / Carl Hiaasen
28. Dystopia - The Windup Girl / Paolo Bacigalupi
29. Time Travel - Slaughterhouse-five / Kurt Vonnegut
30. Elf or Dwarf Main character - The Goblin Emperor / Katherine Addison
31. Favorite incomplete series either by you or not yet finished by author - The Dresden Files / Jim Butcher
32. Literary Fiction - The Handmaid's Tale / Margaret Atwood
33. Non-Fiction (Anything, cookbook, self-help, etc) - How to Shit in the Woods : An Environmentally  Sound Approach to a Lost Art / Kathleen Meyer
34. Middle Grade Novel - Haroun and the Sea of Stories / Salman Rushdie
35. Includes sword/knife fighting - The Princess Bride / William Goldman
36. Something mysterious is afoot - Souless (The Parasol Protectorate) / Gail Carriger
37. Diverse Reads (main character non-white/non-straight) - None of the Above / I. W. Gregorio
38. Wanderlust book - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance / Robert M. Pirsig
39. Unreliable Narrator - Fight Club / Chuck Palahniuk
40. Character with mental illness - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest / Ken Kesey
41. Sci-fi in general - Nexus / Ramez Naam
42. Paranormal Main Character - Moon Called / Patricia Briggs
43. Horror - Horns / Joe Hill
44. Books with murder in them - The Killer Wore Leather / Laura Antoniou
45. Set in a time of war (real or fictional) - Of Bone and Thunder / Chris Evans
46. Set in the place you live - Running With Scissors / Augusten Burroughs
47. Book with servants in some manner - The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance #1) / N. K. Jemisin
48. Book eventually adapted to a movie - The Cider House Rules / John Irving
49. Book you've read more than once - Six Moon Dance / Sheri S. Tepper
50. A Good Zombie Book - The Girl With All The Gifts / M. R. Carey
51. A love storyDust / Elizabeth Bear
52. Set in space - Blindsight / Peter Watts
53. Multiple POV - Snow Crush / Neal Stephenson
54. Erotic for people who don't read erotic novels - Carnal Machines / D. L. King (ed)
55. Written by an author who has died (recently or a very long time ago) - Good Omens : The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch / Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
56. Written by an author who is still living - Neverwhere / Neil Gaiman
57. Childhood favorite - 101 Dalmations / Dodie Smith, The Phantom Tollbooth / Norton Juster
58. A long book (Let's say at least 450 pages minimum) - The Name of the Wind / Patrick Rothfuss
59. Young Adult book in general - Little Brother / Cory Doctorow
60. Adult book in general - The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

[Book Review] A Murder of Mages

A Murder of Mages / Marshall Ryan Maresca (Powell's Books)

A gaslamp fantasy of Sherlockian flavor filled with magic and murder, A Murder of Mages starts off a new series following the investigations of Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling.  The story jumps right in, almost with the feeling of a sequel, with Satrine's intricate and well-established backstory bringing her to where she is now, complete with expertise, fears, and motivations.

The world itself is fantasy, but could just as easily be any of the re-imagined magical Londons that populates the literary world.

The constabulary is a man's world, with women mostly present in support roles.  But Satrine has the skills, and the chutzpah to claim the title of Inspector.  Minox Welling is also a bit of an oddity, not just for his focus on details to the point of obsession and conspiracy theory, but as an uncircled mage.  He has the power, but not the training nor the membership within the fellowship of a Mage House.

When someone starts murdering magicians and leaving their bodies for anyone to stumble across, Constables Rainey and Weilling may be both the best and the worst people for the job.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Friday, July 17, 2015

[Book Review] Bound with Honor

Bound with Honor  / Megan Mulry

This is not a historical/regency romance.  Rather it is "regency reimagined" which allows for regency window dressing with some vague nod to expectations of propriety.  There are references to the expectations of society, but the characters live in a little orgastic oasis where loving polyamory is the norm.

Perhaps it is a child's duty to be embarrassed by one's parents, certainly not all of Kinsey's children were enthusiastic about their parents openness regarding sexuality.  If that's the case, Lord Archibald Cambury fulfills his duty admirably, wanting nothing more than the opposite of the intimate relationships of his closest family.  His mothers are splendid, and his sister is quite happy with her two husbands, but all he want is a single, proper, wife.

The lovely Selina Ashby could be that very wife: demure, lovely, and intelligent.  Or at least Archie thinks she is demure, and is both shocked and horrified to discover that she's a very forward and sexually eager young lady.  To say that he is shocked by her actions is an understatement, and Archie re-evaluates her suitability as both a potential wife and mother.  Then later when he learns exactly how close Selina and Beatrix are, he feels as if his world is falling apart.  Fortunately, his own dear friend Christopher is there to bugger some commons sense into Archie.

If I was to do a review for twitter on this book it would be: "Prudish Lord rejects hedonistic lifestyle & fails to grasp double standards until fucked into understanding."

I'll be honest, the fact that Archie has a pretty well established long-term, if casual, relationship with Christopher, yet is utterly unaccepting to the point of incomprehension of Selina's relationship with Beatrix when she even tells him upfront annoys me.  The first real breakthrough Archie and Selina experience quite explicitly involves Christopher in the most intimate of ways.  Add in all of the other less traditional relationships of his family and the fact that everyone else knows exactly how close the two ladies are makes it all the more ridiculous.  Though perhaps Archie's biggest failing throughout the whole book is having an utterly prudish world view when anything involves him.  His mother is in a loving relationship with another woman, his sister has two 'husbands,' and he even has a dear male friend who he is ever so intimate with.  Get over yourself, Archie.

Read for salacious adventures and overly dramatic conflict.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, July 6, 2015

[Book Review] Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone : The Great Library / Rachel Caine (Powell's Books)

Adventure!  Danger!  Romance!  Magic!  Librarians!

No, this isn't the next season of The Librarians.  Rather it's the start of Rachel Caine's latest series.

Books are everything to Jess Brightwell.  Perhaps too much, as anyone involved in book smuggling must be ready to destroy a book on moments notice to stay free.  Books, originals, belong to the Library, accessible to the masses through an Alchemical mirroring process called "mirroring" where the text is duplicated into a ready blank as needed.  When his father offers to send him into the Library service, even as a family spy, it's more than he ever imagined.

But then, the Library itself is more than he ever imagined.  The Library has changed over the years, growing in power and size, and as the ranks swell so has the opportunity for men to gain, and abuse, dominion over others.  Those with power fear change, even change that would better the world, the library, and the lives of those in its service.

Caine creatively re-imagines a world where Alchemical magic powers life as we know it and the Library of Alexandria never burned.  A world where the Library can be quite dangerous indeed.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

[Book Review] The Do It List

The Do It List / Jillian Stone

Gracie Taylor-Scott is a blistering talent in the advertising field, throwing her life into her work and helping raise her young niece while her widowed brother-in-law works late shifts in the emergency room.  It doesn't leave much time for a personal life or dating, but that works just fine for her, a nice shield between her, intimacy, and emotional scars.

Then she ends up trapped in an elevator with the gorgeous company transfer Bradley Craig during a power-outage on their way to an after-hours work party.  Trapping in a dark box raises some fears and opens some chinks in her personal armor, and some serious sparks fly.

What started out as a fear-fueled fondle opens the door to satisfying their own "do it" lists, erotic encounters with no strings attached.  But is it just chemistry between them, or something more?  And can they find the right balance to stay on top of their professional game while dealing with their emotional pasts?

The Do It List is a contemporary romance that gets all sorts of hot and heavy, with some intense emotional honesty.

In some ways I'm definitely the wrong audience for this book.  There's so much attention paid to high end and expensive fashion that literally means nothing to me.  The amount of cash the characters drop on clothing and accessories is literally mind-boggling to me.  I suppose historical romance often has equivalent amounts spent - but not in such familiar or identifiable amounts of currency.  They're not so rich that expense is no objection, but they definitely pull in a salary that's beyond my conception.

Bradley is made up to really be an ideal guy.  Potential family man, good with kids, protective, adoring, and finds Gracie sexy no matter what or when.  He's adventurous, patient, understanding, focused on her pleasure, and ever ready.  He even volunteers to buy tampons for her.  There's a period sex scene that you'll either love for Bradley's unlimited affection and attraction to Gracie, or be squicked out by period cunnilingus.

The Do It List also deals with college/fraternity rape with surprisingly, and depressing, frankness.  The encounter is something in the past, and relayed through a retelling memory, rather than as a violent present.  The emotional trauma and scarring is realistic, as is the sheltering that often happens when the assaults are perpetuated by the wealthy or happen within the grounds of a campus or organization.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, June 2015

Long Before Snowden, Librarians Were Anti-Surveillance Heroes
On the privacy efforts by librarians over the past decade.

The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever
Digital preservation is a huge challenge, bit loss, planning for accessibility, and for format and technology obsolescence.  On top of that copyright law actively interferes with independent efforts to copy and preserve.  Video games that often have patches and expansions that result in profound changes to the game itself.  Add in the different platforms, add-ons, social aspects, and even the different modes of play (including private servers for MMOs), its a bit of a tangle.

Recently Discovered Original Script For STAR WARS Finally Confirms Who Shot First
Librarians for Han Shot First.

“Let's talk about genre”: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation 
"The two literary heavyweights talk about the politics of storytelling, the art of the swordfight and why dragons are good for the economy."

‘Putting Readers First’ At BEA: Gatekeepers, Curators, And ‘Too Many Books’ 
BookExpo America is an event I absolutely love attending, it's also grown from just an industry event to an event for the public and readers with BookCon.  

History of LGBT Characters at DC

Why Science Fiction Is a Fabulous Tool in the Fight for Social Justice 
The socio-political commentary/exploration of Science Fiction is one of the things that I've always loved about the genre.  In particular this article discusses Octavia Butler.

What Google’s Algorithm Change Means for Library Websites
Not just for library websites, but for research in general.

College Student Wants Four Graphic Novels “Eradicated from the System”
What makes me saddest about this is the statement that she wants the four graphic novels "eradicated from the system."  I'm familiar with the graphic novels mentioned, and I can't help be puzzled at the accusations of "pornography."  More to the point, I can think of many staples of literary education that are far more explicit that any English major can expect to encounter, let alone numerous Young Adult romance novels that are more explicit.

50 thought-provoking quotes about libraries and librarians
A pretty good collection, including many of the more well known quotes about libraries.

An app I'm definitely considering playing with, just haven't yet.  I'm a little concerned that it seems to be focused on items owned, because of how many books I read that I don't own.

I Read The New “Fifty Shades” Book, And It Is Absolutely Batshit
This book was already on my "do not want to read" list, but at the same time, I'm really glad someone else has read it and has shared the torment with us all.  I highly look forwards to more lambasting as others take on the task of sharing their read throughs.  I know this book will be in high demand in the libraries, because a lot of people really do like Fifty Shades, and that ultimately means I will likely need to read this just because of the sheer number of reader's advisory queries I will get.

University of Iowa Receives 18,000 Volume Science Fiction Library
Not going to lie, working for a Science Fiction Library/Special Collection would be a dream job for me.

Pratchett’s Daughter Says No More Discworld Books and That’s OK
I love Discworld, but I am glad that someone else won't try to add to them.  Even his last books which he effectively had a co-author I felt suffered from the change of voice.

Piktochart Design Series: With These 8 Articles You Can Now Design Like a Pro
On the art of infographic creation.

The 2015 open source summer reading list
Some great books (not all of them computer science either!), and a give-away.

Adding The Sandman to Your Library or Classroom Collection
Resources for defending the collection choice of this excellent and highly challenged graphic novel (one of my favorites, and what got me into comics in the first place).

Hiring: The First Librarian of Congress for the Internet Age
On the impending new Librarian of Congress.

2015 Locus Awards Winners
Well, hello expanding reading list.  Every book that I have read that is on this list was excellent, and I'm really happy to see one of my favorite publishers (Angry Robot) represented.

The weird worlds of African sci-fi
More reading to seek out.

The Essential Cyberpunk Reading List
Excellent collection.

Genre Wars, Amazon, and the Market for Heart: Where Do We Go From Here?
Worth a read.