Monthly Archives: February 2013

KayKay #CBR5 Review #12 Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler

Clay's ark

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

Clay’s Ark is the third in the Seed to Harvest series by Octavia Butler.  I just discovered Ms. Butler’s work at the end of 2012, and have been trying not to rip through all of them back to back.  I think you sometimes have to step away and come back to truly appreciate the stories.  Her books are easy to pick up, and quick to read, and this one was no exception.  Here’s what I thought:

Plot

This book is about an astronaut that comes back to Earth with a parasite that makes him stronger, faster, etc. and drives him to infect and mate with others.  He infects a family living in a remote part of the desert and they work hard to not unintentionally spread the virus (invasion) outside of their camp.  They do have to occasionally kidnap and infect people so they can have partners to mate with and because of the drive to infect others.  They find a family of three, a father, two daughters- one with leukemia.  After taking them to their ranch the family escapes, and eventually the virus is spread around the world.

I spent the majority of this book trying to figure out how this story fit into the series.  I realized that ‘Clay’ from Clay’s Ark was Clay Dana (from the original group in Mind of my Mind), about 3/4ths of the way through the book.  It wasn’t until the end that I realized that the people infected with this virus (called ‘Clayarks’) eventually challenge the Pattern people from Mind of My Mind.  I’m hoping that book 4- Patternmaster is a showdown between people of inhuman strength  (not sure there are any “humans” left)

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

This book takes place on a future Earth.  The dad in the family that is kidnapped is a doctor, and he has a bag that you can type in what type of drug you want and get it (amazing!).  I was impressed with the technology in the book given when it was written.

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

Eli- The source of the virus on earth, he is the lone surviving astronaut.  Although he gives into the urge to infect people, he tries hard to hold onto his humanity.

Keira – The lone survivor of the kidnapped family, she seemed willing from the beginning to consider what Eli’s people were telling her.  Had it not been for her strong family bond, I don’t think she would have tried to escape.

Blake / Rane- These two weren’t having anything to do with Eli’s people.  Even though a part of Rane felt that she could have adapted, their natures did not allow them to willing stay.  Their decision is what ultimately spreads the virus to the world.

Jacob- He’s the eldest child of two infected people.  He walks on all four, has a lot of strength and intelligence (and other cool super human skills).  They do not think of him as human.  He can tell who likes him (he knows that Rane does not, but Keira does).  We don’t get to see to much of him in this book, but I have a feeling he will have a bigger role in the next novel.

Characters Score: 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Humans are always wrapped up in appearances.  And this is a larger theme to both this work and Xenogenesis series.  In both stories, humans are presented with the opportunity to evolve (and get cool powers), yet they hesitate as they don’t want to integrate with something different then themselves.  I guess they are right to be a bit hesitant (you don’t want to lose all identity), but it seems some people would be excited by this.

This story also continues the family theme that has been evident in the first two books of this series.  It’s  hard to force someone to be a family- especially when you start by infecting them.

Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5

Style

Opening Line:  The ship had been destroyed five days before.

I’ve been noting the opening lines of the novels, waiting to see one that immediately pulls the reader into the story.  This opening line is the best one I’ve come across since I’ve been doing this (OK, I’ve only done it 2-3 times).  Just reading this first line makes me wonder what type of ship…and what has gone down in that five days.

I was annoyed by the alternating past / present chapters.  Especially when the “present” chapters started with Blake’s perspective on their situation up until their attempted escape, then the “present” chapters went though the same timeline from each daughters experience.  I just wanted to get to the point where I could find out if they escaped, and if the virus had gotten out.  The “past” chapters were not bad, but I really wanted the “present” story to move.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

-Why are people so afraid of evolution?  It seems as if the military would love to get ahold of a virus like this to make their super soldiers.

-I wonder if whatever ‘it’ was that made Doro unhuman, came from the same place as Clay’s Ark virus and the next book with be a re-match.  A fight to the death between two extraterrestrial viruses – with humans as the throw away battle ground.

-When I read this, I couldn’t help but think that if zombies passed their virus this easily, humans wouldn’t stand a chance!

Total Score and Recommendation
19/25- I would not read this as a stand alone book, but the entire series is highly recommended.

KayKay #CBR5 Review #11 The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

DaylightWar

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

The Daylight War is the third book in the Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett.  This was my most anticipated book of 2013.  I decided to approach this book by reading slowly and savoring the story, instead of rushing through to see how it would end.  Although I thought the action was slower than the first two books in the series, the story did not disappoint.  Writing is an art, and this is a wonderful example of someone who has crafted something beautiful and presented it to the world.

Here’s what I thought…

Plot

In The Warded Man, the people of the green lands cowered in the night, while one man (Arlen Bales) rose to fight the demons.  In The Desert Spear, we learn of another people (who live in the desert) that fight demons every night.  Their leader, Jardir decides it’s time to unite the people against the demons and moved to start conquering the Greenlands.  This book seemed to mostly be preparation for the conflict between the two ‘Deliverers’, and the initial confrontation of a stronger demon force.

Some parts of the plot were slow to me (partly due to my insistence of reading and enjoying every word of this book).  I feel like we haven’t moved forward much in the bigger story- we still don’t know who The Deliverer is (or if there is one), the people are still not united (and Krasia has not moved beyond Everam’s Bounty) and the demons still require defeating.  I will say that I found the last third of the book very hard to put down (I was even reading at the gym, up until the minute my class started).

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

This book takes place in, what I imagine to be, a  post apocoplyse Earth.  I love when there are little remnants of civilization – roads, technology lost, etc.

There are many types of Demons – sand, rock, snow, mind, flame, clay, wind, lightening, field, stone, swamp, and they (normally) match the geographical location in which they rise.

There are two distinct people in the book- the greenlanders (which have a European culture), and the Krasains (who have a middle eastern culture).   The balance of cultures is so interesting- you really get to see and understand each culture, the differences and the similarities.

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships
Arlen- is the underdog that I cheered for, he seemed more accepting of who he is in this book.  He has gone back to being called Arlen Bales, and “Don’t believe the Deliverer exists at all, save perhaps as a symbol all may aspire to.”  I hope he does realize that the people need a strong leader, and even though he doesn’t want it, he may have to step up and be that leader.

Renna-is the underdog I wanted to go away. It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that I don’t like her for Arlen. I’m still holding out for Arlen and Leesha.  Renna is a little too country (growling at people for looking at her) and she just makes bad decisions (like eating demon meat after Arlen told her not to- then hiding it from him).  Her view of magic seems a little naive, as she thinks that “magic always left things better than it found them”, but I think magic comes with a price, and she should be ready to pay.

Inevera- when reading her backstory, I rooted for her, but it was like watching a train wreck, you see the exact moment she turns that corner from innocent child to power hungry dama’ting. Perhaps if she had one friend, or if her brother had lived, things could have been different.

Abban- this guy has a master plan. If he wasn’t so selfish I’d think he was the deliver.  I like his perspective on the religion- he knows some of the reasoning behind the laws against eating pork (Someone attempted to poison Kaji with pork), and drinking (Kaji’s warriors lost a battle because of a hangover).

Rojer- he is a star. I was as amazed as Leesha at his growth. From awkward to awesome, his mastery of his fiddle and the embracing of his situation made him a strong character. His relationship with his wives is great, love the compromises they make for each other.

Citizens of Hallows Creek- I felt so proud of Hollows Creek, they took everything they learned and started taking control of the night.  However, there concern for each other at times delays the story.  For example, when the Hallow goes out to battle the demons at waning, there is a lot of time spent arguing about who is going to do what.  Seems like they should spend less time arguing and more time fighting.

Corelings- We learn that there are 7 princes (and one is the consort) and 1 Queen.  Since two pricelings died in the last story, the 7 princes came up to put the humans in their place.  It was interesting to see they had their own political battles and hierarchy.

All the characters are all very complex, and beyond simple caricatures. They each have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you root for them, and sometimes you just want to slap them.  I believe this is one of the best books I’ve ever read for developing real people, and not cariactures of people.

I did feel there were too many characters.  I can barely keep up with all of Jardirs family (and obviously, he can’t keep track of his 70+ kids).  Next time I will bookmark the dictionary section so I can refer to it as needed (Although I have ordered an autographed copy, I read the book electronically).

Characters Score: 5/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)
I think there are two major themes to this book, one deals with cultural tolerance, and the other with religion:

– Cultural warfare. “Their holy book, the Evejah, is the basis for their entire culture, and as he Krasians conquer the south land, they press Evejan law in its people…….taking away their children to be indoctrinated fully. Even if they cease their advance now, in a generation everyone in their territory will be Evejan, quadrupling their numbers.”   This reminded me of how slavery in America was so devestating- because in addition to the physical domination, there was mental domination.  In this situation, the Krasians did not make the Greenlanders slaves, but they did take their kids to indoctrinate them.

– Religion.  Everyone is focused on identifying the deliverer.  It’s human nature to want something bigger than us that will protect us and our loved ones when we can’t do it.  We find deliverers in Jesus, Mohammad, Krishna, etc.    I think Arlan has the right idea- “The Deliverer is not born.  He is made”    We have to find strength within ourselves.

Here were some of my favorite quotes in the book about religion (that ring true in the ‘real’ world):

“Krasian holy book is the same as in the Canon, and like us, some of them are preachier than others…and some are hypocrites”

“Not much difference between Holy Men and Jongleurs..They spin the same old ale stories and tampweed tales over and over, bedazzling bumpkins and half-wits to help them forget the pain of life”

Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5

Style
Opening Line:  Inevera and her brother Soli sat in the sunlight.

This book is beautifully written- I actually felt a passage in the book, that describes Rojer’s playing, reflected how this book was built:

“He started slowly, a long improvisation around the opening notes of the tune.  It was soft at first, but as he layered in more and more of the true melody, he let it grow louder…When the melody was complete, Rojer let the fiddle grow quiet again, and began assembling notes anew…he built the complexity and volume back to its former height and beyond…”

Style Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts?
– Origin story of demons. Why do the wards work against them?

-Is Jardir really dead?  I am hoping that Arlen has done some trick to take Jardir to the Core, so he can see what they are up against and agree to work together.

-I keep wondering why Everam won’t help his people?  The true battle is between Everam and Nie (if they exist at all), and it seems silly to make their creations fight it out.

-Is anyone else annoyed at the Renna and Arlen pairing?  Now that they are married, Renna would have to die for Arlen to end up with Leesha…but it seems like she’s going to be tied to Jardir, but I can’t see her being one of his many wives, and he probably won’t give up Inevera

Total Score and Recommendation

20/25- Without a doubt, read it!

KayKay #CBR5 Review #10 The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

The Dwarves

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

I’ll be honest, out of all the Tolkien-esqe characters (elves, dwaves, humans, hobbits, etc.), dwarves would be last on my list to read about. So, I was hesitant to pick up this book. The sample (about 75 pages long) really drew me in, but after that, the story seemed to ebb and flow. Here’s what I thought…

Plot

This book reminded me of a Lord of the Rings, from a dwarves perspective. The hero, Tungdil has to go on a journey to rid the land of an evil threatening to take over. Along the way he gathers a mixed group of companions (a wizard, other dwarves, a half alf, a son of a god, a human) who help him accomplish his goals.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

This takes place in Girdlegard, a land divided up into different human kingdoms- each with it’s own wizard. Then each of the five races of dwarves have their own kingdom, along with the various races of elves. Tungdil does discover there are tunnels connecting the dwarf kingdoms, which makes it easy for him to travel long distances very quickly.

Religion is what disturbed me most about this location. Everyone had a favorite deity (Vraccas for the dwarves, Sitalia for the elves, etc.) and each race is in perilous danger, and close to extinction, but the gods don’t make a single appearance. In a fantasy world, you have a chance to allow proof for existence of deities, but they were just absent.

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Tungdil- he is our window into this world. He is a dwarf that grew up with humans, and is not being introduced to the bigger world- and is meeting dwarves for the fist time. All he knows about dwarves he learned from books (just like us!)

This book had a lot of great components, but I think characters is where the book fell short for me. I didn’t really like any of the characters, Tungdil was a goody two shoes, Lot-Ionan was a hopeless dreamer (in all his 287 cycles he had never once used his powers to kill or harm), Andokai is a b*tch, Djerun (probably the biggest bad a$$ of them all) never speaks. I will say I enjoyed Boindil (he had some of the best lines in the book – sort of like Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey), and Rodario, who saved the crew many times with his costumes and acting.

Characters Score: 2/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Gods do not exist? They call on Vraccas so many times, you’d think the guy would actually show up at some point. Rodario points out “Deities need lessor beings to adore them, or they fade and die. They lose their purpose; there’s no reason for them to exist.”

Bigger Meaning Score: 1/5

Style

Opening Line: “Pale fog filled the canyons and valleys of the Gray Range.” I think an opening line should draw me in, and this one falls short for me.

I found myself skimming a lot of this book. There is a lot of action, so the story moves, but with over 700 pages, I felt there were sections that didn’t move fast enough. It felt like the author created conflict every step of the way, with everything being worked out in the end. It becomes uninteresting to read, when you know that these challenges aren’t going to stop them, and that they are going to win in the end.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

– I almost really enjoyed this book, but not enough to read the next ones. I did read the summary of the plots so I could condense 700 pages into two paragraphs.

– Did anyone else feel like this was similar to the Lord of the Rings?

Total Score and Recommendation
12/25- It wasn’t bad, but I won’t be reading the next one

KayKay #CBR5 Review #09 Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

Mind of My Mind

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

This is Book 2 in the Patternist series – even though this series was not published in order (thanks to a commenter for bringing this to my attention), it was also the second book published.  The first book (chronologically)- Wild Seed, was like the first few minutes of a great roller coaster- those minutes where you inch towards the top of the first hill.  There was a lot of anticipation, but not a lot of action- it serves as a set up for the rest of the ride.  Mind of My Mind was the wild ride after the initial climb.  It was everything I expected an Octavia Butler novel to be, here’s what I thought…

Plot

Doro, an ancient demon/alien/super human, is still on his mission to create a superior race that he can lead.  His problem is that his ‘active’ telepaths can’t stand to be near each other.  After thousands of years of breeding, he finally creates Mary.  Mary is special because she can create a ‘pattern’, this is a mental link to all the other active telepaths.  Once the actives are apart of the pattern, they desire to be close to each other.  Doro, who is not a telepath himself, is on the outside of this pattern.  This story is about Mary’s journey as she builds her pattern.

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

The location is 20th century USA.  Once the telepaths join Mary’s pattern, they want to be close to each other.  They have taken over a suburb of LA- Forsyth.  The telepaths can make slaves of the ‘norms’, and that is how they take over the houses in the local area and the closest private school.  Forsyth is a nice suburb, while several of of the ‘latents’ (people who have potential to be an ‘active’ telepath) live in squalor.  As Mary pulls them into her pattern and activates them, they are able to have better lives.

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Doro- Doro takes more of a back seat in this story, he still pulls the strings, but gives the group enough room that they overtake him.  We do find out more about his beginnings, and how he initially brought these ‘special’ people together because they were more pleasurable to take over.  It was interesting to know that early trauma may have kept Doro from being a patternmaster like Mary.

Mary- I’m going to call her the patternmaster (although there is a later book with this title, so she may not be The One), she pulls in active telepaths and she has power over them- similar to the power that Doro has, but Doro never got to mature into the power that Mary has.

When Mary first becomes patternmaster, she starts with a few active telepaths: Karl (her husband- an arrangement by Doro), Ada Dragan (who is forgettable), Seth Dana (who comes with his brother Clay, a latent), Rachel Davidson (who has the ability to control other people’s bodies), Jesse Bernarr and Jan Sholto.  Most of the group resents her power, but once they let go of that, they realize that being a part of the pattern is beneficial.  The book takes a leap of two years, and the group grows to over 1,500 and the core group really grew into a family.

Emma (Anyanwu)- Man, she punked out in this story.  I was excited when Doro takes Mary to live with her, because Emma always seemed so supportive of her family.  She became a cranky old lady and never became close to Mary.  She goes as far to suggest to Doro that he needs to kill her because she has too much power.  I never thought I’d hear Mary suggest that- especially since Mary’s people seem to be doing good.  I guess we get a fitting end for this new ‘Emma’, because she just dies shortly after Doro.  It was the closing of the Anyanwu/Doro story and the beginning of something new with Mary.

Characters Score: 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Race-  Mary said the following to Doro: “You mean you don’t want to admit you have anything in common with us.  But you were born black, you are black.  Still black, no matter what color you take on”  This is interesting- because I felt where Mary was coming from when she said this, but I think Doro was beyond race.  He was some type of immortal being on a level where race had no consequence.  The new minority is the non-telepaths (and Emma calls this out “…if you don’t think they look down on us non-telepaths, us niggers, the whole rest of humanity, you’re not paying attention.”)

Family- It seems important to have a caring family, the actives are better when they are a part of a pattern and can be around other people.  This is clearly highlighted with the stark differences of personalities of the initial six, who started out ready to kill Mary, and just two years later, they were all willing to die for her.  Doro, who had childhood trauma, was never able to fully realize who he was as a person.

Bigger Meaning Score: 4/5

Style

I enjoy the writing style of these stories.  It’s rare that you read a fantasy novel that contains such a statement on society- without being overly preachy (hint hint Orson Scott Card).  This book was a “blink and you’re done” read, and to go back to my roller coaster analogy, its one of those rides, where you are immediately ready to get back on as soon as you finish.

Style Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts?

-What the heck happened to Anyanwu?  Perhaps Octavia Butler wrote Wild Seed to redeem her a bit, because this crusty old lady reminded me of Sam Jackson’s character in Django Unchained (she was all up Doro’s butt).  Definitely not the preserver of life she is in Wild Seed.

-Did you think Doro was going to survive longer than he did?

-These books beautiful, because they are so easy to read, yet there are layers upon layers of meaning and no single review / analysis could do justice to the beautiful complexity that Octavia Butler’s writings contain.  I should probably spend more time reviewing this one…but Peter V. Brett’s new book came out and I need to finish 2 reviews so I can be completely swept away….

Total Score and Recommendation

 19/25- definately worth the time to read

KayKay #CBR5 Review #08 Grave Danger by Kalayna Price

GraveDance

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers and continue on at your own risk!

This is the second book in the Alex Craft novels.  I characterize this book as a ‘Procedural’ novel- books where there’s a situation that the main character must resolve by the end of the book.  I enjoy procedurals, but this book leaves me with mixed feelings, as there are parts that really shine, but then there are aspects that I did not enjoy.  Here’s what I thought…

Plot

Alex Croft is a ‘grave witch’- meaning she can raise ‘shades’ from dead bodies.  These shades are helpful in several things from solving crimes (how were they murdered), to clarifying wills.  In the first book she also discovered she is part fae.  In this story, a bunch of constructs keep appearing in Nekros City- trying to kill Alex, and her disposal of them causes rips in reality.  She needs to find out who is creating the constructs and stop them, while juggling a love triangle with Death and Falin (a Fae), a relationship with her friend Rianna (who is stuck in Faerie), avoiding a human who wants to use her to obtain magic, and keeping her friends safe.  There was a lot going on in the plot- probably too much.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

This story takes place in a world, similar to the Sookie Stakehouse books.  A mystical group of creatures (in Sookie’s case- Vampires, in Alex’s case- the Fae) have “come out of the mushroom ring.”  The reasoning in this story is because the Fae need human belief to anchor them to reality, and since people weren’t believing, the Fae came out.  Unlike the Sookie series, it seems more organizations have been formed to deal with any issues.  They have FIB (Fae Investigation Bureau),  MCIB (Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau), OMIH (Organization for Magically Inclined Humans) and AFHR (Ambassador of Fae and Human Relations).

Most of the book takes place in Nekros City, but sometimes Alex travels to Faerie, which I would hope to see more of in future books- especially since she owns a castle there.

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

In some books, there is conflict because of mis communication- or no communication.  I always feel that’s a cheap tactic by the author to generate or prolong unnatural conflict.  I don’t feel that the author used that tactic in this book, but I think she flirted with that line.  Alex is always turning off her phone if she gets too many annoying phone calls- which means the people who need her can’t get through.  At one point Caleb, her fae landlord had to beg her to hear out Malik – a fae who obviously knew more than she did.  And she would never fill in the police on what she had seen- depending on their ‘experts’ to figure it out.  “I didn’t tell the police what I’d seen.  The anti-black magic unit had both an auramancer and a wyrd clairvoyant who could tap into the reality I’d touched…”

Alex’s flaws aside, she is in the midst of an interesting love triangle- with two guys who are unavailable.  Death- a soul collector that only she can see, and Falin, who is bound to a Fae Queen.  I feel like she is leaning towards Falin, but I am cheering for Death.

Characters Score: 3/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

This book is purely for entertainment.

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

After wading through the first couple of chapters, I had to start skim reading this book.  There was too much extraneous information.  For example, once a knife with a note ends up on Alex’s front porch and there were several pages of deciding what and how to get the note before it was actually read.

There is a lot of repetitive expressions used.  Every time the action kicks up, Alex starts having heart palpatations (“my heart crashed in my chest”, “my racing heart stumbled in my chest” etc.)

I noticed these issues in the first book, but was hoping they would improve in later installments.   I picked up this book because I liked Alex’s relationship with Death and wanted to know the outcome of the triangle.

Style Score: 2/5

Final Thoughts?

-I feel like Alex is going to end up with Falin, but I’m cheering for Death!

-I had Wizard of Oz flashbacks with Alex and PC (her dog), especially in Faerie when she had dragged her dog along for the adventure. (“Don’t hurt my dog”)

Total Score and Recommendation
12/25- Even though I think there is a lot of potential in the characters and world, I will probably not pick up the next reading.