Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2013

Happy first of December everyone! This year’s Christmas frenzy marks the spot where I finally got back to normal reading speed. I finally found the time to read more again and discovered some great books on the way. In other geekiness, my boyfriend and I have been watching Doctor Who non-stop for the last week (“our” first doctor was Matt Smith and we wanted to see what the others were like) and we are loving it.
Starting today, I am participating in Carl’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, a two-month celebration of all things science fiction. My first book for the Experience is almost read (I’ll spoil: It’s Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao) and because it is so much fun, I can’t wait to read more science fiction during December and January.
But now, on to the books I’ve read in November and how I liked them. As always, click on the title will lead you to my full review.

Books read: 7
Pages read: 2398
Series started: Tao, Paradox, Patternist
Series continued: Discworld
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Octavia E. Butler – Wild Seed  8,5/10

wild seedAs a science fiction and fantasy lover, I’m surprised it took me this long to discover Octavia Butler. But the internet didn’t lie – she truly is amazing. This is the story of two immortals, Anyanwu and Doro. Doro is a tyrant who uses humans for his own breeding program, Anyanwu is the only other immortal he has ever met and has powers of her own.
Apart from the gripping story, I was deeply impressed and taken with how these two characters balance out and how they wage an emotional war against each other.  I can’t wait to continue reading the Patternist series and find out what becomes of Anyanwu.

Rachel Bach – Fortune’s Pawn  8/10

fortunes pawnThis was so much fun! Devi is a mercenary who is hired as security on a space ship cursed with bad luck. Not only does she have to deal with the sexy cook, she tumbles into a mystery much bigger than she ever expected. Space ships, aliens, fantastic action scenes and a bit of romance – you will find all of this here. Fortune’s Pawn is a light, fun, action-packed read with an endearing heroine who knows what she wants, who is clever but kind. I almost regret reading it so soon. The publication of the next volume (February 2014) seems very far away at this moment.

Terry Pratchett – Men at Arms  8/10

men at arms1I know, I know. My blog is beeing flooded by Terry Pratchett love but I can’t help it. I dare you to find your way into Discworld and stop reading after a book or two. Being a fan of the witches, I kept one last novel in their sub-series to look forward to and started reading the City Watch books instead. Commander Vimes is gruff but good-hearted, Carrot is too good to be true (but you just have to love him. All of Ankh-Morpork does, too!) and I particularly liked the new recruits, first and foremost Angua, the werewolf. I loved her right from the start and I think she makes a great addition to the Night Watch, not just because she is a woman, but because she adds a layer of complications to the entire sub-series.

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THE WORST

Yay! No bad books this month.

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THE REST

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!  7/10

guards guardsThis was a re-read for me (or rather: re-listen) because I first read the book 10 years ago and didn’t remember much about it. Because the Night Watch books are next on my Discworld reading schedule, I thought I’d remind myself of who is who. Captain Vimes was never supposed to be the hero of these stories (Carrot was) but he steals the show wherever he goes. This drunk, depressed Captain of the Night Watch has low self-esteem and doesn’t really know why he’s doing his job anymore. But when a dragon shows up and devastates Ankh-Morpork, somebody has to step in. And believe me, it’s wonderful when Vimes and his guards do.
Not my favorite Discworld novel and, because it is one of the earlier ones, not as subtly clever as the later books, but still great fun and silliness. And it has Errol, the swamp dragon, which gives it a couple of brownie points.

Stephen King – The Shining  7/10

shiningI started reading this on Halloween because everybody needs a bit of creepiness around that time. As with so many Stephen King books, the monsters didn’t get to me that much. But the humans did! I will never understand how people dismiss King’s books. Few other authors do characterisation as well as he does. His characters come to life and, because they feel so real, the things they do seem all the more disturbing. I felt especially sorry for Danny, the child, and will try and read Doctor Sleep soon. Whatever happened to that kid after the events of The Shining, he must now be one messed-up man…

Jodi Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily  7/10

tiger lilyI have an obsession with Peter Pan. Retellings, spin-offs, sequels and prequels are judged extremely harshly by me because how dare anyone ruin one of my favorite children’s stories ever? Anderson takes a look at one of the side characters who don’t get much attention. Tiger Lily had a life before Peter Pan and Wendy. It was the life of an outsider, in a village filled with prejudice and fear. Considering how quiet a book this was, there was a lot going on. We do get to see Peter (although he is nothing like the original) and the pirates, but we also get Englishmen trying to convert Tiger Lily’s tribe to Christianity and all that this ensues.
My favorite part was that Tinker Bell narrates the story. Her personality (again, very different from the original) is what kept me going, her emotions got to me and made me read on. This is not a riveting adventure story. It is a character study and a coming-of-age tale that, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, I enjoyed it.

Susan Cooper – Seaward  6/10

seawardHere’s a rare occasion. A book I read but didn’t review. At first I thought, I have nothing to say about this, how can I write a review that’s more than 20 words long? Now I feel that I do have some things to say about it. I didn’t love it. But I didn’t dislike it either. What bothered me the most was how fast things happened. There was no time for exploring the repercussions of the events, everything happened bam-bam-bam without room for emotional growth. But all things considered, it is a beautiful children’s story. Meh… maybe I’ll end up writing more about it during the holidays.
At this point, I think I should have read this as a child to fully appreciate it. As an adult, it didn’t quite convince me.

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WHAT I’M READING IN DECEMBER:

  • Wesley Chu – The Lives of Tao
  • Mark Helprin – Winter’s Tale
  • Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay
  • Space Opera (one of these:)
    • Iain M. Banks – Consider Phlebas
    • Timothy Zahn – Heir to the Empire
    • David Weber – A Beautiful Friendship

Rachel Bach – Fortune’s Pawn

Do you know that feeling when you are incredibly thirsty and you finally get that ice cold glass of water? That moment of “aaaaah” afterwards. Yeah, that’s the feeling I was having while reading this book. It was pure fun and relaxation and I am so pleased that I have the entire Eli Monpress series by the same author still ahead of me.

œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BIFORTUNE’S PAWN
by Rachel Bach

Published by: Orbit, 2013
Ebook: 368 pages
Series: Paradox #1
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: “You’re quit­ting the Black­birds?” The shock in An­thony’s voice was at odds with the fin­ger he was lan­guidly slid­ing over my naked back. “Why? You just made squad leader last year.”

All her life, powered armor mercenary Deviana Morris has wanted one thing: to join the Devastators, the most elite armor unit on her home planet of Paradox. But it’s hard to get noticed on a planet of billions. To speed things up, Devi takes a job aboard the Glorious Fool, an trade ship so dangerous that one year of service on its security team counts as five anywhere else. The ship’s terrible record doesn’t worry Devi at first, but when the captain starts sending her into impossibly dangerous situations no trader should ever get into, she beings to suspect that the Glorious Fool’s problems are more than bad luck. But with her career on the line, Devi’s determined to keep her nose down, despite her growing concern about the captain’s strange missions, his creepy silent daughter, and the ship’s insufferably sexy cook, Rupert Charkov, who is definitely more than what he seems. Maybe even more than human.
With the mysteries piling up and life on the Fool getting more dangerous by the second, Devi’s knows she’s going to have to get some answers fast, before all the secrets send her home in a body bag.

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After a difficult book like Ancillary Justice (not oh-noes-we-are-too-dumb-for-this difficult, just making you think a lot difficult) this was exactly what I needed. A light, fun, acion-packed read with just the right amount of romance and one hell of a mystery that remains yet unsolved.

Devi is a heroine to my liking. She’s aggressive, she knows her life will probably be short and so she makes the best of it. If she likes a man, she doesn’t play around for long, if she wants a job, she does whatever it takes to get it. In this case, her ambition of joining the elite Devestators, this means working as a security guard for Brian Caldwell, a captain who is cursed with bad luck.

If you liked Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you will have no trouble following Devi on her crazy adventure. Apart from her being a wonderful character, I was stunned by how well balanced the different elements of this story were. On the surface, you get an action adventure complete with fighting aliens, awesome power suits, space travel, and living at close quarters with crew mates. There also happens to be a little romance but it didn’t overshadow the story until the end. Go deeper one level, and you will find quite a thrilling mystery. This being the beginning of a trilogy, not much is revealed and the ending is rather abrupt.

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Rachel Bach does a wonderful job of keeping her readers entertained. Action doesn’t just follow action. There are quieter moments in between, there is room for character development, and – my favorite part, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet – there are hints, here and there, to the bigger picture. I can’t really say anything here without giving too much away and spoiling your potential pleasure at reading this.

I’m not a big romance reader, but if you throw a love story into my fantasy or science fiction, I usually roll with it. The attraction between the protagonists  in Fortune’s Pawn is immediate and tangible. The descriptions of Devi’s feelings toward Rupert just pull you in and make you feel as giddy as a teenager. I thoroughly enjoyed those magic moments of tension and final relief. That said, I just didn’t buy the love story. It started as lust, which I can totally buy into, especially the way Rupert is described. But Devi and Rupert didn’t spend enough time with each other that – to me – justified their sudden outburst of One True Love-ness. Sure, you grow attached if you live on the same ship, but I was missing the scenes where the two of them just talk or bond or joke or do something other than eyefrak or kiss. Again, not that I minded the kissing…

That is a relatively small complaint, all things considered, and the second I finished this book – after shouting “What?! That’s where this ends?” – I found myself eager to continue. This is one of those books that could go on forever and you would neither notice nor mind. It has been compared to Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. While it has neither of those shows’ depth, it definitely delivers the fun, the action, and the sexual tension between two highly interesting main characters.

I can’t wait for part two, Honor’s Knight, which Goodreads tells me, is scheduled to come out in February 2014. I guess I can survive that long, but let me tell you – this is a book I will buy on publication day!

THE GOOD: A great protagonist, lots of action, powered suits that are beyond cool, aliens, battles, and a mystery that kept me guessing on every page.
THE BAD:
The “love” story never surpassed a lust story for me, the ending is not quite a cliffhanger, but feels like somebody chopped one story into shorter bits at a random point. Forgivable, seeing as the next book comes out in a few months’ time.
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended. A quick read that is just So Much Fun, and not a single boring page in sight.

MY RATING:  8/10  – Excellent

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