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What I’ve Read Lately – Aug 2010 – Part 1

Wherein I talk about what I’ve read lately, what of it I liked, what books I am looking forward to, and where’s my bloody Kindle?!?

So I have this other blog, nominally a book review blog, that I’ve been neglecting even worse than this one. I really should be writing this post over there, and may in fact later edit it to go over there, but since I am just finally starting to post semi-regularly to this blog again I figure I should post this here while I am still remembering to do so.

Starting off my list of what I’ve read lately is Mike Carey’s “Dead Men’s Boots”. This is the third book in his Felix Castor series, about a British exorcist named (unsurpringly) Felix Castor. The setting is present day, just the dead have started to come back. Some as ghosts, some as zombies (ghost posessing their own dead flesh), and some as loup garou (ghosts possessing animals and twisting thier bodies into human-like form). Not much to say about the story in the book without spoiling it, the series remains a good fun read. If you liked Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” books then you will likely also like this series. If the name of Mike Carey seems familiar it may be because you remember him from the comics he wrote like his time writing on John Constantine: Hellblazer or his time writing the Lucifer comic (set in the Sandman universe). Of the three I’ve read so far (there are five in print in the UK, but only the first three in the US right now) I do think the second one had the best story but all three are worth reading and reading in order so you don’t get spoiled. The first two were “The Devil You Know” and “Vicious Circle” in that order.

Trudie Canavan’s “The Magician’s Apprentice” is up next. This is set in the same world as the “Black Magician Trilogy” and is a prequel to that series though it is never actually directly stated as such. It would actually be better to describe it as a pre-history since it is set far enough previously in time that it really has little to do storywise with the Black Magician novels except to explain some of the quirks of the setting a bit better and where some of the customs in that trilogy came from. All that aside, it was a good read though I am not quite sure how well it would stand alone without having already read the Black Magician books. I’d have to recommend reading that trilogy first (“The Magicians’ Guild”, “The Novice”, “The High Lord”) before reading this one. Since the other trilogy is a pretty good read that isn’t that bad of an idea anyways.

“The Spy Who Haunted Me” by Simon R. Green is the next in the Secret Histories series he is writing. The main character refers to himself as Shaman Bond and is a magical super-spy so you should get the idea right away that the entire series is a bit of a send-up of the James Bond spy-genre. This is the third book in the series (after “The Man With the Golden Torc” and “Daemons Are Forever”) and there is already a fourth one out already (“From Hell With Love”) and a fifth on the way (“For Heaven’s Eyes Only”). In this one, the plot is that Edwin Drood (the real name of Shaman Bond) has to compete in a contest held by a retired legendary spy in order to find out who the traitor within the Drood family is. The actual story is a bit more predictable (well, to me who has read too much at least) then the previous ones and it continues the trend of having some cross-overs with his other series (a previous book had Owen Deathstalker from the Deathstalker novels show up, this book has Walker from the Nightside books). I still liked it, but I’d really only recommend it if you liked the first two in the series and it’s quirkiness is to your taste.

“Soulless” by Gail Carriger is one of those books that I picked up more because I liked it’s cover art and the quirky tag phrase advertising it (“A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols”) than because I really expected it to turn out to be a good read. A habit that pleasantly surprised me this time. The novel has wit, is set in Victorian England, really had me finding myself surprised that I liked it as much as I did. I’d almost describe it as having been written almost as a parody of typical Victorian / Regency romance novels with a supernatural mystery twist but comparing it to the tripe that passes for romance novels is a bit insulting of what turned out to be a fun read. This is the first book in The Parasol Protectorate series, “Changeless” is the second (and I tried to find a copy of it while out bookshopping today but it was sold out) and the third titled “Blameless” is also already out.

Patricia Bray’s “Sword of Change” series consisting of “Devlin’s Luck”, “Devlin’s Honor” and “Devlin’s Justice” filled my quota for fantasy novels of late. I’d seen the series in stores for a while, and I finally decided to give it a try. What I can say of it is that the first two books were great, the third book should have been split into a third and fourth and made rather a bit longer. It was still a good series, but the rushed ending keeps me from calling it a great one. You get to page 340 in the third book and it looks like the book is going in one direction, and then it changes tack and the last 48 pages rushes to an end that could have almost been an entire additional book on it’s own. That said, I did especially enjoy the 2nd book in the series, “Devlin’s Honor” as the Duncaer setting and culture were so atypical of what normally shows up in fantasy that I wish it had been explored more.

I picked up “Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris ages ago, back when True Blood started airing, and I didn’t manage to read it until I was on a work trip a few days ago and had just thrown a handful of books from my “Mountain of Book Doom” into my luggage. I can see now why it caught the eye of people at HBO and was turned into a series (I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show, but always meant to read the books first). It was fun little read and one of the better books I’ve read in the burgeoning genre of “Femme Fatales + Vampires”. Waiting on my Kindle to arrive and I’ll probably pick up some more of the series then. Kind of weird for me to be recommending the book now, I have to figure that anyone else interested in it has probably either already read it or is already watching True Blood and spoiled the story in the books.

“Black Magic Woman” by Justin Gustainis is another urban fantasy novel set in present day where magic is real. In this series, the main characters are Quincey Morris (great grandson of the “Dracula” character of the same name) who is a supernatural investigator (monster hunter) and Libby Chastain who is a white witch. The story involves an ages old family curse / vendetta going back to the Salem Witch Trials. The book was a pretty good read, as the first book in a series it shows potential for the character. There are some stylistic tics in it that bothered me, the way some flash back bits started mid-page in mid-chapter but if he avoids that in the second book (which is already out and is titled “Evil Ways”) then I’ll enjoy it alot more and reviews I’ve seen of the second book say it is an improvement on the first. The third book in the series, “Sympathy for the Devil”, got delayed apparently when the publisher Solaris got put up for sale a while by by Games Workshop (yes, the gaming company) but it should be out sometime next year.

Also in the theme of ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy’ is “Lightbreaker” by Mark Teppo. This book was like occult-geek week. Lots of name dropping, historical references, historical characters mentioned. Also very different from most of the other ‘urban fantasy’ books in that there weren’t any monsters in the setting, just people being bad people. This was the first book in a longer series titled Codex of Souls. I believe the second book, “Heartland” is out already though I keep forgetting to check for it while bookshopping. As for recommending it, it is paced and reads very differently from most of the other urban fantasy I’ve read lately. The closest I might come to it in terms of what I’ve read of late in that it is a little bleaker because it is people, and not monsters, doing awful things to other people.

I have some more books I’ve read this month that I want to review (another five or so), and I want to talk about my coming Kindle, but this post is getting a bit long for most people to read and I am getting too sleepy at this point to do the books justice so I will have to continue this in a few days.

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