Tag: books

I know, a reading list about scary books in time for Halloween has nothing to do with quantum physics’ spooky action at a distance, but I couldn’t help using it for a post title. Indulge me.

I’m a cruelly picky reader, so putting together a list of recommended reads is always a difficult task for me – especially books with a theme. The following is a selection of novels that fulfilled my threefold hardcore criteria: 1) Couldn’t put it down (or hated pressing pause on the audiobook so I could do necessary self-maintenance like sleeping and showering); 2) Gave me major chills or laughs or both 3) I wanted to be friends with the heroines and heroes of the book.

The Quick There’s all this stupid whingeing scattered over the internets about the “twist” of this book – there’s no twist. It’s a book about vampires. I’m not ruining anything by telling you this. And I insist that it’s one of the best vampire books I’ve read. And you get two poignant love stories, two resourceful, sharpwitted female characters, and some seriously creepy monsters – human and otherwise.

 

 

 

Mayhem – Stephen Crossley’s narration is audiobook listening at its most sublime. He simply is Dr. Bond, and that’s that. A brief digression: Stephen King wrote a fantastic review of the audiobook version of James Ellroy’s novel Blood’s A Rover, telling how he listened to Craig Wasson’s narration while driving and it was soooo damn good it was a privilege to be in a car. That’s how I felt listening to Mayhem – I never wanted to hit the pause button and return to real life. There are plenty of books out there riffing on Jack the Ripper, but this is one of the best – for me, probably due to the supernatural element. A synopsis can’t do justice to the nuances of Mayhem‘s story and cast (yes! there’s a sequel with these wonderful characters). Read it.

London Falling  A cop caper with gritty, snarky dark magic on the streets of modern-day London. A quartet of constables gains some magic mojo enabling them to see ghosts and various other nasties, including an ancient witch obsessed with football (you know, soccer) and murder. Somehow it really rocks, and these coppers are great company.

 

 

 

Midnight Riot aka Rivers of London This is another urban fantasy (of the gore and ghosts and angry Old Gods variety, not fluffy unicorns and fairies) that has humor, horror and heart (most still beating) and a delightful protagonist, PC Peter Grant.  Apparently there’s some controversy about the American version of the book, which I wish I’d known before reading – grab the UK edition if you can. Heck, grab the UK edition of almost anything, as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

 

Murder as a Fine Art  I wasn’t sure about a book that twists history into fiction by using Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an English Opium Eater) as a revamped fictional hero and would-be Sherlock, but this absolutely worked, and the character of De Quincey’s daugher and protegé Emily is worth the entire read. And say WHAT – the author is David Morrell, who wrote First Blood. Yes, Rambo.

 

Even more suggestions (some I can endorse, some I haven’t read yet) can be found on my goodreads Gaslight list – including the wonderful Lyndsay Faye, Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January books, and Stephen Gallagher’s Sebastien Becker series.

I guess I can include spooky watching herein as well, since Hulu finally got Season 4 of Whitechapel, definitely the strangest and most ghosty of the series, and oh my wailing and lamenting that this show was cancelled. You might also enjoy Copper, Ripper Street, and Elementary. Also my guilty pleasure of late: Witches of East End.

 

“1790-church-gravestones-autumn-leaves – West Virginia – ForestWander” by http://www.ForestWander.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 us via Wikimedia Commons

book reviews

Hello audiobook lovers, it’s time to announce my 3rd review for Luna Station Quarterly!  This one was truly rewarding.  Moon Called is the first book book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series: urban fantasy centered around werewolves, shapeshifters, fae and vampires.  It’s adventurous, suspenseful and funny and as always, great to see a female character in the lead role.  AND – Lorelei King, who narrates all the books in the series, is fabulous.  Polished voice, vibrant personality, and she took time from her busy life to give me some wonderful answers to my interview questions.  Please go check out the review at Luna Station, and then go out and find yourself a great listen!

 

Read my other Broadcasts From the Far Side posts!

Photo “Moon” by OldakQuill – Self-photographed. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

book reviews

Today is a landmark day! My first blog post is up at Luna Station Quarterly, a volunteer-run speculative fiction magazine.  I’m going to be doing a monthly showcase of amazing audiobooks written and narrated by women.  For my inaugural post, I review Arielle DeLisle’s narration of Melissa Scott’s novel Five-Twelfths of Heaven.  You can read the post here.  And then please take some time to explore all the wonderful work by the writers and bloggers at Luna Station!  Thanks to Unsplash for the stars photo.

book reviews read me

Happy New Year’s Eve, people!  

It’s that time when every website on the internets is banging out a “Best Of” list and yammering at you to make resolutions.  So while I’m still trying to wrap up my 2014 To Do list and write something coherent about my recent trip to New Orleans, I thought I would share some of my own favorite fun bits of the past year.  Have a safe and happy night!

Noon Pacific’s Space Jams  By far my favorite weekly treat is the music playlist that Clark Dinnison publishes every Monday at – yep – noon Pacific Standard Time.  Here’s a compilation of his picks for 2014’s best spaced out jams.

Jay Sizemore  Absolutely my new favorite poet.  I discovered his work after Rattle published his poem ‘how to remove a hazmat suit.’   It blew my mind.  Just go read it.

io9  Great gobs of geekiness, I am so glad I found this website.  Always something interesting for me here, and frequent contributor Charlie Jane Anders is now one of my favorite bloggers.

The Leftovers  I admit I haven’t watched the final episodes because I don’t have cable TV, but this HBO series about life in a small town post-Rapture was freakin’ badass.  So many unexpected twists and turns, so much to ponder, and also Carrie Coon.  I can’t wait to watch the finale.  Don’t tell me what happens.

Luna Station Quarterly  So happy to be part of this wonderful women’s speculative fiction website.  My first audiobook review comes out January 6th!

Maplecroft  My one-night stand read of the year!  Couldn’t put down this Cherie Priest novel, so I didn’t!  Read it in one day.

Why do I study Physics?  I love this short animated documentary by Xiangjun Shi – I re-watch it constantly, like a daily affirmation.

book reviews get reel grab bag mixtapes

I took the Goodreads Reading Challenge this year and committed to reading 60 titles in 2014.  I surpassed my goal by 6 books!  Maybe a few more before December 31st!  Looking back on all that I read, I’m realizing these books are a chronicle of my life this past year.  ‘Scuse me while I reminisce.
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2014 started off heavy!  I was diggin’ on philosophy, evolution, atheism and HP Lovecraft.  What else am I supposed to read during winter in Colorado?  By far one of my favorite books this year was David Quammen’s Spillover – a hardcore and thoroughly researched work on zoonotic viruses.  Recently Quammen’s section on Ebola was published as a separate special edition.  Highly recommended.  Reading Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion made me feel intrigued, irritated, and enlightened all at once.  I agree with so much of what he says, but the dude can be a bit snide.   I balanced out all this deep thinking (or my sad attempts at deep thinking) with a long term battle to finish Guy Gavriel Kay’s fantasy doorstopper Tigana.  Good grief I wanted to love this book, but it took me forever – I listened to the audiobook while hiking in Colorado and Wyoming.  That was perfect, since the novel is about a beloved homeland, and mine is the Rocky Mountains.
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I moved to Wyoming for the summer and went on a thriller fiction rebound binge.  I plowed through the entire Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  The books got progressively less impressive, but I had a good time.  And, okay, I couldn’t stay away from science and religion – I began my joyous discovery of Carl Sagan’s works, and will be reading more in 2015.  Then I realized that I wanted to immerse myself in all the scifi and fantasy I’ve been too busy to read during the last few years.   I jumped into The Expanse series and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard books, and I listened to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series on my regular hikes up Josie’s Ridge.  I didn’t give up nonfiction though – I loved The Emerald Mile, Kevin Fedarko’s jawdropping account of the fastest-ever run down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – in a wooden dory.  I still get chills.

Thinking about rivers, I traveled from Jackson, Wyoming to Shelton, Washington in late summer, following the Columbia along the way and listening to A Canticle for Leibowitz.  A true sci fi classic, I was riveted by this post-nuclear dystopian novel, even more powerful to experience while driving along the river south of the Hanford Site.  I don’t recommend doing a solo road trip through California and listening to T. Jefferson Parker’s serial killer fiction The Blue Hour – but I definitely recommend the book – harrowing and suspenseful.
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By far the last quarter has been the most fun reading I’ve done this year.  I drove from Arizona to Texas listening to Marisha Pessl’s bizarrely riveting novel Night Film.  I devoured Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft and the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and I finally tackled Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, all of which did not disappoint – great examples of why I prefer speculative fiction to anything else: innovation, daring, otherworldliness.  And I read Shards of Time, the last book of Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series.  A bittersweet conclusion to a series that I love so much.

I also started reviewing books for this very blog, which led me to volunteer as a blogger for the women’s speculative fiction website Luna Station Quarterly.  My first audiobook review, of Melissa Scott’s wonderful Five-Twelfths of Heaven, will be online in January!

Booooooooks.  I love them so.  Find me on Goodreads!

Thanks to Unsplash for the great library photo.

 

book reviews

Beth Bernobich’s The Time Roads is Steampunk Lite with a twist of Time Travel.  That might sound less enjoyable than the actual reading experience, which is mostly a mild disappointment; flat but still somewhat entertaining.  The prose is crisp and the vocabulary appropriately antique; the worldbuilding is thoughtful, but not spectacular.  It’s plausible that more research went into Irish names than almost everything else here, except possibly prime numbers.

So, there’s this alternate-history Ireland, see, in 1897.  Éire.  And in this reality, Éire is an empire with a savvy new Queen and civil unrest brewing in the world.  Intriguing premise!  Sadly, other than that, there’s nothing truly wowza here.   Even thrilling subplots (a love triangle; a string of violent and bizarre murders; even the dire quest for time travel itself) don’t live up to their potential and left this reader unsatisfied.  If the main point of the novel had been to focus on the scientific pursuit of the time roads, that would be understandable, but even the method of traveling through time is confusing and unbelievable.  The political intrigue, time slippage and interpersonal relations that slowly unspool the plot are too tangled, and no amount of cool steampunk hot air balloons, strong tea drinking, or alternate history lessons can knot it all together quite well enough (though I do love reading about a good cuppa).

The elaborate description of scientist Brendan Ó Cuilinn’s strange time machine – an octopus-like brass and silver contraption with wires and glass tubes – opens the first section of the novel, with a focus on mystical mathematics, as Ó Cuilinn uses his machine to make an iron-chromium bar “disappear,” claiming he has sent the bar into the future.  But despite much emphasis on insanity, prime numbers and lots of philosophical name-dropping, it seems as if the reader is expected to accept the book’s time travel premise based mostly on magical descriptions of the time roads themselves, and the characters’ sudden encounters with inexplicable nausea and fugue states – or being dead one minute, and alive the next – with the ability to remember different realities.  Why bother with science or pseudoscience at all?  There is no concern with paradox.   The most pressing issues for the main characters are that of overlapping timelines, the resulting confusion, and possible war among nations, but the narrative is itself so switchbacky  that I began to doubt everything, and not in ways that I think were intentional.

The Time Roads is divided into four books, each taking place in a year between 1897 and 1914 (althought at one point, we’re in the 1940’s), and in multiple time streams.  The division of the book unfortunately breaks up the narrative flow into a collected of disjointed novellas, further scattered by the use of different points of view.   Disjointedness and multiple viewpoints are techniques that really work in time travel stories – hey, they’re often key to the plot.  I didn’t feel that applied here, which may have been the point, but if it was, I don’t actually see the point of that.

The first and last books are told in first person by Queen Áine, while the second and third books are told in third person and focus on two other characters.  The Queen’s chapter introduces Ó Cuilinn’s machine, Queen Áine (our sharpwitted and independent heroine), and her trusted agent Aidrean Ó Deághaidh – the love triangle that goes in circles.  The second book follows Síomón Madoc and his sister Gwen, student prodigies and future (past?) discoverers of the time roads and how to travel them.  Gwen is literally two split people in the book – tragically mad and scientifically gifted – but the two personas are neither fleshed out nor threaded together to make either one, let alone two, solid characters.  The third chapter involves Ó Deághaidh investigating reports of unrest in the country of Montenegro.  Oddly, this section of the book – “Ars Memoriae” – is the strongest, because it is completely unlike the other sections.  “Ars Memoriae” is Jason Bourne meets HG Wells, a spy novella with trust issues, reality issues, and thriller-level suspense.  If the whole novel could have been like this – BOOM, yes!!  It really seems like it tried to be.  Alas, no.

The character of Queen Áine is the book’s strong, smart heroine – yes, but more like a box to be checkmarked than a woman to care about – which is too bad.   In Montenegro, Ó Deághaidh meets Valerija Delchev, who definitely has the most charisma of the female players, and then she’s promptly dropped from the storyline and footnoted.

For a novel about time travel, The Time Roads is two-dimensional.  Is it because the characters are developed only enough to simply suffice for the plot and general reader interest?  Is it because the book’s concept of time travel requires advanced degrees in mathematics and physics (does it – really?)?   This is a book that could have been.  Could have been more.  Kind of calls for someone to go back in time and add what’s missing.  I would read that alternate-reality version of this book.

I received this book as a free ARC from Netgalley.

 

 

book reviews

Some more free goodies on Kindle Unlimited.

Supernatural mystery with Detective Chen – this is probably the find that I’m most excited about. There are more books in the series.

 

 

 

More gritty supernatural noir, starring shapeshifter detective Jeremy Stake.

 

 

 

Ghosty literary suspense.

 

 

 

 

Short fiction from smarter-than-you Peter Watts’ giant sci fi brain.

 

 

 

 

Who isn’t always looking for good time travel fiction?

book reviews