Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Reading List

*Books are listed in order, top to bottom, left to right; Not Pictured: "The Good, The Bad, and the Mediochre" and "Tiger's Paw" (ebooks); "Lions of Lucerne" and "Path of The Assassin"; P.s. Sorry for the poor photo quality... I ended up returning most of the books in the first photo before I remembered that I needed to re-shoot it...

 The Sum of All Fears (Jack Ryan #6) by Tom Clancy
Too Freaking Long for the amount of actual plot it contained. I will admit, the scene between Cathy and Liz was DELECTABLE—and John Clark is boss. I'm just not getting the same plot-driven vibe from Clancy that I did from, say Crichton. While I can understand that Clancy's books are not science fiction (in fact, remove the fake names and I would submit that they wouldn't be much fiction at all!)... They aren't exactly the "thriller" Harrison Ford made Jack Ryan out to be, either. Come to think of it, the only two books I have actually enjoyed so far are Patriot Games for the thought of Mr. Ford in the lead role, and Red October, because I know the movie stars Sean Connery. Sum of All Fears was a bland disappointment.
As You Wish, by Cary Elwes
Lovely and funny and full of fangirl feels! Beautiful. Poignant. Hilarious. Golden. Poetic—

All the words I would use to describe "The Princess Bride" I would also use to describe this memoir. Cary Elwes, for all his "fanboying" over Bill Goldman, is a gifted storyteller in his own right. The nostalgic feels ran strong with this book! Discover a whole new side of the film "everybody" has seen with anecdotes such as:

-Andre and "The American"
-The Dread Pirate Roberts Battles An ATV And Nearly Loses His Toe
-THE GREATEST SWORDFIGHT IN MODERN TIMES was only just over a minute and a half the first time around
-Fart jokes
-The director (and Cary) couldn't be on set while Billy Crystal was filming his scenes... Because he was laughing too hard at the ad-libbed jokes!

That's only the surface, of course! I loved this book!

Code, Terminal (Virals #3 and #5) 
by Kathy and Brendan Reichs
Code was every bit as enthralling as I expected it to be. The Reichs siblings walk a tenuous line, hinging the success of the series not only on the likability of a quartet of under-appreciated, blue-collar Goonies, but also the use of a pretty unoriginal plot device with underpinnings of situations that only increase the danger level as the books progress. Today's villain-of-choice is a mentally-unhinged sociopath who basically travels the country killing people with pointless traps and impossible riddles they necessitate Totally Convenient Plot Devices Of Total Convenience every time...
But I like the characters, so it makes the whole thing worth it. I mean, I could do without Tori's constant cloud of "will-they-won't-they" with at least three guys she can't seem to get away from... However, the pacing is good, and if you just ignore the obvious tropes that necessarily come with this kind of YA, the bits of original plot and character development shine through like gold.
Terminal was a nice, concerted effort for closure, and succeeded well. On the whole, a better YA sci-fi series for those who like the "teens-with-superpowers" schtick!
The Magician  (Nicholas Flamel #2) by Michael Scott
Not bad. Not quite as lovable characters as Artemis Fowl, but a lot more character depth than Sisters Grimm. At least Josh and Sophie seem to like each other more than Sabrina and Daphne ever did. And hey, Josh has cool superpowers now too! I do still admire the way these books are introducing famous legends and supernatural figures, much like the way the show Grimm or Supernatural deals with lore, so there's no real actual turn-off... Yet...

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Oh my goodness gracious! A phenomenal undertaking that I thoroughly enjoyed!
My favorite part? The camaraderie that surrounds the reading of this book. Gabaldon has absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of in her writing. It is heartwarming and respectful, calling upon all of the emotions in a glorious cascade of imagery. Claire is a wonderful character, and the concept, though unorthodox and notoriously unmanageable by most authors, is handled with startling cleverness that keeps me wanting to read more!
Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
Sanderson officially has my vote. EVERY. TIME. Seriously, he has nailed a perfectly endearing sort of hero in the delightfully awkward David Charleston. From all the bad metaphors that would give any self-respecting writer a stomachache—and yet they suit David's character so perfectly that he feels very authentic and real—to the sweet moments of David's effort to say the "right thing" that so inevitably fails... My favorite part is the exchange between David and Megan, when he finds out she hates swimming:
"You're from Portland, right?"
"So, that's a port, isn't it? Wouldn't you go swimming there?"
"In the Willamette?" <--BEST. REACTION. EVER.

Glorious in all its imperfection. And only someone like Sanderson would ever be able to write like that. 
The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy #3) by Shannon Hale
So funny and sweet and beautiful! I read it in basically one sitting!
I completely adore this series from Shannon Hale. It's magical, enchanting, hilarious and heart-warming all at once! Miri finds herself out of her depth once more, but this time, instead of the "hillbilly" come to live among the fancy courtiers, the fancy Tutor (Miri) is sent to train a trio of raggedy children living in a swamp! In this delightful turn of events, Miri learns important lessons on how respect that is demanded is not genuine, and that true respect has more to do with behavior than rank—among others. The three sisters made me laugh as Miri tries to train them in proper behavior, and I gasped at every plot twist. Fantastic story!
Armada by Ernest Cline
Nicely done! Once again, Cline takes a "canned" plot and actually does something unique with it.
I read Ready Player One a couple years ago, and I remember enjoying it. (Now I am listening to the audiobook because OMG WIL WHEATON!!) So when I heard about Armada I kept a lookout for it, hoping that the second book would be just as good as the first... And if nothing else, at least that it wouldn't be worse.
It wasn't worse. It was still really good. Super-dated references, but at the same time, I think (because I finished it a while ago) I do remember current pop references, so Cline adds that extra layer of relevance to his work, as opposed to the "distant future dystopia where everybody is plugged into virtual reality" of Ready Player One. People were comparing Armada to Ender's Game, but the key difference to me is that I didn't really like most of the characters in the latter, and Cline's characters were a great ensemble. This book is another win!

M is for Malice (Kinsey Millhone #13) by Sue Grafton
Grafton has done it again. I don't know how, but she did. You'd think she would be running out of plots by now, or at least that a character like Kinsey making the "same mistakes" over and over would become annoying, but "Book M" has got to be among the better installments in this series that I have read so far! The plot twists I never saw coming, the development of not only Kinsey herself but also the other characters in the book. Well played, nicely done, and all that! This series is certainly not one to be missed!

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Mitford #10)
by Jan Karon
Egh! Finally finished it! A sweet stroll through a little village that really appeals to this small-town girl! To be fair, it was an ARC copy I got as a door prize last year, so I feel like I can't vouch for the book because I don't know what was different between the advance and the final version... But I did notice there was a shocking lack of transitions. Some sections would just be two characters giving passing remarks, with no tags. Karon seems to pull off the "no tag" thing very well, though, because I could still track who was talking in all but a few times. So maybe that's just her style, and I haven't read a Mitford book in so long that I had forgotten that.

I never EVER want this series to end! Darn it, how does one write such meaningful characters all the while tossing in every pop culture reference to mythology IN EXISTENCE into a single burst of fun, exuberant, relentless (owing, I think, mostly to the utter absence of actual chapter divisions) reading? I still have yet to figure it out, but Cameron seems to have an utterly unshakable grasp on it! From a sympathetic character launching a preemptive strike on a mob while singing, "Are We Human, or Are We Dhampir"... to Mediochre himself remarking, "I hate mysteries... except the ones by Christie or Doyle." I unanimously approve of all references in this series. ALL HAIL MEDIOCHRE!

Gorgeous, marvelous, in so many ways! A genuine pleasure from start to finish! The touches of modern life mixed with the "old world" ethics and morals gave it a unique twist. Rogers really captures the hybrid of man and beast with her descriptions of the movements and habits of the therianthropes! Her characters are wonderful, and I can't wait for the start of the actual series!

Lions of Lucerne, Path of the Assassin (Scot Horvath #1 and #2) 
by Brad Thor
Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did read the last just-under-half of the first book in one sitting...between the hours of 10 and 12... So what? 
My thought upon finishing "Lions" was that, though it can't quite equal the character-creating caliber of Baldacci, Thor does all right, in his own way. A few misses, but plenty of hits! I was ready to believe that I had a new series to follow, after pining for the likes of King and Maxwell and Will Robie.

I start reading "Path of the Assassin", and... There he goes...
I have read books with hunky "ex-military" types, but always with a hot, sassy girl in the limelight with him. Thor fell into the cliche there... But with how many times he detailed his macho hero's workout sessions ("a couple dozen curls with the heaviest dumbbells, then he laid his super-muscular body on the floor to do enough crunches to make a regular man cry..." Not a real quote, but you get the idea) and exactly what he had for breakfast ("He was more of a waffles kind of guy, but since the Feds were footing the bill, he ordered eggs Benedict with Swiss cheese, and had it delivered to his room..." Again, not a real quote... Except the eggs Benedict part...) I quickly began to tire of the character before I had even been given a chance to actually become an invested reader!
 I have read books that deal with conspiracies within Federal agencies, but with a lot more finesse on the part of the Feds than the bumbling, blowhard buffoons Thor portrays. Heck, I've even come across super-skilled heroes who are so incredibly macho... But also still likable! Was not impressed with Horvath... Because he was too busy being oh-so-impressed with himself... Boo.