Friday, October 31, 2014

Monthly Reading List: October

Top Row: Gaudy Night, Sapphire Blue and Revenge of Seven
Bottom Row: Cress and K is for Killer
*Not pictured: Heartless, TimeRiders, and Chronicles of Steele: Raven (Episode II)

TimeRiders (Alex Scarrow)
Verdict: It was a cliched premise and the adventure was very much stereotypical, but the treatment was very much enjoyable, all the same!
Three seemingly random individuals from three vastly different points in time are all convened in a time bubble by a man from a future society that has figured out time travel, whereupon it became something highly dangerous and disreputable, much like cooking meth or drag racing. There are those (like this man) who have a healthy respect and an understanding of its effects, and a desire to avoid misusing it, and there are others who unfortunately also know about this "scientific miracle" and want to use it toward their own ends: namely, gain world power by going back and giving Hitler the edge he needs to win the World War.
Honestly, I was expecting something a little more than a glorified Nickelodeon TV show experience, but all the same, the characters were well-done (especially Bob; I liked Bob a lot) and I did not get bored through it all! 

Heartless, Tales of Goldstone Wood #1 (Anne Elisabeth Stengl)
Recommended to me on the stipulation of "brand-new twist", but as far as actual characters go, this was pretty typical. I am a sucker for all things Faerie, though, so of course I liked it!
There are a royal brother and sister, motherless and carefree, till word gets around that the king's health is fading, then the pair are inundated with suitors for the fair princess, each one desirous more for power and riches than for the bride herself—all except the mysterious Prince Aethelbald, who professes to rule a kingdom everyone considered a myth, and who has many more secrets than any Princess Una has ever met. Appearances can be deceiving, all is not what it seems—and the thing that promises to please her most may be the kingdom's undoing. 
Verdict: I loved the pretty fairy-tale scenery and the strong allegories throughout this story. This one is definitely a winner.

Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
Verdict: How unfortunate that this seemed to be a mystery featuring Harriet Vane more than Lord Peter... But it was still a good mystery. 
A college reunion made ominous by a mysterious "poltergeist" who has evidently a bone to pick with several members of the school, and is not afraid to use extreme measures for the purpose of revenge. The thing I like about the way Sayers writes, though, is her characters are very much distinct and realistic--not a cliche or stereotypical woman in the lot of them! Women "detectives" in fiction tend to be the preppy, peppy, nosy, chatty type (like Miss Marple or Nancy Drew), but Harriet Vane is suitably realistic and relatable. Like her, I almost missed the outrageous presence of Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and his taciturn sidekick Bunter, but the mystery kept me guessing and diverted long enough... and the presence of his nephew, Viscount St. George is a reasonable facsimile. What always entertains me in these novels is the relative "mainstream" of Viscounts and Lords... too often the classics we read are so early that the titles are borne with heavy weight of duty and the stoic shouldering of a noble burden--but to the men of Wimsey, it's just a fluffy title that makes people so bothered, and hampers ones ability to behave like the carefree person they desire to be--even though the fortune that comes with said title enables all sorts of flights of fancy. 
Sayers' mystery is littered with red herrings, misdirections, subtle clues, casual remarks, and hi-jinks that keep you turning the pages long into the night!

The Revenge of Seven, Lorien Legacies #5 (Pittacus Lore)
Verdict: Wow. Not quite what I was expecting, but an awesome installment, all the same. 
After the events of "Fall of Five" (Ella is captured by the Mogadorians and Five betrays the group and kills Eight) the gang is still reeling. The growing awareness of just how pervasive the Mogadorian presence is on Earth only serves to increase the tension and the urgency. 
Compared to the previous books, not much "happens" in this one, but I appreciated the character development that went on in spite of that. Too many writers get wrapped up in lobbing apocalypses at their characters, they don't really have time to do much beyond reaction and damage control.
This time around, we find out more about the mysterious Tenth Garde, more about their shadowy nemesis, Setrakus Ra, and a whole lot more about Lorien and the characters we have hitherto known in predominantly combative settings. A decent book, and fitting installment for a series that is not over yet, by a long shot!

Sapphire Blue, Precious Stone Trilogy #2 (Kerstin Gier)
Verdict: Oh good heavens! More of everything, and this series just keeps right on going!
More time travel, but this time, Gwyneth's trips are preplanned and a lot more regulated than they were at first. 
More scenes between her and Gideon as the two of them get to know each other (and are steadily falling more in love, as teens in YA novels are apt to do!).
More about the history of the Guardians and the prophecy everyone seems to realize is referring somehow to Gwyneth. She doesn't seem to be getting it, and nobody wants to explain anything to her, but every time a character repeats a rhyme I get a sense of what just might be to come!
More ghosts... Only this time it's a "demon" in the form of a gargoyle. Every bit as entertaining a character as James or Robert, but infinitely more willing to interfere with others and spy for Gwyneth's sake.
More wonderfulness overall, and I am excited to read the final installment!

Cress, Lunar Chronicles #3 (Marissa Meyer)
Verdict: Whee! I am breathless, I am tense, I am giggling like a crazy person... And I could not be happier with this series!!
What Gier has done with Cinderella, with Red Riding Hood, and now with Rapunzel is so much more wonderful than anything I have ever seen, or (I believe) will ever see in the future! Her writing is a spectacular example of how to foreshadow without ever letting on that you're foreshadowing... for example, she introduces the airship Rampion in the last book... but I was halfway through this one before I suddenly realized... "Wait a minute.... RAMPION!" and suddenly it was hilarious and delightful. She adds characters each time, and they're all connected somehow, (Cinder is searching for Scarlet's grandmother, and Cress is the girl who first contacted Cinder to let her know that the Lunar Queen was up to no good!) and I am hopelessly and shamelessly in love with each and every one of them! 
Anybody who loves both sci-fi and fairy tales simply must get their hands on these first three books of the Lunar Chronicles... 
Meanwhile I am on absolute pins-and-needles for the release of the fourth (and final?) book, Winter. Any guesses which fairy tale Meyer will be taking on next? The release date is November 2015--but hey, I'm a Sherlock girl--I know how to hiatus!

K is for Killer, Kinsey Millhone #11 (Sue Grafton)
Verdict: Well, this installment was somewhat a relief after last one... more like the other books in the series that I have enjoyed. (and I'm not quite halfway yet!) 
 Grafton is back in action with yet another mystery that Kinsey solves in time to chase after the culprit alone while said murderer attempts then to murder her. (Book 11, you'd think she would figure it out if she's so "whip-smart"; but Grafton does use the moment to reveal how the killer performed the first murder, and it's always something different, so it's not like it gets old or anything...)
This time around, she's asked to look into an apparent suicide by the victim's mother--who is convinced it was murder when a mysterious video tape that should not have existed suddenly shows up in the mail. Turns out the dead girl worked as an escort on the side, so Kinsey must delve into the shady world of prostitution and porn in all its glitzy glamor and double-dealing depravity. She does it all with a fine sense of her own identity (no insecurities in this woman!) and uncovers the killer even in the midst of deliberate misdirection, omission, stonewalling, and all manner of occupational hazards.
It wasn't the best mystery I have ever read--but, so help me, I will make it through this series!

Chronicles of Steele: Raven, Episode II (Pauline Creeden)
Verdict: Oh good grief! If I thought the cliffhanger at the first episode was painful, this was infinitely more so! The action increases in this second installment, and doesn't let up from beginning to end.
In this all-to-brief installment, we learn more about Raven's shadowy past, about the legacy of the Reapers, and we get to see her finally come face to face with the man intent on tracking her down, Captain Jack Grant. The Captain himself, having at first taken the word of the duke who hired him to apprehend a kidnapper, begins to realize that all is not as his client would have him believe, and there is something definitely strange about these mysterious Reapers, but not malicious or evil. 
One thing is for sure: Chronicles of Steele is shaping up to be a steampunk series not to be missed on any account! The race is on, with more questions than answers, and everything is not as it seems for anyone. I recently purchased the full novel, so I am excited to be able to review it as a whole once I read it!