I just looked at my notes and realized that though I’d been writing up the mini-book reviews, I hadn’t posted any of them. If nothing else, this really makes me aware of just how many books I’ve been reading. Here are some brief reviews for your enjoyment.
Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
I’ve been planning to read something by Ebear for quite some time so when I saw her first novel at the store, I picked it up. As a first novel, it shows real talent and I look forward to reading more. I put first novels in three categories: not interested, amazing, and shows potential. This novel fell in the shows potential category because it didn’t knock my socks off but at the same time the characters are compelling and the world setup is interesting. My biggest problem isn’t the book’s fault at all. Somehow I’d missed the memo that this was one third of a story and nothing on the cover warns me.
Edited — I just asked a question of Elizabeth Bear only to find out that what I’d believed, that Hammered was the first third of a book split by the publisher, is false. She had written it as a trilogy with the first two books complete when her agent sold the first (and the other two as well). Honestly, I don’t know how much that changes in my opinion about Hammered. Whether written as one huge book or a closely tied trilogy, I don’t feel Hammered had a strong interim conclusion. Would this have bothered me if the cover made it clear? Probably not. So the rest of my note still holds. The incorrect part is now in square brackets.
[In talking to friends, I learned Jenny’s story was originally one huge book that Spectra split into three.–a rumor] I question the decision not to indicate that on the cover because this piece doesn’t come to a satisfactory close for me as nothing much is resolved. Knowing as I do now that it is only a third of the story and because other elements of the book did satisfy, I plan to snag the next two. Without that knowledge, what would tell me that Ebear could write a satisfying conclusion? And this is the kind of thing out of the author’s control that can impact careers. That said, it doesn’t seem to have stopped Ebear any :D. And I only expect the stories to get stronger because the characters and the interesting worlds are already there.
An interesting note is that Locus treated them all as one book for a Best First Novel award. Maybe that’s where the rumor started.
Speed Dating by Nancy Warren
(Acquired: We Hear You)
I don’t know whether this is representative of the Harlequin NASCAR line or not, but this book is a wonderful return to everything I loved about romances when I first started reading. If you read for the raunchy bits, don’t bother with this book. No, this one is all about the people and the tension between them. It’s about two people discovering what makes them tick and what makes them whole. Even knowing that they have to find a way back to each other, there were points that made me cry. For an emotionally powerful read, look no further :).
Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Yeah, I know. I’m behind the rest of the world. When we first started reading Harry Potter, I would sit in the living room with my two boys all washed up and ready for bed curled up next to me and my hubby relaxed in a chair as I read as long as I could hold out. But then my boys got tired of how slow it took me to get through the stories and so stole the books to read on their own and after a while they became nothing more than a placeholder on my to-be-read shelf, where they came and went depending on who wanted to reread them next. So I was given an ultimatum. The movie comes out this summer and frankly the movies are often pastiches instead of stand-alone stories as they try to cover even a fraction of the elements in the books. So I started reading. Unlike many people, I don’t see that much original in Harry Potter. That’s not to say they aren’t enjoyable, it’s just that I don’t get the charge my kids do for example. On the other hand, I’m usually sucked in. This book however took too long to start and I came to understand why I’d started it and put it down before. There were some chapters that sucked me in to the point that I extended my reading time just to absorb them, and others it took two to three reading times (until I established the one chapter minimum rule for myself) before I got through them. My impression of this book is simple. I think it needed, deserved even, a better edit pass to cull some of the draggy bits and make the story flourish. Ultimately the story was a good one, but the read felt too much like a slog. I know there’s a lot out there who will disagree, and that’s fine. They’re welcome to their opinions. I think this is a sad example of good authors who aren’t reined in as well once they start raking in the bucks. Rather than pushing for recycled paper, I would have appreciated a closer look at the content for this volume at least and I’m finding some of the same issues with the Half Blood Prince (since I was on a roll, I figured I’d just keep going :)).
The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
When I finished Order of the Phoenix, I really thought I’d seen the start of J.K. Rowling’s decline. I’ve seen it in famous authors before where it just seems they no longer care about the quality of the story. That book had chapters that captivated me, but they were tucked in amongst a lot off floating. Anyway, I could not have been more surprised by The Half-Blood Prince once I got rolling. My chapter system defeated me with this book, but not because I struggled to finish a chapter at just one sitting. Rather I had to force myself away and go on to other things. I don’t spoil, so I can’t give any examples, but even with someone spoiling for me the “who dies” question, there were enough other surprises to have me stunned at the end. I’d pegged who owned the potions book before, but that was a minor reveal compared to what else happened in the book. I can’t believe how quickly I read through it and am really looking forward to the next one, something I couldn’t say with Order of the Phoenix. I guess the bottom line is that I am impressed and no longer think she’s started to decline :).
Thunderstruck by Roxanne St. Claire
(Acquired: We Hear You)
I’ve mentioned this romance novel in several conversations because it demonstrated something successfully that I was trying to work out in my mind: how to withhold information within the POV of the knowledgeable character without the reader feeling cheated. It was a good story with a bit of intrigue, a bit of mystery, a good cross between instinctive chemistry and the determination to fight it for good reasons. I usually enjoy almost every romance novel I read because they tend to be good at meeting specific expectations. So far I’ve been very impressed by the Harlequin NASCAR line just because the two I’ve read have managed to give me good emotions while also giving a strong showing compared to other books that aren’t constrained by the restrictions of happily ever after. I’m also happy to see the greater focus on both sides of the picture, male and female, because it makes the romance a matter of two lives coming together and working through issues rather than a more limited focus.