Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recent Good Reads

Time for a wrap-up of my favorite reads from the second half of August. I've got 3 Middle School/YA books, 1 Fantasy, 1 Urban Fantasy, and 1 book for the geek in all of us.

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

13 year old Natalie Minks lives in the little town of Arcane, set at a crossroads, and the scene of many strange occurrences. Her mother is the undisputed source for all of the legends and stories about Arcane, from the crafty Jack, to the tale of how Old Tom Guyot beat the Devil in a guitar contest. Her father is the town bicycle mechanic, and Natalie is at home with all things mechanical.

Then a mysterious traveling medicine show comes to town, Natalie's mother is always tired but no one will tell her what is wrong, and she's starting to see strange things everywhere she goes. She also can't get the hang of her newest bike (a scandalous problem for the daughter of the bike mechanic). With the help of her friends and some of the strange denizens of Arcane, Natalie must get to the root of the problem before it's too late.

A very smart story. I loved every second.

Deals with the Devil, the power of stories and storytellers, and sheer determination run through this middle school read. I'd recommend it for girls and boys, kids and adults who like reading kid's books. It brought to mind some of my favorite books I read as a child, like Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth starts off pretty much where Leviathan ended: the Leviathan is making it's way to the Ottoman Empire with help from the Clanker engines. There is an uneasy truce between Alek's men and the British, but Alek and his companions are still basically prisoners.

There are more adventures, German threats (including a new Tesla cannon), anarchists, new allies and enemies, some secrets are revealed, and the stakes are raised. There are also fantastic mechanical creations and new beasties too.

Once again, the worldbuilding is phenomenal. Very good action sequences too. Alek is making more decisions regarding his life, and it's good to see a strong sense of responsibility developing here. Deryn is still keeping her secret. She's thriving as a middy (totally, completely kicks ass), but knows it will all be taken away if it is discovered that she is a girl.

I cannot wait for book 3. Goliath is out September 20.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Dystopian YA (might I even call it sci fi?) with some romantic elements (but I wouldn't call it a romance per se).

I finished this book quickly - I did not want to stop reading it.
The story begins in a small community of people who live in tunnels underground. They've been told that the surface is a place of death, that they all must act for the good of the colony, and any infraction of the rules is met by the worst punishment - banishment into the tunnels. Population is tightly controlled and anyone with disabilities is put to death - only the strong survive. The eldest tribe member is 25 and looking like death is almost upon him, and due to high rates of death in children, they aren't even given names until they survive past 15. They are also given a particular job - Hunter, Builder or Breeder.

We begin with Girl15's naming day. She has been training to be a Hunter - to go out into the tunnels looking for food and to fight the Freaks - terrifying creatures with insatiable hunger. Now named Deuce, she finds herself saddled with a partner no one else trusts, Fade. He wasn't born in the enclave, but his strength earned him a place. He has always been an outsider. Soon, they are working together, discovering the Freaks aren't mindless animals at all, and Deuce begins questioning the elders and their rules.

I'm stopping the recap there - I don't want to spoil anything for you. I'll just say that I loved following Deuce as her eyes were opened to how things really are, and I was surprised more than once by what did/did not happen.

I enjoyed the characters, and I look forward to learning even more about them and seeing the relationships develop in the next book. Absolutely loved Deuce - a perfectly pragmatic heroine. She made decisions, stuck by them, had regrets, but above all was a survivor. No moping. She also expects people to react according to their talent/training. I also liked how even though the rules of the Enclave were harsh, as a future Huntress she had been taught that her job was to protect those weaker and she carried that with her. I like that Deuce doesn't start out wanting romance - it goes against her focus on survival. When she starts developing feelings for Fade, it felt natural. She has pangs of jealousy, has no idea what he feels, and is totally out of her element when it comes to love, but she never lets that get in the way of their mission of survival. She isn't in the middle of a fight wondering if he feels the same way she does.

The worldbuilding was fantastic and although bleak, I could readily imagine events playing out like they do in this world.

Fantastic read. I can't wait for the next one. [I won this in a Twitter contest sponsored by the author.]

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

This novel is wonderfully strange, striking the right balance between odd and alluring. It was this giant, beautiful puzzle and I loved trying to piece everything out as I raced to the conclusion. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down, and I was a bit sad every time I had to walk away from it.

Set in a place ravaged by countless wars, Boss and her circus travel from town to town, awing the battle-scarred citizens with amazing feats and mechanically-enhanced people. I honestly don't want to go any further than this - part of the joy of this book was discovering all of the small details for myself, and I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

Secrets of the Demon (Kara Gillian bk 3) by Diana Rowland

[It's very hard to write a review on a continuing book in a series without having any spoilers whatsoever, so if even the tiniest of hints drives you up a wall, skip down to the next review.]

The continuing adventures of Kara Gillian - cop and demon summoner. She is still coming to terms with the deal she made at the end of book 2, still wants to pass the "just friends" boundary with a certain co-worker, and is trying to maintain a balance between the benefits and costs of dealing with demons.

Note to the uninitiated: The demons in this world aren't your fire and brimstone variety. They are from a different dimension, will do tasks for a price, have a deep sense of honor, but will still rip you to shreds if you cross them.

We get to see some other magical abilities, there's golems, and lots of snark. I must add that Jill is one fantastic best friend. There are several times that I wanted to shake Kara, but then I remember that 6 months prior to this book, she'd basically been a friendless hermit, so I get her social awkwardness. One very big reveal here. Really looking forward to the next one.

Geek Wisdom by Stephan Segal

Chapter 1 started with a quote from the Princess Bride, followed by many other quotes from this and other wonderful books, films, and people, and I knew from the start I would enjoy it.

I first wanted to read Geek Wisdom because NK Jemisin and Genevieve Valentine contributed to it, but I enjoyed almost every one of the short essays. I don't often read books like this (I tend to tie them with the "Chicken Soup for the..." books), but they were speaking my language so I got into it.

Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune, Isaac Asimov, Rod Serling, Aliens, Batman, Yoda - it made me want to pick up those books and movies and enjoy them again. It also touched on life, relationships, hatred, gender, and how these snippets of wisdom from the geek canon can inspire or make you think about your own place in the world.

There's no narrative, and I didn't come away with the answer to life, the universe, and everything (because I already know that's 42), but it was a fun, quick read that while different from my usual picks, still felt very much "in the family."

I could see getting this as a gift for the geek in my life.

If you have never enjoyed philosophical discussions on politics or society, then you will not like this. If you think there has been no original thought since Plato, you will not enjoy this. If you either openly or secretly ascribe to nerd-dom, you will probably find something here that you'll like.

[I received an Advance Readers Copy of this to review for Amazon Vine.]


  1. Let's see: I already have Boneshaker on my to read list, I've already read Behemoth (and enjoyed it), your review of Mechanique reminds me of The City of Lost Children so I'd probably like it. Enclave is I think a little too bleak for me - I prefer to hide my head in the sand when it comes to bleak futures - and I might need to check out the first of the Kara demon series. As far as Geek Wisdom goes - this is probably something I'd love but would be much more enjoyable read out loud in a group of geek friends, of which I'm remarkably short.

    In any case, thank you for the excellent roundup!


  2. I don't know. For all the books you read, I don't think you picked enough favorites for the first half! :>)

  3. @dwndrgn - I think our TBR lists are pretty sililar. :) I'm really excited for Goliath.

    @Maria - There's more coming... ;)

  4. Kindle-aholic,

    Have you SEEN her TBR pile??? She sent me a spreadsheet once. Had 200 titles on it. Then she joined GR. I think it's up to 300. I can't even TRACK that many titles never mind plan on actually reading them all...

  5. @Maria - I think I have over 1K on my GR TBR list. Yeah, I don't have a problem at all. ::hums a bit and looks around innocently::