March brings breezes sharp and shrill… a quick recap

My monthly round up – what I’ve read/plan to read, any events, etc:

Books read:

  1. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis
  2. Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell
  3. His own good sword by Amanda McCrina *SPFBO
  4. Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier
  5. The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
  6. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  7. Black Heart by Holly Black (Backburn and Completed Series)
  8. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
  9. The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu (review to follow)

Backlist

  1. Black Heart by Holly Black

Unfinished series completed:

  1. Black Heart by Holly Black

Books Bought:

  1. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  2. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  3. The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit
  4. Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
  5. London’s Hidden Walks by Stephen Millar
  6. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  7. Grimm Mistresses – Stacey Turner

Review Books:

  1. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence – so excited for this one!!
  2. Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell
  3. The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari
  4. When we were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
  5. Angelfall by Susan Ee
  6. The Awesome by Eva Darrows
  7. The Waterborne Blade by Susan Murray
  8. Hidden Huntress by Danielle L Jensen

Books Gifted:

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Cover Spotlight:

US or UK cover:??

Events:

Self Published Fantasy Blog Off – details here.

Once Upon a Time event being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings

  1. Black Heart by Holly Black

Readalong of Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead with Susan at Dab of Darkness. Now complete.  Readalong of book No.2 looking very likely – details to follow if you’re interested in joining in.

Backlist Backburn is an end of month event organised by Lisa at Tenacious Reader. If you’ve caught up on any of your backlist then call over and link up.   I find this a good incentive to dust off some of my books!  This month I read Black Heart by Holly Black.

Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and Bookish (every Tuesday). Next week’s topic is: Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List

Tough Travel by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn (every Thursday). Next week’s topic is:

ENFORCERS

Some people are made to give orders; others are made to make sure they are carried out. Be it through muscle or guile there are just some people you don’t want to hear are looking for you.

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Posted On 28 March 2015

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 8 responses

Just finished The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu.  I’m a bit late to the party with this one and I don’t know why I’ve waited so long but now I can pretty much read the entire series in short order which I fully intend to do as this was such a good read.

The book starts with a James Bond type action scene in which one man dies and as he takes his last breath the alien entity that lived within him is released and seeks the shelter of a new host.  By way of background: many, many years ago aliens crash landed on the planet earth and unable to survive without a host eventually settled on humans.  Their ultimate aim is to return home yet during their time here the group of aliens have become divided over the treatment of humans and civil war has ensued.  The Genjix are the more powerful of the two groups of aliens.  They believe that humans are little more than a means to an end – to get off the planet.  The Prothus on the other hand want to protect humans and the planet – they pretty much also want to get off planet but think this can be achieved in a more balanced fashion.

In terms of the alien/host relationship.  When an alien takes over a human the two remain in symbiosis until the death of the host – in fact this is the only way for the alien to be released. In that respect humans are groomed from an early age training for the day when they might be deemed worthy to become a host.

The names of the two main characters in the story are Tao (the alien) and Roen (his host).  Roen is an unsuspecting and pretty much unwilling host.  He’s not ready for this experience and takes a lot of training to get anything up to a standard where he can keep himself alive even!  Tao is a very interesting character and shares some of his prior history at the start of each chapter which makes for quite intriguing reading.

I’m not really going to elaborate on the plot but more outline what worked for me with this story.

Firstly, it’s actually good fun.  The dialogue between Roen and Tao is amusing to say the least.  Chu really set this up well by finding two such opposite characters.

Secondly, I really like the idea that for once the central protagonist is not really ‘the chosen one’.  Roen is an unfit, nerdy, tongue tied, computer geek who’s idea of a good time is a big greasy pizza oozing with cheese and a couple of beers.  He doesn’t have an inner ninja waiting to break out and frankly even when he has trained hard he’s still no hardass-butt-kicking hero.  He frequently fumbles his gun or goes into a complete paralysis stuck like a rabbit in the headlights at the first sign of danger.  I just find it really refreshing to have a relatively normal guy. I’m not saying he’s the most easy to like character I’ve ever read because frankly he can be a bit whiney but he feels real with all his flaws.

Thirdly, I like the main concept of the aliens who are really a little like body snatchers – okay, they don’t kill the human or make another version when they inhabit but let’s face it – the only way you’re going to be released from this situation is if you meet the Grim Reaper.

Fourthly, the pacing is fast and there’s plenty of action.

I’m not going to deny that I had a few niggles and conflicting feelings when reading – like, the war between the aliens, I’m not really convinced by it.  At the end of the day none of the aliens actually ever seem to die – they just jump ship.  The only real casualties are the humans which is kind of ironic given that the Prothus are warring with their kind in order to protect people from mistreatment. I also wasn’t convinced that under the circumstances so many humans would be on side ready to devote or even sacrifice themselves for the alien cause – particularly when ultimately the aliens want to leave.  Where on earth would that leave the humans – the aliens after all seem to have been the main instigators of our entire history not to mention the main catalyst for inventions.  And, when the aliens are eventually in a position to leave – well, how they going to get out of the bodies that are hosting them???  That’s not going to end well for the hosts methinks.  I don’t see what the humans get out of the relationship other than a complete lack of privacy from the moment they become a host to the moment of their quite often untimely death?  Not that there’s much you can do about it anyway – you’re not exactly asked for consent before your body is taken over.

But, in spite of my niggles or questions I did really enjoy this and I can’t wait to see where it leads next.  Like I said it’s a whole bunch of fun and a little whirlwind of a book where the pages just speed by.  Providing you don’t want to scrutinise the detail to an nth degree this is a very enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend.

A pox on both your houses…

Art it Up.  This is a meme hosted by Tabitha over at Not Yet Read.  The idea being to see if you can come up with some inspiration for a little sketch or doodle from your last week’s reading or just anything else in general. My recent reading includes Black Heart by Holly Black – this is a series about curse workers whose magic can be transmitted through touch.  Their magic is illegal and therefore curse workers must wear gloves at all times.   Hence this sketch.  Where did the gloves go?  Why are there no gloves?

IMG_1455

Saddle up and ride your pony (or dinosaur)

This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is once again taking us Tough Travellings.  This week’s topic

BELOVED MOUNTS

A combination of suggestions from several people, as it seems many want to talk about the various animals that people in fantasyland ride. So be they horse, bear, or other let’s talk about favorite rides.

Dragons – The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist.  Contained Dragon Lords who rode on the back of dragons.  Also The Dragonflight by Ann McCaffrey – a strange mix of sci fi and fantasy.

Horses – not just any horses though!  Sandseed horses from the Avibian plains that can travel at great speed. Brought to us by Maria Snyder’s study books.  Kelpies from the Sithe world beyond the veil created by Gillian Philips in her Rebel Angels series. Dangerous beasts, carniverous and difficult to tame.

Dinosaurs – well, dinosaur really as I have only one – Sue, a zombiefied t-rex ridden by Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat.

Polar Bear - Iorek from Philip Pullman’s Dark Trilogy series.  This may be a bit of a cheat as you wouldn’t really cal Lorek anybody’s ‘mount’ – not if you wanted to stay alive.  However he does consent to Lyra being carried on his back so I’m having it!

Bats – a huge, talking bat called Rii who carries Eric, from Rebecca Levine’s Smiler’s Fair.

Hon Mentions:

Lotr – Shadowfax, Great Eagles, Fell Beasts (used as flying steeds by the Nazgul), huge crazy elephant looking beasties.

Harry Potter – Buckbeak, a Hippogriff

Ohh, and this – not sure what it’s called but I’d like to ride one:

Black Heart by Holly Black

Posted On 24 March 2015

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 11 responses

Just finished reading Black Heart by Holly Black which is the third and final instalment of the Curse Worker series.  This has been such a good series and I’m so pleased that the ending does not disappoint.  In fact I’m a little sad it’s over to be honest.

The Curse Worker series brings to us a world of illicit magic.  This is a bit of background about the world from my previous review:

‘The magic in Curse Workers is split into a number of areas, emotional, death, dreams, memory and transformation (the latter being incredibly rare) and the opportunities to turn these abilities into criminal activities is enormous. That being the case everybody must wear gloves (to prevent cursing somebody accidentally – or intentionally – by touching their fingers to somebody’s skin) and the Government are trying to draw the net in around curse workers by proposing to make compulsory a test which reveals if a person is able to perform magic. Working magic is illegal and results in prison which basically means that most magically gifted people will have broken the law simply when they performed their first curse, whether knowingly or not! ‘

Cassel Sharp comes from a line of notorious curse workers and has been involved in plenty of crimes.  I won’t go into the circumstances because it will certainly spoil the previous books. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that Cassel is trying to be good but it’s difficult in a world where there seems to be no obvious good sides in the mix.  Everyone is out for what they can get, everyone seems to be lying or twisting the truth and things are going to get very scary for Cassel very quickly.

What I really like about this series.

Well, the writing is really good.  This is a YA series but it has plenty of good characters and strong world building.  The magic system is really quite fascinating and all magic users pay a price for their curses – they may lose a finger or they may lose a slice of memory – enough magic and they may forget themselves completely.  The world itself almost puts me in mind of that from X-Men where your regular, mundane people are afraid of magic users – and to a lot of extents you can see why.  A lot of curse workers wind up as gangster fodder and the more sought after a worker’s gift the more in demand they are – don’t forget the price for practicing though which can sometimes be very high.  Of course there’s always two sides to an argument.  Curse workers are manipulated into working for the army, Government or rich people who need magic to keep them alive and kicking – or simply provide them with good luck as they gamble the night away.  Children who manifest magical abilities are oftentimes thrown out of families and left to make their way as best they can.  So, you can soon see there are two sides to every story.

We spend most of the story with Cassel and he’s a very easy character to like.  He’s resourceful and, well, frankly, easy to understand.  He’s motivated by love – for his family and the girl he’s been crushing on since forever.  This isn’t a love story though, although there are a few elements of romance here and there they are very few and far between.

The main gist of this story is how Cassel is going to sort out his new found commitment to the Feds whilst still doing the right thing.  It’s a difficult choice made even more difficult by the fact that if his family and former friends find out he’s working for the Feds then he might as well buy cement boots and go for a swim somewhere deep.

On top of this, and though it might not be his biggest worry, school is going weird with blackmailing and shootings!

So, plenty going on all culminating in a rather dramatic ending.

I do like Holly Black.  I think her series always contain originality, good writing and likable characters.  I would certainly recommend the Curse Workers.  It is YA but it’s written so well that it will certainly appeal to an adult audience.

This book is one of my backburn books and also completes one of my uncompleted series (of which I have set myself a goal to finish 10 of during the course of the year).

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