Thursday, 30 May 2013

BEA Day One!

Today was the first day of bea 2013 and what a day it was. My feet are sore, my shoulders ache and I can't wait to do it all over again tomorrow.

Got to the Javits Center around 8.45 and joined the massive queue. By the time the doors opened, I'd already gotten two tote bags (tote bags are big at bea: by the end of the day I'd have eight.) Not really having anything I desperately wanted to do today, I decided to just wander around.

I managed to talk to a lot of great companies, big and small and pick up a lot of really good-looking books. I also managed to sneak in a few "I'd really like to work for you here's my card"-s  which hopefully weren't too annoying. I think they were fine. ;)

Met up with Natalie (Books Are the New Black) again for lunch which was lovely. Didn't really run into any other friends from the Blogger's Conference but I know they were there. And I'm sure they had just as dead of arms as I had.

After going home to drop off my books, have dinner and walk my friends' dog, I went back into the city to catch We Are Young: Tumblr Does YA at Housing Works. It was really fun! I managed to make some new friends in the crowd (a really nice girl named Rebecca(?) and two other Mollys with whom I have decided to form a band) and finally meet Rainbow Rowell, who I've been Twitter friends with for a year or so now. The other two authors I had not heard of before but I'm definitely going to check out their stuff because they both gave great talks. Ruthie Baron was absolutely adorable and talked about falling in love with Logan Echolls and Eliot Schrefer was super fun and interesting. It was a great night.

Going early tomorrow as Bill Bryson (my hero!) is signing at 9.30 and want to make sure I catch him. So I'm going to bed so I can get up tomorrow.

Here are the books I grabbed today that I'm really excited about:

Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy's Guide to Courtship from Shire Books
Burial Rites from Little, Brown and Company
My Life in Middlemarch from Crown Publishing
Palmerino from Bellevue Literary Press
It's Not Love, It's Just Paris from Grove Atlantic
Watch How We Walk from ECW Press
Betwixt and Between from IG Publishing
The Returned from Harlequin
My Notorious Life from Scribner

Hemlock Grove - Brian McGreevy

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for. 

Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.

At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.

I really wanted to like Hemlock Grove and in some ways, I did. I love gothic novels and this looked to reinvent them so that they fit better into modern times, something I could really get behind. I wanted to fall in love with Peter and Roman and Shelley (okay, maybe I did fall in love with Shelley) and I wanted this to completely work. It didn't.

Hemlock Grove's problem seems to be that it has too much on its plate. It sets up a ridiculous amount of plotlines that you keep expecting to meet somewhere in the middle and then they never do. So many things are brought up and then completely discarded to the point where you don't know why they even happened in the first place.

There were some things I liked about the novel, though. For one, I really enjoyed the narrative voice. You thought for the longest time that it was third person omniscient and then, out of nowhere, there's an "I" and it throws your whole world for a loop. I was especially thrilled at the end of the first part where the narrator revealed who they were. I thought that was an underscored brilliance.

Hemlock Grove is a great attempt that doesn't realize its full potential. I think Brian McGreevy is very talented and I am looking forward to whatever he writes next. He creates interesting characters and writes some very fascinating scenes; he just needs to figure out how to structure plots better.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

BEA Bloggers 2013!

I attended the BEA Bloggers 2013 Convention today and it was a ton of fun! Since I'll be going to the next few days of BEA as well, I thought it would be fun to recap the awesome things that happen each day and link to some of the cool people that I meet. Here's today's recap!

Got up at the ungodly hour of 6.30 this morning to make it into Manhattan for the conference. Luckily, I don't have to transfer trains and, although the walk was a bit longer than anticipated, it was easy to find. I got my badge, got my swag bag and went into the hall for the opening keynote and some breakfast.

I ate breakfast with some delightful ladies. Mary (BookHounds) is lovely, Pilar (Ordinary Servant) is really nice and Liberty (Taking Libertys) is really awesome. We had some great chats before the keynote started.

The keynote speaker was Will Schwalbe, who gave a really interesting, funny and well thought out speech about his experience with bloggers and just all around book enjoyers and what different kinds of success are. I really enjoyed his speech and it was a great start to the day.

At this point, the morning sessions began and I started the day at the Adult Editor Insider Panel, where we heard from people from Mulholland, Tor and Harlequin about exciting books that were coming out in the near future. I'm pretty excited about The Shining Girls from Mulholland (which I managed to snag a galley of!) which looks amazing and a mysterious book by J.J. Abrams (also from Mulholland) called S. Tor got me excited about a book of essays by Jo Walton on rereading classic books and The Incrementalists which I could not describe to you but they are super hyping. Harlequin is excited about The Returned which actually sounds quite good, if not very much like a French tv show I watched last year.

Also met during this session Natalie (Books Are the New Black) who has an amazing blog where she matches book covers to outfits and Marty (Every Day Writer) who does a little bit of everything. The three of us had planned the same schedule for the day so I ended up hanging out with them for the rest of the conference which was really fun. It's always great to make new friends.

The next panel was the Adult Book Blogging Pros panel, which was fun if not super helpful. All the panelists were great (Mandi from Smexy Books, Rebecca from Book Riot and Sarah from Smart Bitches) and the moderator, Jim Hines ( was great. It was a fun panel.

Lunch was lunch. I think we were all pretty hungry. Natalie, Marty and I explored what we could see of the rest of the expo. Very excited for tomorrow!

After lunch, I went to Taking Your Online Presence Offline that turned out to mostly be about supporting your local indie bookstore, something I think a lot of us already do. Oh well.

After that was Extending the Reach of Your Blog Online which was actually quite good, bringing up different ways of getting a new audience. I enjoyed that one.

I wasn't sure what to think about Randi Zuckerberg being the closing keynote but her keynote was actually really interesting! She spoke about trends in social media and ways to use (and abuse) it. Even if things were a bit off topic for book blogger, it was still a very interesting and engaging talk that was probably one of the highlights of the day.

After that was happy hour where I had a Coke and chatted with a bunch of different people who's business cards I did not get and thus have sadly forgotten. I do look forward to running into them over the next few days, especially as I did not have business cards today and am going to be armed with them tomorrow.

It was a great first day, filled with meeting tons of interesting people and I'm even more excited for the rest of BEA. Should be great!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Montaro Caine - Sidney Poitier

An inspirational first novel that blends elements of mystery, science fiction, and metaphysics by the beloved, legendary, and bestselling actor Sidney Poitier.

When a coin is found in a baby's hand, the doctor who finds it sends it up to a lab at MIT, where Montaro Caine, a student, does a work-up on it and discovers it to be made of materials not known on Earth. Caine never learns the owner's identity, but two decades later, as Caine, now CEO of Fitzer Corp in New York City, is facing the possibility of a hostile corporate takeover and experiencing family troubles, a man and woman appear in his office bearing the coin. The find sets off a battle of intrigue and suspense, as scientists, collectors, and financiers all vie to get their hands on it. But the coin, and a second coin that appears, is of more value than mere monetary worth. In this ambitious, page-turning novel, the beloved actor Sidney Poitier takes us from New York to Europe to the Caribbean in an exploration of race, faith, and, beyond all else, the meaning of our lives on earth.

Sidney Poitier wrote a book. That is not the reason I picked this up, though. I had read the snippet on the back of the book and thought it sounded interesting before I even realized who had written it. With that as an added incentive, I picked the book up right away.

There is a lot going on in this book and the first forty or so pages introduce everything in small snippets which seemed very promising. I was waiting for the small snippets to slowly work into each other to create the larger plot but alas, that wasn't to be. Once everything has been introduced, almost 75% of it is put on the back burner as we're stuck following Montaro Caine, our very boring protagonist.

There are tons of characters that are mentioned so briefly that when they reappear, you have no idea who they are. There are plots that seem needless to the plot (why have the side story with his daughter and that Nick guy?) and things that seem important that ultimately are not. There are two characters that you would think would be integral that are hidden away for almost the entire book. There is very little action and a lot of talking. All in all, this book is horribly boring.

I kept pushing through because I thought, at the end, at least there would be a good payoff because I did, ultimately, want to know what the meaning of the coins were. However, even the ending was a let down, becoming preachy and too happy, to the point where it felt like a Disney movie, every character getting a redemption moment.

This book had promise but completely failed to live up to it. It was boring and pointless. Sidney Poitier is a great actor but I don't think I would pick up another book of his.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

He's Gone - Deb Caletti

What do you think happened to your husband, Mrs. Keller?”

The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.

To be quite honest, I really didn't like this book but I feel like that's my fault and not the novel's. For one thing, it says right there "adulterous beginning" and I know that I cannot read books about adultery. It's something I just cannot deal with. 

The other thing, though, is that I really like good "disappearance" novels, where characters have to really learn more about themselves and their families to find out about the person who has disappeared. I suppose that's true of this novel but not in the normal way. In this book, Dani, the protagonist, spends most of the novel going through her relationship and looking at it a different way around. However, I don't feel like it gave her any understand but more just told the reader what had happened. This would have been fine if it took up the first fifty pages or so but it almost the entirety of the book. I wanted to know more about the disappearance, not about their intense rendezvous while still married to other people.

I did like the basic framework of the novel. I liked Dani waking up and slowly discovering she doesn't know where her husband is. I like the way she formed new bonds with her mother and daughter. I liked how the story finally ended, when we did discover what had happened to Ian. I wish the novel had been more of that and less inner exploration but I think some people will enjoy that more than I did.

This book was in no way bad; it just wasn't my cup of tea. I'm sure others will really enjoy it but I was looking for something else.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Elite - Kiera Cass

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

I was surprised to find myself liking The Selection last year and when the sequel showed up on Netgalley a few weeks ago, I couldn't help myself. I remembered some strong characters and the hint of a much more exciting backstory waiting to unfold in the next two books. I was excited to see what was going to happen.

The Elite is both gives the reader more and falls back in terms of plot. When I was reading the first book, I felt sure that we'd have a good view of what was going on with the rebels by the end of book two, maybe even having America be captured by them or some sort of breakdown of the kingdom. Something dramatic. I was disappointed to find this not the case.

It's not that nothing happens in the book. We do find out more of the backstory of what happened to the world to make it what it is. America gets to read some secret diaries that give her some facts of life before the caste system. And we do see a bit more of the rebels, if only a tiny bit. I really wanted more plot and although I got a taste, I wasn't satisfied.

I was, however, annoyed as hell with America. I like her as a character, I do, and she's very strong but she spends almost the entire book hemming and hawing over Aspen and Maxon, going from one boy to the next and then overreacting if one of them looks like they might have had a toe out of line. In one aspect, I do think Maxon made a poor choice but for everything else, America flies off the handle at the smallest hint of a problem and doesn't let anyone explain. It's alright once but it happened at least three or four times in the book and it was getting old.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book because I did. I even missed my subway stop because I was engrossed in it. The book plods merrily along and I definitely want to know how the series is going to end. I was a bit disappointed that this book didn't make the most out of what it could have been but I'm hoping book three will blow it all out of the water.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo - and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up - Richard Lloyd Parry

Lucie Blackman—tall, blond, twenty-one years old—stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered Lucie’s disappearance and followed the massive search for her, the long investigation, and the even longer trial. Over ten years, he earned the trust of her family and friends, won unique access to the Japanese detectives and Japan’s convoluted legal system, and delved deep into the mind of the man accused of the crime, Joji Obara, described by the judge as “unprecedented and extremely evil.”

The result is a book at once thrilling and revelatory, “In Cold Blood for our times” (Chris Cleave, author of Incendiary and Little Bee).

I picked up People Who Eat Darkness on the recommendation of a friend. She had been raving about it when we went to dinner a few nights before so when I saw it at the bookstore later on in the week, I had to pick it up. I've kind of been on a true crime kick lately and a recommendation from someone I trust made sure that this was not to be missed.

There are two main aspects to this book: the exploration into Japanese culture, especially host culture and the exploration into the psyche of Joji Obara, the man ultimately accused of the crime. On the first count, I can honestly say that I don't think I learned too terribly much, not because Parry isn't very informative, as he is, but because I've lived in Japan and this was something that I already understood. However, although it wasn't new information, it was somehow interesting to hear it discussed and dissected, looking at it from the eyes of a culture that doesn't understand. Parry does an excellent job of explaining exactly what Lucie had gotten into and does it without painting hostess culture black. It's very interesting.

As for Joji Obara, my word. That was a fascinating chapter. The man is mad as a hatter. From changing his name twice before turning eighteen to being saddled with a seriously dysfunctional family to the vanity book he publishes to "prove" his innocence. Reading about his past and his habits made for interesting, if slightly frightening, reading. I couldn't put the book down. Seriously. I stayed up until 4 AM to finish it.

Parry followed the story from the beginning, all the way through to the verdict years later and because of this, he has a firm grasp of the story. He has personal relations with everyone involved and while you can tell he's trying his best to stay impartial, his reason also peaks through, giving the reader an idea on his thoughts on certain topics. He also gets drawn into the story himself at the end, becoming the target of an Obara outburst while he is trying to get an interview. That was an interesting moment.

Parry writes with compassion, knowledge and a bit of sass. He informs the reader of the facts of the case while also telling a story. Despite not being around for most of the tale, you really get a feeling of who Lucie Blackman was and how the loss of this young girl impacted not only her family but her town and her country. 

This book was compelling and hard to put down. I completely recommend it.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots - Jessica Soffer

This is a story about accepting the people we love—the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we’re given and the families we make. It’s the story of two women adrift in New York, a widow and an almost-orphan, each searching for someone she’s lost. It’s the story of how, even in moments of grief and darkness, there are joys waiting nearby.

Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks, making croissants and chocolat chaud, seeking out rare ingredients, all to earn the love of her distracted chef of a mother, who is now packing her off to boarding school. In one last effort to prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal, an obscure Middle Eastern dish called masgouf.

Victoria, grappling with her husband’s death, has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago. An Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant, she starts teaching cooking lessons; Lorca signs up.

Together, they make cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, kubba with squash. They also begin to suspect they are connected by more than their love of food. Soon, though, they must reckon with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.

I know what you're thinking. This is a book about feelings and growing and worst of all, food. This book is seemingly not at all up my alley. But when I got offered to review it, I thought that I needed to give it a good shot and as it was written by an interesting new debut author, Jessica Soffer, and from a new and interesting perspective, I decided to give it a shot and I'm very happy I did.

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots follows two very different heroines. Lorca, our teenage girl, spends all her time trying to win her mother's seemingly impossible love while struggling in school and with her own self image. She has a crush on the cute boy who works on the bookstore down the street and imagines going on adventures with him. She's a very intense character, at once strange and new but relatable. 

One of the strongest details about Lorca is that she's a self harmer. There are intense, painstakingly written passages about her thought process, about what it means to her. It actually gets difficult to read at times. This was unexpected to me and I found it a welcome part of her character, giving more complications to Lorca and making her a more rounded character. It gave her another issue to attempt to overcome, tied into her feelings with her mother and added quite a bit to the plot.

Our other heroine is Victoria, an aging Iraqi woman who emigrated with her husband years and years before and has just recently lost him. Now, alone for the first time in decades, she has to deal with what her life has become and who she is without him. The panic, the sudden emptiness and the realization that she had alienated so much in her life that now she feels truly alone overcome her. This is a fear that resonates with everyone and is completely gripping, transforming the character and adding to the story.

Watching these two broken women find each other is both heartwarming and slightly worrying, since you spend most of the book hoping everything works out for them. I was honestly surprised by how the book finally ended. I was not expecting some of the final twists and turns of the plot and was   shocked with some things and delighted with others. I would not have thought this book unpredictable but there you have it.

This is a book about dealing with present and working for the future. It isn't particularly happy but it has small moments of joy and copious amounts of hope. A great debut from Ms. Soffer and definitely one to pick up.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the review copy!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Asylum - John Harwood

Confused and disoriented, Georgina Ferrars awakens in a small room in Tregannon House, a private asylum in a remote corner of England. She has no memory of the past few weeks. The doctor, Maynard Straker, tells her that she admitted herself under the name Lucy Ashton the day before, then suffered a seizure. When she insists he has mistaken her for someone else, Dr. Straker sends a telegram to her uncle, who replies that Georgina Ferrars is at home with him in London: “Your patient must be an imposter.”

Suddenly her voluntary confinement becomes involuntary. Who is the woman in her uncle’s house? And what has become of her two most precious possessions, a dragonfly pin left to her by her mother and a writing case containing her journal, the only record of those missing weeks? Georgina’s perilous quest to free herself takes us from a cliffside cottage on the Isle of Wight to the secret passages of Tregannon House and into a web of hidden family ties on which her survival depends.

Another delicious read from the author praised by Ruth Rendell as having “a gift for creating suspense, apparently effortlessly, as if it belongs in the nature of fiction.”

The phrase "you can't put this book down!!" is completely overused, in my opinion. It is just used to draw up enthusiasm for a book and rarely is actually true. In my case, however, I remember getting about a hundred pages from the end, realizing it was four in the morning, and carrying on anyway. I was completely hooked.

The Asylum is a tried and true gothic novel, with creepy old houses, the threat of madness, some homoerotic tension and seemingly impossible obstacles. I ate it up. It reminded me a bit of Collin's The Woman in White which is a great compliment to Harwood. He creates a great sense of unease with Miss Ferrars narrative, to the point where the reader doesn't know if she should trust the narrator or not. 

A change of literary styles happens about midway through the book, when it changes over from a narrative to epistolary at just the right moment. I remember turning the page to see the heading and going "ooooooo!" in excitement. I honestly haven't gotten this excited about a book in a long time.

The plot, even when you think you know where it's going, twists and turns so that even if you see one plot twist coming, you aren't expecting a certain detail that changes it all. Everything is well plotted and makes sense once details are revealed. I might have even gasped at one point. 

I honestly could not put The Asylum down and if you're at all interested in gothic novels, you will eat this one up, too.

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Boleyn King - Laura Andersen

Laura Andersen brings us the first book in an enthralling trilogy set in the dramatic, turbulent, world-altering years of Tudor England. What if Anne did not miscarry her son in January 1536, but instead gave birth to a healthy royal boy? Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory and Allison Weir.

Henry IX, known as William, is a 17-year-old king struggling at the restraints of the regency and anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics plotting at home, Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. Against an undercurrent of secret documents, conflicting intelligence operations, and private murder, William fights a foreign war and domestic rebellion with equal resolve. But when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession menaces a new generation of Tudors. Battlefields and council chambers, trials and executions, the blindness of first love and the betrayal of true friendship...How far will William go to get what he wants? Who will pay the price for a king's revenge? And what twists of fate will set Elizabeth on the path to her destiny as England's queen?

If you asked me, I would say that I wasn't such a big Tudor buff but I seem to have read a lot of Tudor books in the last few months. Go figure.

The Boleyn King is an alternative history take on what would have happened if the boy Anne Boleyn had would have lived. The story begins with his birth (and the simultaneous birth of the daughter of one of Anne's favorite ladies-in-waiting) and then quickly skips ahead to when our two newborns turn seventeen. 

The book centers around four main characters: William, the boy king, who is used to getting his way but is much gentler than his impetuous father, Elizabeth, his older and wiser sister, who is doing her best to avoid an unhappy marriage and get over her affections for the already married Robert Dudley, Dominic, the son of disgraced nobleman who was raised with William and has become his best friend and most trusted advisor, and Minuette, the daughter of Anne's favorite lady-in-waiting that has been raised as a third sibling, a favorite with the other three. Each character is very distinct and lovable in their own way. Minuette, who could have easily veered into the "too good to be true" field is actually quite sweet and relatable, caught between being regarded as a sister by royalty but not actually having any title. 

When the novel begins, it is William's last year in minority and the four (who are kind of a child sleuth group, now that I think about it) find out about a plot to put William's legitimacy into disrepute. And so, while also trying to navigate the workings of running a country, they are in search of a mysterious paper that claims William is not Henry's child. 

I had a feeling going into this that I would like it but I did not think I would get as drawn in as I did. The writing is light for a historical fiction novel, not so light as to be frivolous but not so heavy as to get bogged down. The characters are easy to root for and the political intrigue is there but on a smaller level than the personal trials. Even the love triangle (that doesn't really rear its head until the very end of the book) isn't annoying like they are in young adult fiction sometimes but understandable and slightly troubling because you honestly like each of the men and so does Minuette as they have been raised as siblings.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it definitely has me hooked. It answered some questions but there are more things I need to know which the first novel in a trilogy should do. I'm excited to read more in this series and can't wait for the next novel. 

The Boleyn King comes out May 14th (next week!) from Ballentine Books.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Lives of Tao - Wesley Chu

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

The Live of Tao looked ridiculously intriguing to me and I have faith in Angry Robot books so this was a no-brainer. 

Tao, an ancient life-form that has lived the entirety of human existence unfortunately has to room with Roen, your stereotypical twenty something that is living his humdrum, go nowhere life. Both are originally annoyed with the setup but both grow as people as they begin to work together.

I really liked both of the main voices in this novel. Roen is completely relatable, even if you do want to kick him to get motivated every once in awhile. At the same time, though, you probably know at least a few people like him. Tao is a great character, at once bringing both mystery and answers to the novel and giving the whole thing a purpose.

The universe Chu has created is intriguing. There is now an explanation for almost every event in human history and at times it becomes murky who the good guys and the baddies are. Roen is constantly trying to figure out where he stands and how he feels about it as well meaning (and not so well meaning) new figures pop into his life.

I really enjoyed Sonia, the female agent sent to whip Roen into shape. I thought she was an engaging character, showing another side to the agency Roen will have to work for and a different side to the idea of a secret agent, at that. Jill, the other love interest for Roen in the book, I wish were a little more fleshed out as a person as she seemed more of a goal than an actual character. With the events of the novel, though, I'm sure she will become more of a character in the next book.

Because this is a series, right? It has to be!

I really enjoyed The Lives of Tao and had a hard time putting it down. It's a great addition to the science fiction catalogue and a great read.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Wednesday Bonus! - Comics Roundup

I was on a mini break this past weekend and found myself reading quite a few comics and graphic novels over it. I hadn't planned on reviewing them for the blog but since I read so many, I figured I'd give each of them a short blurb for a mini-Wednesday update! Enjoy!

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time Volume One - David Tipton, Simon Fraser, Scott Tipton, Lee Sullivan

November 23, 1963: A day that changed the world forever. 

That day saw the broadcast debut of Doctor Who, which was to become the longest-running science fiction series on television. 

And now, 50 years later, we pay tribute to one of the greatest pop-culture heroes of all time with this special series, which tells an epic adventure featuring all 11 incarnations of the intrepid traveler through time and space known simply as... the Doctor.

As you may or may not know, I'm currently watching all 50 years of Doctor Who in order and documenting it in my Doctor Who blog. As such, I saw Ian, Barbara and the First Doctor on the cover of this book and yanked it in an instant. Volume One was amazing as it covered the first three doctors (aka the doctors I have watched so far). It follows each of them on a typical adventure with some of their most famous companions but each ends with a strange disappearance. I will definitely be on the lookout for Volume Two because this was great!

(Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time Volume One comes out June 4 from Diamond Book Distributors)

Capote in Kansas - Andy Parks, Chris Samnee

Murder. Not an intricately plotted "whodunit" or fiery passionate fury. But dirty, sad, disturbing actions from real people. That's what Truman Capote decided to use for In Cold Blood - his bold experiment in the realm of the non-fiction "novel." Following in that legacy is Capote in Kansas, a fictionalized tale of Capote's time in Middle America researching his classic book. Capote's struggles with the town, the betrayal, and his own troubled past make this book a compelling portrait of one of the greatest literary talents of the 20th century.

I had just read In Cold Blood last week so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed the exploration of Capote's effect on the people of Holcomb and Garden City. While it's well researched, there is a bit of fantasy that was either going to elevate or hurt the book. While I was a bit eh on it for awhile, I thought the last five pages or so were lovely. Not a great work of art but definitely worth checking out if you enjoy Capote or In Cold Blood.

(A new edition of Capote in Kansas is out July 24 from Diamond Book Distributors)

Genius - Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen

Ted Marx works hard at his career as a quantum physicist. But lately the demands of his job have begun to overwhelm him. Then Ted makes a startling discovery: his wife's father once knew Einstein and claims that Einstein entrusted to him a final, devastating secret—a secret even more profound and shattering than the work that led to the first atom bombs. If Ted can convince his father-in-law to tell him what Einstein had to say, his job will be safe. But does he dare reveal Einstein's most dangerous secret to those who might exploit it? In their comic book Genius, acclaimed duo Teddy H. Kristiansen and Steven T. Seagle have created an exploration of the heights of intellectual and scientific achievement and the depths of human emotion and confusion.

I'm still unsure on Genius. The setup is great and I appreciate the climax but it felt a bit too lackluster for me. The art is very different and lends it a unique quality, playing around with focus and seeming more emotive than a typical graphic novel. I think I would have liked this story more in another medium as it felt rather blah. However, the story in and of itself is quite good. I guess what I'm saying is that I liked the story but it didn't excite me.

(Genius is out July 9 from First Second.)

Strange Attractors - Charles Soule, Dan Duncan

In 1978 Dr. Spencer Brownfield saved New York City from itself, bringing the city back from the verge of collapse and ruin. And for 30 years, his small, minute, and unnoticed adjustments to the city’s systems have, à laThe Butterfly Effect, kept the city afloat. Or so he claims to Heller Wilson, a young graduate student that Dr. Brownfield has chosen as his successor. But are Dr. Brownfield’s claims about "complexity math" and its application to the city’s patterns of life real, or are they the ravings of a man broken by the death of his wife and daughter, desperate to find some kind of control over the world around him? Strange Attractors is about control — what you can control in your life and what you can’t, and how important it is to recognize the difference.

Strange Attractors is a really interesting idea. I enjoyed watching Heller try to figure out what was going on and seeing how his life started to crumble under the strain. If you asked me what happened in the book, though, I don't know if I could tell you. It seems like the author knew exactly what was going on and had trouble explaining it to the reader. I understood the basics, of course, but I couldn't explain it to you other than "well, I guess it's basically the butterfly effect but, like, huge." I never understood what the big evil was other than it was a big evil and I never understood quite what was going on to prevent it. I was riveted either way but I wasn't entirely following along and I think that's a bit of a problem. Interesting idea, though.

Bad Machinery Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit - John Allison

Shauna. Charlotte. Mildred. Three schoolgirl sleuths. Jack. Linton. Sonny. Three schoolboy investigators. Tackleford. One mid-sized city with a history of countless mysteries. Is there enough room at Griswalds Grammar School for two groups of kid detectives? There better be, because once these kids have set their sights on solving a mystery there's nothing that can derail them. Nothing, except maybe gossip, classwork, new football player cards, torment from siblings, or any number of childhood distractions.

My friend Alex has been telling me to read Bad Machinery for at least a year now so I figured I'd give in and I'm so delighted I did! This book is absolutely lovely! Well crafted and genuinely funny, it follows a bunch of middle school kids while they investigate crimes and grow up in a small English town. It was charming, seriously hilarious at parts and all around great. Pick it up!

The Cute Girl Network - MK Reed, Greg Means

Jane's new in town, and the only people she knows are her new roommates and the dudes at the skate shop where she's just been hired. Then Jane wipes out on her skateboard right in front of Jack's food cart, and finds herself agreeing to go on a date with him. Jane's psyched that her love life is taking a turn for the friskier, but then her roommate — and her roommate's friends — find out about Jack. And it turns out that Jack has a spotty romantic history, to put it mildly. Cue the Cute Girl Network — a phone tree information-pooling group of local single women. Poor Jane is about to learn every detail of Jack's past misadventures… whether she wants to or not. Will love prevail?

OK, I kind of loved this but I also had a few issues with it. Jane and Jack are adorable and completely relatable. The dialogue is grounded and sprinkled with wit, including a great bit where Jane's roommates are reading a Twilight-esque novel to each other around the dinner table. The actual Network bugged me a bit because, as I truly believe this could be a real thing (I think there's a website like this?), it made all girls with the exception of Jane and Jack's roommate (and I guess Jane's roommate who I wish we saw more of) seem awfully petty and awful. Not that men were painted in a better light but there was more of a focus on this. I did like Jane going off on a few men about how they treated women skaters though. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, loved Jack and Jane and wish the book was a little bit longer. :)

(The Cute Girl Network is out from First Second on November 21)