• Assassins, a Woodpecker, an Angel War, Dragons and a Fairy Tale

    Date: 2012.11.20 | Category: Books | Tags:

    And here are the rest of the books I’ve plunged into over the last couple of months.

    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

    Is it weird that I wasn’t really sure what to think of this book the whole time I read it? And I actually like it more now in retrospect than when I was actually reading it. The story is about two brothers who are killers-for-hire, taking jobs at the bequest of the mysterious Commodore. On their quest to seek out and kill a man in San Francisco, they run into a witch, a weeping man, a red she bear and a man who has discovered a chemical way to find gold during the gold rush, among others. There’s a horse you feel sorry for as well and a man who’s been looking for gold for so long on his own that he has convinced himself that the dirt he uses to make coffee is actual coffee. It’s obvious these characters represent more than what the appear, and I liked that. I liked the easy way the characters spoke and the dark humor throughout. The whole time I was reading, I was reminded of Oh Brother Where Art Thou. And after reading, I saw that many people related this story to Coen brothers’ films.

    Bottom Line: It’s weird, but a good read if you like Coen Brothers movies and allegory.

    Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

    A tragic coming of age story centered around… a giant woodpecker? First, let me say that I love that this story was set in a small town in Arkansas where the mundane details tell much of the story. When some guy claims to have spotted an extinct woodpecker, the whole town explodes with excitement. And that’s just the background of the story. At the forefront are two unrelated suicides, a guy who becomes obsessed with the Book of Enoch and the Archangel Gabriel and the kidnapping of a 15-year-old boy and how those who are close to him cope. It’s sad with moments of humor tied in. And when all the dots finally start to connect near the end, I began to enjoy it.

    Bottom Line: Looking for something realistic, southern and a little sad and weird? This is your book. Plus, it’s a quick read.

    Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

    I have been waiting for this sequel to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone for over a year now, and I was like a kid on Christmas morning when it came out. I loved the first installment so much that I couldn’t wait to see what happened. So man was I disappointed when my favorite strong willed heroine turned into a spineless, helpless girl doing the bidding of someone she hated. To preface, the first installment pits chimaeras (creatures made from a combination of different animals and human features) against angels in a centuries long war. The main character, Karou, has a forbidden love affair with the enemy, only to be accidently betrayed by him at the end of the book. The second book is a story of war, with all the long scenes of devastation, death and remorse that come with it. Love is all but squashed in it as the two main characters wallow in self pity and doubt, losing all the things that made me love them in the first book. This book is still as beautifully written as the first, but where the first installment was fast paced, this one stalls in unnecessary war descriptions. That being said, I’ll still read the final installment when it’s finished because, as the book pushes “hope,” I have hope it will finish with the main characters finding their feet again.

    Bottom Line: If you’ve read Daughter of Smoke and Bone (and if you haven’t, you should), then pick this one up to find what happens, but prepare yourself for a sad and overly drawn out installment.

    Among Others by Jo Walton

    Oh. My. Gosh. I think this book was written for me personally. At least it feels like it was. It’s almost hard for me to review because I know not everyone will love it as much as I do. This is the story of a 15-year-old girl who runs away from her Welsh home only to be placed in the hands of a father she’s never known and her three aunts. They in turn put her in an expensive English boarding school. But, the special thing about this book is that the girl, Mori, can do a bit of magic and has suffered from some mysterious injury that has left her crippled and killed her twin. Oh, and her mother is a mad witch and she can see and sometimes talk to fairies who get her to do their bidding. It sounds crazy, but the way the author tells the story, it seems as if all of that was perfectly plausible. To top it off, Mori is an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy books, paying homage to all the classics in the genre throughout the story, particularly The Lord of the Rings and Ursula LeGuin novels. The plot isn’t exactly fast paced, but I was under its spell so I didn’t care. This book is truly a love letter to the SF/fantasy genre and won the Nebula Award and Hugo Award this year. Oh, and the language is beautiful!

    Bottom Line: If you love sci-fi and fantasy literature, read this book. If you don’t, then I’m not sure if you’ll like it. Either way, it holds a special place in my heart.

    Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

    Among Others prompted me to look up some of the classic sci-fi/fantasy books Mori mentions. One series I’ve always heard references to but never read were the Pern books. Dragonflight is the first in the series. I was hesitant to start it because I’ve found a lot of books written in the early 60’s have dry prose. But this book kicked that stereotype right out of the window. On the planet Pern, humankind has become complacent after 400 years without attacks from Threads that fly off a red planet when it’s near, burrow into the ground and kill the earth. Back when the Threads fell often, humans engineered dragons to combat them. In the many years of peace, the dragons have dwindled, the Lords of the surrounding lands no longer see a need for them and the dragon leader has become complacent.  When a dragon queen egg appears, dragon riders go in search for the right woman for the dragon to choose as her “weyrmate.” Lessa is plucked from the dregs and turns out to be the dragon’s match. And as the red star appears and the Threads threaten to fall again, a new dragon leader takes charge. A great story of love, determination, time travel and, of course, dragons.

    Bottom line: This book should be on the reading list of any sci-fi/fantasy buff, or anyone who loves an epic adventure story.