Tag Archives: dunc reads

The quick guide to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels (by someone who hasn’t read them in years)

When we heard the news that Anne McCaffrey had died earlier this week, I found myself unexpectedly effected by it. For several years in my childhood and teens, Pern was one of my chief obsessions. I think that if I had run across Pern fans instead of Star Wars fans when I got online at 17, I might be running a very different kind of SF/F blog.

But instead, I gave up on following the series in 2001, after what I thought were several lackluster books. I can’t in good conscience recommend any of the recent Pern books, as I haven’t read them (and was actually shocked at just how many there are now!) But, for anyone who wants a grounding in the series, here are my recommendations. Continue reading

Dunc reads: A personal history with A Song of Ice and Fire

Today brings the release of A Dance with Dragons, the latest edition to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) series. This is the biggest fantasy novel of the year, and one fans have been waiting six years for – more, if you count that the last book didn’t have several fan-favorite characters.

I’ve been reading the series since the beginning, and it’s one of my favorites. I don’t even mind the waiting. (Well, only a little. As odd as this may sound coming from a Star Wars novel fan, I do generally believe in quality over quantity.)

(This post will contain no spoilers for A Dance With Dragons – I won’t have the book until this evening – and virtually none for the previous books.)

Continue reading

Dunc reads: Book recommendations and best SF/F of 2010

I’ve been kicking the idea of a general genre book roundup for a while, and when I asked if anyone would be interested on Twitter I got several positive responses. Alas, some of them were folks asking for recommendations – while I was thinking of news roundups. So maybe we’ll try a little of both. (Don’t forget that Erika – who does book reviews for us, among other things – has her own book review blog over at Jawas Read Too.)

One of my favorite people for recommendations is Jo Walton and her posts at Tor.com. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up because she wrote about them. Her latest entries include Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword and C.J. Cherryh’s Serpent’s Reach. Tor is a great blog if you’re looking for genre news and reviews, but Walton’s recs alone make it more than worth following.

But enough about praise for others… I’m sure what you really want to see are my opinions. I kid, but head beneath the cut for my fiction picks for 2010. Continue reading

Dunc reads: Oh-so-very belated mini-reviews for June

June reads

The Pretender’s Crown by C.E. MurphyThe Pretender’s Crown by C.E. Murphy
      For all my issues with the ‘revelation’ of the first book (which, no, I won’t spoil,) I found it integrated fairly quickly here, and ceased to really bother me as a plot point. But on the other hand, as a finale the book felt a bit lacking. The premise, once I got used to it, is rather intriguing…
      I certainly wouldn’t avoid further sequels, but I won’t cry if they never come. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

The Courts of the Sun by Brian D’amatoThe Courts of the Sun by Brian D’amato
      For all this book is pegged as time-travel, the first half is really a mainstream thriller – or at least that’s how it read to me, mainstream thrillers not really being my bag. This is book that has a lot of… Not technobabble, exactly, but a close cousin. (Not being particularly familiar with games of chance, it took me a while to grasp some aspects of ‘the game.’) I was almost relieved when we finally got to Mayan times, except that then our hero ” blunders into dead end after dead end, though he does finally meet his goal. Well, a goal. Sort of.
      The book isn’t bad, it’s just not what I expected… For all the whatever-babble, It seemed less sci-fi than a Dan Brown-style ‘historical’ thriller with a bit of time travel thrown in.
      And make no mistake, this is very clearly the first book in a trilogy or series, and you will be left at a hanging end. Still, once this comes out in paperback you could do worse for airplane reading… Though probably not if you’re heading out for vacation. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

Santa Olivia and Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey      Carey is one of those authors that people either seem to like or absolutely despise: Her two Kushiel trilogies, which form the background for Naamah’s Kiss here, are the kind of books that get a lot of Mary Sue finger-pointing among people who do that sort of thing, and I can’t totally dispute their point. They do get rather ridiculous at points, and the purple prose is pretty hard to miss. Still, some of us happen to have a weakness for that sort of thing.
Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey      Santa Olivia is none of these things. (Well, maybe a little purple.) It’s set in a town that is currently in a buffer zone between the U.S. and Mexico, and cut off entirely from either country, save for a single military base. It actually has quite a bit in common with Red – a genetically engineered hero, a post-apocalyptic setting, romance – except Santa Olivia is good. It’s a departure for Carey, and unlike her previous attempt at getting away from the Kushiel formula, I found it pretty fascinating… Even with boxing, of all things, as a major plot point. If you want to try Carey but find her main series a bit much, check this out. Recommended. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]
      Naamah’s Kiss is more ‘standard’ Carey – set in the world of the Kushiel books but several generations on, it could be read as a standalone, but probably shouldn’t. Still, I found it a fun read, though I’m not sure if it would really appeal to anyone not already familar with the series. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

Fate of the Jedi: Omen by Christie GoldenFate of the Jedi: Omen by Christie Golden
      And here we have the book whose fault it is I didn’t post this batch days ago. Which is not to say that Omen is a bad Star Wars book – it’s not, and if it was this would be a far easier review for me to write. It is, quite frankly, a perfectly servicable middle-of-the-road Star Wars novel.
      There were a few ticks in the prose that I found mildly annoying – too many characters referred to by their full names once too often, some awkward turns of prose – but that’s all nitpicking, and that couldn’t be fixed with some minor editing.
      It has a lot of nice moments – I’m even mildly intrigued by Vestara and the new flavor of Sith introed here, and I’m very rarely interested in OCs. Luke and Ben seem to work pretty well – though I have a hard time seeing any teenager getting along quite that well with their parent, even a Jedi teenager – and even the Han/Leia/Allana parts took us some new places.
      I still find myself feeling a tad uninvolved in this series, though… This one felt very formulaic (yes, I know what I was reading: Moreso than usual) and I’ve about had my fill of seeing D-list Jedi go bonkers. Maybe Denning can kick this up to the next level in Abyss – or maybe I’ll be back here in a month saying that very same about Allston and Backlash. [Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s]

Dunc reads: Books from January and February ’09

Behold, a pile of books!

I started doing capsule reviews of the books I had read a back in January on my own, but it occurred to me this might be a feature you guys would enjoy. I’m honestly not much of a reviewer (or, if you’ve known me long enough, I’m way out of practice) but what the hell.

Territory by Emma Bull (PB)Territory by Emma Bull
I read this in bits and pieces over both months, and I’d probably need a dedicated reread before I could review it fairly. My first impression: It was okay, but it never really grabbed me. (Though to be fair, since I was reading in spurts it might not have gotten the chance to.) Maybe someone with more of an interest in the Old West (I have about zilch.) would get more out of it. [Amazon]

Harry, A History by Melissa AnelliHarry, A History by Melissa Anelli
Anelli is best-known in fandom as webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron, one of the biggest Harry Potter fan sites, and her book traces both the rise of the books in popular culture and the fandom surrounding them. I like HP, but I was never obsessed with it, and while I know some about the fandom, it was only in general terms and what made it on Fandom Wank. So I was rather surprised to find this book absolutely fascinating. It’s about three-quarters exploration of the fandom (covering such things as wizard rock, religious protesters and that one oh-so-controversial Rowling interview) and one-quarter memoir, and, if nothing else, a great primer on how fandom in general works. I suspect it might not be half as interesting to those who actually had front-row seats to things like the shipping wars, but for those of us on the periphery… Recommended. [Amazon]

The Neverending Story by Michael EndeThe Neverending Story by Michael Ende
I’m going to be honest: I mainly bought this because the cover art of this particular edition is gorgeous. And of course, as a child of the 80’s, I adored the movie. (Please don’t remake it, Hollywood.) Alas, I found the book much less fascinating. Of course, the movie only adapts half the story here… And maybe that’s why I was bored through the second half. I don’t know. Was it worth it? I’m not sorry, just a little sad that it didn’t live up to my childhood love. At least the cover is still pretty. [Amazon]

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'EngleMeet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle
Like any good geekling, I read the bulk of L’Engle’s Murry-O’Keefe books (A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet) back in grade school. But I never tried her other, more earthbound series, featuring the Austin family. This is the first of them, and while I can’t say it’s going to knock Planet out of my top spot it was a nice quick read. I really need to remember to pick up the next two… [Amazon]

An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Werris
Werris has worked as a bookseller and publisher sales rep, and this book is a memoir of her life in the business. It was a nice peek into how things worked back before the chains took over, but I can’t say I was fascinated. [Amazon]

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuinLavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin
(I actually read this book late last year. Consider it a bonus.) The title character is a pivotal yet all-but-unexplored character in Virgil’s The Aeneid, the daughter of the Latin king that Aeneas marries. LeGuin tells the tale from her perspective, giving her a voice in the story of the founding of Rome. There’s far more to it than that, but I should probably defer to the professionals on this one. Recommended. [Amazon, but you may want to wait for the paperback in April]