Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris’ eleventh in the Sookie Stackhouse novels was enjoyable if a little light compared to others in the series.  It felt a bit more like setting up for the final books then a story in and of itself.  Not that I didn’t like spending time with the characters I’ve grown to love, and Harris’ writing is as always a joy to read.  It was just a little bit too much been there done that.  Sookie was beyond some of this in the last few books; it feels like she has regressed a tad. 

Still, very much looking forward to the next installment!

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The Liam Campbell Mystery Series by Dana Stabenow

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series.  When she announced that the Liam Campbell series was available on Kindle, I realized I had not yet dived into that series (although it was on my To Read list) so I downloaded the first, Fire and Ice – which was actually FREE!

Liam Campbell is a straight-arrow Alaskan State Trooper, newly assigned to a post in the town of Newenham after being demoted (which I won’t get into for spoiler reasons).  It only took me a few pages to realize that I was going to love this series as much as Kate’s.  And by the end of the book, I was head over heals for Liam, Wyanet Chouinard, and all the rest of the characters Dana brings to life so well.  I went ahead and downloaded all the other books in the series that were available – So Sure Of Death, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Better To Rest.  So much for my eBook allowance for May.  If there is one down-side to the Kindle, it is that it is so damn easy to buy books on it Smile

So instead of writing up my little brief reviews of each book, I have been indulging in a genuine FEAST of reading.  I couldn’t get enough of them and man, I am sorry I finished up so quickly.  If I didn’t hate the cold with a passion, I would totally be planning an Alaskan vacation.  I don’t know if it is the stories, the characters, the writing, or how Dana Stabenow brings so much of Alaska alive, but I find both series irresistible.

But now, unfortunately, I am completely up to date on both Liam and Kate.  Now the wait for the next volume to be published.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I’m working my way through Neil Gaimon’s bibliography and American Gods is my favorite so far.  It hooked me from the very first paragraph and I had to force myself to put it down at night or I wouldn’t get any sleep.  Growing up I was fascinated by mythology and read everything I could get my hands on about gods, goddesses, fairy tales, and all the various pantheons.  I used to talk to Artemis as if she was my big sister after reading about my name (Cynthia).  While she didn’t make the cut as an American God, it was fascinating to see how Neil Gaiman worked the old world gods into the American mythology, and the conflict with the new gods that we as a nation created.

I liked Shadow, the protagonist, from the get go and found myself deeply invested in his story.  It was very well written, wonderfully paced, complex and satisfactorily concluded.  Some of the scenes keep coming back to me like intensely colored playlets as I fall into sleep.  I understand it is going to be made into an HBO series; that will hopefully be as awesome as the novel is.

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Demon Hunts by C. E. Murphy

I can’t believe I’ve fallen three books behind on my 2011 reading list!  I better get them up before I forget what I have been reading!

This is book five in the Walker Papers series about a Seattle detective/mechanic/urban shaman.  C. E. Murphy spins a good story with an unusual set of likeable characters.  This particular installment grants us more of Joanne’s past and a decently interesting storyline involving cannibalism and wendigo’s.  Not my favorite of the series but a fun read and I am looking forward to more.

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The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

The tenth and last volume in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, The Crippled God was intense, moving, sad, uplifting, frightening, and very very long – which in this case is a good thing since there was still so much story left to tell in this saga of soldiers, heroes and the not quite so heroic, gods, dragons, and ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  Is there something somewhere in the human race that is actually worth fighting, or rather, dying for?  Something worth going to the very extremities of the human condition and beyond?  Something that even when “unwitnessed” is worth the sacrifice?

I was so afraid that this series would end unsatisfactorily.  I should have trusted in Steven Erikson.  As usual, the book started off slow as I had to reacquaint myself with all the characters.  Then it began to wind itself tighter and tighter until I could barely breath while reading.  And I cried over and over.

I am so grateful my friend Paul told me about this story.  I wish I had started reading it the minute he mentioned it, but I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  It is huge, complex, confusing, and extremely enjoyable.  I didn’t understand a lot of it on the first read-through, but I loved it and now I am going to have to read all of it again and again.  I’d put this up there at the top of my list for dark fantasy.

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River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked cover art

The sixth in the Mercy Thompson series, River Marked (published March 2011) has us looking deeper into Mercy’s Native American heritage as she battles a nasty river monster on her honeymoon. What could be worse then being attacked by an otter-woman in Wal-Mart? How about getting knocked into a river by Coyote to bait a dragon?

I really enjoyed this volume. Mercy is a wonderful character who continues to grow without compromising her own self or having to give up on her power. Her relationships with her husband, her friends, her pack, and her family continue to engross, and I look forward to seeing what she gets into next.

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Though Not Dead by Dana Stabenow

The eighteenth in the Kate Shugak mystery series, Though Not Dead takes us through some more Alaskan and Shugak history, treating us to a lot more Old Sam and some good stuff about the Aunties (especially Antie Joyce).  We also get an intimate glimpse into why Jim Chopin is who he is, as he goes stateside for his father’s funeral.  And I was in tears at the ending which I definitely do not intend to spoil here.  One of the best parts (and don’t tell Kate!) was how much of this novel she spends laid out on her back (and not in a good way).  Our little bit of kick-ass Kate gets kicked around quite a bit in this book.  Dana Stabenow also paves the way for her next one in this series, Restless in the Grave, with a disturbing glimpse at the first murder committed by someone we already know and hate.  Or at least I hope so, Dana is pretty closed-mouth about the book so far.

I really admire Dana Stabenow, not just as a writer.  Watch some of her videos, like this one if you don’t mind spoilers!,  and you will see why.  She’s got a great sense of humor.

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Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Rachel Morgan and the crew are heading cross country in Book Nine from the Hollows series by Kim Harrison..  Things heat up between Rach and Trent in this volume, and all sorts of deviltry and witchery ensue.  I still want to smack Rachel upside the head more often then not, but you gotta love the red-heads who are always trying to do the right thing.  I’m still debating over how book wraps up – why are powerful women always written up to feel like they need to constrain their power in order to “be themselves”?   I don’t get it.  It is all kick-ass and take names until “love” is involved, then they castrate themselves to prove how good they are.  Well maybe castrate isn’t the right term.  A male hero certainly wouldn’t voluntarily cut his dick off to win the woman of his dreams, would he?  So why should the female protagonist have to.  Especially with how “special” female demons are… considering there are only two left, and that what makes them special is their ability to hold a soul inside them – you’d think Ms. Harrison would just let Rachel rip. 

But in spite of that, I love this series and I really did like Pale Demon.  I wish I could pull off a skin tight white leather dress!

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Towers of Midnight, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

I’ve finished the thirteenth book in the Wheel of Time series.  This particular installment is even better than the last book, and has me very eager for the final chapter, A Memory of Light, due March 2012.  Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon figure heavily in this volume, with Rand, Elayne, Egwene, Aviendha, and the others less so but with some memorable moments.  It is really great to see Rand kicking some serious ass.  My only complaint, as throughout the entire series, is how the characters seem stuck in the “men versus women” attitude that they started out with.  I mean, after all this time, you’d think they would trust and understand each other a little bit better.  I was very glad to see Perrin picking up his hammer and taking responsibility (and credit) for who he is.  Lan also seems to have settled into his king’s crown.  And not to spoil things, but very happy to see a certain woman in the arms and tattered cloak of the man who has loved her all this time.

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Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Finished this wonderful collection of short stories and poems, including my favorite, Snow, Glass, Apples, by the fantastic Neil Gaiman

“Stories are told by survivors”

And you can’t always trust the survivor’s version of the tale, can you?

I admire the way this man can put words together.  His prose is poetic enough; his poems simply sing out their wonderful tales.  I have read many of these in other anthologies, but this collection is well worth having on my Kindle.

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