Archive for category Four and-a-half of 5 *

And Blue Skies from Pain – Stina Leicht

Astounding and near-perfect.

Stars: Four and a half of five.

Review format: Comment plus links.
Summary:  It’s November of 1977: The punk rock movement is a year old and the brutal thirty-year war referred to as “The Troubles” is escalating.
According to Irish tradition, the month of November is a time for remembrance of the dead. Liam Kelly, in particular, wishes it were otherwise. Born a Catholic in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland, Liam, a former wheelman for the Provisional IRA, is only half mortal. His father is Bran, a púca—a shape-shifting ghostlike creature—and a member of the ancient Fíanna.
Liam must dodge both the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who want him for the car bombing that killed Constable Haddock, and the Provisional IRA, who want him for the deaths of Éamon Walsh and several others found ripped apart in a burned down farmhouse in Armagh. Fortunately for Liam, both the Ulster Constabulary and the Provisional IRA think he’s dead.
On the other hand, the Militis Dei—a group of Roman Catholic priest-assassins, whose sole purpose is to dispose of fallen angels and demons found living on this earth—is very aware that Liam is alive, and very aware of his preternatural parentage. With the help of his unlikely ally Father Murray—a Militis Dei operative who has known Liam since childhood—he must convince the Church that he and his fey brethren aren’t demonic in origin, and aren’t allied with The Fallen.
The clash between The Fallen and The Fey intensifies against the backdrop of the Irish/English conflicts in And Blue Skies from Pain, Stina Leicht’s follow up to her critically acclaimed debut, Of Blood and Honey.  (from the publisher’s website)
Provenance: Baen Online Store… 
Date Read: June 2012 

I recently purchased and read two books by Stina Leicht, and they are awesome. The first book is Of Blood and Honey and its sequel is And Blue Skies from Pain. These books follow a young man in early-seventies Northern Ireland whose life is complicated by:

  • poverty
  • imprisonment
  • only able to get a job with IRA fronted cab company
  • tendency to shape-shift in stressful situations
  • political girlfriend
  • near-illiteracy
  • absent father – was he Protestant? Black? Indian? Not… English?! No, just Fae.

These two books are the best books I’ve read in quite a while. Makes it difficult to find a next book worth reading. Go read Red’s review of these books for more persuasive details of their excellence.

For me, these two books both evoke many of the same feelings that Jo Walton’s wonderful Among Others did. Since she just brought home a Nebula award for her novel, this is a very positive comparison.

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Cryoburn – Lois McMaster Bujold

The title is the worst part.

Stars: Four-and-a-quarter of five.

Review format: Review plus links.
Cryoburn – Lois McMaster Bujold. Summary: Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.
On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble! (webscription.net)
Provenance: Purchased online via webscription.net. It is only published ‘standalone’.

Cryoburn was published in 2010, and as far as I know it is the furthest along in Miles’ adventures.  I strongly recommend this book, particularly to people who are fans of the Vorkosigan universe.

It is well-written and enjoyable.  As a quibble, I must say that Miles seems not to have the zest and momentum he had at a younger age, but then again he is a family man now, and settled in his unusual career as Imperial Auditor.  The eleven-year-old boy Jin Sato is a good foil for Miles, not just in youth and enthusiasm, but also to provide an external point of view onto Miles and Armsman Roic.

I did have the feeling that interesting things must have been missed in the six or so years that passed since the previous book.

Ware Spoilers below

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Lamb – Christopher Moore

The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Stars: Four and a half of five.

Review format: One-liner following this header.
Lamb – Christopher Moore. Summary: The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years – except Biff. Ever since the day when he came upon six-year-old Joshua of Nazareth resurrecting lizards in the village square, Levi bar Alphaeus, called “Biff,” had the distinction of being the Messiah’s best bud. That’s why the angel Raziel has resurrected Biff from the dust of Jerusalem and brought him to America to write a new gospel, one that tells the real, untold story. Meanwhile, Raziel will order pizza, watch the WWF on TV, and aspire to become Spider-Man. Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes – whose considerable charms fall to Biff to sample, since Josh is forbidden the pleasures of the flesh. (There are worse things than having a best friend who is chaste and a chick magnet!) And, of course, there is danger at every turn, since a young man struggling to understand his godhood, who is incapable of violence or telling anything less than the truth, is certain to piss some people off. Luckily, Biff is a whiz at lying and cheating – which helps get his divine pal and him out of more than one jam. And while Josh’s great deeds and mission of peace will ultimately change the world, Biff is no slouch himself, blessing humanity with enduring contributions of his own, like sarcasm and cafe latte. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more – except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala – and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight. (from the book jacket)

Hilarious and creative, and surprisingly not undevout.  One of the better Moore books.

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A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin

So much for Cersei.

Stars: Four and a half of five.

Review format: Summary and one comment.
Summary:The War of the Five Kings is coming to an end. Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy are all dead, and King Stannis Baratheon has gone to the aid of the Wall, where Jon Snow has become Lord Commander of theNight’s Watch. King Tommen Baratheon, Joffrey’s eight-year-old brother, now rules in King’s Landing under the watchful eye of his mother, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Cersei’s father Tywin is dead, murdered by his son Tyrion, who has fled the city. With these two men gone, as well as no longer having to deal with Joffrey, there are no more checks on Cersei and she is essentially Ruling Queen of the Seven Kingdoms in all but name. Now that Cersei finally stands at the height of power and her enemies are scattered to the winds, in a grim irony it quickly becomes clear that she is incapable of wielding the power she has killed so many to acquire, and she spirals into self-destruction.Meanwhile, Sansa Stark is still in hiding in the Vale, protected by Petyr Baelish, who has secretly murdered his wife Lysa Arryn and named himself Protector of the Vale and guardian of eight-year-old Lord Robert Arryn. (snipped from the bloated summary on wikipedia)

Provenance: Family copy, reading for the first time, now that Dance with Dragon’s been published.

A Feast for Crows. I read this for the first time in July 2011 because it was finally time to catch up on the series with the publication of the fifth book. I’d gotten tired of all the characters dying, or not-dying, and stopped after book three.

So, why only four-and-a-half for book one? Umm, not sure why.  It’s really, really good.  Sansa continues to be annoying, and Cersei’s bumbling seemed a little out of character. Maybe I’d just expected too much from her.

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