great new books, new riding school, and, basically, new weather

leviathanSo, I was recently lucky enough to read Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan. It’s amazing. The world-building, the characters, the flying whales (nope, not a typo, flying whales), all combine together to make one of those books that always ends too soon–and makes a reader grateful for the promise of entire series. Especially when the story also has mechanized war-machines, steadfast companions, and worthwhile causes.

Westerfield has placed his steampunk environment into the familiar history of WW1, and he has a deft touch with the history that makes the political shenanigans accessible to the audience without overwhelming them with the portents of what is to come. Alongside the wonderful prose are gorgeous illustrations, perfectly capturing the movement and ferocity of the world that Westerfield has designed. So, yes, go read this book, it is wonderful. At some point, there will be a much longer review of the book up on Bookgeeks, but I didn’t think any should wait to buy it.

I’ve also found another place to ride! It’s a bit farther out into Cheshire, but they have a lot more land, and it seems to be a bit livelier… Two lessons so far (with two different instructors), but I assume it will take a few weeks to make a decision. The have a ton of arenas, a cross country course, and a farm ride–and there’s just a lot more room (and a lot more horses…). The drive up there is gorgeous–although I did run into a ton of traffic the second time I went up–it’s just nice to find that there are more places to ride around here.

And the weather, well, it’s been gorgeous for two days. And supposed to be nice tomorrow. And then rain this weekend.  So, not so much new weather I guess as improved weather for a bit.  Plus, even when it’s gloomy outside, it’s still a lot warmer.  Finally. In June.

kristin cashore’s Fire and a sigh of relief

fireThe ever-awesome bookgeeks sent me an ARC of Kristin Cashore’s Fire, and the review will be up at the site a little closer to the publication date (the 24th of September–it’s worth grabbing a copy when you see them about).  It was an excellent fantasy novel, interesting and original.  I enjoyed it hugely, and, although the characters, plot, and world-building was great, part of the reason it was so much fun to read was that it felt like a straight old-school fantasy novel that I could reccomend to anyone without feeling the need to add the caveat “for adults” or “emmm, there are some adult themes”.

That is not to say that the novel is completely devoid from romance, sex, or physical love.  It even deals forthrightly with violence against women and struggles to be more than a pretty face. The difference between Fire and much of the epic fantasy being written now is the level of violence successfully wielded against the female characters and the use of sex as a weapon.  This distinction does not necessarily make Fire the better book, it is only the author’s second after all, but it did make Fire feel more like a book I would pass around my family and friends without hesitation.  It reminded me of the books I read by Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey, and Isaac Asimov–the ones that got me hooked on reading and on the fantasy and science fiction genres in particular.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate and understand what is going on in some of the more convoluted and violent epic fantasies.  But, it does show that there is certainly a place for a book that reminds me that is possible to write an entertaining and simpler story–and to enjoy reading one.

healing, horror, and the hunted: Cody McFadyen’s the darker side

darkAfter the last book of McFadyen’s I read, I should have known better than to a) read it while alone in the flat and b) read it on what can only be called “a dark and stormy night”.  Truly, the last book frightened me, and while this one wasn’t quite as difficult to get through, I still ended up staying up until 1am to finish it because if I’d gone to bed with the murderer still at large in the novel the nightmares would have been unspeakable.

So, I stayed up until 1am, the murderer was safely in jail, and I could at least think about sleeping.  For some reason, I find McFadyen’s books particularly powerful.  The main character, Smoky Barret, is engaging and strong–but I believe that the complete immersion I find in the books comes from the deft sketching out of all of the characters around her as much as Smoky herself.  Because of this, I care deeply about what happens to everyone, even tertiary characters, which ramps up the anxiety levels considerably.  Add in McFadyen’s habit of at least having a small portion of the narrative done from the victim’s point of view, and I’m well and truly inside the world of the novel.  Of course, it’s a world filled with psychotic killers, which makes it heart-stopping, but it’s definitely there. Continue reading