Friday, July 29, 2011

Hammered by Kevin Hearne

This is the third book in this series, which I've enjoyed a lot so far. I like that the first three books, which form a sort of trilogy, were published in successive months. There will be a wait for the next book, but I can handle it.

Hammered follows up on the promises made in the previous two books, Hounded and Hexed, and we get to see Atticus attempt to kick Thor's ass. The book has the same mostly upbeat tone and (sometimes dark) humor that grace the previous ones, but the plot is a bit unfocused. That's partly because it's having to wrap up events from this trilogy while setting up for the next, and partly because of a long section in the middle where the other characters going after Thor relate their stories.

I can't decide what I feel about that section. I can see why Hearne included it, and it was kind of interesting, but I still think it slowed the whole book down right when the action should be kicking into high gear.

Anyway, the book is still a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to the next one.

B&N link

Friday, July 22, 2011

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell

Ordinarily I don't quote the back cover blurb of books, mostly because they're not very descriptive. This one is great, though, so here it is straight off the back cover:

Summer in Ondine, Louisiana is always predictable: hot and boring.

Not this one. This summer, fourteen-year-old Iris doesn't have to make up spooky stories for excitement. A real one falls right into her lap.

Years ago, a teenager named Elijah disappeared. All that remains of him are whispers. Until a ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she's convinced it's the ghost of Elijah.

What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris?

Okay, it's not great--but good and descriptive. It leaves out Iris's bossy best friend Collette, who's as important to the story as Elijah is. It's Collette who bullies mild-mannered Iris into pretending they're contacting spirits in the cemetery; it's Collette who's angry when the ghost contacts Iris and not her. The relationship between the two girls is well done, particularly where it concerns their friend Ben: Collette is boy-crazy and Iris is not, which causes friction when Ben is around.

The setting in modern small-town Louisiana is both atmospheric and unusual. I liked the way Mitchell's writing captured the speech patterns of the region without becoming hokey or hard to understand. I also liked the way the summer's heat is woven into the ghost story.

The plot itself is good as Iris, Collette, and Ben dig into Elijah's disappearance to discover what really happened to him. There are a lot of surprises that I didn't see coming. Unfortunately, the very end is a bit of a let-down. The action is taken out of Iris's hands and she becomes an onlooker as adults take over and fit in the last missing pieces. I would have liked Iris to come to all the conclusions herself. But the book as a whole was very good, and a nice change from teen ghosts that are drawn as sexy.

B&N link

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

I've been reading Carrie Harris's blog for a few years now, and she's a consistently funny, funny person. So is her first book, Bad Taste in Boys. Nothing else could have made me laugh quite so hard in the hospital, trust me.

Kate Grable is a high school senior who's planning to become a doctor. She's the student trainer for her school's (horrible) football team, which means she gets to treat minor injuries and help the team's physician and coach out with medical issues. It also means she gets to spend time with the quarterback, Aaron.

When Kate discovers unlabeled syringes among the medical supplies, she's positive they're steroids. But the truth, as she finds out the hard way, is a lot weirder and even more dangerous. Something is turning the football team into...well, into zombies. And only Kate can get to the bottom of it before the whole school is infected.

The book is seriously funny. It's also fast-paced, light, and thoroughly readable. I liked Kate a lot, and not just because of her name; she's smart and funny without coming across as a smartass. I also like that she's got epilepsy without it being a big issue. Her relationship with her nerdy little brother is touching but often hysterically funny.

If the book has a fault, it's that it's rather shallow. While Kate does learn confidence, she's pretty put-together to start with and doesn't have a weighty character arc. But hell, it's a book about zombies. There's no need to get too serious here. I'm glad Harris understands that, and I can't wait to read what she comes up with next.

B&N link

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg

Sorry for another quick review. One day my life will shift out of crisis mode.

I've used The Baby Name Wizard as a writing resource for years. It's not the usual name dictionary that gives a name, alternate spellings, and the traditional meaning. Instead, there's a huge amount of information for each name, stuff not available anywhere else.

For instance, I just turned to the name Terry in the Girls' Names section. It tells me the name was the 97th most popular in the 1950s but is rather rare today (there's a little chart with that information for each name). It gives me the pronunciation, spelling variants, and gives a short list of "sister" and "brother" names--names that are stylistically similar. There's also a short paragraph about the name itself.

The Sister and Brother lists are incredibly useful, incidentally. If I have a character named Terry but I want to rename her, I can look at the sister names and make a choice from Jackie, Lynn, Sheryl, Connie, or Trudy. If I want to give Terry a brother, I can choose from Rick, Garry, Danny, Steve, or Bruce. That keeps the same feel of my original Terry while giving me a lot to choose from.

There are also a bunch of lists in the second half of the book, everything from Nordic names to Literary and Artistic, from Timeless names to Saints. It's useful for a writer, and I suppose it's probably also useful for parents-to-be.

B&N link

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Coyote Wind by Peter Bowen

Another very quick review due to circumstances beyond my control. I apologize for that, particularly since this book is worth a much more in-depth review.

Gabriel Du Pre is a cattle brand inspector in rural Montana. Sometimes he doubles as a deputy if no one else is available. But when fresher bones turn up in a newly-discovered 30-year old plane wreck, Du Pre has to face his own past as he searches for the truth behind the murder.

That's a pretty good setup right there, but it's the setting and flavor of the book that had me hooked. The mystery is good, but it's secondary. Du Pre is a richly drawn, sympathetic character steeped in the traditions of his French-Indian heritage. That sounds stupid, but I don't have time to make it less clunky.

Evidently there are a lot of books in this series. If I get a chance to read in the next few weeks, I will probably be reading the next Gabriel Du Pre mystery.

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