inverarity: (inverarity)
Twenty-five years after they were the most hated girls in Britain, two women meet again in a seaside town stalked by a killer.


The Wicked Girls

Penguin Books, 2013, 383 pages




One fateful summer morning in 1986, two 11-year-old girls meet for the first time and by the end of the day are charged with murder.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives — and families — to protect, will they really be able to keep their secret hidden?


Class differences, the media, and sociopaths. )

Verdict: A suspenseful and surprisingly complex book, The Wicked Girls is a very good debut novel that will have me keeping an eye out for more by this writer. 8/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra)
Another sub-par week. I managed to write about a thousand words.

If I get snowed in tomorrow, I'll try to do something productive with my time. :P
inverarity: (inverarity)
It's Battlestar Galactica, rewritten for 4X players.


Ark Royal

Self-published, 2014, 440 pages




"If you wish for peace, prepare for war." (Royal Navy Motto)

Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are outdated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye. But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving....

And returning to an Earth which may no longer be there?


Moving ships around an interstellar hex map. )

Verdict: If you like Battlestar Galactica, 4X space combat games, or formulaic military SF in general, you will probably enjoy Ark Royal. It's neither original nor remarkably well-written, but it's a decent serving of exactly what it promises for genre junkies. 6/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
An Edwardian psychic detective chases Scooby Doo villains and the occasional Outer Monstrosity.


The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder

Wordsworth Editions, Ltd, 2006, 191 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg. (The Gutenberg edition is missing three stories — you can also find all of them here.)




Thomas Carnacki is a ghost finder, an Edwardian psychic detective, investigating a wide range of terrifying hauntings presented in the nine stories in this complete collection of his adventures. Encountering such spine-chilling phenomena as 'The Whistling Room', the life-threatening dangers of the phantom steed in 'The Horse of the Invisible' and the demons from the outside world in 'The Hog', Carnacki is constantly challenged by spiritual forces beyond our knowledge. To complicate matters, he encounters human skullduggery also. Armed with a camera, his Electric Pentacle and various ancient tomes on magic, Carnacki faces the various dangers his supernatural investigations present with great courage. These exciting and frightening stories have long been out of print. Now readers can thrill to them again in this new Wordsworth series.


Invisible horses, demonic pigs, stolen rare books, haunted ships, and good-old fashioned human skulduggery. )

Verdict: Florid Edwardian prose and formulaic stories that nonetheless show a raft of influences, and some really creepy creatures. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and/or Lovecraft, but especially fans of both, will probably enjoy them. 7/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
A fantasy Ocean's Eleven and Pirates of the Caribbean mash-up.


Red Seas Under Red Skies

Bantam Spectra, 2007, 558 pages




After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long---and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele - and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior...and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire. Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors...straight to Requin's teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb - until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.


The Gentleman Bastards go a'piratin' in a crapsack fantasy world. )

Verdict: A page-turner that was, if anything, better than the first book (if a bit more meandering), Red Seas Under Red Skies elevated my desire to read the next book in the series, though I hope Lynch is going to eventually incorporate some larger meta-plot into the story, rather than just continuing to spin yarns about ever-greater heists. 9/10.

Also by Scott Lynch: My review of The Lies of Locke Lamora.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra Quick)
I did a little bit better this week, though still not up to what I used to do when I wrote diligently. The word count is 176,680 and I think I may need to rewrite the last two chapters.

Need to research riddles. Finding or making up good ones for Hogwarts Houses Divided was not easy.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The notorious novel of a Hollywood heel!


What Makes Sammy Run?

Bantam, 1941, 288 pages




Every one of us knows someone who runs. He is one of the symptoms of our times-from the little man who shoves you out of the way on the street to the go-getter who shoves you out of a job in the office to the Fuehrer who shoves you out of the world. And all of us have stopped to wonder, at some time or another, what it is that makes these people tick. What makes them run?

This is the question Schulberg has asked himself, and the answer is the first novel written with the indignation that only a young writer with talent and ideals could concentrate into a manuscript. It is the story of Sammy Glick, the man with a positive genius for being a heel, who runs through New York's East Side, through newspaper ranks and finally through Hollywood, leaving in his wake the wrecked careers of his associates; for this is his tragedy and his chief characteristic-his congenital incapacity for friendship.

An older and more experienced novelist might have tempered his story and, in so doing, destroyed one of its outstanding qualities. Compromise would mar the portrait of Sammy Glick. Schulberg has etched it in pure vitriol, and dissected his victim with a precision that is almost frightening.

When a fragment of this book appeared as a short story in a national magazine, Schulberg was surprised at the number of letters he received from people convinced they knew Sammy Glick's real name. But speculation as to his real identity would be utterly fruitless, for Sammy is a composite picture of a loud and spectacular minority bitterly resented by the many decent and sincere artists who are trying honestly to realize the measureless potentialities of motion pictures. To this group belongs Schulberg himself, who has not only worked as a screen writer since his graduation from Dartmouth College in 1936, but has spent his life, literally, in the heart of the motion-picture colony. In the course of finding out what makes Sammy run (an operation in which the reader is spared none of the gruesome details) Schulberg has poured out everything he has felt about that place. The result is a book which the publishers not only believe to be the most honest ever written about Hollywood, but a penetrating study of one kind of twentieth-century success that is peculiar to no single race of people or walk of life.


The most narcissistic anti-hero ever - Sammy Glick IS Hollywood. )

Verdict: An outstanding, funny, tragic, and entertaining novel about a despicable main character who epitomizes every venal Hollywood stereotype, and an excellent read for the prose and dialog as well as the characters. What Makes Sammy Run? is still appalling and entertaining; it may be about Hollywood in the 30s, but Hollywood is still full of Sammy Glicks. 10/10 and highly recommended!




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra@13)
This week kind of sucked - I only wrote 900 words (most of them tonight). Trying to get back into some kind of daily routine, even if only for half an hour or so. It doesn't help that the current chapter is one of those really difficult ones that I'm not even sure belongs.

Maybe having to post that I only wrote 900 words for the week will motivate me to do better this week. :\
inverarity: (lasercat)
It's Battlestar Galactica meets King Arthur.


Dauntless

Ace Books, 2006, 304 pages




The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century, and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who has emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief.

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary's legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance's one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic "Black Jack" legend.


If it doesn't become a movie, it might become a RTS game. )

Verdict: Competent, technically and militarily sound SF with mostly cardboard characters and almost indistinguishable sides. Good if you want to read realistic space combat, but Battlestar Galactic and the Destroyermen have much the same plot, with more fun. 6/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The last man on Earth babysits Eloi amongst an improbable genetically-engineered menagerie.


Oryx and Crake

Anchor, 2003, 374 pages




Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey-with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake-through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.


Remember, Margaret Atwood absolutely, positively does not write SCIENCE FICTION and this is totally not a POST-APOCALYPTIC novel. )

Verdict: Margaret Atwood is a superior author, but science fiction is not really her game. Oryx and Crake is a book that would be mediocre written by a less talented writer. 7/10.


Also by Margaret Atwood: My review of The Handmaid's Tale.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Three middle-schoolers p0wn the superhero community — if you liked The Incredibles then this book is for you.


Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain

Curiosity Quills Press, 2014, 374 pages




Penelope Akk wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents. She's got the ultimate mad science power, filling her life with crazy gadgets even she doesn't understand. She has two super powered best friends. In middle school, the line between good and evil looks clear.

In real life, nothing is that clear. All it takes is one hero's sidekick picking a fight, and Penny and her friends are labeled supervillains. In the process, Penny learns a hard lesson about villainy: She's good at it.

Criminal masterminds, heroes in power armor, bottles of dragon blood, alien war drones, shape shifters and ghosts, no matter what the super powered world throws at her, Penny and her friends come out on top. They have to. If she can keep winning, maybe she can clear her name before her mom and dad find out.


A superhero novel for the true superhero fan. )

Verdict: A fun, light-hearted adventure for anyone who loves superhero comic books, especially those aimed at the younger set. Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain surprised me with how much I liked it; I plan to get the soon-to-be-published sequel as soon as it's out. 9/10.





My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra Quick)
Okay, I really, really need/want to finish this book this year.

I'm not setting myself any hard wordcount deadlines, but maybe a regular public accounting of my progress will help motivate me. So I'm going to try to post a progress report at least every Sunday.

As of now, I am working on Chapter 34, and am at 172,800 words.

(And yeah, still looking like this is going to be one big book, because I'm still in the second act. I think I may have some serious structural problems with AQATWA - we'll see how much it changes once I finish this big, bloated, meandering, swiss cheese of a first draft.)
inverarity: (inverarity)
An ambitious sociopath works his way through three sisters.


A Kiss Before Dying

Signet, 1954, 191 pages




A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews, it also set a new standard in the art of mystery and suspense. Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures. But, then, he looks like the kind of guy who could get away with murder. Compellingly, step by determined step, the novel follows this young man in his execution of one plan he had neither dreamed nor foreseen. Nor does he foresee how inexorably he will be enmeshed in the consequences of his own extreme deed.


A good book by the author of 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Stepford Wives,' but a horrible movie. )

Verdict: Read the book, skip the movie, at least the more recent version. A Kiss Before Dying is a clever little 1950s thriller, all plot and smart characters, and not too much suspension of disbelief (though the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly). 8/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
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Books read 2014
inverarity: (inverarity)
A trust fund brat dies, wakes up a hundred years later, and finds out the future sucks.


A King of Infinite Space

Harper Prism, 1997, 312 pages




"This is the story of the last day of my life, and everything that happened after that."

Back in print after a decade, A King of Infinite Space is the final volume of Allen Steele's award-winning Near-Space series, and a cult-favorite among readers. Ranging from a Lollapalooza concert of 1995 to the asteroid belt of 2099, it's the tale of a young man who dies, becomes reborn, and crosses the solar system in search of his lost love... and grows to be a better man, despite himself.


A great space adventure if you can get past the douchebag protagonist. )

Verdict: Allen Steele is a reliable hard SF fix for those who like modern science fiction in the spirit of Heinlein. A King of Infinite Space stands alone well, but is even better following the rest of his Near-Space stories. 9/10.

Also by Allen Steele: My reviews of Coyote, Apollo's Outcasts, and Sex and Violence in Zero-G: The Complete "Near Space" Stories, Expanded Edition.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
An old man tells his grandsons about the world before the Red Death depopulated it.


The Scarlet Plague

London Magazine, 1912, approximately 20,000 words.. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




An old man, James Howard Smith, walks along deserted railway tracks, long since unused and overgrown; beside him a young, feral boy helps him along. It has been 60 years since the great Red Death wiped out mankind, and the handful of survivors from all walks of life have established their own civilization and their own hierarchy in a savage world. Art, science, and all learning has been lost, and the young descendants of the healthy know nothing of the world that was—nothing but myths and make-believe. The old man is the only one who can convey the wonders of that bygone age, and the horrors of the plague that brought about its end. What future lies in store for the remnants of mankind can only be surmised—their ignorance, barbarity, and ruthlessness the only hopes they have?


Did you know Jack London wrote a post-apocalyptic novel? I didn't! )

Verdict: The Scarlet Plague is a rather dull post-apocalyptic novella, interesting as a historical relic that influenced later writers, but there is not much in the way of story or originality. 5/10.

Also by Jack London: My review of The Call of the Wild.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
A laid-back dog from California has to survive in Alaska.


The Call of the Wild

Macmillan, 1903, approximately 32,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




Buck, a sturdy crossbreed canine (half St. Bernard, half Shepard), is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit...

First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London's masterpiece. Based on London's experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike.


It's really a barbarian epic starring a dog. )

Verdict: The Call of the Wild is a great book for boys, and I think I read it in elementary school, but I really enjoyed rereading it again. Jack London's prose still reads very smoothly and the story is full of tension and excitement. Probably one of the best "dog" stories I've ever read. 9/10.





My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Reading like a writer who is Francine Prose and likes books that Francine Prose likes.


Reading Like a Writer

Harper Perennial, 2006, 273 pages




In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart - to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue and to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail. And, most important, Prose cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which all literature is crafted.


Genre fiction? What's that? Who reads that shit? )

Verdict: Reading Like a Writer is about how to read like the writer who wrote this book. Read it if you share Francine Prose's tastes (check out her bibliography in the back); skip it if you're expecting any kind of comprehensive survey of literature or useful writers' advice. 4/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The novella that spawned The Thing,


Who Goes There?

Astounding Science Fiction, 1938, 168 pages




Who Goes There?, the novella that formed the basis of the film The Thing, is the John W. Campbell classic about an antarctic research camp that discovers and thaws the ancient body of a crash-landed alien.


Paranoia will destroy ya, but murderous shapechanging aliens will kill you faster. )

Verdict: A fine pulp adventure that was made into three decent monster movies. Who Goes There? is a sci-fi classic that added paranoia about alien dopplegangers to the tradition of weird fiction set in the Antarctic. 8/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra Quick)
Now and then I talk about about my writing style, my technique, my efforts to improve my craft. It's not just because I'd like to be published someday, but this writing thing, even if it never becomes more than a hobby, is still something I'd like to be really good at.

I am pretty clearly a "storyteller." Most people who like my writing like the story and the characters. They like my plotting, and the consequences they see unfolding as I bring my plans to fruition.

My writing style, at best, is readable and technically proficient. Now and then I polish a sentence I particularly like, and I've managed a few nice bits of imagery, some description that I thought was particularly fine, but I don't have the wit, the finesse, the mastery of vocabulary, of some writers whom I particularly admire.

That's not to say that I want to write like them — above all, I want to write like myself. But as I work on AQATWA, now and then I find myself trying to polish up some prose, or promising myself I'll go back later and make it prettier, and I realize... despite the fact that I know shiny prose when I see it, despite the fact that I do have a rather expansive vocabulary, despite the fact that I fancy myself somewhat knowledgeable about literature... more often or not I don't know just what I should do, or even could do, to "improve" a sentence.

I don't know if this is a flaw or not. I mean, there's nothing wrong with writing clean prose that is pleasant to read and carries no particular signature style. Lots of writers write in this kind of plain-prose style. It's not like I aspire to be "literary."

Still, I do look wistfully at some real wordsmiths and wonder how their prose all comes out looking very much like something crafted.

Quotes of shininess. )

So, I can't do that. I kind of wish I could, but I think it's a mistake for any writer to try to emulate another writer's style.

But I do, at least, have a knack for stories, and interesting characters. When I can put in the writing time. That's the other thing I envy: writers who can churn out thousands of words a day. A feat I haven't managed in... far too long.

AQATWA is at 32 chapters and 166,000 words.

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