Tuesday, January 4, 2000

2012 Book Reviews

This year we'll try putting them in reverse order, so the newest books will be on top!

223.  The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

222.  Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs

221.  The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

220.  Reunion in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

219.  The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick.
A sympathetic main character, an intriguing puzzle.  Unfortunately, the big end reveal was pretty feeble, and the main character never actually does anything to bring about the ending.   A pity, since the setup was very good.  

218.  Purity in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

217.  The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

216.  Interlude in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

215.  Betrayal in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

214.  Poppy Done to Death by Charlaine Harris

213. The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
This was notable for its elegant writing style and vividly drawn Scottish setting.  The mystery part was substandard.  I spotted the killer quite early and the characters should have at least considered the person a suspect far earlier than they did.  The elongated time frame and extraneous factors introduced in the second part of the story didn't interest me.   Which from the author's point of view probably means I missed the point.  Probably more interesting to a novel reader than a mystery fan. 

212. Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris

219.  Judgment in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

218.  Beyond Eden by Catherine Coulter

217.  Witness in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

216.  If You Know Her by Shiloh Walker

215.  Midnight in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

214.  Dying on the Vine by Aaron Elkins

213.  If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker

212.  Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

211.  An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

210.  Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

209.  A Fool and His Honey by Charlaine Harris

208.  Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

207.  Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris

206.  The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
I had to struggle in the beginning to overlook the style of this- a lot of is it written in present tense, which I find distracting.  But the story itself is entertaining and often very funny.  I suspect I'd have done better with it had I not started with a later book in the series.  Now I need to go back and read the series from the beginning.

205.  Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

204.  Conspiracy in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

203.  A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris

202.  Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

201.  Shakespeare's Champion by Charlaine Harris

200.  Holiday in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

199.  Vengeance in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

198.  Dead Boyfriends by David Housewright

197.  Barrayar by Lois Bujold (reread)

196.  The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde.
This is the most, uh, Ffordian book yet in the Thursday Next series.  As a long time reader I managed to follow the weirdness more or less, but I highly recommend that this series be read in order, since you need to depart sanity in gentle steps in order to follow the storyline.   I don't find Thursday such a sympathetic character that I really like her and her family- but the inventiveness and bizarre yet consistent logic --not to mention exceedingly funny bits--remain fascinating.   It's the sort of thing you might get if Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams cowrote a book while indulging in controlled substances. 

195.  Kris Longknife: Furious by Mike Shepherd
This may be the weakest book in the series, because a good deal of it recaps action from prior books.  At the same time, the author definitely needed a bridge between the last book and where the series is going next, and on balance I think that giving it a whole book was probably better than trying to gloss over it in a prologue.   Which is not to say that plenty doesn't happen- it's fun and has a fair bit of action to keep you interested, but much more than any of the other Longknife tales, this book really doesn't stand alone.  And it ends in a wicked cliffhanger.  So if you're a fan of the series and on the fence, buy it now, but wait to read it until the next one is out.  

194.  Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois Bujold
I had high hopes for this book, but was ultimately disappointed.  The opening was quite promising but quickly lost headway.  While it was pleasant enough to spend 400 pages visiting with familiar and likeable characters, the plot was slight at best, and the alleged protagonists, when presented with difficulties, mostly stood around while secondary characters resolved them.    Fans of the series will enjoy visiting Barrayar, seeing old friends and reminiscing about the good ole days,  but don't pick this up expecting a fast-paced adventurous tour-de-force.  For that you'll have to reread some of the earlier books in the series.

193.  Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

192.  Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

191.  Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

190.  Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

189.  From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

188.  Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

187.  Sense of Evil by Kay Hooper

186.  Ceremony in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

185.  All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

184.  Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb/ Nora Roberts

183.  Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

182.  Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

181.  Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

180.  Now You See Her by Linda Howard

179.  Sleeping with Fear by Kay Hooper

178.  Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb/ Nora Roberts

177.  Glory in Death by J.D.Robb/ Nora Roberts

176.  Backfire by Catherine Coulter

175.  Hunting Fear by Kay Hooper

174.  Naked in Death by J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts

173.  Chill of Fear by Kay Hooper

172.  Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

171.  Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

170.  Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (audiobook)

169.  Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

168.  Once a Thief by Kay Hooper

167.  Clean by Alex Hughes
First in a new series, I found this a page-turner from start to finish.  We get a slow reveal of the main character's backstory entwined with an SF police procedural.   The author nicely balances the personal struggle of the main character with the action and intrigue of the plot.   I'm eagerly awaiting the next book. 

166.  Beautiful Sacrifice by Elizabeth Lowell

165.  Lord of the Fire Lands by David Duncan

164.  Haunting Rachel by Kay Hooper

163. Hell Island by Matt Reilly

162.  Blood Ties by Kay Hooper

161.  Hell Island by Matt Reilly

160.  Blood Sins by Kay Hooper

159.  Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (reread)

158.  All the Queen's Men by Linda Howard

157.  Kill and Tell by Linda Howard

156. Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
Another charming entry in the annals of children's fantasy.  While not as strongly plotted as some of her work, it's still a delightful work and should be very appealing to younger and older readers alike.

155.  Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper

154.  Taken by Benedict Jacka
Third in the Alex Verus series, and great fun for anyone looking for urban fantasy in the style of Jim Butcher's Dresden novels. 
153.  Death Angel by Linda Howard

152.  Ice by Linda Howard

151.  Long After Midnight by Iris Johansen

150. Died in the Wool by Mary Kruger

149.  The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

148.  Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

147.  Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard

146.  Crystal Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
This is the second part in the prequel duology started in Crystal Soldier, and I'm rather glad I reread the first before starting the second.   I had remembered being a bit lukewarm on the first book and in retrospect it was probably because it was something of a cliffhanger.  Paired with the second book- it's very good.  Telling a story is hard enough, but trying to do justice to the backstory for a lengthy series at the same time, while weaving in as many strands as possible- I thought this was a success on both levels.  That having been said- I think that it is necessary to have read at least the core books of the Liaden series before this will make much sense.  A good deal of the pleasure is in seeing roots of the relationships that make up the core books being planted.  Without having read them, this would be a much less rich experience.

145.  Burn by Linda Howard

144.  After the Night by Linda Howard

143.  Cover of Night by Linda Howard

142.  Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (reread)

141.  Deadly Currents by Beth Groundwater
Excellent descriptions of whitewater rafting unfortunately did not redeem the rather lackluster mystery.

140.  Liaden Companion Volume 2 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

139.  Dying to Please by Linda Howard

138.  Up Close and Dangerous by Linda Howard

137.  Open Season by Linda Howard

136.  Prey by Linda Howard

135.  Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

134.  House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones.

133.  Veil of Night by Linda Howard

132.  Sketch Me if You Can by Sharon Pape

131.  Drop Dead Gorgeous by Linda Howard

130.  To Die For by Linda Howard

129.  The Water Clock by Jim Kelly
I didn't care for any of the characters in this, but the mystery was a solid B+, and the vivid sense of place and atmosphere of the English fens elevated it above the ordinary.  It's strongly reminiscent of Sayers' The Nine Tailors' which inspired it.  

128.  Impulse by Catherine Coulter

127.  Split Second by Catherine Coulter

126.  No Going Back by Mark L. Van Name

125.  Whiplash by Catherine Coulter

124.  Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs

123.  Knock Out by Catherine Coulter

122.  Double Take by Catherine Coulter

121.  Point Blank by Catherine Coulter

120.  Blowout by Catherine Coulter

119. Blindside by Catherine Coulter

118. Eleventh Hour by Catherine Coulter

117. Hemlock Bay by Catherine Coulter

116.  The Maze by Catherine Coulter

115.  The Target by Catherine Coulter

114.  The Edge by Catherine Coulter

113. The Cove by Catherine Coulter

112.  Riptide by Catherine Coulter

111.  Death's Door by Jim Kelly
An English mystery with police protagonists.  I felt that the author used physical characteristics as a substitute for characterization in his protagonist, but the mystery was a solid B.  He loses points because I spotted the killer quite early, but got some of them back for a nice twist in the motive department.

110.  Deception by Adrian Magson
I'd recommend starting the series from the beginning rather than starting here.  As it was- I thought this was weak.  Particularly the finale, where the main character survives because there's another book contracted, not because he does anything clever or unexpected.

109.  Tailspin by Catherine Coulter  
Started as an audiobook, finished in print after the second CD player died. 

108.  Midnight at Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell

107.  Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell

106.  Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

105.  Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell

104.  Act of Treason by Vince Flynn (audiobook)

103. Moving Target by Elizabeth Lowell

102.  Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

101.  1222 by Anne Holt

100.  Kris Longknife: Daring by Mike Shepherd
This catches me up to the end of the series and leaves me chewing my nails for the next book.  Write , Mike, write!

99.  Redshirts by John Scalzi
This is a must-read for anyone who loves SF, loved to hate bad SF on TV, and discussed it at length.  Its meta has meta.  Hilarious, recursive and deeply twisted.  I loved it.   And double extra kudos for taking a well-known classic fanfic and turning it into original fiction.

98.  Big Trouble by Dave Barry
In which Dave Barry is funny as usual, but proves that having a sense of humor is no substitute for knowing how to write a novel.  (However, his impassioned description of Miami Airport was worth the price of admission.)

97.  Kris Longknife: Redoubtable by Mike Shepherd

96.  206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

95.  Running Scared by Elizabeth Lowell

94.  Kris Longknife: Undaunted by Mike Shepherd

93.  Death Echo by Elizabeth Lowell

92.  The Road of Danger by David Drake

91. Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs
Okay, I'm not going to go into detail because someone might want to read this anyway, but... when the resolution of your plot depends on a) the protagonist doing something really dumb, b) the bad guy being incompetent and c) the good guys getting lucky,  to wrap up the book?  Time to think about writing another draft before submitting it.  The plot where the murderer tries and fails to kill the protagonist until enough pages have gone by that the author can stop writing is not a good plot.   Which is not so say that this book didn't have a lot of good plot in it.  It's just that nothing that happened in it led to finding the murderer. 

90. Kris Longknife: Intrepid by Mike Shepherd

89.  The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell
88.   Kris Longknife: Audacious by Mike Shepherd
87.  Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn

86.  Kris Longknife:  Resolute by Mike Shepherd
85.  Kris Longknife:  Defiant by Mike Shepherd 
84.  Kris Longknife:  Deserter by Mike Shepherd 
83.  Kris Longknife:  Mutineer by Mike Shepherd
This series is the best SF fun I've had in ages.  A nice mix of action and humor with the occasional serious touch, I think it has the general feel of David Drake's Lieutenant Leary series or Tanya Huff's Valor series.   Can't think how I managed to miss it until now!

82.  Blue Smoke and Murder by Elizabeth Lowell

81.  Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey

80. Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

79.  Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn

78.  London Under by Peter Ackroyd

77.  Scarecrow Returns by Matt Reilly (American title- Australian title is "Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves", listened to audiobook)

76. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

75.  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

74.  1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

73.  Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly (reread)
72.  Area 7 by Matthew Reilly (reread)
71.  Ice Station by Matthew Reilly (reread)

70.  Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

69.  The Color of Death by Elizabeth Lowell

68.  Cursed by Benedict Jacka

67.  The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders by Nancy Pickard

66.  Die in Plain Sight by Elizabeth Lowell

65.  Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light by Tanya Huff (reread)

64.  Fated by Benedict Jacka

63.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

62.  The Quartered Sea by Tanya Huff

61. Rebel's Seed by F.M.Busby
60.  No Quarter by Tanya Huff (reread).

59.  Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

58.  Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff (reread)
57.  Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff (reread)
56.  Stealing Magic by Tanya Huff

55.  What Ho, Magic! by Tanya Huff

54. Relative Magic by Tanya Huff

53.  Ranks of Bronze by David Drake

52.  A Morbid Taste for Bone by Ellis Peters

51. A Fall in Denver by Sarah Andrews

50. The Demu Trilogy by FM Busby

49.  Fire on the Border by Kevin O'Donnell, Jr.

48.  Shame by Alan Russell

47.  Spring of Violence by Dell Shannon (reread)

46.  Into the Hinterlands by David Drake and John Lambshead.

45.  Insatiable by Meg Cabot

44. Wolverine: Weapon X by Marc Cerasini, Richard Isanove and Greg Land
It's possible that die-hard X-man fans would enjoy this.  I thought it might help me to catch up a bit on the backstory, as I have a number of comic-loving friends.  I found it very unengaging however- lots of action (normally a plus for me), character development of bad guys who were subsequently killed without their character being relevant and a generally incoherent narrative (it's very hard for me to call it a plot).

43. A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender
A mildly entertaining mystery...I may need to try the pizza recipe.

42.  Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Political intrigue, religious fanaticism  and a magical mystery in a fantasy setting.   This was an enjoyable read, though the politics and economics of the setting don't bear too much deep thought.

41. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
A fascinating survey of research into creativity in it's different forms.  It goes into some detail on the differences between the 'flash of insight' and the long slow refinining stages of the creative process, and as with his previous book on decision-making, a lot of concrete and applicable ways to apply the lessons.  A well-written and interesting book.

40.  A Perilous Conception by Larry Karp
 Fans of Columbo will love this mystery.  A period piece set in the 70s, it features a dogged and clever detective and a slippery doctor playing a game of cat and mouse.  To say more would risk spoiling it.  

39.  Disappearing Act by Margaret Ball
Light fun space opera thriller.   A little disjointed with several plotlines, but an enjoyable read.

38.  Blind Descent by Nevada Barr
This is my favorite Nevada Barr mystery to date.  While it probably helped that I recently watched a piece on the BBC Planet Earth series on the setting of this book (Lechuguilla Caverns in New Mexico), it also had all the classic elements- a small pool of suspects, a plethora of motives, and a slow reveal of the solution.   An experienced mystery reader may guess parts of the answer simply from the presence of certain plot elements, but it was a very enjoyable ride.

37.  On Thin Ice by Alina Adams

36. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (reread)
35. Death Masks by Jim Butcher (reread)

34.  Endangered Species by Nevada Barr

33.  Death at Gallows Green by Robin Paige

32.  The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews

31.  Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

30. Starfist: First to Fight by David Sherman & Dan Cragg
If reading about the daily life of US Marines in space is your idea of a good time, have at it.  "Marine Life" is the main character of this book- there is little other characterization and (oddly for military SF) almost no action until the last third of the book.  A yawner for anyone not fascinated with military life.  

29. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (reread)

28.  Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

27.  The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It by Charles Duhigg

26. Chosen- Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie in, based on the TV scripts.  Get the DVDs- much more rewarding.  

25.   Death at Rottingdean by Robin Paige
Meh.  An excellent setting, but the so-called mystery relies on a witness who does not divulge what he knows until the end of the book, and the bad guy making stupid mistakes.  The detectives detect very little, and the authors' habit of digressing into factoids on things that happened in the real life Rottingdean years after the story was profoundly annoying.  I appreciate that they did research- but dumping chunks of it into the middle of the book does nothing for the narrative flow.

24.  Old Scores by Aaron Elkins (reread)
23.  A Deceptive Clarity by Aaron Elkins (reread)
22. A Glancing Light by Aaron Elkins (reread)
Having finally acquired the third book in this sequence, I can now reread them all together!

21.  Delete All Suspects by Donna Andrews
The fourth of her Turing Hopper mysteries.

20. Death at Bishop's Keep by Robin Paige
Billed as a Victorian mystery, this winds up being a little too PC to really ring true for me.  And the mystery relies on a second and third murder and a couple of big coincidences.  I have another of these lying around and will likely read it, but not seek out more unless the second one impresses me considerably more than the first. 

19.  The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
This is an English translation of a German science fiction novel, and quite beautifully done.  The language is polished and evocative.  The book is organized as a related set of short stories, but they are not independant- each segment shifts point of view and you catch another glimpse of an emerging pattern as the book unfolds.  Thought-provoking, structurally idiosyncratic, and extremely well written--  I enjoyed it a great deal for the vivid language, imagery and slow reveal of the plot.

18.  An Old Faithful Murder by Valerie Wolzien
This one tries to implement the classic form.  I enjoyed it for the view of Yellowstone (which I have been seized by a desire to visit ever since seeing the Ken Burns National Parks series), and liked the setup.  I found some of the characters and motivations unconvincing, and the crucial clue wasn't so much slipped in, as came crashing down anvil-like from the sky toward the end of the book.  

17.  The Third Option by Vince Flynn- a solid B-list thriller, with a strong-jawed hero, dastardly and unprincipled bad guys, lots of action.  Good airplane read (which is exactly where I read it). 

16.  Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
If you've somehow missed the hype about this book, the first thing to know about it is that it's a split story- most of it takes place in medieval Germany, with another plot thread in the present day.  I've been told by several people who read this that they liked the past story, but found the present story un-engaging.    In general I agree with that- the present day characters are interesting enough, but we don't spend enough time with them to really care about their concerns.  Overall, I'd have to characterize this as an ambitious failure, which in some ways makes it a more interesting read than a book that shoots low and succeeds. The past story has a lot of interesting idea content, but it lacks a strong through-plot- what plot there is gets buried under the philosophical discussion.   There's a lot here to like--but it isn't destined to take a place among the classics. 

15. A Dangerous Talent by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins

14. Table of Contents by John McPhee

13. Firestorm by Nevada Barr

12. Wicked Prey by John Sandford

11.  A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber

10.  Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger

9.  Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

8.  Ghost Ship by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (reread)
7.  Saltation by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (reread)
6.  Fledgling by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (reread)

5. 7th Sigma by Steven Gould

4. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

3. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
This was useful as well as entertaining, as Tierney and Baumeister do a roundup of studies of motivation and self-regulation, and distill practical and easily applicable advice on which strategies work, which don't, and how to use this information to tackle everything from sensible eating to the eternal to-do list. Highly recommended.

2. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
Book 2 in his YA steampunk-historical-fantasy. Set in an alternate WW1 where the British 'Darwinists' breed fabulous beasts to do the jobs that German 'Clankers' do with biologically-inspired machinery. Fast-paced, fun and a great read. I'm looking forward to the third one enormously.

1. All Wound Up by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Another book of humorous knitting essays that will strike a chord with crafters of all sorts.

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