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2011 Book Review

May 16, 2011

A18. Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Random point of interest: I actually started reading a physical copy of Spider Bones towards the start of the year, but had so much trouble finding time to sit down with a physical book that I took it back to the library. When I spotted the audio version on the shelf a month later, I snatched it up.

Spider Bones is probably one of the more complex plots that I have yet read from Kathy Reichs. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t really say that it’s the most complex of all the books (having not yet read them all), but it has to be pretty high up there. Once again, Reichs managed to shoehorn Ryan into the story, though slightly more plausibly this time. And much like all of the other Bones books, there is a LOT of background information. Things about the Vietnam war, Hawaiian history and tourist destinations, complex analysis of everything from gang politics to unusual sexual practices. Sadly, I am beginning to get the feeling that underneath all of that interesting information is a collection of characters that I am either not particularly fond of or actively dislike.

A19. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

I picked this book up because hey, past lives! One True Pairing! History from a commoner’s perspective! It hit a lot of my usual high points for good stories, so I figured it couldn’t be truly terrible.

And it’s not. For the most part, the book is actually quite good. There are several occasions where I wanted to smack the main male character, but that’s fairly common for me with OTP style stories. It’s not a terribly original premise, but Brashares’ handling of the mechanics of it are well done. I was quite annoyed by the book’s ending, but since it turns out that this is planned to be the first in a trilogy, I think I can hold off on my opinion of the annoying abrupt ending until I have a chance to read the next one.

A20-22. Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

When I first noted that I was reading Elantris, I had several people tell me that Mistborn was vastly superior, and that I should have read them first. I pointed out that the reason I tend to read books in the order that authors wrote them is that I enjoy seeing their progression from book to book. It also saves me the heartache of reading a vastly superior later book, and discovering that the earlier works aren’t nearly as sophisticated. Which is why I’m glad I read Elantris first. I don’t think I could have enjoyed it quite as much after having read Mistborn.

Mistborn is the sort of fantasy story that if you just accept the magic as it is explained to you, it works really well. If you examine it too much, you will spend more time trying to work out the mechanics of it than you will enjoying the books. The magic system is so unique and well developed that I have had to shut down the part of my brain that wants to analyze and pick at the threads of the magic until they make sense. Fortunately, the Mistborn series also contains a lot of great political intrigue, some really interesting alternate history, and a lot of quite funny dialog. Sanderson continues to suffer from a version of The Smurfette Principle (Warning: TV Tropes link) throughout the books, making any other supporting females evil, vapid, or love interests.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this series. Unlike many trilogies, each book is quite self contained and ends well enough that if the series had ended at one book, or even just two, it would still be a fully realized and resolved overarching plot. As it seems Sanderson plans to write a fourth Mistborn book, I hope he continues in that vein.

A23. Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay

I’d like to start by noting that there is an element to audiobooks that physical books can’t provide, which doesn’t make them superior, but does make for some wonderfully humorous moments that wouldn’t come across the same in the physical book. In one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, it was the reader who actually spoke very rapidly while doing Diantha’s voice, making the statement “Johan’s an asshole” truly hilarious. In this book, the reader does an excellent job of portraying the cheerfully British voice of Doakes’ communication device, making me giggle every time he said “motherfucker.”

Dexter by Design does a decent job of picking up all the major threads of the previous Dexter books and running with them. Which is kind of the problem. The book contains some great moments of introspection (and cursing) by dear Deborah, but that’s about all the character development we get. The same jokes (the traffic, the food, Angel “no relation” blahblahblah), the same character dynamics, the same shock value murder resolved by Dexter getting tangled up in a messily public way, the same rescue from the Big Bad by someone other than Dexter. Frankly, I’m beginning to think that the reason I like the kids so much in this series is that they’re the only ones who seem to be making actual character progression over the course of the series. The Dexter books aren’t bad, but I’m probably going to start having to view them as candy reading.

A24. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I am quite thrilled that Brandon Sanderson is a very prolific writer. Otherwise I might have to take my list of “Things to Make George R.R. Martin Write The Song of Ice and Fire Faster” and apply them to this series. Much like his previous books, the Way of Kings contains a fully realized, well developed, intricate and unique magic system. And damnit, I want to know more about it. Sanderson shows his progress as an author by having three (three!) major female characters who have important roles in the story. Sure, two of them are related to the king, but hey, at least they’re not incidental characters. As a bonus, the dynamics of the gender roles make women very important to the smooth operation of the political system, which is always nice.

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