Last book of 10 -Airships of Camelot

Reading Decathlon – book 10!

Airships of Camelot: The Rise of Arthur

by Robison Wells

genre: teen steampunk

setting: alternate world Rocky Mountains

source: This one I picked up for lots of reasons. First, Arthur. Second, steampunk. Third, Arthur + steampunk. Fourth, the author. Fifth, the cover.

Plot: In an alternate earth, the 1918 flu pandemic killed even more people and hung around. Society broke down and the country fragmented into little fiefdoms, sorta, each controlled by an admiral and his airships. Texas is its own state (of course!) and that’s where all the helium comes from.

Arthur is the son of Admiral Uther, being groomed to take over and fly the premier airships in the fleet, but during a raid one day, he gets separated and left behind with the slavers and the infected. He rescues one of the slaves, a girl his age named Jennifer (get it?) and the two try to make it through the wasteland to – ta-da! – Camelot!

Verdict: So satisfying. All the Arthur figures are there, and you’ll recognize them all. Galahad, the pure and annoying, Lancelot, the powerful and conceited, Merlin, the wise and cryptic, Morgan, beautiful and manipulative. It’s just what you expect, but it feels fresh at the same time. Jennifer and Arthur have several conversations about their way of life, about the raids and technology and the long term purpose of Camelot. There’s really so much more than I can cover in this review, but honestly, it’s so good. This one is the first in a planned series. 4.3 stars.

 

And with that, I finished by Reading Decathlon! 10 books in 10 days, although I didn’t post them in 10 days. Now I’m listening to The Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan, which I’m loving, and idly reading The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I love Cather, but this is not my favorite of her books. Also I have been very depressed lately and when I’m down, I just can’t concentrate on anything too long or serious. maybe now that I’m feeling a little better, I can finish this up. Happy reading!

 

Book Review: Companions of the Night

Reading Decathlon, book 9

Companions of the Night

by Vivan Vande Velde

Setting: modern New York college town

Plot: Kerry agrees to return to the laundromat before bed to pick up her brother’s teddy bear. But when she gets there, she finds the owner and some friends have captured and beaten a guy. They claim this Ethan is a vampire and refuse to let him or Kerry go. Kerry helps the guy escape only to find that he is in fact a vampire. Now someone has kidnapped her family and they’re going after her next. Kerry and Ethan team up, but can Kerry trust him with her family’s safety?

Pros: Um, it was short?

Cons: It was confusing?

Honestly, this one didn’t stand out much for me. I read it while waiting for the doctor today and it was good to pass the time. I did like the ending. Kerry was able to be smart and made some good decisions. I really appreciated that she wasn’t some starstruck vampire groupie. But I can’t say that I really liked it. 2.5 stars

 

Book Review: Two for the Show

Reading Decathlon, book 8

Two for the Show

by Jonathan Stone

Plot: Chas works as an investigator, but his only client is an unusual one – Vegas magician Wallace the Amazing. Chas is the reason Wallace can mystify his audience by knowing everything about them. It’s a hidden partnership, but it’s worked for 20 years. Then one day something goes wrong with the show. As Chas tries to find out what happened, he gets pulled into hidden identities, kidnapping, and violence. Just when you think you know what’s happening, the plot shifts and you’re left with nothing but questions.

Pros: I love the basic idea of the Vegas mentalist and his hidden staff. I liked the sudden shifts in the plot, the way Stone keeps you guessing.

Cons: So many! First, the characters. Their motivation was unconvincing. I never understood why people were after Wallace. And why was Chas so sneaky and crafty is some things, and so trusting in others? But the biggest problem was Wallace. Everything in the story revolved around him. I like that he remains a mystery, even at the end of the book, but I didn’t think anything about the guy made sense.

Another drawback was the pacing. Stone would stick these long pages of interior monologue and explanation in there where they didn’t belong and only slowed the action down. I get it already. Move the story forward.

I picked this one up because I loved Stone’s previous book, Moving Day. But this one is such a disappointment. I think with some editing, it could be worth reading. But as it stands – don’t bother. 2.2 stars

 

Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles book 5

 

Reading Decathlon, book 7

Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles book 5 

by John Flanagan

Plot: After defeating a group of slavers in the last book (Slaves of Socorro) Hal and the rest of the Heron crew set off to track down the group who sent an assassin after the Araluen princess. Ranger Gilan joins them on the trip and they group face some deadly foes in this book.

This one was good fun, but it wasn’t as great as it could have been. I still love the characters, though, and there was some good character development for Lydia, the twins, and a few others. I was totally shocked when one of the characters were injured.

However, I found the book too predictable in plot and in dialogue. I found my attention wandering a bit. The bad guys weren’t really menacing at all. The previous book was much better. I still think kids will enjoy it, but I hope the next book is better.

3.0 stars, although I’d rate it more like a 3.5 for kids under 13.

Hole in One

golf

Reading Decathlon book 6

Hole in One

by Catherine Aird

mystery

audiobook

Story: The local golf club’s beginners tournament comes to a halt when a competitor discovers a head in the sand trap. Detective CD Sloan has to identify the body, find a killer, and get the tournament moving again so his boss can win that trophy.

Pros: Old-fashioned mystery

Cons: Old-fashioned mystery

I love that this series sticks to the standard detection model of crime-solving – no unrealistically accelerated forensics, no conveniently useful social media, no hidden spycams everywhere. Just interviewing suspects, using some logical deduction. But just as the cops are pretty much 20th century, their attitudes are out of date too. Why are the witnesses repeatedly introduced as “lady golfers?” Why not just golfers? I don’t play golf, so maybe that distinction is still typical of country clubs and private courses. But it was irritating. And what’s with the wives who only join the club so they can keep an eye on their husbands?

I listened to this one yesterday and it was short and enjoyable, but it wasn’t really outstanding. 3.0 stars

She-Hulk: Law and Disorder

20454376

Reading Decathlon, book 5

She-Hulk: Law and Disorder, story by Charles Soule, Javier Pullido and Ron Wimberly, illustrators, Kevin Wada, cover.

I love Jennifer Walters! She’s a superhero, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s capable, and she’s a lawyer! Awesome all around. My hope were high for this comic.

Too high. The story was great, and I’m anxious to see where it goes next. But the art was really not good. Issues 1-4 had this anime style, with big green eyes, long necks. Kind of bug like. But the last issue was just horrible. It was like the artist had only a vague idea of what the human figure looked like. All the faces were misshapen and angular. It was a mess. Only for diehard She-Hulk fans. Oh, and Hell-Cat makes an appearance too.

Call the Midwife

Reading Decathlon, book 4

Title: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

Author: Jennifer Worth

Genre: memoir

Setting: East End London, 1950s

Source: PBS/Goodreads

Audiobook

Themes: class, birth, religion, family, women’s rights, medicine

Story: Middle class girl Jennifer decides she wants to be a midwife. After studying nursing, she goes to the East End (working class) of London to live and work with the midwife nuns. The nuns are more compassionate and less strict that the hospitals where she has worked, but she is unprepared for the realities of working class poverty.

Pros: There were so many great characters in here. I loved reading about Conchita Warren, who winds up with 25 children! And I loved reading about the other students and how they got into midwifery. Despite the culture shock, the students try hard to be respectful of their patients.

Setting is also really key. The book is a stark reminder of how much some things have changed for the better, and yet, not everything. The book is set just as the National Health program provides free universal health care, but the plagues of prostitution and drugs are even more of a problem now.

Cons: The author doesn’t seem to know what tone she wants for her book. Is it a feel good but honest sort of James Herriot approach to midwives? Or is it gritty and socially aware? I’m not sure what it was supposed to be. I think most readers who picked it up for the medical memoir aspect are going to be very unhappy with the prostitution chapters. She tells the story of Mary, a young girl fleeing an abusive stepfather, and her seduction into working at a brothel. She ends up pregnant and terrified, and only 15 years old. That is enough to break your heart, but then Worth describes in detail many of the sex acts offered at the brothel. That’s a little too much for me.

I would cautiously recommend this one, but from what I hear, the PBS series is better. I wish I had just watched it instead. 3.25 stars

 

Woman with a Blue Pencil

Reading Decathlon, book 2

Title: Woman with a Blue Pencil

Author: Gordon McAlpine

Genre: literary mystery

Themes: racism, war, patriotism, stereotypes, love

Setting: Los Angeles/California 1941

Source: Found it on Goodreads/Library

Story: Is it about Sam Sumida, Japanese American looking for the murderer of his wife? Is it about Jimmy Park, Korean American, hunting for an evil Japanese mastermind intent on destroying America? Is it about William Thorne, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and father of four, writing spy thrillers under an assumed name? Is it about Takumi Sato, young Nisei confined to a camp in California with an ailing father? Or is it about the woman with the blue pencil, who manipulates them all for her own gain?

The answer is yes, it’s about all of these and more. It’s about the power of narrative to sustain us through the most difficult times in our lives. It’s about the drive to honor our truth, no matter what the cost.

I can’t recommend this strongly enough. It’s a puzzle and a book and a triumph. I wish I had written it. 5 stars.

 

Magician: Apprentice

decathlon

Title: Magician: Apprentice, Riftwar saga

Author: Raymond Feist

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Themes: hero’s journey, friendship, war, magic

Setting: Midkemia

Source: TBR pile. I found this one at the USB. It sounded appealing, very LOTR, with a young hero discovering his powers and a land on the brink of war, dwarves and elves all that stuff. It was the first in a series, so there’s always that hope that I’ll really love it and there will be all those other books to look forward to.

Story: Pug is a serving boy at the castle who was taken in by the duke. Now he has grown enough that he and other village boys his age are ready to become apprenticed and learn a trade. Pug’s best friend gets chosen to become a soldier, but Pug is unpicked until the wizard chooses him. Pug is willing, but has difficulty learning traditional magic. Still he is willing and brave, and discovers a frightening new enemy poised to invade all of Midkemia. At this point, we begin the journey to summon aid from elves and dwarves, and so on. The duke’s youngest son defends the keep against a determined invasion and we’re set up for the next book.

Pros: The setting is well done, and I like the various races. Yes, it is very much what you expect, with the dwarves living in the mountains, and beautiful elves and so on, but just because something is expected doesn’t mean it’s bad.

I liked Pug. He’s brave, clever, and well written. I liked most of the characters, in fact. Princess Carline has a nice character arc, going from spoiled little brat to a determined young woman in a convincing manner. Really liked the ship’s captain Amos Trask who enters the book toward the end. I’m guessing other readers liked him too, as he gets his own book later.

The villains! They are convincingly bad and I’m looking forward to finding out more about their story.

Cons: The length! My version is the “author’s preferred edition” which apparently means longer and with deleted scenes. But you know what? Editors exist for a reason. This is too long. And it’s not the length by itself that’s the problem. It’s the fact that the title is Magician: Apprentice and yet Pug is not even in the last 100 pages. Why is that? This is his book. I really liked the ending, don’t get me wrong, but it’s out of place. That should have been incorporated in the next book.

Also, for a book named Magician: Apprentice, the POV should have been solely his. Instead it shifts quite a bit. It was usually well done, but was unexpected and occasionally jarring.

I wanted more magic! I keep harping on the title, but wouldn’t you expect a lot of magic in a book about a magician and his apprentice? Sadly, there’s not much. Yeah, Pug studies some, but he only does one major spell! There’s no explanation of how magic works in this world, only that Pug is doing it all wrong. Come on, Feist, that’s why I picked up the book!

Finally, why are there only a handful of female characters in this book? It’s certainly an improvement over LOTR, but not by much.

Verdict: This is tricky. I don’t feel this is one everyone will enjoy. It’s a solid book within its genre, but it doesn’t transcend it in any way. But I did like it enough that I’m going to read the next one. I don’t think I’ll put it at the top of my list, but I do want to know what happens next. 3.8 stars

Decathlon Challenge

decathlong

EpicReads is promoting a reading decathlon – 10 books in 10 days. I’m a little late to the party, but I am totally up for it. I’ve been training all year! I’m going to start my 10 days Tomorrow. Here’s what I (tentatively) have planned:

Magician’s Apprentice, by Raymond Feist

Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde

White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine

The Age of Genomes  by Steven Monroe Lipkin

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

The Emerald Storm by Michael J. Sullivan

Most of these are my latest library picks, but a few are off my TBR list at home. As you can see, heavy on fantasy (which is pretty standard for me), some historical fiction, a little science, a memoir, and experimental fiction. Something for just about everyone. Not so hot on POC authors, but some diversity. I need to keep working on that.