Thursday, August 27, 2015

Second Chance Summer: A Short Love Story - Shawn Inmon

Can we sneak in a quick summer read on this next-to-last weekend of summer 2015? Why, yes, I believe we can.

Second Chance Summer continues the story of Elizabeth and Steve, who ran into one another on a Christmas tree lot several months back and rekindled an old romance. Now, Steve is on the verge of making a fortune on a high-flying real estate deal involving the construction of a resort hotel in the Philippines. He's about to whisk Elizabeth off on vacation -- just the two of them -- when a typhoon hits the island where his big deal is going down. This intervention by Mother Nature will tax the couple, both physically and financially. But what will it mean for their relationship?

This is the third installment in Inmon's five Second Chance Love stories. He has since collected all five into a single volume. But the stories can be read separately, and the fact that I haven't read any of the others affected neither my understanding nor my enjoyment of this one.

Inmon is a wonderful writer whose romances always deliver. If you enjoy reading contemporary romance, you could do much worse than any -- or all -- of the stories in Second Chance Love.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Mistborn Trilogy - Brandon Sanderson

I love series box sets. When I've finished one book, I can just plunge ahead into the next one.

At Kevin's Watch, when we talk about the fantasy authors we like besides Stephen R. Donaldson, Brandon Sanderson's name always comes up, along with Steven Erikson, Robert Jordan (but only the first few Wheel of Time books), Patrick Rothfuss and, to a lesser extent, Patricia McKillip. And yet I've put off reading Mistborn until now.

Sanderson has created an original system of magic for this series. Basically, there are some people on this world who gain magical powers by ingesting certain metals. Each of the so-called Allomantic metals (of which there are eight, or more, depending on how far along in the story you are) provides a certain ability. And they come in pairs -- so burning Steel allows the Allomancer to push against other metals nearby, while burning Iron allows them to pull against them. Most Allomancers can burn only one metal, but a few -- known as Mistborn -- can burn them all.

They operate in a world where a single man, the Lord Ruler, has been in power for centuries. As befits all emperors, he rules over a societal system where the nobles live posh lives in grand homes in cities, or on plantations, and the skaa are virtual slaves who live in hopeless, grinding poverty. Supposedly, only nobles can be Allomancers -- but nobles tend to take the liberties with skaa that you'd expect, so Allomancy does turn up among the skaa.

In the first book, we're introduced to Kelsier, a Mistborn skaa who is already a legend as the only man who has ever escaped the Pits of Hathsin. Kelsier plans to overthrow the Lord Ruler, and he has gathered a team of thieves to help him. The team includes Vin, an orphaned girl who doesn't trust anybody. Kelsier figures out that she's Mistborn, and sets her up to masquerade as a noble girl from the country, so she can gather information by attending the nobles' balls. There, she meets Elend, the rebellious son of one of the most important noble families -- although Elend's rebellion takes the form of reading banned philosophical texts and wondering whether the skaa aren't just like nobles underneath. These three are the pivotal players in the revolution that Kelsier sets in motion.

Sanderson is a capable author, but the occasional problem slips through. At one point in the third book, Elend refers to three people Vin has murdered as a "homicidal hat trick." The line made me chuckle, but it also pulled me out of the story. Hat trick, after all, is a sports term for scoring three goals in a game, and nowhere in any of the books does anybody play a sport -- not even the nobility.

Anyway. This omnibus edition is not a quick read by any means, but it's well-written and enjoyable. If you like epic fantasy, I'd highly recommend the Mistborn Trilogy.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On hiatus.

Rursday Reads is taking the week off. 

Go read a book!

See you back here next Thursday, August 20.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Once Upon a Dragon - Tabitha Ormiston-Smith

Yeah, yeah, I know. Summer is supposed to be the season for long, not-very-thought-provoking beach reads. But sometimes the mind wanders, or your attention span is short, and all you want is a little something to occupy your brain for a few minutes.

In that instance, I highly recommend Once Upon a Dragon. This collection of twelve short stories has something for almost everyone: fantasy, science fiction, and horror. And humor, too -- I laughed aloud at the end of "Professor Tomlinson's Last Experiment," although perhaps that wasn't the reaction the author was going for. "Perspectives on a Dragon" Parts I and II are nicely-paired point-of-view studies of all those fairy tales in which an unlikely lad rescues a princess from a dragon. Later in the collection, the story continues with "The Last Dragon." "Lifestyle Choice" takes a turn for the macabre when the heroine doesn't get the job she covets. And "User Pays" was a creepy, if all-too-plausible, look at what might happen if your average family followed a political proposition to its inevitable conclusion.

In short, the stories in Once Upon a Dragon are well-crafted, and the collection is well-edited. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Speaking of summer vacation, Rursday Reads is taking a break next week. See you back here on Rursday, August 20th.