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halofriendly has commented on (51) products.

Vlad #14: Hawk by Steven Brust
Vlad #14: Hawk

halofriendly, January 11, 2015

I’ve been using Twitter to gush periodically while reading Hawk. I linked to Brust’s Twitter account in those tweets and he usually obliged me with a retweet, a favorite, and when I’ve been especially lucky, a response. I’m of the opinion that not enough people know and love this guy’s work. I consider it my sovereign duty as a voracious reader and as a bookseller to spread the good name of Brust.

So as soon as I finished the last sentence and left Vlad to retrieve his cloak, I immediately turned to Twitter to release my giddiness and inquire as to the publication date of the next Vlad novel. I was met with a message saying Twitter is under maintenance and to “check back soon”.

Sigh.

For those of you who haven’t read any Brust, let me give you some background on his Vlad books. I believe he started writing them in the early eighties (I don’t have internet access right now and my books are all in temporary storage in my RV) and is thankfully still writing them to this day. I was going to write a short synopsis of the series up to this point, but the book jacket of Hawk does that very succinctly, so I’ll quote that instead.

Vlad Taltos was an oppressed and underprivileged Easterner �" that is, a human �" living in Adrilankha, capital of the Dragaeran Empire. Life was hard. Worse, it was irritating. Then Vlad made a great discovery: Dragaerans would pay him to kill other Dragaerans. Win-win!

The years of Vlad’s career as a crime boss and top assassin were cut short by a revolution, a divorce, and an attack of conscience (not necessarily in that order). In the midst of all that, he broke with the Jhereg, the Dragaeran house of organized crime. He’s been a marked man ever since.

The world that Brust has created is detailed down to the very last aroma of Adrinlankha (never a good smell) and invented food that I desperately want to try (kethna, which I’ve always imagined tastes like chicken falling off of a spit, and klava, a beverage ten times better than coffee). The wit and humor in the midst of death and adventure brings me back book after book.

So finally, his latest installment: Hawk. I checked it out from the library on December 2nd and read it in such short installments to make it last longer that I had to renew it in order to avoid late fines. I finally caved yesterday and read 80 pages in one sitting which brought me almost to the climax of the storyline. I held off on that until today. It officially took me 26 days to read and I’m already ready for the next book.

Hawk introduces us to a Vlad who is really tired of wandering, hiding, and not seeing his family. He realizes that if it’s going to stop being this way, he’ll need to be the one to facilitate a plan that gets the Jhereg off his back for good. And he believes he’s come up with one. But first, he needs to live through a couple of assassination attempts (one of which made me gasp out loud) and attract the attention of those who are trying to kill him with a money-making scheme that will hopefully get them off his back.

In the midst of his planning, hiding, and trying to stay alive, we’re given some memorable scenes with Sethra Lavode (the undead enchantress of Dzur Mountain), the Dragonlords Morrolan and Aliera, Kragar (Vlad’s former go-to man who now runs Vlad’s old business), Loiosh and Rocza (Vlad’s two reptilian familiars �" have I mentioned Vlad is also a witch?) and my favorite of all: Lady Teldra. Pages 184 and 185 were a special reward for those of us wondering what really became of Teldra and I admit this sentence gave me chills: “…pleasure washes through me that I have not been forgotten”.

I continue to be astonished at how Brust is able to keep his books fresh, new, and captivating every time. There is never a dull moment or a feeling that you’re reading the same story over again and best of all, his series only gets better with every reread. The Dragaeran Empire is a place I’m really glad I don’t live in (I wouldn’t stay alive longer than, oh, maybe 5 hours) but one that I’m deliriously excited to visit every chance I get.

And I know that when reviewing a book, you’re supposed to mention something that you wish the author had done instead or some failing on behalf of the storyline, but honestly? I’ve got nothin’. It was perfectly enjoyable from start to finish, it had two gasp-worthy moments that stopped my heart both times (first fight scene early in the book and The Kragar Scene with a brief appearance by Aliera), and the ending was so well executed, I cheered.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mr. Brust. Please keep writing. I don’t care how long it takes for the next novels; as long as they’re coming, I’m content with that.
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Ripper Novel #02: Renegade by Amy Carol Reeves
Ripper Novel #02: Renegade

halofriendly, February 21, 2013

(Review originally posted on shelftalker.wordpress.com & submitted to Netgalley.com, where I received the advance copy)

****************THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVEN'T READ RIPPER YET.***********************

Being that the author is an old college friend of mine, I expected, as I did in Ripper, that my bias would get in the way of how I really felt about this book. I figured I would read through it, enjoy it, but in the back of my mind, there might be this niggling disappointment that I wouldn’t want to admit to in order to save her feelings.

Thank god THAT didn’t happen.

I am not one drawn to mystery novels, nor do I much care either way about Jack the Ripper. I saw the movie From Hell with Johnny Depp and was vaguely blas� about it. Despite all of this, Reeves was able to draw me in, hold my attention and deliver a Ripper story that left me wanting more.

***spoiler alert***

Renegade picks up where we left off in Ripper. The Conclave is gone, Max is still alive in the shadows, and Arabella Sharp is returning to her work at the hospital. But life does not return to normal, nor can it, while the Ripper continues his plans. Newly murdered bodies show up in the graveyard, eviscerated fishermen are washing up on the shores of Scotland, and despite Abbie’s best intentions, Max has her right where he wants her all along the way. As she contemplates her feelings for the two physicians who love her, William and Simon, she must also contemplate two events from her past that haunt her to this day. And in the midst of all of this, there are rumors of the existence of a once-thought-only mythical creature patrolling the seas…a connection to the Conclave or another mystery altogether?

The characters continue to evolve as the reader’s loyalty is challenged several times; is Simon actually the better partner for Abbie or will William prove worthy? Who is Richard when he’s not playing the part of a butler and can he be trusted? Are Inspector Abberline’s investigations leading him on the right path or is he too blinded by his suspicious nature?

What I enjoy most about this series is the strong nature of its main character, Arabella. She does not play the heroine-in-distress easily, having defended her own life and those of her friends by single-handedly killing the members of the Conclave in the first novel. Abbie knows how to handle a knife, yet can sit with her grandmother for tea time. She is honest about her emotions, her passions, and what she wants most in her life (to be a physician in a time when female doctors are hard to come by), yet realizes that what comes first is to rid her world of the Ripper and his murders. She may be scared for her life along the way, but she never shies away when it comes to saving the lives of her friends and boldly staring death in the face. She is an ever-evolving character who is not perfect, who admits her flaws, and who is all the better for doing so.

My only critique is that I would have liked to have seen Richard and Abberline fleshed out a bit more this time around. They’re both such intriguing background characters who I have latched onto and want to know more about. Reeves answered a mysterious statement made by Simon in the first book (“You should know your butler better.”) with another mystery to string her readers along and spoken as a truly impatient reader, I hope that we get even more satisfaction in the next book. Abberline was a love-to-hate-him character in Ripper, but stayed more in the background in Renegade. Although his major scene with Abbie brought a bit more humanity to him, as he stumbles down the alley after they part ways, he also stumbles from the narrative into the shadows again. I’m excited to read his story; to find out why he is the way he is and if there will be redemption for him.

Well-written, engaging, and a strong follow-up to Ripper, I am already anxiously awaiting the third installment in this series: Resurrection, its publishing date set for 2014, according to Flux. But in the meantime, I will enjoy the story that has been given to us so far and think about what’s in store for us in the next novel, given the unexpected twist in the last two pages.

(And just wait until you get to the confessional scene…)
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Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
Pirate Cinema

halofriendly, January 1, 2013

The message I sent Cory Doctorow seconds after finishing this book:

@doctorow YOU OUTDID YOURSELF. Just finished Pirate Cinema two secs ago. BRILLIANT. Victorious fist pump at the end. Thank you for this.

He wrote back:

@clarasayre Thank you,CLARA!

I love technology so much. :)
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How and Why: A Do-It-Yourself Guide by Matte Resist
How and Why: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

halofriendly, January 1, 2012

I am a HUGE fan of Microcosm Publishing to begin with and regularly order from them several times a year. Having already owned Making Stuff and Doing Things by them, I was excited to order another DIY book, especially from Matte Resist, of Resist Zine and Resist Instrument Works. This book did not disappoint...with sections titled Bicycles, Home and Garage, Gardening, Educating Your Children, Musical Instruments, and Everything Else, it covers a lot of subjects that interest me. I really liked the section about buying a house...it follows Matte and his wife Rachael's experience buying their house. Easy to read, very interesting, and incredibly helpful....I highly recommend it.
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Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe
Brave Story

halofriendly, February 8, 2011

I finished this book just two minutes before sitting down to type this. I agree with the other reviewer; this is the type of book where you genuinely miss the characters after reading the last page. I had no idea what to expect from this story, but it took me on a much grander adventure than anticipated. It's a story about loss, about courage, about family, about imagination, and about being true to oneself. But it's so much more.
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