Monthly Archives: May 2013

Giant Thief by David Tallerman

ImageEasie Damasco is a likable fellow despite the rather slanderous names, thief among them, which others use. When he steals his freedom, and some other sundry items, from an invading warlord Damasco becomes immersed in a fight to free his homeland. His skills could help save the day or get himself, and everyone else, killed….

Damasco’s character pulls the reader into the book. His wit and pragmatic attitude made me laugh. For instance, when having to go across a flimsy bridge, he thinks “I’d never been afraid of heights. I’d never particularly been afraid of bears either, but that didn’t mean I’d wrap my head in fresh meat and thrust it into one’s mouth” (350). I didn’t approve of all of his actions, but I wanted to see what would happen with his character. Tallerman uses Damasco to create a fantasy world with various settings such as a city that could fit in Arabian Nights and a kingdom that exists in a forest. All through this is the urgency of trying to defeat the warlord against increasingly worse odds. Giant Thief is a good read for those wanting a tale with a likable rogue and interest in another world.

Want other tales with likable rogues?

David and Leigh Edding’s  Redemption of Althalus features a humorous thief who uses an unusual outlook and methods to fight evil forces.

Tom Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series features a witty thief who saves the odd planet or two while making a living for himself. Like Damasco, the Stainless Steel Rat becomes drafted into an invading army and then has to try to help save the day in The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted.

The King of Thieves, Autolycus, occasionally gets dragged into working with heroes in episodes of the Greek myth based Hercules and Xena. Click here for the tv.com page of the actor, Bruce Campbell, who plays Autolycus. (Tv.com is a site where you can look up episode summaries, trivia and more for TV shows.) Scrolling down shows the page shows the episodes Autolycus was a part of in those shows. One good episode to start out with is the season one, episode seventeen episode of Xena called “The Royal Couple of Thieves”. In this episode, Autolycus gets dragged into helping take a treasure chest from a warlord back to its owners. Like Damasco, he isn’t happy about being a good guy.

 

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Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

ImageHeather Wells didn’t know solving murders would become part of her job as an assistant director for a residence hall -aka dorm- in New York. It does, however, when she’s the only one to find it suspicious when two of her girls die from elevator surfing. She finds she’s onto something when someone decides that dying should be a part of Heather’s job description…

Heather’s character draws the reader into the book. She is respectful of the value of human life while making observations about residence hall life, other people and her own life that make the reader laugh. The other characters in the book catch the reader’s attention too: good guy and private detective Cooper, Magda the cafeteria worker who calls the students movie stars and Sarah the annoying grad student among others. People interested in residence hall life might find this book interesting as Cabot once worked in a residence hall in New York. The plot is a good mystery because clues are dropped which point to the killer but they aren’t too obvious. Size Twelve Is Not Fat is a good read for characters looking for a spunky heroine and/or a mystery taking place on a college campus.

Think Size 12 Is Not Fat is a good match?

Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money also features a determined and humorous heroine who makes a career change. I wrote a blog entry about this book for a readers’ advisory class which can be found here.

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews also features an female protagonist, murder, humor and love. Decorative blacksmith Meg Langslow has the dubious honor of being the maid of honor for three weddings in three weeks. When someone is murdered, the question becomes not only can Meg solve the murder but whether she’ll make it through the weddings sane and alive…

Since You’re Leaving Anyway Take Out the Trash by Dixie Cash also features a female protagonist who finds herself having to get to the bottom of a mystery with a dash of humor and love thrown in. In this case, a hair salon owner who becomes determined to find out who killed her best customer…

 

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Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

ImageJack Holloway thinks he’s got the best luck: he’s found a big strike that could earn him billions. Then he finds something else: a native race of furry creatures that may be sentient. Now it seems like he has two options: be ethical and lose everything or lie and keep it all. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Jack works by a unique set of rules. Whether this will be enough to keep him alive, and leads him to save the fuzzies, remains to be seen…

This could be a stretch, but in some ways Jack makes me think of Snape from the Harry Potter series. In both cases it can be argued that why the character does something is as important as what he does.  Jack’s character is multiple layered: the reader isn’t totally sure what his motivations are until the end of the story when he reveals them. This makes Fuzzy Nation worth reading for his character alone because the reader wants to figure him out. In terms of storyline, it can work for the reader who wants to think or the reader who wants a story of facing down bad guys against dangerous odds. The reader who wants to think can debate what makes a person a person, what is fair to native peoples, whether means are justified by the ends and what makes a good person. The reader who wants the dangerous odds experience gets plot twists, unpleasant bad guys and a humorous-serious mix. The interesting creatures and mentions of science create a world which can appeal to those looking for a world similar, but different, to our own. For instance, how ex-lawyer Jack feels in the courtroom made me wonder how lawyers feel when they make arguments in the real world. Fuzzy Nation can be a good choice for those wanting to think or those who want a good against dangerous odds story.

Interested in Fuzzy Nation?

This story was inspired by H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy, so it could be interesting to read that story. This story can be found in an omnibus of stories called The Complete Fuzzy which has the complete adventures of Piper’s Holloway and his fuzzies.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl has a bleaker tone, but also involves a corporate exploitation in the future and has a character which causes pondering on what makes a person a person.

Curious about whether alien life could exist? Books such as Piers Bizony’s The Search for Aliens : A Rough Guide to Life on Other Worlds examine this question.

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Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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Gwen Shepherd isn’t supposed to be a time traveler. That honor, or curse, is supposed to be her well-trained cousin’s. It turns out, though, everyone’s expectations were wrong. Now she has to deal with complications she wasn’t trained for: secrets, not knowing who to trust and a handsome fellow time traveler who doesn’t seem to approve of her one bit…

The reader is introduced to a world where extensive training, protocols and secrecy help time travelers to stay alive. What would it be like to be able to interact with one’s great-grandparent or historical figures from the past? Gwen’s experience shows it to be interesting but also a bit surreal. I felt that Gwen’s reactions were believable which made Gier’s tale feel more real and intriguing. Gwen is shocked, but she also wants to know what is going on. For instance, one part about how she wants to yell due to people repeatedly referring to, but not explaining, secrets feels like a plausible reaction. Her fellow time traveler, Gideon, is intriguing and annoying which makes the reader want to decipher his character. Ruby Red is a fun read for its time travel world, fun characters and interesting storyline.

Want read-a-likes for Ruby Red?

Meg Cabot’s Twilight also has a teenage female protagonist with a special power who becomes involved in a romance and may be able to change history.

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole also features a teenage female protagonist who learns she has a special power, has to figure out who she can trust and has to work with someone who has shown disapproval of her.

Being a time traveler who survives involving knowing a lot about history. If you want to put yourself in a time traveler’s shoes try learning more about history in your local area and/or country. Try learning more about a country’s history by searching your local library catalog by the country name and history such as “Great Britain history”.

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The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker

image from Amazon.com

In 1880 the cowboys of Slash-Diamond Ranch have an unusual mission: safely transport five hundred cattle across Russia. To their surprise, and dismay, a group of Russian Cossacks shows up to help them. This mixed group may discover some things transcend cultural boundaries if their own stubbornness, wild animals and Tartars don’t kill them first…

The Cowboy and the Cossack first snagged me with the storyline. How would cowboys and elite Russian horsemen interact? Could they learn to get along and survive? The story has incidents of understated humor which are all the more amusing for being understated. For instance, lead Cossack Rostov gives lead cowboy Shad a “Siberian kitten”, really a fierce Siberian tiger, in return for Shad’s thoughtful gesture of bringing Rostov a “Montana puppy” (aka ferocious Siberian wolf ). This understated humor is needed to counterbalance the serious incidents which happen in the book…much like humor does in real life. The storyline is slow enough for the two groups to bond but fast enough for there to be plenty of action. I also kept reading for the characters: stubborn but kind Shad, his counterpart Rostov, inexperienced Levi -who is the narrator- and wise “The Poet” Keats who often had truthful observations about human nature. This book is a great read for those wanting friendship against dangerous odds and to spend time with a fun, but also thought-provoking, group of characters.

Interested? Here are some suggestions for read-a-likes…

Dead Man’s Walk by Larry McMurty also features cowboys who, like Levi,  learn more about their trade and the world in general while facing dangerous challenges.

Want to learn more about cossacks? Books such as Cossack: Warrior Riders of the Steppes by Mike Groushko focus on the elite Russian horsemen.

Want to learn more about the history of cowboys? Books such as Cowboys of the American West by Dudley Witney (photographer) and B. Byron Price (text) can show you more about these participants in Western U.S. history.

Want more stories of friendship flourishing amidst, and despite, dangerous odds? The Dirk Pitt series features a duo who -like the cowboys and cossacks- rely on friendship, knowledge and sheer nerve to help them complete dangerous missions. Their ability to find humor in danger and trust in each other keep them going when the metaphorical chips are down.

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