Books Read, 2005

Each year my little group of friends share our list of books we’ve read over the course of the year. Below is my list for 2005 along with reviews.

Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan
Cyberpunk is certainly not dead. I loved this book, a hard-boiled detective novel in a cyberpunk setting in the 25th century. UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs wakes up on Earth, far from home and prison, “resleeved” into a new body thanks to a cortical stack, and hired to solve the murder of a wealthy businessman. Kovacs is a classic antihero. You don’t want to care what happens to him, but you do. I thought it was quite original and brought new life to the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction.

Spin State – Chris Moriarty
Morgan’s and Moriarty’s debut books are often compared to one another, which is why I read one after the other. UN Peacekeeper Catherine Li is a clone, and she’s covered that fact well, but maybe not well enough when she’s sent back home to solve the murder of physicist Hannah Sharifi — from the same clone bank as Li. There are definite similarities between Spin State and Altered Carbon, but they’re vastly different books. I especially liked Moriarty’s concept of “streamspace,” effectively a virt environment like the Matrix, but one enabled by quantum entanglement. And yes, I had to read this book with a dictionary in hand, but that’s what I liked about it.

Writing the Breakout Novel Book & Workbook Set – Donald Maass
I want this guy as my literary agent, so I’ve read all of his books and went to his workshop when he came to DC in September. Both were great and helped my writing a great deal. I’ve nicknamed him “The Donald.”

Hammered – Elizabeth Bear
In 2062 the major superpowers have fallen and Canada has one of the largest military forces on the planet. Canadian Special Forces Sergeant (ret.) Jenny Casey survived a helicopter crash and subsequent cyborg prosthesis of her left arm, as well as some other tech in her brain, to battle the mean streets of West Hartford, Connecticut, trying uncover what the Canadian government is hiding with a VR game. This sounds really far-fetched, but Jenny Casey jumps off the page at you and I couldn’t put this down. Bear pulls out all the emotional stops. There’s even a love scene in this book that takes place in an orbital elevator while her partner, a fellow Quebecois, utters naughty things in French that I hadn’t heard since that exchange student in high school taught us swear words . . . Did I mention Bear is a client of the Maass Agency?

Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
Jason lent me this one and it was a fun read about an island where Nevin Nollop, creator of the “The quick brown fox…” sentence is revered. When the letters start falling off his statue, the islanders must live under a tyranny prohibiting them from using those letters. The story is told in epistolatory format, so it gets really funny when they have to start spelling phonetically and making up new words.

Seraphim – Michele Hauf
This is a fantasy from the new Luna line. It’s a take on the Joan D’Arc story with an archaic writing style that I enjoyed since it lent to the escapism.

Wicked – Gregory Maguire
I liked this book, though the pace in the last third of the story dragged a bit. At the very end it picked up once Dorothy made an entrance and then it became irreverently funny. However, as Amy and I have said to each other, Maguire seems to be a one-trick pony much like Dan Brown in that all of his novels are highly derivative of each other. So I don’t know that I’ll be reading Maguire’s other books, though I keep considering Son of a Witch.

Stolen – Kelley Armstrong
Amy lent this to me after we discovered that we both loved Armstrong’s first novel, Bitten, about the first female werewolf. I liked Bitten better than this one (mostly because Clay is so charismatic), but the new characters introduced in Stolen intrigued me enough to want to read the rest of the series. I read books mostly for escape and this fit the bill. I did like the trade paperback cover of Bitten better than the subsequent novels, which were published as mass paperbacks.

Two for the Dough – Janet Evanovich
This is the second in the Stephanie Plum series, after One for the Money (on Berty’s list). The relationship between Plum and Morelli is hilarious, most especially the steak-out scene in the car. I won’t spoil it for you, Berty, if you want to read it. It made me LOL. And Grandma Mazer with a .357 Magnum pretending to be Dirty Harry. Loved it.

Guilty Pleasures – Laurell K. Hamilton
I bought this at the BWI airport when it dawned on sme that I didn’t bring a book for my flight to Orlando for the Convention. I’d heard so much about it that I had to read it, but it’s not my favorite vampire novel. Ann Rice’s world is much better. Plus, there’s a little girl vampire in this that I’m surprised Rice didn’t sue Hamilton over a plagiarizing of Claudia from Interview with a Vampire.

Night of Sin – Julia Ross
I know it might seem so from the title, but this is not porn! Really. Julia Ross is a British historical romance writer who really has a gift for description and portraying multi-layered emotion. I took a seminar from her last summer and then picked up this book. I really enjoyed it.

Get Bunny Love – Kathleen Long
Kath Long is one of my critique partners. I read this novel, as well as the next two on this list, years ago when she first wrote them. When she got two two-book contracts, I had to re-read them all. Get Bunny Love and Cherry on Top are both romantic comedies: Light humor and just generally a fun escapist read. Kath always manages to include among her cast of characters some kind of drop-kick Paris-Hiltonesque dog. In this one, it’s two miniature poodles named Chardonnay and Chablis who steal the show.

Cherry on Top – Kathleen Long
Kath, again. Funny, again. A bride is stood up at the altar and then wins the lottery. And there’s a dwarf muscle-man from Vegas out to get her. A miniature poodle who’s in love with a skunk and has been bathed so many times in tomato juice that he’s pink. Did I mention that Kath is a funny gal?

Silent Warning – Kathleen Long
Murder, romance, intrigue. A reporter is killed while researching a story on black market prescription drugs. I enjoyed it. Go Kath!

The Naked Duke – Sally Mackenzie
I know Sally too, but I met her after she was picked up for the Zebra “Deb” line, along with Kath. After rooming with her at conference, I had to pick up her book. This is an entertaining historical romance. The hero, a duke, is found naked, in bed, with the heroine in one of the first scenes, hence the name. I believe the Naked Marquis is out now too. A fun escape.

The Mommy Myth – Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels
I ranted about this topic on my blog (http://novelog.blogspot.com). It gave me some new perspectives on feminism and motherhood and I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to the Cult of the Celebrity Mom and how the media manipulates notions of what is means to be a “good mother.”

Sound of Paper – Julia Cameron
This is an inspirational book for writers. It keeps me in touch with why I like to write, even though it’s often really difficult.

Technogenesis – Syne Mitchell
No one realizes it, but the Net has become so huge that is has enough processing power to be sentient. It’s benevolently controlling humans while they’re connected to it via direct neural stimulation with data masks and other kinds of Net “jewelry.” When data miner Jasmine Reese discovers The Beast she tries to stop it and set humanity free. I enjoyed this book, but it did seem a bit derivative of The Matrix. Some of the imagery of Net access was interesting. Mitchell is a Maass client too, and I’m working my way through their list.



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