What am I Reading? Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Audible had a couple of huge sales this past month (I'm what people in the digital marketing world call a 'whale') from which I'm still reaping the audio benefits from. This week I blitzed through John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars, about an up and coming talent agent who is contracted to introduce an entire alien race to Earth. The problem? They have a severe image problem- they're hideously ugly and smell bad. 
 

Disclaimer: I've never actually read a John Scalzi book. I've only ever listened to them, three in fact, so I have no idea if they read as well as they sound. This is in large part due to the exceptional narration by Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek TNG fame). My favourite Scalzi book is still Fuzzy Nation, but Agent to the Stars is worth a read if you don't mind the odd Sci-Fi and are a fan of dry humour that pokes fun at American celebrity culture. If you like audiobooks this is a definite listen since Wil Wheaton's performance really adds an entertainment factor.
Pass: If you are not a SF fan and just can't stomach the idea of aliens contacting a talent agent to work on their image...I'd still maybe give this (or Fuzzy Nation) a try.  

If you are at all a audio fan I recommend listening to this one.

If you are at all a audio fan I recommend listening to this one.

Description from Amazon: The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They're hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. 

What Am I Reading? The Elemental Series by Shannon Mayer

Last long weekend (no post out of a deep-rooted respect for the long weekend) I made a return to urban fantasy, one of my all time favourite genres, after a very long spell submersing myself in decidedly non UF reading. Recurve, by Shannon Mayer, coincidentally ended up on my radar when I also decided to try Kindle Unlimited (out of curiosity) and my other interest in trying more indie authors (also out of curiosity). 

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So how did it go? By the end of the weekend I'd made it to book four. 

Shannon's series is typical urban fantasy fare - a woman, named Larkspur, is a unwary chosen one for her species of magically gifted elementals (similar to elves or fairies) even though she is shunned by the very people she is asked to save. It's the kind of starting point that a hundred other urban fantasy series have started from and the plot follows a similarly predictable urban fantasy format: chosen one does battle with dark forces and we are introduced to a world of supernatural politics and a handful of potential love interests.

But man is it ever done well - and readable! Despite having a good idea where the plot is going I couldn't put these down. The world is imaginative and the characters interesting despite following a UF formula. Shannon's writing is so engaging I couldn't put it down. 

Who is this for?: Love urban fantasy and don't mind some light romance? then give the samples a try.

Pass?: There is no way around it- this series is formulaic. That's not a bad thing. A lot of readers want urban fantasy, which this series popularity and Shannon's sales show. Another author and I likely would have put this down, but Shannon is such an incredibly engaging author I found myself unable to put this down. 

From Amazon: “My name is Larkspur, and I am an Elemental.”

My people use the power of the earth to sustain life and defy our enemies. I should be at my father's side as a royal princess. But as a half-breed, bastard child, that isn't going to happen.

I've been accused of attacking the queen, my wicked stepmother, and my life is suddenly on the line. I have only two options left to me: banishment, or training to become one of the King's Elite Guards, an Ender.

Option one will kill me. 
Option two is meant to break me but is the only way to survive. 

Did I mention I have no power like the rest of the elementals, and my connection to the earth is worth next to nothing?

Could things get any worse? Of course they can. 
Welcome to being an Elemental.

What am I Reading? Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

I've been listening to a lot of my books lately via Audible and this week I've been on a Carl Hiaasen kick, an author I discovered last year on a good friend's recomendation. For those of you not familiar with his work, Hiaasen is an ex-journalist from Florida who writes about his beloved Florida everglades and the corrupt politicians that are perennially trying to bull doze and landfill them over. He writes with a gallows humour I've come to adore and he's one of the few authors whose books I can listen to twice. Less a 'whodunit', more of a 'let's see where the chips land', if you're looking for a humorous author with a sarcastic, gallows streak, these may be a great stop for you. 

(Other favourite Carl Hiaasen novels: Skinny Dip, Skin Tight, Sick Puppy)

This week I read: Star Island

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22-year-old Cherry Pye, a pop star since she was 14, is attempting a comeback from her latest drug-and-alcohol disaster. That's where Ann DeLusia comes in, Cherry's well behaved and socially-appropriate double who fills in for Cherry whenever the singer is too wasted to appear in public (most of the time). Unfortunately for Ann things goes sideways when obsessed paparazzo Bang Abbott mistakenly kidnaps her from a Florida hotel. Cherry's nipped-tucked-botoxed publicists, enabling parents, and debautched producer all scramble not so much to rescue Ann but prevent her existence from becoming public knowledge. 

 Who's it for?: Like vacation novels? Gallows humour? Owl? Then these might be for you. Stephen Hoye does a great job on the narration, bringing the eclectic characters to life.

Pass?: The characters are often deplorable (which I find hilarious) and there are no monsters unless you count the deplorable humans who make up the cast. Also a past for people who need a direct plot - these start off with a disaster and the story is watching s&*t hit the fan as consequences unfold. 

What Am I Reading? New Weekly Sunday Feature

Some of you know I did a stint on the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast where we interviewed many an author and discussed writing news and books. One of the things I miss is talking about the books I'm reading so I've decided to post about it weekly.

This week? The Bobiverse by Dennis E Taylor. 

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About: (From Amazon): Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it's a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honour, he'll be switched off, and they'll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad - very mad.

My Thoughts/What's to like?: There's a real underlying sense of humour to Taylor's series- it's written in first person and lends itself so well to narration the audiobook should be your first stop to sample his work. It's best to read this in series, of which there are three and only three books. I listened to the Bobs and really enjoyed the humorous slant to the main character and how he views the world - or universe as it may be. The narrator is Ray Porter, who as always adds to the novels and makes them an easy listen. Dennis's writing is very reminiscent of John Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation, with a tongue in cheek take on society and politics as Bob navigates trying to save humanity who don't always want to be saved. The similarities to Scalzi isn't surprising since they are repped by the same agency - As an aside for the writers out there, I highly recommend you check out Dennis's publishing story as he is a runaway self publishing/hybrid success. He is also a Canadian, and I found out after the fact that we live in the same small town of Port Coquitlam, BC. Small worlds and big universes.  

Who should give it a pass: This is Sci-F. It's a guy who get's turned into a giant spaceship for crying out loud. If you are not a fan of science fiction and the fantastical, even the pop culture references and humour may not be able to win you over. 

Copyright 2017 Kristi Charish.  All thieves will be fed to zombies.