What I read on my summer vacation…

I  just got back from a week-long vacation (p.s. It was AWESOME and I’m sad to be back at work.  Why do we need money again?) during which I managed to read a few books in between all the sight-seeing.  I thought about doing a separate post for each book, but I’m still in lazy vacation mode, so who doesn’t love a quick round-up?!  So here, in no particular order, is what I read on my summer vacation:

Four years ago, Lucy Hamilton left behind her alter-ego Sally Sin, spy for the super-secret United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction (yeah, you read that correctly) to become a wife and mother.  When her arch-nemesis, Ian Blackford, turns up alive, the agency recruits Lucy to help catch him.   Oh Original Sin, you had me at Sally Sin, United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and arch-nemesis. What’s not to like? The story alternates between Lucy’s past spy adventures and her more mundane present of preschool and play-dates.  This format mostly works to keep the pace going, but occasionally feels jarring.  Though I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Hyperion, so the transitions might be improved in the final version.

Most of the characters are pretty one-note, and with this type of story I’m fine with that, but Lucy herself is more three-dimensional.   I like that she kind of falls into spying (although I’m sure it will be revealed that it was actually some big master plan, because that’s usually how these things go.  I know, I watched Alias), but is not super gung-ho about it.  It’s a nice change from those uber patriotic spies.  I also like how she clearly loves her kid, but that she finds that being a stay at home mom can be just as boring and frustrating as it can be rewarding.  In fact, the biggest problem I had with the character is that for someone who claims to be so paranoid, she can be remarkably dense.  I mean, you used to topple regimes and take out terrorists for a living and you don’t think that the baby gift you received anonymously might be some kind of trick.  Really?  Despite that, I’m looking forward to the next Sally Sin adventure.  I can always use some good, campy fun.

The title, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Simon & Schuster), pretty much explains the premise of the book.  Journalist and self-described agnostic A.J. Jacob tries to follow the literal rules of the Bible for one full year in order to see what, if anything, he is missing  from a spiritual standpoint.  These sorts of experiential memoirs can be hit-or-miss because with some of them, you get the feeling that the author was just doing something silly in order to get a book deal.  But I think that Jacob’s quest was genuine.  The book can be quite silly and funny, because after all, a lot of these rules seem odd or archaic in our modern lives, but he takes the subject very seriously.  He consults a spiritual advisory board consisting of pastors, rabbis, and theologians from a variety of Christian and Jewish traditions and observes and participates in a number of rituals.   Some of the people he speaks with express views that he just can’t agree with, but he ‘s never condescending or mocking towards these people and generally lets their sincerity come though.  Not to get too personal, but as someone who has a …complicated relationship with organized religion, I found this refreshing.  All in all, it’s an entertaining an informative read.

First of all, this cover seriously freaks me out.    I’m sure the cover designer thought the arms were fun and irreverent, but I can’t look at it for more than a few seconds before I have to look away.  I don’t know what that says about me, but it’s probably not good.

Anyways, Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books) is not really a traditional memoir, but rather snippets and snapshots of her life and career.  I don’t have much to say about this title, except that it make me laugh quite a bit and was an enjoyable way to pass part of my plane ride.  Look, you either enjoy Tina Fey or you don’t, and I figure most of us know which side we fall on by now.  I will say that I sprung for the “enhanced” e-book edition which contained some extra pictures and an audio version of one chapter.  I’m not sure how much I gained from those bonus features, but it was only an extra dollar.  Oh and to all of Tina’s male fans: this books contains a lot of lady business.  Just a warning.

I find the world of the Kate Daniels series really fascinating.  Since I couldn’t begin to write a coherent summary, here’s an excerpt from the author’s website:

“The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.

It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing down on skyscrapers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind. Monsters prowl the ruined streets, werebears and werehyenas stalk their prey; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds.”

Fun, right!  In Magic Slays (Ace), the fifth and latest book in Ilona Andrews’ urban fantasy series, Kate Daniels has quit the Order of Magical Aid (think fanatical and somewhat bigoted detectives who hunt magical beings) and has opened her own private investigation firm.  She is also adjusting to her new relationship with Curran, the leader of the Atlanta shapeshifters and her new role as Alpha of the pack.  When someone invents a machine that destroys magic and magical beings, Atlanta’s supernatural elite bands together to destroy it.  This includes shapeshifters, necromancers, vampires (who are just mindless killing machines and are in no way sexy.  It’s really quite refreshing), witches, Russian volhvs, druids, Native Americans, and vikings.

I love the character of Kate.  She’s smart, loyal, and a total bad-ass, but she also screws up and has to make tough decisions.  The Kate and Curran romance that has built over the course of the series is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t take over the entire story, so fantasy fans who are aren’t really romance readers should enjoy these books.   In addition to all of the usual suspects, Magic Slays introduces some fun new secondary characters and also gives a little bit more about Kate’s back-story.  And best of all, these books are funny.  A perfect vacation read.

So what will you be reading on your summer vacation?

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About Captain Awesome

Captain Awesome was recently promoted from the rank of Lieutenant due to excellence in the field of Awesome. She likes stories about spies, thieves, and people with magical powers. If they also break out into song and/or dance, it's even better. View all posts by Captain Awesome

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