Saturday, September 28, 2019

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

3.5 Stars

Book One - The Books of Ambha

This book was getting a lot of chatter in my romance circles and that's pretty much what it is, a fantasy with romantic overtones. 

I enjoyed my read.  It was a slow read.  The author writes beautifully; it's the type of book/writing that you want to linger over.  I didn't really find an urgency to the plot, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I liked the character of Mehr and I liked the character of Amun.  I enjoyed how their relationship grew and how they grew together and on their own.  Amun, the hero, is not your big warrior type, yeah, he's big and fit and strong, but it's his personality that is different.  He's gentle and patient and quietly heroic. 

This isn't a romance novel, but the relationship between Mehr and Amun takes up a large part of the plot because of their special powers.  Talk about a slow burn, though.  I don't mind that at all, but some might find it tedious. 

Anyway, I enjoyed my read and will read the next in the series.  This book pretty much wraps things up for these characters but there's more to tell about this world.  Should be good.  :)

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe

4.5 Stars

The Protectorate - Book One

Wow, wow, wow! 

There's not a lot I can say about this book without giving away all the delicious twists and turns, do you'll just have to believe me when I say what starts off as an interesting interstellar tale turns into a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions just shy of halfway through. 

I loved the characters.  Sanda is an excellent main character as is her brother Biran, I enjoyed getting to know both of them and I'm pretty sure there's more to learn in the future.  I seen this book called twisty, but let me tell you, it's UBER twisty and I was just hanging on for dear life.

One of the subplots seemed incredibly out of place and I had no idea how it fit in to the main story... and to be honest, I don't think I fully get it even now, but I'm ready to find out.  *LOL* 

Look, I enjoyed the hell out of this book and recommend it to anyone who likes space adventure.  There's a cliffhanger at the end, of course, the whole damned book is filled with them!  But that's okay!  And it's killing me that I don't know when the next book is coming out!!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

4 Stars

Maisie Dobbs - Book One

I came across these books one day a couple of years ago and pointed them out to my good friend, Lainey, who loves anything to do with the Great War.  She picked the first one up and went on to read the others and raved about them!  *LOL*  Finally, a few weeks ago, there was a sale and I managed to pick up this book and books 3 & 4. 

I'm glad to say that I quite enjoyed it!

Now there are a lot of words in this book.  The author likes words.  But that's not a problem because it translates the setting and feel of the book perfectly, I thought. The book is set in 1929, ten years after the end of the First World War, but the Great War permeates every nook and cranny of the story.

Maisie is a great character.  VERY competent and quite brilliant, she does have her faults though.  Just not too many of them.  *LOL*   I enjoyed traveling with her as she sought to unravel the mystery of The Retreat and as well, her trips back into her youth and time during the war.  I'd say a good third if not more of the book is taken up with what one would term her 'backstory', but it worked. 

In conclusion, I quite enjoyed my read, despite thinking at the outset that it just might be a very pedantic read - it wasn't at all. I actually fell a little in love with the characters and I'm looking forward to my next read in Maisie's world!

Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold

4 Stars

Lynes & Mathey - Book One

I had been wanting to read this for a very long time and I'm happy to say that it did not disappoint!  It's a murder mystery set in an alternate steampunk magic London, seasoned with enough magic to make things very interesting.  Frankly, I loved the world-building.   

The two main characters, Ned Mathey and Julian Lynes have known each other since they were boys at school.  Their 'romance' is the secondary plot that twines a bit with the main mystery plot seeing as it's the father of one of their schoolboy 'enemies' who is the first murder victim.  I liked Ned and Julian a lot and I also liked the secondary characters that surround them, especially Ned's assistant, Miss Frost.  She is a surprising lady, that's for sure!  So, as I said, I liked them and was quite willing to follow them about as they solved the mystery and put some of their own ghosts of the past to rest.

I have the second book in my TBR and I will be reading it sooner than later and I hope that Melissa and Amy write more in this universe!

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Better Man by Louise Penny

4.5 Stars

Chief Inspector Gamache - Book Fifteen

The latest Louise Penny, one of the very few authors I will buy on day one, not waiting for a sale or anything.  I love these books, I love Armand Gamache and I love all the characters in the books and I haven't read a Gamache book I haven't adored yet.

And this one is no exception. 

As always, Louise manages to weave the questions of real life into the Inspector's search for answers to the latest crime..  I tried to read it slow and savour it, but you know, I couldn't  I started it late Saturday afternoon and finished it Sunday morning.  And I laughed and I cried and I marveled at what some might call the human condition that Louise sees and writes about so well. 

This time, I wasn't so sure about the guilty party up until quite near to the reveal.  That always makes me happy. :) 

All the beloved characters are back, feeling just like old friends.  This time, I felt like we spent a little more time with the gang from le Sureté than the bunch from Three Pines.  And that's not a slam, because I love le Sureté that Louise has created and could only wish that the real one was getting the same much needed cleaning up! 

Now it looks like we're going to love my beloved Jean-Guy and his family to Paris and I'm just heart-broken about it!  Jean-Guy is so much the Quebecois heart of the Gamache books and he's so familiar to me, I am going to miss him horribly!  Unless something happens to bring him home.  Nothing bad! No tragedy!  But he needs to be home and he needs to be at Armand's side somehow.  :)

Anyway, I loved the book just like I knew I would and I'm going to find it so hard to wait patiently until next year and the next Gamache tale!

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

4.5 Stars

GGK is one of my most favourite authors.  I love his writing! It's so beautiful and lyrical and all the while telling a great story with terrific characters.  Under Heaven is no exception.

Inspired by Chinese history, the Tang Dynasty, this is the story of a young man, Shen Tai, who, as the result of a two year sacrifice to honour his late father, is gifted with a most AMAZING gift of 250 Sardian horses.  These horses are like gold!  A gift beyond measure. A quote from the book - "You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor." Also a gift that will have a tremendous impact on Tai's life.  And the lives of many others.

Under Heaven is the story of the effects of this gift. 

I loved the characters. Kay has a way of bringing the people he writes about to wonderful and often painful life.  They're so real, even when they are bigger than life, if that makes any sense.  We follow mostly Shen Tai and his sister Li-Mei and while they are young, they do possess some wisdom and knowledge - also, they have faults.  I found both of them very likable and enjoyed reading about them.  I also grew very fond of Tai's friend, the world-renowned poet whose name I cannot for the life of me remember.  *LOL*

I wanted to know more about so many things.  I wanted to know more about the events that follow the book's ending.  I wanted to know more about the people on the steppe.  I think I just wanted more period.  But that's okay, the story of Under Heaven was complete in itself and ended very satisfactorily.

Guy Kay, as always writes with a light, deft touch and honest to God, his paragraphs are often like songs.  The man knows words!  And his plotting!  It never fails, all the disparate threads that begin the book always end up intertwining at the end with just the right amount of twisting and turning to delight the reader.  And there's always a little bit of an open-ended bit of 'what if' in conclusion, in Kay's books. 

I loved it.  :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

4 Stars

Witches of Lychford - Book One

What a pleasant surprise!  I've had this book in my TBR for a long while and kept avoiding it, probably because it was a novella and I'm not big on novellas.  It's too bad, because I started it late last night and finished it this evening.  It was really good! 

The story is set in a small town in contemporary England that just happens to be the boundary between our mundane world and a world filled with many wild and dangerous and evil things.  A bigbox store wants to set up business in the town and that would bring down the barriers and well... you can imagine. 

Three women stand between the evil, the town cranky lady, the vicar and the skeptical owner of the magic store.  All three of them are terrific characters, filled with flaws and emotions and authenticity that I just loved and was quite frankly surprised to see in the shortened framework of a novella. 

But I'm not gonna lie, I wanted it to be longer!  I wanted to spend more time with these women and learn even more about them - and that bit of a twisty ending!  Surprised the hell out of me, it did!

And Book Two is now on my wishlist!

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

4 Stars

Li Du Mysteries - Book One

This book was recommended by my favourite mystery author, Louise Penny, as one of her favourites, and I thought it was a great read.

It's a true mystery, not a thriller, not suspense, but a true mystery, set in 1708 China. Our hero, a one time imperial librarian, but now an exile, turns detective when he arrives in the last city near the border of Tibet in the midst of preparations for an imperial festival celebrating a solar eclipse. The celebrations including the presence of the emperor who is believed to command the eclipse. 

There's a murder, a Jesuit astronomer, and there are many suspects. The plot is a little twisty turny, plenty enough to keep me turning page after page, enjoying multiple surprises.  I had my suspicions about the murderer, but I was never really certain until the reveal.  And even then there was more to the story!  And, I'm happy to say, the wind-up was quite satisfying to me. 

The writing is good.  I enjoy the way it brought me into the story and created a great sense of atmosphere.  And the characters were well rounded and easy to relate to and I really liked the ones I was supposed to like. Enough that I already have the second Li Du book on my wishlist.

So... excellent, classic mystery!  Thanks for the rec, Mme Penny!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells

4 Stars

The Ghost Wolves - Book Two

I really enjoyed this book and can't figure out for the life of me why it took so long to read it!  I think I have to blame the weather because it seems when it's really humid, I cannot concentrate on any book for longer than 15 minutes.  Sadly. 

Now this is the second of the Ghost Wolves books, and I adored the first one, this one was just not quite as wonderful by a smidge but I think that's because of my problems with the heat.  Again, as in the first book, the beginning half of the story starts slow, and I find myself wondering if I'd read this book on the heels of the first one (read that one over a year ago) if I wouldn't  have found it so.  It this that makes me think the plot line with Shige and the Mr Yellow, the Weatherman, held more import than I gave it. But anyway, come the halfway point the story picked up with a vengeance. 

Our favourites are back and although I'd have liked more interaction with Hob and the Wolves, it was good to see how she'd taken complete control of her people.  I also would have liked more with her and Mag, but that's not the way the story went - they each had a job to do to take care of their folks.

Mysteries were solved and my suspicions about the Bone Collector turned out to be true.  Go me! 

I loved the world-building and most of the characters and I was truly sad when the story ended because I wanted more action, more plotting, more raids, more fighting for the right reasons. I wonder if the author will ever revisit Tanegawa's World?  I hope so, cause I'll sure be there to read about it. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

3.5 Stars

The Burning - Book One

This book is touted as Game of Thrones meets Gladiator and I have to say there was some of the former but a whole, whole lot of the latter. 

If you like scenes filled with fight after fight after fight - add in a few skirmishes and a couple of full scale battles - even a siege - well this is the book for you!

The main character that we follow for the majority of the book is Tau, a young fellow who after a violent tragedy changes his life, goes on a path of vengeance that includes him becoming the greatest swordsman of his time.  And we see just about all the matches/battles/skirmishes that take him there. 

Yes, there's magic.  There are dragons.  There is some terrific world-building - a fantasy world that is more African than anything else. There's a bit of romance. There are some intricate politics that I would have liked to have seen from another POV.  But my favourite parts of the book were where Tau and his sword-brothers begin their relationships and then grow them.  Found family stuff, really.  And that's a catnip of mine. 

So, this highly touted book was good, but not great for me.  Far too much fighting and not enough of the characters out of the ring. I'm hopeful, though, that the next book will have more of politics, the magic and the dragons!  Oh, and that cover!  GORGEOUS!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey

4 Stars

The Expanse - Book Three

I am enjoying this series so much!  Both the books and the TV show.  But we're here about the book.  The third book in the series (and the one that brings me up to date with the show.)

Our four faves are back.  Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex.  We don't see enough of the latter two as far as I'm concerned, but that doesn't take away the enjoyment of the story, really.  Once again, the known universe is in flux, Earth, Mars and the OPA are trying to cooperate and investigate the ring construct of the protomolecule but old suspicions and ways die hard.  Miller returns as well, but only Holden can see or interact with him. 

Someone is out to destroy Holden and in the process of attempting to do just that, all hell breaks loose.  We meet Clarissa Mao (the sister of Julie), Anna Volovodov, a spiritual leader and Bull, an Earther member of OPA.

Lots of folks die in this book. And there are many heros throughout.  I could just recount the political thriller type plot, but suffice to say, it was logical and intriguing.  I don't know why it took me so long to read this book, because I was quite into it, but maybe it was the heat.  :)

Anyhoo, great read and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Wolf at the Door by Charlie Adhara

3 Stars

Big Bad Wolf - Book One

It was okay.  I was expecting a little more than just okay, I have to admit, as it was recced to me by a couple of long-time friends, but it just goes to prove that you never know for sure.  :)

Anyway, it's a shifter book and I'm not huge on shifters - except for my avian shifters by Kim Dare.  This is a wolf shifter tale - as if you couldn't tell.  *LOL*  Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot of shifting done but there sure was a lot of sniffing!

One main character, Cooper, is human and the other, Oliver is the wolf shifter. Cooper is also a BSI agent, Bureau of Special Investigations, a sort of secret branch of the FBI.  Oliver is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf governing organization, who is suddenly partnered with Cooper.  I liked the world-building.  It was interesting and I wish we'd had more of it. 

There are missing people, dead and mauled bodies, suspicious folk all in this small town in Maine - I think it's Maine - that reminded me a heckuva lot of the town I see on North Woods Law. There is a alot of investigating that goes on and the case/mystery is engrossing enough, especially for a romance novel.  Cooper and Oliver are thrown into close contact over and over again, of course.  What we see of Oliver that tells us he's a wolf shifter is that he uses his sense of smell a LOT, his eyes glow golden upon occasion, and he's graceful.  Cooper, to me anyway, comes across as a bit of a newbie whose smarts are hidden beneath a layer of dumb. The story is told from Cooper's POV and we spend a lot of time in his head as he asks himself the same questions about the mystery, the relationship, his past, over and over and over again.  Oliver, of course, is hiding something, but what?  I don't know if we ever really find out the extent of his secrets.  It's a series featuring the same couple, so I expect the author is holding stuff in reserve for future books. 

I found myself alternately liking both main characters and being impatient with them - Cooper especially, I guess because it's his POV.  The relationship works for the most part.  Will I continue reading the series?  Probably, but it's not an urgent need.  I think my friends told me it gets better in Book 2, so it's on my radar. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

3.5 Stars

The Aven Cycle - Book One

When I was a kid, barely even a teenager, I loved to read about ancient Greece and Rome. All those gods and goddesses, all those myths, they fascinated me.  This book was like going back in time, but to an ancient time when those myths also had magic added into the blend. 

I loved the world-building, the way the magics of the people merged quite well with what I know about the history of ancient Rome.  It all felt quite familiar, yet not.

The characters were engaging, many of them not wet behind the ears youngsters coming into their own, but established, mature folks - something I'm always on the lookout for.  The heroine, Latona, is the middle of three sisters, and has been repressing her natural magic talents as well as her smarts.  Married to what I'd term a Barney Businessman type in contemporary terms, she had been forced to serve as the now-deceased dictator of Aven's mistress.  She feels almost freed by his death and begins to experience a growing of her powers. 

The hero of the tale is Sempronius, a man who has been hiding his own powers, powers having been for the most part proscribed by the aforementioned dictator, and living in a sort of exile.  He has returned to the city and wants to dedicate his life to making Aven the greatest it can be and then he meets Latona and there's instant chemistry. 

Anyway, the politics are interesting and written in such a way that they never become boring.  There is some military action happening out in the 'provinces' where a general of the people for the barbarians has arisen.  There's that romance I mentioned and there's character growth on both sides.

I liked it.  I enjoyed my read, it was meaty and juicy, filled with all sorts of things. There wasn't a huge ending to the book though. There was definitely what could be termed an ending of this part of the tale and I was satisfied by it, instead of being frustrated with a huge cliffhanger. I'm looking forward to the next book. :)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

3 Stars

Consortium Rebellion - Book One

Disappointing. 

Just about my whole Romancelandia Twitter feed was over the moon about this book.  Best thing ever!!  Kickass heroine!!  Awesome hero!!! Action galore!!  Romance!!  Sexytimes!! 

Nope.

If you're looking for all those things, try the excellent Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper.

So here's the thing, a 23 year old heroine who can do everything and get out of scrape after dangerous scrape, time after time, thanks to some training we're just hearing about that she had when she was young.  TWENTY THREE IS YOUNG!!!  She's just so darned perfect all the time.  No one is at that age, but seriously, this gal, who amusingly enough, is named Ada doesn't have a single fault or flaw.

And the hero?  Loch, who frowns and growls and grunts his way through the book until just about the very end where he declares his devotion to Ada.  But do we SEE this relationship kindle and grow?  Nope, we see a lot of hot sex and lusty glances and panting after each other, but aside from this overpowering physical attraction to each other, I don't think I saw much emotional growth. Loch is just a lump of growly muscle and abs as far as I can tell, one who seems to think that Ada belongs to him.  His property.  I can't tell you how that put me off every time it was mentioned - and that was a lot. 

The action.  Well, there was a lot of that, but it mostly spun the same way.  There's some trouble, Ada pulls out some great weapon or defense and manages to rescue them, much to Loch's amused surprise. Or, Ada gets captured, she's threatened with DIRE consequences, and by some special quirk of hers or SURPISE, growly man, she or they manage an escape.  There are politics involved by they're basically only given surface attention.  They could be very interesting and maybe we'll get there at some point in the series, but not here. 

Romance?  Not much here!  Mutual admiring of weapons and abs and lusty looks and thoughts and deeds and that's about it.  I don't know why Ada loves Loch and I don't know why Loch loves Ada.  I'm told they're in love, but... I have no clue why or how.

There were a few scenes I really liked.  The scenes where Ada, Loch and their friends plotted and planned and teased each other.  Felt a lot like Nora Roberts' gang of friends characters.  And that's my catnip, as they say.  *LOL* 

Of course we've been introduced to the next couple in the series, I'm pretty sure.  Ada's sister and her family's House security guy (who I think is one of Loch's friends, but that's in the future.)

Oh, and one last thing...  I found the characters very 2019ish as opposed to the hundreds of years in the future people they are supposed to be.  Just the way they spoke, the terms they used, it just all felt somehow contemporary to me. 

Anyway, I went into this with high hopes and was quite frankly, disappointed.  I don't understand what the huge fuss is about.  The basic ideas are good, but the execution and the meat of the story are lacking, in my opinion.  So it's another book that so many people found wonderful and I found it rather ordinary and pedestrian. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Racing to the Finish: My Story by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

4 Stars

A quick bit of background.  So, I'm a Nascar fan, thanks to my late BFF, Julie, who introduced me to the sport.  Dale Jr. was her favourite driver and soon became one of mine.  (My top favourite was Tony Stewart - Smoke as they call him. He's retired now and my allegiance has gone to Ryan Blaney.)  Junior suffered concussions in the latter half of his career (Julie passed in 2011, so she was gone by the time this happened to him.) and this is the story of how he dealt with them, how he turned the spotlight on CTE and concussion protocols and aftercare for not only Nascar but all sports, really.  And it's the story of the years leading up to his retirement from driving.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It's not a huge tome, it's only 200 pages, but I have to tell you, I learned more about concussions and how they're treated in this day and age in the two days I took to read it than in the past 10 years of my life.  And in language that I could understand too!

Junior tells the story beginning with his first recognised concussion in 2012 after giving us a bit of his background growing up in Nascar, the son of one of its all-time stars.  It helps to understand his actions and reactions when you know the culture of his life. Now, I followed this via Nascar telecasts and news and such, but we never had the whole story of course.  That story is here and Junior is telling it so that he can help people who might be suffering from the same things he did and still does.

Even though the focus is pretty much solely on the concussions we still get a pretty decent look into the final years of Junior's driving career and discover the REAL reasons he left when he did and how he did. 

I found it a great read and my understanding of these injuries has grown quite a bit.  Highly recommended!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

2.5 Stars

I was very much looking forward to reading this book which sounds like a paranormal/shifter f/f romance starring MCs of a 'certain age'.  You see, when some of the women of Wolf's Point begin menopause, they also become werewolves. 

Well, it really wasn't a romance. Yeah, Becca, the main POV character, developed a crush on her across the street neighbour, Erin, but aside from a whole lot of internal whining about was she coming on too strong, was she really attracted to her THAT way, was she reading the signs wrong, there wasn't much that could actually be pointed to as a romance.  There was also a lot of complaining about the inconsiderate/cheating/obnoxious ex-husband which I found rather clichéd. And just about every time Becca felt herself heating up, she wasn't sure if it was embarrassment, being turned on by Erin, or a menopausal hot flash.  It got tiresome after a while.

I liked the premise of the story - mature female werewolves protecting their town and environs from all the baddies - but I don't feel it was ever explored in anything more than a cursory fashion.  Yes, there was the whole plot of the baddies come to town to eradicate the scourge of the werewolf because.... well.... because.

I have to admit that I never warmed up to Becca.  As I said, I found her rather whiny.  About everything.  Her marriage that was more than 2 years over, her job, her menopause, her werewolfiness, her crush on Erin, her interactions with the other mature women  of the town.  OMG, she bitched and moaned about everything and hardly ever came to a firm decision about anything. I honestly could not see what Erin - maybe - found attractive about her. 

I don't know if there are going to be further books about the Wolves of Wolf's Point, but I suppose that if one comes along and the price is right, I might be tempted to pick it up to see if it actually goes someplace but I won't be disappointed if there's not. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

4 Stars

The Worldbreaker Saga - Book One

I don't think I've ever read something like this in all my years of reading fantasy.  It's a challenging read, no doubt about it.  There are few familiar touch points, few things you can anchor to as you travel through this incredible universe that Kameron Hurley has built.  You have to pay attention to everything - no skimming (not that I'm one to skim anyway.) and put away any kind of judgement you might have.  This is indeed a strange new world and I have to admit, as much as it confused me, awed me, entranced me, it also scared the hell out of reader me.  *LOL*  I haven't had to concentrate on a read the way I concentrated on this for a long, long time. 

This is one of those books where I wish I could write a really stellar review and talk intelligently about the choices and craft and intention and all that stuff.  But I can't.  I can just tell you how the book made me feel.

When I was on Goodreads adding the book as 'currently reading', I came across a review - that wasn't a review - written by the person who edited the book and I'm going to link it here because it's damned fascinating.  Amanda's Review.  And don't worry, there are no spoilers there.

I want to say that this, the first book of the saga, finishes with a cliffhanger, but it didn't feel like a cliffhanger?  Yeah, there were a bunch... I mean, A BUNCH of unanswered questions, but I didn't get that "And then?  And then?  And then?"  annoyingly frustrating feeling I usually do when left with a cliffhanger.  I have the second book in my TBR pile and I will get to it soonish.  I do want to know what's happening with all the characters and what the next step in this 'Worldbreaker' story is. 

Would I recommend this book?  Oh yes, very much.  But it's not for everyone. Like I said, it's a challenging read, but a really good one. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Unfinished Business by Nora Roberts

3 Stars

This is an early Nora, a Silhouette reprint from 1992 and boy, does it show. 

The hero, Brady, is a tad overbearing for this day and age, the plot is somewhat dated and the actual writing... OMG, the HEAD-HOPPING!!!  It's so bad... it's SO SO SO bad.  I don't remember any Nora being this full of mexican jumping bean POVs. 

It didn't help that I didn't like the heroine.  She just rubbed me the wrong way. I found her rather self-centred and whiny which, I suppose, is what I'm supposed to feel because she's a high-strung concert pianist, but man... I really didn't like her. 

Anyway, this Nora was a disappointment to me.  I usually enjoy Nora's earlier work but this one... nope.  I guess it's the exception that proves the rule? 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

4 Stars

The Band - Book Two

Loved it!  I have to think that Eames' Band books aren't for everyone.  All the winks and jokes both subtle and broad might tend to grate on some people I'd think.  But not me.  I loved it all.  I laughed out loud and marvelled at how he got away with things. 

This book felt a wee bit darker than the first book, Kings of the Wyld, especially the ending, but I didn't mind at all.  It felt complete.

We have the story of Tam Hashford, daughter of a one time band member and she wants nothing more than to be a band member herself.  When one of the biggest and best mercenary bands rolls into town and she gets invited to be its next bard, well, the adventure begins.  She's seventeen, I think, and we get to see how she grows and matures over the next little while.  It's a short span of time, but she does some HUGE growing. 

And Rose... Bloody Rose, daughter of Golden Gabe of Saga fame... she is an enigma.  I thought we were going to get the story from her POV, but I was mistaken.  We see her story through Tam's eyes, and it works really well.

Anyway, I loved it.  It was a terrific sequel and I sure hope Nicholas does some more writing in this world because I'm fascinated by it!

Oh... one last thing.  The covers of these books are GORGEOUS!!!  I'd hang this one especially on my wall.  Kudos to Richard Anderson for a thing of beauty!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

3.5 Stars

Dave Robicheaux - Book Four

Not gonna lie, the title of this book had a lot to do with me giving it a try when it showed up in the 'on sale' section at Kobo.  Me and flamingos, all the way.  😊

So, it's very much a book of its time (published and set in 1990-ish) and I think there are probably terms of speech and attitudes that one wouldn't find today in a series about world-weary yet sometimes hopeful, often dark, detectives or private eyes. That being said, it reminded me a lot of my beloved Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald.

I'm not sure that I quite liked Dave Robicheaux, but he didn't piss me off or annoy me. To be fair, I'm starting here with book 4 in his series so I'm pretty sure I don't know him that well yet.  His 'adventures' with the drug and mob culture in his part of the bayou outside New Orleans kept my interest and had enough twists and turns to keep me happy. 

I guess the upshot is, yes, I'll probably read more of this series (there are 22 books in it), but the books won't be at the top of my list and will have to be on sale.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Under His Protection by LaQuette

4 Stars

I think I have a lot to say about this one.  :)

So first off, it wasn't what I was expecting.  I had seen this book recommended in many places, including one of my favourite authors, and in reading the blurb I was all in.  Well, it wasn't a suspenseful, romantic, action book like Abigail Roux's Ty and Zane books or S.E. Jakes'  Prophet and Tommy series.  Nope, this was less that and more erotic love story.  Which is more than fine, just not what I was expecting.  *LOL*

So, what we have is a book that's really all about emotion. Both men, Elijah and Camden do not trust love.  Well, they're afraid to expose all the emotional parts of themselves to a romantic partner. Both for different reasons.  But boy oh BOY is the physical attraction strong.  Like... Skywalker Force strong.

Elijah and Camden had a one night stand 5 years ago and it was SO POWERFUL and their connection SO INSTANT that neither one has been able to forget the other.  I usually have a bit of a problem with this trope, but I have to tell you, the author writes it so brilliantly that it worked for me for the most part.  Now the forced proximity trope is one that I do enjoy, so the fact that detective lieutenant Elijah has to stash ADA Camden away so the bad religious zealots can't assassinate him was an easy thing for me to deal with.  Throw in the perfect seasoning of Elijah's family and we have a really good story with lots of emotion and growth in between the hot, uber hot, bouts of sex. I'd have preferred more of the former and less of the later in the mood I'm in.

Now, the thing is, I was not in the mood for high erotic content in my romance book this time.  I wanted the whole detective, action, thriller, suspense type of book.  But, LaQuette - an author new to me - writes so well and so enjoyably that I didn't really mind at all.  I only had one real complaint about the whole thing and that was the constant use of the MCs names.  Honestly, I know which character's POV I'm reading and I know how to differentiate his hands/legs/mouth/cock/eyes/whatever from the other dude's.  I tried rereading a couple of the paragraphs substituting him/his for the character's name and you know what?  It worked a charm.  She didn't need to continue naming which guy was which because her writing is good enough that you just know.

Something was brought home to me about how I read while I was going through this book.  I'm a visual reader, meaning I see the story playing out in my mind's eye as I read.  And as such, I need to have descriptions of the characters - at least the MCs.  It lets me sink into the story more completely.  I say this because having finished the book, I still don't know if the author intended Camden to be black or part black or what. All I know is that his skin is light and his eyes blue and his hair black.  So I kept seeing Jesse Williams in my mind's eye. Bear in mind that I'm the woman who insists that Mr. Clark from the Tom Clancy novels is a big, black man even if Willem Dafoe played him in the movies and is supposedly bang on.  *LOL*  Anyway, this bugged me.  I wanted to know Camden's racial makeup so I could picture him properly.

So, that being said, this was not the book I expected, or the book I wanted to read, but I did enjoy my read and was very, very impressed by the author's ability to make me do so,  LaQuette is definitely on my radar now!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

4.5 Stars

The Sixth World - Book 2

I loved it! 

When I read the first book last July, I immediately pr-ordered this one and that's something I NEVER do.  But oh, I'm glad I did!

We return to Maggie's story, some 4 weeks after the events of the previous book and our Maggie isn't really in a happy place.  Kai has not returned to her and she's trying to feel hopeful, but worry and concern and her innate pessimism is kicking in.  Suddenly, one of her bounties goes dreadfully wrong and she ends up responsible for a teenager with a strange clan power.  And thus, the adventure begins.

We meet old friends and new friends as Maggie and her 'team' track the latest danger to Dinétah to try and stop him before he can cause a new apocalyptic disaster, as well as saving Kai from his grip, and are aided and hindered along the way by some very interesting folk.

It's wonderful getting to know the Goodacre twins better and the new addition of Ben, the teenage girl with strange powers does a lot for Maggie's growth.  (I have to admit that because Ben is the name of my ex-husband, I had a bit of a struggle with it.  *LOL*)

The world expands as Maggie grows and the author does a lovely job of telling the story of both.  Her words are a joy to read, and as with the first book, there was more than one occasion of ... just one more chapter, just one more.  :)

This is one of those books where I wish I was able to write amazing reviews, because it certainly deserves it.  But, because I can't, take a look at this one... "And the waters prevailed"  I just wish I was this good.  *LOL*

So when do we get Book 3????????




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

3.5 Stars

I have discovered that I like John Scalzi's writing, so when I saw that he had done what he calls a 'reboot' of one of my favourite SF stories - Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper - I thought, well, okay, I can read this.  Also, a couple of my friends said they enjoyed it.

So, did I?

Yes, for the most part.  Like I said, I enjoy Scalzi's writing.  Which is a good thing, because all the lawyer talk, the scientific talk etcetera, could have been very dry and unappealing in another author's hands. 

There are a lot of differences from the original Piper novels. A lot of characters missing or retooled into other, maybe composited, characters.  The plot, while remaining true at its heart, is focused much more on the legal aspects of the story as well as the um... not-niceness of Jack Holloway.  All that is fine, but what I missed was the interaction with the Fuzzies.  How Jack grew to accept and care for them as people, not pets.  How the Fuzzies showed their sapience. I remember a scene in the original about a funeral that's stuck with me all these years.  I missed those scenes in this book.

So, yeah, I enjoyed it and would probably recommend it to others, but I wasn't as satisfied as I'd hoped I'd be.  I would totally direct people to read the original Fuzzy books by H. Beam Piper, though.  :)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Killjoy by Julie Garwood

3 Stars

Buchanan/FBI - Book Three

I am still in search of a gripping contemporary romantic suspense novel/series. 

Now here's the thing.  Julie Garwood is much beloved in Romancelandia so I felt pretty confident in trying her contemporary thrillers out.  And it didn't seem like they HAD to be read in order, so that was a plus as well, seeing as I got volumes 3 and 4 on sale.  Well... I was hoping for more.

In the beginning, it felt like one of Nora Roberts' suspense romances and I'm totally down with that.  But you know what?  It was written in 2002 and it sorta shows its age.  I'm not talking about the flip phones or anything like that, but more an underlying whisper of an attitude?  I dunno, but it bugged me. I never really warmed up to Avery, the heroine and I didn't fell like I saw enough of the hero, John Paul, to really gt to know him.  And I wanted to!  He was far more intriguing.

There were a lot of little things that I found bugged me, things that could have been fixed with a good editor.  For instance, the couple is travelling over a rough back road in their car, windows up, heater blowing and oops... Avery hears the very faint noise of running water - and it's very faint when they pull off the road, roll down the windows and turn off the heater, then the car.  COME ON! 

Now there was a nifty twist at the end that I didn't figure on.  The rest of the twists were pretty much obvious, but, okay, if the book is well written, the characters intriguing, I can live with that. But other than that, the ending was very non-satisfying because Avery and John Paul were NOT TOGETHER when the vanquishing of the bad guys happened.  Talk about a lunchbag letdown! 

Anyway, I'll read the other one I have and probably more in the series if they go on sale, but this sure didn't satisfy my itch for a gripping contemporary romantic suspense read. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Art of Fire by Kirby Crow

4 Stars

I always enjoy a Kirby Crow story and this was no different.  The story of  Marik, the disgraced soldier and Grey, the much younger recruit sent to second him in his lonely outpost is short - novella length - never my favourite, but I loved it anyway.  It's Kirby's writing!

Both men have secrets.  There are some magical powers.  There is a lovely sex scene and a few expressions of affection.  There is danger, a bit of intrigue and a tease of things going on in the wider world. There's even some fun banter.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable read that while being complete in and of itself, left me wanting to know more about these two characters and the wider world in which they live.  And, oh, I did love Marik very much.  :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh

2.5 Stars

Midnight Series - Book One

I guess I'm not having much luck with romantic suspense this week.  I DNFed the last one and this one... well, it was just alright.  Nothing exciting really.  Definitely not enough to make me overlook the things that bugged me.

And what were those things?  Well, for one, I was getting a whiff of the misogyny that so turned me off the previous book. While the hero, Reed, did his best to be respectful and look for consent etcetera, his inner thoughts were just a tad too leery for me to be totally comfortable.  When it's the bad guy, it doesn't bother me, but in the hero?  Nope.

Then there was the instalove.  I didn't buy it. 

There was also a scene set in a Wiccan shop that was run by a woman who the author described as 60-ish.  You would have thought this woman was a doddering old fool, just because of her age. I'm here to tell you, (at 62), that we are nowhere near as ready for the home as this woman was depicted.  And maybe I could have glossed over it, but the heroine came across as rather judgmental and mean in her thoughts about the woman.  It was a small thing, but it really irritated me.

And then we came to the end.  I like my thrillers to come to a conclusion. This did not. All of a sudden, the people in danger were rescued, the bad guy got away, the MCs declared their love for each other and decided to move away.  Oh yeah, the bad guy got away.  It was totally unsatisfying. I went online and discovered that book two in the series concerns the brother of the heroine taking up the chase for the bad guy. I have it in my TBR, but honestly?  I'm not that anxious to read it. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Concrete Evidence by Rachel Grant

DNF

Evidence Series - Book One

Just far too much male gaze in this one.  The hero is a leering idiot, there's a huge plot point concerning the threat of gang rape, and it just all feels distasteful.  At this point, I'm ready to think that Rachel Grant is a pen name for a man who writes pot-boilers.

Really not my speed, sadly.  I have no idea how it rates 4+ stars on Goodreads. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

3.5 Stars

The Poppy War - Book One

Well.  This book was touted as one of the best of 2018 and it is nominated for a 2018 Nebula award for best novel.  I didn't like it as much as the majority of people seem to have.  I have read 5 of the 6 nominees and this was my least favourite of them. (Spinning Silver is the one I've not read.)

First off, let me say that the book is well-written read for all that.

My problem lies with expecting to see something new and different, but all I really saw were the same fantasy tropes that have been around forever.  The orphan child with the mysterious background.  The Chosen One.  Hidden magical powers. Gods run amok.  I think the only thing that was was even remotely new was that the book is set in an alternate historical China, or that's what I felt it was.  I was disappointed, and even though, like I said, the writing was good, I found that disappointment colouring my read.

My other problem was with the protagonist, Rin, the orphaned peasant girl with the dark skin. This is her story, but I felt that things were just happening to her.  I don't know that I felt her grow from her somewhat naive 16 years of age at the beginning of the book to her beaten, tortured, suffering (according to her words near the end of the book), 19 year old self.  I was told that she did, but I never FELT it.  At one point, she's yelling at one of her close friends, crying out that she's suffered fro so long, been beaten and tortured and betrayed and near killed etc... so she deserved getting her revenge, and I thought... but were you really?  I was told she did, but....  I dunno, she never really came alive for me. 

And you know, this book is rather grim-darkish.  It's not promoted as such, but I think it really is. In the last third of the book, things get very violent and dark and at times just downright horrific.

So, anyway, I really didn't get what all the big excitement was about.  Will I read the second book that's due out this summer?  Probably, but I'm not in any rush. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham

3.5 Stars

The Order of the Air - Book One

I thought this was a cool read.  Set in the early 1930s, a period that I'm quite fond of, it's the tale of a small aviation company run by veterans of the Great War and how they get involved in a dangerous, thrilling occult adventure with its roots back in ancient times. 

We have the three aviators, Lewis, Alma and Mitch, and the Jerry, the archaeologist.  The First World War, the Great War, left its scars on everyone that fought and these four are no different.  There are the obvious wounds, such as Jerry's missing lower leg, Mitch's abdominal scars, and there are also the mental and emotional wounds that all four suffer from.  I liked all of them and I thought the authors did a good job of introducing and portraying them.  It's the first in a series of books, so I expect to be learning more about them - especially my favourite, Mitch.  I think he was the least fleshed out, but maybe that's because he doesn't seem, right now, to be as complicated as the other three? 

So, the adventure includes an ancient evil from the time of the Emperors Claudius and Nero and possibly even before. We have a demon run amok and our quartet are on the chase.  The only real problem I had with the whole thing was the time we spent reading about the intricacies of the aircraft involved.  I didn't feel I needed to know things in such detail, either about the Terrier plane or the dirigible. The one part where I felt it worked was the big chase scene.

Now, I have to say, the book reminded me of a favourite book of one of my favourite authors - Katherine Kurtz and her Lammas Night. It also reminded me of her Templar series of books, but mostly Lammas Night.  I wonder if the authors were inspired by her? 

Anyway, I enjoyed my read and as it's the first volume of an omnibus, I have the next 2 books in the series to look forward to!  If I was one to binge read, I'd be reading them right away, but I like to space my series out for the most part. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Duke By Default by Alyssa Cole

4 Stars

The Reluctant Royals - Book 2

So this is a daunting book only because it's one of the darlings of 2018.  EVERYONE loves this book and it's a darling of Romancelandia.  So I was a little wary going into it.  The last time I read a book that was so universally loved, it was The Bollywood Bride, and I hated it.  Did not see what any of the fuss was about.

Thank God, this book was a different experience.

So, I had been advised that I didn't need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one, but I'll tell ya, I wish I had.  There were so many instances where the heroine's past was mentioned that had important bearing on the plot but were never explained that my wondering took me out of the story.  And the story was GREAT, so this was quite bothersome.  I STILL don't know the deal with Portia's (the heroine) sister.  And it BUGS me.  So YES, READ THE FIRST BOOK.

So, Portia is a screw up, who, it turns out, suffers from ADHD.  This explains many things about her and her issues.  I liked her.  I liked her a lot. I liked that she was smart and clever. I liked her smart mouth and like many of her friends and her sister, I often wanted to shake her to make her believe she wasn't the mess she thought she was. 

I liked the hero, Tav, the Duke by Default of the title.  He was older, 37 to her 30 (THANK GOD for mature characters!!) and your typical taciturn Scot.  And he was HOT.  And he forges weapons, swords, daggers, axes... the whole thing!  That's darned sexy.  Anyway, he hit all the right buttons for me. 

From my lofty 62 years of life, I thought that if they only would take an hour or two to actually talk about all these things that bothered each of them about themselves, the whole emotional mess could have been dealt with quickly and easily.  But we wouldn't have a story then.  *LOL*  And it was a good story, maybe a little heavy at times with the ADHD and the immigration problem, but the author's writing style is breezy and fun (a big reason why AC is a fave of mine.) which saved it from being too lecture-y. 

In the end, it was a really good romance.  I totally enjoyed it and I can easily see how it garnered so many accolades and such noisy support. Just read the first book first!

Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu

3.5 Stars

The Shattered Sands - Book 0.5

So this is a big novella that takes place before the beginning of the epic series and introduces us to a teenage Cedi. It's basically the story of Ceda and her battle with the ehrehk, Rumayesh.  Ehrehks are creatures created by the gods long ago and there's nothing good about them. 

The book reads like three serial installments of a story which, for me, was a little off-putting.  Flow-wise.  A matter of personal preference, I think.  Other than that, it was a pleasure to sink into the author's writing again.

At any rate, it was cool to see more of young Ceda and indeed just to visit Sharakhai again.  We get to see a bit of other favourite characters too.  It was a fun read.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

4 Stars

The Expanse - Book Two

Excellent sequel to the first book of the series.  All our favourite characters have returned... well most of them.  :)  I have been firmly confirmed in my favouritism towards Amos and Chrisjen Avasarala. That being said, I love most of the characters.  And we get to meet the stellar Bobbie Draper, Martian marine extraordinaire. She and Chrisjen working together are the absolute best.

The plot of this book clips along at a decent pace and the writing style makes it an easy, fluid read.  I have to say that I've watched all 3 existing seasons of The Expanse and have found that the they're fairly faithful to the books and the changes not too jarring. 

Anyway, loved my read and am looking forward to getting to book 3, which I have on tap soon.  :)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Jacked Cat Jive by Rhys Ford

4 Stars

Kai Gracen - Book Three

Thank you Rhys!  I swear, Rhys' books never disappoint, and this, the 3rd in the series that stars my favourite of her characters certainly followed suit. 

I don't quite know what to say, except that Kai is his usually cranky, soft-hearted, brave, cynical self and I still am in love with him.  :)  I was happy that his relationship with Ryder, the elfin lord made some progression.  I love their banter, I love what's unsaid between them and I love how they have each others' backs, no matter what.  Ryder makes me chuckle. 

I was also happy to get the chance to know Cari a little better.  I wish she'd had a little more to do though and that we could have explored her special power a tad.  But she's a ballsy young lady and I quite enjoy her.  The new character of Kerrick was interesting - Ryder's cousin yet so very unlike Ryder.  And then there was Bannon who I found even MORE interesting.  No doubt we'll be seeing more of her in future books.  And we got the chance to visit with that uber crankass, Dempsey.  I enjoyed that too. 

So there was adventure, some sadness, some great fights, some romance, some growing social awareness and loyalties being forged stronger. It was a thrill ride and I loved it!  It's going to feel like FOREVER until the next one!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

4 Stars

The Salvagers - Book One

I hemmed and hawed about rating this book between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I went for 4 stars because it was a lot of fun.  I saw it described somewhere as a Firefly-esque story mixed in with some Fast and Furious and that works for me. We have a rag-tag group of characters hieing their way across the galaxy in search of a rather mythical warship that would be one helluva salvage score.  It's mostly space opera with a hefty side order of magic and while the magic was never really explained, I found it didn't matter much to me.

There are some fun characters here and I became fond of most, if not all of them.  I loved the banter between them all and even if one of the main characters, the youthful race car driver, Nilah, made me want to shake her at times, it was an amused shake. 

Only a couple of things bothered me, and they were probably small, but whenever I came across them in the book, it threw me right out of the story for a moment or two.  Firstly, the author decided that ships aren't "she" in this far future universe, they are "he". Don't know why, there's never an explanation or anything, but every time the ship was designated this way, it gave me pause.  The other thing was that the Captain called his crew Miss Thing, Missus Thing, Mister Thing (whatever their family names were) and it felt so out of place in this futuristic universe that I was pulled right out of the story.  I found it peculiar. 

Anyway, all in all, it was a super fun read and if you enjoy KB Wagers Idranan Trilogy or James Corey's Expanse series, you'll probably enjoy this one. I'm looking forward to the next book - it's on my list. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

3 Stars

Well, this wasn't for me, I guess.  It got lots of good press and I can understand why, but for my own taste, it didn't satisfy.  (And this is where I remind folks that I rate on my reading experience.)  It was too.... I felt like I was missing something, something that would give me the deeper understanding that the book was trying to give me. And that annoyed me at times.

The premise was interesting, but I felt overwhelmed by all the social stuff I was supposed to be getting riled up about.  There are a lot of interesting concepts in the book having to do with the Earth's future, computer programs taking over so many things, nanosomething or others that sort of enable a melding with animals... just so so much.

The world-building is to be lauded, however.  And the characters were interesting and intriguing. I just... I wish I liked it more.  It felt like I SHOULD like it more.  It's up for a Nebula award this year for best novel and I can see why.  The nomination is deserved, I think.  The book just isn't really for me.  I will say though, it does leave me wondering what happens to the main characters left at the end.  Whether or not their story continues and how it does. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

3.5 Stars

Legends of the First Empire - Book Two

Let me begin by saying that I had no idea we were so far back in the history of this world when I read the first book.  Thinking it was just me, I asked my son who just read book one at Christmas what he thought the 'age' of the world was and turns out it's not just me.  *LOL*

Anyway, after the first quarter of the book being rather slow and um... explanatory?... the tale picked up and I adventured along with the familiar characters I had grown to enjoy from the first book.  And while there were adventures to be had and new locations to be explored, I felt as if this book was very much a setting of the stage for the next book.  Yes, the over-arcing plot lines advance and we get an answer or two or three to some things, but you can just feel that there's a lot more of this story to tell.

I very much enjoy the overall tone and flow of Sullivan's books and he creates characters that I fall in love with, so even though the plot and action of this book might have been a little slow, I still enjoyed it muchly and am looking forward to reading the next book!

Oh, and I have to shout out the cover artist, Marc Simonetti.  The whole series is terrific!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel

3.5 Stars

Central Corps - Book One

Don't be fooled by the first couple of chapters of this book.  It reads like a steamy romance heading towards erotica land at first.  I was a little confused, but then the mystery kicked in and we were off to the races.  The science fiction wasn't earth-shatteringly different, but it felt mostly familiar to me.

So this is a busy book.  A lot of things happening and often happening quickly - I found myself thinking on more than one occasion that a little streamlining wouldn't be amiss.

There is a thing that authors do sometimes, and that's have something in the backstory of one or all of the main characters that has great import on the characterization, the plot or both that is only hinted at in the inner workings of the characters thoughts.  If it's not done well, it feels like a 'nya-nya-nya, I know something you don't' and I find it quite annoying.  This happens here with Elena and whatever happened between her and her captain six months ago to cause such a rift.  I would rather have known from pretty much the get go because the not-knowing felt rather manipulative.

I enjoyed the characters for the most part, especially the character of Trey.  I loved his speech patterns and thought the author did a terrific job of making him feel 'outside the norm' to the reader.  I also loved that he wasn't a young sprout.  He was definitely sigh-worthy.  There was nothing overly new or different about them, really, but I enjoyed reading about them.  I had a hard time warming up to Elena, the main character, because she just felt a little too... edgily perfect?  There was just some spark missing for me. I have no idea what, but it was there. 

Is it a romance?  Nope, I wouldn't consider it so - there's no HEA, nor even a real HFN.  Yeah, there's a romantic element to the story but I wouldn't term it romance.  Space opera mystery works for me. :)

Anyway, it was a fun read for the most part and I'll be adding the second book to my 'watch for a sale' book list. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

3.5 Stars

Lady Astronaut - Book One

I started this book thinking I was about to read an alternate history about a group of women pioneering space flight on an alternate, historical planet Earth.  What I felt I just read was an autobiography of one of the first women in space.  An AU space, but still... not what I expected.

The story is told from the first person POV of Elma York, who is a mathematician and was a WASP pilot during the war.  World War 2.  She's also married to Nathaniel, who is an engineer and they are both Jewish.  (Although, for some reason - I suspect because of Hidden Figures - I kept thinking of her as black.)  Both of them are very, very smart.  The story begins in alternate 1952 and t the world isn't that much different from reality.

There is an awful lot of Elma becoming more and more aware of racial discrimination against people of colour while being subjected to antisemitism and prejudice against women personally. The latter half of the book is taken up with the beginnings of integration in the International Aerospace Coalition and Elma's learning to deal with her crippling - at times - anxiety as she moves closer to her goal of getting into space.

So, I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't get the story I expected to get when I picked up the book.  BUT, the book was a good read if I look at it as an AU auto-biography.  And because of that, I've added book 2 to the 'want to read' list. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

4 Stars

I think this book broke my brain.  *LOL*  I picked it up because it had been recommended to me by a very good friend.  It also had a lot of good buzz about it.

It's a differently structured book.  We get differing first person POVs and flashback scenes/chapters.  It's also written mostly in present tense, I think... At this point, there's so much of that being written that I seldom actually take notice of it.

At any rate, I was luckily able to avoid all the spoilers about the book, only knowing that there was one helluva twist to it.  And I would say that it's really, really important to do that.  I think the book would be pretty much ruined if you were spoiled.

I hemmed and hawed about my rating (between 3.5 and 4) because while I thoroughly enjoyed my read and was pretty much surprised about the main twist (I had suspicions as the end got nearer and nearer), the mechanics of constructing that twist felt just a wee bit deux ex machina to me?  But maybe that was my expectations?

And Netflix is making a limited series from the book, so I suggest you read it before watching. :)

Anyway... it was very good.  Read it.  Don't get spoiled.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts

4 Stars

Chronicles of the One - Book Two

The last of my six Christmas books.  It was a good year! 

This is the second of Nora's post-apocalyptic trilogy and it carries on the story of Year One, beginning thirteen years after those events.  We find out what has happened with many of our favourites from the first book and we get to meet The One - Fallon Swift - 13 year old daughter of Lana and Max, as well as catch up with Duncan and Tonia (Katie's twins and grandchildren of  the man who was basically 'patient zero' in the first book) who were just babies the last time we saw them. 

It's very much a book about the training of Fallon to take her place as the leader of her people.  We watch as she leaves her home and family to train with Mallick (a Merlin type character who I wish we'd seen more in depth) for two years.  She gains her powers and her mystical companions, the owl, the wolf and the alicorn.  We follow as she returns home and spends time with her parents and younger brothers on the family farm, readying them for the Big Battle to come.  We see her meet Duncan and Tonia and watch as they discover that they're meant to be this series' trio - Nora loves her trios of power.  And we journey with Fallon's family as they join up with the bunch from New Hope, the folks we followed and watched come together in the first book.

Along the way, there are some looks in on the New Hope settlement and a couple of quick meetings between Fallon and some of the folk.  There are a few battles and rescues.  And there are more than a few moments of discovering her powers. 

It's very much setting everything in place for the Big Battle to come in the third book and were it not for the engaging way Nora writes about her characters and the heart-touching moments of found family and shared histories that pepper the story, it would be a very boring book, I think.  It's very much a middle book. 

I enjoyed my read. As always with Nora books, I zipped merrily along, her writing style so easy to read.  There were moments of humour, moments of action and danger, moments of love and deep emotion and I will admit to being engrossed.  :)   I am very much looking forward to the culmination of the trilogy, due out at the end of the year. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

4 Stars

Book of the Ancestor - Book 1

Christmas book #5, a new trilogy and a success!  I had read the Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence a couple of years ago and disliked it intensely.  I found it very, very dark with no hope offered anywhere and a plethora of unlikable characters, so having Red Sister on my list was a chance I took only after seeing more than a few reviews stating it was not as dark as the others and after a few trusted authors recommended it.

So...

The book is the story of little Nona Grey and her arrival at the Convent of Sweet Mercy at the tender age of nine and continues for the next couple of years.  Yep, when the book finishes, she's barely eleven.  And while normally I would avoid a nearly 500 page book about a kid, I fell into the story so easily and so quickly it would make your head spin.  *LOL*  Nona is fascinating.  She reminds of the character of Laura in the movie Logan. In fact, I kept imagining the actress who played Laura in my head as I read about Nona.  Might have a bit to do with the claws. 

Nona goes through her training, makes friends and enemies and comes to a lot of realisations throughout the book, and her journey kept me turning the pages quite eagerly.  Quite the contrary of the the story of Jorg in that other trilogy.  Yeah, there is plenty of dark in Red Sister, but it never feels hopeless.  And the characters, all of whom have flaws, believable flaws, worked like a charm.  Lawrence even kills off one or two that I was very fond of, but that worked too.  Couldn't hate him for it. 

And the world-building!  Fascinating! 

So, yes, I was really glad I decided to give it a try and am anxious to get to the next book, Grey Sister. Oh, and the cover illustration is quite glorious. :) 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

3 Stars

Signal Airship - Book One

So this was #4 of my Christmas books and while I did enjoy my read, I had been hoping for much more.  All the buzz on my social media was lauding the book to the skies as the best thing ever!  And so great to have a female main protagonist in a steampunk airship military fantasy book.  Well... yeah... okay... but it wasn't that great, folks. 

I liked it because the dialogue was witty, the characters fun and quite honestly, I'm a bit of an easy sell for a book about a tight group of soldiers/adventurers/scoundrels/whatevers fighting the odds, so to speak. 

Now, while I liked the characters, I sure would have liked more about them, what brought them to the point where they are in the story, what formed them, the whys of them, all that stuff.  Especially Josette, the female captain and Bernat - Bernie, the foppish spy/aristocrat/ne'er do well.  I loved their banter - I'm told it's rather Pratchett-esque, but having only read one Prachett book (aside from Good Omens), I can't say with any kind of certainty if that's right or not. 

There was a lot, an awful lot of battle narrative and even more description of the details of the airship. I mean... tons of details into all the nooks and crannies.  I would much rather have learned more about the characters and the society and the actual world of the story than all that minute stuff about the ship. 

So yeah, I don't get all the glowing blah-blah I read from people whose opinions I respect.  Just because the MC is a woman?  I mean, even that HUGE plot point is barely discussed or examined - far better we learn about fictitious airship mechanics.  I think we should be far past celebrations just because a woman leads a military/steampunk adventure fantasy.

So the book had great bones, but the meat of it was sadly lacking for me.  I'll check out the second book when it comes out, I'm sure, if only to see if there's more meat, so to speak. 


Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

3.5 Stars

Charles Lenox Mysteries - Book 1

This is the third book from my Christmas haul and again, I enjoyed my read. 

The book and the author were recommended by one of my most favourite authors, Louise Penny, the author of the Gamache series.  I just spent 20 minutes trying to find the reference and failed miserably  *LOL*.   Anyway, that's the reason I picked it up.

So, Charles Lenox is a Victorian gentleman who likes to solve mysteries. He has an interesting group of family and friends and he's a smart fellow.  I liked him.  I can see why Louise likes him as well - there's a faint Gamachian feel to the book and the characters which is fine by me. 

I like Finch's writing style, it's easy to read and while there are instances of what could be termed as info-dumping, they're handled well and not annoying.  He also does some easy back and forth banter between Lenox and his old friends that I found quite fun. 

The mystery worked for me, as did the wrapping up of the various plot-lines.  There was a question or two that didn't get answered, or if it did, I missed it, but that didn't impede my enjoyment of the book.

If I had one real problem with the book, it was that there was an awful lot of snowing going on in London for late December/early January.  I don't think it snows that much over there at all. 

Anyway, I enjoyed the book enough to add Book 2 to my wishlist.  :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

4 Stars

The Seven Kennings - Book One

The second read of my Christmas presents, this was a brick, but a fascinating one indeed. I'd read Kevin Hearne before, the first of his Iron Druid books, and quite enjoyed it. (I intend to continue on in that series when the budget allows it.)  This book is the first of an entirely new trilogy, set in a new world.  And I was fascinated.

The world-building is terrific.  Magic or kenning that actually takes a toll on the human body even to the point of death.  The majority of the peoples are shades of brown with the pale-skinned folk being the minority of civilizations and I think there's only one king among the bunch.  Hearne does a masterful job of getting across the atmosphere and the feel of the different 'countries' and while they mostly have a familiar feel, I never felt they were copies of other creations.

It's the characters that really sold the book for me.  The story is told almost in serial form by a bard by the name of Fintan, who takes on the appearances of different folk within the story as he tells the story, a little bit every day.  Usually two characters, maybe three.  In between these story-tellings, we get the POV of Dervan, the scribe who has been tasked with recording all the stories Fintan tells, as well as keeping an eye on him for his friend, the leader of the Brynt people.

We meet two handfuls of characters who tell the story of the initial invasions of the giants and through their telling of the story we're given the base of the bigger story to come, I'm guessing.  Lots and lots of set-up happening, but because the characters were so engaging - even the baddies - it was a pleasure to read. 

So, I really, really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Book 2 - especially the further adventures of Abhi and his bloodcat, Murr and his stalk hawk, Eep.