Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

A Gathering of Shadows was an excellent sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. There were no slow parts in this book and it didn't feel like the middle book of a trilogy at all. It didn't go exactly the way I thought it would, but that wasn't a bad thing. The story picks up not long after the last book with Lila joining the crew of a ship as, of course, the ship's thief. I honestly had no idea there was such a position on a pirate ship, or in this case privateer's ship, but it works out well for her.

There was good character growth here for all characters and we even got a couple of new ones. I did wish that there was more interaction between Lila and Kell, but it eventually worked out to my liking. Lila is still herself, still getting into all kinds of trouble, but there were a few times I liked her less than I did in the previous book. Maybe because I wanted her to just be honest with herself about her feelings and I hated that she tried so hard to not see Kell. Speaking of Kell, he is still my favorite character in the book.

There is a magic tournament in this book and for a while I felt like it was just a diversion from the main plot line and wasn't crazy about it. It ended up growing on me. Each of the competitors wears a mask and there are a couple of participants that want to keep their identity a secret. I bet you can guess who they are. I thought the disguises for the tournament were fun.

As for the new characters, I'm not sure what I think about Alucard. I liked him at first, but then he just kind of annoyed me after a while. I'm not really sure how he is going to continue to fit into the story, but I hope it's good. The other new character, Ojka is in White London and of course she ends up being an antagonist. I liked that there were chapters in her point of view.

This book ends on a huge cliffhanger so if you hate those, you might want to wait until the third book is out to read this one. I'm waiting with bated breath to find out what happens next!

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The Red HeirThe Red Heir by Holden R. Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

The doors.

Hundreds of them at first, now down to a few. Doors that would not open for any key or amount of force. Doors that would one day lead to somewhere known and familiar, only to be completely impassable and sealed the next.

But what they didn't know, and couldn't understand, was that there was one person who had been through the doors. One person with a key.
A couple of my Goodreads friends read The Red Heir and gave it such high praise that I decided I needed to read it. After reading the description I was intrigued by these doors and wanted to know what secrets they held as much as Vall and everyone else in the book did. I'm still not sure I understand why so many doors appeared in the first place or how destroying them played into whole grand scheme of things, but it's a small thing compared to how much I enjoyed this book.

I thought the characters in the book were mostly well done. I only have a couple of small quibbles about them. In the beginning I found Vall hard to like, but as I got to know him and see his past through flashbacks he grew on me until I actually began to like him. Because of these flashbacks I felt like I got to know him really well, a lot better than the other characters in the book.

On that same note, I thought Dodge was pretty well developed. We get a lot of his past through the flashbacks as well and it was easy to understand his motives.

In the beginning, the character Araine was pretty weak, but I found her likable. The thing I like most about her was that she grew quite a bit as a character. Although she started out as a weak, timid person in the beginning, by the end of the book she had gained a lot of courage. I do wish we had gotten more of her backstory. I feel like I barely know who she is. I wanted to know more about why she was a member of the Talim and what exactly happened to her parents. Also I did find it hard to believe that Araine would be attracted to Vall so quickly, especially after what he did. A little too insta-love for my liking, but I do like the idea of a relationship there and want to see how it progresses. I thought the beginnings of it should have happened more slowly though.

Like Araine, I felt like Evral's motivations and who he was were not explained well enough. Why was he so blindly loyal to his Master? How did this Master start appearing and talking to him in the first place?
He did however, make a good, if frustrating foil for certain people's plans. He was so despicable.

That brings me to Yel. I feel like an opportunity was lost to expound on her character. She is the one character I felt cheated by not getting more of. Chapters from Yel's point of view would have been amazing. In some ways I wish she had been the main female character of the book instead of Araine.

As for the other elements of the book, I think one of my favorite parts of the book were the magic blades and the souls that lived within them. I want to know how they get in the blades to begin with. Hopefully it will be elaborated on in the future. I also hope to see more of the Loren in the future books. We get a small glimpse of a Loren village at one point and the ones living in the pit were interesting. I enjoyed the chapters that were spent there.

Overall this was a great read. While there is nothing really new here, I felt like it was done well which is what matters. I think people who like Michael J. Sullivan's books will like this one as it includes thieves and assassins, and the writing is simple and makes for a straight forward, pleasant read with relatable characters. I love reading fantasy written this way. It also had some dark moments, but wasn't too dark which I liked.

It's going to be hard to wait for the next book to be released as I'm already itching to read it, and dying to know what happens next. At this point I have no idea when it will be out. If anyone knows please tell me!

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Every once in a while I pick an older book to read and I've been enjoying Mary Stewart's books quite a bit. Some are better than others, but I just really enjoy them in general and it's fun to visit the time period of the 50s and 60s.

Wildfire at MidnightWildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Wildfire at Midnight was mostly a good read. It was just over two hundred pages but it felt longer than that, mainly because of all the description and some of the back and forth dialog that went nowhere. While I don't always mind the description in Mary Stewart's books, I did find it rather boring at times in this one. I didn't really care what the rocky cliffs and mountainous ranges looked like all that much. A one-time brief description would have sufficed. However here are a couple of photos of the Isle of Skye where the story takes place and it is visually stunning.



I also got bored with some of the needless conversation between characters that sometimes felt never ending. There were two whole pages dedicated to people wondering if a couple of others they were out searching for had been found after one man motioned for another to come have a look over the side of a cliff. There was also a lot of sitting around and chatting with nothing really going on, but at least there was some good information given about the characters that way. It just went on a little too long.

Like all of Stewart's books this is a romantic suspense. I felt like the romance was really underplayed here, but at least there was no instalove. I also would really like to know what all led up to Gianetta's divorce as we as readers are left guessing a lot about what happened and only given some minute details. (view spoiler) I think the thing that bothered me the most about this book was how Gianetta responded to a woman about her husband cheating on her as though it was something that she just had to overlook if she wanted to keep her husband because those kind of things just happened. That mentality really irks me!

Mary Stewart could write some really edge of your seat suspenseful scenes and that's the number one reason I like her books and Wildfire at Midnight did not disappoint in that way. The parts when Gianetta was lost in the fog with the killer after her were the best, but the parts when she was sneaking around the hotel at night and looking after a character all night long that the police were protecting also kept me glued to the book. I can't say that I was surprised at who the killer turned out to be, I pretty much picked him out right away as the number one suspect, but there were times when Stewart made me second guess myself.

In the end I liked this book a lot and as far as my enjoyment of it went I rate it in the middle of the pack of Stewart's books. It's not one of my favorites, but it's loads better than the Stormy Petrel which is at the bottom for me and above Airs Above the Ground. It was hard to decide which one I liked better. The one thing Airs Above the Ground had going for it that this book doesn't is that I felt like the main character was a bit smarter and more resourceful. In this book Gianetta lost points with me for a fainting spell and not being able to bring herself to protect herself against someone who was going to kill her. In the end she had to be rescued which annoyed me, however this book was still more entertaining and suspenseful than Airs Above the Ground so it wins out.

So far this is how I'm ranking the Mary Stewart books I've read:
The Moonspinners
Nine Coaches Waiting
Madam Will You Talk?
Wildfire at Midnight
Airs Above the Ground
The Stormy Petrel

Visit my blog at https://writingsofareader.blogspot.com/

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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria, #1)The Waking Fire by Anthony  Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate's last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

The Waking Fire is the first book I've read by Anthony Ryan and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The world building was good and the magic system was interesting. It reminded me a bit of Mistborn with the whole ingesting a substance to gain the magical ability thing. I liked the combination of magic and steam with guns thrown in as well, and of course the dragons. It kind of had an old west feel to it at times.

The book is broken down into three different character points of view, and it alternated between them with each chapter. One thing I really liked were the cliff hangers at the end of a lot of them. It really kept me reading. There were a couple of times that I just had to skip ahead to see what happened next!

I found most of the characters interesting with Clay being my favorite. Lizanne and Hilemore were also both likable, but Lizanne had to grow on me at first. And although I enjoyed reading about Hilemore's adventures just as much as Clay's and Lizanne's, we didn't get as much of him and it wasn't clear until well into the book what sort of role he would play in the grand scheme of things.

I would say the only draw backs were the book lagged in parts and also lacked a bit in character development. I still don't really feel like I know most of the characters as well as I would like to. I'm interested in finding out what happens next so I will be looking forward to reading more books in the series.

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The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine  Arden

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Fairy Tale

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a fairy tale type of historical fantasy set in medieval times in an area that is now part of Russia. To be honest, in the beginning I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy the heavy Russian type flavor of this book. I had a hard time getting into the writing style at first and it was slow for around 50 pages or so. Eventually though, I ended up very engrossed in this story. I also had the pleasure of buddy reading this with a great group of people that included the wonderful Basia who answered lots of questions and offered lots of help with the different Russian names and words used in the book. I enjoyed learning about the diminutives that are added to names and what they mean. I felt like I understood the customs and the people so much more thanks to her, and I now know how to pronounce Pyotr correctly :)

While I enjoyed this book a lot I wasn't too crazy about what it seemed to be saying about Christianity. Whatever the author's intentions may have been, I chose to just look at it as a criticism of the medieval church and some of the corruption that was present there and not Christianity as a whole. What I did like were the rich descriptions. I felt like I was really there. I loved the description of the hut and the big oven that the family would sleep on during cold winter nights.


The cold winter wilderness really came to life and I could imagine how cold it was in the winter and how hungry they were when the food supplies were low. I also really enjoyed the folklore. I loved the kitchen spirit who lived in the oven and protected their home and the one in the stable who protected the horses. And the horses were another favorite part of the book for me.

Over all this was a really good book, its biggest strength being the fairy tale aspect of it. If a few more questions had been answered, this would have been a wonderful stand-alone, but I've learned it will be a trilogy. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but as of right now I plan on reading the next book.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage, #1)Promise of Blood by Brian  McClellan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

I loved that line in the book description. It caught my attention and made me want to read this book.

I read Promise of Blood with my fantasy book club and ended up liking it quite a bit. However after meeting and discussing the book I feel slightly less enthusiastic about it than I did before. As one of the fellow book club members pointed out, it felt like the author lacked some knowledge about some of the things he was writing about, military strategy being at the top of the list. As these things were pointed out, things that initially I just glossed over as I read, because, what do I know about military strategy, I began to see the holes in the story and I couldn't help but agree that these were indeed problems. I generally read for enjoyment and I'm not a very analytical reader, but I appreciate the different types of readers in our book group because it gives me some other perspectives to think about. So in the end I'm taking a half star off my rating because my eyes were opened to looking at this book a little differently than I had at first.

All of that being said, I did still enjoy this book. I did find it hard to connect to some of the characters at first because some of them seemed really unlikable in the beginning. Most of them eventually grew on me, although I still dislike Tamas to a great degree. Taniel has grown on me to the point that I do enjoy reading about him and even like him. The characters I liked right away were Ka'Poel, Olem, Bo, Adamat, and Mihali, who was probably the best character in this whole book. I seriously love the whole chef thing he has going on with the magical food.

I would have liked a few chapters from Ka'poel's point of view as she is the most likable female character to me. She is the one character that I really want to learn more about because I feel we didn't get enough of her in the book. I'm planning on reading the next book in the series and probably the novella's that were written about the characters in the book because they will hopefully help to flesh out these characters more and show us who they are.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Space Opera

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

Gemina was one of the books I was most excited about reading this year. It starts not long after Illuminae ends, while the Hypatia is on its way to the space station Heimdall, and wow, I seriously underestimated Gemina in the beginning! It started off slow and I didn't like the main characters, but over the course of the book they ended up growing on me a lot.

Hanna is the station commander’s daughter who lies to him and sneaks around behind his back, doing a lot of things she shouldn't be doing, and seems really self-absorbed at first. On top of that, at the beginning of the book she is setting up a deal to buy drugs for a party. That brings us to Nik, who is her drug dealer and belongs to a family of crime lords. Nik constantly hits on Hanna, and I'll be honest, it got annoying, and Hanna is not interested because she has a dreamy boyfriend.

After meeting these two I thought it was going to be a really long, disappointing read. But people can redeem themselves, and that's what happens in this book. We find out that there is more to Hanna than we thought. The one problem I have with this is that instead of feeling like I was finding out more about Hanna, it almost seemed like she was replaced by a different character. I think if we had gotten more backstory on her habits and talents in the beginning and less focus on things like what to buy to wear to the party and how she was going to sneak off with her boyfriend, that wouldn't have been the case.

We also eventually get Nik's whole story and despite his family, he doesn't end up being a thug the way he seemed in the beginning. Which also may be a stretch, but I was willing to go with it because it made him likable, but really, guys that come from crime lord families, have been to prison, and have tattoos all over them, generally don't look as adorably cute as the one Hanna drew in her journal.

We are also introduced to Nik's cousin Ella and she ended up being my favorite character in the book. She is essentially the hero of the book, because not much would have been possible without her computer hacking skills.

In Illuminae we got zombies on a space ship (along with the creepy AI AIDAN), and there was a lot of tension in that book with all the zombies lurking about. In Gemina we get aliens on a space station, and while there were a few tense scenes in this book with the alien creatures popping up now and then, it was a little disappointing in that aspect as they are mostly relegated to being a background annoyance throughout a good portion of the book, unlike the zombies who had a more menacing presence in Illuminae. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but just not quite as much as Illuminae.

Along with the alien creatures, there is also a special ops team deployed by BeiTech who have taken over the station. (Who are also no match for AIDAN in the insanely creepy department) I thought most of the special ops team was a bit too immature to be adults. I don't see a real special ops team saying or doing some of the things these said and did, but it was a lot of fun watching these folks get picked off one by one (sometimes more than one) by alien creatures and teenagers, although I did think they were taken out too easily by the teenagers.

One other thing is, I thought most of the guys in the book (not just the ones on the special ops team) all seemed too alike. There wasn't a lot to distinguish between personalities. And they were always using sexual innuendos which got old.

Those small complaints aside, this book kept me glued to it. It continued to surprise me as I did not see the twists coming, which was the same case with Illuminae. It was impossible not to compare Gemina to Illuminae, which I thought was close to perfection, so this review has probably come off sounding mostly negative, which probably does this book a bit of a disservice, so I have to add here that Gemina is still above and beyond most of the YA I've read this year or any year for that matter, especially when it comes to space operas. So although I did not enjoy this one quite as much as Illuminae, I think overall both books are pretty ingenious story-wise and format-wise and I enjoyed them both immensely. I do want to point out that these are books that you need to own a hard copy of to get the full experience. An audio book alone would not do it justice at all as you would miss out on the whole experience and it would probably be hard to see some of the pages in ebook form. I'm looking forward to reading book number three next year.

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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Space Opera

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

In the year 2575 a colonized planet is invaded. Several thousand people escape on three different ships. One is a battle ship, one a science vessel, and the third is a cargo ship. While being pursued by one of the enemy ships it is discovered that a pathogen was used to subdue the people on the planet and the people on one of the ships are infected with it. You can probably guess where this is going...space zombies, or something like that. There are a few minor differences in the infected in this story. These are smarter than the average zombie and don't hunger for brains, but are paranoid and violent.

Illuminae really blew me away with how visually beautiful the book actually is. It's probably the best YA space opera I've read so far. This story is told in epistolary form through IMs, emails, journal entries, recorded video feed footage, an AI's recorded "thoughts", schematics, military files, medical reports, and interviews. Because of this I wasn't sure how I would like the book. I wondered if it would seem too impersonal and be too hard to get into the characters. That wasn't the case at all and it ended up being a fun and unique read. The writing style actually kept me turning the pages.

This book evoked quite a few emotions as I read it. There was a twist I didn't see coming that really threw me for a little while. Looking back now, there were clues that I probably should have noticed, but I was so into the happenings in the book that I didn't. I was on the edge of my seat for quite a while as I read this. The protagonist, Kady was likable. The boyfriend Ezra was ok. The AI, AIDAN was altogether creepy, sympathetic, and insane. The book left me wondering what in the world would be the right thing to do if there were thousands of infected people who are turning violent and no known cure. Do you try to help them or put them out of their misery before they infect more people?

The only things I disliked about this book were the blacked out curse words. All the little blacked out words got annoying and distracting because they kind of interrupted the flow of the sentences they were in. It would have been better to just leave the cursing out all together in my opinion. I also wasn't crazy about how a couple of the characters always seemed to add sexual connotations to everything they talked about. This was the main reason Ezra was just an ok character to me.

This looks to be a series so I will be reading the next book. It's one that I will be looking forward to.

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Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Six of Crows is an example of what YA fantasy can be when romance isn't the main focus of the story, teen angst is non-existent, and there is really good character development. While set in the same world as The Grisha Trilogy, Six of Crows doesn't feel the same at all, and while I loved The Grisha trilogy, especially the first book Shadow and Bone, this is a much more mature read and just all around better written.

The story starts with Grisha power being amplified by a new drug, but this new drug has deadly side effects. Kaz Brekker is hired on to assemble a crew for a heist. The goal is to break into a seemingly impenetrable facility and "rescue" the scientist who has made the drug. Kaz assembles a team of 6 people. The book description describes them really well.

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

The characters here are all very interesting and deeply troubled in some way. Throughout the story we read chapters from their different points of view. This book wouldn't have been half as good without the characters and their background stories woven into it. Kaz was hard to like at times, but he was supposed to be. I did find myself sympathizing with him after I learned his back story and everything he had been through. He is very broken. All the characters had endured something horrible in their pasts. The ones I enjoyed reading about the most were Inej and Nina.

This book really could have been a stand-alone, except for something that happens at the very end. I think I agree with one of my Goodreads friends who said (view spoiler). Despite that I am looking forward to reading the next installment.

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Starflight (Starflight, #1)Starflight by Melissa Landers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Space Opera

What happens when you combine Firefly with Overboard? Well, you get something like Starflight. While I'm sure the comparisons to Firefly are abundant, I couldn't help but think of Overboard as well for the first part of this book. One character loses his memory for a little while and another takes revenge in much the same way as Kurt Russell took revenge on Goldie Hawn in that movie. I would have loved if it had gone on a little longer in this book than it did.

Solara Brooks is an orphan and an ex-convict who is looking forward to starting a new life for herself in the outer realm, a lawless place that a lot of other people would steer clear of. She is so desperate to find a way there that she indentures herself to Doran Spalding, an oil baron's son, so that she can obtain passage on a ship bound in that direction. Solara and Doran have a history, one that was unpleasant for Solara, because he made her life miserable in school. They eventually end up on the Banshee where Solara becomes the ship's mechanic. It's on the Banshee that everything starts to change for both Solara and Doran.

Starflight is a light, romantic space opera. It's also a YA novel, so if you aren't a fan of YA that includes some romance then you might not like it. I thought it was a lot of fun and at times pretty darn funny. I loved the space pirates and the Daeva reminded me a lot of the Reavers from Firefly. There were quite a few things that reminded me of Firefly. Solara was very likable and Doran grew on me. He was a real jerk in the beginning and I was surprised at how much I ended up liking him. There was a whole lot of changing on his part. This book had some surprisingly deep things to say about love and relationships.

I can't really think of anything negative to say about this book, except that I predicted the plot twists pretty easily. I'll be looking forward to the sequel.

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Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

Dark Matter starts out like a normal thriller, but with a title like Dark Matter you know it has to turn sci-fi at some point. I don't want to say too much about it and spoil anything for other readers though. For me most of the book was very easy to figure out or see coming, and to be honest I was a little disappointed about that. Going in, I was expecting the book to keep me guessing what was real and what wasn't, but it was never hard to figure out, and neither was the reason behind it. However, that did not ruin my enjoyment of this book at all. I found it very hard to put down. I liked the love story that was the center of the book, and the things Jason discovers about himself. I was on pins and needles through some of the situations in the book and I thought the ending was perfect.

Overall this was a well-constructed story that, although it resembles some other stories out there, felt fresh. This is the first Blake Crouch novel I've read, and I may check out other things by this author later. At one point I had considered reading his Wayward Pines series, and I have the first two books on my Kindle, so who knows maybe I will eventually read them.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4)Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Dead Heat was a more than ok edition to the Alpha & Omega series. I always enjoy visiting the world of Charles and Anna. I found this book hard to put down and stayed up way too late reading it.

In this book Charles gets a call from an old friend, Joseph Sani, whom he hasn't seen in years. Charles has been avoiding Joseph because it hurts too much to see his friend grow old, but Joseph talks him into coming to visit so he can meet Anna. Of course trouble greets them when they get there, this time of the Fae variety.

The strong points of the story were the friendship between Charles and Joseph, the backstory we get on Charles, the new characters that were introduced in the Sani family (I especially liked Joseph, his son Kage, and Chelsea. I would have liked to have spent more time with all three of them. I also liked Chelsea's son Max a lot too and would love to see them in future books), and Anna's Omega ability (I never get tired of that. It's one of the things I like best about this series). I also enjoyed the horses to an extent.

Initially I was going to give this straight up 4 stars, but after thinking about it there are a few reasons why I decided to only give it 3.5.

First, there is a whole lot of horse talk in this book. I've always been interested in and liked horses so I enjoyed it to a point, but there were a couple of times the horse stuff dragged the book down, and it felt like the book lost its focus at those times.

Second, I didn't think it made sense for Maggie to be so petty towards Anna. She loved her husband and Charles was way in the past. It was just unneeded drama.

Third, some explanation as to why the one Fae creature restored the other one's power and let him loose would have been helpful. We know the Fae are up to something, but there was no reason given at all for any of it and I can only speculate that we will find out more in future books.

As always I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, and on a different note, I liked that we finally got a cover with Charles in human form.

I received this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway.

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The Counterfeit CaptainThe Counterfeit Captain by Henry Vogel

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Space Opera

Captain Nancy Martin expects a lonely death.

Passing out as her battle-damaged starfighter bleeds the last of its air, she comes to in the cavernous and deserted docking bay of an unknown starship.

There were two things that drew me to The Counterfeit Captain, one was the gorgeous cover and the other was the fact that it's a space opera. I always love a good space opera and I was sucked into this one right away.

This story starts out with Captain Nancy Martin expecting to die during a battle in her starfighter. Instead she wakes up on board the largest ship she has ever seen. She soon realizes it's a generation ship. Not long after she meets Sko, a native of the ship, and her adventure begins as she ends up fighting against an AI that has gone completely insane, the group of men who were shooting at her when she was in her starfighter, a tribe of ship natives, and a bunch of robots. I suppose there could be a little too much going on there.

What I liked best about this book was the creepy, maniacal AI; the robots that I could kind of picture like the cylons from Battlestar Galactica; and the fact that Nancy was cool headed throughout the whole thing. I liked her personality a lot and I found it very believable that she was a member of the military.

What I didn't like so much was the insta-love relationship, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I'm also not sure how I feel about the bittersweet ending. On one hand I didn't like it, and on the other it felt like it deepened the story not to have everything tied up as a happily ever after. (view spoiler) I also would have liked a bit more backstory and depth to the characters.

In some ways this book reminded me of one of those Star Trek or SG 1 episodes where a crew member wakes up in a strange place and they have an adventure and fall in love and then it all has to end because they have to go back to their normal or real life. Those episodes could be pretty compelling and sometimes even heartbreaking. This book was both. I may eventually pick up the other space opera by this author that is sort of a companion to this one.

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Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone, #1)Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction

Ivory and Bone is a YA historical fiction set in prehistoric times. That description by itself doesn't sound like something I would normally be interested in, but add in the words "allusions to Pride and Prejudice" to the description and I'm interested. Unfortunately I was under the impression that this was more of a retelling than it actually was. I guess I should have paid attention to the word "allusion" more closely. There was a similar theme to Pride and Prejudice used in this book, but it was very loosely applied.

I'm not altogether sure how I felt about the execution of the prehistoric setting. I think some parts were well done, but others not so much. There were words included in the story that didn't feel right for the time period, like kitchen and parka and that bothered me.

Out of all the characters in the book I think I liked Kol the best. I wanted to like Mya, but she was just written in such a dull and uninteresting way. Plus, the way the story is told didn't help with that. Most of the book is written in second person with Kol telling Mya the story of what happened from his perspective, with him referring to her as "you" throughout the book. It sort of felt like I was reading something meant for someone else and I didn't like the effect.

I think the thing I disliked about this book the most is that it wasn't very compelling. There were a couple of times when I wished I was reading something else. That much more interesting looking stack of library books I have was calling my name, but I stuck it out and made it to the end of this. There were some enjoyable moments near the end when something finally happens, so I didn't feel like it was a complete waste of time.

I think I'm done with prehistoric stories for a long while now, maybe for good as they are not really my cup of tea.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for a review.

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Love, Lies and SpiesLove, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. 

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. 

I could hardly wait to read Love, Lies and Spies. I mean, look at that description and that cover. And what a fun read it turned out to be. I suppose your enjoyment of this book will depend on what your expectations are when you pick it up. For me it was mostly what I thought it would be, a Regency era romance with a little intrigue that starred a rather unconventional heroine. If the book has a weakness it is that there is not enough of the intrigue, and maybe not quite enough character development. For the most part I found it to be very amusing and super cute. It's definitely in the vein of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

There were a couple of things that I thought were quite refreshing about this book. The first is that the tired old plot device of misunderstandings and not communicating used in a lot of historical romance was absent. Thank heavens for that! The second is that the main character was never really bothered by the rival trying to steal away her man. She was confident and knew he was interested in her and not the other girl. I really liked that we had two smart, confident characters in this book who really only had eyes for each other. They didn't resort to childishness or jump to conclusions when something went wrong or they didn't know what was going on.

Love, Lies and Spies was a fun, light, romantic read and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

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A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a book that I've been meaning to read since it was released, but for whatever reason I kept putting it off. Now that I've read it I'm glad that I finally made the time for it. It was easily one of the best books I've read so far this year. Initially I was expecting this to be YA because it has gotten lumped in with YA books a lot, but this is in fact an adult fantasy novel. I think the main reason for this is the age of the characters. Anyway I really enjoyed reading this and stayed up very late to finish it.

The thing that drew me to this book were the different parallel worlds that were not the same. I thought the idea was fantastic. The main character Kell is one of only two magicians left who can travel between these parallel worlds. I liked Kell, but if I had a negative thing to say about him it would be that I wish he had been more powerful with his blood magic up against Holland. And speaking of Holland, he was the sort of antagonist that I really like. He was so tortured with a lot of gray in his personality. I could hate him and sympathize with him at the same time. There are many mysteries still to uncover about Kell. Where did he come from? Who were his parents? Why was he taken from his parents? What is it that was wiped from his memory? What is his real name? I am looking forward to uncovering these mysteries in the next two books.

The other main character in the book is a girl named Lila and I also found her very likable. With her short hair and her love of coats and trousers, she reminded me a little bit of Min from the Wheel of Time series, if Min were a thief. I loved Lila's spunkiness and bravery. There are many mysteries that are yet to be uncovered about Lila as well. I liked the dynamic between Lila and Kell. There was a friendship bond between them that deepened by the end of the story and there was maybe a hint of a romance to come.

I also want to mention the cover art. When I first added this book to my to-read list I didn't pay much attention the details, but before I read the book I really looked at the cover and found that I loved it and I think is perfect for the book. Overall I was quite impressed with this book. It was different from other fantasies I've read and I always like when an author comes up with something different. I'm definitely reading the next two books.

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Black-Eyed SusansBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.

I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.

The lucky one.

First off I want to say that I listened to the audio version of this. I was going on a road trip and an audio book is must have for those. I liked the narrator a lot. That's always important to me when listening to a book. I can be very picky about audio books, most of the time I will sample a book before I buy it. I can usually tell right away if I'm going to like a narrator or if the narrator is going to ruin the book for me. I sampled quite a few books before deciding on this one.

Black-Eyed Susans is a psychological thriller. If you look at my history with these, most of them end up being 3 star reads. However, there are a few that have made it to 4 stars and this is one of them. I think mostly what disappoints me with these type of books is that they end up being either too predictable or not thrilling enough. While I wouldn't say this one is extra thrilling or anything, what I did like about it was that it kept me guessing for a little while. I also ended up really liking the way the book was constructed, alternating between past and present.

At sixteen Tessa Cartwright was abducted and then left buried in a field with a dead girl and a bunch of bones. Tessa is found barely alive after clawing her way out of the dirt. Because of the wildflowers growing around the grave, the press started referring to the girls as Black-Eyed Susans and Tessie (as she was called then) is the lone surviving Black-Eyed Susan.

We skip back and forth from the present (almost 2 decades later) to the past after Tessie was found. In the present Tessa is raising her own teenage daughter and is working with a forensic anthropologist to try and learn who the other dead girls were and unravel other clues that might exonerate the man who was convicted of the crimes, a man Tessa believes is innocent, because since the trial almost two decades before someone has been leaving black-eyed susans for her to find. I enjoyed the forensic anthropology parts of the book. The things they learn about the dead girls through their bones were really quite fascinating and I read that the author did a lot of research and consulted with a forensic anthropologist while writing the book.

As for the characters, Tessie and her best friend Lydia and the neighbor lady, Effie who is going senile (the missing diggers was such a funny thing) were the best ones in the book. Lydia was one mystery that kept me guessing throughout most of the book. Why she disappeared from Tessie's life and what caused the falling out they seemed to have had were at the forefront. At first I thought Lydia may not even be real, but there were a lot of things that I wondered about and if they were real or not. The love interest was kind of meh. While he otherwise played an interesting role in the book, I didn't really care about how he was written as a love interest. Just like Tessa in the story, I still don't think I know anything about the guy other than what he does with his job. I would have liked to have seen a bit more development there before the end of the book.

Who the killer was that abducted Tessie was a huge mystery that kept me guessing almost until the end. I found it rather clever, but maybe not quite as plausible as it could have been. There was not enough explanation as to how some things were manipulated for me. Overall I liked most things about this book though. This is a stand-alone that wraps up pretty nicely for the most part, although I still have a few unanswered questions about the time Tessa was abducted. I am interested in reading more from this author.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1)Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.
Michael Sullivan has become one of my favorite fantasy authors. He has the ability to write in depth characters and stories that are also easy to read. I never feel like I have to unwind my brain or come up for air after reading his books. I know I'm probably weird, but that's just what a lot of epic fantasy does to me. I feel like I have to have a good bit of time to devote to those. But with Michael Sullivan's books I can just relax and enjoy without feeling like I've got to tackle some giant tome.

I first became acquainted with Michael Sullivan's work when I won a copy of Theft of Swords through a Goodreads giveaway. I've loved fantasy for a long time now and I wanted to explore some books by authors I hadn't read yet. I'm not a huge fan of grimdark fantasy so I can be very cautious about what fantasy books I add to my list, and I was skimming through a lot of that trying to find something I thought I would like. I had finished The Wheel of Time series, I had finished all of the available books in the Green Rider series, and I had read some Sanderson and Rothfuss. While looking over many different books I came across Theft of Swords and added it to my to-read list. I ended up loving that series and looking forward to reading whatever else Michael Sullivan would write. Age of Myth was the one that I was most eagerly awaiting, mainly because I wanted to see what type of fantasy the author would come up with next and I must say that I was not disappointed.

What does it mean if the gods can be killed?

That little tag line is what hooked me. It's what sparked my interest in this book from the beginning. Age of Myth is set in the same world as the Riyria books, but 3000 years in the past. We get to learn about the truth behind the myths. Who the real heroes were and how it all came about.

I can't think of anything negative to say about this book-well ok maybe one small, tiny thing. The feelings one character develops for another came about a little too soon, but it didn't bother me much. I think because it still felt very mature and not like the insta-love where they are suddenly madly in love and can't live without each other.

Really though, everything about this book is good. The cover is gorgeous. I love that the oak in the story was chosen to be the focus of the cover, and I just plain love when a cover artist actually chooses a scene from a book and makes it the cover, and actually does a wonderful job of depicting it.

Probably the very best thing about this book is the characters. If you are looking for nonstop action you will not find it in this book. There are some tense scenes, a couple of fights and even a short battle, but the characters very much make this book what it is. They were all so relatable and well developed. Each of the characters ended up stealing my heart, with of course, the exception of the few who weren't meant to. There is a great balance of strong men and women in this book and I liked that their strengths were varied. Some were good fighters; others were very clever and smart. They each had something different and meaningful to contribute to the story. I loved Suri and Minna the most. But Persephone, Raithe, and Malcolm were great too.

This book ended nicely. There is the knowledge that more is to come, but the book itself is a complete story without any cliffhangers, which makes it a little easier to have to wait a whole year for the next book. I am really looking forward to it.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

First blog post... The Bird and the Sword

I've been reviewing books on Goodreads for a long time, but I finally decided to try a book blog. First up is a book that I recently read and thought was amazing.

The Bird and the SwordThe Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

"Swallow, daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heaven or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive."

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

I had never heard of The Bird and the Sword until I saw it on the list of fantasy nominees for the Goodreads choice awards, and based on the cover I never would have guessed it was fantasy. Now that I've read it I consider it to be among the best books I've read this year.

The Bird and the Sword is my favorite kind of fantasy. I would compare it to reading Juliette Marillier's Heart's Blood, or her Shadowfell Series. It also brought to mind Uprooted by Naomi Novik, not because those stories are necessarily similar in content so much as the type of fantasy they are. They all have that romantic, fairy tale feel to them. They all have the same type of protagonist, one who is unsure of herself in the beginning, or who would just be ignored if not for some latent talent she possesses. The love interests are also similar in some ways. I guess you could say this is a fantasy romance, but it was done so well. Nothing cheesy here.

The story starts off with Lark as a young child. She and her mother are both "gifted" but they have to hide that fact because magic is forbidden and all the gifted are killed. That's a theme that has been visited many times in fantasy, but I liked what the author did with it here. The King ends up finding out and the dying words of Lark's mother end up being the catalyst for Lark being unable to speak and her father compelled to protect her lest he lose his life.

The rest of the story takes place years later when Lark is 21 years old and is brought to the castle by the present king (the previous king's son, who took over the throne after his father died) as a hostage until her father keeps his promise to send aid in an ongoing war.

This book was just beautiful and it kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. It wasn't perfect (what is The Art of War doing in an alternate world story?), but it was a magical, romantic read and I loved it.

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