Monday, July 24, 2017

Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire, #2)Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhune make it all but impossible to unite against a common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess makes the Fhrey indistinguishable from gods?

The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race who feels nothing but disdain for both Fhrey and mankind.

In Age of Myth the story revolved around Raithe the god killer but in Age of Swords the men, although still present, take a bit of a back seat. But I'm sure they will be back more fully in future books. It's Persephone's turn to shine here, along with most of the women in the book. I love that Persephone is the one that sets out to solve the problem of how to win a war against the Fhrey. This time around we meet the Dherg when Persephone, Moya, Brin, Roan, and Arian travel to their homeland, and they find out the Dherg are a tricky bunch; pretty despicable actually. That was the point where I felt like the book got really good. There were so many brilliant ideas and solutions in this book that Persephone, Roan, Brin, and Moya come up with. Once again Michael J. Sullivan does a lovely job of portraying the women in the story. They are always so believable as well. Except for the bit of magic that is used they are not doing superhuman things. They are doing things that any real woman could do, and that makes them so very relatable.

There were several passages in this book that I loved, some of which I found quite amusing. One of my favorite chapters in the book was the one that included the exchanges between Padera and Gifford when he is on the mend from the attack on him. Not only did these make me chuckle, but they are also a good example of how the characters really jump off the page in this book. I love the way they are described. I also love that the many supporting characters still very much contribute to the story. There are a lot of them, but most of them were given a good amount of attention. I love these characters so much! My heart is really aching for a choice one of the characters had to make, and for one of the losses.

Not only do we revisit the Rhune and discover the Dherg in this book, but we also get chapters from the Fhrey as well, namely Mawyndule. I have to say that I did not love him, but I'm hoping that he is starting to mature after what took place among the Fhrey. I'm very curious to find out what he will end up doing. Other things that I'm very impatient to find out about are, how things end up between Persephone and Raithe and this whole thing with Nyphron that's thrown in there, and how things will end up with the healing that Suri is trying to do at the end of the book.

This book has adventure, heartache, self discovery, and loss. All things that make a story great and I can't wait to read Age of War!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me an advance copy of this book.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

July Book Club -The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred the Vampire Accountant

We've been making themed refreshments for our book club get-togethers. That was my husband's brilliant idea and it has turned out to be one of the high-lights of our meetings every month. And this month, since it was a vampire book, I knew we would have to include blood. But what to do other than a red colored drinks? After thinking on it for a while I started wondering if I could actually get drink pouches that looked like blood bags. You know, so we could drink from blood bags the same way Fred the vampire does in the book. And lo and behold, look what I found on Amazon...

We ended up filling them with a mixed berry drink and we sipped on them while we talked about the book. We had so much fun this month and I'm looking forward to next month when we all read Ready Player One. We already know we are going for an 80s theme, but no idea what the refreshments will be yet. Anyway, here is my review of the book:

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire AccountantThe Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew  Hayes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Comedy

Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one.

This was our book club pick for July. I enjoyed it quite a bit and found Fred the vampire to be quite clever and lovable, even if he was somewhat boring as an individual. In the beginning Fred goes to his high school reunion and runs into an old friend who ends up spicing his life up a bit. The book is divided into different stories about Fred. He ends up collecting a new friend in each new story, until he has his own little group of friends, who all happen to be supernatural beings like him. Besides the high school reunion story there are also stories about a LARP, a trip to Vegas, and a couple of kidnappings.

This book was funny, but not as funny as I was expecting it to be. For me, the best part was the jousting duel in Vegas. Just picturing that makes me laugh, but I don't want to spoil anything so I'm not going to give away any of the details. It turns out there are more books about Fred but I think I'm fine with calling this a stand-alone. It was a fun diversion, but not something that I really want to invest a lot of time in. If you are looking for something light to read between heavier, more complicated books, than this would fit the bill perfectly.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Steampunk, fantasy

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality...But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped.

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Reading Gail Carriger is always a delightful experience. Her characters are charmingly quirky and just plain fun. I love the funny and absurd names she gives her characters too. There is Mrs Barnaclegoose, Frowbritcher the butler, and Lord Dingleproops to name a few. Not only are the characters funny and quirky but her descriptions can be too. This paragraph is a good example:

"He was very pale and boasted an unassuming mustache, which was perched atop his upper lip cautiously, as though it were slightly embarrassed to be there and would like to slide away and become a sideburn or something more fashionable."

Overall Etiquette & Espionage is a very fun, lighthearted read that is set in the same alternate Victorian steampunk world as the Parasol Protectorate series. Time-wise this one is set before The Parasol Protectorate and we get to meet Genevieve Lefoux as a 9 year old and Sidheag Macon as a 14 year old. The setting works well in a YA novel, although this novel did feel somewhat more like a middle grade novel at times.

While I find certain aspects of Carriger's writing delightful, there is something that doesn't pull me in as much as I would like and I never really feel compelled to move onto the next book. Sadly that is again the case here. I'm not sure if I will ever read further into this series, but this book was fun and it did make me laugh which is always a plus.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)Jackaby by William Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult

Genre: Paranormal, Mystery

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--

The moment I saw that this was being marketed as Sherlock meets Doctor Who I knew I had to read it. I also knew those were huge shoes to fill so my expectations were rather low. I must say that I really liked Jackaby. It has a nice quirky charm to it.

The character Jackaby is very much like Sherlock and The Doctor rolled into one. He has the Doctor's eccentricity combined with Sherlock's blunt rudeness. Like Sherlock he is a private investigator, but like The Doctor he deals with the strange and unexplained. The strange and unexplained consists of several paranormal creatures.

I do feel inclined to add that there is no time travel. The comparisons to The Doctor are strictly personality based. This was a fun read that had a few laugh out loud moments. It was easy to figure out who the bad guy was, but mostly I was not disappointed in this book. I look forward to reading more in the series.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Novice (Summoner, #1)The Novice by Taran Matharu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

I've been looking forward to reading The Novice for a while and it mostly lived up to my expectations. I loved getting to know Fletcher, Sylva, and Othello. Fletcher ends up being pretty brilliant in this book. I loved the ideas he came up with for the tournament. This is a pretty standard mage school type book with tension between the students of different races (humans, elves, and dwarves) as well as between the upper and lower classes, with some of the nobles being predictably snooty and mean. However, I was pleased that the book didn't always follow the predictable path. There were a few times I thought the story was going to be predictable and it wasn't.

The thing I liked best about this book were the pet demons that the mages had. From cute little mites that could spy on people to powerful griffons and golems, they were all interesting. I also enjoyed reading the guide about them at the end of the book. The ending was a bit frustrating and it left me really wanting to know what happens next, so I'll definitely be reading more.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Caged GravesThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction 

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery...Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in...

The Caged Graves really grabbed me from the very beginning. It was not as creepy as the description made it sound, but that was ok with me. There was a mystery to figure out and while I figured most of it out pretty early on I still enjoyed reading this. The book is meticulously researched. The time period felt authentic and the characters felt well developed. There is a love triangle in this book, but I actually liked it. It was well done and didn't feel just thrown in for no good reason. It was actually an important part in the development of the main character. In the beginning liked things about both love interests, but the one she ends up choosing in the end was definitely the best choice. I won't spoil it by saying why though.

The mystery surrounding the graves is what drew me to this, and the fact that there really are caged graves near the town in this book. No one knows why the real graves have cages around them. I liked the fact that the author actually used the names on the real headstones in the book and created a history and a reason for the cages.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stitching SnowStitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Opera

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Stitching Snow is a sci-fi space retelling of Snow White. What I really liked about it was that Snow or Essie as she calls herself, is a smart capable girl. She didn't just get that way by accident either. She had to be or she wouldn't have survived. I also liked that the romance didn't take over the story or Essie's brain for that matter. She didn't let her feelings for Dane interfere with what had to be done, and he didn't either. They were both willing to sacrifice what needed to be sacrificed to do what needed to be done. I liked the support they gave each other, it was just really sweet.

I enjoyed the way the different elements of the Snow White story were added to this version. I thought the drones in the place of dwarfs were a great idea and really would have liked to have seen more of them. The apple shaped pendant was another nice touch. The hunter who takes her off to kill her at the queen's orders was there as well, but in the form of a guard. There was no mirror, but the queen's jealousy was given a different reason in this story, a more disturbing reason than just vanity. I was a little surprised that was included in a YA book, not that I think it shouldn't have been it's just not a subject that is included very often in YA. I felt like the author handled the subject well and that it fit into the story and wasn't just added for pure shock value.

One of this book's shortcomings I think is a lack of world building. The tech side of the sci-fi was well covered, I just felt like the space side could have been more detailed. I would have liked more description of the different planets and all of their surroundings so I could feel like I was in space. This did remind me a lot of The Lunar Chronicles but Marissa Meyer did something completely different with her retelling of Snow White. This is also a stand-alone. There is a companion novel coming out this year, but no sequel. I like that.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SkyfarerSkyfarer by Joseph Brassey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catergory: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

I really enjoyed this book! The mages in this story open portals for their Skyships to pass through, allowing them to travel from place to place more quickly. Aimee is an apprentice portalmage whose first portal casting goes awry, and she and the crew of her ship end up somewhere other than where they were supposed to be. They end up right in the middle of a war. While there Aimee and the rest of the crew learn about a mythical relic called the Axiom Diamond that has the power to show its bearer any truth they desire. They set out to find it before the ruthless Lord Azrael and the infamous Knights of the Eternal Order find it and use it to their advantage.

Skyfarer ended up being just about everything I was hoping it would be. It was a fast, fun read and I loved the characters. Aimee and Azrael were my favorites. There are some plot threads that were left hanging and I'm hoping there will be a sequel. I would really love to read more about this world.

Thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Lady Fiasco (Regency Trilogy, #1)Lady Fiasco by Kathleen Baldwin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Romance

Can a lady with a reputation for disaster, stumble into love?

Lady Fiasco is the first in a series of companion books. I did not read these in order. I read book 2, Mistaken Kiss first. Book 3, Cut From the Same Cloth second, and this book I read third. Out of the three this one was the one I liked the least. The series features Aunt Honore in all three books. In each book she "helps" along the romantic relationship of one of her nieces or nephews. I felt like she was a little inconsistent throughout the books. In this book she is pretty outrageous and some of the things she did would have been pretty shocking for the time period. In book two she just seems like a meddlesome busybody and was not featured nearly as much, and in book three she schemes but is not nearly as outrageous as she was in book one and I liked her the most in that one.

This is a humorous regency romance, but for the most part the humor fell flat in this one. I thought Mistaken Kiss was the most humorous of the three and that one is my favorite. A couple of things that annoyed me about this book were the foot stamping the main character does several times, and the aunt and love interest keeping something from the main character that they could have let her in on. As far as the foot stamping goes, I didn't notice it so much in the other two books, although I think it happened once or twice. I have a hard time picturing a grown woman stamping her foot like a little girl when shes upset. It's a childish and unattractive thing for a grown woman to do. I don't know if there will be more books in the series, but for the most part I've enjoyed the ones I've read. They have been a fun diversion and I would be willing to read more.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay, #1)Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk

Retribution Falls is a steampunk fantasy that has loads of action. The air ships were interesting and I especially liked the air battles. The second half was better than the first half, but I pretty much liked it from the beginning. The characters were all interesting but Frey, the captain, had to grow on me.

Sky piracy is a bit out of Darian Frey’s league. Fate has not been kind to the captain of the airship Ketty Jay—or his motley crew. They are all running from something.

I wouldn't say fate had anything to do with it. More like personal choices. Frey does have extremely bad luck, mostly brought on by his own choices. I wasn't sure what to think of him at first, then I pretty much hated him for a while, and finally I ended up kind of liking him. Why the big change in the way I felt about him? Character growth. There was a lot of character growth and in the end Frey was not the same man that he was at the beginning of this book. I really like when books have flawed characters that actually grow.

Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death.

That's most of the ship's crew and I must say that I liked the crew a lot better than Frey in the beginning. I think my favorite character in the book was probably Jez. She also was the only one who wasn't in her predicament because of some choice she made. Crake and his golem, Bess were also very interesting. My least favorite crew member was probably Pinn. He's a real dimwit and clearly he's not playing with a full deck. This I suppose could be funny at times, but I didn't find much to like about him, except for when he was in the cockpit of his little airship entertaining us during the air battles.

When an opportunity arises to steal a chest of gems from a vulnerable airship, Frey can’t pass it up. It’s an easy take—and the payoff will finally make him a rich man.

The crew takes on this mission that sounds really simple and is supposed to make them rich. Of course the mission goes south. I've never read a book like this where it didn't. Could you imagine if everything went as planned and the characters all ended up filthy rich almost from the beginning? How much fun would that be and what story would there be left to tell? I would actually like to see someone try to pull that off in a book. I'm not sure what the rest of the story would be about, but hey, it would be different. So of course things don't go as planned, and in the most horrible way, and Frey and the crew of the Ketty Jay are left trying to figure out what is going on while on the run.

Most of what happens in the book is pretty predictable, but still entertaining, It does remind me a lot of Firefly, which many people have compared it to. I didn't have high expectations going into this so I feel like it checked off all the boxes of what I wanted it to be. A fun, rather light steampunk fantasy. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Splendor FallsThe Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Southern Gothic

Can love last beyond the grave?

3.5 stars I like the cover of this book and even though I'm not exactly sure why it's called The Splendor Falls, I like the title too. Both the title and the cover just sort of beckoned me to read it, promising a lot of good gothic mystery.

The book is about Sylvie, a girl who lives in Manhattan, and who is recuperating from a tragic and freak accident which has left her unable to continue with her ballet career, a career that meant everything to her. Sylvie has also been struggling with the loss of her dad, and to make matters worse her mother has now remarried and this has driven a wedge between Sylvie and her mother. Her mother decides that what Sylvie needs is to visit a distant relative in Alabama who happens to be restoring an old family home there. Strange things begin to happen and Sylvie begins to think she's seeing things that aren't there.

I must say that I had a hard time keeping my head in this book for about the first 100 pages. In my opinion it took way too long to get to the meat of the story. I think the book is just too long in general, and it didn't need to be over 500 pages long. When we finally get to the old southern mansion where the story takes place, instead of pulling us into the mansion and its surroundings and enthralling us with it, the author makes the mistake of focusing in too much on Silvie's pet dog Gigi for a good portion of the book. I felt like this distracted from the mystery and the feel of the surroundings.

I can't really say at what point I became engrossed in the story, it was well into the book, but there was a point where Gigi seemed to fade into the background and the story finally took off. The atmosphere of the book changed and suddenly I couldn't put it down. From that point on the book deserves 4 stars. I would say it probably deserved 2 stars before that.

There were two guys in this book that Silvie meets and finds attractive for different reasons. Rhys and Shawn. I liked that even though she was interested in them and they in her it didn't take over the story. The romance was very light and Silvie wasn't all consumed by thoughts of the two guys, so it didn't feel like I was reading a love triangle or anything. I thought Silvie and of course Gigi, were both very well drawn characters. Its just a shame that the rest of the supporting characters couldn't have been more fleshed out. More attention to Rhys and less to Gigi would have improved the book. I liked Rhys and I just wanted more of him.

Overall I ended up liking this book quite a bit. I thought it ended well although there was one thing I thought might be revealed that ended up not being the case.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dark Horse (Class 5, #1)Dark Horse by Michelle Diener

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Opera

Some secrets carry the weight of the world.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn't know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he's not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5's owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn't the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he's going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse.

Dark horse is a light space opera read. I've enjoyed several of Michelle Diener's other books and was excited to see that she ventured into space opera territory. For the most part the main character Rose was very likable. She was smart and resourceful. I would have liked to have seen more PTSD as a result of her captivity and torture, which I might add was not discussed in any detail in this book. There were a few scenes where she became upset over things that had happened, but those seemed to be conveniently placed so that the potential love interest could get close to her and comfort her, which is fine to a point. The scene at the pool felt especially awkward and seemed a bit strange for two people who hardly knew each other. It was a little bit too insta-love for me. I would have liked to have seen them come together differently, but I did enjoy their romance and liked that it wasn't overdone.

There was still plenty of story that didn't involve the romance part. I loved Sazo and his relationship with Rose and I kept wondering if he could really be trusted for a good portion of the book. I really would like to read more about the other class 5s and also find out more about the other alien species that were mentioned in the book. A bit more action in future books would be nice a well. I'm looking forward to eventually reading the two companion books.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

One for SorrowOne for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Paranormal

Against the ominous backdrop of the influenza epidemic of 1918, Annie, a new girl at school, is claimed as best friend by Elsie, a classmate who is a tattletale, a liar, and a thief. Soon Annie makes other friends and finds herself joining them in teasing and tormenting Elsie.

2.5 stars. I've read a few of Mary Downing Hahn's books and liked them quite a bit. I don't read a lot of middle grade, but her books are usually fun, creepy reads. This one I did not like as much as the others I've read. Despite there being a ghost, this was not a creepy book, and that disappointed me. Most of this book was not pleasant to read. There is a lot of bullying done among school girls and although I wanted to feel badly for the girl that was being bullied, and I did at times, it was hard to because she was just as mean as the bullies. For most of the book none of the girls were really likable because of all of the meanness, but in the end the girls all do change. But it does take a vengeful ghost to get them to that point.

The thing I found most interesting about this book was that it was inspired by a story from the author's mothers own experience of living during the Spanish influenza and surviving it. The part in the book when the girls go to the different homes to pay their respects to and view the dead, mainly so they can get free cake, candy, and punch was something her mother and her mother's friends actually did, and they really did end up at a house that belonged to one of their classmates that they had no idea had died until they saw her in the coffin.

If you like reading books about mean girls or vengeful ghosts you might like this book, but for me it was just ok.

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for giving me a copy of this book.

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