Monday, March 27, 2017

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

4.5 Stars

The Legends of the First Empire - Book 1

I was so excited to hear about this book - the first in a new series by one of my fave fantasy authors - and thank all the little gods, I LOVED IT!

Age of Myth tells tales from long, long ago in the world that we've come to know over the Riyria books and they aren't quite as they've been handed down over the millenia!  *LOL*

On some levels, it's your typical big fantasy book, there are elves and dwarves and humans and demons and magic and mystics, but that's just a framework.  The world-building is great - very consistent with what I have come to expect from the Riryia books, which is a good thing.  The plot works for me - others might find it similar to other things they've read before and maybe it is.  Hell, I've been reading epic fantasy for over 40 years, so yeah, many parts are familiar, but... BUT I love the author's voice and the way he creates his characters - I LOVE the characters!  They have flaws, they're not all gorgeous and capable, they have secrets and some of them have plans... BIG plans.  And as for that plot, well, I can honestly say that almost all the important twists I didn't see coming until I was expected to see them coming.

One thing that I love about Sullivan's writing is his sense of humour.  I love it!  I actually chuckle out loud while I'm reading at times.  And it's not that the book is supposed to be funny, okay, it's not Robert Asprin here.  People are funny and Sullivan knows this, so his characters are funny at times. Malcolm and Raithe especially.  Apropos of the humour, seldom am I moved to highlight passages from books, but I did this one:

"It was what the tree said to do.  And if you can't trust an ancient talking tree, what was the point of having one?" 


I loved that!!

In the end, I loved my read and I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out this summer!  (BTW, Sullivan writes his whole series before he publishes the first book, so there are no worries about not getting the end of the tale!)


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Deep Deception by Cathy Pegau

3.5 Stars

I've been looking for a good f/f romance to sink my teeth into, but you know what?  Most f/f romances by recced authors are out of my budget range!  I can't spent $13 on a 250 page romance novel.  I don't spend that for ANY novel if I'm honest.

Anyway, Cathy Pegau is a recommended author whose books don't cost an arm and a leg, so I've picked up a handful.  Deep Deception is the first one I've read.  It's a science fiction, suspense, romance and a good read.  It didn't satisfy my want for a good juicy romance, it's leaning more towards suspense/romance than romance/suspense if that makes any sense.  I should mention that Cathy's other 2 books in this setting of Nevarro appear to be loosely linked to this one - which is the 3rd one written - but every place I've checked confirms that the books can be read separately.

The main characters, Natalia and Gennie are interesting enough if a little sparsely drawn.  The story is told more from Natalia's POV, so she gets the lion share of introspection and backstory, but I found myself wanting to know more of Gennie's history.  Her childhood before she hooked up with the Reyes family for instance.

Somewhat formulaic but nonetheless enjoyable, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Cathy's books in my TBR pile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

3 Stars

The Manifold Worlds - Book 1

I'll be honest.  I bought this book because the cover caught my eye, the author's name had popped up in my Twitter feed on more than one occasion and it was on sale. :)  The blurb didn't turn me off either, so bonus!

And it was a satisfactory read.  I had some problems, however.

First off, all the way through the book I felt as if I had missed reading a volume one somewhere.  I even checked the author's website a couple of times to make certain I had the first book.  Seems I did, but the fact that I felt I had missed a huge part of the story - that was only exacerbated by the memories and expositions of the characters - hung over me all through my read.

That could be a part of the reason that I felt that the plot was all over the place.  There was a lot happening and not enough focus on stuff that I thought needed more focus and then too much on stuff that I didn't find that important.  The strands never came together.  Now yeah, it's Book 1, but SOME of the strands need to come together, in my opinion. It was like a non-ending.  Also, there was SO much well, gender switching for lack of a better word in my little mind, that it often felt forced.  The premise was interesting, but I never got the feeling that there was a why behind it.  It felt like the author wanted the women to hold all the power, the men to feel what women in our world have lived with forever, and I think sex was a good thing with no matter who.  And we also have what I believe is this world's take on transgenderism - can I use that word?.  Far too much stuff thrown in with no actual logic behind it that I could see.  Now don't get me wrong, I love all this stuff, but I want it to feel natural within the story, not thrown in for the purposes of educating the unwashed masses as it were.

There were a ton of interesting characters, very very few of them focussed on, in favour of the very youthful protaganists, Saffron,Viya and Zech.  I think maybe I was reading a YA novel that was trying to break out of the YA mold possibly.  I loved the character of Gwen, but her motives were never clear and I wanted them to be.  I wanted to 'get' her.  And her friend Pix.  And Matu and Luy/Louis.  That's where I felt the hints of depth.

So, all in all, for a fantasy novel with an interesting premise and some great characters , the execution left me flat.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

3.5 Stars

Slough House - Book 1

It sounded good when I read the blurb.  I wasn't sure about it until about half way through, but then it really got going and the twists and turns were twisty and turny and suddenly, I couldn't put it down!  *LOL*

The characters are, for the most part, quite unlikable.  Even the erstwhile hero, River Cartwright has his problems.  But, once I got to the second half of the book, I began to find them, still distasteful, but intriguing!

The plot was nice and twisty and turny, as I said, and kept me wondering until the end.  A few nice surprises along the way too.  Very British in feel, I thought.  Which is a good thing for a British spy novel, right?  And the subject of all the spy stuff is very topical for now.  Rising nationalist feelings and hate crimes against minorities.  Maybe a little too close to home?   Still... I enjoyed my read.

So I will be reading more of these.  :)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shadows & Dreams by Alexis Hall

3 Stars

Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator - Book 2

A fun read, just like the first one.  Kate Kane is a tough cookie, very noir-like in inception and her adventures with the vampires, werewolves, faeries, and all sorts of different supernatural creatures are certainly filled with action.

The plot is twisty turny and non-stop.  We meet a ton of characters (old and new) and I find myself wondering if maybe there weren't a tad too many?   And not only were there many, Kate has probably slept with the majority of the ladies!  *LOL*  She likes her pleasures.  :)

So yes, a fun read and I have no idea why it took me so long to get through it.  There's a note in the back of the book about a #3 in the series coming, but I have the feeling that Alexis has moved on to other things.  I'd have read it though.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jaran by Kate Elliott

3.5 Stars

The Novels of the Jaran - Book 1

I have been meaning to read these books for the longest time.  I'd picked up books 2 & 3 from the second hand bookstore a few years ago, but of course, held off until I could find book 1.  Well, finally, they came out in Ebook omnibus for a really great price - $2.99 - and who could resist that!

So... worth the wait?  Well yes and no.  The book is basically a fantasy set in a science fiction universe - maybe sort of like the Pern novels?  The thing is, you'd better like the heroine, Tess, because you're going to see a helluva lot of her supposedly growing.  To be honest, I found her really a bit too good to be true.  She really has no discernible flaws other than a stubborn unwillingness to actually talk to the hero, Ilya, about what's happening between them.  I wanted to smack both of them at different times during my read.  *LOL*

That being said, I really enjoyed the world-building - or shall I say universe building in this one.  Yeah, we've seen before the primitive society side-by-side with the space-faring society but the primitive world is being protected from the advanced bunch by interdictions - can you say Prime Directive anyone?  *LOL*  Yeah, it made me think, in a very loose way, of The Omega Glory from the original Star Trek.  E plebnista y'all!

What saved the book for me was the cast of secondary characters and the society of the Jaran.  Fascinating!  While I did lose a couple of my faves, I'm hopeful that further books in the series (there are 4 volumes) will continue their stories as well as that of Tess and Ilya.  And maybe Tess will stop being so perfect at everything.  A girl can hope!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

4.5 Stars

Sins of the Cities - Book 1

A new KJ Charles trilogy!!  WOOT!

No one does historical m/m romance better than KJ Charles, in my honest and humble opinion.  That this trilogy also holds a mystery plot line makes me very happy.

As always, the main characters are distinct and different from the norm.  And as often as not, they aren't the nobility either, which I find fascinating. I always learn something when reading KJ's books.  This time, we have a taxidermist and the manager of a boarding house.

Rowley, the taxidermist, is a quiet man.  His childhood was violent and somewhat hopeless and these days he's most happy to spend most of his time by himself, working on his art or doing commissions for his customers.  I found many of his life observations to be quite true and really enjoyed getting to know him.

The boarding house manager, Clem, is part Indian and has ties to the nobility.  He also appears to be what we call 'on the spectrum'.  Asperger's?  Highly functioning autistic? It's never really stated because, well, these diagnoses didn't exist back in those days. I really enjoyed how Rowley was able understand him and let his true self show.  That Rowley's sexual preferences seemed to dovetail quite nicely with Clem's personality and needs... well it was really well done.

And Clem's friends and co-workers... delightful!  KJ does characters so well.  :)

An Unseen Attraction is a sweet love story wrapped up in a mystery and tied with a lovely historical bow and I totally enjoyed it!  I can't wait for the next book, coming in June and then the final book which I believe comes out in October.  They are pre-ordered.  KJ is one of the few authors I will preorder.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rat Queens - Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

4 Stars

Rat Queens - Volume 1

It's gorgeous looking!

It's hysterical!

It's fun!

It's violent and of questionable taste!

I really really liked it. *LOL*

Sand of Bone by Blair MacGregor

5 Stars

Desert Rising - Book 1

I loved this book.  I was surprised by just how much I loved it.  It was truly a delicious read.  :)

I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was in good part because the characters were so beautifully drawn.  The good and the bad.  The main character would by Syrina, a young woman, descended from the gods, one of the ruling family of the desert who has been exiled to the remote and near barren Salt Hold for basically refusing to fall in line with her family's wishes for her.  At first I found her kind of vapid and shallow, her refusal to toe the family line having mostly to do with her own discomfort.  But the author shows us how Syrina grows, the choices she has and the ones she makes - not all of them wise or good, to be honest.  She was real, so I didn't roll my eyes at her.

Her antagonist is her brother Raskah - a nasty piece of work.  Cruel and violent, he's truly an awful young man.  Like a good villain should be.  :)  I was expecting his story to go one way, but Blair MacG took him another way, which both disappointed and delighted me?  *LOL*  I know... I guess I just wanted to be clever.  :)

The secondary characters, Pyrius, Shella, Riner, Ehren et al... were wonderfully drawn and full people, not types, if you know what I mean.  I have my favourites and while some of them survived, other didn't.  And that's a good thing!  The author does not play around and I've come to respect that.  Kill my faves!  Go ahead, but man... make it mean something in the story.  And it does.

This is one of those books that makes me wish I could write a really good and inspiring review filled with thoughtful insights and comments, but sadly, I don't have that talent.

The thing to take away is... I LOVED THIS BOOK!  :)



Friday, February 17, 2017

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

4.5 Stars

The Song of Shattered Sands - Book 1

I became enamoured of epic fantasy back in the 70s when the big thing to read was Lord of the Rings.  Elves and fairies and orcs and wizards and the like were de rigeur and I was totally along for the ride.  Still am, truth be told.  Today, however, things are finally changing and we're seeing more and more diverse worlds being built and mythologies and cultures being created.  It's wonderful!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai gives us a desert world filled with nomads and tribes and kings and pit fighters and street urchins and zombies and blade-wielding elite woman warriors. It's refreshingly different from much epic fantasy that I've read.  There are hints of such a world in the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin and I think I might even see some inspiration from my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay, but make no mistake, Bradley P. Beaulieu has created something quite special and immersive, I think.

If I say that this is the story of a young girl coming into her own, starting her life journey, it sounds like the ubiquitous YA novel, but I think that'd be doing it a disservice.  I dislike YA and New Adult novels, they leave me - for the most part - searching for more substance.  But man, oh man, this book has some hefty substance!  It's a long read, but it's fascinating.  The characters are great, they have dimension and weight and substance and they all have flaws.  And while the long game of the plot seems to be something read before - the overthrowing of the current powerful folk - something tells me that it's not going to be so straightforward and the journey to the end game is going to be gripping.

Now, there are a lot of flashbacks in this book and that might give some pause, but while I am generally not a fan, I didn't mind them at all.  Alot of the plot has to do with the MC, Çeda's memories and the way the flashbacks play out, it's like we're remembering things along with her - things that didn't seem important but really are and the like.  I don't know how it's going to play out in subsequent books, but in this one, it works for me.

So yeah,  a highly-recommended read for lovers of epic fantasy and I'm definitely looking forward to the second book which I hope to get my hands on soon.  :)  (This book, is actually on sale at Kobo for $2.99 as I write this.)

Oh... and that cover!  It's GORGEOUS!!