Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Bourbon Kings by J. R Ward

3.5 Stars

The Bourbon Kings - Book One

Holy potboiler, Batman!  The combination of  insomnia and a book that was written to be breezed through made this book a quick read.  J.R. Ward is known for her Dark Brotherhood books that people have been raving about for years.  (I have the first one and yet to read it - but it's in paperback, not ebook, so I'm less inclined to just pick it up.)  This book is the first in a family dynasty epic, romance, mystery, soap opera trilogy.  Well, unless she decides it needs to go further.

For me, the most interesting character in this saga is the eldest brother, Edward.  He's had terrible things happen to him and he's really mostly a shell of a man when we meet him, but I couldn't tear my reading eyes from him.  Broken, beaten and more, scarred and ill - the man is a conundrum. :)

The heroine of this tale, Lizzie King, is the head horticulturist at the estate of the uber-wealthy bourbon barons, the Bradfords.  And she has history with the youngest son, Lane.  I alternated between enjoying her independent self and rolling my eyes at her silliness.  I wanted to pinch her, hard, more than once.

Much of the book, the characters, the setting, the feel of the thing is cliché, but it's enjoyable!  The writing is okay - Ward writes for the present, lots of pop culture references that will be out of date in another 10 or less years and those inner dialogue asides that almost but not quite break the fourth wall.

I'm going to read the next book, but I will most definitely wait until it goes on sale.  I may even check out that Dark Brotherhood book I have up in the bookcase.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

5 Stars

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache - Book 12

And Louise Penny hits it out of the park once again.  I cannot tell you how much I adore her characters and her stories and her insight into the human mind and all the messy emotions that roil within.

Yes, there's a murder mystery in the story, but Gamache stories are SO SO much more than just a murder mystery.  It's the motives, the whys, the reasons that people do what they do, are who they are and the choices that we all make.

When I finish one of Louise Penny's books, I always feel so inadequate when writing up my thoughts.  All I can say aside from professing my love for the characters old and new, the familiar locations in which the stories are set, the puzzlement of the mystery and how it manages to affect the denizens of Three Pines, and the easy yet deep way the books are written is that I wish there were a ton more to read.  This is the 12th book in and I haven't felt once that I was reading a retread of what had come before.  Armand et all always have something to teach me.  Some surprise, some twist, some truth I hadn't seen.

I think I spent the last 20 or so pages of the book wiping tears away.  Rip my heart out, Louise!  Rip it right out!  *LOL*

I am sad because I have no Gamache books left to read.  I'd been hoarding this last one for the longest time.  The next one, #13, comes out at the end of August but I find the $16 price tag a bit rich for my budget right now.  But as SOON as I can, I'll be adding it to the library, anxious to read of what's next in the lives of my favourite members of the Sureté du Quebec.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

4.5 Stars

The Draconis Memoria - Book 1

I loved this book!  Yes, it seemed to take a while for me to read, I have no idea why, but I absolutely loved it.  :)

The Waking Fire is a wonderful mix of dragon fantasy, steampunk, military and adventure and some magic thrown in for good measure.  Sounds like quite the jumble, but it works spectacularly well, IMO.

The three main characters, whose POVs we follow throughout the book, are very different - a small-time street criminal, a lady spy and and upright, honourable Navy man - but they all have one thing in common that I'm not sure I can describe well enough.  But it's got to do with conscience, honour, selflessness (this is a maybe)... I don't know bit they all have this 'it' factor.  And they're all likable while having recognisable flaws, which I find very, very important.

The world that Ryan has created is familiar yet different.  There is some incredible world-building here and it's fascinating - even though there were a few parts when I found the descriptive passages a tad tedious.  That's probably what kept this from a 5 star read for me.

A word about the dragons.  They're different from most of the dragons we read about in fantasy and I feel like we've only scratched the surface in this book one of the series.  I don't know how many books it's projected to be, but let me tell you, I can't wait to get my hands on the second book when it gets down to a reasonable price!  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year.  :)



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

3.5 Stars

The Band - Book 1

This book was highly recommended throughout the fantasy book blogosphere over the winter - it was published in February - and I think it's the author's first book.  Anyway, I quite enjoyed it!

Kings of the Wyld is one one of the new flavours of fantasy, mixing grimdark with humour with epic and of course, magic.  It's the tale of a group, a band if you will, of aging warriors/adventurers/mercenaries teaming up together for one last mission.  I saw the book described as Lord of the Rings meets Guardians of the Galaxy and you know, that description works!

I actually loved all the characters.  The main character is Clay Cooper and I think he really was my favourite.  Or maybe it was Ganelon... hell, I really loved them all.  Cranky old men whose bones creak and crack, who reminisce about the old days but can still get the job done.  The banter and the quips that fly back and forth between them worked very well and brought me to laughter on more than one occasion.  The narrative also, at times, would take on a humourous aside that I also appreciated.

Rollicking is a word that's been used to describe Kings of the Wyld and it's a perfect word for it.  The tale is a complete one even if it seems to be the first in the series.  The story of the band, Saga, has come to an end even though we're going to see familiar characters in other books it seems.  And that's okay.  It's perfect, as a matter of fact!

A good, fun read!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Windward by Kirby Crow

4 Stars

Mirror - Book 2

This is a serious book!  Not for the faint-hearted, let me tell you.  And I loved it.  :)

We're back with Matty and Grant who still have so many things to iron out between them.  It's not an easy row to hoe by any means, love notwithstanding.  Are they to be allowed to do this by themselves?

Oh hell no.

If it's not interference and at times outright disapproval from Grant's family, it's the FBI come knocking with a request for Matty to help them out with the tracking down and capture of his ex-lover, the chilling assassin, Jaeger Koning.  And what's with Jaeger?  Well, nothing other than that he wants his one-time submissive, Matty, back where he belongs.  With Jaeger.

There's action.  There's banter.  There's humour.  There's emotion.  There's heart-stopping danger and there's moments that one is tempted to weep.   Seriously!

But the main strength in this book, I think, comes from the way the author brings us into the minds of the three main characters - Grant, Matty and Jaeger - sharing their thoughts and how their minds and their.. well... their selves are guided and formed by the power exchanges of D/s relationships.  I'm explaining it badly - who's surprised? - but I find the whole idea of power exchange to be sexy and heady and fascinating.

Loved it and I hope we may revisit the Mirror Universe at some point.  :)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

5 Stars

FABULOUS!!

First off, I really enjoy Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and any guest interviews I've seen him do over time.  I also enjoyed his stand-up special Afraid of the Dark and will be looking to find his other specials.  I'd heard many good things about this memoir of his, so when it was on sale, I snapped it up!

The book deals with Trevor's childhood in South Africa, growing up first in apartheid and then after the fall of apartheid.  The written word sound just like him talking in my head, which I think is good, seeing as it's a memoir, right?  Anyway, it's filled with lots of laughter and love, but there is also a lot of insight into apartheid and racism and bigotry of all sorts woven into the tales of the boy Trevor.  I thought I knew about apartheid, but I learned so much more reading Trevor's story.

It's also a love letter to his mother in many ways.  A fiercely independent woman when the times were not ready for independent women, she was obviously the light of his life.  They didn't have it easy.  There was abuse, emotional and physical, from Trevor's stepfather, but he tells the stories in the same tone that he tells the rest of his story that I didn't find myself getting upset, just quietly horrified.  I don't know if that makes any sense, but there you go.

So yes, I loved this book and have been recommending it all over the place even though I wasn't finished reading it!  *LOL*  And now that I've finished, I shall definitely continue!!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford

3.5 Stars

Rhys Ford is one of my go-to authors.  She never disappoints, not really, not even with a book that's not that stellar, such as this one.  And I say not that stellar, but I'm still giving it 3.5 stars.

There's a lot of good stuff here.  A couple of great main characters, the POV character being Senior Inspector Roku MacCormick of the Chinatown Arcane Crimes Division of San Francisco.  He's telling the story.  He's part faerie, part human and has suffered some tremendous losses in his life.   He's cranky and cynical a lot of the time and of course, I took to him immediately.

His partner, his new partner, Trent Leonard, is a big handsome hunk of a man, but I felt like we hardly got to know him.  Yeah, his backstory was there and all, but I really never got the feeling I knew him the way I've gotten to know so many of Rhys' characters.

The setting is great and the plot works well.  There's a lot of magic in this version of San Francisco and Rhys makes it all work quite nicely.  We are immersed in Chinese culture, but there was just so much of it that was just there... never explained to one like me who is not familiar with a lot of it.  I would have liked either a little more explanation of what was either food, drink, holy relic, a piece of clothing - there were times I was never sure and that tended to take me out of the story.

I also found that there was a lot... a whole helluva lot of description of things.  Places, especially.  Too much of it for my taste.  Now, I have a theory.... this book was originally a short story in an anthology that was expanded into a novel and I wonder if what I was finding too much was due to the expanding of something already written?  Maybe.  But the thing is, the story didn't really need it!  I wanted more character, maybe more interaction with the secondary characters who I really enjoyed and maybe just more discussion between Roku and Trent that wasn't all about the hot sex.  But OMG, the sex was hot!  There wasn't a ton of it - a lot of tension though.  A LOT!

Anyway, should this turn into a series, I won't complain.  I want to know more about Roku and Trent and Roku's family and friends and the world.

Monday, June 12, 2017

An Unnatural Vice by KJ Charles

4.5 Stars

Sins of the Cities - Book 2

I honestly have yet to be disappointed in a KJ Charles book.  An Unnatural Vice continues that positive string.  It was terrific!

In An Unnatural Vice, we get the story of Nathaniel Roy who we met in the first book of the series, a friend of Clem's, the illegitimate earl's son and a journalist.  He's out to expose a spiritualist, Justin Lazarus, who just happens to be tied to the over-arching plot of the trilogy.

Of course, the two men are drawn to each other despite their mutual distrust.  There's just some kind of spark that quickly grows into a bonfire and it works!  It's not insta-love, it's insta-lust.  And that's okay because the author is just that good that we can see why they're so drawn to each other and it makes sense.

Alot of the reviews etc... that I've read of this book indicate that Justin is a total bastard, but you know what?  I never saw him that way. Yes, he's not exactly an honest or upright man, but it's clear from the beginning, at least it was to me, that he had his own code of morals and while they might not be all pure and altruistic, they are constant and he lives by them.  Sure, he makes his living by bilking what folks would consider innocent people, but those were the cards he was dealt and what was the alternative?  So no, I didn't think he was a right bastard at all.

I will say that Justin was the more intriguing character of  the two men.  Nathaniel, the crusading journalist doesn't have many grey areas and at times he even came across as a tad snotty about being 'the good guy', but he's also charming and amusingly deprecating at times and this warmed me to him. He is really the perfect foil for Justin and the two of them falling in love was fun to read.

There is lots of action, both in and out of the bedroom and the mystery plot barrels along to an interesting and satisfying second act climax.  I am looking forward to Book 3 - already pre-ordered, something I very seldom do - and seeing what comes of Mark, another of the friends, the private investigator, excuse me, the private enquiry agent and Pen, the young man he's discovered.  I only have to wait until October.  :)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

3.5 Stars

The Checquy Files - Book 2

Sad to say that I didn't enjoy Book 2 as much as I enjoyed Book 1, The Rook.  I can put it down to too much infodumping and backstory and not enough story set in current times with the current action.  As well as there not being enough of Myfanwy Thomas, the lead character from Book 1.

The main focus of this book is really twofold, two main characters.  First we have Pawn Felicity Clements, the Checquy soldier/bodyguard who is set to 'babysit' the Grafter girl, Odette Leliefeld.  One of the best things about the story is the relationship between the two young women.  I wanted more of that.  Originally they dislike (hate?) each other, filled with distrust and suspicion but gradually, over time and adventures, that changes and they become friends, even close friends.  I actually liked both of them quite a bit but felt that I would much rather be in 'their' story than reading back over their pasts - mostly Odette's.

Myfanwy is around, she's the boss and she's the one trying to broker the deal between The Checquy and the Grafters to join forces and fight the big, horror bad guys.  She sees things very pragmatically and clearly and knows what has to be done.  I liked how both young women seemed to look to her as a type of role model even though she's really only about 5 or so years older than they are.

The plot was windy and twisty and involved a splinter group of the Grafters and even some monsters popping up from God knows where.  I would have preferred more thought be given to this part of the book than the set up and world-building (really infodump backstory filler author masturbation, if you ask me) and that would have made it hang together better and kept me turning the pages far past the time I should have been asleep.

So... good book, good read, but not as good as I was hoping or expecting.

Oh, I have to say, the artist who did the cover art, one Lindsey Andrews did a STELLAR job!  In my ereader this cover looks as if there's a big crack in my screen!  I kept doing double takes when I'd catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye.  Big kudos!!


Friday, May 26, 2017

The World of Cherry by Kay Brandt

3 Stars

World of Cherry - Book 1

Not much thinking here! *LOL* It's erotica. Explicit f/f erotica and there's a bit of a plot and a bit of characters to be found.

It is what it is and that's okay.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

4.5 Stars

River of Teeth - Book 1

I first heard about River of Teeth through one of the reading blogs I follow and I bought the novella for the simple reason that the blurb got me.  Especially this part:

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Feral hippos and hippo wranglers??  What?  Talk about an original idea!  I was sold.  I pre-ordered the book right away - a couple of months ago - and I hardly ever pre-order books.

It was not a wrong decision - I loved it!  The characters were original and interesting and bound together in interesting ways.  They kept me wanting to read page after page, fascinated and dying to see what they were going to get up to.  And the hippos... the HIPPOS!  I loved all of them. 

The world-building in this tale is intriguing even if it's a bit ... out of whack as per the author's note at the beginning of the book.  Who cares... IT WORKS!  And the story itself is a rollicking, fun, banter-filled adventure.  

And back to the characters.  They are a really diverse bunch.  Race, colour, creed, sexuality... hell, it's all diverse and not made a big deal of really which works just fine for me.  I like when the diversity is just a given in a story and not a plot point.  My only real problem was ... well, mechanical?  There is a character who is ... gender non-conforming?  I think that's the label.  Anyway, the character uses the 'they' pronoun.  Which is totally fine, but I've discovered that at the age of 60 and having 55 years of reading under my belt, when I read the words 'they' or 'them' or 'their' ... my brain looks for/understands multiple people and a couple if times I had to go back and see if the character was alone or had someone tagged along in the scene.  I suppose with more of these types of characters my brain will get used to it, but it was something that impacted me as I read. BTW, I adored the character in question!  :)  

My only real complaint is that it was too damned short!  I wanted a novel, not a novella.  Yes, it ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, but not one that made me want to send the ereader for a sail across the room.  Still, the characters were so good, the alternate reality so interesting that I wanted a lot more of it.  :)

Oh, and look at that lovely cover!  

The second book in the duology just went up for preorder today.  It's called Taste of Marrow.  And yes, I have pre-ordered it.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Wrong Woman by Cass Lennox

1 Star

Toronto Connections #4

I am totally the wrong person for this book. I read it as a Riptide Advance Read and didn't realise that it was SO New Adult. I was hoping for a good lesbian romance but that's not what I felt I got.

I did not like either of the main characters, I thought they were totally self-absorbed, arrogant, and completely clued out about how to go about having any kind of relationship. And the inner dialogue. It was constant. CONSTANT. And irritating. I wish I had a dollar for every time one or the other thought "UGH". I could have a good shop for books, let me tell you.

I don't know, if I hadn't been reading it for Riptide, I would have DNFed it by the end of the 3rd chapter.

But that being said... I'm fairly sure the fault lies mainly with me and not the book itself. Maybe the young people out there will like it? I really hope they're not all like the ones in the book - even the secondary and tertiary characters. I honestly didn't find anything romancey about it (I still don't know why the MCs are together other than that they're hot) at all and as for the mystery at the centre of the plot, well, it was more an afterthought than anything else, it seemed to me. Sadly.

This just re-affirmed that New Adult romances are not for me one little bit.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

4 Stars

Tales of the Ketty Jay - Book 1

Have you been missing Firefly and Captain Mal and his crew?  If so, give Retribution Falls a try!  Mind you, Captain Frey is somewhat grungier and somewhat less um... scrupulous and savoury.  :)

So we have pirates, we have air ships - rust buckets and sleek cruisers and huge frigates, we have pirate towns, we have manors, we have out of the way religious abbeys, we have cutlasses and guns and daemons and golems and so many diverse and wonderful things!

The crew of the Ketty Jay is the very definition of motley, down to Slag, the ship's feline.  All of them have something in their past that has made them outcasts of some sort or another and throughout the book, we get to learn their stories one by one.  In between the space battles, heists, and breakouts they all get fleshed out and we come to appreciate both the good things about them and the flaws.

Retribution Falls is a rollicking steampunky adventure peopled with cool and interesting characters, a social system in upheaval and enough magic to make it fun.  :)  It reads like watching a TV show - like Firefly! - and I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next of the Ketty Jay tales.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Seduction for Beginners by Jae

Seduction for Beginners is a short story that I read last night when I couldn't decided what book I wanted to read next.  I haven't included it in my lists as a book read, because honestly. at less than 15,000 words, it's not really a book in my mind.

Anyway, this was a really cute, sexy story about the first time a couple gets intimate, all the way.  And it was truly the best of the lesbian romance stuff I've read lately.  There was really no angst, there was no dead previous partner, no deathly diseases, no crazed exes, no heart-broken character.  Annie, half of the couple, is only recently come out (there was a book that preceded this story, but I've not read it.) and her partner, Drew is the more knowledgeable one.  Drew is letting Annie be the guide in the physical aspects of this relationship, taking things at the speed she's comfortable with.  And now, Annie has decided that it's time to go all the way, as we used to say back in the day.  :)

It was cute, it was sexy, it was fun and I really liked the author's voice.  Now, if only her books were a reasonable price or would go on sale, I'd read more of her!  :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

4 Stars

Powder Mage - Book 1

I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would and I don't know why I held off reading it for so long.

Promise of Blood is a military fantasy filled with political intrigue and not a little magic.  It has everything I like in it, an engaging plot that's full of believable twists and turns, characters that are flawed but have redeeming qualities and have logical reasons for doing what they do, and a world that's familiar yet different.  As I read, I found myself laughing in some places, tearing up a time or two, sitting on the edge of my seat anxiously and even cheering a time or two.  And for a change, most of the characters are over the age of 25!

McClellan's world-building is nifty.  It took me a bit to catch on to what everything meant, to be a Marked, a Privilege, Knacked and how gunpowder and munitions fit into things, but once I decided to just let it flow and not worry about things, it all became easier.

I think much of that is that McClellan is just a good storyteller.  He kept my attention and the pages turning with great anticipation.  This was one of those books that I was anxious to finish but damned reluctant to reach the end.

I hope the second book in the series goes on sale soon so I can add it to the TBR.  I need to know more about what happens to all my new friends but I can't afford the $13 it'll cost me for ebook right now.  But it's most certainly on the list... HIGH on the list!

Oh, and look at that cover!  I'd hang that on my wall, it's that cool!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

4 Stars

Lillian Frost & Edith Head Mystery - #1

Oh my, this was fun to read!  I am so glad it has a great cover because it was the cover that originally caught my eye.  One of the women I follow on Twitter is a librarian whose job includes purchasing the books for the library and she likes to tweet out book covers and give her thoughts on them.  So, she tweeted this cover, I was intrigued, I went to check the blurb and promptly added it to my 'to acquire' list.  It recently went on sale (as of this writing it's still $2.99 at Kobo) so I was very quick to pick it up.

And it's delicious!!  I love the setting - 1937 Hollywood.  The characters are terrific.  The heroine, Lillian Frost is right out of one of those detective movies of the 30s and 40s and I liked her right away.  I've been a huge fan of Edith Head for decades and love the way the authors (Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for the husband and wife team of Rosemarie and Vince Keenan.) have portrayed her.  The other supporting characters are perfect.  Gene, the stalwart police detective.  Vi, Ready and Kay friends of Lillian's who are wonderfully quirky.  Even the suspects in the murder case are great.  Some might call them all stereotypical, but they all evoke the genre so well that it's delightful!

I honestly felt like I was watching a movie.  Everything worked.  Even the plot of the mystery.  I thought person X did it, then maybe it was person Y then maybe it was Z and B working together, then back to X again all the while waiting for the one clue that would make me believe it was person N coming in from left field.  *LOL*

I guess one would term this a cozy style mystery even if it does take place in the decadent environs of Hollywood.  And I'll admit, they are not my favourite, but this one... I LOVED IT!   Can't wait to read the second one!

I highly recommend this - especially if you're a mystery fan and an old-time Hollywood fan.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Finding Ms. Write by Various Authors

3 Stars

Finding Ms. Write is an anthology of 12 f/f contemporary romance stories and I thought it a perfect way to discover some new authors without breaking my bank.  *LOL*  You see, most of the f/f authors that are recommended by folks publish with publishers that A) never seem to go on sale and B) sell their novels for $13 a piece.  Not conducive to exploring a genre.  And quite honestly, Bold Strokes Books and Ylva Publishing should take a look at that if they want to expand beyond their comfy genre niche.  I love romance of all sorts, but quite honestly, they don't make it easy.

So, on to the book.  The stories were well-written and somewhat engaging for the most part, but what struck me was that they all seemed to have main characters who had either been dumped/widowed/deserted in some way.  Is this a big f/f trope?  The anthology didn't seem to be going for that - it's supposed to be about the publishing industry - but it seemed that every last one of these ladies had some tragedy in their past.

For the most part, all the romances are very sweet.  Not much steam or heat happening, which disappointed me.  I like my romances to have some physical oomph to them.  There was just an element of blandness to many of the tales and characters.  Maybe blandness is not the right word... I don't know.  I just found most of them too calm for me maybe.  On the plus side, the majority of the characters weren't wet behind the ears kidlets under the age of 25.  It was refreshing to read about mature women - except jeez, did they all have to have lost a love?

One thing really irritated me though... I really don't need to be reading a romance story about a main character who has early on-set Alzheimer's to deal with.

In conclusion, I will say that Finding Ms. Write was a nice read, filled with nice stories about nice people.  Nice.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Crescendo by Rachel Haimowitz

4 Stars

Song of the Fallen - Book 2

I've had this in my TBR pile forever it seems and I wonder why? I loved the first book - Counterpoint - a lot, but for some reason I never got around to reading this one. I shouldn't have waited so long. Why? First off, because I enjoyed it, but secondly, because it follows right on the heels of the first novel (they could really be two halves of a whole epic brick of a fantasy novel) and I had forgotten many of the little bits and bobs of the plot that would have been nice to remember reading this one.

As I said, I enjoyed this one a lot. An epic fantasy, elves, dark creatures, big battles, intimate fights, slaves and magic songs, at the heart of it is the love story between Freyrik and Ayden, man and elf. I liked that the love story, while being very very important, didn't overshadow the plot of the book, but was like one half of the whole.

I did get the feeling, however, that near the end, the author just wanted to be finished with the story. It felt a little rushed. I would have liked more of Rik with the elves and how that bridge got built. I'd have liked to see it instead of just being told about it. I would also like to have seen more of some of the secondary characters, especially the some of the elves that we only really get to meet near the end of the book. And I would also have like more depth to the solving of the problem of the 'dark elves'.

But, I did like it a lot. :)

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

3.5 Stars

Old Man's War - Book 1

I've been eyeing Scalzi's work for a while, but not being a huge sci-fi fan, I've always tended to pass over his books.  But after getting hooked on the TV shows The Expanse and Dark Matter, and reading the first of the Expanse books and loving it, I decided - after a quick check with some long time friends - that it was time for me to try Scalzi out.  It helped, of course, that the book was on a really good sale.  :)

And I liked it.  :)  Military space opera.  A protagonist that's closer to my age than most others these days and some really intriguing future world-building that wasn't too scientific for me.  I don't enjoy reading scientific treatises, you see.  And quite frankly, that's why this isn't 4 stars - there was a little too much techy-techy, OMG what are we going to become etc... for me.  I felt like this book was a good tale, a romp with some great characters and terrific bantering dialogue and those few parts that were of a techsophical bent just seemed preachy to me.

Anyhoo, I really did enjoy the book.  Enjoyed Scalzi's voice for the most part and will indeed read further in the series.  When they go on sale again.  *LOL*  The budget, man, the budget!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Murder on the Last Frontier by Cathy Pegau

3.5 Stars

Charlotte Brody Mysteries - Book 1

For some reason, I expected this book to be a mystery with a f/f romance as the secondary plot (and I don't think I was the only one.).  Well... nope.  *LOL*  It's a m/f romantic subplot.  Sort of.  Vaguely.

Really, Murder on the Last Frontier is basically a cozy mystery starring a 1920s feminist on the Alaskan frontier.  Charlotte is a journalist who comes to visit her brother, a doctor, in the Alaskan town of Cordova (the town where the author lives today, so it feels really authentic).  There is a rangy assistant deputy who Charlotte finds herself attracted to in the course of solving the mystery of the murder of a young woman of the evening.

It's a good book.  I enjoyed my read even though I kept looking for the second heroine to appear.  :)  Much of my enjoyment was because I liked the character of Charlotte a lot.  She has some darkness and heartache in her background which is a large part of her coming to visit her brother.  She's kind of sassy and irreverent and I like that.

The mystery was okay, nothing spectacular, but it served to let me get to know Charlotte.  And by the end of the book, she's made some friends, a couple of enemies too and I find myself looking forward to reading some more about her.  :)

So yeah, if you like cozy mysteries in a historical setting that's different from most, then this is for you.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

3 Stars

Inspector Rebus - Book 1

Finally trying out a popular UK police procedural.  I do enjoy a good procedural.  And I enjoyed this one for the most part.

In some ways, John Rebus reminds me a little of my beloved Armand Gamache in that he's well-read, thoughtful, and somewhat tortured by things in his past.  My problem is that Rebus is also kind of a jerk.  I really didn't warm up to him much at all.  And his supporting cast wasn't all that likable either.

I thought there was a lot of faffing about in the first half of the book - a lot of delving into Rebus' psyche and woe-is-me attitudes and not a lot about the search for the burgeoning serial killer.  Which might have worked better for me had I felt a liking for Rebus.  *LOL*

As for the mystery of the kidnappings and murders, I suspected it pretty early on, but there were some twists and turns I wasn't expecting.

So, end result, it was a decent read and I'll read more about Inspector Rebus and hope that I grow to like him a little better.  :)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Obsession by Nora Roberts

3.5 Stars

I can always trust what I'm going to get with a Nora Roberts book and to date, I don't think I've been disappointed.  I thought this might be a first as I made my way through the first few chapters.  It was like an episode of Criminal Minds and that's not really how I want my Noras to be!  *LOL*  But then we got on with the story and things all fell into place.

All my fave elements were there, the hot hero, the heroine that I would love to share a bottle of wine and a giggle with, the supporting cast of friends and family and the obligatory dog or two.  Most importantly, the banter was there.  One of my favourite things about Nora books is the banter, indeed all the dialogue, between the characters.

In reading other reviews of this book, a lot of folks moaned about how much there was of the renovation talk.  I had no problem with it as that whole part of the plot was mirroring the inner journey of Naomi, our heroine.  What drove me nuts was the constant description of all the food!  I'm so not a foodie.  *LOL*

I enjoyed how Naomi and Xander fell in love and I totally enjoyed their courtship.  Yeah, Xander might be a little perfect, but it's a perfect I like and it makes me happy, so...  :)

The suspenseful part of the story was okay, not Nora's best nor her worst, but again, it felt like an episode of Criminal Minds and while that's one of my favourite shows, it's not really what I want in my Nora books.  I don't think it was too difficult to figure out who the bad guy was once the mystery part really got going.

Anyway, it was a Nora and I liked it.  :)

(By the way, I didn't really set out to read two books with the same title back to back, it just happened.  *LOL*)



Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Obsession by Liliana Lee

4 Stars

Princess Shanyin - Book 1

Holy steam bath, Batman!  This book is SCORCHING!

Erotic romance, emphasis on the erotic, done extremely well in my opinion.  Yes, there were a few passages of uber-flowery language, but I can overlook that.

The story is told from the POV of the Princess Shanyin, sister to the emperor who has a harem of 30 of the most gorgeous male concubines and then the very handsome Chu Yuan catches her eye and she decides that she must have him.  And thus the tale of her seduction of Yuan begins.

There's a plot here, beyond the seduction and heat which I thought added to the book, but make no mistake, this is a novella about erotic sex and it delivers.  I will be reading Books 2 and 3.  :)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bonfires by Amy Lane

4.5 Stars

I absolutely LOVED this book.  Loved it!

The heroes of Bonfires are just south of 50 years of age and BY GOD that's amazing!  We so seldom get to see heroes in romances that are older than 35 these days... hell, most of them are in their early 20s in the m/m subgenre.  And they're ordinary guys!  No mental illnesses or diseases or infirmities to conquer along with falling in love.  Just kids and creaky bones and grey hair.  How goddamned refreshing is THAT!  I LOVED IT!

Yes, being as the story is set in a small town there are current day prejudices and bigotries to be discusses and small-mindedness and bullying to be concerned with, but these things don't take over the love story of these two, special ordinary good guys.  I don't know which one was my favourite, Aaron the deputy sheriff, or Larx, the reluctant high school principal.  (On small problem I had was that name though... Larx, short for Larkin - bugged the hell out of me for no specific reason.  Just did.  *LOL*)

And they have kids, both their own kids and students that have need of an understanding ear or a helping hand.  Smart kids.  Clever and wise kids.  Smart kids that do dumb things.  Sad kids.  Happy kids.  All kinds of flipping kids that made me laugh and smile and grumble and even cry.  The middle chapters of this book saw me becoming a blubbering mess!  *LOL*

If you read a lot of Amy's books, you know we usually see a family being formed, usually through the eyes of a young man or two.  In this case, we see the same forming of a family, but this time through the eyes of the two mature men.  It's so viscerally Amy but different.  :)   And yet, there's so much of Amy in this book, I can definitely see why she says she felt such joy writing it.

Anyway... I just loved it!  Period, full stop.  :)

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!!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Strivers' Row Spy by Jason Overstreet

Well, I tried.

I got almost 1/3rd of the way in on The Strivers' Row Spy before calling it quits.  Life is too short and my TBR pile too high to continue reading a book that was only making me sigh in annoyance and wish I was doing something else other than reading.

I had high hopes too.  It started with a great cover.  I mean, good God, this is a gorgeous cover.  It continued with a setting of a time period I like to read and the blurb made the story sound like it would be intriguing and exciting and I might even learn a few things.  And, to keep all those diverse writing warriors happy, it's a story about POC and written by an MOC.

Well, a history book couldn't have been more dry.

The main character of Sidney Temple never came alive for me as more than a pedantic, boring, smug and supercilious young man.  I never felt any connection or empathy or even interest in what he was doing, and I think that was because he never evinced any enthusiasm.  All so bland and matter of fact.  Often his conversations with the other characters became lectures.  People don't really talk that way, I hope, because OMG, YAWN!!  I felt as if I was being lectured and told, page after page.  Show, don't tell, does not apply here.

So, I DNFed.   And I feel a little guilty because I very seldom give up on a book, but again... Life is too short and the TBR pile is too big!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

3.5 Stars

The Builders was another of my guts buys.  It came up in my Kobo recs, I think and I was intrigued by the blurb and the price was right, so... I bought it.  :)  It's a novella and it's basically Brian Jacques Redwallesque except it's not suitable for youngsters.  *LOL*  Lots of violence and mayhem.

Now, one of my all-time favourite movies is The Magnificent Seven - the Yul Brynner version, of course - and as such, I'm drawn to books that feature a motley band of characters heading off on some kind of adventure or crusade or mission or whatever.  And that's what we have here.  It's a quick tale about a crew of not-so-noble animals heading off for what might be their final adventure.

And I liked it!

I liked Polansky's writing style and I enjoyed his character creations, even if I had to write down their names and what animals they were to keep them straight.  Once I wrote them down, though, it fixed in my mind, so I'll just blame by advancing years for that.  :)

Anyway, fun read and I'll be keeping Polansky's name in mind.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

4 STARS

Novels of the Tufa - Book 1

This book was a guts buy for me when it was on sale a few weeks ago.  I picked it and books 2 and 3 up at the same time just because the blurbs sounded good!  And different.

We're basically talking musical fae folk in the Appalachian mountains.

The Tuatha Dé Dannan of Irish-Celtic mythology disappeared way back when, according to folklore, and in these tales, they have disappeared to Appalachian America.  Tennesee.  Cloud Country.  And are now called the Tufa.  :)  I love it!  This is a take I've not read before and it instantly caught my attention.

So, when The Hum and the Shiver turned out to be a really enjoyable read, I was right pleased!

It tells the tale of one of the First Daughters of one of the two Tufa clans (basically the seelie and unseelie folk) returning home a war hero after a horrific attack and imprisonment overseas.  Will she claim her birthright and heal herself in mind and body or will she turn her back on the responsibilities it entails.  And what about some of the other characters - what choices will they make?  Accept what they are and embrace it, or not.

Now, I'm not certain if the characters we meet in this book continue their stories in the others, but I think maybe, even if they aren't the main characters of the subsequent books.  Doesn't matter.  I love the premise, I really enjoy Bledsoe's voice and his writing is gorgeous and easy to read, so yep, I will be reading them!   Oh, and if you're a fan of Charles de Lint, you will definitely like these, IMO.

I do wonder though... what happened to Fred Blasco???????

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon

3.5 STARS

Tough Love - Book 2

The Talented Mr. Rivers gives me everything I expect when I pick up a HelenKay book.  There is an intense, hot, steamy connection between the main characters, dangerous action that threatens the MCs, a few twists and turns and a fun and clever supporting cast.  Oh, and some fun banter too.

I had one problem with this book and I know it's probably just me and I can't figure out why, but I had SUCH a problem with the names of the main characters.  Hunter, the bodyguard/agent/tough guy and Will, the younger of the two, the college grad, the almost studious one, the youngest, supposedly oblivious sibling of a vicious crime family.  I kept getting their names mixed up.  I'd read Will and be surprised that it was Hunter and vice versa.  It was very annoying and lasted through the whole book.  I've never come across this specific problem before.  *LOL*

Sexy, steamy suspense is what HelenKay does and it's so much fun to read.  Her characters are always wonderfully larger than life and always flawed in some way or another.  :)  Except for Seth, I've not seen a single flaw in him yet.  Maybe in the next book, his story, Guarding Mr. Fine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

4 STARS

The Expanse - Book 1

Let me begin by saying that I seldom read and truly enjoy science fiction.  Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is one that I love, the Pern books, Marion Zimmer Bradley, the Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson as well.  So I honestly wasn't expecting to be pulled into Leviathan Wakes as deeply as I was.

I had watched the first season of the TV show The Expanse (it's funny, I much prefer sci-fi TV to books and I don't know why) and loved it.  Great genre TV!  I had no intention of starting to read the series of books, but then one day, the first one went on sale and I thought, well, I'd heard about how good it was and how close to the show it was so why the hell not.  :)

It was GOOD!!  People call it a space opera.  Okay, so there's not reams and reams of physics and chemistry and explanations and stuff.  It's an action story as well as a bit of a noir detective tale!  And I like those.  There are characters who some might call stereotypes, but that sets up the exploration of the questions the plot poses.  I also saw complaints about the women in the book not being represented as well as they possibly could have been.  *sigh*  Sometimes it's not about the women, y'know.  Book 2, Caliban's War, seems to rectify that as one of the POV characters is a woman.

Anyway!  Loved the book, it read along at a brisk pace, there were twists and turns, promises kept and betrayals committed and even a sacrifice or two.  :)  One thing I will say is that compared to the TV show, we saw pretty much NOTHING on Earth or Mars - that comes in later books. And yes, I'm hooked.  Going to have to get the others in the series, but will have to wait until they go on sale.  $13 for an ebook just ain't in my budget!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold

3.5 STARS

The Sharing Knife - Book 1

This book was a surprise to me.  I wasn't expecting quite as much romance.  I think part of that is that a good friend of mine really loved these books and she's not so much of a romance nor a fantasy reader.

The first half of the book tells the fantasy tale of Fawn, a young woman farmer, who is running away from her home and family, and Dag, a veteran Lakewalker patroller possessed of some very interesting magic.  They have adventures fighting the malice - bad, awful, deadly, gross horrors that threaten their world.

Then, close to the middle of the book, we turn to the more romantic side of the tale as the two begin to get to know each other and fall in love.  Of course, their vastly different cultures hold myriads of pitfalls and difficulties, never mind their big difference in age.  But it's really a fun romance, I thought.  I enjoyed it alot and I also enjoyed how Dag was able to be Fawn's protector with her family and how he encouraged her to be her own woman.

I only gave the book 3.5 stars because it felt rather unfinished.  It seems, as I discovered near the end of my reading, that Beguilement is actually the first half of a full book,  The second book, Legacy, is the other part of the volume.  Beguilement is about Fawn's people and how they react to the could and it seems that Legacy will be about how Dag's people will react.  And you know... I've grown to kind of resent books that do this.  I tend to feel tricked.  In retrospect, I wish I'd maybe waited to read this until I had book 2 in hand - but now I shall wait until it goes on sale.  :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Some Reading Stats for 2016

One of the book blogs I follow, Stuck In A Book, did a post about Reading Stats for 2016 and I thought it was interesting, so I'm stealing most of the categories and doing my own list.  :)   For shits and giggles as they say.  :)

Number of books read
97.  The last few years I've shot for 50, figuring a book a week is an eminently do-able number and won't discourage me if I read lots of bricks or just fall behind.

Male/female authors
23 male authors and 74 female to the best of my knowledge.  :)

Fiction/non-fiction
96 Fiction and one non-fiction which is Andy Cohen's book, The Andy Cohen Diaries.

Most-read author
Louise Penny.  I read her first 11 Inspector Gamache mysteries over the course of the year and still have the latest one left to read.  I'm saving it.  :)

Re-reads
No Re-reads.

New-to-me authors
31

Oldest book read
Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff - published in 1994.  I seriously wonder how I missed this!  :)

Newest book read
Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins - published December 5, 2016.

Most disappointing book
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev.  I had been so looking forward to this romance and it came highly touted from some of my favourite authors as well as the majority of romance readers on my Twitter feed, but oh... I really disliked it.  A lot.  My thoughts on it, and there were many, are here.

Most frustrating book
Again, I'd have to say The Bollywood Bride.  See above.  :)

Most surprising delight
I would have to say Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell.  It was a guts call and I'd never even heard of the author before and I just adored it!  AND subsequently the next two books in the series!

The book I’d been nagged about for ages
Nagged about is pretty strong, but the books I kept seeing recced in all my online places were the afore-mentioned The Bollywood Bride and then The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin.  Thankfully, the Jemisin book was much, much, MUCH better for me than the other one.  :)

Best title
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny.  This title, not only is it from a Leonard Cohen (RIP) song, Anthem, but it's a perfect, perfect title for this installment of the mysteries of Armand Gamache. :)

Worst title
None of them are really bad, but I'd have to say of all the books I read in 2016, it'd have to be Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan simply because it's an unwieldy mouthful.

Animals in book titles
Hmm... Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane, Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford, Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford,

Strange things that happened in books I read in 2016
I read a lot of fantasy.  All KINDS of strange things happen in those books!  *LOL*  


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt

3.5 STARS

John Cardinal - Book 1

I read this first of the John Cardinal mystery thrillers to get ready for the 6-episode mini-series (Cardinal) that's coming on CTV this coming week and I'm glad I did.  The introduction of Detective John Cardinal and his new partner Lise Delorme is a pretty good read.  It didn't blow me away, but it certainly held my interest and has me looking forward to the show, which BTW, is perfectly cast with Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse as Cardinal and Delorme respectively.

The mystery of who is committing the murders lasts until barely halfway, so this is more of a how are they going to catch 'em thriller, as well as being a character-driven narrative as we learn about John Cardinal and his somewhat shady past.  I liked Cardinal and I liked Delorme, even though we don't get to know a great deal about her.

The crimes in Forty Words for Sorrow are rather gruesome, which isn't really my favourite thing and why I only rated it 3.5 stars instead of 4.

Also, I love that it's set in Canada, a vaguely disguised North Bay, Ontario. :)

Will I read more?  Oh yes, I think so.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

2 STARS

The Incrementalists - Book 1

What the HELL did I just read?

The premise sounded really cool - as writer John Scalzi said "Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money." But the execution... oh, the execution...

The story is told from the first person POV of two characters, Phil and Renée 'Ren', and they alternate, one character taking up the tale in just about the next line from the other. And that's okay, I'm fine with multiple points of view in either 3rd or 1st person.

But what they did for the most part was prattle on about their 'mind powers', their histories, their concerns, their lies, their questionable emotions... dear God, it was like a huge circle jerk!

I honestly don't really know what's going on - it's all rather vague and confused in my brain and I don't think I'm an especially dense person. This book left me feeling rather dumb. What was the point? I have to say, I was left with a lack of desire to run out and get book 2, that's for sure.

Usually I enjoy Steven Brust - his Phoenix Guard books are among my favourites - but this one? Just felt like he and his friend were postulating their philosophical and political thoughts disguised as dialogue - inner and outer - of their characters. And it was confusing and quite often boring.

So, sadly, this book was a disappointment.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mad Lizard Mambo by Rhys Ford

4.5 STARS

Kai Gracen Series - Book 2

I think that Kai has just become my favourite of all of Rhys' heroes.  :)

I loved the first of the series, Black Dog Blues, and I think I loved this one even more.  :)  We learn a lot more about Kai (and that twist near the end took me RIGHT by surprise) and thank heaven he's still the snarky smart-ass I enjoyed so much in book one.

I really like how the relationship between Kai and Ryder (the elvin lord) is growing and taking its own sweet time.  This series is about the adventure and the action and the mission and about Kai growing as a person - or do I say being? - not sure.  :)  The 'romance' of Kai and Ryder is there, the attraction is very obvious and acknowledged, but it's not the main thrust of the series.  The banter between the two is some of the most amusing and enjoyable of any book in any genre I can remember reading.

I feel like we've barely scratched the surface of this post-apocalyptic fantasy world and I searched Rhys' website to see when the next one is coming... there HAS to be a next one!  Especially after the revelations at the end of this one.  But, I couldn't find anything!!

So yes, I loved this book and I love this series and Rhys Ford remains one of my favourite go-to authors.  :)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

5 STARS

The Black Wolves Trilogy - Book 1

I.  LOVED.  THIS.  BOOK.

Black Wolves has been on many 'best of' lists since it's publication back in November of 2015 and I'm here to say it's totally earned.  :)  This is epic fantasy done right.  780 pages of it and none of it was tedious.  (That can happen a lot even in the best of epic fantasies.)

The setting of Black Wolves is an Asian-flavoured world as we're seeing more and more of lately - and that's okay because it's fresh and often surprising in unexpected ways.  Yes, it's reminiscent of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings but I think a large part of that is that I've read few fantasies in this setting.  Kate Elliott's world-building is amazing!  She brings this world to life with deft artistry - really! - we learn through the actions, thoughts, speech and memories of the characters and it never feels burdensome and as a reader I was never tempted to skim.  

The characters were delightful and even the bad ones had depth and motivation and shadows and even lightness at times.  I LOVED that two of the main antagonists were a woman in her fiftes - late fifties, I would say, and a man of over seventy!  And they're both wonderfully vibrant and wise and rigid and biased... and their bones ache.  :)

The young characters were just as marvelous in their own ways.  We grow with them and feel their triumphs and their pains and their uncertainties and their sometimes blind beliefs.  They all rang true to me.  And there is still so much more to learn about them and more for them to grow (or not in some cases, I guess.).

I am in awe of the plot.  How the author managed all those twists and turns and didn't really give anything away until the story wanted it given away was masterful.  I was surprised time after time.  I had suspicions, sure, everyone will I think, but the few times my suspicions were confirmed there was always a little thing, a little twist that I had never even thought of!  Amazing plotting.  Amazing.

This is a terrific beginning to a new fantasy epic and I can't WAIT until the next book in the trilogy comes out!

If you loved A Song of Ice and Fire and The Dandelion Dynasty, you must read this book!  You won't be sorry.