Thursday, October 5, 2017

Time for warm apple cider and pumpkin pie

Fall is in full swing up in the mountains.  The mornings are crisp and smell like autumn harvest.  The days are perfect for being outside working without getting heat exhaustion.  The leaves are beginning to turn.  And best of all, Halloween is right around the corner!


The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg

To get you in the spooky spirit, I highly recommend the lastest book by Charlie Holmberg.  She is quickly becoming my favorite author because no book has disappointed me yet.  I really feel like I cannot lose if I pre-order her work.

The Fifth Doll has been given a horror label by the publisher, but I'm not sold on that distinction.  The entire time I was reading the novel, I was waiting for that big tingling moment that made me want to hide the book in a chest at the bottom of the ocean, and it just never came.

There is a distinct creep factor to the story from several characters and the overall mechanics of the magic in the story.  But I actually found that The Paper Magician raised more hairs than The Fifth Doll.

What really made me love this story as much as all of Holmberg's works was the depth of moral inspection.  We once again have a heroine that is presented with the two sides of loving someone and the moral questions that can bring forth.  I am always up for a good book that makes me introspective.

What would happen if you opened your first doll?  You'll just have to go get a copy and read this amazing story to figure out what that question means and how you would answer it.  Now it's time for me to go off and do lots of autumn stuff.

I can say that I have been on a definite Slavic folk kick lately with both my video games and stories.  Now I'm working my way through The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, the sequel to the amazingly gifted The Bear and the Nightingale. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Happy Release Day (again) to Christina Soontornvat

I previously raved about the excellent middle grade fantasy Changelings last September.  Here we are one year and one month later to welcome the conclusion to the duology surrounding Izzy and her fairy friends.

In a Dark Land by Christina Soontornvat

If you'd care to hear more of how amazing the first novel is, head back to my previous post.  Today, we are going to continue the raving with this succinct conclusion to Izzy's wonderful tale.  And boy, oh boy, does it have a completely different feeling.

A whole summer has flown by and Izzy still isn't back where she is supposed to be.  Or so she feels.  This is not the high adrenaline adventure story as the first novel.  This is dealing with all the lessons that were discovered in the first novel.  The fun spirit of all the characters are all still there but hiding behind the struggles of growing up and finding where you fit in the world.

The darkness and doubt are all just a part of growing up, and this novel handles it beautifully.  This is what a middle grade coming of age novel is all about.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story even if it wasn't the page turning adventure we got last time.  In a Dark Land really proved to me that this is an author who can grow along with her characters.  I look forward to future works.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The not so recommended book review

I have been reading since I was very young and have certainly progressed through various reading habits over the decades.  Events in my life influence the materials I am reading, but one thing has always remained steadfast in my reading: I want to read books of principle.  I don't need them to be written well, they just simply need the story to be based on strong fundamentals.  That seems to be a fading spot I have to look for with stronger and stronger lenses these days.


The Waking Land by  Callie Bates


With a 19 year old protagonist, I can see this book being shelved in the young adult section and that worries me.  


I was anticipating this book with much enthusiasm and the promise to myself that I would get the review out ahead of time.  I want to help authors be successful in their work, and I enjoy being able to spread the word when they have a strong piece of literature being published.  Instead I ended up with a story that I've had to brew over the review for awhile so it was balanced.

My very high hopes were destroyed with just one scene in this story.  The story and the magic are easily a possible future or very distant past somewhere on the British isles.  There are standing stones and princes from across the sea.  There are clans that wear body paint and run into battle with cheers.  

I love stories that make an homage to the lore of Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  They are great stories that are very familiar to me and have a lot of room for imagination.  The botany flavor to the fantasy was even a very nice touch that made this book stand apart.

Then we get to the story itself, the writing and the principles.  We will ignore the fact the protagonist is a little weakly written and could use some development help.  We will ignore the fact that the Elanna and Jahan fall in love at first sight giving young girls the impression that that is ever real or that simple.

We will not, however, ignore the fact that this story was ruined in one atrocious scene where Elanna weds the land.  This was a completely unnecessary undertaking for a novel that could quite potentially be housed on the young adult shelves.  This sex scene added nothing to the story and the way the characters handled the situation afterwards was even more atrocious.  Shame on the editors for allowing it past the cutting room floor.

My four stars for the novel went to a 2 and never recommend this story to anyone in one swoop of the pen.  Check back in two weeks for my thoughts on Charlie Holmberg's The Fifth Doll, which I'm a quarter through and already enjoying very much, for a better recommendation on what to read when you don't want to rot your mind.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams


Image result for the iron ghostSome titles just don't make sense until you read them.  This was one of those books.  I stared at this book for a really long time during my reading slump trying to decide if it was worth cracking open.

I had enjoyed the first book with some slight hesitations in the nature of the characters.  Once my reading slump was over, I craved an exciting adventure story.  I felt like this would deliver just that and I had put it off for far too long.

I wasn't entirely disappointed.  This novel had the adventure story, and it even had a mildly nostalgic 80s fantasy adventure feel to it.  This was the quest of all quests for the Blackfeather Three that makes you want to swashbuckle around your living room when no one is looking.  What could go wrong?

Romance.  Not only does it not fit in these stories, each attempt at interjecting it into the story just falls flat.  All of the scenes feel forced and like the novel is trying to appease some editor by throwing it in there during the last round before publishing.  

And we'll just ignore the atrocious amount of editing errors -- the kind where it actually entirely changes the meaning of the story.  Fortunately, I bought it on sale otherwise I would be demanding a refund for the lack of polish presented.  

These are gallivanting mercenaries.  They get themselves into dubious situations of questionable sanity, and I enjoy reading how exactly they manage plan then fail then barely scrape through to victory.  Leave it that way.  Only 2 stars for this one and high hopes that the romance is left in the abyss.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Short post for a short story

Vampire's Tomb by Shawn Underhill


Image result for Vampire's Tomb shawn underhillThis little short story was the main piece that really kicked my reading slump.  The wit and the humor were just a good shake in the psyche.  

If you don't like satire or have absolute zero sense of humor, go find some.

If you would like a breath of fresh air in your reading and an author taking a moment to chastise the world, pick this up.  And then, immediately go read "The Great Northern Pack" series and Earthkeepers.

Seriously, this short was humorous.  I'm pretty sure a few tears slipped by as I laughed at the honesty of this story.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The only law here is nature

The most exciting find when I came back to reading was that Shawn Underhill had made a new "The Great North Woods Pack" novel!  Inspiration was able to hit him again and we are now able to enjoy a sixth novel in the wonderful woods of New England.


North Woods Law by Shawn Underhill

Image result for north woods law underhillThis new wave of inspiration did not disappoint!  I loved the first set of novels for their introspective look at the battle humans fight within themselves about their role with nature.

This is "werewolves" at its finest and most natural form.  I was sad to hear that the story line had run dry and there would be no new novels.  It had been refreshing to read characters that were so back to basics and real.  In North Woods Law, while we have all the same characters, this story takes a completely different branch in the path.  This novel is all about the external struggle of man versus the pure, raw power of nature.

And it is amazing!  I think this one might be my favorite, but it's kind of like trying to pick your favorite child.  You must read it.  This is a beyond 5 stars book for me.  Enjoy (I know you will if you're a real person)!

There are some items that may be slightly confusing without reading the initial stories (like who the heck is that woman?).  But honestly, you'll pass through those sections quickly and instantly be gripped by the overall story.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

These fields aren't so gold

With my reading appetite turned backed into high gear, I did a search for new books by authors I find to always be a success.  Wow, have I really fallen so far behind?  There are so many new books out that I wasn't even expecting!  You'll just have to wait a little longer for that awesome list.

In the meantime, the Lady Mechanika comics really got me back into a steampunk mood so I started the reading frenzy off with the last installment in the "Magnificent Devices" series.

Fields of Gold by Shelley Adina

Fields of Gold, Magnificent Devices Book 12, Shelley Adina, steampunk I started reading this with excitement and trepidation.  I knew this was going to be the last in the series (even though the author has promised some spin offs, this will be the end for the major characters we have grown accustomed to) and that brings it own sadness to the book.  But I was determined to enjoy the conclusion and see how everything turned out for the gang.

I feel like some of the strings were more hastily tied then others, though.  As usual the hi-jinks are high and the risks grand, which keeps the story moving and action-packed, but the actual development of characters and story were rushed in parts while dragging through some tedious scenery in others.  

The foreshadowing was pretty heavy and obvious of where the story would be ending and I was guessed right on all accounts.  It turns out the fields were not made of gold for me.  Again, I was disappointed by an author trying to be modern and the book ended up a little too preachy for my tastes.  

I am aware this is a story about war and rebellion and finding peace amongst all that violence and chaos.  There are going to be some strong opinions and these have always been characters of strong (and often loud) character -- you wouldn't have the tension that makes reading worth anything otherwise -- but the soapbox was full and loud this go around.

I won't be recommending this trilogy of the series to anyone, but I will recommend readers enjoy the Lady of Devices and her Mopsies.  They are a bright spot in steampunk.  I might even still consider the spin off series that is mentioned at the very end, where we finally get to find out who Dutch is, but I have to admit I am very unsure if I will or won't at this time.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Metal May Volume 3

Lady Mechanika Volume 3 by M.M. Chen

In this Volume we collect the stories of the The Lost Boys of West Abbey.  I was somewhat surprised in the length of this collection as compared to the first two volumes.  It felt incredibly punctuated and short.

The adventure and intrigue were over in the blink of an eye and had little meat to the story.  Though it had the typical stereotypes of Holmesian crime and steampunk, it utterly lacked the flair I had noticed in the first two volumes to poke fun at its obvious use of those stereotypes.

There just wasn't room in this overly condensed story for any of the banter and mystery.  Right from the start you know exactly where this story is going and you almost want to give up from there, but then I realized it was so short I might as well carry out to the end.

I really saw the potential in the story line but was mostly left with a shake of my head at the cliche.  This doesn't make me lose hope on the whole franchise, but it certainly put a damper on this experience.

I'll try again with La Dama de la Muerta this fall.  But fear not, Metal May will continue tomorrow with a different steampunk story.  My reading appetite is back!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Metal May Volume 2

Lady Mechanika Volume 2 by M.M. Chen

This volume collects the story of The Tablet of Destinies.  As the title alludes, we are getting ready to set forth on an Indiana Jones style adventure.  Secret societies, cryptology, imperial territory, dirigibles; all the perfect tropes for Lady Mechanika to go on a Victorian adventure to, the dark continent ... Africa!

Mr. Lewis returns as Lady Mechanika's steadfast, if inebriated, mechanic, inventor, mad genius extraordinaire.  The good doctor has vaguely vanished and been replaced with an archaeology professor on a quest for whatever secrets archaeologists are hoping to uncover.

Of course, they end up finding it and it ends up being cataclysmically horrific.  Then enter the secret societies and cryptology and you have another smashing adventure with Lady Mechanika.  

While everything is an overdone stereotype in this series, I like it's over the top nature and honestly found a compelling revelation at the ending.  These comics have some substance underneath all the pomp and steampunk.  I also really enjoy the art and typeface.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Metal May

Now that I'm back in the reading game, I decided to keep it light.  I don't want to knock myself back down in the doldrums with some heavy hitting fantasy, so I kept it simple with some steampunk comics!


Lady Mechanika Vol. 1 by Joe Benitez

My mom started doing her version of LitCube for me this year.  This month was Metal May, an all steampunk themed box.  It seems only appropriate that I also happened to unknowingly get the Lady Mechanika series on Netgalley for the big May release of Volume 3.

This first Volume collects together the comics of the Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse.  Lady Mechanika introduces you to some pretty standard steampunk tropes with a cyborg woman dressed in Victorian gear running around solving Holmesian crime dramas.  The kicker is I actually find these escapades interesting and her surrounding cast of characters enjoyable.

The mystery is also entwined with the greater saga arching mystery of who made Lady Mechanika.  Surprisingly, I actually want to stick around and found out who-dun-it.

I think I have finally found a comic that I don't begrudge $3.99 per episode, though I'm still not willing to pay it.  I'm cheap and comics will never be a thing for me for that exact reason.  But this one almost makes me cave in.  Almost.  Instead, I'll wait for the collected volumes at a cheaper price and one shot couch potato reading.

So stereotypes abound and lead on, for now, you can get a taste of Lady Mechanika for free with The Demon of Satan's Alley prelude chapter, here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Worst reading slump ever

I have been reading for well over 2 decades now and this has to be one of the worst reading slumps I have ever hit.  I just couldn't pick up anything that felt like I had to read it.  Even perusing Netgalley was drawing a complete zero.  

When that happens, I usually try to go to the library or my massive Kindle stockpile for out of genre works to really shake it up.  Usually I do that with Clive Cussler.  I picked up at Raise the Titanic! and even tried Vixen 03.  Both books just left me wanting to find his address and chuck the books in his face.  They were trash.  That's my official review there.  

I felt disappointed that I had nothing new to put online.  Then I remembered I hadn't finished the "Septimus Heap" series.  I looked them up on Amazon and found that for some fortuitous reason they were on sale for $3 each.  How am I going to say no to $3 paperbacks?

Welcome to my review of the books that saved my reading slump.

Darke by Angie Sage

This is the darkest of the entire series as the title aptly suggests.  Merrin has reached a level of nefarious that strikes fear into the hearts of all characters; princesses, witches, wizards, scribes and jinees alike.

I truly appreciate that this series has an amazing amount of growth to it.  While the events of the story are in a rather compacted timeline, the overall character growth seems very realistic. 

There are many reasons these novels could be compared to the "Harry Potter" series, but I have to say they stand far apart from each other.  I love them both dearly for what they bring to the table in my own personal terms.  As for writing and story, I think "Septimus Heap" is actually edging out for the better series.

Fyre by Angie Sage

This was a very satisfying conclusion to the series.  There was a definitive wrap up to all story lines.  All the characters received some form of happily ever after and brief segue into what their futures would hold.  

AND... it set up the next series in the "Septimus Heap" universe focusing on a whole new set of characters with a brand new dilemma to overcome.  I look forward to the series.  

These novels were witty, entertaining, heartbreaking, endearing and absolutely cherished.  They have always perked me up when I need something to read for enjoyment.  And yet, at the same time, I have managed to reflect and learn with them.  That was a heck of a reading slump and the Heap crew knew just how to cure it.

Here's to some FizzFroot and Magyk.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Luck of the Irish to you all on this fine St. Patrick's Day.  As a special treat, I have many reviews that have stacked up since the holidays.  


The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

23844254This is an alternative fiction that has a purpose for being alternative.  I can back that kind of fiction.  Irene works for the Library collecting specific writings from all the worlds and timelines.  They are a coalition that exists outside of time and space yet inside all time and space.

The story was a lot of fun and had a decent pace.  Some parts dragged a little but I have a feeling that will get ironed out as the series progresses.  The characters didn't aggravate me, which is a huge plus from me since most do. 

I think I enjoyed most the smattering of all my favorite genres into one excellent fiction stew.  There is fantasy with dragons and sprites.  There is a light touch of steampunk with automatons of crocodile proportion.  There is sci-fi with travel to alternate universes.

As much as I enjoyed this novel, it is not even remotely close to the list of $11.99 (for a DIGITAL copy no less.  Please refer back to every rant I have ever made about publishers overcharging for digital books.), let's just ignore the ridiculous $36.99 for hardcover.  Wait for it to hit Amazon's 99 cent sale or see if your local library has it.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

28862387I have really been intrigued by fairy tales from the Russian/Slavic area lately.  It all started with Mistress of Solstice in 2013.  Every time I get a recommendation from Netgalley that even hints at Russian/Slavic folk stories, I rush to request it.

Every one that I have read, I have loved.  This one is no exception.  This is a story of East meets West and they, of course, collide.  Vasilisa is the daughter of a prominent lord in the north of Russia.  She is a very special girl with some very special friends.

An upstart bishop from the city gets sent out to the tundra to curtail the wildness.  His Orthodox doctrine is not welcome by all who live in the cold grip of the Frost King.

This is such a great story, and you really should go read it.

The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

28503767The absolutely stunning conclusion to the "Brimstone Angels" series.  I would have never guessed that I would get so drawn into the world of D&D before Netgalley offered me "The Sundering" series.

I am truly grateful that Netgalley was able to turn me towards an author I would have completely missed out on.

Farideh and Havilar are great characters with some very real problems.  I'm enthralled by their story.  The final novel in the six book series is an absolute roller coaster of deception and intrigue and what actually makes someone evil.  Is it wise to take down the king of the Hells, the God of Chaos?

This whole series has been about legends and gods.  Is there really one belief that is better than all the rest?  Is one faction entirely good or evil? It is a fantasy that entertains and makes you think.

The Speaker by Andi O'Connor

PictureYou may recall that I absolutely adored Silevethiel.  It was an epic fantasy revival for me.  I was pumped last fall when The Speaker was announced, so I took a chance to reread Silevethiel and catch up with the story.

Now that I had the world back in mind I was ready to take off with The Speaker.  By the end of the novel, I had some very mixed feelings.

Things I enjoyed:  the plot, interesting magic concept, world development, new characters.

This novel did justice to the epic fantasy genre again.  There was nothing lacking in the development of the lands and how the magic and characters interact within Vaelinel.  I really enjoyed the new characters added to the cast and can't wait to see how the fight for Vaelinel turns out.

Things I didn't enjoy:  character development.

I was disappointed in the treatment of the characters.  I just really felt that there was an overall agenda to the writing style that just seemed to rub me the wrong way.  

Most people will probably not fit into this category, so I would still recommend this novel to all lovers of epic fantasy.  There is a freshness to Vaelinel that keeps drawing me in, and that is difficult in a literary world where there are hundreds of fantasy authors to choose from.