Book Review: Magic Bites (Ilona Andrews)

Review: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Urban Fantasy / #1 of 8, Kate Daniels

“It’s a reflex. Hear a bell, get food. See an undead, throw a knife. Same thing, really.”

Kate Daniels is a mercenary for hire in a sort of alternate-universe Atlanta where residents have to contend with waves of magic that knock out almost all technology in the city. When someone important to Kate is killed, she begins to investigate, and finds a rash of disturbing crimes that point to a larger mystery involving some of the city’s most powerful leaders.

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Book Review: Iron Night (M. L. Brennan)

Review: Iron Night by M. L. Brennan
Urban Fantasy / #2 of 4, Generation V

“Holy shit. You’re going to feed Titus to a troll?” I felt appalled.
“This is why we don’t name or pet the goats.” Chivalry said blandly.

Vampire Fortitude Scott has gained (somewhat) in self-confidence and ability since the end of Generation V. So when someone is maiming and murdering young men around the city, Fort—once again in defiance of his family—teams up with his shapeshifting fox friend Suzume Hollis in an effort to stop the slaughter. Initially expecting to uncover a run-of-the-mill serial killer, he instead finds himself dealing with paranormal forces, including an enormous conspiracy in the elven community and a blood chillingly evil predator… and he has to do it all without alerting his newly suspicious friend, Matt, to the Scott family’s vampirical secret.

I really, really enjoyed Generation V… and Iron Night was even better. We get more insight into the characters, and the plot is a bit more complex and exciting. There’s never really any doubt who is responsible for the crimes committed in Generation V, whereas as Iron Night keeps you in the dark for a bit longer. And while Luca in Generation V was a nasty piece of work, the villains of Iron Night might just be even nastier (which I can hardly even believe is possible)… so it feels like the stakes are higher. Plus, while I was mostly only attached to Fort and Suzume in the first book and was never really worried for the safety of either of them, I am attached to some of the more expendable secondary characters in Iron Night, and that left me feeling a lot more anxious for a lot more of the book.

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Book Review: Dreamer’s Pool (Juliet Marillier)

Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier
Fantasy – Blackthorn and Grim, #1 of ?

I fished out the rusty nail from under my pallet and scratched another mark on the wall. Tomorrow was midsummer, not that a person could tell rain from shine in this cesspit. I’d been here a year. A whole year of filth and abuse and being shoved back down the moment I lifted myself so much as an inch. Tomorrow, at last, I’d get my chance to speak out. Tomorrow I would tell my story.

An imprisoned former healer, Blackthorn makes a bargain with a stranger that she will return to her old profession for 7 years, during which she will give help to anyone who asks for it and only use her gifts for good. In exchange, he helps her escape. With a fellow prisoner, her strong and silent cell-mate Grim, she settles near the village of Winterfalls… but Blackthorn and Grim are left bitter and traumatized by their pasts, and the two of them struggle to rebuild their lives. When Prince Oran and asks for their help in a delicate matter, Blackthorn is unable to turn him down. 

Dreamer’s Pool seems very thoughtful and slow at first, which is why I was completely caught off guard when I realized, somewhere along the way, that the plot had taken off like a bat out of hell and I was completely hooked. I started it in an afternoon, had trouble putting it down so that I could go eat supper, eschewed a delicious homemade dessert afterwards so that I could get back to reading, and finished it later that evening. I was completely drawn in by the writing and hopelessly addicted to the plot.

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Book Review: Heaven’s Queen (Rachel Bach)

Review: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach
Space Opera / #3 of 3, Paradox Trilogy

“Trouble was, I’d stopped being a merc at some point over the last week. I wasn’t sure what I was anymore exactly, but on one thing I was absolutely certain: I was not going to throw anyone to the wolves on this… I didn’t care if it was nigh impossible.”

In the final book of the Paradox Trilogy (go back to reviews for book 1 or book 2 if you’re not here yet!) Devi has learned more about the danger and potential power of the virus she is carrying. Everyone has a different idea of what to do with her, and everyone is after her to try and make it happen… but Devi is tired of being jerked around. She’s ready to solve things in her own way, on her own terms, and heaven help the person who tries to stop her.

The first half of Heaven’s Queen disappointed me. The second half surpassed my highest expectations! A most talented book.

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What I’m Doing Wednesday, August 19 (2015)

It’s been a long time since I did one of these!  I’ve been doing a lot of traveling which hasn’t left as much time for my usual nerdery. But having settled in one place for the next couple weeks, I have done some things now.

Reading

There are a lot of people to see and things to do when you visit family, and my reading pace has consequently slowed.  I’ve been able to make some headway in the backlog of reviews I had not yet written, though, such as Heaven’s Queen (Rachel Bach), Dreamer’s Pool (Juliet Marillier), and Magic Bites (Ilona Andrews) – all scheduled to be up in the next week.  I’m currently reading or recently finished Iron Night (M. L. Brennan), Broken Monsters (Lauren Beukes), and Shadowfell (Juliet Marillier).

 

Watching

The Amazing Race Canada. Which is not as fun as watching the two women’s hockey players destroy all competition last year, but still sort of entertaining…. plus tonight’s episode is in my hometown!

Playing

Up until the last couple of days it would have been nothing; now I’m home visiting my parents who have a PS4, which presents a great opportunity to stay up into the wee hours of the morning last night playing The Last of Us. My sisters and I are doing a sort of joint play through with two of us taking turns driving.  This is great because it’s easier to marathon (I can usually only do a couple hours at a time before I need a break)… and most especially because I can throw the controller at my sister at the first sign of cannibalism, because apparently that’s how I roll.

We finished Winter last night, so I suspect we are nearing the end… and I have to say, I will be sad to done.  It’s a great game, but aside from that it is too much fun to share all the screaming and panicking and profanity with other people.

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem (Liu Cixin, trans. Ken Liu)

Review:  The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
Science Fiction / #1 of 3, Three-Body

“All the evidence points to a single conclusion: Physics has never existed, and will never exist.”

The Three-Body Problem is notable for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s up for a Hugo this week. Second, it’s the first translated book that I’ve read since I started this blog…  and third, it is the first book by a male author I’ve read since I started the blog (you can read more about why that is here)!

I’m going to be careful with my plot synopsizing, because The Three-Body Problem is one of those books where I was retroactively really glad I didn’t read the cover. I only found out what the book is really about halfway through, and it was an exciting and surprising moment that would have been considerably less surprising if I had read the GR synopsis or the back of the book. What is with the massive spoilers on book jackets?? So if you want to stay truly spoiler-free, I’d advise avoiding them.

My spoiler free introduction: a rash of suicides among Chinese scientists has left the scientific community alarmed and confused. In investigating the deaths, and their possible link to a shadowy organization called the Frontiers of Science, nanomaterials expert Wang Miao starts uncovering mysteries that throw everything he believed to be true about the world—and about the laws of physics—into doubt.

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Book Review: Generation V (M. L. Brennan)

Review: Generation V by M. L. Brennan
Urban Fantasy / #1 out of 4 (so far), Generation V 

“I stared. ‘That’s horrible.’
Lulu looked surprised, and shot a confused look at Suzume. ‘Are you sure this is a vampire? He sure doesn’t sound like one.’”

Fortitude Scott finished a film theory degree, works at a terrible coffee shop, and tries at all costs to avoid his family… who are, incidentally, vampires. Unfortunately, he is forced to interact with them when a new vamp (Luca) comes to town. Luca is offered hospitality by Fort’s mother—but a horrified Fort suspects that he is committing unspeakable crimes against the human residents of the Scott family territory. This doesn’t particularly perturb the rest of his family, and so it’s up to Fort and his one ally, the powerful but sometimes unreliable kitsune Suzume, to stop Luca however they can.

Generation V is probably the vampire story I’ve most enjoyed since… well, since Buffy was on the air. What it has in common with Buffy, and what most endears it to me, is the way it pokes fun at and undercuts the drama of vampire mythology. Madeline Scott, the feared vampire overlord extraordinaire, wears enormous glasses and grandma sweaters. Chivalry Scott, Fort’s older brother, is exceptionally polite and well-mannered and forever bitter that wearing a cravat is no longer fashionable. And Fort is a vegetarian.

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Tough Traveling – Forbidden Love

This week on Tough Traveling with Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn: FORBIDDEN LOVE

Even in Fantasyland parents are not always happy with their children’s choice of partners.

Ahhh forbidden love.  Not always my favourite trope – but at least in a couple of examples on this list, done really well!  Though I’ve gone in a more sci-fi land direction than fantasyland.

fortune's pawnRupert and Devi, Paradox Trilogy (Rachel Bach)

Devi just can’t stay away from the attractive, mysterious “cook” (who can best anyone in single combat) on the Glorious Fool, in spite of the best attempts of everyone (including him) to warn her away.  But when Devi wants something she’s not inclined to give up, and she definitely wants this tall, handsome man with a sexy accent and dark past… and also, who may not be altogether 100% human.

palace of illusionsPanchaali and Karna, The Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)

Panchaali has five husbands, but only one man she loves – Karna, the sworn enemy of her husbands who they will eventually go to war with.  She could have ended up married to him, as well, if she had held her tongue at a key moment in time. Her life would be considerably less tragic if she had .

Saga1coverByFionaStaplesMarko and Alana, Saga (Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples)

On opposite sides of an intergalactic war, Marko is a prisoner of war and Alana his guard… until they fall in loooooove and decide to hell with the war.  Hunted by both sides, they struggle to protect themselves and their newborn daughter. It’s amazing! (Thanks again for the recommendation The BiblioSanctum!).

left hand of darknessGenly Ai and Estraven, The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)

This might not exactly be forbidden love… but certainly strongly discouraged love at best, since first contact with Gethenians is hardly the ideal time for romance.  They start out the book as entirely alien to each other, and grow from suspicious and untrusting allies to respectful companions to genuine friends. Genly and Estraven have my favourite love story ever, and without a single scene of physical intimacy.

 

Book Review: Elysium (Jennifer Marie Brissett)

Review: Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Science Fiction / Standalone

“Floating high above the city, dipping and swooping through the valleys of cinderblocks and concrete, landing on the edge of a rooftop to look down upon the inhabitants below. Watching seeing, learning. They walk along the streets, alleys, and avenues. Moving here, going there, in a constant state of rush. Appointments to be kept, people to see, things to do. And Adrianne was one of them. She had somewhere to go.”

Assuming you didn’t read a synopsis or a review of this unusual and remarkable book before picking it up—neither of which I did—it takes some time to figure out what is going on in Elysium. It’s basically impossible to summarize or review the book without spoiling that main premise, so I’m going to warn you now that if you would like to be surprised by it, do not read the rest of this review. I’m not sure what I recommend doing either way; I think that knowing some of this stuff ahead of time would have been very helpful, but I also think it will make for much more rewarding second reading some time, so the choice is yours.

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Book Review: Honor’s Knight (Rachel Bach)

Review: Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach
Space opera / #2 of 3, Paradox Trilogy

“The truth is that there are no heroes. We’re all villains excusing our actions by hiding behind a greater good.”

I have, through some miracle of vagueness, avoided any spoilers in this review for either book in the Paradox series, so feel free to read on.  That said, to get a better idea of the premise, you may wish to start with a review of book number one Fortune’s Pawn.

Honor’s Knight is FANTASTIC. It took everything I liked about the first book and made it BETTER. So much better that I’m having to resort to caps lock to express myself. The same great characters I came to care about from the first book, but the stakes are higher now, the plot is more challenging, and the romance was comparatively deemphasized. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this book.

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