Marie Lu: Warcross

•January 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

29385546.jpgWarcross (Warcross #1)
by Marie Lu
(futuristic fantasy, YA, light LitRPG)

This is an amusing book. I wasn’t sure at first, because the romance in the book seemed a bit too insta-love-ish. However, once the start of the relationship was established, it got a lot less eye-roll-worthy and became more interesting to read.

The game aspect is a lot of fun. I’ve heard a lot of people compare it to a Ready Player One knock-off, but since I haven’t read RPO yet I can’t compare. I do know that the game aspect (and really, the whole virtual world part) is a little vague in this book, which is why I can think of it as “light” LitRPG. I suspect we’re going to see more stories of this nature as virtual & augmented reality technology continues to mature.

The good parts: I liked the concept of the tech, and the game sounded fun to watch (though it’s not my kind of game to play). Many of the characters were enjoyable, and most of them had good development (or good enough development for the genre).

The meh: the reveal of “who is Zero?” at the end was rather predictable. Zero’s motives are not explained yet, though, and without those motives a lot of his actions are hard to believe. Additionally, there were some times when the first-person-present POV was written… oddly. Nothing glaring, and most readers probably won’t notice. But a few word choices kicked me entirely out of the story as I tried to figure out how to re-write the sentence.

The bad: I do not believe the romance. Once it gets started, maybe. But nowhere in the set-up am I given any believable reason why the guy would be romantically interested enough in the girl for the romance to get started in the first place. Also, while most of the characters are well-developed, there are a few who are left to be cliches.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes, once I got into it. Would I recommend it? Sure, if it sounds like your cup of tea. (I’m not going to universally recommend it the way I do with my favorite books, though.) Am I going to continue reading the series? Probably. Eventually. I can’t promise that I’ll rush out and buy the next book as soon as it’s available, though, the way I did with this one.

Rating: 4 stars

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Seanan McGuire: Beneath the Sugar Sky

•January 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

BeneathSugarSky_hi.jpgBeneath the Sugar Sky: Wayward Children #3
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy)

This is the third book in a series about kids who travel to other worlds, and then come back to Earth, but still want to return to the world where they went before. Think about Alice wanting to go back to Wonderland, or the Pevensie kids trying to get back to Narnia. And then imagine that there are lots more of them than anyone knew, and they feel like their true home is that other world where they went before and they’re trying to get back.

Anyway, I love the premise, and the execution. This series works really well for me. In this particular installment, we get to see more of the worlds where the children go when they find their doors. I found it really neat to see the worlds in greater detail, even though it wasn’t nearly as much detail as we see the Moors in book 2 (Down Among the Sticks and Bones). (The Moors is where Jack & Jill go when they find their door, and nearly all of book 2 is set there. For this book, we visit other worlds, but they aren’t the main setting.)

McGuire’s worldbuilding is fantastic, and I enjoyed her character development as well. This is a shorter work, though, possibly officially novella length. In some ways I think the Wayward Children series (to date; not sure if there will be more) would be best read all at once, as three Acts in one story. This third book was tied very closely to book 1 (Every Heart a Doorway), picking up the threads of one of the subplots in that book.

If you like McGuire’s work, I would definitely recommend this one. You could read the Wayward Children books out of order if you like, but reading this one before book 1 would result in spoilers. Also, I feel that books 1 and 2 do a better job of introducing the world to new eyes than book 3 does, so I would start with either 1 or 2.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Rita Mae Brown: Rest in Pieces

•December 13, 2017 • 2 Comments

529920.jpgRest in Pieces (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries #2)
by Rita Mae Brown
(cozy cat mystery)

This is a fun book. I still like the pets better than the people for this series, but it’s highly amusing regardless. The mystery on this one actually surprised me, and I didn’t see the whodunnit twist coming. I was able to rule out a few of the “possible” suspects, but I fell for the misdirection instead of seeing the real killer. That was amusing.

I’ll be continuing with this series, though I probably won’t read too many of them in a row. I think this is the kind of series that I’d get sick of quickly if I read them too close together, but reading them with space between will let me enjoy them.

I don’t really know what else to say about this book. It was fun. It was a solid 4 stars: it’s well-written, it’s nicely crafted, and it fulfilled the “agreement” that I had with it when I picked it up. (You know, that it would amuse me and not cause me to throw it against the wall. I didn’t expect anything Earth-shattering from it, and so I wasn’t upset when it didn’t provide that.)

Rating: 4 stars

Mercedes Lackey: A Scandal In Battersea

•December 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

51ktrwmAr+L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_A Scandal In Battersea (Elemental Masters #12)
by Mercedes Lackey
(fantasy, alternate history)

This was a very fast read for me, due in part to the fact that it was such a predictable novel I found myself skimming bits of it. I find that really sad, because I used to love this series and now it’s all cookie-cutter perfect. Spoiler-not-spoiler alert: the good guys win, the bad guys get what’s coming to them, and no one is even majorly hurt. I have lost interest in this series, and no longer care what happens in them, because I am convinced that nothing even remotely bad can happen to the main characters. (For the record, that wasn’t always the case. In the first few books of this series, there was a definite threat that something bad would happen. Even though these are fairy tale re-tellings, I believed that they were in danger. And sometimes they had to sacrifice something in order to get their Happily Ever After.)

Also, the probably MOST ANNOYING THING EVER in this series (and most of Lackey’s other work past a certain point) is the use of written accents so thick I have to translate them. I mean, really? Is this actually necessary? Part of Lackey’s charm has always been her ability to draw the readers in and keep them wrapped up in the story. If we’re stopping every few paragraphs to unravel a bit of dialogue, we ARE NO LONGER WRAPPED UP IN THE STORY. It was very jarring, and very annoying.

In short, I enjoyed this book as a library skim-read, but will not be buying it. I will also be removing all the remaining books in this series from my TBR list, and will not be wasting my time on them. If I want to read a good story from this series, I’ll stick with #0-3, with the occasional inclusion of 6 & 7.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Renee Ahdieh: Flame in the Mist

•December 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

23308087Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
(fantasy)

I was going to give this book the benefit of the doubt and give it 3 stars, but according to Goodreads, 3 stars means I “liked it”. 2 stars means “it was ok”, and that’s exactly what this was. Ok.

So: feudal Japan + magic sounds awesome. The beginning of the book is all flowery and pretty prose and seemed like it was going to be awesome. And then our heroine gets not-killed (aka an attempt is made on her life but she survives) and runs off into the forest to track down her not-killers and find out why they were sent to kill her. And that’s where we run into problems.

Here you have a spoiled girl who has never done a moment’s real work in her life (she as much as says so at the end of the book) and she manages to survive long enough to find her not-killers. And then she’s able to convince them to let her stay with them as a potential new recruit. Um, nope. Not believable at all. Sorry.

Oh – and don’t let me forget the angst. On top of everything else there is the angst. There’s a lot of it. Whether it’s her reminding herself to be brave, or reminding herself that the Black Clan was sent to kill her and therefore she must get them to trust her so she can “strike when they least expect it”, or agonizing over her insta-love because she wants to despise him instead of desire him, the angst is strong with this book. (Side note: I started this as an audio book. The angst is worse in that version, because you can’t skim past it.)

And to add insult to injury, nowhere on the cover or in the blurbs did I see that this is the first in a series. The result? I finished reading the book so I could find out what happened, only to end on a complete and total not-ending. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger. It was the end of a chapter, only the next chapter isn’t until the next book.

There’s one reason I am not giving this a 1 star rating: the parts that are about the scenery or the (few) descriptions of magic are really pretty writing. I really enjoyed that part and the concept. Otherwise, though, don’t bother. (Also, the cover is lovely. That’s a huge part of why I picked up this book.)

Rating: 2 stars

Seanan McGuire: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day

•December 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Dusk-Dark-Dawn-Day-cover-740x1184Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy, ghost story)

I really enjoyed this book. Well, novella, really. If I had one complaint about it, that would be it: too short. However, I knew that going in, so I don’t hold it against the book. (Unlike some other reviewers on Goodreads. And mild tangent: that really annoys me. When you know how long a book is before you start reading it (and I don’t care that it was an ebook, I still knew it was short) you know going in that it’s likely not going to be as long as you want it to be. Don’t ding the rating purely based on the fact that you wanted more.)

Okay. Tangent over. Sorry about that.

Back to the story. I found the way ghosts were described in this story to be utterly fascinating. I love the idea that ghosts take time from the living in order to age, in order to reach their “dying day” when they can move on. It’s a take on ghosts that I haven’t heard of (or thought of) before, and I love it. I want more in this vein, even though this was a stand-along story and I don’t know that McGuire has any more ideas for this world.

I also like the description of witches, though they were touched on in a lot less detail, since the main character was not a witch. Maybe that’s how we can get more stories in the world: by exploring a witch character next. Anyway, if McGuire decides to write more in this world, I’ll be buying it no matter what the story length.

Given the length of the story, any more I say about the plot will contain spoilers. However, if you have read McGuire’s other works and enjoyed them, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll like this one too. If you’ve been looking for an intro to McGuire’s style but don’t want to start with a long, established series, this might be a good way for you to get a taste of her style as well.

One thing I do feel a need to mention: there is a little talk about suicide. It’s a book about modern ghosts. This shouldn’t be a surprise, (but based on the Goodreads reviews, it seems there are people who were surprised by it). Mostly the talk is because the main character works at a suicide prevention hotline, but also because it’s a ghost story. Ghosts are almost never portrayed as people who died at their allotted time, so I don’t know why anyone would go into a ghost story and expect no mention at all of suicide and murder. But in any case, I felt it was handled tastefully, and it shouldn’t be a trigger except for people who are very highly sensitive to the subject.

Rating: 5 Stars

Kelly Barnhill: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

•November 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

51ICvYs0hLLThe Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
(YA fantasy)

Don’t let the “Children’s Award” stuff put you off this book. This book can be read by children, sure. They will quite probably like it. (Especially if they have also always wanted to have a Perfectly Tiny Dragon as a friend.) But this is also for adults. Anyone who is open to a magical story could love this one.

It is told from a few different points of view. There’s mostly the witch, the (titular) girl, a man from the village, and a few parts that are told as a story without the storyteller being explicitly defined (usually) (kinda). There are a few other POVs as well. And yet, it doesn’t get confusing. Each one is connected and yet separate. The storytelling in this way works really well.

I love this book. It’s told well, would appeal to (IMO) all ages, and is well deserving of its Newbery Award. There’s something about this book that’s hard to put into words. It’s magic. Yes, it has a well-formed plot and characters you can relate to. It has a great background without slapping you in the face with an info dump. It has good guys and bad guys and sometimes they are the same people. It is a very well-crafted book, and quite likely my favorite book I’ve read all year.

But none of that can capture the sheer magic that is this story

Rating: 5 Stars