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

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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

Amanda Flower: Crime and Poetry

•November 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

611WWXZKrtL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Crime and Poetry (Magical Bookshop Mystery #1)
by Amanda Flower
(cozy cat mystery)

This is a cute book. I found this to be a perfect cozy mystery. The heroine was both just smart enough and just stupid enough to be the main character of a cozy mystery. The villain was just bad enough. (AKA had the villain belonged to a regular murder mystery instead of a cozy mystery, our MC would be dead of the stupid before the end of the book.) And as the first book in the series, this wrapped everything up nicely into a done-but-not-finished parcel by the end. So, while this story is told, there’s plenty left to make you come back to this town for more fun.

That’s not to say it was all fun and games. There were some things about this book that made me unhappy. For one, at times the heroine really was too stupid to live. She took the time to change her shoes, but didn’t try to let anyone know where she was going? Dumb. Yes, that heightens the tension. But really, sending a call to voicemail would have been fine and still left her in the predicament she was in at the end.

Probably my biggest annoyance with the book was a very minor thing. The MC at one point gets in her car to go adventuring. She wants to go alone, but a guy decides he wants to go with her. So when she unlocks her car door with the key fob, he opens the passenger door and gets in. Um, no. Key fobs unlock the driver’s side door first. You have to click it a second time in order to unlock the passenger side door. Specifically to prevent unwanted people from getting in your car. I realize that the author wanted the guy to go with the MC because reasons, but find a different way to unlock both doors.

Anyway, it was a very cute book and I love the cat and the Caretaker premise. (Side note: I want a bookshop to talk to me.) I’m not sure if I will decide to continue with the series, though. I have to weigh the pros of the cat and bookshop against the cons of the love triangle which has been nicely set up in this book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Neil deGrasse Tyson: My Favorite Universe

•October 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

My Favorite Universe, a Great Courses lecture series
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
(science non-fiction)

This is a fun book, but it’s a bit more basic than the other non-fiction books I’ve been listening to lately. (Example: it touches on some of the same things that Dr. Tyson talks about in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, but in less detail and depth.) This is still worth listening to, just be aware that it’s the equivalent of an entry-level lecture series as compared with some of the other Great Courses lecture series.

One pet peeve of mine: based on the pauses in Dr. Tyson’s speech patterns, it sounds like this was intended to be seen as a video. I get annoyed when the same audio is used for audio and video without considering that the audio-only users will be missing the visual portion of the book.

One thing I particularly liked about this was the passion that Dr. Tyson has for his subject. (This makes sense, since it’s about his favorite parts of the universe.) A lot of non-fiction books can get dry and confusing, but this one is good at speaking to the average listener. This does mean that if you already know about the subject, you might feel some of his descriptions are overly simplistic. Still, it’s a fun listen, if more casual than many of the Great Courses lectures I’ve listened to.

Rating: 4 stars

Gene Doucette: The Spaceship Next Door

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

27809654.jpgThe Spaceship Next Door
by Gene Doucette
narrated by Steve Carlson
(science fiction)

My initial thought about this book was that the pacing was slow in the beginning. However, by about 1/3 of the way in, I appreciated the pacing, and by half-way the pacing had gradually picked up while still maintaining the “deliberate” feel it had at the beginning. Something about the pace completely matched the story for me.

There are some spoilery things that may come up in reviews of this book. I won’t mention them here, but I do have the biggest one of them in my review on Goodreads behind a spoiler tag.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. The 16-year-old main character did often seem older than her years, but given the situation (it’s explained early on that she’s been taking care of her mom for a few years) and the fact that adults continually acknowledge the fact that she seems old for her age, it doesn’t make anything unbelievable. If you can believe the spaceship in the yard, you can believe Annie Collins.

The narration on this one was okay. It wasn’t my favorite narration, but once I got used to the voices it didn’t bother me. There wasn’t as much distinction between characters as I like, but again — I got used to it.

This is a stand-alone book, which is fine. It could be an interesting series as well, but I think that any additional books in this series would start to become unbelievable while this one remains within the realm of plausible. It works as a single book in a way it wouldn’t as a series.

Rating: 5 stars