Elliott James: In Shining Armor

•January 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

31539781-_uy200_In Shining Armor (Pax Arcana #4)
by Elliott James
narrated by Roger Wayne

On Goodreads, I determined that I would probably give this 4.5 stars if that was an option. The reason for the lower-than-stellar yet still-quite-good rating is because I really, really enjoyed the book. I liked getting to see more of the characters were already knew, and meeting new ones as well. What I didn’t like was the too-easy healing from massive wounds. Yes, that is part of being a werewolf. And yes, I know that we tend to skip over time in which the narrative character is not conscious. However, either too little time was taken to heal from various injuries (not once, not twice, but three times) or there wasn’t a good enough job done to convince me of the passage of time.

However, that – while a complaint and, I think, a valid one – was not enough to truly hinder my enjoyment of the book. This is a worthwhile installment of a good series, and I look forward to seeing where the series plot is going. I think I can catch a glimpse of it, but I’m not sure. I’ll need at least one more book to be sure (at least in part because Mr. James is very good at hiding twists within twists, so that you figure out one part of the puzzle and miss a second part hidden deeper within the same clue).

The book plot is simple enough to detail without spoilers. (The series plot isn’t, so I’m going to be fairly simplistic here.) Essentially, John Charming’s goddaughter was kidnapped, and it’s up to him (with the help of his Valkyrie lover Sig, some Templars, and some werewolves) to get her back and get revenge on whoever kidnapped her in the first place. There is magic, shooting, and fighting along the way. John will sometimes do something off camera so that the reader is taken by surprise along with the bad guys, which is a technique used often in this series. If you’ve gotten to book 4, you are familiar with it (whether or not you like it).

I enjoy this series. A lot. Is it perfect? No. But does it need to be? Also no. While it’s not my favorite series, it is one that I am quite happy with continuing. (And also recommending to family and friends whose reading tastes match mine.)

Carrie Fisher: The Princess Diarist

•January 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

33290316-_uy200_The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher
narrated by Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd
(non-fiction, memoir)

This is a book that I wasn’t even really aware of until after Carrie Fisher’s heart attack and too-early death at the end of last year. I knew that she’d done other things besides movies; I wasn’t really aware of what. And until late December, 2016, I thought I had plenty of time to find out.

I wish I’d read one (or more) of her books sooner. She was very witty, and doesn’t hold back in her memoirs here. I wish I’d known how much more she offered the world while she was still offering it instead of only finding out after she had passed.

This particular book is mostly read by Carrie herself, but the diary entries (as indicated in the title) are read by Carrie’s daughter Billie. It was a really nice touch. And I love hearing Carrie’s story read by her instead of someone pretending to be her.

I can’t really figure out how to review this book. I loved it. Chances are, if you want to read this, you are the target audience and will love it too. I’m guessing that the people who won’t like the book are those who have no interest in reading it anyway.

Anyway, this is only the first of Carrie’s books that I have read, but it won’t be the last. I intend to get the rest in audio form also, as long as Carrie read them. Though… this was hard to hear so soon after her passing. I will be listening to the rest of her books, but… not yet. I need a little more distance before I read any others. It was good to listen to one, but one is all I can handle this soon. Rest in peace, Carrie. May the Force be with you.

Wen Spencer: Project Elfhome

•January 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

51D9jhfifmL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgProject Elfhome: Elfhome #4.5 (various short stories)
by Wen Spencer
(fantasy, futuristic)

This is a fun book of short stories. I had read a couple of the stories before (as eBooks) but most of them were new to me. I’m not going to go into detail for each story – in my opinion, this set of stories is mostly meant for people who are already fans of the series. This is not to say that you can’t start with these stories and come to enjoy the series; however, I think it’s more likely that you’ll enjoy the stories if you already love the world.

Also, there are MAJOR spoilers for the novels in some of these stories. I highly recommend reading this AFTER reading the first four books (TinkerWolf Who RulesElfhome, and Wood Sprites – in that order). Some of the stories are essentially stand-alones, but others happen between the main novels and it’s hard (or impossible) to tell where each story lands when you are starting the story.

I guess as far as the compilation itself goes, that’s my only real complaint. The author has a section at the end where she goes into at least a little detail about the different stories, but it would have been nice to have a very brief blurb before each story that placed it into the novels’ timeline.

I think my favorite stories were the Pittsburgh Backyard & Garden ones – partly because I really enjoyed the characters in those stories, but also because they are tied in the closest (kinda) with Wood Sprites, which is the Elfhome novel I read most recently. It was a lot of fun to learn more about someone who was a minor character in the novel and a major character in the shorts.

So, is this worth picking up? Yes. But as I mentioned before, I would definitely wait to pick it up until after you’ve read the first four novels. And if you’re anything like me (and at least one friend who read the novels on my recommendation) you’ll finish the novels in record time and will then devour the shorts in order to get anything more on Elfhome.

In fact, I think it’s (already) time for me to re-read the novels again. This world is that fun.

Robin McKinley: Beauty

•January 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

9781470360801.jpgBeauty: a retelling of the story of Beauty & the Beast
by Robin McKinley
narrated by Charlotte Parry
(fantasy, fairy tale retelling)

I don’t know how long this book has been on my TBR list. A long time, that’s for sure. And I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, either. I love fairy tale retellings, when they’re done right (as this one was). (This one has definitely bumped Spindle’s End higher up the TBR list.)

Anyway, you should be familiar with the basic plot of this story already. If not, I’m guessing you don’t get out much. But just in case… Beauty has two older sisters. Their father is a merchant (Disney took liberties here) and their mother is dead. An unexpected turn in their fortunes causes the family to move out of the town and into the country, close to an enchanted wood. The father goes back into town on business and asks the daughters what he can bring them back: the two eldest ask for jewels, and Beauty asks for rose seeds. Well, the father gets lost on his return home, and ends up at the Beast’s castle in the enchanted woods. He takes a rose for Beauty, and the Beast demands that the father surrender one of his daughters for the theft of the rose.

This version is the traditional story with very few alterations. (Or at least, very few alterations as I remember the original.) Beauty’s sisters aren’t mean, for one thing. Her brothers in the original have become brothers-in-law in this version. And I don’t remember the family’s fortunes declining in the original the way they do in this version. That kind of thing. However, none of the tweaks to the details matter in terms of the story itself. It all combines to make a very solid, very enjoyable book. Unlike some retellings, however, don’t expect many extra plot points. It is a very good version of Beauty and the Beast, but it is 100% that story. It doesn’t blend in other worlds or other stories or other magics.

The narration on the story was good as well. The Beast perhaps wasn’t read as growly as I would have preferred, but Charlotte, our narrator, did a better job of it than I would. And she was perfect for Beauty.

This is definitely one to pick up. I highly recommend it to anyone, and I think I’ll be adding it to the list of books to gift to my niece for birthdays or Christmas or whatever. (So yes, suitable for all ages.)

Wen Spencer: Wood Sprites

•December 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

51PB3Yr13fL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWood Sprites: Elfhome book #4
2016 Book Challenge: a book with more than 500 pages

by Wen Spencer

This book is one that I’ve wanted to read for a while, but also didn’t. I LOVE the Elfhome series. But part of what I love is the main characters from the first book. I wasn’t sure what I would think of a book set in the same universe as those books but with completely different characters. And so it took me a while to buy the book, and then it took me a while to read it once I’d bought it. And even once I’d started reading it, it took me a while to start enjoying it.

Please note – that is entirely my fault. I started reading it wanting more of the Elfhome and elves and magic stuff that I’d gotten from the beginning of book 1 (Tinker). However, since Wood Sprites takes place on Earth, I didn’t get what I wanted. (At first, anyway. These things do show up later, but I’m trying to avoid major spoilers.) So I had the problem of wanting something that the book couldn’t provide, and until I allowed myself to enjoy what the book had to offer, I was a little annoyed at it.

Once I did start enjoying what the book WAS (instead of what I wanted it to be), I really enjoyed it. The main characters are twins who are the sisters of Tinker (the main character in the rest of the series), and they have the same intelligence and similar abilities as she does. They have the same habit of blowing things up (somewhat intentionally) for example. Also, they are involved in theatre at their school, so once they started talking about their school play I enjoyed that a lot too.

The basic, spoiler-free* plot of Wood Sprites goes like this. (*Note that it DOES have potential spoilers for the rest of the series. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you want to avoid those.) Jillian and Louise are twins who were born from the same stored fertilized eggs that were used to conceive Tinker. However, they were born much later, so while Tinker has just turned 18, the twins are 9. (This takes place at the same time as the events in Tinker. It’s fun to match the timelines up.) Shortly after they discover this, they learn more about their family history from items their biological mother left behind. The plot really starts to get fun when the twins learn that they can do magic, if they have a power source for it. And… beyond there lie spoilers.

I did greatly enjoy this book. And I will enjoy re-reading it again later. I think I will enjoy the re-read more, because I won’t be expecting the book to be something it’s not and will be able to enjoy it for what it is. Also, I will be highly anticipating book 5. I think I have a while before it comes out, but there’s a book of short stories I can enjoy in the meantime. (Project Elfhome. I want to pick up the paperback so that it matches the rest of the series, but it’s currently only out in hardback. I might not be able to wait that long.)

Frances Hodgson: The Secret Garden

•November 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

61tm4fkvqdl-_sl300_The Secret Garden
2016 Book Challenge: a book a friend recommended
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
narrated by Johanna Ward
(children’s fiction, classic fiction)

I somehow managed to avoid reading this one as a child. (I suspect it had something to do with this being “a children’s book”. I was rather proud of the fact that I could read well above my grade level, and so was sometimes kinda snobbish about which books I chose to read for pleasure. However, it could also easily be because this was not a fantasy or even adventure book. Even now, I still prefer to read fantasies, but I will read more mundane books as well. At the time, I almost never elected to read a non-fantasy book. Most of the ones I read were class assignments, and this book was never assigned to me for school.)

Anyway, in my adult life I have had many people recommend this book to me. They find out I never read it as a kid, and it becomes a new “must read”. So eventually, I picked up the Audible version and listened to that.I’m glad I went with the Audible version. The broad Yorkshire used in the story is much more enjoyable to listen to than I suspect it would have been to read. And the narrator, Johanna Ward, does a great job with this book.

What did I think about the book itself? It has certainly earned its place as a classic novel. (Though there are some race-related comments that must be taken in context of the era.) I enjoyed listening to it. This is not one that I need to revisit often, though, I think. I’m glad to have read it, but it won’t be on my keeper shelf. This might be different if I had first read it as a child. I might have associated more with the main characters if I was closer to their age, and therefore it might mean more to me. Coming to it for the first time as an adult, however, it’s an enjoyable book but not one that really speaks to me personally.

So should you read it? If you, like me, haven’t read it before, then yes, I do think you should. Not just girls or women, either; I think boys and men would be equally benefited by the read. I do think this is one best approached for the first time as a youth, though. So I’m more likely to suggest that you read it with your daughter or son, if applicable – there’s a lot in there which can be discussed as a family during the reading of it.

Wen Spencer: Eight Million Gods

•November 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

18730787.jpgEight Million Gods
by Wen Spencer
(urban fantasy, mythological elements)

This is a book that I have wanted to read since the first time I read the Elfhome book with the first chapter of Eight Million Gods at the back as a teaser. (I think it was Wolf Who Rules, but it might have been Elfhome. I read those two so closely together that I forget.) It sounded like a really interesting premise, and so it went on my TBR list. Well, I finally got my hands on a copy of it and dug in! And the book didn’t disappoint. Very fun romp through Japan – both modern and mythological. (Never having been to Japan or been much involved in Japanese culture, I can’t speak to its authenticity, but it felt right based on the little I do know.)

A very quick, spoiler-free summary: our heroine has hypergraphia, a condition which is characterized by a compulsion to write. In Nikki Delaney’s case, she has become able to turn this compulsion into a productive thing, channeling her need to write into her novels. However, when one of her characters dies in a fashion very similar to a real murder, Nikki must find out quickly whether this is the work of a crazy fan or something more sinister. And when a raccoon in a business suit shows up at her door, she starts to think there’s something very wrong with her sanity.

(See why I wanted to read it? Crazy-fun stuff!)

The book was as fun as I had hoped. One of the things I really enjoyed was getting to see the entire story from Nikki’s POV, even in the instances where it seemed we were reading someone else’s POV. (Read it. You’ll see.) That was a very clever way of doing it. The universe seemed consistent with itself – and, as I said earlier, with the little I know of Japanese culture – and all the characters felt fully fleshed out. This is one I’ll enjoy re-reading in a few years to see if I catch anything new in the beginning chapters now that I know the ending.