Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Queen’s Aviary by Yoon Ha Lee

Title: The Queen’s Aviary
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Published: January 30, 2015
Pages: 3
Publisher: Daily Science Fiction
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The raven spoke in a voice like storms and stars falling. “The royal line has always kept birds by its side,” it said, “but a bird will be your death. Free us and walk unfettered by fear.”

When the princess became queen at fifteen upon the death of her mother, the ravens gave her her reign-prophecy.  And it was one that was unexpectedly ominous and impossible.  The birds had been a part of palace life for generations, and it was hardly her place to be rid of something that was so key to the identity of the royal family.  But as with all prophecies, one must be very clever to avoid them as often it is in attempting to outwit a prophecy that it finds itself fulfilled.

I’ve found myself appreciating some of the darker fantasy stories lately, so this one was just right on the day I read it.  Yoon Ha Lee is a relatively new author to me, but everything I’ve read so far has been enjoyable.  I’ve a feeling she is one to watch.

A Counselor Among Wolves by Liv Olteano

25311292Title: A Counselor Among Wolves (Leader Murders, Book 2)
Author: Liv Olteano
Published: May 8, 2015
Pages: 230
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Five leaders have been murdered and the circumstances surrounding their deaths are most peculiar. Herman Weiss, PBI director, is responsible for trying to solve the case, with essentially no real leads. On top of that, he’s feeling rages, something that could put him in grave danger himself. He seeks help from Timothy Sands, a half-fey, half-elf PBI counselor, whose emotional-grid balancing abilities can keep the rages in check. But in order to make that work, the two have to pretend to be a couple. That’s easy enough for Weiss, but a bit more challenging for Tim who has had a crush on the straight PBI director for some time. Can Tim help Weiss avoid his rages long enough to solve the case? Can they figure out what’s causing the rages and make them stop? And when Tim’s father, the Fey King, shows up and threatens the Council unless they hand Tim over to him, will Weiss be able to return the favor and save Tim?

I really, really enjoyed this story. There are so many complex layers to the plot, but it’s easy to read and follow throughout. The characters are interesting and dynamic, and the writing is incredibly descriptive and engaging. This is the first book I’ve read by Liv Olteano, but I definitely want to seek out more by this author. The combination of the paranormal, fantasy, and romantic elements was done so well that I’m glad I picked this one up and gave it a chance.

While this is the second book in a series, one doesn’t need to read the first book to understand what’s going on here. I haven’t read the first book and I had no problems at all. Reading the first one is probably helpful, though, and I definitely plan to go back and read it when I get a chance.

The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong

Title: The Fisher Queen
Author: Alyssa Wong
Published: May 2014
Pages: 12
Publisher: Fantasy & Science Fiction
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

MY MOTHER WAS A FISH. That’s why I can swim so well, according to my father, who is a plain fisherman with a fisherman’s plain logic, but uncanny flair for the dramatic. And while it’s true that I can cut through the water like a minnow, or a hand dipped over the edge of a speedboat, I personally think it’s because no one can grow up along the Mekong without learning two things: how to swim, and how to avoid the mermaids.

A dark and thought-provoking tale. Mermaids are here, but do not expect anything close to your favorite Disney film. The moral and philosophical issues here are heavy, but it doesn’t come across as preachy or overly message heavy. Of the seeming overabundance of stories that have been printed in the past year involving mermaids, this is probably the best one I’ve read out of the bunch.

This is another one that I’m incredibly disappointed to not see on the Hugo ballot…

Content warnings: Non-consensual sexual situations, discussions of violence

Resurrection Man by Laylah Hunter

23296041Title: Resurrection Man
Author: Laylah Hunter
Published: October 7, 2014 (originally appeared in the Bump in the Night anthology (October 14, 2013)
Pages: 19
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Josef’s lover, Adel, has died, but he is not ready to be parted with him forever. He takes many risks to practice dark and forbidden magic to bring him back. But can the magic bring Adel back exactly as he was? Or does death do something to a person that can never be undone? And to what lengths is Josef willing to go for the idea of keeping Adel by his side?

A bit on the darker side of fantasy, this is an interesting story that manages a unique voice, even though it contains motifs that are not unknown to horror readers. In a few short pages, Laylah Hunter brings these two characters to life (that was intentional) and I found myself easily pulled into the story. It’s not graphic (in any way, really), but it’s not a bright and shiny romance, if that’s what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something dark and intense, this is a good bet.

The Bonedrake’s Penance by Yoon Ha Lee

Title: The Bonedrake’s Penance
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Published: March 20, 2014
Pages: 40
Publisher: Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Talk about a story that makes you think. Even a while after I’ve read this, I immediately find myself going back to the issues this story raised for me when I first finished it. Can one truly remain neutral in conflict? Is a decision to remain neutral an amoral decision or is it a conscious choice that brings culpability for the final outcome to the “neutral” party? And then there are the issues of parenting and nurturing. What does it mean to be a parent? How does a parent’s sense of morality impact those of their children? And what if something like the fortress actually existed?

This is the kind of speculative fiction I enjoy. There’s a world here that is different enough to truly stand out, but not different in ways that make it completely outside the realm of future possibility. The fiction that raises the questions of morality, especially when it comes to technology and its implications and applications.

Men of the Manor by Rob Rosen (editor)

20763770Title: Men of the Manor: Erotic Encounters between Upstairs Lords and Downstairs Lads
Editor: Rob Rosen
Published: August 18, 2014
Pages: 232
Publisher: Cleis Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

It may be a faux pas for the upper class to fraternize with the help, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. And when it happens, it’s worth taking note. The Men of the Manoranthology gives readers thirteen short stories that explore these relationships, the power dynamics, and social norms involved. And what goes on behind closed doors, well, sometimes that’s just not proper at all.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. Because the stories are so short, I’m not going to review each one individually…it would be difficult to do that without spoiling most of them. But despite their brevity, the stories are engaging and unique. And the heat factor is definitely there, too. Worth picking up and taking the journey if you’re looking for something fun to get you through an afternoon.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

7125342Title: The Magicians (The Magicians, Book 1)
Author: Lev Grossman
Published: August 11, 2009
Pages: 402
Publisher: Viking Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

After arriving for a college interview to find his interviewer dead, Quentin Coldwater is about to find that’s one of the least surprising things that will happen to him that day. He is invited to and admitted to a selective and secret magical college. That’s right: magical. The training isn’t easy, and it tests them in some rather trying ways. After graduation, Quentin and his friends stumble into a world none of them thought really existed, and in the process learn things they might have preferred never to know.

I was honestly conflicted with this book. I like the setting and the concept–it’s just the type of book I like to read in that regard. But I had a really difficult time with the characters, especially Quentin. I mentioned above that the training was trying and one might think that would lead to some semblance of self-awareness. Yet, Quentin lacks it. Honestly, he’s probably the most unlikeable protagonist I’ve encountered while reading that comes to mind. And it doesn’t come across to me that he’s intended to be so unlikeable, which had me scratching my head and frowning often while reading (especially later in the book).

That said, the book is enjoyable and entertaining. And when you look past just how incredibly flawed Quentin is with few redeeming factors, there is an epic fantasy tale being told.

Ty Hard by L.E. Harner

12180309Title: Ty Hard (Willow Springs Ranch, Book 1)
Author: L.E. Harner
Published: August 10, 2011
Pages: 105
Publisher: Hot Corner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Why Ty arrives at Cass Cartwright’s ranch, he is surprised to learn that his mentor whom he’s come to visit has died. Not having anywhere to go, he accepts an offer from Cass to stay on for a short while but intends to move on once he finds his footing again. But when Cass realizes he might be interested in Ty, he secretly hopes he might stay. It’s all a bit complicated, though, as Ty works through his PTSD and one of the ranch hands decides to compete with Cass for Ty’s attention.

The romance thread in this one is okay, but the overall story seems a bit far-fetched. The extreme reactions of a couple of the ranch employees are more than a bit over-the-top and it seems like this tries to be a whodunnit in the end, when that’s not really what it is at its core. That said, I do enjoy the interactions between Cass and Ty and that alone makes this worth a read.

I Spy Pecan Pie by Anna Birmingham

22568594Title: I Spy Pecan Pie
Author: Amy Birmingham
Published: June 23, 2014
Pages: 42
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Duke is the ranch cook and he’s intrigued by the new guy, Justin. He’s not sure what to make of him, but he suspects there’s something under the surface. And when he finds it, it turns out there’s even more there than he imagined.

I don’t have much more in the way of a spoiler-free synopsis. This is short, but it’s a well-written story and worth the read. Cowboys, pie, and sexy times. What more does a person need? The characters are developed and there is a richness to this world that just seems to flow right off the page. Can’t really go wrong with this one.

Bertram Cope’s Year by Henry Blake Fuller

1476658Title: Bertram Cope’s Year
Author: Henry Blake Fuller
Published: 1919
Pages: 364
Publisher: Turtle Point Press (2000 edition)
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Bertram Cope is a young man who’s gone off to study at college and quickly taken in by Medora Phillips, a wealthy society woman. Bertram falls into their world quickly and Mrs. Phillips tries her best to set him up with several of the eligible young women in her circle. But Bertram’s focus is only on Arthur, his friend and eventual housemate. But not everyone is as enamored of Arthur as Bertram is, and that can prove to be a problem.

This book is definitely a product of its time, having been written in 1918. The humor here is a bit haughty and almost reminded me a bit of an Oscar Wilde comedy. There is no steamy scenes here and the romantic overtones are subtle, but for the early 1900s, I can’t help wondering if this was a bit of a groundbreaking story for its time.