Tag Archives: published: 2014-10

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Flight of Magpies

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Series: A Charm of Magpies, Book 3
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 28, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Life for Stephen Day has never really been what one would call normal. But things are getting weird even for him. The justiciary is still in the process of rebuilding their forces, and one of the apprentices may be going mad with power. Of course, this only adds to the stress between Stephen and his lover, Lord Crane. A stress that comes to a head over the investigation of a theft in which Crane finds himself the victim. Can Stephen help solve the theft, figure out what’s going on with the young apprentice, and keep his relationship afloat?

I have enjoyed this series; the combination of historical and paranormal always has a way of drawing me in. And the characters here are the same characters that I’ve grown to enjoy reading about during the previous two installments. I have to say that I do feel like there’s just a little bit too much going on in this one, though. There’s the case at the core, there’s the drama with the justiciary, there’s the short-staffing of the judiciary–it’s just so many layers and makes things suddenly more complex than I feel they have been thus far. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready for this turn. I still enjoyed this book, and I absolutely recommend it. It just didn’t quite hit the spot in the way I expected it would.

Billionaire with Benefits by Anne Tenino

Billionaire with Benefits

Billionaire with Benefits by Anne Tenino

Series: Romancelandia, Book 2
Published by: Riptide Publishing on October 18, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Tierney Terrebonne lives by the Terrebonne rules set down by his grandfather. There are things that Terrebonnes just don’t do. And being gay is on that list. So there’s no way he can be gay. Yes, he makes use of the restroom glory hole. And yes, he has a major crush on his best friend, Ian. But it’s just Ian, right? Because Tierney can’t be gay. And Ian’s not gay, so even if Tierney wanted to act on it, he couldn’t. Right?

So when Ian comes out, Tierney’s world comes crashing down. How can Ian be gay? And what does that mean for Tierney? He’s still not gay, right? But maybe he could have been with Ian this whole time. Except…Terrebonnes can’t be gay. But when Grandpa Terrebonne dies suddenly, Tierney wonders if maybe the Terrebonne rules don’t really apply anymore. But a lifetime of repressing one’s self can’t be undone overnight. Especially when years of damage have been done…

But Tierney wonders if it might all be worth it for Dalton. Dalton is Ian’s assistant and one of the only people who has shown Tierney kindness despite his status as a perpetual jackass. Tierney may not deserve someone like Dalton, that’s for sure. But Dalton likes to help people. There’s something about broken men who need him that draws him in. And he knows that there’s something underneath the shell that Tierney presents to the world.

But can they work through the baggage that they both bring to the relationship? Can they both get past their issues and find a way to be exactly what the other needs? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure.

Another angst-filled book from Anne Tenino. Don’t get me wrong–it’s an interesting read. But I always know there will be angst in the things she writes. And there were certainly moments when I did think we were getting really close to the “enough already” point. And when you consider this clocks in at 415 pages, it probably could be shored up and paced just a bit better.

But Dalton makes it worth reading. Even though I think he should have turned and ran at first glance, he’s still a great character. It’s difficult not to feel for him and let you draw him into the book.

So this gets a recommendation from me. But be prepared for a book that drips with more angst than a room full of emo teenagers…

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Blood of Olympus

Book Info

Title: The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, Book 5)
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October 7, 2014
Pages: 516
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Through all their trials so far, the demigods are finding that defeating Gaea is certainly going to be more difficult than they ever imagined. The Feast of Spes is rapidly approaching, and the window if time they have to stop her is closing. At the same time, their fellow demigods of Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter are on the bring of an all-out battle, something it seems they will have no way of stopping from where they stand. They’ve retrieved the Athena Parthenos, which could serve as a vital weapon in stopping Gaea, but it is also the one thing that could stop the war brewing at home. The team knows they need to split up–a couple of people heading back to Long Island with the statue while the rest continue on to Athens to put an end to Gaea’s attempt to fully awaken  and to once again save the gods and the world…

I don’t toss around the phrase “epic conclusion” very lightly, but that’s certainly what we have here. This is an action-packed final chapter in a story that’s been brewing from all the way back in The Lightning Thief. What I also really liked about this installment is that the rest of the demigods (even some who aren’t on the crew) get their moments to shine. We don’t get pages and pages on them, but readers get enough to understand them better, to cheer for them, and to become even further immersed in this incredible world that Rick Riordan has created.

I’ve always enjoyed these books as someone who loves mythology (have since as far as I can remember) and fantasy, while also enjoying a good YA book now and then. While this chapter has come to a close, I’m glad that Riordan is continuing with new series and keeping the spirit of urban-fantasy-inspired-by-mythology alive.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No NormalTitle: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal
Authors: G. Willow Wilson (Writer) & Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Published: October 30, 2014
Pages: 120
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Kamala Khan is a typical teenager–well, as much as there can be any such thing as a “typical teenager”. But when she finds herself coming into some awesome (and also a bit frightening) new powers, her entire world is about to change. She quickly learns, however, that the phrase–taken right from the Marvel universe in which she lives–“With great power comes great responsibility” is profoundly true. Can she handle the moniker of Ms. Marvel and everything that comes with it? Is Kamala ready to lead a double life? And what of the dangers that are inevitable when one becomes a superhero? All questions for which no typical teenager has ready answers.

I picked this up as part of my reading for Hugo voting this year since it was nominated (and subsequently won the award). I don’t generally read many graphic novels, which is somewhat surprising considering that I was a major comics fan and collector during my teen years. I think it’s just a matter of keeping up with it all and that I keep myself busy enough with the novels and short stories that are on my list. But I do always enjoy reading the graphic stories that are nominated for the Hugos, as that ensures I get in at least a few each year.

It is no surprise to me why this was nominated and selected for the Hugo. Not only is the artwork phenomenal, but it is an excellent origin story and was one that I found very engaging. Although Marvel may downplay and erase the roles of women superheros in their films, I’m glad to see that at least their not being left of the page of their print works. Now if only we could get something like this translated to screen. I’d watch a Ms. Marvel cartoon or movie–and I think there are many others in the same boat.

But really, if you’re like me and don’t read many graphic novels but you’re going to read one this year: this should be it. You won’t be disappointed.

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: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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.

Hunting Monsters by S.L. Huang

23289443Title: Hunting Monsters
Author: S.L. Huang
Published: October 7, 2014
Pages: 50
Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

“Happy birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”

Ever since she was a small girl, she has learned to be careful on the hunt, to recognize the signs that separate regular animals from human-cursed grundwirgen. To harm a grundwirgen is a crime punishable by death by the King’s decree – a fatal mistake that her Auntie Rosa and mother have carefully prepared her to avoid.

On her fifteenth birthday, when her mother is arrested and made to stand trial for grundwirgen murder, everything she thought she knew about her family and her past comes crashing down.

Auntie Rosa has always warned her about monsters. Now, she must find and confront them to save her mother, no matter the cost.

To say this is a beautifully-written and intriguing tale is true, but it hardly does this story justice. As a reader, I was taken on an adventure and an emotional journey that one might not think is possible in a story of this length.  Short fiction is often a challenge – to fully develop characters and create a rich world in just a few pages is not easy. But with this story, S.L. Huang proves it’s more than possible while also providing a thrilling fantasy story that will leave you thinking about it long after you finish the last page.

This is one I was definitely sad to see miss the Hugo ballot…

Heaven Thunders the Truth by K.J. Parker

Title: Heaven Thunders the Truth
Author: K.J. Parker
Published: October 2, 2014
Pages: 54
Publisher: Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

My smile broadened. It was lucky for the old man I don’t practice my trade for free, or he’d have spent the rest of the day rolling on the floor clutching his guts. “If one of them was a wizard capable of performing that level of enchantment, he’d be a rich man,” I said. “Stands to reason.”

A wonderfully told fantasy tale with unexpected twists that easily engages the reader.  Everything about this story is original from the world it in which it takes place right down to the way the wizards practice their magic.  With a touch of high fantasy combined with an air of a tribal legend, K.J. Parker spins a tale that excites, regales, and shares an interesting message with readers.  It does seem to run a bit longer than it needs to be, but not enough to really detract from the message.  I definitely recommend checking this out if you enjoy fantasy or science fiction.

In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa

23360811Title: In Her Head, In Her Eyes
Author: Yukimi Ogawa
Published: October 21, 2014
Pages: 30
Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

As this is a piece of short fiction, and I find it difficult to provide a synopsis that doesn’t inadvertently spoil some of the key elements of this story, I’m going to post the book blurb:

Trills of silver, quiver of gold.

Pot Head, they called her. Heavy-head, they teased her. In a noble house of dye masters, Island-born Hase is an outcast, ridiculed by her fellow servants and employers – all because of the smooth, reflective sphere that covers her head. Little does the household know that Hase has a mission and a purpose, carried behind her pot-covered head, in her impenetrable eyes.

Talk about intriguing, this one.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Yukimi Ogawa has created a very rich and dynamic work here that comes to life in a short amount of space.  There are some unexpected twists that keep the reader engaged and allow one to get a better understanding of the characters based on their actions and intent.  This one has secured itself a place on my Hugo nominations ballot.

The Martian by Andy Weir

20829029Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Published: 2011 (re-released October 28, 2014)
Pages: 369
Publisher: Andy Weir (re-released by Broadway Books)
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★★ ☆
Review:

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Within days of landing on Mars, the crew of the Ares 3 mission is forced to abandon the planet due to a strong sandstorm. In the course of evacuating, astronaut Mark Watney is hit with an antenna and dies. But while sensors indicated he was dead to the crew, they were wrong. Watney has survived and has been left behind with no way of communicating with the crew or with NASA back on Earth and definitely not enough supplies to make it until the Ares 4 crew arrives on the planet years from now. But he’s not one to just give up without trying and plans to use both his engineering and botany training to see just how long he can make it and if there might be some way to let those back at home know he is okay.

I was honestly surprised at how easily this one sucked me in. Most of the book is Watney’s mission logs–first person accounts of what he’s doing and thinking as he works to survive on Mars–but they read easily and are, at times, a bit entertaining, too. There are some cutaways to Earth and the crew that run in parallel to the logs to provide the story of what’s going on off-planet. While this is science fiction, it reads as nearly believable, and I think that adds to the authenticity and the humanity of the storytelling. I normally don’t enjoy hard science fiction (I prefer touches of the fantastic), but I really enjoyed this one. It’s not overly action-focused and it comes off a bit understated, but it’s very much worth the read.

Title: Fire in the Blood
Author: Erin M. Evans
Publication Date: October 14, 2014

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review: Farideh was probably one of my favorite characters that I was introduced to in The Sundering series and The Adversary was certainly one of my favorite books. So of course I simply jumped at the opportunity to do an advance read of Fire in the Blood, the next installment in Farideh’s story.

Blurb:

SCRIBE- award-winning author, Erin M. Evans, continues the riveting tale of her Sundering character, Farideh, as she becomes embroiled in a Forgotten Realms-flavored game of thrones.

In a direct follow-up to the third book in the Sundering series, The Adversary, young warlock Farideh falls into the midst of a battle for the throne of Cormyr. As the war brought on by the Sundering rages across Faerûn, princes and princesses, wizards and rogues scheme to capture the seat of power of the Land of the Purple Dragon—with Farideh and her allies caught squarely in the middle. 

Don’t be fooled by the scant details given in the book’s description. There is so much more here than one might see on the surface. Love, war, high fantasy, magic, demons, betrayal – it’s all part of Farideh’s story and more. What I think I particularly enjoyed about this installment is getting to see Farideh’s interactions with others. There was more of that in this book than in the previous one and it demonstrated the level of depth that Evans has created for these characters and this world. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more about Farideh in the future.

My one frustration was the way Farideh’s story turns, for a moment, to a focus on romantic relationships. Granted, they are a part of everyone’s existence, but the way a man can suddenly turn her off course and overwhelm her just seemed so contrary to the strong and independent personality that characterizes Farideh all throughout The Adversary. In the end, I think she comes back out on top, but it was surprising to see and had me worried for a few moments while I was reading.

(eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)