Tag Archives: rating: three-stars

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Seasons of Glass and Iron

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Published by: Saga Press on October 18, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

This is the tale of two women who must bear their burdens for the betterment of those around them. Because men cannot help themselves around her beauty, Amira must imprison herself high on a glass hill to keep all of her potential suitors at bay. Tabitha must wear out seven pairs of iron shoes to break her husband’s curse. Neither questions their situation on their own, but when they cross paths and tell each other their stories, they learn not only about the value of perspective but also about assumptions and misconceptions as well as the power they both have to control their own destinies.

There is something about a well-written adaptation of a fairy tale that I always enjoy. Reimagining and reinventing a classic story invokes considerations of perspective and innovation, and it is not easy to retell an existing story in an original way. But here readers get the gift of not only one excellent retelling but two intertwined tales that gain additional layers of meaning through the juxtaposition of each woman’s story.

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

The Englor Affair

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

Series: Sci-Regency, Book 2
Published by:
 Samhain Publishing in November 2008
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Prince Payton Townsend is on a mission to find his kidnapped brother and bring him home. To help ensure his own safety and give himself access to information, he’s disguised himself as an Admiral’s assistant. But Payton’s ruse also unexpectedly gives him access to Marine Colonel Simon Hollister. And just as Payton is drawn to Simon, Simon is drawn to Payton in return. But there are things about Simon that Payton also does not know. Like that Simon is heir to the throne of Englor, the planet on which Payton believes his brother is being held. And that the culture of Simon’s planet is unlikely to take as kindly to any sort of relations between them as Payton may be used to at home. Can they manage to find a way to be together? And might Simon be able to help Payton find his brother? And what of Payton when his mission is completed? Will he return home and leave Simon behind?

An excellent follow up to the first book in this series. I enjoyed the way the story dives right into not only the action of the story but the setup for some of the conflict that comes later in the book. Readers can expect to fall right into this futuristic world that J.L. Langley has created that in many ways also seems timeless in the issues the characters deal with and the challenges they face.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

The Jewel and her Lapidary

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Published by: Tor on May 3, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lin is a young princess, never destined to rule over the kingdom. Sima, her lapidary, was never trained on how to use the powerful gems and their magic for anything beyond what a princess may need. So when a massacre of the royal family leaves Lin as the only hope for her kingdom, both find themselves running into new territory with high-stakes consequences–not just for the two of them, but for an entire people.

There is a lot to the concept and the world that Fran Wilde has created here. The traditions, the history, the people–it hearkens to an epic fantasy story, though this is delivered in a single, novella-length installment. The story is fast-moving, with little time to stop for intentional character development and backstory, with everything coming through via the characters’ actions. And that can be a good thing at times, though there are moments in this story where things move so quickly that I felt a few things may have been lost. The story is well-written, and I would say my only complaint is that I would have like to see this developed over the course of more pages (or even multiple books) to really immerse myself as a reader.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Published by: Tor on February 16, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Charles Thomas “Tommy” Hester is a hustler, doing what he needs to do to survive and support his father. Life is what it is, after all. And as someone who lives in the underbelly of New York City, he’s met his share of shady, sinister, and mysterious types. He’s even benefitted a bit from those encounters at times too. But some forces should not be messed with. And we should also be careful about being too quick to judge or jump to our own conclusions.

I will admit that I have not read much Lovecraft. And that which I have read I have not found to be particularly enjoyable. It has never really grabbed me, and I have never connected with the work. So I am skeptical when I approach a work that is adapted/derived/etc. from a Lovecraft story. But there is absolutely no reason to hesitate here. Victor LaValle has taken inspiration from the original story to create something that reads as original itself, is rich with character development and world-building, and serves as a strong example of good storytelling. Well worth a read.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children, Book 1
Published by:
 Tor on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

We have all read and enjoyed the epic adventures of children who manage to stumble into fantastic, strange new worlds. But what comes of them when they return back to the mundane world of their origin. No one believes them. And they cannot find their way back. But their lives will never be the same. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children can provide a place where these children are understood, but Miss West knows they may have to find a way to learn to live with a longing that will never be fulfilled. But can the Home truly provide protection for the resident children…

A creative and original take on the notion of what comes after. McGuire manages, in a novella-length story, to develop and present a rich world that draws readers in quickly and hooks them into the fate of Nancy and her fellow residents. And at the same time, issues of how we perceive and treat each other–but also how we treat ourselves–are tackled head on in a way that may leave readers coming out of the book seeing things differently than they did before, much like the children in the story.

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

Published by: Tor.com on July 27, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

After the first mission intended to put people on Mars was a tragic failure, it has taken thirty years for people to be ready to try again. As a hotel housekeeper, Emily’s only connection to the mission is the fact that two of the mission’s astronauts will be coming to her hotel to participate in the final press conference before the launch. But Emily’s mother, Moolie, has something that Emily needs to know. And that something may just set Emily’s entire world on its head.

When I read science fiction, I admit that I do like the speculative elements of the story. But what is most important is the character development. Who are these people? Why should I care about them and what is happening to them? How are they going to overcome the obstacles that are thrown in their way? And Nina Allan definitely delivers in all of those areas. Although this is novelette length, readers get an opportunity to see in to Emily’s world–and to be right there with her when everything changes in ways she never expected or imagined.

Scrum by P.D. Singer

Scrum

Scrum by P.D. Singer

Published by: Goodreads M/M Romance Group on August 16, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Robin is not what one would call a rugby fan. But when his friend Sebastian drags him out and he sees the new player, Yves, Robin is totally in love with the game. Or, at least, the player. Their eyes seem to meet often, and Yves is all smiles. Which leaves Robin wondering if that smile is specifically for him or if it’s all in his head. And he really, really hopes it’s not all in his head…

This is an entertaining short story that would certainly hit the spot for those who like the athlete-fan romance. There are all of the elements that you might expect. And then there are a couple of unexpected twists that are likely to leave readers wanting more…

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon

The Tomato Thief

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon

Series: Jackalope Wives, #2
Published by:
 Apex Magazine on January 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Grandma Harken lives out on the edge of town, away from most everyone else. Many speculate on why that is: Is it for privacy? Is she a witch? Does she just not like people? But maybe the real question is: Does it even matter? One thing Grandma Harken does like are her prized tomatoes. When they start disappearing from her garden, however, she finds herself with her own set of questions about the thief. And what follows is a double lesson on why one should never make assumptions or judge people based on the little information we can get from just a glance or two.

There was no question for me that this was destined to win the Hugo Award in the novelette category once I had a chance to read all the finalists. In a relatively short space, Ursula Vernon packs in a well-paced fantasy story with a touch of mystery and some action to go along with it. The storytelling is gripping, and while the overall message seems like a serious one, I felt a lightness to it all that kept it from becoming too heavy. I do find reviewing shorter fiction to be difficult because sometimes I worry about having enough to talk about without spoiling the plot. There is so much here, though, that I know I have not even come close. The story is available to read for free on the Apex Magazine website, so I suggest checking it out when you get a chance.

On Point by Annabeth Albert

On Point

On Point by Annabeth Albert

Series: Out of Uniform, Book 3
Published by: Carina Press on June 5, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Is it better to have someone you love in your life as a friend than to pursue romance and risk ruining that connection forever? That’s Maddox Horvat’s dilemma: his best friend, Ben Tovey, is everything he could want in a man. But their friendship, and the fact that they are SEALs in the same unit, makes him hesitate to make a move. Of course, Ben is not exactly opposed to the idea himself–he thinks Maddox is great. But past relationships gone wrong make him cautious about ruining their connection for a tiny shot at something more. When the two of them are stranded together on a mission awaiting rescue, they find themselves forced to confront their feelings–and each other.

There is something about Annabeth Albert’s writing that always draws me in. Her development and depiction of characters and relationships feels real without relying on tropes. Her storytelling is engaging, and I always find myself rooting for the characters from very early on in the book. And this one is no exception. Even though I found myself wanting to bop both of these guys on the head more than once for being too obtuse to acknowledge their feelings and make something of it. A well-written continuation of this series–which does not need to be read in order.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

The Bones of the Past by Craig A. Munro

The Bones of the Past

The Bones of the Past by Craig A. Munro

Series: The Books of Dust and Bone, Book 1
Published by: Inkshares on May 30, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

There are threats to the people in the kingdom of Bialta that one cannot always see. And even when they can be seen, they are not easy to defeat. The Night Guard, an elite and specially trained force, are responsible for rooting out these threats and eliminating them. Salt never expected that he would find himself among their ranks, yet here he is.

Nial hasn’t had the greatest childhood. Her father is not the most attentive, and he’s quite fond of the drink. So when a mysterious new friend arrives and offers her power beyond her imagination, she takes it. But the power may be darker than Nial understood, and there’s a chance this power may also be beyond her control.

Add to this the mysterious reappearance of a long-lost city and the rise of a vicious tyrant, and the relatively quiet lives of the people of Bialta–and the world–are about to be changed in unexpected ways.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I picked this book up. Yes, I read the blurb, as I always do. But I guess I hadn’t expected just the sheer amount of people and places that the reader is introduced to here. That said, the author does an excellent job of keeping everything clearly defined for readers to follow. Their motivations aren’t always entirely clear, but that’s part of the mystery that I anticipate will be revealed in future installments. I am looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.]