Dawn of the Flame Sea: a false start

18743286Dawn of the Flame Sea by Jean Johnson
Berkley Publishing Group: April 19, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Source: Free from publisher

False start; Did not finish
(No suitcases)

Recently I read two other novels by Jean Johnson. The first one, The Terrans, I loved. The second, V’Dan, I did not enjoy as much. It spent too much time telling about the cultural differences and not enough time showing the characters’ dispositions, relationships, and growth.

This, my third attempt, resembled the second experience more than the first. At its opening, it felt very Stargate the movie. Several beings enter a desert cave through a magical portal from a foreign world. Difference: these are not human, but magic-wielding fae. (more…)


‘The Terrans’ was so much better

V’Dan, by Jean Johnson
Publication: Ace, December 29, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free from publisher

The view was nice, but the food was bad

After I fell in love with The Terrans (see exactly how much in my review), I expected to adore V’Dan. Unfortunately, everything I ignored in The Terrans was emphasized in its sequel, and everything I loved so much took a back seat to the main elements (those things  I ignored).

V’Dan continues the story of the interaction between two human civilizations: the Terrans, or the futuristic us, and the V’Dan, a civilization that grew up in a distant universe after they left Earth millennia ago in a time of disaster. This time, the group of mixed V’Dan and Terrans, the individuals who made first contact, have traveled from the Terran homeworld to the V’Dan homeworld, where they embark on diplomatic, political, and interpersonal ventures.


Sweetest Scoundrel: Too-Sweet “Historical” Romance

21422016 Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing: November 24th
Genre: Historical Romance
Review source: Free from publisher

The plane was delayed, luggage lost, and museums closed

Full disclosure: Jaclyn is the historical romance reader (those are links to some of her reviews). I used to be, but my tastes have changed over the years.

Historical romance often disappoints because the setting does not resemble any actual historical period, but appears to be more a painted backdrop in a low-budget play about modern characters. For many, the backdrop provides just enough seeming that it allows the audience to suspend disbelief and focus on the action and characters. For others, its inaccuracies distract from the action, because the setting doesn’t match the plot and characters. In Sweetest Scoundrel, the setting is roughly 19th century England, but the characters act as though they lived in the 20th or 21st centuries, and that jarring disconnect contributed to my dislike of this novel.


‘Horizon’: Did Not Finish

horizonHorizon by Tabitha Lord
Wise Ink Creative Publishing: December 1, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Review source: Free from publisher

False start (did not finish): page 60
No suitcases

I don’t often review books I don’t finish, because I feel like I can’t give the book a proper chance when I have only started it. After all, what am I missing at the end? That said, I put this one down with strong feelings of disappointment and frustration.

When it began, Horizon was a story about a lone woman with telepathic and empathic abilities who saves a man from dying on the ship he’s just crashed into her planet. Before page 60, it became a story about the last few years of her life, revealed through mind-melds between her and her crash-landed patient. Her memories reveal that her parents were killed in an accident, her city was razed and her people massacred in a genocidal attack against her people, the survivors were kidnapped, and she was raped.  (more…)

The Paper Masque: Flimsy and Unconvincing

paper masqueThe Paper Masque by Jessica Dall
5 Prince Publishing: December 4th, 2014 (Romance)*

False Start 
No suitcases

The Paper Masque takes place in a world very like the early 20th century in England, except that the structure of the monarchy is very different, and history has been slightly altered. In this world, Elsie Wembley is a privileged, spoiled, but compassionate princess. Her days consist of social appearances and public relations responsibilities, while her nights are filled with glamorous and decadent parties, and a number of bed partners.

As a character, I did not find her at all compelling or sympathetic. Most of the first part of the story is actually taken up with descriptions of her nightly escapades, which felt meaningless – in the sense that they meant nothing to her, and in the sense that they had little to no affect on the plot. They just seemed to take away from the plot. The experiences don’t change her in any way, none of her partners seemed to be fully characterized or have a strong role to play, and the “suitable” one who proposes seems to be nothing more than a foil for unsuitable Laurence. (more…)

a problematic romance in The Fire Seer

22553346The Fire Seer by Amy Raby
Amy Raby: August 25th, 2014 (Fantasy Romance)*

False start (could not finish)**

The first thing that struck me about this book is: short riding pants?? I’m not much of a horseback rider, but that just seems scratchily uncomfortable.

My feelings hardly changed throughout the portion that I did read (I did not finish). Some phrasing was awkward, as in the instance of “five fingers,” which seemed a bit repetitive, since “fingers” implies all of them, does it not? Usually numbered fingers equal fewer than five. “Indignance” is not a word. [pause for double-check] Okay, apparently it is, but it’s archaic, and “indignation” would make more sense to more readers, I think. But those were the little things.

The really big deals I could not get over, the things that made me decide not to finish this book, are: the main character Taya, and the relationship between the Taya and the “hero,” Mandir.


The Witches of Echo Park (Unfinished)

witchesofechopark The Witches of Echo Park, by Amber Benson.
Published January 6th, 2015 by Berkley Publishing (Urban Fantasy)*

My rating: vintagesuitcase3

Per my 2015 reading resolution, I read 100 pages of this book – but by the time I got there, the action still had not really started, I felt nothing for any of the characters, and the world and magic rules didn’t make much sense. By the end of the first chapter following page 100, I had reason to finish this book. Flashbacks and descriptive passages, along with unlikeable characters and inconsistent characterizations, left me with a feeling of relief when I finally put it down.

Lyse, an orphan raised by her great aunt Eleonora, returns to LA when she discovers Eleonora has cancer – and only months to live. Eleonora is glad to have Lyse back, mostly because Lyse is needed to take over the coven that Eleonora leads. There are witches in Echo Park (you guessed that, right?) and Eleonora is the Head Witch. There is some Great Evil preparing to descend on the world, and Lyse is Our Only Hope to defeat it. Trouble is, she doesn’t know magic exists. Or, more specifically, that her great-aunt is a witch.


The Galaxy Game

galaxygameThe Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Published January 6th, 2015 by Del Rey*

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed. vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

The Galaxy Game did not live up to the expectations raised by my first Karen Lord book, The Best of All Possible Worlds. While the latter encompassed a patchwork of cultures and peoples that together revealed a complex and diverse planetary society, the composition of the former felt scattered, inconsistent, and incomplete. I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds, the first in this loosely connected series (the first features the aunt of the main character in The Galaxy Game), and really could not wait to read this one.

Overall, it was disjointed and confusing. The main character, Rafi, is a young man, about fourteen,with empathic/telepathic abilities. His abilities bring him to the dangerous attention of the government on a world that disapproves of such abilities. The plot takes him from his school to his aunt’s home and on to two other planets. His friend joins him for part of his journey, navigating the tricky waters of a foreign society.

The universe, hinted at in the first book, is expanded in this one – but never cohesively. Each of the three planets that make up the setting of this book had distinct characteristics but were difficult to remember. Much of the action occurs on the second planet, home to a people of complex society with social and financial debt and credit systems and strict relationship and networking customs and rules. The society itself was never fully brought to life, which made it difficult to understand. Only a few barely sketched-in characters give any idea of how natives behave, think, and speak.


“The Time Roads” that lead nowhere

Time Roads - Dominick Saponaro

The Time Roads by Beth Bernovich
Tor Books: October 14th, 2014 (Steampunk / Science Fiction)*

My rating: False start – did not finish (1/5)

Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man’s benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.

I included the published synopsis instead of writing my own because of the biggest problem I had with this book – I couldn’t figure out what was going on. How does time travel actually work? What happened to the mathematician that supposedly discovered time travel? Who are the other mathematicians who figured it out? Which timeline is it, really? The disparate plot arcs and storylines feel like the “time fractures” that the mathematicians in the know describe. Chapters jump from one narrator to another, and possibly one from one timeline to another. First, we follow the crown princess of Éire, who, as a young girl, watches a fascinating scientist prove that time travel is possible. Then, the princess has become queen, and there’s some unrest and conspiracy plotting. The next narrator is a young student at the local university who is kind of going crazy over esoteric mathematical problems. After that, suddenly the Queen’s servant – Constabulary investigator, royal adviser, and spy, is in Vienna hunting traitors. Fractured and disconnected, I couldn’t figure out which timeline was which, because it’s never explained. From each of the characters we get a feeling of déjà vu or missing time, but never any explanation of how that fits into the whole timeframe(s). (more…)

Sink Fangs into Vampire Myths and Legends (Halloween Special Part 1)

vampire forensics Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins
Published: February 2010 by National Geographic

My Rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)

I found this exploration into the myths and legends of vampires underwhelming, in a word.

I expected the book to delve into the historical and literary evidence for vampires, and to a certain extent, that is what the author does. However, the exploration jumps around, and at times the author doesn’t explain how one factor/myth/legend/story indicates the existence of, or belief in, vampires.

In the last chapters, the author enumerates (yes, it is essentially a list) of various traditions in distant regions (i.e. not Eurasia, whose legends have the most definitive connection to the modern-day vampire) of the world, even though they are not vampires. It’s as if the author only wants to say that traditions of ghouls, witches, sorcerers, and demons exist all over the world, in many diverse cultures. Their connection to modern-day vampires is never made.

Additionally, the author never draws a firm conclusion. The most compelling evidence provided in this book is that some corpses decompose differently than others – with distinctive characteristics that tend to match the characteristics our Eurasian societies have given to “vampires.” (more…)