library find

Prepare to be Charmed by Charming

charming Charming by Elliott James
Published by Orbit: September, 2013 (Urban Fantasy)

My Rating: Outstanding Adventure!

John Charming is half werewolf, half Knight Templar. During a supernaturally long lifespan, he has been a knight-in-training, an orphan, a despised werewolf, and a fugitive (from the same knights who raised  and trained him). He’s become apathetic about his life, tending bar in a small town in Appalachia, when a vampire and a blonde walk into his bar. That’s how it starts, and it doesn’t end until he’s been co-opted into a band of vampire hunters, nearly killed at least twice, stalked and ambushed, and visited by his fiancee’s ghost.

The action never stops, with tension, distrust, and attraction between the main characters; a sociopathic teenage vampire with delusions of world domination and a hatred of everyone; and jealousy among the vampire hunting cohort. Which doesn’t stop at turning green, but involves some ambushing and hand-to-hand combat, among other exciting things.

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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…)

Ironskin: Jane Eyre Meets Deadly Fairies

ironskinIronskin by Tina Connolly
Tor Books, October 2nd, 2012 (Fantasy / Gaslamp)

My rating: Beach Vacation (3/5)

Ironskin is the first in a fantasy gaslamp trilogy that merges a Jane Eyre retelling with deadly fairies. Only they’re not really fairies… if you’re familiar with a wide range of “fairy” tales, they’re more “fey” than “fairy” – Less Neverland, more … otherworldly beings, pissed off at the humans who have taken over the world. Manipulative and dangerous, they certainly aren’t cute little fairies with wings.  (more…)

Prototype: Excellent Finish to the Story of Emma 2.0

prototypePrototype, by M.D. Waters

Dutton Adult: July 24, 2014 (Science Fiction / Fantasy)

My rating: Outstanding Adventure! (5/5)

It’s no secret that I loved Archetype. The Archetype duology has been one of my favorite series and two of my favorite books so far in 2014.

The love triangle

Not your typical heroine waffling “Edward is so sexy, but Jason keeps rescuing me!” or “Ranger is so hot but dangerous, but Morelli is also hot, and a man with a mortgage and a dog…” The outcome may never be in doubt (one of the men is revealed as self-centered, possessive, and sociopathic early on), but that’s not what makes the love triangle interesting. And honestly, love triangles often feel contrived and stale to me. Waffling and indecision frustrates me, and I find a suspenseful love triangle is a rarity. Most of the outcomes can be easily predicted. Anyway, Prototype relies on its depictions of the characters and their feelings for tension and suspense.

The emotional impact

Obviously, this section is mostly about the romance. The atypical love triangle. But in this section, I write about passion and emotional investment that comes about as a result of the prose, pacing, and plot. For me, this book had an incredibly high emotional impact. I felt closely connected to Emma and what she felt as she overcame her fears and insecurities while encountering new circumstances and difficult obstacles. Her emotions, her love and inner turmoil are clearly evoked through the prose. (more…)

‘Crown of Dust’ A fantastic Gold Rush tale

crownofdustCrown of Dust by Mary Volmer
Soho Press: November 1st, 2011

My rating: Outstanding Adventure! (5/5)

I’ve been waiting for a good time to post this review, and my vacation on the West Coast seems ideal. Sharing the west-coast theme, Crown of Dust is a historical fiction that takes place during the Gold Rush.

In the late 19th century, a young man arrives in Emaline’s town of Motherlode, a small mining start-up near the grass valley. Alex, the young man, is running from a past he doesn’t want to remember, and hiding a secret that could ruin his life, and take his freedom. For Alex is not a young man, but a young woman. The story is about Emaline and Alex, and all the other inhabitants of Motherlode, with their many desires, ambitions, dreams, cares, and problems. The setting is a poor town with plenty of water in the creek and enough gold to keep the miners panning, but not much else. A town with an unfinished church, and a wild but mostly decent population. (more…)

Archetype: my new favorite

archetypeArchetype: A Novel (Archetype #1) by M.D. Waters
Plume: June 24th, 2014 (Science Fiction)

My rating: Outstanding adventure! (5/5)

I loved this intensely emotional, action-packed, and suspenseful novel about figuring out who you are and what exactly makes you who you are.

Emma wakes knowing nothing about herself but her name. The handsome man beside her tells her she’s his wife. What else is she to believe? But as time goes by and she begins to live her life again, her peace is disturbed by a strange woman talking in her head, and by dreams that feel so real, they could be. Real, that is.

The emotional depth, inner turmoil and conflict of the main character, and the need to find out what exactly has happened to Emma, kept me enthralled in this story. The reader knows just as much (or only a little bit more) about Emma, her life, and her world, as Emma does, and it heightens the suspense. I put this book aside only because I had to, and when I picked it back up I tore through it, turning pages into the wee hours.

While the story and the description set up a love triangle between the man who claims he is Emma’s husband, and the man Emma dreams of, there really isn’t a love triangle. Yes, it’s easy to figure out the bad guy. But I don’t think that ruins anything. Emma still has to discover for herself that he is bad, and I loved that it wasn’t black and white. Even when she finds out the truth, she still loves him. Instead of being Evil, the bad guy is motivated by human emotions such as greed and possessiveness. It made the relationships more realistic, with all their messiness and complications.

I immediately engaged with Emma, emotionally sharing her journey of self-discovery. The emotions fairly leaked off the page, and I haven’t been so invested in a character in a very long time. Emma is real, vivid, and immediate, and the reader is immersed in her doubt, fear, love, and pain. She may not always make the best decisions, and it was a bit frustrating to watch her hesitate when I wanted her to make up her mind, but it makes sense that she wouldn’t have the resources (i.e., memories and experience) to make the right decision immediately. I can’t wait to find out how Emma works through the next part of her story in Prototype, mostly because she was so vivid.

Let’s not leave the world-building out of this. While there are some gaps in the history of the world, I don’t mind not knowing everything. Over the course of the novel, as Emma discovers more and more about her past, and about her world, so does the reader. I enjoyed the slow reveal of the world, putting together the pieces one by one. I describe a bit of the world in the next paragraph, which may be a spoiler if you, like me, enjoy discovering a world as you read about it. So if you don’t want to know, stop here and go check out this book! **SPOILER ALERT** (more…)

This time, Rapunzel’s story

rueSold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins
Published by Forge Books, May 14, 2013 (Historical Fiction)

My rating: I’ll definitely go here again / Outstanding adventure! (4.5)

In keeping with our theme of late – that is, fairy tale retellings, I add to our list Rapunzel’s story, as told by Madeleine E. Robins, in Sold for Endless Rue.

As the blurb says, this book does explain why Rapunzel’s mother/witch locked her in a tower. It tells the story compellingly and convincingly, with fully believable human failings and motives. A masterful blend of historical fiction and the familiar “Rapunzel” fairy tale, Sold for Endless Rue enchants readers with stories about the three women central to the original fairy tale.

In the first narrative, Laura, a young girl running from captivity, hides in the home of a mountainside healer named Crescia. She becomes the healer’s apprentice, studying and working hard to continue Crescia’s good works. Eventually, her tale brings her to Salerno, where she studies to be the first female physician in her lifetime. In the second tale, Agnesa, young wife of a merchant family scion, moves in next door to the medica, and they become friendly neighbors. In the third and final story, Laura’s young daughter struggles between doing her duty to her adoptive mother and following her heart.

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Cinder – my favorite Cinderella

cinderCinder by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, January 3rd, 2012 (Science Fiction/Fairy Tale Retellings)
My rating: I’ll definitely go here again, even though there were a few problems with my reservation (3.5 stars)

Cinder is the most unique version of the Cinderella story that I have ever read. And it’s not just unique, it’s well-written, fast-paced, full of adventure and danger, as well as a very well-drawn heroine.

Cinder, a young cyborg living in the imperial city of New Beijing some time after the Fourth World War destroyed the earth, predictably lives with her uncaring stepmother and two stepsisters. New Beijing is the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth, one of a handful of continental nations whose union grew out of the devastation of the Fourth World War – supposedly, the people of Earth decided that greater governments and nations would be more peaceful. It is a city where androids have existed for centuries to serve humans. In opposition to the inhabitants of Earth is the powerful, cruel, and mysterious Lunar queen, who rules the people that live on the long-ago colonized Moon. Said to have powers that can control others’ emotions and thoughts, they are feared throughout the nations on Earth. For years, she has been pushing for an alliance with the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, who successfully resisted. But, the empire must deal with another enemy: the plague. When disaster strikes the palace, it is up to Prince Kai to protect his realm from the Lunar queen.

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Girl Genius – a rolicking fun ride and a must-read!

girl geniusGirl Genius Omnibus Volume One: Agatha Awakens by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Tor Books, 2012 (Graphic Novel / Steampunk / Fantasy / Adventure)

My rating: Outstanding Adventure!

This marks my first graphic novel review (on this blog, but also, ever). I occasionally read graphic novels, and it depends on the artwork, but I generally enjoy them. This one caught my eye because, hello! “Girl” in the title, a woman wearing glasses and holding a wrench on the cover… Graphic novels are so rarely written and designed for, and marketed to women. Not to mention, it’s won an award from School Library Journal and multiple Hugo awards!

Billed as a “steampunk fantasy adventure,” it is all of those things.The story is set during an Industrial Revolution that has driven Europe to war. Scientists (magicians?) gifted with “the Spark” are coveted, trapped, employed, and used to develop weapons. Previously, a ruling family, by the name of Heterodyne, kept the peace – but they are all dead or fled.

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Criminal Win in Aguirre’s ‘Perdition’

13421230Perdition by Ann Aguirre
Ace, August 27, 2013 (Science Fiction)

My Rating: Outstanding adventure (5/5)

I picked Perdition up on a whim one weekend at work. I had read Aguirre’s Grimspace but wasn’t in love with the book enough to continue the series. But, for whatever reason I was looking for some sci-fi and decided Perdition fit the bill.

Perdition is set on a prison spaceship. The worst of the worst are sent to this ship in the hopes that everyone will eventually kill each other off. But this floating prison has more order than you would originally assume. There are six sectors and each is ruled very differently. Dresdemona “Dred” Devos hasn’t been ruling her sector very long when she acquires a interesting new convict, Jael, who is much more than his pretty face suggests, and just may be the most dangerous passenger on board.

When two other sectors threaten Dred, she’s forced to go to war. The question becomes who can she trust within her own “kingdom” and how can she possibly gain the upper hand when she’s out manned. Lucky for Dred, she’s got some loyal followers who have a few tricks up their sleeves.

To be completely honest, I was totally surprised by how much I liked this book. I didn’t expect the book to really centre around criminals – I was expecting more Robin Hood criminals, and that wasn’t here. This book was dark and everyone on the Perdition deserved to be there, including our hero and heroine (dubious labels to be sure). I didn’t expect that the book would actually focus on hardened criminals and I certainly didn’t expect to like them after I figured this out. However, there was something very compelling about these criminals and it demonstrated that good and bad is so obviously not black and white.

Dred herself was a very intriguing character. So often I read books that feature the “strong female character” but almost always those characters are vulnerable. To an extent, Dred somewhat aligns with that stereotype, but I feel like it was taken to the next level with her. Dred really was harsh, she wasn’t hiding a heart of gold, she is admittedly a murdered, so she was a bit of an anti-hero, which is a change for me. I haven’t often come across a heroine who’s motives and background is so murky. Clearly I need to be reading more sci-fi.

Jael was also an interesting character. I don’t really remember him from Grimspace so he was like a new character to me, which I think worked. I don’t feel that I’ve really missed out not having read the rest of the series, so Perdition can definitely be read as a standalone series. What I really liked about Jael was the fact that he wasn’t really human; he was a creation. I find this concept really interesting, and it’s been something that’s drawn me to other books as well. In the case of Perdition, I found it fascinating how Jael’s origins still made him vulnerable even though he was over 100 years old. He was a contrast of light and dark, hiding behind a sharp wit. Although, I will admit that I did find it strange that he seemed to have a British accent. Did anyone else think that? At any rate, I can roll with that even if I don’t understand why.

Overall, this was a great start to a trilogy and I sincerely cannot wait until book 2 comes out. I want to know more about life on Perdition and I need to know if Dred and Jael will get off the ship. And while the “romance” was not a main focus in the book, I’d really like to know if these two could ever have a real relationship together considering their past and their roles within the convict community. The relationship between Dred and Jael took a backseat, but there was just enough of it to keep a die-hard romance fan interested. Fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.

Similar Reads

If you liked the leadership role Dred had and her ambiguous status as the heroine, check out Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel. In Heart of Steel we’ve got a lady pirate who may or may not save the day. The romance aspect more heavy here, but in no way overshadows the adventurous plot.

Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)

Mongrel from Evie Manieri’s Blood’s Pride is very similar to Dred in that she’s also a very ambiguous character. Is Mongrel a hero or a villain? Personally, I’m still not sure, but book 2 has yet to be published, so that question is left unanswered. At any rate, this fantasy debut is fabulous.

Blood's Pride

Alliance Sworn by Kylie Griffin is probably the most similar to Perdition; however, the romance takes the forefront to a political subplot. Like Dred, Imhara is a leader of her people, and while they’re not criminals, Imhara has also has to put on a tough face to lead. This leadership dynamic is very similar to Perdition; so if you were looking for more romance in Perdition, Alliance Sworn would be a great follow up.

Allegiance Sworn (The Light Blade, #3)