Category Archives: All Reviews

Wrath of the Goddess by Lauren Dane

Rowan is back.  And she is ANGRY and wants revenge.  Will she get it?

Title:  Wrath of the Goddess
Author:  Lauren Dane
Series:  Goddess with a Blade #5
Publish Date: June 10, 2019
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: purchased by reviewer

Publisher’s Description:  A wedding day should be one you remember fondly, but for Rowan Summerwaite, the fond memories are swept aside by the brutal murder of one of her dearest friends. She heads back to Las Vegas to track down those responsible for the death and finds there’s so much more than a killing. A multilayered conspiracy involving multiple groups of paranormals begins to show itself, and Rowan is on the hunt with her wrath burning from within like holy fire.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

Lauren Dane is back with Rowan Summerwaite and her vampire husband, Clive.  They have to miss their wedding festivities because of a terrible tragedy.  SPOILER AHEAD!!!

Rowan’s friend is murdered over video at her wedding reception while she watches helplessly.  Can you freaking imagine!!  If I knew this aspect of the story, I’m  not sure I would have read it.  I guess that’s why authors spring things on  me and get me to read their books.  It was a horrible tragedy, but Rowan’s reaction was not what I expected.  I expected her to be angry.  Angrier than she was.  I expected a few gaskets to be blown and maybe a room or two destroyed.  She was angry but it was a flat kind of angry.  Everyone was asking her constantly if she was okay.  It felt so off.  She felt coddled and Rowan has never been coddled.  Once she got back to the US, things started falling into place better, but Rowan still didn’t act nearly as Rowan-esque as I expected.

The mystery was good. The characters were good, but the character that was killed is going and does leave a hole a mile wide.  I enjoy the banter between Clive and Rowan, but I enjoyed Theo much more this time around.

There was some pretty gruesome death scenes so there is that warning.  All it all, it was a good book.  I just didn’t feel it this time.  This “eh” book won’t stop me from following the series though.

Our reviews in this series…

 

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Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues by Molly Harper

A short story from Molly Harper means a quick visit to the residents of Mystic Bayou!

Title: Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues
Author:  Molly Harper
Series:  Mystic Bayou #2.5
Publish Date: June 6, 2019
Genre: paranormal romance
Source: purchased by reviewer
Narrators: 
Amanda Ronconi and Jonathan Davis

Publisher’s Description:  A hilarious new standalone novella brimming with otherworldly charm from the reigning queen of paranormal romantic comedy Molly Harper!

Ingrid Asher is the newest resident of Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where shapeshifters, vampires, witches and dragons live alongside humans.

Ingrid doesn’t ask for much. The solitary tree nymph just wants to live a quiet life running her ice-cream shop in peace. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to shake her new neighbor, Rob Aspern, head of the League’s data science department and so good looking it just isn’t fair.

If there’s one thing Ingrid doesn’t need, it’s someone poking around in her business. But the more she gets to know the hunky mathematician, the more she finds herself letting her guard down. Can she trust him with her secrets, or will her past destroy everything?

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I’ve always heard of nymphs but I’ve never actually read a story about one.  I have been following the story as it unfolds in Mystic Bayou as it chronicles the mysteries within.

This was a short story and standalone, so there were really no advancements to the Mystic Bayou mysteries.  What this story line revealed was a newcomer to the Bayou.  She was a tree nymph who could command the plants and trees.

I can’t say with absolute honesty that I loved this story.  It felt like huge chunks were cut out and edited to hook the sentences together.  I guess what I’m trying to say was that it was ok.  It didn’t really add to the Mystic Bayou mysteries since the following book only mentions Ingrid as the ice cream shop owner, but come to think of it, none of the matched couples make an appearance unless it’s Zed and Danni or Bael and Jillian.

I’m having a tough time rating this book.  Maybe a 3 and 5/8.

Our reviews in this series…

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Series Spotlight: The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

By the time I was introduced to the Lady Trent series (thank you, Agent Annie!), it was complete, and I devoured the series as a whole rather than one book at a time. So I will be reviewing it as a whole series. The TL:DR version of my review is that I love it!

Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent
Author: Marie Brennan
Genre: Historical fantasy
Audiobook Narrator: Kate Reading
Titles:

Description: Set in an alternate world much like our own during the nineteenth century, the Memoirs of Lady Trent is a five-book series chronicling the adventures and discoveries of Isabella, Lady Trent, renowned dragon naturalist.


Invested Ivana says…

I have listened to this series now twice and just adore it.

The series is set in a fantasy version of our own world somewhere in the Victorian era. The elderly Isabella, Lady Trent, is writing her memoirs to answer questions about the more personal nature of her adventures and to set the record straight on certain rumors that have been spread about her and about a few politically-driven lies she’s had to tell in the past.

Since the stories are told by Isabella later in life, she has the advantage of being brutally honest about her own behavior and the societal norms she broke in pursuit of her work. Her self-reflection makes the stories very personal and even more entertaining. It reminded me about the times I would listen to my grandmother tell stories about when she was young and did things I could never imagine my grandmother doing. She seemed quite outrageous, but the stories deepened my understanding of and connection to her.

In contrast to the feminine stereotype of the time, Isabella is an intellectual, driven to study the nature and biology of dragons and dragon-esque species. Being a natural historian is not a proper pastime for a gentle-born lady, and so to continue her work, she must buck tradition constantly. She is criticized for everything, from the way she dresses, parents her son, and travels without an escort in the company of men to the way she submits her work to traditionally-male scholarly societies and supports other women in their scholarly pursuits. Even so, we see Isabella persist in finding her own happiness, both intellectual and personal. That makes her a good role model for our own world.

Each book centers around one of her famous adventures to a different part of the globe, and during each adventure, what she discovers that furthers her understanding of dragons. I love the fact that each book introduces us to a new culture, a new way of living, and a new way of thinking.

Each book also focuses on the relationships Lady Trent forms, both with her countrymen and those in the places she visits. These relationships influence so much of Lady Trent’s thinking and choices that, over the course of the series, which covers many years, we see Isabella grow from the child we are introduced to initially to the matron who is telling the story. I love seeing characters grow and develop from their experiences, so I find this part of the series very satisfying.

Unfortunately, Isabella often stumbles into tense political situations during her travels, which doesn’t help her reputation at all. While she sometimes exacerbates the situation, she is often a means of addressing the conflict as well. She introduces a very chaotic element into the highly-controlled Victorian British aesthetic of the time. That contrast makes for some delightful story conflict.

In some ways, I think listening to the audio version of these books is an advantage. Kate Reading, the narrator, is fantastic. Between this series and the Athena Club series, I listened to her voice regularly for a couple of months. She does an amazing job of bringing each character to life. Also, as a listener, I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of any of the place or character names in the story.

The one disadvantage of the audio, though, is missing out on the art of Todd Lockwood, which appears throughout the book as maps and sketches Lady Trent makes as part of her scientific study. It adds a lot to the story to see the artwork. I purchased both the audio and Kindle versions of these books in order to see the art, but I believe these would be beautiful books to have in hardcover as part of a fantasy art collection. Perhaps there will someday be a pictorial reference to the dragons of Lady Trent’s world that can keep my Art of Pern books company.

If, like me, you aren’t quite ready to leave Isabella’s world behind, you’re in luck. First, Uncanny Magazine has made a short story available free on their website. The story is a speech given by Jacob, Isabella’s son, to the congregation of the Langley Square First Nakhonian Assembly-House during his coming-of-age ceremony. It is quite entertaining. It’s called On The Impurity of Dragon-Kind.

Second, Brennan has just published a new book in the same world, told from the viewpoint of Lady Trent’s granddaughter. It’s called Turning Darkness Into Light. I just picked up the audio today and will be listening to it and reviewing it very soon.

This is the first of Brennan’s series I’ve read, though I’ve known about her as an author for a while. I’ll certainly be checking out some of her others now. Warrior and Witch have been on my TBR for years, and I’ve heard really good things about her Onyx Court series. I’m so impressed by the Lady Trent series that I imagine I’ve been missing out on some good stuff.

So, if you are a fan of dragons, of Victorian history, of natural history, or of women bucking tradition and getting the last laugh, be sure to check out this series. It won’t disappoint.

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss has quickly become one of my favorites, particularly in audio. In fact, when I finished the second book, the third was still two months away from publication! But I wasn’t ready to leave Goss’s world, and I struggled to settle on another book. Eventually, I went back to the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan because 1) it is also a Victorian-era tale about the power of women, and 2) it is also narrated by Kate Reading, who is a phenomenal voice performer. But as I write this review, I am counting the days until October 1 when the third book in the series, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, is available.

Title: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 02, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: July 10, 2018, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionMary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

In this second installment of adventures, we again see the ladies of the Athena Club come together to save a young woman from the mad “scientific” designs of her father. Only this time, they have to travel to distant lands to do it. Along the way, they put themselves at risk not only to save the girl but to make greater strides in preventing further abuse in the name of science.

The elements I appreciated about the first book in the series are still here—the way this family of women supports one another and the way they are sacrificing to protect others. As a fan of fantasy, literature, history, and culture, I adore all those elements that Goss brings into the story as well—riding the Orient Express, traveling with a Victorian circus, exploring foreign and exotic lands. I am particularly enamored of the coffeehouse in Budapest. I fear I would be as greedy as Diana in that environment, wanting to sample all its flavorful offerings.

The repetition of specific phrases or story elements persists, but I feel it happens less often. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Again, I struggle to find new ways to say how much I love this book. I’m already heavily invested in the characters and their world and am finding the wait for the next book, as I’m sure I will find the wait between books three and four, to be excruciating.

Books in this series

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Imagine the TV show Penny Dreadful, with all of the characters from classic sci-fi and mystery literature, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. However, instead of horror, picture it as a late-Victorian-era mystery series with a strong dose of girl power. What you get is the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series by Theodora Goss. Let me introduce you to the first book in the series.

Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: Book 01, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club
Publish Date: June 20, 2017, Simon & Schuester
Genre: Historical fantasy, historical mystery
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ deaths, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

I find it hardest to review those books I enjoy the most, and so I’m struggling to review this one. I simply love it. I love that all these women come together to form a family. I love that they each have a distinct personality and that they all are so accepting of one another without being too timid about calling one another out. I love how they are all working toward common goals, each in the way that bests uses their talents. I know some of this won’t make sense until you read the book, but the example this book sets for being part of a family, blood-related or not, is a big part of its charm.

Another part I love is how these women are trying to prevent anyone else from being subject to the abuses they have endured. Most of the women in the story have been somehow “created” by their scientifically-minded fathers or keepers. Their primary goal is to prevent other girls from being experimented on or created the way they were. This mirrors much of the activist work we see in women’s groups today, where victims of abuse speak out to prevent others from having to experience the same. I imagine it’s a comment by the author about one of the best qualities we see in women who support each other: We are strong, we survive, and we work hard to protect others.

Being a huge fan of audiobooks, I listened to this book. The narrator, Kate Reading, is amazing. She also narrated the Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan, which I adore. Reading has a large catalog of titles familiar to me, including books by Judy Blume, Jim Butcher, Patricia Cornwell, Sara Donati, Robert Jordan, Sophie Kinsella, Stephanie Meyer, Anne Rice, Brandon Sanderson, V.E. Schwab, and Lauren Willig. She has quickly become one of my favorite narrators, and I will be listening to more of her narration in the future for sure.

However, audiobook listeners may want to download a sample of the ebook or peek at a print book at the bookstore, because the book uses an unusual writing convention, and without the text cues, it may take a bit for the listener to catch on. Essentially, the protagonists of the book, the ladies of the Athena Club, are the ones actually writing the book about their adventures. A character named Catherine is the novelist, and the others insert commentary from time to time. As a result, the book uses both third-person limited and first-person POVs at different points in the story. While it breaks normal convention, it’s done well and is really fun, providing much of the humor in the book.

The only complaint I have, and it’s a minor one, is that bits of the story or even exact phrases are occasionally repeated. Either one of the characters will use the exact phrase they used a few lines ago, or a bit of story will be repeated a couple of times in different places, maybe in the novel text and then the “commentary” text, or maybe in two different places in the story. Those repetitions could be tightened up.

Despite that small complaint, I am in love with this series, particularly in audio. I can’t wait for more adventures with the ladies of the Athena Club.

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