Category Archives: Series Spotlight

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.

Series Spotlight: Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep

I just finished a massive re-read of every novel, novella, and short story of the Elemental Assassin series. Actually, I listened to most of it, since all seventeen novels and one novella are available in audio. It was fabulous! I just love Gin and the gang and all the justice she brings to Ashland and beyond.

Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Cover: Tony Mauro
Source: Purchased

Description (from Goodreads): The Elemental Assassin series focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin code-named the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Seventeen novels and ten novellas/shorts make for a lot of time to invest in a series. But long series are perfect for a reader like me who invests heavily in the characters and their lives. Every new book is a chance to visit with my friends, and I always want to know what happens next in their lives because happily-ever-after just doesn’t happen. If you haven’t invested in the series yet, or have just dipped your toe into a book or two, here are some observations about the series that you might want to know.

Ashland is the Gotham City of the South.

By that, I mean that Gin’s world is governed by the rules, not of reality, but of graphic novels. Picture any Batman movie–Ashland, like Gotham City, is chock full of bad guys and their thugs/minions–probably more baddies than regular folk. And some of the “baddies” are actually the good guys! Though there is no Penguin, Catwoman, or Riddler, there is a mix of super-human citizens–giants, dwarves, vampires, and those with elemental magic–who, for the most part, are just as “human” as anyone else but with a few physical bonuses.

The world is highly stylized, with individuals and businesses identifying themselves via runes placed on everything from business cards to jewelry to kitchen decorations. Plus, some villains go in for a theme, dressing themselves, their minions, and their environments like Wild West cowboys, 1920-era mobsters, Renaissance-fair actors, etc. Thugs and minions are killed in droves, but their deaths are of consequence only if they drive the plot forward. Secrets are revealed from beyond the grave as though the deceased had uncanny prescience, and the elimination of each opponent brings a bigger, badder villain forward. And, of course, there are wildly wealthy people everywhere.

While the characters, their motivations, and their relationships are fully fleshed out, rich, and realistic, the sett

ing follows its own rules, similar to those of Gotham City. Understanding those rules allows your suspension-of-disbelief skills to flourish, and you’ll enjoy the story that much more.

There are three main story arcs (so far).

The other day, I was chatting with a friend who was criticizing long series for being “repetitive and formulaic.” Though I understand her point, I argue that it depends on WHICH STORY you’re focused on. As with all good TV and book series, there is the episodic story — each book or short — and there is the story arc — the events that tie a whole season together. I love story arcs. A well-written series pulls me from book to book because there is a compelling arc. Each episode fleshes out the characters, deepens relationships, introduces new players, and gives the characters new knowledge or skills that lead them toward the completion of the arc. Now, I admit that those arcs can be more obvious when you “binge” a series, like I just did. That is why I love rereading books; I get to see how all the pieces fit together toward the story arc. Some readers just don’t have that kind of patience with or invest that much in series, and that’s fine. Stand-alone novels, duologies, and trilogies are made for those kinds of readers.

From what I can see, there are three main story arcs in the Elemental Assassin series. The first five books or so deal with Gin’s back story and her nemesis. The next seven or so books explore the back stories of some of the other main characters while dealing with the consequences of the first arc, including a successor villain that turns the tables on Gin’s world view a bit. This arc may seem a bit meandering to some readers, but new characters are introduced, existing characters are fleshed out, and everything we learn about them pays off in the end. The final arc is in progress at the time of this writing, and I can already tell it’s going to be amazing. After finishing the most recent novel (Venom in the Veins), I’m on the seat of my pants to see what Gin finds out next!

Taken individually, each book is about Gin and her friends solving a mystery and fighting a bad guy, and I guess you could call that repetitive and formulaic if you want. But each episode adds something to the story arc, and that arc is what compels me.

The entire series takes place in a short amount of time.

Though the series has been in progress since 2010, far less than nine years have passed in book time. My best guess is that the whole series takes place over two to three years or so, not counting a couple of “flashback” stories. I want to say there have been two Christmas parties since the first novel — one at Owen’s and one at the Pork Pit (Jennifer–correct me if that’s wrong!) It would be interesting to see a calendar layout marked with the time frame for each book.

It can be hard for readers to keep “book time” and real time separate while reading a series, but it can often help put some things in perspective if you remember how little time has passed in Ashland since we first met Gin.

The audiobook version is fantastic.

If you’re an audiobook fan, you should know that Lauren Fortgang is superb at portraying Gin and all the characters of Ashland. I understand that the appeal of narrators’ voices can be subjective, so take that for what it’s worth, but not only do I find Fortgang fantastic, but after seventeen novels, she is SO totally ingrained in my head as the voice of the Elemental Assassin series. Unfortunately, that made listening to the only novella in audio, Nice Guys Bite, narrated by David Marantz, difficult. Marantz is a fine narrator, but he’s not “the” narrator for this series, and audiobook listeners feel strongly about the continuity of narrators.

So I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Audible for producing Venom in the Veins using Lauren Fortgang even though Pocket dropped the Elemental Assassin series (WTF, Pocket?) and Venom in the Veins was self-published (also thank you to Jennifer and to Tony Mauro for maintaining the continuity of cover art!) I also hope that someday, when publishing rights can all be arranged without breaking the bank, Jennifer can publish an anthology or two of all the shorts and novellas and that Audible will produce them with Fortgang as narrator. Because of Fortgang’s performance, Elemental Assassin is one of those series I’d rather hear than read.

Feeling like there’s no justice in this world? Gin can help!

Hopefully, my observations about the series will spark your interest in reading, re-reading, or listening to Elemental Assassin. But if not, here’s one that might: vicarious bloody justice. Right now, our world feels like Gotham City — full of wealthy, corrupt villains who too often get away with their evil deeds. Even well-adjusted, non-sociopaths need to indulge in a revenge-fantasy or two just to stay sane.

Reading the Elemental Assassin series is a socially-acceptable way to exercise your revenge fantasies. Assassin Gin Blanco goes after those wealthy, manipulating, corrupt, exploiting, entitled asshats, stabs them with her knives, and bathes in their blood. So the next time you feel oppressed by the wealthy, cheated by politicians, or angered by the news, crack open an Elemental Assassin book and let Gin take down the baddies for you.

Dane Curse by Matt Abraham

Reading and reviewing the stories in Eight in the Chamber anthology.  Reviewing book #4

Title: Dane Curse
Author:  Matt Abraham
Series:  Black Cape Case Files #1
Publish Date:  February 10, 2015
Genre: Pulp Fiction
Source:  purchased by reviewer in Anthology, Eight in the Chamber

Publisher’s Description: For a guy like me, who can shrug off bullets and lift seven tons, there’s no better profession than powered crime, and no greater burg to practice it in than Gold Coast City. But after ten years of tossing Buicks at heroes I wised up, took the black cape off my back, and hung out a shingle. Only instead of Dark Deeds Done Daily, this one reads Dane Curse, PI. Now I work cases for the dark denizens I was once counted among. The problems they got aren’t the kind that cops care about, so I do what I can, because sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice.

At least that’s how it was before the world’s greatest superhero was mysteriously murdered, an act so terrible it threatens to start a war that’ll tear my home apart block-by-block, unless I find the killer in five days’ time. But getting to the truth won’t be so easy. I’ll have to contend with black capes whose powers and pulse cannons can shred my hide. An army of technologically advanced armored lawmen led by a power-mad government schemer. And white caped heroes whose abilities and intentions are both less than pure.

No simple task for a small time PI, so I’ll need every bit of my strength, guts, and powers if I’m going to find the killer, save my city, and maybe even get some justice for the greatest hero the world has ever known.

In Dane Curse, Matt Abraham, winner of Pulp Detective’s 2015 Newcomer of the Year Award, takes us on our first trip through the powered underbelly of Gold Coast City in a fast paced adventure you’ll never forget. If you like white knuckled action, devious dames, and heroic villains then get your copy today, and saddle up with the most exciting detective since Harry Dresden!

 

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


Nervous Nellie says…

This is a review of the fourth story in the anthology.  I wasn’t thinking this was going to be my kind of book.  The cover looked like a graphic novel and the preview seemed a little Dick Tracey-ish.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Yes, this is a superhero kind of book.  The good guys on one side, the bad guys on the other.  And then there are the police – non super heroes.  Kind of bitter lot they are.  Anyway, the cops always work the murder cases of the supers and the regular folk, but if a villain super bites the big one, then no one cares.  It doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t grieved for or missed, it just means there is no justice for the villain.

So, does a supervillain deserve justice?  Dane Curse thinks so.  He’s the only black cape P.I. out there and when a villain is killed, he will search til he finds who did the deed and he never gives up.

This is a fun book but there is only 2 in the series and it doesn’t look like any more are forthcoming, so pace yourself.

 

Follow One Book Two on Social Media via:

   Bloglovin_small Feedly_small RSSFeed_small

Croft and Wesson by Brad Magnarella

Reading and reviewing the stories in Eight in the Chamber anthology.  This is book #3, a short novella that has Prof Croft winging it to help out Wesson.  Will he make it out alive?


Title:
Croft & Wesson
Author:  Brad Magnarella
Series:  Prof Croft
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source:  purchased by reviewer in Anthology, Eight in the Chamber

 

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


Nervous Nellie says…

This is a review of the third story in the anthology.  James Wesson really does not take his job seriously.  He has to use the assistance of Everson Croft in order to figure out why blond women are disappearing.  It could be a serial killer, right?  It’s nothing to do with the gold bracelets and any kind of magic, could it?

Well, you know it does.  Croft & Wesson battle a bunch of were wolves that James owes a huge debt to, they have to stay on the straight and narrow of the local Sheriff how is wiley and cantankerous and try and stop whatever or whoever is sending bracelets to the ladies in town.  The story is a good one.  It doesn’t add a whole lot to the over arching series story, so it’s a good standalone to test out the waters.

There is some grisly parts, a puzzle and one big scary dude.  Check it out.  It’s worth it!

 

Follow One Book Two on Social Media via:

   Bloglovin_small Feedly_small RSSFeed_small

Cold Hard Steele by Alex P. Berg

Jake is at it again, however, Shay Steele is making progress on him!

Title: Cold Hard Steele
Author: Alex P. Berg
Series:  Daggers and Steele #2
Publish Date:  October 16, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source:  purchased by reviewer

Publisher’s Description: Detective Jake Daggers hates three things–mornings, walking, and naked guys.

So when he and his sexy half-elf partner, Shay Steele, get called to a murder scene featuring a bare-bottomed doughy dude with an icy dagger sticking out of his chest, he’s not amused.

Even less happy? The Captain, when the lone murder turns into a cold-bladed epidemic.

In a case featuring frost mages, enchanted weaponry, and a jaded mystery writer, Daggers and Steele must race against the clock to discover who’s delivering deadly doses of COLD HARD STEELE.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

Jake is at it again, however, Shay Steele is making progress on him!  He’s trying to be available for his kid, which is a good start.  He’s calling Steele ‘detective’ like he actually means it as a profession and not a joke.  He’s making progress.

I enjoyed this book.  I read the book as well as listened to the audiobook.  The author is still the narrator.  I’m still not real keen on it because his change between characters leads to cracked voice syndrome which distracts from the story.  Further into the book, Jake becomes less annoying and more like a team player, so I will cut him some slack – but not much.  He didn’t know vampires existed in the last book.  In this book, he learns that werewolves are real.  Now, I find it hard to believe that in 10 years of detective work that the creatures Jake works with on a day to day basis didn’t mention werewolves.  There are goblins, ogres, elves, mages, magic users, and vampires.  Why wouldn’t there be werewolves?

Anyway, Shay Steele saved the day by figuring out a lot more than she should have since Jake has seniority as well as experience.  Steele is one smart cookie by figuring out the daggers being used, however, if you are good at figuring out who-dun-it, you will figure it out easily.  If I could figure it out, anyone can because I’m not that smart.

Shay is getting a little touchy feely in this story so I don’t know if a romance is in the air or not.  I kind of hope not because I think Shay deserves better, but we’ll see.  Yes, I will be reading book #3.

Other reviews of the series:

Follow One Book Two on Social Media via:

   Bloglovin_small Feedly_small RSSFeed_small

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: