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Playing Catch-Up: Fifteen-Second Reviews by Ivana

I have been a BAD book reader and reviewer for the last couple of years, but now I’m trying to catch up! I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks that I haven’t reviewed yet. I MEANT to review them, but… life, ya know? Anyway, in an effort to get caught up, I’m going to do some fifteen-second reviews – just a quick note about some of the books I’ve read and whether I liked them or not. I’ll do longer reviews when I reread some of them, which I’m sure I will.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan – purchased from Audible. FABULOUS!! I thoroughly enjoyed all five books plus the short story. I loved the perspective of a Victorian naturalist, and I appreciated the issues of being a woman working a field traditionally male and having less sentiment and more ambition than other females.

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen – purchased from Audible. Great follow-up to Wake of Vultures. This western paranormal/urban fantasy is intriguing, both because of the gender identity issues it addresses and the Old West setting. Robin Miles is fantastic as the narrator of this series. I’m eagerly awaiting book 3, Malice of Crows, in audio (the audio is two books behind; what’s up with that?).

The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans – purchased from GraphicAudio.net. I liked this urban fantasy story, but GraphicAudio does have to abridge books because of their unique format, and I felt this one suffered a bit from it; the romantic relationship between the main protagonists seems to progress too fast. I want to pick up the Kindle version and read in unabridged format sometime soon.

The Magician by Raymond E. Feist – purchased from Audible. I am so excited that the original Riftwar tales finally came out for Kindle and audio. I last read Magician (Apprentice and Master) in high school or college, and there was a lot to the story I didn’t remember, so it was almost like experiencing it for the first time.

Midnight Texas series by Charlaine Harris – purchased from Audible. The first time I read Midnight Crossroads, the first book in this series, I thought it was slow and uneventful. But I later listened to all three books all in a row, and really loved them. It’s a quieter story than Sookie, but no less interesting once you get invested in the characters.

I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart – purchased from Audible. Listening to Kevin Hart narrate his own book is hysterical. The story of his struggles to succeed and to deal with his growing fame are interesting and contain some good lessons. I particularly love it when he goes off script or starts laughing at himself. I’m so glad those parts aren’t edited out; they really enhance the listening experience.

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines – purchased from GraphicAudio.net. Terminal Alliance is the first in a sci-fi series called The Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse. With a name like that, I expected a full-on, Douglas Adams-esque comedy. While it has it’s funny moments, Terminal Alliance was more serious than I expected and a very good story. GraphicAudio’s radio-play style, with individual character voices and sound effects, really enhanced the story. I can’t wait for the next book.

Believe Me by Eddie Izzard – purchased from Audible. Izzard gets very introspective in this memoir, identifying what has shaped him since childhood and how those things have contributed to the person he has become. He goes off-script a lot, which is just delightful for the listener. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.

A Wrinkle in Time & A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle – purchased from Audible. I was pretty excited when the newest movie version of A Wrinkle in Time came out. But it seems no version can live up to my childhood memory. So I thought I’d go back to the original trilogy. My first observation is that NO movie is going to do these books justice because so much of the story is internal to the characters, rather than external and observable. My second observation is that the religious overtones (which some sources say were not originally part of the story, but were forced upon it by the publisher) were annoying. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the third installment. I will always have nostalgia for these books, but they didn’t hold up well for me as an adult. That made me a little sad.

Indexing & Reflections by Seannan McGuire – purchased from Audible. McGuire never fails to build an awesome world. In this series, a team of investigators track down and stop instances of “memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.” These books were part of the Kindle Serials program, which is now defunct along with this series, but I really wish it wasn’t. The premise of these books is incredibly clever, and the writing is excellent. I really want to read more.

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Intergalactic Insurance Agent by Larry Correia – purchased from Audible. This is a hilarious, absurd, weird, and totally entertaining sci-fi comedy in the vein of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Plus, listening to Adam Baldwin narrate is a hoot! It’s a shortie at just over two hours, so perfect for a car trip.

Menagerie and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent – purchased from Audible. These books are totally amazing! Incredibly good and incredibly depressing at the same time. Vincent builds a richly diverse world and then fashions the humans who exploit that diversity for personal gain. But I have to say that my revenge fantasies are well-sated by the nature of the protagonist, and that book 3, Fury, promises even more bloody justice. I’ll be rereading these two books, with reviews, soon because Fury just came out, and I’m super excited to read it.

I’m getting back into the groove, so watch for more fifteen-second and full reviews coming soon!

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The Shadow: The Last Illusion by Cullen Bunn

Title: The Shadow: The Last Illusion
Author: Cullen Bunn
Series: The Shadow, Vol. 2
Publish Date: June 7th 2016 by Dynamite Entertainment
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: The Shadow infiltrates the sanctum of The Society of United Magicians, an esoteric enclave of illusionists who are hellbent on escaping the ultimate trap: death itself!

Learning the secret of the so-called -Last Illusion- from the spirit of escape artist Harry Houdini himself, The Shadow becomes the next target of their murderous scheme. To thwart their plans, he must evade twisted traps and solve spellbinding puzzles, while simultaneously evading the deadly skills of Sandman, the magician assassin. A good (or evil) magician never reveals his secrets… but the Shadow knows!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

A great idea that didn’t work on me.

If I hadn’t read the previous two Shadow books, especially Shadow Year One before reading this one, I would have been more impressed. The problem I had was due to my liking the Shadow and buying into the previous background given. The idea is that the Shadow is being trained by Harry Houdini, which should make me happy as I do like Houdini. But, I think it took too much away from the Shadow’s training I had read before.

The rest of the adventure is well done. The usual suspects are there, backing up the Shadow as well as his own disguises to get information. And the conclusion of the adventure works.

I couldn’t get past that background, though, which didn’t feel like the Shadow’s background. I think if I had read this first, I might have liked it more. As it is, I give it a three. It probably deserves more, but that’s all I can give it.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Dark fantasies set in the Old West have been gaining popularity. Here is a list of them I found on Goodreads (though I’m not convinced all of those listed fit the bill). I finally got a chance to read one of them, Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. The book has been on my TBR list for a while and several authors have spoken highly of it.

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

wake-of-vulturesTitleWake of Vultures
AuthorLila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson)
SeriesThe Shadow, Book 1
Publish Date: October 27, 2015 by Orbit
Genre: Urban fantasy, western paranormal, dark fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionA rich, dark fantasy of destiny, death, and the supernatural world hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Though I am a fan of dark fantasy, history, and different cultures, I’m not usually a fan of “westerns.” So I wasn’t really sure how I would like Wake of Vultures. But I’m happy to say I liked it a lot. If you’re a stickler for the definitions of the genres, you might have a hard time calling this either an urban fantasy or a western, but it is a great story regardless of what you call it.

Nettie Lonesome is trying to find her place in the world. Is she a daughter or a slave? Is she a ranch hand or a monster hunter? Is she timid or brave? Is she human, or something else? She can’t take for granted anything she thinks she knows about the world because nothing is what she thought it was.

A part of this book is about how your childhood experiences shape you and screw you up both. A larger part is about how you and only you get to decide who and what you are. Life presents you many opportunities to figure that out, but you decide how they shape you. The author’s comments indicate that she was intentional about the diversity issues she addressed in this book, which is awesome. Nettie is a half-black, half-Native American living with white folks. She identifies as male, though she is biologically female and experiences attraction to both genders. At times she feels she has to hide what she is; at others, she feels the relief of being accepted. It’s quite an emotional ride for Nettie, and she handles it better than most of us ever would, I think.

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And, of course, there are monsters to hunt. Skinwalkers, vampires, harpies, werewolves, a water horse, a siren (yeah, in the desert-dry Old West), and some Native American creatures that are new to me. Can’t have either a western or an urban fantasy without something to hunt.

I’m really impressed with this first book in the Shadow series, and I’m hoping I get to read book 2, A Conspiracy of Ravens, fairly soon. This is a series I am really going to enjoy.

Agent Annie says…

The narrator of this book did a wonderful job capturing Nettie’s voice. Nettie/Rhett is a wonderful main character. The book kept my attention and I enjoyed being introduced to the world that Lila Bowen created with all sorts of different “monsters.” I also thought the author did a nice job introducing subtle elements of sexual orientation and gender identification and the different ways people are treated according to their race. The note at the end of the book was good to know since the author explained where she used historical fact and where she completely made up stuff.

The only issue I had with the book was the way in which Nettie defeats the cannibal owl. This was supposed to be the biggest, baddest monster out there, and had been for decades. The final battle scene and the death of the cannibal owl seemed just a bit too easy for me to accept even though Nettie was reaching the height of her own power. The final pages of the book did reinstate my high opinion of the book, and I look forward to reading more about Nettie in the next book, Conspiracy of Ravens, and then Malice of Crows (do you feel a bird theme going?) I give this book 4 stars.

Recommendations

Check out Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle. It’s not really a western, but it felt like a western to me when I read it. If you just want a taste of western paranormal, try the anthologies Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West by John Joseph Adams and Westward Weird by Martin H. Greenberg.

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

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