Evaine's Books, Books and More Books

It's about books.  I read all kinds of different genres. And I curse.  

 

5 Stars = AWESOME!  Best of the Best

4 Stars = Really good.  Easily recommendable.

3 Stars = Good

2 Stars = Not so hot.  Readable but just barely

1 Star = Bad.  

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles - My Thoughts

An Unseen Attraction - K.J. Charles

A new KJ Charles trilogy!!  WOOT!

No one does historical m/m romance better than KJ Charles, in my honest and humble opinion.  That this trilogy also holds a mystery plot line makes me very happy.

As always, the main characters are distinct and different from the norm.  And as often as not, they aren't the nobility either, which I find fascinating. I always learn something when reading KJ's books.  This time, we have a taxidermist and the manager of a boarding house.

Rowley, the taxidermist, is a quiet man.  His childhood was violent and somewhat hopeless and these days he's most happy to spend most of his time by himself, working on his art or doing commissions for his customers.  I found many of his life observations to be quite true and really enjoyed getting to know him.

The boarding house manager, Clem, is part Indian and has ties to the nobility.  He also appears to be what we call 'on the spectrum'.  Asperger's?  Highly functioning autistic? It's never really stated because, well, these diagnoses didn't exist back in those days. I really enjoyed how Rowley was able understand him and let his true self show.  That Rowley's sexual preferences seemed to dovetail quite nicely with Clem's personality and needs... well it was really well done.

And Clem's friends and co-workers... delightful!  KJ does characters so well.  :)

An Unseen Attraction is a sweet love story wrapped up in a mystery and tied with a lovely historical bow and I totally enjoyed it!  I can't wait for the next book, coming in June and then the final book which I believe comes out in October.  They are pre-ordered.  KJ is one of the few authors I will preorder.

Rat Queens - Sass and Sorcery - My Thoughts

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery - Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch

It's gorgeous looking!

 

It's hysterical!

 

It's fun!

 

It's violent and of questionable taste!

 

I really really liked it.  *LOL*

Sand of Bone by Blair MacGregor - My Thoughts

Sand of Bone (Chronicles of the Sands Book 1) - Blair MacGregor

I loved this book.  I was surprised by just how much I loved it.  It was truly a delicious read.  :)

I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was in good part because the characters were so beautifully drawn.  The good and the bad.  The main character would by Syrina, a young woman, descended from the gods, one of the ruling family of the desert who has been exiled to the remote and near barren Salt Hold for basically refusing to fall in line with her family's wishes for her.  At first I found her kind of vapid and shallow, her refusal to toe the family line having mostly to do with her own discomfort.  But the author shows us how Syrina grows, the choices she has and the ones she makes - not all of them wise or good, to be honest.  She was real, so I didn't roll my eyes at her.

Her antagonist is her brother Raskah - a nasty piece of work.  Cruel and violent, he's truly an awful young man.  Like a good villain should be.  :)  I was expecting his story to go one way, but Blair MacG took him another way, which both disappointed and delighted me?  *LOL*  I know... I guess I just wanted to be clever.  :)

The secondary characters, Pyrius, Shella, Riner, Ehren et al... were wonderfully drawn and full people, not types, if you know what I mean.  I have my favourites and while some of them survived, other didn't.  And that's a good thing!  The author does not play around and I've come to respect that.  Kill my faves!  Go ahead, but man... make it mean something in the story.  And it does.

This is one of those books that makes me wish I could write a really good and inspiring review filled with thoughtful insights and comments, but sadly, I don't have that talent.

The thing to take away is... I LOVED THIS BOOK!  :)

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu - My Thoughts

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai - Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Song of Shattered Sands - Book 1

I became enamoured of epic fantasy back in the 70s when the big thing to read was Lord of the Rings.  Elves and fairies and orcs and wizards and the like were de rigeur and I was totally along for the ride.  Still am, truth be told.  Today, however, things are finally changing and we're seeing more and more diverse worlds being built and mythologies and cultures being created.  It's wonderful!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai gives us a desert world filled with nomads and tribes and kings and pit fighters and street urchins and zombies and blade-wielding elite woman warriors. It's refreshingly different from much epic fantasy that I've read.  There are hints of such a world in the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin and I think I might even see some inspiration from my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay, but make no mistake, Bradley P. Beaulieu has created something quite special and immersive, I think.

If I say that this is the story of a young girl coming into her own, starting her life journey, it sounds like the ubiquitous YA novel, but I think that'd be doing it a disservice.  I dislike YA and New Adult novels, they leave me - for the most part - searching for more substance.  But man, oh man, this book has some hefty substance!  It's a long read, but it's fascinating.  The characters are great, they have dimension and weight and substance and they all have flaws.  And while the long game of the plot seems to be something read before - the overthrowing of the current powerful folk - something tells me that it's not going to be so straightforward and the journey to the end game is going to be gripping.

Now, there are a lot of flashbacks in this book and that might give some pause, but while I am generally not a fan, I didn't mind them at all.  Alot of the plot has to do with the MC, Çeda's memories and the way the flashbacks play out, it's like we're remembering things along with her - things that didn't seem important but really are and the like.  I don't know how it's going to play out in subsequent books, but in this one, it works for me.

So yeah,  a highly-recommended read for lovers of epic fantasy and I'm definitely looking forward to the second book which I hope to get my hands on soon.  :)  (This book, is actually on sale at Kobo for $2.99 as I write this.)

Oh... and that cover!  It's GORGEOUS!!

The Strivers' Row Spy by Jason Overstreet - My Thoughts

The Strivers' Row Spy - Michael Jason Overstreet

Well, I tried.


I got almost 1/3rd of the way in on The Strivers' Row Spy before calling it quits.  Life is too short and my TBR pile too high to continue reading a book that was only making me sigh in annoyance and wish I was doing something else other than reading.

I had high hopes too.  It started with a great cover.  I mean, good God, this is a gorgeous cover.  It continued with a setting of a time period I like to read and the blurb made the story sound like it would be intriguing and exciting and I might even learn a few things.  And, to keep all those diverse writing warriors happy, it's a story about POC and written by an MOC.

Well, a history book couldn't have been more dry.

The main character of Sidney Temple never came alive for me as more than a pedantic, boring, smug and supercilious young man.  I never felt any connection or empathy or even interest in what he was doing, and I think that was because he never evinced any enthusiasm.  All so bland and matter of fact.  Often his conversations with the other characters became lectures.  People don't really talk that way, I hope, because OMG, YAWN!!  I felt as if I was being lectured and told, page after page.  Show, don't tell, does not apply here.

So, I DNFed.   And I feel a little guilty because I very seldom give up on a book, but again... Life is too short and the TBR pile is too big!

The Builders by Daniel Polansky - My Thoughts

The Builders - Daniel Polansky

The Builders was another of my guts buys.  It came up in my Kobo recs, I think and I was intrigued by the blurb and the price was right, so... I bought it.  :)  It's a novella and it's basically Brian Jacques Redwallesque except it's not suitable for youngsters.  *LOL*  Lots of violence and mayhem.

Now, one of my all-time favourite movies is The Magnificent Seven - the Yul Brynner version, of course - and as such, I'm drawn to books that feature a motley band of characters heading off on some kind of adventure or crusade or mission or whatever.  And that's what we have here.  It's a quick tale about a crew of not-so-noble animals heading off for what might be their final adventure.

And I liked it!

I liked Polansky's writing style and I enjoyed his character creations, even if I had to write down their names and what animals they were to keep them straight.  Once I wrote them down, though, it fixed in my mind, so I'll just blame by advancing years for that.  :)

Anyway, fun read and I'll be keeping Polansky's name in mind.

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe - My Thoughts

The Hum and the Shiver (Tufa #1) - Alex Bledsoe

Novels of the Tufa - Book 1

 

This book was a guts buy for me when it was on sale a few weeks ago.  I picked it and books 2 and 3 up at the same time just because the blurbs sounded good!  And different.

We're basically talking musical fae folk in the Appalachian mountains.

The Tuatha Dé Dannan of Irish-Celtic mythology disappeared way back when, according to folklore, and in these tales, they have disappeared to Appalachian America.  Tennesee.  Cloud Country.  And are now called the Tufa.  :)  I love it!  This is a take I've not read before and it instantly caught my attention.

So, when The Hum and the Shiver turned out to be a really enjoyable read, I was right pleased!

It tells the tale of one of the First Daughters of one of the two Tufa clans (basically the seelie and unseelie folk) returning home a war hero after a horrific attack and imprisonment overseas.  Will she claim her birthright and heal herself in mind and body or will she turn her back on the responsibilities it entails.  And what about some of the other characters - what choices will they make?  Accept what they are and embrace it, or not.

Now, I'm not certain if the characters we meet in this book continue their stories in the others, but I think maybe, even if they aren't the main characters of the subsequent books.  Doesn't matter.  I love the premise, I really enjoy Bledsoe's voice and his writing is gorgeous and easy to read, so yep, I will be reading them!   Oh, and if you're a fan of Charles de Lint, you will definitely like these, IMO.

I do wonder though... what happened to Fred Blasco???????

The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon - My Thoughts

The Talented Mr. Rivers - HelenKay Dimon

The Talented Mr. Rivers gives me everything I expect when I pick up a HelenKay book.  There is an intense, hot, steamy connection between the main characters, dangerous action that threatens the MCs, a few twists and turns and a fun and clever supporting cast.  Oh, and some fun banter too.

I had one problem with this book and I know it's probably just me and I can't figure out why, but I had SUCH a problem with the names of the main characters.  Hunter, the bodyguard/agent/tough guy and Will, the younger of the two, the college grad, the almost studious one, the youngest, supposedly oblivious sibling of a vicious crime family.  I kept getting their names mixed up.  I'd read Will and be surprised that it was Hunter and vice versa.  It was very annoying and lasted through the whole book.  I've never come across this specific problem before.  *LOL*

Sexy, steamy suspense is what HelenKay does and it's so much fun to read.  Her characters are always wonderfully larger than life and always flawed in some way or another.  :)  Except for Seth, I've not seen a single flaw in him yet.  Maybe in the next book, his story, Guarding Mr. Fine.

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey - My Thoughts

Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey

Let me begin by saying that I seldom read and truly enjoy science fiction.  Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is one that I love, the Pern books, Marion Zimmer Bradley, the Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson as well.  So I honestly wasn't expecting to be pulled into Leviathan Wakes as deeply as I was.

I had watched the first season of the TV show The Expanse (it's funny, I much prefer sci-fi TV to books and I don't know why) and loved it.  Great genre TV!  I had no intention of starting to read the series of books, but then one day, the first one went on sale and I thought, well, I'd heard about how good it was and how close to the show it was so why the hell not.  :)

It was GOOD!!  People call it a space opera.  Okay, so there's not reams and reams of physics and chemistry and explanations and stuff.  It's an action story as well as a bit of a noir detective tale!  And I like those.  There are characters who some might call stereotypes, but that sets up the exploration of the questions the plot poses.  I also saw complaints about the women in the book not being represented as well as they possibly could have been.  *sigh*  Sometimes it's not about the women, y'know.  Book 2, Caliban's War, seems to rectify that as one of the POV characters is a woman.

Anyway!  Loved the book, it read along at a brisk pace, there were twists and turns, promises kept and betrayals committed and even a sacrifice or two.  :)  One thing I will say is that compared to the TV show, we saw pretty much NOTHING on Earth or Mars - that comes in later books. And yes, I'm hooked.  Going to have to get the others in the series, but will have to wait until they go on sale.  $13 for an ebook just ain't in my budget!

Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold - My Thoughts

Beguilement (Sharing Knife Series #1) - Lois McMaster Bujold

This book was a surprise to me.  I wasn't expecting quite as much romance.  I think part of that is that a good friend of mine really loved these books and she's not so much of a romance nor a fantasy reader.

The first half of the book tells the fantasy tale of Fawn, a young woman farmer, who is running away from her home and family, and Dag, a veteran Lakewalker patroller possessed of some very interesting magic.  They have adventures fighting the malice - bad, awful, deadly, gross horrors that threaten their world.

Then, close to the middle of the book, we turn to the more romantic side of the tale as the two begin to get to know each other and fall in love.  Of course, their vastly different cultures hold myriads of pitfalls and difficulties, never mind their big difference in age.  But it's really a fun romance, I thought.  I enjoyed it alot and I also enjoyed how Dag was able to be Fawn's protector with her family and how he encouraged her to be her own woman.

I only gave the book 3.5 stars because it felt rather unfinished.  It seems, as I discovered near the end of my reading, that Beguilement is actually the first half of a full book,  The second book, Legacy, is the other part of the volume.  Beguilement is about Fawn's people and how they react to the could and it seems that Legacy will be about how Dag's people will react.  And you know... I've grown to kind of resent books that do this.  I tend to feel tricked.  In retrospect, I wish I'd maybe waited to read this until I had book 2 in hand - but now I shall wait until it goes on sale.  :)

Some Reading Stats from 2016

One of the book blogs I follow, Stuck In A Book, did a post about Reading Stats for 2016 and I thought it was interesting, so I'm stealing most of the categories and doing my own list.  :)   For shits and giggles as they say.  :)

Number of books read

97.  The last few years I've shot for 50, figuring a book a week is an eminently do-able number and won't discourage me if I read lots of bricks or just fall behind.

Male/female authors
23 male authors and 74 female to the best of my knowledge.  :)

Fiction/non-fiction
96 Fiction and one non-fiction which is Andy Cohen's book, The Andy Cohen Diaries.

Most-read author
Louise Penny.  I read her first 11 Inspector Gamache mysteries over the course of the year and still have the latest one left to read.  I'm saving it.  :)

Re-reads
No Re-reads.

New-to-me authors
31

Oldest book read
Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff - published in 1994.  I seriously wonder how I missed this!  :)

Newest book read
Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins - published December 5, 2016.

Most disappointing book
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev.  I had been so looking forward to this romance and it came highly touted from some of my favourite authors as well as the majority of romance readers on my Twitter feed, but oh... I really disliked it.  A lot.  My thoughts on it, and there were many, are here.

Most frustrating book
Again, I'd have to say The Bollywood Bride.  See above.  :)

Most surprising delight
I would have to say Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell.  It was a guts call and I'd never even heard of the author before and I just adored it!  AND subsequently the next two books in the series!

The book I’d been nagged about for ages
Nagged about is pretty strong, but the books I kept seeing recced in all my online places were the afore-mentioned The Bollywood Bride and then The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin.  Thankfully, the Jemisin book was much, much, MUCH better for me than the other one.  :)

Best title
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny.  This title, not only is it from a Leonard Cohen (RIP) song, Anthem, but it's a perfect, perfect title for this installment of the mysteries of Armand Gamache. :)

Worst title
None of them are really bad, but I'd have to say of all the books I read in 2016, it'd have to be Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan simply because it's an unwieldy mouthful.

Animals in book titles
Hmm... Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane, Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford, Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford,

Strange things that happened in books I read in 2016
I read a lot of fantasy.  All KINDS of strange things happen in those books!  *LOL*  
 

Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt - My Thoughts

Forty Words for Sorrow - Giles Blunt

I read this first of the John Cardinal mystery thrillers to get ready for the 6-episode mini-series (Cardinal) that's coming on CTV this coming week and I'm glad I did.  The introduction of Detective John Cardinal and his new partner Lise Delorme is a pretty good read.  It didn't blow me away, but it certainly held my interest and has me looking forward to the show, which BTW, is perfectly cast with Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse as Cardinal and Delorme respectively.

The mystery of who is committing the murders lasts until barely halfway, so this is more of a how are they going to catch 'em thriller, as well as being a character-driven narrative as we learn about John Cardinal and his somewhat shady past.  I liked Cardinal and I liked Delorme, even though we don't get to know a great deal about her.

The crimes in Forty Words for Sorrow are rather gruesome, which isn't really my favourite thing and why I only rated it 3.5 stars instead of 4.

Also, I love that it's set in Canada, a vaguely disguised North Bay, Ontario. :)

Will I read more?  Oh yes, I think so.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skylar White - My Thoughts

The Incrementalists - Skyler White, Steven Brust

The Incrementalists - Book 1

What the HELL did I just read?

The premise sounded really cool - as writer John Scalzi said "Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money." But the execution... oh, the execution...

The story is told from the first person POV of two characters, Phil and Renée 'Ren', and they alternate, one character taking up the tale in just about the next line from the other. And that's okay, I'm fine with multiple points of view in either 3rd or 1st person.

But what they did for the most part was prattle on about their 'mind powers', their histories, their concerns, their lies, their questionable emotions... dear God, it was like a huge circle jerk!

I honestly don't really know what's going on - it's all rather vague and confused in my brain and I don't think I'm an especially dense person. This book left me feeling rather dumb. What was the point? I have to say, I was left with a lack of desire to run out and get book 2, that's for sure.

Usually I enjoy Steven Brust - his Phoenix Guard books are among my favourites - but this one? Just felt like he and his friend were postulating their philosophical and political thoughts disguised as dialogue - inner and outer - of their characters. And it was confusing and quite often boring.

So, sadly, this book was a disappointment.

 

Mad Lizard Mambo by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts

Mad Lizard Mambo - Rhys Ford

Kai Gracen Series - Book 2

I think that Kai has just become my favourite of all of Rhys' heroes.  :)

I loved the first of the series, Black Dog Blues, and I think I loved this one even more.  :)  We learn a lot more about Kai (and that twist near the end took me RIGHT by surprise) and thank heaven he's still the snarky smart-ass I enjoyed so much in book one.

I really like how the relationship between Kai and Ryder (the elvin lord) is growing and taking its own sweet time.  This series is about the adventure and the action and the mission and about Kai growing as a person - or do I say being? - not sure.  :)  The 'romance' of Kai and Ryder is there, the attraction is very obvious and acknowledged, but it's not the main thrust of the series.  The banter between the two is some of the most amusing and enjoyable of any book in any genre I can remember reading.

I feel like we've barely scratched the surface of this post-apocalyptic fantasy world and I searched Rhys' website to see when the next one is coming... there HAS to be a next one!  Especially after the revelations at the end of this one.  But, I couldn't find anything!!

So yes, I loved this book and I love this series and Rhys Ford remains one of my favourite go-to authors.  :)

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott - My Thoughts

Black Wolves - Kate Elliott

The Black Wolves Trilogy - Book 1

I.  LOVED.  THIS.  BOOK.

Black Wolves has been on many 'best of' lists since it's publication back in November of 2015 and I'm here to say it's totally earned.  :)  This is epic fantasy done right.  780 pages of it and none of it was tedious.  (That can happen a lot even in the best of epic fantasies.)

The setting of Black Wolves is an Asian-flavoured world as we're seeing more and more of lately - and that's okay because it's fresh and often surprising in unexpected ways.  Yes, it's reminiscent of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings but I think a large part of that is that I've read few fantasies in this setting.  Kate Elliott's world-building is amazing!  She brings this world to life with deft artistry - really! - we learn through the actions, thoughts, speech and memories of the characters and it never feels burdensome and as a reader I was never tempted to skim.  

The characters were delightful and even the bad ones had depth and motivation and shadows and even lightness at times.  I LOVED that two of the main antagonists were a woman in her fiftes - late fifties, I would say, and a man of over seventy!  And they're both wonderfully vibrant and wise and rigid and biased... and their bones ache.  :)

The young characters were just as marvelous in their own ways.  We grow with them and feel their triumphs and their pains and their uncertainties and their sometimes blind beliefs.  They all rang true to me.  And there is still so much more to learn about them and more for them to grow (or not in some cases, I guess.).

I am in awe of the plot.  How the author managed all those twists and turns and didn't really give anything away until the story wanted it given away was masterful.  I was surprised time after time.  I had suspicions, sure, everyone will I think, but the few times my suspicions were confirmed there was always a little thing, a little twist that I had never even thought of!  Amazing plotting.  Amazing.

This is a terrific beginning to a new fantasy epic and I can't WAIT until the next book in the trilogy comes out!

If you loved A Song of Ice and Fire and The Dandelion Dynasty, you must read this book!  You won't be sorry.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - My Thoughts

Uprooted - Naomi Novik

4.5 STARS

Oh, this was a much, much, MUCH better read than my previous one!

Uprooted has it's roots in what I have to assume is Polish/Slavic legend and mythology.  The story, to me, has that almost familiar feel to it.  Not instantly recognisable but it's not totally alien, if you know what I mean.

The book is written in the first person POV and the heroine is a young, seventeen year-old, girl and is the basically the story of how she is chosen to serve The Dragon (the local wizard) for the next 10 years. As the tale progresses, we learn about the evil that lives in The Woods and how The Dragon works to keep it at bay and the people of the valley safe.  But it's really far more complex than that.

Agnieszka has no little power of her own, it turns out and it's different from any type of magic that is currently known.  Yes, she's young, but she doesn't read at all like the heroines of those YA fantasies that I abhor.  She's a village girl who knows the difference between flights of fancy and real life.  She learns and grows throughout the book, but to me she always retained a little bit of the fun that she displayed in the early chapters and flashbacks to her childhood.

The Dragon, is a powerful wizard, whose actual name is Sarkan, and he's been around the block even though he looks like a young man.  Except for the lines around his eyes when you get up close.  He has no patience and is a grumpy git.  Persnickety and fussy.  I quite liked him.  :)  He has been working hard over the decades to keep the valley safe and the evil from spreading, so he's allowed a little bit of annoyance, I think.

So, yes, we have the retelling of some fables and legends, we have a fantasy novel where the good magic fights against the bad and we have a bit of a love story.  One thing I liked a lot was that neither character had to change for their love story, they just grew  And the love story was really only a minor part of their story.  Very important, but minor.  :)

One of my favourite characters was Alosha, one of the other wizards. I wish we had seen more of her, but I understand why we didn't.  I also really liked Kasia, Agnieszka's bestie.  I thought she was just going to be a small part of the first quarter of the book, but nope!

So, yes, my second read of the year was totally delightful and I'm glad that I finally caved in and put it on my Christmas list.  (It had never really grabbed my attention until Heidi Cullinan - at least I think it was Heidi - read it and mentioned how much she enjoyed it.)  And thanks, Mike, for putting it under the tree for me.  :)

Highly recommended!

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