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.  

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch - My Thoughts

A Beautiful Blue Death  - Charles Finch

This is the third book from my Christmas haul and again, I enjoyed my read. 

The book and the author were recommended by one of my most favourite authors, Louise Penny, the author of the Gamache series.  I just spent 20 minutes trying to find the reference and failed miserably  *LOL*.   Anyway, that's the reason I picked it up.

So, Charles Lenox is a Victorian gentleman who likes to solve mysteries. He has an interesting group of family and friends and he's a smart fellow.  I liked him.  I can see why Louise likes him as well - there's a faint Gamachian feel to the book and the characters which is fine by me. 

I like Finch's writing style, it's easy to read and while there are instances of what could be termed as info-dumping, they're handled well and not annoying.  He also does some easy back and forth banter between Lenox and his old friends that I found quite fun. 

The mystery worked for me, as did the wrapping up of the various plot-lines.  There was a question or two that didn't get answered, or if it did, I missed it, but that didn't impede my enjoyment of the book.

If I had one real problem with the book, it was that there was an awful lot of snowing going on in London for late December/early January.  I don't think it snows that much over there at all. 

Anyway, I enjoyed the book enough to add Book 2 to my wishlist.  :)

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne - My Thoughts

A Plague of Giants - Kevin Hearne

The second read of my Christmas presents, this was a brick, but a fascinating one indeed. I'd read Kevin Hearne before, the first of his Iron Druid books, and quite enjoyed it. (I intend to continue on in that series when the budget allows it.)  This book is the first of an entirely new trilogy, set in a new world.  And I was fascinated.

The world-building is terrific.  Magic or kenning that actually takes a toll on the human body even to the point of death.  The majority of the peoples are shades of brown with the pale-skinned folk being the minority of civilizations and I think there's only one king among the bunch.  Hearne does a masterful job of getting across the atmosphere and the feel of the different 'countries' and while they mostly have a familiar feel, I never felt they were copies of other creations.

It's the characters that really sold the book for me.  The story is told almost in serial form by a bard by the name of Fintan, who takes on the appearances of different folk within the story as he tells the story, a little bit every day.  Usually two characters, maybe three.  In between these story-tellings, we get the POV of Dervan, the scribe who has been tasked with recording all the stories Fintan tells, as well as keeping an eye on him for his friend, the leader of the Brynt people.

We meet two handfuls of characters who tell the story of the initial invasions of the giants and through their telling of the story we're given the base of the bigger story to come, I'm guessing.  Lots and lots of set-up happening, but because the characters were so engaging - even the baddies - it was a pleasure to read. 

So, I really, really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Book 2 - especially the further adventures of Abhi and his bloodcat, Murr and his stalk hawk, Eep. 

Skies of Ash by Rachel Howzell Hall - My Thoughts

Skies of Ash (Detective Elouise Norton) - Rachel Howzell Hall

The first of my Christmas presents didn't let me down.  I'm here to tell you that Elouise Norton, LAPD detective, is a breath of fresh air in police procedural/crime fiction.

Lou is smart, funny, sexy, intense as well as being a perfectly flawed individual.  Yes, sometimes her personal experiences and biases colour how she views a case and how she interacts with her co-workers, but she's so very real!  She has none of those endearing quirky flaws that many crime fiction leads have either.

Lou's current case begins with a house fire and three dead bodies and of course, there's far more than meets the eye.  As Lou and her partner, Colin, pursue the case, she also has to deal with her once-estranged but now back home husband, Greg.  And the remnants of the death by murder of her older sister years before (we saw the solving of that case play out in the previous book).

The twisty trail of the case kept me hooked through the book and while I had suspicions that changed as I went along, the culmination of everything was still pretty much of a surprise.  Not so surprising was the plot of Lou's marriage trials and tribulations, however there were a few bits that I wasn't expecting.  I do hope that in the next book we see more of Lou's friends, Lena and Sayeeta.  They're great characters and I love their interactions with Lou.  Girl power!  :)

I only have one complaint and I don't even know that it's valid, me being a white woman and all, but there MUST be some other way to describe POC skin than to liken it to some coffee or chocolate drink. (And in a book/series with a majority of POC characters, there is a lot of skin described!)

So my second foray into Lou Norton's world was a resounding success.  I loved it and have added Book 3 to my wishlist.

Twist of the Magi by Caren J. Werlinger - My Thoughts

Twist of the Magi - Caren J. Werlinger

Another story perfect for the holidays.  The tale of Penny Havers was a fun read and altogether too short. And for once, an f/f romance that isn't filled with drama and angst over being lesbian!

Two thumbs up.

Tutus and Tinsel by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts

Tutus and Tinsel - Rhys Ford

Great holiday read with much-loved characters.  Rhys never disappoints.

Highly recommended!

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man by Tony Bertauski

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man - Tony Bertauski

So this was a freebie that I grabbed because the blurb sounded intriguing.  I don't normally enjoy YA focused books and tend to avoid them for the most part, but something about this blurb grabbed me. 

Boy, was I ever pleasantly surprised!

It grabbed me from the get-go.  A very interesting premise, a different - very different - take on the myths and legends of Saint Nick and Santa and his elves and the reindeer.  The way the author weaves the stories we know into this new and different narrative was delightful!  I have to admit that I think the story might owe bits to the Santa Clause series of movies as well as some of the old animated Christmas specials we watched as kids, including 'Santa Claus is Comin' to Town' from Rankin/Bass Productions.  But it's all woven together with such fun and delight that you recognise the similarities and go, cool!

Don't get me wrong, there are some dark moments here, and some not very nice actions, and that's good, because I wasn't looking for saccharine sweet. 

The only thing that really bothered me was near the end when the villain of the piece, Jack (it's always Jack, isn't it?) gets all 1970s pop culture icon crazy person.  See, the story takes place in 1899 and while the elves can do alot of magical stuff, I don't think they managed time travel, so where that personality came from, I don't know.  It just felt a bit out of place.

Anyway, I couldn't put it down and the fact that it had lots of short chapters only helped the 'just one more chapter' road I was on. :)  Fun read!  And fascinating take on some of our best-loved tales.  I think I'm going to have to read the others in the series. :)

Where You Lead by Mary Calmes - My Thoughts

Where You Lead - Mary Calmes

I would call this a longish short story.  It was also a little frantic and frenetic, I thought.  Written in the first person, I honestly never got a feel for Pete, the main character.  And consequently I never got a feel for his partner, Carver.  Pete is a Treasury department agent and Carver is an artist. 

There was a lot of banter between the two, but I wasn't overly fond of it.  Some of it sounded a little mean-spirited and too snarky.  And I wasn't sure exactly why Pete had fallen for Carver and vice versa, aside from the physical attraction - which was mightily indulged in throughout the story.

So I was disappointed, because I like Mary Calmes' work.  And it illustrates why I tend to shy away from works of this length. 

Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare - My Thoughts

Once Upon a Winter's Eve - Tessa Dare
Another charming holiday read that was also a lot of fun.  Set during the Napoleonic wars, the story takes place in the space of one evening into the next dawn and is a delightful romantic and sexy tale.  
 
Novella in length, you don't get much time to get to know the characters and grow to like them, but the author does a lovely job of bringing them to life. I liked the both of them and honestly, wished we could follow them after the end of the tale.  
 
You don't need to know anything about the Spindle Cove series really, to enjoy this, so if you're in the mood for some festive sexy times, love and smidge of danger, head towards this one. 

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Cecilia Grant - My Thoughts

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong: A Blackshear Family novella - Cecilia Grant

The first of my Christmas reads and it was charming.  I found myself smiling much of the way through the story, even when I wanted to pinch the hero, the so very bound-by-duty Andrew Blackshear, who is the eldest of the family and so very, very, very proper.  *LOL*

Our heroine, Lucy Sharp was born to get under Andrew's skin and drive him to total distraction.  And that's exactly what she does with her impulsive and adventurous ways.  Propriety?  Not something she adheres to for the most part.  Brought up by an unconventional widower after the way-too-early death of her mother.

It was cute, it was heart-warming, it was filled with love and surprises.  I'm not fond of the cover (it's just too modern-looking for me), but the novella is a very pleasing read for the holiday season.  Check it out!

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny - My Thoughts

Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny

My birthday present to me. It's so very rare for me to pay $15 for an ebook, but this is one of my very favourite of favourite authors and it was my birthday the week it came out, so...  I gave myself a gift!

Anyway...

It was like coming home.

I came to a realisation about myself and the Gamache books when I was about halfway through this one.  They are perfect for people watchers.  Perfect for people who love to watch TV shows like Survivor and Big Brother because they want to see how the people will react and what they will become in different situations.  There is a lot of people watching in these books, and speculating and looking for the 'why' of things.  I love it!

All of our friends are back in Three Pines, but this time the focus is more on the Sureté side of the family than the civilians. There are parallel storylines here - the case of the will, the murder of one of the heirs in said will, and the fallout from the previous book with the drugs Armand was forced to let slip through his hands in order to catch the bigger fish. 

I wish I was better at writing these things so that I could explain why they're so good, but suffice it to say that Armand Gamache, is a wonderfully flawed hero and the family that he makes around him is also filled with real people who are alternately flawed and heroic in their times. 

I don't know that I'm completely thrilled with the way this book ended.  Oh, don't get me wrong, the ending was perfect and filled with surprises and sadness and feel good moments, but I'm going to be really annoyed if Jean-Guy's fate is permanent!  (Although the whole theme of the student taking the place of the mentor by his actions was pretty cool.)

So, I am thinking positively that there are more Gamache tales to come and that we will be returning to Three Pines in the future.  :) 

Making Up by Lucy Parker - My Thoughts

Making Up (London Celebrities) - Lucy V. Parker

Another fun romance from Lucy Parker that's filled with great dialogue and banter.  Lucy has become one of my favourite romance authors with her London Celebrities series.  I love the settings of the theatre world in London as well as the actors, directors, and performers who populate her world. 

This time around the setting vehicle is a show that is very Cirque de Soleil-esque and our main characters are the circus artist, Trix, who is suddenly thrust into a starring role in the show and Leo, the uber-talented make-up artist.  We know Trix from the previous book, as she is that book's heroine's best friend. 

Trix and Leo felt to me a bit edgier than previous couples in the series, their dialogue more sharp and defensive much of the time.  But it worked because Trix has a past relationship that has left her unsure of herself and very defensive in her dealings with other people.  And trusting other people.  Been there and done that, so I recognised it right off and felt it was well done.  This, of course, made this book a little less light-hearted than the two previous. 

The romance worked for me as well - important in a romance novel, yes?  *LOL*  But it worked and I enjoyed going along for the trip.  :)  *two thumbs up*

Hanging the Stars by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts

Hanging the Stars (Half Moon Bay Book 2) - Rhys Ford

Rhys never lets me down.  Whether it's some adventurous urban fantasy, rockstar dramas or, like this one, a romantic mystery I always enjoy my Rhys reads.  :)

Book two in the Half Moon Bay series focuses on the twin brother of one of the MCs of the first book. In the first book he was not the most sympathetic of characters, but as we delve into his life in this book, we come to understand his whys and wherefores.

While the main characters of West and Angel might be somewhat typical, the rich full-of-himself guy and the hard-working, blue-collar, doing-his-best guy, Rhys infuses them with quirks and humanity and courage and flaws and makes them come alive on the page.

Yeah, there's a mystery involved, but it really takes a somewhat backseat to the relationship between West and Angel.  A relationship I became invested in and with characters I came to care for very much. Main and secondary!  (I really want to know more about West's friend/bodyguard.)

So another great read from a fave author.

The Watchmaker's Daughter by CJ Archer - My Thoughts

The Watchmaker's Daughter - C.J. Archer

Upon starting this book I was worried that it was going to fall into DNF land or at least 2 Star Land at the very least, but you know what?  It surprised me! 

Yes, it has problems.  The heroine is sometimes a little slow on the uptake, as my mom used to say and things would have gone much smoother had she and the hero, or even she and some of the other characters, actually talked about things.  But you know... I couldn't put it down even with all that!

I wish there was a bit more explanation of the magic that is hinted about through most of the book.  And I wish we had some resolution of the hero, Matt's, problem.

I loved the cast of secondary characters - they are very found family and that, admittedly, is one of my most favourite things. 

I honestly shouldn't have enjoyed this book but I did!  I'm ready to read more.

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance - My Thoughts

Come Hell or Highball - Maia Chance

This was a fun cozy mystery read.  Set in the Jazz Age, the age of Prohibition, the age of silent films, when the movie industry was beginning and mostly in New York, it's rightly described as a fun-filled romp.  There's a taste of madcap about it too.

I really enjoyed the characters: our heroine, the society widow Lola, her Swedish cook Berta, the mysterious Ralph and of course the dog whose name escapes me now because I waited too long to write this.  *LOL*  Most of the dialogue was fun banter, especially between Lola and Berta.  The mystery was okay and kept me engaged.

My one problem was the constant harping on Lola's weight.  It got old, really quick.  I loved that she was not the slender, boyish framed woman of that age, but dear God, the jokes got old and somewhat distasteful and there were far too many.  They took away from my enjoyment of the book.

Will I continue on with the series?  Probably.  Overall, I liked it.  And it's one of my favourite eras. :)

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson - My Thoughts

New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson

DNF

 

I made it almost halfway before throwing in the towel.

There is nothing happening in the first part of this book.  Nothing interesting at least - it's just a bunch of daily vignettes of what are actually very interesting characters when they're not being mired in unnecessary narrative over and over and over again. 

This man obviously does not like to show.  He's a teller.  A big boring teller.  Treatises on finance and the 'stock market' in 2140, essays on real estate values after the flood, nonsense after nonsense. 

I was very disappointed, but when I realised that I'd been working on this book for almost 2 weeks and wasn't enjoying much of it at all, well... it was time to give up.  I'd have liked to know more about the story of the girl with the airship who was flying polar bears from up north to Antarctica to preserve them. Sadly, I've not the patience to wade through the rest of the stuff. 

Witchmark by C.L. Polk - My Thoughts

Witchmark - C. L. Polk

I'm going to be frank.  A big reason I bought this book is because the online advertisements for it that featured the cover were so darned clever! If you haven't seen them, the two figures reflected from the bicycle wheels actually walked!  I tried to find a link, but was unsuccessful.  Anyway, that's one of the reasons.  Other reasons include recs by authors I like and an intriguing book blurb.

So, as Deborah Ross stated in her review on Goodreads, "The setting, very much like England in the throes of national PTSD following the First World War, a magic-yielding aristocracy, a conflicted hero and so forth, are familiar enough to be recognisable, yet integrated into a freshly imagine world."  I think that explains it perfectly.  :)

Just about everything works. There were a few places that I thought could use a bit more editing to make things a bit clearer, and maybe a tweak or two for the pacing, but they're mostly quibbles. The character of Miles is terrific and sympathetic and you can' help but like him. The secondary players - it's written in the 1st person POV so everyone else is a secondary for me - are interesting and possess more than one dimension.  The mysteries of the plot are intriguing and kept me guessing in many cases, and when they didn't, when I guessed what was happening, I kind of felt that maybe I was supposed to.

My one caveat is the whole romance angle.  The book is marketed as a fantasy romance, but it seems to me to be more a fantasy novel, set in an AU of WWI England with an important romantic subplot.  The romance is really far from the main element of this story.  So much so that the light-heartedness that permeated the last pages seemed almost out of place for the rest of the novel.  So beware, if you're looking for a romance-heavy story, I don't think this is it. 

That being said, I cannot WAIT for the next book to come out.  It's coming out in February of 2020 according to both Kobo and Amazon.  On Goodreads, the author has responded to the question by saying summer of 2019.  God only knows.  And not only that, the images for Book Two have as its title Greystar while the text shows it as Stormsong.  Again, your guess is a good as mine.  All I know is that I will be there to read it. :) 

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