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.  

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang - My Thoughts

The Poppy War - R. F Kuang

Well.  This book was touted as one of the best of 2018 and it is nominated for a 2018 Nebula award for best novel.  I didn't like it as much as the majority of people seem to have.  I have read 5 of the 6 nominees and this was my least favourite of them. (Spinning Silver is the one I've not read.)

First off, let me say that the book is well-written read for all that.

My problem lies with expecting to see something new and different, but all I really saw were the same fantasy tropes that have been around forever.  The orphan child with the mysterious background.  The Chosen One.  Hidden magical powers. Gods run amok.  I think the only thing that was was even remotely new was that the book is set in an alternate historical China, or that's what I felt it was.  I was disappointed, and even though, like I said, the writing was good, I found that disappointment colouring my read.

My other problem was with the protagonist, Rin, the orphaned peasant girl with the dark skin. This is her story, but I felt that things were just happening to her.  I don't know that I felt her grow from her somewhat naive 16 years of age at the beginning of the book to her beaten, tortured, suffering (according to her words near the end of the book), 19 year old self.  I was told that she did, but I never FELT it.  At one point, she's yelling at one of her close friends, crying out that she's suffered fro so long, been beaten and tortured and betrayed and near killed etc... so she deserved getting her revenge, and I thought... but were you really?  I was told she did, but....  I dunno, she never really came alive for me. 

And you know, this book is rather grim-darkish.  It's not promoted as such, but I think it really is. In the last third of the book, things get very violent and dark and at times just downright horrific.

So, anyway, I really didn't get what all the big excitement was about.  Will I read the second book that's due out this summer?  Probably, but I'm not in any rush

Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham - My Thoughts

Lost Things - Jo Graham, Melissa Scott

I thought this was a cool read.  Set in the early 1930s, a period that I'm quite fond of, it's the tale of a small aviation company run by veterans of the Great War and how they get involved in a dangerous, thrilling occult adventure with its roots back in ancient times. 

We have the three aviators, Lewis, Alma and Mitch, and the Jerry, the archaeologist.  The First World War, the Great War, left its scars on everyone that fought and these four are no different.  There are the obvious wounds, such as Jerry's missing lower leg, Mitch's abdominal scars, and there are also the mental and emotional wounds that all four suffer from.  I liked all of them and I thought the authors did a good job of introducing and portraying them.  It's the first in a series of books, so I expect to be learning more about them - especially my favourite, Mitch.  I think he was the least fleshed out, but maybe that's because he doesn't seem, right now, to be as complicated as the other three? 

So, the adventure includes an ancient evil from the time of the Emperors Claudius and Nero and possibly even before. We have a demon run amok and our quartet are on the chase.  The only real problem I had with the whole thing was the time we spent reading about the intricacies of the aircraft involved.  I didn't feel I needed to know things in such detail, either about the Terrier plane or the dirigible. The one part where I felt it worked was the big chase scene.

Now, I have to say, the book reminded me of a favourite book of one of my favourite authors - Katherine Kurtz and her Lammas Night. It also reminded me of her Templar series of books, but mostly Lammas Night.  I wonder if the authors were inspired by her? 

Anyway, I enjoyed my read and as it's the first volume of an omnibus, I have the next 2 books in the series to look forward to!  If I was one to binge read, I'd be reading them right away, but I like to space my series out for the most part. 

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole - My Thoughts

A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

So this is a daunting book only because it's one of the darlings of 2018.  EVERYONE loves this book and it's a darling of Romancelandia.  So I was a little wary going into it.  The last time I read a book that was so universally loved, it was The Bollywood Bride, and I hated it.  Did not see what any of the fuss was about.

Thank God, this book was a different experience.

So, I had been advised that I didn't need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one, but I'll tell ya, I wish I had.  There were so many instances where the heroine's past was mentioned that had important bearing on the plot but were never explained that my wondering took me out of the story.  And the story was GREAT, so this was quite bothersome.  I STILL don't know the deal with Portia's (the heroine) sister.  And it BUGS me.  So YES, READ THE FIRST BOOK.

So, Portia is a screw up, who, it turns out, suffers from ADHD.  This explains many things about her and her issues.  I liked her.  I liked her a lot. I liked that she was smart and clever. I liked her smart mouth and like many of her friends and her sister, I often wanted to shake her to make her believe she wasn't the mess she thought she was. 

I liked the hero, Tav, the Duke by Default of the title.  He was older, 37 to her 30 (THANK GOD for mature characters!!) and your typical taciturn Scot.  And he was HOT.  And he forges weapons, swords, daggers, axes... the whole thing!  That's darned sexy.  Anyway, he hit all the right buttons for me. 

From my lofty 62 years of life, I thought that if they only would take an hour or two to actually talk about all these things that bothered each of them about themselves, the whole emotional mess could have been dealt with quickly and easily.  But we wouldn't have a story then.  *LOL*  And it was a good story, maybe a little heavy at times with the ADHD and the immigration problem, but the author's writing style is breezy and fun (a big reason why AC is a fave of mine.) which saved it from being too lecture-y. 

In the end, it was a really good romance.  I totally enjoyed it and I can easily see how it garnered so many accolades and such noisy support. Just read the first book first!

Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu - My Thoughts

Of Sand and Malice Made (The Song of the Shattered Sands 0.5) - Bradley P. Beaulieu

So this is a big novella that takes place before the beginning of the epic series and introduces us to a teenage Cedi. It's basically the story of Ceda and her battle with the ehrehk, Rumayesh.  Ehrehks are creatures created by the gods long ago and there's nothing good about them. 

The book reads like three serial installments of a story which, for me, was a little off-putting.  Flow-wise.  A matter of personal preference, I think.  Other than that, it was a pleasure to sink into the author's writing again.

At any rate, it was cool to see more of young Ceda and indeed just to visit Sharakhai again.  We get to see a bit of other favourite characters too.  It was a fun read.

Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey - My Thoughts

Caliban's War  - James S.A. Corey

Excellent sequel to the first book of the series.  All our favourite characters have returned... well most of them.  :)  I have been firmly confirmed in my favouritism towards Amos and Chrisjen Avasarala. That being said, I love most of the characters.  And we get to meet the stellar Bobbie Draper, Martian marine extraordinaire. She and Chrisjen working together are the absolute best.

The plot of this book clips along at a decent pace and the writing style makes it an easy, fluid read.  I have to say that I've watched all 3 existing seasons of The Expanse and have found that the they're fairly faithful to the books and the changes not too jarring. 

Anyway, loved my read and am looking forward to getting to book 3, which I have on tap soon.  :)

Jacked Cat Jive by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts

Jacked Cat Jive (Kai Gracen #3) - Rhys Ford

Thank you Rhys!  I swear, Rhys' books never disappoint, and this, the 3rd in the series that stars my favourite of her characters certainly followed suit. 

I don't quite know what to say, except that Kai is his usually cranky, soft-hearted, brave, cynical self and I still am in love with him.  :)  I was happy that his relationship with Ryder, the elfin lord made some progression.  I love their banter, I love what's unsaid between them and I love how they have each others' backs, no matter what.  Ryder makes me chuckle. 

I was also happy to get the chance to know Cari a little better.  I wish she'd had a little more to do though and that we could have explored her special power a tad.  But she's a ballsy young lady and I quite enjoy her.  The new character of Kerrick was interesting - Ryder's cousin yet so very unlike Ryder.  And then there was Bannon who I found even MORE interesting.  No doubt we'll be seeing more of her in future books.  And we got the chance to visit with that uber crankass, Dempsey.  I enjoyed that too. 

So there was adventure, some sadness, some great fights, some romance, some growing social awareness and loyalties being forged stronger. It was a thrill ride and I loved it!  And then with that cliffhanger!  Holy Crap!!  It's going to feel like FOREVER until the next one!

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White - My Thoughts

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers #1) - Alex White

I hemmed and hawed about rating this book between 3.5 and 4 stars, but I went for 4 stars because it was a lot of fun.  I saw it described somewhere as a Firefly-esque story mixed in with some Fast and Furious and that works for me. We have a rag-tag group of characters hieing their way across the galaxy in search of a rather mythical warship that would be one helluva salvage score.  It's mostly space opera with a hefty side order of magic and while the magic was never really explained, I found it didn't matter much to me.

There are some fun characters here and I became fond of most, if not all of them.  I loved the banter between them all and even if one of the main characters, the youthful race car driver, Nilah, made me want to shake her at times, it was an amused shake. 

Only a couple of things bothered me, and they were probably small, but whenever I came across them in the book, it threw me right out of the story for a moment or two.  Firstly, the author decided that ships aren't "she" in this far future universe, they are "he". Don't know why, there's never an explanation or anything, but every time the ship was designated this way, it gave me pause.  The other thing was that the Captain called his crew Miss Thing, Missus Thing, Mister Thing (whatever their family names were) and it felt so out of place in this futuristic universe that I was pulled right out of the story.  I found it peculiar. 

Anyway, all in all, it was a super fun read and if you enjoy KB Wagers Idranan Trilogy or James Corey's Expanse series, you'll probably enjoy this one. I'm looking forward to the next book - it's on my list. 

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - My Thoughts

Blackfish City - Sam J. Miller

Well, this wasn't for me, I guess.  It got lots of good press and I can understand why, but for my own taste, it didn't satisfy.  (And this is where I remind folks that I rate on my reading experience.)  It was too.... I felt like I was missing something, something that would give me the deeper understanding that the book was trying to give me. And that annoyed me at times.

The premise was interesting, but I felt overwhelmed by all the social stuff I was supposed to be getting riled up about.  There are a lot of interesting concepts in the book having to do with the Earth's future, computer programs taking over so many things, nanosomething or others that sort of enable a melding with animals... just so so much.

The world-building is to be lauded, however.  And the characters were interesting and intriguing. I just... I wish I liked it more.  It felt like I SHOULD like it more.  It's up for a Nebula award this year for best novel and I can see why.  The nomination is deserved, I think.  The book just isn't really for me.  I will say though, it does leave me wondering what happens to the main characters left at the end.  Whether or not their story continues and how it does. 

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan - My Thoughts

Age of Swords: Book Two of The Legends of the First Empire - Michael J. Sullivan

Let me begin by saying that I had no idea we were so far back in the history of this world when I read the first book.  Thinking it was just me, I asked my son who just read book one at Christmas what he thought the 'age' of the world was and turns out it's not just me.  *LOL*

Anyway, after the first quarter of the book being rather slow and um... explanatory?... the tale picked up and I adventured along with the familiar characters I had grown to enjoy from the first book.  And while there were adventures to be had and new locations to be explored, I felt as if this book was very much a setting of the stage for the next book.  Yes, the over-arcing plot lines advance and we get an answer or two or three to some things, but you can just feel that there's a lot more of this story to tell.

I very much enjoy the overall tone and flow of Sullivan's books and he creates characters that I fall in love with, so even though the plot and action of this book might have been a little slow, I still enjoyed it muchly and am looking forward to reading the next book!

Oh, and I have to shout out the cover artist, Marc Simonetti.  The whole series is terrific!

The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel - My Thoughts

The Cold Between - Elizabeth Bonesteel

Don't be fooled by the first couple of chapters of this book.  It reads like a steamy romance heading towards erotica land at first.  I was a little confused, but then the mystery kicked in and we were off to the races.  The science fiction wasn't earth-shatteringly different, but it felt mostly familiar to me.

So this is a busy book.  A lot of things happening and often happening quickly - I found myself thinking on more than one occasion that a little streamlining wouldn't be amiss.

There is a thing that authors do sometimes, and that's have something in the backstory of one or all of the main characters that has great import on the characterization, the plot or both that is only hinted at in the inner workings of the characters thoughts.  If it's not done well, it feels like a 'nya-nya-nya, I know something you don't' and I find it quite annoying.  This happens here with Elena and whatever happened between her and her captain six months ago to cause such a rift.  I would rather have known from pretty much the get go because the not-knowing felt rather manipulative.

I enjoyed the characters for the most part, especially the character of Trey.  I loved his speech patterns and thought the author did a terrific job of making him feel 'outside the norm' to the reader.  I also loved that he wasn't a young sprout.  He was definitely sigh-worthy.  There was nothing overly new or different about them, really, but I enjoyed reading about them.  I had a hard time warming up to Elena, the main character, because she just felt a little too... edgily perfect?  There was just some spark missing for me. I have no idea what, but it was there. 

Is it a romance?  Nope, I wouldn't consider it so - there's no HEA, nor even a real HFN.  Yeah, there's a romantic element to the story but I wouldn't term it romance.  Space opera mystery works for me. :)

Anyway, it was a fun read for the most part and I'll be adding the second book to my 'watch for a sale' book list. 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal - My Thoughts

The Calculating Stars - Mary Robinette Kowal

I started this book thinking I was about to read an alternate history about a group of women pioneering space flight on an alternate, historical planet Earth.  What I felt I just read was an autobiography of one of the first women in space.  An AU space, but still... not what I expected.

The story is told from the first person POV of Elma York, who is a mathematician and was a WASP pilot during the war.  World War 2.  She's also married to Nathaniel, who is an engineer and they are both Jewish.  (Although, for some reason - I suspect because of Hidden Figures - I kept thinking of her as black.)  Both of them are very, very smart.  The story begins in alternate 1952 and t the world isn't that much different from reality.

There is an awful lot of Elma becoming more and more aware of racial discrimination against people of colour while being subjected to antisemitism and prejudice against women personally. The latter half of the book is taken up with the beginnings of integration in the International Aerospace Coalition and Elma's learning to deal with her crippling - at times - anxiety as she moves closer to her goal of getting into space.

So, I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't get the story I expected to get when I picked up the book.  BUT, the book was a good read if I look at it as an AU auto-biography.  And because of that, I've added book 2 to the 'want to read' list. 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough - My Thoughts

Behind Her Eyes - Sarah Pinborough

I think this book broke my brain.  *LOL*  I picked it up because it had been recommended to me by a very good friend.  It also had a lot of good buzz about it. 

It's a differently structured book.  We get differing first person POVs and flashback scenes/chapters.  It's also written mostly in present tense, I think... At this point, there's so much of that being written that I seldom actually take notice of it. 

At any rate, I was luckily able to avoid all the spoilers about the book, only knowing that there was one helluva twist to it.  And I would say that it's really, really important to do that.  I think the book would be pretty much ruined if you were spoiled.

I hemmed and hawed about my rating (between 3.5 and 4) because while I thoroughly enjoyed my read and was pretty much surprised about the main twist (I had suspicions as the end got nearer and nearer), the mechanics of constructing that twist felt just a wee bit deux ex machina to me?  But maybe that was my expectations? 

And Netflix is making a limited series from the book, so I suggest you read it before watching. :)

Anyway... it was very good.  Read it.  Don't get spoiled.

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts - My Thoughts

Of Blood and Bone - Nora Roberts

The last of my six Christmas books.  It was a good year! 

This is the second of Nora's post-apocalyptic trilogy and it carries on the story of Year One, beginning thirteen years after those events.  We find out what has happened with many of our favourites from the first book and we get to meet The One - Fallon Swift - 13 year old daughter of Lana and Max, as well as catch up with Duncan and Tonia (Katie's twins and grandchildren of  the man who was basically 'patient zero' in the first book) who were just babies the last time we saw them. 

It's very much a book about the training of Fallon to take her place as the leader of her people.  We watch as she leaves her home and family to train with Mallick (a Merlin type character who I wish we'd seen more in depth) for two years.  She gains her powers and her mystical companions, the owl, the wolf and the alicorn.  We follow as she returns home and spends time with her parents and younger brothers on the family farm, readying them for the Big Battle to come.  We see her meet Duncan and Tonia and watch as they discover that they're meant to be this series' trio - Nora loves her trios of power.  And we journey with Fallon's family as they join up with the bunch from New Hope, the folks we followed and watched come together in the first book.

Along the way, there are some looks in on the New Hope settlement and a couple of quick meetings between Fallon and some of the folk.  There are a few battles and rescues.  And there are more than a few moments of discovering her powers. 

It's very much setting everything in place for the Big Battle to come in the third book and were it not for the engaging way Nora writes about her characters and the heart-touching moments of found family and shared histories that pepper the story, it would be a very boring book, I think.  It's very much a middle book. 

I enjoyed my read. As always with Nora books, I zipped merrily along, her writing style so easy to read.  There were moments of humour, moments of action and danger, moments of love and deep emotion and I will admit to being engrossed.  :)   I am very much looking forward to the culmination of the trilogy, due out at the end of the year. 

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence - My Thoughts

Red Sister - Mark  Lawrence

Christmas book #5, a new trilogy and a success!  I had read the Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence a couple of years ago and disliked it intensely.  I found it very, very dark with no hope offered anywhere and a plethora of unlikable characters, so having Red Sisteron my list was a chance I took only after seeing more than a few reviews stating it was not as dark as the others and after a few trusted authors recommended it.

So...

The book is the story of little Nona Grey and her arrival at the Convent of Sweet Mercy at the tender age of nine and continues for the next couple of years.  Yep, when the book finishes, she's barely eleven.  And while normally I would avoid a nearly 500 page book about a kid, I fell into the story so easily and so quickly it would make your head spin.  *LOL*  Nona is fascinating.  She reminds of the character of Laura in the movie Logan. In fact, I kept imagining the actress who played Laura in my head as I read about Nona.  Might have a bit to do with the claws. 

Nona goes through her training, makes friends and enemies and comes to a lot of realisations throughout the book, and her journey kept me turning the pages quite eagerly.  Quite the contrary of the the story of Jorg in that other trilogy.  Yeah, there is plenty of dark in Red Sister, but it never feels hopeless.  And the characters, all of whom have flaws, believable flaws, worked like a charm.  Lawrence even kills off one or two that I was very fond of, but that worked too.  Couldn't hate him for it. 

And the world-building!  Fascinating! 

So, yes, I was really glad I decided to give it a try and am anxious to get to the next book, Grey Sister. Oh, and the cover illustration is quite glorious. :) 

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis - My Thoughts

The Guns Above - Robyn Bennis

So this was #4 of my Christmas books and while I did enjoy my read, I had been hoping for much more.  All the buzz on my social media was lauding the book to the skies as the best thing ever!  And so great to have a female main protagonist in a steampunk airship military fantasy book.  Well... yeah... okay... but it wasn't that great, folks. 

I liked it because the dialogue was witty, the characters fun and quite honestly, I'm a bit of an easy sell for a book about a tight group of soldiers/adventurers/scoundrels/whatevers fighting the odds, so to speak. 

Now, while I liked the characters, I sure would have liked more about them, what brought them to the point where they are in the story, what formed them, the whys of them, all that stuff.  Especially Josette, the female captain and Bernat - Bernie, the foppish spy/aristocrat/ne'er do well.  I loved their banter - I'm told it's rather Pratchett-esque, but having only read one Prachett book (aside from Good Omens), I can't say with any kind of certainty if that's right or not. 

There was a lot, an awful lot of battle narrative and even more description of the details of the airship. I mean... tons of details into all the nooks and crannies.  I would much rather have learned more about the characters and the society and the actual world of the story than all that minute stuff about the ship. 

So yeah, I don't get all the glowing blah-blah I read from people whose opinions I respect.  Just because the MC is a woman?  I mean, even that HUGE plot point is barely discussed or examined - far better we learn about fictitious airship mechanics.  I think we should be far past celebrations just because a woman leads a military/steampunk adventure fantasy.

So the book had great bones, but the meat of it was sadly lacking for me.  I'll check out the second book when it comes out, I'm sure, if only to see if there's more meat, so to speak. 

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.  :)

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