Book Review: Mouse and Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Mouse and DragonMouse and Drag­on by Sharon Lee
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so pleased that Lee and Miller decid­ed to give us the sto­ry of Daav and Ael­liana after Pilots Choice. (Ear­lier they had claimed that there was noth­ing to tell there.) 

The sto­ry is a love­ly one, def­i­nite­ly roman­tic, told almost entire­ly from Aelliana’s point of view. Those who have read the oth­er Liaden nov­els know how it will end, but the details are well worth read­ing. It fills in some details that are help­ful to know lead­ing up to Fledg­ling (Theo Wait­ley, #1).

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Book Review: Enthralled edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong

EnthralledEnthralled by Melis­sa Marr
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

Jour­neys, lit­er­al or oth­er­wise, are the the­me of this young adult anthol­o­gy. Appro­pri­ate­ly enough, it was con­ceived as the result of a book tour.

“Giovanni’s Farewell” by Clau­dia Gray is a sweet, com­ing-of-age sto­ry of sorts. The twist is that it fea­tures a broth­er and sis­ter, twins, rather than just one per­son. They vis­it Rome with a school group while deal­ing with major changes in their lives. There was too much back­ground crammed into a short sto­ry, but it was inter­est­ing.

Car­rie Ryan’s “Scenic Route” is a dis­turbing, post-apoc­a­lyp­tic sto­ry set in the world of The Forest of Hands and Teeth about two young sis­ters try­ing to sur­vive in an iso­lat­ed cab­in. The old­er sis­ter keeps the younger one occu­pied with the plan­ning of a road trip that will nev­er hap­pen, always hop­ing again­st hope that the girl won’t real­ize what their real­i­ty is. How long can they stay iso­lat­ed enough to sur­vive? Bloody, fright­en­ing, and vis­cer­al.

“Red Run” by Kami Gar­cia is the sto­ry of a girl who has lost the only per­son she loves in the world, and the trip she takes to avenge his death. How do you hunt a ghost? May­be it isn’t fair, com­ing right after Ryan’s sto­ry, but I didn’t tru­ly feel the main character’s feel­ings.

Jack­son Pearce’s “Things About Love” is a sweet sto­ry involv­ing a jinn research­ing love. I felt like I’d come into the mid­dle of some­thing, so I checked and found that she’s writ­ten a nov­el, As You Wish, in the same set­ting. While this sto­ry tech­ni­cal­ly stands on its own, it would prob­a­bly be enriched by hav­ing read As You Wish.

“Nieder­wald” by Rachel Vin­cent is the first sto­ry I’ve read in her Soul Scream­ers series. Sabine, a macha (night­mare), takes a road trip with a human acquain­tance and detours to Nieder­wald, Tex­as, home to the harpies. No, there’s no way that could go wrong. Of course you know from the moment they hit the park­ing lot that it will go wrong, but at least it’s an inter­est­ing sort of wrong.

Melis­sa Marr’s “Mere­ly Mor­tal” feels as though it’s prob­a­bly set in the same world as her Wicked Love­ly series.

“Fac­ing Facts” by Kel­ley Arm­strong is set in her Dark­est Pow­ers uni­verse. I read the first of those books, but obvi­ous­ly a lot has passed since then, and there were spoil­ers in this sto­ry. It real­ly cen­ters around Chloe and Tori, with a lit­tle Derek tossed in. Tori learns some­thing she doesn’t want to know and reacts bad­ly, run­ning off on her own, which is dan­ger­ous. Chloe goes after her and they get into trou­ble. That seemed rather pre­dictable to me, but at least the type of trou­ble wasn’t what I expect­ed. Tori doesn’t seem to have changed since the first book, but Chloe is com­ing into con­trol of her abil­i­ties.

Sarah Rees Bren­nan’s “Let’s Get this Undead Show on the Road” is about a boy band that fea­tures a vam­pire, Chris­tian. He’s an unusu­al vam­pire, all alone with­out a nest or a sire. His jour­ney seems to be about his iden­ti­ty as a vam­pire, although the band is on tour and has anoth­er sort of jour­ney to make, as well.

“Bridge” by Jeri Smith-Ready is told from a ghost’s point of view, 233 days after death. It’s frus­trat­ing being a ghost, because most peo­ple can’t see or hear you. There are things you have to accom­plish before mov­ing on, though, that require com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the liv­ing. Find­ing a “bridge” and work­ing things out takes a lot of effort. This was a touch­ing sto­ry, bit­ter­sweet and well-told.

Kim­ber­ly Dert­ing’s “Skin Con­tact” near­ly broke me. Rafe is look­ing for his girl­friend. He knows where he needs to go, and he’s guid­ed by dreams. This sto­ry near­ly broke me. It’s told spar­ing­ly, and some­thing feels per­fect­ly right about it, but it hurts. Accord­ing to her author biog­ra­phy, Rafe was intro­duced in her nov­el Desires of the Dead.

“Leav­ing” by Ally Condie is a very lit­er­ary sto­ry, about a girl left behind after her moth­er dies and her father leaves. She spends the sto­ry prepar­ing to go after her father. It’s hard to describe much more than that, or to have much of an opin­ion. It was well-writ­ten and I think I’ll prob­a­bly remem­ber it for a long time.

Jes­si­ca Ver­day’s “At The Late Night, Dou­ble Fea­ture, Pic­ture Show” is a dark­ly fun­ny sto­ry about a girl from a fam­i­ly of mon­ster hunters. She’s usu­al­ly the bait, but tonight she has decid­ed to be the hunter — with­out back­up. I’d like to read more from Ver­day.

“IV League” by Mar­garet Stohl just didn’t hit me right. It’s the sto­ry of a bunch of south­ern vam­pires on a col­lege tour, which could have been fun­ny but wasn’t writ­ten that way. The whole thing just didn’t sit well with me, per­haps because the main char­ac­ter seemed too unre­al­is­ti­cal­ly out of touch for some­one who obvi­ous­ly had access to tele­vi­sion and the inter­net.

Mary E. Pear­son’s “Gar­gouille” is the most touch­ing love sto­ry in the col­lec­tion. Just read it.

“The Third Kind” by Jen­nifer Lynn Bar­nes is, on the sur­face, about a road trip to San Anto­nio. The real jour­ney is much deep­er, one of com­ing to under­stand­ing one’s call­ing.

Rachel Caine’s Mor­ganville is the set­ting for her “Auto­mat­ic.” I think I’ve read a Mor­ganville novel­la, but my mem­o­ry of it is dim. The Mor­ganville Blood Bank intro­duces an auto­mat­ed with­drawal machine, essen­tial­ly a soda can dis­penser. Michael Glass is ordered to try it first, as a demon­stra­tion for the old­er, more tra­di­tion­al vam­pires, with unex­pect­ed results. His jour­ney is one of self-knowl­edge. I didn’t real­ly care much about him, his jour­ney, his girl­friend, or any­thing else. The set­ting and char­ac­ters do noth­ing for me, but your mileage may vary.

Alto­geth­er, the anthol­o­gy was worth read­ing. There were some low spots, but that’s true of any col­lec­tion. To be fair, I’m sure some­one who is more enthu­si­as­tic about young adult fic­tion would also be more enthu­si­as­tic about the works here.

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Social Sunday

I had a love­ly day. This after­noon I went to Fud­druck­ers with James, Steve and some oth­er folks. We went by Phoenix and Drag­on on the way home.

Then I spent sev­er­al hours chat­ting with an old friend online. We got all caught up and he taught me some­thing, too. We shared some great mem­o­ries. I’ll be going to be remem­ber­ing a cer­tain vel­vet and sat­in dress and Maroc, the per­fume I wore when I met him.

Review: Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

Hunt the Moon (Cassandra Palmer, #5)Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

Chance must have thought read­ers were bored with the Cassandra/​Mircea match, because much of this book is spent with Cassie falling for Pritk­in with­out real­ly being aware that she’s get­ting into dan­ger­ous ter­ri­to­ry.

Palmer isn’t one of my favorite char­ac­ters. She isn’t an ass-kick­er, but she’s prob­a­bly some­what more real­is­tic than most para­nor­mal hero­ines for that fact. She’s com­ing into her own by stand­ing up to Mircea more in this vol­ume, but she does it in child­ish ways. I find her annoy­ing par­tial­ly because I’d hate to try pro­tect­ing her from her­self, much less any­one else. 

I don’t hon­est­ly under­stand why Mircea and Pritk­in are attract­ed to her, either, but part of the romance for­mu­la is the hero­ine has to be irre­sistible to at least one, prefer­ably more than one man. I do find Mircea and Pritk­in inter­est­ing (they just have bad taste in wom­en), so they and the plots hold my inter­est.

To be fair, Cassie seems to be grow­ing up a lit­tle bit. Not entire­ly, but she’s grow­ing a lit­tle. She does vehe­ment­ly claim to care about whether or not oth­er peo­ple get hurt try­ing to pro­tect her.

This book also serves as back­sto­ry time for Mircea and Pritk­in, as we learn a lot more about their pasts. Things drag a bit while they relate their sto­ries, and in fact there seems to be lit­tle point in what we hear from Mircea (read­ers of the series already know a lot about his fam­i­ly and his­to­ry).

Alto­geth­er, I wouldn’t have read it if I weren’t already so far into the series. I do wish Chance would switch focus to anoth­er char­ac­ter. (I’m aware of the Dori­na Basarab series set in the same uni­verse, and con­sid­er them to be bet­ter books in gen­er­al). I sup­pose that’s unlike­ly, see­ing as it’s the Cas­san­dra Palmer series.

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Review: Spellbound by Kelley Armstrong

Spell Bound (Women of the Otherworld #12)Spell Bound by Kel­ley Arm­strong
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Wak­ing the Witch and Spell Bound should tru­ly be read back to back. In fact, they should be read with 13 on hand, almost as a tril­o­gy with­in the series.

At the end of Wak­ing the Witch, Savan­nah silent­ly thought that if it would reunite an orphan with her grand­moth­er, Savan­nah would glad­ly give up her pow­ers. Some­thing heard her and took her up on that unin­tend­ed deal, and she finds her­self pow­er­less for the first time in her life.

Savan­nah has always been so very pow­er­ful that she has count­ed on her spells more than most witch­es or sor­cerors do, so she finds liv­ing with­out them to be very dif­fi­cult — espe­cial­ly since a witch hunter and oth­ers are after her. There’s a Super­nat­u­ral Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment that wants to use her as one of its fig­ure­heads, with or with­out her coöperation, in their quest to bring super­nat­u­rals out of the clos­et and into the spot­light. She has to do some seri­ous soul-search­ing and growth in the process of avoid­ing ene­mies and get­ting cre­ative about stay­ing alive.

The plot moves extreme­ly quick­ly, so much so that I couldn’t keep track of what day it was in the book. In fact, it moves right into the plot of 13. I’m hav­ing fits because I don’t have it on hand, and I just can’t wait for the library to get around to me on the hold list — I might have to break down and buy it instead.

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Review: Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

Aftermath (Sirantha Jax, #5)After­math by Ann Aguir­re
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Leave it to Aguir­re to take her hero­ine in a direc­tion that is appar­ent­ly piss­ing off at least half of her read­ers (those who expect­ed romance). Sir­an­tha Jax is in fine form in After­math, stay­ing strong and true to her­self through an all-new set of tri­als (lit­er­al­ly) and trou­bles. Loy­al Velith stays by her side through­out, con­tin­u­ing to depict a friend­ship that goes beyond mere romance.

I don’t nor­mal­ly mine books for quotes as I read them, but two bits stuck with me from this book. Mus­ing, Jax thinks, “… the world moves on, even when you don’t want it to, even when change feels like the end of every­thing. It nev­er stops. That’s harsh and mag­i­cal and some­what com­fort­ing because noth­ing is immutable, how­ev­er much we want it to be. Moments can­not be caught like fos­sils in amber, ever-per­fect, ever-beau­ti­ful. They go dark and raw, full of shad­ows, leav­ing you with the mem­o­ries. And the world moves on.”

Lat­er, Velith says, “The heart is not a glass of water, but more like an end­less­ly pump­ing spring.”

There is so much wis­dom about love and rela­tion­ships in those words that I will remem­ber this book far longer than the plot details will nec­es­sar­i­ly stay with me. 

The plot is, of course, as can always be expect­ed of Aguir­re, good. It hangs togeth­er well. There was a lit­tle drag this time, but not much. I am eager­ly await­ing the release of Endgame lat­er this mon­th, and will be pur­chas­ing it as soon as it’s released.

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Review: Killbox by Ann Aguirre

Killbox (Sirantha Jax, #4)Kill­box by Ann Aguir­re
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Kill­box won’t make any sense with­out read­ing the pre­vi­ous three books, and I hon­est­ly feel that I should have gone back and re-read them before start­ing it. I was impa­tient for more fresh Aguir­re after fin­ish­ing Shady Lady, though, and Kill­box is what I had on the Nook.

I real­ly love Sir­an­tha Jax’s strength and com­plex­i­ty. She has grown and changed a great deal over the four books of the series, and reflects on the changes in her­self dur­ing this book. Her rela­tion­ship with March has deep­ened, as well. The depic­tion of a mature rela­tion­ship being test­ed, rather than one that is fresh and new, is a nice switch from most of the books I’ve read recent­ly.

The friend­ship between Velith and Jax is also a trea­sure. It is rare to see a pure friend­ship between a male and a female in fic­tion, with­out any sex­u­al ten­sion enter­ing the pic­ture. We’re remind­ed that while he is an alien, Velith has had a human lover in the past, so it isn’t as if that is impos­si­ble between the two — it just doesn’t occur.

The book isn’t sole­ly about rela­tion­ships, of course — I just appre­ci­ate how well Aguir­re depicts rela­tion­ships in and around the excel­lent plot. That’s the part that you need back­ground to under­stand.

The Morgut keep com­ing, a big­ger threat than ever: they’re col­o­niz­ing instead of raid­ing. Jax secured a treaty with the Ithiss-Tor (Velith’s peo­ple), but there’s no help from them com­ing yet. Humanity’s sur­vival is on the line. Aguir­re depicts bat­tle believ­ably, giv­ing a sense of the hor­ror with­out dwelling too much on gore. 

Lovers are torn apart, estab­lished char­ac­ters die, new ones come on stage. It’s impos­si­ble to know at any given moment whether any­one, includ­ing Jax, will sur­vive from scene to scene. That cer­tain­ly kept me read­ing, and I think it will engage you, as well.

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Review: Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre

Shady Lady (Corine Solomon, #3)Shady Lady by Ann Aguir­re
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I have to give a fair­ly high rat­ing to a book that involves a wom­an who large­ly saves her­self from mul­ti­ple assas­sins (nat­u­ral and super­nat­u­ral) sent by the head of a drug cartel. There are sexy men in her life (three, in fact), but she’s def­i­nite­ly the hero­ine here, not a cling­ing vine. That’s a refresh­ing approach.

To be hon­est I don’t think this book should be shelved with para­nor­mal romances at all. It deserves to be called urban fan­ta­sy, or some­thing along those lines, because rela­tion­ships are not the main focus of the plot. 

Corine has changed a great deal from the begin­ning of the series, and we learn much more about her back­ground in this vol­ume, explain­ing some of her behav­ior. The expo­si­tion is nev­er tire­some or with­out rea­son — it’s worked into the plot very nice­ly. I enjoy see­ing char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, and get­ting more of the “why” helps the read­er make sense of her deci­sions.

This vol­ume feels like the end of the series, but it was a nice lit­tle tril­o­gy and well worth read­ing.

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