Review: Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, #1)Spider’s Bite by Jen­nifer Estep
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it this book, and plan to go on to the next book in the series, Web of Lies. I’m hop­ing that Jen­nifer Estep grows as an author, though, as the fore­shad­ow­ing regard­ing the real “big bad” as well as the rev­e­la­tion of a fact impor­tant to the main char­ac­ter were both rather clum­si­ly done, in my opin­ion.

I’m aware of anoth­er series by Estep, Big­time. I was think­ing of read­ing it, but it was writ­ten ear­li­er than the Ele­men­tal Assas­sin series, and now I’m not so sure about whether I want to read it or not. Estep’s char­ac­ters are inter­est­ing, but I’m not sure that they’re inter­est­ing enough to hold me through writ­ing that’s less pol­ished than Spider’s Bite. Then again, I’ve cer­tain­ly read worse. I sup­pose it all depends on what I hap­pen to have in hand at any giv­en time. I’d be more like­ly to read it if there were short sto­ries avail­able sim­i­lar to the ones on Estep’s web site that drew me in to this series.

I didn’t do reviews for those, but there are three sto­ries that occur chrono­log­i­cal­ly before Spider’s Bite: Poi­son Web of Deceit and Spider’s Bar­gain. Read­ing them cer­tain­ly isn’t nec­es­sary to enjoy the nov­el, and it’s def­i­nite­ly bet­ter to avoid read­ing Web of Deceit first. They are good sto­ries, though, and I do rec­om­mend that any­one who enjoys Estep’s work seek them out in order to enjoy the addi­tion­al bits of infor­ma­tion gained in them. For instance, Spider’s Bar­gain is the sto­ry of an event that is piv­otal to Gin and Caine’s rela­tion­ship, and its con­se­quences are like­ly to con­tin­ue echo­ing through the next few vol­umes of the series.

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Review: Moon Fever (anthology)

Moon Fever (Includes: Primes, #6.5)Moon Fever by Susan Size­more
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

This was one of those “I fin­ished the last thing I was read­ing and I’m bored, what’s already loaded on the iTouch?” reads. It was on there because the anthol­o­gy includes Lori Han­de­land’s “Cob­webs Over the Moon” (Night­crea­tures, #10) and I read all of that series a while back. I didn’t care to read the rest of the anthol­o­gy at the time, but I hadn’t got­ten around to delet­ing the book. Ah, hap­py dig­i­tal pack­rat am I!

If I’ve read any­thing by Susan Size­more oth­er than “Tempt­ing Fate” (Primes #6.5), it was emi­nent­ly for­get­table. I’m absolute­ly sure that I haven’t read any­thing else in her Primes series, because I prob­a­bly would have thrown said mate­r­i­al firm­ly into the near­est hard sur­face (or what­ev­er the equiv­a­lent is with bytes) because of the insane­ly annoy­ing num­ber of times Size­more feels it nec­es­sary to remind us that her vam­pires are Primes! Alpha Primes! They are! Real­ly! And that means they fight a lot! Espe­cial­ly over women! Oth­er­wise, it’s a Mary Jane sto­ry set in New Orleans. I have a strong feel­ing that most of the Primes series is Mary Jane-ish, but I may at some point be trapped and forced with the prospect of star­ing at the inside of my eye­balls or read­ing more of Sizemore’s stuff. I’m not sure which would be worse right now. I’ll get back to you on that.

The Dark­ness With­in” by Mag­gie Shayne feels ter­ri­bly famil­iar, although I’m sure I haven’t read it before. I have, how­ev­er, read oth­er Shayne novel­las in oth­er antholo­gies, and this sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar pat­tern. Sexy gal who doesn’t think she’s attrac­tive has had a run of hard luck and may lose the house she has bought rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly and loves. Said house has a spooky past that she didn’t know about when she bought it. Stal­wart too-sexy-for-her man gets involved some­how, prefer­ably in a way that allows her to ques­tion his motives. They are inex­plic­a­bly drawn to each oth­er and screw like bun­nies (or near as makes no dif­fer­ence), then blame their lapse in judge­ment on what­ev­er weird­ness is going on in the house. (Yep, that’s what they all say — and no safer sex any­where! Does para­nor­mal activ­i­ty pre­clude dis­cus­sion of sex­u­al his­to­ry and pre­vent STD trans­mis­sion?)

Cob­webs Over the Moon” by Lori Han­de­land (Night­crea­tures, #10) isn’t the most log­i­cal entry in that series. Nei­ther is it the most illog­i­cal — but by the tenth entry, the series’ mythol­o­gy has got­ten a bit ridicu­lous, so I don’t know why I even both­er bring­ing up some­thing as irrel­e­vant as log­ic. Sil­ly me! In every book, we’re intro­duced to a woman who is in some way tan­gled up with were­wolves, then to a man who is tan­gled up with her and/or the crea­tures and, of course, whose loy­al­ties are uncer­tain. There is always an ele­ment of dan­ger to add spice to the romance that has to grow between the two. The for­mu­la nev­er changes at all. There are always evil were­wolves, but some­times there are also good ones. If you like pre­dictabil­i­ty in your para­nor­mal romance, Night­crea­tures is a great series for you.

I sup­pose Cari­dad Piñeiro’s “Crazy for the Cat” isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly any bet­ter or worse than any of the oth­er three sto­ries. There’s more vari­ety in the shapeshift­ing and the main set­ting is the Ama­zon jun­gle. I couldn’t get past the big­otry and colo­nial­ism, though. Dark is bad, light is good, of course! Those poor benight­ed natives couldn’t pos­si­bly han­dle a few rogues with­out that white woman, could they? Spare me.

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Review: and Falling, Fly by Skyler White

and Falling, Flyand Falling, Fly by Skyler White
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Sam Chupp has been after me to read this book for weeks, so as soon as I fin­ished All Clear, I start­ed it. This book is dif­fer­ent from any­thing else I’ve read in years. I hes­i­tate to say it’s more lit­er­ary than most fan­ta­sy, because I don’t like “lit­er­ary” books — they’re usu­al­ly stuffy, dry, and pre­sump­tu­ous.

After the first few chap­ters, there’s no slow­ing down, because you’re as caught up in what’s hap­pen­ing as the char­ac­ters are. I was trans­fixed by White’s descrip­tions, which can make even ugli­ness fas­ci­nat­ing.

We are trav­el­ing into time, burn­ing two hours for every one I endure beside this bab­bling, cursed child of Greece. I see them all the time, these bas­tard half chil­dren of sto­ries and mor­tals, trapped between worlds, the genet­ic lin­eage of myth reassert­ing itself across the inex­tri­ca­ble ages. Helen of Troy is born the socialite child of a par­tial Zeus mat­ed to half of a swan-lov­ing Leda, the myth­ic DNA in each of them dor­mant until they breed and damn their off­spring with its expres­sion.

White’s vam­pire mythos is like no oth­er I’ve encoun­tered. I found it far more believ­able than most of what’s being print­ed over and over and over again. Anoth­er refresh­ing thing about the book is that there’s no feel­ing of a set up for a series. Odd­ly, though, I’m now see­ing the book iden­ti­fied as the first of a series called Har­row­ing, at least on GoodReads, but as far as I can tell, the sec­ond book has no char­ac­ters in com­mon with the first. Per­haps it’s sim­ply set in the same uni­verse?

In any case, I’ve added In Dreams Begin to my to-read stack, and I’ll be keep­ing an eye on Skyler White.

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Review: All Clear by Connie Willis

All ClearAll Clear by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this vol­ume moved much more quick­ly than Black­out did! Hav­ing read a brief piece writ­ten by Ms. Willis thank­ing those who stood by her as one book spread into two, I think I have a slight­ly bet­ter under­stand­ing now of what hap­pened that led to my unhap­pi­ness with the way the first book end­ed. They real­ly shouldn’t be two books, but they couldn’t phys­i­cal­ly fit into one vol­ume. Or, for many e-read­ers, one ebook.

It is still a large book! And, as in Black­out, it isn’t always clear just who a char­ac­ter is. I’m read­ing along hap­pi­ly and all of a sud­den, there’s a new main char­ac­ter! Wait, who is this? Has Col­in got­ten through some­how? Or is it anoth­er his­to­ri­an? Or anoth­er trip by one of the peo­ple we already know? Or–but–…Ms. Willis does a mar­velous job of keep­ing us guess­ing. And the his­to­ri­ans’ habit of using dif­fer­ent names on dif­fer­ent assign­ments meant that I didn’t always know which per­son I was read­ing about even when I thought I did know who he or she was! The read­er has to catch the tini­est details to know that some­thing isn’t quite right, or be left com­plete­ly sur­prised at the reveal! The many ref­er­ences to Agatha Christie are def­i­nite­ly mean­ing­ful, and I’ve come to believe that I haven’t read near­ly enough of her work!

I’ve always con­sid­ered Ms. Willis a cere­bral author, but my emo­tions were heav­i­ly engaged here. The anal­o­gy of Pol­ly, Sir God­frey, and The Admirable Crich­ton was so apt, and that dread­ful busi­ness in the Phoenix had me bawl­ing. By the time a hero we’d grown to know and love dear­ly fell, and fell so, so close to home, I was a bas­ket case.

After fin­ish­ing this mas­sive duol­o­gy (which real­ly should count as one enor­mous book spread across two vol­umes), you would think that I would be sick and tired of all things Willis and not want to read anoth­er word by her for the next year or so. Instead, I want to know, right now, what comes next. I want to read about Eileen and the Vic­ar, and watch Alf and Bin­nie grow up. I want to see Pol­ly and Colin’s rela­tion­ship grow.

I imag­ine Ms. Willis is rather tired of all of them, though, and hap­py to rest for a while and remem­ber what it is to live back in this cen­tu­ry again. The Oxford Time Trav­el uni­verse offers so many rich and fas­ci­nat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for fic­tion, and I hope she choos­es to write many more nov­els set in it. I’ll def­i­nite­ly be will­ing to read them!

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Review: Blackout by Connie Willis

Blackout (All Clear #1)Black­out by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Ms. Willis! I can­not believe you did this to me! A cliffhang­er? After 512 many pages? And I hung in there SO long in the begin­ning, when the book was so slow to get going!

Seriously–during all that nat­ter­ing about over changed sched­ules and find­ing drop sites I near­ly screamed to just get on with it already! So it is absolute­ly ridicu­lous to find that after more than 500 pages, I am not a nice res­o­lu­tion to any of the var­i­ous plot lines, but rather am referred to the next boook, All Clear!

It’s a bloody good thing that I 1) real­ly, real­ly like Ms. Willis’ work; and 2) already have All Clear on hand and ready to go, or I would have been sore­ly tempt­ed, sore­ly, I say, to throw the book across the room. That isn’t near­ly so sat­is­fy­ing with ebooks, and tends to do absolute­ly noth­ing but dam­age one’s hard­ware, so I imag­ine I would have refrained.

But I absolute­ly would not sug­gest this work to a first-time Willis read­er. To Say Noth­ing of the Dog, cer­tain­ly. Bell­wether, even more so. But not this one, and not Dooms­day Book or Lincoln’s Dreams or, hon­est­ly, even Fire Watch (the sto­ry on which the All Clear duol­o­gy is based).

Willis doesn’t write sim­plis­tic sto­ries, or I prob­a­bly wouldn’t enjoy her work so much, but she has a way of mak­ing the com­plex clear that’s beau­ti­ful. It’s just that these require a bit more desire to get there on the part of the read­er, to my way of think­ing, than the oth­er two. And once one is seduced by those, it is clear that the effort is whol­ly worth­while.

In any case, there’s no doubt but that I’m going right on ahead to read All Clear. I’m just a bit put out with the author at the moment–and very, very glad, con­sid­er­ing the heft of these tomes, that I’ve switched to ebooks!

I still think that read­ers deserve some small reward for the sheer aggra­va­tion met­ed out thus far. Sure­ly resolv­ing some small plot issues would not have caused trou­ble? For instance, authors who are accus­tomed to work­ing with mul­ti-book series reg­u­lar­ly wrap up some issues in each book, while leav­ing oth­er, larg­er plot threads to car­ry over into future vol­umes to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity.

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Question of the Day: Put it all together, it spells Mother

From LiveJournal’s “Writer’s Block” prompt:

What’s the most impor­tant les­son your mom taught you?

You can’t believe the words, only the actions.

No, I don’t ever recall her say­ing it. It’s some­thing I had to learn the hard way.

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