Book Review: The Winter Riddle by Sam Hooker

51fexuz-tbl._sx326_bo1204203200_ The Winter Riddle by Sam Hooker

My Summary: The Winter Witch, formerly princess of Aurora, helps a god carry out a prank thereby starting a war, which explains why people don’t believe in Santa.

There’s more to it, but it’s one of those plots full or ridiculously fabulous twists that it’s best explained as stated above. IMO.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

This book is all about tone and humor. If you pick it up and read page one and hate the tone, don’t worry I did too. The novel starts with a dry pedantic tone similar to Mr. Norvel and Jonathan Strange, and I almost stopped reading. However, by chapter 2, the tone is much more entertaining. Volgha, the Winter Witch, teaches us many important things, such as “a hex for a vex,” the proper stews are inherited and then maintained by adding left overs; and that surprises are needed and cannot wait. Visual humor, which can often fade in written form, is well done in this story if sometimes too juvenile for me. In general, it was a fun read (after chapter 1).

This is a farce comedy and the characters are fun and whimsical. Actually, the most normal character in the book is likely Santa, who is an engineer with a warrior’s past who is trying to avoid violence. Volgha is a witch who wants to be left alone, but who used to be a princess, was apprenticed to the previous Winter Warden, and who tallies her bank account based on favors owed. The Winter Queen Alexis is a whack-a-doodle drunk, who eats sausages out of people’s pockets and enjoys being tickled as torture. Loki is naught but a court jester with god-like power and a five-year-old’s humor. There are talking birds, sentient trees, frost giants, vikings, elves educated in Applied Thinkery, an onionized staff, and a castle babysitter a.k.a. Lord Chamberlain. Somehow between the upraising, body splitting, and enchanted music, Volgha manages to travel from Asgard to Niemhan, visit Santa’s workshop, influence palace fashion, steal from the crown, bury a dead body, and talk to the wolves. She starts a war, ends a war, and takes over Winter.

The amount of stuff shoved into this novel at odd angles is impressive and it’s definitely a book I would recommend.

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Book Review: Shadow’s Bane by Karen Chance — Dorina Basarab Series Book 4

I discovered this book in October 2018, and it started a flood of reading for me.

Summary: 51v2kpbkfyl._sx309_bo1204203200_

Dory, new senator and equally as poor, is chasing down a smuggling ring and on a collision course with an evil faerie out to conquer the worlds. The fae king has his eye on kidnapping Dory into his warriors. Dory’s new family wants her to take charge and care for them. Marlow knows Dory is the source of his misery and is equally ready to kill her or use her as the case demands. Louis Caesar just wants to protect her.

My rating: 5 stars

My thoughts:

Let me start with, I have always loved this series. I started reading Karen Chance with the Cassandra Palmer series. Cassie is ok. She’s not my favorite, but she’s not bad. Dory, on the other hand, is my kind of girl.

I like Dory. Dory is straight forward. She wants something, say a giant teddy bear with double stitching for her kid; assesses the options available to her; and picks the potentially best solution, such as having Louis Caesar to win the bear in game of skill. As always, something goes wrong and Dory ends up running from one mess to the next.

There are no slow chapters in a Dorina novel. If Dorina isn’t running into a mass of court sycophants aiming to kill the Counsel, then she’s probably trying to escape an arena of trolls with two potential senate candidates aiming to eliminate her.

This series is getting tighter. In the earlier Dorina books, some of the action scenes have no purpose. In Death’s Mistress, for instance, there is a chapter about Dorina getting into the Counsel’s mansion across a field of sport spectators. There is a lot of flying cars and stand antics, but it’s all just a delay and doesn’t feel like there is a purpose. In Shadow’s Bane, each scene feels like it works for or against Dory. The writing is tighter, the action is more purposeful, and the book races from start to end.

This series always leaves me wanting more. This is so true that after reading (listening to) Shadow’s Bane, I started reading the series from Midnight’s Daughter through to the end of Shadow’s Bane again. I’ll probably do it again. I’m so glad to see another one of these books after the long six (?) year wait.

Book Review: Cormorant Run (working for the devil)

Alright, long way around on this one. Here’s what happened:

9780316003131_p0_v1_s550x406I was in the middle of rereading some of my favorite series, and the library suggested I might likeĀ Working for the Devil by Liliath Saintcrow. So I borrowed it, read it, and felt disappointed.

I gave it two stars, and I don’t typically publish reviews on books I give two stars to.

Summary: Danny Valentine is hired by the devil to kill an escaped demon who has stole the Egg. She is given a demon sidekick. She forms a time, hunts the bad guy, falls in love with her demon sidekick, and gets gyped by the devil who really wanted to retreive a kid in escapee’s possession.

I thought this would book would be awesome. Strong woman. Kick ass adventure. Demons and the devil. Necromancers. Plant mages. A side romance. Hits all my boxes, usually. However, I didn’t connect with Danny as a character. She was whiny and pushed everything away too much. She showed little true interest in her demon sidekick yet stated she loved him. His reason for loving her . . . wait for it . . . she treated him better than anyone else ever had. She ditched him, insulted him, told him she hated him and his kind, and freaked out everytime he touched her. Yet, she treated him better than anyone else and therefore he loved her? No. Just, no. Danny and I were not destined to be best buds.

So why is this a book review of Cormorant Run by Liliathsaintcrow? Because there was something in Working for the Devil that caught my interest. The writing felt like a new writer hitting their stride, and by the end, I felt bad for Danny’s friend who was shot. I kinda liked Jace, the ex-love. So, I thought I’d give the writer another try, but without Danny. Enter Cormorant Run. Why this one? It isn’t a part of a series, as far as I can tell. It was published 10 years after Working for the Devil, so I figured the writer would have matured. Oh, and it features a kick ass female who assembles a crew and goes on a adventure to a wild and dangerous new place. Again, it ticked most of the boxes for a story I would like.

So. Cormorant Run by Liliath Saintcrow

51rq5nozlyl._sx332_bo1204203200_ Summary:

Deep in QR-715, an epically large rift, is a mysterious and precious object called the Cormorant. After the infamous rifter Asche the Rat dies failing to retrieve the item, Kope pulls Svinga from prison and promises her freedom in exchange for the Cormorant. Svinga leads a team of scientists and military men with no training into the rift, a dangerous area full of electrified snakes, man-eating trees, and unseen predators.

My Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts:

Svinga is a much better character than Danny Valentine. Despite being ugly and malnurished, she fights like a cornered rat, ripping a man’s eye out to prove her point. Yet she cares enough to yank scientists out of danger and lead the rift-crazy away from the vulnerable. She thinks ahead, working to figure out who wants what and how to best use the situation to protect herself. She’s smart enough to not run when given a little freedom but wise enough to know they mean to kill her instead of release her.

The world is also cool. This is a gritty world where it would be just a plausible for some to take their pants down and piss in the middle of the road as to have a character fall in love and dance through town. It just feels like anything could happen from the horrific to the good. The world is divided between the normal, if run down and dusty, and the rift, a dangerous set of bubbles that cover large cities and random other places. Man-eating beasts and toxic sludge inhabit the rifts and attack any humans much like the human white blood cells would attack an invading virus.

There is no safety in this land. Don’t get attached to the characters. There is no guarantee of survival. Some of the deaths surprised me, but most of them felt like they were a part of the world, natural.

Cormorant Run left me ready to read other Saintcrow novels. This was so much better than Working for the Devil.

Book Review: Green Rider

612bs3ckalpl-_sx307_bo1204203200_ Green Rider by Kristen Britain

Summary:

Karigen is suspended from school and running home when a Green Rider dies on her path and forces her to swear an oath to deliver an important message to the king.

Karigen rides to the palace stopping at a magical house, confronting a dark creature, and sneaking through a hostile town while being chased, kidnapped, and eventually escaping those who would stop the message from being delivered.

My rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts:

First, I’ve been on an epic journey kind of mood recently. (See my reviews on Kings of the Wyld, Wraith, and The Dwarves.) I’ve been enjoying these stories a lot. This one hit all the things I wanted in an epic journey. The hero starts at a low point, being suspended from school for starting a fight. She encounters strange new people, including magical sisters in a disappearing house, horses that are more than normal, bards, and tomb keepers. She battles a strange beast, and her skills for battle progress, particularly after being inhabited by a sword master ghost who helps her defeat a kidnapper. There are multiple story lines running in tangent; the political intrigue of two brothers fighting for the crown, the intrigue of a feudal lord who wants to be the power behind the crown, her father who is trying to find his lost daughter, the green riders who are trying to stop war, and a elven man trying to control it all.

Second, this is a book in a series, but it truly ends. I was completely satisfied. The battle for the crown was settled. Her father found her. She delivered her message. The issue of her being suspended concluded.

I took a half star because the story focuses on a board game similar to chess and stratego called intrigue. The game has three factions: two who battle each other directly and a third who acts as an unpredictable force. Karigan plays the game three times in the book. She acknowledges that she never wins the game. She doesn’t like the game. She clearly does not view the game as the actions of the other people in the story until the final game play. She misses the significance of the game in her own life and as representation of the political intrigues happening. Her lack of insight on this game made Karigan come across as slow and a bit dimwitted when she is touted as being clever. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit each time the game board came up.

I would recommend this one though. I enjoyed it.

Book Review: Kings of the Wyld

51rhtjxnhtl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Summary:

Golden Gabe’s daughter has run int battle and is trapped in a besieged city. His only hope to save her, is getting his band (read group of mercenaries) back together.

Clay “Slow Hand” Cooper leaves his family and home to help his friend out. Together, they must steal back the magical sword Velacor, kidnap a cuckolded king, and turn a stone statue back into a man. All the while, a horde of demons threaten Gabe’s daughter, a manhunter is on the trail of the kidnapped king, denizens of the Heartwyld forest want to kill them, and their old glory days have brought out old enemies.

My rating: 5 stars

My thoughts:

Ever seen the movie Red? Old assassins come out of retirement for a final gig that only they can pull off? Yeah, well, this is the fantasy version, and I love it. Clay, Gabe and the boys hit their prime, raised hell, and got out of the game. They settled down with women and homes of their own. Clay is a city guard, avoiding the bars to avoid tales of the old days. Yet, when they need to, each one of the old men comes together and charges into battle.

The story has a lot of humor to it. This isn’t a fancy polished tale full of the pure glory of these men. Instead, it is full of dark humor like the band’s horrible misfortune with bards and gritty details like the putrid smells of piss puddles outside the tavern. I’m not going to lie, there were times when references to wenching or phalic phylactories made me roll my eyes and want to skip a few words, but I never wanted to skip more than a few words or I might miss something important.

As far as characters go, there wasn’t much of the standard character arcs. No one grew tons wiser during the journey. Clay did not magically find a new goal because we knew from the second chapter that his only goal was to get back home to his wife and that Gabe’s only goal was to find his daughter. There was more typical character development in the side characters than the main ones, yet Clay is my favorite. It is his story after all.

I enjoyed most of the world building as well. There is lots of lawless mercenary camps and men voluntarily throwing themselves into the gladiator pits. The men travel through the typical fantasy environs of forests, cities, and mountain passes. The swords, armor, and other sundries are magical. The standard monsters like trolls, mermen, cyclopes, and wayverns are there, but so are new and interesting beasts. Of course, there are air ships to battle the flying monsters.

Then there is the mixture of fighting mercenaries and bands. They are getting the band together and going on their final tour. They run into their own booker, who gets a cut of band business. Bands have screaming fans and act as headliners in arenas. There is definitely a cheeky feel to some of the comparisons, but I didn’t mind.

I really liked this one. It was a good mix of funny and fun. The characters were wild but believable. The world gave me the old standards I am used to but expanded into new territory. I definitely recommend this one.

Book Review: Wraith

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Wraith by Helen Harper

Summary:
Saiya lives in a town under siege. Gobblins rule the city and gobblins wait outside the city, cutting the city off from supplies. To survive, she detaches her shadow and finds secrets that she can sell or exchange for food. Her luck changes for the worse, when her shadow is capture.

Gabriel is a dark elf emissary visiting the city for the first time. While he enter the city wanting to see the atrocities caused by the goblin, he did not expect to be threatened by a shadow assassin, find his soul mate, and end up on a mission to find a magical stone that could give the goblins reign of Scotland.

Rating: 5 stars

My reasoning:

Biggest reason this story gets 5 stars from me, I liked the story line. This is a romance story. Two characters are fated to be together, which I’m ok with, particularly because it doesn’t stop the relationship struggles. Yet, this isn’t a romance book. The damsel in distress is captured by her unknown true love and must save herself. She is on a mission to save her friend, and when the city is bombed, she runs into the bombing to pull her friend out of a prison. When things get really bad and everyone including the host goblins trying to poison the lovers, Gabriel is the one weakened, and Saiya rescues him.

Characters that originally look like they will fall into a standard role do not. The pretty rich girl who is after Gabriel could have easily become the jilted lover or jealous girl; instead, she is a rescuer and leads a silent rebellion. The benevolent prime minister has weakness in decisions. The rough information trader isn’t the one the drives the time urgency and isn’t the betrayer. Frankly, I enjoyed the main characters too. Saiya has an aversion to touch but is the kind of character you want to hug. Gabriel isn’t the standard male lead but has his hang ups such as telling Saiya the world would be better without any shadow wraiths.

I really enjoyed the world in this book. It’s set in Scotland, but it is not the rolling hills and old-fashion towns. This is a city, complete with its ancient castle and slum housing. The story features interesting locations, such as the information trader doing business from an abandoned bowling alley and the secret tunnel which is in a school.

So overall, I really liked this one.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

Summary:

Feyre’s family has lost their fortune, and, owing to a promise, Feyre learns to hunt so she can support her father and two sisters. Hunting the woods, on the brink of starvation, Feyre sees a massive wolf which may or may not be a fairy. She kills it.

Turns out, it was a fairy, and Tamlin, a high lord, forces her to live in Prythian, fairy land, as punishment. Tamlin’s house is under a curse, and everyone is forced to wear animal masks. The curse, which Feyre originally believes is a magical disease, was created by the evil fairy queen Armantha. Feyre falls in love with Tamlin, challenges Armantha for Tamlin’s freedom, and saves Prythian from the evil queen.

My Goodreads rating: 4 of 5 stars

I chose this book on recommendation from a friend.

This is a fairy tale retelling, mainly Beauty and the Beast with allusions to some others. I typically do not enjoy fairytale retellings. I tried to consider that and probably gave this a higher rating than I normally would because I know I have my own bias.

I gave four stars because the plot was predictable. I figured out the riddle the first time it was presented. I anticipated the plot turns based on the fairy tale. It made this story less exciting.

I spent more time than I should have rolling my eyes, thinking how very Disney, and this is the part where the sing Tale As Old As Time in the background.

I did not find myself sympathizing or enjoying Feyre. She is bitter about taking care of her family, she is angry about being taken, and she is mistrustful of people around her even when they supposedly can’t tell lies and then very trusting in them when they admit they can tell lies. She hangs on to the desire to get back to her family for the majority of the book but then when she decides to stay and fall and love she quickly leaves that because she is told too. Then she does some simply stupid things, like not being able to figure out a fairly simple riddle.

That being said, there was a few scenes which I really enjoyed and which make the story worth reading. I am a sucker for scenes of abandonment, and I really enjoyed the scene where Tamlin takes Feyre away. Despite Feyre’s anger at having to take care of her family and their “evil step-sister” tendencies towards her, they have a few moments of tenderness and the forlorn half-faded depictions of flowers that Feyre paint seem sad and lonely. There is another scene where Feyre returns home and learns her sisters are not what she remembered them being. I appreciated that as well.

Anyway, all in all, this was not my cup of tea, but it was a quick and easy read. For people who enjoy fairy tales, this was a good book.