Book Review: Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Book Review: Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

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Summary: Nevada and Conner are getting married, but Nevada’s sisters are planning the wedding. Catalina is the head coordinator and must figure out who has taken the family wedding tiara before the ceremonies.

 

My Rating: 3 stars

 

Why I picked this novel:

This is part of the series I have been rereading. I reread all the Ilona Andrews’ series: Kate Daniels, the Edge, Innkeeper Chornicals, and A Hidden Legacy. At the point I reread the series, Sapphire Flames had not been released.

I chose to reread the Ilona Andrews series because each of them has captured my attention. They explore new and interesting worlds, where magic does not behave as expected. There are little hints of science behind the magic, like the genetic traits in A Hidden Legacy, that I enjoy.

 

My Thoughts:

First, the things I like best about this series are the types of magic, the genetic inheritance of magic, the tight-knit Baylor family, and the detective work. Each novel has a clear detective plot, and the characters actually investigate, such as in this novel where Catalina sets up cameras, questions potential suspects, and examines the crime scene.

However, I couldn’t give this story more than 3 stars. The stories have a tendency to become redundant. A larger than necessary number of the Andrews novels use similar plot devices and wording. So many of her characters are the type to stand in front of the window, watching the rain, holding a flower to their lips. What’s that about? No, thanks. Move on. She has strong women (which I applaud) and strong men (also, yeah) who have an immediate attraction then a misunderstanding, followed by a long resistance on the woman’s part while the man chases her down. At some point, the woman displays her personal power, the man acknowledges and is turned on by the woman able to stand up to him on her own. Then they get together. Rinse. Repeat. Instead of carrying on with Mad Rogan and Nevada, this series is switching to Catalina, so that she can go through the multi-novel love cycle. While I still enjoy the style of writing and the stories on an individual basis, these books don’t evolve beyond the initial romance. I hoped to see true development with Kate Daniels, but the novels skipped from falling in love to having a kid. Done.

So my recommendation is read the Ilona Andrews novels, but don’t read too many of them close together. The writing is entertaining, the characters are fun, but they are all very similar. So indulge in other stories between these series.

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Book Review: Clockwork Dynasty

Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

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Summary:

June inherits a ancient artifact being hunted by avtomat. Peter, an avtomat on his own mission to fulfill his soul’s purpose, protects and guides June as she reanimates the leader of the avtomats.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

This novel has one major flaw for me. Pacing. Three times, I put this book down. Once to read a book series about werewolves (to be reviewed later), a second time to read another book I picked up at random, and a third time to read a two book series. This novel did not have the high action, glued to the page feel that I typically look for.

I was also not thrilled by the world. I admit I picked this book up based on the cover. I was looking for a steam-punk, cogs and wheels, grimy feel. The book has some of that, but it lacks the punk: the grimy, steam driven, pushing the folds of acceptable feel. The core of the technology is alien-based magic that powers the mechanics of the robots. The 1700’s timeline is  less about the industrial movement and focuses on the science and soldiering (more Mary Shelly salons than Newcome’s engine or Fulton’s Folly). It wasn’t the world I wanted when I picked up the story.

The slow pace is out-weighed by interesting characters. This book follows two timelines (present and 1700-1950’s) towards the resolution of a plot that has been in play since long before either of the two plot lines. (3000 B.C.) Peter, who is reborn in 1709 struggles to find his identity within the dictates of his soul’s purpose, truth/justice. His understanding of truth and justice evolves in the timeline of 1700-1950’s. His friends and fellow avtomats evolve his understanding in an environment of war and massive losses of human life. At the same time, June is discovering the world of avtomat’s in present times. The actions of the avtomats in the present are both controlled by their actions in Peter’s timeline but also motivated by actions that occurred in 3000 BC. By the time the two story lines connect, the simple motivations introduced at the beginning (i.e. Peter’s justice was following the lead of his Tzar) have grown beyond the simple (i.e. Peter combining the need to protect with the need to elongate his people’s existence with happiness and a sense of purpose as elements of justice). The character developments are what pulled me back to this story.

This is a book a would recommend to someone who enjoys a slower pace and is looking for character-driven development.

Book Review: The Thief by J.R. Ward

91wm7gckhql._ac_ul436_ Book Review: The Thief by J.R. Ward

Summary: Assail’s mind is broken after withdrawing from cocaine, and his cousins have gone to retrieve his love, Sola. Sola returns reluctantly, fearing that she will be pulled back into the illegal life of drug trafficking and theft.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Why I chose this book:

So over the winter of 2018/19, I decided to reread  bunch of series that I have loved. The Blackdagger Bortherhood is one of those series. I hadn’t read any of this series since about 2012, so I had a lot to catch up on.

One of the things that pulls me toward this series is the family feel to the characters. This is not one of the series, where the reader falls in love with a couple then moves on. Instead, the characters layer on top of each other. When a new couple is introduced, the old couple is still there and dealing with their own problems, whether that is broken relationships, babies, or rekindling desire.

When I added this series to my list of rereads, I added it to my “dark romance” list, but after rereading it, I think I would remove it from that list. Yes, the series still has a gritty, street feel to the world. Yes, it deals with “dark” topics like drug addiction. Yes, the vampires are still drinking blood. Yet, overall, the good guy wins, there is a lover waiting in the wings for even the bad guys, and death does not truly touch the main group. I believe the “dark” part of this series is mostly in the earlier books with the major death in book 1.

My Thoughts:

I gave this specific novel in the series a 3.5 because the series has a couple of turning points that break my interest. For instance, from the early books in the series, John Matthew, Blay, and Quinn are major minor characters. Their love stories are drawn out over multiple novels and kept me very interested watching the developments while enjoying the other stories. Then each of them gets their featured novel, and it felt like the ending of an era. Then in the middle of the series, Layla finds the man she is drawn to, and there is some drawn out tension before her featured novel, but again her featured novel closed a big door on the building tension in the series. Next, we ran out of Black Dagger Brothers, and the series switched to the trainees. Again, it jolted the quality of development in the series. Then Saxton, who is broken in Lover At Last, magically finds his mate with no drawn out relationship for him. Anyway, all the little breaks make me less and less invested in the overall series, but the series is still great. Each novel gives the happily ever after for the core couple, which is what I want when I sit down to read a romance. The rest of the team is in each novel, so I get a “fix” of the characters I already love.

On a critical point, the novels are almost too much about the other characters. Each novel has less of the main couple, and the plot lines around the main couples are becoming very straight forward. However, I would still pick up this series and read it from book one sometime in the future.

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.

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.

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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 like 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.