What I’ve Read in 2016 (Micro Reviews!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers, Urban

Well, it’s been a while, but let’s not bother with excuses. Let’s just take a look at what I’ve managed to read in 2016, shall we?

Note: This post will include affiliate links.
  1. Chapelwood by Cherie Priest 4 Stars(Buy).

    • Lizzie Borden novel. The last? Very good horror, and I don’t even like much horror.
  2. Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 4 Stars
    • This read-thru I was bothered a lot more by the “a woman is more valuable as brood mare” themes in this series. Blech.
  3. Wake of Vultures by Lila Bown 4.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Genderfluid(?)/Trans cowboy with magic in the Old West. (The character doesn’t know the modern words & doesn’t label themself so it’s hard to know what word to use.) I read this one and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road close to each other, so they’re kind of twisted together in my head even though they’re Totally Different other than being Old West themed.
  4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Would have probably been better in print given the formatting, but was a surprise win for me. This convinced me to read A Lot More Science Fiction this year.
  5. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s Jim Butcher, of course it’s great. Looking forward to more world-building.
  6. Back Lash by Devon Monk 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • If you love Shame & Terric, you’ll love this. If you haven’t met Shame & Terric yet, go read the Allie Beckstrom series.
  7. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark  by Harry Connolly 2.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Elderly protagonist FTW!
  8. The Circle Opens: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Realized I’d never read any Pierce beyond Alanna, so I’m rectifying that.
  9. The Circle Opens: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  10. The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  11. The Circle Opens: Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  12. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
    • Seanan is as solidly wonderful as Jim Butcher always is, in different ways.
  13. Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
    • Did I mention these are FREE??
  14. Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  15. The Way Home by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  16. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (re-read) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I needed to read Daughter of the Blood because of having an ARC but had no idea where the story had ended.
  17. The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  18. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (nonfiction) 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Completely worth being the only nonfiction I’ve read this year. Also, hilarious.
  19. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly 2 Stars
    • Middle aged female narrator!
  20. Daughter of the Blood by Helen Lowe 4 Stars
  21. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (review copy) 1.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This book was… not that great, in my opinion. I hate when folks try to do “it has magic but it’s still LITRACHURE”. But I’m also very Anti-Apocalypse stories. I find them bleak. YMMV.
  22. Kin by Lilith Saintcrow 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Go back & read the whole trilogy; there’s one for Snow White, Cinderella, and Red. About the various ways abuse marks us forever, and the ways we rise through the muck.
  23. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop 4 Stars(Buy)
    • TW: Self Harm. Still a little weirded out by this whole cutting business, honestly, but it’s a GOOD story. Bishop has a history of being gratuitous anyway, in my opinion. YMMV.
  24. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold 2.5 Stars
    • I was amazed by how many old-school Sci-Fi I’ve missed. Bujold’s science fiction is as solid as her fantasy. Some of this book is now in Trope Territory, but can I really hold that against it when it’s taken me this long? SOMETHING set the trope, after all.
  25. Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Content warning here for drug use. Readers who haven’t been That Low may not get Chess. (I didn’t at first but it was because I didn’t want to.)
  26. Burned by Benedict Jacka 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Is it insulting to call this ‘discount Harry Dresden’? It’s not meant as an insult, believe me. I really like this series.
  27. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I loved this but also it broke me a little. As I have very little sense of my own ancestors or what the hell my inherited culture should even be, I put this down feeling sad. IMO, this is the #1 reason you should Read This.
  28. The Root by Na’Amen Gobert Tilahun 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This was a highly, highly interesting premise with a sort of not stellar execution. I’d still be willing to read sequels, though.
  29. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Women with agency in the Old West! Prostitutes even! Who knew? (Also a black US marshall, ok, read this.)
  30. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Basic love-triangle YA fantasy with the added bonus of showing us all what living under a murderous dictator is going to look like. Ho ho ho!
  31. San Diego 2014: Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (novella) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I’m not even a Browncoat but this story got me right in the feels.
  32. Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter 4 Stars (Buy)
  33. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 2 Stars(Buy)
    • I think sequels to this would be rated higher, the first one was a lot of Protagonist Being Clueless.
  34. Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger (novella) 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a sexy story, okay? A girl’s got needs.
  35. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Just. Frickin’. Read. It.
  36. The Tower & the Hive by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  37. Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I can’t really explain it, okay? But it’s a good read if you like fantasy that’s not of the warrior/elf/bard/dwarf type.
  38. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3 Stars
    • Okay so this is a Wee Bit patronizing, but I like Acorna so I’ll eventually be finishing the series.
  39. Imprudence by Gail Carriger 5 Stars(Buy)
    • I love Prudence almost as much as I love Sophronia, okay? READ.
  40. Wicked as They Come by Delilah Dawson 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Worth it for the bludbunnies.
  41. The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • ZOMG
  42. The Circle Reforged: The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce 3 Stars
  43. The Circle Reforged: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  44. Petaybee: Powers that Be by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough3 Stars
    • I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
  45. Six Gun Snow White by Cat Valente (DNF) 1 Stars(Buy)
    • I wanted to like this so much I kept reading to the point where I kind of hate it now. But it’s lyrical and beautiful and I’m pretty sure recommended by Neil Gaiman so you should at least TRY to like it.
  46. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • WHAT is this world?! I like it! More, please.
  47. Ghostbusters (2016) novelization by Nancy Holder 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Ladybusters are MY Ghostbusters and haters & trolls can fuck right off. Kthxbye.
  48. Staked by Kevin Hearne 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • OBERON!
  49. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
  50. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 3.5 Stars
    • Rincewind honestly isn’t my favorite wizard. But Equal Rites made everything better.
  51. Acorna’s Quest by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3.5 Stars
  52. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes 3 Stars(Buy)
    • A really good twist on the “troupe” fantasy à la Final Fantasy or Dragonlance. But also I pretty much disliked every single one of the narrators on a personal level, too, so there’s that.
  53. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 4 Stars(Buy)
    • This won awards for a damn reason.
  54. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan 3.5 Stars
  55. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett 4 Stars
  56. Tainted Blood by ML Brennan 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I don’t know why I like this so much because it’s basically weird-creature-of-the-week urban fantasy and that’s been done before but dammit if I don’t really like this anyway.
  57. Star Wars: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig 4 Stars(Buy)
    • GAY STAR WARS! STAR WARS IS GAY NOW! Get over it.
  58. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
  59. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (current reading) (Buy)
    • I’m still reading this so I’m not gonna rate it yet but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith HunterBlood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Series:
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Urban
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth. When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her. Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville. Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

Releasing today, this is a second series in Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock universe. The only problem I had with this book is that I’m at least 3 books behind on the JY series (soo many books to read!) and so I spent the whole book thinking that this series was a prequel to Jane’s story and kept trying to figure out how it fit together. I’m still not sure whether it is or not, because I like to get my thoughts on paper before I start reading too much information about the book.

Not having been in an actual cult, but having grown up around a Southern Baptist church, I believe the author has done a really good job here of depicting the kind of misogyny that can breed in an evangelical, uber-religious setting while also being careful not to paint everyone involved as either evil or stupid. Don’t get me wrong! There’s certainly some evil in the book! Our protagonist needs something to fight against. But the people are also fully realized and not at all one-dimensional. View Spoiler » in particular are depicted as being good people who have some less-than-mainstream beliefs but are trying to do the best they can with what they have — including with their cultural history and the way that they’ve been raised.

Nell’s powers are mysteriously powerful… She spends most of the book unsure of how to use them or where they come from but always manages to instinctively save the day. I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed Nell’s interaction with the PsyLED team so much. It would feel fake to complain about how powerful Nell is in a book that has vampires and werecats and magic. It makes sense within the world, and her power is balanced by what is effectively PTSD from her upbringing. Nell is a lonely, solitary woman, and I loved seeing her being forced out of her self and into the world.

All in all, an entertaining read that doesn’t make you think too hard, and — given my lack of keeping up with Jane  — there’s no need to have read anything else first. This is an excellent jumping on point for someone who doesn’t want to commit to Hunter’s extensive Jane series.

four-stars

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon MonkInfinity Bell by Devon Monk
Published by Penguin on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Science Fiction, Urban
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Return to national bestselling author Devon Monk's heartpounding House Immortal series, where eleven powerful Houses control the world and all its resources. But now, the treaty between them has been broken, and no one—not even the immortal galvanized—is safe....Matilda Case isn’t normal. Normal people aren’t stitched together, inhumanly strong, and ageless, as she and the other galvanized are. Normal people’s bodies don’t hold the secret to immortality—something the powerful Houses will kill to possess. And normal people don’t know that they’re going to die in a few days.Matilda’s fight to protect the people she loves triggered a chaotic war between the Houses and shattered the world’s peace. On the run, she must find a way to stop the repeat of the ancient time experiment that gifted her and the other galvanized with immortality. Because this time, it will destroy her and everything she holds dear.Caught in a cat-and-mouse game of lies, betrayal, and unseen foes, Matilda must fight to save the world from utter destruction. But time itself is her enemy, and every second brings her one step closer to disaster....

I love this series. I apparently forgot to do a review of the first book in the series, House Immortal. Oops. Suffice to say that Monk is one of my favorite writers, since her Allie Beckstrom series. If you’d like a bit of a preview to this author’s work, I recommend her short fiction collection, A Cup of Normal. It’s quite good, only $4.99 in ebook, and you’ll see a very early version of House Immortal’s heroine, Matilda Case. Note that the story is no longer canon, but it’s interesting to me to see the changes that happened between then and now.

This world is a futuristic steampunk Frankenstein story with time travel. The world has suffered an apocalypse and is now controlled by feudalistic Houses, to which everyone must owe a fealty. Each House controls a different world resource: technology, healing, farming, etc. The Houses, of course, play their own politics and none of them are headed by very nice people: kidnapping, blackmail, and backstabbing are typical and expected.

The immortals of the story are a group of undying Frankenstein’s monster types, each having survived the explosive apocalypse generations before, each enslaved to a House by their own choice, to save the now underground and previously defeated House Brown from complete extermination. All of them except our heroine, Matilda Case. View Spoiler » This process is wanted desperately by the heads of most of the Houses, as who doesn’t wish to live forever?

This series is unique and wonderful and if you don’t mind that anguished feeling of reaching the end of the book and there still being mysteries unsolved, then you will love this one*. (*Series is not complete.) Monk is the Grand High Poobah of the Victory-Only-Makes-Things-More-Complicated Writers’ Association. She did it in the Beckstrom series and practice has only improved her skill. As soon as our heroes have achieved the victory they supposedly wanted, things get turned completely on their head and an entirely new set of problems arise.

This is a world we’ve never seen with supernaturals that aren’t cliche.  A story fraught with action, adventure, and tight with tension, a heroine you can root for, and Monk’s signature victory with a plot twist ending, makes this a can’t miss series. You won’t regret reading this one.

four-half-stars

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z MartinDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Published by Solaris on June 24th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Welcome to Trifles & Folly, a store with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 ? acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It?s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market.When a trip to a haunted hotel unearths a statue steeped in malevolent power, and a string of murders draws a trail to the abandoned old Navy yard, Cassidy and Sorren discover a diabolical plot to unleash a supernatural onslaught on their city.It?s time for Kincaide and her team to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

Some of us have gotten more than tired of UF stories with extraordinary main characters. Super speed? Super strength? Y.A.W.N. The beasties are no fun when you can beat the hell out of them. Which is why, I think, I found Gail Z Martin’s new book so intriguing. Cassidy Kincaide has one unique ability: psychometry. She can read an object’s past by touching it. Usually this doesn’t amount to much except old memories… Unless the object has a particularly nasty history.

I also love the name of Cassidy’s shop: Trifles and Folly is just a hilarious name for an antique shop, especially considering the deviant nature of some of the objects she runs across. The “trifles” are sold to tourists as antiques and the “follies” are handed over to Cassidy’s centuries old vampire partner to be locked away before they do more damage. Vampires have been so generally overdone as to be boring, but at least Sorren is mostly a secondary character and not the focus of the story.

This book is why I had a strange dream about a malevolent, possessed kitchen table. Now, I’ve always had odd dreams and strange nightmares. I taught myself lucid dreaming as a pre-pubescent so I could realize when I was asleep and not wake myself and my little sister up by screaming. I can say, however, with 100% certainty that I had never before encountered sinister furniture before in any of my previous nighttime wanderings.

If you like your urban fantasy to lean less toward paranormal romance and more toward horror, Deadly Curiosities is a solid book with which to spend some time. The later half of the book is so drawn with tension that I was practically jumping at shadows. I also love a book where the setting is practically its own character, and Charleston certainly fits that bill. I’d give this a solid four of five stars.

four-stars

Review: Dragon Justice by Laura Anne Gilman

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dragon Justice by Laura Anne GilmanDragon Justice by Laura Anne Gilman
Published by LUNA on July 24th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Urban
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
In my time with PUPI, formally known as Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, I've seen a lot. Learned a lot. And not all of it's been good. But what we do—make people accountable for crimes committed with magic—is important work.Still. Even I need to take a break every now and again. Or so I've just been told (ordered).So hey, vacation. Maybe I'll finally figure out what's going on with the "special bond" between me and the boss man, Benjamin Venec. Venec seems to like that idea—he's invited me down to join him on a jaunt to Philly. But no sooner do I arrive in the City of Brotherly Love than we're called in to look at a dead body.And that's when life gets really complicated….

Dragon Justice is the 4th and final book in the Paranormal Scene Investigations series. It was released by Luna on July 24, 2012.

The Blurb

In my time with PUPI, formally known as Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, I’ve seen a lot. Learned a lot. And not all of it’s been good. But what we do—make people accountable for crimes committed with magic—is important work.

Still. Even I need to take a break every now and again. Or so I’ve just been told (ordered).

So hey, vacation. Maybe I’ll finally figure out what’s going on with the “special bond” between me and the boss man, Benjamin Venec. Venec seems to like that idea—he’s invited me down to join him on a jaunt to Philly. But no sooner do I arrive in the City of Brotherly Love than we’re called in to look at a dead body.

And that’s when life gets really complicated….

The Review

Bonnie and the other PUPIs have grown on me throughout this series. I wasn’t sure I liked this outgoing, outspoken, free spirit of a woman at first, but I’ve come to like her. She’s faced danger with bravery. She’s faced ambiguous moral situations and held fast to her own code. I may not have always understood the choices she made, but they always felt true to her character. Moreover, she made me respect her: her strength and her tenacity. And the fact that I can write about her here as if she were a real person and not just words on a page is a testimony to Gilman’s skill as an author.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Gilman’s work. She does good stuff, and this book (and series) is certainly worth the read. However, I finished Dragon Justice not triumphantly but instead vaguely disappointed. This is an adequate ending to a great series, but only adequate. The plot is solid and action-filled, don’t get me wrong. I devoured this book in less than two days, after all. I greatly enjoyed the return of the Wren as well. (I’d say that was my favorite part.)

The problem lies in the fact that it is the end of the series. This poor reader doesn’t feel like the plot threads were resolved at all. Sure, not every book has to have all the ends tied up neatly in pretty little bows. I like the idea that the characters and their lives will keep going on once the pages have all been turned. However, though we’re told how the main romance will be resolved, we don’t actually get to see it. I was convinced during my reading that a certain plot element was just a ruse, but it doesn’t seem to be so with the ending we receive here.That most of all just leaves me sad and rather disappointed.

If there were more – or just one more – book(s) in the series, then I’d say that Dragon Justice performs at a solid 4 (out of 5) stars. As it is, I think it goes out on a bit of a downer, with the barest hint of hope that our battered PUPIs will recover and go on. In my opinion, this installment lacks a significant something that would bring it from a solid and exciting entry in a series to a climactic and appropriate ending.

[xrr rating=3/5 imageset=default]

three-half-stars