Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

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

Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin HearneA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Published by Random House Publishing Group on October 17th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 640
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

So I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley, and then ended up with a(n annotated by the author) hardcover copy when I subscribed to PageHabit. The annotated copy was quite interesting, and I’m glad that I waited until after I finished the book before reading those.

I really don’t know what to say about this book except it was practically perfect. I’m only giving it 4.5 stars so that the series has some room to grow. It is a brutal book. It deals with an invasion and war, after all. I say war, but that war really begins with several massacres and while they’re not gratuitous, there is no guarantee in this novel that your favorite character(s) won’t end up dead. In fact, if this first volume is any indication, they probably will.

An aside (not actual spoilers): View Spoiler »

More than war, though, is that this book deals with the effects of war on ordinary people. You see all the different responses to horror and loss that one would see in real life – when one is so unlucky as to encounter it. The characters run the gamut in their responses to trauma and grief, and this book holds them up to the light and turns them about in interesting ways.

I think this book is a sign of the times. I think dealing with the aftereffects of horror and war and grieving for loved ones taken far too soon is something a lot of us are worrying about these days.

This isn’t a happy book. It’s not a depressing one either. Reading these characters’ stories gives me hope, and strength. I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Purchase your copy here [affiliate link].

four-half-stars

What I’ve Read So Far in 2017

  1. The Broken Earth  by NK Jemisin 5 Stars
    • I would give this series 7 stars if I could.
  2. Girl Over Paris #1 by Kate Leth/Ming Doyle/Gwenda Bond 4 Stars
    • I liked it. Great art. Need to get back to the rest of it.
  3. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman 4 Stars
    • It’s Neil-Freaking-Gaiman.
  4. The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe 4 Stars
    • Loved these as a kid & I’ve been re-reading them. They still capture me.
  5. Mirabile by Janet Kagan 4 Stars
    • Actually a series of short stories. Funny & compelling.
  6. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine 3.5 Stars
    • An interesting premise, but the narrator is unlikable. Will read the rest eventually.
  7. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings 5 Stars
    • Has it’s issues, but this is a childhood favorite. I re-read it for a gender-flipped retelling I’m writing to amuse myself with.
  8. Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe 4 Stars
  9. Acorna’s People by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • I take issue with the “Every Woman MUST Reproduce” narrative in ALL of McCaffrey’s writing. But damned if I won’t admit that she writes a good story.
  10. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • A beautiful, lyrical, cautionary tale of suicide and ghosts. Also, can be abbreviated to DoDoDoD (I’m pronouncing it doo doo dodd), which provides me endless entertainment.
  11. Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe 4 Stars
  12. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flwelling 4.5 Stars
    • A fantasy world where all* sexualities are shown as valid. Heroes are bisexual — though the author doesn’t use the B word. *The only maybe-ace individual in the book isn’t outright named as such, and there’s a tiresome bit about how she’s in looooove but they can’t be together because no sex. Or something. In between everyone figuring out their sexy feelings, there are some damned good female secondary characters, a matriarchal monarchy, and a decent start to a hero’s journey tale.
  13. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe (DNF) 2 Stars
    • I’ve met Alex at Jordancon and he seemed like a decent enough guy, but after the 4th brutal death of a female character in 1.25 books, I decided this series isn’t for me. YMMV.
  14. Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars
    • I give this entire series 4 1/2 stars. I love mad gods and monsters and the humans trying to rebuild the world around them.
  15. Stalking Darkness by Lynn Flwelling 4 Stars
    • Book 2 in series above. Also good. Wishing there was a female narrator. Sigh.
  16. Rebel Flight by Mindy Klasky 3.5 Stars
    • Won this from LibraryThing! Seems like a really short book (novella?), and it’s a YA tale, but I really liked it. Part of a series.
  17. Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe 4 Stars
    • No one will ever drain my love for Bunnicula, okay? (Get it?)
  18. Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen 5 Stars
    • Transgender biracial cowboy in a fantastical Old West. I almost cheered at the moment when Rhett’s pronouns changed. (It was night. It would have been rude.)
  19. Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter 4 Stars
    • I like this series even better than Jane Yellowrock (sorry, Jane).
  20. Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • I went into this book not wanting to like Annie because Verity is my favorite girl. By the end, I was cheering (and weeping) for her. If you haven’t picked up this series, I have to question your intelligence.
  21. Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop 4.5 Stars
    • Still has that icky self-harm theme running through it, and I’m still not sure she’s doing anything constructive with it. But *dammit*, I love this world.
  22. The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman 4 Stars
    • Man, is Isobel in over her head. I have a tendency to mix up Bowen’s & Gilman’s worlds because the 1st volumes came out around the same time. Not since the 2016 elections have I worried so much about America’s ill-intentions. (Naw. I’ve been worrying this whole time. But that’s another article.)
  23. First Test by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Can you believe I haven’t read all of Tamora Pierce’s work yet? I’m ashamed.
  24. Power Lines by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3 Stars
    • This series shouldn’t make any sense. Sentient planet? Seal shape-shifters? A whole world with *gasp!* NO ELECTRICITY?!? I’m in the middle of the sequel anyway.
  25. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch 4 Stars
    • I feel like this series is moving So. Slowly. Would like it to be a TV show so I can binge watch, pls.
  26. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (DNF)
    • I knew this was popular but had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up because I hadn’t heard much of the story. The 4th time I fell asleep before the time-traveling even started was when I gave up. No rating.
  27. Acorna’s World by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • Why do I like this series so much? Pacifist bipedal unicorn people and giant evil bugs make literally no sense. (And why are insects always your villains, Anne? Isn’t human evil enough of a big bad for you?? It certainly is for me.)
  28. Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L Howard 4 Stars
    • Johannes Cabal is a bad guy. He’s a bad guy with a pretty standard supervillain origin story, actually. If I think too much about this, I would probably feel like I shouldn’t read it. So I’m not going to, because I like the steam-punk-y world.
  29. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
    • Someone tried to get me to put down this series (written by a woman) to read Honor Harrington (written by a man). This individual tried to persuade me by saying Weber’s work was “more feminist”. So I’m continuing this series 75% for spite.
  30. Power Play by Anne McCaffrey – CURRENT READING!

 

You may notice that not many of these books are brand new. This is because I probably have 2,000 books on my TBR shelf (virtually, thank goddess, because I’m not sure where I’d put them otherwise.) If there are any immortals out there willing to share their secrets, I could really use the reading time. Thanks.

NEW American Gods Edition

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

NEW American Gods EditionAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins on March 28th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber.Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path. “Mystery, satire, sex, horror, poetic prose—American Gods uses all these to keep the reader turning the pages.”—Washington Post

 

If you need me to tell you that this book is by Neil Gaiman, well… You should just go pick this up and read it, and never tell a soul you’d never heard of him before.

I’m a bit late in posting this, but I was so thrilled when this book from HarperCollins showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly that I had to get something put up. Even if the process of mailing — as usual — beat the thing all to Hell. Is it somehow fitting that the bends and rips in the cover give testament to the book’s journey across American soil, so similar to the plot? Eh. How am  I supposed to know? I just work here.

What I do know is that this is quite a nice paperback edition, with the author’s preferred text. Since I’ve read the book before, but not the preferred text, I look forward to a re-read. I suggest you do the same.

four-half-stars

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: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

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: Zer0es by Chuck WendigZeroes by Chuck Wendig
Published by HarperCollins on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Political, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of "progress."

Cross Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother with The Matrix, add a dash of I, Robot and you’ll have the plot of Zeroes. The scariest part of this book is how absolutely plausible the scenario is. Perhaps the technology isn’t quite ready yet, but with NSA spying, Citizens United, and all the other craziness going on in our government over the last couple of presidencies, it’s not really all that far-fetched to think about the kind of shadowy conspiracies that could be happening behind the scenes. Which is why I usually avoid this type of book. Our world is getting dystopian enough in real life, I don’t need it in my fiction too.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t recommend this book to folks who disagree with that need. Written in Wendig’s signature third person present, this book vibrates with intensity. Which is hard to do when half of it involves the main characters sitting around in front of computers. Far less technical than Doctorow’s Little Brother, you won’t need to know much about computers here.

I’ll be honest — this is no Miriam Black book. None of the characters here have Miriam’s dark anti-heroic charisma. These are just regular, flawed, unextraordinary people. The “Anonymous-style rabble rouser” is a loser hick whose best tricks are all social engineering and who’s exposing rapists in order to make up for high school inaction that resulted in a girl’s suicide. The “Arab spring hactivist” acts self-righteous because her hacking skills are being used as political leverage for the oppressed. (Not that she’s wrong, just that she gets annoying about it.) The old school cipherpunk is a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist and doomsday “prepper”.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the “black hat hacker”, who was just trying to buy his mom a house when the SWAT team burst in and arrested him. Sure, he was purchasing it with the ill-gotten gains of a credit card skimming scam, but since he was the most Leverage-like of a crew which has been compared to the Leverage team, I might be a little prejudiced. I always liked Hardison the best. (Just a note: this book is, in my opinion, only by the barest of margins comparable to Leverage. They seem almost totally different in both character and operation to me.)

I liked the troll the least. I will always like the trolls the least. Wendig does a good job of humanizing her with her own checkered past, and she does have a redemption arc of her own. But she’s also the worst kind of mean girl — humiliating and tearing down other people to make herself feel better. She even uses the old troll victim-blaming logic: if they didn’t want their secrets being found, they shouldn’t be stupid enough to have them in the first place. The sick sense of superiority is palpable.

I always feel like if the characters are real enough for me to dislike, then the author has done their job. None of the characters in this novel are heroes. They are ordinary people, with skills that anyone could learn, whose bad choices lead them almost by accident to discover a conspiracy. They step up to fight the conspiracy not out of any real heroism, but more out of self-preservation. Most of them aren’t even particularly likable, but they don’t have to be. In the end, it doesn’t matter why they stepped up — only that they did. Ordinary people, people who were convinced they were screw ups or criminals or just lesser in every way, who took a breath, grabbed hold of their courage, and fought back.

With the Hugo awards being announced the night prior to my writing this, the lesson becomes more powerful. Little people, ordinary people — screw ups and rejects and weirdos, like we all think that we are — when we join together, we can make a difference. We can save the world.

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: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuireSparrow Hill Road on 2014-05-06
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-stars
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Sparrow Hill Road has a unique format, in that it is more of a collection of shorts with most of the same characters and an overall theme than it is a linear book. This is mostly, I think, because the book started out as a series of shorts. However, I think the format is also a suggestion of the way a ghost might experience time. Namely, in strung together bursts of interaction with the living or their fellow dead. Sometimes convenience and storytelling work together, and it’s lovely when they do.

There is an over-arching plot, however. Rose Marshall died in 1952 due to a car crash on the way to her high school prom, a crash that was instigated by a man named Bobby Cross. Bobby sold his soul to live forever and must use the souls of the dying to fuel his existence. Rose is the soul that got away, and she’s been doing her best to thwart him ever since, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. These are her stories, and the stories of the souls she’s tried to save.

I’m pleased to see on Goodreads that this book is listed as Ghost Stories #1. I was originally a bit crestfallen at the book’s ending, but knowing there is supposed to be more makes me feel a lot better about things. (Please, DAW, don’t tease us! We need more Rose.) ((And readers, please buy this book! Sales = Life in the world of publishing, and I need Rose to live. Figuratively speaking.))

Sparrow Hill Road is a book that serves up ghost stories on a heaping slice of Americana. It is a testament to, and a warning of, the American highway system, and all the miles of road and the strangeness that has grown up around them. When I’m driving sometimes at night, I wonder if a dark road after dusk is what Purgatory is. I wonder if I would know if I can crossed over from the living into the world of the dead. Seanan McGuire has taken that spinal chill and extended it into a full body shiver of a ghost story. This book is an apt spiritual successor to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. (Spiritual. See what I did there?)

I wish McGuire’s writing got as many accolades as her work under the name Mira Grant does. It is justly deserved, regardless of which name is on the book. Sadly, I think it’s the genre that doesn’t get any respect. All I can say is — I pity the people who aren’t giving McGuire just as much attention as Grant*. The work is outstanding, regardless of subject matter or hot pink covers (as seen on Discount Armageddon, probably my favorite of the McGuire canon.)

*Full disclosure: I’ve only read part of one book from the Mira Grant list, and that book (Parasite) wigged me out to the point where I put it down and have yet to work up the courage to go back to it. 

four-stars

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon Monk

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.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon MonkStone Cold on 2014-04-01
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
The latest Broken Magic novel from national bestselling author Devon Monk. Marked by Life and Death magic, Shame Flynn and Terric Conley are “breakers”—those who can use magic to its full extent. Most of the time, they can barely stand each other, but they know they have to work together to defeat a common enemy—rogue magic user Eli Collins. Backed by the government, Eli is trying to use magic as a weapon by carving spells into the flesh of innocents and turning them into brainless walking bombs. To stop him, Shame and Terric will need to call on their magic, even as it threatens to consume them—because the price they must pay to wield Life and Death could change the very fate of the world...and magic itself.

I don’t know what to tell you except I loved this book. Okay, so I’m still a little bit traumatized by That Thing that happened in the first book, which, if it could have been overcome or maybe not happened so that Shame could’ve had a happier ending, I would have loved. I know I’m being vague, but we’re talking Major Spoiler for the first book, so deal with it. I realize that it wouldn’t fit in with Shame’s character for him to have a *truly* happy ending, but oh, man… Did I want that for him. I really did.

As much as I love Shame, Zayvion is still my favorite character in this world. I don’t think that will ever change. I just needed to say that. I mean Shame is bitter & snarky (which I love) but Zayvion is tall, dark, Zen, and snarky which just pings all my buttons. (Hello, let me introduce you to my husband…)

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you about this book that’s not a super-powered spoiler. This is only a duology, but honestly it wouldn’t make sense for me to urge you to read these if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series. (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO READ.)

Basically, this was one of those rare books that made me resent absolutely everything that interfered with reading it: work, sleep, eating, showering, using the bathroom. I finished it in two nights and even that took too long because I had to Know! I was unhappy with one of the elements in the ending, but even I have to admit that the book ended just where it should have. Just because I wanted it to happen doesn’t mean that it was a good idea for the story. I find it fascinating that Devon Monk can do that. That ending was absolutely perfect and yet completely agonizing and I hate it and I love it and… and…

If there is ever an opportunity to hear Devon Monk teach about writing I will figure out a way to fly cross-country to do it. And the people who know that my first and last plane flight gave me anxiety dreams for six solid months know what it means to me that I would say that. (Note for the curious: it’s not the flying that gets me, it’s the airports. ::shudder:: Seriously. I never worried about the plane having problems, but having my ticket? Getting through security? Oh, yes! Basically, flying alone is the worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety, in my opinion.)

The writing here is tense and flawless and I’m both envious and deliriously thrilled by that. If you haven’t read Devon Monk, we might need to seriously reconsider our friendship. Think about that.

Seriously though… Do you like that “dropped into the middle of a strange world with weird magic rules that haven’t been explained yet” feeling that you get from Sanderson’s Way of Kings? Then you will feel right at home here. Fans of the series shouldn’t need me to tell them to read it. This is a fabulous, and fitting, end to Shame and Terric’s story.

For those of you who sat through all that, we now have something special for you. Enter to win one of two copies of Stone Cold for your very own.

What: One of two print copies of Devon Monk’s Stone Cold.

When: Beginning at 8a.m. EDT on March 31st and ending approximately midnight on Monday, April 7th (Sunday night/Monday morning). End time subject to change without notice.

Who: Anyone with a valid US or Canada mailing address.

Details: You must be willing to share your email address for the contest and your mailing address if you win. Your information will be used by me for those purposes only. As prizes will be mailed by the publisher, you also agree to share your mailing address with them. As such, Waiting for Fairies cannot be held responsible for the shipping or arrival of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane on June 18, 2013
Pages: 181
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Warning: There will be vague spoilers in this post. I will put them under a spoiler cut for the blog, but if you are reading this elsewhere (via RSS) then you might want to skip this until you’ve read the book. 

This is going to be more of a reaction piece than an actual review, so keep that in mind. I don’t think you actually need my analytic brain to convince you to read Neil Gaiman. At least I hope you don’t.

I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in just a handful of hours late one night. There’s nothing quite like finishing a book at one in the morning, sitting in the middle-of-the-night silence with your thoughts boiling with new elements. I’ll share with you my initial reaction to the book as I wrote it.

I think, like the ocean, this book is supposed to be just a little bit mysterious, just a tiny bit unknowable.  I saw some early reactions.  No spoilers, no details even.  Just: “this book is for readers”, “this book made me cry”.  And reading through the front bits of it, it didn’t seem at all that way to me.  It was like all of Gaiman’s work.  A little bit surreal, a little bit threatening.  Something that speaks on so many levels that you just have to accept that you’ll never quite hear them all, no matter how badly you want to. 

A bitter little voice inside me started whispering: Maybe you don’t get it.  Maybe you are flawed.  Maybe you’re not like the rest.  And my heart felt a little hollow, because who wants to be that alone? 
 
Then, twenty pages from the end, the light refracted off the waters at just the right angle.  I sat, stunned, staring off into space with real tears standing in my eyes.  Finally, it hit me and I understood.  Gaiman reached straight through his story and with words alone plucked my soul like a harp string, setting the very particles of my being ringing with a Truth so profound I don’t think, in these early minutes, that I can quite grasp it yet. 
 
Have you ever felt that maybe there was a hole in your chest?  A secret wormhole of a tunnel that leads to *somewhere else*?  Do you read books to try and fill that hole?  To somehow connect the ends and turn it into a pathway you could walk through to something magical?  Are you afraid of that path, just a little bit?  Do you long for it and fear it equally?  Maybe it wasn’t yours to begin with, and you would get rid of it if you could, but you can’t now because it’s a part of you and maybe you wouldn’t really give it up at all if you were given the chance? 
 
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this.  I just know that this vibrating, humming thing has been set alive inside of me and I don’t know what to do with it yet.  It has a magic, that this little story has awakened but that doesn’t belong to the story at all.  It is mine.  It’s me. 
 
My magic.  A tuning fork to the Other that lives inside. 

Reading this book was surreal. Now the memory is so much like a dream that I can barely remember the details, but what follows are the insights that I have brought out of the experience.

At first, after I had come down from the shaking state of post-book high, I really struggled with the message that I thought I had grasped. Because what struck me so hard was the bit where View Spoiler ». And I said to myself, “Wait, that couldn’t be what Gaiman meant, because View Spoiler » Why would I feel such longing for that?”

Then I realized that this is Neil Fucking Gaiman we’re talking about. (Fucking is his married name.) So of course View Spoiler »must be a metaphor for the part of our souls that long for something Other.

Every reader carries that little tunnel to another world inside themselves, and it opens every time we read a book. The tragedy is that we never get to stay there. As soon as the pages close, the tunnel is gone and we can’t ever really keep the connection open. Sometimes that tunnel leads to good things. Sometimes it leads to bad things. But it always leads to awesome things (in the original sense, as in awe-inspiring, whether great or terrible.)

That first character we ever identify with in a book, the one who becomes our friend, is our Lettie. We can really only remember them like we knew them as children when we have the book open. But while we know them, they save us. Whether they save us from abuse or bullying or loneliness or something so mundane as boredom, they save us. That’s what it means to be a reader. Sadly, once those pages close and in the midst of all our adulthood, we don’t even remember them accurately but the best thing is that we can always go back. That’s the best part of books — the best bit of fandom in general, really — we can always revisit those worlds we love and they will always, always be there for us.

I decided not to read any spoiler-y reviews until I had all my thoughts on this sorted out so as not to bias my own opinion before it had completely formed. I did read a few before I came to post this though, and I can tell you that my interpretation isn’t the only one. I don’t even know if I’m correct, but that’s one of the great things about being a reader. We can take whatever we want to out of the story because once we’ve read it, it no longer belongs to just the writer but also to the world. Some people got statements of feminism out of the story. Others got a theme of childhood innocence versus adult longing. The thing is… I think we’re all correct. The Ocean at the End of the Lane incorporates all of these things and I believe there to be many more layers as well. It’s why this book seems to be so loved by so many people.

This book pinged the part of me that has a whole entire other Universe in my recurring dreams. I feel like this book is a reverberation from that subconscious space. I think Neil Gaiman is in my head.

four-half-stars

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck WendigThe Blue Blazes on May 28th 2013
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Meet Mookie Pearl.
Criminal underworld? He runs it.
Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.
Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.
But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

The Blue Blazes – the first in a new urban fantasy series in which lovable thug Mookie Pearl must contend with the criminal underworld, the supernatural underworld, a new drug that makes the invisible visible, and a rebellious teen daughter who opposes him at every turn.

Oh, Mookie Pearl. Just an average boy living in a mafia world. One populated by creatures of the Great Below: goblins, snake-faced men, demon gods and other things that would sooner eat you than look at you.

Mookie’s got problems. He’s addicted to a (supernatural) underworld drug, his boss is ill, his daughter hates him, and he hasn’t seen his ex-wife in years. To top it all off, his boss’ grandson, heir to the (criminal) underworld throne has asked him to complete an impossible task: find the potentially mythological supernatural cure for Mafia Grandpa’s sickness. But when Mookie starts searching through both underworlds for this magic elixir, he starts to become aware of — and opposed by — other factions with their own sinister goals. Now more than his boss’ life and his daughter’s love are on the line. Now, the entirety of New York City is in jeopardy.

Let’s be honest here: Mookie Pearl is not the kind of guy you’d really want to entrust with the fate of an entire city. Oh, he’s honorable enough in his own way. If Mookie says he’s going to do something, he damn well does it. But he’s also a mafia grunt, a bruiser, a guy who maybe doesn’t enjoy killing but it certainly doesn’t seem to keep him up at night either. He’s the guy we all have nightmares of becoming. He’s the guy who made all the wrong choices in his youth: wrong job, wrong priorities, wrong people in his life.

Now he’s woken up and realized that all the things he should have spent his life fighting for are the ones he’s neglected into dust. Mookie’s whole life is rotten. It’s as filled with holes and demons and monsters as the rest of New York City, and one wrong move forward could blow the whole thing to hell, collapsing it into a big pile of rubble and blood and bodies. Extend this metaphor farther, and on bad days you can wonder if this isn’t the problem with the whole damn world.

This book kicked a big face-full of sand into my teeth and here I am days later still spitting out grit. It’s not for the faint of heart (Wendig’s books never are). While you’re looking up at that one dazzling ray of hope at the end, you’re also getting a knife in the chest. I’m not even sure yet if I even *liked* this book, but that’s not really the point. What we have here is a new flavor of urban fantasy in a genre that was starting to get a bit bland. There are interesting, full-fleshed characters whose choices drive the narrative into believable consequences. We have some interesting new monsters for a change built into an intriguing world with it’s own complete mythology.

The Blue Blazes is an iceberg kind of book. There’s so much going on under the surface (in more ways than one) that you are quite dazzled by it. And Wendig takes advantage of that bedazzlement to give you several swift kicks in the gut.

(Ed Note: Edited from original because repetitive word choice is repetitive.)

four-stars