New ARCs

Source: Publisher

The ARC fairy has been kind to me lately. Here are some of the ones I’ve received recently.

New ARCS – I’m particularly interested in the Beth Cato and Claire O’Dell. Can’t wait to find some time to read these!

I like it when I’m sent nice things…

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.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins on May 22nd 2018
Genres: Collections & Anthologies, Fantasy, Fiction, Media Tie-In, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
Includes the Story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” - Now a Major Motion Picture Starring Nicole KidmanA24 Film Directed by John Cameron Mitchell also Stars Elle Fanning and Ruth Wilson“A prodigiously imaginative collection. . . . The best of these clever fantasy metafictions explores the mysteries of artistic inspiration.”—New York Times Book Review, Editor's ChoiceTwo teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams—and nightmares . . .A mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night . . .In a Hugo Award–winning story, a great detective must solve a most unsettling royal murder in a strangely altered Victorian England . . .These marvelous creations and more showcase the unparalleled invention and storytelling brilliance—and the terrifyingly dark and entertaining wit—of the incomparable Neil Gaiman. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most original writers of our time.

And how nice is this?

Review: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson & Kevin Hearne

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: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson & Kevin HearneKill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson, Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell #1
Also by this author: A Plague of Giants
Published by Random House Publishing Group on July 17th 2018
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction, Humorous
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett and Monty Python, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasma reinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.  Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.             This is not that fairy tale.             There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.             And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.             There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

If you’ve read a lot of epic fantasy, you know a lot of tropes. Well, this book is what you’ve been reading for. You’ll take great pleasure in checking each trope off your list as it’s twisted over and turned on its head (and then kicked in its upturned pants for good measure). You’ll snort up your sleeve. You’ll roll your eyes (a lot). And you’ll occasionally laugh out loud.

  • Plucky farm boy ready for his destiny? Check.
  • Talking goat sidekick who just wants to be sarcastic and eat boots? Check.
  • Sleeping princess in a thorn covered castle? Check.
  • Dark Lord who wants the farm boy dead and whose most evil spell is making stale bread rain from the sky? Uh. Check.
  • Rogue assassin who can’t sneak to save her life? Check. (Also see: terrified of chickens).
  • Sonja-esque barbarian warrior in a chain mail bikini (and very unhappy about it)? Check. (Cross-reference: blood-thirsty semi-sentient sword).
  • Seductive enchantress whose biggest secret is that she’s gotten old beneath all her spells? Check.
  • Reluctant bard from the castle who also happened to have gotten turned into a bunny? Also check.
  • And let’s not forget: Dread Necromancer Steve.
  • Does this book on a rare occasion get too clever for its own good? Yep.

The laughter and the fun that the authors clearly had writing this book shine through in every pun and joke and reference. If  you don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously you’ll have a lot of fun too.

There was at least one moment when I groaned and slapped my own forehead at a terrible joke and had the urge to fling the book across the room — the downside of reading an eBook is that you can’t do that when you need to — but for the most part I’m glad I read it. I can just imagine Delilah and Kevin snickering to themselves as they send off their latest terrible puns to the other. That somehow made the book even better for me. Their joy is in every line. The world could use a little of that right now.

Book is due out July 17th and you can preorder it right here. (affiliate link)

 

four-stars

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
Also by this author: Kill the Farm Boy
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

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

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: 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: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

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: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam MaggsThe Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Published by Quirk Books on May 12th 2015
Genres: General, Humor, Personal & Practical Guides, Popular Culture, Reference, Social Science
Pages: 208
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes, including:• How to make nerdy friends• How to rock awesome cosplay• How to write fanfic with feels• How to defeat Internet trolls• How to attend your first conAnd more! Plus, insightful interviews with fangirl faves, like Jane Espenson, Erin Morgenstern, Kate Beaton, Ashley Eckstein, Laura Vandervoort, Beth Revis, Kate Leth, and many others.

Geekdom has been both horrible and wonderful for geek girls lately, as the culture shifts from the white, cis, het, male norm to something a lot more inclusive. We’re not there yet, but with the help of the internet, fandom is becoming a far more inclusive place than it was fifty, twenty, or even ten years ago. This nonfiction volume would be a great guide for teens, parents of teens, and other fans who are new to fanfic, conventions, cosplay, or other aspects of geek hood. You can absorb most of this information by osmosis by just being on Tumblr for a year or so, but in the absence of that kind of time, this is a wonderful introduction to all things geek.

If you’re a super seasoned pro, you may not need this guide, but you might love it anyway for it’s feminist essays, gorgeous illustrations, and lists of definitions and recommendations. The author’s love for all things geek definitely shines through, so check it out for her boundless enthusiasm if for nothing else.

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: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)

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: The Diamond Conspiracy (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel)The Diamond Conspiracy on 2015-03-31
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment... Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun's emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun's street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately. But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro's dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally--a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself...

This is one of my favorite series, and the duo of (Wellington) Books and (Eliza) Braun is just delightful, both in reading and in wordplay.  I love the gender reversal of the male main character being the “Books” and the leading lady being the “Braun”.

Sure, it would have been delicious (for a while at least) if Welly had been truly helpless and not a crack-shot-in-hiding, but I suppose the dude in distress thing would have gotten old eventually. (Eventually.) Eliza, however, is by far my favorite: a trouser-wearing Aussie lass with an explosive reputation (literally) and a habit for naming her weapons, who takes no-nonsense from friends, strangers, or her love interest.

What I love particularly about a steam punk setting is that wonderfully strange mixture of science and the occult that pops up. It just gets so weird. I bet that says more about people today than about the real Victorian era, honestly, but as long as I get books like this one, I don’t care. I’d love to spoil it all for you by telling you what I enjoyed most, but I will do you all the favor of sparing you the details so you can read it yourself.

I will tell you that Warehouse 13 ruined any other depiction of H.G. Wells for me, but if not for that character, the one we find here in this book would be my favorite. I won’t tell you how or where Wells turns up, because that would be a major spoiler. Suffice to say that the revelation is giggle-inducing, and I’m still trying to decide whether that was a Natural Progression or a Jump the Shark moment.

I was honestly a bit lost there in the middle for a while. That tends to happen when the author(s) jumps a year into the future… But the story recovered quite well and the conclusion was satisfying while also promising a hint of more to come. You can’t really ask for more than that!

This series is fabulously written with real characters and I came to care about them very quickly. It’s a lot steampunk-y, a bit pulpy, very much girl-powered, and has a Jaeger-sized heart. (Read the book, you’ll understand the metaphor.)

four-half-stars