(Disclaimer: the writer of this book is a friend of mine, and I beta-read this before its release! These remarks are based on my beta-read of the nove(Disclaimer: the writer of this book is a friend of mine, and I beta-read this before its release! These remarks are based on my beta-read of the novel.)
Stronger Than Blood does a deft job of avoiding tropes I give the side-eye to in both YA and urban fantasy. It involves high school students, yet it avoids a lot of the angst I've seen in other titles I've sampled. And it's urban fantasy with werewolves--but I found the heroine, B, refreshingly atypical. She's not only not a stereotypical badass, her transformations cause her active, major health problems, and this is one of the neatest explorations of what exactly monthly shapeshifting can do to a body that I've had the pleasure to read.
And what does our heroine, B, have to deal with? Discovering that she is not in fact the only werewolf in the world, and that furthermore, the pack she discovers is not plagued with her health issues. But her initial quest to find out whether these other weres can teach her how to not only endure her transformations, but to get her strength back as well, is only the first layer of a nicely complicated little plot. B's got to maneuver dangerous pack dynamics if she wants to survive not only her own changes, but her new place in a world that contains others like her.
So yeah, go pick this one up. And tell Genevieve I sent you, won't you?
ETA: And now that I've read the finished product on my Kindle, I am delighted to add to this review that it holds together beautifully on a second read. There's poetry and feral grace here, and I loved every word....more
It's tough for me to review this novel properly. My French isn't good enough yet to have truly understood the majority of what I read here--and it didIt's tough for me to review this novel properly. My French isn't good enough yet to have truly understood the majority of what I read here--and it didn't help either that certain aspects of Mme. Rochon's style here made it difficult for me to follow the action.
One, I did at least figure out that the book's divided into a section involving protagonist Laura Fraser as a young girl, and a section involving her as an older woman (post-menopausal? Again, my French isn't that solid yet, so I wasn't able to nail that down for sure). It baffled me that the book changed tenses between these two sections, from first person in the earlier part to third in the latter. That was a baffling decision, one beyond my meager French to properly understand; it may well have made much more sense to Quebecois SF/F readers, I don't know.
Two, in both sections, there was a certain distinct detachment to the action. In the first part, Laura tells the reader a lot of her history, along the lines of "this happened to me" and "I felt such-and-such a way", with very little of what was going on actually played out directly. The same held true in the second part, although at least there, there were a few more scenes of direct interaction between Laura and other characters, notably Valtar and Sirwala. This made it a lot harder for me to feel engaged by any of the characters.
Three, instead of getting much in the way of action and character dialogue played out directly, we get a lot of lengthy paragraphs of Laura being introspective about assorted things that trouble her as a girl (mostly "the French speakers think I'm weird because I have an English name, and the English speakers think I'm weird because I speak with a French accent, and I HATE ALL OF THEM and I'm going to go dream about being a spider now"), and later, assorted things that trouble her as an adult. Later, when she does actually have direct interaction with other characters (mostly Valtar), each paragraph of dialogue is likewise very long. On the one hand, I regret that my French was not up to the task of following much of this, because I'm certain I'd have engaged with Laura as a character much more if I could actually understand most of what the text was saying. On the other hand, even as an Anglophone reader who's barely able to dip her toes into Quebecois SF/F so far, I kept feeling like the lengthy, expository nature of the dialogue was forced. I'd be really curious to know if it reads that way to Quebecois readers as well, or if this is just a matter of my being a beginner at French.
So far, the one other Quebecois SF/F novel I've successfully read was significantly different stylistically, and targeted for younger readers as well--so it was much easier for me to follow. This one, I'll straight-up admit, was a hard slog. So for now I'm going to have to give it two stars. But I'll want to try it again later, as my French improves, and see whether my reading experience is different....more
"Cozily domestic" is not usually a phrase I would think to associate with the living situation of a vampire. It is a measure of Cherie Priest's abilit"Cozily domestic" is not usually a phrase I would think to associate with the living situation of a vampire. It is a measure of Cherie Priest's ability as an author to engage me so strongly that I not only was intrigued by her take on a vampire heroine, but was actively charmed by seeing the growing household that Raylene Pendle has pulled around herself as of the beginning of Book 2 of The Chesire Red Reports, Hellbent.
This installment of the series continues one of the big things I liked a lot about Book 1, Bloodshot: i.e., taking a bunch of urban fantasy tropes and... well, it's cliched of me to say "subverting them", but really, it's true. You don't find too many vampires--in urban fantasy proper, at least; if you venture over into paranormal romance, it's a different story--that are neurotic, or needy, or who do in fact gather a whole household of dependents around them without really actively meaning to. Raylene's a refreshing contrast to the vampires I'm so used to seeing, the ones who are all-powerful heads of Clans or Houses or whatever, especially the males who are the all-too-frequent, oh-so-sexy-and-mysterious love interests for associated heroines. Raylene's not remote or mysterious, and this makes her far sexier a character to me than any one of dozens of alpha male vampire heroes.
And oh. My. God. Mad, mad love is ongoing for Adrian, the most badass drag queen who ever dragged. That he exists in the pages of an urban fantasy at all just makes me happy. Gender fluidity for the major, major win.
Now, that said, let's talk plot. I wasn't quite as taken with the plot of this one as I was the previous, just because the A and B plots didn't mesh quite as well as I would have hoped. But that said, there's intriguing followup on the status of Adrian's lost vampire sister. And there's an intriguing and somewhat scary character who shows up, the disturbed mage Elizabeth, who seems to be a way for Priest to explore dealing with a character who has both a) significant magical power and b) significant mental illness. Elizabeth is a bit of a cipher, but the scenes where Raylene reaches out to her in unwilling sympathy are among my favorite in the book. Elizabeth's mental illness is not downplayed, or magically cured, and I have to give high marks for both of those.
Overall, there were also a bit more moments where Raylene went past 'cozily domestic' and a bit too far into 'twee'--adopting a kitten? Not really necessary, we get that Raylene's a lot more of a softy than she lets on! (And I say this as someone in general favor of kittens.) I'm also not really sure I buy Elizabeth's status at the end.
But on the other hand, I did overall quite like this book anyway. And I'm hoping that Priest will get a shot at more of them, given that as per her blog, she was only originally contracted to do two of them. For this one, I'll give four stars!...more
Oh, I do love me some Greywalker. I DO. And I happily devoured Downpour, the sixth in the ongoing Kat Richardson series.
Given that this is an urban faOh, I do love me some Greywalker. I DO. And I happily devoured Downpour, the sixth in the ongoing Kat Richardson series.
Given that this is an urban fantasy series, by now we're well and thoroughly into the character progression--and into the inevitable levelling up of Harper's Greywalker powers. At least a few other series I've stuck with this far have almost exhausted me, between a never-ending sense of "shit, does nothing good ever happen to these people?!" and the aforementioned levelling-up often not feeling like it's justified at all. Happily, Kat Richardson never has this problem for me. Harper's gaining power, sure. But so far it's felt real, and logical, for her to do so. It's changing her as a person, and she knows it, and she's reacting to this in real and logical ways as well.
It's awesome as well to see her continue to try to actually solve cases, and continue to try to operate at a level that isn't necessarily ZOMG THE WORLD IS GOING TO EXPLODE. Such as in this installment, how she's gone out on the Olympic Peninsula to do some investigating--and oh look! Ghostly car wreck victim! That investigation pulls her off on a side quest, only, of course Investigation A and Investigation B eventually tie together. Like ya do, in any urban fantasy novel.
And oh, I did like this story. Since I've been out on the Olympic Peninsula a time or two, it was great to see that area of the state getting some on-camera love. And I liked a LOT that we got elements of the fantastic that were rooted more in the Native American myths of the region than in more heavily used staples of urban fantasy--and I say that as somebody who loves her some elves.
And Quinn! Quinn! I love, love, love that there is an ongoing relationship here, and that we're continuing to get more bits from his point of view as he's trying to keep up in his own non-powered way with Harper's changing status. Just because he loves her and because he's that damned awesome.
Really, over all, this was great fun and I didn't have a single quibble with it in the slightest. But for the love of all gods, don't start here if you want to dive into the Greywalker books. Do know, though, that if you get through the first couple, you'll have this one to look forward to. Five stars!...more
Side Jobs is perhaps not absolutely critical reading for a fan of Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files. Most of the stories herein are ones which were prSide Jobs is perhaps not absolutely critical reading for a fan of Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files. Most of the stories herein are ones which were previously published in various other anthologies, with the shining exception of Aftermath, the novella that takes place immediately after the novel Changes--and which was the first thing I'd ever seen Mr. Butcher write from a female point of view, at least in the Dresden Files. For that alone, and for an opportunity to see Murphy react to the way that novel ended, I was myself quite happy to snap this one up.
Fortunately, I hadn't actually read most of these stories before, so the collection was primarily new to me. And there's definitely some good stuff in here, taking place over quite a wide range of the Dresden timeline. Aside from Aftermath, my favorites were "Last Call" and "Love Hurts", just because of fun mileage with McAnally's, and again with Murphy. I certainly squeed quite a bit for the "Love Hurts" story in particular. I'd already read Warrior from the Mean Streets anthology, but that one's a good solid story as well. And if you want to go way, way back in Harry's timeline, "Restoration of Faith" takes place before Storm Front; that one's available to read for free on Jim's site, but it was good to see it here, too, and good to see the collection ranging from very early Harry to (as of the time of this collection's release) current Harry.
Critical? No. But definitely fun, and if you're like me--a big fan of Jim's work but not one who normally reads anthologies or collections--you should go ahead and pick this up. But for the love of all that's holy, do not read Aftermath unless you've already read Changes. Because oh my yes the spoilers. Four stars....more
Urban fantasy has to work very, very hard to seize and hold my attention these days, and I say this fully cognizant of how there are a great number ofUrban fantasy has to work very, very hard to seize and hold my attention these days, and I say this fully cognizant of how there are a great number of authors out there writing awesome books. For me, it's just been a matter of wanting to read so many things--and having read so much urban fantasy the last several years--that more of it is generally pretty far down my reading queue.
For Cherie Priest, though, I'll totally make exceptions. I've unilaterally liked every single thing of hers I've read, and Bloodshot, the first of her Cheshire Red Reports series, is no exception. It doesn't engage me quite as hard as the Clockwork Century books do, I'll cheerfully admit. But on the other hand, "slightly less awesome than Boneshaker" is still pretty goddamned awesome.
Here's the thing for me about Bloodshot: it made me actively like a vampire protagonist, and it did it by making her an engaging character entirely aside from her being a badassed vampire thief. Yeah yeah yeah, badassed vampire thief, seen too much of that; see previous commentary re: reading a whole LOT of urban fantasy. What I haven't seen, though, is a vampire who was a flapper before she was turned. Who sets off being a badassed thief with being thoroughly neurotic, to the degree of preparing for her heists to obsessive levels of detail. And who, even while she swears up and down to the reader that she's not interested in forming lasting attachments, nonetheless has adopted two homeless children in her Seattle base of operations--and who proceeds to take a very personal interest in the case her latest client brings her, when he turns out to be a blinded vampire seeking to steal information about what happened to him while he was the captive of a secret government experiment.
Nor was it enough that Raylene rocked. Backing her up in this story is one of the most awesome male lead characters it has been my pleasure to read in some time: Adrian deJesus, a.k.a. Sister Rose, an ex-Navy SEAL turned drag queen. I adore Adrian. I adore that he is the reason why Raylene has to struggle with the question of how to address his gender identity, in a reasonable and non-angstful way, and that it's a struggle that doesn't take Raylene much time to figure out. I adore that he is both thoroughly badassed AND very, very comfortable with makeup. I adore that he is, in fact, the second most badassed character in the book, only slightly less badassed than the vampire protagonist. And godDAMN, that boy can dance.
With these two highly engaging main characters to blaze the way, it was no effort at all to enjoy the hell out of this book. I very much liked the exploration of the aforementioned secret government experiment, and how it dovetails with Adrian's own backstory, as he's on the hunt for his missing sister, who has herself become a vampire. And I quite like the exploration of the idea that a vampire, Raylene's client Ian, has to live with the strong likelihood that he'll be permanently disabled.
In short, there's a great deal I liked here and not very much at all I didn't care for. I found the kids a bit too plot-moppety for my liking, as they're mostly there to provide character development for Raylene, and a couple of the details revealed about what happened to Ian a bit too predictable. But that's about the extent of my problems with it, and all in all, we're talking four strong stars here....more