Surprise! The best urban fantasy read of the year so far. Way to weave threads throughout the series and wrap them up while creating new ones! Answers...moreSurprise! The best urban fantasy read of the year so far. Way to weave threads throughout the series and wrap them up while creating new ones! Answers, betrayals, heartbreak, loyal friends and more questions for a Toby that is finally paying attention. Love this installment. (less)
I enjoyed this book much more than expected. So subtle and quiet and beautiful. John and his baby. John and his horse lord. Great mature romance and f...moreI enjoyed this book much more than expected. So subtle and quiet and beautiful. John and his baby. John and his horse lord. Great mature romance and father son story. I even understood where the mean ex was coming from. A pleasure. (less)
I loved Rachel Bach's Paradox series and as a result decided to pick up this new book. This refreshing urban fantasy installment, first in a series wr...moreI loved Rachel Bach's Paradox series and as a result decided to pick up this new book. This refreshing urban fantasy installment, first in a series written under her name Aaron, is filled with dangerous action and humor. I love the main characters, Julius the young, nice dragon and his side kick the tougher and more worldly mage Marci. However, the secondary characters are fantastic and make this book a well-rounded urban fantasy read: Bethesda the Broodmare, the Heartstriker's dragon's mother, and Julius' siblings, Chelsea the Enforcer, Ian the Suave and Spoiled, Cocky Justin, and of course my favorite Bob (Brohomir) the Crazy Seer.
This first book is a solid introduction to a series set in a free for all Detroit Free Zone where magic with weird, fantastical creatures and modern technically savvy dragons (with ancient traditional values) are the basis for the world-building. There is only a hint of romance with some promise in that area. I'm hooked. (less)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent YA fiction read written in epistolary style. First published in 1999, this short coming-of-age novel i...moreThe Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent YA fiction read written in epistolary style. First published in 1999, this short coming-of-age novel is as pertinent today as it was during that time. Chbosky's narrator and main character is young fifteen-year-old Charlie whose personal isolation and awkward social skills are only rivaled by his brilliant mind. The story begins when Charlie is about to start high school and finishes at the end of his freshman year. During that one year, within 213 pages, Charlie undergoes quite a few changes, (character growth) and makes some good as well as some pretty disturbing discoveries about himself. Along the way, he makes some great friends like Patrick, Sam and a few others, but Charlie's family (parents and siblings) are also there in a meaningful way.
This is a smart read, not just a quick one. Chbosky packs in key young adult and family issues, some quite serious, in very few pages while keeping his characters young and fresh as they "discover" and process issues and ideas in their own unique way. While Charlie is the narrator through the letters he writes to "Dear Friend," all the main characters involved in Charlie's life are very well rendered. I was touched by quite a few them: Charlie, of course, Sam, Patrick and Brad, Sam, Charlie's teacher Bill (I wish all teachers were like that!), Charlie's sister and his parents. This is a highly recommended YA fiction read. If you've read it, then you know why. If you haven't, give it try!
I collected quite a few quotes:
"In the hallways, I see the girls wearing the guys' jackets, and I think about the idea of property. And I wonder if they are happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are."
"We accept the love we think we deserve."
"I just think it's bad when a boy looks at a girl and thinks that the way he sees the girl is better than the girl actually is."
"Bob said it was all about our parents not wanting to let go of their youth and how it kills them when they can't relate to something." Hah!
"[e]ven if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."
I read this book for my Internet Book Club. Thanks to Mariana, Lili, Maria, Christine, and Yinx for the recommendation.(less)
The Wilde Stories anthology series edited by Steve Berman features gay themed speculativ...moreGrade: 4.5/5.0 Originally reviewed at Impressions of a Reader
The Wilde Stories anthology series edited by Steve Berman features gay themed speculative fiction short stories published during the previous year. This year all the short works included in Steve Berman's 2014 Wilde Stories: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction are written by new contributors. The collection begins with an introduction by Berman, an interesting one at that, however today I am concentrating on a long review that includes all the stories.
The anthology begins with three very good stories that quickly engage the reader, particularly with the short but highly effective contemporary piece "Grindr" by Clayton Littlewood in which text messaging, infused with edgy horror, is utilized as the spec fic element. In "The Ghosts of Emerhad" by Nghi Vo ghosts play a role in a fantasy setting with eerie atmosphere, yet it is not a chilling read, instead this is the redeeming war tale of a man coming to terms with personal loses. And with "How to Dress an American Table" by J. E. Robinson, the collection shifts to a contemporary tale with an unsettling "human monster" at its center, the kind that is often more disturbing than stories about fictional monsters hiding under the bed.
"Caress" by Eli Easton is just an excellent, complete steampunk sff romance piece filled with outstanding details, world-building and "graphic novel" atmosphere. I visualized a graphic novella while reading this romance between a young man with a clockwork heart whose genius and skills save a soldier from a fate worse than death. Following is another excellent story. "57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides" by Sam J. Miller strongly stands out with a unique format that flows effortlessly, and memorable young adult characters, outstanding speculative fiction elements, gay theme, and a plot focused on friendship, bullying, revenge and betrayal.
The collection continues the young adult theme with "Happy Birthday, Numskull" by Robert Smith, a piece that is so freaking interesting because the spec fic elements come from a sensitive, imaginative child’s perceived horrors as he experiences the adult world surrounding him. Everything changes with "Right There in Kansas City" by Casey Hannan, the only story in the anthology that veers into the realm of the weird with dense speculative fiction elements that hit the reader from its inception. There is an obvious sub-text to the story, but take it from me this one is very good and out there.
"The Water that Falls from Nowhere" by John Chu won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. A reread, this story stands out for the subtle approach with which Chu uses rain as the speculative fiction element while the main thrust of the story is focused on a committed gay couple attempting to gain understanding and acceptance from the narrator’s traditional Chinese family. I have enjoyed Damon Shaw’s work in the past, and he did it again with "Seven Lovers and the Sea." This is a story I loved for its unique twist on both vampiric and seafaring mythical tales.
Although "The Brokenness of Summertime" by R. W. Clinger may be considered a contemporary horror tale by some or perhaps contemporary with a rather sharp edge (pun intended) after all it depicts ye ole green-eyed monster at its best, my totally warped sense of humor turned it into a highly amusing, insane, demented sort of read -- so, so enjoyable! It was then surprising that "Lacuna" by Matthew Cheney gutted me with its ending and not necessarily with the speculative fiction details. Let me explain, in this story there is a running narrative by a writer as he creates a speculative fiction piece. So, there are two stories at once, one interrupting the other's flow and ending in the writer's reality with a shocking revelation and the reasons why "words are not magic." I must be particularly susceptible at the moment because after this story I stopped reading the anthology for a bit before picking it up again. That's a good thing, it means that the story made a strong impact.
"Super Bass" by Kai Ashante Wilson is a fantastic tale with magical aspects of ancient African religions utilized as the root for the speculative fiction elements. In his story, Ashante Wilson amplifies those magical aspects within a high religious ceremony in which two lovers participate, with one transforming into the Most High Summer King and the other giving him strength through loving. The islanders traditionally marry in threes -- two men, one woman -- an organic same-gender, gender-mixed society. This aspect of the world-building is not deeply explored. Rather, it is an organic part of its creation and left open to the reader for further thought and speculation.
The last piece with young adults as central characters is a mythology-based story by Cory Skerry, "Midnight at the Feet of the Caryatides," that focuses on a arrogant click of students that choose to abuse the weak and different. I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere and gargoyles, but for me the most memorable aspect of the story is the combination of darkness and tenderness found in the narrative. And the anthology ends with "The Revenge of Oscar Wilde" by Sean Eads, a zombie story with Oscar playing the forceful and introspective knight avenging his lover Bosie's honor to the horrifying, bittersweet end. This is a short story worth reading for its beautiful writing and excellent alternate perspective into Wilde's last days in Paris. . . and on. "If there is a god to them now, he walks this earth and his name is Oscar Wilde."
This anthology ebbs and flows with short works that include contemporary, fantasy, steampunk, magical, and mythology-based speculative fiction – some action-filled, others quieter and more introspective, going from dark to light, and darker yet. Horror-based speculative fiction tales reign supreme with some excellent otherworldly pieces and plenty of stand outs. Personally, I found quite a few favorites as I made my way through this year's edition of Wilde Stories. (less)
I've read Molly O'Keefe's contemporary romances but that did not prepare me for her post-civil war historical western romance Seduced. It is not at al...moreI've read Molly O'Keefe's contemporary romances but that did not prepare me for her post-civil war historical western romance Seduced. It is not at all what I expected, it is much better. Our main characters are Southern Belle Melody Hurst and ex-soldier turned bounty hunter Cole Baywood. Melody's husband Jimmy, sister Annie, and Cole's brother Steven serve as the secondary characters in a self-contained, closed setting that keeps the high tension-fueled atmosphere going even after violence erupts and dissipates.
Melody has been to hell and back and after Jimmy is gone, she has nothing left to give of herself. Melody was a manipulative southern beauty before the war and will do whatever is necessary to secure a future for herself and her sister Annie to keep them safe. Seducing Cole is her answer. Cole can't see beyond the horror of war and everything he lost -- his family and innocence, his true self. All he sees is blood in his hands. Melanie's beauty and company remind him of who he used to be, but Cole will not settle with a woman who can't give him everything.
Gritty, that's the word that comes to mind when I think of Seduced. Melody may have been a Southern Belle in her past, but she's no wilting flower and Cole is passionate and tender but tough and not easily manipulated. The violent scenes at the beginning of this romance are not gratuitous and instead serve to anchor this romance to the historical time. The secondary characters are also explored and contribute much to the story adding to the central conflict of civil war torn lives and the developing relationship between Melody and Cole. This is a gritty, redemptive historical romance with depth of character and feeling, a big scoop of hope, and the beginning of love for our romantic couple at the end. I can't wait to read the second book in this series.(less)
This YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel between...moreThis YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel between parallel universes. The first book of Ericka O'Rourke's Dissonance series is also heavy on the romance. Expect a few sections with info dump here and there and predictable characterization such as the rebellious, reckless teenager with major authority issues, the love triangle, and the absent, unlikable parents. The characters, with few exceptions, are not immediately likable.
As with other YA romances I have read in the past, I wondered when and why the love happens. There is a disconnect between the sudden crush that turns into a sort of immediate obsession coming from the sixteen-year-old female protagonist, the young male protagonist's lack of awareness of her, and the relationship that develops whereby she is willing to sacrifice it all -- including family, friendships, and world -- for him, while he is willing to sacrifice all for his mother. It comes off desperate and off-balanced to say the least. I don't know how young adults will feel about the romance aspect of this book, but that's how it struck me personally.
Regardless, the premise for the world-building and the overall mystery are both very good, and for those reasons Dissonance was worth a read for me. The story ends satisfactorily, if with a bit of a cliffhanger, ready for book two of the series. (less)
Pamela Morsi is a favorite writer whose Americana historical romances I dearly love. In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, Morsi's latest contemporary romance, she...morePamela Morsi is a favorite writer whose Americana historical romances I dearly love. In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, Morsi's latest contemporary romance, she takes two people whose lives are made up of mistakes and bad choices and gives them the chance to prove to themselves and each other that change is possible.
Mazy Gulliver has been a doormat and a slave to love her entire adult life. She has chosen one wrong man after another with disastrous results. Mazy returns home with teenage son Tru to stay with her mother, determined to begin again and do right by herself and her son. Mazy's first move is to secure a job at the local bank as a loan collector working for Tad, Tru's biological father. She then visits her best friend Eli who is looking mighty fine these days. Sexual chemistry is still there between them, but Mazy is not sure Eli is for her until later when she slowly begins to believe that Eli may be her Mr. Right.
Eli Latham is the guy next door. He is sweet, nice and dependable and not Mazy's type, except when it comes to sex. Mazy is back in town and Eli's heart can't help but hope, but she is working with Tad the Cad -- does Mazy plan to get back with Tad? Eli still loves Mazy and comes to the conclusion that if she is looking for a new jerk in her life then he, Eli, is going to be her Mr. Wrong.
Morsi's Mr. Right Goes Wrong is both a romance and a personal road to wellness that encompasses both main characters, with Mazy the type of female protagonist that many readers may not like right off the bat. She has gone from one relationship to another, dragging her son Tru along the way. For a large portion of the novel as Mazy attempts to make sense of her life, she slowly turns a corner in her job but is still the clueless doormat I mention above in her newly minted relationship with Eli. She is downright pathetic at times and I admit to gnashing my teeth throughout many scenes. In Morsi's hands, however, there are reasons behind Mazy's actions as well as character growth and a good payoff at the end.
Of the two, Eli may be the most "sympathetic," at least initially. He's a fine, responsible man who loves Mazy unconditionally. Eli is also one of the most beta male characters I've encountered in a while -- caring, giving, and seriously laid back. But in his quest to win Mazy, Eli becomes as judgmental as the rest of those people he hated for hurting Mazy and goes too far. As he goes down the "beta to hard ass" road, Morsi brings Eli's character full circle and he makes a few personal discoveries of his own, not all them comfortable or pleasant.
Morsi excels at incorporating secondary characters from a small town and making their roles count. So we have tertiary characters that make an impact, as well as secondary characters such as Tru, -- a great character by the way and the love of Mazy's life -- Tad the Cad, Mazy's mother, and Eli's family. As a secondary storyline, Morsi successfully adds depth to this story by focusing on Tru's budding relationship with his biological father as well as on the relationship he develops with Eli.
In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, I find that the characters' journeys to personal wellness and happiness are interesting but equally frustrating. Morsi, however, has a talent for creating down to earth characters with depth and infusing subtle humor in her stories even when the issues they confront are complex. I recommend this romance to readers who appreciate Morsi’s writing style and enjoy a well earned happy ever after. (less)