The Serpent Mage" - book two - picks up shortly after Infinity Concerto leaves off. Michael Perrin is back home, living with his parents and continuinThe Serpent Mage" - book two - picks up shortly after Infinity Concerto leaves off. Michael Perrin is back home, living with his parents and continuing his training. Arno Waltiri has left his estate and the disposition of his papers and recordings to Michael. Waltiri has also left his house to Michael and eventually Michael moves in and begins to go through the papers.
Michael's desires for normality are shattered, however, when he reads a news story about strange bodies discovered in a nearby hotel - one grossly obese, one strangely mummified and in a party dress. Other news stories speak of "hauntings" around the world - Michael suspects that the Sidhe are coming to Earth. If that isn't enough, he is contacted by a musical faculty member from UCLA named Kristine Pendeers who is looking for the Infinity Concerto - Opus 45. She wants to discover and perform it; and she has a friend who, with the help of letters and papers they hope to discover in Waltiri's estate, hopes to finish Mahler's unfinished Symphony. And they then plan play the two pieces together. Once the decision is made to start looking for these materials, Michael begins to fall under various attacks to stop him from completing these tasks.
Hopefully the bits of plot I outlined above don't spoil the book for anyone - I could hardly outline less without being so vague about the basic plot of the book as to be basically providing you with a meaningless synopsis; however, there is so much more to this book than the above. Greg Bear weaves throughout this story a fascinating new mythos about the creation and evolution, de-evolution and re-evolution of man and the universe that I found to be quite astonishing in its depth and breadth. He weaves in references to several world religions and ties them in to his mythos, showing how the original truth was "twisted" over the years to conform to what would best serve those in power. It's a really interesting device and I enjoyed the way it was woven in throughout the story. You may also look at vegetarianism in a whole new light.
There was only one thing about the story that bothered me and I'm not sure if it was because I misinterpreted what I was reading or if it is because of some sort of misogyny on the part of the author. It is mentioned several times throughout the course of the book that "magic is carried by the woman." However, not one single mage shown is a woman. If women carry the magic, why aren't there any female mages? Or, as I said, perhaps I am misinterpreting it, and by "carry" they mean like a recessive gene - they carry the magic, but cannot use it.
Those who are fans of epic fantasy, magical realism, stories of the Sidhe (especially of the darker natures thereof) or simply well-crafted alternate realities, please do not miss this one....more
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: fans of YA that are tired of love triangles, heroes that try to protect the heroinBook Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: fans of YA that are tired of love triangles, heroes that try to protect the heroine by hiding her away, and heroines that are annoying. Those who enjoy a good story with quirky and fun characters. Trigger Warnings: violence, killing
My Thoughts: Holy cliffhangers, Batman! If you have a problem with cliffhangers, you will probably be enraged by this book, which ends on a significant cliffhanger, with no news as to when the next book in the series will be available, only that there will be another book. All I can say is that I hope it is written and released soon, because I desperately want to know what happens next.
Oh, yeah, I really enjoyed this book overall. There were a few problems—for example, “whom” is misused every single time it is used, and “mere” is seriously overused (such as “mere moments” or “mere inches” etc.). However, I really liked the characters. Ajax is just a hoot, and Paige's “I'm the weird girl and that's the way it is” attitude is so very similar to my attitude at that age, so I was really able to relate to her. It was really nice to have a heroine that was quirky and a bit strange; some of the things she came up with were hilarious. For example:
“...there was the little matter of me talking to people in the hospital that no one else could see. I went for brain scan after brain scan, tried little white pills, big blue pills, yellow pills—I tasted the rainbow when it came to pills—but the doctors couldn't find anything medically wrong with me.
Or: A tall, dark-haired boy... stared after me curiously. He gave me a slow smile before turning his attention back to Miller. That smile sent chills racing down my arms, leaving gooseflesh in their wake, but not in a good way. It was less Mr. Sexypants and more Mr. Windowless Van.
I also loved that she was so willing to make fun of herself over Logan. It wasn't all drama-drama, weeping and moaning; she was willing to have fun with things and laugh at her own nonsense. For example:
He [Logan] wasn't wearing his baseball cap for once, and the day was bright, almost warm, so his face was bathed in a soft glow from the winter sun. Logan's normally shaded eyes looked a much lighter brown in the sun, and they crinkled up at the corners as he gave me an easy smile.
Are you deliberately screwing with me, sun? What's next? Is his smile going to sparkle as a bell-like “ding” chimes in the distance? Is a butterfly going to land on his shoulder? Give the boy a white horse and it's a wrap for poor Paige's heart.
Or: I reached for my bag but Logan refused, insisting on carrying it. Because he just had to do perfect gentlemanly things that made me like him even more. That bastard.
I enjoyed Paige's relationship with her dad, despite his belief that she was crazy and talked to people who weren't there. His over protectiveness is on display in this scene:
Sure enough, a minute later my dad poked his head in just to check and see if we needed anything. Then he made sure the door was as wide open as possible. And tested the lock. And studied the hinges, possibly contemplating removing the door from the frame. And then he left. Probably to go collect his award for Most Embarrassing Dad of All Time That Ever Existed in the History of Everything.
I also liked that Logan didn't just try to keep Paige safe by hiding her away and protecting her, but actually was willing to help her learn how to defend herself. And it was really refreshing to have a young adult book without a love triangle. See, it can be done!
So, despite any faults, an enjoyable book, and the first book in a new series that I will definitely be following. Keep in mind the cliffhanger ending; if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to wait until the next book is at least announced so you aren't left hanging! But if this sounds like your cup of tea, I definitely recommend it.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: Paige Kelly is used to weird--in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer—and he isn't fazed by Paige's propensity to chat with the dead. Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she'll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that's overrun by demons—and she might never make it home. ...more
Book Info: Genre: Mystery/fantasy Reading Level: Adult Recommended for: Folks who like to think deep thoughts, enjoy a good story Book Available: SeptembBook Info: Genre: Mystery/fantasy Reading Level: Adult Recommended for: Folks who like to think deep thoughts, enjoy a good story Book Available: September 9, 2014 in paperback and Kindle formats Trigger Warnings: murder, slavery (historically), religious persecution
My Thoughts: I really enjoy cross-genre stories, and this one hits a few of my favorite buttons: a mystery in a fantasy world. To make things even better, it is a multi-layered story that brings up issues of slavery, personal and religious freedom, and the abuse of power. It was a really excellent story. This little segment, which is before the first page of the first chapter, really encapsulates some of the ideas that are explored in the story, and also express my thoughts on organized religion pretty well.
And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?
And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”
And Olvos was silent.
I was very amused by the anti-bureaucracy sentiments expressed in the book, too, as shown in these segments:
There is no crueler hells then committee work.
Shara now sits on committees that decide who shall be nominated to be committee chairs for other committees, then, after these meetings, she sits on committee meetings to formulate agendas for future meetings, and after them, she attends committee meetings deciding who shall be appointed to appoint appointments to committees.
“These meetings, they're like thieves—they follow you around, wait until you're not looking, and pounce.”
I really liked the characters, and the development of those characters. The changes are slow and subtle, just like in life, but end up being life-altering in the end. It was very well done. I was left with a lot of lingering thoughts about power and powerlessness and how those who initially lacked power will often abuse it once they have it. The Saypuri were treated as slaves under the control of the Continentals, and when they finally rose up and overthrew them, the Saypuri persecuted the Continentals, refusing to allow them to so much as mention their gods (or Divinities), forbidding “miracles” (essentially magic spells), and denying the Continentals their own history or access to their own texts from the past. One would think that it would be common sense to not do something like that, as it just leads to more conflict, but then again, the lust for power rarely bows to common sense or logic.
So, a really good book. It made me think and ponder on various topics, many of them quite weighty, while at the same time providing an entertaining story. I recommend this to anyone who likes deep thoughts, a good story, and a cross-genre tale. This book won't be available until September, but you can pre-order it if it sounds like your thing.
Disclosure: I received an ARC/proof copy from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet, mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters—dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem—and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well. ...more
Book Info: Genre: Weird Western Reading Level: Adult Diversity: GLBTQ characters, various religions, interracial relationships Tense, Person, POV: Past tBook Info: Genre: Weird Western Reading Level: Adult Diversity: GLBTQ characters, various religions, interracial relationships Tense, Person, POV: Past tense, third person, limited POV Recommended for: Fans of Weird Westerns, Lovecraftian books, steampunk Book Available: October 7, 2014 in Hardcover and Kindle formats Trigger Warnings: murder, mutilation, torture, mention of necrophilia, cannibalism Animals: at least one horse killed
My Thoughts: These are listed as steampunk, but thus far there is limited steampunkery. To me, this is mostly a Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian influences. There are also very many stretches of interesting philosophical discussion between the various characters that I quite enjoyed. For instance:
“God simply is,” Bick said. “Humanity embraced It. They gave It color and gender, shape and form. They put words in Its mouth. They always have, and they still do, perhaps they always will. I always experience God as a 'He,' but God is too vast to be held prisoner by language or biology.”
“...What things do you think the Almighty was whispering in my ear all those countless eons? Words of endearment? Of joy and peace and love? No. He dipped his tongue in the blackest blood and he whispered to me of slaughter, of death of torture and atrocity. That is your creator, Biqa. He built this entire lovely, lovely playground so that he could tear it apart, abuse and neglect his toys and listen to the terrified screams of the monkeys as they tried to understand.”
“Where did payback end exactly? Charlie Upton had murdered Jim's Pa. Jim killed Charlie. One day Jim might get shot or hanged for what he did to Charlie and sometone like Mutt or Jon Highfather might seek revenge in his name. How far back did the blood flow? When was it enough? Could anything ever get square?”
I'm enjoying the character development in these books. Mutt, for example, has really loosened up, and he's quite funny in this book. Jon is off a lot, leaving Mutt and Jim to take care of business in the town. Doc Tumblety is such a creeper, and of course incompetent to boot. As Jon Highfather states: “And that's our first-rate medical care here in sunny Golgotha. He may seem pretty horrible at first, but after awhile you come to realize that deep down inside, he's much worse than that.” He's very misogynistic, saying at one point to Kate, “Hush now... Men are talking.” As for Kate, she makes a great addition to the cast and to the town; I hope we'll see her again! I enjoyed the bits and pieces of Chinese history and legends that Ch'eng Huang provides to Jim as he is instructing him on how to use the jade eye. I was more than a bit troubled by the inclusion of the Thuggee, as their worship of Kali Ma is a perversion. It is true Kali Ma is the Mother-Destroyer, the one who must destroy the world so it can be remade anew, but that doesn't mean that people should be going around randomly murdering in her name.
Also, it is mentioned off-hand that Baba Yaga came to Golgotha, albeit briefly. She is not mentioned by name, but a house on chicken legs is a dead giveaway. I do hope that this story will be told in full; maybe the author has a number of these little anecdotes that he could use to put together an anthology of short stories set in Golgotha?
Toward the end, Clay and a Professor Zenith have a “science showdown” that is wonderfully fun as they shout at one another, using very civilized language and high-toned insults. It struck my funny bone and hopefully I won't be the only one amused by it. At the end, Clay says, “I swear... anyone with a little copper tubing and a dynamo thinks they're a scientist these days.”
This is an excellent follow-up and I'm grateful to the author for sending me this ARC so I didn't have to wait until October to read it! I haven't commented on editing because this is an uncorrected proof, so any errors I spotted will likely be cleaned up by the final draft. Definitely check this out if it sounds like the sort of book you'd like!
Series Information: The Golgotha series Book 1: The Six-Gun Arcana, review linked here where formatting allowed Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana
Disclosure: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: 1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.
Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before—and some of them will never be the same. ...more
Book Info: Genre: Historical Literary Fiction Reading Level: Adult Tense, Person, POV: third person, present tense, limited omniscient POV Diversity: GLBBook Info: Genre: Historical Literary Fiction Reading Level: Adult Tense, Person, POV: third person, present tense, limited omniscient POV Diversity: GLBTQ, interracial relationship Recommended for: Fans of historical literary fiction, interested in 17th century Amsterdam Book Available: August 26, 2014 in Hardcover, Kindle, Large Print paperback, and August 15 in a prerecorded Digital Audio Player. Trigger Warnings: torture, capital punishment—those sentenced to execution are thrown into the sea with a weight around their neck to drown Animals: someone opens a window and lets out a parakeet; kittens and puppies left in bags to die, or thrown into river to drown, dog is murdered
My Thoughts: Amsterdam: “Where the pendulum swings from God to a guilder.” 17th century Amsterdam, to put it mildly, is not a place I would want to spend my time. This book is hard to define, but to me it is about hypocrisy, greed, religion, mob mentality, life and death, beginnings and endings. There is a lot going on in this book, and the thing with the miniaturist is very strange. Is she just able to put together information due to intuition, or does she has a psychic gift? It is never answered, and we never catch more than a glimpse of her. I think the cabinet is a metaphor for Nella's life in general, and how she feels trapped. There is a great deal of emphasis placed upon the roles of women and men, as well as the repressive nature of religion at the time. The sense of fear and paranoia soaks this book.
There are a lot of things that I found quite interesting, and don't forget the excellent glossary and appendix in the back of the book. I had a really hard time with the offhand way that people treated animals, so be aware of that if you are sensitive to that; it was, however, sadly a part of the society of the time, and historically accurate, so it was necessary. If this sounds like an interesting book for you, definitely check it out. It's not the sort of thing I would ordinarily read, but despite the rating I would be comfortable recommending this book.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth....more
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy/coming-of-age with elements of horror Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: People looking for a good cross-genre YA boBook Info: Genre: Fantasy/coming-of-age with elements of horror Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: People looking for a good cross-genre YA book with a real kicker of a heroine Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, killing, threats of sexual assault, accusations of child molestation
My Thoughts: This was a really good book. I did something I haven't done for ages, and that was to sit and read almost the entire book in one sitting. I did not want to put it down! I've been a fan of this author's Otherworld series, but this is a very different world she has created. I can see where it is based on various cultures, but she had made them her own and the world-building, while somewhat slow, is wonderfully done.
I am always impressed when an author can create truly different voices for their characters, especially when they are writing from multiple points of view (by chapter). Moria and Ashyn had very different voices. Moria was brash and in-your-face, while Ashyn was more retiring and diplomatic. I think this quote encapsulates those differences quite well.
“Keepers and Seekers were not permitted to do more than trim their hair to elbow length. Ashyn said they ought to be grateful they weren't like the spirit talkers, who weren't ever allowed to cut their hair or their nails. Personally, Moria would be more concerned with the "eyes plucked out, tongue cut off, and nostrils seared" part of being a spirit talker, but she could see that the uncut nails might be inconvenient as well.”
Each of her characters has his or her own quirks and foibles that are slowly built up through the book. She does an excellent job of showing rather than telling, and that really makes a huge difference in a story like this one.
My one complaint is that this ends on a cliffhanger and we have to wait until next year before the next book in the trilogy is available! This is the one thing I dislike about reading the books as they come out, as I'll have forgotten much of the story by the time the next one is released and will need to re-read this one. Of course, as fun as this story was, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I also wish Daigo and Tova had played larger parts. While they are always there, I think they could have been more in the middle of things in various places.
But these are minor quibbles and overall I loved it. If you've been looking for a fast-paced YA fantasy with a heroine who really does kick posterior and take names (Moria), then this is the book for you. Check itout!
Series Information: Age of Legends trilogy Book 1: Sea of Shadows Book 2: Empire of Night, expected publication 2015
Disclosure: I received an uncorrected ARC proof copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.
Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever. ...more
Book Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adults Recommended for: Fans of horror, those who yearn for the old, bad vampires Trigger Warnings: murder, killiBook Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adults Recommended for: Fans of horror, those who yearn for the old, bad vampires Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, one character considers sexual assault, torture
My Thoughts: Ah, in a world full of brooding vampires and immortal lovers and people who sparkle in the sunlight, this brings it right back to the nitty-gritty of vampires: they are predators. They eat us. There is nothing beautiful about them. Well, true vampires, anyway. Turns out the Nazis did some experimenting, and throw in a Vatican-based conspiracy.... but shhh, spoilers, sweetie, spoilers!
I have rated this as horror, because that is how I read the ending. However, the ending is left open for interpretation, so others might read this as dark urban fantasy. Whatever the genre, this German author does an amazing writer with it, and I hope his other two books will be translated into English so I can read them as well. If you like horror—and I mean true horror here—and/or want the old, bad vampires back, then check out this book. I think you'll like it.
Disclosure: I received a paperback copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.
But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?
Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?...more
Just an adorable little book full of pictures of cats set against various backdrops so they appear to be floating in space or parachuting from a planeJust an adorable little book full of pictures of cats set against various backdrops so they appear to be floating in space or parachuting from a plane, etc. Doesn't take long to leaf through, but I plan to look at it more closely later on....more
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: Fans of character-driven YA fantasy, sword and sorcery, alternate worlds, role-plBook Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult Recommended for: Fans of character-driven YA fantasy, sword and sorcery, alternate worlds, role-playing games, Native American legends and lore Trigger Warnings: fighting, bullying including attempted murder, violence, killing, murder
My Thoughts: This is book 1 in the Behind the Walls of Sleep series. While I normally edit for this author, I was unable to do so for this book due to my recent cancer diagnosis, so instead I am reading it for review.
This is not a book for someone who likes a lot of shoot'em up bang-bang action, as a great deal of the story revolves around Daniel learning who he is, both in the waking world and in Astra, and his abilities and talents begin to manifest in both areas. Overall this is quite different from most of Rhine's other works, but still a great story. If you like strongly character-driven coming-of-age YA fantasy, including elements of sword and sorcery, role-playing and even Native American lore and legends, then snatch up this new book. It actually just became available on Amazon today, 4/13/14.
Meanwhile, book 2, Shaman, should be out by summer, if not sooner. Watch for it.
Disclosure: I was given an early version of this book and asked for my opinion. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: When we close our eyes at night, we all see the same ancient place. Exploring Astra is like living a video game. Tomorrow, I’m going goblin-tipping with some of the other wizards. The first rule of being a dream wizard is “no photos.” You don’t want the bad guys finding you where you have no powers. The waking world sucks.
Since Mom went to prison, the Nevada foster system sent me to Minnesota to meet an Uncle Joe I never knew I had. Snow loses its charm after five days. Only music and the dreams make my life bearable.
The weird thing is that elements of the worlds are bleeding into each other. Someone is trying to kill me, and I’m not sure who: the criminal underworld, the elves, or the crazy wizard causing these freaky storms. ...more