When the rep from Harper Collins/Avon contacted me to see if I'd be interested in reviewing an advance copy of a high/epic fantasy romance, I didn't hWhen the rep from Harper Collins/Avon contacted me to see if I'd be interested in reviewing an advance copy of a high/epic fantasy romance, I didn't have to think twice. Magic and princes and sexy times? Yes, please. And The Winter King delivered. Two opposing kingdoms where the royal lines inherit their own specialized kind of magic. A war ended by a marriage between the two. A prince of winter and a princess of summer both with feisty temperaments, powerful magic and (of course) an undeniable attraction to each other. And just to spice things up, an old evil god trying to come back into the world and trigger an icy apocalypse. The fantasy part of the plot line was interesting and I liked the author's take on magic. The family dynamics in the royal lines were well done. The romance part of the plot line was also fun - and I liked that it veered from just plain sexy times to an actual love story. You know I'm a sucker for a good love story. And while nothing in this book was completely genre-busting or surprising, it was still a good read that kept me hooked. I enjoyed it very much, and would recommend if you're looking for a mix of fantasy and romance....more
Right, you thought I could walk by this cover in the library and not pick it up? Ha. This book is a fun little adventure story. The conceit is that itRight, you thought I could walk by this cover in the library and not pick it up? Ha. This book is a fun little adventure story. The conceit is that it's told as a memoir, from the point of view of Isabella (Lady Trent), one of the preeminent dragon experts of her day, looking back on her youth and start of her career. It's a completely fictional world, though Lady Trent's native Scirland sounds amazingly like Victorian England, right down to tea and Society. Isabella, of course, doesn't fit in with this polite, superficial world. She is an intellectual, and interested in science and how things work. And she is especially interested in the mystery of dragons, about which very little is known. This first volume of her memoirs details many of her firsts: her first marriage, her first expedition, and her first major discovery about dragons. It's got romance and adventure and humor and mystery and danger. She is a witty narrator, looking back on some of her youthful opinions with a wiser eye. It's a fun read, and a relatively quick one. My only complaints are that the end wrapped up rather abruptly, and that Isabella, even as a natural scientist, was a little emotionless at times when she shouldn't have been. But it's an interesting read regardless, and I will be picking up the next book....more
I've followed this author, Maureen Johnson, on Twitter for quite awhile (she actually is one of my favorite Twitter personalities), so I thought it waI've followed this author, Maureen Johnson, on Twitter for quite awhile (she actually is one of my favorite Twitter personalities), so I thought it was high time I actually checked out her writing. I started with this series, a YA paranormal mystery because hey - YA and paranormal and mystery are all things I really like. And it did not disappoint. The Name of the Star starts out with Louisiana high schooler Rory settling in to life at a boarding school in modern-day London for the year her parents are working in England. She's making friends, falling in love with London's old charm, and inadvertently getting entangled with a murder investigation. A series of murders mimicking the famous Jack the Ripper style have police baffled, with no leads - until Rory comes forward about the man she saw when out late at night. A man no one else could see, and who apparently is now targeting her.
So begins a suspenseful race to solve the mystery, complete with secret police, danger, ghosts, and even a wee bit of romance. Rory as a narrator is delightful - I didn't get a Louisiana vibe, really, but her teenage snark and unique voice are spot on. The mystery plot was that nice balance between just-surprising-enough and not-too-out-there. And the end was satisfying on many levels, while still leaving it open to the next book (which is also good, by the by - I'm now awaiting book 3). I didn't care too much for the romance plot line (I found the guy in question a bit annoying) but it was a minor point in the book. And I loved how strongly the London accent came through in certain characters. Overall, a great introduction to this author's work, and I'll be checking out her other books....more
I picked up this book because it was billed as an interesting YA dystopia. And it is a dystopia, but it's also a zombie book. Not my usual wheelhouse,I picked up this book because it was billed as an interesting YA dystopia. And it is a dystopia, but it's also a zombie book. Not my usual wheelhouse, but I went with it. The Forest of Hands & Teeth is the story of Mary, a teen girl who lives in an isolated village deep in the Forest. The Forest is where the Unconsecrated (zombies) roam. All that separates her village from annihilation is a metal fence, which is maintained by the Guardians, who take their orders from the Sisters, who rule the village with a religiously cloaked iron fist. The Sisters tell everyone that they are the only humans left and to go out into the Forest is certain death, while Mary has grown up with stories passed down through the women in her family of a wider world and especially the wonder that is the ocean. In the midst of a love triangle gone wrong and grief over a family tragedy, Mary is left with no other option but to join the ranks of the Sisters. Her curious nature doesn't fit well with their strict and structured ranks, and she ends up discovering something that could change everything - or destroy everything. There's a good amount of suspense and zombie attack action. Mary was likable. I didn't quite buy the love triangle situation, and a lot of plot points (particularly deaths of various characters) were both abrupt and unresolved. The ending, too, was super abrupt; I would've liked a little more exploration of that situation and Mary's reactions to all that happened (trying to avoid spoilers). Overall, though, I enjoyed reading it, even though I don't usually go for zombie/horror-tinged reads. I've got book 2 from the library, as well, so we'll see how the rest of the series progresses....more
It'd been too long since I read a book with dragons! This was an excellent remedy for that. Seraphina takes place in a fantasy world where humans andIt'd been too long since I read a book with dragons! This was an excellent remedy for that. Seraphina takes place in a fantasy world where humans and (shape-shifting, uber-logical) dragons live in uneasy peace since the war that raged between them 40 years ago. Now, dragons live among the human population, in their human-like form, trying to understand the lesser race and yet not become influenced by the volatile emotions surrounding them. The title character Seraphina, caught between both worlds, has taken a new position at court right before the anniversary of the peace treaty between the two races. When a prince is murdered in a suspiciously draconian fashion, tensions run high and Seraphina gets pulled into court intrigue and interracial politics and unlikely friendships. All while hiding her own very dangerous secret. It's a lively read, no real slow parts. Hartman's characterization of the dragon race is interesting, and I liked how they had their own political squabbles outside of the human kingdom. There's some romance and danger and bravery and heartbreak and family drama. Overall, a good, enjoyable read. I look forward to book #2....more
I've always been a little fascinated with the Romanov family, so this was a no brainer to pick up when I saw it at the library. As Goodreads says, it'I've always been a little fascinated with the Romanov family, so this was a no brainer to pick up when I saw it at the library. As Goodreads says, it's "a compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter — smuggled out of Russia before the revolution — continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences." The book weaves together the stories of three women: Lena, a housemaid in the Romanov palace; Charlotte, a ballerina living in Nazi-occupied Paris; and Veronica, a modern-day professor of Russian history. Sometimes stories that jump between points-of-view can feel disjointed, but I'm happy to say that's not the case with this book. A good chunk of the book follows Veronica as she discovers a man claiming to be the Romanov heir and investigates the story of a 5th daughter being smuggled out of Russia. The flashback sections following Lena and Charlotte slowly piece together the truth. I did guess the end about ¾ of the way through, but that didn't ruin it for me. It's well-written, with a good pace. There's intrigue and danger and a love story or two. All in all, a satisfying read....more
I've been a long-time fan of Anne Bishop (loved her Ephemera series, and her Black Jewels series is also great). But somehow I missed that book one ofI've been a long-time fan of Anne Bishop (loved her Ephemera series, and her Black Jewels series is also great). But somehow I missed that book one of her new series came out last year, and only just got around to reading it. It's adult urban fantasy, set in an alternate reality of Earth where The Others (fair folk, werebeasts, elementals, vampires, etc.) not only exist, but are the dominant society on the planet. Humankind maintains an ever tenuous truce with them, in exchange for (basically) being allowed to live and form human communities. But humans, living separately from The Others, occasionally forget just how easily they can be snuffed out, and disasters ensue.
The first book in this series focuses on Meg, who is not your average human. She's a blood prophet, who experiences visions of the future when her skin is cut. She's been kept ignorant and captive (by other humans) in a compound full of blood prophets, until piecing together information from visions gives her a way to escape. Stumbling through a winter storm, she finds herself at the Courtyard, a community of Others inside a human city. And they just happen to be looking for a human liaison. So starts Meg's new life, learning to live among the dangerous Others while hiding from her former owners. As bounty hunters close in and the Others start to look on Meg as one of their own, a potentially major clash between the two sides brews.
I loved this book. It's a bit slow to get going, and Meg's blood prophet gift doesn't really come into play until later. And while there was no romance, there's an obvious potential for that brewing for book two. But the sheer otherness of the Others and the tension behind every interaction just drives the story along. There's intrigue and friendship and danger and humor. I've long admired Bishop for her unique world-building and characters with depth, and this did not disappoint. I'm on the waitlist for book two from the library, and plan on diving into it. I would definitely recommend. ...more
I’m a big fan of Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, so I was excited to read his new standalone, fantasy-horror YA book. It’s the story of Zoe, a girl dealI’m a big fan of Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, so I was excited to read his new standalone, fantasy-horror YA book. It’s the story of Zoe, a girl dealing with the upheaval her father’s unexpected death has had on her life. Her best friend is a boy she only sees when she’s asleep, and her newest hobby is hanging out at a record store whose strange proprietor offers her the chance to talk with her dead father. This propels Zoe on a strange journey into the world of the dead, where magic is possible and nothing is as it seems. Something is off in this world; Zoe’s life and the souls of the dead she loves are in danger. As just a mortal girl, what hope does Zoe have against age-old mystical forces?
This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. It was ok. It was more on the fantasy side of things than horror, which was good. And it was entertaining enough and well written enough to keep me reading. But coming from Kadrey’s other books and knowing what he can do, this just seemed… watered down. Maybe that’s because this was for a YA audience rather than adult, but I’ve read YA that is still surprising and original. This was not really surprising, or exciting. I kept having this thought in the back of my head that I’d read this story before; I don’t know if he based it all on a myth I came across somewhere or what, but it seemed like a retelling of something, not a new story. And retellings can be striking and original in their own right, but this one just wasn’t. It was formulaic. His spin with the record store and old music angle was mildly interesting, but it seemed an odd choice for a YA audience since they a) don’t use records and b) likely wouldn’t have heard of any of the bands he referenced (I hadn’t, and I’m older than the target audience). Again, though, it was well written technically, and interesting enough to have me finish the book, so definitely not all bad. But if you’re going to read some Kadrey, I’d recommend the Sandman Slim series over this....more
Time for another fairy tale retelling! You know I love them. In While Beauty Slept, Blackwell tackles the story of Sleeping Beauty through3.5/5 stars
Time for another fairy tale retelling! You know I love them. In While Beauty Slept, Blackwell tackles the story of Sleeping Beauty through a historical rather than magical lens. It's told through the point of view of Elise, a farm girl whose family is decimated by the plague and so she goes to the castle to look for a new start. Eventually she becomes handmaiden to the queen, and so witnesses Rose's birth, the power struggles with the king's aunt Millicent, their dramatic clash, and the way fear can erode personal relationships as well as a kingdom. It's an interesting read, and despite Elise being 'only' a maid, she has more of an influence on events than just as 'witness.' I also like that she has a life of her own going on (her own secrets and struggles and heartbreaks) instead of it only being about the royal family. Elise is the narrator, and the framework is such that she's an old woman finally telling this long-kept story to her great-granddaughter. Which, at times is not a believable framework since the story does get graphic about violence, sickness and sex. Also, even though I liked the story and consider it a good read, the link between Elise's story and how that supposedly morphed into the Sleeping Beauty we all know is still a pretty thin one. And I saw the end coming from a mile away, which is always a bit of an anticlimax. But overall, still a good historical fiction read with dashes of intrigue and romance! Give it a whirl....more
This is the story of Ewan, a boy stolen by the fairies as an infant, and Colby, a boy who meets a genie and makes a monumental wish. Their two storiesThis is the story of Ewan, a boy stolen by the fairies as an infant, and Colby, a boy who meets a genie and makes a monumental wish. Their two stories, otherwordly in their own ways, intersect and change the course of both boys’ lives, and the delicate balance between our world and the realm of magic. This book is strange and moody and surprising. And it recognizes that all actions, even or especially magical ones, have consequences. The characters are pretty much all antiheroes, in that I wasn’t sure if I actually liked them as adults, but I found them compelling nonetheless. There’s a unique take on magic, and the interweaving of so many tales and myths in fun and tangled ways. There are the usual seelie and unseelie fairies, angels and djinn and leprechauns, old gods and new wizards.
The author lives in Austin, and a good part of the story takes place in Austin, which was another level of meta-trippy for me, living there myself. It definitely veers more towards the old Texas version of Austin than the modern tech version, but it was recognizable all the same. You don’t often see a lot of those creatures from mythology in a setting like Texas, so kudos to the author for originality. And, as I said, it was a bit surprising in parts, definitely not predictable/rote. If you’re looking for a book that is 1 part old western, 1 part adventure story, and 5 parts modern fantasy, give this a try. I also have a copy of the 2nd book in the series, and am looking forward to see what that has in store for the characters.
I was given a promotional copy of this book by Harper Voyager U.S. for review....more
It’s a slightly futuristic England, and humanity has achieved the art of time travel. There are whole ‘history’ departments at Oxford dedicated to invIt’s a slightly futuristic England, and humanity has achieved the art of time travel. There are whole ‘history’ departments at Oxford dedicated to investigating different time periods – in person. Kivrin has set her heart on traveling to medieval England – specifically the 1320′s. And in the normal course of things, no problems would arise. Except that a virus spreading through Oxford infects her team, and results in her being sent to the wrong time, herself delirious with fever. Cue a sort of thriller as her team in the future tries to figure out what went wrong, where she ended up, and how to get her back in the middle of a quarantine, cast against Kivrin’s own experiences in a medieval England that was not at all as she had been trained to expect. It’s an interesting contrast. Both time lines have a sense of desperation, though the future story has tinges of absurdity and humor, while the medieval story is at turns heartwarming and hopeless. It’s a really good read, and kept me engaged the whole time. I did feel it ended a tad abruptly; I would’ve liked to see a little more of the aftermath of the whole thing. But overall it’s a unique take on the time travel motif, and well worth a read. It won the Hugo and Nebula awards, so clearly others agree.
I didn’t realize when I read this that it was published in 1992. I had just assumed the prevalent use of landline phones and handbell choirs was a sort of slightly alternate history. Ha! In other words, the more ‘modern’ portion of the story being 20 years out of date didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book at all. And I just now when writing this review saw that is was the first in a series. Surprising, as I think it stands alone, but also yay! because I will definitely pick up the next one. :)...more