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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Jan
26

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Last Dragon Standing by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Last Dragon Standing by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: Last Dragon Standing  Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #4 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio Beginning two years after the conclusion of the previous book, we learn that the dragon-human twins of Queen Annwyl and her mate Fearghus are in danger, and there is a possible coup to overthrow the Dragon Queen, Rhiannon the White. The Queen seeks assistance from her newest ally, Ragnar the Cunning, Dragonlord Chief of the Olgeirsson Horde, a Lightning Dragon. Of course, the Dragon Queen always has ulterior motives in her plans, and this time around, they involve getting Ragnar to “save” and return her youngest daughter, Keita the Viper, to her family. Last Dragon Standing narrates as an unfolding mystery with multiple subplots. The Dragon Queen is a master manipulator and strategist, and we follow Keita and Ragnar as they are forced to unravel the threads the Queen has knotted together. There are layers upon layers of subterfuge, making the plot utterly engrossing. However, the romance of Keita and Ragnar is more of a side story to the main plotlines, and if you want the same steamy, love stories found in the first three titles, you will be in for a disappointment. This story was more about both the human and Southland Dragon politics rather than a romance. And so much happens. We learn more about a pending war, as well as new enemies and allies. This book takes us into a new chapter in the lives of the characters, and with it comes a new maturity of sorts. It left me wanting for more – unfortunately, I don’t know when Tantor will be publishing more on audio! I loved learning more about Keita. She’s a complex dragoness, who is equal parts cunning spy and royal princess. She is BOTH roles – not “playing” one or the other. She’s a royal princess snob, but not because she’s stuck up. She honestly thinks she’s being nice or helpful. It’s not fake. She’s that, but also the dangerous spy and protector of the throne.  Ragnar of the Lightning Dragons is the only one who can see and appreciate both parts of Keita. While their relationship takes a LOT of time to develop, their interactions are always enjoyable. I loved watching Ragnar witness and come to realize who Keita truly is. And while Keita doesn’t change in...
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Jan
18

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden The Bear and the Nightingale Author: Katherine Arden Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Brothers Grimm appropriated many of their classic fairytales from tales handed down all over the world.  Stories told to entertain, scare children into good behavior, and make us believe in magic.  Just maybe, with a little help from our fairy godmother, things might turn out alright. My favorite Russian fairytale growing up was the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  (It’s deceptive and a little morbid in retrospect, but there’s no accounting for logic or taste in a seven year old who wanted to stay up all night and dance.)  Maybe it was the extremely long and extremely harsh winters, but Russian fairytales are made up of extremes in color, fantasy, violence, and a pantheon of characters which have so much personality, in and of themselves, that they seem to wander in and out of each other’s stories.  The Bear and The Nightingale is an amalgamation of multiple tales and characters into one, cohesive story. Author Katherine Arden has clearly done a great deal of research to craft an original story which stays true to the Russian roots of each character. I read The Bear and The Nightingale next to the fire over a couple of cold, snowy days. Even if I had read it in the heat of August, I still would have felt the bitter winds and deep snow drifts that fueled the story’s action and motivated its characters.  Arden’s writing is expressive and languid.  That slow pace and focus on multiple characters at once will not appeal to every reader.  My largest criticism was the seemingly random use of multiple Russian words, including nicknaming and renaming of core characters. There is a glossary in the back, but if you stop and flip back and forth to look words up, it breaks the flow of the story. Most of the time I just took them contextually. You can’t have winter without Jack Frost and he is right at that beginning of the book as part of a story within a story.  The Russian version of Jack Frost “Morozko” is sadly no boyish, Chris Pine from Rise of the Guardians, but not as old as Robert Pine either—more like Michael Shanks.  (Sorry, I’ve been binge watching Saving Hope.) He’s written here as a mature character, but appealing.  We get the sense that because he’s timeless, he could appear as any age.  Even though we...
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Jan
4

Review: The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy The Edge of the Blade Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Since meeting Jepp in The Twelve Kingdoms series, Gikany and Una have been eager to experience her happily ever after.  After The Pages of the Mind, we were intrigued to see how Jepp would handle going from bodyguard and warrior, to spy and diplomat.  Overall we liked her story even though it was more of a cerebral than an emotional journey. Gikany and Una love this world, especially as the series has expanded to include other kingdoms and cultures.  Although we were given a glimpse of the Dasanarian culture in previous books, it is nothing like being immersed in it.  Considering the heavily male dominated culture, Jepp is completely and utterly the wrong choice for a diplomat.  Despite being an excessively skilled and talented scout and soldier, she is not subtle.  However, Ursula chose her for a reason (most likely guided by her Dasanarian consort, Harlan) and had quite possibly planned to use her as a backup if Daphne failed.  Jepp is a clever woman, and is able to complete her mission, even though it does not go as she anticipated.  As the novel closed, we were surprised by the turn of events are eager to see what happens next. We did have trouble connecting with Kral, Jepp’s lover.  He is most definitely a product of his upbringing and culture.  Although, if his brother Harlan could change, we had hope he could as well.  Even though Ms. Kennedy redeems him by the end, we never felt the emotional connection between Jepp and Kral.  Although the emotional connection wasn’t there for us, seeing the cultural differences and watching a man realize the glaring flaws of his culture was gripping.  Despite loving Jepp because she was so different from the women of his culture, Kral still seemed to (until the VERY end) want to place her into a slot of his world.  This is something that would have made Jepp utterly miserable. Although The Edge of the Blade started a tad slowly, it was a rocking roller coaster by the end.  The overall story, and the cultural and political storylines were gripping even if the emotional connection for the reader between Jepp and Kral was muted.  We continue to love this series and look forward to the next book. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: A HAWK’S PLEDGE  “The Twelve Kingdoms...
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Jan
3

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews One Fell Sweep Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewers: Jen & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Opening three days after the conclusion of the previous book and just days before Christmas, an unauthorized Ku alien makes a ruckus in Dina’s neighborhood, bringing word to Dina that her sister is in grave trouble and needs help. And that’s just the start of Dina’s troubles. Soon she finds herself in the middle of a holy war, with her guests the primary target. One Fell Sweep is another exciting tale set in the wholly original world of the Innkeepers. The unique mythology, complex plotlines, and captivating characters draw us further into this world with each subsequent read and listen to these books. And by the conclusion of One Fell Sweep we were ready to jump into the next story immediately – do we really have to wait another year? So much happens in this title, we won’t even begin to try and summarize the various plot and subplots. However, there is tremendous growth and forward movement for the characters by the end of One Fell Sweep. First, Dina is reunited with part of her family: sister Maud and niece Helen. Last Dina knew, her sister was happily married to a ranking officer from one of the Vampire families. However we quickly learn her husband is dead, and the pair returns to Earth with Dina. Having Maud and Helen reenter Dina’s life was one of the best parts about the story. Dina has been alone for too long, and allowing her to let her guard down and connect with those she trusts and understand what her life entails was rewarding. Additionally, Maud provides comic relief as only a sibling can. Maud is also an excellent tool for putting an end to Lord Arland’s silly obsession with Dina, squelching any potential love triangle storylines (amen!). Though Una thinks that there wasn’t much of a triangle (but that could have been her optimism at work). Witnessing Arland’s fall as he gets to know Maud is perfect. She is everything he has been looking for in a woman, and it confuses and excites him. His interactions with Maud and Helen are fabulous. We are also happy to report that Sean is solidly in the picture the entire story this time around. We both appreciate and admire how the authors have grown his character from the first book through the conclusion of One Fell Sweep. Sean had to explore...
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Dec
23

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Review: A Season of Spells Sylvia Izzo Hunter A Season of Spells Author: Sylvia Izzo Hunter Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: It turns out that A Season of Spells is the final book in the Noctis Magicae series.  I was surprised to discover it was a trilogy at the end.  This final book is a perfect end to this enchanting series. Note: There are spoilers from the first two books in this review, but nothing more that what the book blurbs provide. I have thoroughly enjoyed the characters and this world that Ms. Hunter has created.  The mixture of a historical setting, magic, politics and light romance was enchanting.  Though the plight of our heroes was dire at times, their adventures were gripping until the end.  Now looking back I see this series as a trilogy of Sophia bringing a new age to her world. Sophia is a powerful mage, though looked down upon by the magical authority due to her gender. It seems women with magical abilities were frowned upon during this time period in Britain.  It was compelling to follow Sophia as she goes from despised daughter to crowned princess to respected magistra.  Following her as she learned to navigate the political waters of being a long lost princess (to the king’s former wife) and the ramifications of the choices she makes.  The different mysteries she has encountered and her drive to protect not only her loved ones, but the King and her people were gripping. In this final installment, Sophia breaks through and shows her true self.  When following protocol fails, she rises to the challenge to save Britain.  Through a desire to resurrect a magical college for women, she stumbles upon the clues to save her people from invasion.  I really enjoyed how Sophia shows how much she has grown from her ability to stay calm when under duress, follow protocols, and follow not only her heart but her head.  It was especially illustrated in the separation between her and Gray. I continued to love the relationship of the varied main characters.  The conspiracies they weave in order to attain the knowledge they seek.  Seeing Lucia and Roland’s journey from arranged marriage to one of affection was sweet.  As the two follow along in Sophia’s projects, we discover they are two sides of the same coin.  I found it endearing when they realized it.  I have truly enjoyed the cast of characters in this trilogy and will miss them. Though...
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Dec
19

Review: The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson

Review: The Furies’ Bog by Deborah Jackson The Furies’ Bog Author: Deborah Jackson Reviewer: Nima Rating: C The description of Deborah Jackson’s The Furies’ Bog will draw in any regular sci-fi reader.  It promises a lot.  Jackson spreads her tale across multiple locations worldwide and even space, incorporating genetics, archeology, and secret agents. The Furies’ Bog was thought-provoking. It was well-written. Parts of it were definitely engaging, but sadly, you could say all of those things about a textbook on a subject in which you were interested. Jackson has definitely done her homework—literally.  According to her end notes, she studied science journals and went back to school at MIT to take classes with this book specifically in mind.  You have to be in awe of someone that dedicated to writing a scientifically plausible story.  It’s a relatively long story, however, coming in at over 500 hundred pages. Long books are not unusual in the sci-fi world, but The Furies’ Bog is not a page-turner despite a fair amount of action. It wants to be an exciting sci-fi thriller, well-grounded in current genetic science, but never achieves real momentum, getting—if you’ll excuse the expression—“bogged down” in the science. She even includes an entire thesis paper within the body of the story.  (In the electronic version, you can click a link to skip over this.) In the first of two appendices, which is not wholly unusual for the science fiction genre, she includes the entire DNA sequence of the LIPE gene referenced in her thesis stating, “I wanted to emphasize how a small mutation in this entire length could alter the function, or trigger the dysfunction, of a protein and upset the balance in our bodies, or even entirely alter the way our bodies work.  These mutations can lead to cancer or other diseases, or set us on a new evolutionary path.”  I don’t know that that actually adds anything or even emphasis to her story.  Before the link to skip it, Jackson offers this disclaimer:  This document contains a variety of technical terms that may be confusing to the average reader.  Feel free to skip over it, if you find it tedious. To me, it felt a little condescending.  I’m not exactly sure who she intended as her primary audience. Probably most significant to me, because the action of The Furies’ Bog is stretched across multiple locations, Jackson has main characters in each of those places.  This meant we didn’t spend enough time with any of them...
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Dec
15

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: What a Dragon Should Know by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: What a Dragon Should Know by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: What a Dragon Should Know  Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #3 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio What a Dragon Should Know expands upon the richly entertaining lore of mighty dragons and the humans that love them. Picking up after the conclusion of the previous book, the story primarily focuses on the love story of Gwenvael the Handsome and Dagmar Reinholdt, the only daughter of the Reinholdt, also known as “the Beast.” Annwyl the Bloody, heavy with her twins who are literally sucking the life from her, sends Gwenvael to the Northlands on her behalf to discover if the Reinholdt will make a worthy ally. When Gwenvael discovers that the Beast is actually an extremely intelligent and wily female, he is forced to adjust his approach to the situation. Dagmar has spent her entire life as the brains behind her father’s success, staying in the shadows while she manipulates events to her advantage. So when Gwenvael acts unpredictably and treats her with respect, even reverence, Dagmar isn’t sure how to best respond. Striking a bargain with Gwenvael, the pair head out of the Northlands with important information to share with Annwyl. I absolutely adored the pairing of Gwenvael and Dagmar. Two underestimated souls, both play to the misrepresentations and conventions their families have placed upon them. They use these stereotypes to hide their true intentions, striking blows upon their enemies. Both love their respective families and would do anything to protect them. Right from the start the pair recognizes the strengths of the other; never disrespecting the other, even if they do try to outsmart one another. Their passion ignites as Gwenvael and Dagmar open up and fall in love. I just adored their verbal sparring and joint masterminding. Outside of the romance, the entire story is multifaceted and filled with complex layers of political maneuvering.  I found myself engrossed and enjoyed just listening to the plot unfold. While I did find myself lost a couple times and trying to remember who was who  more than once (lets face it, there are too many similar sounding names), the character development and bonds cemented over the course of the series made for stronger connections and deeper enjoyment of this tale. In addition to Gwenvael and Dagmar, What a Dragon Should Know shares the continuing romance of Brastias and Morfyd. I was pleased...
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Dec
14

Review: Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill Archer

Review: Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill Archer Pocket Full of Tinder Author: Jill Archer Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have eagerly awaited the fourth installment in the Noon Onyx series.  Although we were thrilled to be back in this unique and fascinating world, the novel had a few odd notes that culminated in an astonishing cliffhanger. The Noon Onyx world is so unique.  In the years after the demons won Armageddon, angels and demons have blended with what is left of humanity.  It is an intricate and fascinating world.  The premise with Noon and her Nightshade being oddities in what is already a strange world to the reader is a fun juxtaposition.  The supporting characters are just as compelling as Noon, who is the primary point of view.  The novel continues to evolve the world and we are utterly intrigued by it. The previous novels have had a fairly solid and seamless flow; however it felt as if Pocket Full of Tinder was two different novels.  The first two-thirds of the book was slowly built to what we had been waiting for: would Noon and Ari forgive and start over, or forgive and move on?  For all of those who were all waiting for that moment: fear not, we are given the resolution. However the last third moves very quickly and oddly.  After a shocking and defining moment, the novel takes a hugely unexpected left turn.  It felt like a few characters behaved very differently from how we would have expected them to behave. Although it felt like there were two distinct parts to Pocket Full of Tinder, we still liked it.  The first part may have moved slowly but it was the surreal final third that had us flabbergasted.  Even with the odd notes – we are eagerly awaiting the next Noon Onyx novel.  Considering the cliffhanger ending, or what seemed like the start of the next novel, we cannot wait to see what happens next in Noon’s life.  If you enjoy something that is a little different with a well thought out mythology and engaging characters, then you need to try this series. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Noon Onyx is back! In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.  Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become...
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Dec
12

Review: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur

Review: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur Winter Halo Author: Keri Arthur Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Winter Halo, the second installment of Ms. Arthur’s Outcast series, picks up just after the action-packed conclusion of the first book. The series follows Tiger, a human-shifter-vampire hybrid known as a déchet, as she works to save a number of young children captured for nefarious purposes. The fantasy-based world is detailed and complex, and I recommend starting with book 1: City of Light, to best understand this multifaceted mythology (see my review for City of Light for more detail on the world). However, Ms. Arthur does a fantastic job recapping the important points of the first book right up front in Winter Halo, therefore if one wanted to, you could probably jump in with the second title. After reading the first book, I was on the fence with the series. While the mythology was interesting and I really liked Tiger, I didn’t care for any of the supporting characters other than the young déchet ghosts. I felt the world-building, which was overly complicated, dominated too much of the story, and the overall plot felt like a set up for the second book. While some of these issues were successfully addressed in Winter Halo, the overall mythology and plot remained difficult to follow. First, what worked… I continued to like Tiger, who makes for a wonderful tragic heroine. Although everyone hates her because of what she is, Tiger continues to do the right thing. Her moral compass may have been warped because of war and isolation, but it remains true, and saving children is what is most important. She uses every means available, including her own body and soul, to protect the innocent. She makes the hard decisions, even when they aren’t popular. I also enjoy Tiger’s relationship with Bear and Cat, two young déchet ghosts. They have been her companions for over a century, and their closeness gives Tiger an emotional safety net, grounding her when she has every right to walk away from her mission. The pair provides lightness and comic relief into this dark tale. Additionally, Tiger’s friendship with Jonas improved tremendously in Winter Halo. Getting past stereotypes and prejudices, the twosome opens the door to the possibility of more, giving honest pieces of themselves to each other. I loved their candid dialogue – admitting there is an attraction there, regardless of how “wrong” it would be. And via Tiger’s first person POV, we...
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Dec
7

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie

Review: The Memory Thief by Sarina Dorie The Memory Thief Author: Sarina Dorie Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Memory Thief is a different type of steampunk series.  This Victorian era science-fiction novel is an interesting world.  Suffice to say, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one. First, let me say that this was more mystery/adventure romance than science-fiction. Though it is science-fiction, the science and steampunk qualities are in the background. The plight of Felicity in recovering her memories is gripping. The planet and history of the Jomon people is rich and fascinating. I really loved the world I found myself in. The memory moss, the intriguing creatures, and the evolution that has obviously taken place are all quite intriguing.  I truly found myself lost in the world. The novel is told from Felicity’s viewpoint and utilizes flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks are consciously done when she is partaking in a memory swap. However, some chapters are started with a moment from the past. Though they are interesting and give background to the novel, I felt that they stunted the flow of the story a little, but not enough to inhibit my enjoyment. I enjoyed the courtship between Felicity and Nipa (the ruler of the Jomon tribe). Though some of the novel is fairly easy to figure out, I was still surprised by some of the past. Felicity’s strength of character is equal to her kindness to the indigenous people. I enjoyed her intelligence, especially when up against Nipa’s cunning. Nipa’s character was equally charming and ruthless.  I enjoyed trying to figure him out. Felicity’s intended, Merriweather, seems to be a filler character.  It is not surprising when the Jomon use him as a patsy.  However, he grew on me.  He seems very out of place in the world, and in the novel, especially in Felicity’s eyes.  He is very naïve and innocent.  More innocent than I would think an aristocratic male would be in Victorian England.  However, I think there is more to him and I hope to learn it in the next novel. I am reluctant to give anything away, but the emotions of the novel caught me off guard.  This book is about remembering and recovering from the past. The past is more than just events, but emotions as well. Once I finished the novel, I could see how the novel dances slowly to the truth. I really enjoyed the flow and the overall crafting of...
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