Reviews by mtbikemom

Review

Mystic Dragon

Posted: October 4, 2018 by mtbikemom in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: Jason Denzel, Fantasy
Mystic Dragon

I love traditional heroic fantasy. My best friend’s family took me camping in Big Sur, CA, long ago and we read THE LORD OF THE RINGS for the very first time together. Unforgettable, of course. So it was with bated breath and a slightly elevated heart rate that I opened Jason Denzel’s sophomore effort MYSTIC DRAGON. But first…

Tor created a lovely booklet-sized prologue to the entire Mystic series called THE NAMELESS SAINT and I was fortunate to obtain a copy. It is a nearly perfect essay-length gem and the stunning cover art continues to impress. Unfortunately, these are only available at MYSTIC DRAGON book signings. (I bet Jason might send you a signed copy if you ask nicely.)
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Review

Carbide Tipped Pens

Carbide Tipped Pens

Hard Science Fiction, huh? Sounds cerebral, nerdy, probably unsentimental, maybe a bit dry… but could be good. Or really boring. I have had good fortune reading and reviewing anthologies so far for EBR. (Let the streak continue!)

My sincerest apologies to the publishers of this mostly excellent anthology. This is possibly the most beat-up paperback I have ever carried around and carried around and…which I cannot explain because I enjoyed it very much. There was one story that stopped me cold, though so, in good conscience, I could not write this review until I had read every SINGLE word. That wasn’t easy.
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Review

Assassin’s Charge

Assassin’s Charge

I am so very tired of the “tough, damaged, beautiful-but-gritty chick/superhero” fantasy trope, so one would assume this book would not thrill me. Not so, and: Lucky me! The first selection I chose to read from the 2016 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off is a winner. I will be pulling for ASSASSIN’S CHARGE, a standalone novel set in a previously explored world, and for Claire Frank. I’m hoping this book gets some attention.

Mostly taken from Amazon’s synopsis: Rhisia Sen is one of the Empire’s highest-paid assassins. Living a well-ordered life of luxury, she chooses her contracts carefully, working to amass enough wealth so she can leave her bloody trade. She is offered a new contract on the outskirts of civilization and almost refuses—until she sees the purse. It could be the last job she ever has to take. She might finally retire to a life of peaceful leisure, but when she reaches the destination she discovers her mark is a child.
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Review

The Lyre Thief

Posted: February 2, 2017 by mtbikemom in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Jennifer Fallon, Fantasy
The Lyre Thief

Her Serene Highness Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, is off to Hythria to marry a brute of a Hythrun Warlord she’s never met and escape the inevitable bloodbath in the harem when her brother takes the throne. She is not interested in marrying anyone and has a plan to save herself if she can just convince her baseborn sister, Charisee, to play along. These two best friends/sisters, though one has been a princess and the other her handmaiden, embark on an adventure of switched identities complete with love triangles and meddlesome gods. Rakaia is rescued by none other than the demon child, R’shiel, who is on her own quest to free her beloved, Brak. Charisee first acts the part, then truly becomes the princess she was never meant to be, which draws the attention of the God of Liars, who is rightly impressed and even helpful.

…And in far off Medalon, someone has stolen the music.

Their quest for the tiny stolen lyre containing the essence of the God of Music will eventually touch all their lives, threaten everything they hold dear, and prove to be far more personal than any of them can imagine.
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Review

The Mermaid’s Secret

Posted: January 19, 2017 by mtbikemom in Books We Like Meta: Katie Schickel, Urban Fantasy, Books for Chicks
The Mermaid’s Secret

Are you in the mood for a breezy, uncomplicated read? Would you like to capture a bit of summer as winter digs its angry claws in for another bite? Did you love the movie Splash? Do you or would you like to speak “surf?”  (It’s an identifying language, just like all other sub-cultures possess.) Good news: I have a sweet, entertaining story for you! Turn off your analytical brain and enjoy.
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Review

Borderline

Posted: September 27, 2016 by mtbikemom in Books We Love Meta: Mishell Baker, Urban Fantasy
Borderline

This book is good. Really good. I am not a huge fan of this genre, and really have only read MLN Hanover’s Black Son’s Daughter series in full, because I am very picky when it comes to urban fantasy. I think all the sexy vampire books of the last several decades have conspired to form my jaundiced opinion, some of which found their way into my cozy little house-full-of-children despite vain protestation. I have yet to crack open a Dresden Files–been meaning to–but I will read everything Mishell Baker decides to write. Because she is that good.
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Review

Romancing the Null

Romancing the Null

Let’s call this whole series my summer guilty pleasure. Maybe it will be yours for the fall season. Guilt and surprised delight were some of the many emotions I migrated through while reading most of The Outlier Prophesies, but for more than the first half of ROMANCING THE NULL, I’d say impatience was the primary. If I had not felt obligated to give it a go, per the contest, I think I would have abandoned this urban fantasy/romance/crime novel long before the two-thirds point, but that’s when things started to get interesting. By the end, I was hooked… though I dreaded what was to come in the follow-ups. I needn’t have worried.
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Review

The Rule of Luck

Posted: September 2, 2016 by mtbikemom in Books We Hate Meta: Catherine Cerveny, Romance, Science Fiction
The Rule of Luck

I was intrigued by Catherine Cerveny’s attempt to combine sci-fi with romance as I began THE RULE OF LUCK. The protag is smart and sassy and the opening pages are good.  Bujold did scifi/romance well in MILES IN LOVE, after all. How awful could this be?  I was blissfully unaware that, these days, “romance” almost always means “porn.” At least semi-porn, except for the most-excellent offerings from Carol Berg and Mary Robinette Kowal and a few others.  The sci-fi element in this case was just a pretense for creating the most ridiculous perfect-man trope I can remember. This guy’s only flaw is not realizing just how awesome he is. Yeah, I know. 
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Review

The Thorn of Dentonhill

The Thorn of Dentonhill

I was in the mood for a straightforward, uncomplicated fantasy story and voila! There on my to-read shelf was THE THORN OF DENTONHILL. I was prepared for tropes and predictability and was even determined to be O.K. with magic system/plot inconsistencies because, really, I rarely notice those details if the characters are engaging and the pacing and story is good… but there is simply no margin for error when the writing is poor. Too bad, because this was potentially as good as early Harry Potter and might have satisfied Rowlings fans in search of something similar and good. Except it’s not.
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Review

Revisionary

Revisionary

Isaac Vainio, once-librarian and now major player on the world stage, helped reveal magic to the world along with certain Porters and allies. The Porters are an organization of magic-users founded by none other than Johannes Gutenburg himself. Libriomancy, discovered by Gutenburg, is magic using books and “libriomancers” are able to pull things out of books, things that real authors have imagined and in which a certain amount of belief exists from readers, which fuels the magic. These items–weapons and magic cloaks and healing elixirs–and even characters, have a profound effect on the real world, with mixed results and sometimes dire consequences. Jim C. Hines has taken this idea and developed it in a most satisfying way. He often references favorite sci-fi and fantasy classics, even some obscure geek favorites, and also simply makes books up when he needs them. These are some of the best, especially when they parody bad speculative fiction.
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Review

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Posted: April 29, 2016 by mtbikemom in Books We Love Meta: Scott Wilbanks, Urban Fantasy
The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

I like whimsy. I loved THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS (EBR Review) by Rothfuss and I “heart” almost everything by K.J. Parker (even though he is not a she) and, of course, Mr. Terry Pratchett in small, infrequent doses, so my initial survey of THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER seemed promising. Cover art beautiful. Author’s back-story intriguing… Dive in!

Oh no, the first few chapters read like whimsy for the sake of whimsy and I lost interest. The strong characters and promise of a good story brought me back eventually, though, and I’m glad for it. LEMONCHOLY is a very sweet, sometimes sad, fast-paced and ultimately uplifting tale. Yeah, it gets better. Much better.
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Review

Mystic

Posted: February 1, 2016 by mtbikemom in Books We Like Meta: Jason Denzel, Fantasy
Mystic

You’ve read this story before, maybe dozens of times. Setting: Teenaged girl in backwoods village is overlooked and taken for granted. Secretly gifted in magic (which in this world involves manipulating the Myst), she ventures off to save her feudal world from the big baddies and triumph against all odds. Pursued and thwarted by cruel adversaries, aided by a faithful friend, she is thrown into one dangerous and unlikely scenario after another until reaching her destination only to find…  At this point the story begins to follow more original ideas. The girl, Pomella AnDone from the island of Moth, is chosen to compete against noble-born challengers for the privilege of apprenticing under her island’s High Mystic, much to her surprise and to the absolute amazement of the villagers and nobles who have known her since birth. Pomella is anything but noble, and not even remarkable in her village. The High Mystic is a powerful and wise woman, the premier magic-worker for that region, and its defender. Only one candidate will prevail and Pomella’s decision to compete carries with it the added consequence of banishment from her community, becoming a literal untouchable if she does not win. Pomella struggles against impossible odds and you can probably guess the rest. Or can you?
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Review

Black Bottle Man

Posted: January 22, 2016 by mtbikemom in Books We Love Meta: Craig Russell, Fantasy, Young Adult
Black Bottle Man

I read this book a few weeks ago, but wanted to give it a bit of time to settle. I mean, was it really that good? I found myself comparing it to one of the greatest of American novels, and I hesitated. Will the seemingly unforgettable characters stick with me, even in the cloud of life and more reading and all? The answer is: yes! If anything, many characters and scenes from BLACK BOTTLE MAN (Amazon) are even more vivid now than the day I read it, and I consumed this little masterpiece in one sitting. Bravo, Craig Russell. I hope there is much more to come.

The synopsis from Amazon.com is so good, I copy it here:

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life?
It’s 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms and his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. Hope and Hell arrive in a mysterious black bottle, and on a moonless night a dark spell is cast. Soon after, a man wearing black top-coat, and a ‘glad-ta-meet-ya’ smile comes to visit. The devil seeks payment, and a dangerous wager is made. Until they can defeat him, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson must embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man?
Time ticks.
Lives change.
Every twelve days.
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Review

Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam

Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam

I love the art of the short story, and always have. I’ve written a few myself, much to the conspicuous delight of mostly bored teachers and professors, leading me to believe I had “it” and would someday write something really fabulous. But in the real world, the “it” factor is oh-so-rare. I am happy to say that several of the stories in this anthology have at least a spark of brilliance and, in several cases, more than just a spark. Just look at the gorgeous cover art, hinting at the awesome content within!
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Review

Half-Resurrection Blues

Posted: October 27, 2015 by mtbikemom in Books We Like Meta: Daniel José Older, Urban Fantasy
Half-Resurrection Blues

Me to Vanessa: “I can’t wait to find a real gem, a diamond in the rough, some unknown phenom.” Ding, ding, ding! I’ve think I’ve found one in HALF-RESURRECTION BLUES (Amazon), Daniel José Older’s first in a new series of dark urban crime fantasy, Bone Street Rumba. This ghost story diamond has plenty of polish, its facets expertly cut within the dirt and grit of its setting.
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Review

The Leopard

Posted: October 16, 2015 by mtbikemom in Books We Don't Like Meta: K.V. Johansen, Fantasy
The Leopard

I wanted to like this book, was ready to love it after reading the intriguing prologue, but the rest of THE LEOPARD (Amazon) did not hold up to its early, fleeting promise. What a mess.
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Review

Dead Man’s Reach

Dead Man’s Reach

EBR: Everyone welcome our newest reviewer, mtbikemom, a long-time reader and friend who’s agreed to help us work through the pile of books stacking up at EBR headquarters. We’re sure you’ll love her as much as we do.

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If a reader is looking for better-than-average female characters in a magically enhanced historical fiction novel with some ripping action scenes, D.B. Jackson’s DEAD MAN’S REACH (Amazon) will satisfy.

I need a bit more in a story than that, however.
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