Reviews by Vanessa

Review

The Blood Mirror

Posted: November 23, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Brent Weeks, Epic Fantasy
The Blood Mirror

As with previous posts about Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series, I’m going to tell you again that you can’t start in the middle of the series without being lost, nor would you want to, it’s a great series, go to book one and start there…yadda yadda yadda. Or else here be spoilers.

Ok, now that’s out of the way. Let’s get to the good stuff.

I don’t know how Weeks consistently ratchets up the tension, weirdness, and worldbuilding with each novel, but here we are at book number four, THE BLOOD MIRROR, and you shouldn’t be surprised by this point that it’s yet another big book of epic fantasy goodness.
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Review

Cloudbound

Posted: November 4, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Fran Wilde, Fantasy
Cloudbound

In UPDRAFT, Kirit changed the status quo in her city above the clouds, now in the second book, CLOUDBOUND, it’s up to Nat to help deal with the resultant fallout. For all that’s changed since Kirit became a Singer, there’s still so much more change to come.

If you read UPDRAFT, you have reason to be excited about this next installment where we get so many questions answered. But don’t think you’ll understand what’s going on in CLOUDBOUND if you haven’t–in fact you’ll be completely lost from page one. So go read the first book and then come back for the next installment. You won’t be disappointed.
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Review

Song of the Deep

Posted: October 25, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Brian Hastings, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Song of the Deep

Young Merryn and her father live by the sea, where her father fishes for his living. Merryn’s mother is dead, so it’s just the two of them living in the shack by the sea–at a time when being a fisherman grows more and more difficult, there are fewer fish being caught every time he goes out to sea.

Until one day when her father doesn’t return.
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Review

Alliance

Posted: October 20, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: S.K. Dunstall, Space Opera
Alliance

Ean Lambert changed the way people understood the lines that ran spaceships in LINESMAN. Now he and his friends must live with the resultant fallout: the alliances between planets have been shaken up; the Confluence has revealed its true contents; and instead of only ten lines that run spaceships, there are actually twelve.

Who knew some nobody from the slums of Lancia would end up being the instigator of amazing changes in space travel?
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Review

The Motion of Puppets

Posted: October 15, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Keith Donohue, Fantasy
The Motion of Puppets

Theo and Kay are newlyweds livings in Quebec while she spends the summer working as a performer at the cirque and he’s on sabbatical to finish a translation for a book. They’re a sweet couple, each with their own pursuits and personalities, but their relationship works.

And by the end of chapter 2 Kay has been turned into a puppet.
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Review

The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child

When Henry Day was seven years old he was stolen by hobgoblins, one of their own changlings taking his place in the real world, while he joined the band of children living in the forest. They are both interlopers in their respective worlds, the real Henry Day now known as Aniday, and the changling Henry Day being raised by parents not his own, his parents long dead

Changling Henry Day was abducted 100 years previously, and spent the intervening years learning the ways of the hobgoblins, surviving the forest with eleven other children of various ages, waiting his turn until he could take the place of another child and return to the real world. As Henry Day grows up he is constantly reminded of his origins, while everyone around him is oblivious to his inner turmoil, his resentment that the hobgoblins have stolen his past. While another lives the life he should have, Aniday must learn the ways of the forest and how to survive among a band of wild children who are older than they look.
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Review

The Family Plot

Posted: September 30, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Cherie Priest, Horror
The Family Plot

Cherie Priest has written YA steampunk (BONESHAKER — EBR review), zombie fiction (MAPLECROFT — EBR review), historical horror (WINGS OF THE KINGDOM — Amazon), and Urban Fantasy (HELLBENT — Amazon). Now she takes on… the salvage business? I admit, I’m a fan of the TV show Salvage Dawgs, and it turns out Priest is, too, because of course people who tear down old houses for a living must run into ghosts now and again. This time, however, the salvage crew of Music City Salvage run into a poltergeist with a vendetta.

Dahlia is heading up this salvage operation for an old Victorian that’s slated to be demolished. When she arrives she sees a house that’s been neglected, but should be fixed back to its former glory. Unfortunately its owner can’t get rid of the house fast enough. Dahlia and her crew have a week to get their money’s worth out of the house, or else the family business may go under. The pressure is on Dahlia to get her cousin Bobby to cooperate despite his well-known laziness, Bobby’s son Gabe and new employee Brad up to speed in a kind of work they’re not used to.

It doesn’t help that not long after they arrive at the estate, they start seeing ghosts.
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Review

The Obelisk Gate

Posted: September 6, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: N.K. Jemisin, Epic Fantasy
The Obelisk Gate

We first met Essun in THE FIFTH SEASON, as she discovers that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Of course Essun must follow, because her daughter Nassun is a magic-wielding orogene like her mother–and that was the reason her husband killed their son in the first place.

If you haven’t read the first book, there are all sorts of revelations I’ll be talking about here, so you may want to spare yourself spoilers. THE FIFTH SEASON (EBR review) is worth reading, and I don’t think THE OBELISK GATE will make much sense unless you do. You’ve been warned.
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Review

The Last Kingdom

Posted: August 30, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Bernard Cornwell, Fiction, Books vs. Shows
The Last Kingdom

Bernard Cornwell is one of the master storytellers in historical fiction today. I first learned about Cornwell via his Sharpe series based on his books, which take place during the Napoleonic wars (when the show first came out–this probably dates me). Sean Bean played the title character, and after watching the first episode I was hooked, watched the rest of the series, and then had to go back and read Cornwell’s books. When I learned he was writing a series about the formation of a unified Anglo-Saxon England in the 9th Century, I started with THE LAST KINGDOM and have been keeping current with the series ever since.

So imagine my glee when I learned there is a TV series for these books, too.
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Review

Vendetta

Posted: August 16, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Gail Z. Martin, Urban Fantasy, Books for Chicks
Vendetta

Cassidy has magic: the emotion and events in which items are involved give them a history she can see. Her friend and co-worker Teag uses his magic to weave power into fabric or other items. They are employed by the vampire Sorren and are part of a larger magical community of good guys called the Alliance. Cassidy and Teag’s job is to find magical items they encounter during their work as antiques dealers in the heart of Charleston and take care of the dangerous items. Of course the nature of their work means they sometimes go up against some nasty things.

Sorren has been around for about 600 years and as a result of his work has made his share of enemies. And after a strange series of events where Charleston ghosts are acting strange and random people are disappearing, Cassidy and Teag begin to think that an old nemesis of Sorren’s may be the culprit.
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Review

Destiny Blues

Destiny Blues

Life was going just fine for Mattie when on her meter-maid route she discovers that a demon is following her. This is bad news, since the FBI considers demon masters potential terrorists. She’s desperate to find someone to get rid of the stinky little guy when…another one seems to attach itself to her. That’s impossible, isn’t it?

Mattie feels like she messes up everything: she gets put on probation from her job, hurts herself and totals the moped she uses on her rounds, misses her demon-banishing appointments, and now has to babysit her niece for a few days while her brother Lance is out of town. Friend Karen takes her out for lunch and helps Mattie get some much-needed perspective–and a potential date from the hunky waiter. But then Mattie discovers that Lance is up to his old gambling problems again, more demons start following her around, and she learns that the FBI wants to talk to her.

DESTINY BLUES by Sharon Joss is one of the books from Mark Lawrence’s Blog-Off given to EBR. LARCOUT (EBR Review), which I finished before this book, is a better novel overall, so alas DESTINY won’t make it to the next round here at EBR, but I wanted to point out that despite its failings, this book was fun to read and it’s easy to see this author’s potential.
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Review

Larcout

Larcout

Vadrigyn is a demi-god. Kind of. I’m not really clear on that, but I am clear on one thing: she can kick your butt.

Being raised by a brutal (inhuman Morsam) father and an insane (human witch from the Jeweled Nation) mother in a harsh environment has made her stronger than the usual human. It helps that fire courses through her veins instead of blood, she’s physically stronger, and venomous parasites inhabit her body and instantly kill anyone who touches her.

But what differentiates Vadrigyn from the other Morsam is that she tries to perform the will of the gods and avoids killing indiscriminately–in an attempt to secure her freedom from the Morsam lifestyle. As a result the gods have decided to test her in the Jeweled Nation where she will undergo her Trial of Identity, and in the process learn about her magic and challenge her innate need for death and destruction.
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Review

Roses and Rot

Roses and Rot

Imogen is a writer who dreams of some day becoming a famous author. To that end she has applied to the exclusive Melete, a New Hampshire artist retreat where she–and other aspiring artists of various talents–would have access to famous artists as mentors. Also accepted is Imogen’s younger sister Marin, whose talent in ballet has people predicting a successful professional career.

The sisters had a difficult upbringing. With a father out of the picture early on, their mother raised them with a tyrannical fist. For her own sanity, Imogen signed up for boarding school and left home–including her sister to deal with their crazy mother alone. When they arrive at Melete together, the sister’s relationship seems normal on the outside, but like Melete, not everything is as it appears.

For the first couple of chapters I didn’t like ROSES AND ROT, Kat Howard’s debut novel. The setting is trendy and pretentious (‘it’s all about the art!’). The sisters’ baggage felt overwrought. The foreshadowing seemed cliché. I was sure I knew where the story was heading.

But I forged onward and was rewarded with a story I didn’t expect.
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Review

Fearless

Posted: July 18, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Elliott James, Urban Fantasy
Fearless

FEARLESS by Elliott James has been out for nearly a year, which means it’s been sitting on my “to read” shelf for that long, and I’ve been avoiding it because the cover is dumb. Go ahead, take a look at the cover again, and maybe at CHARMING and DARING, too (the first two books), and see if you don’t assume it’s another lameo Urban Fantasy series to take up shelf space.

I was so wrong. I love it when a book surprises me, and FEARLESS is the kind of book where I will eagerly go buy the first two so I can get more of this series. Should you have read the first books before reading this one? Probably, but I doubt that lack made me enjoy this book any less.

John Charming comes from a long line of monster hunters. Of course, not all monsters are bad, but when you have abilities that make you able to squash mortals without any effort, you tend to not care for the weaker of the species. That’s where the Knights Templar comes in, and the Pax Arcana, which gives hunters the authority to fight the bad guys. But John is different than any other knight: he’s also a werewolf.
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Review

Rising Tide

Posted: July 4, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Rajan Khanna, Urban Fantasy
Rising Tide

Ben Gold is in serious trouble. After the events in FALLING SKY, he now finds himself imprisoned on a ship captained by a man named Malik who would like to see Ben dead. Fortunately, Ben has the brilliant Miranda, who negotiates for Ben’s life by offering her medical skills in a post-apocalyptic world where such a resource is in short supply. The question is: standoffs don’t last forever, so how will they escape?

Ben has spent his life as a scavenger in a world where only the clever and strong survive, which means Ben has talents of his own. So he negotiates for his life in exchange for scrounging up ship parts Malik needs to keep his boat afloat. But Malik has Miranda, which doesn’t give Ben much leverage.
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Review

Hollow City

Posted: June 21, 2016 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Ransom Riggs, Fantasy, Young Adult
Hollow City

HOLLOW CITY starts right where MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN leaves off, our hero children on the run from the horrible hollowgasts and wights. Their main concern is for Miss Peregrine, herself, who needs help returning to her human form, but they need to find another of her kind to perform the magic. So off they travel in search of help, all the while being pursued. The exciting beginning events teach us the reality of their situation and what they must do to find help, and…

…yawn.
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Review

Dreams of Distant Shores

Dreams of Distant Shores

Patricia A. McKillip’s writing is often described as ‘ethereal.’ If you’ve read really anything by her you would be nodding your head. In her most recent anthology, DREAMS OF DISTANT SHORES, we are treated to her lovely prose, with a collection of stories that are surprisingly different. They are alternately strange and silly, but all are thought-provoking.
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Review

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Posted: June 3, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Lois McMaster Bujold, Science Fiction
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Cordelia is a widow, but has a good forty-year life expectancy remaining. If you had that long to live after a beloved companion dies, how would you live it?

GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN takes place three years following the events of CRYOBURN (EBR review) and the stunning endnote that would leave longtime fans of the series shocked and saddened. But Lois McMaster Bujold still has plans for our beloved Cordelia; these plans may surprise you, but if you really know Cordelia then perhaps they won’t.
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Review

Karen Memory

Posted: May 31, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Elizabeth Bear, Steampunk
Karen Memory

If you haven’t read anything by Elizabeth Bear you are seriously missing out. This woman can write anything. Anything I tell you. Norse mythology? (Amazon) Check. Vikings and telepathic wolves? (EBR Review) Yep. Magic in the Steppe? (EBR Review) You bet. And now she’s written a book that takes place in a steampunk version of a port city in the Washington Territory post-Civil War with a Jack the Ripper serial killer on the loose.

It’s as awesome as it sounds.
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Review

The Shards of Heaven

The Shards of Heaven

Cleopatra and Antony rule Egypt via Alexandria. Octavian rules Rome. THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN follows the real people and events that lead to the Roman conquest of Alexandria and the end of the Ptolemic line.  But according to Michael Livingston, there’s more to the story.

And it involves magic.

Enter Juba, the orphaned prince of Numidia and adopted son of Julius Ceasar. Desperate to find vengeance for the death of his father, he seeks magical objects so he can have enough power to bring down Rome. At the start of SHARDS he finds what he believes to be the trident of Poseidon and discovers it’s as powerful as he hoped. But Juba is a mere teenager to Octavian’s experienced ambition and soon discovers he’s in over his head.
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Review

In the Labyrinth of Drakes

Posted: May 17, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Marie Brennan, Fantasy
In the Labyrinth of Drakes

If you’ve been reading this series you’ve probably wondered why “A Memoir of Lady Trent” graces the covers of the books when Isabella Camherst is the name of the main character. Well wonder no more, because here we finally learn how our heroine earns her title.

And she does it in typical Isabella fashion. That is to say, she wins her notoriety honestly. (hehe)
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Review

Central Station

Posted: May 10, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Lavie Tidhar, Science Fiction
Central Station

Tel Aviv, Israel, is the hub for the space elevator called Central Station. It’s an unusual place, a conglomeration of travelers, refugees, discarded robots, and modified humans. Miriam runs a small shebeen near the space port with the boy Kranki, whom she took custody of when his mother died of a drug overdose. She has no idea where his father is. Kranki is an unusual boy, capable of manipulating the world around him and listening in on the Conversation, the stream of data all around them, between people, between machines/robots, and the artificial intelligences that exist in the data stream. He’s always been a little odd.
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Review

Less Than Charming

Posted: May 2, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Rebecca A. Demarest, Fantasy
Less Than Charming

What if there were a world where fictional characters lived? What would that world look like? Would the science of our world work there? Would magic?

Sophie is the 12th princess from the fairytale “12 Dancing Princesses,” and as a result of her story being told for hundreds of years, her sense of character is pretty strong. Do you remember her? The curious one who was suspicious of someone sneaking behind her and her sisters? Imagine how many times her story has been told and re-told in its various forms and how it affects her personality and sense of self. Where would a girl like that work?

A newspaper, of course, because a girl that curious is bound to want to be an investigative journalist.

LESS THAN CHARMING is Rebecca A. Demarest’s most recent novel, and takes place in a world there every character ever created lives. Yes, Edward Cullen, Gandalf, and Pinkie Pie all exist in the same world. And interact. Oh imagine the possibilities.
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Review

Truthwitch

Posted: April 22, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Susan Dennard, Fantasy, Young Adult
Truthwitch

Safi and Iseult live in a world of witches. They are “Threadsisters,” tied by bonds of friendship and magic–and mischief. But after spending their youth under the guidance and training by other witches, they are ready to strike out on their own.

Unfortunately, everyone else seems to have plans for them, and none of those plans include the girls being able to make their own choices.
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Review

The Whispering Skull

Posted: April 19, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Johnathan Stroud, Fantasy, Middle Grade
The Whispering Skull

The kids at Lockwood & Co. are doing just fine. The events in THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE gave them enough notoriety to keep them busy with work and enough money for a comfortable lifestyle–even if it hasn’t made them rich. But being the smallest ghost hunting agency in London makes them a target for agencies like Tittles where Kipps’ team takes the prize from under Lockwood’s nose in the opening chapter. A frustrated Lockwood team grows bold and bets Kipps’ team that if they end up on the same case again, the team who loses the bet must take out a newspaper ad declaring the other the best ghost hunting team in town.

It doesn’t take long before the Lockwood team is put to the test, and it turns out to be their most dangerous case yet.
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Review

Wings of Sorrow and Bone

Posted: April 13, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Beth Cato, Steampunk, Young Adult, Short Fiction
Wings of Sorrow and Bone

Rivka loves machines, but she’s a girl in a man’s world. She’s moved to the city to be with her grandmother, whose social circle involves the rich and famous. During a social event, Rivka makes a new friend, Tatiana, and as mischievous girls are wont to do, they find themselves somewhere they don’t belong–in this case it’s a basement room. It’s not any basement room, however. Owner of said basement, Mr. Cody, is financing the creation of a chimera from mechanical parts and pieces of recently living gremlins.
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Review

Linesman

Posted: April 11, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: S.K. Dunstall, Space Opera
Linesman

Humans have been traveling the stars for hundreds of years, and use alien technology in order to do it. The alien ship they originally found all those years ago was empty of aliens, but the ship was able to travel faster than light, so humans reverse-engineered the technology. They call the energy the ships use to travel through space “lines,” but there’s a catch: very few humans can actually repair ship lines.

LINESMAN, by the Australian sister-duo S.K. Dunstall, is the first of a new series about main character Ean Lambert, who is trained as a linesman, but whose strange methods make him a second-class citizen among the linesmen. Traditionally trained linesmen use their minds and will to do the repair work, but Ean can hear the lines and sings to them–much to the derision of his peers.
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Review

The Nameless City

Posted: April 6, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Faith Erin Hicks, Middle Grade, Graphic Novels
The Nameless City

THE NAMELESS CITY by Faith Erin Hicks is about a city that has changed hands so many times from invading armies that it has several names–so really has no name. The city is a mix of natives, conquerors, and everything in between; currently it’s held by the Dao. Kaidu has traveled to the city from his rural home so he can train to be a solider in the Dao army, and to be closer to his father who is an advisor to the general.

Upon his arrival Kaidu discovers some important things early on: he doesn’t really like fighting, his father doesn’t have much time for him, and the city’s natives don’t much like their conquerors. On his visit outside the palace to the city he meets a girl who calls herself Rat. Kaidu doesn’t understand her hostility, so is intent on getting her to talk to him. Then she steals the knife his father gave him.
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Review

Staked

Posted: April 4, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: , Urban Fantasy
Staked

Vampires are the reason why druids are in short supply in modern days. Druids have a special ability to unbind vampires without even touching them, and as a result, 2000 years ago the vampire Theophilus convinced Rome to hunt them down and wipe them out. Atticus alone survived and has been laying low ever since. But now with Granuaile and Owen effectively tripling the number of druids in the world, they are also on the vampire’s hit list, and Atticus has decided that now is the time to finally fight back and commit a little genocide of his own.

In the meantime, Granuaile is busy finding a way to cloak herself from the prying eyes of Loki, and Owen is beginning to train a new generation of Druids. To find success in their respective quests, our heroes often get side-tracked, but always with their eyes on the prize: preventing Ragnarok.
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Review

Tower of Thorns

Posted: March 29, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Juliet Marillier, Fantasy
Tower of Thorns

You got to know Blackthorn and Grim in the first novel, DREAMER’S POOL (EBR review), and now their story continues in TOWER OF THORNS, starting not much later than where it left off in the first book. From the cover:

“Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim. Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.”
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Review

Dreamer’s Pool

Posted: March 22, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Juliet Marillier, Fantasy
Dreamer’s Pool

From the cover: “In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

“Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convince him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.”
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Review

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Posted: March 8, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Ken Liu, Science Fiction, Anthology
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Before Ken Liu wrote novels like THE GRACE OF KINGS (EBR Review), he wrote short stories, several of which won notable awards. THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES is a compilation of not only his award-winning shorts, but also some of his own favorites, including one not previously published.

They are stories filled with emotion, creativity, and beautiful prose. And all will require a degree of contemplation–these are not simple stories, as they are filled with multiple layers of character, situation, and setting. Each is worth thinking about what Liu is trying to say. It’s these very qualities that makes this anthology worth reading.
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Review

Dead Heat

Posted: March 2, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Patricia Briggs, Urban Fantasy
Dead Heat

Anna and Charles have been married a few years now, and here we are in book 4 of Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series and it finally feels like these two are hitting their stride. They’ve had several bumps in the road over the years as Anna has learned about herself and her rare abilities as an omega werewolf. To Charles’ surprise, he’s found happiness and a contentment with someone who sees him for what he really is. And it’s because they’ve come so far that they’re able to face their greatest challenge yet: deciding whether to have a child together.

Oh, and facing a powerful fae Grey Lord.
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Review

Black Wolves

Posted: February 22, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Kate Elliott, Epic Fantasy
Black Wolves

BLACK WOLVES starts with Kellas, one of the king’s Black Wolves, an elite military unit designed to hunt down the remaining demons and enforce the king’s law. Dannarah is the king’s daughter who yearns for a life other than the one where she will be married off to a foreign prince. We are introduced early on to a world rich with details, politics, religion, and a varied landscape. All within the first 90 pages.

And then all of the sudden Kate Elliot propels us 40+ years into the future.  Yes, I howled in frustration. I was just getting to know these characters and now they’re…. old? Turns out, that’s exactly when the real story begins.
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Review

Riders

Posted: February 16, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Veronica Rossi, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Riders

Gideon is the Incarnation of War. Yes, one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. One day he was in Army Ranger training, doing a routine parachute jump… only, the impossible happens. Neither his chute nor his back up deploy like they’re supposed to and Gideon hits the ground, dies, and is miraculously resuscitated. But that’s not the only inexplicable event to happen. Despite severe injuries, he’s back on his feet a week later, a new cuff on his arm seems to be part of his body, and then demons show up at his sister’s college party.

Daryn, a strange girl who convinces him that the demons are after him, gets him to safety and explains what’s going on. Some renegade demons want a key to a realm where they can escape Hell and set up their own purgatory. One such key was nefariously stolen and now the four horsemen–or at least four teenage boys who can currently wield their powers–are summoned to protect the key until it can be returned to its rightful angelic owner.

Phew. Did you catch all that? In RIDERS we are taken on a wild ride–and not just because Gideon is afraid of his crazy war horse.
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Review

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

Posted: February 9, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Max Wirestone, Mystery
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

Our heroine’s life is currently a sad state of affairs. She’s been unemployed for a year, living off the generosity of a roommate who doesn’t demand rent. Her boyfriend cheated on her with his dental hygenist. And now Dahlia’s bank account is so depleted she’s even considering accepting a job as a private detective–and is hired to discover who stole the Bejeweld Spear of Infinite Piercing from an MMORPG character’s account.

It sounds like an easy $2000. A fool and his money are easily parted and all that. Alas, it doesn’t turn out so simply, especially when said fool Jonah turns up dead.
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Review

Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

Faith has a secret. Years ago she was forced into an impossible choice: use her powers to kill or hand them over to her husband to use. Rather than kill those she thought innocent, she fought against her husband and accidentally killed him. It’s more complicated than that, however.

You see, Atlantis existed, and there were survivors, and they all had one of three kinds of magic: Seer, Channeler, and Warrior. But the survivors blame each other for its demise and are convinced that killing each other off is the only way to ensure future survival. Faith is a channeler, with the rare ability to manipulate stone, and now everyone wants her to use the three Atlantian stones of power to wipe out their enemies.

Darius is a seer, gifted with empathic abilities. His family has one of the stones of power and need Faith to use her magic and heal it of the impurities it’s collected over the years. After a run-in with people who want to force her to help them, Faith decides to accept Darius’ offer of safety and money so she can get back on her feet.
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Review

The Fifth Season

Posted: January 12, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: N.K. Jemisin, Epic Fantasy
The Fifth Season

The Stillness is a world of magic, where the power of the earth is used to create but also destroy and kill. Those who can wield earth magic are called orogenes, and when we first start THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemisin we are introduced to one orogene in particular: Essun, a woman hiding in plain sight.

You see, orogenes are held in suspicion by the normal people of The Stillness, and for obvious reasons: they can use the earth as a weapon. For this reason all orogenes are sent to Yumenes, the capital city, where they attend the Fulcrum and learn to harness their powers, but most of all how to control it. Because any orogene who can’t control themselves or their power cannot be suffered to live.

Back to Essun, who lives a quiet life in a remote village, with her husband, two small children, and a past full of pain. A past that catches up with her just as the world begins to end.
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Review

Last First Snow

Posted: January 5, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Max Gladstone, Fantasy
Last First Snow

It’s no secret that we love Max Gladstone around here. His debut novel, THREE PARTS DEAD (EBR review), was refreshingly creative with his unique approach to magic and the laws that bind it. Since then he’s produced consistently excellent stuff, books worth your time for their interesting characters, fascinating settings, and exciting stories. I really enjoyed TWO SERPENTS RISE (EBR review) with the intriguing main character Caleb and the creative ways he solved his problems.

LAST FIRST SNOW (Amazon) is the prequel to TWO SERPENTS RISE, about events several decades earlier when the city was in an uproar and the skeletal King in Red had to put down a rebellion that included Caleb’s father Temoc.
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Review

Dragon Heart

Posted: December 29, 2015 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Cecelia Holland, Fantasy
Dragon Heart

Jeon’s sister Tirza has always been a strange creature. She understands those around her, but when she tries to respond, everything comes out sounding like animals noises. Her family still loves her, but her life is full of frustration due to her inability to communicate. DRAGON HEART opens with Jeon bringing Tirza home after banishment to a faraway convent. On the ship ride home they are mysteriously attacked and events lead to Tirza finding herself in a secluded cove that belongs to a sea dragon.
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Review

Ash and Silver

Posted: November 26, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Carol Berg, Fantasy
Ash and Silver

I’ve been waiting anxiously after the events of DUST AND LIGHT (EBR Review) to continue the series, and finally I can know what happened to Lucian in ASH AND SILVER (Amazon).

Turns out that his struggles in DUST were just the beginning.
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Review

Airships of Camelot

Posted: November 13, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Robison Wells, Steampunk, Young Adult
Airships of Camelot

The title AIRSHIPS OF CAMELOT (Amazon) pretty much gives away what this book is: a King Arthur and steampunk mashup. Usually I’d hesitate reading something like this, but since it was written by Robison Wells of VARIANT (EBR Review) fame, I was actually excited.

Turns out it’s a really fun read.
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Review

An Apprentice to Elves

Posted: October 20, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Elizabeth Bear, Sara Monette, Fantasy
An Apprentice to Elves

When AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES showed up in my mailbox and I saw Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette’s names on the cover I totally squeed.

Until I discovered it was book 3 in the Iskryne series–how had I not heard of Bear’s new stuff? I loved her Eternal Sky series–start with RANGE OF GHOSTS (EBR Review); I read Monette’s MELUSINE and was meh about the story but not her writing craft, which is pretty amazing. I stomped around grumpily for a bit, but decided to dig in anyway without even looking up the first two books. Turns out you can read this book on its own.

Set in an alternate Norse/Germanic wintery island in the north, the men of Iskryne can bond with the local telepathic wolves, with whom they defend the populace from trolls and wyverns. But a new threat is creeping its way into the land: the Rheans (alternate Romans) are intent on conquest, and have the resources to do it.
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Review

Voyage of the Basilisk

Posted: October 13, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Marie Brennan, Fantasy
Voyage of the Basilisk

This series keeps getting better and better.

Here we are in book 3 of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent Memoirs with VOYAGE OF THE BASILISK (Amazon) and our heroine, Isabella Camherst, is sent on an expedition to research dragons on sea and on land. Along for the ride is her young son Jacob; Jacob’s nanny Abigail; and Tom, Isabella’s research partner.

With Isabella on board, they are bound for an adventure.
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Review

Game Art

Posted: October 6, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Matt Sainsbury, Non-Fiction
Game Art

The book which has occupied the coffee table at my house for the last few years is one that’s grown to be a favorite: THE ELEMENTS (Amazon). It’s beautifully photographed, the entries for each is only a few pages long, with Theodore Grey writing about the elements as though they have their own personalities. You could spend five minutes or five hours reading it or simply looking at the pictures. It is this book with which I compare all other coffee table books.

GAME ART (Amazon) was sent to me in September when it was released. I hardly got to look at it at first because my children, lovers of all things games, had stolen it and hidden it in their rooms to read at their leisure. When I finally got to look at it myself it’s easy to see why they love this book.

If you’ve always considered games an art form of their own, then this is a book for you.
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Review

Little Robot

Posted: October 5, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Ben Hatke, Children
Little Robot

Ben Hatke already has a following from his adorable ZITA THE SPACEGIRL (Amazon) series. Now with LITTLE ROBOT, Hatke explores a little girl’s and a young robot’s desire to feel belonging.
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Review

Spindle

Posted: September 22, 2015 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: W.R. Gingell, Fantasy, Young Adult
Spindle

Polyhemia is asleep and has been for three hundred years, until Luck wakes her up with a kiss. Only, he’s no prince, and it certainly wasn’t the kiss of True Love. Which would explain why she keeps falling asleep, why her memories are fuzzy, and why her dreams are so odd–the curse was only sorta broken. Luck, you see, is an enchanter, and uses his kiss/magic to wake up Poly and deliver her to the Council because they think she’s the princess.

Only she isn’t.
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Review

The Dragon Lantern

Posted: September 17, 2015 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Alan Gratz, Middle Grade, Steampunk
The Dragon Lantern

In THE LEAGUE OF SEVEN (EBR Review), our young heroes Archie, Hachi, and Fergus (along with Archie’s trusty Tik Tok man Mr. Rivets) worked together to stop the Mangleborn monster from the Florida swamps. They discovered that these creatures are buried all over the Earth, waiting for the day when they will be freed from their prisons and can take over humanity. It is only a new League of Seven–a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strongman, and a hero–who can stop them.

Now, in THE DRAGON LANTERN (Amazon), with the first three members of new League discovered, they are sent on a quest by the Septemberist Society and Mrs. Moffitt to recover the Dragon Lantern. She believes this was the artifact that transformed Archie and may hold the answers to his past.

But immediately upon recovering the lantern it’s stolen.
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