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Search tags: 2018-women-authors-a-to-z-challenge
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review 2018-11-19 19:46
A Fatal Inversion / Barbara Vine
A Fatal Inversion - Barbara Vine

In the long, hot summer of 1976, a group of young people is camping in Wyvis Hall. Adam, Rufus, Shiva, Vivien and Zosie hardly ask why they are there or how they are to live; they scavenge, steal and sell the family heirlooms.

 

Ten years later, the bodies of a woman and child are discovered in the Hall's animal cemetery. Which woman? And whose child?

 

Probably not the best Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell book to get started with. For me, it didn’t flow as well as I could have hoped. Plus, although I certainly don’t require likeable characters to keep me engaged, I have to care about who did what and why. I found all of the characters in this novel to be unpleasant (to say the least) and I couldn’t care much about how they ended up.

It was odd—gathering the details gradually and making assumptions about who the woman and the child found in the pet cemetery could be and how they got there. I’ve read books where I’ve known the perpetrator from the beginning, but still was intrigued by the story, but this book didn’t grab me the same way. It wasn’t until the very last pages that I found myself engaged. That’s a long time to wait.

I was reading AFI largely on my work coffee breaks. It helped to have no alternative reading available, as I found myself reluctant to pick up the book and yet anxious to get finished and move on to something more rewarding. Truly, cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood for this mystery—I’m a bit off of mysteries right now, I think perhaps I’ve read a few too many of them in the last while. But it was one of the books that I chose for my 2018 reading list and so I forged ahead with it. Your mileage may vary.

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review 2018-11-19 16:41
When Darkness Comes / Alexandra Ivey
When Darkness Comes - Alexandra Ivy

It’s been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she’s survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a vampire she both desires and fears.

For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago. Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death.

A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and evil – and a desperate race to save their love…

 

Put my reading experience in the 2 to 2.5 star range.

I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy the writing of Christine Feehan, J.R. Ward, or Jeaniene Frost.

Obviously, this book didn’t appeal to me, nor did the works of the writers listed above, but they are still very highly rated books. So, not my jam but very appealing to others. I’m not a big fan of the damsel in distress, so that’s part of my problem here. Abby seems desperately passive to me, staying in a job that she hates and putting up with harassment from Dante (although she’s a bit conflicted about that, seemingly wishing that she was in his league so to speak). Now, I’ve been stuck in some jobs that I loathed too, but I’ve found my way out of them and into a way of supporting myself that I find quite enjoyable, so I know it can be done. And the whole “Me Too” movement tells the story of systemic harassment, I think the vast majority of women have their Me Too moments that they could tell you about.

Abby is stubborn—Ivy goes out of her way to prove this to the reader. I’m stubborn too. If you could ask my (non-Danish) mother about the stubbornness of her Danish-Canadian husband and daughters she would tell you that we are champions at it. However, I think all of us realize that being stubborn does not equal being independent. If you want me to believe that your main character is strong and independent, you can’t just rely on her sense of stubborn.

Add to this some editing issues: for example, using beaconing rather than beckoning, flaying rather than flailing and a few other words that were close but not quite right. A quote: “While Selena pampered and preened…” You can’t just pamper. You have to pamper something. So the sentence should read “While Selena pampered herself and preened….” Finally, stop reading right now and trying to wrap your own arms around your waist. Perhaps I’m not very flexible, but I can’t seem to find a way to do that. But Abby does it repeatedly—annoying me more that I would have thought possible.

I chose this book for my Women A-Z reading project for this year. I had hoped to find another enjoyable urban fantasy series for future reading, but I will leave this to others who enjoy this style far more than I do.

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review 2018-11-05 17:33
Black Sun Rising / C.S. Friedman
Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman

Over a millenium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold, and the colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.
Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people - Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer - are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy...

 

This book has been one that I’d been looking forward to in my SFF reading list and I was not disappointed! It has much more good/evil complexity than many of the fantasy books that were previously published (before 1991). Although it is in many ways a typical quest tale, Friedman gives it a couple of twists that distinguish it from earlier quest tales—one member of the party is undoubtedly evil and the party is looking to track down a demon-type entity which has stolen the memories of one of the party. This demon must be killed to restore her to some semblance of normality. Normally, all of the questers would be good guys (sometimes corrupted like Boromir in LOTR), but this is like inviting one the Nazgul to join you in your travels! They are not looking for an object, but for a target, bringing back a memory, not a trophy.

The world Erna, where this tale takes place, reminded me somewhat of Sheri Tepper’s world, Grass. There is a malign feeling to Erna and its inhabitants toward the humans who have settled there that felt familiar from that world. I also was reminded of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series—the settlers of Erna didn’t actually choose the planet so much as get stranded there and have to deal with the fae emanations of the new world, just as the Darkover colonists must deal with their unchosen planet. Plus, the changes to humans and the rakh of Erna made me think of Julian May’s The Many Colored Land, and the adaptations of the ship-wrecked Tanu & Firvulag on ancient Earth.

Having enjoyed all of those books, these were all good associations for me. Although most groups fulfilling a quest have to deal with the price of success, I thought this one explored the notion of “how much power at what cost” very effectively. It is, of course, the first book in a trilogy, so I didn’t expect things to wrap up neatly, but I was pleasantly surprised at how unsettling the ending was—Ciani is restored, but has been very much changed by the whole experience; the priest has to let go of his preferred outcome; the Hunter has realized his limitations. I very much look forward to continuing the series.

Book number 296 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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text 2018-10-23 17:37
Reading progress update: I've read 221 out of 317 pages.
A Fatal Inversion - Barbara Vine

 

All of these people, but especially Adam and Rufous, are horrible!

 

 

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review 2018-10-22 18:14
Evil Librarian / Michelle Knudsen
Evil Librarian - Michelle Knudsen

#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

 

I read this to fill the Cryptozoologist square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

Demons qualify as a paranormal species for my Cryptozoologist square and this book was a charming little jaunt into the demonic scene! I’m always looking for books concerning libraries and librarians and this one delivered a cute story with interesting problems for our heroine, Cyn, to solve. Like how to kiss that cute guy, Ryan, in her high school musical and how to rescue her best friend from the demonic clutches of Mr. Gabriel, the new school librarian.

Cyn and Annie are typical high school girls, at least until Mr. Gabriel comes to their high school and starts to show overt interest in Annie. How can it be only Cyn who realizes that something is dreadfully wrong with the whole scenario? Neither girl has ever had a boyfriend, but thankfully this only worries them peripherally. Cyn is focused on her future in musical theatre and Annie just wants to escape her house full of small children that everyone expects her to take care of while she’s not in school. Annie has the more serious problem of the two girls, being taken for granted by the adults in her life, and is therefore more open to the seduction of the older Mr. Gabriel.

Lucky Cyn gets thrown together with her classmate, Ryan, and she must struggle to maintain her focus—on the school play, rescuing Annie, saving the school, all while enjoying her new proximity to the guy she’s been crushing on. I appreciated that Cyn was written to enjoy the relationship while not basing her entire self-worth on it and that her friendship with Annie continued to be just as important to her as it had always been.

The dialog is sharp and often cute, the situation reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the book is a whole lot of fun. Apparently there will be a sequel and I will definitely be interested in reading it.

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