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review 2016-12-13 11:22
Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt
Heirs of Grace - Tim Pratt,Leslie Hull

Samsung Kindle freebie of the month (more about that below).


This is not high literature, but on a snowy morning at home with a cold, and wrapped up in a blanket and the cats, it was just the right kind of Christmas candy and I enjoyed it. It might be a case of "Right book at the right moment", but I think if you're a contemporary UF fan, this is well worth a shot, particularly as it's a) a standalone and b) there's a pretty good chance you can get it free until the end of the December 2016 (I wrote "the month" there, but that's no use if you're reading this a year from now.)


The opening line is a pretty good insta-taste of the writing:


My new life was off to a bumpy start even before Trey got eaten by the mirror.


The bones of the plot is nothing we haven't seen before: Young woman discovers she is the inheritor of a massive amount of power, and has to figure out by herself how to deal with it. 


What's great:

  • Bekah is 24?25? non-white (she's not actually sure what she is, as she's adopted, and it is partly cleared up in the book.), not entirely heterosexual, non-virginal, non-neurotic and definitely no damsel in distress. She is brave and kind, and in charge of her own life, and enjoying it. She's also not perfect, her innate kindness and self-reliance puts her in danger a few times, but she generally gets herself out of it again, or at least gives it a shot. And yet, despite being a thoroughly modern miss with agency and self-esteem, she actually asks for help from people who can help her, when possible, and accepts help when it's offered if it makes sense to do so.
  • Sure she's been given a big dose of magical inheritance, but not on a plate. For most of the book, the main problem is she knows about it but she can't find it (it's literally been put in a physical form and then lost). And when she does find it, she can't figure out how to access it. And when she does finally get there, she gets to decide if it's what she really wants or not, taking it on isn't the only option.
  • It's a standalone. As much as I liked this little world and the fact that it's obviously not the end of the world for the characters, it feels like this story is told and wrapped up, and it's nice to just have a standalone book now and then.
  • The ending is quite unexpected. Mostly in a good way (The epilogues could have been tightened up a bit though.). There's a great deal of kindness and gentleness in this book, which is funny considering it's also got monsters getting their innards made outards by double-barrelled shotguns, etc. It just doesn't lead at all where you think it's going to.
  • There's a lot of really witty banter, and occasionally fabulously funny dialogue, but actually very little snark. I love snark, heck, I am more or less made of snark IRL, but non-stop all the snark you can read is a little much. It was kind of fun to see this style of writing done without it.


What's not:

  • The love interest is a bit of a sap. A terribly charming, cute and sweet sap, but he's basically Bekah's puppy. In part that's a plot point and there is a reason, but only in part,
  • There are a couple of places where she's just a little too persuasive. And they're both huge plot points. As in, she talks her way out of situations, or talks other characters into things, that just don't quite seem plausible. 
  • There are the usual problems of male authors writing inside a female POV character's heads. That said, they are remarkably, refreshingly few, which is great but makes them a little more jarring than usual when they do happen.
  • That ending really is a bit too pat. Despite being in character for Bekah, and the fact I actually liked it a great deal, in the end everyone gets off a little light.
  • There's a lot of really witty banter. Even snarkless, and as much as I enjoyed it, there's maybe a little TOO much. There's a few places where it's a bit much and one where I thought to myself "Really? You're making jokes already? Five minutes ago you had your neck broken and then you got stabbed. It's ok to be serious and contemplative now and then." Right before the characters made a joke at each other about how they were already making jokes at each other. Maybe reading this all in one sitting isn't ideal. It was originally released as a 6 part Kindle serial, and while it works well as a novel, the parts are self-contained, not cliffhangery, and just about the right size for a helping.


About that Samsung freebie thing:

I've written about this before, but a reminder now and then doesn't hurt.


Every month Amazon and Samsung give a choice of four books for free. To see the offers, you have to install the Samsung for Kindle app from the Galaxy/Samsung store - it's otherwise identical to the normal Kindle app, other than offering you free books every month. I have that app on my phone, even though I mostly read the books on my tablet or PC, once you've chosen the book it's yours and in your library just like any other purchase, and you can sync it to your other devices as normal, so all you need is one Samsung device that has access to the Galaxy app store, and you're good to go, even if that device isn't one you'd read a book on.


So far, I've been pretty impressed with the ones I've read - this one was pretty good, one of them (600 Hours of Edward) turned out to be one of my favourite books this year. This month the selection was this book, what looked like a PNR, a suspense thriller looking thing, and something else I forgot - there's usually a bit of a range of genre, most months I find something worth grabbing.

(spoiler show)
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review 2016-06-12 15:55
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians - Lev Grossman

I remember reading some essays of Lev Grossman's online and being a little enchanted with his writing. I've been meaning to pick up this series for about forever, but somehow never got around to it. Then daughter and I watched the Syfy series of The Magicians and rather liked it - sulky nerdy Quentin, shy stuck-up Alice, damaged and wild-eyed Julia, belligerent Penny and the fabulous pair of Margo and Elliot. So I thought I'd finally read the book, although I was aware the plot was wildly different.

So, I read the book. And I'm non-plussed, because I really liked the TV series much, much better.

Quentin here is not just sulky and nerdy, he's flat out whiny and self-absorbed to a ridiculous degree, and so so jaded. Alice is cripplingly shy, but has no edge to her. Penny practically isn't in the book (boo! TV Penny is great) and Julia even less so, and really only Elliot and Margo I mean Janet approach the same level of characterisation. And this is absolutely not me complaining about the fact they're different--I'm one of those weirdos who loves the LOTR books and the LOTR movies--but rather complaining about the fact they are all mostly as unlikeable as hell and when someone dies in the book, I simply don't care.

On the bright side, Grossman is a very engaging writer as always, and that is really the only thing that kept me reading. And I get it, I've read his explanations, that they're unlikeable, to a point, on purpose. It just didn't work for me. I didn't hate the book, and I'll read the other two, I'm certainly not regretting the time spent (and in fact, I found this a fast and easy read, because again, as mentioned, Grossman is a good writer.)

So pros: Excellent writing, great worldbuilding.

Cons: I just didn't give a flying fig what happened to the characters.


Conclusion: Watch the TV show. And read some other Lev Grossman writing, unless you find the idea of this one particularly enchanting.


ETA; A thought: Even if you didn't like the book, give the show a try. It takes until episode three or so to really settle in, but the plot is WILDLY different to the book, making all the characters older (Brakebills is a grad school, not a university), and it has an actual plot that creates some urgency. Relative to the book, all it really shares is some character names (and not even all of those)

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review 2016-06-02 11:54
Kia and Gio by Daniel José Older
Kia and Gio: A Tor.Com Original - Daniel José Older

Tor short, you can read it on their website here: http://www.tor.com/stories/2015/01/kia-and-gio-daniel-jose-older


I'm a huge fan of Older, after reading Shadowshaper, and if you're not familiar with him this is a pretty good intro. It's actually set in the world of his other series, but they are very similar, and he has a distinct style and rythym to his writing that I really enjoy. 


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review 2016-06-02 11:18
Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows #1) by Kim Harrison
Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

It's really hard post-hoc reviewing books that begin long-running series you've already read. It's too easy to overlook things that gave pause on first read, or were unclear, because you know where it's going. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard to see the really clever flourishes in the world-building, the exact things that pulled you in the first time, because this world and it's inhabitants are already old friends.

In any case, the Hollows books are rip-roaring urban fantasy with a pretty great female protagonist. There's romance, but these are not PNR (although there's the odd sexytimes scene, maybe 4-5 times in the entire first ten books, unless I'm misremembering). I mention this because I'm so over reading poorly written "PNR" that's just an excuse for horribad erotica, and I know I'm not alone there.

As mentioned, long but completed series, I'm just gonna suggest you pick up the first book and see if you like it.

But if you're interested in more thoughts, read on. Consider yourselves warned, this might get long. Even for one of my reviews.


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review 2016-01-20 18:25
The Revenge of Rose Grubb by Rachel Eyre
The Revenge of Rose Grubb - Rachael Eyre

Currently free on Kindle 2016-01-19


Surprisingly good, this was a fast read. It's a little hard to describe - the cover is terrible and the blurb doesn't really do the story justice.


In short, famed illusionist Hestia is invited to appear on a smash hit tv talk show, having engineered and reimagined her entire life around just this opportunity: A chance to visit revenge on the hostess of the show, who has been a bully and nemesis for nearly 30 years, since early teenagerdom, when she wasn't Hestia, but a chubby schoolgirl named Rose Grubb, long before even the first of her many self-reinventions.


It's wry and quirky, and rather British, and I found several parts of it quite funny.


It's a little bit Witches of Eastwick, and a little bit an examination of the way bullying can haunt people far beyond the time of it's occurrence, and a little bit revenge fantasy. It's about obsession, good and bad, and where it can get you... or not. It's a bit supernatural urban fantasy, and a bit of a love story but not at all a romance.


Fair warning for some same-sex content (and some very British attitudes to sex, which seems to amount to you can be outrageous as you like as long as you don't get in the tabloids).

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