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review 2019-02-19 08:18
Book Review - Etched in Bone, by Anne Bishop
Etched in Bone - Anne Bishop

The story continues where we left off in Marked in Flesh with the humans trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of whatever is left in the wake of Namid’s claws and teeth and rebuild their lives.

In Etched in Bone, the Elders (Namid’s claws and teeth) want to observe the humans interact with the Others and learn what these small predators can do to each other. So when Monty’s brother comes to Lakeside, despite his own family’s warning that he’s bad news, Simon agrees to let him stay. Simon is reluctant to have him so close to Meg but concedes to the Elders’ request.

The Elders keep an eye on Meg, the howling not-wolf and develop a taste for the wolf cookies. They leave a note asking Meg for cookies. Meg thinks the note was left by pups and yells (hoping they hear her) that good pups say ‘please’ when asking for things. Everyone is shocked!

“Vlad stared at Simon. “Meg told the Elders they were…”

“Bad puppies,” Simon finished. “Yeah.”

A minute passed before Vlad said, “Why?”

“They didn’t say ‘please’ when they asked for cookies.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

Simon scratched behind an ear that was now Wolf-shaped and furry. “That’s okay. Meg said plenty for all of us.”

Meg gets better at using the prophecy cards, and there’s one pesky little card that keeps showing up. It’s the romance card, and that intrigues her because romance is something she hadn’t experienced and the mere thought scares her. She also predicts that she’ll come close to dying and make a major faux pas – keeps it to herself until the last moment so as not to worry others. Expect a lot of frustration while reading Etched in Bone.

The villain of this novel was Cyrus James Montgomery, Monty’s brother. He’s a con-artist and considers Lakeside as easy pickings. Cyrus is presumptuous, arrogant, and not very smart if he believes that human law can keep his safe from the terra indigene in the Courtyard.

As soon as he discovers what Meg Corbyn is he plans to cash in on her. Needless to say, things don’t go his way, and the punishment fits the crime. Warning! It will be gruesome! But you’ll have to read the book to see what happens.

Something unexpected happens, and it will surprise in a good way – it concerns Skippy. Who doesn’t love Skippy?! I hope this character gets more page time in the next book!

It’s no secret that the Others eat the humans who wrong them. They even have a sign that says ‘the trespassers will be eaten.’ They deliver their own kind of justice and sometimes the Courtyard butcher, Boon hangs the ‘special meat’ sign in the window. But they are considerate to Meg and try to hide that from her.

“Don’t ask, Meg. I won’t lie to you, so don’t ask.

“Tess told us a while ago that there is some mint growing in the Courtyard, so I wondered . . . Do Wolves usually chew on mint?”

“No. Why?” Before coming to see Meg, he’d gone into the bathroom at HGR to use some mouthwash. He’d also examined both sets of teeth to make sure there weren’t any bits of human flesh stuck between them from carrying the backbone.

Did he smell minty from the mouthwash–or was the scent wafting in from the front room?

Meg confirmed that suspicion when she glanced at the Private doorway before leaning toward him and whispering, “When Nathan came back to the office, he smelled like he’d rolled in mint.”

All in all, this was a good book, and I enjoyed reading it. The slow-burning romance is still …slow burning. Things do evolve on the romantic front but very slow. If you blink, you miss it kind of slow. So don’t get your hopes too high, a lingering kiss will have to suffice. Ms. Bishop knows how to keep her audience frustrated! 

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-etched-in-bone-by-anne-bishop
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review 2019-02-19 08:15
Book Review - Marked in Flesh, by Anne Bishop
Marked In Flesh - Anne Bishop

Vision in Silver ended with an unsettling phone call mysteriously made by the Elders to Simon. Now Simon and the Courtyard residents struggle to figure out what the Elders meant when they said they should decide “how much human they are going to keep.”

“We can’t trust humans anymore.”

“Did we ever trust them?”

“No. But we counted on their desire to survive being stronger than their greed. I don’t think we can count on that anymore.”

But when push comes to shove, the terra indigene in Lakeside Courtyard protect the human pack that gathered around Meg and their extended families. Thus we get to meet new characters. One of those is detective Monty’s mom, a no-nonsense kind of woman that intrigues the Others. She almost instantly earns the respect of Elliot who asks her help around the office. Her tough love shows the terra indigene that Ms. Twayla is not to be messed with.  

In the aftermath of the HFL (Human First and Last) attack that ended with the slaughter of many wolf shifters, the Elders retaliate and thin the herd. “Namid’s claws and teeth” could lead to the extinction of humankind if they decide to do so. A couple of Elders become intrigued by Meg and they call her “the howling not-wolf”. It is because of her and the way Meg changed the dynamic between humans and terra indigene, that the elders leave this decision to Simon.

“You would kill the sweet blood not-Wolf?”

“If we allow some humans to remain, then what kind of human should we keep?”

But even the Elders realize that Meg is important, not edible, the one who changed the relationship between humans and the terra indigene. She’s worth keeping and she comes with her own human pack. For this, the Lakeside Courtyard is the most progressive of their kind. 

“She was the pebble dropped in a pond that was the Lakeside Courtyard, and the ripples of her presence had changed so many things, including the terra indigene who had befriended her. Because of Meg, the Courtyard’s residents interacted with humans in ways that were unprecedented…Because of Meg, the Lakeside Courtyard had a human pack.”

A major development happens in the way Meg handles her addiction to cutting. Although she’s a blood prophet and she needs to cut and bleed to reveal her prophecy, Meg finds out that she can use tarot cards instead. She calls it the Trailblazer Deck. It’s a skill that still needs tuning, but she gets better every day.

Meg and Simon seem to be comfortable with their relationship status (a.k.a still not together), neither of them knowing how a normal relationship should progress. Frustrating as it is, we do get a bit of a teaser towards the end that they’re ready for more. 

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-marked-in-flesh-by-anne-bishop
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review 2019-02-19 08:12
Book Review - Vision in Silver, by Anne Bishop
Vision in Silver - Anne Bishop

If Murder of Crows was so and so, this one falls in line with Written in Red and is much better. By now I got used to the slow pace of story development and the naive actions of the characters, so it didn’t surprise me. The story picks up where we left off in Murder of Crows. In the aftermath of prior events, and because the Humans First and Last movement stirred a lot of trouble, there is a shift in the dynamic between humans and terra indigene.

Let’s not forget that the Others commonly think of humans as ‘smart meat’ that invents things they can use. But if humans become a threat, the terra indigene population might consider living without the human-made products. Especially if the usually hidden and extremely dangerous ancient terra indigene (known as the Elders) decide the extinction of the human race. The tension and the danger that comes with it is best summed up by Captain Burke’ s joke:

“Do you know what happened to the dinosaurs? The Others is what happened to the dinosaurs. A joke Captain Burke had told him his first day on the job in Lakeside. Except it wasn’t a joke. Burke had known that, at least to some degree. And now so did he.”

The new relationship is strained at best with one exception: the human pack that forms around Meg Corbyn. And this pack seems ever growing while the terra indigene reluctantly accepts them in their midst.

We get to see more our favorite policeman, Monty and see him interact with his daughter Lizzy who comes for a surprise visit. The gory reason behind this visit keeps the story from dragging. Needless to say, Lizzy joins the human pack at the Courtyard. Being a child and a little bit spoiled she manages to stir some trouble for Meg.

The cassandra sangue that were freed by the Others have trouble adjusting to a life outside the compound. Suddenly, Meg feels overwhelmed and has trouble adjusting too. Honestly, that seemed far fetched. When she first arriver at the Courtyard, after having lived in the compound for as long as she could remember, Meg adapted just fine despite not having any real-life experience. She learned fast how to do her job at the delivery office, despite never having a job. Yet when she enters the Crow’s trinket shop Meg is overwhelmed into a panic attack because there were too many things there.

All this meltdown serves a purpose, but I wish it was done differently to make more sense. But let’s not dwell on it, Meg and the other blood prophets suffer from sensory overload (I don’t remember if that is exactly how the author calls it) so Meg wonders what to do about it:

“What do you expect us to do?” Meg shouted. “Write The Dimwit’s Guide to Blood Prophets?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I want you to do.”

Looking at their stunned expressions, he wondered if he’d been a little too honest. “Figure it out and write it up so we can pass on the information to everyone who is trying to help these girls.”

“I’m not a writer,” Merri Lee protested. “I can make notes, sure, but I can’t write up something like that!”

“Ruthie will help you write it.” There. Problem solved. Ruthie was a teacher. She wrote sentences all the time.

As expected, there are plenty of hilarious moments caused by a poor understanding of how the human acquisition system works. In this case, the terra indigene didn’t understand the necessity of the paperwork needed to buy a house.

“Why couldn’t they just give the human female a bag of money and then pee on the building so that everyone would know it was theirs?”

The same goes for basic human terminology:

“This is Ruthie Stuart, Officer Kowalski’s mate. She will show your pups around the Market Square,” Simon said.

Sarah giggled. Robert said, “We’re not pups; we’re kids.”

Simon looked at Robert and Sarah, then at Ruthie.

Kids. He’d heard Merri Lee say something about when she was a kid. But the word didn’t apply to her now because she was an adult, so it had never occurred to him that, maybe, humans had a little shifter ability that they outgrew as they matured. When she had said kid, maybe she had meant kid?

He eyed Robert and Sarah with more interest. “Little humans can shift into young goats?”

Also, Simon’s reaction to Meg’s haircut is adorable and almost human:

“He had a feeling this was one of those times when a male should express positive enthusiasm regardless of what he really thought—especially when he didn’t really know what was going on.”

When Lizzy comes to the Courtyard she has a stuffed bear that makes her feel safe. While none of the humans bats an eye about it, the terra indigene residents are completely baffled.

“Why did humans give their offspring fake versions of predators that would happily eat those offspring?”

That being said, I’m glad I didn’t give up on this series and I’m happy to move on to the next book. 

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-vision-in-silver-by-anne-bishop
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review 2019-02-19 08:07
Book Review - Murder of Crows, by Anne Bishop
Murder of Crows - Anne Bishop

The story picks up where it left at the end of Written in Red. The plot of Murder of Crows develops around the slowly escalating conflict between the human population of Lakeside and the terra indigene living at Courtyard.

Once she has won the trust of the terra indigene, Meg Corbyn has to adjust to living amongst them. What breaks the rhythm are the drugs “Go Over Wolf” and “feel good” that appear to affect both human and terra indigene. They were introduced in the first book, and their use sparks violence between the humans and the Others. Meg Corbyn, the resident cassandra sangue has dreams that foreshadow the impending danger. People die on both sides, and the vulnerable truce that was once in place gets broken. 

As you can assume, some crows get killed in this book. An investigation shows that they were poisoned with the drugs mentioned above. There’s an important plot twist where the reader learns what goes into making these drugs. I’m not going to say it so I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s pretty twisted and gruesome! The cassandra sangue play an important role in this string of events, and the Controller goes to desperate lengths to reacquire his property. As suspected, that doesn’t happen.

One thing that disappointed me in this book was the lack of a story arc to give it shape and structure. Although the plot is interesting, otherwise I would have put the book down and forgot about it, it lacks build up, curve or climax. There’s a string of events, some more interesting than others, but no real ups and downs, no change of pace.

Sometimes it feels like it’s dragging with unnecessary details, fillers to bulk up the word count. For instance, the story focuses a little too much on stuff like dog biscuits and cuddling on the sofa watching movies.

“Maybe you should go home and rest,” Simon told Meg. Maybe he could go home with her and they could cuddle for a while or play a game. Or she could watch a movie and pet him. “Merri Lee is helping me make some sample packages of cookies,” Meg said, sounding like the only game she wanted to play right now was whack a Wolf.”

But the constant banter and the funny moments make up for it. The story is abundant in humor and snark:

“The cow-shaped cookies have a beef flavoring, the turkey-shaped cookies have a poultry flavoring, and…”

Jane held up one of the cookies. “Human-flavored?”

Meg stifled a sigh. That would be the first thing on her feedback list: don’t make people-shaped cookies. The Wolves were way too interested and all of them leaped to a logical, if disturbing, expectation about the taste.”

terra indigene writer that is visiting with the Courtyard bunch is baffled by human reactions:

“Are there weapons in a bookstore?’

‘It’s a store full of books, which are objects that can be thrown as well as read,’ Monty replied blandly.

The Crows cocked his head. ‘I had no idea you humans lived with so much danger.”

All in all, Murder of Crows isn’t a bad read albeit a little disappointing. I will keep reading the series, and I hope it gets better.

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-murder-of-crows-by-anne-bishop
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review 2019-02-19 08:03
Book Review - Written in Red, by Anne Bishop
Written in Red - Anne Bishop

I got Written in Red, by Anne Bishop as a Christmas present from my husband and I was happy to discover a new fantasy writer whose books I can devour. At this point, I hadn’t read anything written by this author, so it was all new to me. Written in Red is the first book in the Others series and now, as I’m writing this review, I’m already knee deep in the third book. I hope this answers any questions about whether I like this series or not. Naturally, there will be more reviews to follow. 


Back to Written in Red, Anne Bishop created an Earth-like world called Namid, its indigenous population called terra indigena that includes all the supernatural creatures you can imagine (so far vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, crow-shifters, hawk-shifters, elementals, and so on) and humans who are their prey. There are a lot of information to wrap your head around, and it can be a bit off-putting if you’d rather jump straight into the story.

There are a couple of pages explaining the history, places, and names. They use different names for continents (Tahisia is their version of North America), also different names for days of the week and months. Honestly, I found that annoying and didn’t bother to learn them. All I remember is that instead of Monday they have Moonsday and instead of Sunday it’s Earthday. There are also maps at the beginning of the book showing the cities of this world. I’m more action oriented so I looked forward to getting into the midst of everything rather than being able to pinpoint on a map where it happened.

So, in this made-up world, there is an uneasy truce between predator and pray. The Others (terra indigene) tolerate humans up to a point due to their technical skills and creative talents. The Others often refer to humans as smart meat, or monkeys and have no qualms about eating trespassers.

That being said, the book starts with a demure, half-frozen human young woman, Meg Corbyn, showing up at Lakeside Courtyard, the business district operated by the Others. We later find out that she’s a cassandra sangue (blood prophet who can see the future when cutting her skin) who has escaped the Controller and seeks refuge in the only place where human law does not apply. No one dared to enter the Courtyard without an invitation. Even Meg noticed, not without humor:

“People who entered the Courtyard without an invitation were just plain crazy! Wolves were big and scary and so fluffy, how could anyone resist hugging one just to feel all that fur?
“Ignore the fluffy,” she muttered. “Remember the part about big and scary.”

Simon Wolfgard, the leader of the Others in Lakeside, despite being uncomfortable with having a human in his territory, gets protective of Meg because she doesn’t smell like prey. Once he finds out her secret and the lengths the Controller is ready to go to enslave her again, Simon has to figure out if protecting Meg is worth the war she has brought to his door.
The Controller breeds blood prophets like cattle and sells their prophecies for profit.

“Whether you’re beaten or pampered, fed the best foods or starved, kept in filth or kept clean, a cage is still a cage”

The story doesn’t have a romantic subplot but does set the ground for it, perhaps later in the series. I’m glad this doesn’t have an instant romance the way so many fantasy books do these days.

“He kissed her forehead and found the act pleasing for its own sake. And, he admitted as he licked his lips, it was enjoyable for other reasons. Meg wasn’t biteable, but he really did like the taste of her.”
“The sweatshirt was big on her and she looked ridiculous. He liked it. And he liked that she was wearing something that carried his scent.”

Most social activity happens in a book store connected to a coffee shop. Only a bookworm would appreciate this detail.

“Vlad looked around. “Are we providing shelter, or are the humans actually buying books?”

I won’t give away more of the plot so I won’t spoil the book for you. Despite preferring fast-paced stories, I learned to appreciate a slowly developing plot, rich with details, humor and sometimes morally flexible characters. It’s not a fast read, but it’s a book that’s hard to put down.

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-written-in-red-by-anne-bishop
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