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review 2018-02-24 04:13
Review: Lace and Blade 4
Lace and Blade 4 - Deborah J. Ross

The description of this fantasy anthology promises swordfighting and romance. Well, there is some of both in here, though not in every story; but that isn't the key to what gives the book unity. I realized part way through that many of the stories take place in settings where social dynamics involve strict, even ritualized codes of behavior. Actual duels may rarely feature, but the social meanings of forms of confilct are explored (and in some stories, conflict is prevented). More importantly, most of the authors here are extremely attentive to the dynamics of power: who has it, how it plays out, and the ways that people (especially those with less power) work within and against the codes of their society.


Heather Rose Jones has been expertly anatomizing Alpennian society (both like and unlike other 19th-century European countries) and the ways that her characters survive as independent women in a series of novels, and we here have a side story that is just as acute. In "Gifts Tell Truth," Jeanne, Vicomtesse de Cherdillac, is in the process of developing the skills for bringing people together she showed in The Mystic Marriage, and becomes involved in a case of espionage precisely because she understands Alpennian ways well; when she acts, she chooses to do so in a way that heads off violence.


"The Sharpest Cut," by Doranna Durgin, takes place in Denbarra, the most ritualized society in the book. I enjoyed the way that the author described the elaboration of clothing as symbols. The story concerns the fine line between the use of "honor" and propriety to smooth relations between people, and its use as weapons to shore up the power of people who have the upper hand. (It is stated that this is a very non-violent society, on the surface at least: they fight with disapproval not swords.) Abuse of power is a growing problem in Denbarra in this story and its main characters figure out how to act against it in a very Denbarran manner.


In "The Game of Lions," by Marella Sands, the main characters are the members of a women's team playing an international exhibition match of tikta (a game similar to cricket) in a quasi-African setting. Although the social mores described aren't wildly oppressive, still, as young women the players are disregarded and unimportant. They wind up using that very fact to their advantage when they need to be overlooked doing something daring to prevent a war. And their other advantage is their alliance with each other. The captain of the opposing team has some remarks to make about the relative importance of men's conflicts versus activities that bring people together, like tikta. And there's a sub-thread to the story about polygynous marriage and how women's alliances or conflicts work out in that setting.


"Hearts of Broken Glass," by Rosemary Edghill, is the bloodiest and most pessimistic story in the anthology. There is not the least disguise of the oppressive and violent use of power in this society, a European-type aristocracy. The main character is a well-born woman who's been fiercely schooled in disciplined obedience. Yet she may become desperate enough to break loose, even if she can't do much except run away to somewhere else (a difficult thing requiring toughness)--realizing that the game is unwinnable accompanies refusing to play the game.


Other themes that run throughout the anthology are justice, and choosing to act rightly when you have or win the power to act. "At the Sign of the Crow and Quill" by Marie Brennan is a particularly neat little story on this theme: its main character is truly heroic not because he wins a swordfight, but because of what he does after he wins: he makes a choice that splendidly turns his opponent's power-hungriness on its head, at the same time refusing to grasp for power himself.


"A Sword for Liberty" by Diana L. Paxson is set during the American Revolution and is fantasy only in that the goddess Libertas has a great deal of reality to its main character. I was suprised by how well the story worked. The difficulty of reconciling the grand ideals expressed in such documents as the Declaration of Independence with intolerent, racist, sexist, slave-owning reality is its theme. The ultimate affirmation of idealism can only be prevented from being facile if the idealist has been sufficiently faced by reasons to have reservations, and I believe the main character here was. The story's sitll sentimental, though, and making a (semi-repentent) slave-owner into a heroic character is a hard sell.


This is an imperfect anthology. I'm pretty sure there are no writers of color among the authors, which is a serious problem. There are a few stories that are poor stuff, and more that I forgot the instant I turned their last page. Even some of the better stories can be awkward. And the final story in the volume, while quite nice, doesn't seem to fit in thematically. Still, overall the combination of stories was a strong one, and they actually enhanced each other.

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text 2018-01-02 17:36
69 New Releases in book series on January 2
Emergence - C.J. Cherryh
The Haunting on Heliotrope Lanecy - Carolyn Keene
Saga Volume 8 - Brian K. Vaughan,Fiona Staples
Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons Series) - Marie Lu
Neogenesis - Steve Miller,Sharon Kendrick
Between the Blade and the Heart - Amanda Hocking
Cobra Traitor - Timothy Zahn
Promise Not to Tell - Jayne Ann Krentz
Unbound - Stuart Woods
Robicheaux - James Lee Burke

Per fictfact.com's new release calendar :


7thGARDEN, Vol. 7 - Mitsu Izumi  A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England) - Roseanna M. White  A Wedding At Two Love Lane - Kieran Kramer  

7thGARDEN, Vol. 7 - Mitsu Izumi  #7 in 7th GARDEN
A Song Unheard - Roseanna M. White  #2 in Shadows Over England
A Wedding At Two Love Lane - Kieran Kramer  #2 in Two Love Lane


("Read more" stays on booklikes, I just didn't want a long post hijacking the dashboard for those of you who don't have settings set to initially view shorten posts)

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Source: www.fictfact.com/BookReleaseCalendar
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review 2017-12-21 00:00
Between the Blade and the Heart
Between the Blade and the Heart - Amanda Hocking Malin and her mom Marlow are Valkyries. Their job is to kill immortals that have been chosen to die. Valkyries don’t give any thought to the fact of if they are doing what is right taking another life. They are just full filling orders given to them by the gods from generation to generation.

Malin was raised by a mother that was very cold and always told her that Valkyries couldn’t love and never showed Malin any love or warmth growing up. Marlow was also Malin’s mentor training her to be a Valkyrie.

Malin learns that her mother allowed one of her marks to live which put the world in chaos and started it on a downhill collision. In order to try and save the world from being destroyed Malin with the help of a few friends has set a course to finding the person that her mother failed to kill and end his life sending to him to the underworld where he belongs.

Malin’s little group of friends consist of her best friend Oona whom she has been friends with since grade school who probably knows her better than anyone. Oona is a Sorceress. Oona is better at casting spells than Malin. Malin sweet talks Oona into doing her spell work for her.

Then we have the mortal Asher who is also the son of a Valkyrie who like Malin is out for revenge against this immortal so therefore he wants to be in on the hunt for this guy. Malin and Asher strike up a relationship of sorts. Malin really cares for Asher but has a hard time with her feelings because her mother told her that she wasn’t capable of loving.

Next on the list is Quinn also a Valkyrie and Malin’s ex-girlfriend. Malin cares for Quinn but different than she cares for Asher. Asher wants to pull her into his arms and keep her safe. But Quinn wants to throw her against the wall and have her way with her. Malin needs or wants both things but can she have both Quinn and Asher?

Between the Blade and the Heart is filled with lots and lots for action and myths, monsters and very powerful gods. Amanda Hocking is a brilliant author who knows how to spin a story that will keep you turning the pages. Come join Malin, Oona, Asher and Quinn on their journey to save the world from the monsters.
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review 2017-12-16 18:27
#Audiobook Review: Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter
Mercy Blade: Jane Yellowrock, Book 3 - Audible Studios,Faith Hunter,Khristine Hvam

Mercy Blade opens a month after the conclusion of Blood Cross. Jane and Rick are back at her mountain home, packing up her belongings so she can move to New Orleans to take on the job offered by the Vampire Council when the world finds out that Weres (shifters) are real. Meanwhile, Leo has been accused of murder by the U.S. werewolves and Jane has a mystery to solve.


So here’s the thing… I really, really enjoy the parts of the Jane Yellowrock books that revolve around the book-specific mystery, and this is especially true with Mercy Blade. I became immersed in the detective work surrounding the death of the mysterious panther-were. Following Jane’s thought process and the police procedures as Jane tries to put together all the pieces is fascinating. I love how she finds little threads and pulls until she unravels the truth. However, I have issues with almost everything else.


First, I feel the world building is a bit forced. We are three books into the series and no mention of the weres or the Mercy Blade before now? Maybe it was meant to be, but then, the fact that EVERYONE keeps Jane in the dark so completely is irritating and annoying. She’s supposed to be in charge of security, and I agree with her that both Leo and the police should have informed her of what is happening in NOLA. I was okay with this in the first couple books, but by now, having Jane know nothing when she starts the book and has to pull teeth for information is old.


Next, Jane nearly dies too often in every book. She gets mauled, shot at, and destroyed multiple times now in each book. This is old. I know she works in a dangerous profession, but can’t she just get nicked from time to time, rather than knocking on death’s door?


Finally, I am not a fan of Jane’s “love life.” While I don’t need romance in my urban fantasy stories, if it’s going to be included, I don’t want this… I’m too much of a romantic to follow Jane’s mish-mash of emotions and sexual cravings. I don’t like when Beast controls her - pushing her to mate with someone other than her boyfriend. I don’t like cheating. I can embrace multiple partners, but it needs to be consensual and in the open, and I feel like what happens in this book was neither. I’m greatly simplifying what is going on in Mercy Blade, but needless to say, I have issues with it.


On the bright side, Khristine Hvam continues to provide excellent narration. And while I was annoyed with some of her accents and male voices in the beginning of the series, I find she’s settled down and firmed up many of the voices.


So in the end, while so much of Jane’s story calls to me, I find myself overly irritated and frustrated far too often. Mercy Blade has some fabulous moments, but unfortunately, they are overshadowed by messy and irksome complications. 


My Rating: C/C-

Narration: B+

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