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review 2019-02-17 23:29
The Myth Manifestation / Lisa Shearin
The Myth Manifestation - Lisa Shearin

New York is one of the most popular convention destinations in the world—for humans and supernaturals. Every hundred years, rulers of thhe world’s supernatural races come together to negotiate and renew a peace treaty. Meeting in the same hotel are the governors of our world’s goblin and elf colonies. SPI is saddled with the security nightmare of keeping the living delegates alive and the undead delegates from becoming permanently deceased. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

I’m Makenna Fraser, seer for SPI. Our security nightmare becomes real when monsters from the delegates’ mythologies begin mysteriously appearing in the flesh to hunt delegates from every side of the debate. And when the hotel gets sucked into another dimension, there’s no escape.

We discover that we’re all pieces in an elaborate and deadly game. A game about to spill out into the real world. Failing to escape is game over and not an option. We have to save the world—but first, we have to save ourselves.

 

I’m still enjoying this series--there’s plenty of action in each book, but somehow the overarching plot line moves along very, very slowly. But this seems to be a Shearin thing, as her Raine Benares series is exactly the same in this regard.

Speaking of the Raine Benares series, this is the volume where the two series come together. One of Raine’s piratical relatives shows up as a diplomat here in Mackenna’s universe and Mac’s goblin love interest, Rake, turns out to be a cousin of Raine’s one-time love interest, Tam.

I’m not entirely sure, but it seems that Shearin has had to publish this book (and later volumes of Raine Benares) as an independent, rather than with a traditional publisher. My public library wouldn’t order this volume, because their policy is to only purchase from traditional publishers, so I had to put out my own cash for this adventure. Not a big deal, since I’ve purchased the entire series, but it makes me a bit sad that people who depend on the library can’t continue on. 

I think I’m safe in saying that if you liked previous volumes of the SPI Files, you will also enjoy this one. If I have any critique, it’s that I didn’t get nearly enough of Mac’s partner, Ian, in this volume. The Mac-Ian show has been entertaining and I’m sorry it got short shrift in this outing. I’m also a little disappointed with Rake, who seems to be going all ooey-gooey good guy. Where is the dark mage that Mackenna fell for in the first books? 

Despite these concerns, I don’t think there’s any doubt that I will put out the money for the next volume!

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review 2019-02-17 16:37
Some Ramblings: King of Scars
King of Scars - Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars

by Leigh Bardugo
Book 1 of Nikolai Duology

 

 

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible.  No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way.  Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built.  With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him.  He will risk everything to save his country and himself.  But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.



It feels like it's been ages since I read the Grisha trilogy, and, as others might have pointed out, a reread of Bardugo's debut trilogy might have been beneficial.  I remember some details, but not others, and it might have been the reliance of back story knowledge that had me feeling like this book was a bit hard to get into in the beginning.  It probably also didn't help that there were a lot of POVs, even though we really just switched between three main ones--Nina, Nikolai, and Zoya.

And in truth, I feel like Bardugo handled the multiple POVs and the multiple story lines A LOT better in the Six of Crows duology (which had been known as The Dregs duology at some point, and is now going to get a third book apparently which has caused me to feel completely flustered, because that's all I can think of now, so the rest of this review is sort of a blur.)  The truth is, because of the connection between these two series, it was hard NOT to make those comparisons, which might have been a bit unfair to this book.  I found myself wondering if any of the other Dregs would make an appearance, and whenever Nina's POVs swung around, I wondered if she'd run into Inej or Kaz, or whether they'd suddenly pop up to help her with her missions... as awkwardly dropped as those instances would have been.

But enough of the Six of Crows versus Nikolai comparisons, because this book is quite obviously a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy.  So, to start, I DO highly recommend reading that trilogy before jumping into this one.  I even highly recommend reading the Six of Crows duology first as well.

Because while this book COULD stand on its own in some ways, I feel like there were too many references to previous books that could cause fleeting moments of "I wonder what that was about?"

Back to this book...

As I had already mentioned, I had found the beginning a bit slow to get into--dragged a little bit, even.  And despite the fact that every tangent seems to have its significance, the book still feels like it tried to cram too much material into one book... and yet there were a lot of moments where I just wanted to get on with the story.

It's conflicting, because it's not like I didn't like this book.  In fact, I very much enjoyed it, because aside from the story's outline and presentation itself, Bardugo has a way with words and creation that really just draws you right in.  Bardugo's Grishaverse is a wonderfully crafted place, and I've always loved how intricate all the details of her world are presented, how you can pluck any character out of the world and there can be a whole story to tell.  Even background characters have their significance and aren't just there for filler.

King of Scars is a book I've been looking forward to ever since it's announcement because it boasts two characters I came to love from previous series.  While I was never in the Nikolai/Alina camp, I always found Nikolai charming and fun to follow as a side character to Alina's journey.  And while I had started off Six of Crows not quite feeling Nina as a character, I slowly grew to love her as the books progressed.  Finally, as mentioned already, I just love Bardugo's Grishaverse!

King of Scars ended up being enjoyable and entertaining, but maybe I was over-hyping myself, or I was just expecting so much more, but I couldn't seem to relate with any of the characters, or find myself caring a whole lot.  Nikolai doesn't come off as charming as I remember, even though an inkling of that charm kind of hung in the background.  Nina's story was a bit rocky to begin with, got a little bit better, but then I feel like it sort of lost direction at some point.

In contrast, I found that I DID really like Zoya and really appreciate the glimpse into her history.  I honestly don't remember much about Zoya from the Grisha trilogy, except as maybe the "mean girl" Alina had to steer clear of.  The focus on her as a main character made her so much more fleshed out; and maybe because I didn't have any strong feelings for or against her previously, it was easy to kind of accept her as a new character altogether.  But that doesn't mean that I really felt any strong feelings for or against her in this book either.  I liked her, but not in that "I've got a new favorite character" type of giddiness.

Anyway, in the end, the book DID suck me right in as all the conflicts started coming to a head.  I really like the new twist to Grisha powers and hope to see it expounded on in the next book.  I never really expected this book to be a romance, and just as well, the whispers of the romances were a bit lacking in chemistry, as well as in credibility--this is something else that I'm hoping will be developed a bit more if we're going to pursue this line.

Also... are we going to see any other old favorites in the next book?  Inej?  Kaz?  Jesper?  Yes, please?  =P

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/02/some-ramblings-king-of-scars.html
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review 2019-02-17 02:51
Oh this was just adorable wrapped up in more adorable...
Love You So Special - Tara Lain,Ry Forest

'Love You So Special' was simply beyond cute. 

 

Artie's a blue collar worker and he knows there's so much more out there in the world, but it's not for 'average hard working people like him' but when circumstances conspire to present him with the opportunity to hear just a little of the music that makes his heart soar and brings him to life...Artie's no fool either he doesn't pass up the chance to . I really liked Artie with his fish tank full of pet fish and how he looks out for his landlord who is a retired professor of existentialism. If I could pick a little brother I think it'd be someone like Artie. He's just a really awesome guy...he's kind, hardworking and a son that would make any parent proud, he's pretty damned selfless. 

 

When Artie gets a chance to do some renovation work at the home of Madame Desmarais and more importantly her talented son Francois, who also happens to be a world renowned composer and pianist whose fear of crowds makes performing live an absolute nightmare for him the two become friends and Francois very quickly realizes that not only does he enjoy Artie's company but Artie soothes his soul in a way that no one else ever has and for Artie, Francois sees so much about him that is good and noble. Francois knows that Artie is someone who he would be proud to have not just as a friend, but maybe even as a boyfriend.

 

One of the things that I noticed with this story was that I felt a bit more engaged with the secondary characters such as Francois' mother, Artie's landlord...I think he was totally adorable and Artie's family in general ended up to be a pleasant surprise.

 

'Love You So Special' was a nearly perfect blend of romance, drama and comedy that kept me engaged from start to finish and it seems that for this listener it was the perfect entertainment for a Valentine's Day afternoon. At 5 hrs. and 18 mins. it was long enough to provide an engaging and well filled out story but not so long that it became boring at any time. 

 

Admittedly there's a bit of a plot twist towards the ending of this story that was really a bit of take it or leave it for me, I can honestly say that I'm torn on how much I really thought this helped the story but in the end it was there and I guess more than anything I viewed it as a bit of a speed bump something that was on the path and while it may have slowed the journey down a bit, it wasn't enough to stop things completely and once your past it you carry on and the rest of the trip is a smooth ride.

 

As with the previous books in this series the narrator was once again Rys Forest who once again has given substance to the characters of this story and created a very enjoyable listening experience that I look forward to revisiting in the future along with the previous stories in Ms Lain's 'Love You So' series.

 

*************************

 

An audio book of 'Love You So Special' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2019-02-17 01:48
Harry got an angel but it seems that...
Familiar Demon - Amy Lane

Edward has lost his heart to a demon. I loved 'Familiar Angel' it contained just that little bit of different to it that makes a story interesting for me. While I'm not a huge fan of paranormal if it's done right I can totally get on board and enjoy it and with her 'Familiar Love' series Ms. Lane has given me a series that offers me that little touch of the different. In 'Familiar Angel' we watched as Harry...no not Harry Potter or even Harry Dresden...who know apparently there is more than one Harry...but what they all have in common is magic and this Harry along with his brothers uses his magic to do good things in the world and they have done those good things for 140 years...so if you want the full story on how this happened definitely read 'Familiar Angel'. 

 

In 'Familiar Demon' we get to learn more about Edward...no not Cullen...there are no sparkly vampires here...there are vampires, thankfully they don't sparkle though and Edward he's not one of them. No Edward is Harry and Francis's brother of the heart and he's also one of Emma's familiars plus like Harry and Francis, Edward's has his own magic and Edward's sweet on Mullins. We met both of these characters in the first book but briefly...Mullins is Leonard's friend (Emma's husband) and like Leonard or at least like Leonard until he was rescued from hell by Emma, Mullins is a demon. But Edward sees Mullins...not the demon but the man that the demon hides and over the years Edward has fallen in love with Mullins and he's decided that just as Emma rescued Leonard, the man she loved from the clutches of hell. It's time that he did the same for the man that he loves. 

 

While I really loved 'Familiar Angel' this second installment of Ms Lane's ' Familiar Love' series really stepped up the game for me. The first part of the story was very much on a par with 'Familiar Angel' but when it came to the second half of the story, I can honestly say I'm not sure what I was expecting, but, I'm pretty sure this wasn't it, although what I was expecting was definitely surpassed by what I got. I just loved the last part of 'Familiar Demon'. While the pace stepped up a bit I had no problem keeping up with happenings and the characters that were introduced.

 

It's here in the last part of 'Familiar Demon' that we are given a very strong connection to one of Ms Lane's early series 'Little Goddess' as well as the indications of a link to Francis's past and while I don't think that it's necessary to read Little Goddess before reading this book...like seriously not required, I can't say that I haven't added the 'Little Goddess' series to my list of books I'd like to read some day.

 

Whether it's 'Familiar Angel' or 'Familiar Demon' both stories contain a very strong theme of second chances. The Youngbloods are to say the least an interesting and unique family forged from time, fate and circumstances.

 

So far these men have battled the forces of heaven and hell to be able to claim the men they love and they've done it with the love and support of the family that they've created with Emma and Leonard as their parents and Beltane, Emma and Leonard's biological son.

 

Not to sound like a stuck record but when it comes to paranormal/fantasy I really love it when I find something that give me just a little bit of the unusual...I know it's urban fantasy/paranormal and by virtue of that it should be unusual, but for a long time it really wasn't. All the vampires, werewolves and witches, etc seemed to have the same rules/characteristics/restrictions/whatever. So, it's awesome to see authors taking a second look at this genre and saying 'hey, my vampires don't have to be confined during the daylight hours, my werewolves/shifters can have different rules...these things aren't real and the only rules are the ones that I make...even if it means that they sparkle...please no, but even it if does at least it's something different and lately I've found myself more willing to take another look at what's going on in the world of paranormal and/or urban fantasy. 

 

I'm really looking forward to the next book which I'm hoping and which logic tells me will be about Francis and there was just enough about Francis in this story to tell the reader that there's more to Francis than meets the eye but not enough to make the reader feel like they got anything close to the whole story.

 

In 'Familiar Angel' we saw Harry get his angel and here in 'Familiar Demon' we watched Edward get his demon...so this begs the question...'What will Francis get?'

 

************************

An ARC of 'Familiar Demon' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2019-02-16 23:47
Steel Beach / John Varley
Steel Beach - John Varley

Fleeing Earth after an alien invasion, the human race stands on the threshold of evolution, like a fish cast on artificial shores. Their new home is Luna, a moon colony blessed with creature comforts, prolonged lifespans, digital memories, and instant sex changes. But the people of Luna are bored, restless, and suicidal -- and so is the computer that monitors their existence... 

 

I would have to say that this book is very much an homage to Robert A. Heinlein. That’s not necessarily a bad thing--there’s a very strongThe Moon is a Harsh Mistress vibe, which I was totally okay with. The Central Computer (CC) in Steel Beach is channeling the self-aware computer in TMiaHM and ends up having similar problems. 

There are nods to other writers as well. There’s a lot of sex-changing in this novel, which made me think of Iain Banks’ Culture series and George Effinger’s When Gravity Fails. Varley’s version also made me think of Tiersias of Greek mythology--you know, the guy who found a pair of copulating snakes and hit them with a stick? Hera was so displeased with him that she turned him into a woman for seven years (apparently being female is a punishment). Needless to say, the Ancient Greeks were eager to hear his perspectives on this and he confirmed their bias by saying that women got much more out of the sexual experience than men did. It seems that Varley believed this too.

There’s also a shout out to Arthur C. Clarke, when the CC is worried that he’s going to end up singing “Daisy, Daisy,” like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Another Heinleinian element: a scrapped spaceship called in R.A. Heinlein, within which his spiritual descendents live & grumble. When Hildy is handing out pseudonyms, she christens one of them Valentine Michael Smith (see Stranger in a Strange Land).

I read until the end because I wanted to see how things were wrapped up, but if you’re not a big fan of RAH, my advice is to skip this book. 

 

Book number 308 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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