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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-15 20:03
October 2018 — A Wrap-Up

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on November 15, 2018.

 

 

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An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

 

This book surprised me and in a pleasant way. Having never read anything by Ms. Howard, I didn't really know what to expect. What I discovered was good UF with half decent world-building. It had shades of the movie Now You Can See Me  only the magic in the book wasn't an illusion.

 

We are introduced to the major players almost immediately. They each have their motivations and that was completely okay. The world-building should have been better because as far as I can see, this book is a standalone. Even if it is to be the first in a series, then it would need to be immersive enough for readers to continue with the sequel. I think it mostly does that.

 

 

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The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

 

Wow! I mean I tried reading The War of the Worlds and failed miserably. If you can make a novel about an alien conquest sound boring, then there isn't much hope that I'd ever like anything you'd write. While playing Book Bingo, I landed on a category that fit this book beautifully. So, I decided to give Mr. Wells another go.

 

I am so glad that I did! Suspense colors the atmosphere in the story and there is a stench of violence waiting to happen. Why don't scientists ever learn? I kept cringing every time the humans faced the monsters (Moreau could give Frankenstein a run for the money)! Some were near misses and some events just foreshadowed the darkness that was to come.

 

The edition I read also came with a summary of H. G. Wells' life history. He had been involved in the formation of League of Nations. Cool!

 

 

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Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

 

This book had issues similar to that I highlighted in the review of Kat Howard's book. Say, vampires do exist and they decide to come out. Won't there be a political upheaval to makes all other upheavals look silly? Nothing like that happened in this book.

 

Meritt caught my interest because she refused to be grateful for being turned into a bloodsucking parasite. She also clashed with the authorities regularly and I liked that she wasn't ready to give in to her attraction towards the head vampire just yet. Her troubled relationship with her gold-digger and nouveau riche parents cemented her authenticity as a person. As did her bonds with her bff and grandfather. What detracted from the believability factor was how she rebelled against her new life and yet gave up so easily on her old one. What of her dissertation? What about going back to school?

 

What did bug me was the identity of the person having humans killed by her minions. As far as twists go, this one was just all right.

 

Even so, I want to read the next one in the series before I decide if I will continue with the rest.

 

 

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The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones

 

The humor in these books is always a winner. Consider the two quotes below:

 

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But what I liked, even more, was that the series took a break from the disaster it had become. In case, you haven't yet read the last book or my review of it it was horrible. The author dropped a doozy of a deus ex machina on us. Then she left the readers with a huge cliffhanger that took us back to the prehistoric age (not literally)!

Guess what though? The last part did wonders for the book! I could reconnect with Charley without the usual over-the-top complications. The world was still about to end, but that wasn't going to happen just then. Charley did spend the whole book lusting after her husband even if she didn't know who he was. But that is typical behavior for her.

 

I also fell in love with Cookie all over again after reading this book. The woman has a life of her own, a daughter, and a husband. Yet she put everything on hold to come be with an amnesiac Charley. Even though she can't act worth a damn and kept slipping up and calling Charley by her real name. Cookie rocks! 

 

 

Bring on the next book!

 

 

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Another book that I wish had read a long time ago. Now, I don't appreciate it the way it is meant to be lauded. Firstly, since it is by a female author writing epic fantasy. Yaaaaay! Then because the protagonist isn't white and male, but colored and male. Okay, this deserves a smaller yaaay. Even so, it is still a win.

 

What I wasn't a fan of was the writing style. It felt stilted and kept me from devouring the book in my usual way. Of course, the fact that I have read my fill of epic fantasy might have something to do with it. Although, this book wasn't much concerned with the affairs of the world. It focused on a character's solo journey to get rid of the darkness that he had called from another world.

 

So, I'll reserve the final verdict until I have read the next book in the series.

 

 

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Everwild by Neal Shusterman

 

I can never understand how a children's book can scare the pants off me when so many horror novels have failed to do that! Similarly, I survived watching Jessica Jones being mentally — and otherwise — raped by Killgrave repeatedly. And yet, I have to force myself to sit through one episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events!

 

The idea of kids being in control is a very scary one because they can be very cruel. At times, they won't even realize the extent of damage they are leaving on another kid's psyche. The good thing about kids managing their affairs is that they can take highly complicated concepts of morality and simplify them.

 

I had a great time reading this book for both those reasons. Can't wait to read the next one!

 

 

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Dark Crime by Christine Feehan

 

Have mostly given up on this series ever being anything but cheesy, if I ever thought so in the first place. This novella was a good surprise though. Instead of the swooning heroines, we were shown someone who could fight and hold her own. She was also the one who kept the vampires and their minions at bay while hubby went to ground.

 

Yeah, she was forced into the whole Carpathian mating for life ritual by her husband-to-be. And yes, she couldn't live without him as soon as he arrived at the scene. Little improvements, see?

 

 

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Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

 

The humor was on point, as usual. Look below for a crack or two:

 

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The relationship between Harry and his brother is slowly developing. By that, I mean they talked to each other about real stuff, like Thomas being thirsty all the time.

 

Susan was awesome!

 

The rest was pretty much as it always is:

 

Harry was trying to save a woman's life.

 

Harry couldn't hit women, even ones bent on killing him.

 

Harry defeated a threat that he couldn't possibly defeat.

 

Harry saves an adorable character who learns how to stand up for themselves and others.

 

Harry is hit with threats from all directions and lives to tell the tale.

 

 

So, this was my October in reading. How was yours?

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review 2018-11-15 04:29
Rambling, Rambling Thoughts: Midnight Blue-Light Special
Midnight Blue-Light Special - Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special

by Seanan McGuire
Book 2 of InCryptid

 

 

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity--and humanity from them.  Enter Verity Price.  Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest.  It didn't quite work out that way...

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge.  With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done.  It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.



Midnight Blue-Light Special was, in a weird way, a bit tamer than Discount Armageddon--and when I say tamer, I really just mean that it didn't have as many scattered story lines buzzing around the main conflict.  While Discount Armageddon was a somewhat slow-paced, banal following of Verity's daily life in New York, finally focusing on a main conflict about halfway through the book, Midnight Blue-Light Special had a more focused plot driving the story and the characters from the beginning.

By all rights, the way in which Midnight was outlined and executed should have made me love the book much more than it's predecessor.  But for some strange reason, I didn't detect that giddiness I'd had from reading Discount Armageddon--I attribute that to the fact that my squee-ness from finding a shiny new series to obsess on kind of faded.

That isn't to say that I didn't immensely love Midnight.  It just means that I'm now aware that there may have been some glaring foibles in Discount that I purposefully ignored because I was enjoying it so much.  In truth, Midnight is, indeed the better book, although I would have loved to see more of a presence from our main love interest, Dominic De Luca, who seemed to sort of fade into the background for a certain period of time.

On the other hand, you get to see more from the cast of cryptids whom Verity is always around, and I love how quickly they all band together to help Verity when she gets into a jam.  As the resident cryptozoologist cum cryptid hunter in Manhattan, you always saw a wariness coming from some of these humanoid cryptids, all wondering if Verity will suddenly change her credo and start slashing away at every non-human she comes across.  So I loved that that wariness sort of slips away as soon as the city is threatened by a purging from the Covenant, and Verity has now got a group of cryptids ready to defend their community as well as their cryptozoologist.

I liked seeing more of the cryptids as more than just background decoration in Verity's world.  In fact, from the beginning of this series, the cryptids were always a close second set of main characters through Verity's eyes.  I liked that Kitty comes more to the forefront, and you can see how conniving she can be, even if for her own bogeyman-like, moralistic reasons--she certainly wasn't like her jackass of an uncle from the first book.  I like that Sarah, and even Istas, was given a bigger role in this book than just sidekick to Verity's missions.

Sarah wasn't really a personal favorite of mine, but she certainly had much more depth than we are likely to give her credit for when she goes to work trying to help Verity out of trouble.  She's got an inner struggle that is quite illuminating considering her line of cryptid species--she's a Cuckoo, described as a telepathic bug-like creature who looks human, but is far from being human.  Cuckoos are also described as being sociopaths from birth, wherein their seemingly one and only goal in life is to use their telepathic abilities to manipulate others (specifically humans) into giving them everything they own, and then leaving said human in ruination, especially financially.  Cuckoos don't eat human flesh, but they DO ruin human lives.

So it's kind of interesting to watch Sarah continuously be embarrassed of her own species, showing a very distinct exception as a member of her kind.  At the same time, she doesn't necessarily restrict the use of her Cuckoo abilities just because she could potentially be a dangerous creature.  Her pleasures in life are quite harmless if you overlook the fact that she still has the innate ability to make fancy hotels let her stay in their nicest, grandest suites for free.  Otherwise, she enjoys reading comic books, spending time with Verity, going to college math classes, and chatting with her long-time crush, Artie, online almost every evening.

Meanwhile, we also get a quick glimpse, if superficial, at Istas, the waheela--a bear-dog therianthrope with a tendency towards violence and lacy Goth-Lolita costumes.  It's both cute and strangely creepy at the same time, especially when Istas lets out her various one-liners, often involving the approval of violent carnage being involved.  It's fascinating following her line of logic as well, because in spite of her carnage-happy declarations, a lot of what she says has a simplistic logic to it, especially when concerning who to rip the head off of, or who NOT to rip the head off of.

And now I'm rambling again, so it's entirely possible I was lying about not being giddy about this book.  I absolutely loved it, and I'm guessing that getting a chance to give it a quick analytic write-up is doing much more to make me want to read more.

I would absolutely love to come back to this world anytime!  And sort of lament the fact that the next two books will be more focused on Alex Price, Verity's older brother.  I mean, I love the little tidbits we get about her family every so often, and I've been wanting a family reunion since she first mentioned her grandmother's spelunking through Hell, or other dimensions and worlds in search of her missing grandfather.  I mean, how often do you get to call home and be told that Mom is spelunking Hell with Grandma?

But I have nothing against Alex Price, despite the fact that I would have liked to have had more interaction between him and Verity before being dropped in his realm.  I guess, being that I've fallen quite in love with Verity and her world (and her colony of Aeslin mice), I just want to hang out for a bit longer with her and the Manhattan community of cryptids.

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/rambling-rambling-thoughts-midnight.html
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review 2018-11-15 03:29
The Golem and the Jinni (Audiobook)
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel - Helene Wecker,George Guidall

They say there are no new stories and only seven basic plots, and that is certainly true. Trying to find new ways to retell stories and spin those plots has been the tasks of authors and storytellers since the moment right after the very first story was ever told, and every once in a rare while an author comes along who can bring something truly fresh to the scene. This is such a book. 

 

It's been a long time since I've been this impressed by a book. Maybe it helps that I'm not especially familiar with golems or jinnis, though the mythology used here is on point with what I do know of them. The magic comes in putting these mystical creatures in turn-of-the century Big Apple and putting them both in positions that require them to examine and test their very natures. The supporting cast is equally as fascinating, from Ice Cream Selah, Maryam Faddoul, Arbeely, Rabbi Meyer and Michael Levy, to name a few. They're all trying to figure out life, figure out their place in it - even when they think they know what that place should be - and watching as the author weaves their various storylines together like the Fates at their loom. 

 

This was enrapturing, made even more so because I couldn't figure out where the story was going or how it would all be resolved. For every thread I managed to tie together, there were several others that I couldn't see how they connected. And I really didn't want to. I was happy to just sit back and allow the story to unfold in its own time, and it didn't disappoint.

 

The narrator, George Guidall, does a wonderful job capturing the many characters and bringing their cultures and neighborhoods to life. 

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text 2018-11-14 23:08
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 688 pages.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling,Kazu Kibuishi,Mary GrandPré

 

Ravenclaw nails 

 

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review 2018-11-14 17:54
"Lost and Found - September Day #1" by Amy Shojai
Lost And Found (The September Day Series Book 1) - Amy D. Shojai

"Lost and Found" wasn't what I'd expected from the publisher's summary. I thought I'd be reading a dog-centric cosy mystery with a kick-ass heroine and her save-the-day dog.

What I got was less clichéd than that but also less easy to settle into.

 

This is too hard-edged and has too much violence in it for a cosy mystery. I'd barely started the book and had seen one person shot in the face at close range and another stabbed to death. The body count keeps rising, making the bad guys into spree killers rather than devious villains.

 

There are also some very dubious portrayals of the behaviour of autistic children. Although the plot shows this behaviour to be abnormal it still felt to me like it was playing to all the wrong fears and stigma attached to autistic kids. 

 

Shadow, the dog, does indeed save the day and all the parts of the book that relate to him, especially when we get his canine view of the world, work very well. Amy Shojai knows her dogs and knows how to bring them alive for the rest of us.

 

The cop-with-a-past-and-currently-in-disgrace was well written and believable. The heroine was more difficult to get alongside. Her dialogue, such as it was, seemed awkward and inconsistent. She flips from being highly organised and brave to falling apart and ridden by guilt and doubt. This was explicable in terms of the plot and her backstory but it didn't feel authentic while it was happening.

 

I enjoyed the book well enough to read my way through it but not enough to read the next two books in the series.

 

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