Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: what-an-animal-2015
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-12-23 01:16
#CBR7 Book 144: Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews
Magic Stars - Ilona Andrews

This is a novella in the Kate Daniels universe. I would recommend that you read at least a few of the books in that series before reading this, although it would probably work relatively well on its own merits. This review may, however, contain spoilers for some of the later books in the series, so if you haven't read up to and including Magic Breaks and preferably Magic Shifts as well, proceed at your own risk. I must also add that I was granted an ARC of this novella, but did not have time to read it before it was on general release, when I also bought myself a copy. This review is in no way biased by having been given the ARC. 

Derek Gaunt is a lone wolf, literally. He no longer belongs to any pack and is loyal to only a very few people. Among those are the former Beast Lord of Atlanta, Curran Lennart. So when the entire family of a weapon's smith frequented often by Curran and his Consort, Kate Daniels, is found brutally murdered and their house searched, Derek is asked to track down the killers and discover why the dirty deed was done. He prefers to work alone, and he certainly doesn't want Julie, Curran and Kate's adopted daughter, to tag along on his mission.

Yet when the two discover that the family were killed because of a highly magical artifact in their possession, one of three in fact, that the individual who sent the killers wants enough to murder again, Derek realises that he cannot continue without Julie. Able to detect all kinds of magic with her bare eyes, Julie is the only one who will be able to track the other two parts of the artifact, and lead them to the mastermind who ordered the killings in the first place. What was supposed to be a fairly simple assignment turns very dangerous and deadly far too quick and both Derek and Julie will be lucky if they make it out alive. I was surprised at how violent this story was. Possibly the shorter length of the story compressed the action sequences and made it seem more violent than the regular books.

Derek and Julie have long been fan favourites among the supporting cast in the Kate Daniels books. Initially Kate's somewhat reluctant sidekick and quite the pretty boy, Derek was nearly killed and left badly scarred after having molten silver (highly dangerous to shapeshifters) poured over his face, when trying to rescue a girl he'd fallen for. Julie was a street kid who lost her mother and got tangled up in some nasty magical business. Taken in and later adopted by Kate, she is now irrevocably bound to her by blood, after Kate was forced to purify Julie's blood with her own to save her life. After Kate in a showdown with her father laid magical claim to Atlanta, Julie has now appointed herself Kate's Herald. She is taking magic lessons from the manipulative and cunning Roland, to the great dismay of Derek, who is sure that the ancient magical powerhouse is using Julie for his own ends. Julie, on the other hand, claims they're going to need all the weapons and intel they can get against Roland, and if she can gather intelligence and maybe learn something of his weak spots while improving her magical abilities, so much the better.

In early books in the series, there were hints of both hero worship and infatuation by Julie for Derek. Their relationship in later books is often closer to exasperated cousins or even siblings, and the were-hyena Ascanio, as well as a handsome dragon creature of some sort that Julie goes to school with are also competing for Julie's affection. It was a lot of fun to see them working together as a team in this novella, and I wouldn't mind seeing them team up to fight monsters and saving each other's lives again some time.

According to Amazon, this is the first in a series called Grey Wolf, and I hope the sales and popularity is such that Ilona Andrews chooses to continue writing these spin-offs, if only as occasional interludes. As the normal Kate books are seen entirely from Kate's POV, it's always fun when the writers give us insight into other characters like this, and lets us see Kate and Curran in particular through the eyes of other characters in the series. As well as this novella, there's a whole book from Kate's best friend Andrea's POV, at least one short story about Julie and some novellas about Jim and Dali, the current Beast Lord and Lady. I know they have a lot of writing commitments, with the new Kate book, the Innkeeper Chronicles and their Hidden Legacy series, but hope that as a palate cleanser now and then, they may choose to give us more Grey Wolf stories.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-books-144-magic-stars-by-ilona.html
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-12-10 02:10
#CBR7 Book 133: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins

Sophie Mercer is a witch and because of the various bad incidents her magic has gotten her mixed up in, she and her mum have moved a lot during her lifetime. After Sophie seriously misjudges the oomph of a love spell at her current high school's prom, and there is a huge scene, Sophie's normally absentee father, a European warlock of some kind, gets involved. Sophie is sent off to a boarding school. On a remote island, where she will stay until she graduates at 18.


Hex Hall, as it's known among the kids there, is a magical reform school where wayward witches, shapeshifters and faeries are sent until they come of age. As an attempt at greater inclusion, there is currently also a vampire attending the school. Jenna the vampire also just happens to be Sophie's new roommate. After Jenna's former roommate ended up dead under mysterious  and suspicious circumstances (with two little holes in her neck) the year before, Jenna is pretty much feared and/or shunned by the whole school. Sophie doesn't want to jump to conclusions, however.


Before her first week is up, Sophie and Jenna are starting to bond; a trio of powerful Mean Girl witches want Sophie to join their coven so they can maximise their power (and are NOT pleased to get no for an answer); Sophie has detention for the rest of the term and an inconvenient crush on the most popular boy in school. She also learns that her father is in fact the head of the Order that sent most of the kids to Hex Hall, and as a result, he (and his daughter) are not really popular. Sophie is rumoured to be just as powerful as him, but having grown up around normal humans, never interacting with other magically abled, things that others consider child's play are completely new to her. She finds the most basic spells incredibly challenging and on top of that, she has to try to survive magical high school intrigue.


Sophie refuses to join the crusade against Jenna, which gets more intense after another girl is attacked, with Jenna having been one of the last to interact with her. Sophie wants to solve the mystery behind the attack and get good enough at magic that she can tell the coven to stuff it. At least she gets to spend lots of quality time with Archer (her crush) during their detention sessions. Now if she could only make him forget about Elodie, his current girlfriend and her nemesis.


Hex Hall is fairly highly rated on Goodreads and when I saw it cheaply in an e-book sale, it seemed a fun enough read. As an added bonus, the X in the title would allow me to finish my Alphabet Soup challenge for the year. It's a fairly generic YA paranormal fantasy, where the usual high school intrigues are made a bit more interesting as there is magic, witches, ghosts, various shapeshifters, faeries and possibly an evil demon on the loose. 


Sophia is a likable, snarky, independently-minded heroine. She doesn't really fit in with any of the popular kids and has a tendency to speak before she thinks. This sometimes backfires badly. Despite her disgust at being a cliche, she can't help but fall for the ridiculously handsome Archer Cross, and the more time she spends around him, discovering that he's actually smart, funny and kind, as well as well-liked around the whole school doesn't help. His only flaw is dating Elodie, the head of the coven, whose main goals seem to be to recruit Sophie to enhance the coven's power and to get Jenna expelled from the school. 


There are some fun ideas here - Lord Byron being a vampire sentenced to teach at the school. Detention is being forced to catalogue magical artifacts, that move to a new area every day, in a huge creepy basement. Supernatural teens who can't keep under the radar being sent to magical reform school at a remote location. 


I also like that Elodie, Sophia's initial nemesis and the Regina George of the coven, turned out to be a bit more multi-faceted than she seemed at first. I liked Sophia's fish out of water experience. The friendship between Jenna and Sophie was also a nice feature, and the revelation that Jenna was gay made sense without just seeming like a "insert token LGBT character here for diversity" thing. 


I didn't really care about the many shadowy groups who are out there trying to destroy the supernatural, although it's clear from the synopsis of the next book (and to anyone who's ever read a narrative) that they'll play a more significant part in the sequels. Sophia turning out to be the only child of the head warlock, with a legacy of super special power was a bit too convenient.


Not sure I got invested enough in this world and the characters to bother reading the sequels any time soon. I won't rule it out if I find them at a decent price in a book sale, but I doubt I'll be seeking them out in the immediate future. The book didn't stand out enough for that.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-133-hex-hall-by-rachel-hawkins.html
Like Reblog Comment
review 2015-12-02 23:56
#CBR7 Book 130: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace - Ilona Andrews

This is the second book in the Innkeeper Chronicles. It can be read as a stand-alone, but to really get the most enjoyment out of this book, and to get a proper feel and understanding for some of the characters, you may want to read the first one, Clean Sweep and also two of the Andrews' Edge books, Fate's Edge and Steel's Edge.


As I did last time, I'm going to let the authors sum up the book themselves:

Dina DeMille doesn't run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies the laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps at the chance.


Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde and the devious Merchants of Baha-Char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn...and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in a day's work for an Innkeeper.  


Back in 2012, husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews wanted to try something new, to give themselves a challenge and give something a bit different to their many fans. They started writing a story in instalments, posting it every so often on their website, a chapter at a time. Writing in such a way, they were unable to go back and edit previous chapters until the story was finished. The story,  Clean Sweep, a sort of suburban fantasy/sci-fi hybrid, became popular enough that the authors decided to self-publish it, and it sold in surprising quantities. This year, they wrote a sequel, delighting fans by incorporating characters from their Edge series and expanding the premise set up in the first book. Once again, even though it had been available to read for free on their website for months, it sold in huge numbers once they released it for sale, hitting nr 31 on the USA Today list three days after release.


Currently juggling two other urban fantasy series, the Kate Daniels books and the Hidden Legacy trilogy (where book 2 and 3 have sadly been delayed until 2017), the Innkeeper books does something a bit different, but still contains all the things that fans love about the Andrews' books. There are well-rounded characters, a focus on strong family bonds, whether biological or "found" families. There's great world-building, interesting and dangerous situations, clever quips, thrilling fight sequences and hints of romance. I very much appreciated seeing the return of some of my favourite characters from the latter Edge books in new roles and a new setting and am extremely pleased that the Andrews' plan to continue to write Innkeeper books alongside their other projects.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2015-12-02 23:11
#CBR7 Book 129: Winter by Marissa Meyer
Winter - Marissa Meyer

WARNING! This review WILL contain spoilers for earlier books in the series. Do NOT keep reading this review if you're not caught up, having read all three previous books! There are also some minor spoilers for this book, but if you skip my list of dislikes, you'll avoid them.


Winter was one of the books I was most anticipating in the second half of 2015. Marissa Meyer's retellings of Grimm fairy tales with a clever YA sci-fi dystopian twist just kept getting better with every book. I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series, Cinder, where Cinderella is a cyborg mechanic who falls for the son of the emperor, and turns out to be the long lost, believed to be dead princess of the moon. In book 2, Scarlet, we meet our Red Riding Hood, French farm girl Scarlet Benoit, looking for her missing grandmother. She meets Cinder, now an international fugitive on the run with spaceship captain Carswell Thorne. Scarlet also falls for a biologically augmented Lunar super soldier, her Wolf and they both join in Cinder's seemingly impossible quest to reclaim her throne. In book 3, the little band of rebels liberate the evil Lunar queen's secret weapon, tech genius Cress (our Rapunzel) from a spy satellite orbiting Earth. Cress and a blinded Thorne have to traverse the desert together to reunite with the others, and Cress' initial crush on the captain, based on fantasies she made up when alone on her satellite, become actual infatuation as she spends more time with him. 


When Winter begins, Cinder has prevented Queen Levana's wedding to Emperor Kai by kidnapping him. He is working with Cinder and the others on a plan to depose Levana and restore Cinder (or Selene - her birth name), but the rebels have also lost someone dear to them. Scarlet has been taken prisoner by Lunar soldiers and the gang don't know if she's alive or dead. She's actually being held captive in the zoo in the Lunar capital, kept alive by the kindness of princess Winter, Levana's stepdaughter. 


Winter is our Snow White, "fairest of them all" on Luna, despite, or possibly because of the scars marring her cheek (forced on her by her jealous stepmother). Winter is the only Lunar who refuses to use her gift to manipulate the minds and perceptions of others, never using glamour or trying to influence actions, and as a result, she is slowly going insane. She has moments of lucidity and is clearly quite clever, but also episodes where she has to focus to hold it together, as she vividly feels herself turning to ice and shattering or sees the palace walls running with blood. More alarming than your run of the mill panic attack. The daughter of a palace guard, Winter became a reluctant member of palace royalty when her father married Levana. Crazy or not, she's forced to be present in the throne room every time her stepmother sentences anyone, making herself seem unaffected by the bloody spectacle. 


Winter is terrified that Levana will execute Jacin, the royal guard she grew up with and has loved pretty much always (Winter, not Levana obvs.). Jacin is accused of treason and siding with Cinder and the other rebels, but manages to convince the queen that he was spying on them after he reveals some very incriminating information about them. He is punished, then re-instated as a royal guard, given the task to personally guard Winter (and make sure she is kept under control and from making scenes in public).


Kai is returned to his home in the next level of the plan to topple Levana and restore Cinder as Luna's rightful queen. He convinces Levana to move the wedding to Luna, allowing his ship to smuggle Cinder and her crew along. Of course, everything starts going pretty seriously wrong shortly after the ship lands in the Lunar capital and Cinder and several of friends are separated. Kai is taken into house arrest, safe at least until after the wedding, as Levana isn't going to let the chance of becoming Empress pass her by. Trying to quash the rebellion of her niece, Levana gets more and more frustrated with Winter's continued popularity amongst the common people. 


She gets one of her chief goons to propose marriage to the princess, who is shocked and creeped out and refuses, thus sealing her death sentence. Levana demands that Jacin prove his loyalty once and for all by murdering Winter, claiming that at least he will make sure it's quick and painless. Jacin manipulates security footage so it looks like he stabs Winter, but instead frees Scarlet and makes her promise that she will take Winter to safety, joining Cinder and the gang, currently hiding out in a remote mining settlement.


Thus Jacin and Winter get irrevocably connected with Cinder and her rebellion and from there on out, they become supporting characters in a book which has so many characters and plot lines to keep track of. Cinder's plan to convince the populace of Luna that she is the long-lost princess Selene, incite a revolution, dethroning Levana and becoming the rightful ruler is poorly thought through, to say the least and for much of the book, it seems like pure luck that they get anywhere at all, rather than brutally mowed down by Levana's security troops. 


I really liked the first three books in this series and had such high hopes for this book. Generally I found this book a disappointment. Here's why:


At more than 800 pages, it's more than twice the length of the first book in the series. Yet so much of what happens in it feels rushed, confusing and chaotic. There is far too much plot crammed into this book - making it a very hectic read.

In previous books, the action has taken place on Earth or in space, for the most part. This is the first book where the plot is mostly set on Luna. Lunar society, with an artificially created and extravagant capital, full of dolled-up nobility without any sort of social conscience, and the many remote provinces full of oppressed commoners creating resources for the capital - it all got very Hunger Games-y. 

Just as Cinder's rebellion felt a bit like Mockingjay. So much of it felt like things I'd read before, elsewhere, which is sad, because in the previous three books, that has not been the case.

In the previous two books, while the newly introduced characters were woven into the larger framework of Cinder's story, they've still had a chance to shine, and Meyer has successfully re-imagined three different fairy tales. Winter and Jacin, who should have had their chance to shine in this book, are almost buried in all the other stuff that happens. This is a great shame, as Winter seems like a delightful character and her interactions with Jacin, as well as their whole relationship, is pretty much solid gold.

Cress, who I loved in her own book, spends much of this one being terribly self-conscious and annoyingly insecure, mooning over Thorne in a really frustrating way.

The climax of the book got incredibly confusing. There is too much repetition of the same things over and over again (one or more of our characters are in peril, probably manipulated by a Lunar into attacking one of the others, situation gets resolved - rinse -repeat)

Wolf's capture and the alterations made (don't want to say more and spoil things) seem like they are very easily worked around. If they are, why was his capture such a big deal?

Levana - just not scary enough. She has utterly terrifying power, yet seems tedious most of the time. For complete and utter mind control done right, see Kilgrave in Netflix and Marvel's Jessica Jones. That's how scary mind control should be. Why isn't it here? 

I'm also not at all keen on the way Cinder and the others felt that the video of Levana without her glamour should be the thing that really helped them incite rebellion. Surely there are a lot worse accusations that could have been levelled at Levana to get support from the common people, rather than just expose what she looks like under her glamour?


So what did I like?


  • Finally getting Winter's story and all the clever sci-fi-twisting of the Snow White fairy tale. I also really like that Winter is dark-skinned, adding further to the diversity of the series.
  • Winter and Jacin are super adorable. I didn't like Jacin much in previous books, when he was being used as an antagonist, but he is wonderful whenever he is around or thinking about his princess.
  • Seeing more of Luna and discovering where Wolf came from was nice.
  • All the cool fairy tale twists reminds me how creative and clever Meyer can be.
  • It was certainly a roller-coaster of a read. Soo many cliff-hangers.


The previous three books show how good a writer Meyer can be. There is so much potential in this book, but ultimately, it just tried to do too much. I think maybe it should have been split into two, so we could have had more focus on Winter in this book, leaving the final rebellion and grand conclusion to the story to happen in a fifth book. There was so much that needed to happen in this last book. It just all got a bit too much of a muchness. It's by no means an awful book, but absolutely the weakest in the series and a disappointing end to an otherwise fun and original sci-fi ride. 

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.com/2015/12/cbr7-book-129-winter-by-marissa-meyer.html
Like Reblog Comment
review 2015-11-16 12:53
#CBR7 Book 120: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Sorcerer To The Crown - Zen Cho

Bought and liberated as a child, and later adopted by the esteemed Sorcerer Royal, Sir Stephen Whyte, Zacharias Whyt now has the honour of being the first dark-skinned Sorcerer Royal of England. In a time when English magic is waning due to some mysterious restrictions from the Faerie courts and the country is still facing threats from Napoleon on the Continent, Zacharias is also facing personal challenges, with a seeming majority of the members of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers (gentleman magicians) accusing him of having murdered and usurped Sir Stephen and having destroyed his faerie familiar. They are plotting to having Zacharias removed and replaced, in a process that won't really end well for the poor man.


In this stressful time, Zacharias is persuaded by a friend to go give a talk at a girls' school in the countryside, where he discovers that contrary to the popular belief among the Society, that women are only capable of minor hexes and cantrips to help them in the home, many of the young gentlewomen at the school are vastly skilled and are being taught modified curses to drain the magic out of themselves, because it's deemed unseemly for women to possess or use magic at all. He also meets the formidable Miss Prunella Gentleman, and orphan of uncertain parentage (but it's clear that her mother was of Indian persuasion), who appears to have more magic at her ready disposal and control than all of England's male magicians put together. She is also in possession of a magical treasure of untold value and Zacharias feels he has no other choice but to take her with him to London, to tutor her so she doesn't run around uncontrolled.


Of course, once Prunella, used as she is to fixing, sorting and managing everything, discovers the extent to the troubles Zacharias is facing, she's determined to help him sort them out. The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers won't know what hit them.


Sorcerer to the Crown is the debut novel of Zen Cho, a Malaysian fantasy writer. It's the first in a planned trilogy, but never fear, it has a perfectly satisfactory ending, with no pesky cliffhangers to mar your enjoyment until the next book in the series comes out. Clearly inspired by the writing style of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, the language of the book is quite formal and the plot progression is slow. There is a romantic subplot that I found delightful, but there are no passionate declarations or steamy love scenes here, so look elsewhere if that's what you're after. There is the sly wit and humour of both the best of Austen and Heyer, while both being a lot more feminist and diverse than either of those great ladies' books. 


In a book where the protagonists are a freed slave and an orphaned, mixed-race, probably illegitimate woman and the main plot involves just how badly the male magic users of England have underestimated the women, not only of their own country, but that of other nations, it makes for a delightful change from a lot of still very male-dominated fantasy. Zen Cho also manages to make her points without it feeling like she's beating you over the head with her "agenda", and while the plot was slow, I very much enjoyed reading the book.


Poor Zacharias clearly never wanted the responsibilities that have been thrust upon him, but grateful to his adoptive parents, he's going to carry out his duties, even knowing that many of his fellow wizards suspect him of murder and manipulation and are plotting to have him killed and replaced as Sorcerer Royal as a result. He would like nothing better than to retire to the countryside as a lowly scholar, but instead he has to negotiate with the Faerie court, try to fend off the demands of the English government who want magical aid in foreign conflicts and then has his entire world view turned upside down when it becomes clear that women can be just as capable of using magic as men, possibly even better at it. 


Prunella Gentleman has never known her mother, but knows she was dark-skinned and therefore not exactly desirable in polite society. After her father killed himself, she was raised in the girls' school, on charity, but despite dreaming of balls and suitors and the other things her fellow gentlewomen dream of, it becomes very clear to her that she's seen more as a servant, despite all the help she's given the proprietress over the years. Not one to dwell on disappointment and betrayed feelings for long, pragmatic and ambitious Prunella takes her newly-discovered magical legacy and intends to follow Zacharias to London. Once she saves his life from a magical assassination attempt, he feels indebted to her, and offers her tutelage. She, in return, feels protective of him and determines to help him sort out his troubles, as he's clearly not capable of taking care of himself.


Not surprisingly, the upper classes of English gentlemen are completely unprepared for a female of uncertain origins in their midst, disproving once and for all that women shouldn't use magic. While the plot moves slowly, the final third gets quite action-packed, with Prunella discovering the individual behind the magical attacks against Zacharias and helping sort of the diplomatic tangle that England has got itself tied up in. While the book ends on a satisfying conclusion, there is more than enough hints as to what is to come in the series, and I for one, am very eager to see what Ms. Cho has planned for us next.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/11/cbr7-book-120-sorcerer-to-crown-by-zen.html
More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?