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Saturday, October 31, 2015

REVIEW: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass is the much anticipated Cinder Spires series debut from Jim Butcher. The genre is a bit difficult to pen down.  There are reader accessible elements of steampunk; however, at its core, this novel is an action/adventure fantasy novel focused on a building war between two Spires Albion and Aurora as well as the motley crew assembled to gain intelligence for the Spirearch of Albion.

Butcher artfully introduces a fantastic cast of characters.  Captain Grimm reminds me of a well crafted blend between Mal Reynolds of Firefly fame, a little bit of Once Upon a Time's Hook, and maybe a dash of Harry Dresden. He's intriguing with his status as an outcast but former respected military hero. I can't wait to find out more of his story. 

As characters come into the fray, I kept thinking that Butcher might have been on a recent Firefly binge while writing this adventure. I love it! Gwen is a little bit Zoe, a little bit Kaylee. I adore her ability to read situations and love her smart, snarky dialogue and is a surprisingly qualified and useful engineer.  Faris and Folley are like a River Tam duo. Their second sight and connection to the aether is as fascinating as it is alarming, given the predictions of turmoil and devastation to come. Rounding out the characters are Benedict and Bridget.  There is certainly the beginnings of a romance in place. 

Let's talk for a minute about Rawl! He is fantastic. If ever a writer could spin a fantasy warrior cat its Butcher. Rawl is just how I'd imagine a cat would think and speak. He has a sly sense of humor and is altogether puzzled by the often complicated and frivolous actions of humans. Rawl is formidable but I adore that he loves Bridget so fiercely that he allows himself to be cuddled and will literally face tremendous danger to ensure her safety.

Overall, I loved everything about this book.  The monsters are creepy and there is a delicious slow burn to the villains we've seen thus far. This definitely reads like the first in a much larger conversation.  I know they'll be more twists and turns based upon what we've learned in this tale and I can't wait for more!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#steampunk #adventure #fantasy #jimbutcher #cinderspires #aeronautswindlass #bookreview #firefly

Monday, October 26, 2015

REVIEW: Hellhound by Nancy Holzner

Only a few weeks have passed for Vicky and the events of Darklands. Her beloved, Kane, is still beholden to the Night Hag, which is draining him a bit at a time. Vicky is fighting the increasing rage she feels since she's once again connected to the Destroyer via demon mark. And, of course there's the new adjustment that her long thought dead father is now a mystical, talking white falcon!

When Boston's zombies become violent, Vicky is called in as a consultant and quickly learns that her cousin, Pryce, has even more nefarious plans as part of his partnership with The Destroyer. He plans to release a staggering amount of the zombie plague into the population and bring back the Old Ones to wreak havoc in the human realm.  Adding another confusing layer of complication, Vicky receives visions of herself fighting alongside demons. Determined to stay on the right side of the coming war, Vicky once again aligns herself with her Aunt Mab to protect the city and those she loves. All she has to do is bring down her enemies, save the day and not get torn to bits by a pack of hellhounds in the process.   There are some surprising twists and turns as Vicky's true destiny is revealed and has major consequences for the series finale, Firestorm.

I didn't like this book as much as others. It wasn't quite as snarky but admittedly Vicky has a lot going on at the moment.  The wrap up of several lingering story arcs were handled well. I was most surprised by the revelation of Vicky's greater purpose.  Holzner's been hinting at this for a while now but it certainly puts a new spin on just how Vicky will defeat her remaining foes and what might be in store for her professional and personal life.

Tina!  I'm a put out that she's still in peril and that I have to wait until Firestorm to find out her fate. I absolutely adore that Vicky's father, Evan, is back in the picture.  I did love the stunned yet humorous acceptance by her family that he's back but a bird. Leave it to a child, Vicky's nephew, to get all on board with talking to birdie-grandpa. I loved that dad/falcon sits chatting and snacking on microwaved treats with Vicky's vampire roommate, Juliet.  I also liked the end where Vicky, Mab and Evan were on hand to help Maria through her first change.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

#deadtown #hellhound #nancyholzner #UF #bookreview #magic

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

REVIEW: Boundary Lines by Melissa F. Olson

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review.

Boundary Lines is book two in Olson's Boundary Magic series. Protagonist Allison "Lex" Luther has recently learned she's a boundary witch and is still learning to master her powers over the living and the dead. Strange things are happening in Boulder nonetheleast that the supernatural community has it out for her. Lex and super sexy vampire Quinn are tasked with investigating the disappearance of several vampires during a full moon. Of course, they end up with more questions than answers. The supernatural stakes are at an all time high as head vamp, Maven's authority is challenged, werewolves have reinvaded outlawed territory and there is a gigantic and horrifyingly creepy ancient snake creature on the loose. Lex has to keep her cool and protect those she loves.

I haven't actually read the first book in the series but I didn't feel lost. Folson does a nice job incorportating just enough clarifying details about past events to clue in a new reader without making the rehashing of these events redundant for a returning fan. I like Lex.  She's got a good personality, humor and plenty of flaws. Adding layers to her magical blocks based on the trauma she experienced while in the military was an interesting twist.  I hope there is more exploration of this in future books.

I also liked the supporting cast of characters. Quinn is a good romantic interest but he needs to learn not to overstep his relationship with Lex.  She is perfectly capable of holding her own.  I do want to go back and read the first book since Lex head to L.A. and met Scarlett and a few other characters from Olson's Scarlett Bernard series.  I have read the first book of that series and liked it.

The overall plot was well organized with good pacing.  This was a quick read and I admit to being a little surprised with the villain reveal at the end.  There are certainly enough tidbit to keep readers wanting more. I'm interested to see how Lex's magic continues to grow and the fallout that is bound to happen based on other events.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#boundarylines #boundarymagic #melissafolson #UF #magic #witches #werewolves #vampires #netgalley

Sunday, October 18, 2015

REVIEW: Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: War Cry

War Cry is an original graphic novel story of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Set after Dead Beat and during the height of the White Council's war with the Red Court vampires, newly appointed Warden, Harry Dresden leads his young and inexperienced team of Wardens on their first assignment.

Chaos quickly ensues when the mortals they are sent to protect are ambushed by a small army of the Red Court.   The real questions for Dresden remain: just who are these mortals and what are they protecting that is so important to winning the war? Our favorite wizard just might find that out, if and only if, he can keep everyone alive.

I really enjoyed this volume.  The illustrations certainly enhance Butcher's storytelling. The panels are vivid and action packed, making for an exciting experience.  Dresden is the same determined, wise cracking, brute force wielding wizard we love from the series.  I love that the graphic novels are taking the time to explore more stories and characters in a way we haven't had in the novels.

We also get to learn more about Dresden's team and see them struggle with their experience but fight on with that same kind of determination as their unlikely leader.  Another fan favorite makes a surprise appearance but I won't spoil it for readers who haven't caught up yet. Safe to say this arrival is most welcome and fits nicely within the larger story arc (hint: White Night) and character development.

Overall, I didn't love this volume as much as let's say Ghoul Goblin or Welcome to the Jungle. However, it is certainly on par with Down Town.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#jimbutcher #dresdenfiles #graphicnovel #magic #vampires #warcry #bookreview

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

REVIEW: Reap the Wind by Karen Chance

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a review!

Expected publication: November 3, 2015

Reap the Wind is the seventh installment to Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer series. One would think being the all powerful Pythia would make Cassie Palmer's life a walk in the park. However, it is far from it.  Picking up where Tempt the Stars left off, Cassie's troubles keep escalating: 1) EVERYONE seems out to get her 2) she just can't get a handle on her powers 3) war is coming between just about all the supernaturals readers can imagine 4) Pritkin (Cassie's war mage, fey, incubus mentor aka used to be Merlin!) has been hexed and is lost in time and 5) her Court has been blown up, displaced and has infiltrated her all too small suite in Las Vegas. Oh, and her love life is a disaster too!

Readers just have to love Cassie. Despite all that's stacked against her, she never gives up and and tries to make the best of it all with her flare of sarcastic humor. Cassie knows she's a hot mess as Pythia but she's determined to fix her mistakes, take on the villains and save the world. If you're looking for closure, you won't get it with this book.  Major events are set in motion centering around the arc in the works for much of the series.  Pritkin fans get their fair share as do the Mircea lovers but nothing is resolved except Cassie having an 'ah-ha' moment as to what her powers and visions have been trying to tell her and how all these separate events are probably connected. I won't spoil it, but readers will be intrigued and its definitely worth it.

What I liked...

I adore Cassie--I have ever since I found the series way back in 2006 when Touch the Dark was published.  I love that Cassie isn't perfect and that despite having all this power she is pretty much bumbling her way through her crazy life.  I love her snark and attitude.  She's really growing as a character and learning from her mistakes.  I appreciated her anger during later parts of the novel and her realization that she's being manipulated by multiple parties who might respect her power as Pythia but not her as a person.  I can't wait to see how her character evolves because of these revelations. This series thrives too because of its secondary characters.  I'm a Pritkin shipper and this extended series of trials and tribulations for him has me on edge. I'm less a Mircea fan but we'll see what happens in the next book.  I want to see what happens with more of the characters, especially Rhea.

Another bonus for me is Chance's great action scenes.  There are plenty to choose from and they never disappoint.  I also love how she builds these with Cassie's ability to shift time and places. The boat chase in the beginning was exciting as was the pretty epic fey battle with Pritkin.

What I didn't like...

The book felt a bit too long and at times disjointed.  I suppose this mimics how Cassie must feel with all her false starts to try and save Pritkin. However, just when she gets to the time period where she needs to be, she's back in the present and seemingly dealing with some kind of unrelated issue. Looking back, these events do fit but the flow felt off somehow. I usually breeze through these books but it took me time to finish it because of the pacing. I still loved it but not as much. It did feel like an inbetween novel setting up for something bigger. I look forward to Ride the Storm in 2016.

Final rating 4 out of 5 stars

#cassiepalmer #reapthewind #karenchance #UF #netgalley #review #magic

Friday, October 9, 2015

REVIEW: Bones on Ice by Kathy Reichs

This novella is set between Bones Never Lie and Reichs' latest release, Speaking in Bones.  Dr. Temperance Brennan is tasked with verifying the identity of a frozen mummified corpse recovered from the 'Dead Zone' on Mount Everest. These remains are speculated to be the daughter of a wealthy Charlotte family seeking closure.  In true Brennan fashion, our favorite forensic anthropologist gets more than she bargained for when evidence reveals the victim suffered injuries from foul play and not all parties involved have been wholly truthful.

What I liked...

As a fan of the series, this is another well written entry. This worked as a novella. The pacing was good and I felt like I was able to learn a lot about extreme mountain climbing and this culture as well as the science behind the examining frozen remains, especially those which have been exposed to the kinds of conditions atop Mount Everest. I also like how some of the ongoing story arc tensions were handled (i.e. Brennan's relationship with Ryan and Katie's deployment overseas).

I listened to this on audio and enjoyed it.

What I didn't like...

Yet again, Brennan decides to head off alone to investigate and gets in serious trouble. You'd think, maybe, 17+ books in that she'd learn and make better life choices!

#forensics #kathyreichs #temperancebrennan #bones #everest #audiobook

Thursday, October 8, 2015

REVIEW: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In this futuristic debut from Ernest Cline, the world is a vastly different place.  Taking place in 2044, reality has degrated into a delapedated dystopian society.  Protagonist Wade Watts is essentially an orphan living in the slums of Oklahoma City.  His one escape is when he's jacked in the the virtual utopia know to users as the OASIS.  With no other prospects, Wade has devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines as left behind by virtual creator James Halliday.  The player who successfully navigates these puzzles based on Halliday's obsession with pop cultures references to decades past will discover his hidden Easter Egg and inherit the keys to a priceless empire.

Honestly, I can find no fault with this book.  It's pretty much perfect. The premise is imaginative and well organized. I loved the pacing and relished in the ability to indulge my inner geek since I connected with the majority of the pop culture references save for some of the eccentric earlier gamer-speak. The characters are really spot on too.  Each becomes more likeable as the novel progresses.  What I really enjoyed were the character surprises which hone in on the fact that one's Internet identity is not often truthful. Cline's outcome illustrates that such revelations can have a positive outcome but one should still use caution. 

The writing style, dialogue and overall characterization are just super smart. It is apparent that a lot of thought went into how to successfully focus the narrative and blend an original idea together with so many references. I am highly intrigued that Steven Spielberg is tagged to direct the film for a 2017 release.  My only hope is that both he and the studio do the concept justice.  It just won't work if they fail to get the rights to the plethora of references and if casting is misguided.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#readyplayerone #ernestcline #gaming #futuristic

REVIEW: Spider's Trap by Jennifer Estep

Having eliminated another foe, Gin aka The Spider is now the boss of Ashland's extensive criminal underground.  All she wants is a boring day spent cooking up delicious food or settling various desputes.  However, this is Ashland and, for Gin, nothing is ever simple.  A routine meeting ends with a BOOM! and an assassination attempt. Gin quickly realizes that this may literally be a blast from her past but whether she's the true target remains a mystery.

Fans of the Elemental Assassin series will be satisfied that Gin and crew are once again on to case to take out the Big Bad with their own unique sense of justice.  For me, this wasn't one of my favorites of the series but I still enjoyed it. I'm always surprised at how well Gin handles customer service at the restaurant and that more customer's don't get stabbed. (0:

The story was engaging but it felt as if this book was a mere staging area for the next major threat in Bitter Bite. This new villain has the potential to be very intriguing not only for Gin but Finn and might finally show readers more depth to his character.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

#spiderstrap #elementalassassin #jenniferestep #UF