A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)

Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date read: February 17 to 24, 2019

You know how there are books you have a feeling are not quite for you but you read them anyway to make sure? That’s this book for me. Young protagonists and their youthful points of view don’t do anything for me; that’s why I stay away from most YA. I’ve read enough to know that I’m outside of its reach.

But here’s where it gets tricky. This book and others like it like The Invisible Library, Sorcerer to the Crown, and a few others, aren’t YA according to their authors, but they read like YA (to me). They straddle that fine line between YA and adult fantasy, and it’s hard to tell what they are and even harder to tell whether or not you’ll like them. Better to err on the side of caution and avoid them altogether or take a chance because you never know until you try? It’s always the latter for me.

So I had to try even though I sort of knew I’d have a hard time finishing this book. In fact, I thought about abandoning it several times during the read, but in the end, I decided to go with the audio and let it do most of the work.

The premise is there are four dimensions and in each there exists a city called London—I have no idea why, just roll with it—and all the Londons are both unique and similar to each other in various ways. There’s Gray London (aka our London, the non-magical London), Red London (magical and vibrant), White London (magical and deadly), and Black London (magical and lost). The ruling houses of each London know of the other Londons, but the majority of the people don’t. Only a rare kind of magic users called antari can travel from one London to another—again, I have no idea why or what the point of it is. It seems delivering letters and smuggling trinkets from one London to another is their main purpose. The rest of the book doesn’t delve into the why of it; things just are the way they are, and the antari can walk between worlds.

Kell tipped his head so that his copper hair tumbled out of his eyes, revealing not only the crisp blue of the left one but the solid black of the right. A black that ran edge to edge, filling white and iris both. There was nothing human about that eye. It was pure magic. The mark of a blood magician. Of an Antari.

[…]

The people of London—and of the country beyond—loved their prince [Rhy]. And why shouldn’t they? He was young and handsome and kind. Perhaps he played the part of rake too often and too well, but behind the charismatic smile and the flirtatious air was a sharp mind and a good intent, the desire to make everyone around him happy. He had little gift for magic—and even less focus for it—but what he lacked in power he more than made up for in charm.

[…]

Lila was nineteen.
Nineteen, and every one of the years felt carved into her. She poked at the skin under her eyes, tugged at her cheeks, ran a finger along her lips. It had been a long time since anyone had called her pretty.

The first half of the book is all about scene-setting and world-building and character introductions, and the plot doesn’t kick off until halfway through the book. Doesn’t go smoothly though. There are quite a few glaring plot holes that are hastily patched up with magic.

I was going to dig further into the story, but that seems unnecessary at this point because I’m clearly not the target audience and it’s clearly not the kind of fantasy that moves me. Going further into that just seems unnecessarily mean. So I’ll stop here.

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Warrior’s Woman (Ly-San-Ter Family #1) by Johanna Lindsey

Image result for warrior's woman johanna lindsey

Rating: ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: 2005 or 2006

Oh, this book… totally forgot I read it, and for good reason too.

My first reaction upon finishing was the fuck did I just read and then it was followed by how did I even finish.

I distinctly remember there were two factors that saved this book from a DNF:
1) it was a page turner in that sickly “car crash on the side of the road” way,
2) I was stuck at an airport waiting for a connecting flight home.
(I do my best reading at airports and while trapped inside during snowstorms obviously…)

The premise, if I remember correctly, is an officer, from a technologically advanced world currently in the middle of a civil war, crash lands her ship on a backwater, primitive planet where the population has barely advanced past the bronze age. So a battle of the sexes; so far so good. It’s a place where men are men and women are property (and everyone is heterosexual), and so she gets captured by a warlord and brought back to his stronghold as a prisoner. Sure, okay, moving on.

For a woman from an advanced society where there’s equal rights and few gender barriers, she gets the shock of her life. YIKES.

I think in the end she somehow manages to get back to her own world, end the civil war with the warlord’s help, and they live happily ever after, but I’ve forgotten how. Pretty sure it was face-palm-y though.

The next book in the series is about the couple’s daughter having an adventure of her own similar to her mother’s so I guess they also somehow manage to stay together and establish a connection between their worlds. Needless to say, I did not continue reading this series.

But this book… by itself… was really something. I would not have remembered reading it if it hadn’t been for Goodreads’ huge blog post dedicated to romance novels for Valentine’s Day a few weeks ago.

In the days before GR and twitter, my book choices were really–suspect?–terrible. I didn’t have any recommendations to help me sort and there weren’t friends’ ratings or reviews to read to get an idea what the books were actually about. It was a blind selection. So glad those days are over.

* * * * *

Just saw the other cover art for this book and… sure, why not. I’m not even a little bit surprised.

Warrior's Woman (Ly-San-Ter, #1)

Some Thoughts on the Fyre Festival of the Publishing Industry

A delectable piece from The New Yorker about Dan Mallory, aka A. J. Finn and author of the best selling thriller The Woman in the Window, detailing his “alleged” manipulation of the publishing industry for the past several years.

TL;DR?

He wasn’t a savvy liar or talented con artist or anything like that. Just a conventionally attractive looking white man in his thirties who’s good at kissing ass and telling sob stories. And people fell for his act because they were kind and took him at his word, which made them easy marks.

(People on Twitter are referring to him as the Billy Macfarland of publishing and I can’t stop laughing.)

End TL;DR

That he was able to dupe a whole industry AND people let him get away with it is something the publishing world needs to reckon with.

So it seems he fit the profile: young, white, male, “Oxford-educated.” Nothing new there. People heard that about him, met with him, and fell all over themselves to help him out–at first, didn’t last though. Nothing new there either. But maybe, idk, take a good look at yourself and figure out what needs to fundamentally change in your industry to keep this from happening again. Or not and carry on as if nothing happened.

I read this long article–could have used an editor tbh–during my trip to New York and ignored the book I was currently reading, and it was totally worth it. It’s a hilarious, convoluted read that would totally be called out for being too unbelievable if it were fiction. Ah, banal irony.

Also, according to Mallory’s dad, his mom had Stage V breast cancer and she survived. Still living, as a matter of fact. It could be a typo or a misquote. Or it could be the dad is also a liar and the trait runs in the family. This would explain a lot actually.

Anyhow. Here are a few excerpts from the article that still crack me up:

I was recently told about two former publishing colleagues of Mallory’s who called him after he didn’t show up for a meeting. Mallory said that he was at home, taking care of someone’s dog. The meeting continued, as a conference call. Mallory now and then shouted, “No! Get down!” After hanging up, the two colleagues looked at each other. “There’s no dog, right?”
“No.”

[…]

He spoke with an English accent and said “brilliant,” “bloody,” and “Where’s the loo?”—as one colleague put it, he was “a grown man walking around with a fake accent that everyone knows is fake.” The habit lasted for years, and one can find a postman, not a mailman, in “The Woman in the Window.”

[…]

While [author Sophie Hannah] was writing “Closed Casket,” her private working title for the novel was “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Poirot’s About You.”

[…]

This is the setup for “Copycat,” a spirited 1995 thriller, set in San Francisco, starring Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter. It also describes “The Woman in the Window.”

So dude is a pathological liar and a hack. Figures.

I used to work with a skyscraper-full of people like this chap. He’s nothing special. A textbook case, actually. It just seems like he “blindsided” most of publishing, but the reality is they’d knowingly chosen to let him slide on his numerous infractions, a privilege of the young, white, and male.

All that is to say I’m passing on both the book and the author.

* * * * *

UPDATE:

And now it appears there is clearer evidence of plagiarism. A show of hands, who among us is surprised?

DNF: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible (The Austen Project, #4)

Date read: May 28 to 30, 2018

This book has been called the modern Pride & Prejudice all over the bookish blogosphere, and that was the first thing that got me interested in reading it. That is until I actually read it and found it to be… ridiculous.

But maybe I should explain further. I personally don’t think it’s possible to rewrite a P&P suitable for our modern times because the social and economic consequences of marrying outside one’s class no longer carry the same stigma (at least not in most Western societies), and so a modern tale about the Bennet sisters’ plight would not have nearly the same impact as the original. It wouldn’t have any impact at all tbh. That whole “want of proprietary” thing and having mortifying parents wouldn’t work at all either.

Plus, this book is a collection of first-world problems and I could not get through more than 10% before wanting to set it on fire.

I mean…

Liz is a writer for a magazine, and Jane is a yoga instructor; both currently living in New York.

After their father falls ill, they return to their hometown Cincinnati only to find the family a mess–mother still high-strung, younger sisters still ridiculous–and their childhood home falling down around them.

Since Jane is single and approaching 40–OH THE HUMANITY–their mother has to get her married off soon or else… I have no idea what “or else” means. This isn’t Victorian England, and the family estate isn’t entailed. Perhaps a yoga instructor’s salary isn’t as comfortable as one would hope, but it isn’t quite destitution either. So I really don’t get the desperate picture the author is trying to paint here.

But anyhow, back to the story.

Enters two wealthy eligible bachelors.

Bingley is a handsome, charming, easy-going doctor who just moved to town, AND he’s got an equally handsome and bankable (bangable?) best friend. But Darcy is a curmudgeon. More than that though, he’s a neurosurgeon. And this was precisely where I stopped reading. Couldn’t take it anymore.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern updates to this classic are surprisingly shallow. I was expecting more, maybe something clever or poignant with a little humor, because of all the praise this book has gotten. But really, it’s like any other contemporary romance out there, and the prose itself is nothing special. I honestly don’t see what everyone sees in this book.

Angels Fall by Nora Roberts

Angels Fall

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: April 18 to 26, 2018

Not bad, but also not good either.

I mean, there are good parts, but they’re offset by little things I find annoying and there were a lot of these little things which accumulated at the end. So it was a bumpy read. The Montana setting and vivid descriptions of a small town sitting at the foot of the Grand Tetons were a nice touch though, and the main character was sympathetic. Easily my favorite part of the whole book was the setting. Everything else was mostly filler.

A couple of weeks ago my neighbor got a new job out of state and I “inherited” her library. Normally this would be exciting–I love sorting through books–but this time, not so much. She and I don’t have much in common book-wise, and her collection consists of fiction, lots of mysteries and thrillers and quite a few romances. All contemporaries and not a single sci-fi or fantasy in the bunch. All huge door-stoppers too. Majority of these will go to charity because I have my own pile of similar fiction that I still haven’t been able to chip at no matter how much I avoid it try.

Anyhow. I now have a huge stash of Nora Roberts books and it’s been a real–chore?–experience sorting through them.

I went into this book expecting–well, hoping–it’s like The Witness which was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. This book has a similar set-up: small town, picturesque backdrop, lots of wilderness, nosy busy-body townsfolk, protagonist with a traumatic past who is on her own, and a murder mystery plot in the background. What’s different from The Witness is the uneven pacing and utterly unlikable love interest who is actually quite an ass. This turned out to be the sticking point with me because I could not get over how much of an ass he was. Moreover, I could not see what she saw in him, and so I couldn’t get into the story whenever he appeared, being all ass-like.

More on this book in particular when I get home.

* * * * * 

I’m home now, but still don’t have much to say about this book. Maybe with a little more time it’ll come to me. For now though, all I can say is this book makes me angry, and not in a good way, because the set-up is good and there is so much potential for the rest of the book to be good. But unfortunately Nora Roberts had to go and be all Nora Roberts all over the damn book. I wouldn’t say she ruined it, because I’ve read worse, but she got very close. So much potential, all wasted.

*angry muttering*

It could have been SO GOOD.

Did Not Finish, Vol. 2

The urban fantasy edition. My favorite genre, which is probably why I take so many chances and try so many books, even ones that I doubt I would like in the off chance that it would be a hit. It’s usually not, and that’s why I DNF so many in this genre. When it’s good, it’s really good, but when it’s not, it’s… please see below.

A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark #2)
by Kresley Cole
(“review“)
This is the second book in the Immortals After Dark series and the only time I will ever read anything by Kresley Cole. Not only is this bad, but it’s bad in a “how did this get published???” kind of way.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)
by J. R. Ward
(“review“)
This is the first book in the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series and most likely the only book I’ll ever try by J.R. Ward. Not any better than Kresley Cole, but sort of more interesting? Maybe. Sort of.

Hexed (Iron Druid Chronicles #2)
by Kevin Hearne
Nothing wrong with this book or series; the writing is just not for me–too much “jaded” snark crammed in. The first book was meh with a dash of try-hard, as in it tried too hard to appear “cool” or “cooler” than its urban fantasy counterparts. Case in point? The main character is a 2,000-something years old wizard, yet speaks and thinks as though he’s a hipster millennial, but he’s neither a believable hipster or a believable millennial. He reads like what he is–a young character written by an author who mirrors his characters after what he thinks is “cool.” Being from hipster central myself, I just don’t find that part of the characterization believable, so that’s a deal-breaker.

A Local Habitation (October Daye #2)
by Seanan McGuire
After finishing and not liking the first book, I kept this series on my radar because so many friends kept recommending and saying it gets better, but what little I read of the sample chapter failed to capture my interest. Even the title bores me.

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)
by Patricia Briggs
After finishing the first book and was on the fence about it, I gave the second one a try because the world building was pretty good tbh and I didn’t wanna miss out on a series that could very well turn out to be good. First books in urban fantasies are dicey, and long series don’t really take shape until the second or third book (or fourth or fifth). What stopped me from continuing this series was the main character. Simply put, Mercy bores me and I have no interest in following her around for twenty more books.

Two Serpents Rise (Craft Sequence #2)
by Max Gladstone
While I liked the first book just fine and enjoy Max Gladstone’s writing in general (A Kiss with Teeth, The Angelus Guns), I had a hard time getting into this one because the main character was a bit boring and there was too much going on at the beginning. Plus, I think at the time I was impatient for a story that I could sink my teeth into without having to work so hard or wade through so much text to get to the good stuff. Temporary DNF for now with promises to return soon… ish.

***Finished!*** (review)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)
by Brandon Sanderson
Too young for me, just like the first book, but this time I couldn’t bring myself to care enough about the characters to keep reading past the sample chapter. I think this was around the time I was fed up with Brandon Sanderson in general, and reading any more of his particular, repetitive style of fantasy was just too much.

Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2)
by Jim Butcher
This one bored me right out of the gate because… well, Harry Dresden. I pushed through the first book to prove a point and put an end to doubts. Turned out I was right: this series is not for me. But again, friends kept on recommending it, saying it would get better, so I gave the second one a try and it’s further proof that this series is not for me.

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)
by Laini Taylor
Another one that’s too young for me. The first book had all the irksome quirks of young adult, but the world building was good, so I stuck with it to the end. The second book was more of the same, but I was looking for something with more depth and less YA. I think all the “beautiful” descriptions of all the pretty things just got on my nerves. Why the obsession with beautiful things? What’s wrong with plain fugly things? They need love too… as all things need love…

Cast In Courtlight (Chronicles of Elantra #2)
by Michelle Sagara
I read the first book with Beth as a buddy read. She liked it a lot more than I did (her thoughtful and concise review here). I expected to like it, because 1) long series, 2) the description was interesting and 3) several Goodreads friends gave it high ratings, but I found the writing too messy and meandering. Plus I’m not a fan of the stream of consciousness style. Also, the main character, who is a detective, is bad at her job and entirely unbelievable. While I believe she is bad at her job, I don’t believe her as a detective, but the thing is, this whole series revolves around her being a detective and it’s told from her first-person POV… which really sucks.

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows #1)
by Kim Harrison
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book and wondered “have I read this before?” I’m usually pretty good at recalling beginnings, especially beginnings of books I end up abandoning, but with this book, there was a moment in which I couldn’t be sure whether or not I had read it or abandoned it because the writing style was not only familiar, but it’s so familiar that I was sure I’d read this book before. I hadn’t though. It was PNR deja vu. Rachel Morgan is full of sass and snark and has very little substance, and her antics get old very quickly, like around page 10. I think I pushed myself to the 30% mark before call it quits due to recurring boredom.

Pacific Fire (Daniel Blackland #2)
by Greg Van Eekhout
I tried reading this one right after the first one, hoping it would get me more into the series. Didn’t work. Only made me more annoyed with the main characters which were too young and teenager-y for my liking. The world building is still fantastic though. I just couldn’t get into the characters or gave a damn about their life-or-death situations or cared about how they’ll save the world. It really is too bad because I really liked the setting, world building, and magic.

Sixty-One Nails (Courts of the Feyre #1)
by Mike Shevdon
Couldn’t get into this one. Don’t know why. There was something about the writing in the first 10% that didn’t capture my interest, and so reading on felt more like a chore than an escape. Didn’t help that the whole series is about the fae and their courtly politics. Kudos for the middle-aged main character though… perhaps I will give this one another go.

London Falling (Shadow Police #1)
by Paul Cornell
I wanted to like this book. Other than Two Serpents Rise, this is the only other book on this list that I regret not finishing. It’s got all the makings of a nice, chewy cop drama with some paranormal thrown in. Also, it’s set in London. But the book opened with too much going on. The writing moved too quickly from scene to scene and very little info is given about what’s going on and the characters involved. I couldn’t follow what was being said, let alone catch all the subtle implications. So I got bored not being able to follow the story or, rather, not being in on the take. Stopped at around 30% with plans to return, but I don’t know at the point. Maybe I’ll audiobook it.

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) by Seanan McGuire

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: September 2 to October 5, 2015

Never thought I’d say this, but I sort of hate this book and it’s all because of the main character, October (Toby) Daye. She is just so damn infuriating. But the thing is, not liking the MC has never stopped me from reading a book, continuing a series, or even enjoying the writing. But I just can’t do it with this book.

Credit where credit is due, this is not nearly as bad as some of the urban fantasies I’ve read, because there is a lot of potential in the world building and all the mythology woven into the writing is very interesting. However, the book itself is not as well put together as it could have been. It started out okay though, but then half-way through it started to unravel, with each chapter making less sense than the previous. By the end, not much about it made sense to me anymore, least of all the main character herself–the reason for the series, the reason we supposed to care about these books.

There are too many things wrong here–pacing’s too slow, tone too depressing, main character too apathetic and infuriating. Personally I don’t find the fae that interesting; they’re pretty obnoxious tbh. However, in spite of that, Seanan McGuire’s got a good thing going here, such as the interesting modern-day San Francisco setting, an alternate world filled with otherworldly creatures, and a long-term story arc that’s fitting for a long series. I especially like the setting(s), magic, courtly politics, depths and complexity of the world building. I’d like to be optimistic and say maybe this was a fluke. Maybe the next book is better. Maybe I’ll pick up it some time in the distant future when I no longer recall why I hated this book, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not gonna happen because Toby is still the main character and that makes it too difficult for me to care

Also, the first half of this book was too much of an uphill slog and the second half was too weirdly repetitive, especially the action sequences. It felt like the same couple of scenes kept happening over and over again. Toby kept getting almost killed too many times that by the the Nth time, I was like, OK maybe you’re better off dead…? She’s a professional private detective, yet she is no good at detecting, but I’m gonna cut her some slack here since she did spend a good number of years as a goldfish.

Another thing I couldn’t get into was the mystery. Didn’t care about the victim; didn’t care about Toby’s connection to her either.

Last but not least, this book feels like it’s the middle book of an ongoing series, not the first book. It feels like we’re being dumped in the middle of on-going cold war between two huge factions and we’re given very little background to work with. We’re supposed to figure things out as we go along. Too many things crucial to plot and character development are summed up quickly, rather than shown. The relationships between the characters are already well established, and so there’s a ton of history that we’re not privy to and we just have to accept that. Like I said, infuriating.

I can’t imagine how the next book is any different, and based on some of my friends’ reviews, it’s not. And that’s why I’m quitting this series.

Don’t know why I can’t seem to get into Seanan McGuire’s writing though. Feed was meh and a DNF at the sample chapter. Her short stories were also meh. I see so many people on my feed enjoying this series, reading all the way up to book #10, and I just wanna know… how? How do they do it? How did they get through books 2 to 9???

A group I’m in on Goodreads is reading Every Heart a Doorway this month, and I’m tempted to join in because I have the book (thanks, TOR!), but I’m dragging my feet because… Seanan McGuire.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: January 14 to 30, 2018

This book leaves me conflicted.

On one hand, the writing is very good for a legal mystery/suspense, and I say that as someone who doesn’t like this genre and rarely reads it if I can avoid it. I much prefer to read about the nonfictional kind. However, much to my surprise, that is precisely why this book shines. It’s surprisingly realistic in its portrayals of a high profile murder trial and its effects on the #1 suspect’s family. Also, it reads like of like true crime, if true crime was told from the perspective of someone very close to the case.

Unlike true crime though, we get to see the aftermath of the murder trial and we get to see how the family attempts to return to “normal” after the trial concludes. This story unfolds like most mysteries, with clueless parents asking oblivious questions about their own kid, but half-way through the book, there’s a tonal shift and it subtly becomes a thriller. The prose takes on a more intense, but smooth, feel as the story propels toward the end. The characters become so lifelike they might as well be real, and the story, much more plausible, and the aftermath, entirely believable. But in the end, we don’t get any closure. So, not unlike true crime.

On the other hand, the aftermath is entirely believable and we don’t get any closure in the end and I want to set this book on fire, grind up the ashes, and launch it into space. This is a normal reaction for me though. Whenever I finish perplexing WASP-y contemporary fiction, especially when it centers on affluent families bulldozing over the law, I want to burn the book. But this book is different, mainly because of its unexpected, very un-WASP-y ending which caught me off guard and threw me off my stride. It was entirely unexpected because I didn’t think the author would take it that far, but he did. More importantly though, it worked. The ending, while lacking any sense of closure, was a fitting end to this mess. I thought the savagery was just the right note with which to end this story. So credit to the author for taking it that far. This was a solid ending to a frustrating story that leaves you with absolutely no closure. So, not unlike true crime.

I tried reading this book the year it came out for a book club, but had to quit early because reading about little rich boys getting away with murder was not how I wanted to spend my day off. But I still wanted to know how the story ended, so I decided to set it aside for a better time. Now isn’t “a better time,” but the overall reading experience was better this time around. The story still enrages me, but somehow not as much as before.

So 4 stars objectively.

But honestly? 1 star for all the rage it inspires.

* * * * some spoilers below * * * *

Continue reading

Did Not Finish, Vol. 1

So after posting a string of 4- or 5-star rated books on here and my Goodreads, I feel a responsibility to be honest. It’s not normal for me to like everything I read; I’ve just gotten really good at picking books over the years, and I can kind of sense whether or not I would like a book prior to reading. But I still abandon books, not as often as before, but it still happens. Sometimes I abandon books based on what little I read of the sample chapters. It doesn’t take much for me to write off a book and not look back, although sometimes I put it aside and wait a couple of years before trying it again, but that’s rare.

Here are some of my DNFs over the years, in no particular order.

Invader by C.J. Cherryh, second book in the Foreigner series
Stopped at around 30%
I read the first book not too long ago and thought it was okay, if a bit tedious and boring, but since I like long series and politics in space, I decided to push on with the second book. People kept saying the series gets better later on. So yeah, why not? Turns out, they’re wrong. j/k. They’re only sort of wrong. The writing is still tedious and boring, but less so than the first book, and a lot of plot elements set up in the first book are brewing with the promise of real action, most likely to be continued in the third book. So I’m mildly interested.
Verdict: Will reread some other time when I’m older and hopefully more patient

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
DNF at sample chapter
You might remember this one as that popular book about a mysterious plane crash and its mysterious survivors being mysteriously connected somehow. Like Lost (the TV show), but with fewer interesting characters. The premise intrigued me, but the writing failed to capture my interest. Plus, it kind of comes off as an excuse for the author to vent his personal and political “feelings” for the “state of the world.” I didn’t read far enough to get a sense where he falls on the spectrum nor did I care. Politics in space? EXCITING. Politics here on earth? HARD PASS.
Verdict: Nah

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews, the third and last book in the Hidden Legacy series
DNF at page 2
While I like the Andrews’ writing for the most part, I have no love for this series. Kate Daniels will always be a favorite of mine. This series, however, will always be on my to-be-burned list. The first book is a billionaire romance disguised as comic-book urban fantasy and it was very nearly awful; the second book wasn’t as bad, but that’s in no way a compliment. The third book showed no improvement, but not a surprise. I only sampled the sample chapter to see if it was worth finishing the series–it’s not.
Verdict: Nope

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, first in series and the last I’ll ever read of it
DNF at sample chapter
I have read and DNF’d this author once before. I just completely forgot about it. The prototype for these books is basically why I have an I am too old for this shelf. What we have here is a young, “sassy,” “snarky,” “fiesty,” “strong,” “smart,” heroine with some athletic prowess and a talent for “assassination.” She somehow gets in trouble and is offered a chance to avoid a death sentence. Either be executed or be used by the kingdom for “assassination” purposes. She chooses life, obviously. Then she becomes an “assassin” who then falls for a boring pampered prince (aka her royal equivalent), and then she spends the rest of the series frolicking in the woods in between “assassinations.” Right? IDK. I’ve never been able to finish these books.
Verdict: Haha, of course not

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, second Memoir of Lady Trent
Not a DNF
This is a very good series, one that I have every intention of returning to soon, just have to find the time and mood for it. The first book was excellent (it’s a historical scientific study of dragons! In the wild!) and Lady Trent is a character I’m invested in, but I didn’t like how things ended for her or her husband, so I’m setting this book aside for now but not indefinitely.
Verdict: Will read when the mood strikes

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel, second in the Themis Files
DNF at sample chapter
There’s nothing wrong with this book except for the way in which it’s written. If you like epistolary and sci-fi, chances are you would enjoy these books more than I did. I kind of liked the first one actually and was interested in continuing the series, but I have no love for the epistolary style. Just thinking about it makes me set things on fire not want to read any further. It’s not the book, it’s me. Well, maybe it’s the book too, but it’s mostly me this time.
Verdict: Not for me

Changeless by Gail Carriger, second in the Parasol Protectorate series
Not a DNF
Like the Lady Trent series, I plan on returning to Alexa Tarabotti’s world some time in the near future because I had fun with the first book, but so far, I haven’t been in the mood for Victorian steampunk romance. And also, I’ve heard that, as much as Gail Carriger makes fun of and calls out Victorian norms and mores, she doesn’t quite do the same for England’s role in colonizing over half the world. So for now, and in the foreseeable future, I’m in no mood for favorable portrayals of colonialism in fiction, regardless of genre.
Verdict: Will read when the mood strikes

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik, the third in the Temeraire series
Not a DNF
This is another series that has a similar colonial problem. Told from the point of view of a high-ranking British officer, the writing paints a favorable picture of the British Empire. Believable and realistic because of the character telling the story, but not exactly a perspective I’m eager to return to or one that can keep me reading well into book #9. I don’t know what the series is like in later books; perhaps Captain Laurence grows and gains insight and takes an uncharacteristically un-British turn in his story. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, and we do see a little bit of his character growth at the end of the second book. I’m hoping to see more of that as he and Temeraire continue their journey from China back to England.
Verdict: Will read when the mood strikes

Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson, first in the Tiger and Del series
Stopped at chapter 5
If written from Del’s point of view, I would have been done with this book years ago and probably would have finished the series by now. But no, in between Del’s chapters, you get Tiger’s chapters and he is an irritating he-man sort of character who’s also kind of an ass, and I have no patience for that kind of nonsense, not in fiction or irl. Fortunately though, I hear he and the series get better in later books, which is good to hear and the reason I’m still trying to finish this book.
Verdict: Will finish… some day…

***Finished!*** (short note)

Stardust and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
DNF at sample chapters
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get into Neil Gaiman’s writing as much as the rest of the world. So I’ve concluded it’s not from a lack of trying on my part since I have read 4 of his books (American Gods, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Good Omens). I just don’t like Gaiman’s writing as much as everyone else. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what so many see in his books. I mean, they’re fine books. But that’s just it. They’re fine books. Yet so many people rave about them as though they’ve never read good contemporary fantasy. Maybe that’s just it. Many of them don’t read enough fantasy and Gaiman’s are the only genre books they read, which goes to explain all the ravings.
Verdict: Maybe some day, if either book is chosen for a book club

Review: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: December 24 to 26, 2016
Recommended by: Vaginal Fantasy Group’s alt pick
Recommended to:

Blech.

*ahem*

I mean, it’s not for me.

More on this later.

* * * * *

It is now later, and while I’ve had time to process, my initial kneejerk reaction still stands. This book just isn’t for me, in so many ways. I won’t go into lots of details because that could take awhile, but the main thing is the writing does not work (for me). I found it too awkward and modern, and it clashed too much with the culture and setting of the story.

This story takes place in a world that’s heavily influenced by ancient Greece–think ancient Greece plus sword & sorcery–but the characters’ speech and personalities are very distinctly modern. Not just their sentiments and motivations, but their actions and behavior too. I struggled with this all through the read and never got past it enough to get into the story, so I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters… or anything else.

While the setting was supposed to be ancient, the speech and interactions were decidedly not what you’d expect people from that time to sound like. Sure this is a fantasy, so of course you can mix modern speech with an ancient setting–lots of authors have done it, or so people keep telling me. Maybe, maybe so, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward or jarring. I found it distracting and it kept me from taking the story seriously.

Something else about the writing I found awkward was the author trying too hard to work in references to ancient Greece. Olives, goat cheese, agora, cyclops, minotaurs. It was like yes, I got it–very very Greek indeed. The whole book is jam-packed with these very, very Greek things, plus references to the gods, to remind you that this is, in fact, almost like ancient Greece. Almost, but not quite.

“Now that that’s settled, you’re coming with me.”
“Never in a billion suns. Not even if Zeus showed up as a swan and tried to peck me in your direction. I wouldn’t go with you even if my other option was Hades dragging me to the Underworld for an eternal threesome with Persephone.”

[…]

“You either have an Olympian-sized sense of self-importance, or you’re overcompensating for a lack of confidence.”

[…]

Our gazes collide, and something in me freezes. His eyes remind of Poseidon’s wrath–stormy, gray, intense–the kind of eyes that draw you in, hold you there, and might not let you go.

[…]

If looks could kill, I’d be dead. I don’t respond well to threats, even ocular ones, and my spine shoots straighter than Poseidon’s trident.

[…]

Have I cheated death again? Hades must be allergic to me.

[…]

I cheated death again. Hades must really not want me.

There’s a ton more, but I didn’t highlight them all–that would take weeks. If I remember correctly, the phrase “dive-bombing” was used to describe a reaction to falling in love. And now I’m just nitpicking, so I’ll stop there.

Overall, not a terrible book, but it’s definitely for the more romance-inclined reader who can overlook these things.