Black’s Book Review: Fortune’s Pawn

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Publishing Information: November 5th 2013 by Orbit
Page Count:  320
Genre: Military Science-Fiction, Romance, Action
Note: The first novel in the Paradox series

A few weeks ago I was sitting on my couch reading what is probably my thirtieth urban fantasy story this year. Somewhere around page fifty where the snarky female protagonist tells the uber sexy male romantic interest that she absolutely isn’t interested in him I just set the book aside. It just wasn’t doing it for me, which is sad because I absolutely love romance novels.

I flopped over and had an existential crisis about whether or not I had already read everything there was to read and if the written word was a slowing dying art form. Perhaps I ought to drown myself in a bottle…of bbq sauce.

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(it was a really bad thirty seconds)

Then I took a good long look at that bottle and got really honest with myself. I just wanted something different. I didn’t want another naturally slender twenty-something female with perfect everything and very little personality becoming the obsessive focus of a rich and semi-violent man of the paranormal persuasion. I wanted something with a little more…unf.

So I went looking. I found a few lists of books that sounded interesting, and after falling down the rabbit hole of science fiction I finally stumbled across Rachel Bach. An author that I had seen floating around on some best-of lists and hadn’t quite gotten around to reading because he novels were classified as military science fiction.

Not that there is anything wrong with MSF. Honor Harrington is a fully realized setting with interesting characters and a well thought out story. A Hymn Before Battle takes a really good look at the classic alien invasion story. And the Old Man’s War series remains one of my favorites. I have had to replace the first book to do over-reading.

However, they weren’t what I was looking for. On the one hand I am still doing my Women in Sci-Fi kick. On the other I still wanted to read a good romance. When I put those two genre’s together, it was Fortune’s Pawn that kept getting recommended to me. So I decided to pick it up. I was in NO way disappointed.

The main character is Devi Morris, a woman I am sure is going to get killed for her own ambition, but I am going to love her right up until the end. She is passionate, flawed, strong-willed, self aware, and just glorious. She doesn’t take shit from anyone.

She comes with a high tech battle armor suit that gets her a mercenaries place on a ship with a reputation for paying well and getting people killed. It does not disappoint. The ship has a mystery and Devi charges into it with all the grace and skill of the proverbial bull.

The romance in this story, however, is what really gets me. It is rich, full, and complicated. It doesn’t revolve around some overly aggressive guy who doesn’t understand the word no.

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(herc looks like he’s about to swoon)

The complications for Devi and her beau are more about the fact that he’s not being completely honest and she damn well knows it. Also, trying not to die, that’s a pretty big one.

All in all I give this story a 8.5/10. The only thing that drags this story down for me is a little leaning on tropes, but it certainly wont dissuade me from picking up the next few books.

 

 

 

A Year of Women (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

A Year of Women (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

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So, for reasons that I have made clear in a previous post, I wasn’t doing much in the way of blogging/writing during the earlier months of this year. Therefore, I did not get to announce my two reading pledges for this year.

The first, which I am sharing with the incredible Shannon Noel Brady, revolves around the dewy decimal system and non- fiction books. In this I am to read one book from each of the first numbers in the system. So far that has been interesting, but I have seriously fallen behind. I will be picking up with a book in the 4’s sometime soon, look for that.

The other pledge, made to myself, revolves around fiction books. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know that I love (almost) all genres and (most of) the authors in them. However, I received a little real-life criticism for seeming to have a preference for female authors, especially in the world of science-fiction and fantasy.

That isn’t true, but it was perceived that way.

I responded in the most adult way that I possibly could. I made the promise that I would read ONLY female authors this year. Because that wasn’t petty at all. Right? Right.

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( my cat is judging me)

So, I realize that we are headed into July, and that my goodreads shows that I am still reading the digital version of G.R.R.M’s Game of Thrones, but that’s been going on for about two or three years…so ignore that. For this year I will (and have) been putting a serious, unrelenting spotlight on the authors of Science Fiction and Fantasy. So look for that when I do some of my book lists, my reviews, and other nuggets of literary delight.

Black’s Book Review: The Paper Magician

Publishing Information: September 1st 2014 by 47North
Page Count:  224
Genre: Steampunk, YA, Magical Alternate History, Romance
Note: The First Book in the Paper Magician series, and debut novel of Charlie N. Holmberg

They say to never judge a book by its cover. In this instance I didn’t listen. I had been passing through my local Barns & Noble with the intent of buying basically nothing (fool that I am) and this was sitting on an endcap.

Magic?…Check
Victorian Era?….Check
Female Protagonist…Check

Triple threat, and I was done. There is something I enjoy about a setting that incorporates history and magic. So I decided to fork over the dollars and pick myself up some entertainment.

The story revolves around Ceony, a young magician girl who aspires to be a Smelter, a mage who works with metals. Her dreams are dashed, however, when her academy sets her up in an apprenticeship with (drumroll, please) a paper magician. It’s heartbreaking for the young lady. Paper magic is the weakest of magics, and good for nothing but entertainment.

The lady mage is taken to meet one Mg. Emery Thane who is (shockingly) attractive and relatively young. Without giving too much away Mg Thane has a bit of a secret to his history that will get him in the kind of trouble where he needs rescuing.

How awesome is it to have a story where the lady is rescuing the dude? Very.

The Paper Magician has some excellent strong points. It’s written in elegantly simple prose which make for a quick, albeit well crafted, read.I think I finished the book in about six hours altogether. It had some really beautiful lines too. “Remember you are much different now than you were an hour ago” and “One of his odd smiles, for it was all lip and no eye” and, my personal favorite, “Curse Emery Thane for being such a difficult man to rescue!”

The characters are easy to distinguish from one another. Ceony is young, nineteen during the course of this book, and you can hear that in her speech. Emery hides his uncertainty behind a smile and is a master of derailing questions about himself. It’s easy to feel like you know them from the beginning.

The magical theory is well thought out and easy to understand. Magic can only be created through man made items. Paper, Metals, Rubber, Glass. There is only one forbidden form of magic, Flesh, and it ends up being a big deal in this particular story.

The story is a nice mesh of being heartbreaking and lighthearted. There is a gentleness to the main character that saves her from being that ‘I’m badass because I have traditionally masculine traits’ kind of heroine, which I like. But there are some rather dark moments which are handled by the author and the characters beautifully.

It does have a few drawbacks, however. I was not a fan of the villain being your typical dark curvaceous beauty while the heroine is the waifish pale blonde. I feel that this continues the trope of ‘busty ladies are bad’ and I’ve slowly grown jaded to the trend. I happen to be both brunette and busty and a very nice person, generally speaking.

The romance, while handled well, hits me on a couple of squicky notes. I’m not a fan of a person in a place of power and a person who is in their care becoming romantically involved, even when it starts on the part of the person in care. This is a personal preference, I know, but an important one.

Ceony has no friends. This annoys me. There are reasons that she might draw away from closeness (for the sake of spoilers I wont say why) but these reasons don’t really stop her from developing an attachment for Mg. Thane. I really wish that she had a friend or two upon whom she could have called to help with her adventure. It would have made me feel a little more comfortable about the romance aspect.

Also, I realize that this is a novel geared towards the Young Adult generation but I really feel that the story could have been lengthened to allow me to get a little more invested in the setting. The author clearly has the literary skills to craft fantastic prose, but there were certain moments where I was hungry for more description and a few more scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story. I would definitely recommend, but the chances of me reading it more than once are slim. I will, however, be picking up the second book when I have the spare money. I would give it a 7.5/10

Black’s Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Publishing Information: Qurik Productions 2011 (reprint 2013)
Page Count: 356
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dark Fiction, Historical Horror
Note: First Book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, also the debut novel of Ransom Riggs

I am not a huge fan of the YA genre. Don’t mistake me, the genre is not without substantial merit. I have very fond memories of my sisters crowding into my bed and asking me to read about Harry and his magical school. I own all of Katniss’s adventures and they hold a special place in my heart as well. Heck, my very favorite series is The Lioness Quartet and I spent a good part of my adolescence in love with a particular fiction character from that setting.

But I also read Stephen King in the second grade, and Anne Rice while I was in middle school, and I found that my literate leanings were towards adult fiction rather than it’s younger cousin. But Riggs’ work came with a provoking cover and my very best friends’ promise that it was spectacular.

That being said it still sat on my To Be Read shelf for about a month before I picked it up this morning.

I was feeling icky. I don’t know if it was something I ate or if the sudden change in temperature was playing havoc with me, but I woke up this morning feeling like a snake was slithering around in my stomach. I managed to crawl to my favorite corner of the couch, my cat following in my inelegant wake, and plopped myself down with the book.

I figured that it, like most YA fiction, would be a simple read and would be just distracting enough to soothe the belly serpent. Next thing I knew it was 2 in the afternoon, the book was finished, and I had forgotten to eat lunch. Or, you know, breakfast for that matter.

To say the book pulled me in would be an exercise in the understatement.

The story is about a young boy of Jewish decent named Jacob who, like many of us, had the desire to have an adventure. This desire was fueled by his grandfathers wild stories about the orphanage that he grew up in and the strange children that lived there.

Of course, the stories are so wild and strange that no one believes him, aside from Jacob, and after a great deal of craziness Jacob discovers that (surprise, surprise) they are true.

I’m not going to say that this story is without its tropes. There is teen love and a little bit of angst, and uncaring parents who pretend to care too much. To be honest I’m okay with all of that because of how the story is written. The prose is flat out phenomenal and I was gripped from beginning to end.

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

Seriously…how awesome is that for an opening line? It was a line I could wholeheartedly and completely empathize with. I had shivers. I was worried, of course, that somewhere along the line I would end up hating the story but it didn’t happen. I grew to enjoy the main character, love some of the side characters, and fully believe in the romance. It was fantastic.

I could go on and analyze why I liked it and how it got to me and all that, but I wont. Instead I am going to tell you to go read it. Go fall in love with it. I did.

Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Publishing Information: ToR Books (Reprint June 7th 2011)
Page Count: 306
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Romance
Note: First book in the Glamourist Histories

If you took a dash of Jane Austen and a dollop of Tolkein you’d get the Glamourist Histories. Mary Robinette Kowal seamlessly melds the life of Georgian Society, romance, and magic to make a setting that is instantly recognizable and yet ultimately fresh.

This is the first of the series (there are five by the way) and it sets the stage beautifully. It follows the story of Jane Ellsworth, for whom I harbor the deepest of affection (did that sound regency enough?) and I rooted for the entire story.

Jane is a ‘plain Jane’ lady who is quite adept in the art of glamour; the creation of illusions for entertainment and comfort. She is intelligent, a bit shy, and takes it upon herself to be the paragon of feminine virtue…which causes a few problems during the course of the story. I just want to put her in a safe box and place it on a shelf so she never gets hurt.

Technically she’s always on a shelf…what with her being a book character….

Anywho, Jane’s life is complicated by her sister, Melody, who is as charming and lovely as her name implies. She is also prone to emotional outbursts and falling in and out of love with anyone who shows her attention; namely the man with whom Jane has a long time affection. Jane’s life is further complicated by the arrival of a truly talented glamourist, Vincent, who seems utterly intent on snapping at her.

It’s a fantastic book with a great deal of emotional value and depth. It has duels, parties, genteel manners, and art. I look forward to devouring the rest of the series.

Book Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Today is my first book review on this blog. This will be an infrequent part of my blog but, I feel, an important one. Reasons which will explain why in my upcoming blog post.

Today I will be discussing: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Publishing information: Dell, reprint 1993
Page Count: 976
Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Romance
Note: Second book in the Outlander series.

Diana Gabaldon is one of my all time favorite authors. Her unique storytelling style completely immerses a reader into the scenes she creates and the characters that she builds. By the time you set one of her books down a reader is liable to feel like they have just had a conversation with Bonnie Prince Stuart or Lord John Grey.

Her’s is a talent I deeply admire.

I’ve read Outlander (the first book in this series) around a dozen times; no joke. It’s the book I pick up whenever I just want to get lost in something. I have memorized most of the dialogue and I have fallen in and out of love with the characters and their complex natures.I am not even sure I ever actually ‘read’ the book anymore so much as I focus on the pages while I remember the words.

So why the fuck did it take me ten damn years to read the second book? I’ll tell you why.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

Because the second book started of TWENTY YEARS LATER. It starts off with the main characters having been separated for the entire span of their daughters youth. When I first picked it up (waaaaay back in high school) I read that and firmly said “Nope, that’s not possible. That can’t happen. No power in the world would separate these two characters.”.

I got sooo angry and frustrated that I just set the book aside. It took me years to pick it up again…and then I set it right back down. It was an on again-off again relationship for a decade.

What finally prompted me to read the book again was a bit of a spoiler from a friend. The main characters, apparently, make it to colonial America…and that is a weakness of mine.

“Fine,” I said, “I’ll read it. I’ll argue with you the entire way Diana, but I’ll read it.” So last night, after ten years, I finally finished the book; and I am so very glad that I did. Like, I cannot express the feelings that this book made me go through. Oh wait, yes I can.

The first part of the story is aggravating because the entire time I’m asking Claire (the female main character) what the hell she’s doing back in her own time and not back in the mid 1700’s with her destined lover, Jamie. I’m demanding to know why their daughter, Brianna, doesn’t have a clue that Jamie exists.

Then, after a little over a hundred pages, we start to get told the rest of the story. It’s slow going, there is no arguing that. But every single scene in this nearly 1000 pages is absolutely necessary to understand the ending.

And, oh my god, what an ending.

The last two hundred pages had me laughing, crying, asking why, and finally (after getting to the very last page) tossing the book across my living room- which startled my poor cat to pieces.

I loved it. I loved feeling all those things. I loved that emotional roller coaster that had me completely understanding where the characters were coming from, yet pleading that it wasn’t true.

I was really happy that I had the third installment of the series, otherwise I may have spent the night crying and thrashing about to wonder what was going to happen next.

Second spoiler alert: Voyager starts out just as wonderfully frustrating, though I doubt it’ll take me ten years to finish.