Sunday, May 30, 2021

Book Review: The Russian Cage

The Russian Cage 
Gunnie Rose series - Book 3 
by Charlaine Harris 
4 out of 5 stars 

More or less exactly what I expect from Charlaine Harris and this series. A bit more positive than the previous books; but that was okay. It felt like time some events and scenarios went Lisbeth’s way in her travels. Well besides her just surviving. The body count is not as high here as I recall from the last two books either. 

Random Thoughts 
Theres a little bit too much frivolity and fuss over how non-girly Lisbeth is. It felt overdone and unnecessary. Although it was fun to have all her fancy attire (dresses and the like) described. Clothing was very important in Russian Cage because of appearances at court/palace/whatever they were calling the Russian nobles housing. 

I enjoyed all the new characters we met; and really enjoyed getting to know the little sis better. Being in the Holy Russian Empire territory/state was interesting as the rules are so different and our gunnie gal is definitely way out of her element. I’d have liked a bit more in-depth discussion on the politics and laws perhaps; but it was written at the level I expected given Harris tends to have lighter reads. 

The flow and overall pacing was on par with the previous two novels in the series and most True Blood books. A decent read and definitely a good break from dense novels. What I would personally deem a ‘beach’ or summer read as I don’t usually read contemporary romance. Just enough romance in this to suffice my limited need for it; but enough violence to distract and create the fun. Although a lot more knives than usual; which is okay too (lol).

Firefly Comparison 
This makes me sound like I desire the violence but really this series is set as a futuristic western; so gunflighting is mandatory. Think Firefly without being in space. I could totally see our lead gal as the Zoe type. Eli however is Simon with magic (not just medical capacity). The more I think on this comparison to Firefly the more it makes sense. We lack a Mal type or Anara type character; but the little sis is cute and quirky (River plus Kaylee-esque). Yep that’s how I will describe these books from here forward. 

Reading Order
Last note, it’s worth starting this series from book 1 so you have character progression but it is not required. Harris does decent reminder/info chapters woven into the new plot well (without being info dumps). So you could jump in anywhere you wanted. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Book Review: The Infinity Courts

The Infinity Courts 
by Akemi Dawn Bowman

4.5 stars. Only because I struggled to accept the premise in the beginning...
This is one of those books where you need to read 100 pages and not think too hard about things like: the probable existence of aware AI, an infinite afterlife, AI having emotions, science of technology existing beyond human constructs, and other abstract concepts. Just accept them and go on the ride; because at some point you’ll find yourself so captivated by the world, characters, relationships, and idea of humanity that you won’t even care that those early pages came off a bit corny and lack some serious scientific rigour. But I promise it’s okay; because once the fantasy elements take over it works, and it works well.
Akemi Dawn Bowman has given us a gorgeous, intriguing new world (aka: the afterlife) to explore: wrought with monsters whose faces look like ours, people who are as complex in death as they were living, and a systematic set-up of torture that makes even grimdark fans (like myself) wonder if this is truly YA book.

Less is More
I want to get into so much with this; and yet I think the reader is better off going in with just the basic info on the blurb (like I did). It allows the story to unfold in a manner that catches you by surprise and makes the twisted ending feel all that much more perfect. There was a point during The Infinity Courts that I wondered something; it ended up being key to the whole construct in the end. This tickles me that while I didn’t know, somewhere unconsciously, I did have an idea but lost it in the pages. That is excellent, strong writing!

Above all else the thing to really appreciative out of The Infinity Courts is Bowman’s ability to write relationships that resound true. There is no obvious love interest or best friend at the start. And even by the end the relationships our lead gal has with everyone around her are complex. Just like real life. The only solid thing that remains true throughout is that her love for her sister is stalwart. There is a beauty to Bowman’s eloquence in writing relationships between characters that feel genuine. The women in power distrust one another (what woman hasn’t doubted another woman, even a best friend, at some point?). The men make like they are all macho and indestructible; and yet they fall apart just the same as the females around them. And then we have the AI characters whom mimic being human. They are perhaps the most complex of all. Can an AI want or desire something?

Before I get too carried away in the genuinely intriguing concepts that Bowman lays out here (and spoil this), let me say that this is a series I cannot wait to spend more time with. If only I had time to reread! Now knowing the truths of the ending I wonder how many foreshadows and hints I consciously missed?
All that said, the most important takeaways to know in advance of reading The Infinity Courts are these:
- there is no love triangle (but a romance does blossom)
- the ending is clever and twisted but not cheap
- every good series needs a strong tag line. Where Hunger Games had “may the odds be ever in your favour”; Infinity Courts has “may the stars watch over you”.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Book Review: Where the Veil is Thin

Where the Veil Is Thin 
by Alana Joli Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently the tooth fairy is much, much scarier than I ever remembering thinking as a child. There are no less than three, yes 3, stories about evil tooth related fairies in this anthology. Who knew? Lol.Overall this is just an okay anthology. I was disappointed by the Seanan McGuire story; which is the reason I picked this one up at all. But finding new, upcoming author Gwendolyn N. Nix is hopefully worth my time.

Here's some quick notes about each story:

Story #1 - The Tooth Fairies, by Glenn Paris
This story is a bit disturbing... but that might just be because the fairies are harvesting blood from a child, and a spider takes at least one of them out. *shudder*.

Story #2 - Glamour, by Grey Yuen
I read this story this morning... it was so dull I can’t remember anything about it.

Story #3 - See a Fine Lady by Seanan McGuire
Oh Ms McGuire, whose has the ability to both invoke dreamy intrigue and make me laugh at the same time. Nothing like a unicorn in Target to make on chuckle; but then to have it poop on the merchandise? Yep that’s pure ridiculous gold.

Story #4 - Or Perhaps Up by CSE Cooney
This story is very subjective and existentialist. It didn’t really grab my attention but someone in the right frame of mind might glean some wisdom from it...

Story #5 - Don't Let Go by Alana Abbott
Drop me in a story about fairies in Ireland any day and I'm likely to be pretty happy. Add in a handsome local and a bewildering visitor; and you've probably got a story I can get behind.

Story #6 - The Loophole by L. Penelope
Loved this one!! Took a couple pages to figure out what was going on but the ending is just wonderful. Dark but romantic.

Story #7 - Your Two Better Halves, A Dream With Fairies in Spanglish by Carlos Hernandez’s
Choose your own adventure books were at the height of popularity when I was a kid and the perfect age to love them. I’ve read dozens if not hundreds. But here’s the thing... they gave page numbers and we had paperback copies. On an e-reader with only letters and no hyperlinks it’s a disaster to try and read this

Story #8 - Take Only Photos by Shanna Swendson
Adorable! I really like the writing style of Swendson and am going to check out what else she has written. Some cute jokes, perfect portrayal of an introvert who just needed someone to reach out and be friends with. Oh and there are fairies. 😉

Story #9 - Old Twelvey Night by Gwendolyn N. Nix
”It’s crisp and good, but once you bite-even just a nibble-you have to eat the whole thing.” A quote regarding apples.
Wow! Love this. It’s creepy, compelling, and oddly relatable in a disturbing way. The only thing disappointing is to learn Nix hasn’t written much else. But she’s still young so here’s hoping she emerges. I’d sign her!

Story #10 - The Seal Woman’s Tale by Alethea Kontis
A classic tale spun with trolls instead of humans; and a survivor in the end. Lovely.

Story #11 - The Storyteller by David Bowles
Super short, a little sweet; but ultimately a let down.

Story #12 - Summer Skin by Zin E. Rocklyn
Predictable but still fairly well written.

Story #13 - Colt’s Tooth by Linda Robertson
Another evil tooth fairy story. Who knew so many people had bad thoughts or dreams about the tooth fairy! This one is okay; but nothing special.

In the end the best story, by far, is from Gwendolyn N. Nix. I really hope someone signs her immediately to a publishing deal as I need more of her work!!!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: My Best Friend is Extinct

My Best Friend Is Extinct 
by Rebecca Wood Barrett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For a middle grade book this novel is much too long, way too boring, and even too outrageous. Now I don’t mean outrageously funny or silly. I mean like this premise is so ridiculous that even kids are likely to raise an eyebrow and say “really, you want me to believe that”? Or at least Canadian kids who understand snowy weather will.

A group of animals that was long thought extinct is discovered by our lead boy. He befriends an injured one and away we go. There is some school bullying, hiding/lying, and a few other elements here that the average kid experiences. What is most relevant is that the not-extinct animals need help. You know I'm the kind of person (and was the kind of kid) that wants Sasquatch and Loch Ness to be real. Or at least somehow find an explanation for why their are reported sightings every so many years. I am not the kind of person that thinks it's plausible that multiple species, in groups of 20+, are living relatively close to a human town (within a day's hike) and haven't been discovered in thousands of years. That's just silly.

I know kids books are supposed to be a bit outrageous and fun. I get that. So if you think the extinct animals plot is just 'fun' then that's cool. I'd have been far more comfortable had the species been aliens who landed here recently, or migrated from somewhere; as opposed to just overlooked by humans for thousands of years. For me it's either go big and make it crazy ridiculous; or keep things somewhat believable. Sadly Rebecca Wood Barrett doesn't really do either of these things. She tries instead to walk a fine line and unfortunately missed with me.

Cold & Winter
I'll warn you this is a huge pet peeve of mine... I'll try not to rant too much.
Barrett is a born and raised Canadian based on her profile information. Now, albeit off the west coast which is more temperate climate than most of Canada; but still it does snow there and temperatures drop below zero; especially in the mountains. Therefore there is no excuse for Barrett having our lead boy enter a hypothermic state (even describes him feeling hot when it's really cold which is one of the last signs before the cold kills) and then just magically bringing him out of it. Without a human being involved. Yes the fluffy animal from the cover is there to help; but come on you want me to believe that the bear-esque creature (I don't want to tell you what it is as it's a spoiler) knew exactly when and how to revive our boy and keep him from dying of hypothermia? I think not. Why is it so hard to mitigate enough that the cold doesn't 'nearly' kill someone off in a way that is realistic?

I was super disappointed in this one. It didn't keep my attention and felt drawn-out in page count and ludicrousness. Given it's a middle grade book I have to figure if the book can't keep a voracious reader like myself intrigued there is little to no chance it will keep a 9-11 year-old engaged long enough to make it to the end. This story could have been much, much shorter and it might have been improved; but it the silliness of extinct animals hiding in the wilderness for thousands of years is just not an issue I see getting over without a full rewrite.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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