August Reading Reviews

So August was the month of my big kid-free trip to Germany for a wedding of friends.  I planned out 9 books to read on that trip and got through 8 and a bit, which feels pretty good!  Several of them were ones I had been wanting to get read because they had been sitting on my Kindle for too long; others were highly anticipated reads, which made the hours on the plane fly by (HA!).  Anyway, that week of hardcore reading has me clocking in at 14 books this month.  Boom!

26114291Ghost Talker by Mary Robinette Kowal

4 Units. I received an eARC from Net Galley about 2 weeks before this book came out and had to speed it along into my pre-Germany reading.  Kowal is an excellent writer.  I will try anything that has her name on it (and so far I have enjoyed all of them!)  This story follows Ginger Stuyvesant, a member of the Spirit Corps, an arm of the British Army in WWI.  The Spirit Corps is comprised of mediums (yes, those kind) who receive information about troop movements, etc. from the spirits of recently deceased soldiers.  WHY hasn’t this idea been thought of before????  It’s a fun read.  Even though it’s a war book.

See my review post here.

7292936The Best of Charles DeLint by Charles DeLint

3 Units. I had heard lots about Charles DeLint around the fantasy circles for 15 years (that’s down to me, not his popularity or time of working), but hadn’t read anything by him, so I thought I’d give this short story collection a go.  DeLint is a very good writer and there were several times while reading that I paused to notice what he had done in his sentence structure, description, and/or characterization.  However, I am not a fan of urban fantasy, or fae, which DeLint seems to have really embraced in his writing topics.  So, I liked his writing, wrong topic and themes to win me over.

22560542Luck on the Line by Zoraida Cordova

3 Units. This is a New Adult book, maybe my first?  I’m not sure if Addicted to You counts as New Adult or Romance.  Either way, I like Cordova’s brain, but I don’t think that New Adult is the genre for me.  This is probably because I always feel like contemporary-set stories are missing something, namely magic and excitement.  If you like sexy chefs (I don’t, I’ve worked in kitchens, most chefs are dicks), sassy black sheep heroines, contemporary NA romances, and/or food, give this one a try.  I’ve got my eye on Labyrinth Lost to let me fall in love with Cordova.


Nobody’s Hero By Bec McMaster

4 Units.  This was the book I read on the plane to Germany, hoping that the lady next to me didn’t read a lot of English as I skimmed the sex scene pages because I was feeling self-conscious with her right next to me.  The basic summary is, Mad Max meets werewolves, which is pretty accurate, but also more than that.  I haven’t seen any Mad Max (pretty much a sacrilege for a feminist in 2016 given last year’s movie), but I may well be sitting down for Vengeance Road soon because of wanting more of this atmosphere.

This book is the story of Riley who is a human living in a apocalyptic world and is kidnapped by a guy wanting to seek revenge on a leader of a human settlement near Riley’s home.   There are zombies and werewolves (under different names in this world), humans struggling with fear and prejudice, insane villains, crazy death-defying situations, abandoned scientific labs, and a world of people beyond all of this.  It was fun and exciting, I like how capable Riley is, how complete McMaster’s characters are as people with mixed feelings and actual lives behind them.  Next book is scheduled for December and I foresee a Merry Christmas to myself present.

58345The Awakening by Kate Chopin

3 Units. This is a short classic, and also a seminal work in feminist literature, about a women in 19th Century New Orleans society contemplating an affair.  It was good, I totally see why it is an important piece of literature.  But, I think it would have been better for me to have read it with a professor/class guidance, and I could see the ending coming from pretty early on.  And I am not a fan of reading about affairs, so I don’t think this will be a re-read.

25308939Points of Departure: Liavek Stories by Patricia C. Wrede and Pamela Dean

3 Units.  Liavek is a shared world from back in the days when those were a hot trend for authors.  This short story collection is a mix of stories by Wrede and Dean.  As a fan of Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, I always am willing to try out her books.  Her stories mainly focused on Granny, whom I loved.  I liked the way the meeting of cultures and the history of the city of Liavek was dealt with, and I always enjoy hyper-practical heroines (thanks to reading the Enchanted Forest Chronicles at a formative age).  The magic system, based on birth luck, was something I hadn’t seen before.  All of that said, I would have loved to spend more time with Granny and see a larger story arc in this world.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the stories that involved the white family who immigrated to Liavek.  So, overall, it was fine.


A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

2 Units. DNF.  I couldn’t do it.  I want to love this book and this series.  But it was too distant, too hard to connect, too much telling.  It might be one that is better read aloud, but not by that audio narrator that my library had.  I think that I’ll just have to go back to the Studio Ghibli version if I want to explore Earthsea.  Or wait for the illustrated versions coming out in 2018.

28110857Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

4 Units.  This book I received as an ARC from Goodreads.  I read Jackaby and Beastly Bones last December and thought they were delightful.  I think the tone of them feels very similar to Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, quite silly, but with action.  These stories follow Abigail Rook, an 19th Century English girl who ran away from home and has landed in New England where she takes up employment with R.F. Jackaby, who is a private investigator because he can see all the folkloric creatures around.  He is great character.

This story has us *finally* following the story of the murder of Jackaby’s ghostly landlady Jenny Cavenaugh.  I really like Jenny as a character.  She is the female friend for narrator Abigail Rook, and straight man to Jackaby’s capers.  In this book, Jenny is yelling at Jackaby for smashing holes in her walls; for some reason I love that she is a ghost and the straight man at the same time.  I need to re-read the previous books to catch all the threads between them, but Abigail finally has some of the predictions about her future come true.  And we get a little bit more of sweet Charlie Barker.  Please, Mr. Ritter, when can we have the next one??????

30152125Shadowbound by Bec McMaster

4 Units. I save this for my flight home and ended up sitting next to a man who didn’t read or watch anything for 9 hours!  He did sleep a bit, but I can only assume he was reading over my shoulder for some of the flight.  This book sucked me right in, as Bec McMaster books do, and made me forget my uncomfortable seat for at least 4-5 hours.  This book’s atmosphere feels a lot like the atmosphere from the TV show Penny Dreadful and I definitely saw Ianthe as Eva Green.  I wasn’t quite sure if this might feel like early worldbuilding for the London Steampunk London, but McMaster has built a totally different London with a different worldview and different power struggles.  We have magic and demons and oracles, and messy families and revenge.  It doesn’t feel like the two series will overlap (maybe only in the bustles).  The magic system feels like there is a lot of room to explore in future books without feeling like it was under-built for this book.  And I liked the two main characters, which is pretty important in a romantic story.  *spoiler* And I liked that Ianthe dealt with the issues of motherhood in a way that felt realistic, and that there seemed to be actual affection and feelings between the characters. *spoiler*  I’m so glad that we will see the next installment in this series next from McMaster!

25791377Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster

5 Units.  This was one of my top anticipated books of 2016.  I had book hangover from this for days.  I was a little unsure about an addition onto the London Steampunk universe (I think that all those HP extras have made me skittish–oh and the Go Set a Watchman debacle), but I need to remember to just sit back and led McMaster do her thing.  This book was excellent.  Ingrid might be my new favorite heroine of the London Steampunk world.  She’s not unfeminine, nor is she barred from behaving in a physical masculine way, and she says what she wants.  The plot is quick and complex, the couples and characters have plenty of facets to their interactions, and the cameos from previous main characters feel natural, not forced in.  I do hope that we will be getting some future stories about the verwulfen themselves, perhaps outside London, but I am firmly buckled up for McMaster’s next installments in any series.

27240779The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove

4 Units.  This book closed out the Mapmakers Trilogy and was one that I mentioned in my anticipated books of 2016 post early in the year.  Grove’s world is SO imaginative, I literally have no idea what to expect as her characters travel through various parts.  I think these are great books for older Middle Grade readers, or Young Adult readers not looking for romance and violence.  Sophia Tims has been searching for her parents who disappeared many years before while exploring the world which had undergone The Great Disruption, in which different parts of the world fell out of time with their own worlds and have been stitched back together in a patchwork of Eras.  (Although I realized in the 2nd book that they are more like parallel universes, a bit Whovian.)  In this book, Sophia is traveling in what we know as North America, kind of Ohio River Valley region (I think).  Her uncle Shadrack is in Boston sorting out the evil Prime Minister Broadgirdle, who is freakily reminiscent of Trump.  Broadgirdle has closed the boarders, is deporting everyone who isn’t from New Occident (basically the eastern U.S.), and is starting a war with the Baldlands (the Native Americans who live everywhere west of Pennsylvania/New Orelans) to try to get 1890’s Boston back on track with the “Time of Verity” aka our world.  And Sophia’s friend Theo is part of a prison gang that Broadgirdle sent out to join the army effort.  And there’s a red fog that makes people hallucinate and kill/maim their loved ones.  It’s hard to explain because it’s so different, but so imaginative.

I would be curious to hear what a Native American reader thinks of it, as many of the characters in this book are what we would describe as Native American (e.g. Theo, Smokey, Cassanova, Goldenrod, Bittersweet), but they are from a parallel universe, so they aren’t quite Native American.  So much of Native identity today is tied up in the huge trauma of American history, so changing history changes depiction.  Anyway, I’m just curious.  (I took a class on this in the spring and loved it!)  My only complaints are Sophia is a pretty boring character (the narrator’s portrayal of her might be influencing me) and that Grove’s writing isn’t quite consistently engaging or beautiful.  It can be, and then we reach other parts where I would start to feel a bit bored by the writing.  I will certainly be keeping an eye on her as I’d love to know if she explores this crazy world further!

7968243Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff

3.5 Units. This is an acclaimed recent biography of Cleopatra, digging into the realities of Cleopatra’s life, setting the scene for her life and explaining how she fit into her world, and how she likely understood herself in this world.  I listened to this book, and quite enjoyed the narrator.  It was interesting to get a better grasp on Cleopatra, though she never really gets to speak for herself due to Octavian’s systematic destruction of her from the historic record.  I liked that Schiff disabuses us of our views of Cleo, that she was Egyptian (the Ptolomys were Greek) and that she was beautiful (no one who knew her described her that way), and that she was a wanton seductress (the best way to undermine a powerful woman is to make her just about sex).  My main problem with it was the war-heavy Roman world, which bored me, but I did really enjoy this book.  I’ll give Schiff’s new book, The Witches: Salem, 1692 a try sometime.

6054140The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

3.5 Units. This was a recommendation from my mother, a mystery story following the work of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in the London Metropolitan Police Service.  PCU is headed by two geriatric detectives struggling with age, wackiness, and budget threats.  The prose is thick and slow, befitting of two old codgers who reference all kinds of things previous history, despite this only being the second book in a series.  However, it’s definitely a love story to London and its history.  The book name drops London locations and historical places (especially those rivers), and as someone not in love with the idea of London or the city as an entity, I found it a little jumbled and confusing.  Names, names, names that all meant nothing to me.  The mystery was. . .confusing?  I wasn’t totally sure what the crimes even were at some points.  It starts off with an old women drowning in her dry basement, and spends a while on the It was a good book, and I liked the way everything came together at the end, though I felt like the immigration stuff was a bit odd and tacked on.  I especially enjoyed the way the homeless community was shown.  I’d consider reading another one, but I’ll just need to prepare myself for some OTT London-love.

27774758An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

5 Units.  I wasn’t expecting to finish this one in August.  It’s like 500 pages, and I was listening to it on audio, which is usually slower.  (Upcoming post-teaser: I picked it up because my beloved Fiona Hardingham and Steve West are the narrators.  Now I love them even more.)  But, I was absolutely sucked in to the story, despite the fact that the beginning is actually a lot of set-up.  It was still breathless and nerve-wracking, and I was glued to the speakers.  I loved how thorough and well-thought out each of the characters is, as well as their motivations, the threads that tie them all together.  Apparently gappy plots and characters irritate me so much I want to sing love songs to books that don’t have them (at least in my first breathless read).  I also thought that the emphasis on friendship was wonderful.  Both main characters have several important friends and family members, they are not little islands of crazy.  (<3 Helene and Izzy <3)  I was put off this book by the talk about all the rapey bits, but it’s really more of a threat, more of a fear, than a regular on-the-page event, which suited my sensibilities much better.  And Hardingham and West do their usual stellar job as audio narrators.

Laia lives in a Roman Empire-esque world, one of the conquered Scholar people who are ground beneath the boot heel of the ruling Martials.  Elias is the top Martial student at Blackcliff, the elite school; he hates everything about it.  Laia is spying to break her brother out of prison, Elias is completing a set of trials, they cross paths.  I am so pleased that I happened to listen to this right before the second book, A Torch Against the Night comes out on Aug 31. (Today!)  Now, to get my library to process this new book speedily. . .

Currently Reading

Icon by Genevieve Valentine

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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