Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
4.5 Stars , Reviews , Uncategorized / April 24, 2017

The Valiant is a book that I thought sounded intriguing but I let it slip off my radar due to other review commitments. But then after I saw a couple of glowing reviews for it, I realized I had to find time to read it. Turns out I absolutely LOVED this book, yes, it is worth of the all-caps. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic King, and has been training her entire life to be a fighter worthy of joining the war band. We quickly learn that part of what motivated Fallon is that she idolized her sister, who was lost in war, and is determined to become the fierce warrior her sister was. In her tribe, men and women fight side by side. She is head strong and independent, so wants to prove herself as a warrior before thinking of such things as getting married. So pretty much, she is exactly the type of female protagonist that I absolutely love reading about. The day before her seventeenth birthday starts as amazing. She is with Mal, her best friend since childhood, but she is starting to see how their close friendship could evolve into something more. And there is the…

Backlist Burndown Review: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aarron
Reviews / March 31, 2017

I chose this book for both a Backlist Burndown feature (it’s been on my TBR for a while) as well as my Swords and Sorcery square for Reddit Fantasy’s Bingo. Quite frankly, I was quite excited to finally have an excuse to bump this up my priority list and finally read it. I’ve heard the series highly recommended and, really, who doesn’t love a story about a thief? Especially one who gets to use magic and has some pretty interesting friends. Not to mention the gall of trying to increase the bounty on his head. It just sounds like an incredibly fun book and set of characters. The story, overall, is fun, starting out with Eli, the greatest thief of all time, stealing not the typical salable items, but rather a King. I mean, sure, you hear stories of princesses being stolen in the night and held for ransom or whatever other nefarious reasons someone might have to steal them. But stealing a king is a bit more unexpected, not to mention ambitious. I think I had two issues with this book, which unfortunately, turn out are not trivial when it came to my enjoyment. First, while one the surface,…

Backlist Burndown Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
3.5 Stars , Reviews / February 24, 2017

Murder of Crows is the second installment in The Others series by Anne Bishop. I am listening to these books in audiobook format, and find they are very well suited to that medium. The world is interesting, but not overly complex. With the second book, more details of the world are revealed as the story is told.  I would say pretty much everything from the first book is expanded a bit deeper in this second book. It is all done in a manageable, easy to remember and follow way. In this book, violence is rising and straining the already tense (at best) relations between humans and the Others, particularly in the neighboring town. There are dangerous new drugs that seem to be fueling the conflicts and Meg has had one of her visions and it is full of blood and feathers. But, blood prophets are in a tough position of everytime they cut to learn more, they get one cut closer to death. As Meg and Simon work together, their relationship also deepens. One thing I find a bit strange, borderline irksome, is the romantic interest in a character that is between the two different species (which does not have to be…

Backlist Burndown Review: Rat Queens
4 Stars , Reviews / January 27, 2017

I’ve not read all that many graphic novels, and Rat Queens is quite a departure from the ones I have read. The title of this volume is “Sass and Sorcery” and quite frankly, that’s very fitting, particularly the sass. Rat Queens is a group of mercenaries, made up of irreverent, sarcastic women who enjoy indulging in their share of drink, drugs, sex, fighting and whatever else makes them happy. These girls kick ass, take no shit and have fun however they damn well please. How could you not love them? At least a little? In their latest job, the Rat Queens find they’ve been sent into a trap. Turns out there is a killer that is specifically targeting mercenaries. Not cool, but that’s OK, the Rat Queens will come to save the day. I found this to be a fun read, but for me it falls short of the amazing status I’ve seen others give it. I suspect much of this has to do with the humor. I mean, it is funny, I will give it that (assuming you love inappropriate humor, and really, who doesn’t?) But, sometimes the amount of jokes was just a bit much for me. Also,…

Backlist Burndown Review: Nine Princes of Amber by Robert Zelazny

So I am participating in the Reddit Fantasy 2016 Book Bingo, and they forced me to read a book from the 1970s to fill the Decade You Were Born Square (yeah, I’m old, anyway…). Considering I rarely read anything more than a couple years old, this was definitely out of my typical set of books. Based on recommendations, I chose Nine Princes in Amber by Robert Zelazny and was incredibly impressed by how well it aged. It is a portal fantasy, so parts of it are set in the “modern” day we know, but with the exception of the absence of current technology and a few references to hippies, I could not have told you when it was written. It still feels very modern even though its 40+ years old. The story begins with Corwin, who has woken in a hospital and seems to be suffering from amnesia. Now, I have read a number of books that start with amnesia, that have decidedly not worked well for me. I am happy to say this one actually did. As Corwin learns and remembers more, we discover alternate worlds and in particular, we learn about Amber, the ultimate world. The world that seems hardest…

Backlist Burndown Review: Written in Red by Anne Bishop
3.5 Stars , Reviews / May 27, 2016

Written in Red was definitely a fun read (listen) this month. When the book starts out, Meg’s history is a bit of a mystery. Since it’s in the blurb I will explain a bit. She possesses special powers to see the future in visions. These visions are brought about by cutting her skin, and the experience can be incredibly painful. Now the interesting thing about her ability is that it is extremely useful to people and also limited in how many prophecies that can do within their lifetime. So they are kept pretty much in captivity with their sole purpose being provide visions to their controllers and clients. As you may have guessed, Meg manages to escape. In her escape, she needs somewhere safe to hide. In comes The Others. In this world, there are humans, and then there are The Others. The Others are the supernatural beings comprised of some beings that readers will find quite familiar such as vampires and werewolves as well as some fresher varieties that add another interesting aspects to the story and world. And while The Others share the world and space, they do tend to sort of colonize into specific areas, isolated themselves a bit from the…

Backlist Burndown Review: The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
4.5 Stars , Reviews / March 25, 2016

So Bernard Cornwell is one of those authors that I have wanted to read for a while, but when comes time to pick my next read, I tend to be terribly biased towards speculative fiction. So, when I was trying to scrounge up a book to fit my last square (Arthurian Fantasy) for r/fantasy Bingo, I saw a number of people recommend Cornwell’s The Winter King, I thought it was a great chance to cross off an author I’ve been meaning to try as well as cross off my final Bingo square. Now, here’s the thing. I almost feel like I can’t give a fair review for how this book holds up in relation to Arthurian legend, namely because I feel shockingly ignorant about it. I would love to be able to provide some detailed analysis about how the characterizations hold up to or contrast with stereotypical legends on the topic, but seeing as how I’m clueless and all, it’s not going to happen. I may recognize a name here and there (like, oh say Merlin or Lancelot or King Arthur), but I really don’t have a foundation past name recognition. So, what I can tell you is what I…

Backlist Burndown Review: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
3.5 Stars , Reviews / February 26, 2016

So, I have not read a ton of urban fantasy, but given how common strong female characters seem to be in it, I do occasionally like to delve in. The Kate Daniels series is one that I have heard recommended, so when I saw the audiobook for the first one go on sale, I decided to grab it as it seemed a perfect choice for Backlist Burndown (despite the hideous cover – sorry!) and I guess I was right. Kate Daniels is fierce. I’ll be honest,  after this first book, I am not entirely sure what all she is capable of.  But I  do know she can kick ass and carries a sword (she is a mercenary after all).  So she’s on my good side already.  If I learn more in the future my guess is it will just reinforce this. I like her determination and charisma. She also has to keep aspects of herself secret, which you know, is always kind of fun too. Living dangerously and all that. I can’t say I found anything uniquely awesome about her, but I can’t deny she is fun to read. The world building in this is interesting. It’s set in the future and…

Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville
4.5 Stars , Reviews / February 8, 2016

This Census-Taker, in its novella length, provides the reader with a glorious and powerful enigma of a story. It is haunting, chilling, disturbing and touching and mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful. I could not stop reading this as I just craved to understand what was going on. It starts with a young boy running faster than he has ever run. Running from some unimaginable horror, and then we find out it involves his parents. The boy has trouble keeping his story straight as he is scared to death, but between this and a lack of evidence, the town dismisses his story and he is sent back to live with a parent that, at least from his perspective, is violent and deranged. Perhaps psychopathic. First, I will be very straight forward, I have only read one other book by Miéville and that was his first novel, King Rat, which I have heard is not indicative of the works he is best known for.  So, for this reason I can offer no comparison between this and a typical Miéville book (if there can be a typical, from what I hear unpredictable is a signature). What I can tell you is that this book is not at all…

Review: Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
4.5 Stars , Reviews / January 25, 2016

Beyond Redemption is a book that is wonderfully dark and twisted but well balanced with humor and interesting characters. The magic system is quite unique as it is based on insanity which adds a really interesting dynamic. The more powerful a person becomes, the more unstable they become as well. It is a very intriguing way to build a level of restraint and possible self destruction that is tied directly to their magical ability. And reality is also shaped by belief, so people with strong delusions can shape the world. And paranoia can also define your reality. Needless to say, it is dark, there are definitely some twisted things, but the book also does a great job building complex relationships between broken characters and adding enough humor to keep it from ever becoming too dark. There are some characters that become insanely powerful, but you can see their sanity fleeing, causing their own destruction. This was expertly done in my opinion. Pretty much anything is possible in this world as long as someone is delusional enough to make it happen, but there were costs and limits. There are many different types of delusions, so as you may imagine, there are also many…