Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: The Blue Blazes

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

I remember when I held my eldest daughter for the first time. Tons of emotions. You are tired and here is this little person. A part of you with so many possibilities ahead of her. I had, and still have, so many wishes for each of my kiddos. To be healthy, happy, safe, and there in the background is that wish for me: please, please, please do not let me fuck this up.

That feeling, that fear came back to me as I read Wendig's Blue Blazes. Sure, there are monsters from deep below the earth, goblins, human monsters, the walking dead, snake-like assassins, addicts, criminals, killers, but underneath it all is a father who was a horrible parent. And that comes back to bite him in the ass. It also gives him a chance to do better, if he can beat the odds.

Mookie Pearl is a thug. He runs a few crews who harvest the Blue Blazes, a drug dug out of the earth that has mystical properties, allowing humans to see past glamour and have increased senses and strength. It is also addictive as hell and not without side effects. Mookie beats, maims, and kills when necessary. He is also getting old, but still kicks ass.

Then his daughter, who he ran out on years before, shows up, betrays him, and tries to carve out her own territory. Nora is pissed, flush with money, and screams her hate through every action. When it looks like Nora killed someone very high up in Mookie's organization, he is sent out to take her down. But can he do it?

Wendig has a gift for creating these characters who do such horrible things, but who are so easy to root for. Maybe it helps that pretty much all of his victims are horrible people or creatures themselves. Mookie also has more layers than are visible at first glance. He has his reasons for why he left. Not great ones, but he has them. He also has fists that can carve a goblin's head in, so if you have to face down an inhuman horde, he's a good bet.

There are lots of different little relationships here, besides Mookie and Nora. The side characters help to peel back the layers of the big guy's personality. Kelly was fantastic as the leader of a gang who has no reason to trust Mookie. Burnsy is memorable as well and has more in common with Mookie than he would ever want to admit. We also have Werth, Mookie's boss, who has his own reasons for hating Nora.

And Nora. She is terrifying, petulant, screaming for attention, and just so screwed up. We don't get to see a whole lot that isn't the destructive force of nature that is Mookie's daughter. I spent most of the story hoping a karmic clue-by-four would knock some sense into her. We get to see a few of her layers peeled back, but not a lot, and Mookie is not the only one with sins resting on his soul.

Tons of action, lots of fight scenes, this is a fast-paced, thrilling read. The world was quite vivid. Dangerous and scary, the human gangs topside and the inhuman monsters underneath mean that danger is never far away. The mythology was very interesting, from the goblin temples to the walking dead of Daisypusher to the bottom of the Great Below.

This redemptive journey of Mookie Pearl has started, but he is not finished yet. There are more stories here. I will be reading the next one.

[received an ARC to review]

Chuck Wendig links:
website: I highly recommend you check out his blog.

Angry Robot:

The Blue Blazes: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Powell's | IndieBound

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Any Other Name

Any Other Name (Split Worlds #2) by Emma Newman

Note: This is a book 2. I am going to try to be as spoiler-less as possible, but if you haven't read book 1, Between Two Worlds, then don't read this review. And go read book 1, it was excellent.

Middle books are not usually my favorites - I fully realize their importance, they just usually aren't the books I like best in the series. Any Other Name was fantastic and is high on my list of Best Middle Books in a Trilogy. I liked book 2 more than book 1 (and I really enjoyed book 1). Part of the reason is that there wasn't too much time between the reading of books 1 and 2. Also there isn't a lot of retreading past events or rehashing series info. You start pretty much exactly where we left off and you hit the ground running. The pace was fast but not rushed, and I felt that all of the players got enough facetime to keep the various plotlines coherent.

I gave up sleep to finish this book and was very glad I did.

Lots of conspiracies, a wedding, complex relationships, characters trying to navigate the very perilous path between their own wishes and those of their families and Fae patrons. Life in the Nether seemed like walking a tightrope with boiling lava on one side and snapping crocodiles on the other.

The characters are progressing too. In book 1, I didn't get as good a feel for Sam, but in this one I did. I always felt bad for him, and this just cemented my hope that he finds some kind of happiness. I still love Cathy. She is smart in some ways, so naive in others. Getting more of a backbone, or at least learning to navigate better, I liked her new sense of purpose.  Her character is so interesting to me. She has lived in both the strict society of the Nether and in the more liberated mundane world. To have tasted freedom and then have to be stuffed back into a role she never wanted is heartbreaking but I have hope that she will be OK. Her interaction with Will was a good part. I'm not sold on anything about them, but I think that is a good thing. [Note: If you are a die-hard romance fan, you might not like certain aspects of this book.]

I've read many period romances that gloss over the realities of living in a society where you really have no rights. I think this book conveyed well the horror of having the rights most of us take for granted stripped away, and does it without being preachy about it.

You know you are getting into a book when you want to pull characters aside for a little chat. Will, you are an idiot. An idiot with good intentions, but you pissed me the hell off. Max, you need to listen to your gargoyle more. Mr. Sorcerer - there is something so very off about you. I feel some good bits of secrets spilling in book 3.

Because this is a middle book, we are of course left with more questions than answers, but I anticipated that, so it didn't bother me. I loved the set up and can't wait to see what happens in the conclusion. Just a few more months to go.

[received an ARC to review]

Emma Newman also has some really fun stuff on her website. You can sign up for free Split Worlds short stories. Also, there is her Three Wishes campaign (I'm still pondering my wishes, but you can also see if you can help grant someone's wish) as well as her new podcasts, Tea and Jeopardy.

Emma Newman:

Angry Robot:

Any Other Name Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Powell's | IndieBound

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Kindling the Moon

Kindling the Moon (Arcadia Bell #1) by Jenn Bennett

My first thought when I finished this book: I should have read this earlier. I'm still kicking myself over it, to be honest.

This is definitely my kind of story. Strong female lead, great magic system, believable relationships, good supporting cast - if you are an urban fantasy fan you should read this book.

In fact, I know many of you are thinking about books to read this summer. If you have not grabbed it yet, put Kindling the Moon on your list.

Arcadia Bell has been hiding out. Her parents were infamous suspects in a cult murder spree and they have all been in hiding for years. Their fake deaths are unmasked when her parents are spotted back in the states, and  it is up to Cady to prove their innocence. She needs the help of Lon, a photographer/rare book collector who happens to rub her the wrong way at first... 

The twists and turns this story takes. Just damn. DAMN. I was surprised by some of it, and that doesn't usually happen. Well done, Ms. Bennett.

The magic system with mages and earthbound demons was really interesting. 

There is a romance and I thought it was done really well. The dynamic between Lon, his teenage son, Jupe, and Cady felt so very true. I'm looking forward to how that all progresses.

I can't wait to read the next book and see what Bennett cooks up for us next.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: The Lives of Tao

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

I crave fun books almost as much as I crave coffee every morning (and I can't function without my java, so that is saying something). When a book makes me escape the real world, laugh, thrill at the fantastic situations, leads me on a whirlwind chase and at the end, leaves me wanting more, why that is just gold.

Chu's Tao is fun. Lots and lots and lots of fun. There's also snarky aliens, kickass action, a secret history and an endearing lead character.

Definitely on my summer reads rec list - it's like a spy movie mashed with an alien flick and you don't have to spring for overpriced popcorn.

We start with a James Bond-ish character with a twist - the dashing spy is also inhabited by an alien, Tao. Things happen and soon Tao is in the body of Roen, an overweight office drone who whines about his life but does nothing to change it. Tao, who had inhabited Genghis Khan and Lafayette among many others, has a mission to bring Roen up to speed and prepare him for the war he is now fighting - a war with other body possessing aliens for the fate of humanity.

I really loved the world with it's secret history of alien, Quasling, influence. It's not all Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though. While the Quaslings can influence their hosts and share their millions of years of experience, they can't actually make them do much. Just as humanity has been greatly influenced by the Quaslings, they in turn have been changed by their human hosts. Tao has to get Roen to agree to this new life. It adds another dimension and I really enjoyed the interaction between Quasling and unprepared host. When you really think about the Quaslings influence on the world and the resulting war between the two factions, you are left with a lot of grey areas. Roen has to navigate those moral dilemmas. I like that.

The book spans a long period of time, so Roen's transformation is more believable. He doesn't become an ass-kicker overnight. He has a lot of learning to do.

I believe I mentioned snark - Tao has that in spades. Roen does all right, but Tao does have a few million years on him.

Funny and bittersweet too, The Lives of Tao left me wanting more.

[received a review copy]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


After a hectic 2 weeks filled with various appointments and helping family members move, I am at working on some reviews for you. These are on the docket, and although very different from each other, all were enjoyable reads:

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Jessica McClain Ultimate Swag Giveaway!

Amanda Carlson is hosting the Jessica McClain Ultimate Swag Giveaway to celebrate HOT BLOODED (and get you ready to continue Jessica's adventures in COLD BLOODED, out in October).

Take a look at the loot:

Signed copies of FULL BLOODED and HOT BLOODED, a t-shirt, bookmarks, and more.

Enter using the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Links for Amanda Carlson:

HOT BLOODED Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Powell's

COLD BLOODED Pre-order Amazon | B&N

Thanks for the giveaway, Amanda!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Reader's Pledge

Too many examples of bad author and bad reader behavior lately. You would think we could all just agree not to be dicks, but...

So here is my promise, my pledge as a reader.

I will not tell any author how to write their book. I will have my own thoughts on a series, will speculate with friends, and have my opinions on the execution of any story. My reaction belongs to me. The creation belongs to the author.

I will not send nastygrams to authors.

I will not be a flying monkey sent forth to harass anyone who dislikes any book, author, whatever that I love. We don't have to agree, and we're allowed to have our own feels.

I will not threaten any author nor will I threaten harm to myself if a book doesn't end the way I want it to.

I will not be an asshole. Or at least I'll try. Hard to reign in the snark sometimes.

In general, I will try to follow the golden rule and treat others the way I want to be treated. I'm pretty sure we all learned that in kindergarten, along with how to tie your shoes and keep your hands to yourself. Seems some people only remember the tie your shoes part.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Zenn Scarlett

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

Alien vets, strange creatures, a Martian colony, and a girl stuck in the middle of a conspiracy - yes I was a very happy reader.

Zenn Scarlett is trying to pass her three exams so that she can move on in her studies to be an exo-veterinarian. That would be a vet that takes care of animals from everywhere - goats and cats from Earth to sandhogs, whalehounds, and other beasties from all kinds of worlds. Zenn grew up at the Ciscan Cloister (not religious by this point in this world's history). She has had little contact with the kids in town, some because of the fear of the townies for the strange beasts and because of Zenn's reluctance to allow people to get close to her. Then a series of mishaps and close calls threaten Zenn's exo-vet future and the existence of the cloister. Also, Zenn seems to be developing a closer mental connection to the animals in her care...

This was a fast-paced read for me. I liked the characters: Zenn was a capable heroine and Hamish (an alien who is more like a bug) stole the show during his scenes. There is some action, a lot of alien creatures, and as Zenn starts to think more about the politics of her time we get some clues as to the overall picture of this story's universe. Zenn has been very sheltered, and while she knows a lot about the different alien species, she doesn't know much about people, nor does she necessarily read them well. I liked how it all unfolded.

There is a hint of romance, but it is not a story where Zenn is in the middle of a life-threatening event and she can only think of the possible love interest. It felt natural and by no means settled.

The story is not over. I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger, but we are definitely going to need book 2.

Recommended if you like YA, sci fi, aliens and very smart heroines.

[received an arc]