Review: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #2) by Theodora Goss

My biggest minor quibble from the previous book in this trilogy followed me to this one. I love the conceit of the book characters inserting their commentary into the writing, but it still reduces some of the tension since I know everyone survives to the end.

That being said, this was still a tale filled with plenty of exciting adventure, sending the members of the Athena Club on another thrilling chase — this time, across the Continent. We also meet more “monstrous gentlewomen” and some familiar friends in the forms of Count Dracula, Mina Murray, and Irene (Adler) Norton.

Who, you might ask? One thing I love about these books is that they don’t hold the readers’ hands. We’re expected to have a modicum of familiarity with the classic tales that inspired this work, such as FrankensteinDracula, and the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Goss includes her own “modern” feminist twist on the tales as they’re represented in her world, which is much appreciated.

I’ll definitely be picking up the final book in this trilogy once it’s released. I’m invested in these wonderful ladies, and they still have a lot of work (and adventuring) to do.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

2019 Resolution Project: Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews

My 2019 Resolution Project over at my other blog, Speculative Chic, is to read the entire Kate Daniels urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, finishing up with a first read of the final book in the series.

I’ve read the eighth book, Magic Shifts,before, and originally reviewed it in April 2016. You can find NEW my full review here.

An excerpt:

“Alas, Kate and Curran can give up the Pack, Atlanta’s organization of shapeshifters, but the Pack can’t leave them. This particular bit of politics is how Kate becomes involved in the main plot of this story, which revolved around Persian and Arabian folklore and mythology, with a particular creature that most readers are familiar with. As usual, however, the authors do the amazing research necessary to turn the drama of a simple missing persons case up to 11.”

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars.

Review: Alexander X (Battle For Forever #1) by Edward Savio

This book is a whirlwind story that features a very different take on immortality. I devoured it on a single plane ride and never felt a moment of boredom. The main character’s narrative voice makes me absolutely believe that he’s a teenager who’s been around for 1500 years.

I was immediately invested in the characters and the plot. It was a fantastic blend of fantasy and action-adventure, with just the right doses of back-story to fill in some blanks without disrupting the flow of the story.

I was intrigued by the concept of immortality presented here because it certainly isn’t a version seen often. However, I’d have been pleased if there had been any representation of a female immortal beyond an unnamed woman mentioned in passing. In addition, the only fleshed-out woman characters are the love interest and a housekeeper.

This is a fully contained story that doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. However, some information is revealed that definitely keeps me invested in Alexander’s story. I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: The Portrait Problem (The Galipp Files #3) by Jamaila Brinkley

Disclaimer: I am friends with the author; however, I bought the ebook for full price.

The Galipp Files are a solid trilogy chronicling the evolving relationship between Anastasia and her partner-turned-fiance Simon. Along the way, they solve magical crimes in their version of not overly-magical London.

My biggest complaint about this series is how much untapped potential is lost in how short the installments are. There’s so much more to the characters, the world, and how much trouble could be caused. While I enjoyed every moment of it, this story sped by.

Hopefully, there is more to come with this fantastic couple. In longer form!

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles

Though it’s not stated explicitly, I think this book is best read after the author’s The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. Some secondary characters cross over, and it provides a good grounding on how the supernatural exists in this world. However, this book takes a deeper look at the nature of magic in this version of England, and it was all fascinating.

Charles excels at writing characters with semi-tragic back stories who don’t let their wounds haunt them too much. Such interesting, three-dimensional characters then become intertwined in intriguing relationships, and Saul and Randolph are no exception here. The added subplot of magic made bureaucratic adds an element of tension appropriate to the overall plot.

The story sets up plenty of room for continuation, but it is a complete tale that is highly enjoyable to anyone who is a fan of Charles’ other works. She continues to be a master at her particular blend of historical fantasy-romance.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

The Sorting Hat comes to Limani!

I had some time on my hands the other day (translation: I was procrastinating on other projects), so I added a new page to the Worldbuilding section of my website!

Most fantasy fans in the world can immediately answer the question, “What house are you?” and I’m certainly no exception. As a fun characterization exercise, I sorted the main characters of my Steel Empires urban fantasy series into their own Hogwarts houses.

Special bonus: Find out what house I belong to, too!

(You probably won’t be surprised.)

In the next few weeks, I’ll be adding more special features to the Worldbuilding section. Make sure you’re subscribed to this blog for the most recent updates!

Review: A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark #2) by Kresley Cole

I’m intrigued by the expansive world-building in the universe of this paranormal romance series, obviously enough to read the second book in the series. And I just bought the third one. But I have such conflicted feelings about the relationships in the romance aspect of the stories.

The whole “vampire bride,” “werewolf mate,” etc. facet is incredibly heteronormative, and the male leads of both books in the series have been traditional Alpha males who come THIS CLOSE to making things kind of rapey (and I’d argue for some pretty questionable consent issues in this book in particular). How these books hold up in the evolving romance genre will be interesting.

Luckily, this story features an amazing heroine. Emma is a fascinating, unique (literally) character who has been coddled her entire life and finally has to come out of her shell. Her character arc makes this book well worth reading, especially for the exciting ending that is well worth some of the more sketchy bits in the beginning.

In short: This series is not for everybody. But so far, it’s for me.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Seder in Space and Other Tales by J.D. Blackrose

Disclaimer: I am friends with the author; however, I purchased this ebook for full price before I ever met her in person!

Favorite Story: “Seder in SPACE” is a short science-fiction story that embodies one of things I find in the best science-fiction stories — that the more things change, the more things stay the same. This family gathering will evoke feelings of familiarity for Jewish readers and pretty much anyone who has a large family, despite the setting and presence of alien species. And even better, the ending provides the perfect sweet dessert to any seder.

Story I Want Expanded: “The Real Reason Pigs Aren’t Kosher” is a serious story disguised by a quippy title. I felt instant sympathy for the main character, and I love the Jewish take on what is traditionally the realm of agnostic urban fantasy. So much world-building and potential are packed in here that this would make a fantastic longer work, either with the same characters or merely the same premise.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

October Wrap-Up & November Goals

Happy half-price candy day! I had to go into the office yesterday, so my costume was really simple. What did you dress up as?

It was a fast month, as always, but I got a lot accomplished and I’m gearing up for my version of NaNoWriMo. Instead of writing 50,000 words this month, I’m going to continue editing Steel Victory in preparation for the new edition this summer. Other plans include travel to three events, but before that, I’m celebrating a friend’s wedding tonight. The fun never stops.

October Wrap-Up

  • Instead of the traditional revision process I go through for my newly written novels, I decided to tackle Steel Victory a different way. This meant going through my “search and destroy” editing list for over-used words and words in which the language can be punched up. I’m so proud of how much my writing has improved in the last few years. I ended up cutting almost 10k words from the novel, but don’t panic! The majority of that was extra fluff that had no impact on the plot or characterization. All this means is that the new edition will have room for more bonus material.
  • Oh dear, I’m still working on that beta read. Don’t worry, the author knows I’ve got a lot going on, and she’s been busy with other projects and things in her life, too.
  • I had a great time at Capclave 2019 in Rockville, Maryland! Find my con report here.

November Goals

  1. As I mentioned above, continue editing Steel Victory. Now, I’ll be taking the more typical route, reading page by page and scene by scene to tweak language and clean things up. My standing goal is 1 or 2 scenes (minimum 10 pages) per day, which should take all month with a few mental health days as necessary.
  2. *mumble mumble* beta-reading…
  3. Lots of travel this month! In additional to a single-day event in Washington DC for the day job earlier in the month, I’ll be attending Starbase Indy for the first time this year in the days after Thanksgiving!
  4. Then, I’m going straight from Indianapolis to Houston for a conference for the day job, which runs me into the beginning of December.

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews

Around the Internet

Some cozy snuggles to start the month off right!

Review: Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews

It’s no secret to anyone following my book reviews that Ilona Andrews is one of my “drop everything and read the new book ASAP” authors. I anxiously awaited the arrival of the newest installment of the Hidden Legacy series and devoured the book within 24 hours.

Reading the previous installments of this series makes for a better story (which I revisited the week before release, and was just as thrilled with them as the first time), especially including the novella that stars Catalina as a POV character. Catalina features many of the attributes that made her older sister Nevada a compelling character, but even though they are sisters, there are plenty of differences between them. Catalina’s skill set, both magically and practically, give her a unique viewpoint to solving problems. Her relationship with the main mystery of the book also takes a different approach from how her sister might have handled things.

The main male hero is intriguing, and his actions in the book give a broader look at how magic exists on an international scale, beyond Houston and even the United States. I especially liked the historical details slipped into the narrative, such as only one world war instead of two. I’d love a better picture of what Europe looks like based on this history.

As usual, other Baylor family members also get in on the action, and continue to delight.

This is a solid beginning to a new set of books in this series, where many answers are left tantalizingly out of reach.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.