Review: Ghostromance (Reluctant Necromancer #1) by Kaye Draper

I probably shouldn’t have read this so close on the heels of Draper’s previous reverse harem series, Gesa’s Menagerie. I prefer Gesa as a character to Esper, but that doesn’t mean anything is necessarily wrong with Esper. I got a bit tired of her “Woe is me, I’m so ugly” ruminations, but otherwise she’s a great representation of a woman who knows what she wants out of life and doesn’t care much for anyone (even her best friend) who might think it’s atypical.

I also appreciate the modern representation of an evolving relationship between two characters, in which its perfectly fine for lust and sex to happen between two consenting adults before deeper emotions start to emerge. I’m looking forward to seeing where the actual romance between Esper and Toma goes, especially if Toma’s weird family starts to get in the way.

It’s obvious that this series is not set in the same universe as Gesa’s Menagerie, though some of the terminology (and general setting) are similar. Draper handles a new set of world-building and magic with the same deft hand as I’ve come to expect.

I’m a bit bummed that I won’t get to binge this series like I did the last one, but I’ve already pre-ordered the next installment, which is pretty high praise in itself.

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

Review: The Expanse: Origins edited by James S.A. Corey

Favorite Story

“Naomi Nagata” by Georgia Lee (illustrated by Huang Danlan): This isn’t Naomi’s “origin story,” which is covered very well in the books themselves. Instead, it shows us the first introduction between Naomi and Amos prior to the events of the books/television show. I loved the growth shown by both characters even in such short, spare scenes.

Story I’d Like to See Expanded

“Josephus Miller” by Hallie Lambert (illustrated by Huang Danlan): Miller (and his hat) is one of my favorite character arcs in this series, so it was fun to get more of his background. Despite both being Belters, he and Naomi both had very different early lives. I wish we’d seen more of that in this story, rather than through the lens of adult Miller. Hopefully Corey gives us at least a novella about this at some point.

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

Review: Gesa’s Menagerie #2-#9 by Kaye Draper

Usually when I read series, I try to break them up with other books so that I don’t get burned out. But sometimes a series is less of a series and more of a really long epic book broken up into eight separate novellas. And sometimes I get sick and need to spend the day in bed and this long series of novellas is exactly what I need to feel better. So, instead of seven more separate reviews, here’s my full spoiler-free overview.

This was fun. A lot of fun. This is advertised as a reverse harem romance, so there are some fun sexy bits, but that often took a back seat to the intricate world building and deeper inter-character relationships. Gesa and every member of her pride are fully developed characters with their own personalities and arcs.

Ultimately, none of the characters are who you expect, and this includes fun secondary characters as well. The twists and revelations where enjoyable, and there’s even some well-crafted near-heartbreak along the way.

I’ve already jumped into another series by the author, and I’m looking forward to the promised spin-off to this one.

Overall rating: 5 (out of 5) stars.

Review: Gryphon’s Pride (Gesa’s Menagerie #1) by Kaye Draper

The author warns in the book description that this is “not your typical reverse harem.” I would also happily argue that this is not a typical romance or typical urban fantasy. With that combination, I was immediately sucked into the world-building, the plot, and the characters.

Gesa is the “strong female character” taken to the extreme, with height and muscles as her defining physical characteristics. However, I appreciate that this does not prevent her from embracing her sexuality. I look forward to seeing how the drama with her family progresses over this series.

Oisin is another traditional fantasy character taken to almost caricature levels — but it works, especially when Draper reveals tidbits of information that set this fae apart from expectations.

This is a novella rather than a novel, but the non-romance plot is thorough and well-executed. The relationship aspect feels like a natural part of the story. I immediately jumped into the next tale in this series, and I’m excited to see where this atypical adventure of all sorts goes.

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

Review: Homeworlds (SG-1/SGA Traveler’s Tales #3) edited by Sally Malcolm

Disclaimer: I am friends with the editor and multiple authors in this collection; I purchased a hardcopy of this book from one of the authors for full price.

Favorite Story

“The Mysteries of Emege” by Jo Graham: I could say that the ending of this story had enough emotional impact to bring me to tears and leave it at that. Graham brings Teyla and the Athosian people to life as they face an uncertain future. She doesn’t reduce them to a mono-culture that all wants the same thing, and the story also includes some subtle critique on the “colonizer” attitude of those from Earth, as well-meaning as it appears.

Story I’d Like to See Expanded

“Going Home” by Aaron Rosenberg: Plenty of Stargate SG-1 episodes featured Team O’Neill facing conflict on Earth, but I wish there could have been more “fish out of water” episodes bringing Team Sheppard to Earth in Stargate Atlantis. This story by Rosenberg fills that gap to humorous effect, especially with the opening scene. Though this story works as a stand-alone piece of story fiction, many questions are left unanswered that I’d love to see expanded on.

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

Review: The Bartered Brides (Elemental Masters #13) by Mercedes Lackey

I’m not going to lie. I significantly prefer the fairy tale retellings in this fantasy series to the Sherlock Holmes pastiches featuring Nan and Sara. I didn’t dislike this book, but I found myself not as invested in the main characters as I could have been. Both women gain new skills and mastery over their abilities, but that is the extent of the character development for them.

Things I did thoroughly enjoy about this book include the expansion of the magical system Lackey has created. I spotted some influence from previous projects here, and it works very well. There is also some subtle but amazing representation featuring one of the secondary characters that I literally cheered for during the final reveal. I also appreciate how Nan, Sara, and the Watsons employ era-appropriate (non-magical) crime-solving skills to search out the identity and motives of the villain.

Speaking of the bad guy, however, we spent way too much time with him. He’s not a sympathetic character and while all of the information and his experience were useful to the tale, I found those sections dragging. My final critique is the noticeable consistency issues surrounding some of the secondary characters that a more thorough edit might have caught.

Worth reading for fans of the series, but not a good place to jump into the middle. I hope the next Elemental Masters installment takes a break from Sherlock Holmes’ London and gives me another unique fairy tale to sink my teeth into.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

December Wrap-Up & January Goals

Another year, another decade. Welcome to the Roaring Twenties! I had an excellent holiday season, spending quality time with family and friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as productive as I’d like to have been.

A theme for 2019 was the seemingly never-ending battle with finding an anti-anxiety medication that works for me without side effects (and I keep winning the lottery for the really uncommon side effects). The medication I’ve been on for the past 6 months or so gave me incredibly vivid, absurd dreams every night. And no, none of them are good story fodder, hence the “absurd” descriptor. Lowering the dosage last month continued to manage my anxiety, but upped my levels of executive dysfunction (explaining the lack of productive time despite all my best intentions) and did not decrease the dreams. As of January 1, I’ve switched to a completely different medication class, so cross your fingers for me!

Here’s to a 2020 full of milestones, including writing the first draft of the FINAL full-length novel in the Steel Empires series. Which now has a title! Completing Steel Legacy will be bittersweet, but I’m looking forward to having a completed story arc and turning my attention to other projects I’m excited about.

December Wrap-Up

  • Despite some travel excitement into and out of Houston, Texas, for a day-job conference, I managed to complete and post my convention report for Starbase Indy 2019 in a relatively timely manner! You can catch up here.
  • The Steel Victory rewrite completion is in sight, despite my aforementioned productivity issues from last month. As a testament to how much I learned about writing during my time in graduate school, the final third or so of the book is much smoother than the beginning, which means I’m tweaking words rather than rewriting whole paragraphs. Overall, I’ve fallen in love with this story all over again.
  • Made some progress on the beta-reading project, and the end is in sight for that as well!
  • I survived the holidays, which included my birthday! This year, I rounded up my best (local) friends and subjected them to a medieval-themed escape room. We got out with less than 5 minutes to spare!

January Goals

  1. Complete Steel Victory rewrite, complete copy-edit of rewrite, and submit to editor.
  2. Beta-reading.
  3. Make at least two updates to the Worldbuilding section of my website, including adding more information to the Fan Cast page and launching another new section!

Luckily, I’m not traveling this month, which gives me four solid weekends of extra time!

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2019: A Year in Reading

This year, I wrote one (1) novel, wrote one (1) short story, revised most of (like, 80%) of another novel, and according to Goodreads, read 147 books. This means I won my Goodreads Challenge goal of 50 books.

Pretty cool, right?

Except Goodreads is weird, so it’s not quite 147 books. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • Novels: 98
  • Collections (single author): 2
  • Anthologies (multiple authors): 5
  • Graphic novels: 6
  • Short stories/Novellas: 20
  • Abandoned: 4

There are still 156 books on my To Be Read shelves. And that doesn’t include what’s sitting on my Kindle.

Here’s to more good books in 2020!

2019 Resolution Project: Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) 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.

This is my first time reading this novel. You can read my full review here.

An excerpt:

And then we arrive at the grand finale. No spoilers here, but it was everything I could have wanted from the final showdown between Kate and Roland—and then some. Events end with a massive twist and multiple unexpected outcomes, cementing this series as one I will recommend to urban fantasy fans for years to come.

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

2019 Resolution Project: Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant #1) 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.

This is my first time reading this novel, which the authors have advised should be read prior to reading Kate Daniels #10: Magic Triumphs. You can read my full review here.

An excerpt:

You might remember Hugh d’Ambray as Kate’s evil father’s right-hand man, leader of a killing force of monsters and responsible for a lot of pain in Kate’s life and those of her friends. He’s responsible for so much death and misery, so why would we be interested in reading a book starring him, much less a book that involves a romance?

This is where Andrews’ ability to create three-dimensional characters shines. Hugh and his Iron Dogs have failed Kate’s father too many times, and now they’re out of Roland’s protective sphere. What better way to create a redemption arc than through the romance novel trope of an arranged marriage with a strong and powerful woman?

And…it totally works. By the end of the book, I was cheering for Hugh’s survival.

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