2019 Resolution Project: Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) 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 this book, Magic Rises, before, but never officially reviewed it. You can find my full review here.

An excerpt:

In conclusion: Despite the dark moments (and there are plenty), Magic Rises brings this series to an entirely new level. The wins are greater, but so are the losses. This Kate is also unrecognizable from herself in the first book, but she’s a character I’d be proud to have on my side, no matter the fight.”

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

Review: The Invisible Library (Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

This book was filled to the brim with elements that I enjoy in my fantasy writing. Secret societies, parallel universes, dragons, steampunk, and great detectives. Unfortunately, it also relied on a lot of tropes that I’ve become less fond of in my fantasy writing, such as a point-of-view female character surrounded by supporting male roles, in which the only other woman is an adversary rather than an ally.

I enjoyed reading this book while I was reading it, but every time I had to put it down, I didn’t feel that strong urge to get back to it. Perhaps there was too much potential crammed into one book? I wanted to read about the Invisible Library. I wanted to read about the world Irene and Kai found themselves in. I wanted to read more about Irene and Kai, full stop. Instead so much time was spent on the convoluted politics of all of these things.

Often, I find myself judging the quality of a book by how anxious I am to pick up the next installment of the series. To find out at the end of this one that Irene might not be exploring other worlds connected to the Invisible Library after all left me less inclined to seek out The Masked City. Though I’d happily read it if it fell into my lap.

Cogman’s excellent writing and narrative suffered for her desire to do too much, which resulted in not much of anything to focus on. However, fans of The Magicians and The Chronicles of St. Mary’s should give this series debut a chance.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Broken News by Sara Dobie Bauer

Disclaimer: I am friends with the author; I received an ebook in exchange for an honest review.

It’s common to refer to the main characters in a romance story as the heroes, but there are no heroes in this book. Eric West is an unabashed crime lord, and Will fully admits to being a bit of a sociopath.

Together, they find love!

It’s a dark and twisted road getting there, full of lies, secrets from the past, violence, and murder. Though this book is a romance, it doesn’t necessarily read like a romance, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the dark moment had been the end of the book, full stop. This story is not an easy read, and probably nothing I’d have picked up on my own. But I have faith in this author’s way with language and ability to tell a tale, and in that regard, she does not disappoint.

This isn’t your typical love story, but fans of Sara Dobie Bauer should not miss this one.

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

Review: Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin #9) by Jordan L. Hawk

We’re back in Widdershins for Whyborne & Griffin’s latest adventure, but this time it’s the old families who are the targets. When Whyborne is accused of murder, he and his allies must not only clear his name, but also prevent the rise of a great evil.

Plenty of familiar faces appear in this story, including the return of the crazy English cousins. They’re still up to no good, but this time Whyborne is useful to them. I’m intrigued by the Endicotts, and wouldn’t mind a story dedicated to that branch of the family to get more of that perspective.

Despite the adventure and touches of romance, this is a horror series at heart. Which I always seem to forget, until weird creatures from some other dimension are eating someone’s face. In true Lovecraftian fashion, this story also features tentacles! Lots and lots of tentacles.

I’m not sure where this is the penultimate book in this series, but I’m excited to dive into the next one either way.

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

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I started reading romance novels in 2016, in large part due to the emotional chaos wrought by the American presidential election. Luckily, judging by McQuiston’s author note at the end of this novel, she saw a need in the general readership and persevered in filling it. This book is exactly what I needed as the 2020 election season ramps up, and I foresee myself reading it again more than once as an escape from future stress.

This book is not written necessarily as any sort of attempt at an alternate history utopia, but it is a fantastical “what might have been” (both in the United States and England). All of the characters are developed, well-rounded, and a different assortment of diverse. But it doesn’t read as forced diversity so much as a look at what our countries should be, and possibly, hopefully, will be one day.

Alex and Henry are a delightful pair along the full spectrum of their enemies to lovers journey. Their individual character arcs are also vivid and satisfying. Both men face so much internal and external pressure to just let things lie and take the easy way out, but I’m so glad that they didn’t, and that I got to go along for the ride.

I burned through this book on a single travel day, and ended up with the best sort of book hangover. I didn’t want the story to end. And I wanted to live in the world McQuiston created. Maybe one day I’ll get to.

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

September Wrap-Up & October Goals

What’s going on at Casa Siamese this month? My hair is partially purple, I still have no tattoos, and there’s a half-built LEGO set on my dining room table. I’m in the midst of multiple projects, I’m planning multiple trips, and I just ordered a ton of Girl Scout cookies. So, no complaints here. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

September Wrap-Up

  • I threw a cool party to celebrate the launch of Steel Shadows, my fifth published book. Thank you to everyone who made it out, and congratulations to those who won one of five great raffle baskets! Find pictures here.
  • Edits on the revised edition of book 1, Steel Victory, continue as planned. It’s amazing how much I’ve grown as a writer over the years, so I’m really thankful for this opportunity to update my first baby to something resembling my current skill level.
  • I’m almost done beta-reading one friend’s novel!
  • The spouse and I had a fantastic time at FanX Salt Lake City this year. Find my con report here.

October Goals

  1. Continue revisions for Steel Victory.
  2. Finish the current beta-reading project and get started on the next in the queue.
  3. Attend Capclave 2019 in Rockville, Maryland.

In Case You Missed It

They do not know they are too big to all fit comfortably on the window seat.

Review: The Dragon Mistress: Book 3 (Eburosi Chronicles #10) by R.A. Steffan

I burned through all of the books in this series very quickly, then had to wait months for this latest installment. I read it all the evening of the day it was released. It was worth the wait.

Like the previous books, Frella’s story contains nonstop action and adventure. Multiple relationships are in play. And Steffan manages to surprise me at every turn when I think I have an idea of how things are going to go. This was especially true in this story, where the final relationship between Frella and one of her companions did not evolve the way I thought it would, but it was still incredibly satisfying. We also get a reunion with multiple old friends that made me smile.

These elements lighten the darker moments of the book, which might be difficult for some readers. Everything is relevant to the plot and well-written, but Steffan does not shy away from the details.

Heed the warning at the beginning: The story ends in a hell of a cliffhanger. Tragedy strikes the characters, and I’d hold my breath to see how everything is resolved in the final conclusion, but that’s a long wait.

Catch up on this series so you can feel my pain.

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

Review: The 5th Gender (Tinkered Stars Mystery) by G.L. Carriger

As someone who regularly speaks at writing and fandom conventions about the topic of “genre blending” or “genre blurring” in contemporary writing, I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject. Carriger’s science-fiction/romance/mystery is certainly one that I will now hold up as a great example of how to blend things right.

This novel could not have worked without the science fiction elements. Carriger doesn’t spend a lot of time on the science of her space station or the politics of the greater universe, but she spends just the right amount of time on things such as alien biology and sociology, and how human biology and sociology both fit and clash where appropriate to the plot. They might be humanoid, but the galoi are truly alien in the ways that matter. Carriger also has fun with language, especially in Tristol’s point of view scenes, which were a delight to read.

The science fiction elements are also what make the mystery elements of this story possible. I hesitate to say more in fear of spoilers, but the mystery is both relevant to the alien nature of the galoi and utterly poignant to this human reader in view of current political issues so close to home.

And finally, the romance. Tristol and Drey are so freaking adorable that it made my teeth hurt — in a good way. I knocked half a star off this review because I felt their relationship might have evolved TOO quickly, but at the same time, there is no doubt that the characters are actually utterly perfect for each other.

This book should not be missed by Carriger fans, even though who are more comfortable in her historical and contemporary fantasy worlds. Her writing shines in this new arena, too.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Winter Tide (Innsmouth Legacy #1) by Ruthanna Emrys

I enjoyed and was intrigued by the original novella that set up this world, but the world created within intrigued me much more than the characters. However, I enjoyed it enough to pick up this novel to get it signed by the author at a convention, and I don’t regret any of the time spent reading it.

This book makes you look at time in a funny way, which is a reflection of Emrys’ effortless ability to bring not only the past but any entirely new world/religion/philosophy to life. Past, present, and future combine through the eyes of not only the point of view character but the variety of other characters in this book.

It should be noted that the book does not shy away from some difficult subject matter, specifically the Japanese internment of World War 2. However, the problematic aspects of Lovecraft’s original writings find no home in this author’s vision of elements of his creations. In fact, I was pleased that this book passes the Bechdel test on multiple levels, with other forms of representation existing as relevant color to the world rather than as tokens.

The story is a slow burn that sucks you and doesn’t let go until you’re surprised you’ve reached the ending. Again, I’d be okay if this is where the story ended. But I’m also so pleased that a sequel is available.

I shall definitely remember this book in the Archives.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

2019 Resolution Project: Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) 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 this companion book, Gunmetal Magic, before, but never officially reviewed it. You can find my full review here.

An excerpt:

“Importantly, Andrea is not a carbon copy of Kate. She has her own talents and abilities, which get her involved in the adventure of this book separate from her friendship with Kate. Throughout the book, she settles into her new life as private investigator, comes to terms with her relationship with both the local werehyena community (and a specific werehyena in particular), and begins to reconcile with her own heritage as a beastkin. Though romance is involved in this book, the real trial is within Andrea herself, which makes for a much, much better and more interesting read.”

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