Tag Archives: review

Experimental Post / Review from Goodreads / Cross-Posting

All right. If this makes sense to anyone, my blog is connected to my Goodreads page, but I took the Goodreads “latest reads” off my page because it wasn’t working (and I haven’t checked to see if it again). Just sticking something up there for Goodreads makes me feel as if I’m advertising for Amazon, which I may be since I’m not a “premium” member and on my end, I just see little bubbles stuck on my posts that say “an ad may be posted here.” So if anything particularly vile shows up, it wasn’t my idea, and please let me know. It might just spur me to spend, later, the money to go premium when I can afford it. That doesn’t mean to write in with imaginary strange products. I’m a good researcher, I’ll find out. It’s part of my job. Which I should be doing instead of this. But there’s this thing called “distraction” that keeps happening. I thought once I was diagnosed with ADD and went on medication (which spurred an earlier post), the distraction factor would drop considerably, but it hasn’t. What has happened, though, is that my memory is starting to get better again. I used to have a very good memory–could rattle off the whole cast to Danger UXB and other extremely useful things like that–truly, though, before cell phones, people could remember phone numbers (gasp, was it magic?). For years I haven’t been able to remember anything like that. Two-step verification on my computer? I’d have to go back and forth between my phone and whatever I was verifying, or write it down. And that is just six (6) numbers long. I realized yesterday I could just say the number out loud, then put it into the verify box without having to check it, and it was right. That might seem like a minor thing for some people–for me it is a minor miracle.

So, while still distractable and possibly practicing avoidance behaviors, my memory is getting better. And I remember what I’m supposed to be doing. So I can feel badly about it. :-/ I can remember a list of things in my head (short) that I need to do, get interrupted, go take care of whatever that is, then come back and continue what I’m doing. So, all in all, I’d have to say I’m still happy with the results, even if they’re not what I expected. I thought my memory was gone. Well, going. I’d also been given the diagnosis of cognitive impairment, which my brain may some day refute.

But, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because of the Goodreads thing. See, I didn’t forget. I just read a novella. Shorter than a novella–there’s a proper name for them, depending on which publishing company you’re referring to. We’ll just call it a novella. I read it really quickly. I’m behind on how many books I need to read to meet my goal this year–novellas count! They can’t all be Dickens or Tolstoy. That’s special for you, Anil. 馃檪

So, I was writing this review of this novella that started to get a little silly, and I looked over next to it and there was a box containing all the HTML to embed it in your post. I know very, very little HTML. Enough to get italics, bold, and when I was still posting, pictures and links. That’s as sophisticated as I ever got, and that was with cheating and cutting and pasting from the HTML menu Goodreads has next to its comments box. That’s the whole purpose of this, one long and three short paragraphs later.

To Sin with ScandalTo Sin with Scandal by Tamara Gill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, quick read that’s the perfect length (no pun intended) when you’re distracting yourself from things you’re supposed to be doing but aren’t. I thought the writing was well-paced, I liked Miranda’s character–I can’t say I would have disagreed with her choices at the age she made them. Merrick makes his case logically later on, but he’s the only one who knows all the facts, therefore the only one who knows the truth of his side. But then, as they both see themselves as the injured party, as seems to happen often in these situations (and what makes the difference of opinions so interesting–they are often justified from each person’s perspective). I hope that isn’t a spolier. I like that mispelling. Is that the French version of a spoiler? It sounds like something more to do with mushrooms, actually. No mushrooms in the story. If they had started talking mycology, I think it would have been something more…steampunky.

I also thought Miranda’s experience in her marriage would not have been unusual for a woman in the early 1800’s (or at any time? Okay, now I’m being snarky)–providing the bread and butter for men in Merrick’s…um…career? Is that something one decides as a child? “Mummy, I want to be a rake when I grow up.””That’s nice, dear.” And mothers everywhere despaired of their sons growing up to become gardening implements. Calling them plows would have been a bit too obvious.

I will say that taking the break to read this has greatly improved my mood, so thank you, Ms. Gill. It was very nice to see a woman know what she wants and forge ahead. Full steam ahead. That can be taken any way one prefers.

View all my reviews

Okay, it works when you use “text” mode instead of “visual” mode. And the ad was for WordPress. That I don’t mind so much. They let me do all I do here now for free, which I greatly appreciate. And I’ve actually stuck with it, which surprises me. The regularity of posts has increased, possibly with the increase of feeling increasingly chatty lately. I think that means I’m less depressed than I was. Guessing.

At that, I think I’ll call it a night, but I feel obliged to supply some interesting things to look at now. I loved the clouds. Science is Beauty is a very cool site.
http://scienceisbeauty.tumblr.com/

On Tumblr, the blog is much smoother.

Head of a Woman Artist: Max Buri Year: 1896

Head of a Woman
Artist: Max Buri
Year: 1896

Title: Sunil Gupta: The New Pre-Raphaelites 7 Artist: Sunil Gupta Year: 2008 Grosvenor Gallery

Title: Sunil Gupta: The New Pre-Raphaelites 7
Artist: Sunil Gupta
Year: 2008
Grosvenor Gallery

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Good Things

I was thinking that I normally just have posts about negative references to individuals with disabilities, and I was reading a book (mock me if you will, you know you want to read it, even if you won’t admit it, because they’re fun!) by Tessa Dare and I realized I don’t do the opposite. Probably because I don’t come across them as often. I’ll put the book info at the bottom since I have this ongoing thing with inserting pictures into my posts where the text doesn’t cooperate with the picture, but I copied the message I sent to Ms. Dare:

Dear Ms. Dare,

I just finished reading “Any Duchess Will Do,” which I happened to like quite a lot (especially the peculiar knitted things).

I should back up just a little, though. I worked with individuals with disabilities for eleven years, and when I’m reading a book, if I come across any words that are considered derogatory toward those individuals, I will usually stop reading it, write the author, write a review, post it on my blog, and sometimes even write the publisher. This seems to be happening more often, unfortunately, especially in young adult books.

I realized that I’ve been concentrating on the negative half, and not the positive side, which deserves just as much recognition. I thought your portrayal of Daniela was particularly well done and very accurate. I’ve worked with people similar to her, and I could relate to her as an individual in your book, not just some person stuck in for the sake of the story. I also liked her relationship with Pauline, because I’ve seen brothers and sisters become extremely protective of their siblings with disabilities. Thank you for making Daniela a real character.

I know I’ve read other books by you, but this one is particularly fun, and definitely the first I’ve read where the strong and handsome duke has been kidnapped by his mother. I will definitely be recommending your books to others I know who like to read romance.

Very sincerely,
Wendy Clements

I do mean all of this–I enjoyed reading this book. The heroine, Pauline, is strong and funny, the Duke extremely confused and angsty, and I don’t think I’ve liked a character’s mother more. I highly recommend Any Duchess Will Do. There were many parts that made me laugh out loud.

Speaking of laughing out loud, I also just finished another two books, these in the M/M Romance category, that I read on my kindle but, when I have the money, I am going to buy in paperback simply because I liked them that much. They are extremely well written, the characters are extremely engaging, and the setting is historical–an off-kilter Victorian with a Lovecraftian background (one of the main characters, Whybourne, attended Miskatonic University, and there is a town of Arkham, although it hasn’t entered into the story). It’s just there enough to justify the oddness of what happens and make it creepily real. Oh. The books? The first is Widdershins, and the second is Threshold. The series is Whybourne and Griffin, the two main characters, although one of Whybourne’s wonderfully interesting colleagues is also involved much of the time. The really good news is that the third in the series is coming out December 3rd, 2013. Just to give a brief layout, Whybourne is a shy, retiring man, who has repressed his urges and attraction toward men all of his life. He attended Miskatonic to study Philology (linguistics, in the sense of historical languages, in his case, as well as some modern, and how they relate culturally–he also breaks ciphers). He speaks thirteen languages, but reads more (that’s important). A murder case comes up involving the museum he works at, and an ex-Pinkerton turned detective, Griffin, turns up to ask Whybourne some questions. They are instantly attracted to one another, and it’s fun and interesting to see Whybourne come out of his shell. His friend, Christine, his only real friend, also works at the museum as an archeologist who has just made an extremely important discovery in Egypt of a tomb which has been moved to the museum. If I’ve made it sound boring, it’s not. Really. I’ve added the series to my favorites on Goodreads, and Jordan L. Hawk has become one of my favorite authors. These books really stand out among many of the other M/M Romances, especially if you like the paranormal. And, oddly, it was partially the covers that drew me to them. They are elegant in their simplicity, and–gasp!–there are no half naked men. What can I say, I find Victorian suits a turn-on. One thing I think many cover designers have forgotten is sometimes half the fun is taking things聽off. It was just a very refreshing change. Not that I mind seeing half-naked men, but say you worked in a chocolate shop and could eat all the chocolate you wanted. Eventually, believe it or not, you would get sick of it. You might want some toffee or a lemon bar. Or cheescake, and that is not meant in any other way. Sometimes cheesecake is just cheesecake.

On that note, I think I’ll just put the covers up here, hopefully with the cover artist’s blessing, since I’ve done it before, and it is more exposure for them (I don’t mean the way in the above paragraph, either). Good grief.

Any Duchess Will Do

Kindle: $4.74

Paperback: $5.39

Series: Spindle Cove (#4)

Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Avon (May 28, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0062240129

ISBN-13: 978-0062240125

Widdershins

Kindle: $4.99

Paperback: $10.09

Audiobook: $17.95

(Prices from Amazon)

Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Volume 1)

Paperback: 226 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 15, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1482528150

ISBN-13: 978-1482528152

Threshold

Kindle: $4.99

Paperback: $10.70

(both prices from Amazon)

Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Volume 2)

Paperback: 170 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 20, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1490964630

ISBN-13: 978-1490964638

 

Addedum to the Jungle, via IGN

IGN, a ‘gaming site aimed at 18-34 year old men, attracts over 40 million unique visitors monthly to their site worldwide’, according to the “About Us” section of their website. 40 million unique visitors. That’s a lot.

They have recently instituted some changes to their forums, which I thought was timely considering my last post. If they can attempt this at a site of their magnitude, there’s no reason it can’t be attempted at Goodreads, or even Amazon, given they have the people to do it, and do it fairly. I think it’s extremely interesting, and something to think about.

Here’s the link the the article at IGN:

http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/07/12/changing-the-comments-at-ign

Here’s the article, written by IGN’s Head Editor, Steve Butts:

Changing the Comments at IGN

IGN announces new moderation guidelines.

So there’s this problem with IGN. A lot of the comments lately have been terrible.

Horrifying is probably more like it.

While most IGN comments are respectful and productive, we’ve let the abusive comments get to a point where they dominate our discussions. When even just one hostile comment is enough to ruin an entire thread, we’ve got to take our job as curators of our site more seriously. The best way to create an appetite is to feed it and, by letting these abusive comments live on IGN, we’ve been encouraging more of the same. It’s long past time for that to stop.

Some of what we’re dealing with is an extension of the trash-talking that’s part of a competitive gaming culture. Some of it is just the bold lack of empathy that the facelessness of the internet allows. Some of it is just the natural tendency of some people to find happiness in making other people miserable. The excitement over next-gen consoles and the increasing popularity of games in general means that we’re seeing more new users on the site each and every day. When you add all those factors together, it’s clear we need to pay more attention to our interactions with each other.

With that in mind, we’ve revised our community moderation guidelines and brought on several new moderators. As Editor-in-Chief, I’ve also made it clear to the entire content team that moderating comments and positively confronting abuse is a critical part of our jobs. All of us — staff, moderators, and community included — have to lead by example. No longer can we simply throw our hands up and suggest that cleaning up IGN comments is someone else’s responsibility, or worse, pointless to even try.

We’ve written new guidelines for the IGN comment culture and moderation, which are going into effect immediately. They outline what we don’t allow. Take them seriously and hold us all, readers and staff alike, accountable for their enforcement. Positively confront and report abuse where you see it. I promise I’ll be doing the same.

Will that mean we won’t tolerate disagreement or fiery debates? Not at all. We’re an audience of advocates who come to IGN because we feel passionately about certain platforms, products, and philosophies. Being able to express and defend those tastes is part of why we’re here. Articulate disagreements about those tastes are a healthy and necessary part of those interactions. The comment guidelines aren’t meant to stop that.

The problem comes when a disagreement stops being about the merits of the argument and starts being about the people making it. It’s okay for us to disagree with each other, but we won’t tolerate abuse and threats disguised as disagreement. We also won’t tolerate ad hominem attacks, where you insult a person’s character or identity merely because you don’t like that they鈥檙e not the same person as you. None of us are perfect, and we all have bad days, of course, but we can’t let a difference of opinion devolve into being nasty to each other.

This change starts today. I’d like to say the change will be instant, but it won’t. It will take time as we discover and encourage new habits in each other. I’d like to say that the change will be absolute, but it won’t be that either. It will take constant attention and thoughtful reinterpretation. What I can say is that the change will be worth the effort.

If you have any questions about any of this or want to know how you can help, please sound off in the comments below, or reach out to me or our Community Manager, Sean Allen.

Steve Butts is IGN鈥檚 editor-in-chief. Keep up with him @SteveButts on Twitter or SteveButts on IGN. Do not follow him down the streets of San Francisco.

Kiss That Frog–I Dare You. No, I Double-Dare You! Review: Oil & Water by Goesta Struve-Dencher

Oil & Water

by Goesta Struve-Dencher
ebook, 74 pages, FREE
Published June 18th 2013 by M/M Romance Group @ goodreads

Oil and Water Cover

******************
This is the tale of a nerdy young man, Enzo, and a man who would make the Gods proud, Jericho. Enzo lusts after Jericho, who is a straight and mermaid conquering man as any other…straight and mermaid conquering man. They both have special powers which make them extremely special men. There is a description of the story on Goodreads which explains the situation much more succinctly than I can, given my tendency to go on and on and digress.

Commencement of Review-ish Observations and Comments

While I was confused in a few places as to whose mind I was in, I realized that in some ways it didn’t really matter–Enzo and Jericho were experiencing a sense of twinning of identities so they were literally melded together. Those are the places where it’s important to know that it’s Jericho’s mind that is the dominant mind.

The amusing part is that Enzo is presented as the “puppy dog”– a clumsy, get-in-your-way, adorable, ball of wriggling fur (without the fur–no shifters here) with melty chocolate eyes–innocent and adolescent in his fawning over Jericho. His lust for Jericho is obvious. Jericho is, after all, Neptune risen from the sea, strong, bold, and a conqueror of women. It’s that last bit that causes the problem for Enzo.

Just what does define sexuality? Preference of the sex of the object of your desire? Whom one is invariably attracted to? Women, men, both, neither, trans*? That’s vague, but just use however you define your own sexuality in reading that.

Jericho, while exuding masculinity, is a gentle soul with the power to heal through his touch (darn it, Platters, return from whence you came). He is indubitably (uh-oh, watch out, I used an adverb) straight, and finds it difficult to give Enzo his treatments knowing Enzo is very up for them and finds them quite relieving. Jericho is extremely patient with this.

I’m just giving a summary, this isn’t a review. Okay, to get the ball rolling again, Enzo is not quite the innocent he looks to be. Behind those puppy-dog melty browns are the calculating eyes of a Jack Russell Terror (okay, maybe terriers are known more for their tenaciousness than for their intelligence–that works too). Tenacious is actually more apt. In a blissed out moment, Enzo kisses Jericho, and sparks fly. Literally.

Jericho discovers he’s not quite as straight as he thought. At least, in this story, not with Enzo. In seeing Enzo’s true essence, his “Enzo-ness,” Jericho sees himself as well, his sexual identity, and realizes he loves Enzo as well; Jericho’s true essence that Jericho has been unable to see in himself despite his ability to see it in others.

The reference to the frog prince is very clever, reversed to suit the sexuality of the story–taking an old, familiar tale and turning it on its head. Ribbet, indeed.

A kiss still has power, the power to transform, the power to bring to the surface what is hidden. After all, how many fairy tales involve kissing? So go ahead. Next time you see one, kiss that frog.

Frog PrinceImage from: http://fairytalesbytempleton.blogspot.com

Peridot Dragon Garnet eye

Keeping the Castle (Review)

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Keeping the Castle
by
Patrice Kindl
Hardcover,聽261 pages
Published June 14th 2012 by Viking Childrens Books
ISBN
0670014389聽(ISBN13:聽9780670014385)

My Goodreads review:

I have to admit that I am not entirely sure if this book deserves four stars or five. Maybe it is just four. But I have been having a couple of those days where my mood is just all over the map, and I simply feel worn out, and now I do actually feel better after finishing this. 聽This little book (and it is little, and it looks pretty) is funny, very much like Jane Austen, and while it does have it’s tense, wondering what’s going to happen moments, it has a certain degree of freedom in its reality–e.g. a certain character having a child from an unapproved marriage (by her parents), and presents the idea of not marrying and being able to do what one truly wants to–such as following artistic endeavors.

*****Some spoilers*****
There are a lot of Austen-like references–Pride and Prejudice and Emma are the two that pop to mind first. I liked Mr. Fredericks from the start simply because he seemed to be the only one that was looking at the world who wasn’t wearing rose-tinted glasses and saw things for what they were, and also because he was kind to Alexander. So did Althea, but she was still caught up in the necessity for marriage, trying to arrange things she thought would help but didn’t, and in some cases making things worse–things started to get a little out of control. Much like the castle, with all of its jutting turrets and odd angles, Althea is trying to fit into a world she doesn’t quite understand–all the knows is that she needs to marry for money to keep Crooked Castle. But what, really, is the point of keeping such a monstrosity, as eccentric and endearing as it may be? All she and her mother have been doing, their whole lives, it to pour money into this decrepit thing, which, as Mr. Fredericks pointed out, doesn’t have a strong enough foundation to even stand on.

Getting into my symbolism mode here, I think Crooked Castle could be used as a metaphor for marriages where the two people don’t have much in common. They try to make it work, and it gets edges and goes off in all directions. If they can keep the big storms at bay, maybe the foundation with survive. Maybe the Baron (Boring lol) and Charity will be able to succeed in their marriage as neither of them are particularly deep thinkers. Miss Vincy will work things out. Althea and her Mother will both be happy. I loved the fact that Mr. Fredericks proposes to Althea as Crooked Castle is continuing to crash over the cliff a little bit at a time–a few chairs, other bits of things. As the impossible thing Althea was trying to save is destroyed, a whole new life opens up for her, one far more pleasant than living in a leaky, damp, drafty, cold castle.

New Review in Reviews Section

Review for聽Summerset Abbey.

My Favorite Books of 2012

I should probably add some notes here, various caveats, etc.鈥攖hese are definitely based on my tastes, which I don鈥檛 expect others to necessarily like. Some are truly meant to be read as adult books, some as YA, but there is such a crossover between the two genres (sometimes it鈥檚 interesting to go into a bookstore with some specific titles in mind that you think are YA and see if they show up in the adult section as well). I鈥檝e been an a bit of a Steampunk kick this year, but there aren鈥檛 as many on here as I would have thought. I think it鈥檚 partially because I鈥檓 not looking in the right places, and some of the ones I鈥檝e been finding that are fairly decent are just Kindle books. I did read some series that I hadn鈥檛 heard about before until the latest one was released, so that was fun鈥攎ore fun than reading the first one in a series and knowing you have to wait a year or more for the second one. I鈥檝e starred the ones I really liked a lot. These are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference鈥攊t was easier than flipping through the sheets I printed out.

After further consideration and the realization that, as usual, things were getting longer than they should be, possibly without imparting any useful information, I’m going to post this in installments. That means, I suppose, if you are interested, you can read them, or if not, just look at the titles of the posts and skip the ones regarding my books of 2012 (I’ve never done anything like this, so I don’t really know what I’m doing and just going about it my own way). I started it as a table in a Word file, which is why it looks like a side bar from a science textbook. 聽The ones I’m including are the ones I really, truly liked (there are quite a few that I liked, but not enough to put down as something that would reveal to the world the inner workings of my soul and what books effect it. It’s a little confusing, but I decided to list all of the books in the series, either because I read all of them this year, or I read the last book in the series this year and wanted to list the previous books. They are all books I either gave four or five stars to on Goodreads. I don’t tend to give many books five stars, so I was surprised at the number of books I did–there are some very good books, I thought, that came out this year.

When I’m finished with the more in-depth ones, I’ll just list the rest I liked enough to mention, just so they don’t feel left out. 馃檪

So, some of you may shudder, some may be slightly interested–here is the first installment of my best books for 2012, in all its World-tabled glory.

Title Author My (hopefully) Brief Comments
Series: Magnificent Devices

#1: Lady of Devices

#2: Her Own Devices

#3: Magnificent Devices

Adina, Shelley Steampunk, adventure, urchins (street, that is, not the purple spikey ones).
The third in the series is out, I just haven鈥檛 finished it yet. I liked this series because the protagonist is a strong female, there is a nice cast of characters, the plot moved fairly quickly, and there are little twists and turns that keep it interesting. The world is very believable. The inclusion of a group of former street urchins/pickpocketers/thieves that she is trying to reform so they can get real work鈥攖hey鈥檙e all pretty bright kids鈥攊s interesting because she takes it upon herself and is willing to work at it until they trust her. There is even a flying chicken in a box. Truly.
Series: Ephemera

#1: Sebastian

#2: Belladonna

#3: Bridge of Dreams**

Bishop, Anne Fantasy, magic, evil forces trying to take over the world.
BoD was the one I read this year. I have to admit that the Black Jewels series is my favorite of Anne Bishop鈥檚, and it took awhile for these to grow on me. A series where world-building is literally taking place in the author鈥檚 world-building鈥攖he realm has been split apart and can only be connected through magically constructed bridges that don鈥檛 always take you where you think they will, but sometimes to where you deserve to go. Only certain people have these powers. Sebastian, Belladonna, and, in the third book, Belladonna鈥檚 brother Lee. Wizards are trying to upset her power and her bridges are disappearing, so he sacrifices himself and ends up in an asylum. It sounds odd, I thought so at first as well. I liked this one enough that it made me reconsider the first two and want to read them again all in order.
The Dark Unwinding Cameron, Sharon Steampunk, historical, first in series.
I was really pleased with this one鈥攊t鈥檚 the first in a trilogy (of course). Catherine Tulman lives with her aunt and cousin in London, where she is basically her aunt鈥檚 accounting slave. Her cousin is set to inherit everything, and she is constantly reminded of that fact and she is only allowed there at his generosity (little brat). Her aunt becomes concerned that her uncle, on whom their financial legacy rests, is becoming unhinged and is spending all of his (their) money, so she sends Catherine to see just how crazy he is and wants him placed in an asylum. She discovers that he isn鈥檛 crazy, just eccentric, and a brilliant inventor of these interesting little steampunkish creations. And clocks, he loves clocks. Unlike the other estates in the area, he has moved all of his workers into the walled area of his estate and takes care of them. He and Catherine take to each other immediately, and she knows there is no possible way she can commit him to an asylum鈥攊t wouldn鈥檛 be fair to him or to the people he takes care of. In the meantime, as with all geniuses, there are those who would pray on his innocent eccentricities and steal his work. Catherine falls in love with one of the young men who live on the property鈥攈er uncle simply takes lost people in and provides for them. I liked Catherine as a character鈥攕he is young and not always sure what is best or what to do, but she鈥檚 not sure how else to do things. She has been so stifled living with her aunt, her aunt has managed to suck most of the curiosity and interest in life out of her, but it鈥檚 still there, and it reawakens at her uncle鈥檚. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one in this series
Dragonswood**

Dragon鈥檚 Keep

Carey, Janet Lee Fantasy, YA, witch trials, rival princes who are brothers, dragons, good plot twists.
Dragonswood fooled me completely with it鈥檚 cover. It鈥檚 a beautiful cover, but it looked so much like many of the other covers for YA romancy-type novels I thought that was what it was going to be. I was instead surprised by the plot, which was sometimes horrific (witch hunts), to the Dragonswood itself, where there lives, well, a real dragon. Dragonswood is guarded by a warden, who turns out to be the younger prince鈥攈is older brother is away fighting in some war. Their father has died, and everyone is waiting for the older prince to return home. Meanwhile, the truce between dragons, humans, and the fey is becoming strained as humans start to forget about the importance of the interrelationship between the three races. The treasure from the castle has been stolen and no one knows by whom or where it is. Tess is a good foil for the younger prince as they challenge each others鈥 beliefs (she was accused of witchcraft and threw herself in the nearby lake after finding out her two friends had been tortured and had said she was a witch). She was rescued from the lake by tortoises and a dragon. The royalty share kinship with the dragons, so far as to actually have, in some cases (as in the younger prince) actual spots where there are scales instead of skin. This is considered an abomination. The plot becomes more complicated when the older prince returns鈥攊t turns out the woman heading the inquisitions, burning of villages and witches鈥攊s the woman he was in love with. The characters were fairly well developed, especially Tess and Garth, and Garth proves to be a worthy adversary to his older brother in terms of getting what he wants to protect the woods where the dragons live. If I鈥檇 been reviewing these as I鈥檇 read them, I鈥檇 remember more details, but I liked this one and it鈥檚 prequel, Dragon鈥檚 Keep, quite a bit (in the latter, the princess is born with one whole finger as a dragon鈥檚 claw instead of a finger, and she鈥檚 forced to wear gloves to cover it, as well as go through all sorts of awful treatments her mother鈥檚 advisors think might get rid of it). I think she鈥檚 Garth鈥檚 grandmother鈥擨 don鈥檛 remember the exact connection. The strongest themes are tolerance for other being (including other humans) and to accept differences鈥攖here isn鈥檛 necessarily anything wrong with difference, it鈥檚 just鈥ifferent.
Series: Fire and Thorns**

#1: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

#2: The Crown of Embers

Carson, Rae YA, coming-of-age, subterfuge and plots against the main character, family relationships
These are pretty amazing books. Elisa, the heroine of the books, makes an incredible transformation from the beginning of the first book, where she is a chunky, still growing, still learning and not very self-confident girl, to one who can deal with whatever gets tossed at her, mostly because she鈥檚 stubborn, doesn鈥檛 want to get teased, and wants to prove she can do what everyone else can. So, while she bewails her fate at having to leave her father鈥檚 home where there are no challenges and life is easy, leaving is the best thing that could have happened to her. She is very close to her nurse, Ximena, who is truly her best advisor. Elisa faces bloody violence, the subterfuges of court, a husband who doesn鈥檛 love her and who keeps a mistress openly, kidnapping, and a whole host of problems she doesn鈥檛 know how to deal with, surrounded by people she doesn鈥檛 know and unsure of who to trust. An interesting issue that I only remember being brought up in one other book that I am trying to remember is the fact that part of Elisa鈥檚 transformation is brought about by tramping through the desert after being kidnapped. As she comes more to terms with who she is and what she can do, she loses the weight, it serves almost as literal emotional baggage. Even though she鈥檚 鈥渁cceptably thin鈥 at the end (a little annoying) it鈥檚 because she鈥檚 gone through a transformation. Princess Ben鈥攖hat鈥檚 the other one, a sort of fairy tale, that deals with the princesses鈥 weight issue, especially when her parents die and she has to learn how to run the kingdom鈥攆or her, food serves much the same purpose as it does Elisa鈥攃omfort. Small deviation there, just remembered that. CoE concentrates more on what it鈥檚 like for Elisa to rule, and how she continues to grow and learn through her experience. I think I forgot to mention she has a godstone in her belly button, which makes some villainous type people want her for the sole reason she does. They want the godstone, not her necessarily attached to it. They are both very good reads, the middle book doesn鈥檛 suffer the 鈥渕iddle child鈥 syndrome, and the third, I think, is coming out the end of this year (The Bitter Kingdom?).
Series: Graceling Realm**

#1: Graceling

#2: Fire

#3: Bitterblue

Cashore, Kristin YA, coming-of-age/coming to terms with one鈥檚 own Graces and how to use them, friendship, coming of age, attempting to rule when everyone around you seems to be insane.
I鈥檒l start with the fact that I think these are some of my favorite books ever. I didn鈥檛 think I would like them as much as I did, with them switching characters and such, but I did. And Katsa and Po and their friends all show up in Bitterblue. Fire turns up at the end, much older than she was in Fire. Bitterblue is about waking up from a nightmare, both while awake and asleep, that has spread over the realm for the previous 35 years while Bitterblue鈥檚 father, Leck, was King. He is one of the most twisted, cruel, and inhumane characters, as is revealed through the course of the book, I think I鈥檝e ever seen. He reminds me of a mad neo-nazi scientist. He had the power to control what everyone thinks, so for the entirety of his reign, used this power to convince everyone that things were fine, while in reality he was forcing his main advisors to do terrible things and then making them forget they did it. These are the same advisors Bitterblue has when she becomes queen, and she knows there is something wrong with the way they act, the way they hide her away in her tower and inundate her with paperwork. They don鈥檛 want her to find out any of the truth, and if she leaves the castle, she might. So, what would any frustrated, thwarted young queen do who believes everyone is lying to her do? She sneaks out of the castle at night and starts to learn the truth, which is dangerous. She starts to question her advisors, who either go blank, have an attack of the nerves, go get drunk, or simply leave. Bitterblue discovers just how deep the lies go, and how they are still being perpetuated by her own advisors. She鈥檚 a strong character by the end, and has her friends to help support her. Cashore鈥檚 writing is smooth and brilliant as it was for the first two, and the relationships between the characters are believable and at times heart-wrenching. While they are trying to topple other kingdoms with bad rulers, she is counting on them to help her save hers. The old starts to fall away and Bitterblue is able to replace and fill positions with younger people who will be better able to rule the realm she wants it to be鈥攚ith an educated populated that isn鈥檛 mistreated by their lords. There are some really interesting characters鈥擠eath, the librarian (it鈥檚 pronounced Deeth, he insists) and his cat are unforgettable, and it鈥檚 endearing the way he helps Bitterblue when he realizes she isn鈥檛 like her father, ready to fling books into the fire, but values them as much as he does. I was sad to see this series end, but I鈥檓 curious as to what Cashore will come up with next.
Series: The Seven Realms**

#1: The Demon King

#2: The Exiled Queen

#3: The Grey Wolf Throne

#4: The Crimson Crown

Chima, Cinda Williams YA, different kinds of magic (earth magic and the kind learned at school), resolving differences between groups of people who have a common tie in Raisa, the realization that when you鈥檙e the one in charge with the power, sometimes you鈥檙e the loneliest one because of that.
Another ending series, the whole of which was altogether enjoyable. The Crimson Crown is the culmination of a lot of groundwork in the first three novels of the series. Raisa is now about to be crowned queen, both of the nobles and the clans. Neither side is sure of the other, as the nobles don鈥檛 trust the clans and the clans don鈥檛 trust magic, even the few of their own who have studied it and are accomplished wizards. All three sides compete to present a possible husband for Raisa, who only loves one man, who only loves her鈥擧an Alister, a man taken in by her father, head of an important clan, who sends Han to learn to be a wizard. He doesn鈥檛 want Raisa to marry Han, he wants her to marry someone else he has chosen to take over the clan after him, Windwalker. And the wizards want her to marry Micah Bayer, another Wizard鈥攖he Bayers have been ruling over the Wizards for a very long time, and there are some that would be more than happy to see them overturned. The Wizards and the clan refuse to trust each other until they have no choice and are betrayed from within by their own commander, and then enemies to the East. Their leader also wants to, you guessed it, marry Raisa. She鈥檚 gotten to be awfully popular. She knows with fair certainty that the men, other than Han, want to marry her to use her as a pawn, and at times she鈥檚 not too certain of Han, either. When you end up under siege in your own castle, I鈥檇 be pretty suspicious of everyone as well. This is an excellent conclusion, where good pretty much triumphs and evil pretty much loses, but not without losses and a good deal of grey remaining. The air is so thick with lies at times it鈥檚 almost palpable, and while we鈥檙e reminded that Raisa is still queen with responsibilities to think of what鈥檚 best for everyone, she鈥檚 heartbroken at the same time, and it takes a lot of prodding from her friends to get her out of her sorrow and into a place where she can make decisions again. Raisa learns how truly difficult it is to keep peace, which is all she wants, when there are so many opposed to her who are ready to battle each other at a moment鈥檚 notice, even her own family. The writing is strong, characters are well developed (I actually did feel sorry for Micah Bayer in parts鈥擨 do think he wanted to break away from his father, he just didn鈥檛 have the strength), but changeable as they need to be in order to try to accomplish what they need to do, whether it be supporting Raisa or the enemy. Or an enemy that isn鈥檛 known to be an enemy who鈥檚 supporting Raisa鈥The Crimson Crown felt much more complicated than the ones before it in the series. It had to fill in a lot of gaps from the past, break long held beliefs on the clan鈥檚 part, and still end up with Raisa prevailing. Well, hopefully. One relationship that is definitely intriguing is the one between Han and Crow, which progresses significantly. Altogether, I feel satisfied with the conclusion, not left hanging anywhere, and will have to read them all back to back at some point so I get everything instead of having read them over the course of four years.
Series: Avian Shifters**

#1: Duck!

#2: Magpie

Dare, Kim Adult, m/m relationships, character growth and maturing, finding one鈥檚 place in the world, interesting system of hierarchy depending on avian shifted form.
In a serious shift (no pun intended) from the earlier books on this list, both of these are m/m romances with some BDSM in them. I thought they sounded a little odd, but I generally trust the opinions of the person who recommended them on Goodreads, and she was right about these. Granted, you have to be interested in m/m romances, which I am鈥擨 say because I have gay characters in my novels, but I鈥檓 actually starting to like the well-written ones because they鈥檙e just as good as anything else out there, they鈥檙e just a very marginalized niche genre. What initially fascinated me about these two books is the way the avian society is organized. They live mostly in human form, but they know, usually, what species of bird they are going to be from when they are young to when they shift officially to avian form for the first time in front of the council. In the case of Ori, the submissive character in Duck!, he doesn鈥檛 know what he is; he was raised among humans, only learned he was a shifter about six months earlier, and has been dubbed an ugly duckling, occupying the lowest rung in the nest. Each species has a specific task, and since no one knows what he is, he鈥檚 given menial tasks where he is tormented by his co-workers (crows, I think it was in this case). They are caught red-handed when they have thrown dishes at Ori, who is trying to clean them up, when a high ranking Hawk happens to be passing by, Raynaud. In an interesting part of their culture, all species have their species sign tattooed on their wrists that they use as a form of introduction, and everyone immediately knows where the others stand. Ori doesn鈥檛 have a tattoo, because no one knows what he is. Raynaud takes him to work at his home, and their master/slave relationship commences. Where Reynaud is very sure of himself and his place, Ori is in constant motion, always cleaning things and fixing things, expecting to be passed along to another 鈥渙wner鈥 at any time. They end up falling in love, and when the time comes for Ori to shift in front of the council, he shifts into a very rare Swan, the highest ranking of all the avian species. Immediately, he is whisked to the palace and given a huge living space which makes him extremely uncomfortable鈥攊n fact, the whole thing makes him uncomfortable. He just wants things to go back to the way they were with Raynaud. Raynaud, in the meantime, is going through a period of guilt that he was treating Ori as a possession when he was a Swan, a King. Ori doesn鈥檛 care. Finally the council agrees to let Reynaud work with Ori, basically to make sure he keeps himself out of danger, and their relationship continues under that guise. Magpie starts a little later than Duck!鈥擨鈥檓 not entirely sure how long, because Ori is much more sure of himself in this one, but he isn鈥檛 a main character, more of a very influential side character. The two main characters are Everet (who is briefly seen as a character helping Ori once he becomes King in Duck!), a Raven who is part of the security team for the nest, and Kane, a drug-addicted young Magpie who will do literally anything for his next fix, and has been for the bulk of his teenage years. They meet when Everet is called to bring Kane in for thievery, at the request of the owner鈥檚 club he was 鈥渨orking鈥 in. Kane has been beaten horribly, and looks on the brink of death. Everet tells the Elders he will take responsibility for rehabilitating Kane, which they think is impossible and a waste of time. Magpies will always steal. Kane takes more steps backward than he does forward, and is a huge challenge for Everet, who is unwilling to give up on him鈥攅arly on because he thinks Kane has potential, and as the novel progresses, because he starts to fall in love with him. Kane continues to frustrate until Everet finds a solution, at least temporarily, of him spending time working on the cleaning crews, because Kane loves to clean things to make them sparkle. He does so well that eventually Everet has a huge surprise for him鈥攈e takes him down to a vault, where Ori is waiting, and in the vault is all the silver from the nest, silverware, teapots, everything. If Kane does well at his job, then he can come and polish silver with Ori, who has a hard time not being able to clean anything in his position as King of the Nest. Kane and Ori start to become friends, and Kane realizes he doesn鈥檛 have to steal, all of his treasure is right here. His family turns up and tries to ruin things for him, things don鈥檛 look so good for awhile, then he is saved by Renaud, Ori, and Everet. I like that the characters work hard (even when they don鈥檛 want to, which is probably why they end up having problems again) but even when they screw up, they have managed to make enough friends to help them. One of the other aspects of these books I really liked is that while there is some BDSM, there鈥檚 not much, and they feel like love stories鈥攔eal love stories, not fake contrivances like some other books out there I could name that don鈥檛 involve avian shifters, which makes this one cool as well. In Duck! there is also the question of what happens when the dominant partner is suddenly inferior status-wise, and how that is resolved. There is a lot of very badly written material out there covering these themes, and it鈥檚 nice to know that Dare spent the time to make these both very loving stories. Yes, they do get explicit, but that鈥檚 part of their purpose. They aren鈥檛 raunchy. And I liked the covers as well, very tastefully done, and much sexier than the usual in your face, here I am covers. Highly recommended for those into m/m relationship stories.
Series: Nightrunner Series**

#1: Luck in the Shadows

#2: Stalking Darkness

#3: Traitor鈥檚 Moon

#4: Shadows Return

#5: The White Road

#6: Casket of Souls

Glimpses (short stories)

 

Flewelling, Lynn Adult/YA, mystery, intrigue, espionage, magic, definite character growth, even for Seregil, who has been around a long time and still manages to change in small ways as he learns he can trust other people, m/m relationships, interesting characters, political maneuvering, royal family infighting and bickering for power leading to betrayal.
Casket of Souls is the latest in Lynn Flewelling鈥檚 Nightrunner series. This series centers on two characters, Seregil and Alec, and their friends. They are very well developed characters, as are all the supporting characters. I鈥檒l stick to Casket of Souls as it was the one published in 2012. Alec and Seregil have been working together as thieves and 鈥榠nformation gatherers鈥 since the first book in the series, when Alec tried to steal Seregil鈥檚 coin pouch. Since then, he has taken Alec under his wing and trained him to be an expert thief and housebreaker, and where to look for important documents. When they are at home in Rhiminee, Seregil, who is very widely known for his eccentricities and outrageous behavior, also acts unbeknownst to the people who ask for help from the Rhiminee Cat. They inevitably fall into some sort of danger or plot and return to one of two places, Seregil鈥檚 former mentor鈥檚 tower where he apprenticed unsuccessfully to be a magician under Nysander鈥檚 tutelage. The other place is Seregil鈥檚 friend Micum Cavish鈥檚 house where he lives with his wife and growing number of children. This series does involve a relationship developing between Seregil and Alec, which they don鈥檛 even discuss until the end of the second book, so I was very disappointed to see in some of the reviews on Amazon that people still reading the first book were making comments such as, 鈥淲as reading this and enjoying it then realized it was one of those kind of books and threw it away in disgust.鈥 Their relationship is mostly subtle, sometimes made fun of by relatives because they are so in love鈥攖hey are essentially bound together. There is nothing explicit鈥Glimpses鈥攁 collection of fan art and short stories written by Flewelling elaborate on some of those experiences, Alec and Seregil鈥檚 first time together, for example, but those types of scenes don鈥檛 come up in the series itself (but if you鈥檙e into the series, Glimpses is a really nice companion volume). Anyway, I found it annoying that someone could be genuinely enjoying a story and then realize there鈥檚 a m/m relationship in it so out the window it goes. Casket of Souls finds Seregil and Alec running into a group of players (theatre) who are taking audiences by storm, and at the same time find out information that the Queen is plotting against the Princess, who is already engaged in a war. Then a plague starts to spread. I read this so long ago鈥擨 wish I remembered the details better. The main player has something to do with it, capturing souls in bottles and using them to keep eternally young. Nysander鈥檚 apprentice at the time of his death, Thero, who started out as an arrogant somewhat one sided character novels ago, is now a magician of some repute who Seregil and Alec know they can count on as much as they did Nysander. Thero is still arrogant at times, but he鈥檚 also developing a sense of humor and has fallen in love with the princess the Queen is plotting against, supplying her with ways to contact him if she needs help (this mostly happened in the previous installment in the series, when a diplomatic trip was taken to Seregil鈥檚 old homeland that he was exiled from thirty years earlier for being caught in a relationship with another man. He鈥檚 uncomfortable with the trip, but Alec meets his family, and they all like him. Thero is working with Princess Klia on her mission, spending most of his time with her, and they fall in love. I went backward instead of forward, didn鈥檛 I? I think it鈥檚 important to mention in here somewhere that Seregil is Aur毛nen, an almost Elven type race, and Alec is half-h芒zadri毛lfaie, another clan of elvish type people who are more secretive than Seregil鈥檚 clan. Everything is sorted at the end of Casket of Souls (sorry, that has to be one of the worst reviews ever鈥攊f I wrote the reviews right after I read the book it would be better鈥擨 originally read this in May). Sadly, there is going to be only one more book in this series. I have become quite attached to the characters, so even while I might not always get the plots straight, the writing and development of the characters are so good I do really feel unhappy there is only one more book. Oh well, I can always start them over.
Series: Havemercy**

#1: Havemercy

#2: Shadow Magic

#3: Dragon Soul

#4: Steelhands

Jones, Jaida, & Bennett, Danielle Mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons who can talk and interact with their riders, a widely varied corps of personalities. Do I need to say anything more than mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons?
I鈥檓 just going to come right out and confess I read these almost a year ago, but I really, really liked them at the time. The idea was very clever, I thought. Dragons that were built with a specific member of the flight corps in mind, in one case, the dragon had been built for one man鈥檚 brother, but his brother had died and he was genetically close enough that he could ride the same dragon. The dragons and the riders learn each others鈥 personalities鈥攄espite the fact they have been engineered, the dragons are sentient and learn. The series starts with the whole corps having been disciplined for their appalling behavior at an important event which involved women and large amounts of alcohol. It is decided, then, that they need 鈥渆tiquette training,鈥 and a young professor is sent in to teach them, supposedly, everything they are supposed to know. Naturally he meets with resistance and insolence, a na茂ve professor and a hardened flight corps鈥攏o problems here. There are characters that are lost through the course of the series, some of which I was surprised to feel sad about even though their characters were at times annoying鈥攖hey all fit a purpose within the corps to make it a cohesive group, and their loss changed that. Steelhands centers on one young corpsman who has lost his hands in the battle in the previous book, and has new ones made from the same metal the dragons are constructed from, and how he learns to adapt as everything is different now. Two of the original Dragon Corps have decided to stay in the desert where the final battle occurred, but they begin to uncover mysterious and disturbing things about the dragons, which they report back to their old commander. Despite the fact that the Dragon Corps could generally be referred to at the beginning of the series as a very motley crew of men, they were a motley crew of men who depended and trusted each other to cover their backs, and they genuinely cared for each other. The idea of the importance of human interaction and relationships continues in Steelhands. Jones and Bennett have created a wonderful world populated by interesting people and creatures. I was lucky enough to have found out about the series when Steelhands was released, so was able to read all of them at once (one after the other, that is). I think sometimes that鈥檚 the most marvelous way to read books鈥攖o suddenly discover a new series that already has a few books out and just become inundated in their world, which was easy in this case. The characters are so different, yet fully realized, there is just enough description where is doesn鈥檛 become tedious, and the world-building is such that it makes perfect sense that these dragons exist. I鈥檓 hoping Steelhands isn鈥檛 the last one in the series, as I鈥檓 curious to learn more, but if it is, I鈥檓 very happy to have read the ones that are here.

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