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Review: In the House of the Wicked (Remy Chandler, #5) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In the House of the Wicked (Remy Chandler, #5)In the House of the Wicked by Thomas E. Sniegoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I wasn't sure there would be another book in this series after the last one seemed to reach a bit of a resolution. Plus the author's beloved dog, Mulder, who was the inspiration for Marlowe, passed away. But clearly his new boy, Kirby, is continuing to inspire him. Loving pets is like that, heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time. He even writes in the book about the girl in the story, Ashley, losing her cat, and showed the circle of life when Remy ended up getting Marlowe to comfort her. But perhaps his loss did affect him, or maybe it was just storyline dictated, but this book was lacking in interactions between Marlowe and Remy. One of Sniegoski's major strengths is his warm and humorous portrayal of the relationship between Remy and his dog, and I did miss it I'm this one.

But it was a better book than the last one (which I liked, don't get me wrong). It was more focused and consistently paced. A lot of reviews that I read complained about the changing points of view in the last one, and he did it again in this one, but I think it worked better, it was easier to follow this time. And even enough it was still dark, it was less grim. It just felt like a tighter and more focused book to me with a concept that was more clearly going somewhere.

Except for one thing. I'm kind of confused about the stuff about Squire and the multiple worlds, it just didn't feel consistent with the mythology and world building that the author had developed. It was so strictly Christian up to this point, all about the different classes of angels, Noah, Lucifer, and the Creator, etc., and that's still the major theme. So I don't get where a hobgoblin fits in, or the shadow worlds filled with giant water serpents and insects and other monsters. There was just no explanation for any of it, it was a bit bizarre. I just don't understand how it fits into this mythology except as a tool to tell this particular story. It should have been explained to fit into the world building or done in a more consistent way, I just don't get it.

But overall it was a good story. I worried about the characters and was anxious for their safety. I turned the pages quickly to see what would happen next. I chuckled a few times (the car was cool). And it left me curious to see where the author takes things next. But I do hope Marlowe is in the next book a lot more. Featuring Francis and Steven and whoever else is all very well, but for me it's all about the dog. OK fine, we all know that it's always all about the dog for me. But he really is needed in these books too, he helps keep Remy human and adds a very much need touch of comic relief and lightness to these rather dark stories.



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Review: Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Death Warmed OverDeath Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5 stars. A light but entertaining urban fantasy book by Anderson, but it wasn't quite up to par with what I'm used to from him. I'm used to giant scope space operas with multiple points of view and lots of depth and introspection and suspense. This was just pretty cute. From another author I might have thought that he just wanted to capitalize on the urban fantasy craze. But Anderson really does seem to enjoy exploring different genres, he also did the Terra Incognita fantasy series and has edited several anthologies of terrific urban fantasy stories.

In fact, now that I think about it, this fits right into the premise of his Blood Lite anthology series, I guess that's where he got the inspiration: a humorous, slightly dark murder mystery with lots of zombies, witches, vampires, werewolves, mummies (Ramen Ho-Tep was my favorite character), and many more fun "unnatural" people. And it is quite stylized, it isn't like he just wrote some fluff. It reminds me quite a lot of Simon R. Green's Nightside books (Green even did one of the quotes on the back cover), but not quite as flamboyant. They both like to introduce a lot of cases and showcase their little bits of cleverness, whether they're related to the main story or not. Anderson did a better job than Green of working most of the little bits together. It was all pretty cute, somewhat predictible, but full of likable characters with a charming style. I just would have liked to see him do something darker or deeper when he decided to tackle urban fantasy, he could have kept the cool cat detective and creative version of the Big Uneasy, but made it a bit more significant for my taste.



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Endgame by Ann Aguirre (Sirantha Jax #6)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Endgame (Sirantha Jax, #6)Endgame by Ann Aguirre

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well the series definitely didn't go where I expected it to. For a while there it seemed like it was going the route of Jax always being the center of interstellar politics and it got to the point where it was a little much for one woman to play such a prominent role in such huge sweeping stories. It made sense to try to bring the scale of the story back down a tiny bit and focus more on the characters that we care about, while still having an important mission for them to focus on. Using the commitment Jax felt to Loras to help free his people from the slavery they were under from the chemical warfare that they had undergone was a smart storyline. It brought the series full circle in some ways, because the story with Loras went back to Jax and March's relationship with him in the first book and throughout the series. There are a lot of fans who don't like it, but I thought it was a smart choice.

There was an awful lot of military action in this book though, for a romantic sci-fi series. I'm more of a sci-fi than romance reader, but military sci-fi is not my thing and it did get to be a bit much. I did like how realistic it was. I liked the timing, she didn't try to rush things and act like rebellion and war were something that could happen quickly or without great pain and sacrifice. She also managed to show how time passed effectively without being boring. And it showed the toll that time and stress placed on Loras as a leader, on Jax having to be a soldier again and being grounded, on March trying to raise his nephew and being grounded as well, and on Jax and Vel, and of course on Jax and March. It was good storytelling. But... it just wasn't always exactly my favorite kind of storytelling. Just a matter of taste.

As for the romance aspect, I always complain about books and series that feature relationships that happen too quickly and unrealistically, sudden-love syndrome. Usually followed by ridiculous obstacles to keep the couple apart. So this series did have tons to the second, the obstacles were many and insanely frustrating. But in the end there were two well developed loving relationships that got explored because of it. I'm a huge fan of Jax and Vel, their love is so deep and real, it's been a real pleasure to watch it develop. As for Jax and March, suddenly-in-love didn't necessarily mean working thing out for these two pig-headed, determined people. Which is mostly interesting. Sometimes they were just childish and annoying, but generally it was good that they both had things that they needed to work out and that it wasn't easy, it was a real adult relationship and that's more interesting to me than an everything is easy fantasy. Jax standing up for herself, insisting that it wasn't selfish to put herself and her needs first, or that if it was selfish that was still the right thing to do, that was good reading. This notion that love has to be about sacrifice is kind of bizarre, I enjoyed the idea that maybe love is stronger when it's equal and balanced instead. And if that means walking away, then sometimes that's what you have to do.

There were some weird things in the book too. I really didn't get the stuff about her face change. That whole section seemed out of place and it just seemed like such a bizarre thing to do for one short mission. Yeah, she gets to go be anonymous now, but is that such a big deal? March's face is known. And Tarn and Leviter being there is just odd. Tarn was the most powerful guy in the entire galaxy wasn't he? What the heck is he doing there? It's never really explained.

Overall I thought it was a very good story. It showcased how much Jax has grown and matured, which seems to be the overall goal of the series. It also showcased the special relationships that the fans have come to cherish. It was a fitting end to the story.




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Review: Shadows Before the Sun by Kelly Gay (Charlie Madigan #4)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Shadows Before the Sun (Charlie Madigan #4)Shadows Before the Sun by Kelly Gay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Shadows

The worst book in a series is always the travel one. The reason I love a series is the characters and the way they interact. But for some reason so many authors decide to take their characters on road trips where they're totally isolated from the other characters, as though exploring cool settings can make up for the characters that we love. I do understand in this series that the other two worlds are part of the premise that the author wanted to explore from the beginning. But at least in the last book when Charlie went to Charbydon a few of the other characters went with her. This time on Elysia she was completely isolated from everyone in her family. The only person from Earth with her was the Oracle, Alessandra, a very minor character that while somewhat interesting was certainly not someone with whom I felt any rapport previous to this book. I think it worked better than most travel books. The Circe were properly terrifying and the contrast between their cruelty and the beauty of Elysia was effective. And to some degree, Charlie being alone and isolated was also an effective storytelling technique; seeing how she handled doing everything on her own was interesting and helped her develop her abilities. But for a good portion of the book I really missed seeing her interact with the characters that bring out her best qualities.

Early on in the series I sometimes felt like the some of the use of mythology was too heavy-handed, trying to incorporate too many famous myths and religious icons, it just sometimes made it feel a bit cheesy and like it was trying too hard to be cute. But in the last book or two I've liked this aspect a lot more, things have come together better for me. I thought the trip to Elysia was good for illustrating the concept that the author created.

Overall it was an engaging book. I really do like Charlie and the other characters. The author writes a good story and I feel an emotional connection to Charlie, Hank, Emma and Rex. And Brim, don't forget the hellhound!




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Review: Two Ravens and One Crow (Iron Druid Chronicles #4.5) by Kevin Hearne

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Two Ravens and One CrowTwo Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another terrific tale. Hearne is just a great storyteller, his writing is always perfectly smooth, with a great balance of adventure, humor and intelligence. He never fails to crack me up with the conversations that Atticus has with Oberon, I just love that dog. And the Morrigan is such an interesting character, it was fun to see a bit of a different side to her in this one as well. The story was a nice bridge between Tricked and Trapped, I really enjoyed it.



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Review: Biting Cold by Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires, #6)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires, #6)Biting Cold by Chloe Neill

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I've been trying really hard not to do reviews that are just complaining lately, but this one just kept rubbing me the wrong way at every turn, it was really disappoint from a book that I was really looking forward to. It just kept getting worse and worse as the book went on, it just wasn't a good book in any way.

It's weird, I remember in the first book being really annoyed because Merit whined too much, now I'm annoyed because she's way to mature. She's 28, but she analyses Ethan like she's Miss Mature and perfect, it makes me nuts. He's 400+ yet he's the immature and emotionally damaged one. And it still makes me nuts that she's so great at strategy and using weapons instantly after becoming a vampire; she was a lit grad student, it makes no sense. Maybe she has more power than most vampires, and maybe she even learns quickly, but strategic sense doesn't just happen, and there's never any substitute for age and experience (which several people in her House do have). It just makes the whole Sentinel premise make so little sense that it needs to be handled more delicately than it is here. The author has turned her into some generic urban fantasy heroine who can solve any problem, fight any foe, analyze every friend or loved-one's issues and barely break a sweat and it's just annoying. At this point there's really nothing about Merit that I relate to or connect to other than her love of junk food, which frankly is mentioned a few too many times. Just the mentions of Mallowmars alone could be a drinking game. Merit has become so hallow, she doesn't have an spirit or heart to me. She's just too good, too perfect, too predictable.

And why do authors think they need to keep having really contrived obstacles to keep the couple apart? Seriously, how many phones ringing, oops he's dead!, now he's alive but is afraid he'll hurt hurt her can we take? I've read all of the excuses so many times and it's not interesting in the least anymore. By the sixth book what would have been interesting would be a strong couple working together and actually getting to know each other instead of stupidly having more misunderstandings. It makes it impossible to root for Ethan when he's been written so immaturely from the very beginning. I want an "alpha" hero, as she keeps claiming he is, to act like a powerful and smart man. I get that he's worried about her and that it's his tendency to protect his people, but he's just acting like a jerk in every book and it isn't fun to read. He fights every step in their relationship, there's always a "good" reason. And she's always smarter than him and has to prove to him how things are supposed to be. A man who isn't willing to go after want he wants isn't sexy to me. And Merit's apparent maturity and smugness doesn't make it any better.

And then the one thing that kept me really interested for the last few books was the mystery of Tate. Which was finally revealed mid-book and completely ruined the cool manipulative fascinating guy that he'd been before and made everything about him for the rest of the book completely boring as well. I didn't care about him at all anymore, there was nothing interesting about him in the least once he became completely black and white, he was totally dull and just ruined as a character. Plus so much of the story just didn't make any sense. There were so many things that once I started thinking a about them, about the book, about the evil, about what Mallory did, that just made no sense at all.

And how about a drinking game for the number of times the word Sentinel was used? I get it, really, she's the House Sentinel. You can stop telling me. Sometimes as many as three or four times on a page.

And then she didn't do anything to figure out the big secret, it just got told to her because someone's feelings got hurt. Some big detective she is.

All of that was in between running up and down stairs, driving back and forth to see Mallory, to see the fairy queen, back and forth, back and forth, taking showers, putting on her leather jacket, don't forget your leather jacket Merit! There was so much repetitive back and forth details it was insane. I appreciate the everyday realism but it was nutty how often some things were repeated. The number of drinking games that I could have played with this book could have well and truly killed me deader than any bad guy, no sword required.

I'm trying to think of some good stuff to say, I am. OK, good stuff: how the werewolves handled Mallory was cool. And how Mallory dealt with her situation was good in general, she seemed genuine and remorseful. And Gabe is just cool. And Jeff, Jeff is cool.

And Darius has a point, how come Merit and Cadogan House are the only ones doing anything? Jonah is helping a tiny bit, her grandpa, Jeff and Catcher are still helping even though they aren't being paid, but mostly it's still just them. Why is it Merit's job or Cadogan's job to deal with any of this? Darius kind of has a point, is she really protecting her House by dragging them into the center of every battle? "I am the Sentinel of my House and a protector of this city." Are they the same thing? The author obviously thinks so but I'm not so sure. Or maybe that's what the next book is going to be about, we'll see.

I really hate to be so incredibly negative about this book. I'm one of the few people who didn't freak out after the big cliffhanger after book four, I was willing to hang in and see where the author took us. I hoped that it was an opportunity for growth for Merit and change for the series. But instead things have really stalled. Merit supposedly grew up more while Ethan was gone but she just feels more smug to me. She never makes any mistakes, even though she's practically new to this still. She's way too perfect and that isn't interesting. And I'm tired of the games with the relationship with Ethan, if that doesn't evolve into a mature partnership at this point than I really am done with this series. Instead of coming up with stupid contrived relationship obstacles, I hope the author comes up with some new situations that will be interesting and challenging for the characters in addition to the somewhat-cliffhanger at the end. I'm sure she can do it and I'm still rooting for her.



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