[Book Review] A dark and stormy night, plus amnesia

RookBook Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

“Dear you,

The body you are wearing used to be mine.”

Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes to find herself standing in the pouring rain, in a London park, surrounded by bodies, with absolutely no memory of who she is, and a letter in the pocket of her coat addressed to her.

This book had me hooked from that first line.

The mystery is tantalizing – I couldn’t get enough of it. Who’s after Myfanwy? Aliens? Evil scientists? Paranormal? Government conspiracy? The story unspooled its revelations one by one, teasing and keeping the tension taught. Myfanwy starts out as a brilliant combo of practical, cool-headed, and completely lost as she tries to a) stay alive and b) navigate the deadly life of her past self. Continue reading

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[Book Review] Magic tattoos, cat familiars, shadowy phantoms

Book Review: Stolen Ink by Holly Evansstolenink

You know that shortlist of back-of-the-book keywords that are krypton to your wallet? One moment you’re browsing the shelf, the next you’re in the checkout isle, and all because the book mentioned a psychic cat familiar or told you you’re about to embark on a urban fantasy romance filled with tattoo magic. Or both.

Definitely both.

Enter Stolen Ink by Holly Evans.

The concept kicks ass. In this story’s alternative modern day, everyone has an animal spirit that’s bursting to come out. This spirit takes its physical shape through a magical tattoo, which, once inked, becomes a psychic familiar (think Pullman’s The Golden Compass). Drawing these critters is Dacian’s job. He’s a tattoo magician who runs a parlor with his elven partner and pretends to be a middling, third-tier tattooist. Except he’s not.

In a world where everyone is magical to some degree, Dacian’s an ink magician, with a direct line to the heart of magic, who spends most of his time in denial, not doing anything about it. Which is fine and dandy, right up till the Big Bad shows up in his city and starts stealing people’s tattoos and killing them. Continue reading

[Book Review] Where no man has gone meta before

redshirtsBook Review: Redshirts by by John Scalzi

This book was talked up so much that almost nothing less than a comic masterpiece could have met my expectations. I was also just coming off reading three Bujold books in a row, so my humor bar was set high.

And so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this book didn’t quite meet them.

In case you haven’t heard about this book, here’s the setup:

In a Star Trekian style universe, Ensign Andrew Dahl joins the Intrepid, a spaceship that explores the universe and fixes problems. He soon realizes something screwy is going on. The crew is acting weird and every Away Mission seems to involve some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces. And while the senior officers always survive, at least one low-ranked (red shirt uniformed) crew member is, sadly, always killed, often in the craziest of ways. As he starts digging into this mystery, the craziest theory begins to make the most sense: Are they characters on a campy science fiction show?  Continue reading

[Book Review] Assassin plus ghost plus girl equals destiny

shadowsunBook Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

You can just about taste the atmospheric Assassin’s Creed trailer on the pages.

SLASH, STAB
GRACEFUL DIVE OFF A ROOF
LOST AMID THE CROWD

That’s Caim for you. Assassin by trade, loner by choice, haunted by the memories of his murdered father and the quite lively and talkative ghost named Kit whom only he can see. Caim goes around murdering folks for money right up until he gets a shady job that sets him up.

Betrayal, mystery, shadow magic, action!

It was all very assassin adventure story…right up until page 25, when the novel’s second character was introduced:

“Wait. What is a sixteen-year-old debutante doing in my assassin action caper?” Continue reading

[Book Review] In which the wild hunt meets cop mechanic

urbanshamanBook Review: Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

Oh man, canaries. Hang on to your perches, this is gonna be one of those books. The premise: Half-Irish, half-Cherokee Joanne Walker has just discovered she’s a shaman and that the Wild Hunt has gone rogue and is about to destroy the world. New and old world myths mix. Chaos is unleashed. I was ready and eager to fall in love.

And yet. And yet.

What a mixed bag.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the stuff in between:

The good: An exciting beginning! It’s not every book that starts off on a plane, followed with a race across town in a cab, only to face off against a knife wielding unknown.

The bad:  We need to retire the let’s-sit-in-a-diner-and-TALK trope for good. This is the third urban fantasy book in a row to do so, and every single time I am brain-crushingly bored. Continue reading

[Book Review] Creepy cover horse says you should read this

Book Review: Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey

tempest

I’m falling behind, guys. Of the 34-or-so Valdemar(ish) books out there, I’ve read only 20 to date. So when I saw an anthology set in the world of Mercedes Lackey, it was a no brainer. Of course I had to read it.

Creepy cover notwithstanding, this was a 387-page anthology full of 22 feel-good story resolutions via 23 different authors (the last story being Lackey and Dixon’s work). The tempest theme appeared throughout, both as physical and emotional storms, as each author made that light nod to the world of Velgarth. The stories included heralds, healers, bards, companions, and even a couple non-human characters.
Continue reading

[Book Review] Assassinations and the second-book syndrome

devils-dueDevil’s Due by Rachel Caine (Red Letter Days #2)

You know those brilliant first books where the mystery is explosive, the danger looming, and the characters thrown in the deep end, barely treading water? That was Devil’s Bargain. A fun, romantic suspense/action thriller that pitted ex-cop Jazz against her mysterious benefactor – a powerful organization with endless oogles of money that mailed her mysterious instructions in red envelopes. She could take the money and be a pawn, or she could throw it all away and be a target.

In book one, Jazz and her partner, Lucia, decided to be pawns. In this second (and, I think, last) installment of the series they chose free will (and the subsequent imminent threat to their lives). Told from Lucia’s perspective, Devil’s Due picks up at the end of Devil’s Bargain. Ben, his name finally cleared, is about to be released from prison, Lucia’s past rears its deadly head, and detective cases (and red letters with morally questionable instructions) keep on coming. And, of course, romance and suspense and action. Continue reading