This Week’s Mine Shaft

What are the canaries reading this week?

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

YA Fantasy Adventure

“Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.”

I loved the first book of this series, Touch of Power (Five Canaries, all the way). This sequel brings back Avry, Kerrick, and the gang – and a ravaging army that’s rampaging its way through the Fifteen Realms.

Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn

Sci-fi Space Adventure/Suspense

I read and sorta-not-really enjoyed my first encounter with Timothy Zahn’s writing. But having started this one, I’m right glad I have Zahn another try. Besides a story premise that tickles my reading bone (spies, covert operations, betrayal, secret missions, genetically engineered soldiers), the writing style is a world away from what I got from Spinneret.

Aliens have taken over Earth and its colony worlds, but after thirty years of occupation, a plot is brewing. The rebel underground on Earth sends Allen Caine on an undercover mission to another planet in hopes of contacting a unit of genetically enhanced guerrilla commandos – assuming they still exist and can be found. Continue reading

Book Review: The two McCaffrey, and dragons in the sky

Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey

If I have a soft spot for a series, it’s the Dragonriders of Pern. After Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series in middle school, the Pern books were my first foray into Fantasy cum Science Fiction. Somewhere along the road, though, my attention drifted. McCaffrey began co-writing the books with her son, Todd McCaffrey, and I started seeing other novels. But when I saw the cover of Sky Dragons this June, I couldn’t resist. Sky Dragons is also the last Pern book written by the late Anne McCaffrey.

So. Eight books have gone by since I stopped reading. A lot has gone down. Dragonrider politics is a-broiling, time travel is glitchy, and there just aren’t enough dragons to keep the planet safe from the deadly falling space parasite called Thread. So the dragon riders jump back in time to the southern continent to raise dragon hatchlings so they can grow up in time to battle the deadly Thread when it begins to fall.

What should have been a simple and fool-proof plan becomes a Lost-style (well, not quite) struggle for survival. Xhinna, a rare female rider of a blue dragon is shoved into the role of leader, against all tradition. Supplies are running out.

The predatory creatures from the wilds are going after the eggs. It is no longer a question of training the next generation of dragonriders – the very survival of the new settlement  is at stake. Continue reading

[Book Review] The Magicians isn’t just about the magic

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

If I read one more review of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians that proclaims it  “Harry Potter for adults,” I just might break something. Yes, The Magicians is a bildungsroman about a teenager who discovers he’s a magician and subsequently enrolls at an exclusive magician’s college, but just because the two works share certain elements does not mean that the former is simply a matured version of the latter. (Plus, as an adult, I find the implication that Harry Potter isn’t for adults quite insulting. But I digress.) In actuality, comparing Grossman’s novel to J.K. Rowling’s series does a disservice to The Magicians. It is an inventive story that stands quite well on its own. Continue reading

Book Review: Stray by Rachel Vincent

(Shifters, book 1)

Immediately after finishing this novel, I found myself complaining plaintively about the book to my reading buddy, Kat Zantow. It was just like Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, I said. Our (super-rare) female were-something heroine builds a normal life for herself and gets a human boyfriend to escape her smothering were-family. Then shit starts going down, which, I took great pains to point out, usually take the form of serial kidnappings and murders of female were’s, and she’s forced back into her old world and into the arms of her superhawt ex.

“Wait, wait,” said my long-suffering friend. “Isn’t this like the plot of every werewolf paranormal/urban fantasy ever?”

“Uhm, maybe.”

“And didn’t it say something of the sort on the back blurb?”

I looked at the book blurb:

“There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . .

And I’m one of them.

I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.

Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.

I’d been warned about Strays — werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I’m no meek kitty. I’ll take on whatever — and whoever — I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays — ’cause I got claws, and I’m not afraid to use them . . .”

(Amazon & Goodreads description)

“Uhm…Yeah, I maybe remember reading something of the sort when I got the book,” I finally admitted.

“Uh-huh. Now what was that reading resolution again?”

I sighed. “Ye shall not judge a book for being exactly what it claims to be.”

And for what it promises to be, Stay delivers. Continue reading

Book Review: A spin-off that doesn’t let up

Book Review: Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

When  glass orbs start exploding in the hands of the most powerful magicians of the Stormdancer clans, it becomes clear that they might not be able to provide the harnessed power of the thunder storms for the local factories.

So they call in Opal, glass mage-in-training, to investigate, thus pulling her into a deadly conspiracy. On the side plot, there is Opal’s rival, Pazia, at school, and a love triangle between the powerful Stormdancer Kade and the tormented glassblower Ulrik. (DRAMA ENSUES)

I loved Snyder’s first series, and her latest release, A Touch of Power, got hit with a five canary rating. This book, however, didn’t zing my reading tooth. In fact, I don’t think it would have zinged if I had gotten a couple more fillings, covered the book with aluminum foil, and bitten down. Which is a right shame, because Snyder’s writing is there.

Enter my split-canary personalities:

Confused Canary:  If you want to enjoy this book (and understand who all the characters are and their oblique references to traumatic pasts), you should read the previous series. Having gone through the Study series when it first came out (2005-2008) and then tackled Storm Glass in 2012, I had only the vaguest recollections of what happened to the rather minor character of Opal in book 3. I struggled.

Skeptical Canary: Storm Glass follows Opal Cowan as she deals with the aftermath of being used, poisoned, tortured, and of betraying her family in friends in Fire Study (the aforementioned book 3 of the Study series). She is now studying glass magic while slowly healing from the aftermath of her ordeal. Opal is gradually coming to grips with her past and–

Well, no. Not really. Continue reading

Book Review: When the wrong one loves you right…in a swamp.

Book Review: Beneath the Thirteen Moons by Kathryne Kennedy

The last time the sickness visited Mahri Zin’s village, she lost her husband and child because the Healers refused to help swamp smugglers. This time, Mahri travels to the capital, knocks out a Healer, and dumps him over the wall into her boat. But the man she snatches turns out to be the arrogant heir apparent, Prince Korl Com’nder, and his enemies seize this opportunity to do their damnest to kill him. Suddenly, it’s up to Mahri to save the prince’s life–and perhaps convince him that the lives of her loved ones are worth saving too.

Now what I expected from the book was that culture clash between Mahri and Korl, his dawning understanding of how the other side lives, and a budding attraction for the entirely socially unacceptable swamp smuggler.

On Mahri’s end, I couldn’t wait to follow the slow recovery from the grief over her family’s death and her coming to grips with her feelings for the man who’s an integral part of the system responsible for her loss. The book would be one part fantasy, one part romance, and one part careful study of the clash of cultures and cultural classes!

“What are you going on about?” my reading friend said. “You knew exactly what you were getting into. There’s a shirtless guy on the cover.”

Well, yes, okay, there is.

So I’ll just dive into the bad, the good, and the shirtless…

Continue reading

Advanced Book Review: White Witch by Trish Milburn

Book 1 of the Coven Series

Publication date: March 01, 2012

“Hot tears burn my eyes as I watch the last of the black coloring disappear from the tips of my long, blond hair, draining away into nothingness. I swipe at the tears as I curse my image. Fate seems determines to smack me at every turn. Not only does my witch DNA evidently make my hair resistant to dye, but soon I’m going to have to use the inhuman power I want so desperately to leave behind.”

–Jax Pherson, on dying hair black. (pg. 1)

Jax is a 16-year-old  in hiding. The people after her? Her family: the dark, ruthless coven of powerful witches that wants to make her into a killer. But Jax is going to make a stab at her dream of being normal instead, enrolling in high school, making friends, and doing normal teenage things. But normal becomes a bit more complicated when she finds herself falling for a Hunter and dodging the vicious baseball throws of a jealous Mean Girl.

As a character, Jax is superstrong, Cursed with Awesome, superfast and model gorgeous–and would rather be anything but. The supporting cast includes the very handsome and edgy hunter, a young Joss Whedon fan with great hair, and a late guest appearance from Jax’s shadowy past. Continue reading