Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Reviews 13-16: Sabina Kane books 2-5

#CBR5 Review #13: The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells (3 stars):

The Mage in Black is the second book in the Sabina Kane series by Jaye Wells. Sabina Kane is a half-vampire, half-mage (witch) assassin for the Vampire council. At least, she was until she learned her grandmother who rules the vamps betrays her in book 1 and tries to kill her. Those two never really got along since Sabina isn’t a pureblood and has been corrupted by icky mage blood. Sabina joins forces with a sexy mage agent named Adam working for the Hekate Council. They flee to NYC to meet Sabina’s long lost twin sister. Together with the countcil, they must plan the next move against the vampires who are hellbent on mage genocide.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the sisters. They are twins but with opposite upbringings (vamp vs. mage). Sabina also has an undeniable attraction to Adam even though it’s forbidden for mages and vampires to get together. Good thing she’s half-mage. Sabina, Gilguhl and Adam become an even more formidable trio by the end of this book.

#CBR5 Review #14: Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells (4 stars):

enjoyed this third book much more than its predecessors. Sabina finally embraces both parts of her vamp/mage heritage. And damn does she kick some ass. Unfortunately, for them the vamps are playing dirty and weilding some mage magic of their own. Her relationship with Adam has progressed faster than expected, which has her worried he may become a distraction from the mission. I absolutely loved all of the colorful new characters they dig up in NOLA. Sabina once a lone assassin now has a host of allies willing to help her foil her grandmother’s plans. And with each book, we uncover more about Sabina’s past and whether this prophecy is worth its salt.

#CBR5 Review #15: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells (5 stars):

This was my favorite book of the series because it starts out with the supernatural war relatively wrapped up and descends into chaos with each oncoming chapter. I suspected the villain, but was pleasantly surprised by the final twist. The ending was so gut-wrenching because the characters grew so much only to be knocked on their asses. It really sets up the final entry where the stakes could not be higher in this supernatural war.

#CBR5 Review #16: Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells (4 stars):

Sabina has come full-circle from the first book where she lived a lone vampire assassin existence. All the characters from past books re-appear and show the part they had to play in her journey. Wells kept her black humor and didn’t forget to keep the action going until the very end. All in all a great ending for a this urban fantasy series.

I would recommend this series for fans of no-nonsense female characters and age old wars between supernatural races.

Read the full reviews for books 2-5 on my blog.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #12: Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake

Assassins in Love is the first in a new series of books written by Kris DeLake.

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This was obviously another vaginal fantasy pick. I was pretty skeptical based on the title. I had some time to kill before Thanksgiving dinner, so decided to read a few pages. Surprisingly, I was hooked by the second chapter, which made my 82 year old grandmother quite curious to know what the heck I was doing in my room and not helping in the kitchen! The book is told from both assassins’ POV with alternating chapters.

The setup reminded me alot of Mr. and Mrs Smith with Brangelina. Rikki is an independent assassin on job on a cruise spaceship. She’s already done the deed but having trouble desposing of the body through an airlock. Out of nowhere this mysterious and surreally attractive guy, Misha, comes to her rescue. He opens airlock two seconds before guards descend upon them. They pretend to be a drunk couple trying to get it on who hit the button by mistake. Since Misha is a VIP guest, they stroll back to the bar with only a warning. Rikki is speechless (maybe by his beauty) and has to go along with everything until she can escape. But maybe she doesn’t want to escape? Misha too can’t concentrate around her. He’s blown away by her – smart, somehow manages to work freelance when the Guild is a much safer bet, beautiful and suspicious of him. He tells her he wants to recruit her for the Guild. He also mentions they met before. Rikki doesn’t remember him and hates organized groups (too many rules). First chance she gets, she steals an escape pod and runs away from those beautiful ice blue eyes.

I know what you’re thinking, this has cheesy romance written all over it. But actually, there’s a deeper story from when they met originally. It was rather cool following Rikki’s past as her memories slowly return while simultaneously Misha who is completely omniscient about those events dropping clues for her. I also loved this future where assassin work is totally legit if the person has broken the law or wronged someone. Corporations have to stay in line lest a ninja assassin comes out the shadows and wastes them. The attraction between Misha and Rikki started off a bit cheesy since they had to be all over each immediately to save their skins. Even still, they remain suspicous of each other since assassins aren’t supposed to drop their guards. But there’s something they can’t seem to deny in the end. Yes, an attraction, but also a subtle curiousity to learn more about each other.

I would recommend this book for fans of futuristic urban fantasy and action oriented romance novels. The Assassins Guild series continues with completely new characters in the same setting.

Read my other reviews on my tumblr.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #102: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

bone seasonThe next J.K. Rowling? Uh, nice try, Bloomsbury, but no. Extremely false. This isn’t the worst book I’ve read, by far, but it is one of the most frustrating, mostly because Samantha Shannon is clearly very smart, so that makes it all the more aggravating that this turned out the way it did. I have lots of thoughts, as if you couldn’t tell from all my status updates. I will try to parse them out in a concise and entertaining manner, but I make no promises because it is New Year’s Eve and I’m in my party dress.

So let’s start out with that awful marketing plan, since I’ve already brought it up. Comparing their extremely green author to one of the most beloved authors of all time was not a smart move on Bloomsbury’s part. I’m sure they miss all their Harry Potter revenue dearly, but all it did was set up Samantha Shannon for failure. And that was going to happen whether or not the book was any good. This book, which in my opinion is a hot mess, needed to be edited within a half inch of its life. It didn’t need to be praised as “the next Harry Potter.” Honestly, what I think it needed was for its author to incubate a little more. Her fine education and precocious imagination aside, she bit off way too much with this series, and did not have the life experience necessary to pull it off. This book screams AMATEUR to me. As stated above, I’ve certainly read worse books, but I almost think the experience of reading this one was so horrible because I could see the potential hiding in there. This story could have been great given five or so years, and a lot of patient editing.

To sum it up quickly, The Bone Season is the first of seven novels that take place in a dystopian/alternate world that diverged about two hundred years before present time. It’s a world where clairvoyance is real, and those possessing the ability are either persecuted or conscripted for police service, and where others choose to practice their talents in criminal underworlds as an alternative. But just as Shannon begins to describe this world to us, and we’re already feeling lost, our main character, whose name I have now forgotten, is kidnapped by a mysterious race of beings who are also clairvoyant, and then we have to learn about THAT world on top of the other one. Everything has a label, there is a new and confusing terminology for everything Shannon could have possibly thought of, and it is an incredibly trying reading experience. Not that challenging books are a problem, but there’s a way to do it that Shannon didn’t manage.

And then it quickly became clear to me that the plot of the novel was just the standard YA/romance with a super speshul heroine hiding underneath the thin veneer of the very confusing exterior of the world Shannon has created. Our heroine is SO SPECIAL and nobody has ever had powers like hers and the bad guy falls in love with her! And only she can save the day! It was about 1/3 of the way through the novel when I just gave up trying to keep track of everything and just let the crazy wash over me. The cardboard cutout secondary characters, the way the heroine fixated on things for no reason (and Shannon clearly expected us to care about those things as well, only I didn’t want to), the constant info-dumping and violations of Show, Don’t Tell. She uses complicated words to impress when simple ones would do. Last minute plot contrivances to get her story in place. A romance that comes out of nowhere. She basically lifts a character straight from A Clockwork Orange, and probably thought we wouldn’t notice, maybe because her target market won’t have read that book yet:

Look at you with dewdrops in your shiners. Raise your head, O my lovely! What do you want–sympathy? Pity? You won’t find that from him, just like you didn’t find it from me. The world is an abattoir, my mollisher. Raise those barking irons, now. Let me see you give him hell.”

Ugh, shut up.

I might read the second book in this series. But maybe not. Reading this one was torture, if I’m being honest, because a lot of the things I see Shannon doing as an author are things I used to struggle with as well. It’s like looking into a mirror and seeing my past self, and I can see myself thinking the wrong things are good, and being an idiot, and I don’t have the power to stop myself. Anyway, in my case it didn’t matter, because nobody was publishing the shit that I wrote when I was her age, and mistaking complicated worldbuilding for complexity and depth of content, as Bloomsbury seems to have done with this series.

Most of all, I just really wish whatever person accepted her manuscript for publication would have been thinking with their brain instead of their wallets. This book and its author are going to suffer for it.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #11: Dark Currents by Jaqueline Carey

Daisy Johanssen on paper is a clerk for the police chief, but behind the scenes she keeps the peace between the eldritch (supernatural) and human communities in the local resort town of Pemkowet. Her father is an incubus laughing it up in hell after he tricked and impregnated her mother. Daisy has lived her life hiding her demon tail and keeping her 7 deady sins in check as much as possible. If she ever embraces her paternal demon powers, it could bring on an apocalypse (which her dear old pop would totally get behind). Her half-human, half-demon parentage makes her the perfect liaison to the police and enforcer for the Norse goddess, Hel who rules these parts.

All things are relatively quiet in Pemkowet until a local college kid drowns in the lake. Tourists come into town for cheap thrills and to gawk at the supernatural community, but certainly not to die! In short order, Daisy is paired up with a her high school crush, Cody Fairfax, police detective and secret werewolf. They must solve the murder before the conservative community riot and disrupt the uneasy alliance between humans and eldritch. Also, a sexy ghoul has strolled into town and caught Daisy’s eye. Even though he lives off human emotions, he seems on the level and offers his assistance. Unsure who to trust, Daisy & Cody question all the other local supernaturals starting with the naiads who are water creatures known to cause trouble.

I would recommend this book for fans of the Sookie Stackhouse series who yearn for less romantic melodrama, paranormal mystery lovers & those sick of stories with the vamps vs. werewolves dynamic.

Read the rest of my book review here.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #99: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

I don’t know what it is about this book, exactly, but I think it might be my favorite in the series so far. I’m giving it five stars because I really like the direction Butcher is taking this series in, and because it had all of my favorite Dresden stuff in it in a more fun way than the last two books, which were five star reads in a more intense way.

The book opens with Harry being in rehab for, well, for being dead for six months. You can imagine the recovery time for that. Mab has got Harry in Winter and is nursing him back to health by trying to kill once or twice a day. Classic Mab. When he’s recovered enough to take up his duties as the Winter Knight, that’s when the fun really starts. On top of most of the sidhe being out to get him, and his friends and family being pissed he didn’t tell them he was alive sooner, Harry has 24 hours to figure out who and what are going to blow up Demonreach, the island that Harry became the magical warden of several books back. If he doesn’t stop it, the explosion is going to take most of Illinois with it and release hundreds of thousands of demonic beings into the mortal world. And he has to do it all while trying to figure out who’s good, who’s bad, and which people in either group want him dead (the answer being lots on both sides).

There were so many things I liked about this book, it’s hard to list them out. I loved the whole tone of the thing, Harry having to face the challenge of coming back from the grave (so to speak — he wasn’t really technically “dead” after all), dealing with Molly and his brother (Thomas and Harry <3) and Murphy. I loved how different in structure and intent this one felt to all the others, especially the first eleven books (the last two broke the mold in their own special ways). I loved the lurk of Mab, and the uncertainty of her intentions. I loved the new fairy, who better end up being Toot’s girlfriend. I loved how the plot actually managed to surprise me, not once, but several times (a rare thing, simply because I read so much). I loved how each of Harry’s interactions with recurring characters show how far he and this series have come. I loved Demonreach, and Harry being inexplicably naked for the entire last part of the book. And I super loved the glimpse of The Big Stakes that we and Harry get, because it sets the whole series in a new context, and hints at the future to come.

The direction of the series from here on out is a complete mystery. Other than the vague hints we get (Harry and Molly working for Winter, for instance, and that giant wall of fighting fairies), Butcher’s previous rulebook just doesn’t seem to apply. There’s a lot of stuff in play right now, and it’s very exciting. Can’t wait for Skin Game to come out on 2014, and it’s been a blast catching up on this series this year.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #98: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartThis wasn’t my favorite Sanderson ever. I had some issues with it on a technical level, but the worldbuilding was SO MUCH FUN that it almost didn’t even matter. (It’s actually kind of a relief to read a book of his I don’t LOVE ALL CAPS because it means he’s only human after all. Dude writes SO MANY BOOKS and they’re ALL GOOD.)

Steelheart, the first book in Sanderson’s Reckoners series, is an extremely creative take on the superhero genre. It’s been ten years since an event people have dubbed Calamity, which granted certain members of the population superpowers. These people are called Epics, and they are all of them huge dickwads: violent, egomanical, emotionally unstable, power-hungry assholes. With the appearance of the Epics, society descended into chaos. Epic after Epic took control over whole cities. The government collapsed. In some cities, Epics rule like monarchs. Such is the case with Chicago, now called Newcago, which is ruled by an Epic called Steelheart, who has the power to turn anything to steel, and is seemingly invincible.

This is where our protagonist, David, comes in. David’s father was a firm believer that one day an Epic would come that would be good and kind, who would wish to help rather than hurt. David’s father is murdered by Steelheart, right in front of David’s eyes, when he was ten years old. Steelheart then demolished the bank they were in and killed everyone in it, except for David. David is now the only person alive to have seen Steelheart bleed. And he’s gone looking for a group called the Reckoners, whose sole mission is taking out Epics one by one. He knows he’s the only person alive that might be able to help them take down Steelheart, and he’s made it his life’s mission to do so.

Like I said, exploring this world that Sanderson created, learning its rules, was pure pleasure. It was refreshing to read a take on superheroes that had the superheroes as the bad guys. It’s a very cynical outlook on human nature, and I found it intriguing, especially given the presence of David’s father, who believed so strongly that Epics could be good. It bodes well for future installments in the series. I also really liked that this book had a self-contained element to it, a beginning, middle and end. It also felt a bit like a crime/heist caper story, which was really fun.

I did have some issues with it. With a couple exceptions, the characters didn’t really grab my emotions by the balls or anything. I didn’t care about most of them very much, and actively disliked the one that kept saying y’all to refer to a singular person. I know I also had some other technical issues with it, but it’s been over a months and a half since I read it, and I don’t remember what those issues were. Also of concern is the protag, David. Because he’s so driven by his mission, he doesn’t have much of an emotional arc. The focus in this book is definitely on plot and worldbuilding, and I’m hoping in future books we get a bit more characterization for him and the others. I know plot and worldbuilding are Sanderson’s strengths, but he can do characters too. I’ve seen him at it.

All in all, a really fun book, and I’m confident/hopeful that the issues I had with it will be addressed in future books. And even if they’re not, I’ll probably still enjoy them.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR5 Review #12: Embassytown by China Miéville

Embassytown is at the edge of the “immer”, an outpost of the Bremen empire, and at the border between the Ariekei and the humans on the planet Arieka. It is clearly science fiction, verging towards dystopian science fiction, but it’s also about colonialism, about the alien and the other, and about words and signs and truth and lies and revolutions that change the meaning of all of these. Negotiating between the Ariekei, or Hosts, who are the aliens, and the mostly-human community are the Ambassadors, who we gradually find out are sets of doubled, identical beings who speak “Language” with two voices but one brain, the only form of communication that the aliens, who are alien to the point of not even breathing oxygen–or being physically or mentally capable of lying, of saying that something is not what it is but something else–can understand.

Drifting among the power structures, danger zones and levels of communication in Embassytown, is Avice, a girl who made an unusual contact with the alien race early in her life, and who becomes a Navigator in the “immer,” able to transport vessels in a nebulous, shifting space among the stars and planets that make up the universe. On one planet she finds Scile, a linguist obsessed with the Host alien language and way of communication, and brings him in her wake back to Arieka. Scile’s investigation and idealism happens to coincide with the appearance of an impossible Ambassador from Bremen, and the results are ultimately disturbing and destructive in moral and ethical as well as physical ways.

Embassytown is a trippy read. A lot of it makes more sense if you’re familiar with the sign and signified and other Derridean stuff, or if you’re used to reading or watching science fiction in which obscure or made-up words describe technology, environment and aliens. It takes a while to get into, but I was gripped when I finally did. Although the novel is more about ideas than people, there is some relatable emotion and experience, particularly as events unfold, but I found it hard to get a sense of Avice and the other characters as more than ciphers. I admired it and enjoyed it as an intellectual rather than emotional or escapist read, thinking about its allusions and structures (probably because I read it two days before I had to teach it) and I’m sure I missed a lot of what was going on. It’s a dark, weird, thought-provoking novel about big questions, without any easy answers.