Tag Archives: 5 stars

Ghostdrift (The Finder Chronicles 4) by Suzanne Palmer

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

When we last saw Fergus, he had been saved from imminent and very painful death by the Asig, while he in turn saved the known galaxy. But all is not sunshine and roses in this book. Yes, Fergus is alive and even whole, but he is the most wanted man in the humanity settled cosmos, with a hefty price on his head and a lot of powerful enemies. So he has been in hiding. Which means that he has been alone with is cat and no contact with his family and friends. But when one such friend finally comes calling and asks for his help to free another friend from pirates, of course he will say yes.

Suzanne Palmer has a gift for creating likeable characters. I mean, we are dealing with a ship full of pirates here, yet I grew rather fond of all of them in the end. I think this is also due to the fact that Fergus always tries to see good in people, or at least to find ways to coexist with those he has no choice but to interact with due to various circumstances. It also helps that all of the characters are painted in different shades of gray and all have their own needs, wants and motivations. The villains aren’t even just for the sake of being evil, they have their own reasons behind their actions. The good guys aren’t always exactly good either. Everyone is human and bound to make an absolute mess out of things.

I also liked the main mystery of this book – a missing ship, possible rogue active jump points. A solitary planet in the middle of the Gap between two sections of the galaxy. Oh, and new kinds of aliens, who turn out not so evil in the end after all. Oh, and Fergus being his usual “interesting” self. We get more Asig as well, and get introduced to some of the other humans they changed.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and I am looking forward to following Fergus on his future adventures.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Between Homes (The City Between 5) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

This was the best book in the series so far, at least in my opinion. Mostly because the ending of the last book brought home that it’s not all fun and games anymore. Pet made a serious choice and must live with the consequences in this book. I’m glad to see that she is sticking to her guns and decides to do what’s right, and to help where she can, even if she doesn’t have the looming presence (and protection) of two fae and a vampire at her back. Well, she has the vampire eventually, but that’s a different story.

I love that Pet continues to accumulate friends and found family around herself. Now she has Morgana and Daniel, and a whole werewolf pack to book, and mysterious kids on the roof of a mysterious house. I think this ability to empathize and make friends with the underdogs is her real magical power, not the fact that she can pull stuff out of Between into human world. She has a keen sense as to who is fundamentally a good person even if they did something stupid or harmful, and who isn’t, and she hasn’t been wrong so far.

The two cases that are investigated in this book are also very interesting. One is a killer that attacks fae and that nobody can see it seems, and the other is the case of a child that the Behindkind took a particular interest to. We learn a bit more about heirlings and harbringers and maybe who Pet really is and why she and her parents lived like they did. Hopefully, this will be explored further in consecutive books. 

I also liked that Pet managed to get her point across to Zero in the end and explain why helping humans mistreated by Behindkind maters to her. And maters enough that she was willing to live her home and the safety that the Troika offered her because staying would have betrayed her moral principles on that matter. 

The Phoenix Illusion (SPI Files 6) by Lisa Shearin

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Stars: 5 out of 5

This book starts with a bang… or with a literal building being dropped almost on top of our characters… and then catching on fire. Wow, that was an intense opening scene, let me tell you! The rest of the book is a fun romp in search of other vanishing buildings and figuring out who the baddies are and what they want. Side note, still not clear on that last part. 

This series continues to shine, and it’s because of the characters. I love Mac and her team. Heck, I even hooked my husband on these books, and he isn’t usually a big fan of urban fantasy. Mac, Ian, Rake, and especially Yasha have made a convert out of him. 

Mac continues to be a sassy, but competent protagonist who reads very human and relatable. Yes, she has powers, since she can see through glamor and cloaking spells, but she isn’t overpowered. She definitely isn’t a one woman army. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and can think on her feet. And kudos for bringing one of the previous book’s baddies down with a bottle of perfume and a handy storage closet. That was hilarious.

My only complaint is that at one point this book almost became a Tam and Rake show, and the other characters, including Mac, were kinda pushed into the background.  And there was very little Ian again, which was very disappointing. Yes, I love Mac and Rake as a couple, and their interactions are always fun to read about. But I also love Mac and Ian, and their partners/siblings relationship. I want to read more of their banter and how they bounce ideas of each other and have each other’s back during tough cases. 

But all in all, still loving this series, and I will definitely finish it. Also thinking about picking up the Raine Benares series afterwards.

Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence 5) by Max Gladstone

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

This book is a direct continuation of Three Parts Dead, book 1 in the Craft Sequence series, since it describes events that happen almost immediately after the ending of that book. So technically, you could skip books 2-4 and just read this one. Why though? All books in this series are excellent, and some of the characters we followed in those books make a brief appearance in this one as well. I would say reading them in order listed is an enjoyment in itself.

As we remember, book 1 ended with Tara helping bring the goddess Seril back to life, only this is far from a happy ending for both Seril and Kos, as well as Alt Coulumb. Seril is weak, her cult is small, and she poses a serious financial and reputational risk to Kos and his church. Now Tara and her friends will have to fight for the future of their city and answer a few important questions about themselves and their beliefs.

This book raises a few very interesting questions. What is better? The cold and clinical approach of the Craft, where everything is a transaction, and there is no room left for such things as sentiment, love, friendship, etc. Or faith that sometimes requires self-sacrifice and acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Or is there a way to combine both of those approaches and to find a happy medium? 

This battle of identity is most evident in Tara’s arc in this book, because she has to go against everything she’s been thought in the Hidden Schools. It’s by daring to open her heart to faith and friendship that she wins her case and, I think, finds a home she’s secretly been longing for all her life. 

This is also evident in Abelard’s journey in this book, who undergoes a crisis of faith and feels betrayed and used by his god, only to find his own quiet strength in the middle of the chaos. Acceptance is also the theme when it comes to Cat and Raz, who finally face their own demons and emerge victorious from those battles. 

In a way, this book is a catharsis for all the events that started in book 1 of the series, and a beautiful resolution for some of those characters I grew to love so much. I know there are more books in this series, and I will definitely pick up the next one.

The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co 5) by Jonathan Stroud

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and the series as a whole! What an original idea with wonderful characters that I learned to love and care about during the 5 books. And yes, even though this series is told from Lucy’s perspective, all the other characters are fully fleshed-out and lovable, even if some took a bit to grow on you, like Kipps or the Skull.

This book picks up a few months after the events of the previous book in the series and the pretty earth-shattering revelation at the end of that story. And as an aside, this book can’t be read as a standalone. In fact, all of the books in this series have to be read in order, because each book builds on the events and revelations of the previous one. But hey, who would want to start a series on the last book instead of experiencing the joy of discovering this world and the characters and growing with them from the beginning?

I will try to review this book without giving out too many spoilers for the events in this whole series, but let’s just say that things put in motion in the first book and even before then are finally getting to a head in here. Our little agency has fallen afoul of some very powerful people… with deadly consequences. Things looked pretty dire for most of the book. 

Not to mention that the whole world in this series seems to get grimmer and grimmer as the books progress. The Problem isn’t going away, no matter how many agencies fight on the frontlines to tackle the visitors. In fact, there seems to be more and more of them, and they are getting more and more vicious. People live in constant fear, and even the weather seems to get gloomier and more dismal as the series progresses. 

I am glad that everything was resolved in the end of the book, even if it’s not a neat ending and a happy ever after. The Problem still exists, and putting things right will take years and long perilous excursions into the other side. 

I also liked that Lockwood finally got all the answers about what happened to his parents and who was responsible for their deaths. It finally helped him get over this and start living instead of constantly standing with one foot in the empty grave next to the graves of his family. Everyone got a satisfying send off by the end of this book, even though I wouldn’t mind reading some short stories about the characters and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Fittes Agency.

All in all, this is a series I will definitely recommend. Even though this is more on the YA side, it lacks all of the tropes so typical to the genre. No love triangles or annoyingly immature characters acting in annoying immature and hormonal ways. Honestly, the grim reality of life with the Problem makes kids grow up so much faster in this world. You don’t have to worry about your make up or if the boy next door likes you when you literally fight for your life every night.

This is the second series I’ve read by this author, and I really loved them both. I will definitely check out anything else he produces in the future.

Witch King (The Rising World 1) by Martha Wells

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I adore Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, but the two other books I read by her had left me underwhelmed. They were okay, but not up to the glory that is Murderbot. So I was understandably apprehensive to pick up a new series by her. But I am glad I did.

We start right in the middle of the story with our protagonist Kai in dire circumstances and no memory as to how he got into them. I fell like this was an excellent idea, because the confusion the reader feels, having to wrestle with new words and concepts in a brand new world, mirrors what Kai feels when he wakes up dead and entombed. This might discourage some readers, but I loved it. 

One thing Martha Wells does really well is creating likeable characters. They are flawed and sometimes morally grey, but they feel “alive”, and you can’t help but root for them. I especially loved Kai. Who would have thought that a demon could be so “human”. I also loved that the chapters set in the present are interspersed with chapters set in the past, back when Kai first came to the world above in his first body. You can really see how much he changed in the almost two centuries since that event, and you understand him a lot better as a person the more you see how the events unfolded. 

I loved all the supporting characters as well. Ziede is baddass and witty and a perfect foible for Kai’s often introspective and melancholic nature. Together they form an unstoppable force akin to a hurricane. Especially when they seek answers and their loved ones might be in danger. Kai’s relationship with Sanja and Tenes shows his softer side, because even though he is a demon, he has compassion towards people who have been abused and enslaved. He lived through that, so he knows how it feels. I loved his relationship with Bashara in the past.

I also enjoyed going on the road trip with those characters and progressively discovering the world they inhabit. I loved seeing most places through the lens of what they are today and what they were at the time Kai fought the Hierarchs. 

This book gives a pretty satisfactory conclusion to the main story. We find out what happened, and Kai and Ziede’s loved ones are rescued. Kai is reminded of the purpose him and Bashara had when they fought the Hierarchs and hopefully finds the strength and will to carry on. But there are still a few threads that were left hanging, so I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a new series. I want to know what happened to the other demons Kai had liberated from the Summer Halls. Since none of them could return to their home underearth, are they still living in this world? Or did most of them dissipate after their borrowed body died? Will the Hierarchs be back? Why did they kill off an entire people just because they could reveal their origins? So many questions!

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two Twisted Crowns (The Shepherd King 2) by Rachel Gillig

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

The first book in the duology ended in a rather heartbreaking manner with Elspeth losing her soul and her body to the Nightmare. The King and the Maiden effectively became the Monster. This book picks up almost immediately after that fateful night with Elspeth in shackles and in the dungeons of Castle Stone, and Ravyn Yew reeling from what happened to the woman he loved. The monster and the captain of the Destriers will have to collaborate in order to find the Twin Alders card and lift the curse of Blunder once and for all.

Elspeth takes the backseat in this story, with the Shepherd King coming to the forefront and inhabiting her body for most of the book. And let me tell you that he grows on you the more you discover about his past and what happened 500 years ago when the cards were made and mists came to plague the kingdom of Blunder. It’s a classical story of how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and how by giving too much of himself to his unhealthy obsession, the Shepherd King lost everything that he should have held dear – his family, his kingdom, and his life.

I loved his interactions with Ravyn, who is devastated because he thinks the woman he loves is lost forever, and he hates the monster that is looking out of her eyes now, yet he needs that monster in order to defeat a bigger treat to his kingdom and his family – the current Rowan King. That made for some entertaining banter between him and the Nightmare, as well as some pretty heartfelt interactions further in the book.

Two other characters from the previous book come to the forefront of the narrative in this one – Prince Renelm (or Elm), and Ione. And I was honestly surprised just how much I liked their story. I liked Elm from the previous book, but Ione had seemed a bit standoffish and “frozen” for most of the last book, because she was under the influence of the Maiden card. Well, we discover in this book that it wasn’t her choice or her doing, and the things she had been put through are frankly horrifying. I was really happy that Hauth got what was coming to him. 

All in all, I really loved this world and the story, even though I thought that the ending wrapped everything a little bit too neatly. But that is just a small gripe and I would highly recommend this book.

PS: I received and advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I can’t believe it took me so long to actually read this book! It’s been languishing on my TBR list since 2014. That’s 10 years. All I can say is that life got in the way and with so many other wonderful books, I got sidetracked. But I rectified that mistake now, and boy did I love this book! I am a big fan of the movie with Matt Damon, and I had found it clever and suspenseful, but let me tell you, the book is better, as books often are.

What I loved most about Mark Watney both in the book and the movies is his relentless optimism and ability to problem solve. Yes, he has times when he breaks down and freaks out and has a temper tantrum when things go from bad to worse, but he never just wallows in the misery. Yes, stuff happened, but it didn’t kill him (yet), so he will do everything in his power to prevent it from killing him, then troubleshoot everything to insure that he lives another day and is slightly closer to rescue. That sheer good humor is contagious and very fun to read about. 

Because, honestly, Mark’s situation is really dire, if you think about it. He is stranded alone on a hostile planet with no means of communication with Earth or even his crewmates on the Hermes. And everyone thinks that he is dead. Another human would have despaired and given up, but not Mark. 

The food won’t last until the next Ares mission lands on Mars? Let’s try to grow some potatoes on Martian soil. After all, he has half a dozen non-frozen potatoes to work with, and he can produce plenty of fertilizer. Sure, it will not smell good, but needs must. No way to communicate with Earth? Let’s do a field trip to pick up Pathfinder, and test if he can survive in a rover for long period of time. Stuff really went FUBAR? He is still alive, so he will figure out something to keep himself being alive until rescue comes.

I also liked the down to earth (or down to Mars) way this story was told. Sure, we are in the near future, so it’s a science fiction book, but all the technology and solutions that Mark comes up with are very plausible and accomplishable even with current day technology. And because it is so plausible, I found myself a lot more involved in Mark’s fate. Because this could happen in real life. We are already talking about a manned mission to Mars in the near future, so we could have a man stranded there in my life time (though I really really hope not).

I loved the very hopeful tone of this book as well. Yes, the situation is dire, but the author chose to concentrate on everyone’s efforts to save Mark Watney instead of finger pointing and dicussing who made what mistake leading to this situation. The author chose to show us a world united in a common goal, which is very refreshing and hopeful, especially in the current political climat.

Anyway, this is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it even for those who already saw the movie. There is a lot more here than ever made it into film.

Dead Man’s Hand (The Unorthodox Chronicles 1) by James J Butcher

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I think I found a new urban fantasy series to fangirl about! I picked it up on a whim because I liked to cover. Oh, and I had no clue that the author was Jim Butcher’s son. Though I must admit that I was never a huge fan of Harry Dresden, though I read maybe 4 or 5 books in the series. I might even revisit that particular series someday…

Anyway, I came to this book unbiased and without trying to compare the creation of the son to the works of the father. And I must admit that I really loved it!

The world is very interesting. We have the Usuals, or people like you and me, plain Jane humans, and we have the Unorthodox. Who can be magic users (or witches), as well as other magical creatures that we heard of in legends and fairy tales (and some we’ve never heard of). Some can pass for human with relative ease and managed to build almost normal lives in our world. Some… not so much. All of them are controlled and regulated by the Bureau of Unorthodox Affairs, who acts like law enforcement, but also a social services organization. 

Now let’s talk about Grimsby, our protagonist. He is a bumbling, stumbling bundle of insecurities and misery, but I must admit that I really liked him. Because he has good reasons to be miserable and resentful, and to wallow in that misery from time to time. Life really did a number on him. He is not a hero. He is, most of the time, a coward that hates conflict and tries to avoid it at any cost. 

But despite all that, he has a strong backbone and a moral compass. He is willing to bend and let a lot of things slide, but when it comes to something that he holds dear, or that he thinks is plain wrong, he will stand his ground, even despite the danger to himself. He is also very loyal to his friends, probably because he doesn’t have that many. In fact, by the end of this book, he really only has one.

I also liked that despite his limitations, he finds new and ingenious ways to combine the three spells he knows. And even though those are only 3 spells, he mastered them to perfection. Grimsby might not be particularly powerful, but he is very tenacious and capable of innovative thinking, because he doesn’t have pure magical strength to rely on.

I also like his grudging partnership with the Huntsman, because despite the odds, they make a really good team. The Huntsman constantly pushes Grimsby to get out of his comfort zone, especially if that zone is made of self-pity and woe against the unfairness of the universe. And Grimsby acts as a tempering influence and a moral compass for a man who has done some terrible things in the line of duty and often won’t hesitate to do even more horrible things if needed. Even if he would probably regret it afterwards.

It was interesting to see the Huntsman go from looking at Grimsby first with suspicion, then with derision, then with grudging respect. And they did get to the bottom of things in the end and got the bad guy. 

I liked that the main storyline is resolved by the end of this book, but there are other tantalizing bits of story left dangling in front of the reader to entice me to pick up the next book. I want to know how the main villain managed to make so many human familiars without anyone noticing.  I want to know who Blackskull was when it was alive. And I want to know if Grimsby will every manage to control his magic even despite the scars. So I will definitely be continuing with this series. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Greymist Fair by Francesca Zappia

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

Now this is a fairy tale retelling done right! It doesn’t try to outdo the original, just takes that inspiration and creates something new and very readable with it.

I loved the village of Greymist Fair and the atmosphere of mystery and even foreboding the author created for this place and the villagers. Imagine a village in the middle of a dense forest with only one road leading to it and back out. That’s already claustrophobic enough. But now add to that the fact that there are rumored to be monsters in the forest, and those who wander under the trees rarely come back alive. Oh, and that road to the village? It can take hours, or it can take days to travel, and some travelers never find Greymist Fair at all.

The author managed to convey the magical feeling that I absolutely love in fairy tales, and she also understands the cardinal rule of those tales – no matter how fantastical the world or the events happening in it, there must be internal rules to that world that everything follows. And if those rules are broken, there must be an explanation as to why and how. Like the ever-flowering tree branch that protects the wearer from Death, or the shoes instilled with magic that allow the person to outrun Death and its wargs.

The characters are less important here than the story they are part of, but I still had fun following along with them. The story is also not told in chronological order, with subsequent stories often going back in time and shedding more light on events mentioned or implied in previous stories, but the whole paints a fascinating canvas of a village at war with Death, even if the villagers don’t realize that. See, the forest around the village is Death’s domain, and so was this village at one point, until something happened and Death was denied entrance.

I loved the fact that this conflict was resolved not with violence, but with forgiveness and acceptance. The main message of this story is that we are all social animals, and that even entities like Death can be lonely and long for companionship. And that it is always better to show acceptance and love to others instead of prejudice and violence. That’s a message we should hear more often today.

It’s a well written and heartfelt story with a beautiful message, and I would highly recommend it.

PS: I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.