Fair Game (Alpha and Omega, #3)

Fair GameFair Game
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn 10: 0441020038
Series: Alpha and Omega #3
Publication Date: March 9, 2012
Pages: 293
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

You know what’s really aggravating about deciding to re-read an old favorite series?  Discovering that you don’t actually own a print copy of the first book.  That’s been remedied – though I had to settle for a paperback, grumblegrumble, but I couldn’t wait.  So I grabbed what I thought was the next book in the series, Fair Game.  It isn’t, by the way, the next book.  I skipped over one; it was late, I was tired and angry about Cry Wolf, and, oh, who cares, it’s a re-read.

Reading my original review, I didn’t care for this book as much as the others.  Yet, when I think back on the series, this is the one I remember best.  Re-reading it, I find that I rate it higher than I originally did; 4 stars instead of 3.5.  It’s still all kinds of dark and deeply disturbed in plot, but I didn’t find Charles’ inevitable crises, and his reaction to it, quite as irritating as I did that first time.  Likely because this time I knew it was a crises that wouldn’t last beyond the book itself.

I’m looking forward to re-read all the books in the series – after my copy of Cry Wolf arrives, that is.  There’s a new one coming out next March, and I need to catch up before it arrives.

Alpha & Omega (re-read from Shifting Shadows anthology)

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy ThompsonShifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn 10: 0425265005
Series: Alpha and Omega #0.5
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Pages: 450
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

The re-read rabbit hole I fell into this weekend included a need to re-visit Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and what better place to start than the beginning?

I’ve re-read this story many times, and it always holds up; it’s almost exactly the right length – another chapter’s worth of details would have been welcome, but the story didn’t suffer from the lack either.  The plot is complete, the characters well-drawn.

I can’t imagine a day when I’ll stop enjoying this story.

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3) – re-read

End of DaysEnd of Days
by Susan Ee
Rating: ★★★½
isbn 10: 1444778552
Series: Penryn End of Days #3
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder Paperback

Ok, so book 3 re-read and I still don’t care for dystopian/post-apocolyptic settings.

My second read brings this book down to a 3.5, but I have to say, that on the second read, I was better able to appreciate the parallels to the stories of Lucifer’s original battle and descent/fall.  I was also better able to empathise with the tragedy and sacrifice of Baliel.  So, while I got more out of it the second time around, I also found the science fiction elements even more grating, and I was totally dissatisfied with the ending.  Yes, it’s an HEA, but it’s still lacking, with questions left unanswered, and that annoys me more than it did the first time, obviously.

I remain satisfied with the trilogy; it didn’t wow me, but I feel like I got what I paid for, more or less.  Perhaps someday my nieces will enjoy reading it.

World After (Penryn and the End of Days, #2) – re-read

World AfterWorld After
by Susan Ee
Rating: ★★★
isbn 10: 1477867287
Series: Penryn End of Days #2
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 438
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Skyscape

I hadn’t planned on re-reading all three of the Penryn books, but I should have known better; I’ve never been able to just re-read one book in a series without wanting to re-read them all.

This one stands up exactly as well as it did the first time around.  It’s good, but not awesome, and of course, the whole science fiction angle doesn’t score points with me, as it’s just not my jam.  Still, the angel mythology remains compelling.

Why would Angels need science if they have magic?  Why would they need human doctors?  Human-derived technology?  None of this is explained in either of the two books so far.

INSERT SPOILER TAG HERE

I really liked the way the author used Raffe’s sword to share with Penryn and the reader Raffe’s POV and some of his long backstory.  Also, the sword’s way of using those memories as training exercises for Penryn – not that she ever used the lessons as far as I could tell.  Once past the halfway-ish mark, the story started pulling me in again.  It’s no coincidence that it’s also about the same time Raffe makes his re-appearance in Penryn’s life.  The two of them together are a more intriguing story to me than they are apart.

There’s a soupçon of humour in this book that was all but missing in the first one.  I’m still shaking my head over ‘Pooky Bear’ but can totally appreciate the naturalness of how the name came about.  Put me in the same scene in place of Penryn, and I’d have responded in much the same way to Dee/Dum.  Though I’d have probably said ‘Twinkle Toes’ or something equally obnoxious.

I read somewhere that 5 books are planned for this series.  If that’s the case, I predict, even though this book ends with the tides seemingly turning against the Angels, that they will rally in the third book.  It’s hard to imagine stringing this out for more than 3, 4 books at the most, but I’m sure the author has much more in store for everyone.

Just please don’t let it be more science fiction.

Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, #1) – Re-read

AngelfallAngelfall
by Susan Ee
Rating: ★★★½
isbn 10: 0761463275
Series: Penryn End of Days #1
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Pages: 284
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Skyscape

This is a re-read for me; I was going through my archives, trying to update this blog and my presence on the new site, bookhype.com, when I came across is and just felt like I needed to re-read it.

It held up well, though my original rating was 4 stars, and on the re-read it gets 3.5.  I’m not sure why, except that on the second read, I found parts tedious.  But it remains a compelling read.  I still didn’t really connect with Penryn as a character, but Raffe became more compelling.

The same elements of it disturbed me that disturbed me the first time around; I don’t think I’d really like to see the imaginings of Susan Ee too up close and personal, but the story remains, to a degree, haunting.

Halloween Bingo 2020: September 19 update

After making progress on my bingo reads last week, I fell into another rabbit hole this week.  I’ve been in the process of consolidating all my book data and reviews, and moving them into bookhype.com, a new site in beta at the moment that looks promising enough to make the effort.  In doing so, I saw a couple of titles I had the sudden urge to re-read: Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs, and Angelfall, by Susan Ee.  Neither are in my Bingo plans, and neither fit any of my remaining squares.  Oops.

I did finish Ink & Sigil for my transfigured American Horror Story square (Spellbound), but I’m not sure if I can mark it yet, or if I have to wait for Spellbound to be called first.

Calls made so far that are on my card – as you can see, I really have no excuse to be so far behind:

    

*Note: I’ve removed Psych in favour of Romantic Suspense, as it’s the square I flipped, and American Horror Story has been transfigured into Spellbound

How it works:

If I read a square that hasn’t been called yet, a ghost of stickers-yet-to-come will appear; once the square has been called, the sticker will become fully corporeal.  (Alas, this only works in regular browsers, but I’m in too deep to try to do something different now.)  As the squares get ticked off, a fully formed image will appear.  Previously, I posted the finished image, but this year I’m going to leave it a mystery.

Below is the table that will summarise the books I’ve read for each square, and note if I took advantage of one of the Spell Pack cards, and which one.  Book Titles link to my review of the book here.

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
Gothic
Genre: Suspense
Ghost Stories The Sun Down Motel Sept. 13
Dark Academia Murder 101 Sept. 2
Southern Gothic Sept. 15
Row #2
Darkest London
Black Cat
Cozy Mystery Quick Study Sept. 5
Genre: Mystery Sept. 3
X International Women of Mystery Sept. 7 The Betel Nut Tree Mystery Sept. 10
Row #3
Grave or Graveyard Sept. 14
Deadlands
FREE SPACE n/a
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Sept. 13 Imaginary Numbers Sept. 12
Psych / Romantic Suspense Sept. 6
Row #4
American Horror Story/Spellbound Sept. 10 Ink & Sigil Sept. 17
A Grimm Tale
It was a Dark and Stormy Night
Monsters Sept. 18
Trick or Treat Sept. 16
Row #5
Country House Mystery
X 13 Sept. 1 The Thirteen Problems Sept. 6
Locked Room Mystery
Halloween
X Murder Most Foul Sept. 5 Extracurricular Activities Sept. 3

The Spell Pack cards are below – I’ve used a border in the same color as the card to mark the squares where I’ve used one.

Cards used:
Bingo Flip:  Lillelara has agreed to trade my Psych square for her Romantic Suspense square.

Transfiguration Spell: Used to transform American Horror Story into Spellbound

Ink & Sigil (Sigil Agents, #1)

Ink & SigilInk & Sigil
by Kevin Hearne
Rating: ★★★★
isbn 10: 9781984821256
Series: From the World of the Iron Druid Chronicles #1
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages: 336
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray Books

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

The first book in a new series that takes place in the same world as the Iron Druid Chronicles, I’d heard two completely opposite views on it before I picked it up: one saying it was great, and hilarious, and the other calling it woefully juvenile.

Having read the book myself I can say: yes.   Maybe not woefully juvenile, but the humor is heavily scatalogical in places and it’s clear the author prefers his jokes to be of the earthier, less-sophisticated variety.  They weren’t my definition of funny, but I didn’t find them offensive either.

The story itself was enjoyable, though a little heavy handed thematically.  It’s a credit to the author that he uses his story space to confront a problem that gets very little serious time: the trafficking of humans, using both the fae-trafficking plot line, as well as the sub-plot of Al learning more about the human side, and doing his part to stop it and advocate for its victims.  But it, like the humor in the book, isn’t subtle.  He has a point, and a message, and he’s going to make sure his readers don’t miss it.

There’s a lot of story-building in this first book, with a couple of chapters devoted just to how Al met his business manager/battle seer, Nadia, and the flow is a bit wandering.  It works, but I noticed it; I was never actively bored while reading it, but I had mind space to notice that the story wasn’t very linear or fast-moving.

I have this 4 stars because the sum is greater than its parts.  The things I spoke about above, taken by themselves, would be turn-offs, but as a whole, the story was enjoyable.  I don’t regret buying a hardcover copy, and I’ll happily read the next one.  Though I will also hope the humor that the humor, along with the whiskey Al so dearly loves, matures.

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2020, to fulfil the Spellbound square, which is not on my card, but I used my transfiguration spell card to change from American Horror Story.

The Sun Down Motel

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★
isbn 10: 9780440000174
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages: 327
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Publisher: Berkley

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

I am not a fan of horror, but I’m a big fan of old-fashioned ghost stories, when read in broad daylight.  I’ve been a big fan of Simone St. James’ ghost stories since I first found The Haunting of Maddy Claire, the first of … five?… historical ghost stories.  She branched off in a new direction with The Broken Girls, going with a dual time-line plot, which I read hesitantly, but enjoyed thoroughly.  The Sun Down Motel is another such book: a dual time-line mystery firmly rooted around a haunted place, this time a hotel that was pretty much doomed before it ever opened its doors.

I’m still a fan of St. James – I think this was a riveting read, and I devoured it in 2 sittings (daylight hours, all of them), but it wasn’t as good as some of her others for two reasons, both purely subjective.  The first was the heavy handedness of the message: that women have always been, and sadly will always be, to some extent, vulnerable and expendable.  This is as unavoidable a fact as it is an inexcusable one, but more subtle writing would have had more powerful an impact.  Instead, there were times – just a few – that I felt like I was the choir and I was being preached at.  This wasn’t a massive issue; it was just enough to pull me out of my head and the story a time or two.

The second reason is almost silly:  the ghosts.  They were almost exactly my right level of scary, but, and it took me some time to figure this out, they didn’t have quite the effect on me as the ghosts in her previous books, because they never really focused on the main characters.  These hauntings were almost the remnant-kind: they were there acting in an endless loop, whether anyone witnessed or not, although there was a trigger.  The main ghost communicated with the historical time-line mc, but only once without being pushed into it by Viv.  The other ghosts communicated with the present day mc, Carly, but benignly.  They were spooky, absolutely, but at a remove, so that they fell just short of spine-tingling.

And I guess, as I write this I was left unsatisfied by Nick’s story; it felt like it should be going somewhere and it didn’t.  I’m also disappointed that there was never an explanation for the present-day entry in the guest book of one James March who registered the day Carly and Nick had their first real experience with the Sun Down Motel.  That was a BIG little thing to leave hanging with no follow up.

But overall, it was a good story; I liked that both Viv and Carly had solid friendships in their timelines; I liked that Nick was her support from pretty much page 1, and I liked the investigatory process of the mystery plot, even if I thought Viv was a reckless idiot.  The story sucked me in, and I remain a solid fan of St. James’ books.

Left to my own devices, I’d have read this book as soon as I got it back in August, but I held off because it was a perfect fit for Halloween Bingo’s Ghost Stories square.

Halloween Bingo 2020: September 12 update

I’m currently going through a bingo-call dry spell, with only one call made in the last 5 that’s on my card, American Horror Story, which is going to get Spell-packed, because I don’t do horror.  I’ll be using the Transfiguration Card to turn American Horror into Spellbound and plan on reading Kevin Hearne’s Ink and Sigil.

I’ve finished two squares since my last update, having read The Betel Nut Tree Mystery for International Women of Mystery, and Imaginary Numbers for In the Dark, Dark Woods.  That gets me another square filled and another half-way there.  As you can see, I’m strategy poor and am sort of reading all over the card as I choose books that strike my fancy.

What’s striking my fancy next is both my American Horror Story transfigured into Spellbound read, Ink and Sigil, and my Ghost Story read, The Sun Down Motel.  I’ll likely start The Sun Down Motel first, so I can be reading it during daylight hours.

Calls made so far that are on my card:

  

*Note: I’ve removed Psych in favour of Romantic Suspense, as it’s the square I flipped.

How it works:

If I read a square that hasn’t been called yet, a ghost of stickers-yet-to-come will appear; once the square has been called, the sticker will become fully corporeal.  (Alas, this only works in regular browsers, but I’m in too deep to try to do something different now.)  As the squares get ticked off, a fully formed image will appear.  Previously, I posted the finished image, but this year I’m going to leave it a mystery.

Below is the table that will summarise the books I’ve read for each square, and note if I took advantage of one of the Spell Pack cards, and which one.  Book Titles link to my review of the book here.

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
Gothic
Genre: Suspense
Ghost Stories
Dark Academia Murder 101 Sept. 2
Southern Gothic
Row #2
Darkest London
Black Cat
Cozy Mystery Quick Study Sept. 5
Genre: Mystery Sept. 3
X International Women of Mystery Sept. 7 The Betel Nut Tree Mystery Sept. 10
Row #3
Grave or Graveyard
Deadlands
FREE SPACE n/a
In the Dark, Dark Woods Imaginary Numbers Sept. 12
Psych / Romantic Suspense Sept. 6
Row #4
American Horror Story/Spellbound Sept. 10
A Grimm Tale
It was a Dark and Stormy Night
Monsters
Trick or Treat
Row #5
Country House Mystery
X 13 Sept. 1 The Thirteen Problems Sept. 6
Locked Room Mystery
Halloween
X Murder Most Foul Sept. 5 Extracurricular Activities Sept. 3

The Spell Pack cards are below – I’ve used a border in the same color as the card to mark the squares where I’ve used one.

Cards used:
Bingo Flip:  Lillelara has agreed to trade my Psych square for her Romantic Suspense square.

Transfiguration Spell: Used to transform American Horror Story into Spellbound

Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid)

Imaginary NumbersImaginary Numbers
by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★
isbn 10: 0756413788
Series: InCryptid #9
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages: 431
Publisher: DAW Books

The InCryptid series is an outlier for me; it’s the only series I’ve ever read where I  feel comfortable picking and choosing which books to read, and have no problem skipping those that don’t appeal to me.  My favourites are the Verity novels, and in those novels one of the best characters in my opinion, was Sarah.  So when this book came out, I was excited about seeing where the author would take this character when given her own space.

I went in with few expectations, but still, even though it was a good book I read in almost one sitting (I fell asleep with 10 pages to go), I was disappointed.  It started off great but went pear shaped once Sarah was forced to work with the other cuckoos.  Because at this point the story became more science fiction than urban fantasy, and I don’t like science fiction.

Still, I could have coped, but there were two biggies for me: 1. The all-or-nothing we have to save the world from annihilation trope drives me insane.  Like nobody would notice this apocalyptic occurrence?  It’s totally unreasonable and gets more unreasonable as the book comes to an end.  2.  The end.  It’s a damn cliffhanger.  I hate cliffhangers.  Especially when the cliffhanger is in a book that’s just been released and how long am I going to have to wait until the resolution?  Will I care by that point?

In spite of all this complaining, you’ll notice I still gave the book 4 stars.  Because McGuire can write.  She made me devour a story that was irritating me more and more from the mid-way point because her characters are awesome, and the dialog, oh, the dialog is a joy to read.  So much sass and wit that’s perfectly balanced and never over-played.  Also, the Aeslin mice – they’re always good for at least a 1/2 star bump.

I had planned to use this book for a Spell Pack card in Halloween Bingo, I think.  But after reading it I realise it fits perfectly for the In the Dark, Dark Woods square, as most of the story takes place on the Price compound in the middle of the Oregon woods and Sarah is very descriptive about the drive through those woods to get to the compound.  Also, 2 significant events to the plot take place in those woods.