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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

The Sun Down Motel

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 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.

Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid)

Imaginary NumbersImaginary Numbers
by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 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.

Small Magics

Small MagicsSmall Magics
by Illona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781596069619
Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Pages: 455
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Subterranean Press

An anthology of short stories in the Kate Daniels universe.


When I saw here on BookLikes that Sweep with Me was out, I went to Ilona Andrew’s website to find out more, and noticed the release of a new anthology, published by Subterranean Press.  Yes please!

This is a compilation of the short stories Ilona Andrews has written, all previously published elsewhere, and for the first time in print, all the Curren POV’s Gordon Andrews has written and posted on their website.  Interspersed are 3? full color illustrations.

It’s a nice book – not the most impressive I’ve seen put out by Subterranean, but a good solid book.  I’d read some of the stories before, but enough of them were new to me to make me appreciate having bought it.

My only gripe with the book is with the Curran POVs.  As a character, these stories don’t always flatter Curran, but that’s trivial.  What is really disappointing, though, is the poor copy-editing of the Curran stories.  On the website, they’re clear to state that the stories were written for fun, not edited, yada yada.  And that’s totally understandable.  But I’d have though when it comes to publishing a limited release, numbered, signed, illustrated edition, the publisher, if not the authors themselves, would have wanted to take the time and make the effort to correct, at the very least, the most glaring omissions and errors (lots of the, a, an articles missing, or misplaced).

Ah well, a good collection that might have been great, but still welcome on my shelves.

Sweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles Novella)

Sweep with MeSweep with Me
by Illona Andrews
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #5
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Pages: 136
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: NYLA Publishing

"Thank you for joining us at Gertrude Hunt, the nicest bed-and-breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, during the Treaty Stay. As you know, we are honor-bound to accept all guests during this oldest of innkeeper holidays, and we are expecting a dangerous guest. Or several. But have no fear. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your hosts - Dina Demille and Sean Evans - will defend you at all costs. But we hope we don't have to."

Every winter, the innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, commemorating the ancient treaty that united the very first inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of planet Earth. By tradition, the innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, the innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone.

All Dina hopes is that the guests and conduct themselves in a polite manner. But what's a holiday without at least one disaster?


Fun; brief, but it packs a punch at the end.  This one is for those who’ve already read the other Innkeeper Chronicle books, though there’s enough ‘tell’ sprinkled throughout that a first-timer wouldn’t be totally confused.  They would be totally spoiled for the others though, as there are spoilers to previous plots in the text.

A lot of the secondary cast are ‘away’ for this story, so Orro gets a bit more attention, and it appears Dina is making new friends.  Not sure if we’ll see them again, as this novella has a pretty tidy HEA ending, but they’ll be welcome additions to any future Innkeeper books.

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3)

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

I don’t actually care for dystopian/post-apocolyptic settings and this trilogy reminded me of that and ultimately reinforced my belief that my tastes haven’t changed over time.  If my tastes had changed, or if I’d always been a fan, I’d have probably stuck with my original instinct to rate this more of a 3/3.5.  As it is, I’m compensating for taste.

I enjoyed Angelfall, although it started to fall apart for me at the end when the science fiction angle started to show itself.  In spite of the dystopian/P.A. theme, I could totally get on board with Penryn and Raphael and their search for his wings and her family.  But from book 2, things just got too weird for me; the experiments, the creations, the politics.  I was committed to continuing though because I cared about the characters.

So while quite a few others I know are disappointed by End of Days it pretty much met my expectations – I continued to be bored by the science fiction/frankensteinian aspects and was really just in it for the HEA it seemed was inevitable; I mean what else was the author going to realistically do that wouldn’t get her lynched by a teen mob?  I also enjoyed the scenes in the pit (perhaps ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word; I liked meeting the Watchers and seeing Baliel before his corruption was complete).

I’m satisfied with the trilogy; it didn’t wow me, but I feel like I got what I paid for, more or less.

Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega, #4)

Dead HeatDead Heat
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 0425256758
Series: Alpha and Omega #4
Publication Date: September 27, 2020
Pages: 304
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

I was late to the party for both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series; the upside of this being I got to binge read all of them to get caught up.  At the end of it, I was a fan of both series, but the Alpha and Omega series squeaked past Mercy by a hair.  Less pack dynamics/politics in the A&O series.

What I loved about both was the strong ties to Native American cultures their respective MC’s have but was frustrated about how little the Native American cultures actually played a part until River Marked gave us more about Mercy’s heritage.  Now we’re starting to get a bit more about Charles’ in Dead Heat.

Like others, I enjoyed Fair Game less than the first two books in the A&O series so I was a little hesitant about cracking this one open, worried it might have that same dark tone overlaid with heavy tension between the two MC’s.  But we’re back to a great plot and MC’s that work together.  Once that was clear, I didn’t want to put the book down; after the scene in the classroom with Amethyst, I was riveted.

I knocked off half a star because I knew who Anna and Charles were looking for from the first scene they had together, but truly, it did not matter one whit to my enjoyment of the story overall.

View Spoiler »

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading it again almost as much as I am looking forward to reading the next one.

 

The scene when Anna and Charles met Ms. Edison was very well written, but Ms. Briggs used that moment to explain in detail why Opium, more than most other perfumes, masked scents so well that Charles couldn’t smell anything else.  The only reason for that detail to be explained was that it was going to have significant repercussions later on.  (Ms. Edison is wearing Opium / Opium masks scents.  Ergo, Ms. Edison has something to hide.)

INSERT SPOILER TAG HERE

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading it again almost as much as I am looking forward to reading the next one.