Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Serial Hottie is a YA romance about a tomboy and the mysterious new guy who moves in across the street.  She finds him attractive, but their first few interactions don't go well.  When a serial killer starts killing red headed teen aged girls in her home town soon after he moves in, she suspects he's the serial killer.
The relationship is a little creepy. She's a bit violent, including punching him at one point.  He is over-the-top jealous and stalker-y, and a couple of times physically restrains her to get her to listen to him when she doesn't want to.  On the other hand, we eventually understand why he acts the way he does, and when she calls him out on the creepy psycho stuff, he realizes that it's a problem and tries to change it.
Other than that, I think it's a good story.  I have a soft spot for stories about beautiful bad boys who are head-over-heels over a girl (Beautiful Disaster, et al).  The author does a decent job of showing the problems with dating a violent boy with stalker-ish tendencies and socialization issues, and how their relationship evolves as they learn he starts to learn how to act right.  She also has some issues with defensiveness and not really feeling comfortable with her feminine side, and with his help, she starts to feel more comfortable in her skin.
The story also has a fair amount going on.  There's the serial killer sub-plot, that is mostly about them learning to understand and trust one another for most of the story, but involves some suspense and action here and there.   There's also a solid arc about the relationship between Ellie and her sister, as well as a strong dose of tomboy-gets-a-makeover story line. For all that there's a lot of potentially heavy things going on, the general tone of the book is actually pretty light-hearted.  It's a fun YA read.

Review: Do Over by Emily Evans

Pez, the heroine and POV, really makes this story. She's a born leader - smart, organized, decisive, and understands people. She mostly channels that into her prom committee, although she's really like that all the time. She's also determined to be a fashion designer, and the contrast between her interest in fashion and art and her practical, level-headed approach to everything is great.
The main blemish in her life is that her parents are divorced. Not one to take things lying down, she's determined to make prom into a perfectly romantic event so her parents get back together, bonding over pre-prom rituals (I found this reasoning a little weak, but not a deal breaker - it's clear that she's having trouble accepting that they're not getting back together and is being a little irrational about it). In the meantime, her father is engaged to a professional cheerleader, who Pez gets to know over the course of the book. Their relationship was a surprisingly strong point of the story.
Mostly though, the story is a romance. Pez is forced to interact with the jocks her father coaches. She finds one of them attractive, but she recognizes that he's promiscuous and isn't generally into jocks, so doesn't act on it. Over the course of the story, they get to know each other better and develop a relationship (although not a romantic one for at first). The romance is understated. There is some tension before they act on their attraction, and there are difficulties they overcome when they start having a relationship, but the author doesn't unnecessarily draw out the problems, and Pez doesn't spend all her time wallowing in thoughts about the relationship - she's got things to do! For all that, when they do come together, it's intense and passionate considering that they only kiss (it is YA, after all).
I love that the author avoids the standard YA tropes and tendencies. There's no love triangle, insta-love, or angst. The girl doesn't feel unworthy of attention and she doesn't need - or get - a makeover. She's popular and good at school without being a genius or a goddess. The boy has no impulse control issues and wasn't her best friend from when they were kids. Nobody is abused or bullied. Mind you, I've loved stories that had all of these things, but it's refreshing to see YA romance that doesn't use any of them.

The only thing keeping me from rating it a five star instead of a four is that the climax isn't so climatic for me. When they run into relationship problems, there's some time when I'm sure Pez is hurting, but it really takes place off stage. So we go from conflict to resolution without tearing my heart out too much in between. Perversely, I would have liked my heart torn out just a tiny bit more. Other than that, though, I thought it was great. Highly recommended if you like YA romances.

Monday, April 16, 2012

SSF Stories with Middle Eastern Leads

This post is focuses on my favorite science fiction and fantasy stories with protagonists whose race and ethnicity is rooted in the Middle East.
Previous Posts: SFF Stories with Native American Leads, SFF Stories with Asian Leads and SFF Stories with Black Leads.

The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 15/7/24
  • Author with most works on the list: Frank Herbert, with 6 books on the list
  • Most consistent pattern: Historical Fantasies.  Rather than take the ideas and culture and build their own world, about half the series on the list placed their stories in a serious historical context.
  • Biggest overall surprise:  No fantasies with the magic based on ancient Egyptian mythology.  I would have assumed that would be more popular, but no.
and now for...

My Favorites

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Peacemaker by Lindsay Buroker

As with the other installments of the Flash Gold Series, it's fun and action-filled.  Apparently it's also longer than the other stories, but unfortunately Buroker doesn't really use that extra length to make noticeable progress on any of the main story arcs.  Despite this, I recommend it as a fun read in a fun series.

Peacemaker, by Lindsay Buroker, is the third story in her Flash Gold series, a steam-punk adventure set in the Yukon gold rush.  The protagonist is Kali, a half-Han/half-white female MacGuyver.   She's clever and crotchety and brave and vulnerable.  In the first book she becomes partners with Cedar, a sword-and-gun-wielding bounty hunter.  He's mysterious and wise and fierce and a little crazy and socially awkward to complement her craziness and socially awkwardness.  I love them both. Instead of novels, each installment in this series is a short story or novella, so the episodes are fairly light and fun, with larger arcs that carry over the stories and action that's solved with a mixture of derring do and improvised engineering.

In a lot of ways, this story was a good addition to the series.  The the action was fun, the writing is good, the main characters are great, the inventions are inventive, and the setting is cool.

I have two beefs however.

The first is with the world building.  Now, don't get me wrong.  It's a rollicking setting with fun details.  And she infuses enough richness to it that her steam punk world feels like it's own distinct place.  The problem is that after three stories, it still feels a like a bubble setting.  I don't have a real sense of how the world got to be the way it is or how it fits into the rest of the world, despite the fact that other places in the world are mentioned.

For example, there are a couple mentions of  medicine men and native american witches who have some sort of magical powers (no real detail on that).  But  those people don't seem to be any different from real life medicine men and women accused of witches other than to give us flash gold.  And other than that, there's no integration of magic into the rest of her world.  That level of world-building was okay for the first story, because it's a short story and I don't want Buroker to spend so much time explaining the setting that it takes away from the story.  But three stories in, we've gotten a chance to look around a bit, and it still feels like magic is just plopped into one place in her world and doesn't affect anything else.  And that's just odd.  I'd think that some people having magic powers would affect the world in a bunch of ways.  Maybe regular people would be more superstitious or prejudiced against magic users or maybe magic users would occupy certain roles that aren't available in our world, or there would be a bunch of charlatans pretending to have power, or, I don't know, a bunch of possibilities.  But about the only possibility I don't swallow is that you'd be able to change such a fundamental part of world (some people can do real magic) and the only difference is that now there's flash gold, which only Kali has.

To give another example, Kali and other tinkerers can do all sorts of crazy engineering, but the world as a whole is not any different than our real world.  It seems like there are a few crazy fun things inserted (we don't just have outlaw gangs riding horses, we have sky pirates riding zeppelins!), but it doesn't seem like it makes that much of a difference - it just adds flavor.  And that also seems odd or inconsistent.  Unless you posit something like that the crazy engineering ability is so recent that it hasn't had a chance to really change history yet, I would expect the world to be a bit more different than our real one. In particular, it seems like there are no changes to the culture or institutions or history or anything.

This isn't a huge problem with me because it's still a fun world and the story is meant to be fairly light-weight, but from reading her Emperor's Edge series, it's clear to me she has the ability to do more extensive and consistent world building, so that aspect of it is a bit of a disappointment.  I'd love to see her really let loose on the premise.


The other beef I have is that it just doesn't feel like anything important happened in the story.  Over all, it feels very much like an interstitial story, rather than a building block story. I don't always need a short story to move the the plot arcs forward.  If it's an interstitial story in the middle of a bunch of novels, then I can just appreciate it as a nice little gift from the author to tide me over until the next major installment.  But when the whole series is short stories, then I want each one to contribute to moving the things forward or else it feels like I'm being strung along a little bit.  I want each story to be an important one that needs to be told in the overall context of the series.

The first story (Flash Gold) was important because it told the story of how Kali and Cedar met and started working together, as well as being the point where Kali learned she was being hunted.  It was a solid beginning.  The second one (Hunted) was important because it was the story of how they opened up to each other and started having a romantic relationship.

Now we're on the third one, and I feel like we have a few good possible threads for turning it into a significant point in Kali or Cedar's lives, but none of them went anywhere in this story.  There's a little more about Kali and Cedar's back story, but none of the reveals significantly color our perception of them as characters, nor do they affect their relationship.   The relationship between Kali and Cedar sort of had some tension that never got too tense and was easily resolved, and the  relationship between them also didn't progress.  I thought we might go somewhere with  the introduction of Tadzi, but he just has a cameo.  I thought maybe we'd get farther along with the Cudgel arc, but, other than knowing he's in the area (which we already knew) and that we now know that he knows about Cedar and Kali, nothing really happened there.  There's the possibility for some emotional growth from Kali as she faces her Han past and deals with her issues from that, but no actual emotional growth happened.  In the epilogue, she's a hero for the Han and the town and so it's possible that this will be  will be important because it's the time when her relationship to the world changed, but that's not really explored either.

I don't know.

We get another installment, but I don't feel like it accomplished much.  It's fun and frothy, but we're in the same place that we started.  I'm still glad that I read the story because it's a cool adventure, and I'm still going to buy the next one when it comes out, but I hope that overall Buroker will balance this one out with a bit more depth or forward progress in the next installment.  I'm afraid of this turning into an adventure-of-the-week style series where every installment has a new contraption, but is otherwise a rehash of the same basic plot and static relationships and characters and world.  I'd rather a Buffy the Vampire Slayer approach where there may be monsters every week, but you want to see them all because they tell a story together that has significant plot movement, world-building, and character growth.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Zero Factor by Stacy Gail

This sci-fi romance was not bad, but nothing to write home about either.  Although, I supposed I'm writing here about it, in any case.

Zero Factor, by Stacy Gail, is a dystopian action romance set in a militarized future with cyborg militia soldiers, radioactive pollution, and starving masses. The future is sharply divided between the haves and have nots.

The heroine has psychic powers, and is trying to keep a low profile to avoid conscription by the government which apparently rounds up psychics for nefarious purposes.  While delivering food, she has a vision of the group she's with being attacked and dying.  At a loss for how to prevent it, she shares it by kissing one of the soldiers who's watching over her group.  When he realizes that the attack is a plot by his commanding officer, he foils it and they go on the run together.

The story didn't have anything terribly wrong with it, but I just didn't respond to it for some reason.  The world building is a compilation of ideas that I've seen before.  I didn't feel the chemistry between the leads (death for a romance book).  And I didn't love the protagonist, although I didn't hate her or get annoyed with her either.  I don't know.  I just didn't respond to it.  It was literally a Zero Factor for me as well, I suppose - not important enough to matter.  YMMV.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Twist, by Dannika Dark

Dark's sophomore effort is a great urban fantasy with more of a focus on relationships and romance than the first in the series.  It's teh hot. I enjoyed it so much, I read it twice.  :)

Twist, by Danika Dark, is the sequel to Sterling (Mageri Series: Book 1), a book about a woman who is brutally attacked and turned into a mage and finds herself part of a dangerous, magical side of the world she never knew existed.

This one starts off with Silver chafing a bit under Justus' tight restrictions. She clearly respects him and understands that's he's trying to protect her, but she has her own ideas of how her life needs to be. Throughout the book, she disobeys him to either do things that she thinks is right or that she has a right to do. This dynamic could have come off like a self-centered teenage rebellion against a father figure/love interest, but I think the author succeeded in crafting an arc for the relationship between Justus and Silver that makes sense for two adult characters. She is a grown woman with very understandable issues about control and independence, and he is a controlling, honorable, very old (very hot) man who is uncomfortable with affection and not really human. They don't see eye-to-eye, but they both want their learner-ghuardian relationship to work. I don't know if it worked evenly throughout the book, but overall I liked it. I also liked what the author did with Silver's other relationships in general. More on that in a minute.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gah - I've been bad

OK, so lately I've been focusing on a development developing:

‘Line Pirates: Bane of the MultiVersal Corps 

Basically, it's an online Real Time Turn (RTT) Collectible Card Game (CCG) with a high-adventure, sci-fantastical military theme.  It also incorporates some elements that are normally found in Role Playing Games (RPGs), namely grid-based strategy and a strong narrative element.  We're aiming for high strategy, but low time commitment - a game played in 15-20 minutes.  We hope to alpha by Dec 2012 and release by June 2013, if we can get sufficient funding.  Check out our wiki for it if you want more details, although at this stage it's really aimed more for us to codify the ruleset than for users to start playing.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, although it may appear as though I was swallowed by a black hole, I've just been temporarily distracted and will shortly return to my regular reading and blogging obsession.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in participating in beta testing or observing the creation process, let me know.  My partner and I are doing this mostly by email since we live in different parts of the country, so we've gathered a small group of people who want to be cced on everything to see how a game comes to live.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

SFF Stories with Black Leads

This post is focuses on my favorite science fiction and fantasy stories with protagonists whose race and ethnicity is rooted in sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora. I'm separating out Northern Africa and putting that with the Middle East, since I figured Egypt and Saudi Arabia have more in common with each other than with the places such as the Congo or Japan.
Related Posts: SFF Stories with Native American LeadsSFF Stories with Asian Leads, and SFF Stories with Middle Eastern Leads.

The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 16/7/6
  • Author with most works on the list: Octavia Butler, with 7 books on the list
  • Most depressing realization: The overwhelming majority of books here have no recognizable black people on the covers. Sigh.
  • Biggest overall surprise: No (non-urban) fantasies. How'd that happen?
and now for...

My Favorites

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SF/F Stories with Asian Leads

This post only covers from central, East and Southeast Asia. I'm covering the Middle East and north Africa in a separate post.
Related Posts: SFF Stories with Native American Leads, SFF Stories with Black Leads, and SFF Stories with Middle Easter Leads.

The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 24/7/7
  • Author with most works on the list: Eileen Wilks, with 8 books in her Lupi series
  • Biggest overall surprise: No ninjas. Huh. With all the assassin stories out there, I would have assumed I had read something more explicitly ninja-esque.  I'm going to have to hunt one down.  Also, I was a little surprised at the diversity. After doing the list for Native Americans, I was expecting patterns to emerge, even among excellent writers.  But, they're a pretty diverse group of stories.
and now for...

My Favorites

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SF/F Stories with Native American Leads

In an attempt to celebrate great examples of sci-fi and fantasy books with Native American protagonists, I'm writing down a list of my favorites.  It's part of a series of posts covering SFF stories with non-white protagonists. See also SFF stories with Asian Leads, SFF Stories with Black Leads, and SFF Stories with Middle Eastern Leads.


The Aggregate Stats

  • Total number of works/series/authors on the list: 17/5/6
  • Author with most works on the list: Patricia Briggs by a landslide - 8 books and 1 short story.
  • Most common trope: Coyote. A close second is the female half Native American/half white tomboy protagonist with grease under her fingernails from all her work as a mechanic or mechanical tinkerer. She can handle her own in an adventure and is prepared to defend herself if she has to, but would rather be left alone, especially since she has secrets to hide. Unfortunately, her secrets draw her into the preternatural world she's trying to avoid. Seriously, this describes half the protagonists!
  • Biggest overall surprise: There's only one full-blood Native American, and there are no (non-urban) fantasies on the list. There are also no stories set within a Native American culture (or magical version thereof), the stories always have the protagonist living in a white world. 
and now for...

My Favorites

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Non-white Protagonists in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

I was thinking recently about non-white protagonists in genre books I'd enjoyed.  One of the first things that struck me is that I'd probably seen an order of magnitude more books with non-white main characters in romance novels than in sci-fi and fantasy.

Which struck me as a bit odd.

Note, I was trying to recall stories with either a non-white protagonist and or non-white main love interest or both.  I didn't count stories with paranormal or alien races which have, say, yellow skin but which have cultures based on a European culture.

Anyway, I came up with a bunch of possible reasons for the romance vs sci-fi/fantasy discrepancy.  Many have to do with my less-than-awesome powers of observation and with basing conclusions on half-remembered anecdotal evidence.  Here are some others:

  1. There are just more romance books written total, so even if percentages are comparable, absolute numbers won't be.
  2. Romance series where each book centers on a different couple are really popular.  Readers tend to become fans of the series as a whole, not of a particular book.  So with this sort of format, you have a wider total main cast for the series and can make some of them non-white without making the whole series look too scarily "Ethnic" for those who might be put off by that sort of thing.  Of course, I don't see a lot of non-white main POVs in fantasy epics, which you'd think would be the same sort of situation.
  3. Having a protagonist or love interest who looks like you is more important to romance readers,  so publishing houses take the time to solicit/encourage books that specifically appeal to various ethnicities in the same way that they solicit particular story tropes.  Sci-fi and fantasy are supposed to be less formulaic so publishers don't even try to do it there.
Regardless of the reasons, I don't entirely like the result.  OTOH, I really enjoy the books I already read, so it's not like I have anything to complain about other than a vague, existential dissatisfaction with the situation.  I guess, rather than complain about the ones that I haven't read (all those sci-fi fantasy books with non-white protagonists that could have been there but which weren't), I've decided to celebrate the ones that I have enjoyed.  And maybe go out of my way to read some more over the next year or so.

In any case, over the next week or two, I'll be posting a series of lists about sci-fi and fantasy books that I've really enjoyed and that have non-white protagonists.   
  1. SFF stories with Native American protagonists
  2. SFF stories with Asian protagonists
  3. SFF stories with black protagonists
  4. SFF stories with Middle Eastern protagonists
I sadly haven't read enough books to create sci-fi/fantasy lists for Native Australians and Pacific Islanders or Latinos. It's doubly frustrating because I'm Latina, so I would have thought that I would have kept an eye out more for that.  

Anyway, if anyone wants to recommend books for me to read to add to the lists, just let me know. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Coexist by Julia Crane

I really wanted to like this YA paranormal romance.  The heroine is an elf that blends into human society, and the story looks like it has yummy romantic tension with less emo angst than the typical vampire YA PR.   But in the end, I couldn't suspend enough disbelief to enjoy it.  It may work better for younger teens.

Coexist, by Julia Crane, is the first book in a YA contemporary paranormal trilogy.  It's a story told mainly through the POV of sixteen-year-old Keegan, the light elf heroine, although the story does show scenes from her brother  Thaddeus, friends, and her Chosen (soul mate) Rourke.

The way Chosens work is that each elf has someone that's chosen for them when they're born (in a mysterious way that isn't explained), but they are not allowed to meet until they turn eighteen (it's also not explained who makes that rule).  Once they're both eighteen, the Chosen bond flares to life, and they instantly fall in love and can sense each other from far away et cetera.  At the beginning of the book, Keegan's learned Rourke's name, so every time she thinks about him, he feels it and can see of what she's doing.  Of course, being a teenage girl that knows she has a perfect soul mate out there somewhere, she thinks about him a lot, so he's constantly being distracted by her and desperately wants to meet her, but knows he should wait until she turns eighteen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: The Assassin's Curse by Lindsay Buroker

This is sort of like a yummy little snack to tide over fans of the "Emperor's Edge" series until she publishes the next hearty helping of bookiliciousness.  Recommended. 

The Assassin's Curse, by Lindsay Buroker, is a short story set in Buroker's steam-punk fantasy series, Emperor's Edge. If you're not familiar with the series, start with The Emperor's Edge before you read this one. Right now, at least, the first book is free, which is crazy, because it's a great book and a great series.

In any case, The Assassin's Curse starts off with Amaranthe and Sicarius training hard, but pretty soon Amaranthe finds a reason to investigate some suspicious smoke in the distance rather than finishing training. Of course, this soon snowballs into an mini-adventure which takes place over the course of a couple of hours.

The story doesn't move any of the main plot or character development arcs forward, and it doesn't show us any new facets of their personalities, so you can skip it without worrying about whether you're going to miss out on part of the series. OTOH, if you like seeing the Amaranthe interacting with Sicarius and getting herself in and out of scrapes (and who doesn't, really?), then you're guaranteed to like this, too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Telesa - The Covenant Keeper by Lani Wendt Young

Great world-building and three-dimensional characters help this YA paranormal romance stand out in this crowded sub-genre.  And I have to give the author extra kudos for basing the paranormal part of her story on Samoan mythology instead of just having the typical vampires and werewolves (not to say I don't love werewolves...).  Recommended, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Telesa, by Lani Wendt Young, is the story of Leila, teenager who travels to Samoa to get to know her long-deceased mother's family and heritage.  She also is trying to escape her very rich, very white grandmother, who is her guardian now that her beloved father passed away. She starts to get settled into her new environment, but strange things start happening to her and pretty soon she falls down the rabbit hole of the exotic paranormal.

It's a good set up.  By having the main character come recently from the States, Young introduces us to Samoa very smoothly.  And she does a great job of immersing the reader in the locale - sounds, smells, speech patterns, attitudes, etc. - without it feeling like a flowery travelogue.  The book is rooted in a sense of place that I found almost as appealing as the characters and plot. And I found the characters and plot pretty darn appealing. 7CQ28RUGKYQ6

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Dragonswarm by Aaron Pogue

This engaging sequel to Taming Fire mostly lives up to the promise of its predecessor.  I recommend it for anyone who read the first book, and recommend the series in general for anyone who's looking for a good heroic high fantasy.

The Dragonswarm, by Aaron Pogue, is a straight-forward high fantasy adventure that's tightly focused on the protagonist.  The first book was a really good coming-of-age of a hero sort of book, and this one continued by not only upping the ante in terms of magic and impact on the world, but also having him continue to grow emotionally.

The premise is that Daven, the main character, gets some dragon blood in him through an accident that happens in the first book.  This gives him crazy powers that other humans don't have.  He's also street-wise and an accomplished swordfighter with an intellectual bent.  No small-minded anti-heroes here!  Unfortunately, he's wanted by a tyrannical king (where wanted = wants to kill him), hated by powerful wizards, in love with a beautiful girl, but is mostly concentrating on the imminent dragonswarm apocalypse.  A guy has to have his priorities, after all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Time Mends by Tammy Blackwell

Time Mends takes up where Destiny Binds left off, both chronologically and emotionally, so read that first, then come back for this riveting and rewarding read.  

Time Mends, by Tammy Blackwell, is the second book in the The Timber Wolves series, it reminds me a little bit of the Empire Strikes Back in that it's an emotionally darker story that is clearly serving a different purpose than the first one.  This is Act II, not more of the same as we saw in the first book.

At first blush, the Timer Wolves series looks like it would be just another Twilight-wannabe, with its beautiful-yet-unpopular girl, slow introduction into a paranormal world, and a love triangle between the the girl, a longtime friend, and a mysterious new comer. It gets beyond that quickly though, by having a strong heroine with both agency and integrity and a plot that gets away from the manipulative "team this" vs "team that" and into a riveting star-crossed lovers story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge!

I've decide to participate in the 2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge 
*blare of trumpets*

At this point I'm going for Short Story Level - 75 Books, which means I'm going to read and review about 75 self-published books over the course of this year.  I'm behind in writing up reviews though, so we'll see how the year goes.  I'll fill in the list as I read the books.
  1. Katre's Summer
  2. Time Mends
  3. The Dragonswarm
  4. Telesa: The Covenant Keeper
  5. Twist
  6. Priscilla the Great: Too Little Too Later
  7. The Spinster & The Beast
  8. Suspicious Hearts
  9. A Lady's Point of View
  10. The Assassin's Curse
  11. Coexist (?  Maybe self-published?)
  12. Blood Will Tell
  13. Blood Past

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Soul Linked Saga

If there were a literary equivalent of the walk of shame for book reading, then this review would be me doing it.  These books are the craziest wish-fulfillment excuse for a series I have ever read.  The premise for this science fiction romance series is farcical.  The writing is mediocre.  But somehow I couldn't keep myself from reading all three.  It's my crack!  Be warned.

OK, so, here goes.

The premise is that among the thousand worlds there is a mysterious race, called the Jasani, who are born as triplets (called male-sets) and that each male-set does everything together, including sex, because they share a soul.  The Jasani are also magic-wielding shape-shifters (the first book is about the dragon-ish triplets, the second is the wolf-ish, and the third is great cat-ish).

The Jasani home world is modeled after an old west theme except on a world of lavendar skies and blue grass.  It comes complete with a horse and cattle ranch owned by the first set of triplets, and a small local town for shopping when they need the change of scenery.  Oh, and the first heroes are also the ruling royalty of the Jasani.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Fabulous.  This inventive, romantic fantasy has taken an interesting conceit and turned it into a deeply touching, character-driven adventure.  Part-way through writing this review, I had to stop writing to read the book again just because I remembered how much I enjoyed it.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, is set in a fairly standard, low-magic fantasy world, except instead of traditional magic, the world contains people who are very occasionally born with a grace.  A grace is a preternatural ability for anything from baking bread or whistling to fighting or mind reading.  Gracelings are recognized because at some point in childhood, their eyes change so that each eye is a different color.  Once that happens, in the country of Middluns, they become the property of the King.

This story is told from the point of view of the King's niece, Katsa, who has a grace for killing and has been used as the King's enforcer.  It's definitely a twist.  She's both the beautiful damsel and the brutal, antisocial thug.

Satisfaction Guaranteed and Perfectly Satisfied

I liked the characters and was in the mood for a friends-to-lovers contemporary romance, but they felt sketched in to me rather than fully fleshed out.  Meh.

Satisfaction Guaranteed and Perfectly Satisfied, by Tori Scott, are the first two of a planned trilogy.

They weren't horribly written, but the first one squicked me out at first when it seemed like the love interest was going to try to force or manipulate the female lead into having sex with him.  It got less squicky later, but I felt it still went too fast to be emotionally believable.  When they started, they had fallen out of touch and she had never really thought of him as a love interest.  A few hours later, they were passionate lovers.  A couple more hours and they were engaged and the book was over.

I liked the secondary characters better and they got together in the second book, which was a still too short for the story, but better than the first.

The Hedgewitch Queen

I really enjoyed this romantic fantasy novel.  It's a palace intrigue with some adventuring around the countryside thrown in.   Be warned - the main plot arcs aren't resolved by the end of the book.

The Hedgewitch Queen, by Lilith Saintcrow, is set in a world that felt a bit like a magical three musketeers, but told from the point of view of an idealistic young royal who has to flee with her musketeers (or, in this case, the Queen's Guards) after a palace coup.  The guards, of course, are led by a loyal, hot, mysterious captain of the guards.

Towards the beginning of the book, I thought I knew where it was going. Saintcrow uses some pretty familiar cliches, such as a magical jewel that proclaims the rightful ruler, hedgewitchcraft being less prestigious than court sorcery, etc.  However, she ended up surprising me a bit towards the end.  She manages to put in enough moral complexity that I'm still not sure how certain things will - or should - be resolved in the next book.  Kudos if she manages to wrap things up with an HEA without resorting to a deus ex machina.