Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Serpent in Heaven by Charlaine Harris: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Serpent in Heaven by Charlaine Harris

The Serpent in Heaven is the fourth book in Gunnie Rose alt-history fantasy series that takes place in alternative 1930s America that has been divided to several new countries after the Great Depression. Britannia in the east coast is ruled by the British, and former California and Oregon form the Holy Russian Empire ruled by the Tzar Alexei, the haemophilic son of Nikolai II, now an adult. Texas and Oklahoma form Texoma, where the series originally took place, following Lizbeth Rose, a sharpshooter who hires herself as a guard on dangerous missions through the lawless state.

The previous book moved the focus to San Diego, where the Tzar’s court is, and to the machinations of courtiers and grigoris, the powerful magic wielders that are allowed to operate openly in the empire. This book ditched Gunnie completely and focused on her half-sister Felicia, who as a granddaughter of Rasputin is one of the few people whose blood can alleviate the Tzar’s haemophilia.

The change in the point of view was good and put a new gear in the story. In the previous books, Felicia has been the target of people who want to kill all the Tzars blood donors. Now she’s a student in a school for grigoris, trying to lay low, and going through a freakish growth spurt that brings her up to speed with her real age, fifteen, after her father had suppressed her growth with magic for years to keep her safe.

But she isn’t as unnoticeable as she had hoped. While the school empties during an epidemic of Spanish flu, her dead mother’s family comes gunning for her. Their motivation is a bit lame and doesn’t really justify the body-count that ensues. Most of it was caused by Felicia who discovers she is more powerful magic practitioner than she had known.

This was maybe my favourite book in the series so far. The world is more familiar, there was more magic, and the story was fairly straight-forward. Felicia was a very different character from Gunnie, but I liked her voice and character. Having grown up in the slums of Mexico, she was tough and resilient. However, I would’ve liked some reaction from her to all the deaths she caused, but like with Gunnie, they didn’t affect her at all.

The romance was sweet, though maybe unnecessary at this point, especially with all the drama. She’ll end up bossing Peter around if they stay together. Felix was my favourite side character, but others were good too. Gunnie only made a cameo appearance, but she wasn’t needed. All in all, I hope the following books continue with Felicia’s story.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Archangel’s Resurrection by Nalini Singh: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Archangel's Resurrection by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series has advanced to its fifteenth book. What began as a series about vampire hunting woman and her archangel, has expanded to an entire world of vampires, angels, and archangels. In Archangel’s Resurrection the world expands even more, tens of thousands of years into the past.

We follow Alexander through his childhood and advancement in ranks over the millenia, until he becomes the Archangel of Persia. He’s already thousands of years old when he meets Zanaya who is only at the beginning of her journey to become the Archangel of North Africa, and he’s willing to wait a thousand years more, until they’re more equal in strength, to start their first romance.

It’s a story of two powerful, stubborn archangels who love for a thousand years and fight for another, only to return to each other to start the cycle of toxic love affair again. But neither can let the other completely go, even when Zanaya choses to sleep for ten thousand years to avoid the madness of angels.

The first half of the book is fairly slow, the details brushed over, with only brief moments of the two together. And when Zanaya finally awakens in the modern world, it’s only to perish at the hands of the Archangel of Death, and so Alexander has to wait a decade more for her to heal.

The main story happens in the last third of the book. Zanaya and Alexander are finally mature enough to break the cycle of stubbornness and anger and become vulnerable enough with each other to let the other in to start a proper relationship. There’s also some aftermath of the war with Lijuana to deal with that threatens to destroy their newfound happiness.

Despite the tempo difference between the two halves, this was a good book. It was interesting to see what the long lifespan of angels does to them, and to meet familiar names from earlier books. The toxic romance was a change of pace too and kept the story fresh. In the end though, I couldn’t help wishing that it hadn’t taken them quite that long to get to their senses. The ending hints at the next romance, which will likely be even longer in the timespan than this one. I can’t wait to read it.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Moonlight and Magic by Darynda Jones: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads
Moonlight and Magic by Darynda Jones

Moonlight and Magic is the fourth book in Jones’ Betwixt and Between series that follows two forty-something women who suddenly find out that they are powerful witches, charmlings. The first three books were about Defiance. This one is about Annette.

Having powers came as a huge surprise to Annette, because unlike Deph, she knows who her parents are and they’re not magical at all. So, it must mean her father isn’t who she thought. Determined to find out the truth, she travels back home to ask her mother about it.

Before she’s even taken off her coat, things get out of hands. A warlock appears, but one only she can see; a ghost of a little girl needs help, and her mother’s new man turns out to be even more evil than the warlockwho doesn’t seem all that evil after all.

It takes most of the book to set things straight, before Nette can return home to Salem, where she discovers that the warlock wasn’t who she thoughtand turns out to be something better. But the troubles follow her home. Luckily her new familyand the houseare there to help her.

This was a good book. Fairly short, but with a good mystery and a complete plot. It’s still difficult to imagine Nette is a grownup woman in her mid-forties, but she was a fun character now that we get her point of view. She didn’t get to use her new powers much, but when she did, she made a difference, in more ways than one. And if a few things were left unsolved, like the statue, they’ll likely continue in the next one.

The familiar cast didn’t have a large role, but they seemed fresh through Nette’s eyes. Nette’s mom was a good and surprising addition, and the warlock was excellent. Ghosts and other incorporeal heroes aren’t my thing, but considering Nette’s infatuation with Percy, the spirit controlling the house, this was an improvementin more ways than one. And the little cliffhanger at the end ensures I’ll continue with the series.

Junk Magic by Karen Chance: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Junk Magic by Karen Chance

Junk Magic starts a new spin-off series, Lia de Croissets, set in the world of Chance’s Cassie Palmer and Dorina Basarab series. While it can be read separately, it also presumes that the reader is familiar with what’s going on in the other two series, namely the war with gods, and how the world works, i.e. the Magic Corps, vamps, weres, and fay. None of it is explained in any way, so a new reader to Chance may find it difficult to understand everything that’s happening.

AccaliaLiade Croissets is a daughter of a war mage and a werewolf. She hasn’t taken the bite to Change to a werewolf though, ostensibly so that she could become a war mage, but in truth because she carries a disease that prevents it. Because of it, she’s at odds with the were world. And that was before she shacked up with an outcast were.

Her boyfriend, Cyrus, has begun to rescue other outcasts, mostly teenage boys. When one of them suddenly transform to a monster of nightmares, Lia sets out to investigate. It leads her to a doctored drug that triggers old supernatural genes. And then she is dosed with it herself.

This was a familiar affair of Chance’s, with political machinationswerewolves this time instead of vampiressinister villains, chapters-long, confusing battle scenes, and a powerful underdog heroine who must face them if not alone, then vastly outnumbered. Lia was a good MC, intelligent, resourceful, and goodhearted, and unlike Cassie, knew what was going on the whole time. And like all Chance’s heroines, played it so close to her heart that the villain came completely out of the blue. Moreover, missed its mark badly this time.

Of the supporting cast, Caleb, Lia’s war mage partner, was the only one that we’ve met before, and I liked that he was finally given a bigger role. Cyrus, her boyfriend, was a great character, but following a relationship that’s been going on for a while wasn’t as satisfying as watching a new one grow. Lia’s students and the rescued boys were a good addition, but there were so many of them that most of them were left in the background.

All in all, this was a good, coherent book and a great start to the series. I’ll be reading more.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Folk Around and Find Out by Penny Reid: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Folk Around and Find Out by Penny Reid

Folk Around and Find Out is the second book in Good Folk: Modern Folktales, a spin-off series of Reid’s Winston Brothers. The first was a let-down, but this one had a bit more kick to it.

Hank Weller is the owner of a strip club, Charlotte Mitchell a divorced mother of four whose husband left her with one of Hank’s strippers. Bad blood ensued, though not from Charlotte’s side, because she’s wilfully oblivious to gossip.

Charlotte needs an inside access to the club. Her cousin has gone missing and might be working as a stripper there, but the girls are protective of their own and won’t spill the beans to an outsider. First she tries to audition as a stripper, much to Hank’s horror, as she is a church-going teacher’s aide. Eventually, she becomes the bookkeeper. Romance ensues.

The romance was good. It was slow with many complications like boss dating an employee, town pariah dating a respectable woman, and a man who doesn’t like children dating a mother. All the obstacles were won little by little. Hank and Charlotte were believable people, and the romance grew organically. The children were great, with their own personalities instead of just backdrops.

All the rest was a bit off. Hank had a backstory as a rich kid turned a bad-boy, which was referred to, but nothing was made of it. Charlotte had an odd mother who interfered in the beginning, but it wasn’t dealt with in the end. Hank and Charlotte had a bit of history that he didn’t remember, but which meant a lot to her, yet it sort of went away on its own.

Charlotte also had trouble with her ex’s family, but just as it was coming to a climax, a deus ex machina solution in the form of Cletus Winston (who else) was handed outside the narrative and the problem went away. None of the potential drama outside the romance led to anything, and as a consequence the romance itself didn’t quite reach the emotional height it could have, as it was never really tested. The emotional payoff was in the epilogue and involved the children.

This wasn’t a bad book, but something has changed. What felt like a charming, quirky little town in Winston Brothers series has turned into a more realistic version with judgemental people making the life of others difficult, just because they can. The charm is gone and not even Beau and Cletus were able to bring it back. But the preview of the next book at the end promises Isaak’s story which we’ve been waiting forever, so I’ll definitely read that one too.