I’m over a month behind posting book reviews here on my reading blog. I spent a better part of February without finishing a single book I began to read. Partly it was because the books were disappointing and I had to give them up. Partly it was because I had other commitments that ate into my reading time. Because of that, the previous post here is from January 21st, and the first book I finished since that was on February 19th. The gap in posting is just laziness. I’ve managed to read five books, so here’s a recap.
Shatter the Earth by Karen Chance
This is book ten in Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series. Despite the length of the series, apparently only three months have passed, which is difficult to believe, considering everything that’s happened. In the past couple of books there has been a major war brewing, and this one ended with a big battle, though not the war-ending one. All the books do. Other than that, it was slightly mismatched. It began with one plot that was made out to be a big deal, but ended up as something completely different, with the original plot brought up as an afterthought in the epilogue. Still, it was better than some of the books in the series—which I love, by the way. It was evenly paced with slower chapters here and there where the reader can catch their breath, and there was an exciting development considering the main trio, Cassie, Pritkin and Mircea. And now that Chance is publishing the books herself, we don’t have to wait years until the next one.
To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers
3/5 stars on Goodreads
Becky Chambers’ books are always lovely. Nothing dramatic ever happens, there’s no drama between characters and everyone is always nice. Small frowns are dealt with hugs. There’s very little plot in them too, but since I know to except that, it doesn’t usually matter. But this book is basically a report of what four people sent on a scientific mission to exoplanets did and saw. Nothing else. There’s a small build-up for drama when the earth stops communicating with them, but it’s soon brushed over. What disappointed me with this one, however, was the ending. It tries to be ambivalent, to leave the fate of the characters to the reader’s imagination, but it comes across as a copout, as if the author hasn’t bothered to take responsibility for her creation. Other than that, it’s an imaginative, well-written book like all her books, and kept me entertained up until the disappointing end.
Betwixt by Darynda Jones
3/5 stars on Goodreads
This was the first book in Jones’s new series toted as women’s paranormal romance, a crossover between women’s fiction and paranormal romance where the heroines are over forty. It was a fast-paced and easy to read. The main characters, Defiance and Annette feel familiar from Jones’s excellent Charlie Davidson series, with a similar friendship dynamics than Charlie and Cookie and a habit of drinking all the coffee, so I loved them instantly. And if Defiance isn’t an ADD personality like Charlie, she isn’t exactly fully focused either. This isn’t a laugh-out-loud kind of book like the other series, but it has its funny moments.
However, the book feels incomplete. It’s like I was reading the first third of a longer book, with the characters being introduced and the basis of the plot set. And then it ended. There are two more books coming and I’m guessing the main action happens in those, but I can’t judge this book based on what I don’t have.
I also have a small issue with Defiance’s age. She's supposed to be forty-four, which is fine (I like reading characters my age). But she has no past and she behaved like a twenty-something, with no wisdom or experience gained. If the point of this series is to have middle-aged heroines, I’d like them to show the life they have lived. They should feel and act differently from the twenty-year-olds. But I liked Defiance and if I imagine her to be twenty-something, I can forget all the rest. And since the book ended with a whopper of a cliff-hanger, I’m definitely going to read the next book.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
It’s refreshing to read about a culture that I know nothing about, Diné/Navajo in this case, even when it comes added with apocalyptic and fantasy elements (or especially then). Maggie was a great main character, damaged and angry, and she didn’t miraculously heal during the first book—at least not without a heavy price. Kai started as a one-dimensional hunk and turned out to be much more. The mystery plot was a bit light and somewhat confusing, but it got solved in the end too. And luckily there was the first chapter of the second book added to the edition I read, so that I didn’t have to wait in agony to know what happens next. I will definitely continue with this series.
Sinister Magic by Lindsay Buroker
This was invigorating like dragon’s blood. I really like a tough heroine who goes through a book kicking arse, and getting hers kicked in return. Val is as tough as they come, but she pays for it too: her stress-levels are so high she has developed asthma and needs therapy, both of which are well integrated into the story. She has some other issues as well, mainly that she has had to abandon everyone she loves, a daughter included, so that they won’t be killed because of her job as a monster slayer.
The story itself is fairly straightforward. Val needs to find a cure for her boss who has been poisoned with magic, and clear both of their names in the process. Her path to it is littered with creatures from other realms who are bent on killing her. Making matters worse is a dragon who wants to use her as bait to lure in more creatures who want to kill her. It is action from the beginning to the end.
As this is the first book in the series, there is some world-building and character introductions, but everything is done organically along the story. No backstory is given for why the world is populated with creatures from other realms; it’s a fact of life for the characters. As a first person narrative, we get only Val’s thoughts on things, and other characters remain slightly distant. But they are all interesting. My favourite is Zav, the arrogant dragon law-enforcer. The book hints that some sort of romantic bond will form between him and Val, but there was no romance yet. All in all, a great start for a series and I’ll definitely read the next book too.
Books 4-8 of 60 (I’ve had to lower my reading challenge target from the original 65.)