Saturday, August 28, 2021

Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum has advanced to her twenty-seventh adventure in Fortune and Glory. After several years of the series staling pretty badly, the last couple of books have been more interesting. There’s even been a continuing storyline between the books.

Stephanie’s grandmother married a mobster a couple of books ago, only to be widowed an hour later. Her late husband’s mob buddies are convinced that she has the keys to a safe where they have hidden a great treasure. She does have them, but doesn’t know where the safe is. In the previous book, Stephanie and Grandmother were taken hostage so that they would give up the keys, which they didn’t. The case continues in this book.

The worst of the mobsters are still free and they’re bringing in big guns. Stephanie barely escapes with her life a couple of times, and she’s still no closer finding the treasure. And there’s a new player in town, Gabriella, a female version of Ranger, who seems to be after the treasure too.

But not everything is deathly serious. There are the less dangerous skips to trace that give Stephanie hilarious trouble. George Potts is especially tenacious in his belief that he’s now her bodyguard. Lula is her voluptuous self, but actually helpful for a change with her contacts of street girls. And there’s the usual on-again, off-again relationship with Morelli, currently in its off stage, which gives room for Ranger to sweep in. At this point in the series it’s safe to say that the romances are never advancing anywhere.

There was a good balance between danger and mayhem. And if the danger was equally over the top as the mayhem, it felt like Stephanie was genuinely putting herself at risk. Since I’ve given up on her romances, they didn’t cause any emotional upheavals, except for Stephanie. But I ended to book feeling like I want to read more of these books, which is a change. There’s hope for this series yet.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston

I’m a fan of Laurenston’s work as G. A. Aiken, all those dragons and especially the Scarred Earth Saga. But Breaking Badger is the first book as Laurenston that I’ve read. It’s the book four of Honey Badger Chronicles urban fantasy series about batshit crazy honey badger shifter women, with some romance thrown in the mix.

The book description (and cover) is highly misleading. This isn’t a paranormal romance, and it doesn’t merely follow the two persons mentioned there, Mads and Finn. It most assuredly isn’t a cutesy book, like it gives to understand (“utterly irresistible kitty-cat”, lol). And it isn’t a stand-alone, like paranormal romances often are, even when they’re part of a series.

There’s a large cast of characters that each get screen time, plus a bunch of other characters that only make brief appearances for a point of view change. The main trio, Charlie, Max, and Stevie, are sisters with a traumatic past. Their stories were told in the first three books, but they continue here too. Mads is Max’s friend since school and they play pro basketball together, with three more women who also feature heavily here. Finn (as far as I know, not having read the first books) and his brothers make their first appearance here.

None of the characters are introduced properly. I have no idea how old they are or what they look like, let alone more important things, like their backstories. Much of what I know about them is conjecture, though I did read the prologues of the earlier books just to make a bit more sense of what was happening here.

Mads, a honey badger, has been abused by her hyena family all her life. Basketball is the only thing that matters to her, as is her team, which doubles as a tactical unit that kill those who abuse shifters. She’s an efficient killer, but the mere mention of her family makes her lock up. One storyline follows her finally standing up to them. But since this isn’t a cutesy romance, it’s done with a wholesale butchering, not with handholding and hugs.

Finn is a Siberian tiger, huge and lethal. He’s trying to find out who killed his father, a mystery that no one seems willing to talk about. In a cast of characters of borderline psycopaths, he’s sort of steady and normal. Mads catches his attention and the ‘romance’ sort of happens from there. In the end, the best that can be said about it is that he has a steadying influence on her.

There’s a lot going on in this book. All sort of plotlines and events that either continue from the earlier books or spring up out of blue here. Some of them are seen to their conclusion, one way or another, some aren’t. We don’t learn who killed Finn’s father, for example, and we don’t see the consequences of Mads standing up to her family. Some events are ignored completely. Like, no one seems to care who lured the honey badgers and tigers to a trap in order to butcher them all.

What this book has is batshit craziness from start to finish. At first I tried to keep up, but in the end I just let the book take me on a ride. It’s a highly entertaining ride too, if you have a high tolerance for graphic violence for comedic effect. The honey badgers are a bunch of violent psychopaths (no matter what Max’s shrinks claim), and there’s absolutely no predicting their reactions to any given situation. But I loved them all, how they’re allowed to be exactly like they are, and not ‘softened’ by love or other conventions of romance. They’re not apologising and they’re not going to change.

Unfortunately the mayhem isn’t quite enough to make this a great book. There’s no emotional payback. The romance is very low-key, and Mads dealing with her family isn’t really dealt with either. There’s a lot of action and then the book just ends.

Since this a middle book in an ongoing series, I presume that everything will continue in the next book. If it fell into my hands, I’d read it, but I won’t go out of my way to get it. Meanwhile, I’ll just wait for the next G. A. Aiken book. We’re due a new Scarred Earth Saga, aren’t we?

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes

The Exiled Fleet is the second book in The Divide sci-fi series by J. S. Dewes. It starts six months after The Last Watch ended for Cavalon, and five weeks after it for Adequin Rake, thanks to time distortions created by faster than light travel and the void at the edge of the universe where the Sentinels have been posted.

At the end of the first book, the crew of discarded soldiers stopped the shrinking of the universe by activating the devices created by the alien race that humans have tried to wipe out of existence. Not that anyone knows they’ve saved the universe, because they have been deliberately abandoned to their fates at the Divide, the edge of the void.

Rake has been busy saving what was left of the Sentinels and activating the rest of the devices. It’s been only five weeks for her, and she’s still reeling from everything and mourning the death of her lover. Returning to the ancient ship that is the only thing that survived the void is difficult for her, and being greeted as a heroic leader by people who have had months to recover is a bit too much for her.

Meanwhile, Cavalon, the disowned prince of the ruling family of the universe, has been busy building a genius engine that will allow them to make warp jumps with the engineless star ship. But the first jump burns all their fuel, stranding four thousand Sentinels to starve to death unless they can find more. Rake instantly seizes the chance to head on to another adventure. Anything to escape the people she’s made herself responsible of.

The quest isn’t easy. Cavalon’s grandfather has destroyed all but one factory that makes the fuel to control the FTL travel. The small crew must venture deep into the core of the galaxy, a perilous journey that’ll take them straight to the heart of the empire, the palace of the emperor Cavalon has made his best to escape all his life. There he learns some truths about himself that nearly make him destroy himself again. And Rake has to make yet another sacrifice to save the people she’s responsible for.

This book was slower to start than the first. Events were constantly in motion, yet it felt like nothing happened. Once the quest got underway, the pace picked up and kept me in its grips. The character dynamics, especially the friendship between Rake and Cavalon, were as odd as they were in the first book. Partly that’s because apart from those two, I didn’t remember any of the characters. There were no introductions or reminders about who they were to the story and other characters, so I never quite understood what the characters went through (looking at you, Jackin). But we learned a lot about Rake’s and Cavalon’s pasts, which gave depth to them.

In a way, this felt like a smaller book too. The first book took mostly place in a large star ship with constant buzz and random characters creating havoc. Most of this one took place in a small cruiser with a compact cast, and even though they travelled long distances to achieve the impossible, the focus was always within the group.

I liked how the universe expanded though, with new peoples and places added to it. The alien technology was a good way to achieve the impossible tasks the crew had to accomplish without quite feeling like deus ex machina solutions (apart from the ending). However, the addition of the mystical element that brings the universe and the fates of the people where they need to be, felt a bit too much.

I like where the crew ended at. It offered a conclusion while setting the adventures of the next book. I’m looking forward to reading that.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Oddball by Sarah Andersen: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Oddball by Sarah Andersen

I love Sarah Andersen’s comics, the drawing style (only a few lines to tell a story), the witty insights into the lives of younger generations (I’m gen-x), and her ability to put herself out there, insecurities and oddities alike.

Oddball is the fourth book in Sarah’s Scribbles series and a solid continuation of her work. I laughed out loud and was moved in equal measures (Medusa with a blind cat will stay with me a long time). I recognised myself in many strips (introvert author here), but in a good way, like sharing a secret with a likeminded soul.

If you’re new to her work, this is as good a place to start as any, but why would you rob yourself the pleasure of reading it all. And the fans will love this like all her work.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review (but will buy the book, because I absolutely need it).

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill

I love alt-history fantasy, with its the manipulations of familiar to create something new. The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill is a great example of that.

The book is set in the alternative early 19th century, right after the first Napoleonic wars. Only, Britain is called the Isles, France is Gallia, Queen Charlotte sits on the throne of the Isles in New London and the invading emperor is called Gerard. There’s equality of sorts. Women and people of colour hold important positions in the army and navy, but there are still haves and have-nots, and the white aristocratic male still gets what he wants. There’s no Christianity but two deities who are credited with bringing magic into the world.

Not everyone is able to manipulate magic though. Kit Brightling is a foundling who is Aligned to sea magic. She’s risen to a captain of her own ship despite her young age, and works directly for the Queen, undertaking daring missions for her—not that anyone knows about it. But this time, she’s forced to take an army fellow—and a Viscount to boot—on her ship, which doesn’t sit well with her. Together they handle mission after mission for the Queen and country, unravelling a plot to bring Gerard back to power. Along the way, they become friends, and there’s even love kindling. But sea is a harsh mistress, and Kit has chosen her.

This was a great book with a lot of swashbuckling action, pirates, sea battles, spies, and even romance, though nothing like in Neills urban fantasy books. The alternative details were clever, nautical details rich, the plot was good and well-paced, if slightly simplistic, and there was a lot of action. I liked Kit and how she was allowed to be a formidable captain without constantly reminding the reader that she’s a woman. Grant was a wonderful romantic hero, but he remained sightly distant, as we didn’t get his point of view despite the prologue hinting at it. A great disappointment, really.

With alt-history, it’s pointless to be upset about details that don’t seem historical, but there were a couple of moments that didn’t really work. First, if a person is thrown overboard in a storm, the ship moves so fast that it’s useless to try a rescue, let alone one where the ship instantly stops and remains still while the person is fished up. Second, gold likely is valuable even in this world, so paying a fair to an amusement park with gold coins strikes as really odd, as do paper notes.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and intend to read the next one when it comes out this November.