Trick of the Light

Posted in Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on March 15, 2015 by crookedreviews

I love writer Rob Thurman. She’s got two great series, Cal Leandros and her Trickster series. Her first book in the second, but interconnected, series is Trick of the Light. Starring trickster paien Trixa Iktomi, this series takes place in Las Vegas. Because of course. Where better for a trickster (or two) to pull their tricks.

Trixa owns a dive bar in Las Vegas with her best friend and bartender Leo Rain. Leo looks like a very large Native American man but don’t let that fool you, he’s probably the most infamous trickster in history. I’ll give you a hint: He’s Norse. The two of them take great pleasure in foiling the plans of the city’s demon population. Demons as in fallen-angel type demons. They’re everywhere in Vegas which…duh, really. Makes perfect sense.

At any rate, Trixa and Leo keep their heads moderately down, doing just enough to have their fun and play on whatever Trixa’s long game is, because she does the long con like no-one’s business. They took two young orphans under their tutelage some years before, two now young men named Zeke and Griffin. These two young men are a telepath and an empath, respectively. And they very much enjoy killing demons. They do, in fact, do it professionally.

In this book, Trixa gets herself in a position of having to find an extremely powerful artifact called the Light of Life. In the wrong hands (see: Demons), it could be utterly devastating. In the right hands (hers, naturally), it could be a savior. The paien get hunted by demons and this Light could provide them with an impenetrable safe haven.

I loved this book because it kept me guessing the whole time. And the finale was amazing. I love a book that can surprise me to the end. I highly, highly recommend both this and its follow up Grimrose Path. In fact, I think I will go ahead and re-read these both. :) I hope Rob Thurman writes more of these because I love Trixa. Rating: A+

Steampunk-ish: Red Hot Steele

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Steampunk with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comSo this book Red Hot Steele by Alex Berg came up when I looked for a new steampunk novel  in Amazon. Only thing is…it isn’t really steampunk. Its more like…an Edwardian pulp mystery. Its a bit more Dashiell Hammet than Gail Carriger.  This is a first person novel told from the perspective of Detective Jake Daggers. Really. That’s his name. And he seems to be every stereotypical gumshoe rolled into one. He’s a large, misogynistic detective in New York that eats poorly, is divorced and not a good dad.

At least I think its New York. The world building in this book is almost non-existent. Magic/the supernatural seems to be known and somewhat accepted in this world, as evidenced by the fact that Detective Daggers’ new partner is a young female half-elf by the name of Shay Steele. Yes, really. Despite her name, she’s actually the most interesting character in the book. She supposedly has some supernatural talent for visions which lands her on the police force. As women are not police in this time/world, her visions are the only way she can gain detective status.

The story itself is a regular old murder/con double-header with a sprinkling of magic. It wasn’t really all that spectacular a story and I figured out the whodunit pretty quickly. It could have been an acceptable book if there were more world building but seriously, the most thought I felt was put into it was the fact that horses weren’t used in the city anymore because of all the droppings so therefore rickshaws were the mode of transportation for those who could afford such things. I thought that was an interesting concept but it was the only thing that put any sort of time-frame on this story.

There was none of the usual steampunk trappings of steam powered everything, gadgets, brass, and general sense of elegance. I was overall disappointed with this book and grateful I got it on sale for about 4 bucks. I don’t see myself getting the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of the old Sam Spade/Big Sleep style mysteries, this might be a good book for you. If you are more a steampunk person or an urban fantasy person, I’d stay away. There just isn’t enough of either genre in this to satisfy.  Rating: C-

Downfall: A Cal Leandros novel

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of goodreads.comAh! A day late! My excuse is that I spent the weekend having awesome good outdoor fun with the hubby. :) So anyway, on to Downfall by Rob Thurman. This is the latest book in the Cal Leandros series. At this point, Cal has managed to kill off every Auphe except for himself and his fairly newly discovered half brother Grimm. Grimm is trying to make a new Auphe race out of succubae but that isn’t working so well. Cal and Niko can wipe the floor with those suckers and Niko is one hundred percent human.

Still, Grimm is getting trickier and more persistent. He wants to break Cal, wants to prove he’s the better Auphe. And the way to do that is the get rid of Niko in one way or another. The problem is, Robin Goodfellow knows this. He also knows that if Cal dies, then Niko dies with him. Even if Niko survives physically, he’d soon follow Cal wherever Cal ended up. Robin has been watching it happen over and over again for millenia. He won’t let it happen again.

Rob Thurman does an excellent job of keeping us guessing by throwing Robin’s perspective in this book, as opposed to just Cal and Niko’s. We learn a lot more about my personal favorite character in this series, both in how much he can care and how devious he is. And even then, it isn’t a guarantee that things will turn out well for our favorite underdogs.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It was full of sneakiness and deviousness and yet there were warm fuzzies too. And I’m not just talking about the werewolves. ;) I think it would help to read a book or two of the rest of the series but I came in about half way through and I’ve managed to catch on just fine without reading all the books. Still, a little background reading would not go amiss and I don’t think you’d be disappointed with any of these books. Rating: A

Skinwalker: A Jane Yellowrock novel

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Urban Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on February 22, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Goodreads.comI’ve read all through the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter but I haven’t reviewed any of them yet, which is a shame because they’re really quite good books. The series starts out with Skinwalker, which just happens to be what Jane is, though we don’t find that out right away. We’re introduced to our protagonist Jane Yellowrock as she rolls into New Orleans on her motorcycle, Bitsa. Bitsa is so named because she’s apparently made out of “bits of” other bikes. That tickled my fancy. :)

At any rate, Jane is something of a mercenary/bounty hunter. She’s licensed to handle vamp problems, which include the right to kill them if necessary. Since vamps aren’t really citizens in this world, as yet, the US government isn’t terribly worried if you knock one off for bounty money. Vamps in this world are sort of considered foreign citizens and their compounds as foreign territory. The humans leave it up to them to police themselves because humans just can’t handle them for the most part.

And for their part, vamps police themselves very well. They want to be accepted by human society. They want power that comes from being citizens, of holding property and earning money. So they don’t want to compromise that due to some nutso vamp going on some killing spree, which is what’s happening in New Orleans right now.

High powered vamp Katherine Fontanbleu has hired Jane to find a rogue vamp whose killing off not humans but other vamps. They don’t know who it is, don’t know how its killing the other vamps. They want it caught and they want it dead, which is where Jane comes in. Jane has specific requirements when she takes a job and Katherine readily agrees to them all with no argument, which rather puts Jane on edge.

Jane herself is Cherokee but with little memory of where she came from before the age of twelve when she was found wandering some woods. She was raised in an orphanage and that’s about what she knows. She knows, of course, that she’s a skinwalker and the last one to her knowledge but she keeps that from most everybody. She has few friends and no romantic entanglements and she likes it that way.

So naturally, within the course of a few days, she finds two hot guys in New Orleans that are her type and who light her fire but are also pretty suspicious fellows. She finds herself more than a little off balance with these two and the master of the city, Leo Pellisier, who is very interested in what she is. Somehow Jane has to tango around all three of these guys to get at what’s going on.

These books are a good combination of urban fantasy and engaging mystery. I liked the fact that I was kept guessing the whole time. There were some personality traits of Jane’s that I didn’t particularly care for but the world has been crafted well enough that I could see why those traits came about. I like the fact that the protagonist is a strong, independent female who is, for once, not a white girl with red hair as seems to be par for the course these days. Also, I adore New Orleans. :) I highly recommend this whole series. Rating: A.

Romulus Buckle

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews, Steampunk with tags , , , , on February 16, 2015 by crookedreviews

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.comI recently read through a new steampunk book called Romulus Buckler & the City of the Founders by Richard Preston Ellis Jr. Its a bit different than regular steampunk in that this appears to be a dystopian future steampunk, though I’m not entirely certain on that. Despite being more than half way through the follow up book, I’m really not certain how far in the future this is or even if it is future as compared to us. The timeline of this world is really uncertain, like the author thinks that 1) readers won’t care about that bit of detail or 2) the characters don’t really care about their own history.

The gist of this is that there was an invasion by Martians some unknown time ago. Yes, you read that right, Martians invaded earth. Its all very War of the Worlds. It made me think that maybe this world ending event of Martian invasion was meant to be that 1938 Orson Welles broadcast but again, it is really not clear. All that we learn is that the Martians brought with them these giant obelisk things (like bigger than the Empire State building it sounded like) that do something to interrupt all electricity in the world. Something else vague and unclear turned the world into a desolate, nuclear winter type world. Perhaps we’ll find out in a later book?

At any rate, we’re far enough in the future that Martians (and half Martians because these humanoid Martians can breed with humans) are integrated into society as it remains. The world is demarcated into territories of clans, each one of them specializing in something that makes living in this new terrible world possible. And they all jealously guard their secrets.

Our here, Romulus Buckle, is the eighteen year old adopted sun of the leader of the Crankshaft Clan. In this book, Romulus is on a mission to save his father, Balthazar Crankshaft, after he and a number of other clan leaders had been kidnapped by the Founders Clan. The Founders are the most mysterious clan of the lot. They don’t really deal or trade with anyone. They’re entirely self contained. So why they kidnapped these other clan leaders is uncertain.

Romulus leads a suicide mission into Founders territory to get his father back with the help of almost all of his adoptive siblings. Only those who are physically unable to serve aboard a zeppelin don’t make the trip with him. Things start going wrong from the get go, naturally. There are attempted boardings by pirates, attacks by weird animals that the Martians brought with them and Romulus himself goes overboard in the territory of a rival clan.

Luckily for Romulus (or should we say deus ex machina-y), this clan’s leader was also kidnapped. They agree to return Romulus to his ship if and only if he takes a contingent of their soldiers and rescues their leader. With nothing else for it, he agrees. Once aboard, they all sneak into the mysterious City of the Founders (hence our title). It turns out that his adoptive sister and chief engineer (whose name I’m blanking on) escaped from the city when she was very young and knows how to get in and out.

And because I’m in book two, naturally they make it through this harrowing and mysterious city, find their quarries and escape, though not entirely unharmed. We also learn that the Founders are up to something and are, most likely, trying to get the clans to fight amongst themselves.

I found this book to be a bit Scooby-Doo-y and full of tropes. All the women are in love with Romulus, the dashing airship captain. He, of course, is just too enamored of his ship to bother trying to marry though he does have a series of one night stands. He’s unnecessarily reckless and hot-headed and people are all like ‘oh that’s okay’ because he’s the clan golden boy. Its a bit ridiculous. Romulus has a mysterious background and a missing (presumed dead at this point) sister.

The Founders have mysterious and advanced weapons that no one else has access to or have even seen and yet our heroes get away and with relatively few and minor injuries. The important people all survive, Romulus is the hero of the hour and Crankshafts have two new allies from the rescued clan leaders they helped escape.

This book had so much potential that I was rather disappointed there wasn’t more world building. What was it in those Martian obelisks that disrupted electricity and continues to do so? Why does tea exist but not coffee? The both come from the same parts of the world. One would presume that if tea plants survived, coffee plants also survived. Why did the Martians come to Earth in the first place? Why did they bring these weird alien creatures with them? Is that what ended the world? There are so, so many questions and not enough answers. There aren’t really enough hints to let the reader do their own world building.

I’m honestly not sure why I’m even bothering with the second book other than the fact that it was cheap (I think it was one of those 2 dollar Kindle sales days) and that I hate to leave books unfinished once I’ve started them. I suppose I hope that it’ll get better but it doesn’t really seem like it. This book was an easy read but I found myself skimming at some parts because what the author chose to go into detail with wasn’t really what needed detail. All in all I’d say if you’re looking for something to kill time, pick this up, but if you’re looking for something good, give it a miss. Rating: D+/C-

Waistcoats & Weaponry

Posted in Books on February 10, 2015 by crookedreviews

Courtesy of Amazon.comOh man! I am already sucking at my resolution! Ah well, we continue on with Waistcoats & Weaponry, Gail Carriger’s latest Finishing School book. Sophronia and her lot are learning new things, including steel bladed fans which HOLY CRAP I WANT TO LEARN!

At any rate, Sophronia and her friends Dimity, Soap and Lord Felix Mersey embark on a foolish but well intentioned mission. Lady Sidheag Kingair’s pack back in Scotland is falling apart. They tried to attack the Queen, committing treason and causing their Alpha, Lord Maccon, to run away to London. Lord Maccon takes on the alpha of the Woolsey pack and wins, thereby gaining a new pack. This isn’t an entirely unexpected outcome as he couldn’t rightly stay with his old pack because of their betrayal. Sidheag doesn’t want to accept that though and feels that there must be some way to keep her family together.

Sophronia and Dimity, in the mean time, are at her brother’s engagement soiree, a costume ball. After a bit of a to-do with the mechanicals and an accidental engagement to Dimity’s brother Pillover, Sophronia manages to get the lot of them off to the railroad on her stolen dirigible (she’d had it masquerading as a fancy top to her mother’s gazebo). There they find an unusual train just sitting in the station.

This train isn’t a passenger train and it doesn’t appear to be a freight train. Intrigued, they hook themselves up to it and climb on board. Once there, they find that it’s a hive train and who is on board with them but their old nemesis Monique, newly minted drone. Not knowing what she’s up to but convinced its nothing good, Sophronia and the others take over the train, driving it north.

While all this is going on, Sophronia is fighting her feelings for the sootie Soap (a dark skinned boy who treats her the way she wants to be treated but is entirely unsuitable for marriage) and Lord Mersey (who is entirely suitable and gives her the shivers but doesn’t quite treat her the way she wants to be treated. And obviously his father is a Pickleman, which is really too bad). Her battle of the heart is an underlying theme all the way north, including when they get waylaid by flywaymen.

This book just came out about a month ago, so I won’t go any further. Needless to say, that book is amazing. Oh man. I cannot wait for the next book! So much potential! Please read this book! Please read this series! Rating: A+

Allegiant

Posted in Books, Recommendations, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 24, 2015 by crookedreviews

Allegiant cover courtesy of goodreads.comSo I figured I would round out the Divergent Trilogy in this week’s review. Remember: Here be spoilers!

At the end of Insurgent, Tris survives the execution set by Jeanine, the head of Erudite. She discovers that her brother betrayed her and that Peter, of all people, was some sort of double agent. Granted, an extremely selfish one but he saved her nonetheless. With the help of the factionless, the remaining Dauntless, Candor and even some Amity people overthrow Jeanine’s tyrannical government. And with that, they discover that their whole society was something of a lie.

Their city was founded by a group of unknown people and divided into factions to try and save humanity after some unknown war destroyed the majority of the population. They were supposed to help the Divergents when they appeared, not kill them as Jeanine and company were doing. Then the Divergents would be sent out into the world to help. With what, they don’t know yet.

After the upheaval of the factionless coup, Tris and Tobias are having a tough time in their relationship. I hesitate to call it a relationship because it seems like all they do is spend time together not talking. Not doing much of anything really but trying to find some alone time (though they never really do anything with that either). Its clear that neither of them really trust each other. They keep lying to each other about various things. It isn’t really healthy but then again, their whole society isn’t really healthy so there you go.

Anyway, after it becomes clear that the factionless government is becoming just as tyrannical, albeit in different ways, than the old one Tris, Tobias and a group calling themselves the Allegiant decide to do something. That something is a two fold plan. A small group will leave the city, just as one of the founders had explained to them all in a video recording. The rest of the Allegiant would stay and try to overthrow the factionless and reinstate the faction system.

Tris and Tobias are among the people heading out of the city. Included in their group are Tris’ Dauntless friends Christina and Uriah, Dauntless leader Tori, Peter, Caleb and an Erudite girl named Cara. Tori doesn’t make it out of the city but the rest of them do and they find out exactly what’s going on.

Their city is a giant sociological and genetic experiment. There was some sort of “purity war” many generations ago that destroyed much of the United States. In order to recover from this, the leaders of the time created these test cities. The war happened because of the belief that there were “genetically damaged” people who had made trouble (to put it lightly) and the people who were “genetically pure” were trying to fix those people in these tests. Its very Eugenics Wars from Star Trek.

Tris and the others find their world turned upside down with this new information. Tris (naturally) is one of the “genetically pure” people that these tests were trying to create. The others are “genetically damaged” and therefore not as valuable to these outside scientists. Which naturally leads them to be upset with their lot in life. It isn’t long before the Allegiant group finds their way into another civil war.

Things get resolved eventually, and I have to give Roth props for not giving a wholly happy ending to the trilogy. Despite that, I kind of found the ending unsatisfying. I think it would have been better off if she’d painted Tris as a little more selfish at the end than she was. I mean, the whole time in the books, Tris is constantly saying how selfish she is when she really, really isn’t. I think it would have been better if Tris had been selfish at the end, to show that she wasn’t this perfect, always right character. Not a bad read but could have been better. Rating: C+/B-

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