the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘romance

 

Oh this book!

What started out as a cute little adventure story, turned into the most wonderful hero(ine)’s journey!!

yes, I admit, when I first started reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, I was like “this is super cool, 1920s Mexico, we’ve got a fun adventure starting, looks like there could be some cute romance happening here”.  and for the first half of the book, that sorta is, what is happening.  AND THEN.

Lemme tell you ALL about it!

Because reasons, Casiopea Tun has a bit of Cinderella situation going on.  She and her Mom live with their extended family, but Casiopea is treated like a servant.  She cooks, cleans, goes to the market, runs errands for her awful cousin (is he that awful? really?  actually YES), and takes care of her angry, bitter grandfather.    She dreams of a way out of this life, but can’t see one.   this is starting out very fairy tale-ish, yes?

one day,  when the family is on an outing, having left Caseopea at home, as a punishment,  she takes special notice of an old trunk in her grandfather’s bedroom.  And she opens the trunk.

What’s in the trunk?   oh, only the bones and soul of Hun-Kame,  Lord of Xibalba, and one of his bone shards gets lodged in Casiopea’s hand.  no biggie, right?  He can just, remove the shard, and then he can go back to Xibalba to dethrone his brother, and then Casiopea can pretend none of this ever happened, right?

hahahaha, NO.

Hun-Kame immediately starts his plan to return to Xibalba and dethrone his brother Vucub-Kame.  But first,  he must locate his missing left ear,  left index finger, and left eye, so that he can be whole again.  But what about that bone shard?

The bone shard is part of Hun-Kame, and so long as it remains lodged in Casiopea’s hand, she has a glint of the supernatural about her, the protection of a god.  On the literal other hand,  the longer it stays in her hand,  the more human Hun-Kame becomes.   If the shard isn’t removed in time, he will forget who he is,  and she will die.

Casiopea and Hun-Kame thus leave on an adventure across Mexico, visiting demi-gods,  demons, and other friends of Xibalba, so he can regain his missing body parts before time runs out.

Sounds serious, isn’t it?

Ok, so I’m sure this book wasn’t planned to be cute and adorable and funny and flirty and heartwarming, but it was all of those things.  I’ll bet this book was planned to have an amazing ending that was an absolutely joy to read, and it was that too.

See, here’s the thing:

Casiopea is a good Catholic girl. She shouldn’t be alone with a man in a train compartment, especially a man she isn’t related to. She doesn’t even know this guy!  But. . . Hun-Kame is not a man, he is a Lord of Xibalba.  So it’s ok, right?

and Hun-Kame has no idea how to talk to mortals. he has no idea how to talk to women. He also has no idea how a train schedule works.  For goodness sake, he doesn’t know what coffee is!  To me,  he was adorably clueless.

Watching the two of them travel across Mexico was the most adorable and heartwarming thing I’ve seen in ages. in AGES.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been re-reading Kage Baker’s Company series.  I’m not writing formal reviews,  just chatting about the books every few days, making small connections, making big connections.    Some spoilers are unavoidable.

 

If you don’t care about this series, but are interested in my poor brain exploding due to realizing my beloved characters never had any free will,  scroll way down to a paragraph that starts with “I used to think . . ”.

 

 

Previous posts in this series:

post 1 – talking about In the Garden of Iden (book #1)

post 2 – talking about Sky Coyote (book #2) and Mendoza in Hollywood (book #3) and also the movie Rocketman and the tv show Star Trek: Discovery

and now we’re up to talking about The Graveyard Game (book #4) and The Life of the World to Come (#5).    This is where I realized my beloved characters don’t have any free will,  that everyone is trapped. Here we go!

 

 

About ten minutes after I finished The Graveyard Game,  I pulled The Life of the World to Come off the bookshelf. Boy these books have some truly awful cover art.

 

The Graveyard Game is a hella fun read, and it’s a fast read!  We’re back to Lewis and Joseph, and I adore Joseph, even if he’s a jerk sometimes.  Please, is there an internet archive of Joseph fan-fic? Pretty please? Anyway, Joseph is trying to find out what happened to Budu,  and Lewis gets a little obsessed with trying to figure out who the hell Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax was. They are both sort of trying to figure out what happened to Mendoza.  The problem is, when you’re a cyborg who is enslaved to The Company, every word you say, every photo you take with your cybernetic eyes, every web-search you do, is recorded and added to the temporal concordance. Everything you do becomes recorded history, so you have to be super sneaky, and make sure nothing you do is recorded.    Because recorded history can not be changed.

 

Joseph finds some secret bunkers, and reminisces about his early years with the Company and Budu’s heroic acts.   Lewis is haunted by his past, when he saw something he shouldn’t have.

 

Joseph has a hard time coming to terms with the idea that as you age, the world changes.  You feel like you don’t fit in with the younger generations anymore, the things you care about aren’t the things they care about.  What happens when an immortal has a mid-life crisis, and realizes that trends in Company brainwashing and programming have drastically changed over the course of known history?   The Graveyard Game might be my favorite Company book! (well, tied with Sky Coyote, because that book is just so damn funny) I guess I just love any excuse to hang out with Joseph!

 

And then we get to The Life of the World to Come,  which is the most annoying book in the history of EVER, while at the same time being the most confusing book of the series and the most important book of the series.

Read the rest of this entry »

As of Tuesday this week, I’m telecommuting until further notice.  I have a mini-desk set up in one corner of the living room,  and a huge thank you to IT for sending me home with an extra plug-bar!

I’m trying to keep to my normal schedule as much as possible, I’m the kind of person who really needs structure.  This means:  Up at 6am or earlier,  exercise,  have a shower, have a coffee. . .  and well,  I used to leave for work around 6:40am because I had an hour commute.  I used to get home from work around 6:30, because hour commute.

no more hour commute.

I’ve just bought myself 2 hours a day (or more!) to read!!!  I’m trying to read in the morning, instead of obsessing over reading the news.

I’m re-reading my way through Kage Baker’s Company series,  blew through In the Garden of Iden in a couple of days, and am now a few chapters in to Sky Coyote.

We picked up a few more Witcher books, so I have those two.

 

if you’ve just gained some time, due to #reasons,  what are you taking the time to finally read?

 

 

I’d forgotten how freakin’ smart In the Garden of Iden is,  now that I’ve read further into the series there is SO MUCH foreshadowing in this book that OF COURSE I wouldn’t/couldn’t have seen the first time I read it.  Also? The sex scenes are SO ADORABLE!

I was nervous getting up to the scene at the end. Iif you’ve read the book, you know the scene I’m talking about.  I was this close to DNFing it, and going right to Sky Coyote, so I  could skip that scene, because with all that’s going on, did I really need to torture myself with reading that scene?

Mendoza managed to survive it.  Baker managed to write it.  I needed to put on my big girl panties and read the fucking scene. I took a deep breath, and I read it.  I didn’t like it,  but I got through it. The actual scene? it was shorter than I remembered.  A little easier to survive than I expected.  Still, it was brutal.  Maybe next time, I’ll skip it.

 

ok, more random thoughts on this book:

(apologies in advance for crappy grammar, shouty caps, and crimes against italics. I’ve been drinking. it’s been a week, ok?)

 

for the uninitiated,  In the Garden of Iden has time travel, romance, teen angst, grown-up snark, and immortals. It is sorta like Outlander meets Twilight, minus the werewolves and with way better writing and humor?

 

Shit, the title!!!!   Excellent play on words on Garden of Eden.  Mendoza finds herself in a paradise, and is then thrust out, having had her eyes opened to so much awfulness.   And holy crap, she is SO seventeen years old!!  the teen angst is so adorable!    And what she knows now? the knowledge she has (about life, about mortals) she can’t unknow. I think I could play with this paragraph for about forever, so i’m just gonna shut up now.

 

I like that this book is written in past tense first person.  At least that means we know for a fact that Mendoza doesn’t die.

 

srsly, what the fuck are they teaching these kids in school?

 

Joseph rocks.  The first time I read this, I thought he was an asshole.  After re-reading Iden and a few chapters into Sky Coyote I don’t think he’s an asshole at all.  i mean, he’s a total jerk sometimes, but he’s not an asshole.

 

In the Garden of Iden came out in 1997.  for context, that was the year I graduated high shool, and at the time I wouldn’t have known quality science fiction if it bit me in the ass.  For folks who were actual grown-ups in the 90s,  did this book “break the internet”?  Were people all like “what the hell is this?”, or did this book come out, and no one knew what it was and it didn’t get any buzz?  I mean, the series doesn’t really get going big time for a few books or so, but Garden of Iden is SO FREAKING GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!   what was was the reaction when this book came out?

 

omfg time paradox!!!   Joseph, Nef, and Mendoza were sent to Walter Iden’s estate to (among other things) collect samples of certain plants that would shortly become extinct.  Some of these plants have medicinal extracts, etc.   avoiding spoilers:  if Joseph hadn’t given Iden __________,  maybe Iden wouldn’t have ______  ____   _______ , and maybe _____ ______  would never _______  ________ in the first place???  i freaking LOVE shit like this!!!

 

More in a couple days when I’m further into Sky Coyote.

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog came out in 1998.

 

We all need something happy right now.

 

So I’m going to spoil this book for you:

 

It has a happy ending.

 

It stars the world’s cutest doggo, and the world’s fluffliest cat.

 

No one dies.

 

Yes, this is a book in which no one dies,  comedies of manners take place, Victorian romances are not-quite thwarted by distractable chaperones,  yard sales are born, mysteries are solved by studying other mysteries, time travel happens every five minutes,  and you’ll laugh your head off.

 

While you can read Willis’s Oxford Time Travel books in nearly any order, since they all function as stand alones,  I’d recommend reading Doomsday Book first. It’ll give you a feel for Willis’s writing style, the rules of her time travel technology, it’ll tell you what you’re getting yourself into.  (and you have to read Blackout / All Clear as a duology, do NOT read All Clear first!)

 

Once you’ve finished Doomsday Book and you are done crying, you’ll be reading for something much lighter and much funnier.  It’s time for To Say Nothing of the Dog. You’ve earned it.

 

In the future, Lady Shrapnell refuses to take no for an answer.  She commandeers the time travel lab at Oxford to send hapless historians anywhen she pleases, so that her restoration of Coventry Cathedral can be perfect.

 

You can’t bring artifacts forward in time with you, but you can steal them away from a cathedral that is about to be bombed in the 1940 Blitz, hide them somewhere safe, and then 200 years later just happen to locate them in some granny’s attic. The one item the historians can’t seem to find is the Bishop’s bird stump.  What is a bird stump? Doesn’t matter, it’s just a Macguffin, and a cause for comedy as time travellers to say “The Bishop’s Bird Stump” ten times fast while trying to figure out what happened to it and why anyone would want to make something so hideous.

 

The only way to protect the time lagged historians from Lady Shrapnell’s wrath is to get them as far away from her as possible –  maybe a few hundred years away from her.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time Was, by Ian McDonald

published April 2018

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

Stories tell us who we are, but books are the vehicle. Physical books are vehicle, medium, and method,  a metaphor unto themselves, they are both particle and wave.

 

I’ve read Time Was by Ian McDonald twice now, both times started out exactly the same: A quick glance at cover art that communicates nothing, a quick skim of the back cover copy, a quick shrug. A few pages in an immediate annoyance with Emmett, who speaks quickly and with little context, a man who isn’t ready to let anyone in. Then I meet Tom, who I immediately feel protective over as I imagine his quiet smile and puppy-dog eyes.  In the moment that Tom’s eyes meet Ben’s, I feel honored just to be in the same room with that beautiful blossoming emotion of their immediate chemistry.

 

When Emmett stumbles upon a battered and slim volume of poetry at the death of a local bookstore, he find a folded and faded love letter inside.  Entitled “Time Was”, the book has no copyright date, no publisher information. Used bookstores lucky enough to have a copy appear to be under strict instructions to never sell the book, only to always have it on the shelf.

 

Emmett has grazed the edge of the mystery of Ben and Tom,  two men who were forced to discover a means of communicating across time by leaving letters in specific books in specific bookstores. To sully something beautiful, a particular book was their dead drop. But it’s been decades since the war, why are the instructions still being followed to the letter?

 

Whoever is writing Doctor Who these days could do a lot worse than writing an episode based on Time Was.

Read the rest of this entry »

This review is part of the #GuardAgainstTheDark blog tour!  To learn more (and enter a give away!), click here.

 

Cover art by Matt Stawicki http://www.mattstawicki.com

To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification #3) by Julie Czerneda

publishes Oct 10th 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks DAW books!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Thesaurus.com has been no help whatsover. What’s that word for when a long series that you are emotionally invested in has come to a close, and while you’re sad it has ended, you’re happy because you can just pull the books off the shelf and visit the characters anytime you want?  I feel certain German, or perhaps Norwegian has a word for this.

 

To Guard Against the Dark has been 20 years in the making.  It was 1997 when Julie Czerneda published A Thousand Words for Stranger, the book that started it all.  The year I graduated high school was the year her novel A Thousand Words for Stranger came out, the year the world met a species that was in danger of breeding itself out of existence. Their lives a secret, their homeworld unknown, the Clan hid in plain sight, amassing fortunes and enemies.  Three trilogies and twenty years later, here we are.

 

Does that mean You need to read all eight books that came before this one to enjoy To Guard Against the Dark?  Certainly not. This is, however, book three in this particular trilogy, so you will want to read the two preceding books. You’ll be in good company, as I came to this series myself by starting at This Gulf of Time and Stars, which is the 1st book in this trilogy.  If right here, right now, is the first you have ever heard of this series, you are going to feel a little lost reading this review. It won’t help you newbies very much that there are a ton of intertwining plotlines in this climactic last novel and I am trying my hardest to avoid major spoilers.  But minor spoilers? Sorry, unavoidable. Continue at your own risk.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Emperor and the Maula, by Robert Silverberg

available Sept 30th 2017

Where I got it: received advanced review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

.

.

.

.

 

.

.

.

.

Robert Silverberg’s The Emperor and The Maula is exactly what it says on the tin: this is a space opera version of the story of Scheherazade – in which a woman is sentenced to die at dawn and purchases another day of living by spinning a compelling tale for the emperor with dawn as her cue for a cliffhanger.

 

I love the idea of a space opera Scheherezade. Just think of how far an author could scale things up!  A number of years ago, there was a scifi anime made of The Count of Monte Cristo, with aliens, and travel to other planets, alien technologies and a very cool artistic style.  The writers took an earthly story and scaled it way the hell up, and it was brilliant.

 

What gives this wonderful little novella the “more” factor are its publishing history and the galactic scale a space opera environ allows. If you’re one of those readers who always skips introductions offered up by authors or their friends, make an exception for this one.  The history of this novella as seen through the logistics of the publishing industry is an adventure itself – rife with cliffhangers, cancelled publishing projects, word count requirements, adventures in selling the same story twice, concluding with the original novella being shoved in a file and forgotten about.   And now after twenty five years,  Silverberg fans can finally read The Emperor and the Maula in its nearly original form.  Funny, compelling, suspenseful, and given the space opera scale-up, this is exactly the kind of story an Earth woman might tell to an alien overlord on a planet far, far, away.

 

The Ansaaran Empire, benevolent ruling power of the known galaxy, brings culture and civilization to all planets.  Races living on backward planets are known as maulas, a word that translates to “barbarian”. If these people can ever find it in themselves to become cultured, perhaps one day, hundreds of years from now, they may be welcomed into the empire as citizens.

 

As an Earthling, Laylah is a maula and as such is forbidden from stepping foot on the sacred homeworld of the Ansaarans.   Knowing that the punishment is death, she travels far and wide, every year getting closer to her goal, and finally stepping off a starship and on to the sacred planet. Where she is summarily arrested. And then passed from one bureaucrat to another in a bureaucratic comedy of errors, as all of them know the punishment for her crime is death, but none of them want to be associated with the poor loser who will actually be responsible for someone’s execution.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification #2) by Julie Czerneda

published in Sept 2016

where I got it: rec’d review copy from the publisher (Thanks DAW!)

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The Gate to Futures Past is a tricky book to review, because not only is this the middle book of the Reunification trilogy, it is the penultimate book in Czerneda’s long running Clan Chronicles series. I actually read this book last summer when it came out, but I didn’t have time to review it. What better time for a review, than when the next book is about to come out? I also have the benefit of having already read the final book in the series, so I am cheating  more than a  little bit.   With the final book in this series releasing in just a few months, readers new to this series will have an opportunity no one else has ever had – you’ll be able to read all three Reunification books, This Gulf of Time and Stars, The Gate to Futures Past, and To Guard Against the Dark, one right after the other. That’s to your advantage, as these last three books do read as one long novel.  Click here to read my spoilery review of This Gulf of Time and Stars.  And by the way, both This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate to Futures Past are now available in mass market paperback.

 

Did you cringe when you read that phrase “long running series”?  I know some of you did! Yes, the Clan Chronicles is a space opera epic that spans three trilogies. If you’ve read any of Robin Hobb’s interconnected trilogies, you know you can jump in at any Book 1, and do just fine.  I’m sure there are readers and fans who will disagree with me, but I believe the same is true for Czerneda’s  Clan Chronicles series – so long as you jump in at any Book 1, you’ll be ok, with the added bonus that if you enjoy what you read, you can then start again at any other book 1!  It’s neat, because if you and your friend each start at a different point, you’ll have a different timeline and a different perspective of the entire story.

 

I preamble with all of that so you’ll be understanding that this review will involve references to events that occurred outside this novel, that there will be unavoidable minor spoilers. It’s all to the greater good though – if you enjoy space opera with healthy dose of romance, family drama, cosmic mystery, humor, and aliens that work, anything Julie Czerneda writes is for you!

 

“Aliens that work”, that’s a weird phrase.  You ever read a book with aliens and think to yourself these are just humans with blue skin, or elephants that talk and think just like a human?  A biologist by trade, Czerneda’s aliens act differently than humans because they have biological evolutionary histories completely different from anything that evolved on Earth.  They have different physiologies, different brain patterns, different reasons for doing what they do and how they do it. If you want to write aliens that aren’t humans in disguise, quit watching Star Trek and start reading Czerneda. (Actually, keep watching Star Trek. I keep hoping Huido will show up in an episode of DS9 or Voyager)

Read the rest of this entry »

Masks and Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis

published April 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

 

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve been reading a lot of “thinky” books lately,  books that whether or not they were meant to drill into my brain and set the neurons a light all over the place, that is exactly what they did.   I was looking for something lighter, an easy read.

 

Stephanie Burgis’s Masks and Shadows has been sitting in my ARC pile for over a year. It received a lot of attention when it came out last year, and garnered many positive reviews. The cover art is super pretty!  The concept of the book sounds right up my alley – historical fiction with lots of romance, intrigue, and magic! But it never quite got my attention enough to pick it up.  I like political intrigue, and I usually enjoy historical fiction / historical fantasy.  I’ve been known to enjoy stories with some romantic subplots. And I was in the market for a lighter read. So I picked it up. If the author’s name rings a bell, it’s because she is famous for the mid-grade fantasy series Kat, Incorrigible.

 

The year is 1779, the location is the opulent Esterhaza Palace in Hungary. As you do when you’re a royal who just built your own version of Versailles, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy hosts nobles and royals for months at a time, including a famous castrato singer, Carlo Morelli.  The Prince’s mistress, Sophia, has invited her recently widowed sister Charlotte von Steinbeck to stay at the palace as well.  In the first handful of chapters, we are very quickly introduced to a very large cast of characters – Charlotte and her spoiled sister Sophie; Charlotte’s young and naive maid Anna; Carlo Morelli the famous singer;  Herr Hadyn the famous composer;  Franz,  a singer in the Prince’s opera troupe; the rest of the singers in the troupe, van Born the alchemist;  Mr. Guersney, who claims to be an English writer; and Friedrich von Hollner, Sophie’s long suffering husband.  It was a lot to keep track of, to the point of distraction.

 

The plot settles into and handful of intertwined plots including the widowed Charlotte and Carlo having immediate romantic chemistry between each other,  Franz and Friedrich getting involved in some kind of mysterious political maneuvering, Sophie being needy and petty to the point of ridiculousness, Charlotte’s maid Anna becoming a singer with the Prince’s opera company,  demonstrations of the paranormal at the palace, and Morelli’s inward depression and being a plaything of the nobles.

Read the rest of this entry »

outlanderOutlander, by Diana Gabaldon

published in 1991

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

As much as I love speculative fiction, sometimes I want something a little different. As much as I usually eat food that’s pretty healthy, sometimes I just wanna eat Arby’s curly fries.

And I am now part of the Outlander cult. One book in, and I’m all about drinking the kool aid and fangirling all over the place. This book was curly fries, really good potato chips, and salted caramel ice cream all rolled into one. It was all my guilty pleasures bound together into a doorstopper of a book that was a surprisingly fast read. Reading this book was like the best hand-to-mouth snacking ever.

And yes I know it is a TV show now. I haven’t seen the show.

Some of you are saying to yourselves “she’s finally read Outlander!”, and others are wondering what the hell the rest of us are going on about. For those of you in the second group, Outlander is a portal historical romance. It’s 1945, the war is over, and Claire and her husband Frank are enjoying a much deserved romantic getaway in Scotland. It’s the perfect location for Frank to research his family tree, for Claire to talk to the locals about herblore and local medicinal plants, and for the two of them to get some mental distance from everything they experienced during the war. And then one night, Claire touches something in a stone circle and finds herself hurled back two hundred years.

She doesn’t yet know when she is, but she knows where she is, and since she’s been listening to Frank drone on about his family tree, she knows his many-times-great Uncle Jonathan Randall is floating around here somewhere. She’ll just find a Randall, and all will be good, right? Oh wow, so wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,536 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.