The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char

23363928 “The Library at Mount Char” by Scott Hawkins

Synopsis: Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.
After all, she was a normal American herself, once.
That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.
Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.
In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.
Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.
As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.
But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

Well, crap. I haven’t the faintest idea of how to begin to review this book.

I don’t suppose I can leave it at, “It’s amazing, go read it immediately.”

I’m going to start with what I liked most about this book.

The world building is fantastic. To create an entire new world, new mythos, new philosophy in one book is hard and it’s exceptionally well done here. This falls into the fantasy genre quite simply because there is no where else to put it. Fantasy, sci-fi, historical, dystopian, horror, speculative – I think it fits all those genres.

Carolyn is our main character in this book but many of the other characters get equal play. Parts of the book are disturbing, parts are laugh out loud hilarious (remind me that in real life I can’t bitch-slap a lion). She goes through quite the metamorphosis through the story and it’s wonderful to read her development.

The character development is well thought out. There doesn’t seem to be much thought given to them at first, and then you find that you are incredibly invested in everyone in the book.

There is a lot of gore in this book. Descriptions of killing and of torture and of abuse. Somehow it makes sense that it’s here and necessary to the story. It’s violent but not gratuitous.

The one thing I didn’t like was that it took me a good 50 pages to really get hooked by this book. Normally I give up very quickly, but I am so glad I stuck with this one. I know I keep saying amazing but I don’t have any other words for this.

Again, I have no idea how to review “Library”. I don’t know where it fits, who should read it, and how to think about it. I just know I loved it and will definitely reread in the future.

The cover is …

… wait for it …

… amazing.

 

 

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Stinger

Stinger

28421871 “Stinger” by Katya Harris

Synopsis: Kara was born and raised on the cold mining planet of Reach, and has dreamed her whole life of being somewhere else. Stuck with an abusive mother and a dead end job, she longs to experience the worlds she only sees on the vid-screens.
Then those other worlds come to her by way of a stranger, when she saves his life the night he arrives. From a planet called Haven, Sarit is a breed of human created to survive the unhospitable planet and who are now seen by many as less than human.
Though it causes resentment and brings her new trouble, Kara defends Sarit against abusers and builds a friendship with him that soon becomes the best part of her world. Try as she might though to enjoy the time they have together, even with the danger they face, it’s impossible to forget that eventually Sarit will return to traveling the stars and she’ll be left more alone than ever.

*******

5 out of 5 stars

This is a sci-fi/fantasy novella that I really enjoyed. Even though it’s a short read, the author does an amazing job of building the inhospitable world that our main character, Kara, lives on. It’s an icy, dirty planet and the people living there are much the same. The main source of work is mining – hard, brutal work for hard, brutal people.

Kara works as a barmaid, serving drinks and trying to stay out of arms reach of the men who frequent the bar. On her way home, she sees a stranger attacked by a group of men and helps save his life.

The stranger is Sarit, a breed of human from the planet Haven. The Haven people had to use nanotechnology in order to survive their planet which left them with the ability to control electricity. The name stinger is slang for that use as their fingertips glow when they use it. Sarit is on the planet of Reach to repair some of the mining equipment.

Sarit is shunned by the entire populace; all except Kara. She feels safe with him for the first time in her life. Safe from her abusive mother and safe from the predatory men on her planet. Sarit is only there for a short time and Kara is left to face what life will be like when he leaves.

I haven’t read anything by Katya Harris before, but I will definitely be looking for more of her writing. It’s very original and I connected so much with both Kara and Sarit. I’ve also never read any story where one of the main characters is asexual and/or aromantic. I very much liked the exploration of platonic love vs romantic love. Sarit can’t feel romantic or sexual feelings, but that does not mean he doesn’t need and crave friendship, kindness and simple human touch.

The only thing I did not like about this book was the cover. It was dark and gloomy enough to show the planet, but I think a book like this deserves a better cover.

ARC provided by NetGalley

 

 

 

Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #24)

Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #24)

21066968 “Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #24)” by Laurel K. Hamilton
Synopsis: Anita Blake has the highest kill count of any vampire executioner in the country. She’s a U.S. Marshal who can raise zombies with the best of them. But ever since she and master vampire Jean-Claude went public with their engagement, all she is to anyone and everyone is Jean-Claude’s fiancée.
It’s wreaking havoc with her reputation as a hard ass—to some extent. Luckily, in professional circles, she’s still the go-to expert for zombie issues. And right now, the FBI is having one hell of a zombie issue.
Someone is producing zombie porn. Anita has seen her share of freaky undead fetishes, so this shouldn’t bother her. But the women being victimized aren’t just mindless, rotting corpses. Their souls are trapped behind their eyes, signaling voodoo of the blackest kind.
It’s the sort of case that can leave a mark on a person. And Anita’s own soul may not survive unscathed . . .

*******

3 out of 5 stars

I have a love/hate relationship with Laurel K. Hamilton. I LOVED her earlier books and have hated most of her later ones. I keep reading in the hopes that she will allow more editing to be done and more story to flow. This is the best book in the Anita Blake series that I have read in a while … probably the best in about 7 or 8 books? Yes, I have read them all. Don’t judge me.

Anita Blake is  the Executioner, the vampire killer with the highest kill count who is also engaged to vampire Jean-Claude. She is able to raise the dead and works for a re-animation firm. They raise the dead for people seeking answers. Anita also is an US Marshall who deals with anything strictly non-human. And finally, she is a shapeshifter (who doesn’t actually shift) and carries multiple animals inside her. Our Anita is a busy girl.

She has about a dozen or so lovers, both sexes. Polyamory is discussed often in Hamilton’s books and it gets a little preachy. There are a LOT of people coming (no pun intended) and going in the story and it’s hard to keep track.

What I liked: This is the first book in a while that was not all sex, all the time. The story was actually very good and I enjoyed it. You can tell, when reading, what sections were edited and what sections were not. To me, the best parts of the book were obviously edited. I really enjoyed seeing Anita kick some ass, which is her strongest suite. I haven’t seen that in a while.

What I didn’t like: So. Many. People. So many. In one scene I actually lost count of just how many names were mentioned as Anita was testing people to add to her poly group. It’s too much. There is also no mention of some of the characters that seemed to be central in older books. I guess they just disappeared.

There is a lot of sex, but I’ve come to expect that from Hamilton. It’s always amazing and wonderful and etc, etc, etc. Apparently everyone is a terrific lover, so good for you.

I liked the story, but feel like I read it for old times sake. I hope to see more books going in this direction in the future – more story, less people/sex/peoplesex.

The Harem Master

The Harem Master

25376770 “The Harem Master” by Megan Derr
Synopsis: Lord Demir has spent his life trying to appease a brutal, selfish king, and keep the concubines under his care alive—and now he is on the verge of losing everything. The council wants to abolish the harems, there are no heirs to the throne, and the foreigners control the Steward. One wrong move will tip tensions into civil war.
Crown Prince Ihsan returns to find his home in turmoil, and the royal court so full of vipers it’s impossible to say which of them will strike first. Removing his father from the throne, one way or another, should be a simple matter. Staying alive and proving himself a worthy king will be far more difficult.
Crown Princess Euren has spent the last five years in hiding so that she could not be used against her father or Ihsan. But she is the daughter of a soldier, never meant to wear a crown, never trained to fight battles where words are the weapon of choice. If she hopes to keep herself and her loved ones alive, she’ll have to learn fast.

Note: This story contains polyamory (M/M/M/M/M, F/F/F/F)

*******

5 out 5 stars

This is an epic, sweeping fantasy that reminded me a great deal of Jacqueline Carey’s books. I love them and absolutely loved this book too.

The story: Set in a far away desert land, The Harem Master has almost every element of story telling you could imagine – court intrigue, murder, a tyrant of a king and at its heart a passionate love story. Demir is the harem master, a role passed down through the generations of his family and one he takes great pride and joy in. The ruling King is a tyrant and it is Demir’s unfortunate position to try to protect the harem from the whims of the King.

In this land, the ruling class has harems made up of people who are meant to be truly loved and a treasured inner circle. The King has made a mockery of this and used his harem to take out his frustrations and anger. The King’s harem is made up solely of men, the Prince’s harem is also men, and the Princess’s harem is made up of women. It is an abomination for a married man or woman to sleep with someone other than their husband or wife, but bisexuality is the norm.

The characters: Demir is the crown jewel in a harem full of beautiful, talented men. He is desired by many, but his position keeps him safe for the most part. It also keeps him lonely. He is privy to the innermost secrets of the kingdom and guards those secrets well. He is tormented by the fact that is beloved harem is not a place filled with devotion and love, but a place for a petulant King to play.

Crown Prince Ihsan is the ruling King’s son and heir to the throne. He and his harem return to the kingdom after being away for years in an attempt to right the wrongs of his father. He brings with him his own harem of three unlikely men; a soldier, an aristocrat, and an assassin who are all devoted to each other.

Crown Princess Euren is Ihsan’s wife. No pampered princess, she is a soldier’s daughter and a soldier in her own right. She returns to the kingdom with her harem of three women.

What I liked: The polyamory and sex in this story is such an integral part of the story that it flows naturally. There is no feeling of a gratuitous sex scene for the sake of sex. It’s a part of all the relationships in the story, and colors everything that each character does. Beautifully done.

The story unfolds slowly but I feel we need that to build to the conclusion of the story. I didn’t find it tedious even when Derr goes into lineage when we are reading about lesser court nobles in the kingdom. This reads like historical fiction even though it is a fantasy. This is such a well done epic fantasy, it was hard to put down.

What I didn’t like: Princess Euren and her harem almost seemed like an afterthought. While the sex scenes between the women were very done, they lacked some of the passion and detail that the scenes between the men did.

This is an amazing book. I’ve never seen polyamory written so well. I gave it 5 stars, which I do only for the books that I loved and can reread again and again.

ARC Provided by NetGalley

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction’s Finest Voices

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction’s Finest Voices

2267010 “The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction’s Finest Voices” Edited by Ellen Datlow
Synopsis: With original stories by Jeffrey Ford, Pat Cadigan, Elizabeth Bear, Margo Lanagan, and others.
From Del Rey Books and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, two of the most respected names in science fiction and fantasy, comes a collection of fifteen all-new short stories, plus a science fiction novella, that could count as a virtual “best of the year” anthology. Here you will find slyly twisted alternate histories, fractured fairy tales, topical science fiction, and edgy urban fantasy.

*****

2 out of 5 stars

The Book: Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Ellen Datlow. I’ve never given a second thought to picking up anything she has edited as I know it will be an enjoyable read. She edits anthologies and short story collections which I love. This is a collection billed as science fiction and fantasy written by speculative fiction writers.

It is pure speculative fiction in my opinion, which is fine but not what I was expecting. This may have been one of the reason I didn’t really like this book. While I do enjoy being surprised when a story being something other than what I thought it was, speculative fiction takes a bit of work to read and often seems to make no sense. It kind of goes in the WTF category when sci-fi, fantasy, and horror don’t fit.

I was disappointed with this book for one main reason – I did not like the stories. Period. It was a struggle getting through the entire thing and the one story I did like somewhat was the last one.

What I liked: The story I liked was called Prisoners of the Action by Paul J. McAuley and Kim Newman. The story takes place after an alien invasion when much of the world has been decimated by the alien attack. The POTAs as they are called, are kept in a kind of Guantanamo Bay facility. A lawyer is called in to investigate accusations of abuse against the creatures. No one knows what they are exactly. The POTAs are described as blue round blobs stacked in threes, like a snow man would be stacked. They have no obvious organs or apertures other than a small opening filled with what looks like stones.

The lawyer witnesses what could be torture but it’s hard to tell as the POTAs don’t react in the way they are expected to. The cast of characters includes a Bible thumping preacher and his Christian Rock singing daughter, a hip hop scientist and our befuddled lawyer. And the POTAs which could be aliens or just blue blobs.

What I didn’t like: The rest of the book I skimmed, I’ll be honest. I didn’t connect with any of the other stories and they left me cold.

I’m not giving up on Datlow, but I think I’ll be a little more cautious going forward. I have five more of her anthologies queued up and I hope they are as good as her other work.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

16096824 “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
Synopsis: A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

*******

4 out of 5 stars

This is a paranormal/ fantasy retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast- if you don’t like that sort of thing, you won’t like this. I loved it!

The story: Feyre makes a mistake, killing a wolf in the woods in her attempt to feed her starving family, not knowing that the wolf was a Fae in disguise. Tamlin, the Prince of the Summer Courts of Faerie, comes to her families home and demands retribution. Instead of killing her, he instead takes Feyre to live out the rest of her life with him in his land in Faerie.

The characters: Feyre is an amazingly complex character. She had sworn a vow to her dying mother to take care of her family even though they treat her awfully. A huntress and a painter, she takes that vow very seriously and puts aside her own needs for that of her ungrateful sisters and crippled father. When she is taken to live with Tamlin, she is determined to escape to fulfill that vow, not realizing the dangers that wait for her on his estate. She can kick ass when she needs to and is afraid to be vulnerable, especially with Tamlin.

Tamlin, Lucian, and Rhysand and the three main Fae in the story. Tamlin is the Beast, and his chemistry with Feyre is hot! He is the Prince of the Summer Courts and a High Fae, meaning that he is quite powerful in his faerie abilities. Described as golden, he wears a masquerade mask as do all the members of his court due to a powerful spell placed on the Spring Court.

Lucian is his right hand and sidekick. He blames Feyre for the death of the Fae she killed in wolf form, but the two eventually come to an agreement if not a friendship. Sarcastic and witty, he give a great deal of comic relief and much needed tension breaking.

Rhys is a dark prince in the story. Feyre meets him while sneaking into places she’s not supposed to be. Brutally handsome, he is an enemy of Tamlin’s.

What I liked: This is a sweeping fantasy story, with lots of epic world building going on. The writing is spot on and the descriptions of faerie were both lovely and brutal by turns. Feyre’s and Tamlin’s relationship builds slowly, each unwilling and unable to trust the other. The romance is sweet as Tamlin finds ways to show Feyre how much he cares for her and as she begins to take down the walls she has had up for so long. There are a few twists and turns to the story which keeps it interesting, and Feyre finds herself fighting to save both Tamlin and her whole world.

This is the first book in a series but it definitely stands well on its own. I loved the retelling of Beauty and the Beast with the faerie elements added; it made the entire book feel like a brand new story. I also loved the fact that Tamlin, the beast, does have a grand library but Feyre is mostly illiterate. She spends her time in the library learning to read.

What I didn’t like: The world of faerie has an enemy, known for most of the book as HER. I found that a bit tedious as her name could have been revealed much earlier in the story. That is my only complaint and I can’t even call it a complaint!

This is going to be a beautiful series, and I am seriously waiting for the next book.

Panther Prowling

Panther Prowling

18072609 “Panther Prowling” by Yasmine Galenorn
Publisher’s Synopsis: We’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. My sister Camille is a wicked-good witch with three gorgeous husbands. Menolly is a vampire married to a werepuma. And me? I’m Delilah, a two-faced werecat and a Death Maiden. While the war in Otherworld is expanding, so is my newly renamed PI business. And my next case is about to make life very interesting…

While waiting for Shadow Wing’s next move, I decide to revamp my ragtag PI agency into the Cat’s Eye Investigations firm. My first client turns out to be our cousin Daniel. During the grand reopening for the Wayfarer, he shows up while being chased by a rampaging ghost. Daniel has procured a rare and valuable sword, and a ring of ghostly warriors comes attached to it. Protectors of the soul trapped within it, the spirits are out to stop anybody who threatens the weapon. As my sisters and I unravel the history of the sword, we quickly realize that the entity locked within the blade is a dangerous king from times gone by—and he’s about to break free and try to recover his crown…

*******

3 out of 5 stars

The D’Artigo sister’s series, the “Otherworld” series, spans 17 books. 17! Panther Prowling is number 17.

Going into the plot of this book won’t make a lot of sense unless you are familiar with the main characters, so let me introduce you.

The books alternate narratives between each sister; Camille, Menolly, and Delilah. This book is narrated by Delilah, the youngest of the three sisters. She is a werecat, able to turn into a tabby cat and a puma at will. Menolly was a spy and a acrobat before being turned into a vampire, and Camille, the eldest, is a witch. They all live together with their respective partners in the pacific Northwest.

One of the things I like about this series is that it explores topics such as polyamory and bisexuality in a positive light. I’m fully aware that this is fantasy and paranormal fantasy at that, but I do appreciate that Galenorn is willing to show relationships other than heteronormative ones. Plus, the sex scenes are well written.

One of the things I don’t like about this series is the non stop action. This might seem like a strange complaint, but it’s the 17th book in the series and the action has not stopped yet. I don’t imagine that a quiet book where everyone gets a bit of a break would sell well, but it gets a bit exhausting to read.

If you like paranormal fantasy, give this series a try!