Mercenary Reading

Smoke and Ashes - Tanya Huff A very solid, satisfying ending to the trilogy! While this had similar structural annoyances as in the first book, with the plot beats beginning to feel repetitious (in this case, defeating demons rather than closing shadow gates), as ever, the cast was fantastic and the voice and fast pace were top-notch. I love all the characters, especially how the supporting cast shines.

It was especially satisfying to see how various relationships were handled and threads from previous books wrapped up. (In particular, Tony and Lee at the end.)

Great read. I loved it. Recommend the whole series to everyone!
Double Dexter - Jeff Lindsay While the voice, as always, is very entertaining, the book was annoyingly padded with repetitious detours and delays and a slow middle made it overall feel saggy. Even with Dexter not on his A-game, this felt in need of a little judicious playtime with sharp knives and red pens to trim down to dark, delicious devilry.
Cold Days - Jim Butcher I think a better title would be, Let Us Stop The Action Dead And Lecture Each Other Endlessly. Maybe that wouldn't have fit on the cover...
Smoke and Shadows - Tanya Huff Loved this one! It has shadows and TV production and a gay protagonist in an urban fantasy! Basically it hits all my 'WANT' buttons. Great cast of secondary characters as well. While the middle felt a bit repetitive with how Tony and co are guarding the gate, overall it's a fast read and tons of fun. Off to get the next books. Definitely recommend this one!
The Black Prism - Brent Weeks The star is for the magic system, which was cool. And... that is about the nicest thing I could say for this. Twice as long as it needed to be (dear lord, red pens were invented FOR A REASON), with everyone acting TSTL, painfully mediocre prose, and--look. I have neither time nor energy to waste on reviews of grindingly tedious and offensive books. I strongly DO NOT recommend this for any reason. You can find a summary on Wiki, I'm sure, if you're curious about the light-based magic system.

I'd like the wasted hours of my life back.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E. Pearson Cleanly written, addresses a fair number of tough questions, and does it fairly well (without always having answers). The characters were believably frustrating and obsessive. I also thought the format worked very well in the story's favor.
A Wolf at the Door - K.A. Stewart A fairly solid third entry into the series--this has many more echoes of the first book (which I liked a lot), with the more varied cast and being in a city and stuff besides zombies happening.

The world is opening up more, and there are some interesting development's in Jesse's life.

It had a few wobbles, and some predictable moments and set-ups, but overall, enjoyed this one a lot.
A Shot in the Dark - K.A. Stewart Not quite as fun as the first book; this one definitely felt overlong and too repetitive with the cabin-in-the-wilderness-fighting-zombies routine. A lot more action, but it never really stood out.

Still, despite the second-book-in-a-series issues, it was enjoyable. I continue to adore Axel, and I like how he's getting development, as well as the expansion of the world building and mythos for the series. The Yeti demon made a solid and challenging antag; I also particularly liked some of the paintball creativity going on.

Looking forward to book 3 and onwards--I've enjoyed this series so far, and I hope it keeps up.
A Devil in the Details: A Jesse James Dawson Novel (Jesse Dawson) - K. A. Stewart Very easy-going, enjoyable UF. I especially appreciated the relationships in the story; Jesse is happily married, so there is a refreshing lack of romance-angst-triangles-of-DRAMA. Also Jesse has actual family and friends and co-workers! I liked him.

The plot-beats are familiar (I thought the wording for the final showdown was clever), but it's a fast read with an enjoyable narrator. The main plot wrapped up neatly with plenty of room for a series of next books.

I'll look for the next books. (Also, Axel the demon is awesome.)
What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A Fantasy Lover's Food Guide - Krista D. Ball This is an absolutely charming reference book and food guide! It covers everything from the general history of food, an overview of the politics and logistics of food (and feeding an army), food preservation, what types of food would be available in various time periods and climates, AND actual recipes for making some of these historic dishes yourself.

The prose is easy to read, accessible, and funny. (Also well-researched, and complete with end notes and citations.) There are plenty of wonderful side bars with little tidbits, facts, recipes, and trivia you didn't know you needed to know. Ms Ball has a talent for inserting hilarious anecdotes (such as her collage years without coffee) and fascinating stories about everything involving food.

This isn't just a book for fantasy writers, either. WHAT KINGS ATE is perfect for foodies, the SCA, history buffs, and everyone who enjoys a good book.

I've found this gorgeously put-together book indispensable for reference, and also it does what any good book is supposed to do: it tells a compelling story.

WHAT KINGS ATE AND WIZARDS DRANK chronicles food and history in a fun, engaging style. And like a good meal, it leaves you full and satisfied at the end. (Although there's always room for dessert!)
Break and Enter - Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov Mm. This is the kind of M/M SF I enjoy. Fun story!
Miserere: An Autumn Tale - Teresa Frohock I didn't like it--I bounced off almost every element, from the writing style to the world to the characters. The main impression I had was the unrelenting sense unpleasantness in the tone and style. It continually rubbed me the wrong way.

However. The Rosa vs Wyrm scene? Was epic. GIANT FORMER-SAINT-TURNED KILLER ROSEBUSHES THAT EAT PEOPLE vs DEMON FROM HELL: CAGE MATCH. (That was pretty awesome, not gonna lie.)

If it were a movie, I'd say watch it for that scene alone, but alas.
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength - Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney Excellent, thoughtful, and very helpful. Clearly written and good advice, with practical applications and a lot of interesting research to back-up conclusions. Highly recommended!
Trading in Danger (Vatta's War, #1) - Elizabeth Moon I wasn't impressed. The switching povs kept killing the tension, the ending fizzled out, and I never really LIKED anyone. The narrative felt very heavy-handed a lot of the time, and the continual reminders of information we already know got tiresome quickly.
SummerDanse - Terie Garrison This review covers all four books in the DragonSpawn Cycle (AutumnQuest, WinterMajeic, SpringFire, and SummerDanse).

I read the first part of AutumnQuest awhile ago and liked it--it showed a lot of promise, an engaging voice, and I liked the premise of a girl who has to rescue her brother from being executed because he found a dragon egg. And I did like it--for about four chapters, and then things fell apart (and got worse in the next three books).

I could maybe stomach the 'chosen one' syndrome if it had been secondary to the narrator's initial quest (her own decision to rescue her brother). Unfortunately the 'chosen one must save us because the rest of the world, and all the smart, capable people in it (most of whom need to rescue the useless narrator) are hapless, due to plot necessity' elements overwhelmed any possible agency the narrator might have had.

The most charitable thing I can say is I've probably read worse. (And the books are short.) If you combine the books, I swear 2.5 is made up of nothing but the narrator (she is not a protagonist--she doesn't DO anything, things merely happen to her as she mopes around) sleeping, recovering, being imprisoned, sulking, and crying. In other words, she does nothing. People seem to exist only to help her recover, tell her what happened while she was being useless, rescue her because she can't do anything herself, and comfort her by telling her she's special.

The antagonists were walking cliches, there is no tension, the pacing is a mess (all that sleeping/recovering/crying? tends to take up a good third of each book, maybe more), the cool bits of world building are glossed over or ignored or result in everything being too easy, and a confrontation/climax that took three books to set up is over in one paragraph, in which the narrator does nothing.

There was promise--the conflict that resulted in Stychs, the dragon masters, whatever the hell the tattoo Donovah gets in book 3 is supposed to mean, the possibility of old gods resurfacing, etc--but none of it panned out, or was handled poorly.

An unlikeable narrator, an uninspired cast, contrived and cliche antagonists, awkward plotting and pacing, and too many other problems made these books painful for me to read by the end.
Spellwright - Blake Charlton Not a bad debut--I loved the unique magic system, and how well-integrated it was with the world. There were bits that I liked (the gargoyles and the kobolds and the imaginary constructs in the woods), and it was cleanly written (except for the abuse of dialogue tags, ow). However, overall I couldn't care about any of the characters and even with some nice spiffing up in places, the plot and characters felt too uninspired for my tastes. I'll check out the next book, though--the magic system is definitely the highlight of the novel, so kudos to Mr. Charlton on that.

Currently reading

The Night Strangers: A Novel
Chris Bohjalian