Review: Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick

Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick
Amazon

Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.

Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a confused but semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

I requested this book via NetGalley to review because the title and description sounded intriguing. When I started the book, however, the intrigue fell away a little.

Not So Much, Said The Cat starts with an introduction from the author, talking about his writing journey and how this collection of short fiction came to be. Unfortunately, the introduction read very self-aggrandizing and I’m still not sure if it was intended that way or just came across that way by accident.

But I put that aside and jumped into the world of the first story, and enjoyed it very much! I’ve seen other reviewers all say the same – the first story is a great start to this collection and definitely makes you want to read more.

However, the book is only 288 pages, which should be a very quick read, but it actually took me over 2 months to get through it. Which is a downside for me, but for anthology lovers maybe that would be a positive? Each story was a different genre to the last, jumping around between fantasy, sci-fi, fable-type fiction and more, to the point that I could only read one story at a time and needed several days (sometimes a week or more) between them to get my brain ready for the next genre switch.

I’m not sure why the author (or publisher) planned the stories in this way. There were several of each genre in the book and I think it would have been a more enjoyable read to have more fluid genre transitions, from fantasy through to sci-fi crossovers, then pure sci-fi through to the fable-style stories, etc. The way they were all intermixed felt very “bitty”, and frustrated me a few times that I couldn’t just relax and read several at once.

For example, “The Dala Horse” was such a swift change in genre and setting that it pulled me out of the story too much at first – I found myself thinking “wait, where am I? What setting/world is this?” instead of just enjoying the story. And “3am In The Mesozoic Bar” was a flop for me because it took too long for the story to show you what was going on. I think it (and many others) would have read differently if I’d known upfront which genre I should be expecting.

You could definitely tell the same author wrote each story, even with the different settings and protagonists the language and writing style was much the same. But that alone wasn’t enough to tie the collection together for me to read more than one at a time.

The stories themselves are mostly good – a couple are very good, then they become “ok” the further into the collection you go, with one or two not grabbing me at all. But you have to expect a mixed bag with a short fiction collection that crosses so many different worlds, genres and characters.

The ones I enjoyed (such as “The Man In Grey”, and “The Woman Who Shook The World Tree”) had strong plots, characters, and I mostly enjoyed the author’s writing style – very accurately described in the book blurb as sesquipedalian.

“An Empty House With Many Doors” was a surprising treat later in the collection. The worldbuilding was interesting and it was great to have an emotional rollercoaster through such a short story.

Overall I think the collection is an OK read, very middle of the road. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone personally, but if you enjoy mixed-genre anthologies you might feel differently about it than I did.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

June Book Haul!

JuneBookHaul

I know, it’s been a bit longer than expected since my last post. Sorry!  We went to visit some family, and then started house hunting. Which takes a lot of time – who knew?! (Well, we did but oh well!) What we didn’t realise is how quickly property sells here, especially if it is a “good deal” in a good area.

We ended up in a sort of bidding war, where our offer was one of 5 and everyone had to submit a “best and final” offer. It was really nerve wracking! You don’t know what everyone else is going to do, so we really went all in – the house is just so perfect for us and we didn’t want to lose it. I even wrote a letter to the seller to let them know just how much the house meant to us.  So after a very tense 24 hours of not knowing what would happen… we got the house! 😀  We don’t close on it yet, but it’s so great to know we will be moving to “our house” soon…because it really did feel like home right away.

In the midst of all the busyness I did still find time to buy some books – not much of a surprise there! It’s a slightly mixed bunch, with a few authors I haven’t read before.

TBR08a

1. Burned by Karen Marie Moning. Amazon
2. The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Amazon (How gorgeous is that cover!)
3. Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews. Amazon

TBR08b

4. Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost. Amazon
5. Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks. Amazon
6. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day. Amazon
7. Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle. Amazon | Book Depository (the US version has a different title/cover, but I like the UK title/cover more so I bought my copy from Book Depository)

My vlog talks about the books in more detail 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

NightShiftNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Amazon

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

When I requested Night Shift I didn’t realise it was book 3 in the “Midnight Texas” series. But that didn’t cause any issues, it worked as a stand alone novel – I only realised it wasn’t book one after I’d finished reading it.

I read quite a few of the Sookie Stackhouse series when it first came out, and I’ve read (and loved!) the Harper Connelly series, so I was really looking forward to reading Night Shift!

In Night Shift there are a couple of crossover characters from both of those series – one I didn’t recognize (from later in the Sookie series that I hadn’t reached yet), and one from the Harper Connelly series.  It was a fun twist to have this kind of crossover but I don’t remember vampires being around in Harper’s world, so the crossover of them living in the same town was a little strange.

Night Shift focuses on several different characters, all with their own unique skills: Fiji is a witch, Lemuel is a vampire, Manfred is a psychic/medium, Quinn is a weretiger…the list goes on.

The main plot is about the town needing to come together to stop strange suicides that have been happening, and to put an end to what has been causing that to happen. I was interested enough to keep reading, and wanted to know more about the sub plots that take place through the book. Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier were my favourite characters, and they seemed the most developed. The other characters weren’t underdeveloped, they just didn’t feel as substantial to me.

I liked that Manfred has a great psychic ability which is triggered by touch, and that he saw a lot more into people’s lives than they probably realised. Just a simple friendly gesture from someone (a pat on the arm) could end up with Manfred seeing everything they were hiding from the outside world. Seeing him here made me want to re-read the Harper Connelly series.

Fiji is a witch who is more powerful than she realises, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of witches in Night Shift (or at least the way Fiji’s magic was shown). She has a draw of “trinkets” which I loved seeing, and the reason for them (no spoilers, so I won’t go into more detail), and I love the way she casts spells and channels her power.

Mr. Snuggly is just fab 😀

As for negatives, a lot of the backstory for each character was “told” to us, almost just listing out what had happened, and sometimes felt more like padding as it didn’t add anything to the current story.

In fact, a lot of the book felt like padding. One character is in town throughout the entire book and gives a very vague “warning” at the start, then at the very end says (I’m paraphrasing) “So I’ve always known what’s happening, I came here for the sole purpose of telling you how to deal with it…but I just didn’t tell you since I’ve been here, even though it could have saved lives and given you all a head start on fixing things”. It was the most “wtf” moment in the book for me. Their whole purpose was to be the character who knew what was going on…yet they waited until literally the last moment (after Lemuel had already finished his decoding) to tell anyone. Basically if this character had said what he knew at the start, there would have been no book.

And then the whole thing felt like such a forced plot – just pushing us along toward what was ultimately a very disappointing ending. After a build up through the whole book, the finale is 2 pages of basically nothing exciting. Just a totally fizzled out ending.

Then in the final few pages of “and they all lived happily ever after” summaries there is a very homophobic comment (said as though it’s a positive thing), and a conversation that’s very degrading to women. I don’t know if those will be edited out before the final release but I certainly hope so! It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I will say that because I was given an advanced copy of the book there were quite a few things I think (I hope!) will be edited out. From small things like typos, to bigger things like character A telling character B that they hear voices in their mind and character B saying “I think I know what that is! I’ll go check something and let you know!”, then a couple of chapters later character A tells character B again as though it’s the first time talking about it and character B wonders why character A didn’t say something sooner.

The interaction between all of the characters was interesting, and because of that the sub plots drew me along through the story (perhaps more so than the “main” plot). Olivier is someone I would really love to read more about – she could have her own series and I’d jump at reading it!

But for Night Shift… Overall I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. It’s just an average book, nothing special. I don’t feel like checking out the previous two in the series because it didn’t pique my interest enough, and I doubt I’ll be reaching for any future books in the series unless I’m really stuck for something to read.

I feel this book is closer to a 2.5 rating, but I’m feeling generous because I did enjoy Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier’s characters.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Henchgirl by Rita Stradling

HenchgirlHenchgirl by Rita Stradling
Amazon

The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a ‘human’s only’ high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

Dakota’s life is not ideal but it is manageable, until the rich and famous half-dragon, Wyvern Manderson, shows up and starts sabotaging Dakota’s missions. And for some bewildering reason, he is always angry at her.

Within days of Wyvern’s arrival, Dakota is suspended from future missions and in desperate need of money. When Wyvern offers to hire Dakota to find his kidnapped human half-sister, she accepts despite knowing she’ll have to spend all day, every day, with Wyvern and his gigantic ego. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley – my first book from there! My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

Henchgirl is a fantasy/YA novel, and the first book in the Dakota Kekoa series. I hadn’t read anything by Rita Stradling before, but the description about dragons (who doesn’t love dragons?!) and the gorgeous island-themed cover made me want to dive right in.

The story follows a 16 year old dracon girl, Dakota Kekoa, who works for her Grandfather as something of a collections agent. She is part dragon (as are most of her family) but her ability is particularly useful as she can manipulate souls. I hadn’t ever seen that in a book before so it was an interesting plot point!

She uses her ability to be able to remove emotions from people, or add them, for example adding fear into someone she’s trying to intimidate for her Grandfather, or removing doubt from someone to make a deal. Her gift has it’s limitations and I enjoyed seeing how Dakota dealt with those and how her family had worked to make the most of even the negative aspects of her ability.

The novel is set in the fictional islands of Mabi (which were very clearly based on Hawaii) and I really enjoyed reading about somewhere different from the usual states/cities you see in fantasy/YA novels. The cover (shown above) is also a gorgeous representation of this, however that’s the paperback cover. The ebook cover seems to have been a little whitewashed – Dakota often talks about her darker skin tone, dark eyes and hair, yet the ebook cover has a very pale white girl with light brown hair – I’m not sure why the beautiful island cover isn’t used for both versions.

That aside, I really enjoyed reading this book! The dragon “history” was unusual and interesting. For example: dragons can’t stay on the earth’s surface for long because it’s too cold for them, they live far underground near the earth’s core. There are a lot of strengths with full dragons, and part-dragons, but also a number of weaknesses and I enjoyed that balance.

Dakota is a character who I think will develop more as the series progresses. I kept having to remind myself that she was only 16 because she got a little annoying at times with her thoughts or reactions. Especially when you team it with the fact she’d been working as a henchgirl for her Grandfather for several years, yet she didn’t seem prepared at all for taking/following orders or making logical conclusions over some situations (no spoilers). But as I said, she is only 16 so reminding myself of that helped a little to ease the frustrations.

Wyvern is a character I also want to see more of. He’s interesting but has a lot of negatives – he’s the pushy/dominating/controlling kind of man I don’t find attractive at all nor want to read about. But his character does seem to be changing and “learning” as he goes, so I’m actually really interested to see where his character ends up.  Hopefully it will be a case of him changing the way he does things because he realises women aren’t objects, and not just him changing only to please one girl.

The romance elements got heavier and heavier through the book. At first the story was a fun fantasy read, but ended up feeling more like a romance novel. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the romance doesn’t become the main story – I want to read more about the girl with the interesting talent, and her siblings (who also have talents of their own), and learn more about the dragons, with the romance as a subplot not the main plot.

There were quite a few open ended plot points that I hope get answered in the next book. Specifically about Dakota’s father, something that was given to her at the end of the book (no spoilers), and why Wyvern is how he is (and why her Grandfather knows). Hopefully these get more weight to them than the romance.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow at times – I felt a couple of scenes were padding that weren’t really needed and the main plot became a back story. For trying to save someone’s life, and rescue someone in possible mortal danger, they sure do have a lot of fancy dinners and not seeming to care about saving lives until after the dinner has ended. But the plot does move at a nice pace for the most part and kept me guessing at a couple of things, which is always fun!

I definitely enjoyed the book 🙂 It was a fairly quick read and a world I definitely want to read more of. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the series stays on the fantasy track and doesn’t become mainly romance.

Rating: 4/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

redQueen

I’ve been looking forward to reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. All of the book bloggers, and booktubers, have been talking about it so highly, and as I picked it up to read I began to worry it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I needn’t have worried.

I really enjoyed this book! The world building is great, the characters are interesting, and the story moves with a great balance of fast and slow pacing. Not everything is perfect – the science behind some things made the logical part of my brain shudder, but it’s a fantasy book and nothing was so outlandish to shock me out of the story.

The main character, Mare, is part of the lower level of society – the red bloods. They are normal humans without any powers. The higher society – the overlords, really – are silver bloods (literally) and the elite classes of the world. They each have different powers, such as being able to manipulate fire, water, or turn invisible.

Mare’s world is turned upside down when she finds out she, a normal red blood girl, has a power of her own. The book delves into what this means for society and how it would shake up the current class dynamics. It made me think “what would I do in that situation?” a lot, and the plot develops in a very real-world way.

I liked Mare as a character, though she did frustrate me at times. But I kept reminding myself that she is only 17, and the book shows us that she hasn’t had much of an education. The other main characters include Maven and Cal, two of the silver elite class who are half-brothers. They stand alone well as different characters (not just one brother repeated twice) and I enjoyed the interactions between them and with Mare.

There were a couple of frustrations that seem to pop up in a few books lately. Such as someone being charged with something they didn’t do, and when everyone turns against them they don’t just say a simple one line to clear their name (I won’t say what sentence they could be here, because of spoilers). They just stay quiet and internally wonder “if only I could do something”. In this book their silence moves the story along to the next big scene, but it felt more like we were being forced to the next big scene when one sentence could have so easily changed things. It felt as though the character was suddenly being very slow in their thinking, which didn’t mesh with the way the character had been developed so far.

There were a couple of inconsistencies…or at least they read as inconsistencies but one of them could possibly be developed/answered in further world building in other books. The first inconsistency was that Mare talks about being quick on her feet and able to move around people well without bumping into them, but she slips on a stone floor (and says something about not having good feet for that), and later struggles to dance because her feet aren’t suited to it. The other inconsistency, which I think might be expanded upon later, was that powers are an ability to manipulate external things, not to come from within – which makes sense but got me wondering about the people who could heal themselves (but not others), the ones who can turn invisible, or the person who turned themselves to stone – those all read as internal manipulation, which goes against what the author had already taught us about powers. I hope these get answered or expanded upon in later books as I’d love to see more of that development! 🙂

Minor frustrations aside, I thought the characters were well rounded and the story was very interesting. I liked that there wasn’t such a clear line between good and evil in each person – the good characters weren’t always good, for example. It made the world feel very believable because of that, as people aren’t just one clear cut thing in real life.

There are a few plot twists and turns. The “big one” I figured out very early on in the book, but even knowing what was coming I really enjoyed this book! I loved the world building and definitely want to read more – I’ll be picking up the next book as soon as I can.

Rating: 4/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.

Book Review: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Dark fantasy
Published: March 2009
Amazon
Book Depository

Back of the book blurb:
When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it’s a job for Kate Daniels…

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she finds herself with a personal stake and a while new level of problem. As her investigations lead her to the Midnight Games – the invitation-only, no-holds-barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament – she uncovers a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…

My review:
I only discovered Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series about a year ago but they hooked me fast. This is book three in the series and is just as strong as the first two.

The world that Kate Daniels lives in has enough “normal” every day markers for you to be able to picture what is being talked about (streets in Atlanta, etc). But the alterations that have come about due to the magic and tech waves are a fantastic change and they draw you even deeper into the story with each revelation. If you haven’t read any of this series, then definitely start with book one, Magic Bites, so that you can fully emerge yourself in this fantastically interesting world that Ilona Andrews has created.

This book focuses on the relationship between Kate Daniels and the shapeshifters, even though that is seemingly a secondary storyline to the goings on in the Midnight Games. I love the way that the story didn’t get overrun with fight scenes, even in a book all about fights. The descriptions and narrative held strong and I literally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it!

The fight scenes were so well detailed that you knew exactly where and what everyone was doing and the overall plot moved with perfect pace – nothing dragged and nothing felt too rushed either. Her relationship with Curran also comes into play in this book and his character is one of my absolute favourites! The two of them together in any situation is just such an interesting read – sometimes fun, sometimes serious, but always enjoyable to learn more about. Just as the world itself, and their roles in it, is so fascinating to delve into.

I enjoy the way there are light hearted moments to mix in with the serious elements, and each character is so very individual that you feel personal attachments to each of them in a different way. Kate Daniels is a very likable character and her actions, and motivations, are not only interesting to read but they draw you deeper into the story with her.

Overall, this book was a fantastic read; an excellent addition to an already strong series and I cannot wait to read the next one 🙂

Rating: 5/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.