Review: In The Company of Thieves by Kage Baker

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I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review, my thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.

I admit, sometimes I’m pretty shallow when it comes to picking a book to read. I judge by the covers (both the front and the back). The cover to ‘In the Company of Thieves’ pulled at me and I just knew that I had to read it.

I was sad to learn that Kage Baker had passed on, and even sadder once I read the first short story in this series. It involves a robotic entity who does nothing but observe time as it passes. Down the same streets, the same city. Eventually he starts to watch and observe a woman who visits a specific park each day. She fights for the restoration of the park but no one listens to her. He watches as she becomes thinner, and thinner, and eventually she dies from her illness. It was a sad yet touching story, filled with emotion and compassion, more so once I heard of the authors own death. Funny how things can touch us that way.

The stories were chosen by the authors sister once she had passed on, and that is probably the reason why they seem to ‘hit home’ as it were. There are six short stories total and while the later ones involve a setting that Kage Baker is known for, the first ones are a bit all over the place. This isn’t a bad thing, it just left me a bit confused as I naturally looked for a tie-in between stories. I loved the writing style and the steampunk-esc settings, but still found myself wanting a bit ‘more’ out of each short story.

The book came out in 2013, so if you’re a fan of Kage Baker or are looking for some new short stories to delve into, this makes for a great choice and it certainly left me with the desire to check out some of her other work.

3.5/5 stars

Review: Board Stiff by Piers Anthony

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This book was given to me as an ARC for an honest review from NetGalley.

The world of Xanth is made of puns – and a virus threatens those puns. Of course before you get to the main story of the book you’re introduced to Kandy, a woman who is turned into a literal board of wood at a wishing well. Thankfully she doesn’t have to suffer too long, as she meets up with the love of her life. Being a board, things get complicated, quickly.

The two meet up with other characters along the way, including Com Pewter, and a basilisk. They partake in a quest to get rid of the virus, and meet up with many colourful characters along the way.

The book was highly sexualized and it felt almost needless. It was amusing hearing about men ‘freaking out’ and freezing any time they saw a flash of panties, but it felt like an overused mechanic that was just tossed in there randomly. I really enjoyed the world of Xanth, and the puns made me cackle in delight but again I felt the sex was something that was just thrown about whenever the author wanted a bit of shock value (which was often). Had these parts been left out of the book I would have personally enjoyed it a lot more.

Thankfully there are a few redeeming characters you meet up with along the way, and enough interest to keep wanting to read about the quest and see if the group is finally successful. If you’re familiar with the world of Xanth and the writing style of Piers Anthony then you may want to give this book a try, but otherwise it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

3 / 5 stars

Review: The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan

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It is rare that I come across a book that a good portion of my friends list on Goodreads has read or wants to read, but this book fit both categories. It has been on my to-read pile for quite a while, and over the holidays I finally got to it – and I’m glad I did. The base story isn’t anything unique but sometimes when I’m reading that’s not a quality I absolutely must have in my book.

It follows the story of a young woman who is born with the powers of an untrained magician. She lives in the slums and one day while she is out with a gang trying to avoid the purge she accidentally releases those powers and the city magicians take notice. From there the book goes into great detail about the guild trying to catch her so they can properly train her powers, and the steps she takes to avoid them. Her friends rally to her side, and the thieves guild eventually agrees to help hide her (of course they want something in return).

It was simple, quirky, and interesting, which is exactly what I was in the mood for. The story was compelling enough that I picked up the other books to the series, and I’m interested in seeing how it unfolds. While the first half of the book is filled with her adventures in avoiding the magician’s guild, the second half is trying to get her on their side (and of course she meets up with some shady characters along the way). I think I enjoyed the first half better, mainly because I fell in love with the thieves guild and their leader. I would have loved to have read more about that particular group of characters and their stories. The second half was interesting too but it was also more structured and dare I say it, boring?

If you’re looking for an easy going fantasy book I would certainly recommend checking this one out. It’s one of those small hidden treasures that I’m glad my friends suggested.

3.5 / 5 stars

Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

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I know I’ve put this book into the fantasy category, but it’s not traditional fantasy, with wizards and magic and what have you. It’s more urban fantasy, or mythology.

If there was one book I read this year that I would call the ‘winning’ book for 2013 (no matter when it was published) this would be it. I don’t even have words to describe it properly. When I first started reading I wasn’t really expecting too much. A few friends had read it and given good ratings, but I didn’t know what to expect. You know those books that just pull you into the story and before you know it your eyes are sore from being open so long and as you look at the clock you realize that it’s three in the morning? It was that type of book.

The main characters are Chava, a clay golem, and Ahmad, a jinni. They don’t meet right away, first the reader lives through Chava’s creation, and then onward to New York City, the year 1899. The detail the writer puts into this book is nothing short of amazing. There’s so much culture and feeling behind every single character and action that you can’t help but realize just how human these two beings actually are. There are many other characters that dot the scene too, and their stories are just as interesting. That’s just one of the (many) reasons I found it hard to put the book down.

I really don’t want to give away the story here, and I know it’s shoddy to say “trust me, read it” but honestly, that’s what this book comes down to. I can guarantee that you won’t regret it. A huge congratulations to  Helene Wecker on her debut novel, what a way to get started.

5/5 stars

Review: The Last Priestess by Elizabeth Baxter

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This book was an ARC given to me by NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This book was a pleasant surprise to read and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. The characters were robust and while the story may have had a flaw or hole here and there, it was one of those books I love to curl up and read on a cold weekend. The book is about Maegwin, who is facing trial for killing a handful of men who first killed a bunch of her friends. These friends were priestesses of Sho-La, and now she is the last one. Along the way she meets up with Rovann, who becomes a really important part of her journey.

Without giving too much of the main story away, I will say it follows the typical good vs. evil plot, and it tends to be quite predictable but I had no issue with that. It kept me wanting more the entire time I read it and that is never a bad thing. If you’re looking for an ultra casual page turner that doesn’t have you trying to figure out what the writer is describing, I would highly suggest giving The Last Priestess a read.

3.5/5 stars

Review: The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch

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A thank you first to NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

After reading both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards 1 and 2) I could not wait for the third book to come out. I was so excited. This book certainly did not disappoint, either. If you haven’t read the first two books I highly suggest it.

The third book introduces us to a character that until now we have only heard about in snippets of conversation (usually from Locke) – his lady love, Sabetha. The book focuses on two aspects of her, the past when Locke becomes smitten and how their “relationship” progresses, and the present day where they are thrown together in a contest of sorts by the bondsmagi. If you’re not fond of books that flip between the past and present every other chapter you may find this one no better, but I personally enjoyed the suspense of having to wait between stories to find out what happens next.

In the past you’re sent off to learn about Locke, Sabetha, Jean, and the twins Calo and Galdo who are all training as… actors. That’s right, Chains has sent them off for a little while to learn how to work together in the real world. There the romance between Locke and Sabetha really comes to a head – although of course as we already know it’s been smoldering in some form ever since the two first met. I mean really FIRST met, when Locke was 6 years old. I loved this portion of the book more so than the present day trials and tribulations, but that was really no surprise as I simply adore the whole concept of their little gang of friends.

In the present Locke and Jean are pitted against Sabetha in a political contest and during the contest the old flame rekindles and things start to heat up until the bondsmagi lay down some very drastic news that once again pushes the two apart. I found this incredibly frustrating because I really want the two to be together and happy! Of course what sort of book would that make.. probably a boring one. I enjoyed the tricks and details of the contest, and I really like how the two teams “fought” against one another – but I did find the details behind the whole political contest a bit drab. While the bondmagi story should be one of the ‘main’ storylines I was far more interested in pretty much everything else.

Still, the book was amazing, and I devoured every bit of it. Now I just have to wait for the next one..

4 / 5 stars

Review – The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

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Hero meets anti-hero in a fast paced tale of action and adventure.

Hadrian is our hero, a somewhat naive… killing machine? Turns out his father taught him to be a fantastic swordsman capable of amazing killing efficiency.

Royce is our anti-hero, a jaded thief who finds the simplest solution to any problem is to kill it dead, twice over.

Together they embark on an adventure – to settle a debt each owes the same man.

Of course, nothing is ever as it seems, and the adventure is nothing more than a ruse to make the two “opposites” learn about each other, in the hopes both turn out somewhere in the middle at the end of it all. There is the hint that they will be needed in the future, and both will need to improve their skills to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Aside from the obvious issue of the “naive hero” being a ruthless killing machine, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

It does a good job of introducing the major characters with enough left to the imagination to keep you wanting more.

I had a hard time putting this book down, its very well paced and well written, and left me wanting more.

5/5 stars

Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, by David Barnett

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Reading this book reminded me of reading an older, golden age comic book – but not the kind full of heroes with wondrous powers. Instead, it conjured memories of The Phantom, The Lone Ranger, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In fact, many of the heroes we meet are of the famous (and infamous) variety.

While not always featured in the book, several characters are introduced that awaken your imagination of the era in which the story is set.

Bram Stoker (and Dracula). Jack the Ripper. Einstein’s father. Indiana Jones’ grandfather!

Together with the young protagonist Gideon Smith, a strong willed fisherman’s son, from a fishing village out in the sticks, the author weaves a quick-paced tale that reads like an old pulp fiction.

Its a fast paced tale that intertwines magic and steampunk themes, and it does it fairly well.

Gideon finds himself on a mission to find help from a renowned adventurer, Captain Lucian Trigger. Along the way he befriends allies and adventurers alike, learning about himself and what it means to be a hero.

Its a very quick read, but it was throughly enjoyable.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Thanks for reading!

Review: The Companions by R.A. Salvatore

16142151As a disclaimer I was given a review ebook copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I grew up reading about the adventures of Drizzt and all of his friends. They were probably some of my first fantasy genre books, and then over time I fell out of love with the writing style of R.A. Salvatore, and I stopped reading his work. I think The Companions was the perfect book to read to get re-acquainted with all of the characters, their histories, and the world in general.

If you’ve never read any of the Drizzt books before you may think that this book isn’t for you – but not so. I think the explanations are pretty clear even for a new reader and you don’t feel as though you’re dropped into a world without knowing what is going on. It may even entice a few people to read some of the older books so that you can see how the characters used to be portrayed.

*slight spoiler*

Things start out easily enough, Catti-brie, Regis, and Wulfgar are sent back once more to help out Drizzt in a time of need. The story follows them as they are reincarnated as younger versions of themselves (way younger, they actually start out as infants) and then grow up in their “new” lives until they are of the appropriate age to help. You follow each character through their new trials, tribulations and amazing adventures, while they are conscience of the fact that they’ve been reincarnated – I found this a particularly neat aspect of the book. Lots of people get reincarnated but how many times are they aware of it without some branch knocking them on the head and restoring their memories and the like.

Because of this unique perspective there was tons of humor interspersed throughout and it reminded me so much of R.A. Salvatore’s earlier writing style that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the book. I’m not going to give too much more away, but I highly recommend people check it out when the book releases August 6th 2013.