Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

 Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Series: Book 1 of the The Habitat Series
Publisher: Dragonfairy Press

Date of Publication: January 28, 2012
Author Information: Website | Twitter

Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars –  This book was a nice mix of magic and steamy romance with a heroine who doesn’t take the typical tough girl stance but still manages to be tough in her own way. 

Lanore Vesta is a Supernatural, referred to colloquially as Supes. They boast such species as demon, shifter, and fairy. They possess powers that humans have come to fear. In their fear, humans created a solution.  Humans have corralled these people, branded them according to species, and banished them to, what is essentially, a barred cage called Habitats. Normally, they’re not allowed outside their Habitats, and Lanore states that she’s never seen Miami where her habitat is located. However, it seems that there might be some instances when they can travel as Lanore also mentions a Purebreed who traveled to her Habitat from a Habitat located in Japan. Because of this isolation, they have very little knowledge of human history since it doesn’t apply to their lives. They just know they are hated. 
I’m curious as to how humans were able to identify these beings and force them into these Habitats. That was never really explained. From what I gathered in this book, there are really no distinguishing features to make people think they’re not human (or at least, most of them don’t). Beings like fairies and demons keep up a glamour to make themselves appear human while shifters have a human form that they share with their beasts. Elemental witches look human by default. There was mention of one of the characters having strange markings on his skin, but it sounded like something that might pass as a tattoo. And there are a group of shifters who walk around partially shifted, but this is by choice. So, how in the world were humans able to impose their will on these people? Anyhow, moving forward.
These Habitats are a world of their own. Everything they need to make them a city is located in their walls from schools to strip clubs. The only human interaction they have is with the police force that’s staffed entirely by humans. The Habitat is populated by Purebreeds whose parents are the same species and Mixbreeds whose parents are different species.  Despite both groups being shafted by humans, there is an intense hatred of Mixbreeds among the Purebreeds, and “mixies,” as they’re called, suffer through many injustices. Purebreeds don’t believe that Mixbreeds are as powerful as they are, and therefore, even though the Mixbreeds are starting to question this inequality, the Purebreeds don’t feel threatened by them. 
Lanore is having a very bad night at the start of this book. For starters, the books she stole for her college classes had an alarm spell placed on them. As she’s fleeing the security troll (because even a Mixbreed is faster than a troll) with screaming books in hand, she’s accosted by two men who force her to unleash her powers. Finally, she witnesses a murder that she’s useless to stop, but she manages to alert the killer to her presence by screaming at them. She fears that the attacker will seek her out next. She finds that her suspicions are confirmed when she finds a cryptic note taped to her apartment door. Lanore isn’t going to stand by idly and wait for death. She plans to find the killer before the killer strikes. 
Wright has created this wonderful, mythical world where magic reigns supreme. Reading about their magic-powered technology and how some of human history entwines with the history of Supes (such as the Black Panthers being actual black panthers) really made this story for me. The cruelty that Lanore endures in the Habitat felt dark, heavy, oppressive. She’s just a college student trying to do the best she can in a world that has decided she isn’t worthy of life. Instead of being the angry, aggressive female protagonist, Lanore is surprisingly peaceful, preferring to settle matters with as little fuss as possible. She wears a lot of herself–her fears, her joys, her wants–for everyone to see. She doesn’t even flaunt her powers until she has no choice. Lanore is a strong female character, but her strength is tempered with calmness. 
This wouldn’t be a paranormal romance without the romance part. Lanore has two men vying for her attention. MeShack her childhood friend and former lover and Zulu a outspoken proponent for equality for mixies. Lanore isn’t sure what she wants. MeShack is familiar, and her feelings for him are planted deep in her heart. They grew up together, the kids of two drug addicts who felt they could look after themselves. They have a rich history together. Zulu represents something new. The passion that he pours into fighting for equality inspires her even when she doesn’t agree with his methods. Both men are fiercely protective of Lanore. Both men want to make her their mate. She straggles the fence on who she wants romantically, leaning back and forth as they try to convince her that they’re the right choice. 
I thought this book was a nice mix of magic and steamy romance with a heroine who doesn’t take the typical tough girl stance but still manages to be tough in her own way. And if you’re a reader searching for fantasy/supernatural books whose lead is a woman of color, this book is definitely worth checking out.
3.5 of 5 stars

Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, #2)The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Magic

Series: The Inheritance Trilogy #2

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: November 2010

Author Info:

Wendy’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Why do you think they bother with us? We teach them life’s value.
So I would live, if only to spite them.”

The first book in the Inheritance Trilogy was told by its main character, Yeine, in recollection. I read it a second time almost immediately and was blown away by all the clues to the slowly, deliciously unravelled mystery that Jemisin so carefully and subtly wove into the story. You’d think reading a book a second time within that many months would mean boredom, but instead, it was an eye opening experience.

The Broken Kingdoms is a similar and yet entirely different experience that takes dramatic irony to an entirely new level. Oree Shoth, like many of the other inhabitants of this world, has no idea what went on ten years ago in Sky. She knows only that politics and worship has changed by the say-so of the powers that be. No longer is Bright Itempas the “All Father.” There are now two mysterious others. And the godlings have returned, though only in Shadow, the city beneath the World Tree that grew when the Gray Lady was born ten years ago. While curious, none of this is a surprise to the reader, not even the strange, mute man whom Oree has jokingly named “Shiny” because of the way his aura glows at dawn.

I am too emotionally involved in this trilogy now to determine this, but I would be curious to know if this book could stand alone. I would be curious to see how a reader reacts, reading this first, then going back and reading it again after reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Would they see it all with entirely new eyes?

Eyes. Sight. Seeing. This is a fascinating aspect of this book because Oree is blind. She is not merely unable to see, but her eyes are actually deformed. She is, as she is told, a very beautiful woman, but for this deformity that she refuses to hide. Jemisin establishes her blindness from the beginning, but makes it very clear that it is not a disability. She is not coddled by those around her and her other senses have done their duty and taken up the slack and Jemisin skilfully paints words of scent and sound and feel to help us see the world that Oree cannot.

But Oree is not completely without sight. She is able to see magic, which draws her to Shadow, which is filled with magic and with godlings. Unsurprisingly, she becomes very much involved with them. Jemisin uses this sixth sense to further paint the scenes and people, even including emotions and expressions. Painting is a very important part of this story, with each chapter named as if it were a painting or sculpture, complete with the kind of mediums used. Lee Moyer so perfectly brings Oree and her world to life in this image:

And with this image, the rational part of my review – as written within the first one hundred pages of the book – comes to an end, but I will spare you the flail and possible reaction GIFs this book elicits. Just assume that the rest of my review dissolves into the tears and emotional twirling that ought to explain why it’s taken me a year to read The Broken Kingdoms, after the emotionally draining experience of its predecessor.

January Book Club Read: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

The LeVar’s Rainbow Book Club has been on hiatus for the past two months due to NaNoWriMo and the craziness of Christmas. For the new year, we’ll be getting back into it with a book selected from this list of fairy tales for grown ups.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope.

Waiting on Wednesday 01/01/14

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick 

The Well’s End by Seth Fishman: February 25, 2014 (Putnam Juvenile)
A Young Adult novel that was brought to my attention recently. Seth Fishman is a literary agent representing some of the finest authors, so he knows his stuff! The Well’s End looks like the kind of mysterious and exciting story I love to read and I can’t wait for this one to come out.
A deadly virus and an impossible discovery unite in one enthralling can’t-miss read…

Sixteen-year-old Mia Kish has always been afraid of the dark. After all, she’s baby Mia, the one who fell down a well. That was years ago, though the darkness still haunts her. But when her classmates and teachers at ritzy Westbrook Academy start dying of old age from a bizarre and frightening virus that ages its victims years in a matter of hours, Mia becomes haunted by a lot more than the dark. Their deaths are gruesome and Mia worries she and her friends may be next. In order to survive, Mia and her small crew must break quarantine and outrun armed soldiers in hazmat suits who shoot first and ask questions later.

And there’s only one place to go—the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics. Mia knows it’s somehow connected and hopes her dad, Director of Fenton Electronics, who has always been strangely secretive about his work, has the answers she needs, and more importantly a cure to save everyone before the whole town succumbs to the mysterious virus. Unfortunately, it’s not answers Mia discovers, but something far more treacherous and impossible than even the virus itself.

A high-stakes, fast-paced adventure with imagination and heart.”

Top 10 Reads of 2013

2013 has been a fantastic year for our reading lists (or a horrible one, if you consider how much larger our to-read piles have grown). We’ve read a lot of brilliant books, but we’ve managed to narrow our list of favorites down to the top ten books that truly resonated with us this year.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

MOGSY SAYS: I read more than 200 novels this year. 200. Asking me to pick just a handful of my favorites is a nigh impossible task, because I read so many amazing books in 2013. I could easily fill this list myself with 10, 25, or even 50 of my greatest reads this year, but alas I cannot, or my co-bloggers will surely beat me into coma with their heaviest of epic fantasy tomes (they already let me choose four instead of their three).

But Wendy has helped me narrow things down, with the description she wrote for the post above. The keyword is “resonate”. And I suppose few other books have resonated with me this year as strongly as Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty. In a future full of advanced technology, people still strive for that timeless, formless, unshakeable connection to another soul known as love. It is what makes us human.

Provocative. Thoughtful. Beautiful. Passionate. This book is all that and more, and definitely deserves more attention. Way more. (Read more in my review)

The Boys by Garth Ennis

TIARA SAYS: This year has been all about the comics/manga for me, so while I’ve read some really great novels, I wanted to do something a little different and highlight some of the great comics I’ve read this year starting with The Boys. Now, I haven’t actually put up a review of this series yet, but I’ve been working on one that may find its way to my personal blog because it’s a long, introspective thing that keeps growing. The Boys is bloody disgusting. Within these pages, you will find an overabundance of disgusting human behavior. There is an excess of gross conduct and no one is truly beyond it.  It’s offensive, hard to swallow, and out of control. It is also BRILLIANT.

Depending on your view of things, you may either feel that Ennis pointed out some very disturbing trends in comics, especially as they start to explore darker concepts with the audience shift, or you may feel that he missed the mark on some issues which has started some interesting debates. Personal interpretation is everything with this series. I’ve seen interpretations of the same events in to the book differ wildly, but prove to be valid ways of looking at things. Either way, this series is one of those stories that’s hard to shelve. You want to look away, but it’s such a veritable, horrific mess that you just can’t stop reading it.

WENDY SAYS: A sure sign that a book has really impressed me is when (A) I “just one more chapter” it to completion and (B) buy all of the author’s other books the moment I’m done.
Wells really impressed me with her world building, especially when it comes to the various people of her world. Too often genre fiction authors create “alien” species, only to have them simply be humans with make up. Wells’ creatures are each unique in form and culture and she takes a studious amount of time to bring that all to life. I have the utmost praise for the way she makes her main characters move, never forgetting that they are, most often, winged creatures, which means they will function in very different ways from us. I loved the way her characters moved and responded to each other. Every aspect of their world is so very different from ours, but so very endearing.  (Read more in my review)The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

MOGSY SAYS: Like Wendy, one way to know that a book has impressed me is when I go on the hunt to track down all of the author’s other works as soon as I’m finished reading. This is exactly what happened when I finished The Thousand Names.

This book was so difficult to put down; I devoured all 500+ pages in days. I couldn’t even make myself slow down to savor it because it was just that absorbing. I’ve always had a soft spot for flintlock fantasy, Wexler gave me everything I wanted with his epic fantasy featuring magic, revolution, blood and gunpowder.

Military fantasy fans as well as wargamers rejoice, this book will put you right where the action is, with rich world-building as well as memorable and fully-realized characters to boot. (Read more in my review)

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

TIARA SAYS:  Before I started reading this (and watching the anime), if someone had asked me what my favorite manga of all time was, I would’ve said, “Simple. Tite Kubo’s Bleach.” If you were to ask me now, I’d probably do some fidgeting and get annoyed because I think this series has claimed the number one spot in my heart, and I feel like I’m cheating on my first love (Bleach) that I’ve been with for years. I still love you, Bleach. Don’t leave!

I’ve gotten into quite a few new mangas this year, but none have fascinated me quite like this one. What I love about this series and what always stays on my mind is how human these characters are, how vulnerable they are both physically and metaphysically, and how these characters, the situation they’re in, captures so much of the human need to fight and survive–even when it looks hopeless. It’s a story about the courage in the face of fear. It presses upon the reader that, in order to survive, humans have to depend on each other and bring their individual strengths to the table to win this fight. It captures the indomitable spirit of humans without compromising other emotions such as fear, trust, and uncertainty. The fact that all this captured with few words and visuals. Amazing! (Read more in my reviews)

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

WENDY SAYS: This is a sneaky little book. It’s actually a romance that cleverly disguises itself as science fiction. While you’re blissfully enjoying the displaced Sadiri people’s hunt for suitable mates to help replenish their society after the heinous destruction of their planet, you slowly come to realize that you’ve fallen in love with Delarua and Dllenahkh, who slowly come to realize that they’ve fallen in love with each other.

Part way through this book, Tiara asked how I was enjoying it and I gave her a gushing response about how it felt like sitting comfortably on a couch, hanging out with good friends – who happen to like science fiction.

This book was so subtle and unassuming, which made it easily able to get right under my skin. (Read more in my review)

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

MOGSY SAYS: This was a book I read in early spring, so sadly I was unable to feature it in my “Best of Summer” list. That’s why I’m so glad to have the opportunity to talk about it now in our year end Top Reads post. 

Simply put, this book is gorgeous. The writing, the depth of the characters and the strength of their emotions made me want to hurl myself to my knees and thank the book gods that we have writers like Teresa Frohock and novels like Miserere. It is an intensely alluring book, taking its time to reveal its true nature, doling out details about its world in a trickle as you read. Needless to say, patience will be rewarded — in spades. The author’s talent is on full display, giving us the most brutal and disconcerting elements of horror, but as well showing how the most powerful of loves can endure and offer redemption. And Teresa Frohock does it all oh so beautifully. (Read more in my review)

Batgirl by Gail Simone

TIARA SAYS: I’ve read many amazing comics this year, and I could gush on and on about books like Saga, East of West, and Locke and Key just to name a few. However, I wanted to highlight Gail Simone’s Batgirl for a few reasons. One being that it’s been a long time since I really appreciated the story in mainstream comic. This book joins books such as Kingdom Come and Old Man Logan as a book that rises above the usual wash, rinse, repeat in mainstream comics, and it’s not even an AU (alternate universe) like those two–unless you just don’t acknowledge the DCnU, which is totally legit in my opinion. 

Now, admittedly, I think Gail’s writing can be a little corny (and I still think Barbara is more formidable as Oracle), but I have been enjoying Batgirl. First, I think Gail has done a wonderful job of showing Barbara as a survivor, a survivor who both rejoices in and questions her miracle, a survivor who has triggers that she’s still trying to overcome, a survivor who questions the validity and intent of Gotham heroes, even herself. Of the books I’ve read, Barbara’s stories have highlighted many of these issues, showing the upside and the downside. I think Gail does a wonderful job tackling some harder issues. Barbara’s return has been plagued with issues and doubts she’s dealing with, and I appreciate Gail doing that rather than trying to make Barbara’s return to the mantle all rainbows and good times. (Read more of my reviews)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

WENDY SAYS: All of my subsequent YA reads have to stand up to this book in terms of characterization. I love the way Stiefvater writes young adults. They are not the obnoxious, completely self-absorbed creatures that I don’t enjoy reading. That is, sure they are a bit self-absorbed, but they aren’t written in such a way that their teenage flaws become grating. Yet they aren’t written as adults in teen bodies. Stiefvater handles them respectfully in a way that both teens and adults can appreciate.

The other thing that I adore about Stiefvater’s writing is the way she foregoes allusions when painting her world. Instead, she uses actions and absence to describe a scene, and most importantly, to make her characters very, very real. Her descriptions are absolutely delicious.  (Read more in my review)

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

MOGSY SAYS: It’s a great time to be a speculative fiction reader right now, with so many great and original ideas having found their way to being published in recent years. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have their place too, because if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading this incredible book in 2013.

What struck me about Hollow World isn’t so much the story, but the main character’s personal journey — the things he learns about himself and the questions he asks about life and love. I didn’t expect such heavy subject matters when I first picked this one up, but it was a welcome surprise. The book took my emotions on a roller coaster ride — I felt ecstatic, shocked, angry, sad, annoyed, disturbed, deeply touched, so moved that I was almost in tears…all that and more just from reading the story, and any book that can give me the kind of feels that Hollow World did certainly qualifies as having resonated with me. (Review coming in Spring 2014 closer to release)

Book Review: Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Ascendant Kingdoms

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: January 8, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars – “An epic fantasy with good old fashioned down-to-earth elements which felt comfortable and familiar, but it also holds many surprises that will set this story apart”

I’ve long been curious about Ice Forged. Though I also own The Summoner from her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, for some reason I just knew I wanted this one to be my first Gail Z. Martin book. They’re both stories set in high fantasy worlds, but lands of ice and snow have always fascinated me, I don’t know why. Maybe because I think these harsh settings are often fertile ground for exceptional protagonists, driven to be harder in an environment marked by extreme temperatures and scarcity. I love to read about characters becoming shaped by those experiences and overcoming those challenges.

So it was a pleasant surprise when the book began by throwing its main protagonist into a situation that was even more harrowing than I’d expected. Blaine McFadden is convicted of murder, and though his reasons for the killing were honorable, the young nobleman is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a penal colony on Velant, an icy wasteland at the edge of the world. Six years later, Blaine (now known as “Mick”) is a new man, emerging as a natural leader in the eyes of the other convicts and colonists. Still, they are kept under the thumb of an oppressive governor, and are at the mercy of the mages who are always too keen to administer their swift and often cruel discipline.

But one day, the supply ships stop coming. War has torn Blaine’s former home of Dondareth apart, and the magic that civilization had always depended upon has been lost. It changes everything. Without the mage’s power holding them back, the colonists of Velant take back their freedom but afterwards they too must decide their own fate. For many, this frigid land has become home, and they would like nothing more than to stay. Blaine, however, still has a far greater destiny to fulfill.

This is good old fashioned down-to-earth epic fantasy. And I use that description as a compliment. In many ways, this book reminds me of the pure delight and enjoyment I felt when I read Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series, which I also loved; both share that same easy, straightforward writing style with story elements and character-types that won’t be anything new to the avid fantasy reader, and yet I felt warm and comfortable wrapped in their familiarity.

I was also glad to see I was right about the strong characters, all of whom are wonderful and likeable in this novel. They are what drives this story, and makes the reader care about what happens in this book. When the magic went away, I found myself completely gripped by the consequences, shocked by certain deaths I never expected or kept on edge about what characters would do in response to such a big change in their world. Despite how I described the novel in the previous paragraph, scenes like these are what sets Ice Forged apart and makes it special.

I’m particularly impressed with the world which Gail Z. Martin has created, with emphasis on the background of the lore and magic. Not that the descriptions and details of the places in Velant or Dondareth weren’t rendered well either, but I was much more drawn in by the histories of the land and people that she has woven. I love stories that establish a long, vivid past, because then the effects on the present and the future feel more impactful. That is the case here.

All in all, Ice Forged is a solid start to a new series. I eagerly await the next Ascendant Kingdoms novel to continue following Blaine on his quest to restore stability to his world.

4 of 5 stars

Wendy’s Winter Reading List

My new year’s reading resolution for 2014 includes a half-hearted promise not to buy any more new books next year because I need to focus on my mighty to-be-read pile. There are a number of books that I have sitting right beside my bed or at the top of my ebook list because I keep meaning to read next, but something always hops in the way. Making a list challenges me to stick to it. Oh I’m sure a lot of other things will pop up, such as review requests, book club reads and other challenges, but these books are definitely going to be read this winter.

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I’m a bit amazed to look at the calendar and see that it’s already been a year since I finished reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for the second time within two months. I didn’t continue with the Inheritance Trilogy at that time because I just wasn’t ready for the emotional commitment. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was emotionally exhausting! But a year is ample time to get over that, so here we go…

The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny

This was a recommendation that spawned from a discussion about writing magic and mages. And while I’m impatiently awaiting Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, I decided that the beginning of the year is an excellent time to start a new epic fantasy tome. This is a collection of 10 books within the series, but it’s a pretty hefty book, so it still counts.

The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind

A few years ago,  my parents took the kids for a week and I had myself a Legend of the Seeker marathon. I really enjoyed the show and have been meaning to read its source material, starting with The Wizard’s First Rule. I mulled over this for a while, but decided to go with the newer book, The First Confessor, which is the beginning of a new series that predates The Sword of Truth timeline.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

As far as gaming goes, I have determined that 2014 will the The Year of The Witcher. This game has been sitting in my Steam library for a while now as a result of the painful original Mass Effect 3 endings. I’m a fan of books based on my favourite video games, but I have not yet read a book that inspired a game.

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Goodreads recommended this book to me, but before I got around to reading it, Lord’s second book, The Best of All Possible Worlds, popped up on NetGalley. I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds, and the sequel for it will be out in the spring from Jo Fletcher books, but it’s about time I checked out Redemption in Indigo.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

Pronounced ” mee-seh-reh-reh,” this is a book that I’ve been meaning to read since Mogsy’s glowing review, but more so now that I’ve unofficially become one of Ms. Frohock’s twitter minions. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about the book blogosphere is the opportunity to interact with the authors, and Ms. Frohock is absolutely one of the best of them. She is good, good peeps.

Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells

The moment I finished reading The Cloud Roads, I went and bought a whole bunch of Wells’ other books, including this one. I ought to be reading the next book in The Books of the Raksura series, but this one caught my attention first. I really enjoy Wells’ world building and, while I do plan to return to the Raksura, I’m curious about the other worlds she’s created.

Mogsy’s Book Haul

The Stormcaller it was a truly epic haul for me this past fortnight, with my deepest thanks to Pyr Books, starting with The Stormcaller. I was very much intrigued by the full-length novels in the Twilight Reign series by Tom Lloyd after reading The God Tattoo anthology, so the publisher very kindly provided me with a review copy of the first book.

Blood and Iron and The Barrow – ARCs of two fantasy novels which are high on my list of most anticipated fantasy novels in 2014. I’m going to have to re-read the first volume of Mark Smylie’s Artesia as well as catch up with the rest of the series before tackling The Barrow, which is based on the world of the graphic novels (Edited to clarify that it’s a standalone though, and not being familiar with the comics won’t stop you from enjoying the book! You know me, I just like to brush up on the setting, not to mention any excuse to read comics!)

The Grendel Affair – the first book of a new urban fantasy series by Lisa Shearin that I got from Ace Books for review. I had a lot of fun with this one, so be sure to keep an eye out for my thoughts in the next week or two!  

The Goblin Corps – I had such a good time with Ari Marmell’s Widdershins Adventures series, that Pyr also thought I might enjoy Ari Marmell’s The Goblin Corps. The tagline on the cover of this one reads: “The Few. The Proud. The Obscene.” Hmm, yeah, I think I actually will like this one!

We Are the Goldens something a little different that I got from the recently-gone-defunct RandomBuzzers. It was a vibrant young adult books community, and I was sad to see it go. Before it shut down though, I had quite a few leftover points to spent on ARCs at their store and I thought this looked like an interesting tale about two sisters.

Primary Fault – I — wait, what? Can it be that I actually didn’t give in to any Kindle Daily Deals or ebook sales these past two weeks? It’s true, my digital pile is just review requests this time. First up is Primary Fault. A supernatural suspense involving magic, geophysics and seismology? Yes, please.

Tales of Jack the Ripper – a review copy and gift from one of the contributing authors Mercedes M. Yardley, whose novella Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is a book I recently reviewed and very much enjoyed. I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive this! I’ve always had an interest in fiction about The Ripper, and this collection looks to be filled with a wide variety of interesting stories, and I can’t wait to read Yardley’s. As you know, I’m picky about anthologies, but this one grabbed my attention right away.

YA Weekend: World After by Susan Ee

World After by Susan Ee

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Penryn & the End of Days

Publisher: Skyscape

Date of Publication: November 19, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars – “A worthy sequel featuring a plot that shows no sign of slowing down, with a main protagonist that stands out from the rest”  

Earlier this year I read Angelfall and was very impressed, more than I would’ve expected to be by a young adult paranormal novel which initially appeared quite typical on the surface. Featuring a teenaged female protagonist in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by invading angels, I figured it would do for an entertaining read, but didn’t think it would go beyond covering old ground. I was mistaken, of course! I ended up loving Angelfall for the high quality of the storytelling and fantastic characters, and thank goodness I didn’t discover the book until late summer because that meant much less of a wait for World After, this much anticipated sequel.

The story picks up where Angelfall left off, after the rebels’ attack on the angel stronghold. Penryn had spent most of the last book trying to find her sister and ultimately succeeded in her quest, though little Paige has suffered much at the hands of the enemy and is no longer the girl she used to be. Driven out by the other human survivors that consider her a monster, Paige takes off, leaving Penryn to try and track her down…again.

Meanwhile, the angel Raffe was left scarred in more ways than one in the aftermath of the explosive assault on the Aerie, still hunting his wings that were severed and taken away from him. Penryn is crushed knowing that he still thinks she’s dead, but she has more pressing things on her mind. While working for the resistance and looking for Paige, she discovers a nefarious plot at hand.

After reading World After, I still think Angelfall was a better book, though only by a small margin. The first book was a great debut that set some pretty high standards, and I knew it was going to be tough to beat. Nevertheless, the series continues to impress me with this sequel, which shows no sign of the plot slowing down. That’s what I’ve been loving so much about this story, the fact that there is very little filler and no tedious expounding of the characters’ emotional hangups or pointless dragging out of the romance. Less is more sometimes, and we all know a relationship is what’s shaping up between Penryn and Raffe after all; I didn’t need the extra bells and whistles to still have a great time anticipating the moment when the two of them will be reunited again.

So much of my enjoyment for a book depends on how much I take to the main character, and I think that is the key to why I’m a such fan. In a genre where topics like survival in the post-apocalyptic world (and even angels) have been done six ways to Sunday, Penryn is what makes this series stand out. She is a take-charge leader and a fighter, and the best part is that she is consistent, not switching from a tough girl one moment to a shrinking violet the next. She’s also sassy, but not in an over-confident or obnoxious kind of way. Of course, she is not without her problems, but what’s important is that she doesn’t dwell on them or whine about the things she knows she cannot change.

Basically, Penryn feels like a real person just doing her best to stay alive in a difficult situation, though the events of this book definitely tests her mettle. While she may be resilient, she is not dismissive of her own pain or that of others’. There are some very heart-wrenching moments when Penryn sees what her sister has become and has to struggle to accept her. Indeed, what chance does the human race have, when people are turning on their own, especially on those who have endured the worst? It will also be interesting now to see how Penryn will respond to her deepening feelings towards Raffe. In my experience, nothing changes a YA heroine faster than a burgeoning romance, and here’s hoping Penryn remains the strong female protagonist I know and love!

4 of 5 stars

Book Review: Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider

Asunder (Dragon Age, #3)Asunder by David Gaider

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Series: Dragon Age #3

Publisher: Titan Publishing Company

Publication Date: 2011

Author Info:

Wendy’s Rating 3 of 5: Despite the presence of three beloved characters from Dragon Age: Origins and a few amusing moments with them, the characters in Asunder fell flat for me – which is very unusual since I love Gaider’s characterization.

If you’re still clinging to the hope that your Warden and Darkspawn will show up in Dragon Age: Inquisition, this book should remove that silly notion. Darkspawn did make a brief appearance (though sadly, no random ogres) and the Hero of Ferelden is mentioned a few times, but otherwise, Asunder firmly establishes the Mage/Templar War as the new focus of this age.

Taking place a year after Anders blew up the Kirkwall Chantry, things are not particularly good for mages. Not that they were good before, but now a lot of the Circles have been put on lockdown by the templars, with some already sacrificed to the Right of Annulment. Asunder literally takes us deep into the heart of the White Spire, the Orlais Circle, and shows us just how poorly treated the mages are. Even without a war to fuel the templars, mages clearly don’t live a good life within the many of the Circles and we get some insight that was conspicuously missing from Dragon Age II.

First, we meet Cole, vaguely known as the Ghost of the Spire. He spends most of his time in the Pit, where mages are brought for punishment. He is also, apparently, a murderer, but since no one else can see him, blame for the murders falls on Enchanter Rhys, a spirit medium and the only one who can see Cole. Along with the murders, there is also the inconvenience of a mage’s attempted murder of the Divine, the leader of the Chantry. None of this works in Rhys’ favour, so it’s fortunate for him that Enchanter Wynne of Blight fame requests his accompaniment on a special mission ordained by the Divine herself. Wynne’s friend Pharamond, a Tranquil, has been possessed by a demon – something that isn’t supposed to be possible since Tranquils are cut off from their magic. Pharamond’s research may also imply that the Rite of Tranquility can be reversed, which the templars are none too happy about. Knight-Commander Evangeline is sent along with Wynne, Rhys and another mage, Adrian, to assess the situation and do whatever is necessary to protect the templars’ interests.

Wynne still won’t talk to me about griffons.

While the templars continue to be painted in a very poor light as they were in the game, Evangeline serves as a counter. She believes in her duty and in the templars, but she does not follow the orders of the Lord Seeker blindly and, most importantly, respects mages as human beings. With this in mind, the outcome of events is not particularly difficult to predict.

One of the things I’ve loved about Gaider’s writing is his characters. I’ve even been able to overlook weak plots just because the characters and their interactions were so well done. Yet despite the presence of three beloved characters from Dragon Age: Origins, the characters in Asunder fall flat. There are some amusing moments with Shale’s snark and Wynne revealing what she’d really been doing while I was busy in the Deep Roads, but otherwise, this was a rather dull journey. It provided some interesting information that I assume will have significant ramifications in the future game. We also get a few hints about what the Orlesian Empress Celene is up to, which I assume will be expanded upon in Dragon Age: The Masked Empire. But overall, I don’t think I would have lost much by just reading the wiki version.