Book Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (Series, #2)

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (Series, #2)Summary:
Toby Daye, changeling, private detective, and knight to the knowe of the powerful Sylvester, feels like she has her feet back under her after returning to human form after 14 years as a fish and also solving the murder of a powerful fae.  When her liege requests she go investigate why he hasn’t heard from his niece in a while, she expects it to be a quick visit, although possibly a bit irritating since she has to bring along young Quentin, a teenaged full-blooded Daoine Sidhe fae.  Sylvester’s niece just so happens to own the only fae tech company, and she claims that she has indeed been calling her uncle.  But when an employee turns up dead and Toby finds out there have been two mysterious deaths previously, she realizes there’s more here than immediately meets the eye, particularly since she can’t read anything from the blood of the dead.

Review:
I enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a changeling investigator so much that I immediately checked out the second ebook from the Boston Public Library on my kindle.  (If you have an ereader, definitely check out if your local public library will let you do this.  It saves me so much money!)  This book brought me right back into the wonderfully built world of Toby and offered up a new murder mystery even more mysterious than the first.

Readers of the first book know that Toby’s special fae power is the ability to read a person’s memories from tasting their blood.  I found it startling and intriguing that McGuire immediately took this power away from Toby in the second book.  There’s nothing to read in the victims’ blood.  Why is that?  It’s a plot I may have expected in the fourth or fifth book, but not so soon.  From a writing perspective, it’s bold to take away your hero’s superpower in only the second book in the series.  And it works.  There’s ultimately a logical explanation for why the blood is telling Toby nothing (and no, it’s not Toby’s fault), so it never feels like a gimmick.  I think that is what I like most about this series.  The author utilizes techniques that could easily turn into a gimmick but she always keeps it from actually being a gimmick so it instead is utterly engaging and enthralling.

The fae world is also clearly much larger than we originally saw in the first book.  The fae have a tech company so that they can rework modern technology to work in the fae knowes.  On top of that, we also meet many more races of fae, as well as ways for the races we already know to exist and appear.  For instance, Sylvester’s niece, January, has a daughter.  But her daughter is in fact a tree fairy.  Tree fairies are normally tied to a tree or a forest, so how is she in this tech building?  January tied her branch to the computer server after her forest was destroyed, and she was able to keep living after adapting into the server and treating the server as a forest.  Very cool idea, and it works beautifully in the story.

Even though I was basically able to predict whodunnit, I couldn’t figure out why or how, so the plot still satisfied me as I waited for Toby to figure all of that out.

One thing that kind of disappointed me in the book is that Toby meets a type of fae who can emit a magical scent that makes the person smelling it think they are massively attracted to him and thus sleep with him.  They then become obsessed with this type of fairy, and the fae feeds off of the obsession.  I was glad to see the book treat this as rape (basically drugging someone into sleeping with you) but I was also disappointed to see our heroine have to face off against an attempted rape.  As I said in my review of the previous book, I get really tired of urban fantasy heroines being threatened constantly by rape.  My hope is that this was a one-off type thing to introduce the concept of this type of fae rather than the new normal for the series.

Toby herself and the worldbuilding continue to be my two favorite aspects of the series.  The plots are good, but I’d read almost anything plot-wise to visit Toby and her world again.

The essence of Toby and why I love her is evident in this quote:

Long dresses weren’t designed for walking in the woods. My mother could’ve made the walk without stumbling; she fits into the world that well, even insane. That’s what it means to be a pureblood. I stumble and fall, and I always get up and keep going. That’s what it means to be a changeling. (page 371)

Picking a quote to show why I love the worldbuilding so much is a bit harder, but here’s a particular favorite that really punched a visual of what this world is like home for me.  In this passage, Toby is explaining that she and her mother are Daoine Sidhe and can see memories through blood:

My mother was so strong she could taste the death of plants. She could never stomach maple syrup; she said it tasted like trees screaming. (page 91)

As a born and raised Vermonter who grew up harvesting maple syrup, that line was a bit of a gut punch. An eloquent one.

Overall, readers of the first entry in the series will be pleased with this second outing.  Toby continues to be a strong character set in a fascinating world.  The mystery plot is another murder, but it is a series of murders and has a very different solving pattern and outcome than the first.  Recommended to fans of the first book to continue on to the second as soon as they can.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review

Counts For:
Once Upon a Time IX

Giveaway Winner: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (International)

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)The giveaway winner of one ebook or print copy of Set Adrift, courtesy of the author D.S. Kenn herself is……..

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Entry #11 Terri Babcock!

Terri’s winning entry was for following D.S Kenn’s twitter account.

Terri, I’ll be providing your email address to D.S. Kenn, who will contact you directly to find out if you prefer an ebook or print copy.  She will then send it to you.

Thanks for entering!

Giveaway: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (International)

April 4, 2015 1 comment

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)It’s the second giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE copy of Set Adrift (review) available courtesy of the author, D.S. Kenn!  The winner gets to choose whether they want a print or ebook copy.  How cool is that?

What You’ll Win:  One copy of Set Adrift (review) by D.S. Kenn.

How to Enter:  Fill out the Rafflecopter by clicking here!

Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL

Contest Ends: April 13th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)

April 4, 2015 3 comments

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)Summary:
Terric, nickname T, a half shifter half demon, and his girlfriend Jordyn, full vampire, have decided to move from New York City to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  T has an opportunity to work as head of security at a nightclub and bar that caters to the supernatural, and he thinks the move will be good for he and Jordyn.  Jordyn had a nightmarishly abusive past, and T has been helping her heal through a safe, consenting BDSM relationship.  But his love for Jordyn is not one of a mate; it is one of a friend.  He intuitively knows that his mate will be a man but he struggles to accept this, due to suffering he has endured in the demon realm.  When Jordyn decides it is time for her to stand on her own two feet and move out, she also encourages T to confront himself and grow as well.  But all T feels is set adrift.

Review:
Every November/December I open up to submissions for books to review in the upcoming year on my blog.  When I saw this one in the submissions, I was excited.  Not very much paranormal romance is submitted to me, and paranormal romance with a bisexual main character is nigh on impossible to find.  Plus, I love Provincetown.  This paranormal romance features a unique set of characters and a wide variety of sex scenes but its world building struggles some.

The strongest aspect of the book is that its main character Terric is so unique in paranormal romance.  Terric actually describes himself perfectly:

I’m an anomaly. A fucking bisexual demon shifter. Not really all of any one thing…. I don’t really fit in most categories, you know. (page 33)

First, I love love love the fact that the hero of the book isn’t just bisexual, but he actually uses the term to describe himself as such.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it is quite rare to have a character self-identify as bisexual and simultaneously have that character be one of the good guy leads.  I really applaud the author for going there.  Terric struggles with his sexuality but not for the reasons the reader might expect.  Provincetown, for those who don’t know, is known for being a small town with a large accepting queer community.  T’s community would accept him for who he is, but he struggles with accepting and loving himself.  The reason given for this is that when he is summoned to the demon realm (as a half demon, he is subject to hell’s dominion), he is sometimes subject to punishment that consists of rape by other male demons (or half demons).  The reason he has trouble imagining being mated with a man is due to this trauma.  Bisexual men experience a higher rate of rape than straight or gay men (source), and I think it’s a good thing that the author works this into T’s past within the context of his supernatural world.  The rape is not misrepresented as causing his bisexuality but rather as a trauma he must get over to fully embrace his sexuality for what it is.  It’s not a storyline seen very often, and it’s handled well.

Similarly, the BDSM subplot in the first half of the book is also handled well.  The BDSM is completely presented as something both partners have consented to with pre-agreed upon boundaries that are respected.  It is also shown as something that is therapeutically used to help Jordyn overcome her past trauma.  This is a use for BDSM that some readers may not know but it is clearly well-understood by the author and well presented in the book.  Plus, the BDSM scenes are well-written and just the right level of steamy.

Unfortunately, the world that T and Jordyn live in is not as well fleshed-out as they are.  In particular, the workings of the supernatural world are never fully explained and can be a bit confusing.  For instance, vampires can apparently have children (as in, conceive and give birth to them, not as in turning humans into vampires), but it is never explained how.  Also the logistics of mixing different supernatural races are unclear.  For instance, there is one character who is 100% shifter, but his parents are both half vampire and half shifter.  Even the character himself doesn’t know how that worked out to him being pure shifter.  Some readers probably wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of details and world building regarding the supernatural and just how it works in this world, but others will be.

There are a few minor editing mistakes, the most startling of which is that the book on page 142 suddenly changes from indenting new paragraphs to having a line space between them (like how paragraphs appear on this blog).  I have no preference for one over the other, but consistency throughout the book is preferred.  There is also one plot point that bothered me.  At one point a character is established as being tipsy.  He then kisses someone and, freaked out about it, decides to leave and states that he can because he is “sober as a judge,” and the other character agrees he is fit to drive (page 152).  Unless that kiss lasted an hour or two, there’s no way he went from tipsy to sober as a judge in the span of one kiss (unless something supernatural was going on that was not explained).  Similarly, sometimes the book veers too far into telling rather than showing, particularly in the scenes that are not sex scenes.  For instance, in one scene, this occurs:

He told Kevin a little bit about his own upbringing, just the basics. (page 144)

At this point, the reader does not know much about this character’s upbringing.  Why not write out the dialogue in which the character tells Kevin about it, rather than telling the reader that the character tells Kevin?  The sex scenes never veer into this telling rather than showing zone, and it would be nice if the plot points didn’t either.

There is also a chapter that is called the “epilogue,” which kind of bothered me since it is a direct continuance of the plot in the previous chapters.  No significant time is skipped, nothing in the future is explained.  It is basically the last chapter in the book.  I am uncertain as to why it is thus called an epilogue.  I was expecting it to update me on the future of these characters, not simply continue the story in a direct linear fashion from the last chapter.

Sex acts in the book include: anal sex (male on female), BDSM (male dom, female sub), and M/M kissing/touching.  Rape is mentioned as an occurrence in the past but is not depicted.  Those readers looking for more in-depth M/M scenes should keep their eye out for the next book in the series, as it appears that a M/M relationship will be building to greater intimacy in the next book.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to the paranormal romance genre, featuring a unique cast of characters, including a bisexual half-demon, half-shifter male hero.  The book contains a wide variety of sex scenes, including M/F BDSM and M/M kissing/touching.  Readers interested in in-depth world building may be disappointed by the lack of explanation of the supernatural world these characters inhabit.  Those looking for a quick, steamy read will enjoy these characters and the development of them that goes on in-between their well-written sex scenes.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

April Updates and March Reflections

April 1, 2015 1 comment
April Updates and March Reflections

Boston’s space savers got repurposed into ice falling warning signs.

Hello my lovely readers!

I mentioned at the beginning of March that I was hoping to start doing a monthly post reflecting on my reading and writing, blog happenings, and mentioning any updates that need to be mentioned.  Here’s the first one!

I did quite a bit of work on the blog this month.  You already know that I upgraded to my own domain name.  I also totally revamped my astore.  For those who don’t know, an astore is a listing of items hosted by Amazon.  I use mine to conveniently list out books I have read and reviewed on this blog that I recommend.  Every book listed in my astore has received 4 or 5 star reviews on this blog.  Previously the lists were mostly just divided into fiction or nonfiction.  That was getting unwieldy.  They are now divided into much more convenient genres, such as historic fiction or urban fantasy.  As always, my astore is linked to in the sidebar of the blog under “Shop 4 and 5 Star Reads,” or you can click through to it right here.  I hope my readers find it useful when looking for something to read for themselves or to pick up as a gift for another.

I’ve been book blogging since March 2009.  I was thinking that it would be nice to highlight some of the older books I reviewed and really enjoyed.  So every month there is now going to be a book of the month.  The book highlighted will be one I read and gave 4 or 5 stars to in the same month of a previous year.  The book will be featured in the blog sidebar and also in the landing page of my astore.  For the month of April, the book of the month will be:

Glasshouse by Charles Stross
First reviewed in April 2011.
“I recommend this to scifi fans, and highly recommend it to GLBTQ readers and advocates.”

My monthly updates will briefly mention the book of the month.  I hope you all enjoy the monthly throwback!

The final change to the sidebar is I have added links to my publications.  So be sure to check that out!

One final addition to the blog is a new page (pages are linked to on the header).  The new page is called “TW Lists,” and you can view it by clicking here.  Basically, I realized that I frequently find myself noting the content of rape or attempted rape in books that I am reviewing whose blurbs gave no hint as to having that content.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a book having a plot point of rape or attempted rape, but some readers seek to avoid them for personal reasons.  Some readers just don’t like reading about rape or attempted rape, while others find reading about rape or attempted rape to be triggering for a mental illness they may have, such as PTSD or OCD.  It is for the latter reason that a content note like the one I am providing is often called a “trigger warning,” often shortened to an acronym of “tw” followed by the content note.  For instance, “tw: rape.”

The content I by far find myself needing to note in my reviews more than any other is rape or attempted rape.  I thus decided to curate this list of books I have reviewed on my blog that contain rape or attempted rape.  A book being included on this list does not necessarily mean I consider it a bad book or a badly written book.  It is purely a content note.  To see the list, click on out to the TW Lists page.  I hope my readers who need to a content note on rape or attempted rape will find this listing helpful.

That’s it for the blog updates!  How was my reading, reviewing, and writing this month?

March books read: 3 (1 urban fantasy, 1 scifi YA, 1 paranormal romance)

March reviews: 6

Other March posts: 1 update, 1 short story, 1 giveaway, 1 reading challenge sign-up

March writing: My current project is progressing, and I am excited at a new direction I came up with thanks to a helpful chat with my fiancé.  I also posted an older short story to this blog.  You can read it here.

Coming up in April: Get ready for an influx of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, thanks to my participation in Once Upon a Time IX (sign-up post).  I have also finished reading the first of my accepted ARCs for 2015.  That review will be posted, along with a giveaway!

Happy April and happy reading!

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Series, #1)

March 28, 2015 5 comments

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Series, #1)Summary:
October (Toby) Daye is a changeling — she’s half fae and half human.  Half Daoine Sidhe to be exact.  She has just enough fae features to not fit into the human world, but her magic is just weak enough to keep her from fitting into fae either. Toby was splitting the difference quite well, serving her fae liege as a private detective and living a semi-normal human life with her human husband.  But when a bad fae turns her into a fish on a mission for her liege, and it takes fourteen years to be turned back, everything changes.  Toby loses her family and her desires to have any ties to the fae world, but the fae world won’t let her be for long.  A high-ranking fae who was also her friend turns up dead, killed by iron, and a curse means that Toby must investigate.

Review:
Interestingly enough, one of the later books in this series was recommended to me by an automatic readalike generator (whose name I know forget) as a readalike for Fudoki (review) a book set in historic Japan about a cat turned into a woman warrior.  I was intrigued by the series, although I wasn’t certain of the connection to Fudoki, and so I put the first book on my wishlist.  My future mother-in-law was kind enough to gift it to me during the height of my cabin fever during Boston’s historic winter this year.  This book hits all the right tones for urban fantasy: a strong yet wounded heroine, a complex mystical world operating parallel to and sometimes overlapping with our own, a single book mystery for the heroine to figure out, and an overarching mystery that leaves the reader wanting to come back for more.

The book takes a little bit to get set up.  There’s a flashback to before Toby was a fish then the book pops quickly forward to the (near) present when Toby escapes being a fish.  It at first struck me as a bit of an odd beginning, but by the end of the book I was loving it.  The fact that Toby has a 14 year gap means that there are elements about her world she has to learn or relearn, meaning when key parts of information need to be told to the reader, it comes across as natural that Toby will need to learn about it or remember it.  She did have those 14 years away, after all.  It’s a plot-telling device, but it’s smart.  It also isn’t forgotten when it comes to Toby’s character.  The fact that she lost her family and all those years deeply impact her psyche, and that’s as it should be.  It helps automatically make her a more well-rounded character.

Halfings are common in urban fantasy, but the ones in this universe are particularly well-done, mostly because there’s just so many of them.  Toby isn’t an anomaly, halflings are a constant, persistent problem for the fae to have to deal with.  They don’t quite fit into fae, but they also can’t just banish them for the humans to deal with.  The humans don’t even know they exist, in fact, most humans who do mate with fae never even know that they did.  While some fae are open to and embrace the halflings, others are not.  Similarly, some halflings will give anything to just fit into fae or into the human world, while others are comfortable living partly in each.  The fact that there are so many halflings allows for a lot of diversity and keeps Toby from looking like a marked heroine.  She is just one of many, dealing as she can.  I appreciate the everywoman aspect this lends her.

Toby is also extremely likeable.  She’s down-to-earth and matter-of-fact about everything.  She has many quotes that sound like an average person talking but contain a kernel of wisdom.  She’s a humble smart woman who maybe doesn’t realize just how much savvy she does have.

That’s the true value in wards; not keeping things out, but telling you if something’s managed to get in. (loc 537)

It can’t all be dreams because a broken dream will kill you as surely as a nightmare will, and with a lot less mercy. At least the nightmares don’t smile while they take you down. (loc 2428)

The fae world is incredibly complex and yet makes a lot of sense.  There are many different types of fae, and they are smoothly introduced.  My personal favorite are the Caid Sidhe.  They are surely the reason this book was recommended due to my loving Fudoki.  The Caid Sidhe are fae who shapeshift into cats, and even in bipedal form have some cat-like features and abilities.  The king of the cats has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Toby that is fun to see.  But also, fae cats.  How is that not fun?  Realistically, though, I wouldn’t have loved seeing the Caid Sidhe so much if there hadn’t been such a variety of fae.  It’s a richly imagined world that is really fun to visit.

The mystery is good, with Toby investigating a murder.  There were plenty of plot-twists, although I did guess the responsible party far in advance of the ending, which was a bit of a bummer.  I also must say that I’m not really a fan of heroines getting wounded within an inch of their life only to be saved by magic repeatedly.  It removes some of the sense of danger for me.  I did appreciate that for once there was an urban fantasy heroine who was never threatened with rape.  That was a nice change of pace.  I’ll take forcibly changed into a fish over that any day.

Overall, this book sets up the incredibly complex fae world of the series, as well as establishes the heroine’s character and background quite well.  Readers will easily fall into the incredibly imaginative world that Toby partially lives in that runs parallel to and sometimes hand-in-hand with our own.  Some readers may find the mystery a bit predictable, but this is an excellent first entry in an urban fantasy series that will leave the reader eager to pick up the next and go back to this rich world as soon as possible.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Reading Challenge: Once Upon a Time IX

March 21, 2015 8 comments

Once Upon a Time IXHello my lovely readers!  Many book bloggers are familiar with Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ two big reading challenges he runs every year.  I often participate in the fall challenge for reading horror/thriller/mystery/etc… but I have never participated in the spring challenge for reading fantasy, because I used to think I don’t like fantasy.  I’ve discovered that I’m wrong.  I do like fantasy, just mainly urban fantasy and fantasies that are not set in a Medieval Europe style setting.  So I thought that this year I would participate in Once Upon a Time IX!

Once Upon a Time IX focuses on reading books that fit into the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology between March 21st and June 21st.  I’m signing up for the level called “The Journey.”  Read at least one book in any of those categories.  I’m hoping to read more than one but I was worried if I signed up for a higher level it would feel like too much pressure to me.  My personal goal right now is three books.

Books I already own that fit the challenge are listed below.  I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there’s one you’d particularly like to recommend to me from my list!

  • Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
  • Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
  • Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
  • Fables Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham
  • Fated by S. G. Browne
  • A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
  • The Nonborn King by Julian May
  • Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft
  • Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
  • The Veiled Mirror by Christine Frost
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
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