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Book Review: Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty

Image of a digital book cover. A white woman's face is half in light and half in shadow. She wears sunglasses. A bee and planets can be seen reflected in her sunglasses.

Summary:
Mallory is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when she gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she takes it. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is aliens. But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, humans and aliens alike begin to die…

Review:
A scifi mystery with creative imaginings of multiple alien species and a queer cast.

My favorite part of this book is the various alien species present on the space station. The Gneiss formed from rocks. They don’t ever really die but hibernate then come back in a new form. They can be pebbles, humanoids, or even shuttles. The Phantasmagore have a symbiont vine growing on their ankles that let them camouflage into their surroundings. The Sundry are a hivemind of bee-like creatures that are mysteriously divided into blue and grey factions. Most interesting is that all alien species evolved to have a symbiont. This is another species that merges with them for a mutually beneficial relationship. Only humans didn’t. Why they don’t have one is one of the mysteries of the book.

In spite of the fact that many of the characters are aliens, this still manages to be a diverse book. Multiple characters are Black, one is Korean-American, and the automatic translator uses human names from around the globe to substitute for alien names that humans couldn’t possibly pronounce. (For reasons like that they can’t vibrate to communicate like the Gneiss do).

The marketing I saw was Agatha Christie in space. The storytelling isn’t comparable. Agatha Christie novels are mostly one pov. Third person from the detective’s perspective. This book uses multiple povs. This annoyed me, because at many times, we the readers know things Mallory doesn’t. It removes a lot of the mystery. We end up just sitting there waiting for her to find out something we already know. And it’s not just switching pov in a seen. There are multiple flashback chapters where we go and see a character’s whole backstory. It’s important for an author to know all this detailed information, but not for the reader to. An example is one character who the military recruits to something. We have a whole chapter of flashback to the military recruiting her. Then later Mallory finds out. We didn’t need this chapter about the recruitment. We could have just seen Mallory find it out. More suspense and less dead time (pun intended) waiting for flashbacks to be over. While I liked the story itself, the style of telling it wasn’t for me.

The queer content is that Mallory is bisexual. Another character is a trans gay guy. Another minor character is gay. I appreciate that these identities are not a big deal and mentioned in passing like a character’s hair color. I was a little uncomfortable with one scene with the trans character, Phineas. His brother is trying to reassure him that they’re definitely related. For some reason, the way he reassures him of this is to say his deadname and explain why their father gave him that name. It just seemed like a completely unnecessary use of the deadname to me. (Could have just said…dad named you what he did because of X and that’s why he’s definitely your dad too). I don’t mind characters making mistakes. But it would have been nice to have established Phineas doesn’t mind hearing his deadname. Or to have his brother realize his mistake and apologize.

Recommended for mystery readers who like scifi mixed in and multiple povs.

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3 out of 5 stars

Length: 336 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: NetGalley

Buy It (Amazon or Bookshop.org)

Book Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

January 11, 2022 2 comments
A red digital book cover. There is a white frame with a keyhole showing a woman's foot and maid skirt departing.

Summary:
Twenty-five-year old Molly Gray struggles with social skills and misinterprets the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by. But since Gran died a few months ago, Molly has had to navigate life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is turned on its head the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself very dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Review:
This book has a nice overall message. That we need to band together in kindness with those who are different. But the story itself left me feeling lukewarm.

Molly’s difference is never named although neurodivergence and Autism are certainly hinted at. To me, her voice and behavior simply didn’t read as authentic. Neurodivergence is of course a wide spectrum so it might read authentic to others. But it felt to me like someone guessing at neurodivergence. It just rang false.

The mystery itself wasn’t all that mysterious. I must admit I didn’t guess the killer but that was only because the narrator withheld information from the reader until the last chapter. Not my favorite method in a mystery book. I always feel duped and end up disliking the main character for withholding. So while I was motivated to find out who did it and to see Molly free, I was annoyed at the end. I can generally forgive this in a mystery, though, if my experience with the mystery itself was pleasurable up to that point.

The problem for me in this book wasn’t the set-up or the mystery. It was that every character in the book rubbed me the wrong way – including the ones I was supposed to like. Literally everyone. Even Molly’s “sweet old gran.” I just didn’t like anyone. Even if I mentally wanted everything to work out from a sense of common decency, I couldn’t root for anyone because I didn’t like anyone. The dialogue (everyone’s) especially rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not sure why; it just did.

So, I liked the idea of this. It was different. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe it will be for you.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 280 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: NetGalley

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Book Review: Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien (Series, #1)

Cover of the book "Death by Dumpling."

Summary:
Lana Lee didn’t expect to be hostessing at her family’s restaurant. But when she dramatically walks out on her job, Ho-Lee Noodle House in the Asian plaza of Cleveland seems to be her only option. When the plaza’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead next to a pile of her restaurant’s dumplings, the focus quickly shifts from Lana’s life to clearing the restaurant – and their chef – from suspicions of murder.

Review:
It’s no secret if you’re a fan of cozy mysteries that they’re hurting for diverse representation. When I saw this title, I was excited for a Chinese-American leading lady and also for the dumpling recipes I anticipated coming with it, as many cozies come with recipes or craft patterns.

The setting of this book feels very real, it reminded me of the “Asian plazas” I’ve seen in the Midwest when visiting my in-laws. The variety and types of stores and restaurants, as well as the description of where it was in relation to Cleveland rang as real to me.

The majority of the characters in this book are Chinese-American – including the murder victim and all of the potential suspects Lana works her way through. Lana is biracial – her mother is Chinese-American, and her father is white. Lana’s best friend is white, and the police detective (who we all know is the love interest, since that’s how it works in cozies) is also white. In spite of all this representation, I must mention that there was one cringe-inducing moment where sitting cross-legged is described as “Indian-style.” A good reminder that just because a book features an underrepresented group doesn’t necessarily mean it will be fully inclusive.

My lack of engagement with the love interest I don’t think is the fault of this book in particular – he was the generic police detective you see in cozies. I think it’s just that I have increasingly come to a negative perception of policing and I couldn’t get past his job in my head.

I was disappointed to discover that in a book revolving around a Noodle House and murder by dumplings – there were no recipes! I just kept re-flipping through the end of the book asking – really? A missed opportunity that would have knocked the book up a whole star for me.

With regards to the mystery, this was one of those rare cozies with a plot I could not 100% predict. A definite mark in its favor and something that kept me reading. I also must mention that Lana has a pug named Kikkoman (after the soy sauce). Important to the plot? No. But important to joy in certain scenes for sure.

Overall, if you’re a cozy mystery fan looking for some diversity or variety in your next read, I recommend giving this one a try. Just don’t come into it expecting recipes.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 328 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: Library

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Book Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun (translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell)

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
The cover of the book The Law of Lines.

Summary:
Two young women’s lives are told in parallel beginning with a moment of intense misfortune. Se-oh, who normally avoids leaving the home she shares with her father at all, comes home from an outing he encouraged her to go on to pick up a coat he bought for her birthday to find their home up in flames with her father inside. The detective tells her that her father set off the explosion himself due to debt, setting wheels turning in Se-oh’s life. Ki-jeong, a high school teacher, has a situation with a difficult student come to a head at the same time as she finds out that her younger half-sister’s body was found in a river. How will these two women’s lies come to entwine?

Review:
When I heard about this, it was in the context of it being a thriller. I’m not sure I’d personally call it a thriller, more of a quiet, subtle, literary mystery.

I was deeply moved by Se-oh’s story. Although I did not previously know how debt works in South Korea, once I understood I felt so much empathy for the horribly tight spot Se-oh and her father found themselves in. The more of Se-oh’s story was revealed, the more saddened I was for her. It was like if you saw the aftermath of a car crash and then watched a slow-motion replay of how it came to be. That’s what reading Se-oh’s story was like. It was through Se-oh’s story that I learned the most things that were new to me about South Korean culture, and her story was also what led to me looking up some aspects of it and learning even more.

I was less engaged by Ki-jeong’s story. While I did feel empathy for her being stuck in a job she didn’t like and the apparently difficult situation with her half-sister, I didn’t feel that enough was revealed about her that was positive for me to really be on her side. I suspect I may have gotten more out of Ki-jeong’s story if I was more familiar with South Korean culture, but this is a shortcoming of my own and not the book.

If you are looking to travel to South Korea via subtle yet engaging mystery, I would recommend picking this one up.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 288 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Library

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January 2018 Reads – #fantasy, #scifi, #nonfiction, #mystery

February 9, 2018 3 comments
FullSizeRender (8)

For more shots check out my bookstagram

Happy New Year everyone! I started my new year off with a reading bang reading a total of 6 books. I can’t say I’m too terribly surprised as the weather has been pretty…gross in New England. I’m not anti going outside in the cold but even I struggle to enjoy it when it’s so cold you’re at risk of frostbite if you’re out for more than 30 minutes. (It’s dangerously easy for me to tip over into that range with my commute using public transit). Anyway, nothing feels cozier than reading inside while it’s awful outside. While I had a range of reads this month, overall I read a lot of fantasy.

I started off the month with Honeyed Words by J. A. Pitts. My husband picked it up for me at a used bookstore in the $1 pile based on the cover and the fact that it was an urban fantasy starring a queer woman. That man knows me. Unfortunately, it turns out it was the second book in the series, and unlike a lot of urban fantasy, not enough was explained for me to be able to follow along very well. Sarah, the main character, is a blacksmith who also has a magical sword and fights dragons who run the world but usually appear as people? It was very confusing but I did enjoy the different (for urban fantasy) main character.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: gift)

Next I read the audiobook version of Connie Willis’s new scifi Crosstalk. This is about a near future with a surgical procedure to let partners feel each other’s feelings but when Briddey has it she finds herself able to hear the thoughts of the company weirdo and nothing from her boyfriend. I loved Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog but I was disappointed in this one. The plot was predictable in most ways. I didn’t actually like either of the main characters. The female main character in particular was disappointing…very little intelligence or self-starting. I did really like the little niece but I felt the adults who were supposed to be the heroes pushed her around far too much and refused to listen to her. Let’s put it this way: if this was my first Connie Willis read, I wouldn’t be seeking out more. So thank goodness I found To Say Nothing of the Dog first, or I’d have missed it.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I picked up a print book next, which I originally acquired from an indie publisher thanks to hearing good things about its YA fantasy with LGBTQ content – Valhalla by Ari Bach. Set in a near future where corporations run everything, a teenage girl finds herself with the opportunity to get vengeance for her parents’ death but only if she legally dies and lives with a group who work to keep the world in order. This was a weird book. I really had trouble getting past the ability to resurrect a person in their entirety so long as you have their brain in-tact, and I also found the politics odd and the plot ridiculous. It was readable and action-packed but I did a lot of eye-rolling. I won’t be continuing with the series.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

Our trip in December to the Grand Canyon reminded me of a book I’d bought a while ago on the history of the US National Forest Service (not to be confused with the National Park Service) – The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. I already knew a bit about the history the NPS and NFS thanks to my time in service in Americorps. While I enjoyed everything I learned in the book, it is confusingly organized and repetitive. It needed more editing. For instance, I thought I was reading a book about a fire but a large part of the book was about literally everything about the Forest Service surrounding the fire. While that was informative, it wasn’t what I thought I was getting. Similarly there were passages of the parts of the book about the actual fire that really dragged–how many times do I really need to read about what the burned corpse of a horse looks like? So while I did learn a lot, which I appreciate, I do feel like it could have been better organized and streamlined.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Amazon)

One of my reading goals is to read two print books a month, so I picked up a second after finishing Valhalla. I have a bookshelf of all my print books and I use random.org to randomly generate a number to select one. So my next read wound up being The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell a British mystery told in dual time-lines, one being modern day with a woman recovering from a horrific miscarriage and the other being in the 80s with five college friends sharing a cottage and trying to go off-grid basically. The women in the modern day dealing with her grief is given this same cottage, and the mystery is how the two timelines will intertwine. While the ending did surprise me, everything leading up to it was boring and predictable and led to me skimming a lot. I’m glad I read to the end because I found the twist interesting but the experience leading up to it wasn’t fun for me per se. I also think that consequences weren’t explored enough.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

I finished up my month by finally picking up the third book in a series I started ages ago – the Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler. This YA fantasy series explores the four hoursemen of the apocalypse as beings who have to get replaced occasionally by new humans who take on the role and in this series each is being replaced by a teenager. Famine was replaced by a teenager with anorexia in the first book, and War by a teenager who self-injures in the second. The third horseman is Pestilence, and I wondered what mental illness would go with this. I thought maybe Factitious Disorder (previously known as Munchausen Syndrome) but it turns out the main character in Loss is a victim of bullying and a partial caretaker for his grandfather with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to like this so much but I just didn’t. I didn’t identify with the main character at all, and I also felt like the representation of sickness and health was overly simplistic (with a weird huge focus on the bubonic plague). Nothing felt as fully fleshed out as I would have liked it to have been, and I don’t think relating bullying to Pestilence works the way anorexia to Famine or self-injury to War did.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Amazon)

Hm, turns out in spite of all the reading this was a bit of a mediocre month! Here’s hoping something strikes my fancy more in February.

My total for the month of January 2018:

  • 6 books
    • 5 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 2 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 2 print books; 1 audiobook

If you found this helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

November 2017 Reads – #chicklit, #mystery, #urbanfantasy

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

FullSizeRender (5)

For more shots check out my bookstagram

I picked up the pace a bit in November reading a total of 6 books, mostly chick lit but with a mystery and an urban fantasy tossed in there for good measure.

I started the month off with the end of my Liane Moriarty kick with her chick lit The Hypnotist’s Love Story. This book is about a practicing therapeutic hypnotist who meets the man of her dreams except for one thing…his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. This book did not at all go in the direction I was expecting and I’m still not sure the ending counts as a happy ever after (even though I’m pretty sure it was supposed to). If you’re looking for a different chick lit read, you should definitely pick this one up. The story is quite unique.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next I decided to return to the Bridget Jones series so I returned to Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (see the first in the series reviewed here). Written in the same diary style as the first and again covering a year, this looks at Bridget’s on again off again romance with Mark Darcy. Normally on again off agains irritate me, but it kind of works in this case, I think because the on again off agains don’t happen too terribly often and are more reflective of things each of them have to work on rather than entirely stupid misunderstandings. I also must say this was much better than the movie. The kind of loathed Thailand interlude comes across much better in the book and makes way more sense.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

At the same time as I was reading this I was finishing up my audiobook, the second in the Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht mystery series – Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson (see the first in the series reviewed here). This isn’t necessarily a series you need to read in order. It surrounds a police investigative team in Sweden and each book regards a different case. The investigator’s personal lives are present but just barely and aren’t the focus of the book. This entry in the series looks at the mysterious death of a pastor and his wife. The story is intertwined with the immigrant/refugee crisis in Europe. While I thought the audio narrator was again phenomenal, I couldn’t get as into this mystery as into the first one. I thought it verged a bit too far into preachy mode as opposed to just telling a story. But that said I’m sure I’ll return for the third entry in the series because the mystery telling is just so different from a lot of the American mysteries. It keeps me on my toes.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I jumped right back into another chick lit with the next book in the Bridget Jones series – Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. It is not a spoiler to tell you this as you discover it in the very first chapter: Mark Darcy dies tragically young so this book surrounds Bridget as a widow with two children. This is clearly a dichotomizing choice. Some readers are fine with it and others aren’t. I’ve never been that into Mark Darcy so I didn’t mind he was gone but I am married and I hated having the idea of losing a partner so young all unexpectedly up in my face in what was supposed to be a relaxing read. Do I think Fielding did a good job telling the story she chose to tell? Yes. Do I think widows deserve to be represented in literature and given a happy ending? Yes. Do I wish I’d known this in advance before picking it up? Absolutely.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I changed pace a bit next by picking up the next book in the Demon Slayer urban fantasy series I adore – Night of the Living Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (see the first in the series reviewed here). Lizzie gets called to go undercover in New Orleans to stop the rise of an evil voodoo church (not to be confused with good voodoo). This was a great entry in the series that delivered exactly what I’ve come to expect. Entertaining and unexpected action sequences, real peril, unique bad guys, and a strong monogamous relationship at the center of it all.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Finally I read the contemporary chick lit Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen. Julia and Michael fought hard to get out of their hardscrabble West Virginia life and now are millionaires living in D.C. But when Michael survives an unexpected heart attack his priorities start to change. Can their marriage survive his change of heart? I was expecting something very different from this book about priorities and marriage and what really matters in life. What I got was….much more fantastical than I had imagined. I could have handled that if it had just taken the final leap into truly over the top but it toed the edge so much that it landed in ho-hum.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of November 2017:

  • 6 books
    • 6 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 6 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 5 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook

If you found this helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

April 2017 Reads — #historic, #mystery, #horror, #urbanfantasy

October 29, 2017 2 comments
Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 2.41.39 PM

An bookstagram shot from while I was reading Moloka’i. For more check out opinionsofawolf.

I read so many books in April (7!) that I had to look back to postulate why. My husband took me on a surprise trip which means I had a bunch of airplane time, so I think that might have been part of it. In the future, when I’m doing these wrap-ups on time, I’ll know exactly why.

Anyway, April was kind of all over the place in terms of genre, as you can see from the title.

I started off the month with Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, a print book that had been languishing on my tbr shelf for a while. It’s about a Hawaiian girl who gets sent to a leper colony in the late 1800s. We follow her life in this prison forced upon her through no fault of her own. Through this book I learned that leprosy is better called Hansen’s Disease and while I knew about the exploitation of Hawaii, it was interesting to see it through this new lens. It also called into question a lot of medical and public health ethics that tend to come up with something like quarantine. A sad but powerful read.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: paperbackswap)

I next picked up a Harlequin romance mystery that was given to me Wanted Woman by B. J. Daniels. It involves a woman running from false charges on a motorcycle. It was interesting to see the motorcycle bad boy flipped on its head a bit but the book left me feeling kind of meh. I didn’t hate it but I had a hard time even remembering what it was about to write this.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: gift)

Next I picked up another historic fiction (although this time wrapped up with contemporary fiction) — Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I had a phase when I was a little girl of being very into the concept of the orphan trains. For those who don’t know, orphan children from the east coast were put on trains and sent west with the idea that they’d be more able to find homes among the farmers. While some found homes and true families, others of course were only “adopted” to be cheap farmhands. This book has a modern day teenage girl in the foster system doing community service with an elderly lady who it turns out was on the orphan trains. It shows how orphan and foster children are currently and have been mishandled. I liked the beginning of this one quite a bit but found the ending to be disappointing (“cop-out” is the exact phrase I wrote in my initial thoughts.)
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: paperbackswap)

Next I changed pace and picked up a monster horror — The Colony by A. J. Colucci. In this case the monster is ant colonies that man has tampered with to create a superweapon that of course gets accidentally unleashed on New York City. Mayhem ensues! This is another one that started out good but was ruined by the ending for me.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

I was so excited for the fourth Miriam Black book to come out that I actually pre-ordered the kindle version. Miriam Black is an urban fantasy series by Chuck Wendig whose lead character can see people’s deaths if she touches them and also has an odd relationship with birds (mainly, that she can kind of send her soul out into a flock of them). I used to love this series. Really love. I’m not sure if I’ve changed or the series has changed. I’d have to go back and re-read the previous entries to know for sure, and I’m not much of a re-reader so I doubt that’ll happen. What I do know is I used to find Miriam gritty and real and this time in Thunderbird I found her annoying and immature. I particularly was not fond of her repeated “nic fits,” in which she brushed off responsibility for her behavior. I also didn’t like the big bad this time, finding them to be boring and unlikely foe for Miriam. I also thought the book sometimes came across as preachy. I know an author’s viewpoint will always come into a book but it shouldn’t do so in an out-of-character way, which happens a few times in this book. Even if this wasn’t the case, though, I found this book to be mostly filler getting ready for the next book in the series, and that always annoys me. So I was disappointed but I’m choosing to believe it’s just that I changed and it’s time for the series and me to part ways.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I next picked up a chick lit, which I reviewed in haiku form here.

I finished up the month with another horror, this one by Richard Matheson. Hell House isn’t what he’s best known for but I was curious about it as a classic of the haunted house genre. This book features investigators going to Belasco House to see once and for all if it’s haunted. I thought it had some frightening moments and enjoyed its stance that it took science and spirituality together to accomplish things but man did it have some stuff that just didn’t age well (and honestly was probably not too great even when it was first published in 1971). For instance, one of the horrors of the house is that a woman’s long-buried same-sex attraction is brought to the surface. This is treated with the same horror as molestation or rape in the book. This is obviously problematic. It also has a Native American character who does not have a well-rounded representation. I’d also give the trigger warning that there are grotesque sex scenes and disfigurings of religious figurines (albeit by evil characters).
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of April 2017:

  • 7 books
    • 7 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 3 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 3 print books; 1 audiobook

If you found this helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

March 2017 Reads – #cozy, #thriller

October 22, 2017 5 comments

March was a tough reading month for me. I had a lot of mediocre or disappointing reads. There was a memoir that left me feeling meh (haiku review here) and a deeply disappointing audiobook that was supposed to be a comedic take on the apocalypse (haiku review here).

That audiobook was followed by the Japanese thriller Out by Natsuo Kirino. It follows a woman in an abusive marriage who kills her abuser and how her work colleagues help her cover it up. (None of this is spoilers. It’s revealed very early on). I really enjoyed it right up until the end where it took a turn into a place that left me extremely uncomfortable with its near-pornographic depiction of a rape scene. That combined with certain characters’ reactions to it made me feel betrayed and like I’d wasted my time reading it. It felt like it changed tone totally right at the end.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)

The saving grace of the month was a cozy mystery called Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero, the first in her Pawsitively Organic series about a New York City businesswoman who moves to Connecticut to start an organic pet treats business. She’s a main character you love to hate in a town full of people you love to hate with a mystery that held my attention and made me giggle. It was just the right light read I needed. I could see picking up the next book the next time I’m in that kind of mood.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)

My total for the month of March 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 3 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 0 ebooks; 2 print books; 2 audiobooks

If you found this helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

Book Review and Giveaway: A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman (Series, #3)

December 4, 2016 2 comments

Book Review: A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira GlassmanSummary:
Esther of the Singing Hands is Perach’s Sweetheart, a young and beautiful musician with a Girl Next Door image. When her violin is stolen after a concert in the capital city, she doesn’t expect the queen herself to show up, intent upon solving the mystery. But Queen Shulamit — lesbian, intellectual, and mother of the six-month-old crown princess — loves to play detective. With the help of her legendary bodyguard Rivka and her dragon, and with the support of her partner Aviva the Chef, Shulamit turns her mind toward the solution — which she quickly begins to suspect involves the use of illegal magic that could threaten the safety of her citizens.

Review:
When this was submitted to me as a possible review copy for 2016, I was immediately intrigued by a queer fantasy cozy. Often LGBTQ books can land too much in the “issues” genre or the romance genre. This is a place where indie books excel. Traditional publishing can be a bit hesitant to offer up any other genre with queer people at the center, but indie books know that there is a demand for this. LGBTQ people read all genres, why shouldn’t our books represent that? After I read this book I wanted to advertise it from the rooftops for precisely that audience — LGBTQ people who just want to see themselves represented in their favorite genre of literature.

If you’ve ever wanted a cozy fantasy series where the main characters just so happen to be queer, this is the series for you. And don’t worry about reading out of order if you happen to start with this one. In traditional cozy fashion, each tale is perfectly capable of standing on its own, and you can read them in whatever order you like.

The one thing I would say for cozy readers is while most of this book is traditionally cozy (not too violent of a mystery, a lovely town you’d love to visit) the sex in it is more explicit than what is traditionally found in a cozy. Rather than fading to black we get some light (very light) sex scenes. I enjoyed these scenes but readers who don’t expect that in a cozy should be aware.

In addition to there being multiple queer characters, not to just one, (lesbian, bisexual, gender nonconforming, trans), feminism is also a natural part of the read. Women are in positions of power without giving up their femininity or other life choices, such as having a baby. Sometimes Shulamit, the queen, can verge into a bit preachy, but I felt that was acceptable since she is a queen, after all, and rulers have a tendency to be preachy.

In addition to the diverse cast with a strong female presence, this fantasy land is centered around Judaism and what I believe to be a Middle Eastern inspired area. It’s a non-medieval Europe fantasy, and we all know how hard those are to find. While I am not Jewish myself, I have close friends who are, and I know how hard it can be for them at times to feel that their culture isn’t represented in fictional universes. I think having a kingdom that is undoubtedly Jewish would be something many of them would enjoy. A fantasy world where shops need to close up by sunset on Friday, for instance.

The mystery was probably my favorite part of the book. I truly wasn’t 100% certain who’d done it throughout the book, and I thought that it was both a crime of serious nature with an important time frame for solving it without being bloody.

While I enjoyed visiting the world Glassman has imagined what I thought most while reading this was how much I wanted to help get it out to the audience whose hearts would thrill to see themselves represented in the genres they enjoy most. If you’re a queer and/or Jewish reader who wants representation in fantasy and/or cozies, you must try out this series.

If you found this review helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

4 out of 5 stars

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

Length: 228 pages – average but on the shorter side

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Giveaway!

This giveaway is now over. Congrats to our winner!
There were 3 entries, 1 via twitter and 2 via comments. Twitter entries were collected into the sheet first, followed by blog comments, in order. Random.org selected entry 2 as the winner, and the second entry on the sheet was dialmformara. Congrats!

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Thanks to the generosity of the author, one lucky Opinions of a Wolf reader can win a copy of this ebook.

How to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post stating what genre you would like to see more representation in of LGBTQ or other minority groups.
  2. Copy/paste the following and tweet it from your public twitter. Retweets do not count:
    Enter to win A HARVEST OF RIPE FIGS by @ShiraGlassman, hosted by @McNeilAuthor http://buff.ly/2g09G9V #ff #cozy #giveaway #fantasy
  3. Repost the Instagram giveaway announcement and tag my Instagram.
  4. Tag three of your friends on the Instagram giveaway announcement.

Each options gets you one entry. Multiple tweets/Instagram posts do not count as multiple entries.

Who Can Enter: International

Contest Ends: December 11th 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: Three to Get Lei’d by Jill Marie Landis (Series, #3)

Book Review: Three to Get Lei'd by Jill Marie Landis (Series, #3)Summary:
A jigger of tranquility is all Em Johnson wants, but now that her beloved Tiki Goddess Bar has been chosen as the location for Trouble in Paradise, TV’s hot new reality show, life is anything but tranquil. When a member of the camera crew is found dead in her kitchen-stabbed to death with Chef Kimo’s sashimi knife-the scene on the sleepy North Shore of Kauai goes from eccentrically crazy to downright dangerous. Suspects lurk behind every paper drink umbrella.

Review:
This book brought back all the strengths from the first book with the added delight of everyone at the Tiki Goddess Bar being featured on a reality tv show. As a (not-so-secret) lover of reality tv for the over-the-top ridiculousness and a lover of cozies for their delightful tongue-in-cheek puns and ability to not take themselves too seriously, the marriage of the two in this book was sheer delight.

A couple of scenes in particular struck me as the type of mad-cap tom-foolery seen in older 1920s romps, only with the added twist of reality tv cameras following the moves. I honestly would love to see a “The Office” style take on this series…a fake reality tv show version of the Tiki Godess Bar. That’d be a hoot! Anyway, one scene I really enjoyed involves the Hula Maidens in hula costume sneaking around on a golf course. Delightful.

I also like that the plot, although a bit predictable, weaves in a few different elements of various characters’ lives and stories. Em’s life moves forward, as does her uncle’s. Nothing is stagnant, just because murder is happening. I also thought grief and concern for loved ones’ safety were depicted well and realistically without slowing the plot down or removing the joy from the narrative.

All-in-all, a fun entry in the series that left me eager for the next one….and hoping the reality show will be back!

If you found this review helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 248 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Gift

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Previous Books in Series:
Mai Tai One On, review
Two to Mango, review