Sunday, August 18, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: ROSE OF THE OATH, by Hope Ann

Ebook
Legends of Light 1
A Beauty & the Beast Retelling

I need to read the other books that tie into this story, especially the one that sparked the whole curse and prophecy and involves the ancestress of the heroine, Elissa.

Very well done, a new angle on Beauty & the Beast.

Elissa and her orphaned siblings are living life on the edge, tormented by news of approaching war. Plus there are the wolves howling in the distance, constantly. Wolves are especially tormenting for Elissa, because as we learn once we're deep into the story, she has a scar from a wolf attack -- the same attack that killed her parents.

The Beast carries multiple scars, also from wolf attacks. He wears the skins of the wolves that he has killed, without number, for centuries. He calls her Beauty, and she slips up and calls him Beast, because that is what he seems.  While he would like to explain the curse and the situation, he can't -- the same curse that traps her in the castle with him has taken his voice. Yeah, it's frustrating, for both of them. The bits and pieces of the story are revealed in his thoughts and writings and the snippets of news she hears about the outside world from the one person who, with no explanation, is able to get through the shield of magic and visit her at the castle.

There is prophecy and betrayal and learning to forgive and to care, and in the end, willing sacrifice. Elissa nearly dies, and is left marked by scars, just like Adrian the Beast, whom she has learned to love. That's not a spoiler, is it? Because this is, after all, Beauty & the Beast retold.

A very satisfying retelling. I really do need to get the other stories, to find out how the rose ties into the curse and betrayal and treason and the King's oath and the sacrifice that the Prince must make someday....

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: NEVERMORE: THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW, by Jessica Townsend

Audiobook, from Audible

Ever feel like everything is stacked against you, and no matter what you do, you're going to get blamed for anything that goes wrong -- even if you weren't anywhere near when it happened?

That's what life is like for cursed children in this fantasy world. Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, considered cursed and the cause of all misfortune around her -- and worse, she's doomed to die on the next Eventide, midnight on her birthday.

Her adventure begins when Eventide comes early, and the strange, flamboyant Jupiter North comes to whisk her away to the magical city of Nevermoor. She becomes a resident of the hotel he owns, where her room decorates itself to suit her and chandeliers grow from the ceiling and there are rooms where shadows become real and ... Whew! Too much to tell.

Morrigan is something of an illegal resident, and the authorities want to snatch her up and throw her back into the country where she's not exactly welcome ... and the only chance she has to stay in Nevermoor is to pass all the tests and trials and become a member of the Wundrous Society. She has to demonstrate her gift -- but what is it? She doesn't know, and Jupiter, her guardian, isn't telling.

Major fun. Another one of those books where I kind of grudged having to stop listening. Real life gets in the way an awful lot, y'know? The reviews recommend this for fans of Harry Potter and other stories where kids are whisked away into magical, sometimes dangerous worlds and adventures, where their only weapons are their own wits. The next book, Wunder Smith, is on my gotta-get list.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: RILEY MACK AND THE OTHER KNOWN TROUBLEMAKERS, by Chris Grabenstein

Audible Original

This is along the lines of a radio drama -- about a gang of middle school kids who pull off some pretty incredible, almost unbelievable schemes, to right wrongs and bring about justice and make sure that crooks pay up.

Riley Mack and his friends start out dealing with a bully who is stealing from kids younger than him -- and happens to be the son of the sheriff, who has a grudge against Riley. By the time they're done, they've rescued a stolen puppy, foiled bank robbers, saved his mother's job, recovered all the stolen 7th grader treasures, and exposed a puppy mill.

Riley made one stupid, temper tantrum mistake a few years before, and got himself labeled a troublemaker, which makes it hard for him and his friends when they're trying to be the heroes. Between an actress who loves her costumes, a tech genius, a slightly slow muscle-bound member of the team, and a geeky kid who wants to join the club, Riley has his hands full.

Major fun. The characters are likable and I was drawn into their lives immediately, even when they were a little "out there." I cringed a number of times, wanting to shout "Don't do it!" but that would be silly -- I was getting my morning walk at 7am, and the people in the neighborhood would not appreciate me yelling.

I really hope there are more adventures of Riley Mack and his friends available, or at least in the planning stages. Fun!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: IF WISHES WERE CURSES, by Janeen Ippolito

Steel City Genie, Book 1

Janeen is a rock star -- and I'm not saying this just because I want her to publish one of my SF series ... (well, maybe a little sucking up....)

She is a creative genius when it comes to world-building (check her nonfiction manuals on world-building if you don't believe me), she runs a publishing company, she indie publishes, and she does the incredible, fun, Indie Book Magic podcast with H.L. Burke, who I fear I will also fan-girl over. Remember my review of her book, COILED? Yeah ....

IF WISHES WERE CURSES is humor, magic, fantasy, mystery and romance, all rolled together. With some snark for seasoning. Our heroine is half human and half .... something magical. She has ideas, but doesn't know for sure until she gets some unasked-for answers in the book, because she doesn't know who her father is.

It's because of the unknown magic in her blood that curse marks are put on her to restrain her magic. When she kills a bear shifter in self-defense, that heritage makes her highly suspect, and she's put under even more restraints. She can't even teleport or go to her favorite coffee shop for some caffeinated support. She needs it, because if the bear shifters find her, she's dead meat, and she's not allowed to use magic to defend herself. How can that be fair, guys?

Then there's this guy who, apparently, she keeps meeting and making an instant connection with ... and forgetting as soon as they say goodbye. And he forgets her. Ever feel like the world is out to get you? Cube that, and you know what our heroine is feeling.

Do they find answers? Do they get their happily-ever-after after kicking some major vampire butt?

You gotta read this one. Just for the FUN, but also to see how great storytelling and world-building is DONE. When my to-be-read mountain comes down a league or two, I'm getting the next in the series. Addiction warning!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE ADVENTURES OF TOM STRANGER, by Larry Correia

An Audible Original

Subtitle: Interdimensional Insurance Agent.

I guess this could be considered science fiction. Definitely snark, comedy, political and social satire, and a few other labels. Apply as you see fit.

Giggle fest time.

Consider: the narrator is Adam Baldwin -- from Firefly. So when there are references to the part Baldwin played, and a comment that "in this universe, Firefly played for five seasons" plus several movie spinoffs, and in another dimension the president is named Baldwin and happens to be an ex-actor who played a space cowboy .... yeah, I think the narrator had a lot of fun doing it.

When there are multiple universes, and someone powerful (an inventor and arms dealer) takes out an interdimensional insurance policy on ALL the permutations of himself, you have to call in the best insurance agent out there to make sure things are handled and bills are paid and ... whew! There are problems with a rival insurance agent, and a visit to a call center from worse-than-hell, and dealing with aliens who trashed the wrong planet. Can you see where I'm going with this?

Plus the author himself shows up in the book, multiple permutations of himself, where he's a SF writer who skipped the wrong classes in school and ended up messing up every part of his life. Hmm, regrets or just a tongue so firmly planted in his cheek it went out the other side of his face?

Fun. Silly. Some language. And the many and various accents and voices employed for the many characters just upped the ante. Makes me want to borrow my brother's copy of Firefly -- and maybe binge watch a few seasons of Chuck, too.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: EVEN TREE NYMPHS GET THE BLUES, by Molly Harper

Audible Original

I already downloaded another audiobook by this author -- does that tell you how much I liked this one?

It's a standalone novella in the Mystic Bayou series -- which I have to look further into.

The heroine is a tree nymph named Ingrid who has decided to move to a town in Louisiana where other mythological and magical people have found sanctuary and formed a community. In this far-too-short story, she arrives with plans to buy a farm, raise cows, and make and sell ice cream. Sounds like a good plan to me, and a way to become instantly popular!

Of course, there are hiccups in the plan, starting with bureaucrats and scientists and a sad part of her history when another handsome scientist tried to take advantage of her -- so when the resident handsome scientists falls for Ingrid, she and he are in for a hard time.

Since this is a romance, need I bother to assure you there is a happily ever after?

This was an interesting presentation, because the chapters went back and forth between the POV of the heroine and hero, with a female narrator and a male narrator. Took a little getting used to, but what does that matter? It was a fun book, and over way too fast. I hope the author tells more stories about Ingrid in the next Mystic Bayou book I get. Because I certainly will!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: CIRCE, by Madeline Miller

Audiobook

This is one of those books you don't want to put down -- or in this case, turn off. I chose it as my entertainment on a long (8-plus hours each way) trip, and I was almost upset to arrive at the hotel, turn off the book, and get out of the car!

CIRCE is the story, in her own words, her own pain and hopes and thoughts, of a figure from Greek mythology. I knew Circe only as one of the characters Odysseus met on his long journey home from Troy, but her pedigree goes far back and spreads wide to encompass so much of the familiar in mythology.

I was impressed. I wished I had written this book! Loved it immensely. Captivating -- and made those hours of driving go fast. I was really ticked when some torrential rain grew so loud, I couldn't hear the narrator, so I had turn off the book!

Circe is born to a scheming nymph and one of the Titans who still retained some power after siding with Zeus in the rebellion that brought the familiar Greek gods to power. Her siblings are more beautiful and powerful (and nasty) than she is, and she literally has no one to depend on when the revelation that she does have power after all makes the Olympians fear her. Exiled to an island, she makes her own life and struggles for her own purpose and happiness. A woman alone must take drastic, cruel actions to protect herself. If you know the legends, then you know what I'm talking about. I won't give anything away here. Then Odysseus stops at her island and she changes her mind, and makes several decisions that put a new spin on several Greek legends.

Put simply, you GOTTA listen to this book, or read it, whichever is most convenient for you. I was hooked from the first few minutes.