A Murder of Mages by Marshall Ryan Maresca

a-murder-of-mages-by-marshall-ryan-marescaA Murder of Mages by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Series: The Maradaine Constabulary #1
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Setting: Maradaine
Published by DAW, 2015
E-book, purchased
352 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.

“Let me see you, Mama.”

Satrine had the coat half on. “What do you mean?”

Caribet gestured vaguely at her. “Like that. Coat on.” Satrine finished dressing. “You look like a real Inspector, Mama.”

“I am a real inspector, honey,” Satrine said.

and

Lucky and happened to be are terms I find troubling, Inspector Rainey. In my experience, coincidence rarely occurs naturally.”

Cheers

  • I love that this is a fantasy and mystery. Two of my favorite genres! And a police procedural mystery which is the sub-genre I’m enjoying right now.
  • I read the first book about Maradaine–The Thorn of Dentonhill–a few weeks ago and though I liked it there were also some things that didn’t work for me. I like this book better. I think I relate better to the Maradaine Constabulary!
  • The author has done an amazing job with the world building in these books. The world, the society, people are all fully fleshed out.
  • The title–A Murder of Mages–is very clever. Made me smile.
  • The characterizations are so good–not just the main characters, but also so many of the supporting characters as well.
  • The book is told mostly from Satrine’s point of view, but also from Minox Welling’s. I like the contrast between their lives.
  • Satrine is bold, intelligent and resourceful–willing to do whatever she has to for her family.
  • Satrine’s husband is a Constabulary inspector who was injured while on duty. He’s alive, but totally unable to care for himself. Satrine has to support the family (her husband and two daughters) now since there is no one else able to. She manages to get hired as an inspector in the Castabulary, Even when there are no other women inspectors. Of course, she has to lie to do this, but she’s desperate.
  • Her Constabulary partner–Minox Welling–is unorthodox and brilliant. He isn’t satisfied with easy answers and he figures out Satrine is lying from the start, but since she’s the best partner he’s ever had he doesn’t care.
  • I like the differences with Satrine’s home life and her professional life. And between Minox’s home life–he comes from a police family, lives in a multi-generational family and has a hard time getting any peace and quiet–and Satrine’s home.
  • I think the author does a good job writing a very different book from the first book set in Maradaine. I like there are a few mentions of the Thorn and other things which happen in The Thorn of Dentonhill.

Jeers

  • The mystery fell apart for me by the end of the book. However, I like the characters and world building so much the book still works for me.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I love the world created in these books. I want to read the next book in this series.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Marshall Ryan Maresca is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages, both released by DAW Books in 2015.  He grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef.

Reading Challenges

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

sorcerer-to-the-crown-by-Zen-ChoSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Series: Sorcerer Royal #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Setting: An alternate Regency England
Published by Ace, 2015
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: September 1, 2015)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
384 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Cheers

  • I like the world built by Zen Cho–sorcerers, magicians, witches, fairies, dragons, familiars–plus the politics of a magical society.
  • This historic fantasy is set in Regency England so manners are the order of the day.
  • I like that a small village in Malaysia–Janda Baik–is part of this book. I like that Ms. Cho has added some of her heritage to this book.
  • The book has a number of mysteries. Why is England’s magic waning? What is Zacharias’ illness? Why doesn’t Zacharias have a familiar? We do find out all the reasons by the end of the book.
  • Zacharias became Sorcerer Royal when Sir Stephen died. There are many rumors about how he died since Zacharias found him.
  • I love Prunella. She’s an orphan, but doesn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself. She’s very practical. She also has a great deal of magic in her and she uses it very naturally. She doesn’t have much use for formal magic training, but she’s not above using Zacharias’ desire to train her to get to London.
  • Women aren’t held in much esteem in the magic world. They aren’t allowed to practice sorcery or magic though they do little things at home, perhaps in the kitchen. Men are magicians; women are witches.
  • The fact Zacharias is a free black man is interesting in this society. He’s a nuanced character since he’s somewhat naive, but also used to the slights and prejudice of society because he’s a black man.
  • Lady Maria and Sir Stephen Whythe are like parents to Zacharias. They adopted Zacharias, but he has conflicted feelings for Sir Stephen. Sir Stephen bought him and freed him, but also took him away from his real parents. He loves both Lady Maria and Sir Stephen, but also resents Sir Stephen.
  • The interactions between Prunella and Zacharias are fun to read about. They are such different people. She’s very down-to-earth, whereas Zacharias has all the manners of a Regency gentleman.
  • I like how fair Zacharias is in his dealings with people. When he realizes women have magic the same as men he’s ready to train them. Normally women who show any magic inclination are strongly discouraged from using it.
  • The book shows the prejudice not only for any but white men, but also any but white, aristocratic men.
  • I would like to see more of Fairyland in future books. The glimpse we see is interesting and entertaining.
  • There is some romance in the book–just enough so it isn’t too intrusive.
  • Mak Genggang is a very funny, interesting character and a little scary, too!
  • The book takes some surprising turns by the end.

Jeers

  • The book is full of details–almost too much.
  • Zacharias isn’t really very happy during most of this book. But that’s part of his growth as a character. He has to learn to learn what is important to him.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I enjoyed reading this debut fantasy and want to the next in the series.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Zen Cho is a London-based Malaysian author of speculative fiction and romance. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first in a historical fantasy trilogy out in September 2015 from Ace/Roc (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth).

Reading Challenges

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

a-curious-beginning-by-deanna-raybournA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: England, 1887
Published by NAL/Penguin, 2015
e-ARC (Release Date: Sep 1, 2015)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
352 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

Cheers

  • If you like historical mysteries set in the Victorian time period and maybe some romance for future books I think you’ll like this book.
  • I love the cover! Beautiful.
  • Veronica is a wonderful character. She’s outspoken and straightforward as well as intelligent. She reminds me a little of some of Amanda Quick’s heroines.
  • Veronica explains her name–Veronica Speedwell (both are names for the same plant) as her Aunt Lucy loved gardening!
  • Stoker is also a good character. He’s steadfast, honest and loyal, but also bad-tempered, gruff and sarcastic at times. However, Veronica has no problem holding her own.
  • After they learn the Baron was murdered they leave London. Stoker is sure the Baron was murdered because of Veronica or even by Veronica. But Stoker promised the Baron to keep her safe.
  • I love Professor Pygopagus’ Traveling Curiosity Show. Very quirky characters! Supposedly they’re Stoker’s friends, but with friends like these you don’t need enemies! It’s a very unique setting.
  • I like that Veronica is a butterfly enthusiast. And Stoker is a naturalist. They have both been on expeditions. Unfortunately, Stoker hasn’t been very successful.
  • To a certain extent this is a buddy book where Veronica and Stoker spend quite a bit of time traveling to try to get away from whoever might be following them.
  • Some of the book was obvious to me even if it wasn’t obvious to Veronica! However, I was quite surprised at the end.
  • The first mystery is more a personal mystery. Who is Veronica? Why are people after her? Who killed the Baron and why? I’m interested to know what mysteries future books have for Veronica.

Jeers

  • As smart as Veronica is I thought she would be more curious about who she is and why people are following her.
  • Veronica carries a flask of a South American liquor, but it seems to last until near the end of the book. That distracted me!

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I read several of the Lady Julia Grey books and loved them. I’m excited to read more in this new series.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. Deanna’s debut novel, Silent in the Grave, published in January 2007 featuring Lady Julia Grey.
  • Since that first book she wrote several more about Lady Julia Grey as well as other books and series. A Curious Beginning is the first in the Veronica Speedwell series and this book also takes place in Victorian England.

Reading Challenges

Stories of the Raksura, Vol 1 by Martha Wells

stories-of-the-raksura-by-martha-wellsStories of the Raksura, Vol 1
by Martha Wells
Series: The Books of the Raksura #1
Genre: Fantasy
Setting: The Three Worlds
Published by Night Shade Books, 2014
E-book, purchased
206 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: In The Falling World, Jade, ruler of the Indigo Cloud Court, has travelled with Chime and Balm to another Raksuran court. When she fails to return, her consort Moon, along with Stone and a party of warriors and hunters, must track them down. Finding them turns out to be the easy part; freeing them from an ancient trap hidden in the depths of the Reaches is much more difficult.

The Tale of Indigo and Cloud explores the history of the Indigo Cloud Court, long before Moon came to Court. In the distant past, Indigo stole Cloud from Emerald Twilight. But in doing so, the reigning Queen Cerise and Indigo are now poised for a conflict that could ruin everything.

Stories of Moon and the shape changers of Raksura have delighted readers for years. This world is a dangerous place full of strange mysteries, where the future can never be taken for granted, and must always be fought for with wits and ingenuity, and often tooth and claw. With two brand-new novellas, Martha Wells shows that the world of Raksura has many more stories to tell…

“The Falling World”

Stone hissed in more than his usual level of annoyance. “You’re good at feeling sorry for yourself, but I don’t want to hear it just now.”

Moon snarled and pushed to his feet. Stone caught his arm and yanked him back.

  • As soon as I opened this book I was happy I was back in the world of the Raksura. It’s so much fun to read about Moon, Jade, Stone and all the others from the three books.
  • In this novella, Jade and Moon are separated for much of the story. The story is told from Moon’s point of view and once the Indigo Cloud Court realizes Jade and her entourage are missing Moon is determined to find them.
  • I like Moon’s determination and interactions with the other Raksura especially Stone. Stone is the line grandfather of the Indigo Cloud Court and the Raksura who found Moon.

“The Tale of Indigo and Cloud”

Raksuran life was all about living without killing each other.

  • So happy to read the story. The three books (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths) all have given hints about Indigo and Cloud (who started a new Court when they led Raksura to a new home).
  • The Raksura have lots of rules for interacting with other Courts, but Indigo turns that on its head when she steals Cloud from another court.
  • However, it’s not as simple as that. Whether or not it’s a simple abduction or not this could mean war between the Courts.
  • Some of this story is about Cerise (Indigo’s birthqueen). She must try to figure a diplomatic way out of the problem Indigo has caused. I like the cunning and intelligence she shows.
  • Indigo is also very strong and intelligent. She realizes what she wants and goes after it.
  • Cloud isn’t the usual shrinking violet that consorts are.
  • My favorite part: Stone is a child during the story!

The book also has a short story, a prequel and appendices:

“The Forest Boy”

  • Moon as a boy wandering the Three Worlds after he is orphaned. Shows that he never was able to fit in anywhere.

A Prequel to The Cloud Roads

  • The story of Chime’s change from mentor to warrior.

Appendices.

  • Appendix I provides names and information about the members of the different Courts.
  • Appendix II tells about the two breeds of Raksura and the castes in each group.
  • Appendix III explains about the Fell (who are mentioned very little in these stories, but are very important in the three novels).

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I really enjoyed these stories. So much fun to read the two novellas. My favorite is “The Tale of Indigo and Cloud.”

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Books of the Raksura series, Star Wars: Razor’s Edge, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as short stories, nonfiction, and YA fantasy. Her books have been published in seven languages.
  • Her first novel, The Element of Fire, was published by Tor in hardcover in July 1993 and was a finalist for the 1993 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award and a runner-up for the 1994 Crawford Award. The French edition, Le feu primordial, was a 2003 Imaginales Award nominee.

Reading Challenges

Dark Ascension by M. L. Brennan

dark-ascension-by-ML-BrennanDark Ascension
by M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #4
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Setting: New England–mainly Rhode Island
Published by Roc, 2015
E-book, purchased
308 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: After a lifetime of avoiding his family, Fort has discovered that working for them isn’t half bad—even if his mother, Madeline, is a terrifying, murderous vampire. His new found career has given him a purpose and a paycheck and has even helped him get his partner, foxy kitsune Suzume, to agree to be his girlfriend. All in all, things are looking up.

Only, just as Fort is getting comfortable managing a supernatural empire that stretches from New Jersey to Ontario, Madeline’s health starts failing, throwing Fort into the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous battle for succession. His older sister, Prudence, is determined to take over the territory. But Fort isn’t the only one wary of her sociopathic tendencies, and allies, old and new, are turning to him to keep Prudence from gaining power.

Now, as Fort fights against his impending transition into vampire adulthood, he must also battle to keep Prudence from destroying their mother’s kingdom—before she takes him down with it….

“That’s different,” she noted. “That’s us being our own buddy cop movie, and it’s awesome. I mean, jeez, I got to punch a seal in the face. That was basically a lifetime achievement unlocked right there….”

and

I’d never exactly wanted a reputation–frankly, I’d spent most of my life just trying to fade into the background of almost every situation I was in–but I’d apparently, despite my best efforts, secured one for myself. Fortitude Scott–Holy Shit, We’re Glad You’re Not Your Sister.

Cheers

  • Has quickly become one of my favorite series! One of my most anticipated books this year.
  • The title Dark Ascension hints at the events which happen during this book. That, along with earlier books gives some ideas about what the book is about. I like that anticipation before I even start!
  • I started out savoring the first half of the book and then racing through the second half! Have I mentioned I love this series?
  • I love that Fort tries to stay true to his beliefs even through difficult times and as heads ever closer to vampire adulthood.
  • Fort has to make hard choices and in some cases there just aren’t any “good” choices.
  • I love Fort and Suzume. Great characters and I like how they’ve changed since the first book. Their interactions with each other and their care for each other are highlights in this book.
  • Suzume continues with her kitsune awesomeness!
  • Fort’s brother and sister–Chivalry and Prudence–are interesting characters. Each is a vampire, but they’ve chosen different paths to deal with that.
  • The way Fort’s mother tries to have Prudence, Chivalry and Fort work together is interesting, funny and irritating for the three of them.

Jeers

  • I’m not sure how Fort can realistically hold onto his ideals. But this whole series is about his growth into adulthood. So we’ll see how he handles that.
  • Is there a future for Suzume and Fort?

And a few thoughts . . .

  • So much happens and changes in this book. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
  • I didn’t see anything about when another book will come out in this series–I hope it’s in the next year.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • M. L. Brennan lives in Connecticut with her husband and three cats. Holding a master’s degree in fiction, she teaches basic composition to college students. After spending years writing and publishing short work in other genres, Brennan decided to branch out and write the kind of book that she loved to read, resulting in the Generation V novels (Tainted BloodIron Night, and Generation V).

Reading Challenges

Review: The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

the-ghost-brigadesThe Ghost Brigades
by John Scalzi
Series: Old Man’s War #2
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Published by Tor Books, 2007
E-book, purchased
356 pages
Grade: A
Synopsis: The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

For the universe is a dangerous place for humanity – and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF most find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers – a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, whose brain is uniquely able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given over to the Ghost Brigades.

Jared begins as one of these perfect soldiers, but as memories begin to surface, he begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal.

As Jared desperately hunts for his “father”, he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: the alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat.

Not for the first time, Cainen reflected that evolution didn’t do this particular species any great favors, physically speaking.

It just made them aggressive, dangerous and damned hard to scrape off a planet surface. A problem, that.

. . .

“Fucking humans,” he said.

and

…to the extent that Special Forces had any reputation at all beyond its military prowess, it was that its members were profoundly lacking in tact and patience. Being three-year-old killing machines didn’t leave much time for social graces.

Cheers

  • I like how this book starts out from an alien’s point of view.
  • Oh, I like this series! The world Scalzi has created is interesting, detailed and dangerous to humans.
  • Humans have made it off Earth and have colonized a number of planets, but they’ve had to fight for every scrap. The universe is full of other races and they don’t really like humans.
  • John Perry who was the protagonist in the first book isn’t in this book and I missed him, but Jane Sagan whom we met briefly in the first book is in this book as well as a great cast of other characters.
  • I really like the way Scalzi shows the human response to the threat humans face: Taking older humans off Earth to re-make them into young, green bodies to fight wars is inspired. And to create special forces from the DNA of the dead and then have them born adults who very quickly become fighting and killing machines even though they would be considered babies by the “Realborn” as the Ghost Brigades call the humans actually born as babies.
  • The way the Ghost Brigades–special forces–are created is very interesting. It’s interesting to read about their creation, training, thoughts and purpose.
  • The Ghost Brigades and other humans must figure out why one of their scientists faked his own death and now is helping the enemy. What made him turn into a traitor?
  • I like that they give the special forces the last names of famous scientists.
  • This book (especially the early part) explores what it means to be human. Reminds me of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • This is science fiction which explores ideas, but is also very human and entertaining.

Jeers

  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I began reading John Scalzi’s books in 2014 and since then he has become one of my favorite authors.
  • I’ve already read the third book in the series and hope to read the fourth book soon!

Awards

  • Prometheus Award for Best Novel ( Nominee 2007)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (From Wikipedia): John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author, online writer, and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, at which he has written frequently on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several prominent charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, and writing, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading Challenges

Review: The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca

the-thorn-of-dentonhillThe Thorn of Dentonhill
by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Series: Maradaine #1
Genre: Fantasy
Setting: Archduchy of Maradaine
Published by DAW, 2015
E-book, purchased
400 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.

With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle.  Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.

So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.

Veranix took a bite. It was good. Not perfect–too much mustard, not enough pepper–but it was quite good. Almost how his mother would make it.

Almost, but not quite right at all.

Quietly, he kept eating, every bite delicious. Every bite wrong. Every bite driving home the inevitable point that had never crossed his mind before.

He would never eat his mother’s Chickin Thalin again.

Cheers

  • It took me a month to read this book. I had a hard time getting into it. But it did get better for me by the end.
  • This isn’t my favorite book of the year, but it does have a lot of strengths.
  • I don’t think it is the fault of this book so much as me. I could see where this book was going…that Veranix is going to have a confrontation with Fenmere. Fenmere is a scary bad guy. There’s not much that he won’t do. So I didn’t want him to get his hands on Veranix. Also as I say in the “Jeers” Veranix keeps going into danger without thinking it through.
  • I understand why Veranix is intent on putting Fenmere out of business…especially the drug running business.
  • There’s a lot of Robin Hood or Zorro in this book–Veranix gives any money he gets from the criminals to charity and tries to help people.
  • The world building is really good.  The world is complex and interesting and gives lots of opportunities for stories.

Jeers

  • Veranix Calbert annoyed me at times. He kept rushing into things without thinking them through–and that goes badly for him lots of times.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I have the second book set in this world. It’s not a sequel to this book. Instead A Murder of Mages is the first book in the Maradaine Constabulary series. I think I might like this book better since I didn’t really connect with Veranix.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Marshall Ryan Maresca is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages, both released by DAW Books in 2015.  He grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef.

Reading Challenges

TBR Review: Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

tea-with-the-black-dragonTea with the Black Dragon
by R.A. MacAvoy
Series: Black Dragon #1
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Setting: San Francisco
Published by Open Road Media Sci-Fi and Fantasy, 2014 (originally published 1984)
E-book, purchased
162 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Martha Macnamara knows that her daughter Elizabeth is in trouble, she just doesn’t know what kind. Mysterious phone calls from San Francisco at odd hours of the night are the only contact she has had with Elizabeth for years. Now, Elizabeth has sent her a plane ticket and reserved a room for her at San Francisco’s most luxurious hotel. Yet she has not tried to contact Martha since she arrived, leaving her lonely, confused and a little bit worried. Into the story steps Mayland Long, a distinguished-looking and wealthy Chinese man who lives at the hotel and is drawn to Martha’s good nature and ability to pinpoint the truth of a matter. Mayland and Martha become close in a short period of time and he promises to help her find Elizabeth, making small inroads in the mystery before Martha herself disappears. Now Mayland is struck by the realization, too late, that he is in love with Martha, and now he fears for her life. Determined to find her, he sets his prodigious philosopher’s mind to work on the problem, embarking on a potentially dangerous adventure.

She wished she had brought her fiddle. How invigorating to sit down next to the pretzel vendor and play a Bach passacaglia, or maybe a slip jig. Put out the hat. Liz would hate that! Liz behaved with propriety.

and

“Everyone wants to be a wizard. Every engineer, that is. Goes with unicorns and dragons: but with technical people it’s particularly wizards–a secret fantasy that lies behind all the pin diagrams. It’s really silly, don’t you know? Wizards! But engineers can be really naive about themselves; they think because they can design a pc board and it’s right and it works, that everything they do or believe is going to be just that right.”

Cheers

  • Martha comes to San Francisco to see her daughter after her daughter Elizabeth asks for help. Martha and Elizabeth aren’t close (Elizabeth doesn’t approve of her mother) so Martha wants to help her, see more of her, but her daughter has disappeared when she arrives in San Francisco.
  • Elizabeth (Liz) is an engineer, very intelligent and she wants to be a power player. So she gets in over her head.
  • This book contains quite a bit about computers which was fun to read about especially since the book was written so long ago (1984).
  • I like that the two main characters are older. Both Mayland and Martha are interesting and fun characters. (I kept calling Mayland “Maryland” in my head–since I live in Maryland that’s what my brain kept trying to tell me…lol)
  • Martha is a free spirit. She’s a happy person though in this book she’s worried about her daughter. She loves music and poetry and isn’t afraid to sleep on someone’s floor.
  • Mayland is something of a philosopher. He has spent years seeking “Truth.”
  • This book has some fantasy elements as well as mystery elements. To me it’s more mystery than fantasy, but it was classified as a fantasy. That is the genre the awards and nominations are from.
  • I like that I could read the book in a day since it’s quite short–Goodreads shows the page count anywhere from 128 to 166 pages. The book felt complete and didn’t need more words!
  • I like that Martha plays the violin. She trained classically, but stopped playing when she had a child. Now she plays a fiddle in an Irish-American band.
  • This is a nice, uncomplicated book. Even though there’s fantasy and mystery and action and Liz is missing, then Martha disappears it’s still mostly a book about Martha and Mayland meeting and falling in love. The computers, mystery, fantasy and action are all fun, but they’re there so the two main characters can get to know each other.

Jeers

  • I would like to know more about Mayland and black dragons.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I hadn’t heard of Ms. MacAvoy before coming across this book a couple of years ago. I hope to read the second book she wrote in this series.

Awards

  • Locus Award for Best First Novel (1984)
  • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (1984)
  • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1984)
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (1984)
  • Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (1984)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Roberta Ann (R. A.) MacAvoy is a fantasy and science fiction author in the United States. Several of her books draw on Celtic or Taoist themes. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1984. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended Case Western Reserve University and received a B.A. in 1971. She worked from 1975 to 1978 as an assistant to the financial aid officer of Columbia College of Columbia University and from 1978 to 1982 as a computer programmer at SRI International before turning to full-time writing in 1982. She married Ronald Allen Cain in 1978. (from Wikipedia)

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • COYER Scavenger Hunt–hosted by Fantasy is More Fun, Because Reading, and Books, Movies, Reviews.Oh My!
  • COYER–The Scavenger Hunt–#34, Read a book with BLACK in the title (3 pts)
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Challenge–hosted by Wendy @ The Misadventures of Super Librarian (Impulse Read (The book you bought because of the cover or The book you bought on impulse–I bought it because of the title!)
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (A book you can finish in a day)

Review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

the-cruelest-monthThe Cruelest Month
by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Setting: Quebec, Canada
Published by Minotaur Books, 2008
E-book, purchased
311 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a seance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil — until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the SQ (Sûreté du Québec) is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

She pointed to the eggs.

“Since when do rabbits have eggs?’ Ruth persisted, looking at the bewildered villagers. ‘Never thought of that, eh? Where did it get them? Presumably from chocolate chickens. The bunny must have stolen the eggs from candy chickens who’re searching for their babies. Frantic.”

and

“I prefer T. S. Eliot. The cruellest month.”

“Why do you say that?”

“All those spring flowers slaughtered. Happens almost every year. They’re tricked into blooming, into coming out, opening up. And not just the spring bulbs, but the buds on the trees. The rose bushes, everything. All out and happy. And then boom, a freak snowstorm kills them all.”

Gamache had the feeling they weren’t talking about flowers any more.

….

He reflected on T. S. Eliot and thought the poet had called April the cruellest month not because it killed flowers and buds on the trees, but because sometimes it didn’t. How difficult it was for those who didn’t bloom when all about was new life and hope.

Cheers

  • One of my favorite mystery series.
  • Ruth Zardo, the curmudgeonly poet, continues to be one of my favorite characters in this series.
  • I really like Clara, but I’m not sure what to think about Peter. He seems very jealous.
  • I like that the characters all have their weaknesses and strengths.
  • The idea that the cruelest month is April–is it because one moment it’s sunny and warm and the next it might snow and kill all the new growth? Or is it because some don’t bloom because they’re afraid to?
  • Chief Inspector Gamache is such an interesting investigator. He has such a profound belief in right and wrong and what justice is. He talks and listens to people, to what they’re really saying and thinking. To so many his methods seem foolish, but he gets results.
  • Gamache’s second-in-command, Beauvoir respects and loves Gamache, but he doesn’t always understand him.
  • The fallout from the Arnot case (which happened before this series started) continues to plague Gamache. Though it does seem to end in this book…maybe.
  • In these books it feels like the journey is more important than the result. And I do enjoy the journey!

Jeers

  • I thought the séance at the Hadley House was stupid for these people to do. Kind of like a horror movie where you know the characters are going to go into the basement . . . .

And a few thoughts . . .

  • So glad I’m reading this series. Really enjoying Chief Inspector Gamache and his team and the village of Three Pines. Though for such an idyllic village it has a high murder rate!
  • I read the fourth book first so now I’m ready to go to the fifth book which I already own!

Awards

  • Agatha Award for Best Novel (2008)
  • Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2009)
  • Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
  • Arthur Ellis Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Louise Penny is the author of the Inspector Armand Gamache series. The first book was published in 2005 and a new book, the eleventh in the series, is due out at the end of August 2015. She lives in Canada in a small village south of Montreal with her husband and a golden retriever.
  • I was excited to see she is going to be in Washington, DC during her book tour, but when I checked I discovered that it’s already sold out! I’m sad not to get to go to this, but also am happy for her that she is popular and successful.

Reading Challenges

Review: Disturbed Earth by E.E. Richardson

disturbed-earthDisturbed Earth
by E.E. Richardson
Series: Ritual Crimes Unit #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy (police procedural)
Setting: An alternate North Yorkshire, England
Published by Abbadon, 2015
E-book, purchased
256 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: A hard-nosed career officer in the male-dominated world of British policing, DCI Claire Pierce of North Yorkshire Police heads Northern England’s underfunded and understaffed Ritual Crime Unit. Injured in the line of duty, Pierce returns to work to find her new Detective Inspector has brought in a self-proclaimed necromancer to question the victim of a murder, there’s a coven of druids outside protesting the sale of their sacred site, and an old iron lantern in the evidence room has just sent out a signal.

Pierce is going to have to hit the ground running. A suspected ritual murder and a string of puzzling artefact thefts initially seem unconnected, but signs point to something bigger: buried skulls possessed by evil spirits start turning up, and they may only be the beginning. Someone is planning something big, and the consequences if they succeed could be catastrophic. With a rebellious second-in-command, an inexperienced team, and a boss who only cares about potential bad publicity, Pierce has to make the connections and stop the ritual before it’s too late…

The problem with being married to your work was that eventually there came a point when you had to get a messy divorce. Pierce grimaced as she climbed the stairs up to the RCU. She might be out of shape from her time off, but at almost fifty-five, there was a limit to the shape she could get back into.

and

Even in these twenty-first century days of global information networks, magic was still too difficult to reproduce and too deeply surrounded by fakery and bullshit to have more than a trial-and-error approach to understanding what it could do. The only training they could give their people was to toss them in at the deep end and hope they either swam or clawed their way out without drowning.

Cheers

  • The first in this series was a novella so this is the first full length novel.
  • I like the series. It’s a combination of a gritty police procedural in a fantasy world of necromancers, ritual murders, druids, magic and more.
  • These books remind me a little of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch which also combines police procedural with urban fantasy. I think these books are darker though.
  • I like DCI Pierce. She’s a little older than most protagonists, sometimes grumpy, quite cynical. But she’s portrayed realistically. She’s not the fastest or toughest, but she doesn’t give up. She feels all the aches and pains an older body feels when that body gets knocked down or is in a fight! She is just getting back after having been stabbed in the shoulder in her last major case.
  • The Ritual Crimes Unit (RCU) is perennially underfunded and undermanned.
  • After their last case the RCU had two people seriously injured and one killed.
  • DCI Pierce returns from sick leave and she has a new boss (the old boss supposedly retired), plus three new members of her team. And she’s not sure after the last case (which ended in disaster for her team) who she can trust anymore.
  • The world building is interesting, because the magic system the world is dealing with is quite mysterious. The author doesn’t give much background into whether magic has always been in this world or if it’s a new thing. That doesn’t really matter to me. The book tells us what we need to know and we know about as much as the police.
  • Some of the people in the book are scary; the things they do are scary; the things DCI Pierce thinks might have happened are scary. All in all I didn’t read this book at night–even with my husband home…lol.

Jeers

  • I thought DCI Pierce should have figured out some things quicker.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m hoping there will be more in this series. There’s not much information about the author and nothing I could find about future books.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • E.E Richardson is a twenty-two year old cybernetics graduate who now lives as a recluse.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • COYER Scavenger Hunt–hosted by Fantasy is More Fun, Because Reading, and Books, Movies, Reviews.Oh My!
  • COYER–The Scavenger Hunt–#40, Read a book featuring a strong female protagonist  (3 pts)
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book that scares you)