Inspector Hobbes and the Bones – Wilkie Martin Review

There’s going to be trouble. Andy Caplet’s wife goes away, someone is out to get him, and he loses nearly everything in a storm. Amazing both himself and his unhuman friend Inspector Hobbes, he heroically rescues flood victims and uncovers something shocking.
Is Andy being set up for blackmail by the apparently charming young woman who attempts to seduce him, or is something even more sinister afoot? Hobbes certainly believes so, and he’s getting worried.

Why did I pick this up?: Truthfully, I kept seeing it, it had an intriguing cover and it was in my sort of genre. When something seems to show up all over the place, sometimes I pick it up just because I need something to read.

Good points: A take on Sherlock Holmes with some ‘unhuman’ elements, sure, count me in. The daft puns had me laughing a few times (I like bad puns, okay, so sue me), and I quite liked Hobbes as a character. The more ‘unhuman’ characters we came across, the more intrigued I was by the world and the setting. I wanted to know more about the world, but not necessarily the characters. Which brings me to…

Quibbles: It sort of feels like it’s been done. I know that sounds awful, but I read a lot of things like urban fantasy, detective stories, mysteries… and it’s very difficult to come up with something new and unique in that genre. Especially with your own take on Sherlock Holmes. It just didn’t do it.

Overview (TL;DR): It was a nice read, but nothing to write home about. Some bad (good) puns, and sadly nothing that stood out as a wow factor.

-K Hart

 

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Keeper of the Dawn – Dianna Gunn Review

Sometimes failure is just the beginning

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Why did I pick this up?: There was a call on Twitter for people to read an ARC of this, especially bloggers who are on the aromantic or the asexual spectrum (or both, like me!). I jumped in and ta dah! ARC.

Good points: This is a cute little story, nicely written, reminiscent of the likes of Tamora Pierce and that vein. Perfect for me, of course, since I love Tamora Pierce. There was nicely done asexual representation that may even have been aromantic as well, although the words were never used. I loved that there was a discussion between the characters about boundaries and what they wanted. Also, cute female/female relationship, yes please!

Quibbles: Few, really. I think perhaps the story could have been expanded further, but then, I’m not used to reading novellas, so that could be the novel reader in me talking. Other than that, nothing. It was an interesting read that I managed in the space of a few hours.

Overview (TL;DR): A nice, quick fantasy read with some asexual and same-sex relationship rep. What more could a girl want?

-K Hart

Deviations – Anma Natsu Review

Not all love triangles require choosing between two sides…

For seventeen-year-old Miho, the long war with her own mind is becoming too much to bear. Between the unending nightmares, PTSD, depression, and isolation, the mental skirmishes never end. Those sweet whispers of the dark wisps promise freedom from the pain, and it’s getting harder to say no.

When she witnesses a tragic accident, she catches the interest of her classmates Taka and Shinji, two boys with reputations for being casual playboys. But they let Miho see what no one else bothers to notice, like the regular abuse Shinji hides behind a sweet smile and easy-going laugh and Taka’s barely leashed rage and frustration over his inability to protect his best friend or even control his own destiny.

What starts as a hesitant friendship becomes a deep connection the three can’t ignore, but do they dare dream of happiness when the world around them seems bent on destroying them?

Why did I pick this up?: Mental health representation, positive representation of alternative relationships? Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

Good points: I really, honestly and truly loved this book at first. The characters are well-written, there’s some great mental health rep, and I could see this really beautiful relationship forming between the characters that kept me wanting to read on. I even spoke about it to friends when I was about half-way through to say how awesome it was and how excited I was to see polyamory representation.

Quibbles: Here’s where I start worrying. The moment I realise the title, ‘deviations’ is not just a casual title but a name that the characters refer to themselves as (‘deviants’), and a theme throughout the second half of the book. I won’t give away any details but I do like how it ended, I just… that word makes me really uncomfortable. Polyamory isn’t ‘deviant’. It’s just a relationship like any other. And for someone who, as far as I know is neither Japanese nor necessarily polyamorous to write about polyamory in Japanese society… it’s very difficult not to trip up. And I think calling polyamorous people ‘deviants’, no matter how it’s done, is a way of doing that. I also found that there were some very graphic sex scenes later on that may not be a turn off for some, but are for me! Not to mention some scenes that talked about the guys wanting to ‘force themselves’ on Miho, something I am SUPER uncomfortable with.

Overview (TL;DR): The book is really well written, but made me uncomfortable because the otherwise good representation was made darker by characters references to themselves as ‘deviant’ and some very sexual scenes.

-K Hart

Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho Review

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—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…

Why did I pick this up?: Honestly, I picked it up because I KEPT hearing about it. So often that I eventually caved and thought ‘why not just buy it and see?’

Good points: Okay, there is this gorgeous idea within it where characters use clouds as transportation. I LOVE THAT. I also love Prunella, and Rollo, who are great characters with huge potential.

Quibbles: I haven’t got that many, but yet again this was a book I was reading that was very slow to start. It reads a little like Austen, as several people have said, and this sort of thing often puts me off. However this time it didn’t. I’d say it was a steady 4/5. It also reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I love, so there was always going to be at least some positive points there.

Overview (TL;DR): Super short review, but… it was a good book, nothing to scream and rave about for me, but definitely worth picking up.

-K Hart

Grey Magic – J T Lawrence Review

No one appreciates the irony of her situation more than Raven Kane: she’s a burnt-out witch. Raven is a hip, hexing-and-texting sorceress – or at least, she used to be. Now her ancient timber house is falling down around her, and the bank wants to repossess it. Nothing would make her cantankerous neighbour happier than seeing Raven and her messy menagerie out on the street. To add to her stress, the reckless Wicked Witches are causing mischief and it’s her job to reign them in. Worst of all is that her magic seems to be fading. Just as everything seems to be too much to handle, there’s a knock on the (splintering) door. A not-unattractive man appears in her life: not to save her, as a fairytale would have you believe, but to arrest her for the murder of one of her clients. It wouldn’t be that bad for Raven, except that she knows she’s guilty.

Why did I pick this up?: The plot sounded intriguing, and a modern take on witchcraft sounded like exactly my sort of thing. I also loved the simplicity of the cover.

Good points: Well, it did what it said on the tin. It was very much a modern witch story, with some great humour throughout.

Quibbles: Honestly, it took me SO LONG to get into and I’m not sure it was worth it. I’ve seen some very good reviews of this book, so maybe it was just me, but I think this book and I were incompatible. It was very nearly a DNF for me. Part of that, I think, was the use of present tense. It took me so long to get over that. I rarely like books in present tense – it has to be really good to grab me, and this one missed the mark, sadly. I loved the theory behind it, and the sense of what the story could have been, but I found the MC’s conversations with herself distracting rather than endearing, and the length of time it took for me to show interest at all was far too long for me.

Overview (TL;DR): Really not for me, which is a shame. To anyone reading this, it might be better for you, and by all means check out other reviews, but not for me.

-K Hart

House of Binding Thorns – Aliette De Bodard Review

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal – to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom – and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear . . .

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength – or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

Why did I pick this up?: Okay, so this one is the second book in a series and I read the first a while back, where it is now sitting on my shelf smugly demanding to be joined by its partner. I picked up the first because Paris, fallen angels, magic, LGBT, dragons, fantasy? You’ve got me there.

Good points: I have to talk about it… Madeleine’s addiction. That was done SO WELL. So well-written, in fact, that I could see bits of people I’ve known within it. (For reference, I used to volunteer in addiction services, so I know where I’m coming from). The relationships between characters were incredible. I won’t give spoilers, but there’s something that happens throughout the book, accumulating right at the end, that is so much a twisted and so easily toxic and dark relationship and I hate it but I love it at the same time. Thuan’s growth throughout is amazing, as is the determination of Phillippe… the ruthlessness of the Hawthorne house… I could talk for hours, but this is supposed to be a short review.

Quibbles: Seriously? I’m struggling hard. All I can say is that it’s very political. Which to me is a good point, but to some of the people who like similar things to me, might get boring. Honestly, though, it was done so well it didn’t matter.

Overall (TL;DR): Do read. Maybe read the first book first (The House of Shattered Wings), but absolutely this book did not disappoint!

-K Hart

Dreams and Shadows – C Robert Cargill Review

There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.

Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate.

Why did I pick this up?: Urban fantasy, a world of faeries close to ours, genies, a darker faery world? Not to mention the gorgeous cover. This book sounded like it was made for me… and spoiler alert, it met expectations!

Good points: This book had an incredible skill and craftsmanship about it. It’s been compared to Gaiman’s work, and I can see why. That underground world of magic fusing seamlessly with our own mundane world, creatures walking amongst us invisible. This book  was everything I wanted from an urban fantasy – it made me believe that maybe, just maybe, it might be real. I loved the dark and the weird: that’s my territory, and this checked all of my boxes.

Quibbles: Honestly, it’s a shame, but it took me a while to really get into it. Starting with the young Colby made me wonder for quite a long time where it was going, and if I’d even like it. I loved the little bits of information we got from the start about the magical world, but the characterisation of young Colby, not so much.

Overall (TL;DR): Please don’t put this down because you’re not sure where it’s going. I promise you, it’s going somewhere great. If you’re willing to come along for the ride, this book will take you to amazing places.

-K Hart

Stolen Ink – Holly Evans Review

I’m Dacian, a tattoo magician, and my life went from my biggest concern being finding a pretty guy to fall into bed with at the end of the week to everything falling apart around me.

There are two problems in my life.

Number one – I’m an ink magician, the thing of myths. A lot of very powerful people would love to get their hands on me, and I have no intention of letting that happen.

Number two – A tattoo thief came to my city, and the magical community has decided that I’m the guy to stop them.

Somehow, I have to catch the thief without letting my secret out of the bag, and that’s even harder than it sounds.

Why did I pick this up?: LGBT+ ink magician? Urban fantasy? OF COURSE I was going to pick this up, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. I got what I came for and more.

Good points:  Isiah! I fell in love with this character from the first moment he appeared. Elves! Magicians! Tattoo magic! Vyx! Potentially asexual representation! Gay characters! Badass vixen hybrids! Snarky sarcasm. This was practically my perfect book. Vyx and Isiah I particularly fell in love with.

Quibbles: I had a panic mid-book thinking that there was going to be a sex scene, but there was all of the lead-up to sex and then a fade to black. THANK YOU SO MUCH HOLLY EVANS. I LOVE fade to black, because it saves me from having to read the gross details. So anyone like me, who moves away from sex automatically, know that this book is mostly safe for you!

Overall (TL:DR): READ IT. I absolutely loved it and have already prodded several friends to read it.

-K Hart

Forests of the Fae – K Kibbee Review

When thirteen-year-old Anne is sent to spend the summer with her dreadful relatives in a small Washington state town, she is left with little hope that anything intriguing will happen to her. However, when she learns of an abandoned town full of old Victorian homes hidden in the woods nearby, she embraces the lore and becomes bolstered by the idea that an adventure might await.

Her sadistic cousin Lexie feeds Anne’s curiosity and leads her to the mysterious town in the woods, where Anne is goaded by her cousin and friends to enter one of the abandoned homes, alone, and is locked inside.

While searching for a way out, Anne stumbles through a hole in the floor and unknowingly falls into an ominous, ghost-filled mystery. As she digs deeper into the secrets of this house, she discovers a weathered journal that reveals a magic-infused history hundreds of years old and a tragic secret: a curse has trapped the town and its inhabitants in a place not meant to be found by humans.

Treacherous fairies, dark worlds-within-our-world, dangerous creatures and a shocking truth all await Anne as page by page, she peels back the mysteries of this chilling town.

I wanted to love this book so much. It sounded fascinating from the description, but in reality it took so long to get into that I almost gave up. Even so, it was around chapter seven or eight before I decided I was interested at all, and I kept reading purely because I have a determination always to finish a book. Give it a full chance. I feel like I wasted a lot of time, to be honest.

I understand that the book’s target audience is a little younger than me, and I honestly feel that they would get bored even quicker. It’s such a shame, because the concept has been done, and done better, but in theory it could have been SO GOOD. It just fell flat for me.

-K Hart

Ensnared – Rita Stradling Review

This is the first review I’ve done as a NetGalley user, so yay! I got a free copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As a result, this is going to have a different set-out from some of my other reviews.

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

Why did I pick this up? A beauty and the beast retelling set in the near future with AI and futuristic technology? Yes please. The cover is gorgeous, and I was completely intrigued by how the old tale could be resurrected into something new.

Good points: SO MANY. This kept me reading until the very last page. I loved Blue, an AI monkey that helps Alainn throughout, and Lorcan, this reclusive, mysterious man locked away in his house who ordered an AI robot to keep him company and eat dinner with him, is someone I instantly fell in love with. Alainn is a great heroine, ass-kicking throughout, with a hidden secret that OF COURSE plays a part in her life later on. I loved Shelly, too, though I’m not sure I was supposed to. This frightened, incredibly brave woman facing her fears and working hard to deal with a world that terrifies her.

Quibbles: As I just said I liked Shelly, I wanted to know what happened to her. I wanted to see Blue, see them all in their future lives, not just Alainn and Lorcan. Also, there were sex scenes in the middle of this book that for me came out of nowhere – eek, mature content! I don’t normally read romance, or like it, but I have to admit I liked this book, even with the mini-freak out I had in the middle because BAM, sex happened.

Overall (TL:DR): Loved it, would buy a copy, but would probably skim the sex scenes, I have to admit. Worth reading just for cute little Blue. Affection for an AI monkey? Why not?