Faulty Bones – J M Fraser Review

Destined love thwarted by a supernatural con game.

Two bankrupt card players, lured by black magic and a casino-chip counterfeiting scam, get lost within the folds of a world no longer true.

Faulty Bones follows the journey of Mike and Amy–a couple of restless drifters who misdirect their anchors to the shifty part of town. Can they overcome her gambling addiction and his tenuous grasp of reality to find their way back on the grid? A pair of scheming mobsters, a demonic con man, and a series of ripples in the sands of time won’t make the going easy.

Nothing proves to be as it seems in this novel, and that’s the essence of a good scam. Are you a clever enough detective to guess the secrets before they’re revealed?

Why did I pick this up?: Casinos, gambling, demons. Need I say more? It sounded like a really great fantasy style read.

Good points: Well, once again this was a book with an interesting premise. Time travel, a noir fiction side, and poker! The story has plenty of humour and a fun-loving side, too!

Quibbles: The first few chapters were just plain confusing. I know what the author was trying to do (write one narrative going backwards and the other going forwards), but it didn’t work for me. It’s a very difficult thing to do and they didn’t pull it off. The romance felt odd, to me, and the story crawled until about half way through, when it finally got going a little.

Overall (TL;DR): It’s a good book in a lot of ways, but you really have to stick with it and persevere through the confusing and slow beginning.

-K Hart

Heartborn – Terry Maggert Review

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Why did I pick this up?: It had a gorgeous cover. Honestly, this is the main reason. That and the tagline ‘her guardian angel was pushed’. It sounded interesting.

Good points: Okay, so I really liked the character Dozer, I thought he was funny and relatable and loved him.

Quibbles: Everyone else bored me. There were so many tropes, there was so much insta-love nonsense, there was just… it really wasn’t for me. Even the bit in the clouds, with the angels, which for some people redeemed the whole book, just wasn’t of interest to me. I genuinely almost did not finish this book simply because it bored me. It had a good idea going, but it didn’t make it.

Overview (TL;DR): Almost DNF. Bored to tears.

-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?

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic – Emily Croy Barker Review

An imaginative story of a woman caught in an alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Nora is a graduate student in her thirties kidnapped from our world, where her boyfriend has just left her for another woman, and brought to a world of balls and parties. There, she seems intended for the beautiful Ilissa’s son, Raclin, who is equally handsome and charming. Here, you can begin to see some of the Pride and Prejudice elements. And it’s true, that the society she becomes a part of has many of the values of Austen’s. It’s also true that the book features as part of the story. But there the resemblance ends. Only relatively short amount of time is spent in this Austen-esque creation before the ‘darker’ existence mentioned in the book’s blurb strikes. The rest is spent with the magician, Arundiel, who is apparently Mr Darcy-esque.

I didn’t see it. Although there were comparisons between the moody magician who reluctantly tutors Nora and the moody Mr Darcy, but they are few and far between. And as for the Magicians comparisons, I don’t see them. Yes, she learns magic, and yes, there is a certain group of books, with disillusioned protagonists introduced to a magical world, which both books belong to, but that’s where the similarity ends. I adored the Magicians. I… finished reading this. And I don’t think I’ll be reading the next one.

I will say a few things for it. The writing style was good. But the character development was nowhere near enough for 600 pages of writing, and the same with the plot. Perhaps this could have worked a lot better in a shorter book. The main focus seemed to be on the attempts at romance, which of course anyone knows is a no-go for me. There simply wasn’t enough to keep me interested. And large amounts of plot seemed to be jammed into the end of the book when they could have been further spread out.

Maybe if you like the romance side, there would be a lot more to this book. But for now… it’s not for me.

-K Hart

Soulless – Gail Carriger Review

Progress on Alternate: Well, I’m taking part in PitchWars… anyone on my Twitter may have noticed…

Current Review:

This is an odd one for me to talk about, because I REALLY LIKE Gail Carriger’s work in general. I just shouldn’t. There’s a high level of… shall we say, romantic entanglement in her work that often makes me uncomfortable. No one’s fault, it just is. In fact, the story itself is part romance so OF COURSE it should be expected. I’m just not entirely settled with reading such descriptions, however politely worded they are.

But something in them makes up for it. There’s such wit. And of course, dandies. Give me all of the dandies, all of the time. I love the strong female lead, the sarcasm, even the irritated Scottish werewolf. I love how she’s taken one of the periods of history that, as much as I adore it, is OFTEN used and spoken about, and given it a new twist. Not to mention how her world, in which the supernatural mingles with the known world, is so well-constructed. Give me vampires out in the open. I love that. Polite, organised vampires and werewolves transforming in the streets. Why not? Not to mention the novel begins with Alexia making use of a parasol as a weapon. Parasols are ALWAYS appropriate weapons. I regularly carry one myself, though mine is not really sharp enough to do any damage.

Anyway, I had to talk about it. I think, ignoring my general squeamishness around romance, I would fall completely in love with these books. And perhaps those of you sans that discomfort will do so.

-K Hart

You Better Not Cry – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 55,044 words

Current Review:

I didn’t cry, but it was close. This is a collection of what are basically four little stories, all based around the author’s experience of Christmas. And my favourites were the last two. The one that broke my heart?

It was a story about Christmas with his ex. And it wasn’t that it was sad, though it was. It wasn’t that George had AIDs. It wasn’t that there was medication on the counter or any of those things. It was because of the way Augusten Burroughs talked about this man. This man that he loved. To the point where I almost felt I was falling in love with him too.

I don’t read this book often. Out of all of Burroughs’ books, I probably read this the least. But that one story just…

I feel like I care about this man, though I never have and never will meet him. And that’s what beautiful writing does. There was so much feeling, so much life in this that I don’t even have words for it. THAT’S what I love.

-K Hart

Jane Austen’s Emma, and Reading What You Love

Progress on Alternate: 29,020

So hey, this isn’t so much a review. The book I’ve just finished reading is Jane Austen’s Emma, and to be quite frank I’ve been trying to get myself to enjoy Austen for a long time. To understand the appeal of her as a writer. I know many people who adore her novels, but no matter how many times I read them I feel they’re not quite for me.

The book has its good points. We get to watch as our heroine tragically misinterprets event after event, and get a snapshot of the era from the book. However to me it’s so much about intrigue, about socialising, about who desires whom, that I just can’t bring myself to get so excited.

And it just made me think about the amount of times these books have been recommended to me as somehow intellectually superior to the sorts of books I so often love. I mean, I am a walking contradiction. I love Byron, Wilde, Swinburne, Baudelaire, some Dickens… I love social commentary like Evelyn Waugh… I love the Beat Generation… Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg. But I also love what a lot of people like to call ‘trash fiction’, and I love my genre fiction. I like Devon Monk, Lev Grossman, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Rothfuss, George R R Martin, Rob Thurman. I love Tamora Pierce, and enjoy Cassandra Clare (something that often surprises people).

The point is, I CAN love all of those. I don’t have to like Austen to be a wonderful literary reader, I can like what I like. I won’t stop trying to see the beauty in the things other people like, or even reading them, but there is such meaning and purpose in genre fiction that I firmly believe that those who like it are just the same as those who like reading other works… and often, people like me like both!

People read about things that strike a chord with them. I read things that speak to the human emotion in me, or things that simply take me to another world. I read about magic and wonder, about worlds within this one that I can never experience. I read about things that will take me away from this world. But I also read a lot about mental illness. About addiction. About pain. About lives that hurt and wound the owner. About people who think differently, about people learning to deal with that. I read about sarcastic heroes and heroines, morally-grey anti-hero types, people who feel like outsiders, odd or unusual. I read real life stories, that speak to my heart. And I think everyone should take that stance. Read whatever it is that speaks to something in you. Whether that something is a need to escape, or a feeling you’re having right then and there. Words have power. Let them work their magic.

-K Hart

The Demon’s Surrender – Sarah Rees Brennan Review

Progress on Alternate: 27,153 words

Current Review: Okay, so this is the last book in the series, and I already reviewed the first two. Hooray, actually managing to review the whole series for once. My next step on my bookshelves is actually, as predicted last time, a classic, so it will be interesting to address that, rather than specifically review it, in my next post. And given that it’s Austen, I might have some fun things to say.

ANYWAY, for this novel…

Again, I found the romantic focus of this book more than my hardened heart could take, but beyond that the story was good. Sarah Rees Brennan managed to keep that sense of adventure, and otherworldliness about this novel.

I also didn’t mention in previous reviews of the other books in this series that I actually adore the Goblin Market. Those sorts of things, magical worlds, market stalls, the idea that there is a magical undercurrent to the world, will always be something that draws me in. Not to mention the dances and earlier on, references to the maenads. Yes! Bring me the Greek references!

I like that this book gave us a chance to see things through Sin’s eyes, and admired her as a character. And as much as my heart is hard, I did find myself rooting for all of the relationships in this book to succeed. So you know, maybe I’m not such a stubborn old thing after all.

Overall, I love the way Sarah Rees Brennan created her world here, what she did with it, and how she managed to use that to develop her characters. And I think she ended it here in just the right place. There was a very clear, very structured and logical plot that I honestly wish I could keep up in my own writing. Maybe I need to ask her for tips!

-K Hart

The Demon’s Covenant – Sarah Rees Brennan Review

Progress on Alternate: 24,065 words

Current book review:

Well, this book loses some of what the first had. There’s a lot more romance, for one, which usually puts me off a book in general. But it wasn’t too bad. I liked a lot of the premise, the adventure… could have done without the need for people taking their shirts off and such. So sue me. I have a cold, hard heart when it comes to my fantasy.

Anyway, it kept at least the snark and the tone that I loved, with some excellent one-liners throughout. Also, rather noticeably for me, we had the luck to have a badass mother character. In YA! That’s like seeing a polar bear on a beach. I always appreciate when children’s and teenagers’ books show parents as something other than ‘the enemy’ or ‘ridiculously oblivious and/or stupid’. I know it’s something we do to subvert the idea that the children are not capable of their own adventures… but I like seeing a parent who shows a very warm, very adventurous side of their own. Not all adults are terrible and boring. I should know, I am one.

Beyond that, I really liked the idea of Nick learning how to be more human in his responses. That really struck a chord in me somewhere personal, and it was very well done. And so much of this story was betrayal and love and complex understandings of other people that I found I really appreciated those moments.

So, overall I did enjoy it. As a personal point I could have done with less kissing and more doing stuff, but I also recognise that some people CAME for the kissing. And hey, Sarah Rees Brennan redeems herself by managing to address much of that problem, and keeping it sarcastic and dry rather than becoming super soppy or… even worse, descriptive… Good for her. But you know, I think I need to read some nice, non-romantic things after this series… (except I think the thing on my shelf after this series is very possibly an old classic, which may result in me reading several descriptions of swooning *sigh*… I suppose I can’t have everything).

-K Hart