Shades of Magic (2)

4/5A Conjuring of Light.

I really really liked this book. This whole series, actually. Even when it took me waaaaaay to long to actually finish it. I blame it all on this the most unefficient year I had, when it comes to my reading. Only to my reading, though, because work has been crazy busy.

Shades of Magic

But, even when there were quite a few of forced pauses in between my chapters, this book was amazingly grabbing. I loved getting to know Holland, who until now seemed only as a secondary character, especially that last chapter from his point of view. His whole story, though, it was all heartbreaking and enlightening as to why he does a as he does and is as he is.

And I loved even more, getting to know Rhy and the complexities of his relationship with Alucard.

And Alucard, and his messed up family!

And the Queen and her inability to express herself to Kell

And that is all before we even get to the Shadow King and the growing relationship between Kell and Lila., it was honestly a great book. I wil totally recommend this series to anyone who may listen.

So, why only a 4/5? You migh be asking… Well. It was the ending.

No. I’m not trying to say that the conclusion/solution to their problem was anything but great, but I do think that he last chapter… The emotional wrap-up… Felt a bit brushed over. Too fast, too superficial.

After everything the brothers now share, there was no conversation, no reunion, no normal goodbye. And with Lila! When did they agree to leave to follow HER dream of being a pirate? Wasn’t she toying with the idea of settling down? And what happened to Kell’s promise to be by his brother’s side when he became king?! And to Holland’s world? And what I’d the letter to King George say?

Again, too rushed. I wasn’t satisfied.

Bu really that was my only qualm. Beside that, the book was real. The whole series was awesome.

The Shadow Hour

4/5
Ok. Another story that turns out has another sequel.

I’ve read many stories with multiple point of view and there are some pretty awkward and confusing stories out there, but I can honestly say that The Shadow Hour isn’t one of those.

The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey

You get a bit of the drama, with the love triangle of Rowan, Echo and Caius; you also get a bit of the sweet stuff, with Dorian and Jasper and how their relationship blossoms in spite of the war going on; but you also get a bit of comic relief here and there and Ivy with her compassionate view of a world and the people that have done her many wrongs.

It’s  great story, but i’m not sure I liked where it ended. An absolutely not sure abut what to expect on the next one. While I enjoyed this one with its mysteries and budding romances, it felt a bit anti-climatic by the end.

And, honestly! there was too little heard from the Ala. She is one of my favorite characters!

But well… I guess there is no other option but to wait for the next installment and go from there.

NSFW 

4/5

Specimen by Shay Savage

Definitely not appropriate for reading in public, specially if you’re like me and it requires effort and concentration to keep what goes through your head to show on your face.

Specimen by Shay Savage

Specimen by Shay Savage

I did enjoy it, though. Besides the hot and detailed sex descriptions, there is also a good story being told. There are super soldiers, and brain-machine interfaces, mad scientist experimenting with human beings, and all a bunch of stuff that can be considered immoral, but it is not because it happens in a post-disaster world.

It kind of made me think about all the things we would be willing to do to eachother as humans when survival is the immediate goal. I imagine we wouldn’t be so “civilized” then…

I also like the ending of this story. It took a moment to let it settle, but I honestly think it couldn’t have gone any other way. And it wasn’t even that surprising with the pace and direction of the book. It did feel a little sad, though.

But I won’t spoil it for you. Let me just say that it took me back to when I read 1984 by George Orwell. That’s all I’m saying.

Current goal: Cake.

4/5
Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage

As you know, I’m a fan of Shay Savage‘s books. To me, they are like a good scoop of sorbet. Delicious, refreshing and excellent to cleanse my mind from all stories and free it for new stories.

It is not uncommon for me to get stuck on a story. Sometimes, even when I didn’t really enjoy the, that much, little pieces of moments get replayed over and over in my head. Sometimes, I even dream about them for days in a row… And even when that doesn’t happen, I feel like little left over residues of old stories and plots get smeared in my mind everytime I read a new book.

Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage

Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage

But there are these ones… these stories… that take everything else out of my mind as I go trough them. Like washing the blackboard before using it again. Win Some, Lose Some felt like that.

Of course, that is NOT to say that I didn’t enjoy it for itself. This is the only book I have ever read with a main character with autism. I think that makes it special.

Matthew Rohan is a very smart young man, to whom very sad things have happened, but all that on top of his social deficits, are not really what defines all that he is… And I think that’s the main thing we all most always remember. Our differences, be these what they’d be, are not what defines us as people… Our actions do.

But this is not the only reason I liked this book, it is also lovely. The budding relationship between Matthew and Mayra, the bond between siblings that Matthew enjoys with his sister even when they both have their own issues, and even the glimpses we get of all other relationships between many characters… I thought it was all simply lovely.

This was a heartwarming reading, even win the sad and dramatic bits.

But, hey! There’s a reason why I like Shay Savage‘s books so much.

Pleasantly surprised

4/5

Ink Mage by Victor Gischler

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this book, but this was a great story.

There was magic and tattoos, yes… But there was also political maneuvering, gypsies, murdering whores and tragic love stories. There were powerful enemies and allies, and there was a good dose of fighting and gore.

Ink Mage by Victor Gischler

Ink Mage by Victor Gischler

It honestly has everything it needed to be an amazing mindblowingly fantastic book, but it isn’t. I’m not sure I can tell you what’s missing, but I know there’s something lacking.

I think it might have something to do with the details. The strange thing is that there’s so much going on, and so many different points of view… And still I felt like I missed more than one thing and that the important things were being left unsaid.

SPOILER ALERT

For example… We met the commanding officer in charge of pursuing the young Duchess, Rina Veraiin, and while I always appreciate the point of view of the enemy… We never know what he thought of his supposedly hapless quarry after the slaughter at the temple. That would have been an awesome insight.

And then, there was the mysterious third Mage to arri pave from the enemy’s land. We get a small glimpse, meant to build him up as the ultimate opponent. Powerful, knowledgeable and greedy. And then, it took one chapter to see him in action and get rid of him all together. That was a bit anticlimactic.

Like they say… It is all in the little things. There are little things that make this story awesome, like the magic tattoos that can be collected, the loyal friends/subjects that follow and support our main character, the different perspectives from the same conflict that help you see the bigger picture… But it was also the little things that keep this story form being all it could have been.

All this is not to say that I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy. As most books nowadays, this one is part of a series… A Fire Beneath the Skin. It might take me sometime to get the other two books, but I definitely want to know how this story will end. Maybe our cool Duchess will end up with a full-body tattoo!!

Odd one out

4/5

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

This might not have been my favorite among the three books that make the whole series, His Fair Assassin, but it was undoubtedly very good and a fair ending.

Ismae‘s story has much political intrigue, and a sense of  self-discovery and finding your our strength.  She’s manages to find herself and her faith, outside of the boundaries of the into tutor hat has fostered her for years. Unlike that, Sybella‘s story was more about family intrigue and the capacity of depravity mankind can reach, about finding peace and love when you have suffered much. She finds her own capacity for love, honest and devoted faith, and even manages to learn to thrust others.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

This story though, Anneth‘s, felt completely different.

We got a completely different love story, deeper and more complex. And more family drama instead of intrigue… But here was also less action.

This story felt slower.

With Dark Triumph, I couldn’t stop. I simply couldn’t get it out of my head that something dramatic and game changing could happened at any moment, but Mortal Heart had more waiting periods when nothing happened. We even got some implied and not-so-implied time jumps!

I think I’m more a fan of stories that happen quickly with a somewhat fast pace. The times of introspection where Anneth‘s debates what she’s feeling and what could thing possibly mean, drove me a bit crazy… But it all helps to separate clearly and definitely the three girls and their distinct personalities and backgrounds.

One of he things that I definitely loved about this third and last part of the series is the presence of Death as main character. We had had glimpses of him before, when he shows himself to Ismae and the to Sybella. These ARE his daughters after all. His presence has been implied and hinted at. He was a real entity in the background for most of the first two books, but now we got to really know him and understand him. He is more than just a silent shadow, he is almost a man. That was one of my favorite parts in the whole series.

How can I not be totally intrigued and besotted with stories that give flesh, mind and heart to mysterious and incomprehensible ideas as Death itself? Right?

Bereavement 

4/5

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

This is a sequel to Seraphina, and follows a couple of months after the end of the previous book. It was more complex and offered more details about the world in which our main character lives. Not just to her native Goredd, but also the neighboring countries… Their religion, politics and social structures. Even the inner workings of the Tanamoot, or dragon society, that seems to be crumbling in itself.

In that regard, it was a wonderful book. I felt it constructed a whole universe where these characters dwell and where interacting with dragons and Ityasaari (half.-dragons, half-humans) is entirely possible. So many things were explained, from the actions and reactions of people to their believes and motivations.

Shadow Sale by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Sale by Rachel Hartman

We got to know Abdo‘s family, and his gods, Chance and Necessity. Of all the religions I’ve ever read about, this is one that makes the much sense to me. This world, in all its complexity, completely bowled me over. It was wonderful.

On the other had, though, there were many thing that Seraphina did or didn’t that I found frustratingly near-sighted, and while the ultimate fate of Jannoula felt right and appropriate, the actual end of the book felt way too sad.

SPOILER ALERT

Jannoula‘s goal was achieved at the end, she took everything of sentimental value away from Seraphina. She tainted her life goals and chased away her brethren, she killed her friend and took her beloved Uncle Orma from her.

And even when, thanks to her need to fight Jannoula back, she managed to unleash her powers and come to a better and deeper understanding of the world, she never gets to keep the love of her life. Prince Lucian Kiggs ends up marrying Queen Glisselda, even when even the Queen herself seems to be in-love with Seraphina. How messed up is that?!

I think it was all just too sad.

And even worst, she didn’t seem all that heartbroken about it! That is what I found the most perplexing. I can understand about duty and putting the needs of the nation before her own heart’s desires, but she ends up all alone and… I don’t know. It just felt depressing.

Still, it was a great book…  magnificently written.

The Coup D’etat

4/5
Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan

I really, really, really liked this book.

I couldn’t put it away. I even reorganized my whole bedroom, just to have something to do while I listened to this book.

I have to say that I debated with myself, and the only reason Brain on Fire doesn’t get top rating with me is because I’m not sure I could so easily read and re-read this book as much as I sometimes do with other books I love. It is not a light read, mostly because of the subject matter.

Not only does Susannah Cahalan share with us the little she remembers from the period when she mostly lost her mind, and all that -she latter pieced together- happened to her… but she also shared the opinions of her parents, her boyfriend and -most touching- the opinions of others who reached out to her afterwords to share their stories too.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahallan

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahallan

This was not only a moving story, but so damn interesting.

It is somewhat scary to think that so much of who we are depends on the contents and working of the least understood part of our bodies. All those things that can, and sometimes do, go wrong. A virus, a bacteria, a bad hit… or, as this writer experience, even known causes, can blurred or erase who we are. It is disturbing and fascinating at the same time.

I honestly think this is a superbly told story, full of clearly explained medical facts as well and touching emotional perspectives, without feeling sad nor confusing. It even throws in a few somewhat uplifting moments.

One of the things I liked the most was her explanation about how the human immune system works. these might not have been her words, but I was left with the idea that it resembles our emergency services. It has an immediate response team, like paramedics or police officers, that have standardized protocols to be follow for basically everything. And when that doesn’t work, there are the specialists… like SWAT teams or even Army Special Forces, who come to do the job on a more aggressive and specific way. But then, they are so good that when they turn on you, you are powerless. We usually calle that a Coup d’etat. 

When that happens in your brain, when it is being attacked by those who were supposed to protect him… we, as I learn with this book, call that Autoimmune Encephalitis.

Overall, this was a fantastic book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who cares to listen.

Another one of the things that this book mainly brought to my mind, that I feel is worth sharing, is the importance of Susannah Cahalan‘s parents. It made me thing of how dependent we are on others when we are at our most vulnerable, and how much can one person change the outcomes of your life. If Susannah‘s parents hadn’t insisted and stubbornly followed up on everything that was being done to their daughter, the end of her story might have been completely different. It is a testimony of how much we need these sort of warriors on our corner when thing take a turn for the worst.

I have never experience anything remotely like what this woman goes through, but I would like to think that my parents would go to the mat for me the same way. And I can only hope that, when they are no longer around, I will have someone else to do the same.

If you’re interested on knowing more about this reporter- after all, this is a real life story, and everything on it can be accounted for-, she has her own webpage. Feel free to visit it and learn more about it all.

Responsible pet owner

4/5

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

Who wouldn’t carry their tiny dog in a world-saving mission? I would.

Too bad my dog is not that tiny and I don’t really go on many world-saving missions.

I was looking for something nice and easy, that would give my imagination a work-out without asking too much intellectual input… I think I found it. I’m not saying that this is a book without substance or dumbed down, not at all. But neither does it have many complicated mysteries nor too emotional twists. It is a comfortable read, and a highly entertaining one. I really enjoyed it.

I read the first book on this series several weeks ago, so I appreciate the short and to the point recounts of all the previous facts that this story offers all along the way. It was great in a “don’t get lost” kind of way without being repetitive.

It did remind heavily of A Court of Thornes and Roses, but I’m guessing that’s only because I read that one first (If I pay attention to the publishing dates, I guess it would be the other way around), except I liked this one better.

GraveDance

Both books talk about faes, and Fearie courts and fae royalty, but I guess this female main character didn’t feel that hopeless and never really becomes their toy. I’ve never really enjoyed stories that involve the abuse of those without the ability to defend themselves, and Grave Dance has none of that.

We do get a view into an interesting and complex world, full of diverse being with diverse powers and motivations. You’re never quite sure who you can trust, and that makes everything all the more interesting.

And of course, that was on top of all the crime fighting and mystery-killer chasing! There was even some mythical creatures and love triangles.

Now, I have claimed many times to hate love triangles, and that’s still true, but mostly what I hate is the sense of betrayal, or when a story focus too hard on the love interest part of the story… This author does notpne of that.

Yes, there are two guys pursuing one girl that cannot seem to decide between the two… But there’s no deceiving nor cheating. They both know about each other and none of them is pushing the issue. There’s also no long winded monologues about the pains and suffering of being wanted by two handsome guys, on the contrary, they times she mentions it is only to point out how that is not really important or relevant with all the dire things happening around her.

And, of course. Who says she cannot be involved with two guys at one? Specially when none of the three sides of that triangle are really what you would call available?

There are more parts to this books series that I’ll be sure to get to soon.

the Angel of Death

4/5

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The one thought that kept repeating itself in my head: This wold make a great movie.
With all the lame books being made into movies lately, I don’t understand why this one hasn’t been picked up yet. It has it all!

A mysterious warrior lead character? Checked!

An evil and even more mysterious enemy? Checked!

Suspense and excitement? Checked!

Action-packed scenes? Checked! Checked!

Love interest and some non-explicit sex? Checked!

War, death and betrayal? Checked, checked, checked!

I admit that it was not what I was expecting. I thought we would be talking more about paid assassinations and pro-assassin training, but this was more about innocent kids being prepped to die on a holly war without regard for their identity as individuals.

One of those kids is our main character, along with his two friend Vague Henri and Kleist.

I think the anti-hero thing always makes for a good story. You know, the one that’s not sure why he saved the girl and continues to regret it to the end? That’s precisely what we get here.
The few and reluctant acts of kindness Thomas Cale performs are special mostly because they’re unexpected. As much for the reader as for the character himself.
And it is his incomprehensibly good actions and reactions that make you sympathize with him when others try to manipulate him or when he gets finally betrayed by his girl.

“The older I get the more I believe that if love is to be judged by most of its visible effects, it looks more like hatred than friendship”.

At least by the end, we can see he still has friends, loyal ones… even when they are as confused about their friendship’s origin as he is… they don’t abandon him.
One of the things I liked was that it never felt overly depressing even with the descriptions of all the hideous things done to those boys. It never gets too gory, even with the vivisection part and the slaughter/war chapter. And, more importantly to me, it never gets too corny nor too melodramatic even with all the underhanded betrayals and political maneuvering. And I think the reason for this is the running (funny) commentary and (serious) explanations that we get from IdrisPukke and Chancellor Vipond.
The wise elder that have lived through so much that they can get by with telling it as it is, have always been my favorite.
There’s no choice but to read the other two books from this trilogy if we want to know Cale‘s ultimate fate.
Would he put and end to all humankind? After all that has been done to him, can you really blame him is he does?

Focus on the end, not the means.

4/5

Stiff. The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Exactly what I expected it to be, but by no mans less enjoyable.
I imagine a book of this subject, written with no good humor whatsoever, would be absolutely painful to read… But I found the quick and seamless jokes, one of the best parts.
It is just so cleverly written. So funny, and interesting, but still never feels as if the author were taking the subject lightly (in a disrespectful way, that might offend some) while making it lighter (in a subject that be comfortably talked about, at least among some).

[…] a need to make human what otherwise a verges on the godlike: taking live organs from bodies and making them live in another body”

Besides all the interesting facts about the human body no the things we have been known to do with our dead, there were also lots of slightly disturbing facts to be shared. Don’t et me wrong, I’m not squeamish, most of the times… But even I make a face when we start talking bout eating candied human flesh or eating/drinking human feces.

“People were swallowing decayed human cadaver for the treatment of bruises”

All in all, it was a great book (as you can clearly see with my smiley face). Fun, interesting, slightly disturbing and quite enlightening. It made me think as much as it made me laugh… What else can you ask for?
He best part? We got all kinds of things… From organ donations, to whole body donations; body theft, to the disturbing history of surgery; all the way to cremation and human composting…
Seriously, I would be honestly be surprised if there’s anything left to say about human cadavers.

“I’m all for choices, in death as in life”

Magic Eye

4/5

Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

This is a girl who can talk to the dead, see Death himself (or what I think is more like a Reaper) and uses it all to make money sometimes by solving crimes. I has hooked from the beginning.

Alex Craft is the product of a quite dysfunctional family, stubborn and bad-ass. I really liked her. With her intimacy issues and not so sociable personality. It might have much to do, too, with the fact that her fae lover Falin Andrews kept reminding me of Rowan Whitethorn (another fae hottie from a whole different story).

I think this might mean I have a thing for fae males.

And on top of that, there’s a whole mystery to be unraveled -gory clues, police dodging and unknown enemy interference included- that kept me flipping through pages to be able to figure out who did it!

I think my favorite character might have been the ghost side-kick.

“Then let’s kick some body-stealing ass”

Who wouldn’t love a little helper who cannot be seen, can sneak into all kinds of places and cannot tell on you due to his inability to be seen by anyone else but you?!

Besides, watching Roy Pearson annoy the hell out of Alex until he gets what he want, was really fun.

In case you didn’t notice at the top of this post, or haven’t catch up to my new rating system, I would give this book a very smiley face (or a 4 out of 5, for those who deal better with quantifiable things).

There’s a whole series of books based on this Witch PI character, that I might be adding to my library as soon as next month’s book budget comes in.