Category Archives: book reviews

Fire on the Mountain by Jennifer Lawrence

For those not in the know, currently my dog is coming back from some wicked intestinal wretchedness. He is weak, he is unwell, and he is basically on bed rest. He’s also amazing, and in order for me to keep him in bed I have to stay with him, because he thinks I’m amazing, and wants to be with me all the time. To that end, I’m staying in bed with him and reading. Sometimes out loud, to him, because he likes it.

One of the books we read was Jennifer Lawrence’s Fire on the Mountain. I’ve wanted this book since she released it, and I was hoping to get a Kindle edition at some point because acquiring physical books in our limited space is something I try not to do if I can help it. I’m not going to criticize her for not having this out in e-reader friendly formats, because I’ve got my book out in a limited range and that’d be too much like the pot calling the kettle black. I do wish she had Nook and Kindle books available, if only to make getting the books more instantly gratifying for people.

From the blurb: Damiana Gray is bitter – and who wouldn’t be? A folk musician with three popular CDs, a loyal fanbase, a husband and three young daughters, her world was shattered the night her husband was involved in a fatal DUI while she and her children were in the vehicle. But when she finds an unconscious and wounded Fae warrior on her front porch one stormy winter night, she’s forced to use her knowledge to save his life from his brother. Having become familiar with all the old Celtic ballads about the Fae during her musical career, she’s the perfect person for the job. But the accident has left her disfigured, and her vocal cords so damaged that she can no longer sing. Her knowledge means nothing if she’s not the bard she needs to be to save her life and the life of her friends.

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I’ve known about Lawrence’s work for a while, though I’ve only just now gotten around to reading Fire on the Mountain. (I say ‘gotten around to reading it’ but I only bought my copy last week, so it’s not like it was sitting here, wasting away.)

One of the best things about this book was: there was absolutely no ‘new to me author’ break in period — you know the kind you sometimes get when getting accustomed to a newer writer’s voice? I slipped into this story with the ease and familiarity of slipping into the world of a best beloved author. Damiana’s story is tragic, and getting to know her is heartbreaking. She’s lost everything and she is mired still in the thick grief that has become her life. The portrayal of her dealing with chronic pain is extremely realistic, and it was refreshing to see a main character start off on a quest despite limited ability.

This is not a happy, feel-good book. While the familiar trappings of quest motif are clear in this fairy tale, this is gritty and dark and sometimes harsh. There are ups, glorious ups, and there are downs. This is a story that takes life as it comes, and it’s the story of a woman  who has lost everything, only to learn that she still has more to lose, and thus more to fight for, than she realized.

I loved this book, and I cannot wait to read more of Lawrence’s fiction. Fans of Mark Chadborne, Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, and Emma Bull may enjoy this book. Anyone who enjoys first contact stories, the traveling from earth to the otherworlds, mythology or fairy tales in general will enjoy this book. And by enjoy I mean having it play with your heart mercilessly.

You want to buy this book.

Truthseeker by C.E. Murphy — a review

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One of the very first books I bought for my Kindle was C.E. Murphy’s Urban Shaman book. It looked interesting enough, and a coworker was reading another of Murphy’s series at the time, and I love first contact stories. I finished the last book in the Walker Papers a few months ago (waaaaaaah!) and I put off reading more of her books because I like knowing there is still a nice stack waiting for me.

Waited as long as I could. Finally took this one out from the library.

Gifted with an uncanny intuition, Lara Jansen nonetheless thinks there is nothing particularly special about her. All that changes when a handsome but mysterious man enters her quiet Boston tailor shop and reveals himself to be a prince of Faerie. What’s more, Dafydd ap Caerwyn claims that Lara is a truthseeker, a person with the rare talent of being able to tell truth from falsehood. Dafydd begs Lara to help solve his brother’s murder, of which Dafydd himself is the only suspect.

Acting against her practical nature, Lara agrees to step through a window into another world. Caught between bitterly opposed Seelie forces and Dafydd’s secrets, which are as perilous as he is irresistible, Lara finds that her abilities are increasing in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. With the fate of two worlds at stake and a malevolent entity wielding the darkest of magic, Lara and Dafydd will risk everything on a love that may be their salvation—or the most treacherous illusion of all.

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This book, and it’s follow-up, reminded me that for all that I talk about how I don’t like books that feature elves and/or fairies, I actually do. The sudden intrusion of the supernatural into a seemingly mundane world will always be my favorite set-up — and I’m enjoying that it’s such a popular set up right now.

Lara is used to her annoying little quirk, and so is her best friend Kelly — but whereas Lara has allowed her truth-detected curse to guide her to the background of life and nurtured a desire to be unnoticed, Kelly wants great things for her best friend. Or, a least, good things.

Or, at least, a good date. Which is how Lara comes to Daffyd — pardon me, David’s — attention, in the first place.

Even knowing that Lara is not quite ‘normal’, Lara and her world are normal enough, until Daffyd reveals his true nature and changes everything.

This series is the second series I’ve read in which the author sets things both earthside and in some otherworld, yet this otherworld of Daffyd’s is fresh and new and different. The characters are engaging, and we quickly come to care about the fate of both worlds. I had high expectations going into this book, and Murphy did not disappoint!

Fans of Mark Chadborne, Partricia Briggs, Seanan McGuire, and Richelle Mead might enjoy C.E Murphy’s work.

Mistwalker — Saundra Mitchell — a review

Oh, this book. This book, y’all.

I don’t go browsing shelves that much these days, preferring to do my browsing in the comfort of my home, but there’s something to be said for ducking in and checking out physical shelves now and again. It’s an engagement of chance, of happenstance, and sometimes the best discoveries are made this way.

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Saundra Mitchell’s Mistwalker is one of those best discoveries.

First things first: sometimes covers really do their job well. Catchy, somewhat spooky title? Young woman staring up at a fog-enshrouded light house? Yeah, that alone is enough to rope me in. But then, oh, then, the blurb:

When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visit the Grey Man. Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls. Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?

Is this not the perfect book for me to want to read? Why, yes, yes it is, please let me devour that, thanks.

This is a heart-breaking story, and from page one I was with Willa as she struggled to deal with the grief of having lost her younger brother. Worse, to feel responsible for his death, Willa has a weight dragging at her that she cannot shake lose. All around her family and friends are continuing with their lives, but she watches the ramifications of a tragedy  which she’s put in place, and she knows — she knows — that it’s all her fault. Her heart longs for the comfort of the sea, to be out on the open water, to escape from this hell that her whole world has become, and in this yearning, she becomes someone the Grey Man can reach out to. She is pulled, more and more, to the haunted light house that stands sentinel over her island home.

The Grey Man — or, Grey, as we come to know him — was not always the monster he is now. He was not always a prisoner of this curse that chains him by a sea he despised during his lifetime. No, once he was a foolish man who made a foolish promise, and now he’s caught, forced to capture a thousand souls or forever remain trapped in the light house, alone, not dead, but not alive. That is, unless he can get someone to take his place . . .

Mistwalker is romantic, not so much in the ‘will they jump each other’s bones?’ sort of way, but in the classical, tense-ridden, yearning for so much more than just physical contact sort of way. It is a dance between freedom and enslavement, a dance between right and wrong, between the mystical, the magickal, the unseen, and the very, very mundane. It’s a story filled with the superstitions of the sea, the history of people living life at the sea’s mercy, of human courage and human failings. This is a beautiful book written by an author who has a mastery of setting. I’ve longed for the east coast, during the reading of this book, like I haven’t in quite a while. I did not just read about a small fishing town in Maine. Mistwalker picked me up, transplanted me, and stuck me down by the docks while I watched this story unfold. I loved this book. I can’t wait to gobble up the rest of  her books — though I suspect this one shall remain my favorite.