Tag Archives: book review

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.

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.

 

 

Speaking of Erzabet Bishop . . . .(a review)

I was torn.

It’s December. December is a time when my ability to do much more than sleep and work goes out the window. I read fiction exclusively during December, if I read at all, because the brain power cannot handle much more than that. Tell me all the story, please don’t make me have to work at any of it. That sort of thing.

I long ago set aside any and all genre-specific snobbery. I will read anything. Anything at all, because I want the story. I want to be touched. I want to be moved. I want to connect — to the human condition, to other people, to fictional people, to great big experiences, to the small experiences, to different people at different times. I want to experience situations I might never otherwise experience, and I want to go places I’ll never likely get to in life. I will read any genre. I will read any age group. I will still read picture books. (Especially when they involve the work of either Charles De Lint or Charles Vess. Just saying).

So, I unabashedly read romance, and I unabashedly read erotica. I have preferences, of course. Just like anyone else, there are types of stories I prefer over others, and in the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that erotica is not high on my go-to list. I enjoy explicit sex scene as much as the next person; it’s generally the story-to-sex content ratio that I dislike within the erotica genre.

However, Erzabet Bishop’s Erotic Pagan series came highly recommended. And, really, didn’t I want to be supporting pagan fiction, and pagan fiction writers, with not only my mouth but also my money? And, truly, could I not skip a few sodas and buy some reading material instead? Maybe a short story format would level the ratio to a more Jolene-approved balance.

BELTANE FIRES by Erzabet Bishop
So, I purchased Beltane Fires, the first of the Erotic Pagan series, and if there was ever a story to get me hooked into this series, this was it. Take one pagan woman, add Beltane, a bonfire, and a not-exactly-human deity into the mix, and I’m pretty satisfied before the sex even begins. These are my favorite stories to read, and to write: humanity brushing up against The Other. Magic and wonder alive and raw in our midst.

I, er. Tried. Really. To space out the rest of them. They’re short, you see. And there’s only three of them thus far. And I have all these other books out from the library still, and this other book i’m supposed to be reading for a review in a few months, and work is busy, and other things to be doing, and it’s Yule still, and . . .

But I bought the other two, during the week. A reward, you see. For having to deal with retail during the week before Christmas. Samhain Shadows and then Yuletide Temptation. Given how much I thoroughly adored the first of these, I was surprised that thus far, Samhain Shadows has been my favorite.

Bishops writing is fantastic. She reaches right in and touches you were it hurts. Her characters are fresh and alive, her dialogue flows naturally — or stumbles naturally, depending on the exchange. I’m so glad to have discovered her writing, and I hope that you will be, too!

Passion’s Sacred Dance, a book of the Harshad Wars: a book review

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I’m going to share a secret with you that maybe I shouldn’t, but I feel that full disclosure is important. I rarely see beta readers talking about these things publicly, but I have no shame, and more, I have no desire to for secrets. From the beginning, I loved the idea of this series Juli is writing. What’s not to love? You have romance. You have myths walking among humankind. (Anyone familiar with my writing and my reading preferences will know how much this is my favoritest thing ever). You have a battle between good and evil that isn’t about God and the Devil, which seems to often be the dichotomy that people default to. You have pagan deities somewhat on stage, and they are not the default bad guys. (I don’t mind, necessarily, pagan gods being the baddies, really I don’t. Our gods are not automatically sweetness and light because they are gods, ya ken? But I do prefer folks who write about the pagan gods as baddies to at least be pagan friendly and not use them as so much fodder. When you write about Artemis, try to remember that there are people who have loved and do still love and worship her, even while you make her into your villain. Pipe dream, I do ken) My secret is: though I loved the idea of this series, and though I saw wonderful, wonderful things planned out for this particular book, my first read through that particular incarnation of it?

I wasn’t sure that Juli was still going to keep talking to me after I sent her my notes on it. We run risks, right, when being beta readers. Because the books are not our books, and we need to let go of that, and yet so much about Stacy bothered the heck out of me. I wasn’t cruel or mean, but I am honest as I expect my beta readers to be with me, and so . . .

I haven’t looked at the story since, and I knew that was many revisions ago, and I knew that Juli had set herself up for a very difficult task.

Stacy Macken is at the end of a long line of women born to be stewards of sacred ground. Not every female in her line, but regularly enough that the legends have survived in familial memory. Still, at the beginning of Passion’s Sacred Dance the legends are just that: stories told in the family, quaint tales of bygone days that have little place in Stacy’s current crisis, as she tries to hold on to her museum in the face of foreclosure. Maybe, once or twice in her past, she dreamed about becoming the next steward; maybe she had fantasies about the mythic warriors that would come to help her defend the land she was in charge of; maybe those fantasies got a little carried away from time to time. But seeing her beloved museum and its ties to the history of her family and the history of her Florida town threatened leaves no time at all for fantasies.

And then in walks Aaron Fielding, a man Stacy barely knows and yet — as it happens — is inexorably drawn to. Strange things happen when he’s around, things that cannot be explained away. In those spaces where Stacy knows herself, she knows this is what, and who, she’s been waiting for. At the same time, she finds it hard to believe in the legend when the legend is walking and talking, real as you please, in her waking world, and legends centuries old can only tell you so much about what to expect now. The battle looms large on the horizon, but a battle over what, exactly? And what does she, proprietress of a small-interest history museum, have to offer? Even more, why are the Harbingers gunning for her? Can she trust Aaron to keep her best interests at heart, or is he more distraction than help, with his half answers and disarming charm?

I shouldn’t have doubted, in the least. Reading Passion’s Sacred Dance has been a delight. Juli manages to convey both Stacy’s steadfast conviction and her skepticism, at the same time, in a very believable manner. How often do we want something so badly that, once it falls into our laps, we hardly dare to believe it can be ours–and find out we really don’t want it?

So Stacy finds herself, and she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Strong, brave, handsome warriors. An age-old responsibility that scares the daylights out of her. A passion for her life’s work that will lead her into danger. A doggedness that will hopefully see her through the coming battle . . .

Passion’s Sacred Dance is the first of what will be a multi-book series from Juli D. Revezzo. (Trust me; I know these things. I’m connected. 😉 ) It is a wonderful debut novel, a well crafted story that mixes Celtic myth and folklore with Floridian history, that pits good against evil and holds the fate of the world in its hands. I heartily recommend this book — and not just because I adore Aaron. Yes, I have a weakness for mythic warriors, it’s true. Especially Northern warriors. Celtic is almost Scandinavian, right?

~*~*~

Passion’s Sacred Dance is available for Kindle now and will be available in print this November through Wild Rose Publishing.

Written In Red: A Novel of the Others (a review)

Funny story about Anne Bishop’s first series Black Jewels Trilogy and me: when the books were first released, I bought them. Started the first book many times, never got beyond the first chapter, set the book aside. During one of my first moves, I had a great book purge, and I gave up way, way too many books. Including that series.

And then a dear friend read them and her enthusiasm over the series convinced me to try the books again. I did, and I’m so very, very glad I did.

Anne Bishop in one part of my three “B” authors triumvirate: Anne Bishop, Carol Berg, and Patricia Briggs, a trio made up of three authors whose books I read for the first time rather in close proximity to one another, and whose books have not yet failed to engage me.

Still, it’s hard, isn’t it, when you have your favorites and then the author moves away from those story lines and worlds that you hold so dear. And you pick up the next offering, which you know is going to be inferior to your beloved stories, with trepidation and reservation . . .

. . . . and then suddenly the day is gone, the book is devoured, and you’re not quite sure what’s happened to that reservation you supposedly had.

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Written In Red: A Novel of the Others was released in March of this year. I did not buy it. Worse, I didn’t even want to read it. A quick glance at the cover-flap told me two very important, very damning things: first, Lucivar is nowhere to be found in these pages. I’ll let that sink in a moment.

The next strike against the novel is, it has vampires and werewolves. It pains me to admit it — it may even shame me to admit it, because vampires are my first love, in all they myriad representations . . . but vampires and witches and werewolves all being together, a secret society or cluster of societies, interacting poorly with humans in our current world or in a world that is an alternate version of our current world . . . . blargh. Just, blargh! The shelves are saturated with such stories, and I wanted something different. So many are turning to contemporarily set fantasy novels, and until this, Anne Bishop was one I could count on for fantasy novels with intriguing and sharp worlds, whose world building skills were well-honed, and now this? “Nooo!” I cried! And then I ignored that the book existed.

Last week I remembered it, and I was in the mood for a book whose writing, at least, I knew I could count on to hold my interest. Anne’s got a title list full of stories that I’ve enjoyed, characters I’ve grown to love, and if they can’t all be Lucivar, at least the others are also endearing. Right? So, a little begrudgingly, I requested the book from my local library. I cracked it open . . .

And here I am. We’re about to read it for our Story Time book, so I’ll be doing an immediate reread.

Written in Red is the story of Meg Corbyn (sounds a lot like Corbie, if you ask me), a runaway with a special gift. She has visions when she’s cut, and for most of her life she’s been nothing more than a piece of property. She seizes an opportunity to run, and she does so, landing herself at the Lakeside Courtyard, a land between the wilds of the Others and humanity, where some of the more “tame” Others live — though I don’t suggest you try petting them.

The Others have always existed, and rather than being dominated by our resourceful ancestors, they did the dominating. As a result, the world looks much different from our world. Fewer cities, fewer towns, fewer humans. And yet, much is the same. We are clever and adaptable, we humans, and some of the Others decided that some of what we can do merits keeping us around. So long as we know our place.

Meg arrives at Lakeside, and almost immediately the trouble starts. Others who have not taken much interest in the scant humans allowed in Lakeside are intrigued by her. She befriends the residents with seeming ease. There’s an innocence about her, a sweetness, and such mystery. Simon Wolfgard, leader of Lakeside Courtyard does not, even a little bit, like that she’s landed on their doorsteps, but he’s determined to figure out what it is about her, before sending her on her merry way. When the human police start poking around, looking for someone who matches Meg’s description, wanted for grand theft, this makes the Others curious . . . and protective. Anyone the humans want badly enough that they’ll start sending people into territory that the humans should know better enough to not cross, the Others will want to keep. They know value, even if they don’t understand the why behind the value.

And then there’s that strange thing about her that makes her not prey . . .

Written in Blood is the first book of the Others. The second in slated to hit the shelves come March. All I know is I want it now . . . yes, even without Lucivar.

The Selkie Spell: a book review

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I’ll admit it: what attracted me most toSophie Moss’s first book was the sale price tag. I like a good sale; who doesn’t? Of course, then there’s the setting: Ireland. Not just Ireland, but one of Ireland’s remote islands. And then there’s the promise of selkies. Who doesn’t love a good selkie legend?

I was delighted with this book. The premise is common enough with selkie legends: a man spots, follows, and captures a selkie wife by stealing her seal skin. She follows him, because she has no choice, and of course he hides the skin. And of course he’s a brute of a man, how terrorizes his traumatized seal wife, while she yearns to return to the sea. She dies on land. In fact, she kills herself, and thus traps her spirit to the island. She’ll only be freed once her pelt is returned to her, but it needs to happen during a particular time, and there’s more built into curse removal than just that, of course.

Flash forward a few centuries, and here we meet Tara, an American traveling with the clothes on her back and not much else, come to Ireland — and specifically Seal Island — to get away and to find a job. She is jumpy, secretive, but determined, and despite the local pub owner’s reluctance — Dominic does not want another foreigner sweeping into his life, not after what’s happened with his daughter’s mother — manages to land a job as temporary cook.

At first, the locals are suspicious of her, which is common enough in locations that attract tourists, and common enough too in rather insular, tight-knit communities. But Tara is kind and generous with her help if not with her past, and she quickly falls in love with the island and its people . . . and there is certainly an attraction to Dominic.

But, her past isn’t as eager to forget about her as she is to forget about it, and all signs point to danger following her to this little haven she’s built for herself. With her growing attachment to Dominic and his loved ones, she finds she wants nothing more to keep them safe . . .

And then there’s this woman who keeps appearing and showing her glimpses of her doom, and the seals that crowd around her whenever she ventures to the beaches. Maybe there’s something to the legend that everyone on the island seems to believe in . . .

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The Selkie Spell was a well written and, more importantly for me, a well rounded book. It had just the correct amounts of suspense, magic, and romance to satisfy. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book (once I get through my library stack!) and I recommend this book highly!

The Bridge of D’Arnath series by Carol Berg: a review

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I’ll admit it — this was a reread for me. I’m linking to the first book in the series, but while I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as I can, I am going to talk a bit about the quartet as a whole.

While I’m stuck waiting for a variety of holds at my library to come my way, I decided it was time to reread some books and see about thinning out my collection. (I started with Jack of Kinrowan thinking, maybe it’s time to let go of some of my de Lint books. I used to have a rule about only keeping book I knew I’d reread. Yeah. Said reread nixed that idea, and so, too, did my reread of this series) I’m a few books behind on Carol Berg’s newer releases, but she has yet to disappoint. I remember especially adoring the third in The Bridge of D’Arnath series and I thought, hey, let’s go visit.

One thing that sets this series apart from other fantasy series is how the books are written. Son of Avonar could very well sit as a stand alone book, tragic and heart breaking, but complete if you know nothing about the following books. The story jumps around a bit, chronologically, but it all makes sense is the end. It may not be the conclusion that we *want*, but, it works.

The following books change that by giving us multiple point of view characters throughout the series. We learn that where once we thought we were dealing with one world we are, in fact, dealing with two — if not more — and nothing happens quite the way we expect it would.

I love, love Carol Berg’s writing. She convinced me with her novel Transformation and she really hasn’t stopped since. The Bridge of D’Arnath has to contend with her Lighthouse Duet for my all time favorite, but the cast of Bridge may win, in the end. So many amazing, larger than life people to adore, with such fascinating stories.