Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon cover

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal.  But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir.  Ambitious High Lords plot and maneuver to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon.  Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting.  At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps.  Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.

The cover of the edition that I read stated that Furies of Calderon was inspired by Tolkien.  In some ways, I see that, I guess.  I really thought it was more reminiscent of A Song of Ice and Fire series with a bit of Avatar: The Last Airbender and maybe a little bit of Pokémon thrown in, but in a good way.

It started out a little slow, but once I got to Chapter 10, it became a page turner.  I just had to know what was going to happen next because, by that point, I cared about the characters so much.  Butcher includes plenty of plot twists, which really kept me guessing and one of things I look for in a book is the ability of the author to keep me guessing.  It got to the point that, after I had been surprised by so much, nothing would surprise me, if that makes any sense.  I definitely can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

I recommend this to fans of High/Epic Fantasy, especially if you like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Five stars!

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Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless coverAlexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.  Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

At first, all I knew about this book was that it was a Steampunk mystery and I was excited to begin it. I quickly found that it includes vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, which made me less excited to begin it. I’ve found that novels containing the supernatural can be very good, but most of them are simply awful. Nevertheless, as this was scheduled for book group, I began reading.

I was very pleasantly surprised. There’s no other way for me to explain Soulless than to say it is a Steampunk-Sherlock Holmes-Twilight-Jane Austen romance novel. It’s got a little bit of everything. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor in it as well. I think my favorite line is after Alexia’s family discusses how horrible it is that scientists are moving in next door to an acquaintance of theirs and Alexia replies, “How ghastly for her, people actually thinking, with their brains, and right next door. Oh, the travesty of it all.”

I recommend this to fans of paranormal romance and paranormal mystery who like a little something extra in their reading material. I also recommend it to fans of Jane Austen who have an interest in the supernatural.

Five stars!

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The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

The-Fate-of-Mercy-Alban

Grace Alban has spent more than twenty years avoiding her childhood home, the stately Alban House on the shores of Lake Superior, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teenage daughter back, she finds more is haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.

Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters, and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace’s aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years. Her mother intended to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died—could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse?

I loved this book! I’m a fan of Gothic literature anyway, and The Fate of Mercy Alban is a modern Gothic novel. The story really drew me in, which is important to me. It is definitely a page turner. Wendy Webb knows just how to terrify a reader without overwhelming them. She has also written a story within a story here, which impressed me very much.

Reminiscent of stories such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, I highly recommend this to fans of the genre.

Five stars!

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Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron comes together again with an assortment of old and new characters.  It is Wratih Squadron’s task to find and expose the Galactic Alliance traitor.

I have always been a fan of the Star Wars:  X-Wing series and have been eagerly awaiting this newest book.  I can’t say that it’s the best in the series, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint and I couldn’t put it down!

The story is told from the perspective of one of the non-human characters, which I found to be very refreshing.  Aaron Allston’s ability to write complex plots and resolve them by the end without leaving the reader feeling as though it was rushed is one of the reasons why I love this series and this book so much.

I recommend this for fans of Science Fiction and Star Wars, especially those who enjoyed the X-Wing series.

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Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

I had high hopes for this book. I chose to read it because it was on several lists of books that are similar to The Hunger Games and because the five-sentence synopsis I had read sounded so great. As it turns out, the synopsis was better than the book. To start, it is very difficult to read. Thoughts are sometimes italicized, but sometimes they aren’t. Sentences containing hyphens are usually dialogue, but sometimes they aren’t. It’s very confusing. In addition, it is written like a rambling diary.

Then, of course, there is the token sardonic teenage girl. I’m willing to put up with them, as with Hoffman’s Green Angel, for the sake of an intriguing plot, but the problem is this: Haines has no intriguing plot. In fact, there is very little plot to the story and it all builds up to an epic fight that turns out to be not so epic.

I kept reading because I really hate the idea of starting a book and not finishing it; I always feel as if I’ve wasted my time in so doing. In this case, finishing the book was the bigger waste of time. If you are looking for a good gladiator read or something on the level of The Hunger Games, look elsewhere.  I give it one star.

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