Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)" by Sarah Gailey

This is a hippo western. If you don't like the idea of semi-tame hippos let loose in the U.S. as an alternative to the traditional cattle farming in an alt-history West, you probably would be better off finding another book. Of course, there are some likable characters and the plot is decent, but mainly- hippos. You must love them.

About those hippos- the idea for this book came from actual history- here's a Wired article about it. Prior to this book's forward, I'd never heard of such a thing, but as always, I am game to read about books with unusual animals in them. Hippos in real life are one of the most dangerous animals in the world, but in this book, the "hoppers" are somehow able to be tamed. Now that I've fed you sufficient info (that will hopefully prevent you from becoming a hippo farmer), let's get to the meat of the story.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
'Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
'This was a terrible plan.
'Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.'

The most interesting part of this story (other than the hippos) is the characters. That isn't a bad thing, and works for me in most books, but with this book I felt it wasn't quite enough. The plot was interesting enough, but I felt since this is a hippo western, there was a lack of depth to the world. What are the consequences (beyond stray feral hippos) of hippo farming in the U.S.? I get that this is a revenge centered tale, but I wanted more worldbuilding than was on offer. True, maybe the implications will expand with the next book, but I felt the campy Western bits would've been better served in a more nuanced world with a bit more than a spit polish to the plot.

These characters I mentioned- my favorite (by leaps and bounds) was Hero, a black non-binary person who uses the pronoun they. Hero had enough attitude and it wasn't as over-the-top as some of the other characters, one of whom drove me nuts (Archie). Though this book starts with Winslow's perspective, I was glad it switched around because I found him a tad bland. Adelia was the runner up in terms of my admiration- I always admire authors who include pregnant ladies in their adventure novels.

River of Teeth is a novel buoyed by the strength of the subject and characters. If not for the hippos, I can't say I'd have picked this up to begin with as I'm not a fan of Westerns. Though hippos and characters may seem strange strengths to recommend a book on, this one is on the shorter side and doesn't take much time at all to read. If you are intrigued by the concept of a hippo Western, you may want to check out this book.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good hippo-populated adventure.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for cutthroat violence, murder, and cut scene sex.

Page Count: 192 pages

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fortnightly Update #39: Post-Eclipse Reading

I was invited to a place where the total eclipse was taking place. For weeks we'd heard it was probably better staying home and seeing a partial eclipse (with the eclipse glasses) than going to see the total, where all the people from out of state or country would be. Despite the warnings, we went, and it was amazing. The traffic on the way up wasn't bad, but on the way back a one hour drive was turned into a six and a half hour ordeal. I spent most of this month focusing on reading because most of my energy has been devoted to keeping my plants alive and watered in this (unusually warm) summer heat.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

I bought a stack of books from Better World Books- with the discounts, it ended up being about $2.63 per used book- which was really good, considering most of them were in almost-new shape.

Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer by Daphne du Maurier
I love Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, so I figured it couldn't hurt to learn more about her from her own perspective.

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood
I also love Margaret Atwood's books, and I hope this one will be another winner for me.

Shadows by Robin McKinley
Surprisingly (for me) this is a YA, but it is written by yet another of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley. It sounds urban fantasy-ish, which I hope I'll like.

Classic Ghost Stories by Charles Keeping
Some of the stories I reviewed for Mini Macabre Review Monday are in this collection, and I hope to find more for this year's edition.

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews
I am collecting the Kate Daniels series as physical books (because I love them). I have all the digital copies, but even with my vision being wonky lately, I like physical books.

Immortal in Death (In Death #3) by J.D. Robb
Glory in Death (In Death #2) by J.D. Robb
This series is seriously addictive. I consider myself a crime tv aficionado, but with the futuristic sci-fi bent to this series, I find myself still guessing by the end. If you like your mysteries with a dash of romance, these are for you.

Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3) by Ilona Andrews
Another one of my new physical copies of the Kate Daniels series.

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews
This one was new to me, but given the voraciously reading state I'm in it was devoured posthaste.

the-invisible-pile Additions:

This book had a lot of buzz this year because hippo wranglers. It's about people who ride hippos and plan on rounding up the feral population in this alternate history version of the U.S.A. I was clued in about this book by Heather's review at Based on a True Story.

Currently Reading:

So far, I am enjoying it. As always my favorite part of this book is the animals- in this book's case, the hippos. I know in real life hippos are one of the deadliest critters around, but if there were non-feral mini hippos (that were humanely raised and not poached from the wild)... I'd want one.

Finished These Books: (Since the beginning of August)


White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews
Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews
I reviewed White Hot after rereading it, and was planning to review Wildfire, but I guess other things got in my way. I think the ratings on both would be the same, but I slightly prefer White Hot because it has a memorable scene with ferrets. Sadly, none are on the cover.

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews
I think I wanted to do a full reread of this series, but I stalled after I got my Better World Books shipment. I still love this one just as much as when I read it the first time.

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews
I reread this just to freshen myself up on the state of things before reading Gunmetal Magic. As always, it's nice to revisit old favorites.

Fresh Reads:

The Captive (Captive Hearts #1) by Grace Burrowes
I liked this one. I can't recall much detail about my likes and dislikes of it right now, but I know the characters won me over because I rated it 3 Stars and it's a romance. It passed the Litha Gauntlet.

Moonshadow (Moonshadow #1) by Thea Harrison
This was on sale in July and I think I snagged it and forgot to add it to Goodreads. It is a paranormal romance that starts with a woman having an induced vision of a man on a battlefield, a man who tries to attack her. She is then offered the chance to get a free estate in the UK, if she can open the door, which is magically shut. This is one of the more plot-heavy paranormal romances I've come across and I enjoyed it.

Immortal in Death (In Death #3) by J.D. Robb
I'm not sure why I kept switching these two around in pictures, but Glory in Death (with the blue cover and red heels) is the 2nd book, with Immortal in Death being the 3rd. As I mentioned, these are excellent reading fodder for me because they keep me guessing and have the proper amount of humor, romance, and drama.

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews
This one was new to me, but given the voraciously reading state I'm in it was devoured posthaste. This book focuses on Andrea, who is Kate's best friend. Despite having some funny moments, it doesn't quite measure up with the rest of the series, but I would still give it 3.5 Stars.

Magic Gifts is another non-essential novella that adds to the Kate Daniels series. It's set slightly before Gunmetal Magic, and I preferred it to Gunmetal Magic because nothing quite beats Kate and Curran.

In My Life:

I was putting out my Better World Books haul when Leia decided it was actually a nest for her to sit in.

I have no clue what got into Torrie, but I'm pretty sure she's fed up with me taking pictures or Leia being the subject of them.

Did you see the eclipse? 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2)" by Ilona Andrews

White Hot is the second in the Hidden Legacy series, and this review contains some spoilers for the first book, Burn For Me. My review of Burn For Me is here.

This book contains some of the elements that made Fate's Edge one of my favorite Ilona Andrews' books- animals, ingenuity, and a lot of creative thinking. While the returning characters did sweeten the book, I love the fact that Cornelius returns with his animal menagerie to make this book even more Litha-approved. As you may know, a heavy helping of critters with personality goes a long way in terms of improving my reception to books.

Of course, I must discuss the cover, which basically gives some of the book away: Nevada and Rogan were (1st book spoiler) separated in the first book by Rogan's offer which Nevada refused. Obviously, something romantic is happening in this book. I think a lot of my fears about Rogan and Nevada's dynamic were answered in this book, because they get to know each other a bit more than in Burn For Me.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.
'Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice …'

One of my favorite things about the Hidden Legacy series is Nevada's family, and her grandma, Frida continues to hold a special place in my heart with her mad vehicular modification skills. You get to see more of Catalina and Arabella (Nevada's sisters) in this book, and not just in the annoying lil' sis ways you'd expect of them (although there's more than enough of that too). There is definitely more of a focus on the Baylor clan than there was in Burn For Me, because although Nevada lived and worked with her family then there was less of their input on her everyday activities with Rogan.

I was impressed with the plot of this book probably even more than Burn For Me which was more of a typical series introduction book. Although there are some hodge podge action scenes, the overall story was impressive (especially the bit that involved the animals). This is supposed to be paranormal romance, but there is a lot more urban fantasy-ish situations than I recall a lot of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance mixes having.

White Hot is the type of paranormal romance that brings me out of a bad mood with ease. I enjoyed it so much I decided to reread it before writing up a review- the Hidden Legacy series is quickly becoming one of my favorites. If you like action-packed books with realistic characters and a side of romance, this series might be for you.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for an exceptional sequel that exceeded my magical expectations!

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for violence, animal burglars, and sexual content.

Page Count: 389 pages

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Naked in Death (In Death #1)" by J.D. Robb

I don't know about you, but I tend to have little trust in the writing skills of popular authors. The more books a certain writer has written and sold well, the more I suspicious I feel about them- I guess that is why I seldom pick up any books by James Patterson or Dan Brown (also, I tend to dislike thrillers). So when I saw this in my invisible-pile with the name Nora Roberts on it, my eyes went very narrow- why would I pick up a romance book with thriller in the title, even if it has sci-fi, if it's written by such a popular *narrows eyes even more* writer?

Let me tell you- I was wrong. This book is a gem of sci-fi romance that even I (the notoriously picky about romance reader) can enjoy, even with my thriller-aversion. It's always interesting to read a book set in a future time when a lot of time has passed since its publication, but somehow this one doesn't seem at all far fetched (this was published in 1995, 22 years ago). There are some elements that are a more than a tad off track (they say because prostitution is legalized, rape is very uncommon. I doubt that X1000), but in 1995, I was three years old and considered dirt a delicacy. Needless to say, things have changed.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In a world of danger and deception, she walks the line--between seductive passion and scandalous murder... Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she's seen it all--and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she's going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire--and a suspect in Eve's murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it's up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about--except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.'

J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts manages to portray Eve Dallas in a beautifully complex manner. She is a survivor of childhood sex abuse who has made her job into her life when in steps Roarke. I wasn't too sure the author would be able to make me like him at first- he's overbearing and a billionaire (I don't find wealth that attractive, thanks very much), but the way he cares for Eve won me over. This is written in the third-person omniscient perspective, which means there are jumps in point of view during the same scene from character to character. It's hard to believe, but it actually works in this book's favor- if I never saw the book from Roarke's end of things in certain moments, I would've never liked him.

Although this book is set in a sci-fi future, it is a romance, the steam of which may not suit all readers. With most books with this level of steam, I can usually label it mainly a romance, but without the murder mystery and sci-fi elements this book probably wouldn't work- Eve's job is essential to her character, and the sadistic sexual aspects of the murders seem to break down her barriers. You should definitely skip this one if you find those types of things in books distasteful because although it isn't as bad as many other books I've read, it's still on the gruesome side.

Naked in Death is a futuristic romantic thriller with a heroine who can cry and still kick your ass ten seconds (or less) later. I was more than thrilled to find that this one breached the four star barrier, something that has been difficult for many other books I've read in the past few months to do. If you like the lighter side of sci-fi with romance, murder, and a heroine to cheer for, you should pick up Naked in Death for your next read.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent sci-fi romance that kept me guessing!

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for violence during sexual situations, murder, and sexual assault.

Page Count: 316 pages

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Month in Review for July 2017

My Star Wars themed b-day cake, complete with purple lightsaber chopsticks
July was rather kind to me compared with the beginning of August- there is a wildfire four miles from my house that was burning absurdly fast for about a week, which left me trapped inside due to the smoke and downstairs due to the heat. Luckily, it is cooler now and I am able to get back upstairs and blog again- I have a nifty but bulky desktop that I write at for fear of my tablet's autocorrect.

 Total Posts: 5
  Total Critiques: 2
    Fantasy: 1
    Contemporary Fiction: 1
    Part of a Series: 1

Most Popular Posts of the Past Month:
Month in Review for June 2017
New Release Review: "Hello, Sunshine" by Laura Dave

Flashback Post (From a Previous Year):
"Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1)" by Ilona Andrews

Pageviews for the Month: 958
Comments: 13

Reading Challenges Updates:

My Goal: 6 Books
What I've Read So Far:
Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson (Sci-fi Short Stories, 160 pages [June])
Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler (Dystopian, 345 pages [July])
The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser (Time Travel, 303 pages [July])
Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J.D. Robb (Sci-fi Thriller/Romance [July])

Reading Stats:

Books read this Month: 7

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 1
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 6
Female Main Character: 5
Male Main Character: 0
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 2
 Sci-fi: 3
 Historical Romance: 2
 Fantasy: 1
 UF/Paranormal Romance: 1
Published in 2017: 3
Published in 2000-2016: 1
Published in 1990s: 2
Published in 1970s: 1
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 0
Traditionally Published: 7
Series Books: 6
Standalones: 1
Ebook Version: 6
Paper Version: 1
Favorite of the Month: Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews because they are my favorite authors who create my favorite characters (even a grizzly bear with the smarts of a human who is a pacifist). I liked it so much I'm rereading it right now.
Least Favorite of the Month: Rules for a Rogue (Romancing the Rules #1) by Christy Carlyle- with historical romance, I'm hard to please. I really liked the second book in this series (which I read first).
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler- it's the most interesting and frightening book I've probably read all year- not for the squeamish among us or those who avoid dark topics.
From the-pile: 0
From the-invisible-pile: 3
Recently acquired: 4
Added to the-invisible-pile: 10
Books bought: 1
Pages Read in 2017 Thus Far (according to Goodreads): 14,452 pages

5 Stars: 0
4-4.5 Stars: 3
3-3.5 Stars: 3
2-2.5 Stars: 1

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 1
Female: 5
Male/Female Team: 1
Diverse: 1
Not-so-Diverse: 6 :(
Living: 6
Deceased: 1

Planning to Read This Month:

I am rereading Wildfire (because Ilona Andrews' books make me happy). I plan on sneaking in some sci-fi at some point, but other than that I don't have any plans.

Upcoming Posts:

Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J.D. Robb
For a while, my Blogger image archive wasn't working, so this review from July will appear in August. I really was pleasantly surprised by this one- and I didn't anticipate that.

I hope your August is amazing!

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