Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits

Jan 26, 2011

Review: Lost Voices

The Book:

Lucette is fourteen, stuck in a remote Alaskan town with her uncle after her mother's death and her father's disappearance off a fishing vessel, slowly falling into despair and isolation.  When she is attacked by her uncle and tumbles off the cliffs to meet death, Luce instead becomes a mermaid and is brought into a tribe of other lost girls-turned-mermaids like her.  Finding beauty, long life and friendships within her new tribe, Luce soon discovers that she possesses the power - and the desire - to sing humans to their deaths.  As Luce's singing talent makes her both a boon to her tribe - and a burden to her new friend and queen, Caterina - new mermaids join and cause all to question their rules and feelings.  Torn between her new life and friends and her struggle to retain some hold on humanity, will Luce have to choose between being true to herself, or to her tribe?

The Yarn:

Sarah Porter brings mermaids out of fairytale and folklore and melds it with cold Alaskan seas and hard topics.  I actually started this book almost two months ago, as soon as I acquired it, because it sounded hauntingly beautiful.  However, I struggled with the first couple of chapters and I didn't resume until after the New Year.  The books starts slow and sad, and even as the plot picks up speed, the depressive overtones remain with no real signs of a happy ending.

The sadness that comes from Luce through the entire book is charged with loss and isolation.  She was an outcast at school, an orphan, and living with an uncle who was abusive in so many ways.  While becoming a mermaid seemed to be a joyous escape from a life of pain, Luce realizes that it comes with a cost.  With her tribe, humanity is to be scorned, and none deserve to live.

There is a lot of "typical teen storyline" in here:  Luce is determined to make her tribe the family and friends she didn't have before, especially with Caterina, the queen.  Her struggle to stay part of the group causes Luce to be untrue to her own views about not wanting to kill, to not be honest about what some of the other mermaids do, and hide her own emotions about still caring for her father and not leaving her whole human past behind.  There are definite mean girls and followers; Luce flips in between her desire to have friends and her "human" conscience.  Of course, as she continues to isolate herself in pursuit of control over her voice, Luce fails to see threats to the tribe from within until it is almost too late.

Porter's debut novel is full of beautiful imagery and dark ideas.  She is able to convey teen issues of bullying, friendship and abuse in compelling and unique way.  While there are definite questions left at the end of the book, Lost Voices is the first of a planned trilogy that will no doubt provide answers.

The Ink:

Title:  Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1)
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt
Date:  July 2011
Read:  NetGalley eBook
Read More

Jan 19, 2011

ARC Review: Enchanted No More

The Book:

When the dwarf knocked on her door, Jenni knew nothing would ever be the same again.

Jenni Weaver was able to escape her life as a halfling and the last Mistweaver after the tragic deaths of most of her family fifteen years ago, living a quiet human life in Denver, but she couldn't run from her past or her powers forever. She is drawn back to serving the Lightfolk through guilt, promises and the need to save her last sibling.  Soon Jenni discovers that the power she left behind is an integral part of her self, and she is the only one that can balance the powerful magic coming.  A magic that both the Lightfolk and the Darkfolk wish to claim for their own.

The Yarn:

Jenni has been scarred by her role in her family's deaths, her feeling of betrayal by the Lightfolk, and the separation between her and her brother Rothly.  Since her magic and her youthful love cost Jenni everything she loved, she left it all behind to live as human in Denver.  Yet while Jenni Weaver wanted to forget all that reminded her of those failures, Jindesfarne Mistweaver was the last of her family who could balance the elemental energies that were being brought to the surface of the earth.   Drawn back into the struggle between the Lightfolk and the Darkfolk, Jenni must face her own feelings, reclaim her magic and deal with those she left behind.  Jenni struggles with her need to save her brother, her hope for connecting to her last surviving relative, and to forgive those who didn't support her family when they fought and died fifteen years before.  One of those people to forgive is herself.

Unfortunately this emotional turmoil lay heavy across the story and I found that most of the secondary characters, except for the brownies, to be shallow, self-serving and lacking any real empathy.  Race relations threaded through the story arc also, as Jenni's mixed-blood is pointed out more than once as a flaw and relegate her to a second-class status, even in the face of her needed magics.  The obvious discord between the major magical races and those with mixed blood played a large role in the character interactions. Maybe that was the point?   However, it made the faults of Jenni, her brother and Jenni's former love Aric even more amplified, which left them hard for me to connect to through much of the book and overshadowed the main plot at times.

Robin D. Owens is the author of the successful Celta and Summoning series, ones that I have feverishly read through the last couple of years.  Enchanted No More is the first title of the Mystic Circle series.  While I admit I didn't love this one as much as her other books thus far, I will definitely pick up the next one to see where Owens goes with it.  I will hope for more of the lush background development and stronger heroines I have seen in her other series.

The Ink:

Title:  Enchanted No More
Author: Robin D. Owens
Publisher: Luna
Date:  January 2011
Read:  NetGalley ebook
Read More

Jan 12, 2011

Book Review: Buzz Off

The Book:

Story Fischer is celebrating in her small Wisconsin town: her divorce is final, her market is busy, and the honey that she harvested as a new beekeeper is starting to show up on her shelves.  But when her mentor is found dead from bee stings in the middle of his apiary, her sweet outlook quickly sours.

Not only does Story have to convince the locals that the honeybees are not responsible, but then she must quickly convince them that she is not responsible for the next dead body that shows up in the river.  A likely suspect is found: her ex-husband.  Story knows he is a jerk, but a killer?  Story must find out the truth before her bees and her business are just as dead.

The Yarn:

As someone who just went through Bee School this past spring, I was excited to be presented this book.  You  really don't find much about beekeeping in fiction.  Join that with a new mystery series and I moved this fast to my to-be-read pile.  I think the basis for this new series is fun and a good storyline for a cozy mystery. However, there was a lot of details thrown at me in 312 pages.  Story goes from celebrating her recent divorce to dealing with an old high school flame to trying to figure out if the police chief is mad at her for something that happened when they were teens.  Those were just the possible romantic entanglements.  The notion of "small town" sometimes gets lost in the large amount of characters in this book, and there seemed to be a large amount of characters with chips on their shoulders around Story.

Then there were the lists.  I make lists, I adore lists, but there were so many lists that Story made.  Lists of people, of beekeeping facts, of gardening tips, of ideas about the murders. I think this premise would have worked better if there were not so many other details and people introduced in this book.  Every character and plot device seemed to be thrown in: small town, philandering husband, divorce, new business venture, disapproving mother, old flame, angry police chief, assorted relatives, nosy neighbors (my list could go on).  Plus having a sister who "text talks" - O. M. G.  There was a lot of these people that tended to sidetrack the main plot of the murders without having a real place in them.

The end of the book seemed to bring closure on some of these characters.  Hopefully the next book in the series will slow down a bit and focus on a smaller group of people.  The details about beekeeping, gardening and recipes are worthwhile to read if your interests swing that way.  If you like your mysteries with a little bit of apiary love and a lot of small details, Buzz Off is a decent start to this series.

The Ink:

Title:  Buzz Off (A Queen Bee Mystery)
Author: Hannah Reed
Publisher:  Berkley
Date: September 2010
Read: Library Paperback
Read More

Jan 5, 2011

ARC Review: Pack of Lies

Note:  Some possible spoilers in the following review.

The Book:

The second book of the Paranormal Scene Investigations series (after Hard Magic) finds Bonita Torres and the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations (PUPI) team still settling down months after the events of their last case.  Tensions between people  - both with Talent and those without - and the Fatae has never been that settled, but an attack on a young woman with her Fatae companion, which results in the death of one of the attackers, quickly devolves from an open-and-shut case to one that will challenge everyone's notion of who is telling the truth.  Especially when dealing with a magical creature that cannot tell a lie.

Neither the Cosa nor the Fatae seem too concerned about pursuing the facts any further, so it is up to Bonnie and her "pack" to determine what actually happened.  As Bonnie continues to deal with her growing connection with Ben Venec, one that challenges her senses on all levels, the PUPI team pits their talents - and Talent - against the walls of silent victims, secret plans and increasing resentments between races.  This time PUPI is brought a case that could destroy any chance they have to continue operating,  or one that may finally prove their worth.

The Yarn:

Laura Anne Gliman has woven a well-told tale of race relations and sexual assault he-said-she-said with a newer paranormal twist.  Bonnie is a strong young woman who is willing to stay true to herself and how she lives her life, even while building her place with this not-quite-officially-sanctioned investigative team.  I have not read the first book of the series, but am familiar with Gilman's other series in this alternate reality (Retrievers).  I found the development of all the characters fine but the running secondary storyline -with Aden Stosser setting up further sabotage against her brother Ian's PUPI team - made me wish I had already read Hard Magic so I knew the previous events better.

The developments between Venec and Bonnie, as their connection in emotions and Talent increases in ways that are unexpected, definitely throw a conflict into the working of the team.  Bonnie does not want to get involved in an "office relationship", Venec is struggling with his attraction to Bonnie, and I see these two already very similar to Wren and Sergei (from the Retrievers series) in their interactions.  It also made me wonder where the series will go with Bonnie's professed bisexuality, now that she has gotten involved with both Venec and Pietr.  That said, I do look forward to seeing what happens next, and if Bonnie stays as true to her personal beliefs and values as her bond with Venec grows.

Having read many of Laura Anne Gilman's other books (the Retrievers series and Flesh and Stone, first of the Vineart War trilogy), I was thrilled to be able to receive this ebook galley.  Thanks to NetGalley and Luna for making it happen!

The Ink:

Title:           Pack of Lies (Paranormal Scene Investigations #2)
Author:       Laura Anne Gilman
Publisher:    Luna/Harlequin
Date:          January 2011
Read:         NetGalley ebook    
Read More