Monday, 19 March 2018

Shade - Book Review

Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (The Frankenstein Saga Book 1)
by Merrie Destefano

What is it about:
A broken heart. An infamous holiday gone wrong. A deadly curse brought to life.

A holiday in Switzerland is supposed to lift Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin’s spirits. She wants to forget the past and have fun. In fact, everyone in her party is running away from one indiscretion or another—from her fiancĂ© Percy Shelley to Lord Bryon to Mary’s stepsister, Claire. But from the moment Mary arrives at Byron’s villa, she knows something is wrong. He rushes her indoors and forbids all of them to go out at night, claiming that the horrible weather has driven wild animals down from the mountains.

The only person who doesn’t seem to be running away from anything is a handsome, young Italian doctor, John Polidori. Instead, he is fervently pursuing local folk legends and a new scientific theory that claims people can be raised from the dead.

But it’s not until they all challenge one other to write ghost stories that the real danger begins. In a nightmare, Mary envisions a patchwork man animated by Galvanism and she begins writing Frankenstein. Likewise, fueled by local legends, John writes The Vampyre—one of the first vampire stories ever written.

What neither one of them knows is that they are conjuring a dark evil. Before long, all of their lives will be in danger—for neither of these characters are imaginary. Far from it.

What did I think of it:
This is the first in a series of three novellas by Merrie Destefano. I love Destefano's writing, so you bet I jumped at the chance to get hold of an ARC of all three novellas.

This first novella is beautiful.

Destefano is a master at setting atmosphere and mood so I was soon engrossed in the story. Destefano managed to give the story a Gothic feel and I loved the building tension and otherness. Slowly you get to know more about all the people at the villa and slowly things shift from suspenseful to sinister.

The story is told from Mary's point of view, and I connected with her easily. The only thing I didn't get was why she is still engaged to Percy, whom I didn't like at all, but there were hints of a dark secret that might hold them bound together.

At the end of this novella things are seriously going wrong, and the ending is quite the cliffhanger. You bet I'll be reading the next novella soon, because I need to know what's next.

Why should you read it:
It's a suspenseful Gothic read.

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook - Review

Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook
by Green Ronin

What is it about:
The Dragon Age RPG brings Thedas to your tabletop!

Now you can experience BioWare's rich and engaging world in a classic pen & paper roleplaying game. This new Core Rulebook combines the rules and background of the original game under one cover for the first time, and adds a brand new adventure as well.

The game system is easy to learn and play, and the book is packed with lore from the world of Thedas. Dragon Age also features an innovative stunt system that keeps combat and spellcasting tense and exciting.

So gather your friends, grab some dice, and get ready to enter a world of mages and templars, of Grey Wardens and darkspawn, of gods and demons ... the world of Dragon Age!

What did I think of it:
Some of you might know I'm pretty much addicted to the computer game Dragon Age. When I discovered there's a tabletop rpg of Dragon Age as well, I had to get the book.

And this is a great book for those into roleplaying games.

This book combines both the Player's Guide and the Game Master's Guide, so with this one book you have everything you need to play the game. I liked that the game uses standard 6 sided dice, so people new to roleplaying don't need to go out to find special dice. (I myself got a set of special Dragon Age dice from a friend, I'll add: 6 sided dice with special colors and pictures on them. Not needed, but fun!)

There are three basic classes like in the computer game (warrior, rogue, mage), but there are lots of different backgrounds to chose from, all with their own abilities and traits, so the customization of the characters is more than adequate.

The rules seem easy, with some extra rules you could add if you want things to be more challenging.

Next to the character creation and the rules, there are chapters about the world, the history of the world, adventures you can play, and lots of tips on how to roleplay. I myself have been playing all different kinds of roleplaying games for over 20 years, but the way things are explained make that this is a great book for people new to roleplaying games.

There's also lots of cool artwork to give you an idea of how the world and the people in it looks.

All in all this is a great book and I can't wait to convince my friends to give this system and world a try.

Why should you read it:
If you love roleplaying games, or love Fantasy and want to give roleplaying a chance, this is your book!

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Teasing on a Thursday - Red Sister

"You're not a nun!" Nona wrenched her hand away. "And you let them kill Saida!"

(page 19, Red Sister by Mark Lawrence)

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: - Grab your current read - Open to a random page - Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) - Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Palace Job - Book Review

The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic #1)
by Patrick Weekes

What is it about:
The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven's Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family's treasure.

It'd be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honourable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

But hey, every plan has a few hitches.

What did I think of it:
Patrick Weekes is one of the writers of my favorite games: Mass Effect and Dragon Age. He also wrote one of the tie in Dragon Age novels - The Masked Empire. High time for me to read one of his other books.

And this is a really fun Fantasy heist story!

There's the smart heroine Loch and her trusty sidekick Kail. At the start of the book they escape from prison and then start building a team to pull off an impossible seeming heist.

I loved Loch and the team she puts together. They're all super talented of course, and succeed easily at challenging tasks, but that's all part of the charm of this particular genre in my opinion. I also really liked the Justicar who had to find Loch and arrest her again.

Apart from the Justicar and Loch and her team, there are some other parties at work. There's the mark of course, and the head of the prison Loch escaped from among others. I didn't really get why the head of the prison hated Loch that much, but his attempts to get back at Loch for escaping did add to the suspense of the story.

Next to this being a cool and suspenseful heist story, there's also a lot of humor in this book. The antics and conversations of Loch's team were really fun to read. I was hooked in no time and kept reading to see how they were going to pull off their heist and where things might go wrong.

All in all a fun and cool read. I'll most probably get my trotters on the next book in this series soon.

Why should you read it:
It's very entertaining Fantasy heist story.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Reluctant Queen - Book Review

The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2)
by Sarah Beth Durst

What is it about:
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

What did I think of it:
I loved The Queen of Blood, so I made sure to get my trotters on the paperback of The Reluctant Queen.

And even though I never got to love Naelin as much as I love Daleina this is a really good Fantasy read.

The worldbuilding is wonderful, and the intrigues in this book kept me reading. Naelin might not have won my love, but I rooted for Daleina and for Ven. I had my doubts when it became clear Naelin's children had a bigger part in the story than I thought when reading the blurb, but they luckily weren't as annoying as I feared (yes: I'm not a big fan of children in SFF books).

All in all this is a very enjoyable read that ends in a way that I will most definitely buy the last book once it is available in paperback.

Why should you read it:
It's a cool Fantasy read full of intrigue.

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Monday, 12 March 2018

The Snows of Windroven - Release Day Alert

Out now!

The Snows of Windroven
by Jeffe Kennedy

A new power is at work in the Twelve Kingdoms, unbalancing the fragile peace. For the High Queen and her sisters, it might mean a new alliance—or the end of the love of a lifetime…

As a howling blizzard batters the mountain keep of Windroven, Ami, Queen of Avonlidgh, and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Their passion saved them from despair, but Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. He’s been bracing himself for the end since their liaison began. When it finally comes, the shattering of his heart is almost a relief.

With a man haunted by nightmares and silent as stone, Ami knows only that Ash’s wounds are his own to hide or reveal. She can’t command trust. But just as they are moving apart, a vicious attack confines them together, snowbound and isolated with an ancient force awakening within Windroven itself. If they truly mean to break their bond, Ami and Ash must first burn through a midwinter that will test every instinct—and bring temptation all too near…

Previously published in the anthology Amid the Winter Snow

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Friday, 9 March 2018

American Panda - Book Review

American Panda
by Gloria Chao

What is it about:
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

What did I think of it:
I was intrigued by the blurb of this book and even though it was only available as a hardcover I decided to give it a try.

And this is a wonderful read.

Mei wants to please her parents and stay on their good side, but their expectations are high and they want a future for her that she herself is not sure about. As she tries to settle in to college life she feels like an outsider, while at the same time she tries to shake herself lose from her traditional background and find her own place in the world.

I do not claim to understand how it must be to grow up as a child of immigrants, trapped between two cultures. I did however grow up in a small village where my parents moved to when I was a baby, and were still seen as 'the new ones' when I was seventeen. So on that front I could really relate with Mei: feeling like an outsider and feeling weird, although I'm pretty sure my experiences were a lot less intense as they can be for children of immigrants.

I could really understand why Mei has a hard time telling her parents how she feels. The lies she tells them, the omissions, might seem unwise, but it's hard to disappoint the people you want to love you and be proud of you. I rooted for Mei to find a way to be happy.

The romance in the book is cute and slow. It's more one of the catalysts for Mei's change and growth than that it is the focus of the book. I still very much enjoyed the scenes between Mei and Darren.

All in all this is a beautiful and touching story that is recognizable for everyone who's ever felt like an outsider, or has struggled with the expectations of their family. You bet I'll keep an eye out for the next book by Chao.

Why should you read it:
It's a beautiful story about finding your identity.

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