Review: Mercedes Lackey – The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley

The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley
Mercedes Lackey

Annie’s got an eye to shoot and a brilliant husband who doesn’t care that his wife out shoots him! In her past she’s haunted by a hungry childhood in which she encountered a He-wolf who tried to take her magic for himself. After realising that magic is real, Annie has to make a decision – to train as a magician or go back to her regular life.

It’s obvious that Lackey has been paying attention to the media in terms of trying to get more obvious acknowledgement of poverty into the spotlight. There are hundreds of people who go hungry every day, including those who starve to death. I really like it when my favourite authors try to bring visibility to these issues.

However, this was a disappointing novel. It unfortunately followed the format of many of the most recent Elemental MastersΒ by Lackey in that a lot of time was spent on the minutiae of life as a travelling circus performer and very little on the magic side of things. The handful of encounters with ‘baddies’ were unsatisfying and average. I also think I picked up a handful of plot holes.

Three stars from me. I’m unimpressed by this latest offering and I won’t be purchasing it for my shelf. Lackey, please go back to writing your original ideas rather than trying to take existing historical figures and trying to write magic into them.

Review: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill – The Waters and the Wild

The Waters and the Wild
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Olivia’s summer is looking pretty fine. A family vacation away from her divorcing parents with her super-hot, popular boyfriend? But when her boyfriend pays no more attention to her than he does to his brothers, Olivia is left wondering why he brought her – for himself? Or someone else…

I was surprised that Blake didn’t try to take sexual advantage of Olivia. Olivia was (and is) such a pathetic character with almost no spine (and no self-confidence) that I felt sure Blake would have pushed her into sex, and she’d have justified it. Her best-friend’s concern just seemed to blow right past Olivia, but how can one person be so clueless? Olivia is just plain dumb (perhaps what more can I expect from a vegan who survives on PBJs?).

Olivia’s depression is a grey fog that I almost thought was supernatural – Blake literally pulling the life out of her. She certainly couldn’t think straight about anything that was going on, and her inner voice rang true for me. However, the ending of the novel basically has her curing her clinical depression with a near-death experience and some bonding with her mother – and that reads to me of just being

I found the ending particularly unsatisfying. Blake is essentially able to get off scot-free to continue abusing women. I find that extremely upsetting and although realistic, not a notion that I want to see furthered anywhere. Essential Olivia’s going to go off the college, and the rest of the world will just go on.

This is a return to the Serrated Edge series where elves drive race cars. The novel Silence (my review here) is very similar to this on in plot (young woman/girl in peril is saved by mysterious otherworldly person). Actually, I thought that this series / world / universe was commanded by Mercedes Lackey with co-writers, but it turns out that there are a couple of books by single authors as well that I might bother reading if I can find them at the library. 3 stars from me, but don’t go rush out and buy it.

Review: Tanya Huff – Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light

Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light
Tanya Huff

Darkness is coming, and it’s up to a 2/3 trained Bard, a simple woman, an over-worked social worker and a bag lady to stop it. Oh, and a perfect but overly emotional Aspect of Light. Toronto will never be the same.

You’d think that with three female characters you’d see some serious woman-kick-ass but nope, the focus still seems to be on the paranoid Bard and the too-hot-to-be-human Aspect of the Light. Oh, and two random cop characters. This novel was such a mix of perspectives I’m not surprised that I hated it.

I honestly don’t know why I kept reading this novel. Perhaps a fear of missing out on the train wreck? Honestly, I hated the characters so much that I hoped they all died in a burning fire / were taken by the Dark. I had difficulty skimming through it simply because it was an eBook. I could sworn I had read other books by this author and enjoyed them, so I thought maybe it could redeem itself!

Roland is tortured, doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life and fears all possible hints that he might be gay. He’s also not quite a bard, which seems to be the least of his problems. We also see a neurodiverse cast member in the shape of Rebecca who is simple and thrives on rituals to keep her life stable. I think what we are supposed to believe about her is that it’s not a bad thing that she is ‘stupid’, but it honestly comes off as trite and ultimately unfulfilling.

The author seems to be playing with the fact that life revolves around sex – one of the tactics used to delay the Light is by basically making him a sex god! There’s nothing normally wrong with this, but it’s unclear to me why the author decided that some awkward male-male bonding was necessary. It made it seem like being gay was a problem!

Ultimately this should have been a 1 star novel. I shouldn’t have kept reading it, but was somehow too invested (or bored at work) to stop. I’m disappointed and I think I won’t be touching anything by this author for a long time until I’ve forgotten how awful this one was.

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Alcatraz verses the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz verses the Evil Librarians
Brandon Sanderson

The Smedrys are blessed with Talents. Or cursed, depending on who you ask. Alcatraz Smedry has a powerful Talent that has meant that he has broken everything in his foster homes so far. When he receives a bag of sand for his birthday, this starts him on a quest with his very odd grandpa and a series of even odder cousins – with talents from falling to waking up ugly!

In these novels, Sanderson breaks all the writing conventions, especially the ‘fourth wall’. The author (Alcatraz) is writing these memoirs and is fully aware of how writers make novels and how to make readers cry out in anger! Particularly with meandering introductions to chapters or going off topic, or just generally being irritating. It’s a style of writing that is either going to drive you crazy or have you laughing out loud.

For example, in the fourth novel, Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens, Alcatraz starts skipping chapters and labeling chapters odd things. He works his way through all of the writing conventions and mixes them around. He skips parts and pretends that the chapters just went missing!

Strangely for a Sanderson novel, I probably wouldn’t reread these ones urgently. I’m thinking I’m too old and jaded for these novels. I’m perfectly happy to accept writing conventions and roll with them. We all know how I feel about using stupid languages (see my scathing reviews ofΒ Munmun and Storm-Wake). I’m going to test them out on my 9.5 year old reader and see how she goes with them.

Review:Mercedes Lackey – A Scandal in Battersea

A Scandal in Battersea
Mercedes Lackey

Christmas is an important season for people wanting to revisit their childhoods or live vicariously through the children of others. Nan and Sarah enjoy the season with Suki, John & Mary Watson and the indomitable Sherlock Holmes. But evil also likes to cross at this time of year, and as more husks of women show up everyone will be needed to combat the problem.

Ugh, take me back to the older style Elemental Master’s series! I don’t care that they were ‘just’ re-imagined fairy-tales. Yes yes, it’s important that the psychics and the clairvoyants (and Celtic Warriors) get airtime (readtime?) but give me some air elementals any day. None of the other Elemental Masters get more than one novel devoted to them, so why should Nan and Sarah (3 books and counting)?

I set myself up expecting to be disappointed by this novel, so I was a little surprised when it was readable and the plot was not completely transparent. That being said,Β Sarah and Nan are one-dimensional characters and I actually liked the ‘evil sorcerer’ and his brilliant ‘sidekick’. I was happy with the ending for these guys! Nan on the other hand – what were you thinking? Maybe some exercise would do you some good so that you can actually adequately channel your Celtic Warrior.

Consider this novel another addition to the latest so-so offerings from Mercedes Lackey and join me in hoping that she gets some of her mojo back soon. Perhaps a Five Hundred Kingdoms novel? 3 stars from me for this one. Don’t rush out and buy it, just let it come your way and don’t feel like you are missing out if you don’t get it.

Review: Patricia Briggs – Mercedes Thompson series

Mercedes Thompson series
Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson, or Mercy to her friends, is a VW mechanic who just happens to have a werewolf for a roommate and a pack of werewolves for back neighbours. She also happens to be able to turn into a Coyote. Somehow she manages to get herself into multiple scrapes with vampires, the Government and the Fae despite wanting a quiet life.

I gobbled up 4-5 of these novels without taking notes on each one, so this is a group novel review. The picture to the left is actually the first novel in the series that I didn’t actually read (I just grabbed one off the shelf in a hurry and didn’t even realise it was part of a series). No matter, the novel stood well alone.

This is a fun set of novels because I wasn’t ever really sure what would happen next, and Mercy was a funny and engaging protagonist that resonated with me. Nothing like having a no-nonsense mechanic as a heroine. It reminds me of Mercedes Lackey’s Elves on the Road universe but seems to be a lot funnier with a better focus on the semi-human protagonist (but let’s admit that there is less substance to Briggs’ work).

I’ll give these novels a rousing 3 stars. If I owned them, I’d probably keep them on the shelf as light reading when I couldn’t be bothered with something that needed a brain and offered simple entertainment.

Review: Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin – Silence

Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin

Staci has just been booted by her step-mother so that she can live with her alcoholic mother instead. Even with the money from her father to hopefully

This is the first time in a while that I have read a Mercedes Lackey novel. After reading her latest Elemental Master and Valdemar novels, I sort of went on to discover better things like Brandon Sanderson! This is a duo work with Cody Martin and seems to be an older novel.

I really like the idea of elves with motorcycles and I always have! There’s a series of these that I have read before, and I thought I had read all of them in the universe. But nope! This is glorious number 9 in the SERRAted Edge series.

Ouch, in the end our elven hero didn’t turn out to be much of a hero, but that’s just the way things are with elves. They can’t help being that attractive! And Staci couldn’t help being helpless and vulnerable. She just wants to be loved! That’s pretty typical of a teenager. It would have been nice to have a bit more hope offered to Staci but this is an older style novel that really doesn’t have counselling as an option.

This was pretty decent quality older Mercedes Lackey and I really enjoyed reading it. 4 stars from me. It was great to have my library have a copy.

Review: Angela Slatter – Corpselight

Angela Slatter

Verity has unexpected drownings in daylight and her not-dead mother to contend with, oh, and she’s just had a baby. But never mind, she’s just got to keep pressing forwards. With family coming out of the woodwork faster than she can keep track, can Verity protect her immediate family and keep her Normal partner happy?

I’d like to know, even with Wanda’s magic, why Verity is up and about after such a traumatic birth pretty much 2 days later. Any baby that comes out in the space of an hour is going to rip some serious damage. Or maybe the time passed faster than I thought, which it might have because I had no sense of timing throughout the whole novel.

I don’t really understand Verity’s role. Why does she feel this compulsion to help out the Weyrd? Maybe that is something that is covered in the first novel, but she continually keeps ‘fixing things’ for them, despite them abandoning her, which is a major theme of this novel. Also, does she get paid for this role? I have trouble understanding how she normally functions. I resisted reading this novel because I knew it was a sequel, but I honestly think that that is the least of its problems.

It’s a struggle to finish this novel, and I’m still not sure I will. The pacing is incredibly slow, and the storyline very predictable. Everything always overlaps in these novels, and so once one ‘puzzle’ is solved, the rest fall in line for the reader, if not Verity. I have other attractive things to read instead, and it’s a serious backlog because I just discovered a stash of novels I had wondered where they got to, but couldn’t find them.

Honestly, all the f-words? They don’t do anything for me. Verity uses them so often that their potential impact is negligible. Using more sparingly, they might actually convey a sense of urgency. There’s some nice lines that could have been worth laughing about, such as Verity’s daughter not liking decanted breast milk! Yet they are delivered so flatly that my reaction was more meh, nice try.

I’m giving this 2 stars. Surely it appeals to some audiences, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Summing up: it was too slow, too laced with pointless cuss-words (and I’m not a puritan!) and too predictable. I’d recommend as a light read, although not fantasy based, Turbo Twenty-Three.

Hachette Australia | 11th July 2017 | AU $32.99 | paperback

Review: Jodi McAlister – Valentine

Jodi McAlister

Pearl and Finn (and Marie and Cardy) were all born on the 14th of February, and have suffered through countless Valentine’s Day celebrations together. After a horse appears and one of them disappears, it is time for Pearl to get her act together, both literally and figuratively.

I was left underwhelmed by this novel. There just seemed to be nothing outstanding about it. The characters were a bit wussy, I couldn’t get inside anyone’s heads and Pearl was an inconsistent narrator who was mainly irritating for me to read.

I thought that the premise of the novel sounded exciting, with four teenagers being born on one day, then being killed off. It turned out that mostly they weren’t even killed off! And the blurb promises me that the Unseelie want to kill the Valentine, but to me, most of the action seemed to happen from the Seelie side of things.

It was interesting to have a perspective that for once wasn’t the ‘it’ character. Much as Pearl would like to be the special one, she isn’t. That doesn’t stop her behaving stupidly about it though and being completely whiney. The worst part for me was the emotions seemed to be completely false, and the dialogue was stilted to boot.

The ending of this novel was mainly a relief. Yes, it’s the first in a series with a paranormal twist, but don’t feel compelled to read the rest when they finally appear. Try breathing under water for a similar teenage paranormal vibe, or maybe Haunt Me for more of a love story. Three begrudging stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 30th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Jeff Giles – The Edge of Everything

The Edge of Everything
Jeff Giles

After Zoe chases her brother into the killing snow, and unexpectedly runs into a gorgeous, sexy man who is hell-bent on killing someone, her life changes. If things weren’t bad enough when her father died caving, it seems that the rest of her family is now falling apart.

The principle of this novel was nifty, but the execution lead to a very slow plot line that didn’t keep my attention very well. I picked it up several weeks apart, and eventually only finished it because the publication date was coming up!

What struck me was too much dialogue. The characters spent a lot of time talking to each other, and not much actually interacting. The exception to this was Jonah and Zoe, because touch was such a huge thing with Jonah.

I am disappointed that this is a series, as it could have come to a fantastic ending all by itself. The twist at the ending was a nice touch, but honestly it could have moved on. I mean, X could have done that without telling Zoe, and it would all be fine!

I’m giving this novel 3 stars for effort. Maybe the final copy is tighter in writing than my uncorrected proof. Lucky you, I’m holding a giveaway! You can read this novel for yourself and tell me I am an idiot for not loving it.

Bloomsbury | 1st February 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback