Two Minute Reviews: To All The Books I Forgot to Review Summer 2016 (Part 2)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Hello again kittens, to another installment of "Danielle's 'to-review?' folder has gotten out of control". If you're just joining us, this is part two of my summer reads. (Part one is posted here.) I promise this half has significantly less Mira Grant and significantly more graphic novels. If you're into that. (Which you should be because I have five star recs coming up.)

Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Pages: 648
Published: September 1st, 2015
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 out of 5


So many emotions, so much shipping, so many desires to punch Chaol in his fucking face. Aelin's back in Adarlan, which went to hell in the last book. Aedion's captured, Chaol's a fugitive, and Dorian, poor Dorian. She's separated from Rowan, her carranam and maybe more, who is forced to stay behind because of Adarlan's magic restrictions. She's forced back into the role of Celaena, which no longer fits the person she became in HoF.

The book also introduces a few new characters, including my new girlfriend, Lysandra, Celaena's former childhood nemesis. Elide's less beloved but probably more important to the plot and her interactions with the Blackbeaks provided some much needed worldbuilding for the larger conspiracy.


Title: What Happened at Midnight
Author: Courtney Milan
Genre: Romance
Series: N/A
Pages: 104
Published: March 14th, 2013
Source: Borrowed, Library
Rating: 3 out of 5

It had to happen sometime. Courtney Milan wrote a mediocre story. :\

What Happened at Midnight isn't bad, it just isn't up to par. The plot is relatively thin and for a story about abused wives, John is a little more forceful than I'd like my hero. I didn't fall in love with him or Mary, separately or together, which definitely didn't help. I did like how Mary helped Lady Patsworth, both try to find comfort in and escape her marriage. It was a better plot than the main romance.

Title: Romancing The Duke
Author: Tessa Dare
Genre: Romance
Series: Castles Ever After #1
Pages: 370
Published: January 28th, 2014
Source: Borrowed, Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

OK, so before I even get into the real plot, the through line of this series is one of my favorites ever. A benevolent old man goes around gifting castles to his godchildren, because every girl dreams of being a princess, right? And all my godfather ever sent was Kinder Eggs from his last deployment.

Isolde Ophelia Goodnight is a penniless orphan. Her father was a famed author of medieval claptrap, framed as a story to his daughter, and while everyone knows Little Izzy Goodnight, no one has taken them time to know the woman she's grown into. She's alone and mostly friendless, until she gets a letter from a lawyer. A misunderstanding, or something more sinister, results in both Izzy and Ransom, Duke of Rothbury laying claim to a crumbling castle neither of them can let go of. Ransom's secret, (which I revealed in my review of When Beauty Tamed the Beast, but really is better a surprise,) managed to knock me for a loop. It makes perfect sense looking back, but it wasn't even on my radar until it was revealed. Izzy's secret, however, was a little more transparent. And while it wasn't a bad reveal, it didn't warrant the amount of build.

I like the romance, but what I really liked was Izzy's fans showing up on the lawn as a huge cosplay convention.

Title: Giant Days, Vol. 1
Author: John Allison
Genre:Graphic Novels, Contemporary
Series: Giant Days #1-4
Pages: 128
Published: November 24th, 2015
Source: Borrowed, Hoopla
Rating: 4 out of 5

Giant Days was recommended to me because I read Nimona and I want to read Lumberjanes. I didn't know anything about it going in, which is actually kind of interesting, because I used to read Allison's webcomic Scary Go Round, which this spun off of. If you remember SGR, you might remember Allison's art, which was...let's be tactful and say rough. Lissa Teiman does the art for Giant Days and it is gorgeous. Expressive, vibrant, and not made of layered MSPaint circles.

The plot is a little light. The story centers around three friends, Susan, Esther, and Daisy as they embark on their first year in (a very British) university. The four volumes the book incorporates feature such college trials as "Fresher' Flu", The Chive's Ladzone's hottest freshman list, and that time you accidentally take hallucinogenic drugs before your grandmother visits. It's all funny, but anything building to a larger world is more likely found in volume 2.

Title: Giant Days, Vol. 2
Author: John Allison
Genre:Graphic Novels, Contemporary
Series: Giant Days #5-8
Pages: 128
Published: April 12th, 2016
Source: Borrowed, Hoopla
Rating: 4 out of 5

Hey look, it's volume 2!

As the girls go home for Christmas, we're finally able to learn more about their home lives and why Susan hates sexemy McGraw. I need a good backstory for my characters, so while the plot of this little side-story is silly, I also really liked it for giving depth. In fact, the whole volume is kind of silly, but in a good way. Eccentric and naive Daisy's sudden obsession with ten-year-old American sports drama, Friday Night Lights is absolutely hilarious and out of no where.

This volume features a lot more relationships which brings a lot more drama. Esther tries to be someone she's not to impress a guy, with disastrous consequences of course. Daisy's struggling with her sexuality. And Susan and McGraw is just weird. (In a funny, weird lumberjack mechanic and cynical feminist kind of way.)  It's definitely a series I'll keep pursuing, because I feel like the story is just hitting its stride.

Title: So Right
Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon
Genre: Romance
Series: Sugar Baby #2
Pages: 106
Published: April 30th, 2016
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Kayla and Michael are back and they're still sexy and sweet and completely devoted to each other. They still have sex at inappropriate times and as a band-aid for their problems, which is starting to become frustrating as the entire plot could have been solved by sitting down and really hashing out their engagement and moving issues.

Michael, in an effort not to blindside Kayla, presents her with the pre-nup before the ring. This has the exact opposite effect he intended, sending her into a tailspin about conducting their relationship like a business. It immediately gets worse as Michael buys a basketball team in Miami and the couple is forced into a massive press junket, complete with racist tabloids. Daniella and Duke are on the outs, so Kayla's alone in the 2 billion square foot mansion they're renting with the puppies and simmering resentment for company.

The thing is, Kayla takes everything in stride once they actually talk, so I don't really understand why she was so upset in the first place. A pre-nup is shocking and no fun, but expected. She wanted a more romantic proposal, ok, but she got a beautiful candlelit dinner under the stars, next to the pool at their So-Cal mansion? It wasn't Fiji, but it also wasn't Walgreens. She just felt whiny, which is something Kayla most definitely was not in book one.

Title: The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act
Author: Kieron Gillen
Genre: Graphic Novel, mythology
Series: The Wicked + The Divine #1-5
Pages: 144
Published: November 12th, 2014
Source: Borrowed, Hoopla
Rating: 5 out of 5

You guys, I cannot recommend The Wicked  + The Divine enough. It's not perfect. There is a learning curve to the world building, the gods, and their powers and I would kind of do anything for a glossary, but it's so good. First, the plot: Every 90 years, twelve gods are reincarnated. "They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead." The gods are the ultimate celebrities, attracting crowds and capable of making fans pass out or come with a single look, but they also hold far greater powers, as Lucifer demonstrates during an attempted assassination attempt. Main character, Laura becomes embroiled in a mystery to clear Luci's name after she's set up. The saboteur must be another god, but is it Amaterasu, Baphomet, Baal? Or Ananke, the gods' minder?

Diversity wise, we're looking pretty good. Sexuality is clearly not a big thing for any of the gods, as Luci and Sakhmet are both shown with men and women. Laura, the main character, is half-black and four of the nine gods revealed so far are POC. Cassandra, a reporter Laura works with on the murder case, is trans.

This book is gorgeous. Because the idea of gods as figures of pop culture is so pervasive, each god is styled after famous musicians. Luci is David Bowie's White Duke, (down to a variant cover as his mug shot which is so good.) Amaterasu is Florence Welch/Stevie Nicks. Baal is Kanye in Power. Sakhmet is a drop dead gorgeous Rihanna. The death members of the Pantheon are a little more obscure. Hope you're up on your British post-punk gothic lead singers. Close-ups are detailed and full of little touches, like all of The Morrigan's crow jewelry. Establishing shots are a little flat and backgrounds are generally gradient walls, but the characters are done well enough I don't really notice.

Also, there's an official playlist and it's full of Florence + The Machine, Janelle Monae, and David Bowie, so.

Title: Magic Rises 
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre:Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #6
Pages: 327
Published: July 30th, 2013
Source: Purchased, Audible
Rating: 4 out of 5

Have I ever mentioned how tired I am of Kate and Curran's dancing around their future? For god's sake, you've been in love since book one. You've been mated since book four. You have an adopted kid together. One pretty shapeshifter should not be enough to send Kate into such a spiral.

This is the book in every UF romance subtitled, "can we bring babies into this crazy world?" One of Julie's friends starts to turn lupe. After having just saved Julie from the same fate, Kate can't bear to see another kid go through it. There's a magic herb that can stop lupism, but the pack doesn't have enough. Luckily, two European packs have just asked Curran to be a mediator in a dispute and they'll pay him in anti-lupism drugs, which is definitely not a trap.

So the trap ends up actually being for Kate, as another of her dad's cronies has discovered her. We get some more information on Kate's past and we're steadily moving towards the final showdown, while letting Kate be super badass and kill a lot of things. The final battle is pretty fucking batshit, in an awesome "she can't .. stand and she's cutting you down like you're children", way.

I actually liked Desandra, the source of the mediation and Kate's body to guard. She's selfish, sullen, and a total brat, but she's also had one hell of a life. Her father first tried to pawn her off on Curran at seventeen. When he refused, she was shipped to the Volkodavi in the Ukraine. A few months later, her father called her home and forced a divorce, before shipping her off in the same breath to an Italian pack, The Belve Ravennati. Trade negotiations broke down with Italy and she was returned to her father for a third time, pregnant with twins and each with a different father. (She sought comfort with her Ukranian ex after her Italian husband announced they were sending her back.) One husband was abusive and the other was a whipped mama's boy. If I were carrying their babies and my father was trying to murder me, I might sulk in my dirty room too.

Title: Saga Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Series: Saga #1-18
Pages: 504
Published: November 1st, 2014
Source: Borrowed, Hoopla
Rating: 6 out of 5 (that was a typo but I'm leaving it because yes, good)

Stop what you are doing. All fantasy fans report to the comic shop for Saga right now. It's kind of Romeo and Juliet plus Blade Runner in a flying tree with a teenage ghost and Han Solo stopping sex slavery. Also a grocery store romance novel is the secret to ending a millennia long war.

The story is about Hazel, a child born to Alana, a winged soldier from Coalition of Landfall, and Marko, a horned farmer from Landfall's moon, Wreath. They've been drafted into the war between their planets and shipped off to Cleave, because destroying either planet or moon would fuck up the gravity and destroy the other as well, so the governments have outsourced the fighting. Good to see bureaucracy will keep working in space. They're fugitives just trying to raise their baby away from the fighting, but both governments decide Alana and Marko need to be made examples of and hire bounty hunters to kill them and bring in the baby.

The global war is a huge part of the plot, undoubtedly, but what I really like about Saga is how the family is able to feel like a family even in the midst of naked female spiders with nine hundred knives trying to kill them. Their rushed courtship means things like Marko's ex-fiance keep popping up. In-laws, babysitters, and whether or not Hazel's wings should be clipped. (It's barbaric! It's my religion!) The best and happiest part of the book is the family on Quietus, playing board games and watching sports. Why couldn't they stay there foreveeeeeeer?

Title: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 50
Published: December 3rd, 2013
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5

Creepy, party of Brandon Sanderson. Your nightmares are ready.

SfSitFoH is part of the Cosmere, but not a world we've yet explored. There doesn't seem to be any real magic, though the forests are infested with the shades of the dead. Silence Montane is also different from any of Sanderson's characters we've explored. She's middle-aged and widowed, running an inn with two small children. She's also a bounty hunter, using her knowledge of the forests to stalk and kill killers.

This story is so creepy. The shades attack when their rules are broken. When blood is spilled or fire struck. Or when you run. So most of the story takes place quietly and carefully creeping past creatures that can wither your limbs and suck your life out with a single touch. The only thing that can stop them or save you is silver, (interestingly not a metal used in the only other known metal-based magic system. Coincidence?)  Tension is high.

Phew, that's it guys. 22 reviews in two posts. And what's that? I've already got 5 August books I haven't reviewed?


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