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Monthly Archives: August 2014

“The Shadow Reader” and “The Shattered Dark”

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the shadow reader

The shattered dark

 

The Shadow Reader and The Shattered Dark by Sandy Williams are the first two books in an urban fantasy trilogy that splits its time between the human world and the Realm, where the fae live. Our main character is McKenzie Lewis, a human college student with the ability to read the shadows of where fae fissure (teleport) to. This skill is so rare that the king of the Realm, who hates humans, calls upon her regularly.

The first book starts with McKenzie trying to finish a college final for the umpteenth time. She repeatedly fails her classes due to fae business. Kyol, who can keep himself hidden from humans, just pops up in her class, and tells her they need to run because the rebels have found out her location. Kyol is the kings head sword master, aka the head of security, and since McKenzie is a valuable asset, he’s sent to keep her safe. Kyol doesn’t mind being sent to fetch her though; they’ve secretly been in love for ten years. As they’re running to safety the rebels grab McKenzie and take her hostage.

The king hates humans and everything that they represent. He doesn’t allow human objects and technology into his realm. Kyol and McKenzie can never be together by the king’s decree, and are forced to keep their love a secret. They only see each other when the king allows it and never move pass kissing. I know this is supposed to be dramatic but dude come on, Kyol obviously loves his kingdom more than he loves McKenzie and she should have cut her losses years ago.

The rebels don’t like McKenzie because she has been helping the king track them down and kill them. McKenzie doesn’t know that, she thinks they’re just being arrested, and then she’s sad because she’s the reason that people are dead. You’re introduced to lots of different characters in these two books but there are only three that Williams seems to care about, Kyol, McKenzie, and Aren, a rebel. Other characters are introduced but you never seem to be given any reason to care about them, they die or live and whichever one doesn’t seem to matter.

Throughout the first book McKenzie tries to escape the rebels multiple times, it’s great. She knows Kyol won’t stop looking for her but she’s not waiting for him to find her either. It’s a nice dose of girl power. After a few escape attempts Aren decides that what she needs is to really understand the rebels cause. They start to teach her the language of the fae, the king forbids humans to know their language, so even though she’s been in and out of their world for over a decade she never truly knows what is going on. Whenever she went to the kings court it was perfectly normal for her to just sit in a corner and wait for someone to tell her what was going on.

Half-way through the first book she and Aren decide they’re in love with each other. “Why?” you ask. Because LOVE TRIANGLE!!! No book these days is complete without a love triangle. Heaven forbid there be a female character that knows more than one male character and doesn’t fall in love with them all. It’s very abrupt, one moment they hate each other and then the next Cupid’s arrow strikes. Love triangles are the worst thing in the entire world, want to make a book suck add a love triangle. In the end of the first book Williams fixed the love triangle, she fixed it, and what does she do in the next book? She fucks it all up again! Who read that and said “that’s great, go with that”?

Can we stop having books where there are two men, one aloof but caring, and the other a dashing rogue? I’m tired of these love triangles. Listen up folks if someone doesn’t want to be with you, don’t wait around. Or if you think one of the guys is a jerky criminal don’t date him either. Yes, maybe he needs someone to love him or whatever or maybe he just needs a ton of therapy. How about a healthy relationship? Can we have one of those?

The ending of the second book completely soured me towards the entire series and any other books Williams may write in the future. It felt as though through she couldn’t come up with enough of a plot for the final book of the series so she just decided to add more angst. I would recommend reading the first book of this series and then pretending the rest of it doesn’t exist.

Trigger Warnings:

No known

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

Final Rating:

The Shadow Reader

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

 

The Shattered Dark

gold-star (1)

The Cold Dish

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the cold dish

 

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson is the first book in a series, that introduces us to Walt Longmire, a sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. The first paragraph grabs you and drags you into Walt’s world of local drunks and small town politics. You’re introduced to a cast of characters that are equally fleshed out, from the woman, Dorothy, who runs the café near the sheriff’s department to Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyanne Indian and Walt’s best friend. You aren’t just reading about Wyoming you’re there; you can see the mountains and smell the fresh air and maybe just that faint hint of animal manure (you are in rural Wyoming).

The book series has the writing and the characters to entice readers who prefer vastly different types of books. My father and I (who up until this point have never read the same book and enjoyed it) have been devouring this series as fast as we can.  My father is a fan of westerns and grew up watching The Lone Ranger; this book does have a white law man and Indian friend, just without the 1950’s racist undertones (Tonto being played by a white guy). Calling it 1950’s racism is actually a bit unfair, in the new Lone Ranger movie Tonto is still played by a white guy.

Walt and Henry each bring their own strengths to the story, and while there is some mystic Native American stuff, it’s more focused on Walt’s perception of it. Henry, thank god, is not a magical Indian. Having served in Vietnam, Walt doesn’t have the taste for unnecessary violence and frequently forgets his gun when he takes it off. Even though Walt isn’t a fan of violence, you are never given the impression that he is not a rough and tumble kind of guy. Walt is the kind of man that will always give you the chance to stand down, not because he can’t fight, but because he’s seen the damage violence can cause and would rather not be the cause.

I have always pretty much hated any sort of western and only started to read the series because I saw the first season of the show Longmire, which is based on the books. The books I love are the ones with witty dialogue and consistent characters; this book has both those things in spades. One sentence you’ll be reading some sad, horrible, or otherwise dark discovery and the next one will have you laugh out loud.  Henry and Walt have the easy camaraderie of two people who have known each other for decades and their conversations are one of my favorite things in the book, its where most of the great one-liners are.

Who wouldn’t I recommend this book to? My grandmother. I know, I know, “But I thought this book was good for all sorts of readers?” You’re right I did say that and that is true, unless you don’t like women who swear. My grandmother doesn’t even like it when people say damn, not alone when people say fuck and not just once, but multiple times. The woman in question, Deputy Victoria Morretti, is a direct and clever transplant from Philadelphia. She’s one of my favorite characters, I love her for all the reasons my grandmother wouldn’t. Morretti isn’t concerned with bringing culture and class to the wilderness, she was a tough cop in Philadelphia and she’s a tough cop in Absaroka County. She isn’t trying to be one of the guys and won’t take shit from anyone who is foolish enough to give it to her.

 

Normally I would be wearier of reading a book written by a white man that includes a cast of characters, of a historically marginalized race but Mr. Johnson by all accounts has done his homework. Henry Standing Bear is based on a real life friend of Johnson’s, a Mr. Marcus Red Thunder. Johnson lives in Wyoming and his ranch abuts to both a Crow and a Cheyenne reservation, where he has many friends. I always breathe a sigh of relief when a person who writes about Native Americans has actually met them.

Since this book is a mystery book, I won’t go too far into the plot. The story starts with the discovery of a dead body by a local farmer. The phone call about the body is where I knew this story wasn’t going to be boring, the man who discovered the body asked Walt if while he was on his way over he could grab some beer. Walt is a caregiver, as soon as you enter his county you’re his responsibility. This isn’t in a macho, “I know what the best thing for you way”, it’s the “do you have a place to sleep, if not I have a spare bed” kind of way.  Knowing this and small towns, the idea that someone would ask the sheriff to bring them beer isn’t too far off the beaten path

The mystery takes you through the county and introduces you to the area, all its beauty, and the quirks that go with being in the middle of nowhere.   This book is an entertaining read while providing insight into the people and the land of Wyoming.

 

Trigger Warnings:

  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Suicide

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

No

Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)gold-star (1)

 

And Only to Deceive

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and only to decieve

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, the first book in the Lady Emily Asher series is a Victorian mystery set in Europe. What I like about Victorian mysteries is that the main character has to figure out the culprit without the help of modern technology. I love modern mysteries too but sometimes they rely too heavily on science and finding a stray hair. I wasn’t much of a fan of this book though. It wasn’t awful but I don’t think there was a single character I didn’t get annoyed with at some point.

The main character Lady Emily Ashton, only marries to escape her overbearing mother, who comes off as what someone thinks an overbearing mother sounds like. Her mother is completely unbelievable in all scenes she appears, if you’ve even been to a play where the supporting character is completely over playing their part that’s Emily’s mother.

Emily has only been married a few months when her husband, Peter, goes on safari and dies. In the beginning Emily is only mourning Peter out of social obligation. Feeling like she never got to know him, she starts to read his diary.  After finding out that he loved ancient Greece, she starts learning all she can about it. If you don’t want to read excerpts from the Iliad and repeatedly read about the differences between Achilles and Hector; run away as fast as you can. Emily spends most of the novel floundering around and touring museums, talking with different people about the same pieces of art. Its swell, and by swell I mean monotonous and dry.

There is also a bit of a love knot; it’s not a triangle or a square so I’m just calling it a knot. Minor spoiler, while reading Peters journal, Emily falls head over heels with him because why not? As the book progresses she does realize that she is actually in love with the idea of him and the life they could have had. Emily realizing her love for Peter is idealized is one of the few things done right in the book. Other characters express interest in her but halfway through the book she mourns she has lost by Peter dying and spends some time crying. One of Emily’s friends specifically tells her not to fall in love with her dead husband but does she listen? Nope, she just keeps digging deeper into his life and getting to know him.

A lot of the mystery could have been cut out if people didn’t jump to conclusions and/or hide in the shadows “to protect Emily.” I wanted Emily to take out an ad telling people she was happy being a widow and had no intention of marrying again; it would have saved me from reading it over and over. The mystery unfolds mostly in the background; we spend far more time reading about how Emily is learning Greek and explaining she doesn’t want to remarry.

Alexander wrote in the authors notes that the concept of the book started with a rich widow. I hate characters that were created just to give the main character something to overcome and that’s all Peter is. We never really get to know him because Emily never really knows him. In between each chapter is an excerpt from Peter’s journal and that’s all the insight we ever really get. People tell Emily that he was wonderful, but he just seemed creepy. Peter suffered from the obnoxious trait, where since Emily wasn’t that interested in him, he needed her. There were many weird comparisons with Emily being prey and Peter being the hunter. Peter was a hunter, that’s what he was off doing when he died but Emily is person not an elephant.

This book had so much potential and this story could have been great and wonderful but Alexander seems to have bitten off more than she can chew. The return to the novels mystery always felt jarring and forced, Emily’s journey of self-discovery could have been the only plot line. Sometimes the first novel in a series is brilliant and causes you to rush out to get the next one; this one does not have that kind of effect. I did put the next one on reserve at my local library but I’m having a hard time convincing myself to pick it up.

Triggers:

  • no known triggers

Does it pass the Bechdel test?

Yes

 Final Rating:

gold-star (1)gold-star (1) gold-star

Introduction

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This blog is to keep track of the books I’ve read and reviews I write about them. Included in these reviews will be a list of trigger warnings. If there is ever a book I review that is missing a trigger warning let me know. I’ll also be keep track of what books pass the Bechdel test.