I was busy in July, but I still managed to notch 10 books in my “read” belt. Some were short reads, like Playing with Power and The Seventh Princess, some were much longer, like 1984 and Bitten. I actually wrote reviews of a few of these, so I’m going to do some copying and pasting of them. Hope you don’t mind.
I also managed to fulfill one of my reading goals for the year: read 60 books. Book #60 was The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.
Magic’s Pawn – Mercedes Lackey
Oh Vanyel. Vanyel, Vanyel. Vanyel. I LOVED this trilogy when I was younger, and my heart would always bleed for poor Vanyel. Misunderstood, in love with a guy who probably didn’t love him enough, and gifted with talents that he didn’t want.
In an alternate medieval fantasy world, Vanyel is the first born son of a holder of a small… dukedom? I don’t know exactly what you’d call it, but Withen is Lord Holder of it, and he epxects Vanyel to be exactly like him. Except he’s not. He’s slim, willowy, and pretty, and that bothers Withen to no end. So Withen sends him to Haven, the capital of Valdemar, to be fostered by his Aunt Savil. Savil’s a Herald, a person with unusual powers that serves the kingdom of Haven by handling problems. Savil doesn’t have time for him, as she has 3 trainees to handle. Vanyel falls in love with one of them.
I really loved these books when I was younger. Vanyel is so angsty, it’s like he was written for the teenage soul to relate to. Vanyel is misunderstood at home, and then goes to Haven and falls in love, but his love is not okay, because his lover is also male. They are life bonded, and then Vanyel’s lover gets taken from him, and he’s in terrible pain. It’s like problems and heartache are just heaped on Vanyel, and he’s not understood, and teenagers can so relate to this one. As an adult, I find it more than a little silly, but I still have a big soft spot for these books.
Magic’s Promise – Mercedes Lackey
My least favorite of the three books. It involves Vanyel, now a 20s something adult, and a full Herald Mage, spending a break at his family’s holdings. He spends the book bemoaning being lonely, and bemoaning being overlooked, and we still sigh at him and feel sorry for him.
The highlight of this book is Medren, a bastard child of Vanyel’s younger brother, who happens to have the Bardic Gift. When Vanyel meets him, he is able to secure him a place in the Bardic School so he can be properly trained. He shows up in the next book, but otherwise he’s the only part of the book I really enjoy.
Magic’s Price – Mercedes Lackey
This one is a bittersweet book, ending the trilogy. Vanyel gets a second shot at love with Stefan, a talented Bard who’s able to help the king. Their happiness is shattered when Vanyel discovers that someone is killing off the Herald Mages.
This is one of those books that if it were published today, would probably come with a trigger warning. The first 2/3 of the book is fine, but the moment Vanyel takes off to confront this mysterious mage that’s killing off Herald Mages, the book gets dark. Really dark. And there’s a lot of unhappy things that happen, kidnapping, rape, torture, mass slaughter, death, etc. Lackey isn’t afraid to push things, and it shows. It also remains to me as one of the more memorable books I read as a teen, because I remember not only Vanyel well, but the last third of the book. It’s a haunting read, but a good conclusion to the trilogy.
The Seventh Princess — Nick Sullivan
I remember reading this book as a child, and I kept thinking back to it over the years. I actually forgot the name of the book, and someone on TV tropes helped me find it.
Jennifer falls asleep on the bus, and finds herself in a magical medieval kingdom. There, she’s greeted as the Princess Miranda, and settled into a suite of rooms. Through some events with a dwarf, she discovers she’s the seventh princess to be summoned. Each year a princess is summoned, and carried off by a harpy. Jennifer vows it won’t happen to her.
Cute book, easy read at 112 pages. It was a brain cleanser after getting through 1984. I liked Jennifer, and I liked how she tried to be brave and solve problems, and not wait for someone to rescue her.
Playing With Power: Book 1 – Adele Huxley
Finally, a genre that’s useful for those of us that want to read about the stages between high school and having children: new adult. Adele Huxley does a great job balancing the “I’m an adult” with the “but I’m still not ready to settle down” in this book. Novella? I’m not sure exactly what you’d call it, other than a fun, enjoyable easy read.
Lauren’s a programmer, working in a small start up that’s trying to revolutionize online clothing shopping. Her boss is a jerk & wants her to sleep with him, and her boyfriend keeps talking about moving back home to a small town. Balancing both work and her personal life is taking a toll.
I really liked Lauren as a character, because she’s smart, she knows what she needs to do to get to her goals, and she won’t roll over and take the easy way just because some guy says she has to. The fact she’s a computer programmer is near and dear to my heart, as I too, studied the same field. So I could really relate to her, and to her annoyance when she got into the coding groove and someone pulled her out of it.
In a way, this book kind of reminds of the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada. Lauren has a lot in common with Andi, both as the put upon assistant, and interactions with a sleazy guy in a position of power. Unlike Andi, Lauren chooses to deal with her problems, and fix what she can, instead of whining about how unfair things are. I can relate more to Lauren that way.
The only thing I would have really liked to see in this book is Lauren win a battle. Not a big battle, because I understand a happy ending can’t come in the middle of a story, but just a battle. A small one, like getting the last bagel at the coffee shop, or something like that. Something to reward Lauren for her perseverance in trying to make StyleSpur work.
Bitten – Kelley Armstrong
I’m pretty sure I read this book before. I remember reading Dime Store Magic many years ago, and the character of Elena was introduced. I remember reading something about Elena, because when this book reveals who bit her, it clicked in my mind. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the plot of this one.
Honestly? I thought it was kind of boring. Elena has a crappy background: parents died in a car accident when she was tiny (she was in the car too), then a series of foster homes and being molested, and then college, and getting engaged to Clayton. During engagement, she gets bitten, and becomes the first female werewolf that any werewolf knows of. From there, she has to adapt to the idea that a normal life is impossible, and make as good a life as she can.
The book starts with her attempting to live a normal life, with a normal, boring boyfriend, and a career in journalism. It’s not very exciting. Even when she gets the call to come back to New York State and handle a werewolf pack problem, it’s not very exciting. It’s a lot of wolf scenes, then arguing with the pack. Then back to wolf to do something, then argue with members of the pack. On occasion there’s an exciting scene, but it’s pretty dull.
I will say the bad guys of the novel are interesting. A serial killer that hates women really wants to have Elena to to torture and kill, and the scenes with the two of them are good. There’s a non pack werewolf who’s a thief by trade, and all he wants it territory, so how he interacts with people is fun to read. He’s very careful not to cross the line. The rest of the bad guys aren’t too interesting, but those two make up for it.
If you’re looking for a read that won’t require lots of concentration, this is for you. It’s a good airplane to beach read, or a good read if you’re stressed out and preoccupied. You won’t need to focus too hard on it.
The Testing – Joelle Charbonneau
I was going to read The Testing for a dystopia fiction swap, but I didn’t get a chance to open it until 2 days before the swap ended. That’s not enough time to read a book, digest it, and then provide a reasonable review and commentary on it, and mail it in time. I read fast, but not that fast.
I’d heard people either loved to hated this book, with the people who hated it often claiming it’s a knockoff of The Hunger Games. I didn’t find it to be that way at all.
Malencia Vale (or Cia, as she prefers) has graduated high school in her colony, Five Lakes. The day after she graduates, an official from Tosu City shows up, and announces that she and 3 others from her class have been chosen for Testing. Testing is difficult, but if you pass, you go to the University, and study in a field that will enable you to help humanity.
Many years before, wars got out of hand, and humans scorched the earth. The earth rebelled with earthquakes and fires and other horrible things, and now humanity is trying to eke out a living and survive. Cia’s father attended university, and before she leaves, he gives her on piece of advice: “Don’t trust anyone.”
Cia’s a complicated character, who I think trusts a little too easily. However, she’s smart, and good with mechanical things, and while she has a thing for Thomas, she doesn’t let it get in the way of her passing the testing.
The testing. It’s brutal, and designed to weed out a lot of people. Only 20 make it to University. They start with 108, and people who are weeded out often don’t survive. That’s not great odds. I do have a qualm with this: if these kids are the best and brightest, why are you killing them? They claim the testing shows who’s leadership material and who’s not, but if they’re not, why not educate them and put them in non leadership roles?
The Testing was a good book, and I enjoyed the characters and the plot. I have the next two from the library, and will be binge reading them soon.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Animal Farm is an interesting book, and a short read. It’s under 100 pages. I enjoyed it much more than 1984. I did feel bad for the animals, they work so hard on things, and it just doesn’t work out for them. They start out with all animals being equal, and the pigs promote themselves into positions of power. They way they do is it so subtle that the other animals don’t see what they’re doing. Eventually one pig comes out on top (Napoleon), as leader, history is rewritten, and animal confess to aiding the other pig (Snowball), and are executed as a result.
The farm becomes a dark place, and the 7 rules of Animalism have words added to them, changing their meanings. Watching the farm go from a decent place for all animals, to a hellish place to live, made me feel for the poor animals. Not the pigs and dogs though, they were not nice creatures. Sure, a lot of that is Napoleon’s fault, as he’s filling everyone’s heads with tales, and raising the dogs apart from everyone.
There’s a whole plot point with a windmill that the animals are trying to construct, that really shows how things are changing on the farm. It takes several attempts to get it built, and once it’s built, it’s not used for electricity in the stalls, which was supposedly the original intent, but to make things easier for the pigs.
How to Write Erotic Short Stories That Sell: A Simple Formula – Christina Palmer
I’ve been curious about writing erotica, since it seems so popular, and in a writing group I’m in, someone made a comment, referencing things in this book. So I decided to check it out.
It’s…. ok? It’s not bad, by any means, and I did learn from it.
It is, however, short. Short isn’t bad, I would rather have a short book provide me with all the information it promises, and nothing more, than a book full of filler, with only a little real information. Palmer delivers 37% of the book (according to Kindle) with information about writing.
The rest of the book are two short stories she’s published, so the reader can see how she’s used the formula. I’m glad she offered up two different stories, to show the formula doesn’t have to be used the same way each time, And because she doesn’t go “to see the forumla in action, buy my book.” That would have pissed me off. However, I just find it kind of strange that the example stories are twice the length of the information.