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Archive for June, 2023

Fantasy Friday Review – The Windsingers

Friday, June 30th, 2023

The Windsingers by Megan Lindholm

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


This is Megan Lindholm’s (aka Robin Hobb) second novel in the “Ki and Vandien Quartet”. The first in the series is Harpy’s Flight. You can read my review of that here. I’ve also seen this listed as the Windsingers series. You don’t need to have read the first one to catch the plot, although Ki’s motivation depends on something that happened in the first book. However, Lindholm provides enough backstory to tell the reader what happened.

As we begin, Ki and Vandien’s relationship seems to have skipped ahead since we left them in the last book.  Ki comes into an unfamiliar town with her horses and wagon and no money.  She’s looking for Vandien at their pre-arranged meeting place and finds him in an inn that is better suited for one of the other species on this world, but they’re fine with that. Vandien tells Ki about a deal he’s just made: There’s a seaside town where every year, at the lowest of low tides,  they contract with a teamster to search for and then haul out a treasure from a sunken Windsinger tower. The benefits are legendary, but there’s a catch – one of the Windsingers is going to be there, whipping up the weather against the teamster.  What Vandien doesn’t tell her is that he’s also been promised something very personal.

Ki listens to this with incredulity. How could he promise her team of horses without even asking her? This job has been around for years, it’s almost a joke amongst the teamsters because a) there probably isn’t any treasure and b) there’s no payment if you don’t succeed. All you get is food and lodging for your effort. How can Vandien never have heard of this? But he’s determined to go, she’s determined not to, and so they split up again. Ki says she’s off to get a real job and if she gets some cash, she might go there. But now Vandien has to find some kind of team, which is the funniest part of this book.

What neither of them realize is that they are being manipulated by the same evil wizard for his own ends.  Ki is tricked into assisting the wizard, and stubborn Vandien needs to find a way to the treasure.  What the treasure is, and who gets it in the end, Is surprising.

I liked seeing more of the various species in Lindholm’s world. You wonder where they all came from, and how they interact with each other. There’s a lot more magic being used this time around.  I didn’t care much for Ki’s story apart from Vandien, the quest was okay, but the Windsinger’s habitat was too surreal for my taste. I did like that Ki has to think more about what Vandien wants. I liked the characters in the town, but the wizard and the Windsingers not so much.

It’s a better novel than the first, and is also a complete story in itself so you’re not left with a cliffhanger.  But like the first, it is unsurprisingly no longer in print.





Literary Fiction Review – Shuggie Bain

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Review by Pat D. (pat0814)


Shuggie Bain is abandoned at an early age by his father physically and his mother emotionally.  His father leaves the family due to his wife’s alcoholism, and Shuggie is mostly forgotten during his mother’s frequent alcoholic hazes.  He has an older half brother and half sister, who are a temporary constant until they, too, cannot bear their mother’s lack of interest in their well being and leave Shuggie alone with his mother.  The novel is set in Scotland in a community of abject poverty where miners’ families live after the mine has closed.  There is a pervasive desperation among those who remain, and alcohol is a constant companion, as is physical violence.

Shuggie fails to fit into the rough-and-tumble group of children.  He is visibly effeminate, and an easy target for the bullies at school and in the neighborhood.  A glimpse into Shuggie’s life is heartbreaking.

5 stars



Mystery Monday Review – The Birthday Murder

Monday, June 26th, 2023

The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This 1945 mystery is the second of five that starred series hero Lieutenant Richard Tuck of the LA Homicide Squad and his faithful assistant E. Byron “Duck Butt” Froody.

A cozy with the elements of a police procedural, it is narrated from the third-person limited point of view of career woman Victoria Hime, who writes novels, plays, and scripts. She’s also the chief suspect since circumstantial evidence points to her as the poisoner of her husband Albert Hime, a producer of B movies. It doesn’t help Victoria that the kind of poison used was the same chemical used to kill a husband in one of her novels. Tuck and Froody, however, can identify no motive that would have driven Victoria to snuff her quiet easy-going husband. Plus, Victoria’s independence of mind and knowledge of people impress Tuck, who is a combination of hard-headed and soul-deep himself.

The persons of interest to be interviewed by Tuck are three. Bernice Saxe is Victoria’s childhood friend with a raft of marital problems of her own making. Plus, we know how complicated friendships, especially long-time ones, can be. Moira Hastings is an ambitious starlet, willing to slander Victoria as jealous and back-biting because Victoria said Moira was not mature or good enough for movie part. Sawn Hariss is Victoria’s first husband, showing up like a bad penny for the first time in ten years. His immature personality has failed to improve even after active participation in World War II, only glancingly referred to in the story.

There is cringe-worthy content related to race, class, and gender but it takes up only a fraction of the novel. And plenty of references to the intricacies of female friendships and the importance of clothes, shoes, jewels, and hats may be over the head of the male reader. But these issues are balanced by the excellent prose and the breezy wit of a confident writer. This was included by Barzun and Taylor in their list of 50 great mysteries. It was reprinted in paperback the early 1980s by Harper Perennial Mystery Library. Highly recommended.




Fantasy Friday Review – Empire of the Vampire

Friday, June 23rd, 2023

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

I waited patiently for this one to come out. I watched as the publishing date changed a couple of times, pushing it out further, and still I waited. Finally, it released and soon after, I bought it. Then… I put it on my shelf. Oh, how I wanted to read it. The premise sounded so promising. Yet at 700+ pages, I couldn’t bring myself to read this one book when I could read 2-3 smaller ones in its place. Finally, more than a year later, I pulled it down, opened the cover, and fell in fully immersed. The journey was even better as there was beautifully done artwork scattered throughout.

The world in this book has been drowned in darkness. The days are dim with the sun barely showing, the nights are blacker than black. Vampires roam this world in search of humans for food and as slaves. They can come out in the day with its feeble light but are stronger in the nighttime. The vampires have also mated with the humans to create a hybrid. These hybrids have banded together to use the powers given to them by the bloodsuckers to destroy them. They call themselves silversaints and they are mankind’s last chance to take back this dark world.

Gabriel de Leon lives a simple life with a mother he loves, sisters he adores and a father that can’t stand him. Then one day, his sister is attacked by a vampire and his world starts to change forever. Finding out that his father is not his true father and the lies that he has been told, he is taken to the holy order train to be a silversaint. He finds that he does not have the special powers that his other brethren do so he trains twice as hard. Yet, the rules are too much for Gabriel and he finds that he does not agree with everything they teach. He is torn between being the warrior that he has trained for and the truth he feels in his heart. When he crosses the line, the order gives him no choice and banishes him.

The story unfolds as Gabriel, who at present time has been taken prisoner by the enemy, relives his tale to his captor. He tells of battles, of love, of betrayal. He talks of the Holy Grail and his quest to protect it. This tome is his tale and, boy, is it quite a tale. Not once did I get bored or feel the need to skim the pages. It held my attention from the first page to the last.

Now, a bit of a warning. There is a lot of violence in this book. It can be quite brutal with all of the slaying and such. It also has a ton of profanity. While cuss words do not really bother me in the least, I would have to say that this is the one and only problem I had with the book. The profanity was kind of funny in the beginning but then it started to wear on you. It was done so much that it ended up not being funny and caused massive eye rolling on my part. I think if it was toned down, at the moments when it could’ve really used them, it would’ve been more enjoyable. Instead it was just a constant in the book after you delved in a bit. Then, the last warning is that there is some sex scenes. Nothing overly graphic but they are there.

The vampire genre had gotten stale for me but this book renewed my faith that there are still good bloodsucking books out there. Excited to see that the second book should be coming out in 2024. Looking forward to getting my hands on it.





Mystery Review – No Strangers Here

Monday, June 19th, 2023

No Strangers Here (County Kerry, Bk 1) By Carlene O’Connor

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

Dr. Dimpna Wilde, veterinarian, left her hometown, Dingle, ages ago to raise her son and didn’t have plans to return. Then she receives a phone call about a possible murder and that her parents are the suspects. On top of that, she finds out her father has dementia. With her son grown and off on vacation and still mourning her husband’s suicide, Dimpna heads back to Dingle to clear her family’s name. Though that may be harder than she thought.

The story has a vast array of characters and at first it was hard to keep them all separate but it didn’t take long to settle down and become acquainted with each one. This is definitely a strong suit in the book. You come to love or despise them. Also, there are the secrets that are shed throughout the story. In a small town where everyone knew everybody, very little knew of the secrets each one held. It doesn’t take long for it to come to a head and the whole mess boils over.

I enjoyed the tale a lot and was entertained until the end. I was quite excited to see a mystery/thriller surrounded by the veterinary field. This just happens to be the profession I always wanted but never made it in to. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more happening with working with the animals. There was an occasion here and there but it was mostly about the medication in the vet field. Still, here’s hope that the next book will add more of that into it.

Fantasy Friday Review – Nettle and Bone

Friday, June 16th, 2023

NETTLE & BONE by T. Kingfisher

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

This is a lovely standalone fantasy from award-winning author T.Kingfisher, who also writes as Ursula Vernon. It has well-drawn characters, excellent world-building, and moves along at just the right pace to keep you glued to the page.  The fairytale elements are not quite what we expect.  There are fairy godmothers to be sure, and a strong warrior, but also bone-dogs and dust-wives.

Marra is the third-born princess of a very small kingdom, with a deep-water port coveted by two larger kingdoms on either side. Marra’s sister is given in marriage to the prince of one of those, thereby assuring peace.  When Damia dies after only a few months, second sister Kania is sent to take her place. Marra is sent to a convent, conveniently out of the way but also held in reserve, although Marra doesn’t realize this. She’s happy at the convent.

At the birth of Kania’s daughter, Kania tells Marra something disquieting – but she’s in labor and Marra knows women say all sorts of things then. As the years pass Marra keeps getting letters saying Kania is with child, but there’s never a birth, so she knows there must be multiple miscarriages. And when the surviving daughter dies, Marra learns the awful truth at the funeral. She has to save her sister. But how? Every idea ends up with Kania dead or their little kingdom in ruins. Oh, wait… there’s one way…

Thus begins her quest to kill Prince Vorling. But he was given protection at birth by a powerful godmother’s blessing. Marra needs a powerful witch too, so she finds a dust-wife. The dust-wife sets her three impossible tasks, and after Marra accomplishes two of them, throws up her hands in exasperation. “You give someone an impossible task so they won’t be able to do it” she says, and gives Marra the third as a freebie. Then she joins Marra and Bonedog to get what they need for the task. They rescue a man from the goblin market, and find Marra’s fairy godmother. Let’s not forget the demon chicken.

This is such a good book. It really would be a grim fairy tale if not for the gentle humor that Kingfisher infuses all through the story.  The dialogue is spot-on for the characters. I loved how Marra steps up to save her sister, even though they never got along as children. I loved Agnes, Marra’s fairy godmother, who is better at curses than blessings, but won’t use curses.  Fenris, the dust-wife, even Bonedog are all rich characters. We can relate to Marra’s mother who we see only in a few paragraphs. The scenes are vivid – you will be repelled by the goblin market and feel yourself lost in the dark of the tombs. The ending is deeply satisfying.

I highly recommend this to any fantasy fan, adult or YA.




Historical Mystery – The Librarian of Crooked Lane

Tuesday, June 6th, 2023

The Librarian of Crooked Lane by C.J. Archer

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

This was a delightful surprise. Although, I thought I would enjoy this book, I didn’t realize that I would relish it as much as I did. There is a smattering of magic and romance with a heap of mystery. While I am not the romance type, it was nicely done and I actually liked it.

The story centers around Sylvia Ashe, a librarian that loves her job but not necessarily who she works for. Her days are made brighter on the times that her dear friend, Daisy, pops in unannounced.

Sylvia’s past is unknown. Never knowing her father and her mother refusing to talk about it, all she could do is guess. Then she finds that she might be descended from magicians. Although doubtful, she sets off, with help from Daisy, on a quest to find out. She ends up meeting Gabe, a handsome war hero, and hopes that he can help. He ends up not having answers to her questions but in a tangle of events, they both help each other on a mission to find out who stole a painting.

The adventure was fun and the characters were magnificent. I truly had lots of fun reading this story. I would’ve have loved it more if it delved deeper into the magic but hoping to see that happen in book two, The Medici Manuscript.