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Archive for August, 2023

Fantasy Review – The Limbreth Gate

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

The Limbreth Gate by Megan Lindholm

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)



This is the third book in the “Ki and Vandien Quartet”; the series is also known as “The Windsingers”. I reviewed the first and second books previously (HARPY’S FLIGHT and THE WINDSINGERS).  It is necessary to read them first for this one to make any sense.

In the last book, Ki made an enemy of one of the Windsingers, but she also gained the protection – though not friendship – of another.   Rebeke, the protector, has made it clear to the others that Ki is not to be interfered with, but Yoleth has already set a plan in motion.  She has made a bargain with the Limbreth, a bored god of another world, to lure Ki through a  gate that can be opened between the worlds.  The Windsingers have done this before with inconvenient people. Because the worlds must be “balanced”, one person must leave as another one enters, and the Limbreth is only too willing to sacrifice some of its own people in order to get new faces.  It’s a one-way trip.

Once in the Limbreth’s world, as they drink the water, a strange compulsion overtakes humans. They are compelled to travel on and find the Limbreth. They are repelled by the idea of eating meat or causing harm to any living thing.  They find peace and enlightenment but unfortunately they’re also starving to death – the locals do not provide any help. The Limbreth is already sucking up their life experiences and doesn’t really care if they die later.  Ki comes across another stranded traveler, Hollyika the Brurjan, a cat-like humanoid.

Lindholm is a very good prose stylist. Lots of imagery and atmosphere. But there’s so little action going on – there’s a lot of philosophical musings from Ki  after she’s been affected by the Limbreth about the meaning of her life and all.  And more of the same from the woman Jace who came out of that world, and more from Vandien, and more from…it goes on.  It’s good prose, but I grew impatient for something to happen. It’s very much in line with the other books, more introspection than action.

I found Vandien’s hesitation in freeing Ki very irritating. She’s obviously been mind-altered, she’s starving to death, and he’s moaning to himself “But she’s happy, should I do anything?” I identified a lot more with Hollyika, who takes a brute force approach to the problem.  In fact, I liked Hollyika more than either Ki or Vandien this time around, which was amusing.  Lindholm was trying to convey a message there, but it didn’t resonate at all  with me.

There is a huge discovery made about Ki which is just brushed on and then dropped. I assume it’s picked up in the next and last book, because it’s a major change and I’d love to know what she’s going to do with it.  There’s another huge discovery about how their world came to be, and it would be nice to see that explored too, but I’m doubtful Hobb can fit all that in.

As with the first two, it’s an interesting world, but unsurprising that the series is no longer in print. I have a copy of the last, and I’ll be picking it up before too long.




Horror Review – What Moves the Dead

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

WHAT MOVES THE DEAD is a wonderfully creepy retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher.  I previously reviewed Kingfisher’s novel NETTLE AND BONE, and liked it so much I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it.   Novella length, it expands the characters and provides a reason for the tragedy.

The year is 1890. Lieutenant Alex Easton has received a letter from Madeline Usher, a childhood friend and the sister of Roderick Usher, who was also a fellow soldier. Madeline writes the Lieutenant that Roderick is afraid she is dying, Easton determines to travel there at once and, as in Poe’s short story, the scene opens with the traveler gazing at the utterly bleak and depressing lake in front of the equally awful mansion.

As Easton stops to look at some very odd mushrooms, ka sees an Englishwoman with her paints and sketchpad. (Wait – what – ka? Yeah, you’re going to have to revise your mental image of the Lieutenant). Miss Potter is going to be of help of Easton, what help there can be at any rate.

Madeline is indeed deathly ill, and Roderick not far behind her, plus the entire atmosphere of the house and its surroundings is so unhealthful that the Lieutenant despairs of ka’s friends. There’s an American doctor there as well, who would do something if only he could figure out what.  Alex desperately wants to figure it out before it’s too late.

Kingfisher does not change the fate of the Ushers.  But Easton does find out what ails them, and it’s oh so unnerving. Ka is a wonderful character and I am happy to see that there’s another Sworn Soldier book coming (What Feasts at Night, scheduled for Feb 2024). In fact, all these characters, including Hob the horse, are so well done. The imagery is just as horrifying as Poe’s, without all the overwrought description – and no poetry, which frankly I didn’t miss.

In short, a really nice horror novella, and highly recommended.




Fantasy Review – Wide Open

Friday, August 18th, 2023

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

Call this a contemporary fantasy with a murder mystery plot. No wizards, elves, or vampires, but a growing dark power that needs to be put back.  There’s a hint of romantic possibility.

Hallie Michaels is returning home on compassionate leave from her unit in Afghanistan. She’s been told her sister Dell has died, but that’s all she knows.  Waiting for her in the concourse are two friends – and two ghosts.  Hallie’s been seeing the ghost of Eddie, a good friend and fellow soldier killed by an IED, after she briefly “died” in an attack. And now there’s Dell. The ghosts don’t communicate, they just drift close by her.

But then she’s told that Dell committed suicide, by driving her car into a tree out in a remote part of country. Hallie knows her sister would never have done that. After a bit she realizes the ghosts are trying to tell her that there’s something left unfinished. Hallie is going to find out what happened to Dell no matter what.

Then there’s the new deputy, Boyd Davies. This is a small rural town – everyone has known everyone else for ages. Where did he come from?  Hallie is sure Boyd knows something about Dell, but he won’t say anything to her.  But he always manages to show up, seemingly out of  nowhere, when Hallie looks like she might be getting into trouble.  Hallie’s questions quickly garner hostility from a couple people she thinks know more than they are letting on. As her suspicions coalesce around Dell’s workplace, Uku-Weber, the hostility becomes open threats.

What is it that Uku-Weber actually does? When more ghosts of young women start following Hallie around, and fires start from no cause, she gets more and more determined to stop it, whatever it is.

Hallie is a very likable character. She’s tough, stubborn, prickly and with take-no-prisoners attitude. Boyd is more enigmatic but as we get to his backstory he also becomes more relatable. I liked how Hallie interacted with the ghosts – it would be hard to do that without your friends thinking you’re crazy. Lots of atmosphere conveyed in straightforward prose, good pacing, and good dialogue.

As I write this, there are two sequels featuring Hallie, but this one is a complete story in itself.





Non-Fiction Review – Redhanded

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023


Redhanded: An Exploration of Criminals, Cannibals, Cults, and What Makes a Killer Tick by Suruthi Bala & Hannah Maguire

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


This book is based of the authors’ podcast. Although I have never listened to it, I felt an attraction to the book when I first saw it. After reading it, I now feel an attraction to listen to the podcast.

I was pleasantly surprised on how well the book flowed and kept me entertained. It did not get bogged down and dry. I wouldn’t say that I am an expert on the subject but have read about a lot on this type of subject. Yet, they were still able to throw a couple things in there that I had never heard about. One was about the Incels. I didn’t even know that they existed. My mind was totally blown. On top of that, the science that they covered was very interesting and it was nice to get their thoughts on the matter. Even better was the humor that they injected through the book. Such a horrific and scary subject, yet you find yourself chuckling throughout the read.

Very enjoyable book. Looking forward to checking out the podcast.


Thriller Review – A Deadly Influence

Thursday, August 10th, 2023

A Deadly Influence by Mike Omer

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


When Abby Mullen, hostage negotiation instructor, gets a phone call from a mom about a missing child, she feels compelled to help. Once she gets to the mom’s house, she finds that she knows her. They share a past made up of tragic events from a cult that they were both members of when they were children. After delving into the mysteries around the child’s disappearance, Abby finds that she might be dealing with another cult.  Finding herself reliving the past, she uses what she knows to help navigate her way through the dealings with this new cult.

The book flows between the past and the present effortlessly. We see the struggles that the children went through in the past and how it actually helps Abby with the case in the present. The story also brings social media into the picture and shows how it can be entertaining but also dangerous.

It was a good story that had some endearing characters. While the book tied up this story, it did leave a tiny cliffhanger at the end. I feel the need to go to the next book just to see what is going on.





Historical Fantasy Review – The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi

Wednesday, August 9th, 2023

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

A very fun fantasy set in the medieval Middle East, really the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, around the time of the Crusades. Amina al-Sirafi is a doting mother, living in a ramshackle hut on a remote bit of land. But Amina wasn’t always poor. She wasn’t always on land either. Amina used to be a nakhudha, the captain of a pirate ship, and she was almost legendary. At least until the horrific death of one of her crew sent her ashore. The birth of her daughter made up for a lot though.

The arrival of a rich woman looking for the pirate Amina is something of a shock. There’s a kidnapped granddaughter at stake, a sad story that tugs at Amina’s heart. The promise of a million dinars for the rescue is too much to give up, and Amina says she’ll look into it.  It isn’t going to turn out quite the way she expected.

The action starts up almost immediately as Amina goes to visit her old ship and finds its crew, and her good friend Tinbu who’s now the captain, in jail and about to be executed.  Getting him out will take the help of Dalilia, a master poisoner, but it won’t be easy nor quiet. Not to mention that her client hasn’t quite told her everything and is now threatening to have her little family killed if she doesn’t follow through. Fleeing for safety, Amina brings them up to speed on the quest and, of course, they’re going to stick together.

There’s magical artifacts, a demon husband, many more pirates, numerous magical beasts, a sorcerer with horrible powers, treasure caves, and the granddaughter who knows a lot she shouldn’t about spells and magic.

Told from Amina’s POV within the framework of a scribe (whose identity becomes gradually clear), it’s a rollicking nail-biting ride through a semi-historical time and place we don’t see much of in English print.  I wish the glossary was more extensive, but most of the unfamiliar words are easy enough to figure in context.  I loved the little inserts from the scribe’s POV. The imagery and descriptions are first-rate, it’s like watching a movie in your head.  The dialogue is excellent – Chakraborty hits the funny notes just right.  The characters are memorable, with Amina and Raksh the most fleshed out.  I wished for even more of Amina’s three crewmates  but it worked.   You’ll also catch themes relating to some of today’s societal issues.  Amina, Delilia, and Dunya are women outside the norm for that age – they have courage, ambitions, and are not content to be hidden away.

This is the first of a new series. It’s delightful and I highly recommend it.




Cozy Fantasy Review – Legends & Lattes

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree 

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

When I first saw info on this book, it was listed as a cozy fantasy. I’ve tried the cozy mysteries and as much as I love their punny titles and adorable covers, I could never get into them. I was afraid that I would feel the same about a fantasy cozy but since I do love a good fantasy and an exceptional latte, I decided to give this one a go. I’m happy that I did. This was so much fun and full of feels. I sped through the book and was eager for more.

The story is set around an orc named Viv who is ready to hang up her sword and try selling coffee for a change. This is not as easy as it would sound. She is starting from an old horse stable, in a town where she is a stranger, and at a place no one even knows what coffee is. Yet, along the way, she meets a cast a quirky characters and finds that all you need is friendship, respect, and faith. With all of that, the rest just falls into place.
I truly wanted to crawl into this world. To be there when the townspeople tried their first sip. To hang out with the crew at the coffee shop. To try a creamy latte along with one of those heavenly pastries. It was so much fun to escape into that tale and can’t wait until the next book comes out so I can escape again.