Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, Book 1)From McGuire's website:  "The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie's survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October "Toby" Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas.

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby is forced to resume her old position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery... before the curse catches up with her."

You can't read a blog that covers urban fantasy nowadays without reading glowing reviews of both Ilona Andrews and Seanan McGuire.  Having tried and not cared for Andrews's work, I nervously committed myself to read the first book of the October Daye series from Seanan McGuire.

To begin with, it had a few things working for it that the Kate Daniels books did not.  First, I love faeries.  Second, I hate romance.  Now, you are probably thinking that is a giant lie told by the most gigantic liar you've ever met considering my review list, but it's also partially true nowadays.  I find that while a good romance ranks up there as one of the best things I can read or watch on film, a bad romance can make a very good piece of entertainment seem horrible to me.  McGuire pretty much leaves romance off the table with this book.  There are clearly mentions of romantic interests and hints that future characters will be important romantically, but there isn't any of this "we sniped at each other but underneath all of that was a clear sense of our impassioned need to have rough sex right at that moment" nonsense that some urban fantasies and paranormal romances seem to love.

Once you get beyond my superficial reasons for liking this book, there's also a lot of other things to enjoy.  We come to Daye six months after an event that clearly was life changing for her.  It gives her a reason to be negative and full of hate for the faery world, while also making her sympathetic immediately even with her attitude.  Daye does not come across as all powerful, with simple illusions causing her headaches and pain.  She seems, humorously enough, human.  Her near death wish behavior in her quest to find the killing of her frenemy is reasonable too since her non-participation leads to death anyways.  In other words, Daye comes across not as a angsty, sarcastic, and oversexed heroine, but as a person thrown into a situation and being forced to get their way free of that situation in any way possible.

Saying that, I didn't care for how often Daye was on the brink of death.  After a while, that all bled together.  (BAD PUN UNINTENTIONAL!) Nor did I care for the characters of Julie or Tybalt.  They were uninteresting and one note.  I was sad that we never got the meet Evening Winterrose as she seemed to be particularly interesting, but the Luidaeg was fascinating and I hope she's in every one of these stories.  I also disliked the ease in which Daye fell into old routines with the fey even though she knew the consequences of working with them. 

I'm definitely going to overlook the things I didn't care for about the book and continue with this series.  I have high hopes that it'll be a favorite over time!

Verdict:  7.  I liked it more than I like most urban fantasies nowadays.

Thoughts:  After disliking the Kate Daniels series from Ilona Andrews, I'm relieved to like this particular blogosphere favorite.  I don't like being a hater all the time.


Enchantment Place edited by Denise Little

Enchantment PlaceFrom Goodreads:  "The stores in Enchantment Place live up to the title, catering to a rather unique clientele ranging from vampires and werecreatures to wizards and witches, elves and unicorns = in short, anyone with shopping needs not likely to be met in the chain stores. Here are seventeen shopping trips you'll never forget, from a store that sells the highest quality familiars… to the non-magical daughter of a magic-filled family who is left to mind the family jewelry store though she has no means to defeat an enchanting thief… to a woman running a Wiccan supply store who is suddenly faced with an IRS audit.…"

Honestly, I feel like a bit of a jerk giving this a higher score than Sixteen, which overall is of higher quality, but it's all about what you expect versus what you get.  With Sixteen, I expected something lighthearted, but moving about sixteenth years.  What I got was depression.  With Enchantment Place, I expected a mediocre anthology about a magic mall with some good and some bad stories and for most of them to be comic.  That is what I got.  

I will admit I liked the first story by Mary Jo Putney, a cute tale which introduces us the the mall and the type of customers it might have from the point of a mundane human, and the next story from Esther Friesner, a story about a magical familiar hamster, so much that I expected a much better selection of stories after reading the first two, but the rest of the series eventually settled into more of what I might have guessed was coming based on previous anthology experiences.

A few stories disappointed more than others including one about a woman who only finds her magic when she finds her soulmate (UGH) and another about a woman who buckles down and finds herself good at doing something for the first time after years of being a wastrel and that ruins her whole life.  Great life lessons, no?

Others are just forgettable.  As in, I read the summary up top and I asked myself, "Wiccan supply store and an IRS audit?  What?"  And after I recalled it, I realized it was one of the latter stories in the book!  

If you like anthologies about comedic uses of magic, give this a try.  Heck, I picked up the fact that I might possibly like the work of a romance author (Mary Jo Putney) out of it and that's enough to make me smile.

Verdict:  5.  Some stories definitely deserved a higher score, but the overall quality drags it down to a 5.

Thoughts:  I want to get out there and read some Mary Jo Putney now!  That was one of the clear and surprising winners to me.


Books My Son Loves: If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff

If You Take a Mouse to the MoviesChristmas in July continues for the series Books My Son Loves.  Humorously, this series gets no love according to my stats, but they are the ones that I'm happiest to write and I feel so useful to new mothers.

The If You Give A... series by Laura Numeroff is pretty darned famous amongst the picture book reading set.  It's rare that you find a child who has not been read at least one or two.  We started off with a book about a cat and a cupcake (sure to be mentioned at a later date), but when I spotted this little Christmas themed book last winter, I made sure to pick it up.  There is nothing I love more than seasonal picture books when it comes to reading for my son. 

This book is adorable with the sweetest images which are bright and cheerful and a mouse that should seem annoying and bossy, but instead seems joyful and intent on enjoying the season.  My son finds so much to look at on each page, enjoying things like what ornaments are on the tree the mouse decorates, or the mouse's underwear and blanket after it comes in from the cold.  Similarly, both my husband and I find things on the pages to point out to each other when we read, just because they are cute in idea or because we think they'll make either our son or each other laugh.

While the book is clearly Christmas themed, it doesn't address the religious aspects of the holiday, leaving it pretty good as a go-to book for someone who celebrates the pageantry of Christmas, but not the holiness of Christmas. 


Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (P.S.)
From Goodreads"In the ten years since his classic Kitchen Confidential first alerted us to the idiosyncrasies and lurking perils of eating out, from Monday fish to the breadbasket conspiracy, much has changed for the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business—and for Anthony Bourdain. Medium Raw explores these changes, moving back and forth from the author's bad old days to the present. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe-traveling professional eater and drinker, and even to fatherhood, Bourdain takes no prisoners as he dissects what he's seen, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the most controversial figures in food."

I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and Anthony Bourdain's very real and vivid anger.  I find that I respond to people who write angrily, as I'm sure most of us do.  My husband also enjoyed the book, as a huge fan of cooking and food.  So, when our son spilled a container of mustard all over this book at Barnes and Noble, it was clearly a sign from the book gods that we were intended to buy it.

Medium Raw is a collection of essays relating to his previous book, his current life, the enemies and friends he's made, how he's changed over the years, and some updated thoughts on food and the people who work with it.  Quite honestly, the best bits are his thoughts on food and the related industry.  The chapter labeled Lust made me want to eat morning, noon, and night.  A chapter regarding a man who worked fish prep for Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin is delightful for several reasons including Bourdain's own awe and respect for the man's skill.  Bourdain manages very effectively to get across his feelings and his opinions when his essays relate to food.  You can practically feel his weariness at the idea of tasting menus when you read the chapter on Per Se.

I was less impressed with his chapter on David Chang.  Unlike the essays in which he slams a person eloquently (Alice Waters and Alan Richman get their own special chapters) so that you understand the hate in his heart, his chapter about David Chang is almost loving, but I have no further understand of that love than David himself is a hater.  (Do haters like to stick together?)

Finally, his chapters on himself are more hit or miss.  Some do not speak to me at all because I have no experience being either an underpaid, overworked, coked out chef or a very rich, powerful, and influential writer.  Others, like his chapter on dancing with his two year old daughter, speak powerfully to me as it highlights the fact that having a child can change your whole life outlook.

I really can't recommend this book enough if you like books on food or the cooking industry.  Also, read this if you like anger.  I really do like anger when it is not directed at me.

Verdict: 9.  It made me think and I enjoyed it.  There are very few books that I could say more of.

Thoughts:  While some of the book is cohesive and attempts to segue from one chapter to another, it really is best to treat each individual chapter as its own essay and leave it at that.  Also, I love angry writing.  I just identify with it so well.


Comfort Reads: Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward

Villains by NecessityFrom Amazon's website:  "With the banishment of Evil from the realms, the final victory of Good is assured-unless a few stalwart antiheroes can save the world from a serious and potentially fatal imbalance. First novelist Forward explores the complications that arise from a surfeit of "goodness" in the world. The result is a skewed version of the epic fantasy that features an assassin, a thief, an evil sorceress, a dark knight, and an implacable druid as the villains-turned-heroes who must restore the delicate balance of opposing forces before their world disappears in a blinding flash of Goodness and Light. Fans of role-playing games will recognize many familiar conventions in this seriocomic fantasy adventure. A candidate for fantasy collections in large libraries."

Rather hilariously, I've already reviewed this book, and I hadn't realized it until I went to the Amazon page and saw my own review for it there!  I will paste my review in and add a few thoughts.
In a twist on the usual fantasy story, Forward's heroes are not classically good-hearted heroes, but instead villains. Including an assassin, an evil sorceress, a greedy thief, and a black knight, the main characters are likable and intriguing. They band together to save the world from destruction by the powers of good.

In the beginning, I found the characters one-dimensional. However, as the story quickly unfolded, I was fascinated to see that both character introspection and interaction developed their personalities to an amazing degree. After that, even minor, short-lived characters managed to grab my attention fully.

There are a number of sly digs at other fantasy works, which make Villains By Necessity an even funnier book if you're well-read in fantasy novels.

I wrote that review in 2000 when I apparently was unable to actually remember plot points or characters from the book.  Villains by Necessity does many things wrong.  I won't lie to you.  It's not extremely well written.  There are many plot holes if you think about it too long.  I think the author confuses the nature of good and evil with law and chaos (which is a no, no especially since the author is clearly a fan of early Dungeons and Dragons.)  However, it's still fun if you're well-read in fantasy. 

I can't really recommend that you buy it since it is rather expensive (having been out of print for ages), but if you know anyone who owns it, or if your library has it, try to read it if you like fantasy or Dungeons and Dragons.  It's take on concepts present in most fantasy novels is interesting and refreshing. 

I will admit that when I was younger, a particular favorite of mine included the skewering of Dragonlance that was more meaningful because I had just finished reading the original Dragonlance trilogy.  Nowadays, I enjoy Sam (the book's main character and an assassin) and relationships with the other villains around him much more.  The parody has become less enjoyable, but the things I considered boring at that time have become more.  Such is life. 


Books My Son Loves: One Snowy Day by Jeffrey Scherer

One Snowy Day (level 1) (Hello Reader)I know it's an odd book to highlight at this time of year, but let's treat this like a Christmas in July special!  I bought this book on a whim at a yard sale and the ten cents I paid have led to one of the best investments I've ever made in books.  This book is a hit with my son.  The art is just gorgeous cartoon-y fun about a bunch of woodland animals getting together to build a snowman.  First they must collect the parts, then they need to put it together and celebrate.  It's all heavily outlined in black with simple coloring and friendly animals.  Many pages have small things going on that my son and I can discuss such as, "Look, that mouse's tushie is sticking up out of the snow!"  This inspires my son to laugh for ages at the tushie and to point it out each time we read it. 

Also great is the very simple and repetitive text meant for a new reader.  While my son can't read, he can easily remember the story.  This means that I can read off the first part of the sentence and he can supply the sentence's direct object from memory.  He gets very excited by this, often screaming things like mitten and carrot at me while we read.  This is a book that I've read over and over to my son, probably fifty times or more by now.  I think the best part about it is that I don't get tired of reading it.


Heroes Adrift by Moira J. Moore

Heroes AdriftFrom the author's website:  "Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are summoned by the Empress and charged with the task of finding the descendents of her exiled sister. Lee and Taro recognize they are ill-suited to the task, but they are in no position to refuse. So, in search of lost royalty, they travel to the Southern Islands, where the heat is unbearable, the clothing is just short of optional, and the less-than-friendly locals couldn’t care less that Lee and Taro are working for the Empress."

Before I go anywhere with this review, I'd like to give Moore a shout out for creating a genuinely gender blind world when it comes to power and relationships.  In the Lee and Taro books, homosexual and heterosexual relations are both norms and Lee never knows off hand what a person's sexual orientation is.  Additionally, people in power are as likely to be women as men and being a heir is all about birth order and family rather than gender, but it's never pointed out. It just is.  I realized after I read the first book and appreciated that fact, that I've never read a book like that before.

Whew, what a lot changes in this book for the characters.  The Empress ships Lee and Karish off to the Southern Islands and every thing changes, and that is really for the good.  The series needed a bit of a shake up and this did it splendidly.  As it turns out, in my last review of the series, I was terribly incorrect.  Lee and Karish do become romantically involved in this book and, oddly, it doesn't seem to be a major plot point, which is nice, because these two have a lot of other issues to worry about.
I was quite taken with the description of the culture in the Southern Islands as well as what Lee and Karish do when they realize that they have literally no money and no method to make money.  While this does seem false that the Empress would fail to give them some money or at least make them aware of what would occur (did she really not know), it provided an entertaining reason for Lee to join a traveling circus as a performer.  Her bench dancing skills really do allow for a lot of story telling in this series, and rightly so.  Honestly, I wish they had more about bench dancing most books since it's one of the more original world building ideas that Moore describes.

The circus and the Islands provide change to the heroes since in this new world, Lee is the attractive and talented one and Karish is not.  This rightly causes Karish to doubt himself quite a bit after the adulation he's received in the empire while Lee gains a bit of confidence in herself and, in many ways, realizes that she has the upper hand in their relationship.  While this has been true for awhile, it's only on the Southern Islands that she accepts this and does something with it.  This clearly thrills Karish, but Lee is still left doubting and one gets the feeling that it will not be smooth sailing for their working or personal relationship when they return to High Scape.

The search for the missing heir, while interesting, takes second place to the more interesting story of Lee becoming accustomed to the islands.  While it is interesting, most of the time, I'm still left wishing they'd go back to the story of the circus.  I think with Moore, I prefer her characterization and world building to her mystery plots.
As an aside, I will point out once again that this series is staying pretty damned interesting to me.  Of course, book three is usually when I love a book series the most and everything after it all comes apart, so maybe it is good that my library doesn't have the next few books in the series?  No, it's not.  I'm requesting that they purchase!

Cannot wait to read the next book.  I think I know what I'm loading onto my nook for my travels to Seattle!

Verdict:  8.  I think the move away from High Scape and the normal parts of the Empire revitalized the series some what and changed up Lee and Karish, making it a stronger book than the immediate prequel.

Thoughts:  I'm kind of sad that had to leave the Southern Islands!  Also, my favorite cover so far even if I can't picture Lee wearing anything so revealing.

Lee and Taro books
  1. Resenting the Hero
  2. The Hero Strikes Back
  3. Heroes Adrift