Review: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Review: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. MaasHouse of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Format: audiobook, ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon, purchased from Audible
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, fantasy romance, paranormal, science fiction, urban fantasy
Series: Crescent City #1
Pages: 803
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on March 3, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Bound by blood.Tempted by desire.Unleashed by destiny.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

My Review:

In the beginning there is Bryce Quinlan and Danika Fendyr. And in the end, there is Bryce Quinlan and Danika Fendyr, linked together by their hearts and the translation of a tattoo on both of their backs, “Through love, all is possible.”

That’s the way it begins, and that’s the way it ends. In between, there’s a long walk through very dark places that Bryce is forced to take alone. Or so she thinks. Or so it seems.

Ultimately, House of Earth and Blood is a story about love. Not just romantic love, although there is a slow-burn romance at the heart of this story. But the romance at the true soul of this saga is not Eros, as the Ancient Greeks called sexual passion, but rather the deep friendship of the soul that they named Philia.

What seems like a star-crossed romance between the half-human, half-fae and barely magical Bryce Quinlan and the fallen angel Hunt Athalar is the stuff of which Romeo and Juliet tragedies are made. The deepening angst of their enemies into lovers story gives this saga both its biting wit and its too-frequent descents into over-the-top melodrama.

But it’s Bryce and Danika’s sisters-of-choice, bone-deep connection that gives this story its lowest depths of despair – and its wings.

Once upon a time, when my parents were still among the living and we used to play cards together, at the end of hand someone would frequently say, “Read ‘em and weep.” In a nutshell, that’s House of Earth and Blood.

Read it and weep.

Escape Rating B-: There were points during my reading/listening of this book that I just couldn’t stand not knowing what came next so I dove from the audio right into the ebook the minute I got home.

And there were times when I was ready to throw the thing against the wall and end the torture because there were so many things that just drove me crazy. That I was considering this course of behavior in the car, listening to my iPhone while I was driving shows just how tempted I was.

So I’m not remotely neutral about any of this. Not at all.

The short version of this review is that the first 100 pages were terrific and ended in a gut wrenching drop. The last 100 pages were so damn compelling that I couldn’t wait to finish in audio THEN couldn’t flip pages fast enough.

Much of that final 100 page compulsion was provided by a clichéd villain exposition to make the heroine see just how brilliant his villainy had been, but the reader – and every other character in the story – needed to hear it. But villain clichés are still villain clichés.

In the middle there were 600 pages that would have been better as 400 or 450 pages. A metric fuckton of stuff happened, a lot of it was stuff the reader really, really needed to know. But there was also an equally metric fuckton of over-the-top angst that may have needed to happen but didn’t need to happen with that many repeats or nearly that much overblown language and description.

My feelings about this book are absolutely in the category of splinters up the ass fence sitting. The parts I loved, I really, really loved. The parts that I hated, I hated just about as much. There’s no middle ground here that isn’t a quagmire of blood, sweat, tears and angst.

Initially, what dragged me into this story was the sheer complexity of the worldbuilding. This is not a place I’d EVER want to live, because it is seriously fucked up – especially for the original recipe humans – but the mixture of 21st century technology with high-powered magic and authoritarian rule by powerful immortals blends into a world that is both easy to envision and fascinating to explore.

The vibe of Crescent City and its world feels very much like the heady aura of the organized menace of power and magic that permeates Fonda Lee’s marvelous Jade City, the first book in her Green Bone Saga.

As much as the way this world works reminded me of Jade City, in the end it read like a whole bunch of recent SF/Fantasy worlds thrown into a gigantic blender set on high. The resulting mélange is generally pretty tasty, and I found the depth of the worldbuilding to be the strongest part of the book.

Especially considering that, as much as this reads like an urban fantasy in a high fantasy setting for much of the story – rather like the Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara (start with Cast in Shadow), technically this is science fiction of the “walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but isn’t a duck,” variety. Like A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons, where it turns out that the gods aren’t really gods, but rather immortals who came from another planet. Although Lyons sends the world of her series careening off its tracks in an entirely different way. Still, if you like The House of Earth and Blood and can’t wait for the next book, check out The Ruin of Kings.

As much as I loved the beginning of this book, and found the ending to be utterly riveting, the middle sagged and bagged.

Some of that was language. It felt like all of the physical descriptions of people were repeated whenever they appeared, over and over and over. And it was very obvious that all of the people in this story were all extremely conventionally attractive. But all of the descriptions were overblown, something that was particularly obvious in audio.

There was also a lot of wordy, emo, angsty, over-the-top emotionalism, particularly on Bryce’s part that I found teeth-gnashing. It made it very clear that she still had a tremendous amount of growing up to do, to the point of really making me wonder about the developing relationship between Bryce and Athalar with its 200 year age gap.

But the entire middle section felt like it had three purposes. Build that romantic relationship – only to cockblock it at every turn, watch Bryce get beaten down and run around at every single turn, and follow Bryce and Athalar as they conduct an investigation that is doomed to fail because there’s a villain they don’t know about hiding behind the metaphorical curtain. Leading right back to that clichéd villain exposition.

All of those things needed to happen, but the runaround was long and repetitive. It also drove home that this is a “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” story, as it seems that every single system and authority is determined to remind Bryce that she is the lowest of the low – and so is nearly everyone else.

There was a hateful sameness to all of the powerful people in this story. While power does corrupt, it doesn’t necessarily corrupt every villain with exactly the same blend of total inability to see anyone else – even their own families – as having any value whatsoever AND utter sadism. Some powerful people would be savvy enough to at least hide their ugly a bit better and at least a few would manage to be slightly enlightened even if that enlightenment is because it’s ultimately in their own self interest to at least seem benevolent.

And we don’t know why they are ALL this way. Villains never think they are the villain, after all. So what’s their story? The sheer number of times that one of the many, many villains reveled in their ability to mentally and/or physically torture others was initially sickening and then it just got old.

Before this review – or rant – goes on as long as the book it covers, one final thought. I loved, and hated, and loved this book by turns. But I never stopped thinking about it – even when I wanted to. It’s compelling when it’s good and it’s compelling when it’s crazy.

But it ended on an incredible high note, to the point where, as much as it drove me round the twist, I know that I’ll be compelled to pick up the second book in the series when it comes out (hopefully) next year. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a story where things get darkest just before they turn completely black – BUT I HAVE TO KNOW!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-29-20

Sunday Post

This picture seems appropriate for the post-Thanksgiving weekend. It’s Freddie in the classic “if I fits, I sits” position in a shoebox. The box formerly held Galen’s new slippers, so Men’s size 11. Let’s just say there is a LOT of Freddie to love!

Speaking of lots of things to love, with the Thanksgiving holiday comes the start of Giveaway Hop Season! Not that there aren’t hops all year ’round, but there are certainly a lot around the holidays. So four hops end this week and two more begin, with even more before 2020 finally winds its way down. There’s plenty to look forward to as we all wait for the ball – or the peach – or the apple – or whatever your town drops – to hit bottom.

Then, hopefully, we rise!

Current Giveaways:

$15 Gift Card or $15 Book in the Black Friday Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the In Everything Give Thanks Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop (ENDS TUESDAY!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Holiday HOHOHO Giveaway Hop (ENDS WEDNESDAY!)
Malfunction by Nina Croft (paperback)
Gift Package from Elizabeth Logan and Fishing for Trouble

Blog Recap:

C+ Review: Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson
B Review: Fishing for Trouble by Elizabeth Logan + Giveaway
B Review: Deception by Nina Croft + Giveaway
Thanksgiving 2020
Black Friday Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (420)

Coming This Week:

The House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (review)
Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop
Mission: Her Justice by Anna Hackett (review)
Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop
Bound by Rhys Ford (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (420)

Stacking the Shelves

I hope everyone in the U.S. had a wonderful Thanksgiving and has had the chance to recover from the inevitable turkey-induced coma.

Thanksgiving week is always a bit of a weird week for publishing. Even in normal years, most places were closed Thursday through Sunday. This year is definitely NOT normal. Not only did not much get posted to NetGalley and Edelweiss, but it was announced that the “Big 5” publishers, that once upon a time in the past decade were the “Big 6” are about to become the “Big 4” – or possibly Snow White (Penguin Random House + S&S) and the remaining three dwarves (Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette) depending on how you look at it. The biggest publisher, Penguin Random House, is buying the former number 4 publisher, Simon and Schuster. It is unknown as yet just how many imprints, how many employees, and how many authors are going to be affected. The answer is probably the same for all three — LOTS.

I’m also wondering if the resulting conglomerate is going to change its name again. “Penguin Random Simon House” does not exactly fall trippingly off the tongue, but then I still think that they wasted an opportunity in the earlier merger by not calling themselves “Random Penguin”. The memes would have been AWESOME!

For Review:
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams
The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1) by Tasha Suri
Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson
Mission: Her Justice (Team 52 #8) by Anna Hackett
The Nations (Nations #1) by Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Black Friday Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Black Friday Giveaway Hop, hosted by yours truly, Reading Reality, and the Caffeinated Reviewer!

This may not be the usual Black Friday – and it certainly may not have it’s usual salutary effect on retail business and its profit margins. Once upon a time – last year – the day after Thanksgiving marked the traditional opening of the holiday shopping season. As such, it was usually the day when retail stores tipped from the red – owing more money over the year than they made – to black – finally operating at a profit for the year.

While Black Friday this year won’t be what it normally is – or was – Cyber Monday is a thing that got really big very quickly but whose impact has faded more than a bit.

Once upon a time, most folks didn’t have high-speed internet in their homes but a LOT more people had it where they worked. Also, a fair number of people either had Black Friday off, or were working retail or were too busy over the holiday weekend whether visiting family or putting up decorations or whatever that they weren’t at work on Black Friday. But everybody who went back to the office on Monday spent at least some time sharing stories about how their Turkey Day went AND taking a bit of personal time at work – officially or otherwise – to shop for online bargains over their place of work’s high-speed internet.

So Cyber Monday got to be a thing. It’s not as big of a thing as it used to be.

Black Friday is also a bit of an odd day for blogging or pretty much anything normal – particularly for those still in a turkey coma or trying to figure out how to deal with all the leftovers from the day before. And so this hop was born.

We’re also going to do just a bit to help some retail businesses – here at Reading Reality at least some of the bookish ones. I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $15(US) gift card to either Amazon or the local bookstore of your choice, or $15(US) in books from the Book Depository. In order to do this there are just a couple of restrictions. For US entrants, the bookstore you choose needs to have an easy method for me to purchase your gift certificate online and get it sent to you. If you are outside the US, you need to be in a location that the Book Depository ships to (they don’t do Gift Certificates – maybe someday.)

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For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Thanksgiving 2020

Galen here, once again sneaking onto Marlene’s blog to do a Thanksgiving reading list post.

George staring at me. Awaiting turkey?

As was the case in 2018, we are thankful for yet another kitty in our lives. George is one of the offspring of a neighborhood cat. He’s turned into quite the social glue of our clowder, demanding and getting affection from Freddie, Lucifer, and Hecate in various ways.

Again, as with 2018, I am hopeful that the results of the election will get our country back towards the path of justice. Of course, this is a difficult time: the pandemic is on fire everywhere in this country, and I fear that all of the travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving will cause so many needless deaths.

Marlene and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving together with the cats, and no one else is invited. Maybe next year will be different, but for as many of us to get to next year as possible, patience is required today. On the one hand, that’s easy enough for me and Marlene to say; we’re introverts. I won’t pretend that staying home hasn’t been hard for us, but I know it is a lot more difficult many others, including folks who have no choice but to go out into the world in order to keep body and soul together. But please: if you can, stay home for the holidays, share your Thanksgiving meal only with your pod (or at least stay outdoors as much as possible), wear your masks, and wash your hands.

Some reading:

Review: Deception by Nina Croft + Giveaway

Review: Deception by Nina Croft + GiveawayDeception by Nina Croft
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: paranormal romance, science fiction romance
Pages: 400
Published by Entangled: Amara on November 23, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Brave new world or the same old crap?
Warlock Milo Velazquez has always dreamed of a day when “monsters” like him don’t have to hide in the shadows. Now, on a planet far from Earth, he’s hoping the old prejudices have been left behind. Though from what he’s seen so far—not a chance.
Their new leader could make life a living hell for Milo and the other immortals illegally transported across the galaxy. Under cover, he scopes out the threat, but he never expected to find a beautiful woman locked in a cell underground. He should ignore her and focus on his mission, but instead he sets her free.
Milo has met all kinds, paranormal creatures and humans, in his centuries of life, but Destiny is like nothing he’s ever encountered before. She’s flawless, and strangely naïve, though she can spout off facts like a walking encyclopedia. He isn’t sure who—or what—she is, or why someone so innocent would be a prisoner.
All he knows is Destiny is different...and finding out why could be their only hope for survival.
Each book in the Dark Desires Origins series is STANDALONE:* Malfunction* Deception

My Review:

It is just so damn good to see Rico Sanchez again. He was my introduction to the original series, all the way back in the original and entirely too short version of Break Out in 2011. I liked that book the first time I read it, absolutely loved it in the expanded edition in 2013, and have followed the series ever since just to follow the misadventures of this vampire in space.

Along with marveling at the whole concept of vampires in space, and wondering why I hadn’t seen this before – but definitely wanted to again!

At the time of Break Out and the entire Dark Desires series, this part of the galaxy had been settled by refugees from Earth for several centuries. The empire they founded on the cornerstones of a universal church and an authoritarian regime has become settled if not stable. The Terran origins of the humans in the Trakis system has receded back into history, to the point of myth and legend.

Except for Rico Sanchez, who lived through ALL of it from the Spanish Inquisition to the time period of the original story in 3058. We’ve seen hints of what happened in between, but didn’t have the full story.

At least not until the Dark Desires Origins series began earlier this year with Malfunction.

While in the first book in this new series it’s the ship that seems to be malfunctioning, the premise of the series as a whole is that the entire Earth was malfunctioning, in a way that we can kind of see from here. The consequence of that malfunction was an expedition to a galaxy far, far away where humans could re-establish themselves as a species – and probably mess up an entire new galaxy as well.

Certainly the “migration” was a clusterfuck in all sorts of very human ways. The best and the brightest were supposed to be “Chosen Ones’, but instead all the places on the 24 ships were taken up but the “rich and powerful” who purchased their places through bribery and kickbacks.

And one ship, just one ship, where Rico Sanchez replaced half of the originally intended passengers with people more-or-less like himself. Vampires, werewolves and other shifters. And at least one warlock.

Not a wizard like Harry Potter – although comparisons could be, and frequently are made. Rather, Milo Velazquez is the immortal “child” (he was over 500 years old before the migration) of a power-hungry witch and a demon. Not just any demon, either, but one of the lords of the seven Hells.

He’s also Rico’s nephew – sorta/kinda – so Rico doesn’t take no for an answer when Milo says he’d rather take his chances on Earth. Milo wakes up aboard Rico’s ship after 500 years of cryo-sleep in a place he swore he’d never go doing the one thing he swore he’d never do again.

Falling in love.

Escape Rating B: I’m enjoying this series so far because its an origin series for something I already loved. Based on reviews, readers new to the series are finding Malfunction and now Deception a great way to get into something marvelous, so don’t feel like you have to go all the way to Break Out to get into this one.

The setup to this series reminds me, in a peculiar way, of the way that Amanda Quick’s Arcane Society series took to the stars to become Jayne Castle’s Harmony series. People with psi powers on Earth first banded together to protect themselves, and then took themselves to the stars where they could fully develop their powers.

(Quick and Castle are the same person, Jayne Ann Krentz, and all of her books are wonderful.)

Robin D. Owen’s Celta series has a similar origin to Harmony. But both are based on the premise that there are people with psi powers here on Earth now who are forced to hide their powers and that they leave Earth not necessarily because the planet as a whole is FUBAR’d but because their particular situation is.

In the Dark Desires world, it’s the paranormal beings who are forced to lead a hidden existence, and who take advantage of a situation to get off Earth along with everyone else.

While most of the people on Rico’s ship are the traditional population of paranormal romance, Milo is a bit different. While it’s impossible not to see the influence of Harry Potter on his presence in this series, Milo explicitly isn’t quite like Harry even if he can do many of the same things.

One of the things that he and Rico have in common is that the “Church”, whatever its current incarnation, has always seen both of them as infernal creatures, eternally damned, who can be persecuted, crucified or burned at the stake – occasionally all of the above – anytime they need a scapegoat to keep the downtrodden masses occupied.

Neither of them is human and they only pretend to be when it suits them. Their views on humanity in general and the Church in specific are often quite scathing while being at the same time completely understandable.

All of which makes Milo’s attraction to the strangely innocent Destiny that much more fascinating. Destiny is naïve in a way that Milo hasn’t been for centuries. She’s not stupid, she’s just sheltered. And the more she breaks out of that shelter the deeper Milo falls – as much as he doesn’t want to.

The reasons behind Destiny’s sheltering turn out to be the heart of everything wrong with the new colony on Trakis Two. Discovering who and what she really is drives her journey and the dramatic tension of the entire story that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat from the minute she awakens to the second she breaks out of her mental cell for good, forever, and especially for Milo.

I am definitely looking forward to more of this prequel series. Hopefully in the not too distant future!


To celebrate the release of DECEPTION by Nina Croft, we’re giving away a paperback copy of Malfunction, the first standalone novel in the Dark Desires Origins series!

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GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Malfunction by Nina Croft. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Entangled Publishing. Giveaway ends 12/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST.

Review: Fishing for Trouble by Elizabeth Logan + Giveaway

Review: Fishing for Trouble by Elizabeth Logan + GiveawayFishing for Trouble (Alaskan Diner Mystery #2) by Elizabeth Logan
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Alaskan Diner #2
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley Books on November 24, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Something fishy is going on at a local seafood processing plant, and Charlie Cooke is on the hook to solve the case in this new Alaskan Diner Mystery.
Summer has come to Elkview, Alaska, bringing twenty hours of sunlight every day, not to mention a surge of tourists and seasonal workers. Chef Charlie Cooke is eager for a busy yet relaxing season, but when a young man working a summer job at the local fish processing plant dies moments after walking into the Bear Claw Diner, she’s quickly swept into the investigation.
Soon, through her best friend Annie Jensen, Charlie learns that another student worker at J and M Processing has disappeared, leaving more questions and fewer answers. The near-endless sunlight gives plenty of time to search for clues, but Charlie will have to work with Annie and local reporter Chris Doucette to net the killer before anyone else gets hurt.

My Review:

Whenever someone’s ex shows up in a story, it always means drama. Not always trouble – although usually trouble – but always drama.

In romance, when an ex shows up with whom the protagonist has unfinished business, there’s the possibility of a second-chance-at-love story. But there are always other possibilities, especially in a mystery series like the Alaskan Diner series.

When Charlie’s (let’s call him emotionally abusive – as well as unfaithful) ex turns up in tiny Elkview, Alaska, it certainly wasn’t to deal with any unfinished emotional business between them – no matter what the lying, cheating asshole pretended.

Oh, he’s still emotionally manipulative and abusive – just for kicks. It was enough to make me think that Ryan Jamison was going to turn out to be an EvilEx™ but he wasn’t nearly that important.

He was just a sleazy lawyer on retainer for a local fish processing plant. The very same fish plant that employed a summer worker who had just died in Charlie’s Bear Claw Diner – before his order had even been delivered.

Which doesn’t let food poisoning out as a possible cause of the young man’s death – but certainly absolves the Bear Claw of any possibility of being the agency of the poison. But Ethan Johnson is still dead, his girlfriend tried to skip town and one of his friends is missing.

There’s clearly something rotten in the village of Elkview, and the advent of Charlie’s ex just adds to the stink already coming from the fish processors. Especially when the cause of death turns out to be, not food poisoning, but mercury poisoning – and mercury that was administered over a long-term at that. Mercury that could have been in the fish that was being processed. Or part of an experiment. Or some other cause yet to be determined.

The Alaska State Trooper stationed in Elkview, Cody Graham, is as overworked as he was in the first book in this series, Mousse and Murder, leading him to re-activate his gang of volunteer sleuths – a gang that includes both Charlie and the local newspaper reporter Chris Doucette.

Charlie, both with and without Chris’ assistance – but definitely more with – has to discover out what’s really going on at the secretive fish processing plant – and why so many of its summer workers are going missing, getting into trouble or ending up dead.

And figure out who is leaving Charlie threatening messages – before she ends up in the same boat!

Escape Rating B: This is turning out to be a comfort read series for me. It reminds me just enough of the Alaska I used to live in, although this is certainly a more idealized version of life in the Great State than real life. Even in Anchorage the winter weather is both long and brutal, and the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming. (January generally sucks. Period. Exclamation point.)

But the summers can be glorious, and that is portrayed very well in this second entry in the series, including the strangeness of trying to go to sleep when it’s still light out and getting to be out until midnight while it’s daylight.

So part of what I read this series for is that lovely small-town vibe with a special Alaskan flavor.

That being said, this is a cozy mystery series, and it may eventually run into the conundrum that all such series face – that the population is too small to support the number of murders that will eventually ensue. But that’s for another day, far down the road. For this one, we have students on summer jobs to provide both the corpses and the murder suspects.

This is a story where the red herrings, the many, many red herrings, are particularly tasty – and not just because they’re nestled among the absolutely mouth-watering descriptions of all the yummy things that Charlie cooks, bakes and serves at the Bear Claw Diner.

Charlie and her friends are extremely amateur sleuths. They wander down a lot of dead ends to reach the killer – who in the end reaches out for them because, well, they are so not professional about any of this.

This was a story of multiple misdirections, as none of what looked like clues in the beginning turned out to be germane in the end – at least not to the murder. Not that they didn’t uncover plenty of other skullduggery being processed along with those fish.

The identity of the murderer came a bit out of left field, and it felt like Charlie’s ex exited in that direction. We don’t get near enough clues about the real identity of the murderer or his motives, and Charlie’s EvilEx™ turned out to be a Chekhov’s Gun ex. He hung on the proverbial mantlepiece and wasn’t nearly as involved as it looked like he would be at the beginning.

On the other hand, the tentative beginnings of Charlie’s relationship with Chris became a bit less tentative over the course of the investigation, while Charlie’s frankly adorable relationship with her cat Benny continued to provide just the right amount of sweetness to this story without spoiling the story. Benny on the other hand is VERY spoiled.

In the end, this was as light and fluffy as one of the omelets served at the Bear Claw Diner. I’ll be back for another delicious treat when the author returns to this series with Murphy’s Slaw in May 2021!



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Great Escapes
This post is part of a Great Escapes Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Review: Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson

Review: Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. AndersonDune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Caladan Trilogy #1
Pages: 414
Published by Tor Books on October 13, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

A legend begins in Dune: The Duke of Caladan, first in The Caladan Trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
Leto Atreides, Duke of Caladan and father of the Muad’Dib. While all know of his fall and the rise of his son, little is known about the quiet ruler of Caladan and his partner Jessica. Or how a Duke of an inconsequential planet earned an emperor’s favor, the ire of House Harkonnen, and set himself on a collision course with his own death. This is the story.
Through patience and loyalty, Leto serves the Golden Lion Throne. Where others scheme, the Duke of Caladan acts. But Leto’s powerful enemies are starting to feel that he is rising beyond his station, and House Atreides rises too high. With unseen enemies circling, Leto must decide if the twin burdens of duty and honor are worth the price of his life, family, and love.

My Review:

Dune: The Duke of Caladan really should have been titled Dune: The Book of Foreshadowing. Seriously. This book is all the foreshadowing all the time. That’s neither good nor bad, but it is kind of “meh”.

First edition cover

Which it may not be if the original Dune is just something you read but didn’t make that gigantic an impression. But those of us for whom the original is part of our personal canon (see Sarah Gailey’s marvelous feature for an explanation of what that REALLY means) there’s not nearly as much dramatic tension here as there was in the original.

After all, we already know EXACTLY what happens to all of these people – and only one year in their future at that. And even if you don’t already know from either the book or one of the dramatic adaptations, it’s pretty easy to find out. Dune was originally published in 1965 as a two-part serial in Analog magazine It tied for the Hugo and won the FIRST Nebula and was cited as the WORLD’s best-selling science fiction novel in 2003. Synopses and analyses and all kinds of other -ses are readily available pretty much everywhere, including a brief but decent summary on Wikipedia that manages to hit all the high points without nearly conveying just how compelling the damn thing is to read – or at least was when it first came out.

I read it in for the first time in the mid-to-late 1960s, probably not long after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time, so I was probably 11 or 12, certainly no more than 13, and it was one of the first big science fiction books I ever read, along with Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land – which I was MUCH too young to completely “grok” at the time. I read them all, including LOTR, more than once, and those readings formed the backbone of my lifelong love affair with Fantasy and Science Fiction – along with a heaping helping of Star Trek.

I think it’s difficult to see from today’s perspective just how influential those books were on a young reader who fell into the genre, because speculative fiction today, to treat fantasy and SF more broadly, is so much more influential – and infinitely more readily available – than it was then. There weren’t nearly so many choices, so discovering something that was just SO GOOD was marvelous and had an outsize influence.

All that to say that the original Dune – not the sequels and prequels and what-have-you – is a book I still remember very fondly – and still remember the high points of even decades after the last time I read it.

So I had hopes that this prequel would bring back some of that intense love I felt for the original OMG half a century ago. (Mind reels!) And it did bring back memories of the original book. Perhaps too many, as those memories cut the legs out from under any dramatic tension in this one.

Escape Rating C+: I loved the original, and this one suffers both in comparison and in the way that my knowledge of the original story turns almost the entirety of this book into foreshadowing of that one instead of feeling compelled to read this one in it’s own right.

Completists will probably love this book. However, while I may usually be a completist it’s just not working for me here. I feel like I already knew enough about what happened at this point in the history, AND it’s really difficult to get into a story knowing when, where, how and why the protagonist will die. And that the death in question isn’t even all that far off.

Even the information that is new to this story, like the plot about the Noble Commonwealth and the Caladan drug, drove me a bit bonkers as I kept expecting one of the Mentats to suggest that there might be a link between the two, but it never happens. Which meant that the “big reveal” wasn’t one to this reader, although it certainly was to entirely too many characters within the story.

But as much as that particular lack of computation felt like a missing piece, overall there were too many pieces, and they repeated too many things I remembered. When I saw the blurb for this book, I was expecting something a lot shorter than what I got. So don’t let the details on Amazon or anywhere else fool you, the Book Depository, and only on the British edition of the book, seems to be the only place that got the correct information. This is NOT a 320 page book. Rather, it just misses being a 420 page book by a hair. Maybe it SHOULD have been a 320 page book. But it isn’t.

Science fiction has been referred to as the “romance of political agency” and this is definitely a book in that mode. It’s all about political chicanery, noble skullduggery, and greed on all sides, with Leto as the one honorable man in the middle of an imperial shitstorm. Readers who are looking for something to either substitute for, whet their appetites for, or tide them over until the next movie version will probably enjoy this. There are plenty of juicy bits.

But it doesn’t live up to the original – or at least not the way that original shines so bright in my memory.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-22-20

Sunday Post

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Black Friday Giveaway Hop, hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and Reading Reality, starts this Friday, Black Friday, November 27. It’s not too late to sign up if you’re looking for something to post the day after Thanksgiving, and if you’re looking for a chance at a bit of holiday cheer for yourself, the hop runs through Monday, November 30. Come one, come all!

The picture below is “Old Man George”. Not that George is old, or will be for hopefully many years as he’s not quite a year old yet. But there’s something about his pose and the expression on his little face that made me think that this is what he will look like when he’s a little old man cat. He’ll still be adorable – of course he will – but the zoomies might have calmed down a bit by then. Maybe.

This is also the start of Turkey Week in the U.S., otherwise known as the Thanksgiving holiday. We did pick up our “traditional” turkey boob yesterday at the grocery store, along with just enough fixings for two people to have a little feast. Hopefully the cats won’t interfere in the preparation process TOO much! In spite of EVERYTHING, we still have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope that you do too!

Please take care of you and yours, and have a safe and happy holiday!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card from Sophie Barnes and The Formidable Earl
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the In Everything Give Thanks Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Holiday HOHOHO Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

In Everything Give Thanks Giveaway Hop
B+ Review: Lowcountry Boughs of Holly by Susan M. Boyer
Holiday HOHOHO Giveaway Hop
B Review: The Formidable Earl by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway
A- Review: Under a Winter Sky by Kelley Armstrong, Jeffe Kennedy, Melissa Marr, L. Penelope
Stacking the Shelves (419)

Coming This Week:

Dune: The Duke of Caladan by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson (review)
Fishing for Trouble by Elizabeth Logan (blog tour review)
Deception by Nina Croft (blog tour review)
Black Friday Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (419)

Stacking the Shelves

More books again. The TBR pile has embiggened! Some of these won’t be out until next August, but still, it seems like the holiday publishing doldrums have passed even if the holidays themselves aren’t here yet.

And there’s one book on the list that I’m already salivating over. It’s The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison, because it’s the sequel to the marvelously splendiferous The Goblin Emperor. Not that I didn’t adore The Angel of the Crows this year by the same author (Sarah Monette writing as Addison) but The Goblin Emperor was just so incredible that the sequel couldn’t come fast enough. And now it’s here. Well, it’s here in my TBR pile of eARCs, and it will be here for reals in June.

For Review:
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
The Bitter Taste of Murder (Tuscan Mystery #2) by Camilla Trinchieri
Bound (Chinatown Demons #1) by Rhys Ford
Cash in Hand by TA Moore
The Lady Has a Past (Burning Cove #5) by Amanda Quick
Maps for the Getaway by Annie England Noblin
The Moonsteel Crown (Dominion #1) by Stephen Deas
A Rogue’s Company (Sparks & Bainbridge #3) by Allison Montclair
The Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters
She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha
The Siren by Katherine St. John
The Stills (Kinship #3) by Jess Montgomery
The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison
The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Once Upon a Townsbridge Story (Townsbridges #0) by Sophie Barnes
A Stitch in Time (Stitch in Time #1) by Kelley Armstrong
The Wicked & the Dead (Faery Bargains #1) by Melissa Marr