Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

StuckinaGoodBook Hop 2015

It’s that time again!

Welcome to the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Stuck In Books!

What book have you been stuck in recently?

Last year, for me, it was Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon. Whenever there is a new Outlander book, I am so there.

This year, it’s been more science fiction. There is something about the worlds created in Ian Tregillis’ The Mechanical (review), Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence (see review of the latest, Last First Snow) and Seth Dickinson’s first novel, The Traitor Baru Cormorant (review at The Book Pushers) that just keeps my mind churning over all the implications of all the strange new ways of viewing the universe.

And there are always old favorites. I love the world of Robin D. Owen’s Celta series, even when I don’t adore an individual volume, like last year’s Heart Fire (review at The Book Pushers). But I got an eARC of Heart Legacy, and I’m pleased to say that she’s back on form. This installment was marvelous. And Celta seems like a relatively liveable place – I wouldn’t mind being stuck there for real. And that makes me think of all the ways that the society works and doesn’t, and what makes it seem like such a great place.

So, what book or books have you been stuck in recently? Answer the question in the rafflecopter for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card or the book of your choice (up to $10).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And for more chances for more great bookish prizes, be sure to check out the other stops on the hop!

Stacking the Shelves (152)

Stacking the Shelves

I have never read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but I have heard enough about it that I knew what it was about. It’s about cancer cell research, with a dose of medical ethics. Which meant that I was beyond puzzled and well into flummoxed when I read that a woman in Tennessee was claiming that the book was pornographic and that not only should her 15-year-old son not have been assigned the book in school, but that it should be banned from the local school district.

As far a this woman is concerned, the information about the subject’s cervical cancer, which does include the information about her cervix and vagina and that all women have them, is too graphic for a high school student. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that someone thinks that a woman discovering she has cervical cancer should be called pornographic. Considering what happened to Henrietta Lacks and the cells harvested without her permission or consent, I’d use other words. Pornography isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for Banned Books Week later this month.

For Review:
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Burn it Up (Desert Dogs #3) by Cara McKenna
Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11) by Michelle Sagara
Dark Secrets by Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Suzanne Johnson, Jeffe Kennedy and Mina Khan
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
Heart Legacy (Celta’s Heartmates #14) by Robin D. Owens
The Paladin Caper (Rogues of the Republic #3) by Patrick Weekes
The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic #2) by Patrick Weekes
Target Engaged (Delta Force #1) by M.L. Buchman
When the Stars Align by Jeanette Grey

Purchased from Amazon:
The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman (review)
Captured in Ink (Art of Love #3) by Donna McDonald
Diplomats and Fugitives (Emperor’s Edge #9) by Lindsay Buroker

Borrowed from the Library:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Stacking the Shelves (150)

Stacking the Shelves

I managed to resist the impulse to buy out the Dealer’s Room at WorldCon last weekend. I had a much more difficult time resisting suggestions in some of the publisher’s showcase presentations I attended. All the Birds in the Sky is from the Tor Showcase, and Fated is from the Ace/Roc showcase. Just before the Ace/Roc presentation, I finished Jim Butcher’s new steampunk book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass (awesome, the review will be up when it publishes) and I was looking for something that, honestly, I wouldn’t need to write up. I was getting lots of reading done but no time or energy to write up reviews at the end of the day. And I’ve learned that piling up six or more books to “brain dump” at the end of the week doesn’t work very well.

Adding insult to injury, I came home with “con crud”. This is not an official term, although it ought to be. When the skies over Spokane looked like Mordor on Friday due to the nearby forest fires, I thought my sore throat was just a reaction to the very bad air. No such luck. On Saturday the skies cleared up, but my throat didn’t. It’s been a long week. It’s a good thing I always have plenty to read!

For Review:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Exit of the Ascended by Neal Tyree
Wicked Ever After (Blud #4) by Delilah S. Dawson

Purchased from Amazon:
Covered in Paint (Art of Love #5) by Donna McDonald
Cruising Speed (Art of Love) by Donna McDonald
Fated (Alex Verus #1) by Benedict Jacka


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-23-15

Sunday Post

Sasquan_Official_Raven_Mascot_by_Brad_FosterThis is weird. I’m writing this before we leave for Sasquan, but by the time you read it, we’ll be on our way back. From here, I’m hoping that our suitcases won’t be overloaded with books, but that may be a vain hope. I try to resist picking up print books in the dealer’s room, because most of what I see I either have an eARC, or I’m willing to wait to get as an ebook. Howsomever, the one thing that is still better with print is signed books. For that, you need a physical copy. I know John Scalzi will be at Sasquan, which means a print copy of The End of All Things is definitely in my bookish future. As for the rest, we’ll see.

Because I’m writing this so far ahead, it is possible that next week’s schedule will be affected by what I manage to read (and OMG write up) while we are at the Con. In other words, contents may shift as the week (or the box) settles.

clear-off-your-shelf-August-202x300Current Giveaways:

Four books from my shelves in the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd (paperback ARC)

pattern of lies by charles toddBlog Recap:

A- Review: Daring by Elliott James
B+ Review: Tales: Short Stories Featuring Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford by Charles Todd
C+ Review: Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville
Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Review: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (149)

blood and metal by nina croftComing Next Week:

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (review)
Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford (review)
The Last Time I Saw Her by Karen Robards (review)
Blood and Metal by Nina Croft (blog tour review)
If Only You Knew by Kristan Higgins (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (149)

Stacking the Shelves

As you read this, we’re still at Worldcon. We still won’t know how the Hugos turn out, because the ceremony is Saturday night. I’m afraid that in the middle of the fight, an awards ceremony might break out. Or vice versa. Or it could be worse. Just because I can’t imagine worse at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The business meeting about trying to fix the mess will still be going on. It will still probably still be going on when we leave on Sunday. That is possibly more frightening.

IMG_20150820_200453In other news. I attended both the Baen and the Tor showcases of upcoming books. While I found the prevailing attitude in the Baen presentation to be more than a bit disturbing, I did pick up a marvelous t-shirt. And unfortunately for the state of my TBR pile, I found plenty of books I will want to read in both presentations. Is that the good news or the bad news?

And in other news, I managed to get an eARC of The Last Time I Saw Her from Netgalley, so I cancelled my preorder. I feel much better not having to pay money for a book I know is going to be a trainwreck, even if I can’t resist reading it. Review next week, because I have no patience to wait to read it.

So many books, so little time. As usual.

For Review:
Chapelwood (Borden Dispatches #2) by Cherie Priest
Idol of Glass (Looking Glass Gods #3) by Jane Kindred
The Last Time I Saw Her (Dr. Charlotte Stone #4) by Karen Robards
Silver on the Road (Devil’s West #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
Weighing Shadows by Lisa Goldstein

Review: Daring by Elliott James

daring by elliott jamesFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Pax Arcana #2
Length: 387 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: September 23, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository


Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin.

Werewolf packs are being united and absorbed into an army of super soldiers by a mysterious figure who speaks like an angel and fights like a demon. And every Knight Templar—keepers of the magical peace between mankind and magickind—who tries to get close to this big bad wolf winds up dead. No knight can infiltrate a group whose members can smell a human from a mile away…no knight except one.

John Charming. Ex knight. Current werewolf. Hunted by the men who trained him, he now might be their only salvation. But animal instincts are rising up to claim John more powerfully than ever before, and he must decide if this new leader of wolves is a madman…or a messiah.

My Review:

fearless by elliott jamesAlthough I read Daring before Fearless (review here), I’m posting it after. I’ll be packing for WorldCon in Spokane when this posts, and frankly, I needed to have stuff pre-done for as much of this week as possible. Let’s face it, the odds on my managing to write up reviews and prep posts while at Sasquan are virtually nil. And so they should be.

But about this book…Daring is the second book in the Pax Arcana, and it helps to have read the first book, the surprisingly terrific Charming (reviewed here) first. While the author does a pretty good job of summarizing the action so far, and in John Charming’s charmingly snarky voice, you always miss some of the nuance.

And Charming is damn good urban fantasy of the snarky hero/antihero school, so what’s not to love?

The concept of the Pax Arcana still feels like an awesome invention. It’s the concept that magic happens around us all the time, but because of a massive spell that the fae cast just before they left Earth, we can’t see it (unless it’s a question of survival). The fae also created a force of Pax cops – we know them best as the Knights Templar, and pretty much every other order of secret-keeping warriors that has ever been.

John Charming is a big problem for the knights, and it’s one that they created for themselves. John was trained as a knight, just like his father and his father and every other Charming before him. But John’s mother was bitten by a werewolf just before John was born, so John is also a werewolf. The Knights kill werewolves on sight, having decided somewhere in the way back that werewolves are ipso facto violations of the Pax just for existing.

Except that John breaks all the rules, because he is definitely a werewolf, but he is still bound by the geas that binds all knights to protect the Pax. If his existence were an automatic violation, he would have to off himself. But John feels no compulsion towards suicide. The powers-that-be in the Knights don’t want anyone exploring the walking contradiction that is John Charming.

This is also a story where the Knights are not necessarily good, and the monsters are not necessarily bad. They all still have all the messy motivations that regular humans do – so some on both sides are good, and some on both sides are rotten to the core. Except vampires, they’re just rotten, and sometimes rotting.

charming by elliott jamesSo when the Knights blackmail John into helping them with a werewolf problem, they do it in the nastiest way possible – they threaten the lives of all the friends that John made during the story in Charming. So John goes along, but also ties the Knights up in some interesting magical protections of his own, because John knows the Knights are not playing fair with him and his friends.

They never do.

But John’s insertion into the big werewolf clan goes even worse than the Knights’ biggest fears – because there is way more going on than their limited perspective on anyone other than themselves is able to comprehend, and because they screw thing up again while they try to screw John over again. Along with everyone else.

Escape Rating A-: This series gets better and better as it goes along. I say that and I’m in the middle of book 3 as I write this review. The trajectory is definitely upwards.

One of the fun things in this story is just how screwed up the Knights are at this point in their history. They seem to be mostly following their leaders blindly, in a world that keeps changing out from under them. They have historically relied on the Pax and their ability to confuse mundanes through chemicals or spells, but the Earth’s population boom combined with the communication power of the Internet is breaking the Pax faster than they can repair it.

Also they have decided that some creatures are automatically their enemies that aren’t necessarily, but by being targeted they become enemies. That the Knights also don’t give a damn about any normal humans that they murder in their quests does not make them any friends, either. Eventually, people start to suspect. And resent. Definitely resent.

John is a werewolf, but he is also a Knight. However, the Knights murdered his lover to get at him, and are threatening the lives of his new friends. He is not kindly disposed towards them. When the werewolf clan takes him in, he gets involved because they seem to be mostly good people, and mostly just defending themselves, and it feels good to be all of who he really is, instead of having to hide parts of himself.

But while many of the werewolves are just good people, there are some who have a much bigger (and badder) agenda, using the general werewolf population as meat-shields and other, even worse, possibilities.

As the clusterfuck reaches epic proportions, John discovers that the sides he thought he was on are not as clearly defined as he thought – and that his own origin wasn’t the unhappy accident he believed.

There is a lot going on in this installment. John has to embrace both sides of his nature, and he does it by fits and starts. Mostly by fits. He also has to learn to not just be in a group, but also lead one, and it’s a demonstrably hard lesson for a man who has spent decades as a lone wolf.

It’s also a story where all the motives are murky on all sides. John knows that the Knights mostly mean well, for select definitions of the word well, but they often do badly and definitely believe that their supposedly righteous ends justify any means, when all it means is that they lose their humanity in the process of becoming Knights, sometimes even more so than the monsters they hunt.

John’s desire to believe in the werewolf cause constantly conflicts with his cynicism. He knows its too good to be true, even when some parts of it are demonstrably true. His conflict drives him to snark and frustration at every turn.

His story also shows that even for a sometimes monster, it is much easier to get by with a little help from your friends.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-16-15

Sunday Post

fearless by elliott jamesIn the end, I liked both Stormbringer and Fearless better than I did Scalzi’s End of all Things. I think this is the first time that I haven’t given an A or A+ review for one of Scalzi’s books. I still enjoyed the heck out of it, but it didn’t knock my socks off the way that Lock In did last year. On the other hand, I didn’t have grand expectations for either the first book in the Wyrd series, Liesmith (I originally judged this one by its ‘meh’ cover and I was so wrong), and both books in that series turned out to be really awesome. And I had fairly low expectations for Charming, the first book in the Pax Arcana series, but that turned out to be quite good and getting better. So if you like Urban Fantasy with a twist, be sure to give one or both of those a try.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of Liesmith by Alis Franklin
$15 Amazon Gift Card from Elliot James and Fearless

stormbringer by alis franklinBlog Recap:

A- Review: Stormbringer by Alis Franklin + Giveaway
B+ Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
A- Review: Fearless by Elliott James + Giveaway
B+ Review: The End of All Things by John Scalzi
B Review: Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy
Stacking the Shelves (148)




clear-off-your-shelf-August-202x300Coming Next Week:

Daring by Elliott James (review)
Tales by Charles Todd (blog tour review)
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (review)
Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop
A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd (blog tour review)

Review: Fearless by Elliott James + Giveaway

fearless by elliott jamesFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Pax Arcana #3
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: August 11, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When your last name is Charming, rescuing virgins comes with the territory — even when the virgin in question is a nineteen-year-old college boy.

Someone, somewhere, has declared war on Kevin Kichida, and that someone has a long list of magical predators on their rolodex. The good news is that Kevin lives in a town where Ted Cahill is the new sheriff and old ally of John Charming.

The attacks on Kevin seem to be a pattern, and the more John and his new team follow that thread, the deeper they find themselves in a maze of supernatural threats, family secrets, and age-old betrayals. The more John learns, the more convinced he becomes that Kevin Kichida isn’t just a victim, he’s a sacrifice waiting to happen. And that thread John’s following? It’s really a fuse…

My Review:

daring by elliott jamesI rushed into Fearless immediately after finishing Daring (review next week) and I absolutely couldn’t stop reading it all day. Read at breakfast, read at lunch, read on the stationary bike, read during game saves and cut scenes. Just read.

The Pax Arcana series is gripping and gritty urban fantasy of the “hero is a snarkmaster” school of thought. Start with Charming (reviewed here). John Charming isn’t charming, but he has a cynical way of explaining what’s going on that will keep you turning pages long after you should get some sleep.

So far, at least, John Charming isn’t really very charming, and although he can be daring, at least in the “fools rush in” sense, he isn’t fearless either. It’s just that most of John’s fears are for the people around him and not for himself. He’s having a hard time admitting that he deserves a chance at happiness, or peace of mind, or even a decent night’s sleep.

In Fearless, we have the first story where John rushes in to save someone who is not a member of his merry band of tricksters, and a story where John himself does not start out as the primary bait or target.

Sheriff Ted Cahill, former Clayburg police detective (in Charming) and current Tatum County Sheriff and recently made dhampir, has invited John and his friends to help him with a missing persons cases that smells supernaturally fishy.

So John begins this story as a not-so-innocent bystander, sitting in a diner with his almost-girlfriend Sig and watching as seemingly every creepy and/or inanimate being or thing in Tatum starts zeroing in on college-student Kevin Kichida, who feels (or smells) just a little bit supernatural himself.

The trail leads John and Company to a powerful witch baking bread near Tatum, and a supernaturals-only underground fight-club in New York City. As John and Sig navigate the crowded supernatural community of New York, they try to draw just the right amount of attention from the man who runs the fight club – an old man who has spent centuries using his own descendants in an attempt to make himself a god.

Poor Kevin is his grandson, and he’s scheduled to be granddad’s next human sacrifice – unless John and Sig and their friends can get to granddad first. And end him.

Escape Rating A-: Rules are made to be broken. Or in the case of the Pax Arcana, seriously, seriously bent. One of the continuing threads in this series is the way that the bad guys, or the deluded guys, will use the letter of the Pax to get around the spirit of it.

While I’m specifically thinking of the way that the Knights have indoctrinated all of their generations to believe that werewolves and other supes are a threat to the Pax just be their existence (they actually aren’t), the whole thing gets stretched to its limits by the evil dude in Fearless.

He is always very, very careful to hide what he is doing from the normals, even as he pulls shit that makes everyone want to hurl. He never exposes the supernatural community to outsiders. He just wrecks completely magical murderous crap within it.

Breeding descendants solely for the purpose of taking over their bodies and extending your life is so disgusting that even his own ancestors have rejected him.

charming by elliott jamesThe Knights, and other so-called defenders of the Pax are often evil bystanders, and by that I mean in the sense of “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” With a lot of truly evil creatures, the Knights and their associated brethren do a whole lot of nothing, while pursuing too many people who are willing to live and let live, but stretch the Knights’ definition of people.

Like John Charming and his friends. They take on Kevin’s grandfather not because no one else can, but because no one else will.

The way that the final pieces of the plot/counterplot come together at the end is awesome, and also awesomely convoluted. One of the conventions of this series, at least so far, is that we don’t see all of the pieces until after the dust has barely settled, and John finally explains what he and his cohorts did. It lets the reader get caught up in the danger zone, without knowing how it will all turn out. I like it.

I also like John Charming and his rather motley group of friends. John is definitely out of the snarky anti-hero as hero school of urban fantasy. His self-talk and overall narrative tone have the kind of gritty cynicism that reminds me of Harry Dresden in the later Dresden Files, or or John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s Nightside. John Charming is never quite sure whether he’s mostly a good guy because he wants to be, or because he’s compelled to be, or because staying with Sig and their friends is way better for his humanity than going back to being a lone wolf.

Fearless also has the feel of a big caper story. There are a lot of moving parts, some of which are moving in realms and phases that we can’t see. In the end, those parts all come together in an explosive climax that will make you groan, and then, finally and in relief, cheer.

After the end of Fearless, the eARC included a sneak preview of the untitled fourth book in this terrific series. While I’m ecstatic to know that there IS a next book, I’m afraid to read the preview. I know it will be just too much of a tease because I already want it NOW!

Fearless Button 300 x 225


As part of the tour, there is a prize of one $15 Amazon Gift Card to a lucky commenter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Stormbringer by Alis Franklin + Giveaway

stormbringer by alis franklinFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: The Wyrd #2
Length: 374 pages
Publisher: Random House Hydra
Date Released: July 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Ragnarok—aka the end of the world—was supposed to doom the gods as well. Instead, it was a cosmic rebooting. Now low-level IT tech and comic-book geek Sigmund Sussman finds himself an avatar of a Norse goddess. His boyfriend, the wealthy entrepreneur Lain Laufeyjarson, is channeling none other than Loki, the trickster god. His best friends, Em and Wayne, harbor the spirits of slain Valkyries. Cool, right?

The problem is, the gods who survived the apocalypse are still around—and they don’t exactly make a great welcoming committee. The children of Thor are hellbent on reclaiming their scattered birthright: the gloves, belt, and hammer of the Thunder God. Meanwhile, the dwarves are scheming, the giants are pissed, and the goddess of the dead is demanding sanctuary for herself and her entire realm.

Caught in the coils of the Wyrd, the ancient force that governs gods and mortals alike, Sigmund and his crew are suddenly facing a second Ragnarok that threatens to finish what the first one started. And all that stands in the way are four nerds bound by courage, love, divine powers, and an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming lore.

My Review:

The road FROM Hel is also paved with good intentions. And every story needs a villain – but it doesn’t need to be the SAME villain. Not even when that villain is Loki.

One last important point, by way of the American humorist Will Rogers, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” There are all too many people (and beings) in Asgard that think they know all about Loki and his lies and betrayals, only to discover that what most of them know is wrong, and it’s that wrong that gets everyone in seriously big trouble.

liesmith by alis franklinStormbringer picks up right where Liesmith left off. And if you haven’t read the absolutely awesome Liesmith, Stormbringer is going to be more than a teensy bit confusing. On the other hand, Liesmith is utterly fantastic urban fantasy, so if you love UF, go get Liesmith.

A lot of the things that Asgard believed about Ragnarok come not quite true at the end of Liesmith. (It helps if you know a little about Norse mythology, but deep knowledge isn’t strictly necessary).

Way back in the day, over 1,000 years ago, Odin had plans to subvert Ragnarok by having his beloved son Baldr and his always sacrificed frenemy Loki body swap. Unfortunately for Odin, Loki’s wife Sigyn did a swap of her own, and attended Ragnarok in Loki’s place wearing Loki’s armor. So Baldr and Loki stayed swapped. For a millenia. It messed them both up something awful. Naturally.

Asgard has never recovered from what it perceived as Loki’s betrayal. He wasn’t guilty, but since the prevailing mythos that surrounds Loki is that he is always guilty, everyone acted on that belief, often to their detriment, nearly always to Loki’s.

The story in Stormbringer is all about a whole bunch of Asgardians believing that Loki is the root of all evil, and treating him so horribly that while it can definitely be argued that they are way more evil than anything Loki is even thought to have done, he feels forced to do some fairly bad stuff to fix the mess he has walked into.

Meanwhile, back at the Lokabrenna ranch, Loki’s daughter Hel enlists Sigmund and his friends Wayne and Em on a quest of her own. It turns out that Hel set up a whole chunk of the events in Liesmith for her own purposes. She wants to get her people, the supposedly dishonored dead into Valhalla. But Valhalla is only for those who died in battle, which Hel has finally done.

That not many people die in battle these days has caused a serious population explosion in Hel. Their goddess wants to remedy that by getting them all into Valhalla, and by the way reuniting the dead warriors in Valhalla with their not-illustrious but still beloved wives and small children, who generally did not die gloriously in battle.

So while Loki is being abused all over Asgard and the associated realms by one group, Hel, with Sigmund and Wayne and Em recreate Aragorn’s march from the Paths of the Dead from Return of the King by heading towards Valhalla. The difference is that Aragorn’s march was intended to end in a battle. Hel hopes for peace and reunification, and only ends up with a battle after someone cheats.

The story, like Liesmith, ends with a surprising bang, and goes nowhere that anyone involved, including the reader, ever imagined.

And it’s utterly cool.

Escape Rating A-: One of the things that always gets me about modern interpretations of Loki stories is that Loki is always evil and the big villain. Except he wasn’t. He was a trickster god, a chaos agent. Every mythology seems to have one.

Chaos is not necessarily evil per se, but it is always upsetting to those who benefit from the current status quo and don’t want anything to change.

When Stormbringer begins, Loki and Baldr are both kinda sharing the body of Lain Laufeyjarson, who isn’t either of them exactly, but isn’t not, either. It’s as confusing for Lain and his boyfriend Sigmund as it may be for the audience. The entire confusion factor is much higher because Sigmund is the reincarnation (more or less) of Loki’s wife Sigyn, and his BFFs Wayne and Em, who are both female in spite of Wayne’s name, are reincarnations of Valkyries.

Hel needs Sigmund’s Valkyrie friends. Lain needs Sigmund to rescue him from the mess he has been dropped into, only partly of his own making, in Asgard. And Asgard and all of the other realms surrounding it need to seriously get themselves updated from the 10th century to the 21st.

A lot of what goes wrong on the Asgard side revolves around not paying attention and not keeping up. The Earth has moved on from the days that the Vikings went a-Viking, but Asgard never got the memo. And that’s in spite of warriors in the intervening centuries who have found themselves in Valhalla, WITH all their kit.

So there are two stories going on, Thor’s kids taking Lain on what they believe is a one-way trip to retrieve their father’s treasures by way of a past that never was, and Sigmund and his friends supporting Hel in what becomes a 20th century style protest movement against a tyrannical regime that has gone on way too long.

The story is crazy wild and utterly absorbing. I did find myself wishing I knew a bit more about Norse mythology, but that’s just me. There is enough explanation to get the reader through the mythical bits.

The Asgardians, who are all-too-appropriately called as, pronounced ass, have acted like asses to everyone around them. The reader wants them to get their comeuppance. Lain falls all too far into the trap of being Loki, and discovers that he really needs Sigmund to keep him making good decisions. Sigmund discovers that he can be a hero with a little help from his and Lain’s friends. It makes their relationship just a bit more equal.

But the thing I loved most about this story was the way that the eventual solutions to the mess all come from women’s ideas and women’s decisions. Not just Hel, but also Wayne and Em and Thor’s daughter Trud and especially Baldr’s wife Nonna. With a little bit of help from the Loki’s other daughters and the part of Sigyn that lives in Sigmund.

Even though the majority of this story is set in Asgard, I would have preferred that the author had stuck to the common English translations or transliterations of most of the names. It is possible to get a bit lost, especially attempting to search Wikipedia for what else is known about some of the characters.

On that infamous other hand, that Lain’s car turned out to be Sleipnir was just plain awesome.


As part of the tour, the giveaway is a $25 gift card to the eBook retailer of the winner’s choice + eBook copy of LIESMITH by Alis Franklin

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-9-15

Sunday Post

Today is officially National Book Lovers Day!

I’m not sure a single day is sufficient. If you believe in the “so many books, so little time” school of thought then one day barely scratches the surface (or makes a dent in the towering TBR pile). But it is lovely that there is an official day to promote the love of books and reading and to support those of us who are perpetually lost in a good book. Even when we are sometimes lost in a bad book.

The summer doldrums also seem to be over. We have giveaways again, and winner announcements. There are also a couple of giveaways coming up this week, so stay tuned.

eReaderGiveaway_Horz_BPCurrent Giveaways:

Two Kindle Fires, one Kindle Paperwhite, one Kindle Touchscreen plus dozens of author prizes in the Summertime eReader Giveaway
All 6 titles in the Harlequin End of Summer Tour, a limited edition Harlequin notebook plus a $50 Visa gift card in the End of Summer Tour

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann is Brandi D.

back to you by lauren daneBlog Recap:

Summertime eReader Giveaway
Guest Post by Lauren Dane – Hurley Family Summer Itinerary + Giveaway
B+ Review: Back to You by Lauren Dane
B+ Review: Charming by Elliott James
B Review: Whiskey and Wry by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron
Stacking the Shelves (147)



end of all things by john scalziComing Next Week:

Stormbringer by Alis Franklin (blog tour review)
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review)
Fearless by Elliott James (blog tour review)
The End of All Things by John Scalzi (review)
Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy (review)