Tag Archives: fantasy

Review of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie

I purchased a paperback copy of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie.

Description from Goodreads:

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. 

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea. 

Spoilerish Review:

Those in my book circle seem to love this book and I can see why. Perfectly readable writing, YA lesbian leads, a bad-ass female pirate captain, racial/identity/economic diversity, acknowlegement of power differences, dads and brothers who play domestic roles while women work, all things it’s nice to encounter, and even better when gender norms are perverted, not just swapped. The characters are natural in their role and the author doesn’t play it up for points. 

But the simple overall fact of the matter is that, despite liking aspects of the book, I didn’t enjoy the book. I felt that Cassandra’s sudden siding with her captors simply because she’d gotten to know some of them was beyond plebeian. Her sudden willingness to kill her own because she’d become attached to one person made me grit my teeth. It’s far too weak a motivation. 

And the ending? Well, I feel like the villain won. Nothing in the ending felt satisfying. I didn’t feel like Cassandra accomplished anything or grew. In fact, she put herself in the hands of her enemy. Nope. I was not happy with the ending.

Review of An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose #1), by Charlaine Harris

I borrowed an audio copy of Charlaine HarrisAn Easy Death form the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.

As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.


I would like to quote another reviewer here, who summarized this novel with:

Girl has guy. Guy is killed. Girl kills killers. Walks across the desert. Kills other people. Drives across the desert. Kills more people. Walks across the desert. Kills still more people. Has sex with frenemy. Walks home. The end. Nice cover. No point.

I agree with this entirely, except for the no point part. I do think the book has a point, even if it’s no deeper than your average action-based gunslinger book. 

I liked Gunny Rose. I thought Harris created an interesting, if hard, world. I listened to the audio version, and I thought Kaminsky did a nice job with the narration. But it’s all just a little flat, a bit on the tedious slow side. Things happen, one after the other (just as Miki’s review suggests) and then the book ends. I just kind of shrugged, not hating it, but not impressed either.

Review of Playing with Fire, by R. J. Blain

I purchased a copy of R. J. Blain‘s Playing With Fire.

Description from Goodreads:

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it. 

Working as the only human barista at a coffee shop catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day. Bailey Gardener has few options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up the world’s nastiest magical substances. 

Unfortunately for her, Faery Fortunes is located in the heart of Manhattan Island, not far from where Police Chief Samuel Quinn works. If she’d been smart, she never would have agreed to help the man find his wife. 

Bailey found her, all right—in the absolutely worst way possible. 

One divorce and several years later, Bailey is once again entangled in Chief Quinn’s personal affairs, and he has good reason to hate her. Without her, he wouldn’t be Manhattan’s Most Wanted Bachelor, something he loathes. Without her, he’d still be married. 

If only she’d said no when he asked her help, she might have had a chance with him. While her magic worked well, it came with a price: misfortune. Hers. 

When Quinn’s former brother-in-law comes to her for help, he leaves her with a cell phone and seventy-five thousand reasons to put her magic to the test. However, when she discovers Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, Bailey’s tossed in the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.


This is one of the more disappointing books I’ve read lately, since I think it could have been so good! Instead it is too over the top and unfocused. If Blain had had an editor that was willing and able to sit her down and say, “You’ve abandoned your plot in favor of all this sarcastic silliness and it’s not working,” this book could be five-star worthy. Because Blain really can write. But what the reader is actually given is a good start, and then inconsistent plotting, almost no world-building, little to no character development and far, far, far too much snarky repartee. Repartee (as much as I love it) is supposed to enhance a story, not be the sole content of a book! 

What’s more, I don’t think a lot of it held together. We’re told Bailey is unsociable and has no friends. But we see that she does just fine in society and has a whole lot of people who obviously care for her. We’re told she hates Quinn and he hates her, but it’s immediately obvious that neither is true and Bailey would have to be a lot stupider than she’s present to not realize this. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

All in all, I wanted so much more than this book delivered. I want what this book promised. I want what this book had the potential to be.