Category Archives: books/book review

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Book Review: Stone and Steel, by Eboni Dunbar

I bought a the Pride 2021 Story Bundle, earlier this year, and Eboni Dunbar’s Stone and Steel was included in it.
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When General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ well-being and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.

my review

I liked this a lot. It’s not perfect. For a person who grew up without legitimate connections, Aaliyah turns out to gather some surprisingly powerful allies (largely without trying), which felt too coincidental. The version I read didn’t make it clear enough when speakers were changing. So, dialogue was sometimes hard to follow. (I don’t know if this was just formatting or what.) And as a not huge fan of novellas, I, of course, wish it was longer and more developed. But, for such a short piece, it does what it sets out to do. It evokes a real sense of place and time, gives you characters you care about, is chocked full of diversity, and wraps up with a satisfying conclusion. I’ll happily read more of Dunbar’s writing.

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Other Reviews:

Review: “Stone and Steel” by Eboni Dunbar

Regular Sip – Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar (Neon Hemlock)

 

Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar #BookReview

Book Review: Tomes, Scones & Crones, by Colleen Gleason

I received a copy of Colleen Gleason‘s Tomes, Scones and Crones through Netgalley.
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At forty-eight, Jacqueline Finch has a nice, easy life with few responsibilities: she’s been a librarian in Chicago for twenty-five years, she doesn’t have a husband, children, or pets, and she’s just coasting along, enjoying her books and a small flower garden now that she’s over the hill.

That is, until the Universe (helped by three old crones) has other ideas.

All at once, Jacqueline’s staid (and boring) life is upended, and the next thing she knows, she’s heading off to Button Cove to start a new life as the owner of Three Tomes Bookshop.

The bookstore is a darling place, and Jacqueline is almost ready to be excited about this new opportunity…until Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Danvers show up. Somehow, the literary characters of Sherlock Holmes’s landlady and Rebecca deWinter’s creepy and sardonic housekeeper are living persons who work at the bookshop (when they aren’t bickering with each other). Not only does Jacqueline have to contend with them—and the idea that people regularly eat pastries while reading books in her store!—but the morning after she arrives, the body of a dead man is found on her property.

Things start to get even more strange after that: Jacqueline is befriended by three old women who bear a startling resemblance to the Witches Three from Macbeth, an actual witch shows up at her bookshop and accuses Jacqueline of killing her brother, and the two women who own businesses across the street seem determined to befriend Jacqueline.

And then there’s the police detective with the very definite hot-Viking vibe who shows up to investigate the dead body…

The next thing Jacqueline knows, her staid and simple life is no longer quiet and unassuming, and she’s got crones, curses, and crocodiles to deal with.

And when a new literary character appears on the scene…things start to get even more hairy and Jacqueline is suddenly faced with a horrible life and death situation that will totally push her out of her comfort zone…if she’s brave enough to let it.

After all, isn’t forty-eight too late for an old dog to learn new tricks?

my review

Writing a review for a book that you can objectively say isn’t bad, but that you didn’t particularly enjoy is difficult. The writing and editing in Tomes, Scones and Crones is fine. The pacing seems fine. The character development seems fine, etc. I even really appreciated a 48-year-old heroine and the ‘claim the power of your later life’ moral of the story.

I just didn’t especially enjoy the book. I didn’t care for Jacqueline, found her largely unpleasant. I thought the literary device of having the crones discuss everything as a means of relaying it to the reader was annoying. Plus, their meddling would be infuriating. The romance is only hinted at. The villains were so villainous as to be caricatures, even down to evil = ugly simplicity.

And I found something vaguely ick- inducing about Danvers and Hudson being literally reduced to their jobs. It goes a long way towards undermining the theme of women (even/especially older women) are full, empowered individuals to then have two female characters pulled from literature to function as housekeepers and housekeepers only, they disappear when not keeping house. Thereby erasing any further importance or potential they, as individuals, might hold.

This was structurally sound and will probably shine for a lot of people. It was a flop for me.

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Other Reviews:

Tomes, Scones and Crones by Colleen Gleason (ARC)

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Book Review: Blood Witch Rising, by Joe Ulric

I received a free Audible code for a copy of Blood Witch Rising, by Joe Ulric.

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A storm is brewing, and the world isn’t ready for it. Join Jack Ladd as he sheds light on the hidden world of magic and monsters. A world you already live in, but do your best to ignore.

Ages ago, the earth was cut off from other mythical realms in order to protect it from the depredations of the Asgardians. Now, a portal discovered in the Pacific Northwest is seen by a mysterious group as an opportunity to reverse that ancient act.

Aided by a sometimes helpful—but always irreverent—spirit familiar, Jack leaves the comfort of home to stop that from happening. His roommate Joshua, a Native American shaman, decides to come along. Big mistake. They are forced to navigate a world where refugees from the fabled Norse realms have been living in hiding since the bronze age. Old racial tensions and mistrust complicates this task as they take on nightmarish creatures intent on showing us how insignificant we are.

When Jack inadvertently uncovers secrets from his past, he must question his closest ally’s motives and decide if he is on the right path.

One thing is certain: should he fail, all manner of legendary beings could quickly overrun the earth. Beings still angry at being kept out of their playground for over five thousand years.

my review

I won’t go so far as to say that I disliked this. I didn’t. But I wasn’t particularly keen on it either. I finished it merely to have finished it.

I found the pacing inconsistent, the villains opaque, the characterizations shallow, and the world vague. The result was that I never felt deeply invested in the story or the characters. I also felt very much like there should be a previous book. There was just so much history merely hinted at—Jack’s brief military career, how he came to live and work with the dwarfs, the purpose of both all his combat and black smith training, how and why he chose to bond with a spirit familiar, him and his ‘aunt’s’ relationship, etc. I felt like a big chunk of the story was missing.

Having said all of that, I did like Jack. He was noble and tried doing the right thing in difficult situations. I thought the idea of dwarfs and elves in the modern world was interesting. And I appreciated the diversity in the cast. All in all, I think this book just needs to find it’s proper audience. Like I said, I didn’t think it was bad. I just didn’t think it worked particularly well for me.

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