The third book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy romance series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 and 36 minutes
Narrators: Gabra Zackman

Katya is the seventh daughter of the Sea King. The King is a sensible man and knows about the Tradition (the way that fairy tales want to impose their own way onto people and entire nations. So, he’s made sure that none of his children are idle or have cause to complain. All of them have their own careers and important duties according to their talents and interests. Katya, Ekaterina, is a warrior and a spy. She loves to travel to other places and meet new people. She also loves shoes and clothing which aren’t practical in the sea. She’s also very aware of her role as the first line of defense to her nation and family. So, she’s happy to spy.

Sasha is the youngest son of the king of Belrus. As a seventh son, the Tradition takes an exceptional interest in him. Sasha is the Fortunate Fool. His family treats him badly in front of others but amongst themselves they know the very important role Sasha has maintaining the stability of the kingdom. He travels around making sure that the Tradition doesn’t twist anyone to a too bad end but at the same time he knows that the lands can’t be too safe. It’s a balance.

Their romance isn’t dramatic. There are no jealous current or former boy/girlfriends, no misunderstandings that could be solved by one honest discussion, no mooning from afar because the other person can’t possibly be attracted to me or any such “romance” troupes. Nope, they just get together. Great! However, that doesn’t happen right away. Before meeting each other, Katya and Sasha have their own adventures first. Sasha is also trailed by unicorns which were very hilarious in this book.

Both Katya and Sasha are quite dutiful towards their families. If the plot had been different, that could have been a tragedy. But this is feel-good romance and adventure without tragedy. The lovers are very compatible and very cute together. This book immediately jumped into my top courtship romances list (which is very short, anyway). However, I’d love to see them working together now that the whole courtship thing is done.

The book is set in vaguely Russian nations which means that certain old witch makes an appearance. She’s the most terrifying aspect in the book. I thought this story was based on the Little Mermaid but happily, that was not the case. Instead, it does weave together several fairy tales from Japan, Russia, and Arabian Nights. That does feel a little too much at times. Otherwise, I loved this book!

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The first book in the Bibliophile mystery series.

Publication year: 2009
Format: print
Publisher: Obsidian
Page count: 289

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder: she restores old books. She’s participating in a party celebrating an upcoming book exhibit in the Covington museum. She’s a bit nervous because she’s going to meet her former mentor and friend Abraham Karastovsky and they haven’t even spoken to each other in six months. However, Abraham is in a very good mood and they patch things between them quickly. Unfortunately, later Brooklyn finds Abraham’s murdered body. With his final breath, Abraham gives Brooklyn a very valuable old book (Goethe’s Faust) and a mysterious message. Moments later a handsome but gruff British security man Derek Stone finds Brooklyn kneeling beside the body and thinks that she killed him.

I loved the world of bookbinding and Brooklyn’s strange family and friends. Her family lives in a hippy commune making wine. She has five adult siblings who all grew up there, following Guru Bob. She also has a nemesis, a crazy woman who hates her and tries to put her down verbally and even attacks her. Brooklyn has a female best friend who is much more into fashion than she is, and she’s also friends with a lesbian couple lives next door. This was very refreshing because often in mystery books if the MC is female, she doesn’t have female friends.

But Brooklyn is a bit strange protagonist. On the one hand, she’s clearly smart and very good in her profession but as an amateur sleuth, she’s not too bright. She lies to the police, takes items from crime scenes without telling anyone, and makes rather thoughtless decisions, especially near the end. She also faints at the sight of blood which I find rather strange in a woman who has to, you know, deal with blood on monthly basis. But I liked that she likes to eat. She’s also quite funny.

Unfortunately, the plot is based on keeping information from the reader (and to be fair also from the main character) so I don’t think there was any chance of finding clues. The suspect pool is also very small. Also, Brooklyn doesn’t actually do much investigating. She only questions a few people and none of those she meets near the first murder. She does have a knack of showing up at the wrong time, though.

As you might guess, Derek is the romantic interest and I think there’s more romance in the book that mystery solving. At least there’s no romance triangle or too toxic troupes, although Derek (and other men) do save Brooklyn several times.

So, overall I did enjoy the book but not as much I thought I would. I can’t recommend it to people who read mystery books in order to solve the whodunnit.

The third book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Publisher: Ace
Page count: 374

Our colonial pepperpot and dashing archivist are heading to the US. During the airship voyage, a mysterious man tries to sabotage the ship but Agents Eliza Braun and Wellington Books manage to stop the sabotage. Otherwise, Eliza is unhappy with the voyage because Wellington kissed her previously and she’s expecting him to continue in the same way. Instead, Wellington labors with his steam powered motorcar.

In Norfolk, our intrepid agents are met by two agents from the US’ Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical. Librarian Felicia Lovelace is on her first field assignment and she clearly doesn’t have any experience in spying, going so far as forgetting the others’ assumed names. On the other hand, her partner William “Will Bill” Wheatley is a very experienced field agent. The Ministry agents are supposed to just consult the Americans about why ocean and airships are disappearing. Soon, they uncover an ominous plot which seems to involve Thomas Edison and his inventions.

I really enjoyed the steampunk elements and the inventors, Edison and especially the others. Both new agents are also rather interesting characters and they play well against each other but their role in the story made me dislike them. I also rather enjoyed the Ministry’s own mad scientists Blackwell and Axlerod.

Also, the Ministry’s enemies are on the move. Almost every other chapter was an interlude focusing on a mysterious priest doing the House of Usher’s work or Sophia del Morte moving in on her newest target. I rather enjoyed these chapters as well. The story is fast-paced with lots of fight scenes.

Unfortunately for me, this book has not just one romantic triangle but two. That’s right: Bill/Eliza/Wellington and Eliza/Wellington/Felicity. Both American agents start to court a British agent amazingly quickly. Eliza and Wellington are unsure about each other’s feelings and Eliza is barely civil to Wellington. So, the story has lots of Eliza and Bill going off to do mayhem while Wellington and Felicia do scouting and other spy things. So, there’s plenty of time for Bill to make moves toward Eliza and likewise Felicity to Wellington. Unfortunately, it felt very contrived to me and went on for far too long.

Near the end, there are some revelations which will, no doubt, feature heavily in the next two books. It ends almost in a cliffhanger. I was thinking that I might not want to continue with this series but it seems that the jealousy and UST is now finally ended as major parts of the books, so I’m going to get the next two books, too.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. This week, the Top 5 Wednesdays topic is Books featuring paranormal creature of your choice.

Vampires are my favorite paranormal creatures. (The topic does mention fae but I just can’t think of them as paranormal creatures. They’re just fae.) It was very hard to pick out just five.

1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
There are plenty of books and comics about Spike, Angel, Drusilla, and all the other great vampires in this show, so I just had to mention it.

2, Dracula by Bram Stoker
The great granddaddy of the genre still holds up.

3, Nightwalker by Jocelynne Drake
Mira is a 600-year old vampire and she has a natural talent the other vampires don’t have: she can control fire. The other vampires hate her so she’s a loner.

4, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Lestat and Louis, need I say more?

5, Blood Price by Tanya Huff
One of the first urban fantasy series which is still very good today.
And I just have to mention:

6, the Underworld movie
Selene’s great! And the movie has a great atmosphere. Too bad about the sequels…

The first book in an action and adventure series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: Turning Leaf Productions
Page count: 218 and the first chapter of the next book

Poppy McVie is a new US Fish and Wildlife Service Agent. In fact, she still has a little bit of training to do when she’s assigned to her first undercover job. Poppy is training with an old agent in Michigan. She’s relentlessly tracking down bear poachers when her boss calls her and she has to return to service headquarters. She’s nervous at first that she’s going to be fired, but to her amazement given her first undercover assignment. However, she’s less thrilled when she finds out that she’s been given the mission because of her gender. Agent Dalton’s backstory calls for a wife.

Dalton is in Costa Rica tracking down a local wildlife smuggler and seller. Two other male agents are there, as well, but one of them hasn’t reported in when he should have. Poppy’s boss gives her strict orders to obey Dalton and just play the rich wife. Poppy thinks that Dalton is going to be a middle-aged agent but much to her surprise and delight, he turns out to be hot ex-SEAL. However, Dalton isn’t thrilled to see her and just orders her to hang out at the beach and stay out of his way. But Poppy is very smart, dedicated, and ruthless when she has to be. So, she investigates on her own.

Poppy is passionate about catching and convicting animal abusers. Unfortunately, as a US agent, she has no jurisdiction in Costa Rica. But that doesn’t stop her. She investigates on her own and puts herself and Dalton in danger by doing so. In fact, she’s rather reckless and sometimes I wondered if she was too trusting. Also, she clearly doesn’t respect her superiors because she doesn’t obey their orders. Her poor judgement skills put her in danger a couple of time but she’s able to save herself with quick thinking.

Dalton is an ex-SEAL and somewhat a loner type. He doesn’t know Poppy and he doesn’t trust her. He has a mission which he’s focused on and Poppy is an unknown element. In other words, he doesn’t trust her training as a fellow agent. He also comes across as liking Poppy as an attractive woman but keeping her at an arm’s length.

There’s another very handsome man whom Poppy is interested in and whom she trusts rather quickly. There was some jealousy between him and Dalton which I thought was absurd. Similarly, near the end Poppy was jealous about Dalton which was also absurd. So, while most of the romance bits were ok, I didn’t really care for the whole jealousy aspect.

Overall, this was fun, well-paced book with lots of action. There’s also a grimmer theme under the fun story, about how animal poachers and smugglers would be out of business without their clients.

11th book in the wonderful October Daye urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 and 36 minutes
Narrators: Mary Robinette Kowal

Toby is getting married and her “sister” (death omen) May has organized a bachelorette party for her. In a karaoke bar. At first, Toby is horrified but after the Sea Witch has sung a Disney song (from the Little Mermaid) Toby starts to relax and even enjoy herself. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last.

Amandine is one of the very powerful Firstborn Fae. She’s also of opinion that changelings, the half-fae offspring of humans and fae, aren’t worth the space they take. She’s also Toby’s mother who wanted very different things for her than what Toby herself chose. Amandine has never forgiven Toby for that.

Now, she comes to Toby’s home and demands that Toby finds August. August is Amandine’s eldest child and a full-blooded fae. However, August have been lost for over a century without any clue as to where she has gone. Toby has no interest in obeying her mother and so, Amandine takes hostages: two people who are very dear to Toby and May. Now, Toby has no choice. She has to find her sister whom she’s never met, indeed, whose very existence she didn’t even know about until very recently. And she’s must do so as soon as possible: Amandine is cruel.

First, Toby needs someone related to August. That means Amandine’s full-blooded fae husband who is also one of Toby’s most hated enemies.

This was another very satisfying read. We get to know more about Simon and even about the Sea Witch. One of my favorite troupes is enemies forced to work together and here McGuire uses it beautifully. McGuire even finds a way to separate Toby from most of her allies who are, by now, admittedly quite powerful. It’s also heart-wrenching, especially the end.

Amandine is very arrogant. It seems that she’s forgotten, or suppressed, her time with Toby’s mortal father. I can’t really understand how she could have lived with him because now she expects everything to be of high-fae standards. Maybe she’s just crueler than usual. She’s also very powerful. Maybe more than Toby can handle.

Many of the large cast make an appearance and all of my favorites have a large part to play.

Once again, I want to reread the whole series. Maybe next year…

Quotes:
“I’ve been informed that you’re continuing to play at being a detective,” Amandine sniffed. “It seems an odd thing to spend your time in since we both know that you have no native talents in the area. But if you will persist, it seems you’re able to do me a boon.”
I blinked. “What?”
“I wish to hire you.”

Yikes, time has gone by so quickly that I’m only now joining in R.I.P. XII:

Every September 1 through October 31 for the last 11 years Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings
has hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. Carl has been kind enough to entrust the event to us, Heather and Andi, from now on, and we hope to do him proud. We know all of you readers will!
The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:
Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.
There are two simple goals for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII Challenge:
1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.
As we do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.I.P. XII without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

Well, I’m really late this year so I’m participating only in
Peril the Second:
Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the challenge categories.

The books I’ve chose are
Seanan McGuire’s new Toby Daye book The Brightest Fell
Kate Carlisle’s Homicide in Harcover.

This year, the challenge is hosted by Andi and Heather at Estella’s Revenge.

I’m such a huge reader of series that it’s very appropriate that one is the 11th book in the series and the other is a first one. 🙂
Happy reading!

Read:
1, Seanan McGuire: The Brightest Fell
2, Kate Carlisle: Homicide in Hardcover
3, Holly Evans: Infernal Ties