klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
Raluca renounced her birthright as a princess in a dramatic fashion, by leaping off a balcony and shapeshifting into her dragon form, to fly off (with her dragon hoard of jewels) to a new life where she gets to call the shots. But she still has the skills, and standards, drilled into her since childhood. She loves fine clothes, fine food, and gracious manners.

Nick renounced his old gang and his life of crime while at the same time renouncing ties to his wolf pack, only to recognize that Protection, Inc., a bodyguard business made up entirely of shapeshifters and their mates, is his new pack. He still carries his rough habits form his old life: the leather jacket, the tattoos, the f-bombs.

When Raluca comes to Protection, Inc., seeking a bodyguard to keep her safe from an assassin, she meets Nick, and when the two meet each others' gaze, they realize they have met their mates. Now how can two such complete opposites, each convinced the other despises them yet also deeply in love - and lust, find a way to work together to keep the assassin at bay? So much is at stake with this one.

I love the Protection, Inc. series. What you get is what's on the cover: a love story, with lots of action, between strong and interesting characters. Each member of Protection, Inc., gets their own book, so you get a chance to find out what makes each member tick, so the background characters are just as interesting as the main ones. But the love - and lust - stories are strong, fast-paced, and involve shape shifters. What's not to love?
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You should be prepared for philosophical discussions if you plan to read this book. Many, many philosophical discussions, but unlike the kind you read for Philosophy 101 these discussions are from the point of view of interesting characters in an interesting experiment: the goddess Athene has brought together people from different times and places to try to create Plato's idea of a Just City.

Did I like this book? I put off reading it until I got a free copy from Tor.com's book club giveaway, and I started reading it because hey, Jo Walton. I was sucked in quickly, and the characters pulled me along. I enjoyed the journey, but the novel suffered from so many of the passages that I read in Philosophy 101: nothing ever got resolved. Until possibly the next book. Which yes, I intend to read. Soon.
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Set in the European country of Alpennia (somewhere near Ruritania, or so I've heard), this novel is set a couple of years after Daughter of Mystery. Margerit and Barbara still appear as point-of-view characters, but Antuniet and Jeanne, secondary but important characters from the first book, are center stage.

Antuniet Chazillen desperately seeks to restore her family name to nobility. She lost everything - nobility, home, family, fortune - when her brother was executed for treason, everything except her sharp intellect and her drive. These she has focused on alchemy, using a text that an unknown force seeks to steal back. Antuniet is brittle and untrusting, yet fascinating to Jeanne, Vicomtesse de Cherdillac, who seeks to bring her out of her shell and help her reach her goal.

Winding in and around all this is the ever-present question of power in the kingdom. Princess Annek rules, yet she has no children to be her heir, and there are plots afoot around both her brothers. Barbara and Margerit, who is now Princess Annek's thaumaturgist, find themselves entwined in the plots here, and how they are affected by Antuniet's alchemy.

I know I'm invested in a book when I have a definite opinion on who should be Princess Annek's successor (and will argue the point with you), and would love to have a talk with Antuniet about friendship and what it means. The people in this story are vivid and interesting and real, and I care about their choices and what happens to them. I suspect you will, too.
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Two young women not quite at the age of majority find their lives unexpectedly intertwined. One is a duelist for a rich Baron, the other is the Baron's goddaughter. The Baron is in ill health, and his presumptive heir is hovering, like all the best sharks do. The women find that they share some interests, in particular scholarship surrounding the mysteries of the saints. There are ancient writings describing how you can design a prayer or invocation in order to encourage the saints to heed your plea, and some people are known to have a gift that lets them see the saints' reply.

These two women find themselves together in a world of intrigue in the early eighteen hundreds in the European country of Alpennia. They will need their wits, their courage, and each other to navigate the dangerous waters they find themselves in.

This book has many elements I adore in fiction: orphans with secret backgrounds, duels of honor, magic with a basis in history, all played out among lavish dance balls and scholarly guild work. I loved it, and I hope you will too.
klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
This is a great addition to the 2015 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, filled with tales of, well, exploration and adventure. All the young protagonists face their problems with strength of character and intelligence, whether they be facing aliens on a new planet or facing space pirates on their own ship. I particularly liked "The Worms Won't Feed Themselves, You Know" by Deborah Walker, which has such an original take on the future that I've spent five minutes trying to describe it and not doing it justice. Read this one first. I also enjoyed "Where You Want to Be" by Jeannie Warner, which continues the adventures of Ollie and Dodge from the previous Guide. This time, their independence and control of their spaceship is threatened by one Jazz Hook. (Think about it.)

I recommend this book to middle school readers, but as an adult I loved it, too.
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I know Ellen, and it's not true that I don't know what to expect when I pick up something she's written, because I do. I expect her to show me what the world looks like from inside her head, and her world does look like mine, just...deliciously different. Or outrageously different. I think we had divergent childhoods.

As the label says, these are stories about childhoods. Not really the children, though there are some engaging, intelligent, charming children to be found in the pages, but the stories are about their childhoods. Klages has a great eye for the magic and delight that kids experience, but also for the quiet terror that comes from being at the mercy of others. Others, you know, like your family.

If you've ever been a child, consider this a trigger warning. But if you've ever had a heart, read this book.
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I've read all the previous "Chicks" books and enjoyed them for their fun romps and humor around women warriors in chain mail. This newest volume lived up to its predecessors. I think the weakest story was the first one in the volume, and it put me off for a bit, but I'm happy I returned. One of the strengths is that the stories stretch from modern tales in a big city ("A Girl's Home is Her Rent-Controlled Castle", "Second Hand Hero") to science fiction on alien planets ("Saving Private Slime") to fantasy with scheming wizards ("Burying Treasure"), all while maintaining the theme. Editors Esther Friesner and John Helfer did an excellent job, so if you like humor around strong women warriors, this book is for you.
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Chaz Brenchley hails from Newcastle Upon Tyne near the shores of the North Sea, and the river and sea inform the stories in this collection. From a mystery set aboard a river barge manned by an unlikely group of young men to pirates seeking an island-sized turtle, the salt of the sea mixes with the salt of tears. The character Quin appears in a few of these stories, an educated, witty man who has been struck down with AIDS, who is surrounded by a group of young men who care for him. In contrast is another recurring character, sailor Martin, wise and powerful and dealing with the fate he's delivered.

My favorite story must be "Keep the Aspidochelone Floating", though "In the Night Street Baths" (which uses characters from his "Bridge of Dreams" and "River of the World" novels) was a delightful surprise, and the stories about Quin brought both a tear and a shudder.

This is a powerful, eclectic collection well worth your time.
(5 stars)
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When I was 10 years old I would have stayed up all night reading this book. The stories are varied, from a steampunk mystery to alien pets, from aliens visiting earth to humans visiting space, with families of all ages and types, yet each story is about a young person having an adventure. Standouts are Jeannie Warner's take on Oliver Twist, Eric Del Carlo's post-pandemic survivors, and Deborah Walker's solution to gender imbalance. I loved this anthology, and am looking forward to the 2016 Guide.
(5 stars)
klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
Every story in this fun anthology has romance, comedy (or at least humor of various sorts), and zombies. I wouldn't have sought out this combination, since I don't normally think of romance and comedy with (un)dead people, but a couple of my friends really liked this book so I checked it out.

The first story, "Generation Z" by Bear Weiter, set a good tone for the rest of the book, with its clever, tongue in cheek awareness of human (and undead) nature. The dialogue in "Faye of the Dead" by Holly Quinn was perfect, as her pizza server heroine describes her life and her priorities. "Living Dead in Miami" by Jeannie Warner made good use of the internet as a story medium as her main character's emotional life pulls her through the zombie outbreak she's part of. These were my favorites, but the others didn't disappoint.

This is a fun anthology, and I hear there's even a sequel. My one complaint is that there are a number of typos and misspellings throughout the version I read (Kindle), though the stories themselves were tight and interesting. I recommend it.
(4 stars)
klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
It is convenient that I can go on a date on almost any day at almost any time, with the smartest and handsomest man I know. It's been a sorrow that my health has prevented me from doing much in this regard, even though people claim that marriage can stunt one's social life. Marriage has done the opposite, but my health, not such a help. Still, in the last few months I've improved tremendously, to the point that my husband and I (because who else would I date?) went to a movie the very day after we had heard about it and wanted to go to it. Yes, this is exciting.

We saw Chef last night, on a recommendation from a friend. Why yes, Chaz loved it, but I loved it, too. It's about a man who is a very good chef and a somewhat poor father, to a son whom he shares custody with, with a gorgeous and intelligent ex-wife. This is the story of how the chef becomes the chef he wants to be and the father he didn't know he could be, on a physical and metaphorical journey across country with friends and food. I highly recommend it. And if you're local, I discovered the theater at Santana Row has a discount on tickets for Tuesday nights, which is my favorite night to go to movies because it's the night that has the fewest movie patrons.
klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book was nominated for a Nebula award, but there was nothing science fictional or fantastic about it. And yet...and yet...

This novel is about families, and what makes a family, and what family members owe to one another. It's about what makes someone human, and inhuman, and inhumane. About seeking. About kindness.

It's one of the best books about meeting aliens I've ever read. I'm not surprised it was nominated for the Nebula.



View all my reviews
klwilliams: (Karen passport photo)
"I don't like zombie stories."

"This isn't a zombie story."

"But it has zombies in it."

"But it doesn't--"

"OK, fine. I'll read it."

Um. This isn't a zombie story, though it does, in fact, have zombies in it. It's a political thriller, and a story about reporting the news. Most of all it's a story about grit, and smarts, and loyalty, and politics inside a presidential campaign, and terror and fear. It's about finding and telling the truth, when powerful people don't want you to. And there are some zombies in it, but it's not a zombie story.

Read it.

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