Chocolate Books Tag

Okay, you can have some chocolate, Machete Diplomacy and Apprentice, Never Master. Welcome to the Chocolate Book Tag, created by A Daydreamer’s Ramblings over on YouTube.

Animals murder. Ants ruin all.

Dark Chocolatea book that covers dark things.

Mort(e) by Robert Repino. I am not a fan of dark chocolate unless it is tempered by peanut butter or is poured on top of ice cream, which made Mort(e) difficult to get through. Mort(e) is painful. Know a difficult dark concept? It’s probably here. War, death, religion, friendship, faith, hopelessness, revenge – all explored through mutated no longer adorable animals. There is no humor despite the absurdity of the setting. Violence, death, and prejudice are everywhere. For me, there is too much bitter and not enough sweet. I am glad it is on my shelves, but this is 98% bitter cacao – be prepared.

Where the banter never stops.

White Chocolatea favorite light-hearted read.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire. So I adore white chocolate and thus in picking a white chocolate book, decided to go as far into light-hearted as I could get. The Incryptid series is good fun. Sass, snark, ballroom dancing, and a whole host of “monsters” keep this book light hearted and fun. My favorite parts are the religious mice. “ALL HAIL THE SHOWER.” Yeah, I recommend this if you enjoy laughing. Just, read it for the Aeslin mice. Seriously.

Milk Chocolate – a book with a lot of hype right that you’re dying to read.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. Not a big fan of milk chocolate. I dislike hype, and if I like something with hype, then I’ve read it already. Because patience with chocolate is not one of my virtues. However, this book is not out yet, so it is safe. I greatly enjoyed the first two books in this series and the first book won or was nominated for numerous awards. I can’t wait to see where this exploration goes. You have until October 6th to go read the first two. Or, if you have willpower – wait, then read them all at once.

 Chocolate with a Caramel Centera book that made you feel all warm and gooey on the inside.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson. I love everything about this book. I left this book delighted and full of love for artists everywhere. Read it. Read it read it. Highly recommended.

A Wafer-free Kit-Kata book that surprised you recently.

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant. I rarely read horror, but after reading and enjoying Feed, I thought I would venture into more of Mira Grant’s brand of scary. I adored the first 75% of Rolling in the Deep and was properly concerned about the immanent monster attack. Then the monster showed up and I burst out laughing. For me, this was still a great read, but it stopped being a horror novel. It became… gory hilarity. I loved this book, but not for the common reasons. Much like biting into a Kit-Kat and finding salted caramel instead of wafers – an unexpected twist.

Snickersa book you’re going NUTS about currently.

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron.

YAY! Please look into the box of chocolate for more on this delightful delicious book.

Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows – a favorite comfort read.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce. I have read the Song of the Lioness quartet so many times I have worn out a copy of the series. I have travel copies, and signed copies, and copies held together with tape. Despite having the books practically memorized, I come back to them again and again because they are my safety blanket.

 

A box of chocolate – a series that has a bit of everything and a lot of people would really really like it.

The Heartstrikers Series by Rachel Aaron. Every person to whom I have recommended this series adored it. I love Rachel Aaron and describe her fantasy as FUN. The Heartstrikers series is urban fantasy and I was sold on the concept when I heard the inspiration: criminal family made of dragons. It delivers on the premise. Nice dragons, clever dragons, ghost cats, magicians, and spirits. Family drama, magic drama, magic swords, magic eating terrors! Everyone will find something in this box of chocolates. Nice Dragons Finish Last is out in both e-book and paper format, and the second book, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, just came out in e-book format. I devoured it in a day and was quite happy with the direction the series was heading, which promises more chocolate in the future.

Go. Go and enjoy. *throws chocolate to the crowd* You need this chaos in your life.


If anyone wants to reply, I will never say no to chocolate. 🙂

 

Fantasy: Spirit’s End by Rachel Aaron

The epic conclusion to a campaign arc that takes characters to levels from myth and legend, and never flags or falters. I enjoyed Spirit’s End so much I finished a chapter, stared into space mouthing the word ‘Wow’ and dove back into the next chapter. This book kept me from getting sleepy. My heart raced as I prayed my favorite characters would survive. I called up friends only to babble incoherently about how they simply must read this book.

Coherent reasons to read this book:

1. The world building is flawless. Every point has a counter point and the fabric of the world doesn’t bend or buckle, even under the pressure of cosmic plot and powers. I learned a lot about necessary details and consistency by reading this book.

2. Holy pink guacamole, the action sequences. If my heart raced as I wondered who would survive this book, I never got to stop racing because one right after another, things kept crashing down and unraveling. I watched a movie in my mind and it was Return of the King scale epic.

3. Character consistency in the face of extreme pressure. There are points where it looks like people lose themselves, only to come roaring back. I believe every character in this book. Most of them are flawed. All of them are important, and all are handled with sensitivity. This is not a pure black and white battle and is not handled as such. I fell in love many times over.

4. It Ends. It is named Spirit’s End and it actually ends. I would read other books set in this world, but what I respect the most is that this 5 book series is done. The story this series tells, has ended in a most satisfying and final way. In a time where I have read so many tales where authors keep going like energizer bunnies, this reminds me how stories are supposed to end.

To speak else would include spoilers. Suffice to say that Rachel Aaron is awarded a spot in my library forever.

Fantasy: The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron

As the old man standing up to Loki in The Avengers says, “There are always men like you.” Or in this case, there are always people like you.

This fourth book in the Eli Monpress saga is Joseph, the swordsman’s, book. It starts with his back story and he centers the plot. This is a book where all the simmering threads and questions from the previous books explode into action. There were some plot twists I saw coming and some that surprised me. What impressed me the most, however, was how the challenges stayed complex and threatening to dearly beloved characters.

There was no easy answer to any of the hero’s problems. No sword that could slice everything, no easy way to justify moral decisions, and villains that harmed the heroes. I think the best recommendation I have for this book is that I could not put it down and I was never bored. I immediately ran to Barnes and Noble for the next book. When they did not have it I dealt with a serious case of grumpy for the rest of the day. This book has such a well written intriguing ending that I simply HAD to have the next one. And the next one was even better.

[Kate looks at all of the gushing above] This will make more sense if you read the previous reviews in the series The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater. Then read the upcoming review of Spirit’s End.

Fantasy: The Spirit Rebellion & The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron

Oh how the world can change with just a stone roofing tile. Helped by a wizard thief, the greatest swordsman of all time, a girl with a demon problem, and the ever stubborn Spiritualist who wants them all arrested.

The 2nd and 3rd books in the Eli Monpress series continue the romp through the world of The Spirit Thief. Neither book falters nor slows down. If the first book was our introduction to the world and the main players in it, then the sequels focus more or less on the three members of Eli’s band. The Spirit Rebellion leads to revelations about Eli’s past and The Spirit Eater deals with Nico – the girl with a demon problem. Josef the Swordsman is covered in the next book, The Spirit War which will be reviewed shortly.

In addition to the main trio, Miranda Lyonette is the perfect foil to Eli. She is the cop to his robber, the white knight to his anti-hero. And she manages to be a likable well rounded character. Miranda is not the villain here. She just happens to not be in the Eli Monpress club. She is not the only member of that club, but she is certainly the only one I like. Both Rebellion and Eater have fantastic villains and well crafted plots. Witty banter and feats of daring abound. I was charmed and entertained by it all. Out of the five books total in the series, one, two, and three are similar in tone and quality. I cannot recommend one over the other.

That said, if you think this sounds like a relatively brainless series: Think again. The exploration of free will, control, and choice underlay the struggles and threats of this action packed world. And you must read these three books if you are going to understand the final two books in the series. At the conclusion to The Spirit Eater I sensed that a change in tone was imminent. I was not sure I wanted to read the next book if that was the case. A shift from the light witty action series to dealing with issues on a grand scale is rarely done well. Goodness was I wrong. So while I recommend this series highly, the first three books are strong fun reads, the last two are so epic that when I tried to describe them to friends, I lost the words because I did not want to spoil anything.

Read these, you won’t be disappointed.

Science Fiction: The Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin

Star Wars. Young Han Solo. Rebels. Wookies. What’s not to love?

I am tempted to leave the commentary there. This trilogy is just a fun romp following little Han Solo as he grows up in the rough and tumble outer worlds of the Empire. What made that lovable rogue so tough on the outside and a wounded marshmallow in the middle. Well, it may have something to do with his first girlfriend…

If you like Han Solo you will probably like this trilogy. I have no idea if this series is canon, or whether liking this series will offend fans, or what not. I read these books in middle school and adored them. Now that I am an adult I still adore them. Science fiction brain candy with rogues and wookies. Let me go get my popcorn.

Recent Read: Cordina’s Royal Family by Nora Roberts

This is actually two books and four short stories that chronicle the romances of two princes and two princesses of the fictional country of Cordina. It is also the story of how that royal family is threatened, bands together, and defeats a political terrorist.

We are introduced to this family by the oldest daughter, Gabriella who has just escaped from somewhere, and is suffering from amnesia. I found Gabriella’s struggle to remember her life and the details surrounding her kidnapping believable. Assisting her in picking up her life and protecting her from the unknown kidnappers, is American Reeve MacGee. Romance and investigation follow. The characters in this story were well developed, and believable. I enjoyed watching each of them face their own personal struggles with dignity and courage.

The next segment follows Gabriella’s brother Alexander, the heir to the throne, and his romantic interest, Eve Hamilton. The mastermind behind the events in the first story is still on the loose, and creates complications for the prince and the playwright. Alexander reminds me of a friends character and so is particularly enjoyable to read about and he meets his match in Miss Eve with the usual amount of misunderstandings and romantic moments.

Youngest Prince, Bennett is paired with the Lady Hannah. Now I found the premise of this romance interesting, but did not enjoy the way the characters and their relationship developed. Romance should not be used as a power play in a relationship – which is acknowledged and apologized for after the incident, but it was not a step I quite believed when it happened, nor enjoyed for its own sake. I adore Lady Hannah, and in the two previous books, found Prince Bennet likable  and he recovers somewhat. It brings closure to the ongoing terrorist issue and I found the intrigue side of the story much more interesting than the romantic leads. I do not regret reading the story, but it is one I would only selectively re-read.

Finally there is Princess Camilla, daughter of Gabriella and Reeve of the first book, and a woman tired of the media. She goes off on her own in order to have time to think about her life and find a passion. When she meets Dr. Delaney Caine, the grouchy archaeologist is not her idea of good company, but his studies are fascinating, and she soon comes to like the irritable doctor as well. He isn’t so sure what he thinks of her. Again, wonderful characterization, humor, and romance. No meta plot keeps this story going, and the principles are much more entertaining perhaps to make up for it. I believed both characters and they both amused and entertained me. Which is really all I want out of a romance novel anyway.

Fantasy: The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

I picked up The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron because the sample page ended on the phrase, “He’s stolen the king.” Interested in meeting the kind of person who would steal a king (not kidnap a king mind you, that gets old), I looked forward to a quirky medieval fantasy tale.

Well, I got a wonderfully frustrating thief in Eli Monpress, foils for his cheer and antics in his two companions, and a unique and clever fantasy world to play in. I particularly enjoy the magic system employed in this book. Eli is called a wizard, is hunted by a guild of wizards known as Spiritualists, and spirits can awaken, think, feel, and are the general venue for magic. Magic seems to be control of spirits. I got the sense from this novel (the first in the series) that there is more to it than that, but it is still too soon to see.

There is a great deal of emphasis placed on free will and choices, the good people often having many, and the bad guys resorting to forcing their will on others. Free will being a favorite theme of mine, I think this book shall remain on my shelf and I shall read the rest of the series. Hopefully the series will stay as entertaining as this first romp through Eli’s world.

I must say I found the plot rather predictable, but the characters are endearing, and this book is simply so much fun! Part heist caper, part game of cops and robbers, and part saving the kingdom I enjoyed the plot and pacing. There are a lot of details like Josef’s sword, the nature of demons, the League of Storms, and the occasional mention of the Shepherdess, I want to see explored in future installments in the series. I know most of the books are already out so if you are looking for a new series to sink your teeth into, take a look at this witty fantasy and its easy humor.

Fantasy: The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore

And thus begins my love affair with the Forgotten Realms. I have not read this book in its entirety in years, but it will never leave my shelves. The Crystal Shard introduced me to Drizzt Do’Urden and he stole my teenage heart. There was nothing about the lonely stoic ranger that didn’t tug at my heart strings. Ignorant humans kick him while he’s down, he is utterly loyal to his true friends, and he was such a perfect tragic hero I was blind to any and all flaws.

There will be a different post about the pitfalls in R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series later, this post is dedicated to the sheer nostalgia of discovering a new group of adventuring companions and the wonderful world of the Forgotten Realms. I have never played a straight Drizzt knock off in any of the many campaigns I’ve played, but I do have an elf in my head who started out as a misunderstood drow. I may also have a fascination with two weapon fighting, strictly because of Drizzt.

Magical and heroic, the Crystal Shard is my gateway fantasy drug. A quest to defeat the bad guy, heroic companions, and written more simply than my beloved Lord of the Rings. The Crystal Shard was the book that made me say, “I can do that. I want to do that.” Nothing in this book will ever be a total cliche to me, because I saw them here first. The dragons, the evil sorcerers, the armies, the magical cat, and the outcast hero are defining bits of fantasy, and I will always love The Crystal Shard for opening the portal to the Forgotten Realms.

Recent Read: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue follows the story of October Daye, changeling private investigator and knight to a fairy lord. As urban fantasy goes, I found Rosemary and Rue an enjoyable though predictable read. The first book in the October Daye series, I was intrigued initially because it sounded like a version of the Dresden files with a female main character, and limiting itself to the realms of the fey instead of branching into any and every kind of supernatural phenomena the way the Dresden files did.

With those expectations, the book was exactly what I was looking for, my love of things fey was indulged, the female heroine was tough as nails, there was witty banter and an interesting mystery to solve. I adored the references to Shakespeare (Tybalt, the King of Cats), the mythology of the fey and mortal world, and the way powers work. A solid book, but I am undecided as to whether I shall continue with the series or keep this book as long as the others I have discussed on the blog already. There are elements that I found irritating in characterization and plot. For example, how willfully oblivious October was to other character’s motivations, the lack of development given to important story elements, and the fact that every interesting male character is apparently in love with October Daye.

Ninety percent of the men in the book were in love with October, and I did not see any reason for it. She is not described as beautiful, she is not really interested in them, and the men all seem to have decided that October has returned from her imprisonment strictly to be their romantic partner. If these men had fallen in love with her for her morals, honor, or sparks of knight errant mentality, I would say go for it. But it isn’t explained and it annoys me. Like the endless stream of women falling at Harry Dresden’s feet, I feel like it detracts from the books.

As the romance isn’t explained, neither is the plot that starts out the novel (possibly the series arc, but it was interesting and never tied in to the current plot) nor am I happy with how difficult it was for October to put together the pieces of the mystery. Yes, it is hard to think after you have been shot, but I wanted either a scene explaining that men’s minds were a mystery to October, or for her to pick up more clearly on the slip ups on the bad guys part. Hey, this seems wrong… Really October? Maybe you should THINK about it.

If you are in the mood for a simple mystery embellished with entertaining fey, hot men, and the occasional well done serious moment, pick up Rosemary and Rue from a library or from a friend, then decided if it is the kind of story you would read again.

Science Fiction: Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon

Elizabeth Moon has two series, Vatta’s War and Herris Serrano, in my collection, but I thought I would talk about her interesting stand alone novel Remnant Population.

My initial interest in this book came from two rare plot elements: an elderly female main character, and isolation. Perhaps I am not quite well read enough to know the other books that have an older point of view character. However, I wanted to read this book, because I wanted to know what would draw this woman to live out her final years alone on an alien planet. She seemed like an interesting strong willed woman.

This book explores the role of wisdom, age, and gender by utilizing science fiction elements. Namely, an alien culture. This is not the action or politics oriented fiction I consider usual from Elizabeth Moon. Age is one of her themes, but it is explored much differently in this novel, than say, the story of Herris Serrano.

Soft societal science fiction I enjoyed the serenity and clean well crafted prose. One of the books I keep around for making me think as well as for the fun of the stories.