Friday Reads: Two Iron Druid Short Stories

downloadTwo Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles
(contemporary fantasy)
by Kevin Hearne
narrated by Luke Daniels

These short stories are listed as “0.6 and 3.5” in the series, so they are at different points in the larger story. For the first one, this doesn’t really mean much. Atticus is still in Arizona, and it’s before he picks up an apprentice, but beyond that the story is the same as you would expect from the series. The second one is a little different. It still fits into the world, but it’s the first short story I’ve read from Granuaile’s perspective. It was neat, but it’s always a bit disconcerting to switch between the two perspectives. (I like it, because it’s always easy to tell Atticus and Granuaile apart, but jumping from third person past to first person present isn’t always easy.)

After listening to the audiobook of these shorts, I went back and re-listened to HOUNDED. It was amusing to hear teeny bits of the short story referenced in the first novel. (I’m not sure which was written first, and it really doesn’t matter. It’s fun either way.) In fact, if you want to test out the series, “Kaibab Unbound” might be a good way to do so. I think it is only available in the two short story bundle, though, so if you do use this as an introduction to the series, be aware that Granuaile isn’t the narrator for much of the series. Just parts here and there.

Speaking of her short story… that one’s called “A Test of Mettle.” I did enjoy getting to hear about this test she goes through while Atticus is off being dumb in book 3. We do get to hear references to this story later in the main series, but no details. (I forget exactly where, though.) It’s good to hear the whole thing. This second story does tie in much closer to the main series, and (probably as a result) feels less complete on its own. Don’t get me wrong – it is a complete short story. However, it relies much more heavily on the existing series than the first story did.

Would I recommend getting this set? Probably. Fans of the series will enjoy these installments. New readers will get a good taste of what the series is about. On the other hand, they are not required to enjoy the books. I would suggest them as something to read while you wait for the next novel to be released, mostly. Also, the narrated version is good. If you want to have them read to you, Luke Daniels does the great job we’ve come to expect. For shorts, though, some people would prefer to spend the smaller amount for the ebook version rather than the couple dollars more for the audio. As for me, I got the audio. Why not? It was a fun listen.

Ten On Tuesday ~ Learnin’

The Ten On Tuesday topic for Tuesday, September 29, 2015, is 10 Things You Wish You Could Learn Instantly.

Have fun!

Well, this is an interesting topic. And I will try to not just list 10 languages I’d like to learn, since I would like to know a bunch of languages. (Not that I’ve tried to study any lately. Must do something about that.) Anyway, here we go:

  1. Japanese. I enjoy anime shows, but I’d love to hear the original without subtitles.
  2. Different knitting techniques. Most notably how to fit a sweater as I’m knitting it.
  3. In-line skating or ice skating. I’ve always wanted to know how to do this, but have always been too scared of falling over.
  4. French. It’s a cool language, and I’d like to know it.
  5. Sight singing. I can read music, but I have a hard time sight singing.
  6. Chinese. This is a heritage language for me, and I’d like to be able to speak it and not just order food.
  7. Russian. Another heritage language, though I currently have no use for it other than to know it.
  8. Whatever I’d need to know to start a new career. I’m okay in my job right now, but I’d like to do something that feels more like a career and less like a job.
  9. Enough about all the things I want to write about. I know, research is part of the writing process. But it’s the part during which I get the most bored and distracted.
  10. Spanish, fluently. I took Spanish in high school, so I know some of it, but not nearly as much as I used to. Also, I learned the school version of Spanish, and not the real-life version. It’s great to know how to ask where the library is, but that can only get you so far.

(I said I wouldn’t do ALL languages, but languages are the things I most want to learn. Listing only half languages is a good compromise.)

What about you guys?

Friday Reads: The Truth-Teller’s Tale

9351140The Truth-Teller’s Tale: Safe Keepers #2
by Sharon Shinn
(fantasy, YA)

This was an amusing tale of two mirror twin sisters who are mirrors of each other in personality as well as in appearance. I realized after reading the book that it was the second in a series (and I haven’t yet read the first) but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story at all. I do plan on reading the first book as well, because I’m curious to see more of this world. (Info about the books can be found here.)

For a quick look at the basics of what makes this fantasy world different than others, is that there are three kinds of special people in the world: Safe-Keepers, who will keep your secrets; Truth-Tellers, who only tell the truth; and Dream-Makers, who can make your wishes come true. One of the two sisters in this story is a Safe-Keeper, and the other is a Truth-Teller. The book follows them as they grow up and learn how to use their gifts. One of the things that I liked about the story was watching what happened when various townspeople would mistake one sister for the other. That could be lots of fun.

This is probably meant as a YA novel, given the age of the main characters. However, I had no problems reading it as an adult. It was still quite an enjoyable read. There were hints of things that I picked up on – either because the author intended them to be implied, or because I have an adult’s experience instead of a teen’s – but nothing that hindered my enjoyment of the story. There are hints of romance, and some mention of rough treatment, but no actual descriptions. I think this would be safe for readers of all ages who are up to the vocabulary.

I really enjoyed the world and the characters. Sharon Shinn is one of my current favorite authors, and she didn’t disappoint with this one. The secondary characters might not have developed as much as the main characters did, but there was still growth there. I do recommend this book (and probably the series, though I’ll have to get back to you on that front). It wasn’t a difficult read for me, more along the lines of a summer beach read, but it was still completely enjoyable. I think this is one of those books that you can read depth of meaning into if you like, but said meaning is not forced upon you and you can also treat is as a purely pleasure read if that’s your preference.

Monday Reads: Fearless by Elliott James

I told you that I was behind on my book reviews, right? Well, here’s another attempt at catching up…

5131qQfnfSL._SX331_BO1204203200_Fearless: Pax Arcana #3
by Elliott James
narrated by Roger Wayne
(urban fantasy, paranormal)

Did I mention that I loved these novels? Because that should be a bit obvious by the fact that I listened to all three novels and read all 7 short stories within about a two week period. And now… well, now I have to wait until the next one comes out. I think of the lot, I liked this third novel the most. (It’s a close call between this one and CHARMING, the first novel, but I think this one wins.) There’s enough new stuff to keep the reader guessing, but there’s also plenty of continued plot without needing to re-explain everything. I think James has found his stride with these books, and could keep writing many more to come. (I certainly hope so, as long as he continues to find ways to keep them fresh. Based on the differing ideas and plots present in all 10 stories – counting the shorts – I think he has a good shot at that.)

Anyway, this specific plot… I think I can talk about it a little without getting into spoiler territory. I will certainly try.

So, John Charming and friends are called in to help find a missing teen who vanished in paranormal circumstances. In discovering her killer, the team also discovers that she was not the true target, whom they seek out and try to protect. They discover a sinister virgin sacrifice plot, and John and Sig go undercover in a paranormal gladiator ring to stop the bad guy. In the meantime, we meet many new types of paranormal creatures, including as an oni, a kitsuni, and a jinn (since this was audio, I’m not sure which spelling of the word James used). It’s great fun seeing more types of paranormal creatures than just the standard werewolves and vampires.

I also enjoyed the way John learns (or tries to learn) how to work as a part of a team instead of continuing to be a lone wolf. It speaks well of the potential longevity of the series that the main character is growing and developing right from the start. Yes, he still has lots of room for growth, but it’s nice to see that growth there from the beginning of the series.

The secondary characters are also all developing nicely. Granted, that development might not always be considered growth, but it is change and that is good. Also, it was fun to see more of Sarah (from the short story “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”) in this story, and to see some of her powers more fully. Though I do hope she returns more later, especially if we learn more about her bakery magic. That seems really neat to me.

So – yeah. This is a fun series, and I will keep reading (listening, probably) to it for some time to come, if I have anything to say about it.

Friday Reads: Pax Arcana Short Stories

Pax Arcana short stories (7 total)
by Elliott James
(urban fantasy, paranormal)

The short stories in question are:

  • Charmed, I’m Sure
  • Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
  • Pushing Luck
  • Dog Gone
  • Surreal Estate
  • Bulls Rush In
  • Talking Dirty

And yes, I have read them all. They are all available separately, and while it would have been nice to buy them in a collection form instead of as individual short stories, that wasn’t an option. Some of them go really well in pairs, and I would have preferred them to be released as one longer story instead of two short ones. For instance: “Charmed, I’m Sure” is followed immediately by “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” and “Bulls Rush In” is followed by “Talking Dirty.” In both of those cases, if you want to read them, make sure you read the first one first and the second one second for best appreciation.

I read all of these stories after listening to DARING (Pax Arcana book 2) and either before starting FEARLESS (book 3) or during the first few chapters of that book. This was helpful, since there were characters in the early shorts that show up in FEARLESS in one form or another. It’s not required reading in order to enjoy FEARLESS, but it’s helpful background information. In fact, that’s my comment about all of these books. They’re not necessary to enjoy the novels, but if you are a fan of the series they are a fun addition. Also, if you are curious about the series but want to try it out before buying the first book, this would be a good way to get a taste for the series and the main character.

My favorite of the shorts was “Pushing Luck.” It felt the most complete, and had background characters I could believe the most. It just worked the best for me. “Charmed, I’m Sure / Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” was my next favorite, though as a set instead of separately. Again, I really liked the background characters.

Of the set, my least favorite was “Surreal Estate,” though that is probably because the writing style wasn’t completely linear. The non-linear-ness completely fits the plot of the story, but it’s ever so slightly different a style than the rest of the series, and so it didn’t feel quite right to me.

My personal advice on reading these would be to read them all after you read CHARMING (book 1) and before FEARLESS, though you could really read them whenever you wanted without any difficulty. They all happen chronologically before CHARMING, though I’m not entirely positive in which order the shorts go with relation to each other (with the exception of the two sets of pairs I mentioned earlier). Also as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to read any of them. Fans of the series who want more of John’s backstory or can’t wait for the next book, though, will enjoy reading them as a tidbit while waiting for more full-length novels.

Wednesday Reads: Daring by Elliott James

(Since I am behind on my book reviews, you get a bonus Wednesday book review this week! Yay!)

20454084Daring: Pax Arcana #2
by Elliott James
narrated by Roger Wayne
(urban fantasy, paranormal)

This is book #2 in the Pax Arcana series, and is another fun romp in the world that Elliott James has created. I do prefer book 1 slightly to book 2, though part of that is because everything is brand new in book 1 and book 2 is missing a lot of the discovery that comes with a new series. (It happens with almost every series for me. It’s rare that I like the second book in a series as much as the first.) I also like book 1’s secondary characters more than book 2. Not that the secondary characters from book 1 aren’t in book 2, just that they’re not in it nearly as much as in the prior book.

About the second book’s plot: John Charming spends most of this book getting in touch with his werewolf side. It’s fun, and it’s nice to see him not knowing things, having to learn to grow in new and different ways. The bad guy in this book (no spoilers) is both predictable and a complete surprise, all at the same time. Going into more detail would be spoilery, so let me just say that I approve of the bad guy twist and reveal. It worked really well for me.

The narration was still perfect for the series. Roger’s voice is great for the sarcasm that is a huge part of John’s character, and his delivery is great. The pacing works well for audio books too, which isn’t always true of a book or series. I’m very pleased with listening to these books instead of reading them for myself, and I think I will continue to do just that.

If you decide to pick up this series, I would highly recommend starting with book 1, since there are a lot of details that you would miss if you started with book 2. You could start here if you really wanted, though, and I think you would get all the background information that you need, if not all the background information you might want. These are fast reads though (due to the pacing, not because they’re abnormally short), so you wouldn’t lose much time by reading both books.

One other thing to keep in mind is that while this book is about werewolves, these are not the paranormal romance style of werewolves. I had thought from book 1 that this series might turn into a paranormal romance series, but it has stayed firmly in the urban fantasy genre. (I’m about 2/3 of the way through book 3 at this point, so I feel confident in saying this.) These werewolves aren’t hyper-sexual, or focused on finding a perfect soulmate, or anything of that sort. They are humans who change into wolves. They heal fast. They are stronger and faster than normal humans. And they have the same basic personalities as normal humans. They aren’t all alpha males, they don’t have one and only one true love they would do anything for, and they aren’t hard-wired for loyalty. They are still human. And man, that is so incredibly refreshing.

Ten on Tuesday ~ Fall Foods

The Ten on Tuesday topic for Tuesday, September 15, 2015 is 10 Foods You Are Looking Forward to Eating Now That Fall is (Almost) Here.

Have fun!

Well, I have to say, there aren’t a whole lot of foods (other than seasonal fruits and veggies) that I reserve for one season or another. For me, it’s mostly foods that other people offer/make which I consider seasonal. However, there are some foods which happen in a higher quantity in colder weather, so I guess I’ll include those as well.

(On the other hand, last week during our heat wave, I made a pot of soup for dinner. So I’m probably not the best judge of seasonal foods.)

  1. Pumpkin pie. (One of the few foods that is truly seasonal for me.)
  2. Moon cakes. (A Chinese dessert which is associate with Harvest time. Another truly seasonal food.)
  3. Oven-roasted chicken (or turkey) and gravy. (Not truly seasonal, but more common in the fall/winter.)
  4. Lots of soup.
  5. Chili. Preferably with cornbread topped with honey butter.
  6. Ramen!
  7. Also pho! (See? Lots of soup.)
  8. Anything cooked in the crockpot.
  9. Spiced cider. (Not really a food, since it’s a drink, but close enough.)
  10. Green bean casserole. (Again, not truly seasonal, but it’s a staple for our family holiday gatherings, and I start thinking about it once the weather turns colder.)

Great. Now I’m hungry.