Book Review - Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews


Star Rating: 5/5
Number of pages: 235
Release date: December 2, 2013
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Buy the book: Amazon

Synopsis: (from Amazon) On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night...Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything..

Review: I've never read anything by Ilona Andrews before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Firstly, I smiled when I realized that the book wasn't pure fantasy. It's sci-fi too…because I apparently didn’t read the description very closely.  Andrews takes a lot of the typical fantasy tropes in this and revamps them in a really interesting way. Aliens mostly, and I kind of love that!  It just adds such a big new dimension of possibilities.

I also love the relationship that Dina, the main character, has with her inn. It's sort of a sentient being...kind of, and it's a relationship that speaks to the inner desire in a lot of us to have someone in whom we can find home.  In this case, it's just a wee bit more literal. I rolled my eyes a bit when the werewolf/vampire love triangle/rivalry began, but the story got delightfully meta at the end, which made the indulgence totally worth it. And there's a big mystery happening in the background of the book! *Gasp!* I need the next one, stat!  Honestly, I love everything about this book.  Little Beast, the characterizations, the world building blended with mythology.  I super-duper enjoyed it!

Recommend?:  YES!  Get it now!!!

Book Review - Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

Star Rating: 4/5
Number of pages: 304
Release date: October 21, 2004
Series: n/a
Genre: Fantasy, Teen
Buy the book: Amazon

Synopsis: This is a collection of short stories written by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson.  Each one centers around water in some way, though not in all the ways one might expect.  There are mer-people and deserts and magic and deities.  Each tale is unique and stands alone, save for the very last one, which seems to be a shoot-off of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.

Review: This was the first time I’ve ever really read a short story collection, so it was a new and interesting experience for me.  As I mentioned in the description, each story is unique and (from what I can tell) takes place in an entirely different universe from the last.  Going through each story was a little bit of a roller coaster, because one would leave me feeling really satisfied, and the next I wasn’t so happy with, but then I loved the one after that!  Whew!  I need to lie down.  And there’s a really cool but simple artistic thing done at the beginning of each tale that I thought was a neat detail.

This was just a lovely, quick way of indicating to the reader which author—Robin McKinley or Peter Dickinson—had penned the story that followed.  Overall, the writing was beautiful.  Both writing styles are very similar.  I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but it did add a nice flow to the book on the whole.  And I am absolutely in love with Robin McKinley’s writing.  She’s been my favorite author for a long time now.  Specifically, I didn’t care for Sea Serpent.  I didn’t like the main god-priest character very much, and I liked the fact that he won in the end even less.  On the flip side of that, I really liked The Sea-King’s Son.  If you’re looking for a straight-up fairytale love story, that’s your ticket.  I appreciated that the protagonists’ relationship develops without physical contact for a long time and just focused on talking and sharing and getting to know one another first.  They’re both very different, but they admire their differences and love one another for the people they are.  Seriously, such a good love story.  As much as I liked The Sea-King’s Son, I absolutely adored The Water Horse!  If you liked Uprooted by Naomi Novik (which is another fantastic book you should definitely read), allow me to unabashedly pull you towards McKinley's The Water Horse and place it in your hands. It's beautiful and sweet, and there's a strong thread of self-empowerment and community running through it.

I really enjoyed the experience of reading through this entire book, though. Each story is really different, and they're all incredibly well done. Now go read The Water Horse and Uprooted. :-)

Recommend?:  Definitely!  It’s a really different and interesting experience to read a collection of short stories instead of one big one, and I think this one was really enjoyable.

Book Review - The Lightning Thief

This is me at 3:14am, having just finished reading.

This is me at 3:14am, having just finished reading.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Star Rating: 5/5
Number of pages: 416
Release date: March 21, 2006
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Buy the book: Amazon

Synopsis: (from Amazon) Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends – one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Review: Let me begin by saying I borrowed this book from my nephew one random afternoon and was up until 3:14am the following morning because I couldn’t put it down. I’m pretty impressed that I’ve been able to go so long without actually knowing more about what happens in this book, as they’ve been huge for years, even back when I worked full-time in a bookshop. I never saw the movie, though I’d like to now (even though I’ve not heard great things about the adaptation). All I knew going in was that Percy Jackson was the son of a Greek god.

The pacing of the book was excellent, and there were lots of things along the way that snatched at my interest. For instance, in the very beginning when Percy kills the creepy teacher-creature trying to kill him, and then when nothing more is said about it for the rest of the school year, I was really curious. And then we’re taken on this crazy ride through the night, and then we get a little rest. And then a quest begins, all with little dollops of curious-making information dropped in throughout. For instance, it’s mentioned in passing that Annabeth’s mother, Athena (the Athena, NBD), gave Annabeth the hat that can turn her invisible.

Me, leaning in: “Go on…”

And that’s all we learn! How did that meeting go, I wonder. So many little moments in this book spark your imagination, stretching it beyond the current happenings in the book, which is pure book magic! I also appreciate this book because it gives a very real-world view of life without getting too dark. Domestic abuse is strongly hinted at without children (to whom the series is aimed) having to see it. I like that balance. And there are a lot more little moments like that in the book–bribery, neglect, unfair competition. This book doesn’t hide those unfortunate truths, but it also doesn’t glorify them or make them super graphic. And, on top of all that, it’s just really entertaining. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was that there is a mention of impending betrayal, and I totally called the betrayer. Like, there was a line that was something to the effect of, <insert creepy voice here> “And someone will betray yooooou…”, and I was like, “That guy. It’s totally gonna be that guy.” And it was. I don’t know if we were meant to figure it out that fast or if I did because I’m an adult and the series is aimed at kids or just what, so that wasn’t a very good twist for me. That’s really my only complaint, though, and that’s not really a big deal. So, all in all, really great!

Recommend?: Well, I’m planning on buying the whole series, so what do you think? :p