A Wrap-Up of the Books I Read in April 2021

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Cover of the book, Game of Universe by Eric S. Nylund, showing a hand of cards that form a dragon pattern. In the background is the space.

Game of Universe by Eric S. Nylund

The quest for the Holy Grail but set in space where the competitors are cutthroats, criminals, mobsters, and other scumbags. The main character is an assassin with a sad past. He finds himself a part of the race without meaning to only to realize it’s not what he thinks it’s about.

Our hero’s backstory is needlessly violent and unfolds without a warning. The book was fine without it. If the sexual abuse of children makes you want to throw up — as it does me — then tread carefully.

Another weird thing in the book was the character of Omar. Dunno why the author had to bring him back for the plot. Any other new player could have been used in Omar’s place for the same function.

I thought it took the protagonist too long to figure out how the Grail would solve all his problems or who the spy was — but maybe that’s just me.

The main character is likable and possesses an unusual talent, which was refreshing. Also, I knew I’d enjoy this book immensely as soon as I read the first paragraph:

Cheaters were burned here. It happened the last time we came to Golden City. Two bouncers stopped the floor show and dragged the guy onstage. Right there with spotlights reflecting off their metallic skins, and the genetically modified feather girls watching, they torched him. It might happen to me tonight. The gambler was cheating—and with borrowed money.

The author combines the elements of light scifi with fantasy very well. So, if you like your scifi dry, hard, and logical, this may not be the book for you!

I enjoyed every second of this read.

Cover of the book, Battle Ground by Jim Butcher, showing the MC in a cloak with his wizard staff and a hat with Chicago on fire in the background

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

From major deus ex machination to over-convoluted plots, this book has it all! It also remains faithfully misogynistic. This time, it mistreats a primary character in such an abhorrent manner. Why? Just because she was beginning to displace the chauvinistic protag in the hearts of the readers of this series. And also because Man Pain, of course.

Every battle scene in this novel was like a repeat of the gazillion ones that had happened before it. The Good Guys are about to be routed for good when another Supe makes a dramatic entrance and turns the tide. More and More Dangerous Bad Guys show up almost immediately and the cycle continues.

Unlike the shot that murdered Serbian Archduke and his wife and still echoes in our minds today, we totally neglect the whole reason this thing began, i.e., Thomas and he continues to languish on Demon Reach. Why? No answers!

Finally, as if Harry weren’t getting enough feminine attention and might have wilted soon if not for the glimpses of nekkid woman skin from White Court Vampire and Winter Court characters, he’s offered a betrothal to the former and reminded me of the crush the latter has had on him.

In other words, WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF? Anyway, the next book is going to be prime hate read material. Care to join me?

Cover of the book, Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. showing a figure riding a spitting camel.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

“When you die, the first thing you lose is your life. The next thing is your illusions.”

It would seem this book was written after Pratchett became comfortable with Discworld. Funnily enough, we don’t meet any of the characters we’ve become familiar with — except Death, of course. But I didn’t mind reading about new characters because that’s the magic of Pratchett.

“Teppic hadn’t been educated. Education had just settled on him, like dandruff.”

What’s more, an Egyptian-esque nation is the setting for this book. The old pharaoh dies and is succeeded by his son. As both attempt to settle into their new roles, things happen. What readers get is a blistering satire on religion, traditions, politics, and everything else. They get to meet people who don’t neatly fit into the roles they’ve been assigned by society. In short, I loved it.

“Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing. It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed anymore.”

Cover of the book, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, showing a matchbox shaped like a book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Here is what I was thinking as I read this classic:

The premise of the book is problematic. Whether it’s the overuse of technology that the author warns against or hoarding of knowledge, it’s a sound one. However, in many places, it comes across as elitist. Like the author’s saying people who don’t read are stupid or numb to the truth.

The casual misogyny and objectification of women. Women are either shallow and stupid — like the protagonist’s wife — or they are sexualized — like the neighbor our protagonist meets. She seemed like an airhead to me but he found her irresistible. Yuck! Even the individuals who had memorized books to preserve the knowledge were ALL MEN. Misogynistic much?

The absence of a good explanation. Why was the world the way it was in this book? I couldn’t tell you because the author didn’t bother clarifying that bit.

The blandness of the characters. The guy who committed suicide by fire, the protagonist, the older guy who loved books… I couldn’t even tell you the names of any of the characters because they were just so BORING!

I read the book because it’s been on my tbr for a long time. Maybe gasp the movie will be better? At least, it has Michael B. Jordan’s gorgeous self in it.

Cover of the book, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, shows the main character standing outside her house in Russian winter.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

What I Liked

The story is told in an almost lyrical way that ensnared my interest in it right away. The descriptions of the Russian winter are lovely the way a tiger is beautiful. Majestic but can kill you with a swipe of her paw lol Reminded me of Valente’s Deathless and Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. Both are books that I really liked.

The way the protagonist’s family are with each other. They frustrate each other and fight but there’s also a lot of love.

How the story ended. Usually, the other is always punished, especially if she’s a woman. But I liked that this wasn’t the case here.

What I Didn’t Like

The Big Bad was built into this huge deal throughout the book. Turned out, it was quite easy to defeat him.

The story’s been done before and the heroine WAS a snowflake, so there’s that.

What I Don’t Know

Whether the book needed a sequel?

Cover of the book, Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick, showing the protagonist in a red dress. Why? Beats me!

Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick

I’ll keep it short and sweet. Why I liked this book is because it featured a good-natured female protagonist who was struggling professionally but still took the time to help others. She’s also stubborn in the right way and doesn’t take crap from anyone. The colorful and quirky crowd she hangs out with only made me like her more.

The same goes for the male interest. A cop who realizes that the woman he likes may turn out to be a criminal and tries to help and not hamper her.

What was not as fun was that the story got bogged down in places when it shouldn’t have.

Cover of the book, Pecan Pies and Dead Guys by Angie Fox, showing our resident medium holding a pecan pie that plays a major role in this installment.

Pecan Pies and Dead Guys by Angie Fox

This is a series of fun-to-read, if a bit dark in some places, cozy mysteries about a woman who can communicate with spirits and share the plane they exist on. I like these books because they are smooth reads and great when I’m in a pinch and must pick a book that satisfies a reading challenge’s particular requirements. The only downside is I keep wanting to hit her would-be mother-in-law for being the awful person she is. She REALLY is awful!

Cover of the shitshow that was, Summoned to Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones, showing a silver key with a skull for a head and some smoke. I dunno!

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones

If you want to know how I’ve suffered at the hands of this series, read my reviews of the previous books. This was the last one, though. I thought I’d get a satisfying conclusion at the very least. I was wrong. Don’t you just hate it when someone loses their identity because they take on an additional role in life? That’s what Charley — the protagonist — had become after having a kid. But it wasn’t just her, the whole series AND this last book became to be the tools the author used to set up the spinoff. It just felt like cheating to me when I have been following this series right up to the end. What’s more, if Charley’s such a saint of a mother, why did she voluntarily choose to NOT be a part of her daughter’s life and spend eternity as part of the scenery?

There are so many grievances that I can address but most of them have been mentioned by other reviewers. Okay, I’ll just do one. Take Uncle Bob’s example. A solid character who has been by Charley’s side through thick and thin. He supported her even when his own brother — and Charley’s Dad — didn’t. He believed in her and had an immense capacity to love. But right at the end, the author did this character dirty by turning everything readers knew about him into a lie. There were several other instances where new reveals were made or older events corrected just so they could fit the plot of this book.

This was a really bad way to end a thirteen-book-long series.

Cover of the book, When the Piano Stops: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse by Catherine McCall, showing a kid hiding under the covers because...

When the Piano Stops: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse by Catherine McCall

A sad sad book about a woman who lived through a childhood of incestuous sexual abuse. Since she buried those memories deep down as soon as they happened, the horrifying truth didn’t come out until much later.

P.S. This is a challenging read that moves at its own pace, which can make it a difficult book to get through.

Cover of the book, Poison City by Paul Crilley, showing a stark white background with a smartmouthed canine spirit guide sitting beside a spilled bottle of red liquid. Could be wine-- or not.

Poison City by Paul Crilley

I’ve come to realize that most of my Urban Fantasy favorite authors are women while I read more Science Fiction by male authors. It’s time to change that. Since I really liked the Aussie Psychopomp, I picked up this series because the covers look like da bomb and the blurb made it sound interesting. It was a good choice because I really liked this first book and plunged into the second one almost immediately.

So, our main character is a middling wizard at best. He still doesn’t know what kind of magic he wants to specialize in, so he’s stuck with using a canine spirit guide. Said guide helps him focus, is a drunkard, and can fight when he isn’t napping on the job. The sidekick did get boring after a while but not enough to mess with my enjoyment of the book.

Anyhow, so things get interesting when Lilith — the one and only — comes to town.

One thing I liked was that the protagonist wasn’t written to be perfect. He screws up really badly, acknowledges it, and gets back on his feet to face the bad guys.

Cover of the book, Clockwork City by Paul Crilley, showing the same canine spirit guide but in front of Big Ben. Guess, we're going to London, eh?

Clockwork City by Paul Crilley

London’s about to be overrun by the fae mafia and the protagonist, his revenant boss, and the smartass of a canine go there to sort things out. It’s pretty much all action, with the heist around a fae bank thrown in. I liked this book more because the dog seemed less annoying — or maybe he has grown on me. The setting for this sequel turned out to be London, which was jarring for a bit. But then I recovered.

I also liked the fact that the hero has to face the consequences of his actions from the first book. He’d messed up and now he was going to have to clean up that mess!

If you want action, magic, and knights made of stone fighting the seven sins, this is the book for you!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Judi Lynn says:

    Lord, I love your reviews! So many different types of books and such strong opinions. Makes them fun to read. Sorry Darynda Jones let you down. I was hoping she’d come through at the end. Glad Paul Crilley was a win!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Midu Hadi says:

      What makes it even worse is that this was the last book 😞

      Liked by 1 person

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