Tag Archives: humor

Summer’s Fall (Of Cats and Dragons #3)

Title: Summer’s Fall

Author: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #3

Omen’s penchant for adventure has been tempered by Kyr. Taking care of his older-little brother is enough of a handful, even without two talking cats that cheerfully complicate life even more. But when Tormy is recruited to help solve a kidnapping, Omen ends up on another adventure, like it or not . . .

I received an advance copy and was asked to give an honest review. I bought the book anyway because I loved it.

These books just keep getting funnier. It’s hard to tell how much of the cats’ innocence is real and how much is an act. They certainly know how to cause trouble (as Dev notes, anyone with less connections and wealth than Omen’s family would probably go bankrupt trying to care for Tormy). The scene where Fog, another talking cat, comes to recruit Tormy for a “secret mission” was my favorite part, but pretty much everything they do is great fun.

I love Omen’s new awkwardness in trying to take care of Kyr. He wants so badly to give Kyr everything Kyr was missing, and has no idea how to deal with Kyr’s ramblings. As a reader, it’s fairly obvious that Kyr is seeing things on multiple levels at once, but Kyr can’t distinguish between what only he can see and what everyone can see.

Templar returns! I love how he and Omen play off each other. The new additions to the adventure are equally intriguing. Devastation Machelli looks to have a backstory just as interesting as Omen and Templar, for all that he’s not sharing much of it yet. Dev’s lackadaisical attitude and finely-tuned ability to annoy people made me laugh, especially because his target of choice is Avarice. I love the names in this family. Shalonie provides some much-needed level-headedness and the general smarts to balance out the boys.

And Devastation is just the best. He’s turned trolling into an art form.

“Surely you’ve already told my mother everything there is to say,” he groused. “You can’t possibly have anything more to tell her.”
Dev’s lips twitched upward as he continued to write. “You are correct,” he agreed mildly. “I don’t think she’ll ever use the term ‘excruciating detail’ around me again.”
Omen blinked at him in shock. “You’re purposely annoying my mother by writing nonsense to her?”
“Oh, we passed annoying days ago,” Dev replied.

The action scenes remain strong, too. A gigantic sea monster nicknamed the Widow Maker has shown up off the coast of Melia, and it has a particular interest in Kyr. But Omen and Kyr need to get past it somehow to complete their quest. This is a difficult fight since their opponent is monstrously big, out in the ocean, and attacks mentally as well as physically.

Overall, this is just the first part of the quest line, but it introduces several engaging new characters and sets up an epic adventure. You could technically start with this book but I would encourage you to read the first two books because they’re amazing and will help set the stage. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Lord of the Rust Mountains (The Faraway Paladin #3 – Secundus)

Title: The Lord of the Rust Mountains

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #3 – Secundus

Setting out after the dragon, Will and his team make their way up the river towards the back door to the Iron Mountains. But this terrain has been unknown since the demons overran it two centuries before, and simply getting to the dragon will be a quest in and of itself.

I like how the books keep teasing that old loan Mary, Blood, and Gus made when they slew a wyvern. I hope Will can go after it soon. And Reystov’s fishing adventures cracked me up. He needs to find another fishing spot. Or maybe better lures.

There’s plenty of fun on the way to the dragon. Al gets to see much more clearly how Will behaves in actual combat (and the discussion about Volt’s hero who slew a hydra by himself was funny). Something I really appreciated is that Will actually steps back for a number of these fights and takes a more supportive role, instead of trying to do everything himself. Since Will has magic and benediction, he’s just as effective in a supporting role as he is on the front lines, and although he’s strong and proactive he recognizes that doesn’t mean he has to do everything.

I like the secret they find on their way to the mountain. I’m going to be vague to avoid spoilers but I loved the character interactions, and what it might possibly mean for the future. Specifically Menel’s future (although his choice of words could easily cancel that out, but I think he’s still got a chance).

And I love the deepening layers of temptations that Stagnate keeps dropping on Will, and his response to them. And what ultimately becomes of them. Will is utterly opposed to Stagnate—but both Stagnate and Gracefeel are, in a way, gods of second chances. His understanding and respect for Stagnate results in several very interesting conversations, and Stagnate is beginning to respect him in return.

The confrontation with the dragon was amazing. Valacirca proves as unpredictable as Gus warned, and I like that Gus’s suggestion to see if there wasn’t another way to resolve this gets explored at such depth. Will—at least once he’s not panicking—can clearly see the benefits and disadvantages of the alternative.

And this is THE fight that tests their teamwork to the absolute limit. It’s epic in so many ways. (And that ending . . . Ouch). This is the ultimate fight so far, and as expected of a dragon, Valacirca is both terrifying and complex, able to use multiple strategies to maximum effect. I do like how Will points out that because this is life, not a game, and therefore not tied to stats, there’s a chance (however small) that he can win. And conversely, even if he’s dealing with small fry, he needs to stay alert because there are multiple ways a weaker foe might be able to capitalize on an opportunity and take him down.

This was a wild ride all the way through. It’s a struggle of dwarves who are fighting to take back their pride as a people, to somehow erase that failure of 200 years ago that drove them away from their mountains. It’s Will’s struggle to find bravery in the face of something he knows he’ll need a million miracles to defeat, and the courage to choose to not give up even in the face of horrific opposition. Everyone is choosing to move forward. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Archer of Beast Woods (The Faraway Paladin #2)

Title: The Archer of Beast Woods

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #2

Will has left the ruined city where he grew up in search of the wider world. He has no idea how civilization has changed in the 200 years since his undead caretakers last knew it. No idea how to interact with society in general, since his only companions for the first fifteen years of his life were those three undead. When he does find people, he finds poverty, darkness, and despair. His oath to Gracefeel, his reason for being alive, is to confront these evils head on, but what can one person do in the face of such massive issues?

This was just as entertaining as the first book, though in somewhat different ways. Will has the memories of his previous life, vague though they might be, and his training to see him through. That just means it’s a lot easier for him to deal with rampaging wyverns and murderous demons. Actually dealing with people is still something he’s trying to figure out, and other people quickly pick up on the fact that he’s a bit strange.

“Rejoice. I have met many nitwits over the years, and you have exceeded them all.” He gave a massive sigh.

Will is confident in his own abilities, even though he’s also pretty realistic about what he can do. This is still at such a level above everyone else that it tends to startle everyone. I think Will’s right about it mostly being the result of training, though. Most of the people he’s encountered actually have lives. They didn’t spend the last ten years or more learning how to fight, cast spells, or pray the way he did. They don’t have his discipline to keep up with his training even in the absence of his teachers.

“That ruin’s a den of undead. It’s devoured countless adventurers. No one’s ever come back from there alive.”
Is that so. “Then I’d better go in there later and return them all to the cycle of rebirth.”
“What? Were you even listening?”

Blood’s advice is something Will keeps very close to his heart—to hilarious results.

Can’t think of a good solution? Nature of your enemy is unknown? In my mind, Blood raised a fist and yelled at the top of his voice. Then MUSCLE! Violence! Wreck him!!

It’s also really neat how Will stumbles across some of the stories Blood, Mary, and Gus never told him about themselves. He’s always known they were famous, but he’s amazed the stories about them are still circulating.

I’m also ridiculously impressed that the story is so grounded. Whether it’s the details about how to fight, economics, social commentary, or faith, the book lays out what’s going on with clarity and honesty. Like Will’s thought process after capturing the bandits, and how he notes this isn’t over just because he’s captured them. There’s very few options for the aftermath, because he can’t just turn them over to some authority to jail. Yet he manages to find a way to resolve it that honors both justice and mercy.

Or take this:

Mary had once told me, “The greatest trap one can fall into when trying to do something good is to make the mistake of thinking that because you are acting with a good goal in mind, you are bound to get results.” Even if you decide to do something good, the people around you won’t lend you their help unconditionally, nor will the gods bless you with protection. Results come only by setting a reasonable goal and using appropriate methods to achieve it. And so, Mary had told me, the most important thing is to be practical and realistic.

Just like with the fighting advice, this is great at showing how to actually approach real issues. It’s not a mindset that requires story magic to work.

I love these little bits of wisdom. I love the layers to the story. I love that Will is realizing that what he wants most is a group of people that will be to him what Gus, Mary, and Blood were to each other–friends and partners. And he’s on his way to achieving that.

Overall this continues to be a fantastic series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Boy in the City of the Dead (The Faraway Paladin #1)

Title: The Boy in the City of the Dead

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #1

Will remembers his previous life. He’d just drifted through, never engaging, never really risking, dulled to life and death. But he remembers, even as he’s now in the body of a baby, being raised by three undead caretakers in an abandoned temple. He’s determined to use this second chance well. He’s determined this time, he won’t just exist, but really live. And, trained by a warrior skeleton, a priest mummy, and a wizard wraith, he’s gaining the skills and tools he’ll need to tackle just about anything.

It’s really hard summarizing this book, which is easily one of the best—if not the best—I have read this year. This is one story where I feel the reincarnation piece is absolutely vital to the plot, rather than yet another gimmick to get the main character to another world. Will’s whole reason for going after life full-tilt is because he is inwardly grieving over the absolute waste he made of his previous life. He’s learning the difference between existing and really living.

And he’s doing it in the company of some of the kindest, yet most challenging adults you can imagine. That they’re undead is a bit alarming to him at first, but he quickly realizes they mean him no harm.

[…] my situation was neither dream nor vision. It felt far too vivid and far too realistic. And I couldn’t imagine what would have to go wrong for a person to start having visions of having their diaper changed by a reanimated corpse.

This is also hugely funny. A lot of the humor is tied to seeing childhood through an adult’s perspective, but the characters themselves are also a real treat. There are so many moments that made me pause to laugh.

Would anyone launch into an explanation of astronomy, physics, and the theory of nuclear fusion after a child asked, “Why does the sun shine?” Not usually. Your answer would be something like, “Mister Sun is doing his best to give us all light and keep us warm.”

Blood’s got some really solid combat advice (Gus, too). I love his motto. “Get ripped, and you can solve pretty much everything by force.”

And the magic system is also interesting. There’s good reasons why being a mage can’t be industrialized, and why being a combat mage is particularly hazardous. No matter how much Will learns from Gus, though, Gus is simply so much BETTER that Will has little trouble staying humble.

From Mary, Will learns a good deal of practical skills, like how to manage a garden, clean the house, and do various chores. I love how this is balanced with learning both physical and magical combat. He’s learning how to be helpful as well as independent, to not be a leech on the people around him. This aspect of self-sufficiency hardly ever gets mentioned, much less given equal weight as learning to fight.

The translation on this is so good I wouldn’t have guessed this was originally in another language if I hadn’t already known. Huge props to the translator for making the English flow so smoothly.

Overall, this is a special book, one whose words and characters will linger long after the final page.

Mary was sitting perfectly upright as she spoke. Her words were solemn, like a priest delivering a message from the gods. “There will be times when you will suffer a loss. There will be times when you are blamed unjustly. You may be betrayed by those you help, the good you do may be forgotten, and you may lose what you have built up and be left with nothing but enemies to show for it.”
Her serious atmosphere quickly softened. She beckoned me over to her, and held me tight. “Love people anyway. Do good anyway. Don’t be afraid of loss. Create, don’t destroy. Where there is sin, grant forgiveness; where there is despair, hope; where there is sorrow, joy. And protect the weak from all kinds of violence.[…]”

Highly, highly recommended.

Very Truly Run After (Travels with Michael #2)

Title: Very Truly Run After

Author: William Duquette

Series: Travels with Michael #2

Michael has gotten married, and more or less gotten used to his abilities as a Traveler who can cross between parallel worlds. Unfortunately, he’s now attracting increasing numbers of other Travelers who presumably want his growing collection of finders. Thankfully, most Travelers aren’t very good assassins . . .

This is a very different book from the first, but equally funny. Most of this is because Michael spends a great deal of time in a parallel regency steampunk world. It’s a world where everyone dresses smartly, holds to a strict set of manners, and is “packing more heat than a summer day in Las Vegas.”

Yes, that’s right. Regency steampunk with lots and lots of guns. Gwen has a derringer and is considered basically unarmed.

Mostly this is because the local wildlife is oversized and deadly, but it certainly made a refreshing read after the nonsense I read last week.

Michael end up there somewhat by accident, but given the number of people after him, he concludes it’s a good idea to recuperate in a place where his assailants have to go through an armed populace that does NOT take kindly to assassins.

Of course there’s plenty of “regency” in the plot there, too. One of the more amusing segments is Michael discovering just what that term entails when his wife provides several books as research on the subject. And then watching a similarly convoluted dramatic plot working out in the lives of those he’s become acquainted with. Also fun is that Michael honestly can’t be sure what’s exaggerated and what’s not when he’s trying to read about life in the colonies, so he more or less has to take it all as truth.

I also appreciated this is the only steampunk novel I have read that does not go on and on about dirty smoke. Whatever they’re using with their aetheric contraptions, it isn’t dirty like actual steam (which is one reason Michael can’t figure out how any of it works).

All in all, this advances some interesting threads on the main mystery of Michael’s family and powers, and also provides a host of new and fun characters. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Vikings at Dino’s: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem (Travels with Michael #1)

Title: Vikings at Dino’s: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem

Author: William Duquette

Series: Travels with Michael #1

Michael just wants to eat lunch in peace. But when every attempt to go out to his favorite diners is met by pillaging Vikings, it’s hard to see lunch as a break. Between Vikings, Mongol hordes and a Roman legion, his small town is getting way too interesting . . .

This was AMAZING. Michael is a software designer who works from home and likes to indulge in going out for lunch. But soon that turns into an absurdist nightmare as various inexplicable raiders show up to loot and pillage those establishments. Michael has no interest in getting caught up with any of this, but he can’t seem to escape always being in the middle of things.

Basically, go read the sample on Amazon. The first chapter lays everything out beautifully. I love this kind of surreal comedy, where the events playing out could almost be a dream except real people are stuck trying to deal with the consequences.

And the rest of the book is just as funny, with unexpected bouts of seriousness (well, people ARE in real danger).

It was also interesting because Michael has a condition where he stopped growing at ten years old, so he has the body of a child and people tend to treat him that way. It’s soured his view on a number of things. Being an “eternal child” isn’t as much fun as it sounds. It does, however, make for some really funny scenes.

Overall, this was highly entertaining, and absolutely one I will read again. I rate this Highly Recommended.

Epitaphs (Echoverse #2)

Title: Epitaphs

Author: Therin  Knite

Series: Echoverse #2

Adem’s switched jobs to the EDPA, but in some respects, the new job isn’t any better than the old one. His new boss treats him like crap. He’s stuck in endless newbie training hell. And then a college student who died an impossible death crops up, and life is about to get interesting again . . .

I think the reason these books are so amazing is the depth of all the characters involved. Adem and Jin have a complex relationship—which I was glad to see was clarified as being really tight friends, bound by tragedy (although we still don’t have the full story behind Jericho). Unhealthy, perhaps, in that either one of them is willing to do just about anything for the other. And Jin gets some really good moments this book. Some really funny ones too.

I also really liked the reveals about Dynara, which cleared up some practical questions from last book, and continues building the mystery of who she is beneath all the masks she wears.

And I definitely appreciated Adem being taken down a peg. His arrogance was often grating for me in the previous book, as I really dislike those kinds of characters. In this one his pride is getting ground down, both from his own mistakes and from Dynara no longer treating him like he’s special.

For all that, the story still mostly focuses on a single crime and the bigger conspiracies radiating out from it. Like the first book, the murder is not all it appears to be. Gaining some answers only leads to more questions. The whirlwind pacing means the story never drags, and because dreams are involved, the abilities on display are like magic. And the humor keeps the horror aspect in check, because even though this can get pretty dark, it can also get really funny.

Given the way this ended, I cannot wait for a sequel. I rate this book Highly Recommended.