Tainted Mountain

It’s always fun to read books by the nominees for RMFW Writer of the Year.  Digging into this lighthearted mystery by Shannon Baker was no exception.  The heroine is a great character, and though I figured out the mystery sooner than I’d like, the ending was still a very satisfying (though bittersweet) surprise.  I may try to pick up some more of these.

Sticks and Stones

Mandy, the heroine in this book, manages to work through an overwhelming burden of grief and guilt without that burden overwhelming the reader–or becoming trivialized. Granted, she’s got magical help, but still, it’s an impressive feat.

I’ll definitely be picking up more of Shawn Mcguire’s books in the future.

Trickster’s Girl

Another gift from the RMFW conference. This was well written and engaging. I enjoyed Ms. Bell’s Goblin War piece more, but I suspect that has less to do with the books themselves and more to do with my own preference for straight up fantasy than for Native-American-religion-tinged urban stuff. I also tend to get turned off by preachiness of any variety, and the environmental message here bordered on that a few times–not enough to make me dislike the book, but enough that I noticed it. Still, well worth the reading.

The Goblin War

As I’ve probably mentioned before, one of the great things about RMFW conferences is the number of books we get in the swag bag. I love, love, love going home with enough to keep me busy–for a bit anyway.

The Goblin War is one of these.  I certainly never would have picked up only book three of a series if I’d been choosing the book myself.

All the same, I wasn’t too lost when I got dropped into the middle of a story that follows trio of young people and their goblin friends as they tramp through a couple of connected worlds, restoring balance and justice. In fact, I was interested enough that I’ll probably try to track down the first couple of books, so I can get a better idea of the whole picture.

Signs of You

I pre-ordered this book months ago when I first heard it was coming out in part because I’ve met Emily France, and she’s lovely, but mostly because I had seen or heard just a bit of the story at some RMFW event and was longing to read the rest.

It does not disappoint. Riley and her three best friends are vividly drawn, complex people, all of them sympathetic, all of them flawed. I find myself fascinated by the adventure they go on together to unravel the paranormal puzzle that is further tangling their already complicated lives, and I’m fully involved in the story right to the very end. The love story is sweet, and even the present tense doesn’t grate on me the way narrative present usually does–at least not after the first page or so.

Definitely a read I’d recommend. (But probably for kids a bit older than mine.)

Flask of the Drunken Master

Susan Spann’s Shinobi Mystery series is great fun.  I love that it locates me firmly in a place and time in history that I know little about.  What’s even better is that it does this in a way that keeps a pretty puzzle and interesting people at the heart of the story.

In this particular book, Hiro and Father Mateo must prove the innocence of a brewer they know (Hiro owes him a favor) before the man is punished for murdering a competitor.  It’s a complicated little problem, set in a destabilized Kyoto (a situation which brings its own complexities), and the strain of navigating these troubling waters reveals some fault lines–or at least pressure points–in Hiro and Father Mateo’s relationship.  The descriptions are rich, the writing well-done.  It was a great pleasure to read, and I’ll be picking up Susan Spann’s next book when I can.

 

The Daemon Prism

I picked up my first Carol Berg book after hearing one of her amazing workshops on world-building (or was it revision?) at one of RMFW’s Colorado Gold conferences.  That was The Spirit Lens, the first in the series that finished off with this one I’ve just read.

The series follows a librarian/failed magician, a magic skeptic and an unorthodox mage as they unravel conspiracies and legends that threaten their kingdom, their world, and even the afterlife.  In this particular book, Dante, the mage left disabled after his fight with the forces of evil at the end of book two (The Soul Mirror), discovers that his enemies are not quite so defeated as he thought, and righting what is wrong requires facing his own past, his own demons.

As I expected from work by an author with so much good stuff to say about revision and world-building, this series boasts finely polished prose and a richly textured world.  The characters are well-rounded, interestingly flawed, and sympathetic.  I’m rooting for them all through their intricately plotted quest to save the world.  The books don’t quite make my all-time-favorite, reread again and again shelf (I can’t quite put my finger on why), but they’re thoroughly enjoyable, and I’ll certainly pick up more Carol Berg books in the future.

Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan

These two are the first couple of novels in the Allison Coil mystery series by Mark Stevens (who I got to work with for a while this past summer while helping out a bit with the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast he does for RMFW–well worth listening to if one writes at all, by the way.)

These were thoroughly enjoyable, with interesting puzzles, well-drawn characters and quick-paced action.  What I liked best, though, was the setting–the Rocky Mountains seemed as beautiful in this book as they look from my backyard on a clear day.  I also loved the strong friendship that develops between Allison and Trudy, a woman she meets in the course of her first investigation.  I don’t often find strong female friendships in novels that aren’t labeled “Women’s Fiction,” and it’s nice to find one here.

I’ll read more Allison Coil mysteries–I just have to wait until my book budget recovers from Christmas.

 

Joan Johnston’s Comanche Woman

I love RMFW’s Colorado Gold conference–and one of the many good things about it is the stack of books (free & purchased) that I always bring home from it. Comanche Woman is the first I’ve read of the ones I picked up last weekend. I enjoyed it–enough that I’ve put the sequel on hold at the library.  I most appreciated the way it handled the interaction of multiple cultures, showing strengths without excusing atrocious behavior. I’d recommend this book for people who like historical or western romances–and who don’t mind the sex scenes.