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H. Grove (errantdreams) "Errant Dreams Reviews" RSS Feed (Maryland, USA)
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The Invisible Ring (Black Jewels, Book 4)
The Invisible Ring (Black Jewels, Book 4)
by Anne Bishop
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
161 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun!, March 16, 2015
Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books operate on several levels in ways that would count as negatives were I reading almost any other author’s work. Her characters are stubborn, high-strung, searingly emotional, and dangerous. Many of her characters have been treated horribly (some of the material is very dark) and are damaged in various ways. Blooded women and men (those capable of using the Craft) tend to be fiercely independent and stubborn, and relationships between the genders can become quite explosive. In Bishop’s hands, however, this is what sets her world apart and makes it so absorbing. There are reasons why her characters are high-strung. What makes it so beautiful, though, is the fact that Bishop has worked out a fascinating, richly detailed, complex social system designed to funnel the characters’ high emotions and put restrictions on them to keep them safe. Many of the plots in her books result from cases where that social system has broken down. In The Invisible Ring, much of the conflict between the leads is due to uncertainties that have arisen in that system. I also love the fact that both genders include extremely strong characters. While Blooded men and women occupy very specific social roles, those roles are designed to allow both genders to retain their strength. Each is meant to serve the other on different levels.

The ultimate bad guy, the Queen Dorothea, is pure evil. In almost any other book I’d call this cartoonish. However, the larger-than-life personalities in this world make Dorothea believable in her role. We also get to see how her messed-up version of the social structure can turn everyday people into monsters, which is one of the more fascinating (and repellent) threads in the book.

My only real difficulty was the fact that Jared should have picked up on certain plot details earlier. I need to draw a line here, however. There were several ways in which I thought the characters were missing the obvious, but later found out that what I thought was obvious wasn’t. So if you’re reading this volume and start getting annoyed that one or another plot thread seems too obvious, I’d invite you to give it some time. Bishop is good at red herrings. The only thing I truly ended up being annoyed at was Jared’s inability to understand the Invisible Ring, and even that thread gained more dimension later on in the book.

For the most part the characters from the Black Jewels Trilogy aren’t present, although fans will recognize both Dorothea and Daemon Sadi. While I thought the trilogy was better than The Invisible Ring, this book still swept me up in events and made it very hard for me to stop to do anything else!

I’m too caught up in the series as a whole to be able to say whether this book could stand on its own. I think it would certainly help to have read the trilogy first, but I hadn’t read it in several years and still had little trouble following along.


Dreams Made Flesh (Black Jewels, Book 5)
Dreams Made Flesh (Black Jewels, Book 5)
by Anne Bishop
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.98
108 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic successor to the Black Jewels trilogy!, March 13, 2015
Dreams Made Flesh (Black Jewels, Book 5), by Anne Bishop, is a collection of four stories set in the Black Jewels universe. You’ll want to read The Black Jewels: Trilogy first, but you don’t need to have read The Invisible Ring (of course you should because it’s a great read, but you don’t need to).

Weaver of Dreams: A short but fascinating tale of spiders, dragons, and webs that clearly comes from the distant past. It’s beautiful, unusual, and captivating.

The Prince of Ebon Rih: This tale takes place after the events of Heir to the Shadows and before the events of Queen of the Darkness. Lucivar, currently the Prince of Ebon Rih, has a problem. Actually, he has more than one. Everyone seems to want to be the one allowed into his quarters to clean and cook for him. He doesn’t want any of them there, especially since they seem more interested in mooning over him than in doing their jobs. After Jaenelle rescues a hearth witch, Marian, from her attackers, she asks Lucivar to take the woman in. As a hearth witch she’d be perfect for looking after his home–and him. But Lucivar is short of temper, while Marian is trying to get over the emotional damage her family caused to her. It just makes everything so much harder that another witch–Roxie–is trying to get herself into Lucivar’s bed by hook or by crook, just when Marian and Lucivar are starting to realize there might be something real between them.

Prince displays the heightened emotions and mercurial temper common to the Black Jewels novels, and in Anne Bishop’s books it absolutely works. Partially because there’s a highly organized and rigid social hierarchy built up to deal with how those larger-than-life emotions get handled. There are characters to love and characters to hate. Jaenelle makes a serious error in judgment, but then she’s still a little lacking in some social areas–as always, it can be nice to see that such a beloved and epic character is capable of making real mistakes. This story can get a little dark, and it made me tear up once or twice.

Zuulaman: This one is a tale from Saetan’s past. In it, we get to see what happens when Saetan unleashes the massive power he controls–as well as his oh-so-cold rage. Dark, horrifying; I found it shocking and absorbing.

Kaeleer’s Heart: This one takes place after Queen of the Darkness. We finally get to see the struggles both Daemon and Jaenelle are going through in the effort to maintain their relationship after so much has happened. Daemon is still treating Jaenelle as though she’s fragile and might break at any moment–and in that, he isn’t so different from the rest of the males around her. But he’s meant to be her Consort, and now he’s afraid that might never happen. Add in the machinations of a witch who’s obsessed with him–who wants to find a way to ruin his reputation so that he’ll be desperate for her acceptance–and things get dangerous, fast. Surreal shows up to lend a hand and inadvertently ends up playing into one of those schemes. We also get a sense of what sort of power Jaenelle really has now that she burned out her jewels.

I shed tears through several scenes, and could not put the book down while reading this tale. I was hooked from page one. It was hard to find myself finished with the book when I was finally done with this story.

If you enjoy the explosive, larger-than-life world of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels world, you’ll adore this collection of stories. They’re poignant, sexy, hot, dark, horrific, and beautiful by turns. The hardest part about reading it was having to finish!


Blood Lines (The World of the Lupi, Book 3)
Blood Lines (The World of the Lupi, Book 3)
by Eileen Wilks
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
114 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great volume for jumping into the series, March 12, 2015
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I’m not quite sure how Wilks does it, but her world feels much more unique than those of many of her urban fantasy contemporaries. Maybe it’s the lack of vampires. Maybe it’s all in the details of the structure of lupus society, the nature of magic, and the seriousness of Lily’s job with the FBI. Simply the fact that the main character isn’t a glib, snarky young woman with as much attitude as aptitude makes a real difference. Combined with that, the less unique details (such as magic having returned to the modern world only recently) feel less common.

As usual with Wilks’s books, we find out a bit more about how everything works in each new volume. This time it’s sorcery and Cynna’s unusual use of power, as well as the backbone of lupus clan structure and the ways in which demons can interact with the living world. There’s plenty of scheming and backstabbing to keep the plot fascinating and the pacing varied. The characters are fantastic and multi-layered–I really enjoy watching Cullen and Cynna, two very individualistic people, trying to feel their way around what’s happening between them.

Generally I take notes while I read books that I plan to review, so I don’t forget all the little details that add up to fascinating patterns. In this case I was so swept up in events that I wrote down almost nothing. On the one hand that makes it tougher to go into a lot of detail in the review, but it also conveniently illustrates how thoroughly I was immersed in the events of Blood Lines.

As a final note, Blood Lines starts out with a “dear reader” introduction from Lily that would make it much easier for new readers to the series to get their bearings. I applaud that kind of thoughtfulness in an author, because making it easier for new readers to jump right in also increases the number of people who might enjoy the series enough to dig up the previous books, as I did.


Night Season (The World of the Lupi, Book 4)
Night Season (The World of the Lupi, Book 4)
by Eileen Wilks
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
117 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as the previous, March 11, 2015
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Eileen Wilks’s Night Season (The World of the Lupi, Book 4) didn’t catch me up quite as much as the three previous volumes, but it’s still quite good. Don’t get me wrong–I love finally getting to see Cynna and Cullen’s relationship grow, and it’s delightful that their partnership doesn’t require the use of the ‘mate-bond’ that thrust Lily and Rule together. Most series would stick with that format, and it’s delightful to see an author who’s willing to do very different things with different relationships. That said, Lily and Rule have been such delightful characters so far that I didn’t feel ready to have a book that doesn’t include them. That’s a great compliment to Ms. Wilks’s ability to create great characters and relationships. Also, while Ruben (Cynna and Lily’s boss at the FBI) does show up in this one, and we learned a little more about him, he was absent for most of the book, which felt odd once he’d been swept up into events.

It’s nice to start seeing a little more regarding the dragons at the beginning of the book. We also get to learn quite a bit about gnomes, and even a bit about the Sidhe (although not much). Gan–the demon who’s been growing a soul–has an extended role in Night Season, and it’s fun to watch as she gradually learns what it means to not be a demon. It isn’t an easy road for her, and learning proper behavior comes to her both slowly and painfully.

Cynna and Cullen have a great relationship. It takes on the combative, not-quite-trusting nature that I’ve seen keep people apart in other romance novels, but it works out much better than I’m used to. It doesn’t feel artificially boosted. It feels as though they’re working their way through genuine and important conceptions and misconceptions, rather than exaggerated and mostly-imagined conflict. The difficulties they have in coming together make sense for them and their situation; it’s very much in keeping with their personalities.

I missed the earth-based context for the series in this novel. I guess in taking a trip to faerie (sort of) it made the book feel a little more like some of the other urban fantasy worlds out there, where before now the series somehow managed to make everything feel new, including werewolves and dragons. It’s still a great read, however!


Nutramax Cosequin for Cats - 80 Sprinkle Capsules
Nutramax Cosequin for Cats - 80 Sprinkle Capsules
Price: $15.95
19 used & new from $10.95

5.0 out of 5 stars For Feline Joint pain, March 11, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
One of our cats had a fractured leg before we got him, and the bones have been fused. The vet recommended we start him on cosequin to help prevent joint pain for him. So far it seems to be working, The cats seem to like the taste, too.


Lion Brand Yarn Vanna's Palettes Yarn, Charming
Lion Brand Yarn Vanna's Palettes Yarn, Charming
Price: $5.47
11 used & new from $5.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for beginners, March 11, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I enjoy the pre-picked color selections in their small sizes. It's just perfect to add a few lines of color here or there, and the color collections are very nice! It's perfect for us beginning knitters who aren't yet ready to buy skeins and skeins of yarn.


Boyajian Mini Citrus Set 3 Count (Pack of 3)
Boyajian Mini Citrus Set 3 Count (Pack of 3)
Price: $32.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Yum!, March 10, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was first introduced to citrus oils by a lemon desserts cookbook. Used well, lemon oil can add a delicious intensity to so many dishes. Swapping that out for orange or lime only adds to the deliciousness. I took a cookie recipe from that cookbook and made it with orange zest, juice, and oil instead of lemon, and the cookies were fantastic! Since there was some leftover orange sugar (just orange oil mixed with granulated sugar) I got to discover just how amazing it is on pancakes, french toast, fresh berries, and so on. I'm looking forward to using the lime as well as its lemon and orange companions. I got three of the three-packs since I wanted them to last, and the bottles are a bit small.


Sea Witch (Children of the Sea, Book 1)
Sea Witch (Children of the Sea, Book 1)
by Virginia Kantra
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
84 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story, March 10, 2015
By far the aspect of Margred’s tale that caught at me the hardest was the characterization of her as a selkie. The author’s ability to put herself in the place of a seven hundred-year-old immortal from an extremely different ‘society’, biology and background is nothing short of stunning. This isn’t a human who happens to live in the sea—this is a being who is decidedly different, and has a great deal of difficulty adjusting to human culture and custom. Some of those details are deep and emotional; others are the small details of everyday life:

I also enjoyed Caleb’s character. While he has the troubled past of many romance heroes, and fits the currently trendy mold of veteran of the Iraq conflict, there’s a surprising amount of depth to him and his family. His personality is more grounded in his career as a police officer than it is in his past as a soldier, and the interplay between him and his father and sister is great. While the father seems like just another abusive drunk at first, he’s much more three-dimensional and ‘real’ by the end of the story. And the sister… well, I suspect she’ll end up being the subject of the next book, or possibly the one after that.

The world-building is similarly fantastic. The history of the selkie, the elementals in general, and the tensions between them and humans is simple and beautiful. The setting of a small island in Maine is the perfect foil for it, earthy and rich, unutterably human. A full panoply of characters make the town come alive, from the old lady who runs a restaurant and ended up mayor just so the lawyer everyone hates wouldn’t get the job, to the volunteer firefighters who go off to their day jobs as fishermen. In particular the investigators who come to town to help catch a murderer surprised me with their characterization. In most books they’d simply be foils, insisting on seeing Caleb as the murderer no matter what happens. Instead they’re much more even-handed and realistic.

Sea Witch is a beautiful story that would appeal to fans of a handful of genres. As a fantasy/paranormal tale it’s gorgeous, complex, and fascinating. As a romance, it’ll definitely grab hold of you. As erotica it’s hot and sexy, with plenty of enjoyable chemistry between its characters.

NOTE: Review book provided by publisher


Queen of the Darkness: The Black Jewels Trilogy 3
Queen of the Darkness: The Black Jewels Trilogy 3
by Anne Bishop
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
198 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional rollercoaster!, March 10, 2015
Anne Bishop has one of the most vivid styles of writing I’ve encountered. She works with high-strung larger-than-life characters in this universe without ever straying over the line into ridiculousness. This series is an emotional rollercoaster that can send you soaring at one moment and bring you to tears the next, even on multiple readings.

One of the things that has fascinated me most about this series is something my husband pointed out to me–Jaenelle is the character around whom everything else revolves, but you never see the world through her eyes. This means that some of the things that happen to her, both great and terrible, happen off-screen. In some books this would cause unwanted distance. In these books it creates just the right amount of dramatic tension, allowing our imaginations to fill in the gaps perfectly. It also helps us to see ourselves in the place of Jaenelle’s new family, desperate to help her and even, sometimes, afraid of her. The sheer alienness of what she can be would be almost impossible to convey through her eyes, but it’s perfectly clear through the eyes of those around her.

It honestly would have been difficult to come up with a satisfying climax to a story this large, sweeping, emotional, and epic. I remember worrying, the first time I read this book, that the ending would be either too pat or too depressing (sometimes I love dark endings, but I’d really come to care about these characters so much that I wasn’t sure I could stand to have too dark an ending). I won’t give away details, but I will say that I thought the ending was beautiful and perfect.

Again, these books are both complex and dark. They move fast, but they aren’t easy reading. They involve many, many characters and details, and deal with issues such as sex, torture, death, rape, and molestation; they aren’t beach or airplane reading. But they are incredibly rewarding for someone who’s willing to invest the time and thought into them, and I expect they’ll always remain some of the very best books I’ve ever read.


Heir to the Shadows: The Black Jewels Trilogy 2
Heir to the Shadows: The Black Jewels Trilogy 2
by Anne Bishop
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.36
195 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The One Witch, March 9, 2015
Anne Bishop is one of my favorite authors. Her characterizations are so unique, clear, and dramatic that it’s impossible to mistake one character for another. Her dialogue is witty and sharp, fresh and entertaining. Her prose brings every detail to life, so you can see, hear, and even taste her world.

One of the fascinating things about the world of the Black Jewels Trilogy is its odd system of gender politics. For thousands of years the Blood survived on a complex system of mutual respect that put Queens in charge, but instituted checks and balances that required them to, for example, keep any promise made to a Warlord Prince in their court. The system of protocol and emotional and societal bonds was complex, but it kept things balanced.

Once one side pushed things out of balance, trying to take more and more power away from the other gender, it spiraled out of control. Each gender became convinced by the excesses of the other that they were the ones who needed to be in charge, with the other side held subservient. Now perhaps the only hope for the realm is that the old systems of protocol can be reinstated–but now that each side has had a taste of power, neither wants to give it up again. It’s never as simple to heal a system as to break it.

Ms. Bishop never shies away from tough topics or hard choices. She doesn’t make things easy on her characters, but neither does she pile on meaningless obstacles that have no place in the story. I never once stopped caring for her characters (or hating them, depending on the character) and feeling what they felt. Her writing is fast-paced and immersive, and although these are not small books, I finished each of them in less than a day because I simply couldn’t put them down–even on the second reading. The world is very complex and detailed, and in this book I did start to lose track of some of Jaenelle’s many friends, but not so much that it detracted from the story.

As with the first book in the series, this book deals with topics ranging from death and torture to sex, rape and molestation. These subjects are dealt with in an appropriately serious manner and are never used to titillate, but not everyone will be comfortable reading about them. Ms. Bishop is not one to flinch away from an appropriately gruesome description.

In many trilogies the second book is the weakest; it lacks the excitement of the beginning, as well as the explosive climax of the ending. But in this case the second book is every bit as good as the first and third, with the writing quality as high, and the tension as deep.


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