Alexei Kilodovich, KGB agent, has been pulled out of the water by a ship full of criminals. Specifically, criminals specializing in the trafficking of children, and using them in various money making schemes. Holden Gibson, head honcho, is bad news, but he’s nothing in comparison to the people that Kilodovich is used to dealing with. Kilodovich had been serving as a body guard to a supposed “business woman”, but who is, in fact, involved in a much greater conspiracy. Meanwhile, his handler, Kolyokov, festers in a total immersion tank in New York, casting his psychic net, gathering together his “children” for motives beyond anything you can imagine. He’s not the only one calling to these exceptional children, though, and a showdown is on the horizon. City 512 has been churning out psychic manipulators for quite some time, and now its most ambitious operatives yet are on the move, and no longer want to be under the thumb of a puppet master. They are the “beautiful dreamers.”
I honestly had no idea what to expect from Rasputin’s Bastards. ChiZine is known for its thought provoking fiction, and this is certainly no exception. It’s the 90s, and the Cold War is over, but you wouldn’t know it to read this. Putting in mind the diabolically evil human experimentations of Nazi Germany, Rasputin’s Bastards gives us City 512, a breeding ground for psychic espionage (usually known as astral projection.) Children have been bred to be puppets and puppeteers, but this new batch of kids is just a bit different. No longer will they be used by a group bent on world domination, and they’re ready to take their freedom, at any cost. But the mother of them all has sent out a call, and is gathering all of her sleepers and dreamers together for what has been dubbed The Rapture. Long of tooth and chock full of characters, there’s lots to digest here, but it offers up lots of goodies for those willing to go the distance. The author has a talent for spinning a phrase to make it much more than the sum of its parts, and surprisingly, there’s quite a lot of humor as well: clever and dry, popping up just when things start to get really serious, but never disrupting the flow. The author dives deep into his main characters and paints very complete pictures, weaving the stories together amidst a surrealistic landscape of dream walkers and mind control. This reminded me very much of Dan Simmons’ Carrion Comfort (one of my all time favorites), and it’s been quite a while since I’ve read a book with this much teeth. Lovely, rich writing only serves to make the creepy bits (of which there are plenty), well, even more creepy, and fans of subtle horror will find much to like in Rasputin’s Bastards....more
I’m not quite sure what I expected when I started reading White Horse, but I sure didn’t expect to get sucked in so much that I stayed up until 3am to finish it. Yeah, it’s that good. Why is that good? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Zoe Marshall seems to be your typical single, slightly aimless, 30 year old, cleaning floors at a pharmaceutical company while sympathizing with the lab rats and planning to attend college in the near future. When she comes home one day and finds a white jar in her apartment (that she didn’t put there), things start to get very, very scary. People are getting sick, and Zoe’s friends are dying. Environmental wars are brewing, and a plague is spreading, and if it doesn’t kill you, it just might change you, in terrifying ways…
White Horse goes from Then and Now flawlessly, and told in Zoe’s voice, offers one of the most chilling looks into a post apocalyptic future that I’ve ever read. As Zoe journeys across the world to find the man she loves, the secret of the plague’s origins is unfolded (slowly and expertly), while at the same time a ruined landscape unfolds in a weather ravaged new world. You’ll feel every chill, every shudder, that Zoe feels, and you won’t be able to peel your eyes from the pages.
Alex Adams writing is lyrical, vivid, and chilling, and her observations on human nature are spot on. Zoe struggles to maintain her humanity in an environment that doesn’t exactly foster warm and fuzzy feelings. There are things waiting in the shadows, things that used to be human, and Zoe is never safe. As steeled for survival that she is, however, she never loses sight of her compassion and her desire to help others. As good hearted as Zoe is, though, the author gives us her counterpart in a villain so nasty, so evil, the term “sympathetic villain” goes right out the window. I haven’t hated a villain with quite as much venom in a long, long time. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but it definitely applies with this one (this guy is deplorable.)
Make no mistake, dystopian fans, be prepared for a brutal, roller coaster ride with White Horse. There are some seriously horrifying, downright scary moments, and the author absolutely does not hold the readers hand. You will most certainly flinch, and squirm a bit, but there is nothing gratuitous here, and these moments do exactly what they’re meant to do. Trust me on this one. There are messages here, too, most notably about the environment and human scientific experimentation, but they’re delivered in a way that you won’t mind taking your medicine. As uncomfortable as parts of this book may be, White Horse is a very realistic look at a possible future. Alex Adams takes some pretty fantastical concepts and makes them absolutely plausible, and that’s what makes it so damn scary. Zoe is a heroine that we can all identify with, she’s the kind of person that we should all strive to be, and her hope in the face of horrendous circumstances is brilliant to behold. The little moments of pure compassion in this book are nearly painful in their honesty, and made me want to be a better person, be just a little nicer to everyone in my life, and made me thankful for everything that I have.
White Horse moved me on many levels, and is frankly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Read it, love it, then make it your mission to immediately hug everyone that will hold still, and cherish the ones you love. Yeah, I got a little sappy there, but White Horse hit me right in the soft spot. Don’t tell anyone, ok? Our secret....more
3.5 stars I confess, I don’t read a ton of YA (I know!) This is not YA’s fault. This is my fault. You see, in my, um, advanced age *cough*, I sometimes find it hard to relate to very young characters. Seriously, it gets worse every year, much to my chagrin. The point is, if I seem to be a bit harder on YA, that’s the reason. It’s a totally “it’s me, not you” sort of thing. That said, when I got Forbidden in the mail, looking all shiny and pretty (and it is purty), I thought, what the heck, time to give this a try. Also, I’ve only heard good things about Syrie James’ work, so that was a plus. Thanks for staying with me, onto the “reviewy stuff”… When Forbidden starts, Claire Brennen is starting her third year at the prestigious Emerson Academy. It’s just her and her mom, and she’s become increasingly impatient of her mom’s insistence that they move at the slightest hint that things might not be going perfectly. Claire is determined to stay put for a while, which seems like it might happen, until she has her first vision. It’s a small thing, but enough to alarm Claire and definitely puts her nerves on edge. Then she meets the handsome (and Scottish!!) Alec MacKenzie. Yes, he’s a hottie, yet he’s so standoffish at first that Claire isn’t sure what to think. Suffice it to say he’ll have a lot to do with Claire’s future, and he may not be human…
Forbidden is about angels, and since I’m a relative novice to the “angel genre”, it provided an interesting premise for me. Alec is a Watcher (and Grigori), tasked with rooting out the descendants of Nephilim and making sure they don’t fall prey to the Fallen (Nephilim that have taken a less than savory path.) The problem is, Alec has gone AWOL. He doesn’t want to be a Watcher, and has taken great pains to hide himself from the Elders and get on with a relatively “normal” life. Well, as normal as you can get with a 100+ year old that looks about 17. Needless to say, Alec thinks Claire is the bees knees, but as you’ll find out, this is a big no-no, which of course makes for some serious angst.
Forbidden was well written, and I appreciated that the authors made Claire smart and tough instead of the whining ninny that you see so much of in (very young especially) female protagonists. Also, after her initial short period of disbelief and awe at her situation, she quickly adapts and goes with the flow. Scullys get on my nerves, and I can’t stand characters that could have a werewolf sitting on their legs (possibly gnawing an ankle) and still go all wide-eyed with disbelief. You know what I’m talking about. Claire’s not like that, and it made me love her. Ok, grrrrl power aside, Alec is seriously cute, even cute enough to make this 35 year old become a little smitten, and their sweet romance is what powered this novel. She’s also got a couple of very cool, very loyal friends at her side. Teens will eat this one up, especially those that like a little supernatural with their romance. Although I would have preferred a stronger supernatural element, Forbidden is sure to please and is a fun addition to the genre....more
I love discovering new authors, and I especially love it when I discover one that will go on my autobuy. You know the feeling I’m talking about, where in the first few pages you know you’re really gonna like a book? That’s how I felt with Wide Open. Wide Open is Hallie Michaels’ story, and right away, you know you’re in for something unique. It begins when Hallie returns to South Dakota from Afghanistan to attend her sister Dell’s funeral. To hear the town tell it, Dell committed suicide, but Hallie knows better, and is determined to get to the bottom of it. With the help of her childhood friend, and Boyd, a sheriff’s deputy that has the same suspicions as Hallie, she’ll have to navigate some unusual, and possibly life threatening territory to find out the truth of her sister’s death. And there’s a storm coming…
Right away, the author plops you right down into the near stifling atmosphere of (rather stormy) small town South Dakota, and doesn’t let up on you. Hallie is a little more than normal, since she “died” in Afghanistan, was revived, and can now see ghosts on a near constant basis. One of them is Dell. The author manages to make the ghosts creepy and haunting without making them scary, and they’re not malicious, but they do want something of Hallie. She’s got 10 days to figure out what happened to her sister, and as it turns out, other women in the area that have gone missing. It may have something to do with Uku-Weber, and it’s founder Martin Weber, but Hallie’s not quite sure what. The company seemingly gets raves from the community, with its creation of new jobs and research into harnessing wind energy, but there’s something more diabolical going on, something involving magic, and possibly murder.
There are plenty of supernatural components in Wide Open for readers of fantasy, but the real magic lies in the characters. Hallie is moody and brittle much of the time, but we see her soften over the course of the novel, especially when it comes to Boyd. He’s determined to help Hallie, and she’s determined to push him away, and the almost-romance is actually kind of sweet (and it leaves plenty of good stuff for a next novel, maybe? Hopefully?) The writer’s staccato writing style served the story well, and her grasp on small town life is fascinating, plus there’s murder, magic, fire, and ghosts. How can you go wrong with that? Wide Open was a quick read for me, but that’s because I really didn’t want to put it down for long, and is a great debut fantasy. I have my fingers crossed for more Hallie and Boyd, but I’d be happy with anything from Deborah Coates. I urge you to give this one a try!...more
Just when I thought dystopian might be getting a bit stale, I picked up Pure. Talk about a breath of fresh air! Well, the air in Pure is not all that fresh. In fact, outside of The Dome, it’s filled with ash and dust, the result of The Detonations a number of years earlier. There are a couple of theories (that correlate directly to inside/outside The Dome) as to how these detonations came about. Did someone else strike first? Did we? Or was it something far more sinister? Similar in tone to The Hunger Games (without the games, but with plenty of hunger), Pure presents a twisted, desolate landscape filled with creatures that defy the imagination. With this type of narrative, you expect the usual tropes; rogues out for blood, ragged children, broken families huddled together among the post-apocalyptic landscape, and dissidents with rebellion in mind. You get all of this with Pure, but the author has thrown a few extra things in the mix, which really made it stand out for me.
When The Detonations hit, the population got plenty of radiation, but with a little something…extra, thrown in. People were fused with whatever happened to be close during the meltdown, and nanobots kept them from dying of their wounds. So out of the ash came folks with parts of their cars, glass, metal, you name it, eternally entwined with them. People even fused with other people. Yep, you read that right. That’s not all. There are mutated creatures that rule the night (and sometimes the day), that will drag you down into the dust and devour you. Not a happy place. Pressia Belze is one of the luckier ones. She only has a doll head fused to her hand, and her grandfather has a fan blade in his neck that spins when he breathes. Things for Pressia and her grandfather are in sharp contrast to the sterile interior of The Dome, with its tightly controlled environment, designed for maximum containment, and maximum security. Partridge Willux is a Pure: unmarked, unscarred, protected. Yet, he’s been feeling that things are “off” for a while, that his father, one of those in charge of things inside the Dome, is up to no good and may have been lying to them all along. In this world, those would be considered “dangerous thoughts.” The denizens of the Dome, of course, have been spoon fed a certain rhetoric about those outside, and the “wretches” outside certainly have their own thoughts about the inhabitants of the Dome. Partridge wants to find his mother, who, in spite of what his father tells him, he suspects may be alive, and when he finally makes his escape from the Dome, he meets up with Pressia. Their futures are inexorably entwined, and during the search for Partridge’s mother, they will discover secrets that will cast light on their pasts, and have the power to change their futures. Unlikely alliances are made and loyalties are forged in their journey, and while Pure is certainly a postapocalyptic fantasy, it’s also very much about love, family, and the bonds that allow us to have hope beyond the point we think hope is possible. Lyrical, immediate, highly imaginative, and sometimes scathingly brutal, Pure is impossible to put down, and you won’t want to miss it!...more
Anne MacPherson is determined to finish her thesis on the Knights Templar and gain the promotion that she richly deserves, but when a handsome, rather imposing Knight appears in her home and whisks her away to the Templar stronghold, she doesn’t know what to think. One thing she does know is that when Merrick touches her, she sees a terrible vision, one of his death. Anne comes to find out she is a seraph, which is a decendant of Nephilim, and her destiny is to be mated to one of the cursed Knights and save his soul. When the Knights unearthed ancients scrolls almost 900 years ago, instead of finding a devine relic, they inadvertently uncovered scrolls that were the keys to the gates of Hell. Azazel is sending his minions to steal relics that will allow him to gain power, and it is up to the Knights to thwart his plans. The only hope for the Knights, before the cursed darkness claims their souls, is to find their matches in the seraphs and banish the darkness forever. Anne is Merrick’s destined, but she is afraid if the makes that known, it will lead to his death. Makes for some serious drama, yes? You have no idea…
I’ll admit, even after discovering some really good paranormal romance, I still consider myself a reluctant romance reader. However, I’m a sucker for the Crusades, and the premise of Immortal Hope looked very promising. I wasn’t disappointed, not in the least. Seriously, guys, Immortal Hope will hook you from page one. Anne is a smart, feisty heroine, and her acclimation into the Knight’s stronghold had me giggling at times as she encountered the Knight’s chivalrous and outdated habits concerning women. As the darkness comes closer to claiming each Knight, however, not all of the men have good intentions, but don’t worry, Merrick is loathe to let Anne out of his site, a fact that both excites and frightens her. As for Merrick, he’s about as swoonworthy as it gets, girls, and he’s got poor Anne in knots. Merrick starts off cranky and sullen, but Anne’s influence is too much, and that tough veneer slowly begins to crack. The author puts her poor readers through the ringer with Anne and Merrick’s push and pull, as she falls for him, and he tries to resist her, since, for all he knows, she’s meant for another. Delicious tension, seriously. The romance is passionate and tender, but doesn’t overwhelm the story. Ms. Ashgrove weaves in rich history and great characterization (getting to know the Knights was one of my favorite parts), and creates a wonderful fantasy to lose yourself in. Yes, there are sexy parts, but they only serve to highlight the love that develops between Anne and Merrick. And of course, there’s angel and demon lore. How can you pass this one up? The author has a gift for storytelling, and I can’t wait to get to know other Knights, and other seraphs, in future installments!...more
At 16, George Carole was raised by his grandmother, has never known his mother or father, and has been traveling with a vaudeville troupe, playing piano rather wonderfully. He has a good idea of who his father might be, and has been trying to catch up with the Silenus troupe, if only to catch a glimpse of the man that could possibly be his dad. He finally manages to catch up with them and catch a performance. He’s enchanted, especially with the beautiful acrobat Colette, and fascinated with Silenus. After leaving the performance, he encounters the grey men (seriously creepy), who also seem to be after the Silenus troupe, but for much different reasons than George. It’s when George attempts to warn the troupe of the grey men’s presence that the real adventure, and terror, begins.
See, George has a little something special inside of him, and it’s part of what makes him so valuable to Silenus and his troupe, because the troupe is much, much more than just a vaudeville act, as George will soon discover. The Troupe is, at its heart, George’s coming of age story, but it’s also a far-reaching magical epic. Set in a time when vaudeville and minstrel shows were popular, and horse and carriages still lingered, The Troupe is a book that you want to read without distraction, because there are quite a few big ideas in play. Don’t let that scare you. The author manages to weave horror elements (wolves in human clothing and the grey men), with not so traditional fantasy elements (some rather terrifying fairies), and even southern gothic into a rich tapestry that you’ll want to savor, bit by bit. There is a song that was lost when man and earth was created (The First Song), and Silenus’ troupe has been gathering bits of it back together, in hopes of saving our world. Each town they stop in becomes just a little bit better when the troupe sings this haunting song. If the song is entirely forgotten, the rips that have already appeared in the fabric of our reality will get bigger, and very, very bad things will begin to come through. George has some of this song inside him, and throughout the book, it becomes clearer and clearer just how important George is to our world.
George will frustrate you, and you’ll fall in love with him at the same time. He’s just a kid, who sometimes fancies himself much worldlier than he really is, and is painfully naive. For someone so young to shoulder such a huge burden is enormous, and much of the book is about George learning just how to do that, as well as getting to know the father he never knew. Silenus is a force of nature and his command of his troupe and relationships with its members is also a very big part of this novel. Many elements of the Silenus troupe are strange and terrifying, such as Kingsley the puppeteer and his rather creepy, otherworldly puppets, and some are beautiful, such as the dancer Colette and even Franny, who lifts objects that no one her size should be able to lift. Silenus’ silent and gentle companion Stanley (who communicates via chalkboard) is a joy, and the interplay between the troupe members is subtle, intricate, and sometimes heartbreaking, as is Silenus’ rough, fierce love for his troupe. As George learns more and more about his place in this frightening new world, and also of the delicate balance that the troupe helps maintain, he also realizes what’s at stake, and losing the song may mean losing everything he cherishes. The author has a gift for atmosphere, mystery, and imagery, and manages some jaw dropping twists that I didn’t see coming. The Troupe was as much of an emotional journey as it was a fantasy for me, and I cherished every bit. Haunting, terrifying, and achingly beautiful, The Troupe is a book to be savored, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Very highly recommended....more