Every now and then I discover a new author, and I get really excited. This happened with Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series and now with Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse. I’m not quite sure what I expected. Maybe just run of the mill postapocalyptic dystopian fare, with robots run amok? Well, in Robopocalypse, robots certainly do run amok, but run-of-the-mill it is not. Told in snippets of gathered intelligence by Cormac Wallace, a leader of the human resistance, Robopocalypse covers the period of time just before the robot uprising to almost 3 years after, and details, in particular, the struggles of a small group of heroes, from New York , to the Great Plains, and even Japan. The author turns on the creeps full force in this book, and I was reminded at times of early Stephen King. There are truly horrifying moments as the virus, spread by the powerful AI that calls itself Archos, systematically takes over robotics all over the world. I did say there were some creepy bits, yes? Especially spine tingling are scenes where our heroes interact with Archos, who uses a little boy’s voice to communicate. There’s a scene involving a child’s doll that will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s scary enough that robots are rising up and killing humans, but what’s even worse is they are also herding people into work camps in order to build stronger, better, smarter killing machines. This novel isn’t just runaway robots killing humans, although I was reminded of Maximum Overdrive (remember that one?), especially when the cars with smart chips start killing people (and that’s most cars in this world). I fell in love with the characters, and one of my favorites isn’t even human. This book has fairly short chapters, and I found myself thinking “just one more” until I realized I’d read 50 pages.
Yes, there’s tons of action in this book (Steven Spielberg movie in 2013!!), but truly, Robopocalypse is about bravery in the face of staggering horror, and unfathomable circumstances. Like any good exploration of artificial intelligence, it will make you question what it really means to be human, and likens what we choose to do in moments of crisis as the closest we can get to fate, and who we truly are at our core. And the humans aren’t the only ones rising up against Archos…
The author has a Ph.D. in robotics and it certainly shows. Terrifying robots and gadgets abound, and I had no trouble putting myself into the story, right in the middle of the action. Mr. Wilson also deftly handles several different points of view and creates an immediacy that makes the events even more terrifying. This novel takes off like a rocket and bullets you through the story like a runaway train! I loved it!(less)
There’s a letter from Tricia Pasternack, a Del Rey editor, in the beginning of the Advance Reader’s Edition of Hounded, by Kevin Hearne. In it she describes something called the Kevin Hearne Effect, the rather magical feeling you get when one first starts Hounded, and that continues until the last page. When I started Hounded, I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about! Atticus O’Sullivan is a 1,200 year old Druid (biologically 21) who’s put down roots in Arizona and is living peacefully until a series of attacks shatter his quiet existence. You see, an ancient foe wants something Atticus has, and won’t stop until he gets it back.
Hounded is told from Atticus’ point of view, and what a delightful voice! Wry, witty, and charming, Atticus is my new hero, and in Hounded, we’re lucky enough to accompany him as he and his friends plan a showdown with this powerful foe. And what friends! Kevin Hearne has created an amazing cast of supporting characters, but my favorite by far is Oberon, Atticus’ Irish Wolfhound that he can communicate with using his mind. Oberon is a sweet, scene-stealing pleasure, and (at the risk of dating myself), reminds me quite a lot of Einstein, the canine with human intelligence in Dean Koontz’s Watchers. The banter between Atticus and Oberon made me laugh out loud, and Oberon is almost as big of a presence as Atticus! Add to that a death Goddess named Morrigan, the huntress Flidais, a vampire and a werewolf (both Atticus’ lawyers), a elderly, feisty neighbor that helps Atticus more than once, a coven of witches who may or may not have Atticus’ best interests at heart, a sword that is the source of Atticus’ problems, and you you’ve got the recipe for one of the best books of the year! In Atticus’ world, the Gods are alive and well, and aren’t afraid to make themselves known. Norse, Christian, Indian, you name it, they all exist, and if you have a love of Celtic myth, this is the book for you. The magic system is fascinating and unique and it’s obvious the author put quite a bit of time and research into exploring the history of Druids and Druid magic. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and to me, that’s a good thing! I got to geek out a little with this one too, because there’s lots of references to Star Wars and other awesomeness! In a sea of female urban fantasy heroines, Atticus and his crew are a breath of fresh air! Fans of fantasy and urban fantasy will eat this one up, and the good news is that you won’t have to wait for books 2 and 3 to come out. Hexed and Hammered drop in June, and readers will be lining up to get their hands on them! Hounded is a series debut that is absolutely not to be missed! Keep an eye out for my reviews of Hexed and Hammered, coming soon!(less)
When 14 year old Everett Singh watches his father’s kidnapping in front of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, he doesn’t quite know what to do. He’s very sure of what he saw, but the police don’t seem to believe him and his own mother is not even quite sure what to believe. See, Everett’s dad is a theoretical physicist, and it’s possible that he’s discovered something that some people will do anything to get their hands on. When Everett receives a mysterious file on his computer (which he calls Dr. Quantum), he realizes that things are about to get bad, and it will be up to him to save his dad.See, Tejendra Singh has discovered the multiverse; many, many universes running parallel to our own, different versions of Earth, or “planes” (hence the name Planesrunner.) Everett has unlocked the secret to mapping the universes (the Infundibulum), and using an invention called the Heisenberg Gate, scientists are able to travel to these alternate planes. There are 10 (E1-E10) main planes (including our Earth, the newest member) that have been deemed safe for travel, and it turns out that back and forth travel has already begun. Emmissaries from E3 are determined to capture Everett, and he knows that he must travel to their plane to get his father back.
There is really nothing about this book that I didn’t like. As soon as Everett jumps to E3, he heads to the library, where he does a bit of brushing up on this new, alternate London, and finds out that oil has never been used, and electricity is king. Everett calls it Electropunk. He describes E3 as what people in the 30’s imagined our time looking like, and immediately notices the smoky, chemical smell that envelopes him on the streets. After securing some funds by way of a pawnbroker, he takes to the trains, where he meets feisty, beautiful Sen Sixsmyth, who immediately tries to pilfer Dr. Quantum. Sen really means no harm and overwhelmed with loneliness, Everett confides in Sen. It’s soon after that we meet her adopted mother Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth and the crew of the airship Everness. Yep, I said airships. I’m kind of a sucker for a book with airships, and if you are too, you’ll LOVE Planesrunner. When Everett and Sen meet, the book takes off like a rocket. Don’t let the idea of multiple universes scare you. I admit, when I start thinking about stuff like countless parallel universes, my brain begins to ache just a bit, but kinda in a good way, because the thought of it is frankly awesome. In Planesrunner, Everett only explores one, but I’m hoping, and suspect, we’ll get more in the next book. Sen’s world is one of brutality, living by one’s wits, and the hustle and bustle of an alternate London that’s very different from Everett’s, but it’s also one of fierce loyalty, friendship, and swashbuckling adventure. I fell in love with the charming Sen from the get go (and I suspect Everett did too). However, as fun as hanging with the crew of the Everness is, Everett’s ultimate goal is to rescue his father, and he’ll call on his new friends to help. Hampering his efforts is Charlotte Villiers, Planepotentiary (sort of like an ambassador), and stone cold killer, and her cadre of thugs. They’re after Everett at every turn, but Captain Sixsmyth is larger than life, as is her crew, and they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeves. Will Everett rescue his father from the evil Charlotte Villiars, and keep the Infudibulum out of the wrong hands? If I told you, that would spoil all the fun of this wonderful book! You certainly don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this book, and lovers of sci-fi, adventure, and steampunk won’t be able to put it down! Not to be missed!(less)
In Hammered, we rejoin our intrepid hero, Atticus, as he attempts to steal a golden apple for Laksha Kulasekaran, an Indian witch that helped him out during a particularly nasty fight. You’d think riding a giant squirrel named Ratatosk up Yggdrasil (the World Tree), to get to Asgard would be super easy right? I mean, surely the Norns, physical manifestations of fate, that are waiting for Atticus will welcome him with big smiles and a golden apple, right? Riiiiight. Well, of course that’s not what happened, but to tell you would be to ruin it. Suffice it to say, Atticus pisses off a few more powerful folks, which he really doesn’t need since he’s got to help his Viking Vamp lawyer kill Thor. Yep, THE Thor. I love,love, love this series, and Hammered is the best so far. Let’s see, there are giant squirrels, frost giants, Jesus (yeah, Atticus hangs with Jesus, ok?), the Hammers of God (remember those guys?), Valkyries, giant boars, and of course, our beloved Oberon, Irish Wolfhound of awesomeness. We also learn more about how and when Leif was made vampire, and Atticus also tells about the wife he loved for 200 years. Morrigan shows up briefly in Hammered, and I always enjoy encounters between her and Atticus. She beats up on him so much it reminds me of that faery on Scrooged that bitch slapped Bill Murray around, except Morrigan isn’t nearly as jolly. The author’s trademark sarcasm is in fine form here, and there’s a particularly fun scene where Atticus likens Captain Kirk and Spock to the proverbial angel and demon on his shoulder. Hey, Atticus has to run a lot in this one, and he’s got to entertain himself somehow. There’s some game changers in this one though, especially since Atticus decides that it would be best to take his apprentice and Oberon, and get the hell out of Dodge (well, Arizona.) Things are getting way too hot in his kitchen and it’s time to start anew. You’ll be turning pages in warp speed until the final battle, then you won’t be able to turn them fast enough. I have to warn you, though, the ending will leave you with your jaw on the floor. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, run to the bookstore and grab ‘em all, like, now! Mr. Hearne just broke the news that at least 3 more are in the pipeline, and if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, or just a fan of excellent urban fantasy with some of the best writing in the biz, this is the series for you.(less)
Poor Atticus. After the epic battle in Hounded, he just wants to train his new apprentice and tend his Druid grove in peace, but it’s just not in the cards. He’s still cleaning up the demon mess left behind by that battle, and that’s not all. Atticus is asked, by the local witch coven, to take down a group of Bacchants that threaten to turn their patch of Arizona into a seething den of iniquity. He’s also got his Viking vamp lawyer trying to convince him to take down Thor, which he absolutely does not want to get involved with. Then there’s that feisty (and nasty) coven of German witches, and they’re out for his blood…
Hexed is just as awesome as Hounded, and some of my favorite characters are back, and getting lots more play! For example, my favorite Viking vamp Leif is enlisted to help Atticus and the Sisters of the Three Auroras fight that coven of German witches I mentioned earlier. This particular showdown is like the O.K. Corral, but with a Druid, witches, a vamp, golems, goat headed demons, and RPGs. Seriously, RPGs folks! My favorite Irish wolfhound, Oberon, is back and better than ever (I seriously love this dog), and we get a rather memorable visit by the Morrigan (remember the Morrigan?), and get to see her, um, softer side. Yes, the softer side of a death goddess is just as entertaining as it sounds. We also get to spend a bit of quality time with the lovely Brighid, which is always a singular treat! Mr. Hearne’s writing is fast paced and spot on, and really, if you’re like me, you’ll have quite a bit of trouble putting this down in order to get other things done. Like, you know, eating and stuff. Hexed is steeped in magic and wrapped in awesome. It really doesn’t get much better than this! (less)
In six months, earth is going to be hit with an asteroid, estimated to destroy over half of the population of Earth, and Detective Hank Palace thinks he’s probably the only cop left that cares anything about solving cases. Concord, New Hampshire has come to be called “Hanger Town” in reference to the overwhelming suicide of choice of its citizens. When he’s called to the scene of a man that has supposedly hung himself in a McDonald’s bathroom, something just doesn’t look right, and Hank Palace is determined to get to the bottom of it. They’re still not sure where the asteroid will land, but justice must still be served, right?
End of the world scenarios in fiction aren’t hard to come by recently, but out of all of them, the asteroid/meteor/large thing falling out of the sky is one that fascinates me more than others. I imagine getting the news that in a year, or maybe six months, something big is gonna hit, and I’m in the blast zone. Would I go on with life as usual, or would I throw caution to the wind and live out the rest of the days like there’s no tomorrow (which may or may not be true)? Hank Palace is one of the ones who decide to go on as usual, doing his job, and doing it to the best of his ability. All Hank ever wanted to be is a cop, and he pursues this case with a single minded doggedness that is almost unheard of in these strange new times of self-indulgence and wild abandon. He does his job in spite of the quiet snickers and not so subtle ribbing from his colleagues, as things begin to crumble around him. The story is told by Hank, and we follow him as he navigates the trail of the victim, a quiet, socially awkward insurance man. As Hank puts together the clues, following strict procedure, he stumbles onto something much more than a mere hanging, and the body count begins to rise.
The Last Policeman is much more than a police procedural or a pre-apocalyptic scenario. It’s a study of a man determined to do the right thing as society crumbles and hope begins to crumble with it. Hank reminded me a bit of Marge Gunderson, the indomitable police chief in Fargo, and as the case unfolds, so does Hank, and so do the little ins and outs of Concord and its inhabitants. Things in this book are so subtle and understated that the bits of violence can be jarring, even though the violence is never over the top. I think Hank was as surprised about it as I was, yet he perseveres with dignity, and even a bit of off kilter grace. I suspect part of what drives Hank in his investigation is that he sees a bit of himself in the victim, and following through is really the only choice he has. Ben Winters’ writing is nuanced, lovely, sometimes poignant, and a pure pleasure to read. I hope that The Last Policeman gets the attention that it deserves, because it’s a hell of a book and about as close to perfect as it gets for me. I hear that it will be a trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next one!(less)
Cass Dollar is lost and afraid, in a zombie wasteland. After waking up with her hair pulled out, skin flayed and raw, and at a loss as to where she is, she wanders the ruins until she comes across a young girl with a knife. This girl will lead her to a shelter, on of the last human outposts after bioterrorists have decimated the world, and left diseased, skin eating zombies, roaming and devouring. At the shelter she meets Smoke, and he offers to accompany her to find her young daughter, who was lost when Cass was attacked. What comes next is a harrowing journey to find her child, and her battle with the demons within herself.
Yes, Aftertime has zombies. Shambling, flesh-eating, rotting zombies. However, this is not a book about zombies. It’s a book about a broken woman’s journey to redemption. Cass is at once tough and resourceful, yet so raw and tangled inside. A recovering alcoholic, once using her body to quiet the despair within her, Cass must gather her wits in order to get back the one thing that means everything to her: her daughter.
Beautifully written, and emotionally wrenching, Aftertime is a post apocalyptic novel of despair, courage, and redemption that you won’t want to miss. I was riveted until the very last page!(less)
13 year old Stark (Stick) McClellan feels he is ugly because of a deformity (he was born without his right ear) and more than anything worships his 16 year old brother Bosten. Days are spent in school, where he’s quite often bullied, or hanging out with his best friend Emily. He feels like his parents never wanted them, and they’re not the nicest people. When at home, his life is rigid, defined by rules and his parents’ wrath if they aren’t followed, and their wrath can be brutal. When he’s with Bosten or Emily, he’s free, or as free as he can possibly get. Soon, he discovers Bosten is gay, and the fallout that follows his parents finding out prompts Bosten to leave home, but Stick is determined to find him, so he sets out on his own and must brave a sometimes hostile world to find the person he loves the most.
SF/Fantasy readers will probably recognize Andrew Smith from his books The Marbury Lens and Passenger, and while contemporary fiction isn’t something I usually reach for, I thought I’d step out of my comfort zone with Stick. I’m so glad I did. Stick is told in Stark’s voice, which is the voice of a boy whose self -worth is nearly non-existent and doesn’t know the touch of a loving parent. Stick and Bosten’s parents don’t touch in order to give hugs and comfort, only to cause pain. The words of dialogue are spaced out in places to give the reader a sense of how Stick’s hearing loss affects his life, and is actually very effective. This book is a book of change: change in the nature of Stick and Emily’s relationship (Stick is very much aware of his growing attraction to the opposite sex), and of course, the change in the dynamics between the boys and their parents. There are adults in Stick’s life that are kind to him, especially Emily’s parents and until the revelation that Bosten is gay, Bosten’s best friend Paul’s parents. While there is nothing gratuitous, sex is handled very frankly and Smith is refreshingly honest about what goes on between the ears of a teen boy. As the mother of the 8 year old boy, it gave me some insight into the future that while uncomfortable at times, it definitely wasn’t unwelcome, and was enlightening even.
Stick’s quest to find his brother is marked by moments of shocking violence and even more shockingly, to Stick, kindness from strangers that have absolutely nothing to gain and no reason to help him or be kind to him other than that they can. I read most of Stick with a lump in my throat, on the verge of tears for this boy who feels he isn’t worthy of love, but is loved, just not by the two people who should be his place of safety. There are very dark moments, but moments of such bright hope that they eclipse the darkness: his time with Emily and her parents, the days spent with local kids when visiting his Aunt Dahlia in California, and of course, the unwavering love of his brother. Teens looking for stories about love, loyalty and self acceptance will find much to love here, as will adults looking for not only a window into the teen mind, but also a wonderful story that’s nearly impossible to put down. Smith doesn’t use a mallet to get his message across. He doesn’t need to. His characters speak for themselves in subtle, heartbreaking ways. I wept for Stick, and rooted for him. Stick is a special book, and in the right hands, it can be a transformative one.(less)
A witch, and elf, and a pixie go on a roadtrip… Sounds like the start of a bad joke, right? Well, it’s not, it’s the basic premise of Kim Harrison latest Hollows novel, Pale Demon, which is anything but basic. Trent Kalamack needs Rachel to do him a “favor” and get him to Seattle in one piece. Rachel needs Trent to back her up at a coven meeting, where she is hoping to have her shunning rescinded, and Jenks, Rachel’s trusted partner and dear friend, is along for the ride. Throw Ivy, Rachel’s beautiful, and lethal, vampire friend into the mix, and you’ve got the recipe for a roller coaster ride of magical proportions!
Jenks gets pixie-napped in the desert, the gang tangles with a very nasty day-walking demon, the coven is on a mission to assassinate Rachel before she can get to her hearing, and Rachel finds out that Trent may not have been completely honest with her about just why it is that he needs to get to Seattle. Pale Demon is nonstop action from the start, and unlike other series,where things can start to flag at this point (9 books in), it’s just as good or even better than the previous books. Rachel has always had a bit of a struggle with her identity, but never more so than in Pale Demon. She uses dark magic for good ends, but the coven doesn’t condone dark magic of any kind, and Rachel desperately doesn’t want to be labeled a Black witch. She’ll have to come to grips with who she is, or an entire world could be destroyed. Kim Harrison has made me cry before with this series, but Pale Demon was an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. The author is a pro, her characterizations are perfect, and her ability to balance a complicated, emotional plot with just the right amount of action, is part of why I love this series. Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, Bis, Pierce and even Al and Trent are like family to me, and reading a Hollows novel is like coming home. I can’t wait to follow Rachel into her next adventure! (less)
After her last adventure,our favorite OCD cat burglar and vamp,Raylene Pendle,is settling into domestic bliss (yeah right),with Ian Stott,the blind vampire that she’d like to be more than friends with,and her two pet humans,Domino and Pepper,street kids,and brother and sister that she’s taken under her wing. Raylene’s longtime contact,Horace Bishop,has a job for her,and just when she thinks she’s gotten away from the “weird jobs”,Horace wants her to steal a collection of,er,penis bones (aka Bakula) from various supes,like weres,gryphons,and unicorns,from the owner who was not willing part with them. Evidently these relics are used in all kinds of spells and rituals,and Horace is desperate to get his hands on them. When Raylene discovers that a brilliant,schizophrenic ex-NASA scientist is using them for her own mysterious reasons,Raylene begins to identify with her,and the more she learns,the more she wants to help her,in spite of her constant resistance to human attachment. Add that to her attempts to untangle Ian from the politics of his House,her growing feelings for him,and desperation to keep him by her side,and you’ve certainly got a recipe for fun,er,disaster! Hellbent is certainly not short of adventure,and when Raylene asks Adrian,ex-Navy SEAL and fabulous drag queen extraordinaire,to accompany her to Atlanta,to act as her ghoul and confront Barrington House (one of the most dangerous Houses in existence),things really get tense.
One of my favorite things about Raylene is that her tough as nails exterior hides her inner vulnerability. She’s very OCD,so she’s drawn to weaknesses in others,and it definitely brings out a “mommy” quality in her,no matter how much she tries to protest that this is the case. I just get more and more attached to Adrian,and Ian is like a gorgeous piece of art that I’d like to admire from afar (not Raylene,though,she wants to admire him way up close,but I digress…). There are a ton of upheavals in Raylene’s life in Hellbent,and she certainly deals with everything in her own unique,anal way,but that’s one of the things I love most about her. She’s a tough nut,yes,but there is a gooey center in there,it just takes certain things to get through to it. In Raylene,Ms. Priest has created a very complex character that’s at once tough and vulnerable,and sweet and salty,then surrounded her with a fascinating cast of characters that leave plenty of possibilities open for future story lines. It’s rare for a vampire character to leave me with the warm and fuzzies,but Raylene manages it,and the conclusion to Hellbent will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!(less)
Since the events of Green-Eyed Demon, Sabina’s twin sister, Maisie, is still reeling from her horrific ordeal and Sabina is having issues dealing with it as well, not to mention her new resolution not to drink blood from humans. However, Sabina is happy with her mage boyfriend Adam and is relieved that she’s not on the run anymore from her nasty grandmother, and super-vamp, Lavinia Kane. Maisie’s issues aside, life should be good for Sabina, right? Wellll, not so much. See, for the sake of her and Adam’s relationship, Sabina has put aside her vamp nature to concentrate on her newly discovered mage talents. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but denying her dark side is beginning to take its toll. When Adam and Sabina are asked by the powers-that-be to find out who has killed a human and a mage, Sabina reluctantly admits (to herself), that the challenge is just what she needs to get out of her rut, until she finds out that Alexis, former vamp Enforcer (what Sabina used to be) will also be helping them out. Alexis is a walking cliché and there were plenty of times that I wanted to slap her (you’ll see what I mean), but she certainly provides some color. See, it’s suspected that someone is challenging Slade (remember Slade? Hotness INC?) for control of the New York area, and conflict involving Slade is most definitely stress that Sabina doesn’t need, especially after their last tryst (which was super hot, btw). I’ll admit, Adam is nice, and he loves Sabina, but damn that Slade is the hotness and sometimes I’d love to be able to pull Sabina aside (you know ,in urban fantasy bookland), and whisper “Slade. Slade. Slade”…but I digress. What all of this amounts to is a ton of stress for Sabina, and also constant worry for Maisie, who is expected to deliver a prophecy at the upcoming peace treaty signing (and is acting rather strangely, even for someone that’s been through the kind of trauma that she has). Remember, the peace treaty that will assure peace among the dark races? Yep, it’s a huge thing, and everyone is under pressure to produce and perform, and Sabina is no exception.
On the bright side, Giguhl, our favorite demon minion is always by Sabina’s side, and his unshaking devotion to Sabina is one of the most enduring things about this series. He’s dealing with some stuff of his own though, namely involving one cross-dressing, cabaret singing fairy, but he’s also organizing a roller derby team (since the Demon Fight Club snafu), which offers some levity to the story, and many giggles (heh, giggles for Mr. Giggles:). The author puts poor Sabina through the emotional ringer in this one, and some twists will cause your jaw to drop (at least, they did mine). There are lots of changes for our heroine and her friends, and Ms. Wells doesn’t hesitate to pile the conflict on. But Sabina is up to it, even as she fights her own guilt and personal demons, not to mention her constant struggle to find herself. This series just keeps getting better and better, and you’ll find yourself turning the pages of Silver-Tongued Devil with the speed of a blood thirsty vamp (sorry, couldn’t help it). Trust me, by the time you finish this one, you’ll be more than ready for Blue-Blooded Vamp to hit the shelves in 2012!(less)
I am a HUGE fan of this series, so of course I was anxious to dig in to #5! It’s been a couple of years since Document #4 (The Spellmans Strike Again), and Isabel (Izzy) Spellman a PI with her families private investigation firm, is (somewhat) settled in with her boyfriend (aka Ex-Boyfriend #13) Henry Stone, her much younger sister Rae is still up to no good, and her parents are acting strangely, particularly her mother, who all of a sudden seems very interested in taking as many pottery/language/crocheting etc. courses she can fit into her schedule, and the dreaded Grammy Spellman has dropped in for a visit. All of this is pretty normal for the Spellmans, but if you’re familiar with this series, you already know that, with them, nothing is ever what it seems.
In The Trail of the Spellmans, Izzy’s smart, dry humor is still on full display, but there is a sadness about her in this one that seems more prominent. Izzy has always been a bit aimless, but at 34, she’s watching everyone around her get on with their lives, whether it be job, family, etc. Her brother David, always so perfectly put together (not so much these days), is now a stay at home dad to his 18 month old daughter Sydney, and his lawyer wife, Maggie (Henry’s ex) seems a bit frustrated with his obsession with Sydney’s learning, and there’s a rift between David and Rae all of a sudden. Izzy has been with Henry for a while and knows that he’s got something serious on his mind, but, being the queen of avoidance and evasion that she is (seriously, it’s a talent), Izzy tries to make sure she’s anywhere but the house that they share, much to my frustration! I want so badly for Izzy to find love, and the author is amazing at stretching out the tension to handwringing levels. Don’t worry, she keeps you plenty distracted with the goings on of the Spellman clan, and the cases they’ve taken on. You think your family is weird? Trust me, they’re nothing compared with this group.
The Spellmans can be a frustrating group, but they’re also a loving group. Through everything (and there’s plenty), you never once doubt their love for each other, and their hearts are as big as their propensity for snooping (ie huge.) The clients and cases are entertaining, as always, but it’s the Spellmans that are the stars of this series. This one felt like a turning point, maturity wise, for Izzy, and our favorite hard drinking PI certainly does a bit of dreaded soul searching. Where this will lead, who knows, but I do know for sure that I’ll always be along for the ride. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, I suggest you start at The Spellman Files and work your way up. You don’t have to, but you will get attached to these characters (all of them), seriously, and it makes each book that much richer, better, funnier, you name it. And yes, you will laugh, loud and often. I drive my husband crazy reading aloud to him from these books. They’re just too damn good not to share, and you should do just that. Snag a copy of each one, read them, then share them. You don’t have to love mysteries to love the Spellmans, and you’ll identify with at least one member of this crazy family. Packed with great writing, biting wit, fun mysteries, and the utter, chaotic joy that is the Spellman clan, this is a series you don’t want to miss!(less)
Juno Mozambe is gonna take KOP (Koba Office of Police) back, and the first step is taking over protection of a brothel that Emil Mota (Juno’s arch enemy) has already claimed. With a motley crew of dirty cops, and an ex-prostitute/bodyguard named Maria, Juno takes a stand against the nightly riots that accompany rolling blackouts that plunge the city of Koba into darkness. When Muto gets wind of this, he’s not amused, and Juno’s intimidation tactics aren’t working against him anymore. When the men of Juno’s crew begin turning up slaughtered in the most brutal ways, Juno knows he’s up against someone, and something, bigger than Muto. Along with his former partner (and honest cop) Maggie, he vows to get to the bottom of it, before another man dies, and KOP is corrupt for good.
There were a few times when I thought I knew where Kop Killer was going. I so didn’t. Really didn’t. Kop Killer is the third in a series featuring Juno Mozambe, but if you haven’t read the first two, that’s ok, because the author does a great job on catching you up on events without info dump, although you might miss out on some of the emotional resonance gained from reading the first two. Kop Killer is a wonderful mashup of police procedural, (very) dark noir, and some of the creepiest sci fi you’ll ever read. There’s humor here too, of the blackest kind, and you may find your mouth twisting into a slow, grim smile, since it kind of creeps up on you. Koba is a humid, sticky, fly and lizard ridden, leafy green mess of a city and it’s such a part of the narrative, it’s almost its own character. As Juno gets deeper into the gruesome murderers that seem to stick to him like flies (couldn’t help it), even the jaded ex-cop can’t believe how depraved this killer is. We’re talking shape shifters (not what you thinks), a creepy doctor performing the most awful of experiments (just…ugh), and a group of cops so corrupt your mind will spin. I love my gray heroes, and Juno fits firmly in with the best of them. His heart is in the right place, even as things fall to pieces around him, and he’s fiercely loyal. It will certainly take someone like Juno to bring down KOP and make things better for the people of Koba, and I promise you’ll enjoy this dark and scary ride!(less)
I'd like to start off by saying that I have been a fan of T. Jefferson Parker since I was about 15 and got my hands on my parent's copy of Laguna Heat, so about 20 years now. Since then, he's been on my autobuy, and he's gotten better and better with each subsequent release. He is a three-time Edgar Award winning author, and is frankly a master of his genre. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Dutton kindly sent me a copy of The Border Lords for review!
Gushing aside, The Border Lords is a wonderful, heartbreaking installment in the Charlie Hood series. The book opens with Charlie Hood observing three North Baja Cartel assassins on hidden cameras installed in a "safe house" set up by the ATF. In front of his team's eyes, the camera feed is lost and upon arriving at the safe house, the bodies of the three assassins are found dead. Suspicion is immediately cast on Sean Ozburn, and agent that has been deep undercover with the ATF for nearly 18 months. The only problem is, they haven't heard from Oz in 6 days. His only contact is disturbing videos and increasingly strange emails sent to his wife.
What follows is the hunt for a man that is spiraling into disillusionment and madness, driven by his frustration with what he feels is a hopeless cause. He is sick in body and mind, a good man who's faith has been tested time and time again. Yes, The Border Lords is a crime novel, with fascinating insight into the lives of agents that go deep undercover to bring down the murdering cartels running drugs,guns, and money across the border. First and foremost, however, it's a novel about the intense love between a man and his wife, and the bonds of friendship.
Parker is a master of subtlety, and what makes his writing great is in his beautiful dialogue, his use of setting and place (the stark beauty of the Southern California desert) to create a feeling, and the treatment of his characters, unflinching, raw, and sometimes heartbreaking. I read this book in a day and I highly recommend it to anyone that loves beautiful writing and a good mystery.(less)
I should totally be ashamed. I read Midnight Reckoning before reading Dark Awakening, the first book in the series, but it turns out that’s ok! There are characters in Midnight that are from Dark Awakening, but the book certainly stands on its own, so no worries. The stars of Midnight Reckoning are Jaden Harrison and Lyra Black. Jaden is a Cait Sidh and a vampire, so yes, that makes him a shape shifting vamp who spends a bit of time as a rather large cat. Purrrrr. Lyra, on the other hand, is a werewolf. So, both are shapeshifters, but that’s where the similarities end. When Lyra is attacked by an overly amorous were with a mean streak, Jaden happens to be on hand for a rescue, but Lyra is less than thrilled. See, it’s time for Lyra to be matched to her mate (weres bond for life), and her dad, the Thorn Pack’s Alpha, is determined to find her the perfect strong match, but Lyra has other ideas. Lyra is determined to compete in the Proving, which could give Lyra a chance at Alpha. However, were packs aren’t so forward conscious in their thinking where women are concerned, and the chances of this happening are slim to none. Lyra is stubborn though, so her father hires Jaden to teach her his fighting moves, in order to give her a better chance of survival. I think we both know where this is going, don’t we?
I loved this book. Flat out loved it. I couldn’t stop thinking “Romeo and Juliet” while reading it, and I fell in love with both Jaden and Lyra’s characters almost immediately. Jaden is a 200 year old vampire that cooks, and there’s a vulnerability about him that is just heartwrenching, especially since he’s spent quite a bit of time as a slave in the hands of the Ptolemy. Speaking of which… There are hierarchies of vamps, with each being able to change into different animals (cat, bat, etc), and the leader of the Ptolemy, Arsinoe, is one mean mamma, and she’s a little ticked that a bunch of her cats have run off with a new leader (Book 1 covers this, I promise). She’s not above sending assassins out for any wayward kitties that she may want back, and this provides a nice subplot (not to mention some pretty nifty fighting scenes.) Lyra is stubborn, smart-mouthed, and strong of will, but there’s something about Jaden that she just can’t resist (this won’t be hard for you to believe, trust me), but it’s kind of like that line in Ghostbusters, remember? Something about dogs and cats living together? In the world of the weres, it’s Just. Not. Done. Vampires aren’t so picky about it, but if Jaden and Lyra’s relationship is revealed, she pretty much might as well sign her own banishment papers. Kendra Leigh Castle creates a fascinating world populated by some of the coolest cats (literally), the toughest weres, and the wiliest vamps that I’ve read about in a long time. She keeps the pace up, and you’ll keep wanting to read “one more chapter.” I mean, come on…shape shifting vamps? Yes, please!! Like I said, I started with this one first, and the author does a great job of bringing you up to speed on the events so far, but it never hurts to start with Dark Awakening. I finished this one, and immediately reached for it-that’s how much I wanted to dive back into Kendra Leigh Castle’s awesome world. Paranormal romance fans will love this, but urban fantasy fans will like it too, I think, since it has enormous crossover appeal (in my opinion). Snag a copy as soon as you can, seriously, and grab Dark Awakening while you’re at it!(less)
Well, I was afraid that Wither wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I really did find myself enjoying this strange, creepy, and lyrical novel. In a future where boys only live until their 25th birthday, and girls only live to 20, 16 year old twins Rhine and Rowan Ellery live a tenuous existence after their geneticist parents are killed in a lab explosion. Human DNA tampering , in an effort to create “perfect” humans, has created a virus that now causes people to live a fraction of their former life expectancy.
One night, Rhine is kidnapped by Gatherers, men tasked with stealing brides for wealthy landowners so that they can hopefully breed healthy, virus-free children. In Rhine’s case, she is taken to the home of Linden Vaughn, and his eccentric (and creepy crawly inducing) father, who is a doctor that claims to be working on a cure for the virus. Along with her sister wives, 13 yr. old Cecily and 18 yr. old Jenna, Rhine enters a world of wealth and priviledge, but soon discovers that this gilded cage is just that, a prison of terrifying proportions. As she watches her world fall apart around her, and misses her brother, she begins to plan her escape, at any cost.
Wither is written wonderfully, and the author left quite a bit to the imagination, which is a good thing, and goes a long way toward fostering the creepy, rather claustrophobic, atmosphere intended with the insular environment she created. Rhine narrates the story, and manages to convey the terror, fear, and frustration she feels on a daily basis, interspersed with moments of genuine joy and happiness. At times she starts to lose herself, and it’s those times that made me think about the power of our environment, and how we’re shaped. There’s even a hint of romance as Rhine begins to form a relationship with a servant named Gabriel, who she enlists to help her plot her eventual escape. I fell in love with Rhine, and the strong willed, street savvy Jenna. I even fell for the young, naïve Cicely, who, raised in an orphanage, never knew love and readily clung to the illusion of security and “home” that was presented to her on a silver platter upon arriving at the mansion. I urge you to give this one a try! I’ll be looking forward to more from Lauren DeStefano!(less)
I wasn’t sure about this one to start. Don’t get me wrong, Tempest Maguire is charming, and I love the California setting (ocean, beach boys, surfin’ hotties, oh my!), but it had its foot firmly in teenland. It is a YA novel, after all, so that’s ok, but sometimes my 34 year old self has trouble going quite that far back. Then of course you have the boyfriend/girlfriend on-again/off-again angst and the ubiquitous love triangle. There’s Mark, the boy that Tempest has known for years, comfortable, protective, and oh-so-safe. Then we meet Kai, who rises out of the ocean like the otherworldly hottie that, of course, he is. Instant attraction between Tempest and Kai ensues, Mark spits fire in jealousy, and we’re off!
Tempest is turning 17, and for most of us, that means, usually, another year of high school (hopefully relatively painless), and enjoying dating and friends. For Tempest, it means she’s grown gills and may or may not be turning into a mermaid. She also has to make the decision to go mermaid and take to the ocean, or stay human…or does she? When Kai gets pulled under the ocean by a sea witch, Tempest goes after him, and this is where the book really took off for me!
When I was 19, I went to Cozumel, Mexico, and remember how amazing the water was, a whole other world of beauty unfolding underneath me. I had no trouble imagining the wonder that Tempest felt as she descended the ocean depths and discovered an entire underwater city, full of beings that she’d only imagined! Tempest Rising is told in first person from Tempest’s POV, and the author writes a relatively believable 16-going-on-17 voice. Teens will love this book, because, let’s face it, what teen girl wouldn’t want to A) Live on the beach in California (in a house with lots of glass, better to enjoy the ocean views) B)Have a former pro surfer dad that now has a highly successful surf and clothing line C)Have lots of hottie surfer guy friends (with two of them fighting over you) and D) Yes, you’d have gills, but…underwater cities! Awesome tattoos that appear by themselves! I realize I sound flip, but Tempest Rising is chock full of stuff that teen girls will adore, and I’ll be honest, I enjoyed too! This, er, not-teen girl had loads of fun with Tempest’s imaginative story, and also the pleasure of reading a novel where there wasn’t a werewolf or vampire in sight! Blasphemy, I know, and while I loves me some were and vamp fun, sometimes a break is nice, and Tempest Rising was a refreshing teen fantasy! (less)
After her death in 1999, 18 year old Amelia has existed in limbo, her spirit haunting the only place she knows; the river under High Bridge Road. When Joshua Mayhew accidently drives his car off of the bridge, Amelia saves him, but not until after he dies for a brief moment. Now Joshua can see Amelia, and in an instant, a bond forms between them. Amelia can remember nothing of her life, but in spending time with Joshua, she begins to remember, and he’s eager to help her regain some idea of who she was before she died. When the dark, sly Eli appears, hinting to Amelia that her soul may just belong in a darker place, among other lost souls, he threatens to tear Amelia away from Joshua, and brings up questions about her entire existence, and the nature of her death.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tara Hudson’s debut novel. Told from the perspective of Amelia, the narrative is well paced and fits the story perfectly. We go along with Amelia as she falls in love with Joshua, discovers who she was in life, and more importantly, who she is in death. We also experience her feelings of helplessness as the conniving Eli attempts to pull Amelia into his dark world. The story unfolds perfectly and certainly kept me turning the pages. Amelia’s sweet romance with Joshua will certainly appeal to teens (and me too!), and there was plenty of mystery to keep the suspense going. I will most definitely look forward to Ms. Hudson’s next novel!(less)
It’s been years since Darri’s sister Callie was taken to Ghostland to marry the prince and solidify a political relationship between their people. Darri blames herself every day for allowing Callie to be taken away, and vows to bring her home. When Darri turns 17 and her father decides to offer her as the prince’s bride instead, she sees her chance to rescue Callie and bring her home for good. Instead, when Darri and her brother arrive in Ghostland, nothing is as it seems, and Darri could never have guessed that maybe Callie doesn’t want to be rescued.
I really enjoyed this novel! This was my introduction to Leah Cypess and I was so glad I picked it up! Ms. Cypess creates a world where the living and the dead live side by side, in not so perfect harmony, court intrigue abounds, and no one can be trusted! Lost of adventure, and a hint of romance round out a very nicely crafted fantasy! I’ll definitely be back for more from this author! (less)
M.J. Putney’s debut YA novel is an absolute delight that I devoured in one sitting! When 16 year old Lady Victoria “Tory” Mansfield’s magic powers are exposed during a life or death situation, she is exiled to Lackland Abbey, where mages are said to be “cured” so they can return to their wealthy families to regain a small semblance of their dignity. In 1803, magic use is frowned upon by the upper echelons, while the middle and lower class thinks nothing of using powers they consider a privilege to have. Once at Lackland, Tory discovers a group of rebels determined to develop their magic so they may be of service to England during the threat of invasion from Napolean’s forces. When she joins with this courageous group of students, she will learn what it means to be needed, and realizes that the home and life she hoped to return to may not be her destiny.
Dark Mirror was such a great read, and Ms. Putney adds an exciting twist that will keep you turning the pages until the very end. Full of magic, adventure, and a dash of romance, against a lush 19th century setting, and the chaos of WWII England, Dark Mirror will please readers of all ages. Tory is a lovely heroine, and I loved getting to know her new friends at Lackland Abbey. I’m notoriously picky when it comes to YA, and I loved it.(less)
After his mother is killed in a freak accident, 16 yr old Joey Crouch is sent to live with the father he never knew in rural Iowa. Devastated and shell-shocked, Joey is further disheartened to learn that his father is known locally as “The Garbage Man” and lives in a filthy, smelly shack. Tormented at every turn by school bullies, Joey struggles to find his place. When he finally learns exactly what it is that his father does for a living, he is at once horrified and fascinated, and realizes his life is about to change forever.
Rotters is a hard book to classify. It’s listed as YA, but has themes that might be a bit beyond a younger reader. I would most definitely recommend it to older teens. It will take someone with a fairly strong stomach to get through some of the passages, but the writing is superb, and Kraus’ take on teenage angst is probably a lot closer to the truth than most parents would like to think. Joey is absolutely tortured at school. Some of the things he’s subjected to horrified me at times, but, as I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of thing happens to kids on a daily basis. Kids are cruel, and that cruelty is part of what drives Joey to embrace the unusual lifestyle that his father has chosen. Joey’s dad is a Digger, part of a long, rich history of grave robbers, and after Joey follows him to a job one night, he starts accompanying his father on digs, and is drawn into a world unlike which he’s never known. To his surprise, Joey discovers an affinity for the trade, and there begins his adventure. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and was fascinated right through to the shocking ending!
Kraus manages to take an unusual, taboo subject and turn it into a fascinating, horrifying, and sometimes heartwrenching read. When Joey was being tormented at school, I felt it. When he labors over his first dig, fingers bleeding, body aching, drenched with sweat, I was there. I imagined I could smell the grave rot, and the stench that clung to Joey and his father after a job, and permeated their house. Kraus is that good. If you haven’t discovered this writer yet, what, exactly, are you waiting for? (less)
I don’t want to live in the world that Mira Grant described in Feed, and now in Deadline.
I don’t want to live in a house that has tiny windows, so that anything about 40lbs can’t get through, or have to endure blood tests at every entry or exit.
I don’t want to never again experience the joy of an open air concert or festival.
I don’t want to not be able to offer comfort to a stranger by giving them a hug, or holding their hand.
I don’t want to live in a world where I might have to shoot someone I love to save them from a fate worse than death.
This is the world put forth by the author, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Almost 30 years after the cure for the common cold turned into hell on wheels, the world is still recovering from the devastation. Some parts of the world will never be reclaimed, and the effects of this disease roam the wilds, seeking to infect and feed. In Deadline, news blogger Shaun Mason is our narrator, and still hasn’t recovered from events that affected him and his team in the worst possible way. When a CDC doctor fakes her own death and shows up, asking for his help, all hell breaks loose…again. He’s now on a mission to uncover a vast government conspiracy that could affect the whole of humanity and will uncover secrets that will certainly change his life, and those he cares for, forever...and he has nothing to lose.
If you haven’t yet discovered this superb series by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), then you’re in for a wild ride. Feed and Deadline feature some of the best post-apocalyptic writing that I’ve read, hands down. Not just zombie books, these novels explore the nature of fear in all its forms and will take you on an emotional roller coaster that will haunt you for days after you’ve stopped reading. The characterizations are phenomenal, and the attention to detail is no less than it was in Feed. Sometimes it’s hard to follow up such amazing work, and sometimes second novels in a series suffer a bit. Not Deadline. It’s just as good as Feed, and you’ll find yourself plowing through this 600+ page novel in no time. I missed quite a bit of sleep finishing this one up. Was it worth it? Totally. (less)
Hurricane Katrina is coming, and Drusilla Jaco is battening down the hatches. Well, as much as she can. She’s gone to stay with her grandmother, out of the danger zone, but her mentor, Gerry St. Simon has stayed behind to weather the storm. When she finds out that he’s gone missing, she heads back to New Orleans to find him, and gets much more than she bargains for.
Drusilla is a junior wizard, and her specialty is physical magic (potions and such). As she combs through the wreckage of her mentor’s house, she’s at a loss as to how to go about finding him, and when the handsome and very capable Alex Warin shows up, claiming to be her new partner, all bets are off. Royal Street managed to surprise me in almost every way, which in an increasingly crowded genre, is getting harder and harder to do. Drusilla reminded me very much of Sookie Stackhouse (minus the mind reading.) She’s empathic, and does have quite a bit of magical talent, but in this first book, she’s still very much finding her way. When Alex bursts onto the scene, in the midst of a battle with undead pirate Jean Lafitte, you’d think that sparks would immediately fly and a romance would be inevitable, yes? Well, not so fast. Alex is undeniably hot, and his protective nature is certainly attractive, but there are more important things to worry about, namely some decidedly voodoo tinged murders plaguing the city and of course, the search for her mentor, Gerry. Then there’s Alex’s cousin Jake, who owns the local bar, is ex-military, and is refreshingly “normal”, which is an undeniable attraction for Drusilla. And Jake is certainly attracted to her too.
The setting of post Katrina NOLA is also a character in and of itself, and adds nicely to the atmosphere of this sparkling debut. Ms. Johnson’s writing is very polished and the pace of the novel is compelling without being too urgent. The characters get to know one another, and genuine friendships are formed, and one-sidedness is not to be found. Even the seemingly diabolical Jean Lafitte has a “better side”. I loved her concept of the Beyond, where the undead, the dead, and other supernatural beings make their home, and it will provide plenty of material for future novels. I, for one, want to explore Old Orleans more and get to know its colorful inhabitants better. Add to the mix characters right out of NOLA’s jazz age, shape shifters, plenty of magic, and compelling storytelling, and you’ve got the recipe for a great read! I identified with Drusilla immensely and can’t wait to follow her on her next adventure!(less)
Sabina Kane, half vamp, half mage, and all kick-ass, is locked and loaded. Her grandmother, head vamp Lavinia Kane, wants her dead, and the feeling is mutual! Granny-from-Hell isn't the only one that wants her dead. An evil sect, the Caste of Nod, believes that Sabina is destined to unite the dark races, which would really put a damper on their plans to bring back the queen bitch herself, Lilith. Lavinia Kane has also taken one of the things that means the most to Sabina, her twin sister, Maisie. It will take everything Sabina's got to hunt down Lavinia and save her sister. With sexy mage Adam and loyal demon minion Giguhl at her side, what can go wrong? Right?
Green-Eyed Demon was hands down my favorite of the first three Sabina Kane books. Ms. Wells ratchets up the action to a feverish pace, and much of the story is set in New Orleans, which adds a rich, magic infused setting. This book has it all; faeries, weres, horny demon minions, vamps, mages, drag queens, zombies, voodoo, steamy romance, and did I say drag queens? Pulse pounding, action packed, with Ms. Wells' trademark snark, Green-Eyed Demon had me frantically turning the pages until the very end! (less)
Kitty the werewolf is back in another great adventure from Carrie Vaughn! I’ve been a fan of this series for what seems like forever, and since this is Book 9, it’s been a few years! The Kitty series is one of those series that each time I pick up a new book, I feel like I’ve come home. I’m so in love with the characters and the world that each book is a much anticipated gem. Kitty’s Big Trouble is no exception! In Kitty’s Big Trouble, Kitty’s come across clues that may indicate William Tecumseh Sherman may have been a werewolf! If this is true, the implications could be huge! How many historical figures, especially war figures, were secretly werewolves, and what would that mean for us? While chasing the trail, Kitty comes across an ancient vampire in Dodge City, wearing a powerful amulet. Unfortunately, this amulet leads Kitty, her husband Ben (also a werewolf), and friend (and vamp hunter) Cormac, straight to an old enemy; one of themost powerful, and evil, vampires that Kitty’s ever dealt with. The trio travel to Chinatown to help their friend (and vampire) Anastasia, recover a powerful talisman from this old foe, and are lead into a hotbed of magic and Chinese mysticism.
Kitty’s Big Trouble is just a great adventure all the way around. Ms. Vaughn takes us into the underground tunnels beneath Chinatown where we’re introduced to powerful new friends, and foes. The authors pacing is wonderful, as always, and since these novels are told from Kitty’s POV, the action is always heated and immediate. Kitty and Ben’s romance and closeness always add warmth to the story, and the sexy, mysterious Cormac is always a welcome presence. Chinese mythology takes center stage in this installment, and you’ll be fascinated at the world underneath Chinatown. We also learn about Anastasia’s fascinating past, and meet some intriguing new friends. There’s plenty of rich back story in this series, but Kitty’s Big Trouble focused on the action, which is part of why this series is one of my favorites. Carrie Vaughn knows when to take a break in character development, spotlight what a great team Kitty, Ben, and Cormac make, then come back to the great character stuff in a later novel. To me, that’s what keeps a great series going! Carrie Vaughn hasn’t missed the mark for me yet, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kitty and the gang!(less)
I’m a big fan of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series and of course, her Morganville Vampire Series, so when I found out she had a brandy new one coming out, I was very excited! Working Stiff is a big departure from her other series. There’s not a bit of magic to be found, for one, and it definitely veers into light sci-fi territory (which is totally cool with me.) Bryn Davis is a 26 year old Iraqi War vet who takes a job as a funeral director, a job that doesn’t suit many, but since the dead don’t bother her, she thinks it might be a good fit. If the owner seems a bit off, and there’s a creep working as the downstairs man, well, Bryn’s no stranger to handling herself, so no big deal, right? Things seem to be going along alright until she’s held at gunpoint by an unknown intruder and realizes that there might be a lot more going on at Fairview then just funerals. During the melee, Bryn is suffocated to death, and resurrected using a highly valuable new drug involving nanotechnology. She’s not a zombie, she’s just in a permanent state of stasis, that must be maintained by the drug. She’s immediately recruited by Pharmadene to help them find out who’s been supplying the drug to the funeral home. If she doesn’t help them, her supply of the drug that’s keeping her alive will be cut off, and she needs a shot every day. Can you imagine it? If she doesn’t get her shot, she will begin to decompose and eventually, die. Yeah, not a pretty thought, and one that Bryn gets very close and personal to at one point in the book.
Ms. Caine spends much of the first half of Working Stiff setting up Bryn’s world. I really enjoyed the fact that Bryn, who certainly knows her way around a gun, and combat, from the military, she’s not a superhuman chick. In fact, she’s very, very human, and her new condition highlights that even more. There are two men helping her in her mission for Pharmadene; Joe Fideli and Patrick McCallister. They both have their own agendas separate from Pharmadene, and at first, Bryn is unsure of who she can trust. Don’t worry, she’ll soon learn, and her attraction to McCallister made for a nice little emotional push and pull that lasted the length of the book. Working Stiff reminded me a bit of early Dean Koontz (this is a good thing.) It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but if you know his work, you might know what I mean. There’s plenty of action and things really kick into high gear (seriously, she brings the awesome) in the second half. It didn’t emotionally engage me like the Weather Wardens, but it’s a completely different novel. I like Bryn,and I’ll look forward to seeing where Ms.Caine takes her. Working Stiff is a fun start to a brand new series!(less)
Ephraim Scott’s life could be better. He comes home to find his mother unconscious with pills all over the floor, and realizes that she thinks he’s dead. A trip to the hospital confirms that a boy his age has indeed been killed in a bus accident; a boy that happens to look just like him, and has a library card with his name on it. Ok, maybe the library made a mistake, and hasn’t it been said that everyone has a twin somewhere? Ephraim could live with these explanations, until he finds the coin, and the note telling him to flip it and make a wish. What can possibly go wrong, right?
The ways that things can go wrong are pretty much endless in Fair Coin, author EC Myers’s debut novel. At first, after Eph makes a wish on the coin, things seem to be better. He wishes that his mother wasn’t so messed up, and waking up to the smell of bacon and coffee, his mom in the kitchen getting ready for her office job (instead of a job at the local ShopRite), is most certainly a step in the right direction. Then there’s the girl he’s crazy about, the geeky cool Jena. Maybe wishing she’d like him would help steer things in the right direction, yes? When things start changing for the worst, namely some alarming (and violent) changes in his best friend Nathan, Ephraim decides to get rid of the coin, with disastrous results.
I liked Eph. Really, I did. In spite of him being a pretty horny teen (a nice pair of, um, lungs, could distract him like you wouldn’t believe), he really did try to do the right thing, even when things started going to hell. And boy did they. Let’s put it this way, the coin is no monkey’s paw (you know, magic talisman, three wishes?), although it may remind you of one. Actually, the coin is part of something much bigger, and much more complex than Eph could have imagined. Ultimately, he learns that every time he uses the coin, he’s transported into a parallel universe. Yep, we’re talking multiworlds and quantum physics (and doppelgangers!). I love stories like this that deal in some pretty fascinating science, while throwing in a ton of adventure. Things move very, very fast, and once Eph and the gang start hopping all over the place (parallel universes!), it can be a bit difficult to keep up with. I did find that, instead of stopping to try to collate everything , just go with the flow of the story. Seriously, it totally works. It really gives you no chance to catch your breath, and even though Eph is the main character, that Jena is a scene eater, and she doesn’t take Eph’s crap. Kudos to strong female characters! But I digress… A truly scary, psychotic villain rounds out the cast of characters and this is one ride you won’t soon forget. Things never get too deep with the characters, but if you’re looking for a fun, nonstop read, you’ll enjoy this. Good thing Quantum Coin, the 2nd in the series, comes out in October, because if this crackling debut is any indication, it’s gonna be a humdinger of a sequel!(less)
Shiarra is keeping busy with her PI business and planning a few days vacation with her boyfriend (and werewolf) Chaz. Wrenches are already being tossed into the works, however, when she begins getting messages from Royce and the White Hats that indicate something big might be going down, and a certain pesky reporter waylays her outside of her office with similar cryptic indications. Chaz and Shia head to a ski retreat in the Catskills, hoping for a fun getaway as well as a place for the Sunstrikers to enjoy some freedom. Their idyllic vacation takes a turn when their room is trashed and threatening notes keep appearing .Shia is resolved to get to the bottom of the harassment, much to Chaz’s chagrin, and when she’s kidnapped by one of the pack, all hell breaks loose. Ms. Haines brought her A-game with DTBO. Shia still feels like a fish out of water with the pack, but she’s not afraid to stand her ground (sometimes with disastrous results). Challenged on all sides by pack members that don’t like her because of her association with Royce, Shia must stand up for herself and there’s a particularly satisfying scene where she smacks down a female member of the pack that’s out for her blood. Shia still has a penchant for running off on her own and getting into trouble, and her stubbornness can definitely be a hindrance, but it’s one of the things I like best about her. Chaz and the pack have new enemies in the Nightstrikers, a group of weres that fancy themselves the nemesis of the Sunstrikers. The Nightstrikers provide some laughs and some surprising moments, and there are some great twists that left me with my jaw on the floor. Shocking secrets will come out and Shia’s entire world, and everything she thought was true, may come crashing down around her. Deceived was my favorite of the three, and you should be prepared for some shockers! I can’t wait for the next novel in this series!(less)
*Please note: My review is relatively spoiler free, but assumes you've read Song of Scarabaeus. It might be a bit confusing if you haven't:)
Children of Scarabaeus picks up a week after Song of Scarabaeus, with Edie slowly withering away, her body deprived of the drug she needs to stay alive: Neuroxin, distilled from the native plantlife of her homeworld, Talas. If Edie dies, so will Finn, as the chip inside of his head that links them explodes. Aided by Cat Lancer, pilot and ally, she and Finn are on the run from the Crib, who wants Edie back at any cost. They plan to fly to the Fringe, and use the cryptoglyph Finn is carrying in his head to help liberate the Fringe worlds from their reliance on Crib technology.
The trio hitches a ride on a ship filled with migrant workers in cryosleep, waiting to be awakened when someone needs their particular skill. Edie is understandably terrified at the idea of being put into cryosleep for an indefinite period, but Cat sets the timer for 15 months, and Edie creates bios and skillsets for them so that they might be awakened earlier. Unfortunately, the Crib finds Edie, and 13 months after going into cryosleep, she finds herself on a Crib vessel, at the mercy of Natesa, the woman that can force her to use her skills to further the plans of the Crib and systematically turn ecosystems across the universe into the “Terran ideal”. Edie discovers that Natesa is training a new batch of children to see “an ecosystem in flux as damaged, and the Terran ideal as the cure,” and when she realizes that they aren’t afraid to use the children for more nefarious means, the stakes all of a sudden become much, much higher.
I adored Sara Creasy’s first novel, Song of Scarabaeus, and was more than eager to revisit Edie and Finn’s universe. Children of Scarabaeus is just as good, and I think I liked it even more than the first! The passion between Edie and Finn burns through the pages, and the frustration they feel as the mental leash keeps them from consummating their relationship is palpable. I rooted for Edie and Finn from the start, and Finn’s need to protect Edie, as well as her desperation to keep him close to her and safe makes everything they go through that much more urgent. When Natesa finds the infojack that created the leash and is ordered to cut it, Edie is terrified this could kill Finn, not to mention the thought that he might choose to leave her behind. The real shocker comes when Edie learns of widespread famine in the Central world, and the project that she’s assigned to is designed to prop up these worlds for a limited amount of time, after which the ecosystems will completely fail. How can Edie possibly stop this from happening, without killing herself and her friends in the process?
I love the science and world building in these novels. When Edie jacks into the datastream, the pathways of an ecosystem are like “music”, and you can almost visualize the zipping, soaring colors as Edie works her magic. The author’s descriptives are also so good that a relative sci-fi newbie (like me) can easily keep up with the narrative without feeling out of the loop. I’ve had this happen before with “hard” sci-fi, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Not that there’s anything wrong with the genre, but I ended up concentrating so hard on trying to understand a fraction of the science that I couldn’t enjoy the story. Not so with Sara Creasy’s work. And the story is the best thing about these books. Wonderful character development, a lush, fleshed out environment, suspense, romance, and a multi-layered storyline makes for great reading! Sara Creasy is an auto-buy for me, and I’ll look forward to getting my hands on her next book! (less)
I’m a huge Kelley Armstrong fan, and I love her Otherworld series, so I was curious to see how her new YA series would be! The novel begins a prologue in which Maya’s best friend, Serena, dies in a mysterious drowning in the local lake. An accident is one thing, but Serena is an accomplished swimmer, and when Maya jumps in to save her, she feels something trying to pull her under as well. We pick up again a year later, with Maya still trying to get over Serena’s death, and also help her other best friend (and Serena’s ex-boyfriend), Daniel, cope with it as well. Soon strange things begin happening in her tiny town, and questions of Maya’s birth begin to surface. Then there’s the sexy new guy, Rafe, who may be more than he seems…
The Gathering took a while to build up, which is fine, since it’s the first in a series, and I always appreciate a good back story so that I don’t feel out of the loop as the novel, and the action, progresses. The small town that Maya lives in, Salmon Creek, is a town owned by a wealthy family, the St. Clouds. The people that live there work in the drug research facility and their families are provided with housing and schooling. This added an element of mystery to the story, because you’re never quite sure if the research is completely legitimate. Maya is adopted, and the only thing she knows about her birth mother is that she is of Native descent. She has a special affinity for animals, and her Dad is a park ranger, so she also helps rehab and release injured wildlife. The story is told from Maya’s point of view, and she’s a suitably strong and sarcastic heroine, vulnerable at times, but also intelligent and more than capable of thinking on her feet. Most of the novel is spent unraveling the mystery of Maya’s origins, but the author has added enough action to move the story along nicely. Her best friend Daniel, who’s very protective of Maya, seems to have abilities of his own, and Rafe is one of the more intriguing teen love interests to come along in a while. Teens, and adults (especially fans of the Otherworld series) will find much to love here. There’s plenty of material to cover in future novels and after finishing The Gathering, you’ll want to go back to Salmon Creek for more! I know I do! (less)