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)
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)
When we last left my favorite skinwalker in Mercy Blade, there were definitely some strings that needed tyin’ up, so I was eager to dive back into Jane’s world in Raven Cursed. In the 4th book of the series, Jane heads out of New Orleans and back to Asheville, North Carolina to provide security for a parley between the MOC of New Orleans and a master vamp that wants to establish his own territory. Unfortunately, Jane gets way (way) more than she bargains for in Asheville. Rogue weres are killing tourists in horrible ways, and Jane is tasked with taking them out. Easier said than done, especially when Jane feels that she’s responsible for the weres’ rampage.
Strangely enough, this is one of the things that I love most about Jane. Her guilt. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but she’s such a tough girl; so capable and strong, especially with Beast, that her enduring habit of taking nearly everything upon herself gives her a vulnerability that I can’t help but love. Seriously, sometimes I want to smack her (purely out of love), and say “It’s not your fault!!! You can’t control everything!!”, but I digress… So, there’s the were issue, which really gets bad when she finds out they might be after her best friend (and witch) Molly, and her family. Molly’s hubs isn’t all that fond of Jane for various reasons, so convincing Molly that things aren’t as they seem may prove to be a hard bargain. It really complicates things when Jane finds out that Molly’s sister Evangeline may be dabbling in the dark arts. I really wanted to throttle Evil Evie in Mercy Blade, and it only gets worse in Raven Cursed.
You think there’s a lot on Jane’s plate? There is! But wait, there’s more! Ricky-Bo is in town and is freaking out (understandably) at the possibility of going furry. Doesn’t help that his “mentor” , head of the African were cats, wants to kill him. I’ve always been hopeful for Rick and Jane, and their relationship just gets more complex, and more tender in a lot of ways, as the series goes on. I will admit that Jane and Bruiser’s , ahem, “almost” scene in Mercy Blade was the awesome, (‘cause Bruiser is a hottie, after all), but Rick is where it’s at, and I have no doubt that their relationship will just get more and more interesting as the series progresses. So, there you have it. Rampaging weres, twisty-turny vamp politics, hot shifters (and vamps), some seriously nasty (and witchy) black magic (we’re talkin’ demons here), and Ms. Hunter’s trademark, awesome fight scenes make for a book worth relishing. The Jane Yellowrock series is superb, and they just keep getting better. If you haven’t discovered it yet, I envy you, because you can start with Skinwalker and race right through. If you have discovered it, you’ll love Raven Cursed! This series is a must for any urban fantasy lover!(less)
If you’ve kept up with this series, then you know what Miriam went through in Mockingbird. To say that she’s physically and spiritually exhausted is an understatement, but she’s a survivor, our Miriam. When she saves the lives of two young men at the hands of a deranged homeless man, she finds a temporary home, but not paying rent is not a good thing, and her “work” as a street psychic isn’t bringing in nearly enough cash. Soon it’s eviction time, but it turns out one of her roomies has hooked her up with a job in Florida: a man who will pay her $5,000 to tell him how he dies. So, with reservations, but no other options, to Florida goes Miriam, and when she takes the hand of the man waiting for her, she’s shocked to see a message for her written in the man’s blood. Turns out someone from her past is expecting her, and is out for revenge.
So begins Miriam’s journey through the Florida Keys and beyond, trying to stay one step ahead of a killer that seems to be out to get everyone that Miriam cares for, but staying ahead of him proves to be pretty darn difficult, because he always seems to know what Miriam’s next move is. Also in pursuit is a pair of FBI agents that have suspicions of their own and are determined to interrogate Miriam…off the books.
Miriam is her usual bitingly sarcastic, scrappy self (seriously, the girl is like a Timex), but it’s the underlying layer of seething emotional pain, and the desire to do the right, and good thing, that makes her such a sympathetic girl, in spite of her own efforts to make herself as unlovable as possible. She’s torn and ragged and pushes everyone away, but ultimately is desperate for the love that she doesn’t think she deserves. This is part of what makes her surprising reconnection with her mother, who has relocated to Florida, all the more poignant. On the surface, the Miriam books are, at times, unrelentingly grim, but if you pick back the scabs, they’re the chronicles of a very damaged girl on a constant search for redemption while struggling to stay sane in the face of her unwanted physic “gift.” Cormorant, as is usual for this series, delivers action and creeps in spades, but the dim light at the end of the long dark tunnel of Miriam’s life is now just a little bit brighter. Miriam’s story remains an undeniably addictive one, and I finished this in one sitting. Wendig’s writing is better than ever, and this series continues to surprise and terrify in equal measure.(less)
It’s been 10 years since Caroline (now Sarah) escaped from Jack Derber’s basement of horrors, where she spent 3 years. She’s gotten her degree and is now ensconced in her tidy little New York City apartment, where she can order in, and the doorman, Bob, screens for any unwanted visitors. Plus, there are lots of people in New York, lots of people to hear you scream. A wrench is about to be thrown into her little construct of a life, however, in the form of Jack’s parole hearing. Caroline reasons that the likelihood of him getting out is very low, but it’s there, and she needs to be on hand to testify. 10 years isn’t enough for what Jack did to her, and it’s sure not enough for what she’s sure he did to her best friend, Jennifer, whose body was never recovered and whose death they never managed to charge him for.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite end when Jack went to jail. He’s been sending taunting little letters to Caroline. In fact, he’s been sending them to Tracy and Christine too, who were the other two girls that Caroline and Jennifer were trapped with. Caroline is convinced they hold the clues to Jennifer’s fate, and she’s determined to find her body and make sure Jack never gets out of prison, but she’s going to need help. She manages to enlist the help of Tracy, who isn’t Caroline’s biggest fan, and against the advice of the agent responsible for Jack’s prosecution, they set out to follow the trail that Jack has left in his letters, as well as the woman he married in jail, but it may lead them right back to the very terror they narrowly escaped from so many years ago.
I seem to have had really good luck with books lately. Recently it was the absolutely superb Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and following that up with The Never List was like the cherry on top of a particularly creepy hot fudge sundae. The Never List is narrated by Caroline, and while she does give us glimpses into some of the things that happened in that basement, for those of you that are squeamish, the author spares us any gory details, which I think was a wise move and actually added to the overwhelming creepiness of the story. There is something to be said about leaving some things to the imagination. While the book is certainly about a charming madman, a professor who enchants his students in the classroom and abducts young women out of it, it’s really about Caroline and her coming to terms about the insular life she’s constructed for herself, and of her need to understand they why of what happened to her and the other girls. Caroline goes wayyy outside of her comfort zone during the investigation, and I found myself wincing a couple of times when they put themselves into some pretty dicey situations. Caroline is nothing if not determined though, and the fiery, brittle, and outspoken Tracy provides the perfect contrast to Caroline’s (in the beginning), timid, borderline OCD personality. In Tracy’s eyes, Caroline is a betrayer, and the author does explain why she thinks this, but don’t expect lots of hugs and smiles at the end of their journey together. They don’t become besties. Instead, there develops more of an understanding between them, of how the experience with Jack shaped them and ultimately made them who they are today.
Trust me, though, I thought I knew where this one was going more than a few times. I didn’t. The suspense is nearly unbearable, and the terror of their situation is very real, and it makes for an edge of your set reading experience. By the way, the Never List refers to the endless lists Caroline and Jennifer made as young girls in order to stave off all manner of bad things: Never leave the door unlocked, never get in a car with a stranger. You get the picture. Those are simplified, and their lists are extensive, and yet, it’s ironic that it’s their very caution that gets them abducted in the first place. You’ll root for Caroline and you’ll cringe at some of the situations she finds herself in, and the twists are stunning. You’ll definitely want to include The Never List in your summer must-read plans!(less)
The book opens with Niall Petersen having suspected heart attack by the London Underground, and being saved by a mysterious stranger that calls herself Blackbird. Thus begins Niall's journey into the mystery of Feyre. This book was strange, and by strange I mean that it kept me eagerly turning the pages, even though...not much happens! There is some action, make no mistake, but most of the novel revolves around the developing relationship between Niall (Rabbit) and Blackbird, and Niall's discovery of a vast other world that he never even knew existed. This was so wonderfully written, lyrical even, and the pacing was just about perfect. Not to mention learning all about the Quit Rents ceremony was great fun! It was a charming, magical book, and I am a confirmed Mike Shevdon fan. I'll follow Rabbit and Blackbird anywhere!(less)
There’s something intriguing yet downright terrifying about a group of people that can employ mind control just with the use of a few nonsense words, but that’s the basis of the superb Lexicon.
When the book opens, Wil Parke is being held down by two men and having a needle driven through his eye at an airport bathroom. He has no idea why, only that he needs to get away. The snippets of their conversation that he can grasp make no sense, and when he finally gets a chance to run, what he witnesses is mind numbing. Soon, he realizes that his life has taken on a whole new meaning, and his captor may actually be his protector.
We then jump back in time a bit to the life of 16 year old Emily Ruff, a runaway who is barely scraping by as a card hustler in San Francisco. She has a knack for persuasion, however, and this is what puts her on the radar of the “poets”, which is what this clandestine group of mind bending folks call themselves. They present an offer she really can’t refuse, since she doesn’t really have other attractive life choices at her fingertips, and so begins her journey. The author takes us through her schooling with the poets and she begins to show a talent that both intrigues and terrifies the establishment, especially the shadowy man that heads it up. He sees a tool in Emily, and possibly even a weapon.
Emily and Wil’s futures eventually entwine in the tiny town of Broken Hill, Australia, which has been completely devastated by a horrific incident that Emily may be involved in. Perhaps most importantly, Will is an “outlier”, who is immune to the powers of the poets, and it may be what saves his life, but what about Emily, and why has he been drawn into a battle that he wants nothing to do with?
I had absolutely no expectations when I began reading Lexicon, but let me tell you, it took about 10 seconds for me to be completely hooked on this unusual and absorbing story. Emily is a strong willed, yet very vulnerable girl whose future falls into the hands of a group that doesn’t have her best interests at heart. She’s very powerful and it’s her struggle with her terrifying power and also with herself that makes her so tragic, and ultimately, so easy to identify with. Honestly, where Emily was concerned, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Firestarter, which is a good thing. Wil is a bit of a mystery to begin with, but as the narrative unfolds, you’ll figure things out, and if you weren’t already hopelessly hooked, just wait. You’ll need to pay attention, because when the author changes timelines, he expects you to use your context clues to figure out where you are in the course of the story, and if you are indeed paying attention, it’s not hard. I kind of liked this, because it really made me focus on the who and where and kept me in the moment. The scenes in the ruined Broken Hill are very, very creepy, and Emily’s time at the poet’s school will certainly bring to mind X-Men. Those are just comparison’s to give you a bit of an idea of what you’re getting into, though. Max Barry has certainly created something all his very own, and he’ll have his hooks in you in no time. Lexicon is a scary, intelligent, and poignant thriller that defies categorization and more than deserves a look from readers looking for something a bit different, a little beyond the norm, satirically sharp, and just damn good.(less)
Mark Watney is an engineer and a botanist. He’s also, fortunately, a guy who has a great sense of humor and is naturally optimistic. He’s gonna need that humor and that optimism, because he’s been stranded on Mars after a dust storm leaves him with a punctured suit and a crew that can only assume he’s dead. His crew is devastated and must leave the planet, but, of course, Andy is stuck on Mars with no hope of rescue for a very long time, no way to communicate with Earth, not enough food to last (but with enough disco music to last a lifetime, and plenty of Three’s Company reruns)…you get the idea. Most of the story is told in journal entries by Mark, and it’s through these that I got hooked. Hopelessly, completely hooked. In fact, I suggest that you set aside an afternoon for this one, because you won’t want to put it down.
Ok, so, one of the most terrifying scenarios I can think of has happened to our protagonist, a protagonist that is so immensely likeable it’s ridiculous, and I mean that in the best way. Eventually, Mark is able to communicate with NASA and his plight becomes a national obsession. It takes a long time to figure out how to get Mark home, and even then, it’s a longshot. In the meantime, Mark has to use every bit of knowledge and know-how at his disposal to survive. He journals everything in detail and if you love science, you’ll be in heaven, and even if science is a bit intimidating to you, this book makes it fascinating. The author does a wonderful job of conveying Mark’s unenviable plight without ever making things dark. Bad things do happen, but it’s Mark’s resilience in the face of an unimaginably awful situation that not only makes it more harrowing, but also makes you desperately want him to make it. This book is very reminiscent of Apollo 13, obviously, but is in a league all its own. The conclusion had me in knots. I haven’t been that on-the-edge-of-my-seat, nail bitingly anxious about a book in a very long time, and it’s rare that once I finish a book, I want to run out the front door, waving it in the air, yelling for everyone to buy it. But yeah, it’s one of those. Not to mention that the author has done a wonderful thing here: he’s taken some pretty hard science and made it very, very accessible to everyone! That’s pretty special, at least to me, and I would also encourage parents to hand this one off to teens who may be a little intimidated by science, because it does what a lot of science classes don’t do. It tells you EXACTLY how the science is applicable in real world (and very exciting) scenarios. This book is great. It just is. Read it!(less)
I was never a cheerleader in high school. In fact, I was never really part of any clique. But as far as I knew, all of our cheerleaders were smart, talented girls that worked hard at just about everything they did, and yeah, in a lot of ways, probably ruled the school. Either way, I don’t remember them being like the girls in Dare Me, although knowing them that well would have required much more familiarity. Let’s just say I hope they weren’t anything like these girls. Tall, beautiful Addy is a cheerleader, along with her best friend Beth Cassidy, and they absolutely rule the school. Tearing down teachers, tormenting coaches and fellow classmates is all in a day’s work for these girls, until Coach French comes along. Until now, the squad was soft and undisciplined. No more butt shaking and hip thrusting for these girls, no sir. Coach French is gonna whip them into shape, you’d better believe it. Colette French is tiny, commanding, and beautiful, and Addy’s fascination with her is evident from the start. Soon, Coach French invites the girls over to her perfect house, which contains her perfect daughter, and doting husband. Things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem at Casa French though, and that soon becomes evident, when an explosive event introduces the first cracks in the fragile veneer built around Coach French and her girls.
Ohhhh, Megan Abbott. How dare you suck me into this diabolical narrative about cheerleaders and their mean, brittle little hearts, causing loss of sleep and possibly heart palpitations! Dare Me is, at first blush, Addy’s story. After all, she’s the one telling it, and for a while, at least, she keeps the reader at arm’s length. We learn quite a bit about Beth, the little Napolean, with her narrowed eyes, casual cruelty, and fondness for games of the psychological sort. We think we get know Coach, but of course, things are never quite as they seem. There’s a quiet desperation about Addy, and she’s always been Beth’s lieutenant and, seemingly, at her beck and call. Beth is presented (very effectively) as a bitchy, bored, innately cruel teenager with a chip on her shoulder, and she’s pretty easy to hate. Her calculation is startling and hurting others seems like sport, so the author’s ability to slowly morph her into a tragic figure (and she is), is pretty impressive. There’s a mystery here, to be sure, but Dare Me is, at its core, a study of the bonds of friendship, obsessive love, and the lengths some will go to in order to hold onto that love and possess a person fully. Dare Me is described as a sort of Fight Club for cheerleaders, and it is. These girls wear their physical bruises like badges, with their “cherried smiles and spray-tanned legs”, and drive their bodies to exhaustion and beyond, striving for constant perfection, admiration, and of course, acceptance. When the final revelations come, about Beth, Addy, Coach French, and the death that wraps them so tightly together, you’ll be a bit exhausted, but in the best way, in the way only a good mystery can do. And Megan Abbott is good, folks. Her staccato, spitfire prose grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until the very last page. I dare you not to finish it in one sitting. Highly recommended.(less)
Below New York City, among other places, is the Great Below. Is it Hell? Who knows, but what certain people do know is it’s filled with some of the most evil, vile creatures one could ever encounter. For a while, they stayed below, then a door opened up. Now they want what we have above, and they aren’t afraid to take it. The criminals and lowlifes of our society aren’t averse to using what the denizens of the Great Below have to offer, but there’s always a price. In fact, one of the most profitable things to come out of the Great Below is a blue powder that can make a person faster, stronger, and suddenly not blind to the throngs of “others” that roam the streets of New York above. Gangs run the city and Blazeheads roam the streets, which brings us to one of the most fearsome enforcers for the Organization (the central authority for all of the gangs), Mookie Pearl. Don’t let the name fool you. Mookie isn’t a cuddly guy. In fact, he’s a hulking brute of a man, a meat lovin’, head smashin’ guy that breaks legs for a living. He’s not particularly proud of his profession, but he’s awfully good at what he does, and it is what it is. However, when his daughter Nora approaches him with the news that Zoladski, Mookie’s boss, the Big Boss, is dying, and she plans to take over, at any cost, he’s shocked and begins to see his already crumbling world start to topple. He never wanted his daughter to be a part of this world, but she is, and it turns out that she’s much more entrenched than he ever could have imagined.
Mookie soon finds out that the old man’s grandson, Casimir, is to take over when the old man dies, but he’s not ready, and it’s pretty obvious, not only to Mookie, but to others that would love to step in and take over. Weaknesses in the Organization are a bad, bad thing. In hopes of healing the boss, therefore avoiding having to take over, Casimir asks Mookie to head into the great below to find Death’s Head, a pigment that could heal the boss. Mookie is dubious, since its existence is a rumor at best and a fairy tale at worst. In fact, there are supposed to be five pigments in addition to the Blue, and they all do different things. Supposedly. Mookie doesn’t like those odds, but he really doesn’t have a choice. So, into the Great Below he goes.
If you’ve read anything by Chuck Wendig, you know how wonderfully twisted his imagination is, and it’s certainly on fine display in The Blue Blazes. The Great Below is a dark, vast, terrifying place, with things that slither and hiss and goblins, or gobbos, a plenty. And these are NOT your momma’s goblins. They’re nasty, brutal suckers, and you don’t want to see a hoard of them coming your way. Luckily, Mookie won’t be alone in his quest. He teams up with Skelly, the tough as nails head of an all-girl gang The Get-Em Girls, who take roller derby and rockabilly very seriously, and aren’t afraid to smash a few heads. He also finds some very odd, very dead, and very unlikely allies down below, and he’ll need ‘em, because the quest for Death’s Head soon becomes a quest to save his daughter. There’s more action and goo that you can shake a stick at in The Blue Blazes, but at it’s core is the story of a father’s love for his daughter and the lengths he’ll go to in order to save her. Don’t worry, there’s nothing mushy here, but it is rather poignant in Chuck Wendig’s rough way, and as brutish as Mookie is, I kinda fell for the big guy, and hope you will too. You’ll blaze through this one (sorry, couldn’t help it), and I can’t help but hope that we’ll see Mookie again in future novels. The Blue Blazes is something very different, very twisted and very, very good. You’ll have lots of fun-I know I did!(less)
Celia and her 3 sisters find themselves in vampire court and Celia is terrified at what might happen. Misha Aleksandr has requested the presence of the Wird sisters after charging them with the murder of one of his family members. Today is their lucky day however, since evidence proves the dead vamp in question had a virus that caused uncontrollable bloodlust, and it seems to be spreading. People are dying at an alarming rate as the vampire virus spreads and infected vamps go on the rampage. In desperation, Misha Aleksandr appeals to the sisters to help him fight whoever is spreading the infection and weakening his power. Taran, Emme, and Shayna are horrified at the deaths, but they also don’t want to get involved. Celia sees it a bit differently and decides they should help the Master vamp fight the rival master that is causing the carnage. Not only does Misha want the sisters’ help, but he seems to have a bit of a thing for Celia, much to her chagrin, since she has her eye on a werewolf hottie, Aric, who also gets involved in the fight. So much for the Wird sisters laying low in lovely Lake Tahoe, huh?
The Wird sisters aren’t your usual supes. As the result of a childhood curse, they each have very unique powers, but consider themselves very much outside the supernatural community. All they want to do is carry out their day jobs as nurses and live in peace in gorgeous Lake Tahoe. However, Misha and the rampaging vampires don’t plan to let the sisters off so easy, and Celia’s interest in the gorgeous Aric definitely throws a huge wrench into things.
Sealed With a Curse has just about everything I want in a really good urban fantasy. Strong lead characters? Check. A sexy romance brewing on the side? Check. Vamps, weres, witches, and more? Check!! The story is told in Celia’s voice, and what I simultaneously love and hate about her is her vulnerability. Most men are very intimidated by her tigress (yep, Celia can change into a tigress, among other things), so she’s closed herself off to men, and yet she’s so very lonely and insecure. She berates herself more than once, and if you’ve ever wanted to hug a character from a book, you’ll want to hug Celia and shake her until she stops doubting herself. It’s also important to point out that while the romance element is strong in this book (lots of hotties running around, trust me), I swear there are kick ass fights every 3 or 4 pages. The author just doesn’t let up, and if you think you’ll be reading about the same old supernaturals, think again. The baddies are really, really bad, and the author never shies away from the ick factor. Cecy Robson has a very, very fertile imagination when it comes to the scaries, and she’s not afraid to use it. Celia and her sisters are a great fighting team and if you like books with plenty of girl power, you’ll love this one. I also really enjoyed Celia’s sense of humor and the “triangle” between her, Aric, and Misha. I swear this book has some of the funniest one-liners in urban fantasy. These nurses are good at their jobs, but don’t mess with them. Seriously. If you mess with one, you mess with all four, and the person/creature doing the messing is probably going to get the bad end of the stick (or blade, or claw…you get the picture.)
So, can the girls track down the source of the vampire infection and take care of business? Will Celia find the love she deserves? Will these poor girls ever get some much deserved peace? Probably not, well, at least the peace part. But that’s good for us, because that means there will be plenty of adventures with the Wird girls to come. I really enjoyed the prequel novella and was hoping Sealed With a Curse would live up to my expectations. It did. This is an exciting and refreshing debut and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series!(less)
Miserere is a hard one to review. Not because I didn’t like it, actually, I adored it, but it is simultaneously one of the most complex, yet compulsively readable novels I’ve ever read. Topping out at just under 300 pages, Ms. Frohock manages to pack a wallop of a story into her pages. Lush and emotional, it takes the reader on a journey about betrayel and redemption, and leaves them gasping. Ok, that was my journey, but still. There’s potential for war raging between the Fallen and the forces that would keep them from passing through the land that stands between Hell and Earth, the place called Woerld. I pictured a layer cake, with Heaven on top, then Earth, Woerld, and Hell on the bottom, with the Crimson Veil as the divide between Woerld and Earth. Woerld is Earth’s last defense against the hordes of Hell, and Lucien’s twin sister, Catarina, is determined that they should be let loose. Needless to say, this would be very, very bad, and Lucien, his new charge Lindsay, and Rachael, will do anything to stop her. Here’s the problem: Catarina has held Lucien as her prisoner forever, after he abandoned Rachael at the gates of Hell to save his sister’s soul. This was not to be however, and Catarina has become a monster, in league with the foulest of evil. Her consort is a Cerebus, and she takes pleasure in the pain of others, especially those who Lucien cares about. Foundlings that slip through the Veil are taken in by Elders, such as Lucien and Rachael, and are taught to fight against the threat that is the Fallen. Rachael was eventually brought out of Hell, but not before a demon, the Wyrm, invaded her body, and is possessing her more and more each day. She’s fought the Wyrm so far, but her time is short, and Lucien knows he must exorcise the demon before it’s too late. Then there’s the matter of his new foundling, Lindsay, who’s burgeoning power may be more like his than he’d like to believe. I really loved the concept behind Woerld, where emissaries representing the world’s religions converge to aid each other in a common goal, defense against the Fallen. Yes, Christianity is explored here, but this is not a “Christian” novel, it is firmly a fantasy, with horror elements, and uses the tenets of faith as a thread that binds our heroes together. Not to mention, if you have a story involving fallen angels and demons, there will more than likely be religious elements involved. More so for me, however, was the emphasis on the power of love and loyalty, and the lengths we will go to in order to save the ones we love. I don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person, and I really enjoyed the themes used to tell Lucien and Rachael’s story. The author does not shy away from powerful imagery, and her descriptions of the Wastelands and Woerld served to fully immerse me in the novel. Magic is thick and plentiful, and make no mistake, Catarina is one of the nastiest villians I’ve encountered in a long time, even as she desperately tries to regain the love of her twin brother, although that love is twisted and perverted as a result of her own greed and selfishness. I particularly enjoyed the bond that forms between Lucien and Lindsay and how Lucien’s undying love for Rachael carries him through, even as he knows he may very well be judged harshly. If you enjoy rich fantasy, chills, intrigue, and angel and demon lore, you’ll love this book! (less)
Roads are washed out, along with buildings, bridges, food and just about every other necessity needed to survive. Mississippi, along with the rest of the Gulf Coast, is a waterlogged mess and it’s been raining for so long that it’s hard for Cohen to remember life before the rain, but he does remember some things, like the beauty of his dead wife and how much he wanted the child that was growing inside her before they were killed during an evacuation. Cohen still makes what passes for a life inside the house they shared, along with a horse and dog, and his regular trips to see his friend Charlie (who has a knack for procurement) for supplies punctuates the lonely days and nights.
On his way home, after one such trip to see Charlie, he encounters a teenage girl and boy by the side of the road who flag him down for a ride. Against his better judgment, he stops to pick them up. Their fumbling attempt to kill him is unsuccessful, but they do manage to steal his Jeep and many of his supplies. He finally makes it home to find it has been relieved of supplies as well, no doubt by the teenagers or others involved with them. He especially feels violated after he discovers that the room that was to be the baby’s has been invaded as well, and makes it his goal to track down the teens and retrieve what belongs to him.
Cohen sets about finding the teens with a single mindedness that is both terrifying and exhilarating, and it almost kills him. Eventually he finds the camp where Mariposa and Evan are, for lack of a better description, being kept, along with Evan’s younger brother, along with quite a few women, some pregnant, by a man, Aggie, who has designated himself their lord and master. If you’re getting a creepy feeling, it’s certainly warranted, because Aggie is one of the creepiest bad guys that I’ve read in a long time, and it’s a wormy, insidious kind of creepy. Aggie sooths his “people” with words of comfort and promises of shelter and food, but once he’s got ‘em, they become mere property. The locks are on the outside of the doors and Evan and little Briscoe are the only males. I’m sure you can get the gist of Aggie’s goals. Once Cohen gets into the mix, though, all bets are off, and Aggie may have met his match. And there’s a storm coming…
I’m willing to bet that once you crack open Rivers, you’ll want to finish it off in one sitting, if only to follow your dread all the way to the end without pause. You will root for Cohen, Mariposa, and Evan, and during their sometimes nightmarish trip through a south saturated in rain, filth, and despair, you can almost feel their constant discomfort and marvel at their strength in the face of such horrendous odds. Michael Farris Smith’s world is a post-apocalyptic landscape of a different kind where there are no supernatural monsters, but instead, plenty of monsters of the human kind. There is also still goodness and decency left, which, in spite of his very rough exterior, Cohen has in spades. His longing for his deceased wife is both beautiful and heartrending and in fact, the narrative is interspersed with vignettes about his time with Elisa, making his grief all the more poignant. Smith’s prose is fluid, much like the landscape, lyrical in its sparseness, and serves to lend a very effective air of impending dread that is unshakeable and palpable. Rivers is one of the best books I’ve read this year. On the surface it is a very effective, and sometimes terrifying, survival story, but for me, it’s a love story that inspired hope, even as it broke my heart. I can’t wait to see what Michael Farris Smith has in store for us next.(less)
“Patient Zero”,by Jonathan Maberry, follows smart-mouthed Baltimore cop Joe Ledger who, after joining a secret government agency, the Department of Military Science, or DMS, races to stop a plague from destroying the country, except this plague makes Ebola look like child’s play. This plague kills you, then re-animates you, zombie-style. Except the "zombies" in this book are not your traditional zombies. The “plague”, is, in fact, a bio-warfare virus unleashed by some of the most terrifying villains in recent thrillers.
Our hero, Ledger, is recruited into the DMS in strong-arm fashion, and is almost quite literally thrown into the fight with a team made up of men with various backgrounds. Unlike a lot of your heroes featured in modern thrillers, Ledger does not have a super secret military background, or even a long military career. In fact, his military career was quite short, however, what talents he does have, he has in spades. I’ll let you read the book to find out just how good he is at what he does.
If you've ever read any of Nelson DeMille's books featuring John Corey (Plum Island, Lion's Game, etc,), Joe Ledger will remind you of him very strongly. He's kind of a guy's guy and is very sarcastic (so you'll laugh a bit), and he gets the job done, very effectively. He kicks some pretty serious ass too, while remaining firmly in the White Hat category. Maberry has done extremely well in fleshing out his characters while simultaneously keeping the action going, which, to me, is not an easy thing to do. Ledger really struggles with the horror of what he's been thrust into, and I would hope anyone (even a kick-ass, tough guy) would.
What makes this book rise above the usual espionage/thriller novel, aside from the zombie aspect, so wildly popular right now, is its superb writing and nearly flawless pacing. Add to that villains that include a greedy billionaire; a modern day, psychotic, Mata Hari, and her equally psychotic, religious zealot husband; a mole, sent to infiltrate the good guys; plus a dash of romance, and you’ve got a book that knocks the genre on its ear and keeps you guessing (and up late) until the last pages.
I give “Patient Zero” an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 zombies, er, stars!(less)
Verity Price is enjoying her relative freedom working as a strip club waitress in Manhattan, while conducting her survey on the cryptids of the area for the family biz, when she meets up with a member of a very old family enemy, the Covenant, who believe that all non-human entities should be summarily wiped off the face of the planet, no questions asked. This infuriates the Price family, who has created a tenuous trust with a large part of the cryptid population by offering support and assistance as well as keeping things safe for humans. The Price family certainly asks questions first, then only kills when necessary, so when Dominic DeLuca appears on Very’s rooftops, setting traps and killing indiscriminately, Very knows there’s going to be a real problem on her hands. Question is, how to handle it? Then there’s that pesky rumor of the dragon underneath Manhattan.
Discount Armageddon is one of the coolest books I’ve ever read. Hands down. I am a huge fan of the author’s October Daye series, so of course I was eager to see what she had in store for us in the new one. Turns out, quite a lot! Her Manhattan setting is mined for all it’s worth, with numerous trips into the underground tunnel systems (not to mention some kick ass fight scenes). Verity’s family is fascinating, as are her co-workers and friends. Speaking of co-workers: to supplement her first love (which is ballroom dancing), and to keep from relying completely on her family, Very works at a strip club owned by a bogeyman named Dave. Very’s a waitress, not a stripper, but you’ll find yourself charmed in various ways by her dancer (and cryptid) coworkers, and Dave is just…ugh. She has a cousin that’s a Cuckoo (so cool), and does her best to protect the city’s cryptids. Too bad Dominic DeLuca’s arrival puts a huge dent in her agenda. During the first half of the book, you’ll want to smack Dominic, hard (so does Very). He’s old fashioned, and has been indoctrinated with just the sort of agenda that the Price family has been trying so hard to destroy. Too bad he’s so darn cute. Unfortunately, they’ll have to work together to investigate the cryptid disappearances and find out just want is lurking in the sewers. You can’t go wrong with anything by Seanan McGuire. Her worldbuilding, characters, everything is superb, and if you’re already a fan of her books, you’ll love this one! If you haven’t discovered her books yet, Discount Armageddon is a great place to start!(less)
For the first time in more than two years, an expedition (the 12th, the group is told) is headed into Area X. The team consists of four women: a biologist (who narrates), an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor. They’ve got a few firearms, ample supplies, and each have been given a mysterious black device with a glass covered hole in the middle. If that hole glows red, they are to get to a safe place, immediately. They’ve been sent to Area X to uncover its secrets, and perhaps to explain the (so far) unexplainable. Many teams came before them. Some didn’t make it out, and some did, but were irrevocably changed, and worse. Soon after crossing over the border (under hypnosis), they come across a tunnel burrowing straight down into the ground, but what the unnamed narrator can’t help but think of as the tower. Why she can’t bring herself to call it anything but a tower, she doesn’t know, but when the team starts the descent into the tower, they find something very unusual, and ultimately, terrifying. When the biologist comes in contact with an unknown substance, it begins to change her, and she starts to suspect that Southern Reach, the organization that sent them to Area X, may not have the groups’ best interests at heart.
Area X is lush, beautiful, and completely abandoned, except for the new expedition, or so they think at first. At dusk, the group hears a low moaning that may or may not be animal in nature, and in fact, mounting evidence points distinctly to “other.” Somehow, the biologist knows that the tower is very important, and that eventually she’ll have to plumb its depths, but first, she’s drawn to the lighthouse that features prominently in many of the previous expeditions’ accounts. It’s there that she discovers evidence of shocking violence, and when she finally goes back to the tower, frightening, and deadly, beauty.
Although we never learn the biologist’s name, we do learn a little about her life before Area X, and she soon discovers, within herself, that the control that she’s always been known for is a farce, and it has no place in Area X. In fact, Area X is the very epitome of biology run amok, and yet, for all of its strangeness, it begins to make a chaotic sort of sense to her. The secret lies in the tower, and she knows she must confront it, even if it means her death, and confront it she does, with shocking results.
It’s been a long time since a book creeped me out quite this much. It reminded me a bit of The Ruins by Scott Smith, but only in the sense that the horror of Area X is very organic, and the biologist’s descriptions of tidal pools and the organisms that dwell there only served to heighten my terror and fascination. Annihilation is as much psychological study as it is horror, and horror it most certainly is, of the best kind. Vandermeer’s uneasy narrative has that pull that makes you want to go down into that tower with the team, even though you know that would be a very, very bad idea, and he’s created such a fully realized environment, within Area X, that he could certainly go well beyond a trilogy. This is also horror with a bit of a message, although it’s certainly not heavy handed, but it’s there, and it’s a good one. The lighthouse was what did it for me, ultimately. Yeah, the tower is weird and scary and there are things down there that will cause any sane person to curl up in a fetal position and will themselves to die, but it was the silent testament to violence at the lighthouse that really sent chills down my spine. I don’t know why, but for me, monsters are one thing, but it’s horror with a human element that really gets to me the most. I made the mistake of reading this on my Kindle with a light up screen in the dark, and I found myself jumping at any small noise. So, don’t do that, unless, you know, you like that sort of thing (like I kind of do, I admit it.) This was a short read, but it packs a helluva punch. The matter-of-fact narrative (it’s a journal-and she’s a scientist- after all, and Southern Reach asked for maximum context) actually adds to the creep factor of the story, which is already at a 10, although there are passages of uncanny beauty. However, I still got a sense of her sadness, of her conviction that she had nothing to return to, which of course added a melancholy, even fatalistic tone to her story.
ANNIHILATION is psychological, and organic, horror and mystery at its very, very best, from a master of his craft. Vandermeer’s ability to create wonder amidst terror is awesome (in the classic sense of the word), and I can’t wait to return to Area X in May with AUTHORITY.(less)
Cael McAvoy and his friends live in the Heartland, where corn grows in spades, but Heartland’s people can’t eat it. In fact, some would say the corn is alive. One thing is for sure, it fuels everything that the Empyreans need, in their kingdom in the clouds, while Heartland’s citizens survive on scraps, because the land can’t grow anything else. Cael is, however, captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do, even if the mayor’s son and his crew constantly try to sabotage them. Life is hard, but not terrible, until the love of his life, Gwennie, gets Obligated to someone else, someone he hates. Soon, however, Cael and his friends discover a patch of fresh veggies and fruit growing amidst the corn, and what it signifies could change the lives of the Heartlanders, but what to do? If Cael thought life was interesting before, it’s about to get downright scary, and it certainly doesn’t help that his sister has run away, leaving him with a father that he feels does nothing to help the family and a mother who is crippled by tumors.
Most of you know by now that I love anything that Chuck Wendig writes, and his first foray into YA is a winner, inside and out. I love the world of the Heartland, where corn will attack you if you linger too long in the fields and the Blight can strike anyone at any time, causing horrible mutations and, sometimes, insanity. If you’re already a fan of his work, you know how good Wendig is at imagery, and it’s on fine display here, in this post- apocalyptic world that echoes, in some ways, the Wild West, but with hoverboards and of course, killer corn. Perhaps among one of the creepiest elements of this book is the Lottery, which one family wins every year, awarding the winner a trip to the sky, to live in promised luxury. Yet, the reader gets the distinct impression that heading to the clouds may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but you won’t find out in this installment. Since Cael’s sister has hitched a ride into the sky, I’m sure we’ll find out more in the next book, but the wait will be excruciating, at least for this reader. If you like your dystopian heavy on the creepy, with plenty of rebellious and strong characters, you’re in for a real treat. This one will appeal to teens and adults alike, and it’s not to be missed!(less)
First off, it’s awful hard to pick up a copy of Blackbirds without noticing the stunning artwork on the front, yes? I had no trouble using it to picture Miriam, and it also has so many little details in it that pertain to the story. That said, on to the story… Blackbirds begins with Miriam in a squalid little motel room with a man that’s about to die. He’s not the nicest guy (he’s really, really not), but Miriam feels she must bear witness to his death, since it was her that foresaw it. She’ll have access to the cash in his wallet, which will certainly help her get to her next stop. Seeing how people will die hasn’t made Miriam Black’s life a cakewalk, and she’s done her best to distance herself from everyone and basically lives a nomadic life, witnessing death and stealing, and recording it all in her diary. Things change when she meets the kind Louis, a truck driver who picks her and who’s death she sees. Par for the course, right? Not so much this time, since Louis will be murdered, and before he dies, he calls her name…
Mainly told while looking over Miriam’s shoulder, Blackbirds takes off like a roller coaster to hell, and really never stops. Miriam has a smart mouth and a streak of self-loathing a mile wide, but she’s also brave and rather tough. She has an ability that no one in their right mind would want, and years of witnessing all manner of death have taken their toll. We follow Miriam as she meets up with a con man that both attracts and repels her, and he has a certain suitcase that some very nasty people want back; people that will do anything, and stop at nothing, to get it. Blackbirds is not for the faint of heart. The pace is relentless and the violence is brutal, but through it all, you won’t want to tear your eyes away. I think part of it is that Miriam is such a fascinating girl. She bears witness to awful things, yet she keeps going, driven by a force that not even she understands, at least not at first. This is also the first time she’s really cared about someone (in Louis), and it shakes her to her very core. I mean, this girl has been distancing herself from humanity for years. She’s had to, with the horrid things she sees on a regular basis. The poor girl really doesn’t get a break, and when the bad guys have her in their clutches, you’ll root for her to kick some serious ass. Speaking of bad guys… The author gives us some of the most evil, nasty bad guys I’ve come across in a long time. Forget sympathetic villains. You really won’t find those here, and the worst one is a woman. Yeah, she’s pretty awful, and you’ll be sneering at her right along with Miriam.
Chuck Wendig has managed to take the best of urban fantasy and crime noir, twist ‘em together like barbed wire, and drag you right over the barbs. Blackbirds is gritty and violent, yet never loses sight of the light that might be at the end of the tunnel. It’s there, I promise. You may have to squint a little, but Miriam’s humanity always shines through, even when things look pretty grim. Chuck Wendig hasn’t disappointed me yet, and I suspect he’s got quite a lot more in his arsenal. Don’t miss this one!(less)
The Wird Sisters; Emma, Shayna, Taran, and Celia, have been traveling the states as visiting nurses and after discovering the beauty of the Lake Tahoe area have decided to make it their more permanent home. As they celebrate at a local club, the plans to have a few drinks and maybe even a few dances with the table full of cute guys nearby is blown out of the water when they’re attacked by a witch bent on destruction. Actually, destruction might be a mild way to describe it, considering it involves flinging lightning and a horde of rats. It’s definitely an original way to clear a dance floor. At first, Celia is livid when she finds out Taran started the fight, but soon cools when she finds out that Taran was defending the timid Emme. They’ve been taunted and teased all of their lives, since their parents were killed when Celia was only 9 (and the oldest.) Their wicked aunt cast a spell on their mom for marrying outside her race, and not only did it shorten their parents’ lives, it backfired, and instead of making the girls sickly and frail, as was intended, it made them very, very special, unlike any others on Earth. So much for the Wird sisters settling down and getting their bearings! They’ve ticked off a witch, so now they’ll have her entire coven on their backs. There’s to be a duel: three days, three challenges, and she doubts these witches will play fair. Is Celia up to the challenge? If she’s not, so much for settling down in lovely Lake Tahoe…
This introduction to Cecy Robson’s new series was just plain fun and gives a really good introduction to the girls’ powers, collectively and individually, with a focus on Celia, and as “head of the family”, she’s had to take care of her sisters since their parents died, and is a very strong narrative voice. She’s funny too, and is a good balance of strength and easy humor. The Wird girls don’t fit any one definition of supernatural. They each have varying powers and varying personalities. Celia is a labor and delivery nurse (each of the girls are nurses in different disciplines), and she’s constantly warring with her nurturing side and her more…animal side, and in spite of her strength, is very self-conscious about her otherness, although she will defend her sisters, and herself, tooth and nail…and then some. This was a strong introduction to what promises to be a great urban fantasy series. I’m getting hard to please when it comes to urban fantasy lately, but this hit all the write notes for me.(less)
In 1967, when Staff Sergeant Bob Ferrell investigates the brutal death of a Saigon prostitute’s young son, he’s led directly to 20 year old Lance Corporal Vernon Emil Slocum, a violent bruiser who’s racked up a ton of medals during combat, but whose fellow soldiers have noticed behavior that defies the norm, and the definition of “normal” in Vietnam was already stretched to the limit. An obvious limp was the big identifier and after injuring the officers assigned to bring him to Ferrell, he’s finally subdued. Ferrell only has to look into Slocum’s eyes to know he’s dealing with evil and he assumes he’ll be brought to trial for the murder of the young boy. That’s not to be, however. Ferrell is unceremoniously told his investigation is over, and he won’t see Slocum for another 20 years.
In 1987, Iowa rookie cop Kevin Kearns happens upon a scene in a schoolyard and intervenes. A large man is brazenly attempting to kidnap a young girl in front of the rest of her class, and her teacher. Unfortunately, the man proves too much for Kearns, and the suspect manages to shoot the teacher, who tried to help, and gets away with the girl. Later, the little girl is found hanging from a tree at a rest stop with her throat cut. Unfortunately, the public, and the sheriff, who is up for reelection, needs a scapegoat, and that scapegoat is now Kevin Kearns.
Bob Ferrell is now a retired San Francisco cop living on his own, drinking and smoking too much, and wondering how everything seemed to have gotten away from him. His daughter is in college and they don’t talk much, and he’s gone through two wives. While looking at the paper, he notices the headline of the Iowa incident, and when he reads the details of how the little girl was killed, there’s no doubt in his mind that this killer is the same one he encountered in Saigon 20 years ago. After getting a line on Slocum’s whereabouts since 1967, Ferrell loads up and drives to Iowa to make a proposal to Kevin Kearns, one that could alter his future forever.
Wounded Prey is former San Francisco detective Sean Lynch’s first novel, and boy is it a doozy. Bob Farrell is a man out to settle a 20 year score, and he uses his police skills to fine effect as he cons his way into Kevin Kearns life and pretty much abducts him to convince him to hunt down Slocum. Kearns’s police career has barely started, but it seems sure to end soon, and the guilt he feels over the little girl’s death at Slocum’s hands is eating him from the inside. He has absolutely nothing to lose and no family to think of as he considers Ferrell’s proposal. Revenge and retribution are a heady combo, and they both drive the two men as they hunt down one of the most fearsome killers the state of Iowa has ever seen. The narrative switches back and forth from Ferrell and Kearns, and Slocum, and the scenes with Slocum are chilling; a portrait of a man that has sunk so far into depravity there is not hope for his return. He is an intrinsic part of the dark now, and he has no intentions of letting Ferrell and Kearns catch up now.
Wounded Prey heads into some pretty dark territory, and although it’s never gratuitous, the subject matter is deeply disturbing, but for me, that just made me want to see Slocum taken down even more. Slocum is a beast and a true monster, and strangely enough, Farrell and Kearns are just the men to take him down. With the FBI on their tail, they follow the body trail, hoping to catch their man before more children die. If you love a good thriller, you’ll blaze through this one, and personally, I can’t wait for the next Farrell and Kearns novel! What a great debut!(less)
When Clarinda Cardew is kidnapped off a ship by the Corsairs, she’s sure that she and her best friend and companion, Poppy, will be sold as slaves into a fate worse than death. However, they are rescued (after a fashion) by the handsome sultan Farouk, and whisked off to his palace in the desert. Keep in mind, it’s 1834, and women aren’t treated quite the way they are today. Farouk is enchanted by his new English Rose, and affords her all the luxury that his wealth has to offer, but she is essentially his prisoner, even if he calls her his guest. Clarinda is no shrinking violet though, and she realizes that she’ll have to get with the program in order to eventually orchestrate her escape, even if that means being taught the art of sensual delight in service to the sultan. Luckily, her first love, Ashton Burke, is coming to her rescue. If only it weren’t for that pesky engagement to his brother, Max…
The Pleasure of Your Kiss is my very first Regency romance, and in the spirit of trying new things in the new year, especially with books, I was happy to dive in. I’m so glad I did! The author is a pro at sexual tension, and Clarinda and Ash’s back story isn’t as black and white as you’re led to think in the beginning, and this is played to the utmost effect. When Ash’s brother, Max (yeahhh, about that…) hires him to find Clarinda and rescue her from the sultan, Ash doesn’t feel like he can refuse, but he’s terrified to see the girl that broke his heart almost 10 years earlier. Clarinda feels the exact same way about Ash though, and it’s this tension that really keeps you glued to the pages. Well, that’s not the only thing. The Moroccan locale is rich and exotic, and created the perfect backdrop for Clarinda and Ash’s drama. I also really appreciated that Farouk wasn’t made out to be terrible villain that you usually see in these kinds of scenarios. He’s a product of his upbringing (and the pressures of his station), and he genuinely has feelings for Clarinda. However, Clarinda’s best friend Poppy only has eyes for Farouk, and this storyline was great fun for me since I couldn’t help but fall in love with the charming, underappreciated, and romantic Poppy. The Pleasure of Your Kiss also made me laugh, frequently, and that’s always a plus for me. Ms. Medeiros is a pro, and it certainly shows in her writing. Yes, I love my dark fantasy and grey characters, but I’m a romantic at heart, and sometimes I like my happy endings. I found myself grinning like a fool at the end of The Pleasure of Your Kiss, and most of the pleasure is in getting there. This story reminded me a bit of an Indiana Jones movie crossed with Romancing the Stone (with some naughty thrown into the mix-I mean, come on, it takes place in a harem), and I enjoyed it immensely. Confident writing, exotic locations, and characters you can fall in love with mark this as a must read for romance, and adventure fans alike. I’m so happy I gave this one a try!(less)
Hang Wire opens in San Francisco, in April of 1906 when the city is apparently gripped by a massive earthquake, but Robert knows better. As he hauls the victims out of the wreckage, using his unusual strength to pull them out from under tons of rubble, he knows that something else is stirring, and he also must resist the darkness that is awakening in himself as a response to all of the pain and suffering that surrounds him. It’s then that we catch up with Joel in 1889, who was given a very, very special coin by his father, and who will soon become a slave to a great and terrible power.
Onward and upward then to the San Francisco of today, and into the life of Ted Hall. Our introduction to Ted starts out with quite a bang (literally), when his birthday celebration with friends and coworkers at a Chinese restaurant ends with an explosion, and a message in a fortune cookie (actually, a lot of them), that he’ll continue to see in the days ahead: YOU ARE THE MASTER OF EVERY SITUATION. Much to Ted’s horror, he’s been sleepwalking and doesn’t remember a thing from his jaunts. He’s also even found what he thinks is blood in his apartment, and even worse, he seems drawn to the murder scenes of the Hang Wire Killer, who has been terrorizing the city.
Meanwhile, at Sharon Meadow, a carnival is in full swing, Joel’s carnival, and something beneath the city is awakening.
So, we have a killer roaming around San Francisco who kills in a very unique way, a seemingly ordinary guy named Ted who’s sleepwalking and seems to be up to, well, something. Then we have Joel and his traveling circus. Joel is a creepy, creepy guy, and it’s not lost on the circus performers. He also seems to acquire rather odd items, objects that seem otherworldly. The narrative jumps between Ted, Joel in the present, and also Joel’s backstory (making of a villain, ahem…), and also we get some background on Robert. You know, the guy I mentioned earlier, the one that was lifting really heavy rubble off of folks after something rocked the earth in 1906? He’s still around now too, but he goes by Bob,gives dancing lessons on the beach, and is somewhat of a local, rather eccentric legend. You have no idea how eccentric. Hang Wire is just pure fun. Yes, there are some dark doings here (something huge is awakening underground and gods are running around wearing human facades, and of course, murder), however, Adam Christopher manages to pull off the right amount of creepy (and some great action scenes) without ever getting too dark. Fans of quirky urban fantasy will devour this one. Loved it!(less)
Dinocalypse Now starts off with a bang as Jet Black falls from the sky during a speech given by FDR, jet pack sputtering and hissing, punctured by bite marks. Bite marks! What, you may ask, can bite into metal? Well, the title of the book is a pretty good clue. Jet Black is a Centurion, an intrepid group of crime fighters with hideouts and bases all over the world. His counterpart, Sally Slick, is on the ground, part of the gathered crowd, when she begins to notice that everyone in the crowd may not be human. They’re humanoid, but with scales and sharp teeth, not to mention mind control powers, they’re a force to be reckoned with. However, it’s eventually discovered that they weren’t sent to assassinate FDR at all, but to take out the Centurions. Thus begins a race to find the source of the dino-invasion and save all of humanity from servitude at the hand of a (rather hairy) megalomaniac bent on world domination!
Dinosaurs! Apes in kilts! Jetpacks! Dirigibles! Teleportation! It’s all here in Dinocalypse Now! I adore anything Chuck Wendig writes, and this was no exception. Sally Slick and crew are a ton of fun with larger than life personalities that leap from the page. My favorite character, though, is a kilt wearing, erudite ape named Professor Khan, who teaches at Oxford and serves as consultant to the Centurions, but always longs to join in on the adventures. He gets his wish, and the interaction between him and the crew is nothing short of charming. These globe hopping heroes will go up against multiple foes vying for control of New York City, using their wits, gadgets, and plain determination to see good win over evil. I especially enjoyed the 30s touches and pulp sensibility. If you love a good adventure, rapid fire pacing, great characters, and of course the endless creativity of Chuck Wendig, you’ll have a blast with Dinocalypse Now!(less)
When we first meet Lucinda “Lucy” Carter, it’s the late1800’s and she’s making her escape from a Texas brothel with more than a few dollars of the madam’s stash in tow and an invitation to teach in Middle Bayou, Louisiana. She’s got more to do in Middle Bayou than just teach, though. In fact, a man is supposed to meet her there and he’s got buried treasure on his mind, and plans to use Lucinda to get it. Meanwhile, young Nate Cannon, a Texas cop, is hunting for a killer of women, men, and children by the name of McGill, and on the way, he meets up with two other lawmen, Dr. Tom and Deerling. Deerling is a rather ruthless sort and is unapologetic about methods that Nate may not agree with. Dr. Tom has a personal stake in capturing McGill, but I’ll let you discover what that is on your own. Needless to say, chasing the cunning McGill isn’t easy and is fraught with danger, some of which has nothing to do with their fugitive. Nate finds himself growing attached to these two cops that have been partners for the better part of 20 years, and although he longs to be back home with his wife and young daughter, his experiences with these men, and what he learns from them, is transformational.
The narrative is divided between Nate’s journey and Lucinda’s, and I fell in love with them both, but for different reasons. On the outside, Lucinda exudes confidence and is even somewhat of a prodigy in math, but on the inside, she is so damaged and so broken that your heart will go out to her. Yes, she’s in league with some not so nice people. Yes, she uses others in order to survive, sometimes with terrible consequences. But, she is so complex, and at times so vulnerable, and I desperately wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel for her. As The Outcast moves toward its conclusion, I began to feel a sense of inevitability, and also a very palpable sense of dread. I knew that things were going to be explosive, and in the end, they were, but the author threw some curveballs in there that I didn’t expect. The journey is the key here, and what a journey! Nate is so goodhearted, with a very strong sense of justice, and he finds himself challenged at nearly every turn, especially by the irascible Deerling, but it’s his relationship with Dr. Tom that’s the big draw here. From the dusty hills of Texas to the very wild and steamy Gulf Coast, The Outcasts is unforgettable, and if you have a love for Westerns, you’re especially in for a treat, although this will appeal to thriller fans and for readers that are just looking for a damn good story. I couldn’t put this one down, and it’s left me scrambling to get my hands on everything Kathleen Kent has written.(less)
Dead Mann Walking is zombies,but with a twist. These zombies aren’t mindless shamblers,instead they are sentient beings. They’re also not the risen dead come to life as a result of some sort of virus or spell. Using good ol’ American ingenuity,a solution to the rapid rise of innocent death penalty victims was born,and upon exoneration,were brought back from the dead. The process soon became somewhat of a fad,with families bringing back loved ones left and right. However,folks soon realized that what came back wasn’t quite the same. We’re not talking Pet Cemetery creeping evil here,but some people,upon coming back,did seem to lose some of their higher thinking ability,and the possibility of going feral always lingers. The undead now gather in enclaves,trying to keep to themselves and also staying hidden from the hakkers,groups that take pleasure in torturing and killing the chak (zombies.)
Hessius Mann,PI and ex-cop,is one such individual,having been exonerated after being convicted and put to death for the murder of his wife. Unfortunately,his memory isn’t what it used to be,and he relies on an LB (liveblood) assistant,Misty,to keep his daily affairs in order. The constant threat of rot and the near constant worry of going feral don’t make life easy,but when a client shows up and offers a wad of cash to find a missing person,Mann just can’t say no. Mann and his client travels into the Bedlands,an old mattress factory which now houses a large group of chaks. The man the client is looking for is rumored to be there,but finding the missing man is just one tiny part of this story. A serial killer is at work,decapitating chaks and keeping the heads as trophies,and the killer may have more to do with the case then Mann ever could have suspected. When a possible connection to his wife’s murder comes to light,Mann will have to dig very deep to find the truth,and what he finds may destroy everything he holds dear.
I loved this take on the zombie genre! The author has created a cast of characters that was great fun to get to know,and Hessius Mann is up there in my top ten list of favorite PIs,zombie or not. In Dead Mann Walking,you’ll explore a world where humans and chaks live very uneasily together,and chaks are treated like second class citizens. There’s definitely some commentary here on how we treat certain groups,using zombies as a metaphor,but nothing heavy handed,and it adds a humanity to the genre that is sometimes hard to find. Urban fantasy,horror,and noir fans will find a lot to love about Dead Mann Walking,and Mann’s vulnerability and his desire to find out the truth,drives this unusual and fascinating novel. This is the first book that I’ve read by Stefan Petrucha,and I love his writing style,his wit,and his uncanny ability for clever word play. Don’t miss Dead Mann Walking,a wonderful start to a series that will certainly be on my auto buy!(less)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Acquainted With the Night. Piper Maitland is a new author for me,and I’m certainly always up for discovering new authors,plus,it’s blurbed by Diana Gabaldon,which is a win. I had a feeling I’d like it,but had no idea I’d enjoy it quite as much as I did. I’ll be honest,I have a ton of books on the TBR pile,so I readily admit to checking a books length,and if it exceeds the 300 page mark,you might see me wince a little bit. Acquainted weighs in at a healthy and robust 500+ pages,but I swear,they go by fast! Caroline Clifford (Caro),is a former doctorate candidate turned London tour guide. Not really her dream job,but it’s a living,and she has a roommate she gets along with,so things aren’t too bad. When she gets word that her Uncle was killed in a horrible way while on a Bulgarian archeological dig,it’s a tragic blow for Caro,and it’s at that point that things begin moving very fast for our heroine.
When handsome Jude Barrett comes into her life,claiming to have a connection to her uncle,Caro doesn’t know what to think,but clues left behind with her uncle’s things will set them on a globe hopping adventure to find what may be the key to immortality. See,Jude is a biochemist,and had been researching vampiric properties in mice when things took a bad turn for him he had to run for his life. Turns out Caro’s uncle may have known a little something about the existence of vampires,and it could also have a connection to Caro’s parents and her past. What follows for Caro and Jude is an adventure filled with mysterious monks,religious idols,illuminated texts (one book in particular will prove very important),and the phrase “trust no one” will certainly prove true. Expect some sizzling hot romance with Caro and Jude,and while the twists are fairly easy to predict,I didn’t mind,because the ride was so much fun. A fascinating,historical story,some truly evil vamps (and a nasty human villain),brisk pacing and tight prose make Acquainted With the Night a worthwhile,rollicking read! The author certainly left things open for further novels with Jude and Caro,so I’ll definitely be on the lookout!(less)
Tish Everett is a home care nurse who’s just escaped a bad relationship and is settling in to her work, caring for her sick grandmother, and enjoying her new found freedom. When she spots a beautiful locket at an estate sale, it seems to call to her, and before she knows it, she’s walking out the door with locket in hand. Inside is the picture of a rackish young man, and the romantic in Tish is delighted. Delight soon turns to confusion when he wakes up that night in a whole other world; a world of magic beyond Tish’s wildest dreams, and also home to the mysterious man in the locket, Criminy Stain. Her future is inexplicably tied to his, and he’s more than determined to make Tish his own, but is she willing to leave everything she loves behind?
Wicked As They Come is cracking good fun! I fell in love with Criminy Stain right away. He’s sly, roguish, devastatingly handsome, and he thinks Tish is the bee’s knees. There’s destiny involved here, and while Tish is concerned about her life back in the real world, she can’t help but be enchanted by Sang and its inhabitants. Criminy’s caravan certainly enchanted me, with its eccentric performers and clockwork animals. Not everything about Sang is magical in a good way, though. Most animals are bluds (the bludbunnies are a good example-cute, yet deadly), and Tish’s status as not only a Stranger, but as a Pinky forces her to cover herself head to toe to keep her scent from driving the bluds into a frenzy. Tish also discovers she has a rather unique talent when Criminy puts her to work as his resident fortune teller, and in the process, she finds out just how much the Bludmen and Bludewomen are hated by the humans of Sang, and also sees a possible future for herself that is anything but magical.
When her locket is stolen, she and Criminy will have to travel to the city to get it back, and what follows is an adventure you won’t soon forget. We’re talking vicious sea creatures, submarines, beautiful bludmares, evil Coppers, mermaids, ghosts, and unlikely (and charming) allies. And kissing, can’t forget the kissing. The tension between Criminy and Tish is delicious, and the author stretches it to the breaking point, with juicy results. Wicked As They Come is a rollicking, steampunk tinged ride down the rabbit hole, if the rabbits had vamp teeth and liked the taste of human flesh, and you’ll find yourself thoroughly charmed by this wonderful, rich, and dangerous world that Ms. Dawson has created. I couldn’t get enough of Wicked As They Come, and absolutely can’t wait for the next book! Very highly recommended! (less)
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.(less)
Henry Marco, former neurologist, is now a gun for hire in the wastelands of what used to be the western US (the Evacuated States). His business partner and former brother in law lives in the east, in the area deemed safe by the government, the New Republicans. Days are spent tracking lost relatives and giving them the peace that their family members desire, with the memory of his wife haunting his every step. Haunted, yes, that’s the best way to describe Henry Marco. Hardened by years of battling the undead, he begins to questions just what it is that keeps him going. Is it his “job?” Does killing the undead relatives of grieving survivors bring him peace and closure also, or does it just fuel the pattern that he’s been forging for years, alone and devastated by loss? Well, Marco’s lone wolf existence is about to be shaken up. Homeland Security has taken his brother in law hostage, using him as leverage in order to hire Marco to hunt the ultimate target: Roger Ballard, the scientist that may just have the cure for the Resurrection disease. The US government isn’t the only one after Ballard, though, and it will take every bit of cunning that Marco possesses to take on this job, out among the wreckage of a country in collapse, overrun by the hordes of living dead.
It’s probably pretty obvious to you by now, dear reader, that I like zombies. It’s a very popular genre right now, and when it comes to zombies, I’m not a gourmand, I’m a gourmet, and I’m always on the lookout for the next above-the-cut zom novel. Luckily, The Return Man more than fits the bill. When I mentioned that more than just the US is interested in a possible cure or vaccine for the Resurrection disease, take that to heart, because Marco will have to deal with some pretty nasty customers (other than zombies), on his journey to Sarsgard Medical Prison, where Ballard was last known to be. He picks up an unlikely ally (or is he) in the form of Ken Wu, Chinese assassin and spy, and a group of psychotic militia men are after them as well. Trust me, the Horsemen will give you a case of the shudders. I really enjoyed the author’s idea that zombies might have a trace of their old selves intact. Not much, but enough to seek out places that are familiar or give them comfort. While this isn’t necessarily a comforting thought, considering the state of these things that were once human, it provides a neat twist on the usual zombie fare.
I had absolutely no trouble getting into, and staying immersed in, The Return Man. There is a ton of carnage in this, seriously, the sheer number of zombies that Marco and Wu have to wade through is staggering, and when it comes to zombie killin’, the author doesn’t leave much to the imagination. That’s ok, though! I mean, you’ll cringe, at least, I did and consider myself somewhat jaded, but the gore really is necessary to paint a terrifying picture of what our hero has to endure, and has had to steel himself to in order to survive in the Evacuated States. The Return Man has quite a bit more depth to it than your average zombie apocalypse novel because Marco himself has a lot of depth, and we also get to know Wu quite a bit during the telling of the story. You’ll think you have Wu’s number at the beginning, but you won’t, and his story just added another layer to the unfolding of The Return Man. I enjoyed every terrifying bit of this book, and if you love zombies, good writing, and great storytelling, I think you will too!(less)
The Exodus Towers finds Skyler in Belem, Brazil, at the site of the new space elevator, the new “gift” from the Builders. A robust colony is taking shape around the base of the elevator, within its Aura, thanks to the work of Skyler and scientist Tania Sharma. Mobile towers have also been found that they can use to extend an Aura beyond that of the space elevator. Skyler has plenty to keep him busy, especially since he’s one of only a few immunes that can venture outside of the Aura without the danger of being infected by the SUBS virus (another Builder “gift”). Or so he thought. He soon meets young immune twin brother and sister, Davi and Ana, that claim a man named Gabriel, an immune himself, has been rounding up other immunes, ostensibly to do some rebuilding of society himself, but it soon becomes clear that Gabriel’s intentions are not philanthropic, and it will spur Skyler into taking action, especially when the new colony is threatened.
Meanwhile, while we now know the timeline of the Builders, and the spacing of the events, Tania is still working to find out what they are planning, and most importantly, why. The next event is looming soon, and unfortunately, they still rely on Russell Blackfield for supplies and also for colonists. In Nightcliff, Blackfield has made a deal with the devil, in the form of a slumlord who calls himself Grillo. Grillo will clean up the mean streets of Nightcliff, with plenty of concessions from Blackfield. Grillo also has help from Skyler’s remaining crew member, the irascible Samantha Rinn, who will do anything to get out of prison, help free Kelly, and get back to Skyler.
I was blown away by The Darwin Elevator and the ending left me gasping, so I was eager to dive into The Exodus Towers. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. I was fascinated with the ends and outs of creating a new colony, which is important because Skyler has such a big part in this, and he’s tireless in his efforts. He also grows increasingly frustrated with Tania, and her unwillingness to make important decisions for the colony. As for Tania, she’s been thrown quite unwillingly into a position of authority, one she never wanted, and although she longs to be with Skyler, the rift that opens between them, with so much at stake, may prove to be too wide in the end. He feels as if his duties are endless while Tania enjoys a certain amount of comfort in Orbit. Of course this isn’t really so, since Tania has plenty to deal with in delegating the needs of the colony and fighting her own, nearly crippling, self-doubt. Some of my favorite scenes in the book were the ones with Samantha and indeed, she’s certainly a scene stealer: strong, determined, and every bit the survivor. The action you’ve come to expect from this series is abundant and always exciting, and the discovery of a new type of SUBS creature will send chills down your spine. There’s even a bit of romance, which adds a new emotional level to the story. This series has it all: SF, horror, more than enough thrills and chills, and a rich but accessible story, and to me, would be a great series to try if you’re interested in SF but nervous about reading the “harder” stuff. That, and it’s just great fun! Luckily, we don’t have long to wait for THE PLAGUE FORGE!(less)