OMG DID I LOVE THIS BOOK. I don’t know how coherent this review is going to be so bear with me. The novel is inspired/based on the Koschei the Deathle...moreOMG DID I LOVE THIS BOOK. I don’t know how coherent this review is going to be so bear with me. The novel is inspired/based on the Koschei the Deathless tale from Russian folklore. It’s told from the point of view of Marya Morevna, the woman who whisked off by Koschei to an island named Buyan where they live as lovers. Marya goes through many trials to prove she should be the one to marry Koschei (since there have been many before her) and she is met by many magical beings along the way.
So last year the first book in the Jeremiah Hunt series, Eyes to See, was released and I read it. I was drawn to the idea of the main charact...more3.5 stars
So last year the first book in the Jeremiah Hunt series, Eyes to See, was released and I read it. I was drawn to the idea of the main character being a guy who traded his eyesight to be able to see the dead. In King of the Dead we’re back with Hunt, Denise Clearwater the mage and Dmitri the berserker as they are on the run from the FBI after Hunt was framed as the famous serial killer the Reaper. They travel to New Orleans after Denise has a vision of something terrifying going on there. There they meet up with an old friend of Denise’s, Simon Gallagher, also a mage. Apparently evil beings are sucking the life out of people and leaving empty shells behind and the group decides to get to the bottom of it.
The novel follows mainly two characters in the book: Oron, best friend who is secretly in love with Ruby Martin. Ruby is a feisty young woman looking...moreThe novel follows mainly two characters in the book: Oron, best friend who is secretly in love with Ruby Martin. Ruby is a feisty young woman looking to free herself and the rest of her kind on the generational ship The Creative Fire. Ruby and Oron are greys: a labour class of people signified by their grey clothing. There are also blues (people of logistics) and red (the peacekeepers) and green (upper levels). As you can guess, Ruby and her fellow greys are greatly mistreated, mostly by the reds of their level who bully, beat and even rape some of the people there. A revolution is brewing, not just for the greys to free themselves, but for all on the ship to become free from the harsh rule of the Creative Fire’s commanders. The heart and soul of this movement is Ruby, a young woman gifted with a beautiful singing voice and ability to move her people to action.
In a Fix is the story of Ciel, a young woman with a very cool ability. She’s an adaptor; someone who can absorb a bit of the aura from people and use...moreIn a Fix is the story of Ciel, a young woman with a very cool ability. She’s an adaptor; someone who can absorb a bit of the aura from people and use it to take their form physically. She’s a shape shifter. She uses this ability in her own business where she is paid to stand in for people when they don’t want to do it themselves: could be an event or something like getting the boyfriend of her client to propose. It’s kind of a cool concept but I had many, many issues with the characterization of Ciel Halligan and other aspects of the book.
I'm always so excited when Sanderson comes out with a new novel. I’m even more excited if that novel is not Wheel of Time or another doorst...more(3.5 stars)
I'm always so excited when Sanderson comes out with a new novel. I’m even more excited if that novel is not Wheel of Time or another doorstopper in a epic saga (not that I am against those, just sometimes would like something shorter to read). As soon as I heard of this fewer than two hundred page story–short by his standards–I requested it immediately.
“Men Who Wish to Drown” is a story set in the same world as Fama’s Monstrous Beauty series, where men cross paths with mermaids. In this story, a man...more“Men Who Wish to Drown” is a story set in the same world as Fama’s Monstrous Beauty series, where men cross paths with mermaids. In this story, a man named Resolved Henry Stanton writes a letter to his great-grandson about his life and his regrets. His biggest regret is a decision he made after he met Syrenka, a mermaid who saved him from drowning.
Ever since seeing the trailer for Cloud Atlas the movie, I've wanted to read this book. I went out and bought it a couple weeks ago because I figured...moreEver since seeing the trailer for Cloud Atlas the movie, I've wanted to read this book. I went out and bought it a couple weeks ago because I figured reading it before seeing the movie would be the best idea. Unfortunately, I had a really hard time getting into it and even after giving it second and third chances to wow me, I finally decided to put it down.
Among Others has already won many awards, including the Hugo and Nebula award for Best Novel and it’s not hard to see why. It’s an engrossing story an...moreAmong Others has already won many awards, including the Hugo and Nebula award for Best Novel and it’s not hard to see why. It’s an engrossing story and a love letter to SF fandom. The story is pretty simple: it’s about Morwenna, a fifteen year old girl who’s run away from her insane mother to live with her estranged father and his three sisters. They sent her to boarding school where she spends most of her time reading science fiction and fantasy novels while writing down her daily experiences (this is what we end up reading). To Mori, tragedy has struck, when not long before had her twin sister Mori (short for Morganna) been killed in a horrible accident and she herself was crippled. Oh, and Mori regularly sees fairies, especially at her home in Wales and occasionally does some magic for protection from her evil mother.
I was really, really excited to read Audrey’s Door. Everything about the premise says it’s my kind of story: an apartment building with a creepy past,...moreI was really, really excited to read Audrey’s Door. Everything about the premise says it’s my kind of story: an apartment building with a creepy past, architecture, and psychological horror. Unfortunately, after a hundred and fifty pages, I decided to call it quits.
I didn’t vote for this selection in the Theme Park Book Club but it was my second choice. When I finally picked it up at the bookstore I realized it w...moreI didn’t vote for this selection in the Theme Park Book Club but it was my second choice. When I finally picked it up at the bookstore I realized it was quite the doorstopper and was a little intimidated. Needless to say, I flew through this book and its amazing world building. At the heart of Eon is the idea of gender and I was both pleased with what I found and had some issues that I’ll point out here.
The Last Werewolf is a story told by the main character, Jake Marlowe through his journal as he describes his experience as the last werewolf...more3.5 stars
The Last Werewolf is a story told by the main character, Jake Marlowe through his journal as he describes his experience as the last werewolf on earth. It opens with him finding out the second-to-last werewolf has been killed by the WOCOP (“World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena”) and documents Marlowe’s depression and angst about his situation. To be honest, it probably sucks really hard being a werewolf not to mention the last werewolf. His arch nemesis Grainer is coming for him on the next full moon, so he can kill him properly as a wolf until shit basically hits the fan and things get way more complicated than before.
It didn’t take very much for me to be quickly absorbed into Wilson’s Repairman Jack world. His writing deft and infectious, particularly wit...more2.5 stars.
It didn’t take very much for me to be quickly absorbed into Wilson’s Repairman Jack world. His writing deft and infectious, particularly with how well he creates a cast of characters and manages to make them all at least a little distinguished from one another. This is a prequel to all the Repairman Jack novels and is the first in a new trilogy. It says in the beginning of the book that you needn’t have read any books in this series before to enjoy this and it’s true: I didn’t feel like I was missing information or that things didn’t make sense. However, I could tell this was mainly written for fans, as much time is spent on characters and their interactions and not very much on plot. Ever wanted to see the early days between Jack and Abe? There’s plenty here, but not much for someone who is new to them both.
Let Maps to Others is an adventure story, told in first person by a scholar (I don’t think we ever get his name) who is an expert on the writings of A...moreLet Maps to Others is an adventure story, told in first person by a scholar (I don’t think we ever get his name) who is an expert on the writings of Aeneas Peregrinus. Aeneas, three hundred years prior, discovered and wrote about a prosperous country called Essecuivo. The location of this place was lost and has since become mythical until our main character goes on a journey to find Essecuivo, along with a duke who finances the expedition.
I picked this book up in the mood for something fun, set in a historical setting and with lively characters. This is exactly what I got. This is the s...moreI picked this book up in the mood for something fun, set in a historical setting and with lively characters. This is exactly what I got. This is the story of Sebastian Tweed and Octavia Nightingale, young adults who cross paths as they search for their kidnapped father and mother, respectively. Together, using logic, cunning, and spirit, they hunt down the devious villains and try to save the entire British Empire from certain disaster.
This is a story mixing the Wild West, science fiction and even a little fantasy into a nice little package. It seems that Westerns are not an...more3.5 stars
This is a story mixing the Wild West, science fiction and even a little fantasy into a nice little package. It seems that Westerns are not an unlikely pairing with science fiction elements – just see Cowboys vs. Aliens or Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special (review). I’d place Bear’s story above The Buntline Special and somewhere in the vicinity of Cowboys vs Aliens (what, I enjoyed it!).
Brother. Prince. Snake. is a tale of a 3rd brother and prince named Wen. He was born into a dragon or s...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
Brother. Prince. Snake. is a tale of a 3rd brother and prince named Wen. He was born into a dragon or snake-like form with scaly skin and tiny wings. The only normal spot on him is the patch of human skin on his head where his mother kissed him before she died. She had made a deal with a witch that she would bear a boy that would become king and one that would be a monster.
As with other short stories, there wouldn’t be any fun if I spoiled the story for you. But it is based on the Lindwurm fairy tale. This story carries some elements over from that tale and yet Castellucci makes it her own. I really loved this story about how someone is born and how they come to be the people they are in adulthood. The story is told from the point of view of Wen and Castellucci does a great job with his voice. You come to see Wen’s nature and life in very few words:
My only companions were the gargoyles that could not speak ill of me because they were made of stone and the mice I would sometimes talk to before I ate them as a snack.
There’s also a bit of a love story but it’s a little quick and serves more to facilitate the plot (and to stay faithful to the original tale).
Overall, I highly recommend reading this story. I hope Castellucci returns to fairy tale retellings in the future!(less)
Normally this book would not have caught my attention. There are no spec fic elements, however, there it is historical and I love me some his...more4.5 stars
Normally this book would not have caught my attention. There are no spec fic elements, however, there it is historical and I love me some historical fiction. But even then, I tend to read pre-1900s historical fiction. So why would I pick this up? Because everyone and their dog has read this book and loved it.
I wouldn’t say I thought this novel was as amazing as everyone described. It’s very, very good and the ending is powerful. What I think hindered the story is also what I think was the best part (if that makes any sense).
There will be spoilers for the first book in the series, Planesrunner (review).
We were left with quite a cliffhanger at the end of Planesrunner; Evere...moreThere will be spoilers for the first book in the series, Planesrunner (review).
We were left with quite a cliffhanger at the end of Planesrunner; Everett’s dad is zapped to a random universe and Everett and the airship team escapes the bad guys by zapping themselves to another random universe. It turns out to be a frozen version of our world. Everett has to figure out a way back using his tablet installed with the Infundibilum and the jump gun, rescue his father and dodge his enemy Charlotte Villiers.
Planesrunner really surprised me. I knew it was science fiction (that’s why I wanted to read it) but it turned out to contain some pretty awesome conc...morePlanesrunner really surprised me. I knew it was science fiction (that’s why I wanted to read it) but it turned out to contain some pretty awesome concepts. Mainly, the Many World Theory. The action starts off right away when Everett Singh’s father is abducted in front of his very eyes. After going to the police and not getting anywhere, Everett receives a file on his tablet which turns out to be the very thing his dad was kidnapped for: the map of all the universes, called the Infundibular. This is important because they have built a gate that allows you to jump to another parallel universe, but only those that also have their own gates (so far, only nine others). The Infundibular opens up all the possibilities of traveling anywhere, in any universe. And now Everett has it on his iPad.
Warning: spoilers for The Last Page but not for Black Bottle.
Black Bottle started off really, really well. We are thrust back into the world of Caliph...moreWarning: spoilers for The Last Page but not for Black Bottle.
Black Bottle started off really, really well. We are thrust back into the world of Caliph and Sena, after Caliph had miraculously been brought back to life at the end of The Last Page. I was revved up to see more of this twisty, dark universe filled with monsters, witches, blood magic and sometimes, horrors. It seemed that some of my concerns of the first book had already been taken care of: the plot was moving fast, the prose a lot easier to follow and also the inclusion of another female character, Taelin Rae. I was hooked.
Fighting Gravity is a science fiction romance debut from author Leah Petersen. I actually re...more(3.5 stars) (originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
Fighting Gravity is a science fiction romance debut from author Leah Petersen. I actually read this book in one day and was surprised by many things.
The story is told first person point of view from the character Jacob Dawes. He tells the story like he’s recounting it from some point in the future; there’s a lot of emotion and flows like it would through his memory. The story starts from his early childhood at eight years old when he’s selected from the slums of New Mexico to attend a prestigious school called Imperial Intellectual Complex for his special intelligence. From there it goes on to how he meets the Emperor of the galaxy, Peter, and how they form a romantic relationship. Their relationship is tested by the difference in their two classes: Jake is an unclass, the lowliest of the low, and there is no one higher then Peter in the galaxy. They are also tested by their personalities and choices they make along the way.
I was surprised at how focused Fighting Gravity was on the romantic relationship between Jake and Peter, although this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot of drama in their lives (most of it caused by Jake) and it makes for a rollercoaster ride of a read. There are some good world building going on I wish I had seen more of such as the other planets, races, and how the social structure of the world works. So much is dependent on class and your social standing to the point where almost everyone’s actions are informed by where you are in the totem pole. Jake himself is an interesting narrator albeit a frustrating one. His life is pretty tragic; it includes abuse from his father and later his superior at IIC. Much of these actions is blamed on the fact he is an unclass and therefore everyone hates him (but not everyone) and I felt this was true for most of the novel. Even when his class wasn’t a factor, he was still the target of everyone’s hatred. On top of this, even when he wasn’t being targeted, he made almost every choice he had in the worst way. He caused a lot of problems for himself and never really learned from anything he had done.
Overall, I am pleased I decided to pick Fighting Gravity up. I was happy with Petersen’s debut, which was written well and held a good narrative voice in Jake (even though he could be so stubborn and silly sometimes). I also really appreciated the male romance between Peter and Jake as it’s not very common in science fiction. I recommend this to those looking for a romance-filled light scifi read that focuses more on people and their relationships rather than large action sequences. I feel like the ending left an opening for a sequel (without being a cliffhanger) and I’d be interested in seeing how that plays out.
Review copy of this book was provided by the author.(less)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb takes place in our world where the unthinkable happens. Someone has engine...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb takes place in our world where the unthinkable happens. Someone has engineered a virus and unleashed it on humanity called the MDS virus. It causes pregnant women, who are susceptible to illness in their pregnant state, to severely deteriorate and kill both the mother and child. Essentially this act of bioterrorism has halted the progress of the human race by preventing any new babies to be born. Everyone is infected and there is no cure.
Many ‘solutions’ pop up. Scientists are working on a vaccine. Some are trying to find a way to get the mother to survive the pregnancy. Some have forgone this luxury and simply try to get the babies born, even if the cost is the mother’s life. Some women have been volunteering to become implanted with embryos and to carry out their pregnancy in a coma, hoping the baby makes it through even though they don’t. They’re called “Sleeping Beauties”.
Jessie Lamb is a sixteen year old girl living through this dire change in the world. Her and her friends talk about how this only happened because adults have not taken care of the planet, or created wars and a world where people would want to destroy the human race. Some think it’s mother nature defending itself from the toxic effect of humans on the planet, and some others think it’s a ploy by men to further control women and their child-bearing ability, something men would never be able to do themselves. It’s a dark, scary time and yet things don’t seem all that far-fetched.
The novel is written as if Jessie herself is writing down her story of her whole experience. The main story hinges on Jessie and her quest to find a meaning for her own life by coming up with a way to help humanity’s grave situation. While spending time contemplating her role in all this, she also goes through many typical teenager trials. She has boy troubles, her parents don’t understand her and she doesn’t know what to do with her life. But it never comes off as juvenile or silly compared to this virus everyone is dealing with. Jessie and her family all seem to act as clearly as anyone would act if this were to happen and that’s what made it a fascinating read.
I really came to like Jessie even though I felt some of her ideas and convictions were not always sound. She has an extremely impressive amount of agency in her life, despite being sixteen and facing a life where she would be unable to have a child without dying in the process. Over the novel she makes a big decision, the biggest decision in her life and it doesn’t come easy. We watch her do this and watch as her family reacts and the world reacts. I won’t say the outcome since it’s a major spoiler, but it’s fascinating and sad at the same time.
Although I decided to read this book because of the science fiction and dystopia aspects, this was largely a coming of age story about a girl and her desire to do something that will matter in the world. I found myself instantly taken in with her story and her voice. Here’s a passage that really grabbed me with its simplicity and contrast to the stark world:
"I wondered who had worn my dress, I wondered if she went dancing in it. I had the strangest feeling, almost as if the dress was a body. I’d put the dress on and in doing that I’d put on another body. A light, twirling, dancing body. And after me, someone else could wear the dress. And someone else. And they would all have a sense of that, the light twirling dancing body. But of course they would be themselves as well. I was thinking, if that much can be passed on just in a dress, how much of every living person lives on after they die?" (p. 91)
I’m really glad I read The Testament of Jessie Lamb and I think Jessie’s story will stay with me for some time. There’s so much to think about from different angles and it’s nice to read a novel that has that effect on you. I definitely recommend this book to those looking for a great dystopian story, that doesn’t shy away from real issues and hard choices. Jessie is a strong, convincing female protagonist that I encourage everyone to discover.
Review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.(less)
Breed is the story of Alex and Leslie, two different people who meet and fall madly in love with one another. Their life is basically perfect until th...moreBreed is the story of Alex and Leslie, two different people who meet and fall madly in love with one another. Their life is basically perfect until they discover they are having a really hard time conceiving children. They do everything that wealthy, connected people can do – tests, procedures, counseling. Still no babies. Until they hear about a doctor in Slovenia who is having unprecedented success in getting parents to conceive. Naturally, Alex and Leslie jump on an airplane to meet this doctor. They get the procedure. They get pregnant.
Darker Still is the story of Natalie Stewart, young woman living in 1880s New York. Her father works fo...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
Darker Still is the story of Natalie Stewart, young woman living in 1880s New York. Her father works for the Met museum and they come across a popular painting of a British man, Lord Denbury. After some peculiar things happening, Natalie discovers the painting is enchanted somehow and that Denbury’s spirit resides within. This aspect of the story really channeled the famous book about a painting, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In fact, I loved how the story involved magic, supernatural powers, demons and artwork. It gave a really spooky vibe to the plot and setting.
I’m pretty torn about the other aspects of the book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed Natalie as a main character. She’s a mute and so has a real struggle in 1880s New York. Due to this, the book is narrated by her as if she was writing in her journal and this didn’t always work for me. Sometimes it would read like any first person narrative and lose that epistolary feeling, other times it would be very much like diary entries.
I also really enjoyed the setting, 19th century New York. I don’t think it was showcased as much as it could be because many scenes take place in closed spaces and we don’t get a whole lot of sense of how the city would have been at that time. I think this was because the romance really took off after Lord Denbury and Natalie meet (insta-love) and became a large focus of the story. This is great if you’re looking for a gothic romance but I found myself more attracted to the fantastical aspects of the book. I wanted there to be more about the mysteries of the painting and magic without the quickly begotten love story.
Of course, this all really depends on what you’re looking for. I liked this book but that much of it wasn’t really what I was looking for in terms of a gothic paranormal. I would only recommend this to those who are not put off by these kinds of romances and who would also like to check out a story with a different kind of main character (even though she does get wrapped up in insta-love), a historical setting and spooky mystery.
Review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.(less)
In Great Waters is the first book I have read that takes a mythical creature – the mermaid – and develo...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
In Great Waters is the first book I have read that takes a mythical creature – the mermaid – and develops a world and story around it. Whitfield places her story in an alternate English history, probably around Renaissance times. Her monarchs are incongruously named (William, Edward, Philip) and even someone as myself who tends to recognize English monarchy from reading a lot of historical fiction had a hard time pinpointing them – I don’t think these were based on any real historical figures. Or, at least, it was meant to be very vague.
But we do have all the normal societal problems of a kingdom at this time. The throne is shaky, there’s no male heir; there are only two girls to keep the royal line going. The monarchy in this alternate history is made from a line of deepsmen. They aren’t fully deepsmen with fish tails but they have two legs that are pliable for swimming. They can also communicate and hold their breath for a long while under water. It is imperative that the leaders of the European kingdoms be of deepsmen blood because it’s what keeps the alliances with the deepsmen intact. They help protect the waters.
There are two main characters of this story. Henry, a bastard deepsman (a deepswoman for a mother and human for a father) who is rejected by his tribe and found washed up on a shore. He is taken in by the Allard family and taught as much as he could about England. But it’s dangerous; harboring a bastard is considered a crime against the crown since a bastard could potentially take the throne. The other character is Anne, the second princess of England. She struggles with growing up in a court full of political strife and danger.
I think my experience with In Great Waters exactly represents one of those times you know you’re reading a great book but you just don’t feel it. Whitfield did an amazing job with the world building. The deepsmen were fit into our world so seamlessly it was easy to believe their interactions with society. What I particularly loved is that they had their own unique way of life. They had tribes, customs (or maybe lack of customs) that made them stand out from the stiff, ritual-filled world of the humans. Whitfield’s writing style was also very pleasant as I found myself easily flowing from one protagonist. Your immersion into the story is full and it’s due to her deft prose.
Where I think the story faltered for me is that I never really felt there was any direction to the story. It’s definitely a coming of age story for young Anne and Henry, but I didn’t think that was enough. I also thought it would be a story of overthrowing the king, but even then, there wasn’t any war or battle. I also found it to be slow moving and lacking enough action to satisfy the long passages of information Whitfield would go into. That being said, I still finished the book without much problems.
This one’s going to depend on one’s preference in books. If you enjoy coming of age stories, long historical fiction with a good dose of fantasy, this is it. Even if you prefer action packed and high-energy stories, I would say give this a try because the imagining of mermaids is one that you really shouldn’t miss. Whitfield has really impressed me as an author, despite my reservations, and I look forward to reading more by her.(less)
Thief’s Covenant starts off as a pretty traditional, unsurprising young adult fantasy novel. Young fema...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
Thief’s Covenant starts off as a pretty traditional, unsurprising young adult fantasy novel. Young female protagonist, Adrienne Satti, aka Widdershins, is a thief living in a standard Europeland town (you know, tavern, nobility, etc). People have French names, so I believe that maybe the culture is slightly inspired by the French. Widdershins is recovering from a tragic past that we are shown in just the first few pages – her friends and reputation is shattered when a demon slaughters her and the rest of the worshippers of the god Olgun. In this world there are many gods, some tied to different families or cities or both. Officially, there are 147 of them, part of the Pact, which is organized and monitored by the church. Olgun is not part of this Pact. Widdershins and Olgun find themselves relying on each other for survival when their group is slaughtered and take to the streets with a life of thievery.
For a good long while I really didn’t know where the story was going. Widdershins, being the only known survivor of the slaughter, becomes the main suspect. Running away only helps solidify her guilt and much of the first half of the novel is spent her trying to avoid the city Guardsmen. She also has trouble with the Finder’s Guild – she owes them percentages on her heists, as any thief in the city must pay. Not until maybe halfway or more through the novel do we get to the meat of the story, the mystery of who ordered the massacre of Olgun’s followers.
I think the slow buildup was partly caused by the structure of the story. We are essentially being told two separate stories from two different times. One is before the massacre, of Widdershin’s life leading up to it. The other part is afterward, in the present time. I really thought that this created a great background to Widdershin’s character and provided a good history for us to connect to; however, jumping back and forth wasn’t always the most convenient. Sometimes I wanted more of the past, sometimes more of the present and it seemed to create frustration.
All this being said, I think I loved this story. The author’s voice was really enjoyable to read. He has a subtle, humorous way with describing mundane things. For example, on page 34:
Not long before, when she could take it no longer, the lanterns in the upper-story windows flickered and died, suggesting Baron Weasel-face had finally retired to his burrow for badly needed (and blatantly ineffectual) beauty sleep. The downstairs light continued to burn, no doubt for servants who, having stood and watched as rich people grew fat on fancy foods, were now compelled to clean up after the satin-wrapped and brocaded swine.
And on page 47:
She wore a tunic of verdant green and earth-brown breeches topped by a green-trimmed black vest, a combination that made her look vaguely like an ambulatory shrubbery. Those made me giggle.
Additionally, I loved the world building in regards to the religion. I have a thing for well thought-out religions in fantasy and this is one of them. Olgun himself is a great part of that, offering his limited magical abilities to Widdershins when needed.
Lastly, Widdershins herself is a great female character. She’s clever, brave and takes control of her own life quite frequently, despite the powers working against her. I was always rooting for her, which made the great ending even more satisfying.
Although the novel started out a little slow for me, I really ended up liking it. Probably even loving it. I definitely had some criticisms to share about it but I really think it’s one of my favorite young adult fantasies I’ve read in a long time. I wholeheartedly recommend it to those looking for one to dive into. The series continues with False Covenant, which I already have, so I’ll be reading that as soon as possible.
Copy of this book was provided by the publisher.(less)
This is a novel about sheep. Well, it has sheep, of the livestock and human variety. A sheep will follo...more(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)
This is a novel about sheep. Well, it has sheep, of the livestock and human variety. A sheep will follow the actions of the bellwether, the member of the flock who is a little more motivated than the rest. What makes them blind followers and what causes humans to follow trends and take up the latest fads?
Sandra Foster is a stats expert and scientist researching the origin and causes of fads in order to be able to predict – or instigate – them. This is a very attractive prospect for her employer, a company who funds scientific research in hope for a lucrative breakthrough. At her office she meets chaos theorist Bennett and they find themselves, through seemingly unfortunate events, working together on a project to find the source of apparently chaotic human behavior.
Bellwether is a short book, especially by the author’s standards, but it is a lovely, compact story about science, research and pop culture. At the beginning of each chapter is a short description and history of a fad such as hoola hoops, mood rings and Ouija boards. This added a fun and interesting aspect to the story since everything is so focused on origins of these very things.
I’ve read a few books by Willis already and she’s made it into my list of favorite science fiction authors. She has a really great way to make her stories accessible to the reader through relatable and often hilarious characters. Bellwether is no exception. The whole novel is a comedy of manners, misfortune and mistakes all centered on the character of Flip, the office interdepartmental assistant. She is so thoroughly aggravating in her attempts to look and act differently from society while managing to be the worst office assistant ever. I really enjoyed these interactions between Flip, Sandra, Bennett and the other coworkers. It really added the element of chaos in a story about chaos.
I’m slowly making my way through all of Willis’ backlist because I really think she can’t write a bad book. I loved Bellwether for being a short, entertaining book about the science behind pop culture and human group behavior. This kind of diverse storyline is really what I look for in speculative fiction and I would recommend this book to those looking for the same.(less)
God’s War is a very meaty, complex story that really transcends genres. It’s set in a far away world called Umayma, where two major religious and political factions – the Nasheenians and the Chenjans – are fighting a never-ending holy war. They each practice a form of Islam and their conflict mirrors much of what we see in our world in religious disputs. In this futuristic world with bug magic, this really grounds the story in issues we are familiar with.
And there is much that is not familiar, thanks for Hurley’s fantastic worldbuilding. This is Hurley’s debut novel and she blows her world building right out of this universe (perhaps literally). The setting is another world, probably settled hundreds if not thousands of years earlier, and predominately takes place in a desert. It’s hot, filled with beetles and locusts and blood and sand. Our main character is Nyx, trained as a ‘bel dame’ – a sort of official assassin of the Nasheenians. She is now a bounty hunter working for whoever will pay her and her crew. There’s also people called magicians, who often manage boxing matches but also have the talent of controlling bugs in the use of magic. Bugs can be used to communicate over distances, heal people, or create light. There is yet another layer to the fantasy in this world and that is shapeshifters. But this isn’t straight fantasy, as I mentioned before, but also combines science fiction elements of aliens (from outer space) and technology. All of this mixes to create a truly unique reading experience.
One of my favorite things about this novel is the diversity: the diversity in the genre, the culture and also the characters. There are characters of every color, sexuality and religious background. The Nasheenians are predominately female, since so many males are drafted into the war and die there. Women are in power and essentially run the show on everything. Nyx was never a character I particular liked but I liked what she represented. She’s tough, hard, and loyal to her crew.
I haven’t even gotten to the plot yet, have I? Nyx puts together a crew to complete the hunts she is hired for; one of those crewmembers is Rhys, a Chenjan magician who escaped into Nasheen from his own past. He’s not a very good magician but he has some kind of bond with Nyx. Nyx is summoned by the Queen and put on the job of finding a woman, an alien, who poses a danger to Nasheen if she should help the Chenjans with the war. This sparks a long and hard battle to find this woman and essentially prevent one side of the war from gaining an extreme advantage over the other.
This wasn’t a fast read for me. It’s felt very dense because so much is packed into this story and because I often felt following Nyx as a character was hard due to her unflinching personality and harsh surroundings. However, I was so enraptured in this world that I always kept going. The pet peeve I had for most of the novel was how Nyx’s bel dame sisters always kept hounding her. Didn’t they have anything better to do than stalk and annoy her? They seemed to always pop up in the worst times and it wasn’t always clear as to why they even cared what she did.
I really loved this book for its unique fantasy setting, the magic that will make you feel like that itch you have on your leg is a beetle, and strong diversity in the characters. I can honestly say I never read anything like it. I definitely recommend this to those looking for a different fantasy experience. Thankfully, this book is followed by its sequel Infidel, out now, and then by Rapture, out later this year.(less)
It’s been quite a while since my last real review and I’m sorry for that – it’s just been so busy around here lately and I’ve been in a sort of reading slump. Maybe it’s just anticipation for Diablo II to come out and then the trip to Book Expo America having an odd effect.
I think maybe Earthseed suffered a bit from my reading slump or maybe it participated in it a little, at least in the beginning. The story starts out as something like a Degrassi episode but in space. A bunch of young people have been raised from insemination on a ship called Ship – and they are being taught and groomed for the eventuality of settling on a planet and expanding the human race. Our main protagonist is Zoheret, a clever, introspective girl living her life on Ship. Of course, in this first part of the book, there’s a lot of drama. Who likes who, who sleeps with who, what a jerk so and so is. There were also some thoughtful interactions between the characters and Ship about life and science and what their duty to humanity is. I just couldn’t get around some of the more typical teenager angst to see the more meaningful stuff.
Maybe if I read this back in 1983 it would have seemed fresher by this point. It’s somewhat of a generational ship story and we get to experience what life might be like in a place where people have spent their entire lives.
After Part One and we got more to the point of the whole story, the truth about Ship and the mission, I finished the book in one sitting. It was like I was reading a different book. I really, really enjoyed it and found myself more invested in the characters and their mission. I won’t explain much past here since it would be very spoilery, but suffice it to say that the book picked up and had some great twists and turns.
One of the highlights for me out of the entire novel is Ship itself. It obviously has some great artificial intelligence programmed in but I often felt Ship had more than that, a personality, and could grow and change on its own. I thought it really did care about its passengers and its mission. Although Zoheret is a respectable female heroine she wasn’t that interesting to me compared to Ship. I’d probably call it a lack of personality.
Overall, I felt Earthseed had a rough start for me but definitely started to pick up after part one. I thought all the big reveals were great, clever and unexpected. This is definitely a good book for fans of science fiction and young adult novels and in fact I think it offers something different than other young adult science fiction these days. There’s no ridiculous romance or silly science. I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel, Farseed as soon as I can.
Review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.(less)