Sometimes, a book you least expect to like takes you completely by surprise. Sometimes, even though you respect their opinion, you disagree with some Sometimes, a book you least expect to like takes you completely by surprise. Sometimes, even though you respect their opinion, you disagree with some of your most trusted friends. For me, this is one of those times.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer wasn’t at all what I expected. I was warned about the love interest, about the heroine, about the plot and about the romance itself. I was told that the story makes little sense, that the romance is forced and unbelievable, that the love interest is just another version of Edward Cullen and that the heroine is simply too unmemorable, and occasionally even too stupid to live.
I must say that I respectfully disagree.
The fact of the matter is that I found the plot to be compelling and absolutely addictive; well planned, well written and incredibly suspenseful. Mara is a completely unreliable narrator, a detached, slightly unhinged, completely broken girl who hallucinates more often than not. We can’t be sure what we’re seeing, not when we’re seeing it through her eyes, and like her, we must question everything, from her friends and family to her sanity.
In addition, it must be said that I actually like Edward Cullen, and strangely enough, I rather like Noah Shaw as well. His previous romantic entanglements made me uncomfortable at first (as they were meant to, I’m sure), but as I learned more about him and witnessed his devotion to Mara, I started genuinely liking the boy.
It was actually Mara, not Noah, who gave me pause more than once. She came perilously close to the very definition of anti-heroine on several occasions, in a way that truly put me on edge. However, despite my discomfort (or possibly because of it), I appreciated Hodkin’s excellent characterization, her insightfulness and her willingness to take her characters to pretty uncomfortable places, well beyond the limit of morally and socially acceptable behavior. Mara wasn’t the only one who questioned her sanity. I questioned it constantly and there were moments when I thought she really should be put away, for her own safety and the safety of others. This is Michelle Hodkin’s true strength – she makes us love and fear a single character, be understanding and understandably wary at the same time. Mara is not a heroine in the traditional sense, but it’s quite easy to care for her nevertheless.
This story’s only true flaw, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t offer any sort of explanation for Mara’s apparent hallucinations. I’ve developed a very thick skin when it comes to cliffhangers, but at least some answers would have been most welcome. As is, I was left with hundreds of questions, very few answers, and a deep sense of dread that will likely stay with me for days to come.
Christy Romano narrated the book beautifully and added so much to the experience. Her pacing is a bit faster than normal, but it suits this story perfectly, and her voice only amplifies the overwhelming tension of the story. Mara’s emotions, as well as her strange detachment throughout the story, were clearly reflected in Romano’s voice. In addition, she did a fairly good job with Noah’s accent – she didn’t sound native, not quite, but even in that she was more than good enough.
After the crushing cliffhanger we were left with, I have no choice but to continue the story right away. Please excuse me while I go hide in the darkest, quietest corner of my house with Freya (my phone) and headphones for company.
The wonderful cover of this book, combined with the well-written blurb, does an excellent job of luring us in by promising a book both hilarious and fThe wonderful cover of this book, combined with the well-written blurb, does an excellent job of luring us in by promising a book both hilarious and filled with adventure and romance. However, Anomaly doesn’t quite live up to the promise. There is, admittedly, a decent amount of adventure, but romance is far from satisfactory, and the promised humor strangely absent.
Josie is having the worst day of her life, and who cares that it’s her 17th birthday? Certainly not her slimy boyfriend who decides to dump her on that very day, and neither does her overbearing, depressed mother or her absent father. But even with all that on her plate, Josie doesn’t get a reprieve. Instead, strange things start happening around her and instead of ending with a birthday party, her day ends with murder.
Anomaly follows the usual YA paranormal route, without a single detour to make it at least somewhat more memorable. Josie learns that she’s very powerful and that a group of people is trying to kill her because of it, a hot boy is there to protect her but he (naturally) can’t be in a relationship with her because she’s apparently too important to be kissed senseless, there’s a loyal best friend, a traitor in their midst, absent parents and just about everything else one would expect from a book such as this. Sometimes these combinations of tropes and stock characters end up working splendidly, but unfortunately, this is not one of those times.
Anomaly might be better suited for younger readers and those who haven’t read much paranormal YA. It’s cute and fairly well written, but not for people who have read many similar stories in the past. However, other series have started this way and ended up being original and entertaining. There is hope yet if Tonya Kuper decides to take things in an unexpected direction.
Usually when a duology becomes a trilogy or a trilogy becomes a more lengthy series overnight, I grumble and complain and become instantly resentful oUsually when a duology becomes a trilogy or a trilogy becomes a more lengthy series overnight, I grumble and complain and become instantly resentful of both the author and the publisher. But when I discovered that this duology somehow grew to become a trilogy, I felt nothing but satisfaction and joy. More books from Mira Grant are always good news to me. In fact, if Parasitology suddenly became a 180 books long medical thriller/soap opera hybrid, I’d still be a happy camper. That’s how much I admire this author and trust in her ability to always, always deliver.
Like Parasite, Symbiont is mostly told from Sal Mitchell’s perspective, with diary entries, chapters and correspondence from other characters in between. Sal’s voice is nothing like what we usually get from Mira Grant. She is a frightened girl, hesitant, unsure, often whiny, and a follower by her own admission. For the most part, Sal doesn’t even try to be brave (which can admittedly be a tad exhausting at times), but in Symbiont, we witness her growing at least somewhat stronger and more confident. She will never be the most traditional heroine, but then again, she’s not the most traditional human being, so I suppose that’s all right.
My experience with medical thrillers is virtually nonexistent which makes it impossible for me to compare Symbiont with others of its kind, but the amount of research behind this book is obvious and quite impressive. One could never accuse Grant of doing things halfway. The science in her science fiction is always so believable and infinitely scary. I kept imagining my brain being slowly eaten by a parasite and let me tell you, it was not a pleasant thought at all.
The pacing could have been better, especially in the first half. I felt that some events included were absolutely inconsequential and that the story would have functioned a lot better without them. But the second half of the book has no such issues –it was, in fact, so tense that I sometimes forgot to breathe.
In addition to her excellent worldbuilding, Grant’s characterization is, as always, superb. This stands true for more than just Sal – each and every one of her characters is built to perfection. Through Dr. Cale and Dr. Banks, we are offered insight into the minds of two mad scientists with brilliant minds and sociopathic tendencies. Dr. Cale was especially interesting in that regard because she actually tried to adhere to basic ethical and behavioral standards, but it was always a conscious effort, not something that came naturally. I’ve also noticed that Grant always includes a slightly unhinged, homicidal girl (Foxy in Blackout and Tansy in Parasite and Symbiont) as the perfect source of comic relief. This may be a template character for Grant, but it is always endlessly entertaining to me.
”Hello?” I tried again. “Look, I’m all like, barefoot and lying in yuck, and that’s a serious infection risk, so could you maybe come and get me and take me somewhere clean? Or better, give me back my shoes and let me go? I promise not to murder you even a little.”
While Parasitolgy didn’t necessarily capture my heart like Newsflesh before it, its quality is unquestionable. I have no doubt that we’ll be getting a spectacular finale next year. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Can you imagine a wonderful, light science-fiction novel set in Scotland, with delightful Scottish accents, spaceships (possibly) landing in the moor,Can you imagine a wonderful, light science-fiction novel set in Scotland, with delightful Scottish accents, spaceships (possibly) landing in the moor, and unruly Scottish boys with very wild imaginations? Well guess what, as lovely as it sounds, you don’t have to imagine it, Ken MacLeod already did it for us.
The charm of this lovely science fiction work is twofold. A part of it is certainly the setting, especially for those of us who are mostly used to reading American fiction. Scotland is very much alive in this book, brought to life by someone who knows (and apparently loves) its every rock. Ryan’s best friend Calum, as well as many other characters, speaks with this lovely Scottish accent that was transferred beautifully in writing. Another huge part of this book’s charm stems from MacLeod’s wry sense of humor, the laugh-out-loud variety, and a lot of it.
Set in a very near, very believable future, Descent is part super-light sci-fi, part coming of age story, part political thriller and part conspiracy theory. It follows Ryan through various stages of his life, all at least somewhat affected by the strange event in his youth. It doesn’t follow the usual narrative line and it never really becomes a cohesive whole. It’s quite an unusual read, but all the more charming for it.
Read this if you want something different, outside of any one genre, but speculative and wildly interesting nevertheless. It is the perfect break from conventional stories with overused plotlines and stock characters. Nothing about this story is conventional, and yet everything is perfect just the way it is.
4.5 stars For a while after I finished The Body Electric, I struggled to gather my thoughts and figure out how to appropriately express my feelings. My4.5 stars For a while after I finished The Body Electric, I struggled to gather my thoughts and figure out how to appropriately express my feelings. My experience with this book felt, for those few shocked minutes, far too important to be put into my unskilled English sentences. But I had to try, I had to do what I can to help this book get the attention it absolutely deserves.
I always enjoyed Revis’ work, but I never experienced it this intensely. The Body Electric brings something new to the table, both in worldbuilding and characterization. It is certainly a big step forward for Beth Revis herself and for Young Adult Science Fiction in general. Truth be told, this book doesn’t read like YA at all. Revis held nothing back, she didn’t try to make things more simple or accessible to a younger audience. This book is an explosion of creativity and emotions with no barriers whatsoever, and as such, it deserves all the praise it can get.
The issues Revis explores aren’t new to the science fiction genre. In fact, she herself mentions that she owes a great literary debt to Phillip K. Dick and his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. She even named Ella’s father, the groundbreaking scientist, Phillip K. Shepherd, which is a nod to the famous author inside the story itself. But even though it’s been dissected so many times before, the question of what truly makes us human has never been answered with any level of certainty. Therefore, it is still just as important as it was 50 years ago or more.
The author’s note informs us that the worldbuilding was inspired by Revis’ traveling, but it would have been obvious anyway. The images of Malta are too vivid, from the colors, certain traditions and smells, to the people and their ways. But Malta isn’t at the center of this story. Revis created a whole new city on a bridge between the two main Maltese islands, a city built to become the home of a new government. New Venice has everything technology has to offer 250 years from now, but it also celebrates what was lost – the old Venice, swallowed by water a long time ago. New Venice was built after a horrible war, when large nations became united in their attempt to achieve peace and a new government was formed. Ella doesn’t remember the war, she was born in New Venice a year after it ended. She is the daughter of two brilliant scientists, but lately her life has been a series of disasters. Her father died in an attack on his lab, her mother is terminally ill, and Ella herself sometimes sees and hears strange things, things that make her doubt her own mind.
The romance is central to the plot, but it stays in the background most of the time. I loved how it was done, it was important, but never all-consuming and overwhelming. Faced with an obviously unreliable narrator and a boy who claims to know her very well, I became obsessed with uncovering the truth about them and about Ella’s life since her father died. Revis has achieved something that doesn’t happen often anymore – she created a story that swallowed me completely and made me forget about everything else in the world.
The book loses a bit of its strength in the second half as things become far more complicated and difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, it is an amazing story altogether, an experience I’m unlikely to forget. Read this if you liked Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Bernard Beckett’s Genesis. Or even if you didn’t, just read it. You need this book in your life.
Night Shift is an anthology comprised of four stories by two urban fantasy and two paranormal romance authors. I’ve only read the urban fantasy partsNight Shift is an anthology comprised of four stories by two urban fantasy and two paranormal romance authors. I’ve only read the urban fantasy parts since paranormal romance still gives me severe allergies, but the two stories I have read, Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews and Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin are completely worth the price of this book.
Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews: I expect nothing short of perfection from Ilona and Gordon, and rightfully so. Magic Steals focuses on Jim and Dali, during the time Kate and Curran had spent chasing the panacea in Europe. This is not the first Jim and Dali novella so the two are already a couple, but they are weighed down by Dali’s insecurities and Jim’s position with the pack.
There were times when I intensely disliked Jim and some of the choices he’s made along the way, but Magic Steals shows us a whole new side of him. I didn’t think the man had a romantic bone in his body, but he is a completely different person with Dali, someone who actually knows how to relax and have fun. He is also a very smart guy, which is no news to us, and he has to be to attract someone like Dali. For her part, Dali is portrayed like a real badass in this novella, not so much physically, but certainly magically. Her exact role was previously unclear, but as we learn more, our respect for her grows significantly.
In short, this novella is not to be missed by Kate Daniels fans. Kate and Curran are completely absent, but Jim and Dali are worthy replacement. The action and mythological background are extraordinary, as one would expect from this writing pair. The anthology is worth buying for this story alone.
Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin is a prequel of sorts to her SPI Files series. I read The Grendel Affair earlier this year and loved it, which made this story even more entertaining to read. We see Makenna Frazier on her first day working for the SPI as a seer. She and her reluctant partner/bodyguard Ian, along with a team of SPI agents, have to locate a leprechaun prince who doesn’t want to be found and prevent a conflict with the goblins while doing it. Mac is given no time to adjust to her new job. The mission is extremely important and since she’s the only one who can recognize the leprechauns even under glamour, her participation is essential.
Shearin’s worldbuilding relies on very familiar creatures and myths. These days, I like to be exposed to something new and unexplored. In this, all urban fantasy authors should take lessons from Ilona Andrews. But even with dragons and leprechauns, goblins and werewolves, Shearin built a full picture that is wildly entertaining. This series is extremely promising and this story makes it even more so, but I’ll reserve my final judgment for January 2015, when the second book comes out.
Overall, Kate Daniels fans, Nalini Singh fans, you know you won’t be able to resist. I’ll probably read Nalini Singh’s story at some point, even with my allergies to paranormal romance.
Forbidden is the first book in Kimberly Griffiths Little’s historical romance trilogy with a very lush, exotic setting. Set against the backdrop of thForbidden is the first book in Kimberly Griffiths Little’s historical romance trilogy with a very lush, exotic setting. Set against the backdrop of the Mesopotamian desert in 1759, it gives us great insight into the best and the very worst of this world. Our heroine is Jayden, a 17-year-old girl betrothed to the future tribe leader. Her marriage was arranged when she was just a baby, but Jayden feels only fear and mild disgust for Horeb, and wants nothing more than to avoid marrying him. Then a young wounded warrior joins her family in the desert and Jayden is immediately taken by him, just as he seems taken by her. Her life becomes even more complicated, burdened with tragedy and the constant fight for survival and torn between two young men, one she was promised to years ago, and one who truly loves her.
Jayden’s world, which is the Mesopotamian desert, is harsh and unforgiving, cruel to those who call it home. The desert provides more than just a backdrop for this story, it is almost a character. It affects the events in so many ways, sometimes as a source of comfort, but more often as the place of constant danger. Jayden and her tribe, like all other desert tribes and travelers, feel the desert in their bones. They have to be one with their surroundings, predict everything this cruel mistress can throw their way. They would never survive otherwise.
Kimberly Griffiths Little has a gorgeous writing style and an excellent sense of pacing. Her sentences only emphasize the gorgeous, exotic setting. Jayden’s characterization was done brilliantly, but I felt that the other characters needed more work. Kadesh especially seemed far too perfect and lacked nuance as a character, but the same applies to Horeb, who was purely, unreasonably evil, and Jayden’s empty-headed, selfish sister Leila.
Although beautifully written and quite romantic, the book was in desperate need of an author’s note, some sort of explanation that would put these events in a historical context. As far as I can tell, it’s close enough to actual events and places to be considered purely historical, and not historical fantasy, and yet there are a few things that make very little sense, and a few that are glaringly inaccurate.
It must be said that Forbidden ends with a cliffhanger, and a rather painful one at that. Seeing as Banished, the second book of the series, won’t be released until January 2016, I fear I’ll forget the details of this story. A year and three months seems like such a long time between installments, especially when one is left with such a deep sense of foreboding. Nevertheless, you’ll want to read this one as soon as possible. It’s really too beautiful to pass up.
I'm enjoying the series itself: the plots are great, writing is even better, and the audio narrator does an excellent job. My issue is that I dislikeI'm enjoying the series itself: the plots are great, writing is even better, and the audio narrator does an excellent job. My issue is that I dislike Rachel so much. Hopefully that will change. ...more
4.5 stars What is one of the best things that can happen to urban fantasy enthusiasts? Tim Marquitz starting a new series and creating a new anti-hero,4.5 stars What is one of the best things that can happen to urban fantasy enthusiasts? Tim Marquitz starting a new series and creating a new anti-hero, that’s what! So now that that’s happened, please join me in this happy dance I’m doing all over my house.
Eyes Deep reads like a prequel novella to Tim’s new Clandestine Daze series. I usually hold off on reading prequels until the first book is released, but I strongly advise you to make an exception in this case. Eyes Deep is fairly long (although not a full lenght novel), and the story is strong enough all on its own. In addition, even though this series signifies a more conventional route for Marquitz, his trademark sense of humor still manages to shine through, which makes this a wildly entertaining read.
Theo isn’t one of those anti-heroes whose actions you can rationalize and justify to make them seem better. For one, Theo is not even his real name – Theodor Crane is actually someone he killed in order to assume his identity and spy on humans for his world, Aellisar. And he’s not the only one, there is a trail of bodies in our doppelganger’s wake, bodies that conveniently disappear thanks to his associates, while he only keeps the eyeballs he must consume in order to change shape. Gross, right? Sure, but also kind of awesome.
While the doppelganger doesn’t hesitate to kill when the need arises, he has some scruples when it comes to Theo’s original family, for which I was grateful. It is, as far as I can tell, his only redeeming quality so far. There is a heart under that treacherous body and I’m curious to see how things will develop from here.
The story isn’t just haphazardly thrown together, as is often the case with novellas. While the plot does take a back seat in favor of character development, it’s not underdeveloped in the least. I was fully invested in the events, and more than a bit curious to learn how things would end.
As usual, Marquitz knows exactly what he’s doing. Eyes Deep is yet another proof that this is an author with a sure hand and a strong voice. The advantage of this novella (and the upcoming novels, I’m sure) is that it will make him more accessible to a much wider audience due to a more traditional approach. Since he’s an author whose work I’ve been following for years, I can’t wait for the rest of you to jump on board. Hurry up, will you? There’s so much fun to be had.
You can read Tim's thoughts on his new series HERE, and there's still some time to enter to win a copy of Eyes Deep. ...more