Though this book has been compared to Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, it is, in reality, a dystopian romance, with it's emphasis on a love triangleThough this book has been compared to Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, it is, in reality, a dystopian romance, with it's emphasis on a love triangle more than the social science fiction of Handmaids Tale. It also reads like an episode of science fiction television, and is lighter in tone. That said, I enjoyed this book, which feels very much like a YA novel that has echos of Divergent and Hunger Games. The prose was clean, the plot predictable and the characters well-written. I found the protagonist to be a bit slow on the uptake, though once she finally figured out what was going on, she became a heroine in short order. All in all, I'd give it a B, and recommend it to those who enjoy Dystopian futuristic love stories....more
Spoiler Alert! This review contains spoilers! Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier is the second Blackthorn and Grim novel that I've read, the first beiSpoiler Alert! This review contains spoilers! Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier is the second Blackthorn and Grim novel that I've read, the first being Dreamer's Pool, reviewed in the previous post on this blog. I received an ARC of Tower of Thorns from the wonderful folks at Ace/Roc publishers, as part of their Roc Star reader's program. I loved the debut of Blackthorn and Grim in Dreamer's Pool, so much so that I was really looking forward to their continued adventures in Tower of Thorns. Marillier doesn't disappoint, and Tower of Thorns finds Blackthorn and Grim on a trip with Prince Oran and Lady Flidais to attend/assist with the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, the duo get sidetracked by a noblewoman with a magical problem. Here's the blurb:
Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim. Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.
As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.
Blackthorn is also waylaid by the unexpected arrival of Brother Flannan, a childhood friend who insists that he has a resistance movement going against the local warlord who killed Blackthorn's husband and son. He assures Blackthorn that she is necessary to taking down the warlord, and convinces her to leave with him after she confronts the monster in the tower and rids Lady G and her people of it's persistent wailing. This would make Blackthorn break her oath/contract with the Fey who released her from prison and would tear her away from Grim, who can barely function without her. Yet I knew from the get-go that Flannan was a liar and probably in the pay of the warlord, but as to why the warlord is so keen on silencing Blackthorn, who, after all, is only one woman (though she's a wise woman), is never revealed. Still, the beast in the tower dilemma is also one that I knew wasn't going to be solved in Blackthorn's favor, but I also knew that between Blackthorn and Grim, there would be a livable solution. Marillier goes deep into Grim's background in this novel, and we discover why Grim is afraid of thatching the roof at the monastery, because he was once a monk himself, who, like Blackthorn, witnessed the unspeakable and now has to deal with the PTSD that follows such an event. Marillier's prose is lyrical and crisp, and her plot flows swift and clear. Another page-turner that will leave readers hungry for more tales of Blackthorn and Grim on their journey of healing and hope. l'd give this sequel an A, and recommend it to anyone who read Dreamer's Pool or anyone who enjoys reworked fairy-tale style fantasy and mystery.
I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Planetfall by Emma Newman from Ace/Roc publishers in their Roc Stars reader program. Please note that thisI received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Planetfall by Emma Newman from Ace/Roc publishers in their Roc Stars reader program. Please note that this review contains SPOILERS!
Planetfall is something that is fairly rare nowadays, social science fiction that doesn't automatically begin with a dystopian Earth filled with people struggling to survive. Here's the blurb:
From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…
Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…
God's City colony has everything it needs to survive, and thrive. Everyone recycles, their homes are all bio engineered to keep them cool and comfortable and they have 'printers' that recycle old things to keep them all in new clothing and food. The only problem is that they've built a religion on a lie, one that is perpetuated by Mack, the colonist's politician and PR guy, and Ren, the mentally-ill lesbian engineer who builds everything and keeps it running. SPOILERS follow.
I know that readers are supposed to like Ren, who is vulnerable yet competent, tough yet weak, etc. I didn't like her from the outset, because she seemed to do most things against her better judgement at the behest of Mack, who is a real tool. Though Ren is 77, apparently on this new world people don't age fast, and she's expecting to live another 50 years, at least. However, having lost a child back on Earth and followed her lover Suh to this planet years later, Ren has become a hoarder whose home and the tunnels beneath are packed with refuse and filth. She even has a corpse packed away down there, and while her shy and retiring nature (which borders on Aspergers, in my opinion) keeps her secret for over 20 years, a young man from outside the colony slowly insinuates himself into her life and brings all the colony secrets to light, including Rens. The fact that he is doing so only to destroy the colony and its residents out of revenge doesn't become clear until the books final pages, when Ren decides to just lay down and die inside God's City, for some unknown, bizarre reason. I became frustrated with the book after the first chapter, looking for a protagonist I could understand or empathize with or like, and I remained frustrated for the entire novel. Newman gave us little reason to care about Ren, unless the reader is suffering from OCD/hoarders syndrome or Autism and doesn't mind reading about a pathetic protagonist who lives among piles of disgusting filth and doesn't recognize that she has a problem. Most social science fiction that I've read in the past 45 years has been written with a moral in mind, some message that we're supposed to discern from the chaos of the novel itself. The only message I discerned from Planetfall was that humans are weak and stupid creatures who need religion (which is a sham) to keep any society together. When that religion is proven false, society devolves into barbarism. If this is, indeed, the message Newman is pushing, it's a rather grim one, and it leaves the novel with an unsatisfying, depressing ending. The prose is clean and the plot moves along at a mechanical pace, but the characters are unlikable, weak or cruel. I'd give this science fiction novel a C+, and only recommend it to those who are interested in social experiments on new worlds but have no faith in humanity as a whole....more
Alice by Christina Henry was a book given to me by Ace/Roc prior to publication as part of their "Roc Stars" program for bibliophiles.
I was somewhat sAlice by Christina Henry was a book given to me by Ace/Roc prior to publication as part of their "Roc Stars" program for bibliophiles.
I was somewhat skeptical when I received this book in the mail last week, mainly because the cover looks a bit gruesome, and also because, though it is labeled as "fantasy," it sounded much more like something that belonged in the horror genre. Many readers call this "dark" fantasy, and while that label covers a wide range of stories, from horrifying and bloody to merely creepy and gritty urban fantasy, I am not a fan of reading fiction that frightens me or sickens me with gore, pain and death.
That said, I started reading Alice at 10 am on Sunday and didn't put it down until I finished it at 3pm.
Brilliant prose and a lightening-fast plot serve to take this dark fantasy from a mere re-telling of Alice in Wonderland to a tale of redemption and triumph over the forces of darkness and despair.
Here's the blurb:
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Alice escapes the asylum with Hatcher, a man who has also fallen prey to the various evil overlords of the old city (each named for a character in Alice in Wonderland, ie the Cheshire, the Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Walrus), and is ready to get justice for the death of his wife and daughter as well as stop the biggest evil of all, the Jabberwocky. I was surprised at the theme of women's rights and self awareness that ran throughout the novel, because the women and girls are treated as slaves and prostitutes by the various bosses, degraded in every possible fashion until Alice and Hatcher come to confront each boss and pull back the curtain to reveal what lies beneath their vile treatment of women/girls. Alice learns that she has power, not just as a magician, but as a human being, to help other women escape abuse and to discover that she need not be afraid of these twisted and evil bosses, because they are nothing more than hideous, pathetic creatures who get exactly what is coming to them, each falling under the weight of their own madness and cruelty. Alice also learns that she is her own person, no one owns her but herself. "She heard a popping noise then, like something had broken in the space between them. Cheshire frowned. "That was not very fun of you at all, Alice. I've so enjoyed your adventures." "Yes, but they are MY adventures," Alice said. "And I think we will get along just fine without your assistance from now on." This surprising novel gets a well-deserved A, and a recommendation to those who enjoy classic fairy tales retold, dark fantasy and page-turning psychological tales of redemption....more
I was given a copy of Linesman by SK Dunstall by Ace/Roc publishers as part of their Roc Star Readers program. It's a science fiction paperback, and tI was given a copy of Linesman by SK Dunstall by Ace/Roc publishers as part of their Roc Star Readers program. It's a science fiction paperback, and though there is no author blurb, I searched SK Dunstall's name and discovered that this author is actually two female authors working together to create this new series. Here's the blurb:
The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…
Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.
Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.
The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.
I was intrigued by the "every other chapter" narrated by different linesman layout of this novel, but after awhile it became tedious to try and keep up with what was happening with the main protagonist, Ean, because there was all the background noise of Jordan Rossi, the egomaniacal jerk whom I assume represents what most linesmen are really like. Ean is an outlier, a young man from the slums who sings to the lines and hears them singing back, like sentient beings. Though it seems obvious that he's the best level 10 linesman in existence by the time you're halfway through the book, he's still treated like an outcast and an underling by nearly all the other characters, who often talk about him like he's invisible when he's right there. For some bizarre reason, Ean allows this horrific treatment to continue, never speaking up for himself or standing up to anyone until its too late. WHY he remains so cowed, timid and silent in the face of all the bullies and jerks is never explained, nor is it warranted. Especially once Ean has the new Alien ships under control all by himself, I would expect to see his confidence soaring and his self esteem rise at least enough to tell all the other linesmen to shove off. Please, authors, have Ean grow a spine! He's an interesting enough character to follow through a series, but only if he isn't such a coward and never speaks up for himself. The background of the book is nicely drawn, and the space military also seems very realistic. Oddly enough, though the authors are women, there aren't very many female characters in this novel. Really only two, and the linesmen seems to be nearly all male and the military equally testosterone-heavy. The one prominent woman, Michelle, seems very manipulative and not really all that interesting as a character. Odd, too, that there is virtually no sexual relations in the book at all. I'd give it a B+, and hope that any sequels give us more female characters and a male protagonist who isn't such a wimp. Oh, and I couldn't help but hear Glenn Campbells "Witchita Lineman" the whole time I was reading this book in my head. Somehow, it works with the theme of the book.
I read this book for my library book group, and though it was chock full of information on the beginnings of forensic science, it went into too much dI read this book for my library book group, and though it was chock full of information on the beginnings of forensic science, it went into too much detail for me on the methods of finding out how poisons kill, the timing and the amounts, etc. Lots of gory descriptions and details of the killing of animals for research purposes, and the deaths of people, women, children and others at the hands of poisoners was taken way too lightly. There was a tone set when the author glorified not only the medical examiner and his assistant chemist, but also when she repeatedly seems to sympathize with the murderers and describes their deaths in the electric chair in detail every single time (and there are a lot of murders in this book). Difficult to stomach and at the same time, boring and depressing....more