Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes, #3)A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Content: Strong Language, An almost sex scene

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias's devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

An Ember in the Ashes is one of my favorite YA fantasy series and I was counting down the days until I could read this book. Mostly I found this one very enjoyable, maybe not quite as much as the first two books in the series, but this was still good. It did feel like a middle of a series book, but that wasn't really a bad thing. And it did feel like the book got a bit slower in part two, but there were a lot of things that happened in this book, especially once I got into part three.

Although I enjoyed this I do have to say that this book left me a little melancholy because of the situations the characters I love are left in. Also, the romantic chemistry between two different couples in the book was off the charts but the romance itself was heartbreaking and frustrating. And I really want so badly for everything to be made right for Elias. I think his story line may have been part of why I did not quite enjoy this book as much as the previous ones. It was an important part of the book, but it didn't go the way I wanted it to go at all. Because of the way things are left at the end, I really wish I could go out and immediately buy the next book and read it, but unfortunately it won't be published until some time next year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dark Sky (Keiko Book 2)Dark Sky by Mike Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Space Opera, Sci-fi
Content: Strong Language

When Ichabod Drift and the Keiko crew sign on for a new smuggling job to a mining planet, they don’t realize what they are up against. The miners, badly treated for years by the corporation, are staging a rebellion. Split into two groups, one with the authorities and one with the rebels, Drift and his crew support their respective sides in the conflict. But when they are cut off from each other due to a communication blackout, both halves of the crew don’t realize that they have begun fighting themselves…

I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as I did the first book in the series. I feel like there is just a little something missing here to make this series really good. It reminds me a lot of the Tales of the Ketty Jay series, but just pales in comparison. The characters are mildly interesting but lack some depth. I wasn't crazy about Drift in the beginning but he has grown on me as I've read these and I like the rest of the crew as well, I just don't feel like I know them as well as I would like to. Apirana and Jenna are probably my favorites, and I enjoyed the evolution of their relationship, but also was annoyed that every time Apirana was mentioned in the book the author felt the need to mention his size. This wasn't the only character this repeatedly occurred with, but it was the most obvious. I feel like this is rather lazy story telling. Instead of developing the characters more and giving us more information about them we just get the same repeated information over and over.

The plots are also mildly interesting in this series but lack something as well. I really didn't feel like the ending was satisfactory because I wanted to know what the information was that they were hired to obtain in the first place and we never find out what it was or why the person that hired them wanted it. Maybe we will find out in the next book.

I know I'm sounding very critical of this book, and although I'm mildly disappointed in it, I do want to point out that I did still enjoy it. I enjoyed it just enough that I will read the next book in the series, but I doubt I will read beyond that if the author publishes more.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Swamp Sniper (Miss Fortune Mystery, #3)Swamp Sniper by Jana Deleon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Comedy
Content: Strong Language

In the two weeks CIA assassin Fortune Redding has been hiding in Sinful, Louisiana, she’s been harassed, poisoned, and shot at…and that was the easy part. But now, she’s about to face her biggest challenge since setting foot in the tiny bayou town.

This is the third book in the Miss Fortune series, set in Louisiana. I have no idea why I'm still reading these. They are mediocre at best and not nearly as funny as they could be. I felt like the comedic relief in this one was all done in the previous book. There are only so many times the same scenario is going to work. There was one mildly funny scene that involved the bathroom at the police department, but other than that it didn't really make me laugh at all. And really, how many people can get murdered in one tiny town in just two weeks? It's very far-fetched, but it is light reading that isn't supposed to be taken too seriously. At this point though, I'm really not sure if I'm going to continue on with this series.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Something in the WaterSomething in the Water by Catherine Steadman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Content: Strong Language

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

I really enjoyed reading Something in the Water. At the beginning of this book the main character, Erin is digging a grave. That drew me into the story right from the beginning. After that the story unfolds slowly as we go back a couple of months and learn what led to the digging of the grave. I liked Erin, even though at times I thought she made some really stupid and naive choices. I was less enamored with her husband Mark though. There were other characters that were interesting, especially a couple of the prisoners that Erin is interviewing for a documentary.

There were a couple of red herrings in the book that I saw through pretty easily, and I guessed correctly about who was involved but not exactly the way they were involved, so I would say the book kept me guessing on that level. I thought the book had a pretty satisfying ending and it's one of the better mystery/thrillers I've read so far this year. I liked this enough that I would probably read another book by this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me a copy of this book.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

LIFEL1K3LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Content: Strong Language, A couple of mostly fade to black sex scenes

On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn't looking for trouble--she's too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she's on the local gangster's wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she's discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she's ever had a worse day, Eve can't remember it.

I had a hard time deciding what to rate this book. There were elements that I thought were really cool. This book is like post-apocalyptic cyberpunk. There were things about it that reminded me of Terminator, Mad Max, iRobot, and Blade Runner, with the Romanovs and a little Pinocchio thrown in there too. It is so many things all put together and for the most part it works, but the romance kind of ruined parts of it for me. Now I'm a person who generally likes romance in the books I read, but in this case the main romance was too instant - not to mention it also begins when the main character is only 15 years old.

***Spoiler here - I'm really having a hard time getting behind a 15 year old, who has never even been kissed, suddenly having sex with a robot. - End of Spoiler***

Then on top of that there is another romance in the book that becomes, in my opinion, a weak catalyst that finally sets off a rebellion.

Then there were some inconsistencies in the book. The one that comes to mind first is during a pursuit through a glass storm (it's a sandstorm where the sand has melted into glass). One character is driving a large vehicle that is severely buffeted by the storm and his skin is being shredded by the glass. Then there are other characters that are on motorcycles that seem to be having no problem at all getting through the storm and they don't seem to have a mark on them. I could add more examples, but you get the point.

I do need to mention here that I loved the characters in this book. They were one of the best parts of the book. My favorite was definitely Lemon Fresh. She reminded me a lot of this girl in personality, and well, everything.

But with this hair of course.

My only complaint about the characters would be the antagonists. The main antagonist did not feel all that scary to me. He came off as a spoiled brat, and except in flashbacks, he doesn't appear until near the end of the book. I understand his motivation even though I feel like what drove him to finally act could have been something better, but I really couldn't get behind the complete personality change of a couple of the others who joined him. Then there was the bounty hunter who is sent after Eve. Trying to kill him was seriously like trying to kill a cockroach. He just wouldn't die. And he wasn't even really an important part of the story.

There were a few twists in the book but I don't think any of them are all that surprising. The only thing that surprised me was the choice Eve makes at the very end. With that rather surprising ending I feel like I need to read the next book in the series. Overall I liked the post-apocolyptic, sci-fi-ish aspects of this book, that, the characters, and the whole conscious A. I. aspect of it is what kept me reading.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for giving me a copy of this book.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Short Stories: Harrison Bergeron, Fat Farm, Reap the Dark Tide, and ...And Then There Were None

For book club this month we are reading four short stories. I'm not always crazy about short stories, but these for the most part ended up being good. There was only one that I really didn't care for.  These were all thought provoking and sparked my interest in reading more short stories in the future.

Harrison BergeronHarrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Short Story
Genre:  Dystopia
Content: Clean

It is the year 2081. Because of Amendments 211, 212, and 213 to the Constitution, every American is fully equal, meaning that no one is stupider, uglier, weaker, or slower than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced.

Harrison Bergeron is one of four short stories we are reading for book club this month. I'm not a huge fan of short stories because they usually seem to end right as the story is starting to get good. The reason for this is probably because they are in general snippets of something much larger. Thus they end feeling unfinished. This story actually had an ending that felt finished, but it was a very unsatisfactory ending for me. The solution to the "problem" of Harrison Bergeron was too easily executed, and it was over all too soon. It did pack a punch in a 1984 kind of way. This is a world that celebrates mediocrity. The methods that were used to "make everyone equal" were interesting and somewhat silly. Just picturing Harrison in that getup was pretty humorous. The cover image for this story is pretty spot on.

Overall I liked things about this story even though I didn't care for the ending, and the message was a good one. Can people ever truly be completely equal and what does equal really mean?

Fat FarmFat Farm by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Short Story
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Content: Clean

Fat Farm is a short story that is included in Card's short story collection Maps in a Mirror. It's one of four short stories we are reading for our book club this month. Before I read this I wasn't sure what I would think of this story, but it pretty much grabbed me from the very beginning. It ended up being pretty brilliant and I think this is the first time I've given anything I've read 5 stars this year. I've heard that Card wrote this at a time when he was feeling frustrated about losing weight, not really sure if that's true or not, but I'm sure it packs a punch for anyone who has had that struggle. This is a story that will stay with me forever. It's considered horror so it's dark, but more Twilight Zone type horror than anything else. I don't even want to spoil anything about how this unfolds so I'm ending my review here.

 The Best of C. M. KornbluthReap the Dark Tide by C.M. Kornbluth

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Short Story
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Fantasy
Content: Clean

For our book club this month we are reading four classic short stories and Reap the Dark Tide is one of them. I found this story at first to be pretty boring, but it did get better as it went on. A whole section of humanity has taken to the seas on a fleet of ships and hasn't seen or set foot on land for many years. It has been rumored that no one is left on land and it is against the laws set up for the ships for them to set foot on land. Parts are scarce, and everything on the ship is recycled, so when these ships break or something is lost there is little that can be done to save them, and the crew and everyone on board is at risk of dying. The ship featured in the story ends up going through a squall and losing it's net. There is no way to replace the net and that means no way to obtain food so the crew decides to break the rule of never setting foot on land.

The story features death worshipers who in some ways reminded me of a mashup of radical Islam, extreme Christianity, a satanic cult, and secular humanism. I know that sounds very contradictory, but there were elements of all those in there. The founder of this religion was anti sex, anti-reproduction, fanatical about population control and pro Planned Parenthood, which he contributed to religiously along with the Hysterectomy Clinic for the purpose of controlling the population.

In general I did not really enjoy this story. I'm not a fan of the dark, dismal view of humanity that it portrayed, and I have a hard time believing that after centuries there would be little change in the structure of society and what was considered important. I do think that the story is probably meant as a warning, in the same vein as Animal Farm and 1984, but I just do not enjoy reading these types of stories.

. . . And Then There Were None. . . And Then There Were None by Eric Frank Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Short Story
Genre: Space Fantasy 
Content: Clean

A Terran ship, whose crew generally ascribe to social hierarchies and capitalist principles, land on a planet inhabited entirely by matter-of-fact anarchists. In many ways, this can be called a farce and a satire.

...And Then There Were None is one of four short stories I read for our book club this month and I found it to be quite a fun read. A spaceship lands on a planet that has never been visited by one, and to the surprise of the crew the local population could care less and tell them to myob. The crew doesn't know what myob means and that it is a word derived from the acronym for MYOB (mind your own business). The misunderstandings in communication between the ship's crew and the people on the planet reminded me a little of Amelia Bedelia at times and had me laughing out loud.

Now don't get me wrong, this book is funny at times, but it also has a more serious message as well, one that I've pondered before. What would the world be like if everyone just said no, or like in the book "I won't"? How many atrocities could be avoided if we just wouldn't do it? Generals can't command unwilling armies. Imagine if all of Germany had told Hitler no. Just food for thought, and most certainly a fantasy since there will always be those who are evil that will go along with it, people who are just plain too scared to say no, or people who think they are doing the right thing when they are not; but people really do underestimate the power they have as a whole.

The author eventually expanded upon this story in the full length novel The Great Explosion. I'm mildly curious about it, but not sure if I really feel the need to read more, which is odd for me since I usually end up wanting more after reading a short story. This one ended up being long enough that it covered everything that really needed to be covered and the end was perfect.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The DisappearingThe Disappearing by Lori Roy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: Strong Language, Sexual Situations

When Lane Fielding fled her isolated Florida hometown after high school for the anonymity of New York City, she swore she'd never return. But twenty years later, newly divorced and with two daughters in tow, she finds herself living with her parents on the historic Fielding Plantation. Here, the past haunts her and the sinister crimes of her father--the former director of an infamous boys' school--make her as unwelcome in town as she was the day she left.

Lane's unsteady truce with the town is rattled when her older daughter suddenly vanishes. Ten days earlier, a college student went missing, and the two disappearances at first ignite fears that a serial killer who once preyed upon the town has returned. But when Lane's younger daughter admits to having made a new and unseemly friend, a desperate Lane attacks her hometown's facade to discover whether her daughter's disappearance is payback for her father's crimes--or for her own.

The Disappearing is a mystery set in a small town in Florida. In quite a few ways it reminded me of Secrets of Southern Girls. Both books share a protagonist who has left home and not been back for many years, and they both have secrets they are keeping about their pasts. Obviously this formula works well for me because I liked both books a lot. The Disappearing leaves out most of the salaciousness that permeated the other story though.

The mystery seemed pretty straight forward at first, but it ended up being more complicated than that. There was a point where I started suspecting what really happened, but it was a really nice twist anyway. The characters where all really well drawn and I especially liked Tally, the main character's 10 year old daughter, a lot. The ending fit the book well, and this appears to be a stand-alone, but there is room to write more if the author ever decides to. I wouldn't mind revisiting these characters just so the truth can come out about a certain someone. If you like stories about small southern towns, large southern mansions with sketchy pasts, and characters with secrets then you will probably like this book.

Thanks to Penguin Group and NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book.