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. 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. 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 who 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, except for maybe the one 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-apocalyptic, 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.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dark Run (Keiko, #1)Dark Run by Mike Brooks

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Space Opera
Content: Strong Language, Sexual Situations

The Keiko is a ship of smugglers, soldiers of fortune, and adventurers travelling Earth’s colony planets searching for the next job. And they never talk about their past—until now.

Captain Ichabod Drift is being blackmailed. He has to deliver a special cargo to Earth, and no one can know they’re there. It’s what they call a dark run…And it may be their last.

Dark Run is a fun space opera. It definitely reminded me of Firefly and also a little bit of Retribution Falls, even though that book falls under the steampunk category, it has the same feel with its motley crew of characters who all have secrets. This feels lighter though, and it was a really fast paced, easy read. I do wish there had been a bit more depth to the plot. The motivation behind the blackmail job was a little lame, and I could have done with more danger in a couple of situations the crew found themselves in -it all seemed a little too easy. I honestly feel like this is one of those books where you just have to go with it and enjoy it for what it is.

The story is wrapped up completely in this book, so you could read it as a stand-alone. I liked this enough that I will probably continue on to the next book in the series.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Content: Strong Language, Sexual Situations, Sensual Scenes


Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

This book ended up being a huge disappointment for me. I really love the Kate Daniels series and the Innkeeper Series, but I didn't find this to be as good.

First, did Ilona Andrews really have this phrase in a book?

"I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and shivered."

UGH! Also, that cover. Everyone and her sister, including me has complained about that cover, but after reading the book I feel like it actually fits the book pretty well. Yes it's cheesy, but Mad Rogan spends a lot of time in this book shirtless, and Nevada, although she may not dress that way, spends a whole lot of time lusting over Mad Rogan's shirtless body, which is also cheesy. All of this resulted in the book feeling a bit closer to PNR than UF. So I kind of can see where the publisher was coming from when they gave the book that cover. But no, I don't personally like the cover. I also didn't personally like those aspects of the book either.

My biggest problem with this book is Mad Rogan. There are things about his character that really bother me. First, he is most definitely a narcissist who is very likely a psychopath or a sociopath. Second and most importantly he kidnapped her and mistreated her. Sorry there is no way she should be attracted to him after this. Third, he kept putting the moves on Nevada when she told him no. That is not ok. When Nevada told him she wanted to keep their relationship professional he should have respected that, even if she was attracted to him and he knew it. That doesn't make it ok for him to act as though no means yes. She did nothing too invite his attentions, she kept what she was feeling to herself. This all bothered me so much that I'm not sure there is anything Ilona Andrews can do to make me like Rogan at this point.

Also I don't need to be beaten over the head with how powerful and attractive Rogan is, how big he is. I get it, let's move on. This happened so many times in this book. We are going along with the plot and then have to stop and admire (lust) over Mad Rogan and the 'god' that he is. 

There is also very little world building in this book. I don't really read Ilona Andrews for great world building, but even the Kate Daniels series has better world building than this.

Things I liked:
-Grandma was an interesting character. I kind of wish the book had been about her.
-Nevada. I liked her when she wasn't lusting over Rogan's shirtless body.
-The Magic. It was interesting.

Despite the things I disliked about this book it was still entertaining, which is why I'm on the fence about reading the next book in the series.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Charming (Pax Arcana, #1)Charming by Elliott James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content: Strong Language

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

Charming was a nice piece of brain Candy. It was our fantasy book club book for April and most everyone enjoyed it. I enjoyed the humor the most, especially the chapter titles. It reminded me a little bit of the Dresden Files, and if you are a fan of that series you will probably enjoy this book. However, it felt like it was missing a little something compared to the other Urban Fantasy type books I've read. The characters were a little bland in my opinion, although I did Like John, Molly, and Choo. Sig on the the other hand never set well with me. I did appreciate the fact that there wasn't a big 'happily ever after' for the romance at the end of the book. We are left not really knowing what exactly is next for most of the characters. This book has a good ending so you can read it as a stand-alone, or move onto the next book in the series if you're interested enough. I'm interested in seeing where the series goes after this so I'll probably keep reading.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim, #3)Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Content: A small amount of cursing, a non-descriptive sex scene

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...

Den of Wolves is the conclusion to the Blackthorn and Grim trilogy. Even though it was predictable, I think this book was my favorite of the three. I especially enjoyed the way the relationship between Blackthorn and Grim turned out. It was sweet with a slow build up and it remained an integral part of the story without taking over the whole story.

Finally we get answers about who Conmael is and why he saved Blackthorn from the prison, and also closure for Blackthorn with the whole Mathuin thing. I wasn't really sure why everything had to be so hush hush, but it was a good ending to that part of the story. Blackthorn was far less obsessed with getting justice in this book and was more focused on helping other people, which I think was good. It was what I wanted to see in the last book. The message about love and sacrifice in this book, and what and who is most important in life is one that I never get tired of and I enjoyed it immensely.

Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

The story of Cara and her father who is building a heartwood house for some mysterious reason was interesting, although I didn't really feel like we got a very good explanation for why her father was building the house in the first place or how he even learned about it. And then there was the wild man who returns after disappearing 15 years ago. It wasn't hard to figure out the connection between these characters, but the story was heartbreaking yet enchanting at the same time, and I loved it.

Overall this was a really good trilogy. Marillier continues to be one of my favorite authors, simply because of the beautiful way that she writes. It also doesn't hurt that I really enjoy the historical fantasy genre that she writes so well.