Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Illuminae - Review

Title: Illuminae
Author:  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series:  The Illuminae Files #1

Synopsis:  “This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.  This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
     “The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe.  Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it.  With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to flight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
     “But their problems are just getting started.  A deadly plague has broken out and it mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually by their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on.  As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.”

Review:  I love this novel!  First of all I love the format, There really is no one single narrator; Illuminae is told through a series of recovered documents, emails, instant messages, and more.  The closest thing I’ve read to this is World War Z by Max Brooks, but Illuminae is even more unique than that outstanding novel. 
     Illuminae sucks you in with the invasion of a planet and the frantic flight of two teenagers trying to escape.  The next thing you know there’s a possibly homicidal AI on a spaceship and the people on board are struggling to survive not only the aforementioned invaders, but the crazy AI on-board.  I started reading Illuminae at bedtime and finished at 4 am.  I just could not put it down.  I grabbed the sequel, Gemina, as soon as it came out and loved it just as much (review coming soon).  Run, don’t walk, to go get this book and read it ASAP.  You won’t regret it!

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Random House

If you like this book you may want to read:

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

The Radium Girls - Review

Title:  The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author:  Kate More

Synopsis:    “The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…
     “As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium.  Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust.  With such a coveted job these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive – until they began to fall mysteriously ill.  As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
     “A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book the fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.”

Review:  This book was really hard to read, while also being hard to put down.  The descriptions of what happened to these women are horrific; I had nightmares after reading this.  But it’s an important part of our history.  Where would we be without the ground breaking legal battles that these brave women fought?  They illuminated the way for future worker’s rights.  With The Radium Girls, Kate Moore brings history to life.  I truly felt like I got to know the women whose stories are being told here.  At one point I was so into what I was reading that I literally burned water.  Seriously, I was beginning dinner, making rice and the pot boiled dry while I was reading.  There were flames. 
     It took me about 5 hours to read The Radium Girls, and I did nothing else while reading it.  I had to finish, to find out what happened to these women, and make sure they got the justice they deserved.  If you like history, or enjoy the safety laws that keep you safe at your job, I strongly recommend The Radium Girls.
**I received a free copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review, via NetGalley**

Publisher:   Sourcebooks

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Embers - Review

Title:  Embers
Author:  Laura Bickle
Series:  Anya Kalinczyk #1

Synopsis:     “Truth burns.
     “Unemployment, despair, anger – visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease.  A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.
     “Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters.  Anya – who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern – suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders.  By Devil’s Night the spell will be complete, unless Anya – with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team – can stop it.
     “Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss.  But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is.  Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.”

Review:  After reading Bickle’s The Hallowed Ones series (see the review of The Hallowed Ones here and The Outside here) a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read more by her.  I wish there was more in that series, but since there isn’t I picked up Embers instead.  I was not disappointed.  I enjoyed this novel just as much as the previous ones I had read. 
     I like stories about ghosts and mediums.  Embers puts a new spin on the familiar story by introducing a special, and rare, form of medium called a Lantern.  Anya is a strong female lead with a special gift, but she is definitely not perfect.  She has her faults and weaknesses.  My favorite character was Sparky, Anya’s familiar.  Bickle has done a great job developing her world and her characters; I frequently forgot that this was the first book in the series as it didn’t have any of that debut novel feel.  I recommend this novel, and I’ll be grabbing the next in the series, Sparks, during my next book shopping spree. 

Publisher:   Pocket Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones #1) by Laura Bickle (read 
BookGirlR’s review here)

Greywalker (Greywalker #1) by Kat Richardson

The Voodoo Killings - Review

Title:  The Voodoo Killings
Author:  Kristi Charish
Series:  Kincaid Strange #1

Synopsis:     “Introducing Kincaid Strange, not your average Voodoo practitioner… For starters, she’s only twenty-seven.  And she lives in rain-soaked Seattle, which is not exactly Haiti.  And she’s broke.  Since raising zombies was outlawed, she has had to eke out a living by running séances for university students desperate for guitar lessons with the ghost of a grunge rocker – who happens to be Kincaid’s roommate.
     “Still, when a stray zombie turns up outside her local bar, she tries to help.  But not only is it dangerous for her to be caught with an unauthorized zombie, she soon realizes the zombie is tied to a spate of unsolved murders.  Someone is killing the zombies and voodoo practitioners connected to Seattle’s infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub.  When the police refuse to investigate, the City’s oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help.  She doesn’t want to chase a murderer: she’s broke but she’s not stupid…
     “But then she becomes the target.”

Review:  This is one of the best books that you’ve never heard of.  I hadn’t heard a peep about this book, and I follow a lot of book blogs, bookstagrams, and publishers.  But then a new friend of mine posted, on Facebook, that she had read it and enjoyed it.  I wanted a physical copy, not a Kindle copy, and it was really hard to find!  I live in Western NY and finally found a copy from a seller in Canada.  It took over 2 weeks to arrive and by the time it came I had kind of forgotten I’d ordered it.  So it was a nice little surprise! 
     This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  I liked the world, and the characters are well developed.  The plot itself reads a lot like a “who-dun-it”, and I really had no idea until the very end who the bad guy really was.  I read a lot of zombie novels, and this is not your normal zombie novel.  The Voodoo Killings is a fun, fast-paced romp through a paranormal world full of strange and wonderful things.  I highly recommend fans of urban fantasy give the novels of Kristi Charish a try.  I can’t wait for the next book about Kincaid Strange!

Publisher:   Penguin Random House/ Vintage Canada

If you like this book you may want to read:

City of Light (Outcast Novels #1) by Keri Arthur

Blood of the Earth (Soulwood Novel #1) by Faith Hunter

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spells of Blood and Kin - Review

Title:  Spells of Blood and Kin
Author:  Claire Humphrey

Synopsis:  “Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom.  Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.
     “Lissa Nevsky’s grandmother leaves her a big, empty house and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag.  In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now to give them their remedies and be their koldun’ia.  But Lissa hasn’t had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her – let alone the things Baba kept hidden.
     “Maksim Volkov’s birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust.  What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and the does not have to die to pass it on  When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it.  Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim’s violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else – if he hasn’t done so already.
     “Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party.  He doesn’t worry about family drama.  He doesn’t have any secrets.  All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy, Jonathan, out on the town.  Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick’s nature until all of his worst self comes to light.
     “Lissa’s newfound knowledge of magic might hold the key to Maksim’s salvation, if she can unravel it in time.  But it’s a legacy that comes at a price.  And Maksim might not want to be saved.”
Review:  I love the main premise found in Spells of Blood and Kin, you know the one: the main character, who is usually a young woman, is left a magical legacy by a dead/ missing/ retired mysterious older relative.  This main character must then figure out the details of this magical legacy which is usually a business of some type.  While discovering the ins and outs of this business she meets her love interest and by the end of the novel she is running the business successfully and the young couple is happy and in love.           While this is the main premise of Spells of Blood and Kin I found myself not loving this novel.  I found the characters to be unlikable.  I honestly though Lissa was whiny and a bit pathetic.  Her half sister Stella was never really fully fleshed out.  Maksim and Nick are sort of antiheroes, they are evil but don’t want to be evil, but they were so unlikable that I honestly didn’t care if they became redeemed or not.  Claire Humphrey’s writing is good, her setting is believable, and I enjoyed the Russian element of the novel.  Unfortunately I just couldn’t get past the unlikable characters.

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press/ Thomas Dunne Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Enchantment Emporium (Gale Women #1) by Tanya Huff

Carousel Tides (Carousel Tides #1) Sharon Lee

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Blackout & All Clear - Review

Title:  Blackout & All Clear
Author:  Connie Willis
Series:  All Clear #1 & #2

Synopsis:  Blackout: “Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past.  Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor.  Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day.  Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz.  But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules.  And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse.  For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas – to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control.  Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.”
All Clear: “Traveling back in time, from Oxford circa 2060 into the thick of World War II, was a routine excursion for three British historians eager to study firsthand the heroism and horrors of the Dunkirk evacuation and the London Blitz.  But getting marooned in war-torn 1940 England has turned Michael Davies, Merope Ward, and Polly Churchill from temporal tourists into besieged citizens struggling to survive Hitler’s devastating onslaught.  And not there’s more to worry about than just getting back home: The impossibility of altering past events has always been a core belief of time-travel theory – but it may be tragically wrong.  When discrepancies in the historical record begin cropping up, it suggests that one or all of the future visitors have somehow changed the past – and ultimately, the outcome of the war.  Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the stranded historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, frantically confronts the seemingly impossible task of rescuing his students – three missing needles in the haystack of history.  The thrilling time-tripping adventure that began with Blackout now hurtles to its stunning resolution in All Clear.

Review:  I’m reviewing two books at once in this review because, in my opinion, they are actually just one book and should be treated as such.  I love Connie Willis.  The first of her novels that I read was Doomsday Book (read my review here) another time travel novel set in the same world, and I loved it.  After reading Doomsday Book I immediately snatched up all of her books that I could find.  I’m so behind in my TBR pile that it has taken me this long to get to them.  I was not disappointed; Blackout and All Clear are the best books I’ve read all year.  Blackout sets up the story, introducing you to the world and the characters.  All Clear shifts you to the edge of your seat; making you read faster and faster, as you bite your nails, wondering how in the world this is going to end. 
     Blackout and All Clear are well researched; the history sucked me in and made me want to read more about World War II.  The descriptions are vivid and fascinating; several times I really felt that I was in the shelter with the characters listening to the bombs and the guns above me.  The characters are extremely well developed; when I had to stop reading, for things like work and sleep, I found myself thinking about the characters and their experiences.  I stayed up way past my bedtime after I reached the climax because I absolutely had to finish reading and find out what was going to happen. 
     I have been recommending these novels to anyone who will listen.  You like time travel? Read Blackout and All Clear.  You like history?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  You like reading?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  You think you don’t like reading?  Read Blackout and All Clear.  Everyone should read these novels.  Just make sure you have an appropriate amount of time, because once you start you won’t be able to stop. 

Publisher:  Ballantine Books (Spectra)

If you like this book you may want to read:

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (See BookGirlR’s review here)

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

Monday, January 9, 2017

Venom & Vanilla - Review

Title:  Venom & Vanilla
Author:  Shannon Mayer
Series:  Venom Trilogy #1

Synopsis:  “Successful Seattle baker Alena Budrene doesn’t want to die.  But when she’s infected with a lethal virus spread by supernatural beings, her only chance for recovery is to make a deal with the devil – or in this case, a warlock.
     “Though he saves her life, if looks nothing like the life she once knew – and neither does she.  Alena is a new breed of “Supe” no one has ever seen before.  Even the supernatural police don’t know what she is.  Now exiled to the northern side of the Wall, which marks the divide between humans and Supes, Alena is thrust into a dark and magical new world.
     “But just as she begins to adjust to all things supernatural, she realizes that her transformation is the least of her worries – and it was no accident.  She was chosen… to be killed by a Greek hero trying to make a name for himself once more.
     “Alena was brought up to be subservient, preferring creating to fighting, and vanilla and honey to blood.  But that was then.  Now, to survive, she must stand up for herself – and this time she’s got fangs.  But will she be ready to use them?”

Review:  Venom & Vanilla is a fun book that I enjoyed reading.  I read it in one sitting that took about two hours.  I just could not put it down.  While poking playful fun at Greek Mythology, Mayer also provides and entertaining read.
      I loved the character development with Alena, throughout the story she goes from being a dowdy, subservient person to being a confident, ass kicking woman.  The other main characters are also well thought out and developed well.  Just lately I’ve been having trouble finding books that can hold my attention for very long, Venom & Vanilla was a fabulous find and thankfully the sequel comes out tomorrow!  I can guarantee you that I’ll be reading Fangs & Fennel this weekend, if not sooner.

Publisher:  47North

If you like this book you may want to read:

Fangs & Fennel (Venom Trilogy #2) by Shannon Mayer

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews