Sunday, September 3, 2017

Stranded - Review

Title: Stranded   
Author: Bracken MacLeod

Synopsis:  “In the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Jacob’s Ladder comes a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems.
     “Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog.  Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone.  One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness.  Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.
     “Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther.  When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination.  Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.”

Review:  I loved Stranded.  My favorite type of horror novel, or movie, is psychological horror.  I don’t like a lot of blood and guts (unless it’s a zombie novel, but that’s a whole different review), however give me give me ghosts, demon possession, empty wastelands, or a vast nothingness and I’ll be up all night, with all the lights on, because I’m too frightened to sleep. 
     Stranded was a creepy, short novel that I stayed up until 4am finishing and then could not go to sleep.  I could not figure out what was happening until the story told me, which is unusual for me, so I was reading at breakneck speed to get to the end and find out what was going on.  I’ve seen other reviews that compare Stranded to an episode of the Twilight Zone, and I think those reviewers are dead on.  This novel definitely has that creepy, "is this really happening?" feel to it. 
     I really enjoyed Stranded, and if you are a fan of psychological horror and weird shit I think you will too.

Publisher:  Tor Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon (read BookGirlR’s review here)

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wintersong - Review

Title:   Wintersong
Author:   S.  Jae - Jones
Series:   Wintersong #1

Synopsis:  “Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
     “All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King.  He is the Lord of Mischief the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed.  Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
     “But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above.  The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go – for a price.  The life a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says.  Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow.  Without death, there can be no rebirth.  In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King.  He accepts.
     “Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her – musically, physically, emotionally.  Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride.  A the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.”

Review:  I loved the idea of this book more than the book itself.  Wintersong was marketed as a retelling of The Labyrinth, and it falls far short of that.  The only similarity between Wintersong and The Labyrinth that I could find is that there are goblins and a Goblin King and a girl who is trying to rescue someone from them.
     The characterization is well done.  The characters are fully fleshed out, and the world building is very well done.  However the story itself is terribly boring and predictable.  Here’s the story in a nutshell: boy and girl were childhood playmates.  Boy turns out to be Goblin King.  He kidnaps her sister.  Girl exchanges herself for her sister.  Girl and Goblin King resist their feelings for each other.  Then they have sex.  Girl is suddenly more than she was before.  He falls in love with her and lets her go.  Seriously?  Surely we can come up with better stories?  Aside from how boring I thought it was I think what bothers me the most is the use of sex as the catalyst to Liesl’s sudden “awakening”.  This is a book meant for young adults and we are telling them that having sex with your kidnapper will change your life?  Sex is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not life changing; and having sex with someone who is holding you captive is just disturbing.  I recommend skipping this one and reading something else instead.

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Skip this one and check these out instead:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Unfiction - Review

Title:  Unfiction
Author:  Gene Doucette

Synopsis:  “When Oliver Naughton joins the Tenth Avenue Writers Underground, headed by literary wunderkind Wilson Knight, Oliver figures he’ll finally get some of his imaginings out of his head an onto paper.
     “But when Wilson takes an intense interest in Oliver’s writing and his genre stories of dragons, aliens, and spies, things get weird.  Oliver’s stories don’t just need to finished: they insist on it.
     “With the help of Minerva, Wilson’s girlfriend, Oliver has to find the connection between reality, fiction, the mythical Cydonian Kingdom, and the non-mythical nightclub called M Pallas.  That is, if he can survive the alien invasion, the ghosts, and the fact that he thinks he might be in love with Minerva.
     “Unfiction is a wild ride through the collision of science fiction, fantasy, thriller, horror and romance.  It’s what happens when one writer’s fiction interferes with everyone’s reality.”

Review:  Unfiction is a silly, fun read.  It didn’t require a lot of brain power to follow the plot and I was able to read it fairly quickly.  Even though this is a self published novel don’t be afraid. This is not your stereotypical self published novel.  The writing is strong.  World building is complete, the characters make sense (where they are supposed to), and the plot, while imaginative and silly, is complete.  I enjoyed the blend of genres and styles in Unfiction.  The idea behind the novel is kind of “what would happen if your writing came to life” and it was fun to read.  I’m planning to read more novels by Gene Doucette. 

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher:  Gene Doucette

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette

Junkers by Benjamin Wallace

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Roanoke Girls - Review

Title:  The Roanoke Girls
Author:  Amy Engel

Synopsis:  “After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas.  Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.  But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
     “Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing.  Did she run too?  Or something worse?  Unable to resist his please, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind.  Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer.  But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
     “As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.”

Review:  This review will be short because with this type of book I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin any surprises.  I was captivated by The Roanoke Girls after the first few pages.  It was creepy, terrifying, and disgusting.  I loved it.  I sort of had it figured out before we found out what the family secret was, but that didn’t make it any less horrifying.  There is the potential for some confusion as the story jumps back and forth in time, but after the first couple of times I became more comfortable with it and stopped being confused.  I highly recommend The Roanoke Girls for fans of psychological thrillers. 
**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher:  Crown

If you like this book you may want to read:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Sunday, July 16, 2017

H2O - Review

Title: H2O
Author:   Virginia Bergin
Series:  The Rain #1

Synopsis:  “They don’t believe it at first.  Crowded in Zach’s kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach’s parents’ frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle.  But then the radio comes on with the warning, “It’s in the rain!  It’s fatal, it’s contagious, and there’s no cure.”
    “Two weeks later, Ruby is alone.  Anyone who’s been touched by rain or washed their hands with tap water is dead.  The only drinkable water is quickly running out.  Ruby’s only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father – if he’s even still alive”

Review:  This book was a very different take on the classic apocalypse story.  There have been stories of stuff in the rain before, but not quite like this.  I felt a connection with Ruby; I would be very concerned with trapped and helpless pets as well. I’ve wondered before, when contemplating apocalyptic scenarios, what would happen to people’s pets when so many people die in such a short time frame. 
H2O made me laugh, and it made me cry.  I became very emotionally involved in Ruby’s struggle to find her father.  I’ve read some other reviews that complained about Ruby pushing people away and about her changing moods.  Ummm… She’s a teenager who has just been through an extremely traumatic event.  I would like to see you remain level headed and emotionally stable after losing everyone and everything you loved.  Ignore those reviews; the reviewers clearly aren’t thinking clearly themselves.  I highly recommend H2O for fans of YA dystopian and apocalyptic novels. 

Publisher:   Sourcebooks Fire

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Storm (The Rain #2) by Virginia Bergin

The 5th Wave (read BookGirlR’s review here) by Rick Yancey

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Caught Dead Handed - Review

Title:  Caught Dead Handed
Author:  Carol J. Perry
Series:  Witch City Mystery #1

Synopsis:  “Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it’s home.  This October she’s returned to her hometown – where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives – to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH – TV.  But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies.  It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.
     “Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she’s using as a prop, she wonders if she night really have psychic abilities.  To make things even spookier, it’s starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch – especially when O’Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own.  With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer – or her career as a psychic may be very short lived…”

Review:  I have a weakness for cozy mysteries involving cats, coffee, or the paranormal.  I call it my guilty pleasure, and for a long time I was embarrassed by it because cozies have a reputation for being fluffy or silly and for being full of clichés.  Well, yeah, that’s kind of true.  But I still enjoy them.  Sometimes it’s nice to read something you don’t have to think too much about. 
     Caught Dead Handed is a fun bit of fluff.  I enjoyed the characters, especially the cat, O’Ryan.  I think it would be fun to be a call-in psychic hosting late night horror movies on television.  Lee and Aunt Ibby are likable characters.  With a cozy you are pretty much guaranteed that everything will wrap up nicely in the end, and your favorite characters will be okay, but I was still compelled to stay up late to finish and find out what was going to happen.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 

Publisher:  Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Tails You Lose (Witch City Mystery #2) by Carol J. Perry

A Familiar Tail (Witch’s Cat Mystery #1) by Delia James

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) Juliet Blackwell

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lady of Ashes - Review

Title:  Lady of Ashes
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes #1

Synopsis:  “In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned.  She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.
     “Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South.  Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor.  And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…”

Review:  I really enjoyed Lady of Ashes.  There aren’t many novels out there about undertakers, much less a female undertaker in Victorian England.  Trent’s character building and world description was well done.  The descriptions of Victorian funeral practices, and etiquette was fascinating.   Violet is a likable heroine and I couldn’t help but feel for her.  I hated Graham and truly felt throughout the novel that Violet would be better off without him, despite her being a woman in a male dominated society. 
      I don’t read a lot of mysteries, because I can always guess what is going to happen and get bored.  Lady of Ashes was a perfect blend of history, mystery and romance.  I did not get bored and even stayed up past my bedtime to finish, because I just HAD to find out what happened.  A big thank you to my Tattooed Cupcake for recommending this outstanding novel to me.  I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Publisher: Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Stolen Remains (Lady of Ashes #2) by Christine Trent

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

A Deadly Affection (Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery #1) by Cuyler  Overholt

Monday, May 29, 2017

River of Teeth - Review

Title:  River of Teeth
Author: Sarah Gailey
Series:  River of Teeth #1

Synopsis:  “In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source.  This is true.
     “Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
     “This was a terrible plan.
     “Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe.  It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew.  It is the story of their fortunes.  It is the story of his revenge.”

Review:   This is an awesome novella.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a rollicking fun adventure.  You might have guessed this, but the hippo wranglers ride hippos like cowboys ride horses.  Yeah, they ride the hippos.  But wait, it gets better.  These hippo wranglers have been hired to clear out a bayou full of feral hippos.  Have you ever seen a video of an angry hippo?  They’re terrifying!  Here’s a video about hippos for those interested: start at 20:37 to watch a hippo attack.  Another awesome thing about River of Teeth is the inclusion of genderqueer/non-binary and bisexual characters.  Thank you Sarah Gailey for a fun romp through an alternate history.  I cannot wait for Taste of Marrow, the second in this series.  This is easily one of the best things I’ve read all year!

Publisher:  Tor

If you like this book you may want to read:

Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth #2) Sarah Gailey

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fangs & Fennel - Review

Title: Fangs & Fennel
Author: Shannon Mayer
Series:  The Venom Trilogy #2

Synopsis:     “Alena Budrene is not just a gifted Seattle baker – she’s also a supernatural.  Having survived the virus that made her transformation necessary and outwitted an attack by a Greek hero, she’s ready to settle down and deal with the challenges of living as a “Super Duper”.
    “But nothing is easy for a woman who can turn into a giant snake.  Threatened by her unprecedented strength, Alena’s enemies team up against her.  What’s next on the menu?  The duplicitous demigod Theseus – backed by a ruthless vampire gang and the power-hungry goddess Hera – is determined to lure her into a glorious, and rather public, battle to the death.
     “Now humans, even the ones Alena risks her life to protect, are afraid to acknowledge her existence.  And when the friends who once rallied around her begin to fall prey to Theseus’s manipulative schemes, Alena realizes she must act before she loses everything.  But will the price of success be too high to pay?”

Review:  Just like the first in the series, Venom & Vanilla, Fangs & Fennel is a good read, full of playful fun.  See BookGirlR's review of Venom & Vanilla here.  I’ve enjoyed watching Alena grow and develop as a character.  In the first novel we watched Alena develop from a plain wallflower into a bad-ass “Super Duper”; in this second installment in the series we watch Alena struggle with who she used to be versus who she is now.  Throughout the novel she sometimes fights to remember that she is no longer a doormat and is now a powerful woman.  I do have to say though that Yaya is my favorite character. 
     I’ve seen several other reviews that mentioned Yaya should get her own novel, and I agree.  I would snatch up a novel about a feisty Grandmother who argues with Zeus, stands up to “Super Dupers”, and fights with Greek gods.  When can we have that novel?  And if something similar exists someone please let me know!
     If you enjoyed Venom & Vanilla than I highly suggest the next installment, Fangs and Fennel.  I missed the third novel while it was available to reviewers on NetGalley so I’ll be buying Hisses and Honey when my bank account allows. 
***I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, via NetGalley.***

Publisher: 47 North

If you like this book you may want to read:

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

The Glass Gargoyle (The Lost Ancients #1) by Marie Andreas

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The 5th Wave - Review

Title:   The 5th Wave
Author:   Rick Yancey
Series:  The 5th Wave #1

Synopsis:     “After the 1st wave, only darkness remains.  After the 2nd, only the lucky escape.  And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive.  After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
     “Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.  The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see.  Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.  To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.  Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother – or even saving herself.  But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death.  To give up or to get up.”

Review:  I grabbed this novel on a whim.  When I bought it the movie was coming out soon.  Well, I brought it home and added it to my TBR pile.  I haven’t seen the movie yet because I wanted to read the book first, but never seemed to get around to reading it.  Well now I’ve read it, and I’m very sorry that I didn’t read it sooner.  I still haven’t seen the movie, but you guys know that I would rather read than watch tv or movies most of the time.
     The 5th Wave is a fun alien invasion YA novel.  There’s a little bit of teenage angst, but you have to expect that in any YA novel, and honestly this one is not as bad as some others I’ve read.  I like Cassie, and I found myself getting emotionally involved in her search for her brother, and her struggle over whom to trust.  This novel made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me chew on my lips (a disgusting nervous habit I know).  I love novels about alien invasion, and if you love them too you should check out The 5th Wave

Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

If you like this book you may want to read:

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Monument 14 (Monument 14 #1) by Emmy Laybourne

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Check out BookGirlR’s review here)

The Postman - Review

Title: The Postman
Author: David Brin

Synopsis:  “This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth.  A timeless novel as urgently compelling as War Day or Alas, Babylon, David Brin’s The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream, from a modern master of science fiction.
     “He was a survivor – a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war.  Fate touches him one chill winter’s day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold.  The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.”

Review:  I picked up this book because as a teenager I loved the movie.  The movie The Postman, starring Kevin Costner,
came out in 1997, and was one of my first exposures to the post apocalyptic genre.  It was based on this book which was published in 1985.  So recently I decided to read the novel.  It’s much better than the movie, of course, when isn’t the novel better than the movie?  With the novel we are able to get more in depth descriptions, and the characters are fleshed out with descriptive back stories.  There was a lot left out of the movie, this novel is so much more than the movie even dreamed of being.  The Postman is a novel about hope, and the effect hope can have on a community.

Publisher:  Random House/ Spectra

If you like this book you may want to read:

Glory Season by David Brin

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

Dies the Fire (Emberverse #1) by S. M. Stirling

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