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