Invictus by Ryan Graudin – Review

Cover- Invictus

Published: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Little,Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Series: Standalone

Pages: 458 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.


I’m a bit ashamed to admit how long it actually took me to read this book. From the first time I picked it up and began reading to the finish, I think it was about a month. Now, during this month I was getting married, going on a weeklong trip, and trying to finish last minute moving so I kind of have a good reason for taking so long to finish it up. This is also in no way indicative of the book being bad, slow, or wholly unsatisfactory in any way. It was actually a very fun book and I enjoyed both the story and characters.

Invictus is possibly the only YA time-travel novel I’ve ever read. How is that possible? It was reminiscent of Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager, which I loved and at first I was concerned that the two books may be too similar for me to really enjoy Invictus. This, however, wasn’t the case because while there are striking similarities, this particular book is much lighter and obviously geared towards a younger audience less concerned with the science fictionand more concerned with character dynamic. This is a world where time travel is a career choice – heck, there’s even a school for it! Those that travel do so to record moments in history without disrupting the natural course of events and each traveler has a crew along to help out with medical, historical, or technical crises.

Farway Gaius McCarthy has time travelling in his blood and he’s on track to graduate top of his class and have a crew and ship of his own… until he flunks his final exam. Now he’s working black market jobs with a crew of his closest people… until a strange girl shows up, steals his mark, and nearly gets them killed. This sets off a series of events that leads to some startling revelations, a rushed quest to save the world in 100 pages or less, and several rather touching personal moments between the characters. The whole crew was likable enough, but I felt they were rather immature to have a ship and time travel, with the constant risk of destroying history. Not something you should let a teenager do, am I right?

Overall, this was a fun book and I’m glad I finally finished it. If there is a sequel, I think I’ll read it just to see how things play out. I’ve heard that Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf books are even better than this which makes me want to check them out more than I already did!

Advertisements

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson – Audiobook Review

Cover- Oathbringer

Published: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Stormlight Archive #3

Length: 55 hr 2 min

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Timesbestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together–and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past–even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.


It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been more than 3.5 years since Words of Radiance was released, but here I am having finished up Oathbringer a couple days ago. I attribute this to the prolific nature of Brandon Sanderson’s writing – he’s always releasing a new book and it’s always a good one. I have to say, The Stormlight Archive and the Cosmere as a whole is probably the most impressive creation that I’ve come across in the fantasy world and as such the books are among my most anticipated releases. I pre-ordered the audio version of Oathbringer and then bought the hardcover too because have you seen those endpapers, the embossed cover, the jacket art, or perhaps the interior sketches? Yeah. It’s a gorgeous book and it needed to be on my shelf and even if you don’t plan on buying or reading it you should take a peek at it next time you’re in a book store.

I remember some years ago, this book was intended to focus on Szeth and, if I recall correctly, had the working title of Skybreaker. This for whatever reason didn’t work out that way and instead focuses largely on Dalinar and his past and present. As with each of the previous books there’s plenty of screen time for other favorites like Shallan and Kaladin – YAY! There are a ton of characters in these books and as the series progresses more and more are added, leading to more subplots. I really loved how this book filled in the outline we had of Dalinar – his past is brought to light one segment at a time and we really begin to see why he was/is considered such a formidable warrior and why others are baffled at his change in character. Dalinar’s story weaves seamlessly into the main story arc of Oathbringer and his personal struggles were very moving. The theme of reconciling with one’s past was heavily prevalent in this book and I think every single major character dealt with this – particularly the Radiants. This was a solid theme that was easy for readers to connect with and inspired excellent character struggle and growth.

Oathbringer is the most wonderfully complex story – so many plots and subplots!! I LOVED EVERY PAGE OF IT. The setting changed on several occasions, from Urithiru to Kholinar to previously unvisited areas of Roshar which was a refreshing change from the Shattered Plains and the war camps that featured so prominently in the previous book. The impact of the Everstorm on the people of Roshar was well explored – the devil’s in the details, you know? Some countries were devastated, while others had a chance to prepare, even if it was short notice. The subject of the sudden loss of the main labor force was also well discussed considering all the other stuff that needed to be in this book. Did I mention the shocking and potentially life changing revelations that happened in this book??? That’s not even touching on the plot twists that happened. Sanderson knows how to write an engaging cinderblock sized book, that’s for sure. If he released the entire Stormlight Archive series at once, I would buy it and gladly spend 500 hours listening to the audiobook because his stories just never get old or tiresome.

I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from this book! I am beyond thrilled at how amazing it was and that fact that I never once got bored during the entire 55+ hours of audiobook. Once again, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading had an outstanding performance with plenty of emotion and excellent differentiation between the characters. I loved how the good vs. evil theme has become even more prominent but the lines between just and unjust have blurred – who’s actions are justified? Do the Radiants have a right to do what they’re doing and do the Parshmen have a right to enslave humans in recompense for their past treatment? There are deep themes here and anyone that says fantasy is shallow or all the same has clearly never read fantasy. I have no serious issues at all with this book and would only like to say that I found Shallan somewhat irritating on occasion due to her many faces and personalities. I wholeheartedly recommend this series and am eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – Audiobook Review

Cover- Into the Drowning Deep

Published: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Hachette Audio

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Series: Rolling in the Deep #1

Length: 17 hr 14 min

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.


This book was just so much awesome! I don’t often read anything that can be construed as horror (or even sort of scary) but when I read the synopsis of Into the Drowning Deep, I didn’t hesitate to send in my request! I received the audio version from Orbit/Hachette Book Group and I’d highly recommend that format for audiobook fans. The narration was solid and emotional with a good range of character voices. Really helped me feel immersed (or submersed) in the book.

I love my sci-fi with a heavier dose of science than is usually found – space is cool, but give me a near future and scientific anomalies any day. This is sort of what I got from Into the Drowning Deep, but with more scientist than science. It starts off with the mysterious and somewhat terrifying disappearance of the Atargatis – a ship sent out by the Imagine media giant to hunt for mermaids. This was supposed to be one of those deals where they make up drama, throw in some factoids about the environment, and go home. They got much more than they bargained for and footage of a horrible, monstrous attack was leaked to the public. Years later, we follow the sister of one of the Atargatis victims, the scientist who led to that fateful voyage in the first place, and a number of other characters who were more or less interesting. I almost hate to admit that Tori and Dr. Jillian Toth were two of my least favorite characters and they were also two of the main characters. Both were obsessed with the mermaids and their various wailings about the Atargatis voyage really started to get on my nerves. All the secondary characters were much more likable, especially Olivia and the twins.

I found the story to be fast paced, though not always with action. There were lots of little discoveries and tiny dramas unfolding in the midst of the larger story, which I like. It gives a story depth and nuance. The larger story punctuated the day to day life aboard the Melusine with terror, lament, and bloodshed leaving those aboard the Melusine shaken and leaving me hungering for the next page. This story was addictively good so I can overlook things like the abrupt and convenient ending. Things were going terribly aboard the stupid, semi-functional, luxury laboratory ship and then someone TURNS ON THE LIGHTS allowing a speedy escape and sudden salvation for our characters. How convenient.

Overall, this was a thrilling book with a beastie that has not yet been overdone in today’s market. This makes two of Mira Grant’s books that I’ve read now and I’ve been really impressed/ satisfied with both. I do hope to read more Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire books in the future and have my eye on her novella series published through Tor. If you’ve read this one, let me know what you thought!

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines – Review

Cover- Paradox Bound

Published: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Crown

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand alone

Pages: 373 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Eli’s willing to admit it: he’s a little obsessed with the mysterious woman he met years ago. Okay, maybe a lot obsessed. But come on, how often do you meet someone who’s driving a hundred-year-old car, clad in Revolutionary-War era clothes, wielding an oddly modified flintlock rifle—someone who pauses just long enough to reveal strange things about you and your world before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires?

So when the traveler finally reappears in his life, Eli is determined that this time he’s not going to let her go without getting some answers. But his determination soon leads him into a strange, dangerous world and a chase not just across the country but through a hundred years of history—with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.


Forrest Gump always said “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” and that statement also applies to books. Sometimes you get a dud and sometimes it’s a hidden gem. Paradox Bound is of the latter sort – I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into but I loved every second of this bookish roadtrip. From the very first chapter I was pretty much hooked – a girl named Harry who travels through history in her Model A, runs out of fuel at an inopportune moment and thus meets little Eli Teague, changing his life.

Harry (Harriet) Pritchard and Eli Teague are kind of the epitome of likable characters. They’re both good people with honorable goals and they jive really well together.  The secondary characters vary – the travelers introduced are much the same, but the Faceless Men…. They’re pretty creepy. Let me do a bit of backtracking now because the Faceless Men are important. First of all, Harry and Eli (and the other travelers) are trying to find the physical manifestation of the American Dream, which has been missing for years. Since its creation, the Dream has been guarded by the Faceless Men who, despite the disturbing lack of facial orifices, can function beyond the capacity of normal humans because they have Certainty. Certainty is best described in the book – it’s like being your house in the dark; you can still navigate without eyesight because you just know where everything is. The Faceless Men no longer search for the missing Dream, but now hunt down travelers searching for it because they are out of place in history. I picture them as a cross between Slenderman and the Observers from Fringe. Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

It’s difficult for me to explain exactly why I liked this book so much and it seems to have just struck the right chord with me. A combination of the characters (good and bad), concept, and plot mixed together turned out like the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The whole roadtrip thing is like quintessential Americana. Cruising across the US with the windows rolled down with your pals… just my kind of thing. Paradox Bound is a quirky time-traveling adventure that I absolutely loved!

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco – Review

Cover- Hunting Prince Dracula

Published: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2

Pages: 434 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

Synopsis:

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again


Stalking Jack the Ripper was one of the coolest YA books I had the privilege to read in 2016, so naturally I was looking forward to its sequel, Hunting Prince Dracula. I mean, a brilliant girl defying 19th century societal standards by studying the dead and also trying to solve the Ripper murders? How could it not be awesome!? SJtR was most definitely an impressive book, but just based on the title of the sequel I was hesitant yet hopeful.

Obviously, Vlad Dracula was dead long before the late 1800’s so Hunting Prince Dracula wasn’t based on a true murder as the first first book was. This, in my opinion, took away from the allure the first book had. This was 100% fictional with a richly historied setting and a great deal of silly scares and restrained feelings. Audrey Rose and Thomas travelled to Bran Castle, Romania to study at the greatest forensics school in Europe, but they arrive to find that they must compete with seven other brilliant minds for a mere two spots in the upcoming class. Thus begins the competition… or not. Considering they’re supposed to be attending classes and studying rigorously, it feels as hardly any time at all is spent doing these things. Instead, Audrey Rose and Thomas are sneaking about in the middle of the night (when do they sleep?) with each other, with near strangers, and most unwisely of all, by themselves. Let me tell you, if people were turning up exsanguinated you better believe I wouldn’t be sneaking around at night by myself or with someone. Also, the competition was mostly mentioned in passing or very briefly and the classmates were shallow puddles of characters. They may as well have not existed.

While Hunting Prince Dracula was very entertaining, I found Audrey Rose and Thomas to have irritating character flaws, or shortcomings, or whatever. Thomas for the life of him cannot keep his mouth shut when he should and makes Audrey Rose look weak and womanly in front of a room full of smirking men several times (idiot). Audrey Rose is hallucinating and suffering from PTSD after the traumatic events of the first book. She spends 60% of the book about to have a nervous breakdown and she can hardly perform the forensic duties she used to excel at. Yeah, these are believable and possible events and emotions, but to focus SO MUCH of the book on these two things was about to drive me nuts. I’m reading this book because I loved this nearly Sherlockian duo do their murder solving forensic thing in Stalking Jack the Ripper and for goodness sake, that’s what I expect them to do!!! I like characters with emotional depth and multi-faceted personalities, internal crises but Audrey Rose and Thomas both fell kind of flat for me here.

Overall, this book was just not up to par with Stalking Jack the Ripper at all. I wanted to love it, but the best I can say is that it was entertaining, had a beautiful cover, and gave depth to Thomas’s history. I love the Romanian setting – Bran Castle is beautiful and full of history; plus, Eastern European folklore is pretty hot in the fantasy genre right now. I dearly wish this book had captured the fear it was trying to evoke and that the secondary characters had of been fleshed out significantly. There will be a third book in the series and my fingers are crossed that it will be just as good as the first book and I can politely ignore the sophomore slump.

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks – Review

Cover- Perfect Shadow

Published: November 7, 2017 (Sp. Ed.)

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Night Angel #0.5

Pages: 144 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Discover the origins of Durzo Blint in this original novella set in the world of Brent Weeks’ New York Times bestselling Night Angel trilogy.

“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.

***
Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble.

But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.


Brent Weeks has come to be one of my favorite fantasy authors, particularly for his Lightbringer series which I binge read last year (or was it this year?). The Night Angel trilogy took a little longer to grow on me – I was unimpressed by Kylar for the most part, but the secondary characters helped things out. The prospect of reading a story focused on Durzo Blint was interesting because of his long history.

Perfect Shadow describes the transition of Gaelan Starfire into the persona of Durzo Blint as we know him in the Night Angel trilogy – master wetboy (how I loathe that term) of the Sa’Kage. It starts off with this stomach churning scene of him climbing up a poop chute in a castle to murder owner/occupant of said castle. Yuck, though vaguely amusing. Then he goes on to assassinate a few more people, hook up with Gwinvere Kirena, and ruminate on his past. All in all, very typical Durzo.

This book wasn’t long enough to really give me feels either way, hence the 3 stars. I will note that this special hardcover edition of Perfect Shadow also includes the I, Night Angel short story that I was not a particular fan of.

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont – Review

Cover- Deadhouse Landing

Published: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Path to Ascendancy #2

Pages: 400 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Return to the turbulent history of what would become the Malazan Empire…

After the disappointments in Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled their home. However, Kellanved is soon distracted by a strange and dangerous ancient structure. Back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith – and searching for answers.

During all this, the neighboring island of Nap threatens war and allies are beginning to wonder about Kellanved’s sanity. Dancer now faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when his friend’s obsession with shadows and ancient artifacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction. After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter the Deadhouse?


So just one thing – why the heck didn’t this book get promoted like books that are actually garbage with a nice cover do???? Every single book set in the Malazan world that I’ve read is awesome (I can’t attest to the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach ones) and the Dancer’s Lament was ICE’s best book to date. It stands to reason that Deadhouse Landing should be just as good, if not better (which it was) so… does that mean Tor felt it didn’t need the promotion? Last I checked I think this book had a cover or title but no release date and next thing I know it’s on NetGalley two weeks prior to its release – SURPRISE!

Let me step off my soapbox now and give you an actual review.

Deadhouse Landing was a SOLIDLY WONDERFUL sequel and it made me so nostalgic about the main series that I suddenly want to destroy my schedule and do a 6 month re-read. I stopped periodically to squeal at my husband about a character that just showed up because the powers are gathering on Malaz and the gang is getting together (!!!!!). Dancer and Wu show up on Malaz Island and promptly buy this shack of a bar called Smiley’s and they hire on some Napans who are obviously hiding out from their mainland brethren. Just a few familiar faces here… Surly, Cartheron, Urko… no big deal, right? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Dancer and Wu/Kellanved end up wandering through Shadow, facing off against the Hounds, walk up to the Deadhouse, and buy a ship that’s an even bigger dump than Smiley’s. All in all it’s a fantastic book.

What I love about the Path to Ascendancy series is it shows the reader how Dancer and Kellanved met and how the powers that exist in the MBOTF series come together. This is the prequel everyone wanted! I could blather on for many sentences about characters that show up, events, plots, blah blah blah but that would be very spoilery and I don’t want to be that person. All I can advise is this – if you’ve read the main Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson, then you’ll enjoy this immensely. If you haven’t read any of these books then Dancer’s Lament is a good place to start too. Deadhouse Landing was a fantastic read, less philosophical than Erikson’s books, but it’s classic Malazan greatness nonetheless.

Jade City by Fonda Lee – Review

Cover- Jade City

Published: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Orbit Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Green Bone Saga #1

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.


Jade City has really been permeating my social media pages lately – Orbit has their usual promos, but I’ve seen lots of other readers posting reviews, book hauls, etc. The synopsis and the statement that it was like The Godfather meets epic fantasy had me pretty pumped to read this one. My hopes were up and my expectations were high and it ended up being a really good book. Just not an amazing, can’t stop thinking about it book.

The story was such that I had no trouble reading 100+ pages at a time over the course of a week – filled with physical action, emotional drama, and a hefty dose of clan workings. Jade City primarily follows three Green Bones of the Kaul family who are leaders of the No Peak clan. Kaul Lan is the Pillar, or clan leader, and he’s intelligent and capable, though perhaps not violent enough to stand against the rival Mountain clan. Kaul Hilo is the Horn of the clan, enforcing law on the street, collecting tithe from the Lantern Men, and fighting back against territory encroachments. Kaul Shae has been estranged from her family for several years following the scandal of her relationship with a foreign military man and subsequent departure from the country to attend business school. At the start of Jade City, she has just returned to Kekon and hopes to make her own way in life without the influence of her prominent family. Shae and Hilo ended up being my favorite of all the characters as they were the most vibrant and interesting. Lan was admirable, though he lacked the flair of his younger brother Hilo and Shae’s interesting history.

The plot was well-executed and I thought the pacing was just right. Yeah, there was politicking and lots of unfamiliar terms but it wasn’t difficult to follow along with and this was interspersed with satisfying amounts of action and/or violence. This book basically details the beginnings of a serious gang war that will have potential world-wide impact, so this isn’t candy and sunshine. Fonda Lee threw in a few fantastic surprises with one in particular changing the course of the book.

Overall, I think Fonda Lee’s first foray into adult fantasy was solid and I hope the series continues to gain strength. The post-war Japan vibe was really awesome and I especially appreciated the history of Kekon and the Green Bones that was thrown in. Things like that give fantasy (or any genre) depth and body that make re-reads extra enjoyable. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on Fonda Lee’s future releases!

Changeless by Gail Carriger – Audiobook Review

Cover- Changeless

Published: March 23, 2011

Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Parasol Protectorate #2

Length: 10 hr 33 min

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

CHANGELESS is the second book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.


Very nearly immediately after I finished Soulless I downloaded Changeless because let’s be honest, I was swept off my feet by this Victorian/Steampunk/Paranormal/Romance. This book was just as engaging as the first and left me amused and perhaps slightly enraged at the end. Those of you who have already read this will know precisely what I mean! The outrage I felt on behalf of poor Alexia!

Anyways, Changeless introduces a veritable host of new characters which I think has worked out very well for this series. New characters aren’t always an improvement in a book, but in this case I liked it and the new additions helped to expand the world a little. Madame le Fou was a fun addition – she’s very mysterious, clever, and totally embraced pants before the rest of society. She’s also a talented inventor, who I’m pretty sure showed up in Carriger’s Finishing School series as a child (can anyone confirm?). The arrival of the previously abroad Woolsey pack and the subsequent problems is where our true adventure lies, as their arrival heralds a strange wave of… normal. Vampires and Werewolves become mortal and all ghosts in the area of effect are exorcised, alarming the entire population of London, immortal or otherwise.

So far, I’ve found all of Gail Carriger’s writing to be fantastic and quite funny. Her books have been a breath of fresh air during those times when every fantasy book feels much the same – unwaveringly serious plots, saving the world, etc. The change of scenery in Changeless was welcome – from dirigible delights to the rough Scottish Highlands, there was certainly enough travel in this one! I’ll be continuing with The Parasol Protectorate series as soon as time allows! If you’re interested, I would highly recommend the audio version of this series. The narration is excellent!

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth – Review

Cover- Carve the Mark

Published: January 17, 2017

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Young Adult, SciFi

Series: Carve the Mark #1

Pages: 468 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Synopsis:

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.

Then Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.


Veronica Roth wrote the hugely popular Divergent trilogy, so when it was announced she would be writing a new sci-fi series her fans were pretty much in an uproar from what I understand. I read Divergent and wasn’t really a fan (your run-of-the-mill dystopian YA), but the plot for Carve the Mark sounded interesting and that cover was *on point*. Very cool leaky slices on the cover, plus the hardcover edition has some awesome embossing under the dust jacket. Let’s get real though – the real reason I picked this up was because people on Goodreads said it needed trigger warnings. I HAD TO KNOW WHY THEY WOULD CRY ABOUT SUCH A THING.

Carve the Mark turned out to be fairly dark and violent for YA, but that thing is kind of trendy right now so it wasn’t really all that surprising. No triggers were elicited by this book, but then again I do read a lot of books that fall into the grimdark subcategory so this was tame in comparison. There was a bit of torture, kidnapping, public arena bouts, and even a dash of flaying (that was a surprise). There were also some really cheesy lines that made me roll my eyes and sigh, but that happens at least a couple times in almost every book I read.

Overall, I enjoyed it but found the pacing to be quite slow for most of the book. This isn’t entirely a bad thing because the characters are allowed to grow organically (no synthetic info dumps here) and there’s still plenty of character conflict and emotional discourse. Carve the Mark didn’t leave enough of an impression to make me certain that I would read any sequels that may follow. If reviews are compelling enough I may consider continuing the series, but life’s too short for mediocre books!