Genre (sci fi) romance can either go good or really, really, bad. In this case, we have a solidly written plot, surprises aplenty, a decent heroine with intelligence and logic, and a hero that doesn't have to save her all the time/has his own issues to deal with.
When I read a sci fi romance novel, I always hope the sci fi is the emphasis and has some romance thrown in. That's exactly the balance I found with Gabriel's Ghost. No sex, no alpha male, no idiotic female. Just two people thrown into bad situations who fight their way out using their own unique skills.
The pacing is excellent, with lots of action and adventure to keep you page-turning. In addition, there are several surprises thrown in there that I did not in any way foresee. I especially liked that the author caught the feeling of space and space docks - it wasn't just two people in a spaceship fighting over their attraction, as so often happens. There is a strong over-arching plot and several subplots for the protagonists to explore.
In all, one of the better reads I've had lately and I'll definitely be delving into further novels in this universe.
Of note is the narration. I wish the narrator didn't do accents - the hero's accent sounded like a New Yorker trying to channel British but getting some kind of mangled Australian. It was very off-putting.
Champion was a satisfying ending to a solid dystopian trilogy - one of the most underrated in the last few years, in my opinion. Author Marie Lu manages to sidestep a lot of the cliches of the genre and end with a satisfying but not pat ending. But she also stays true to the Les Miserable inspiration as well.
June has returned to help Anden run the Repulic as a Princeps Elect while Day grapples with a tumor slowly destroying his brain. Separated by situation, both are grappling with the deaths and grief in their lives. But Anden is losing control of the government, the Colonies have a new, dangerous ally, and everything begins to fall apart as one of the previous plagues mutates. June has to hold the government and senate together, Day has to hold his own failing health and small family together, and the only cure to the plague could very well cost him the last family member he has left alive - his younger brother Eden.
Champion is a slow burn - much more about the politics and the pathos than in action (though the finale offers quite a punch). Both June and Day have matured greatly and I really appreciated that author Lu kept their voices unique and distinct (June's obsession with numbers, Day's gutter-rat colloquialisms) yet also gave them further depth as befitting what they went through in the first two novels.
Thomas, Jameson, Tess, and others all make appearances and their stories are discretely finished in addition to Day and June's emotional arc. This really is a layered book - a study in loss, grief, hopelessness, and at the center, hope. Both Day and June ended up being very against the cliches of the genre and the depth of their journey is extremely well written.
I listened to the audible version and both narrators were excellent - really giving life and energy to the characters.
Graceling is a modern throwback to the fantasy books of the 1980s and 1990s - a straightforward story, relatively low key romance, and complete lack of over the top heroines and too-modern-sounding teens. But at the same time, some of the more frustrating YA staples are here: adults are evil and the guys all have a case of insta-love on our heroine. But it is decently enough written to keep me entertained with the Audible version.
Katsa is a graceling - blessed with an ability (in her case, ability to kill easily) that marks her as different. Her uncle, the king, uses her as his personal enforcer, sending her out to hurt those who displease him. On one such trip, Katsa encounters a young man, a prince from a neighboring country, and after that, their fates will be entwined as she must learn to use her abilities compassionately and not as her Uncle's thug. But he has a secret grace and she will be drawn into politics of the world on a grand scale.
This is a stand alone though there are two other books in this same world (one a prequel of sorts and the other a sequel but both with different characters). I did feel the book floats around quite a bit and lacks a good solid structure. As well, it can get tiring hearing Katsa echo the same thoughts over and over. Yes, we get the idea you don't want to marry. No, we don't need all the guys falling all over you even though you're supposedly deadly. And yes, we have a hero who is once again just a bit too good to be true.
I would probably rate this around 3.5 stars. It's nice to see a return to more traditional fantasy (rather than the ubiquitous YA urban fantasy) but at the same time, I wish the characters were a bit more distinct and multilayered.
The gentle nature of Persuasion is one of my favorite of Austen's works. I found the narrator to be mature but also a bit boring, lacking the vocal range to do all the different voices in a convincing manner. It very much felt like this was being read to me rather than being performed.
First and foremost, I think the ending, which has probably been discussed ad nauseum, is likely going to put off a lot of people. I understand that but necessarily agree that it wasn't necessary. And the poignancy of that 'shocker' was carefully set up so it wasn't meaningless or random. Really, it was a part of the main character's nature and a full circle - Tris was, after all, abnegation first. And unlike her brother, the Dauntless aspect gave her the courage to do what she did.
What kept this from being a 5 star read for me was that there was a LOT of filler in here. Yes, a lot was thoroughly explained to set up the whole premise of Tris' dystopian Chicago. As well, we are give a lot more information about her mother, most of which comes as a complete surprise.
Four/Tobias spends most of the book conflicted about his parents - the selfishness of his father and an abused mother who has turned into the thing she hated most: her husband. It's clear that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Tris, meanwhile, has a clarity of vision that Tobias is lacking. Because once they are outside of the City, Tobias will learn that he is not who he thinks he is and may actually be far less than Tris herself. His world is rocked in many ways and really this book is more about Tobias than Tris.
As with the previous novels, the writing is solid and I appreciated the explanations and the further machinations once they exited Chicago. It is a "Truman Show' reveal that Tris soon realizes is just as destructive and apathetic as the leadership continues to be in Chicago (Janine to Evelyn).
So although many will decry the ending, I felt it was a fitting end to the series and much more realistic than a happily ever after.
Horde is the final book in the Razorland saga (the name derived from a quote main character Deuce gave about the land she has to traverse once she left the enclave). The book draws the series to a satisfying close thanks to the author not rushing to a quick ending.
Deuce and Fade had set off to Soldier's Pond in order to help save their new home - but help may not make it in time and the horde continues to grow. Deuce knows she will eventually have to fight the horde if any of the human settlements are to survive, But as she travels to each colony to try to enlist an army, she finds nothing but ridicule, frustration, and very different situations in each. Meanwhile, Stalker becomes more aggressive about his suit and Fade is still traumatized by his time was a prisoner of the Horde. And they are changing - in ways she could never have predicted - they are getting smarter and they are now an unstoppable force.
As with the two previous books, there is a lot of travel and then a lot of fighting. Deuce is afraid to lose any of her group and she will encounter and then make new companions as she traverses the mutie-strewn landscape. At the heart, is her growing relationship with Fade and the author spends a good amount of time building their relationship further. As well, Stalker, Teagan, and even her new family will all greatly change as the horde rewrites the rules of the game.
There was a lot of filler and a lot of repeating motifs (the doubt over Fade's mental stabliity, her own ability to lead an army, etc.). Especially considering that we all know from the very start that the book is leading up to the epic battle vs the horde at the end. But Aguirre is a competent writer and this is very easy to follow.
I enjoyed Horde and especially appreciated being able to listen to the book on Audible while driving. The narrator was excellent and really channeled Fade, Deuce and the other characters perfectly.
An Audible narrator can often make or break a book: in this case, we have a narrator who really appreciates the nuances of the book and brings all the quirky characters to glorious life. I can't imagine reading this on my own now without all the great affectations and accents, personality and charm, brought about by narrator Moira Quirk.
All the adventure of the first novel is in the second: Sephronia is tested and pronounced the quickest study in the history of the school. This causes problems with her friends, who distance themselves from her after being told she is furtively spying on them. But what might just be a kidnapping attempt of Dimity and her brother draws Sephronia further into the plot around the mysterious device of the first book. As well, she will find herself between two amorous boys: Soap the sootie and Lord Mersey, son of a duke. What will a girl do?
I greatly enjoyed this book - even more so than the first one. Although I didn't welcome the addition of a bit of a love triangle, the inventiveness of the names, plots, and characters more than made up for that. Sephronia gets into all the action of the first novel and uncovers plots with alacrity. Even with the whole school turned against her, Sephronia navigates her way quite intelligently and with fun.
Gail Carriger has really caught her stride with this book and I eagerly await her next book.
Tanya Huff did an excellent job bringing the world of military sci fi to life in this first novel of the Confederation series. Whip smart dialogue, believable aliens, an interesting mission/world and a very well balanced view of both the foibles and strengths of a military organization are the strengths of this story.
Staff Sergeant Torrin Kerr is assigned to assist bringing a new world into the Confederation fold. On what should be a routine assignment, hell breaks loose and she finds her company enmeshed in a lot more than bargained for in the new world. It'll take her wits and ability to lead her small company (including her commanding officer) in smart directions in order to survive.
I really liked that Kerr was street smart and in the middle rank of her company - she has superiors and she has underlings - and needs to handle both. As well, she has a company full of aliens and each has unique needs - so she constantly has to rethink her strategies for both the greater good and also individual motivational factors.
The first half of the book is very quiet - but by the end there is a lot of action. That first half is really important since it sets up Kerr's confidence and also gives us a chance to get to know each of the alien species. There are several characters and this could have been a very confusing book without. The book uses several POVs but the emphasis is on Kerr.
This is one of those books where Audible narration really shines. The narrator did an excellent job of giving a unique voice to each of the aliens yet also a distinct voice to Kerr that was very welcome. It really elevated the book for me.
Perdition is one part Kick A heroine, one part alpha male, and one part actioner - all leading up to an anti hero that you root for despite what she does to survive.
Dred murdered the previous leader of the faction in which she's now queen. But the other factions in the prison barge have realized that if they form an alliance, they can wipe out Dred's hard won peace and divvy up her part of the ship. It will drive Dred to make a horrific alliance of her own - with psychotic murderers and those who committed the most terrible of crimes to have earned them a life sentence on the barge. But Dred has allies within her kingdom and a trump card in the form of Jael, a mercenary like character with a secret that can save them both.
IN all, I liked but honestly didn't love Perdition. Sure, there were the Aguirre staples in there - lots of gore and violence and horror. But I think the setting actually upstaged the characters. Both Dred and Jael were a bit of a blank slate and very hard to get into. I didn't feel like either was a real person and it was too much like reading a graphic novel but without the pictures. If Jael is Superman then Dred was very much a Wonder Woman - complete with a 'golden lasso' type chain. Perhaps because of that, it did feel very cartoony.
That isn't to say this isn't a good novel. It is solidly written and flows well. Aguirre's strength, building a world, is well represented and you do feel like you are in that universe easily. But somewhere in the middle I kind of got bored and found I wasn't caring about any of the characters. If anything, the side characters ending up being more interesting and with a lot more complexity in their emotions, personalities, and motivations.
In all, a decent sci fi with a touch of horror and romance.
This was a well written full novel with an interesting (if not necessarily original) plot and characters that are likeable. Unlike many M/M pairings, neither pair is particularly promiscuous and their growing relationship isn't based on sex (though there is plenty of well written romance here).
The story follows Danny - a writer who lost his sight in a car accident that also claimed the life of his lover. After the wreck, he gained the curse of being able to see ghosts (usually one at a time). Meanwhile, Logan, another writer looking to do an expose on charlatans, offers to be a ghostwriter on Danny's biography (though he doesn't believe Danny is a real psychic). Once they meet, Danny sees that Logan has a ghost following him with serious malic on her mind - and the closer the boys get, the more powerful this lost soul becomes.
The book is a pleasant and undemanding read with a great length to develop characters and provide plenty of action and reveals. As such, highly recommended.
The Lost Stars Perilous Shield was another wonderful Jack Campbell/Hemry novel - riveting, full of action, and with the characters we've come to know and love (even if they were once syndics!). The first half details the back story on several events occurring in the Lost Fleet: Guardian - it was great to see how it all transpired from a different perspective though admittedly some of the impetus was lost since we knew the results.
All the good Jack Campbell trademarks are here - those great space battles and machinations, traveling through gates (very little takes place on Midway planet this time), and high stakes action. Some of the weaknesses are there as well - women are still screechy, over emotional wrecks next to their calm, easily seduced, and bemused male counterparts. And yes, there is still a lot of political commentary here that can be very thinly veiled metaphors for 20th century world politics. But honestly, Jack Campbell is to military sci fi what Tom Clancy was to military fiction - one of the best out there. So I'm going to cut slack here on the above simply because I love everything else about the books.
In Perilous Shield, Midway is still teetering - CEO Boyens waits to swoop down and retake Midway once the Alliance Fleet leaves. As well, Commander Bradamont, Alliance Liason to the planet, will find herself thick in the middle of the very dangerous arena of a former syndic world - will she survive long enough to help Iceni and Drakon find the resources they need to protect Midway? Meanwhile, assistants Togo, Morgan, and Malen have secrets of their own that may end up destroying their bosses.
I am constantly surprised at where Jack Campbell can take these books and especially love that Perilous Shield had so much space action. The one thing that kept this from being a 5 star book for me was the ending (a cliffhanger for the next book in the series) which ended up playing out too much like an overwrought Mexican Telenovela soap opera. I think it would have worked better in the middle of the book rather than being the random punctuation on an otherwise wonderful read.
Greatly looking forward to the next in the series.
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