This is a book with bite - literally. About halfway through, you know that unlike other YA dystopian novels, this one does not skimp on the horror and quesy set ups/scenes. It was a bit much for me - I've never been a horror fan. The book jacket lists this as gritty but I'd suggest it swerves into torture porn just a bit too much.
That said, there are some interesting characters throughout and an attempt to blend in the mythology surrounding angels and demons. I was reminded of the Black Sabbath cover to Heaven and Hell with angels smoking. If angels smoking, in zoot suits, with hookers and lots of booze sounds contra-conventional, well there you go. But the author does manage to tie it all in and it's only after you've read the book that you start to realize just how far fetched this dystopia ends up being.
Some plot devices are pretty obvious - who her mother is and why she's crazy, who Raffe actually is, etc. And some things just strain credibility, such as the opening scene when they are fleeing into danger but take along a noisy old shopping cart just because the heroine doesn't want to argue with her mother about it. It takes the edge off the danger when the heroine doesn't even support it. Another frustration was the interaction between guy/girl - it was just a bit too bodice ripper romance for my tastes. You could have transported them to a 1700s pirate romance, regency romance, or about any other genre romance and have the same "annoyed, flipping, arrogant, well built guy with spunky, unsure, outspoken, 'spitfire' girl. It gets old.
In all, not a bad read at all and definitely one I don't mind recommending. Just didn't like the torture porn and obvious plot holes/points. Or the insipid characters.
Samurai Summer is a book that has big ideas yet somehow comes across as being a bit cold and too shortsighted to make the story stick. Characters that should have been believable somehow weren't and the book left me somewhat disaffected. I think the author was trying for the same dark tone as Let The Right One In but just didn't have a compelling enough story to make it work.
At a Summer camp in the 1960s, Tommy is once again dealing with the terrible reality of what he goes through every year. There is the mean camp owner, her 'son with serious issues', and a cast of very downtrodden low income family campers. Tommy is a bit of loner, a deeply flawed and somewhat broken boy, who deals with life by trying to live up to Samurai ideals. When one of his friends goes missing, Tommy will use those values to try to save her.
Tommy was a tough nut to crack. On the one hand, his dogged determination to live by the Samurai code made him somewhat of an unlikeable and tragically pathetic type of character. But as the story progresses and we learn his history, the fantasy world he has created around himself makes sense. I only wish it made him more interesting and intriguing.
Ironically, while the premise makes this sounds like it has a supernatural twist, the only fantastical elements in the book are Tommy's Samurai slavishness. The reality of the campers' situation is clearly dark and each of the kids at the low cost camp are there to be 'gotten rid of' by the parents. Where you have parents that don't care, the kids too often end up as victims.
I wish the book had made more of an impression on me but honestly by the time it finished, I was rather relieved and quickly forgot it. I was never engaged by Tommy or the other characters as I should have been; their tragic histories should have made them far more complex. But everyone at the camp just felt like sheep going to the slaughter while bleating occasionally.
I listened to the Audible version of the book and found the narration to be decent.
I enjoyed the first book in the Confederation series, Valor's Choice, but didn't love it. The story was decent yet it was also somewhat cold and impersonal. But wow, Huff really kicked up the story and characters in this second book and by the end, I was absolutely passionate about the entire series. Each book would end up getting better and better but the seeds for the overall story arc starts here in the second book.
Torrin is sent on a special mission after upsetting the brass - one with a great deal of uncertainty and unpleasantness. But in dealing with an unknown type of alien - as well as her greatest threat of all, having to work with civilians - Torrin will really have to use all her intelligence and military skills in order to survive what is about to be thrown at her.
Book two makes book one seem like a standalone or prequel to the series since it is here that we get to meet so many of the many characters who will end up in important roles in the rest of the series. Of course, there is also plenty of action and a heck of a lot of mystery for Torrin to solve or overcome.
I've listened to all the books in the series and admittedly didn't like the narrator in the beginning. But wow, what she does with the voices becomes canon (ah Prezit, I love you!) and she does them so well. I hope she will always do the narration for all future volumes.
This rapidly rose to become one of my favorite series - all begun here in this very important second volume.
I had a hard time getting into Widdershins. Upon reflection, I think that had a lot to do with an Audible narrator who was so passive as to sound like every sentence he had to utter was a terrible bore and just getting up in the morning must have been a tedious chore. It made the main character sound whiney and dumb and completely unlikeable. There was no spark of intelligence at all - just confusion, annoyance, and a grievous amount of tell over show.
Story: Percival Whyborne has had to live under the cloud of his very famous and very powerful father's name for all his life. At the Ladysmith University, he is still harassed mercilessly for being a Whyborne but at least he has his books. Until Griffin Flaherty comes into the university seeking a translation of a very odd book. Suddenly both men find themselves caught up in a supernatural world and conspiracy with far reaching consequences.
As far as paranormal goes, there isn't much new here. That doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad book but a LGB theme isn't going to excuse or justify sloppy/poor writing. Plot and world building is still incredibly important and none of the characters or the University felt real. The book had a cartoony feel that, while not terrible, still never felt grounded at any time. The conspiracy ended up sounding too much like a B-movie trying to use Masons or Shriners as world dominating evil mustache twirlers. It was hard to decide who was stupider sounding - the main characters or the villains (ok, the villains were stupider). There was the spark of something good under all the mess but it was pretty well hidden.
Because the narration was so offputting, I would not recommend the Audible version. Perhaps I might have enjoyed this more had I read the book instead of listened to it.
What I really like about Huff's military Sci Fi is that at heart, it is all about the characters. Heroine Torrin Kerr can be tough as nails and yet still be interesting, likeable, and not a cipher. I look forward to each book and seeing what the characters will do and how they will react. Especially, the sly humor and observations by Kerr herself.
Story: Torrin is assisting recruits on a training planet - a way to keep her safely away from the glare of the press after the events of the last novel. But then, the company finds they are being fired upon with real and very deadly ammo. As the body count starts racking up, Kerr is going to have to find a way to save her raw recruits from complete annihilation.
While each book has a story arc, there is an overall series arc that continues to be defined with each new novel. By this third book, it is becoming obvious that the unusual situations in which Kerr finds herself are all related to the mysterious alien ship. But as always, she will have to use her wits, guts, and force of will in order to save as many lives as possible.
I've been listening to the Audible version of these books and greatly enjoyed the narration. What originally felt a bit flat in the first book I now recognize as Kerr's dry wit. And the narrator is so wonderfully dead on with the aliens like Prezit and civilians such as Craig, I hope she will always narrate this series.
Every book in the series is an immediate preorder - I'm up to date on five volumes so far and have enjoyed each one. Even when Kerr eventually gets out of the military, the story is just as good.
The Hallowed Ones is an old fashioned YA horror story with a twist: adding in the perspective of a slightly rebellious teen Amish heroine. The author does a great job of ratcheting up the terror and unease but at the same time, lack of an original type of vampire/zombie made this somewhat of a let down (e.g., garlic, invite them in, etc.). A lot just didn't make sense and honestly even seemed kind of silly. But it is an easy read and I did complete it through to the end.
Story: Katie prepares for Rumspringa with her best friend Elijah; it is a time she will get to experience the outside world and decide where she wants to be. But then the apocalypse happens and the Elders close the community down to prevent outside contamination. Katie learns that the world has devolved into vampirism but the Elders won't listen to her, claim the problem is random wolves, and even Elijah, who lost two brothers in an outside City, is trying to shut her down. With only an elderly 'hexenmeister' and a boy she saved/is hiding, Katie will have to find a way to get the Elders to accept the truth - especially now that the darkness has found a way into the community.
I am not a horror fan and tend to avoid the genre; however, this was highly recommended for being different and I can see the appeal. The writing flows well and Katie is a likeable, even relatable, character. She's given a love interest in the form of the boy outside and together they will philosophize a lot - he loves Egyptology and she has her Amish beliefs.
Katie is a bit rebellious and this will be both her boon and her downfall. Of course, it makes for great reading as we follow her and discover more about the vampires and what has happened in the outside world. I was admittedly disappointed that the vampires followed the cliche rules: use garlic to ward them off, stake the heart/cut off the head to kill, glowing red eyes, damaged by holy water or holy things (regardless of the holy - from Stonehenge to a witches coven in NJ), able to hypnotize from a distance, etc. It worked for the story, especially given that the old 'magician' hexenmeister knew from past histories of vampire infestations, but at one point I had to stop and roll my eyes at the clear lack of coherency or believability of the vampire plague.
As well, the language and dialogue used by Katie didn't sound believable as an Amish - calling a phone a 'device' and 9/11 by that name - supposedly she only had been out of the compound a few times. She even randomly memorized her friend's phone make/model upon one viewing - which came in handy afterwards when she was at an abandoned drug store and decided to get a charger. Again, not very likely.
The second book veers quite a bit and unfortunately spends too much time bible thumping and sermonizing. So I don't recommend continuing the series beyond this point.
I listened to the audible version and the narrator did a decent job. She sounded young and though Alex's Canadian accent slipped a lot, at least it was there.
As much as I loved the two previous books in this series, I was admittedly let down by Waistcoats and Weaponry. The plot was pretty much as follows: "Oh Soap!" "Oh Felix!" "Oh Soap!" "Oh, a train." "Oh Soap!" "Oh Felix." Yes, it was nearly all love triangle and Sophronia worrying over her attraction to Soap until Felix came into the picture and then it was distraction by how handsome Felix is and all.
Story: Sidhe's absence has Sophronia worried greatly. Something is going on with the werewolves. Meanwhile, visits to Soap are creating conflicts in Sophronia - she realizes she is attracted to him and it is clear that he is attracted to her, too. But then, Felix shows his handsome face and she becomes even more confused. Cue a ball at her house in which both Felix and Soap will appear. She'll use the night to figure out her own feelings - and stumble upon a conspiracy accidentally while trying to escape the ball.
I honestly kept waiting for the main mystery of the device to come back into the plot - which it doesn't until nearly the end of the book. And not through Sophronia's intelligence, either. She stumbles upon a part of the conspiracy accidentally (and unrealistically). The flights of fancy in this volume were great and honestly starting to veer too far into the 'coincidence too many' side of things.
I looked forward to Sophronia figuring things out and getting things done; none of which really happened here. She was pretty much a love sick moon calf and nothing else really mattered. Sadly, the romance is really Carriger's weakness and it shows yet again in this series.
There is a very unsurprising twist at the end; really, the only way to resolve the love triangle satisfactorily. I will, of course, keep reading and hope a return to the form of the first books.
I listened to the audible version and the narrator is so good - I never want to hear this book any other way.
The Forgotten Sister is a well-written view of Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Mary - the middle of the Bennett sisters. Through most of the Jane Austen title, Mary was pretty much a tool of embarrassment for Elizabeth, her sister. Here, the author attempts to flesh her out and give a new perspective on the bumbling scenes and endless sermonizing of the 'bluestocking' Bennett. Oddly, though, in a book clearly intended for Austenites, we're given a very dim view of both Elizabeth and Jane. And Mary, despite getting her own book, never really evolves into a sympathetic or even interesting character. I found I liked her no less or more after reading The Forgotten Sister. Sadly, I liked Elizabeth and Jane less as well.
Story: Mary is the 'lost' middle child of the Bennett family. Jane and Elizabeth have each other and their father's affection; Lydia and Kitty have each other and the attention of their mother. Mary, however, is shuttled off to different homes and influenced by the people she meets. Born without her older sisters' wit and beauty or younger sisters' vivacity, she is more an object of pity than familial love. Her father's patronizing communication and mother's abandonment especially grate; but Mary has music and she has scriptures. They are her weapon and her refuge as she watches life unfold around her family. Especially: Lizzy and Jane and their affairs with different men, scandals, and plotting before Bingley and Darcy enter the picture and Lydia and Kitty with their meanness. Armed with prayers and the Bible, will she remember the Lord's words as it relates to fellow man when she falls in love with a poor musician?
The story is rather long - starting with Mary's unfortunate birth. Honestly, although childhood situations set up later loves and heartaches, it did feel like the story took forever to actually get started. I wish it had been written in such a way as to start at the same time as P&P - there's just so much in there that felt like dead weight. The beginning only serves the purpose of setting up the third act; it doesn't really intrigue or entice the reader into Mary's story.
As well, I didn't like Mary. She was fairly wishy washy throughout - influenced by whomever was next to her at the time. Her little rebellions against her family were more impulses than an intelligent attempt to make a stand. Her observations on her sisters weren't charitable either - as far as she was concerned, she could have disappeared forever and no one had cared. It made Jane seem an idiot, Elizabeth a schemer (especially after a scandal involving Italians and an older nobleman to whom she is found kissing in secret), and father Bennett clearly biased toward only two daughters and disposed to forget the others. This may be realistic but it's not why I read Austen or why I would want to read about Mary Bennett. The heart and warmth of P&P was not only missing, but it was also ruthlessly stomped upon in The Forgotten Sister. You won't want to read this if you love Elizabeth or Jane's characters; they are ruthlessly skewered here.
I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did a decent job, though she did somehow make Mary sound even more bland. But she did tone down the hysterics of the mother and Lydia/Kitty combo. For once, there was no screeching.
So yes, an interesting take on Mary Bennett and not poorly written. But also lacking warmth and real heart. It's a story from a different perspective that perhaps didn't need to be told.
This is another Twilight - a poorly written pastiche of popular YA themes unapologetic ally targeted to a young and unsophisticated reader. It shouldn't be too much to ask for a strong female heroine AND realistic, believable, nuanced writing and characters.
I'm not going to rehash the obvious - read any of the 1-star reviews on Amazon and you'll get the idea if this is the book for you or not. Or better yet, read a sample first chapter. If the implausibility of characters doesn't make you wince, you're good to go.
This Shattered World, the second in the Starbound Series, is a solidly written sequel using different characters but in the same spirit as the first book. Drawing heavily upon Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (references abound, from a planet called Avon, to a nickname of Romeo, to the main character being from Verona), our star-crossed lovers are separated by ideologies rather than class.
Story: Jubilee Chase is a captain on a backwater planet, Avon, trying to keep the peace against insurgents. But there are strange going-ons, the terraforming keeps stalling, and the people are starving. When Finn Cormac walks into her bar, "Stone Face Chase" Lee is going to get more than she bargained for as she is drawn into a battle that is far greater than just rebels and military.
Those wondering about the book having different characters from the first need not fret - Lilac and Tarver do show up later, though only in a support capacity. But the anomalies encountered in the first book are expanded upon in This Shattered World as Lee and Finn discover they each have a connection to the inter-dimensional beings.
The tone and storytelling, romance and action, characters and world building remain true from the first book to the second. Lee is tough but flawed and Finn is earnest and strong. The authors cleverly work in the Romeo and Juliet signatures into a sci fi setting - so much so that only the occasional references harken back to Shakespeare.
I really appreciated the diversity in the story - from same sex relationships to a main character part Chinese and whose family want her to maintain the culture. We didn't have a bunch of straight Caucasians running around pretending no other ethnicity or orientation existed.
The only downside for me was the prototypical boring villain and a reliance on the old "Big Misunderstanding" cliche. It's yet another situation where if the characters simply talked instead of answering in riddles, they'd not have had as much difficulty progressing in their relationship or story.
I listened to the Audible version and admittedly was very disappointed by the narration. The voice actors are good but I felt that a planet full of Irish settlers who had proudly held on to their culture would have at least had either accents or more Celtic flavor in the narration. Instead, Finn just sounded like an American guy. As well, the chapter segues were done in a male voice with a bunch of whispering in the background - both were so distracting that I had a hard time concentrating on the metaphors being presented.
In all, great book but only OK narration.
I was curious to see where Tonya Huff would take the Confederation series now that the war was over and Torin unemployed. With the Plastic alien riddle solved, what was left for her heroine to do? Fortunately for us, she settles in with Craig as a salvager - and finds a world just as corrupt and just as stupid as the military.
Story: Life as a salvager aboard the Promise with Craig isn't terrible - in fact, it is a nice change of pace for Torin. Until their ship is attacked and destroyed by pirates, Craig taken, and Torin left to die alone in space. But Torin never gives up and will not only have to solve the riddle of why the pirates wanted Craig alive but also to find where they have taken him and how to get him back - alive and in one piece. And without a spaceship.
Admittedly, the pirates were kind of a one dimension evil - but then again, I never expected pirates to be the smartest guys in space, either. Huff does an admirable job of creating a post war universe where stations run under the radar and there is still a lot of war debris to salvage. As well, we have yet another story where Torin makes smart choices and the right sacrifices in order to succeed. The military efficiency that saved her units' lives now works in her favor to survive the pirates and their plans for Craig and the Salvagers.
I am glad this isn't the last book and I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series.
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