My husband and I both listened to this. While I enjoyed it for what it is, he really didn't like it at all. We both had read the first book. I enjoyed the action; he felt it was poorly written.
If you're read the first book (and I recommend you do), you can expect the same in the second. A mix of action, philosophizing about war, and a lot of perspectives on the same situation.
As with the first novel, the writing isn't as strong as you typically find in the genre. It's not terrible (read a few YA dystopian and you'll know what I mean) but does come off as a bit weak in the military sci fi/sci fi genre.
There is a LOT of philosophizing on the necessity of war and soldiers, told in a way that is a little too obvious (obvious comparisons to big issues in certain wars like Viet Nam and Iraq are rather glaringly obvious and takes away from the plot). But when the action kicks in, it's a fun roller coaster of a read.
The narrator is the same from the first book. I enjoyed him on the first and was glad he's on the second. However, as with the author, there are some issues in quality of the performance: odd pauses where there shouldn't be and especially in this book, an affectation that has him swallowing the words at the end of every sentence. Unlike the first book, this reading feels a bit too mannered and that is really distracting. That said, I like the way he reads and he brings an easy humanity and grace to the characters that suits the book.
Roughly around the half way point, I stopped the Audible version in disgust. There was just so much cliche and flat characterizations trying desperately to support a simplistic first contact sci fi. Everyone talked liked computers simulating a person; ironically, the aliens sounded too much like a person. But it was the over-the-top "military are eeeeeevil" messages that really had me rolling my eyes. I'm not a martial person and am hardly jingoistic - but the repeated bludgeoning of the "military screw everything up because they are stupid and utterly dogmatic" points became tiresome. There was so much telling instead of showing (he said, she said, he said, he did, she did.....) that the writing became a chore to follow.
Story: An alien sphere is heading toward the Earth - and the only person who figured out what it is doing is a computer dude. The military chief in charge of the project makes a bunch of stupid decisions based upon personal prejudice and whether something will make him look bad. Despite military dude throwing out computer dude from the program (even though computer dude was the only one to figure out the sphere), the sphere later (randomly) decides to merge with computer dude and tell him the hive mind are coming. Here are some gifts, humans, use them well or be annihilated.
The story greatly felt like it was written by a computer science guy and not a writer. The pacing, characters, and plot were flat as a board. I had a hard time telling anyone apart except for the military guys - they were universally stupid and self absorbed. Reactions and actions were lacking nuances and everything was simplistic to the point of being unbelievable. Giving the military guy an "aw shucks" down south American accent really threw this over the top of silly and stereotpyical. Really oddly, the book felt like it was written by a computer and not a person.
When the aliens started talking with our protagonist, I had had enough. It was all so clinical from the human side and overly emotional and touchy feely from the aliens. If this was a better writer, I could suppose the aliens were meant to show our supposedly scarred (but really just boring) main character how to be more emotional. But I think at that point, I was siding with the big evil hive mind that the humans should be wiped out.
I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an ok job.
Gates of Thread and Stone felt like a book of greatly missed opportunities: flashes of originality and brilliance quickly buried by mediocre writing and a soppy romance. There just wasn't enough meat on these bones to distinguish it beyond every other YA distopian that's come out in the past few years.
Story: Kai has been raised by a 'brother' as orphans on the streets of Ninurta - one of the few cities to rise up after magic and technology wars destroyed most of the world. When her brother disappears, Kai must travel out of the City and into the dangers of the wild to find him. Accompanied by sexy neighbor Avan, who has looked out for her since she was young, Kai will brave the Gargoyles and the rebels in order to find her brother, Reev.
Readers of the genre will recognize these plot tropes from many YA dystopian novels:
- obsessing over sexy boy who watches over her mysteriously - and neither figuring out despite clues bigger than a mac truck that they like each other.
- Big misunderstandings to keep them apart.
- Dystopian city with eeeeevil leader.
- unique snowflake girl with special ability.
- leaving dystopian city to find out that it was all a lie (!)
- Meeting up with rebels only to find out they may be as bad.
- Someone is going to be secretly related to 'royalty' (most likely the heroine).
- lack of parents/orphan/mysterious past.
- heroine has special ability but doesn't know how to use it.
- heroine gets unrealistically 'leveled up' in fighting techniques in a few days.
- arena battles!
- desolated dystopian landscape with deadly twisted creatures outside that somehow never manage to kill our heroine or her boy toy love interest.
Honestly, I felt like I had read this book before and was kind of bored as a result. The whole misunderstanding/misinterpretation thing between Kai and Avan began to get old fast and I got tired of her admiring his various sexy body parts (can't she admire his intelligence?). I had to wonder if the book would have been better had they started a tentative romance instead. Then at least the plot could have progressed further.
Kai's background and powers were very underwhelming. They could have been interesting and the author done some nifty things with the power. Instead, the applications of that power were mundane. It felt like a writer problem - that only the romance was the consideration and so not enough thought really went into the actual mechanics of the world or plot. The whole reason for her being abandoned/found by her 'brother' Reeve was especially unbelievable and wince-worthy. Let's not get into the 'twist' about why Reeve was taken, which really made me want to roll my eyes.
As a Twinkie-type entertainment (sweet but empty) I'm sure this is fine as a Sunday read. But i can't help but feel there are so many better books or ways to spend my time. Note: I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator did a decent job.
I've tended to avoid epic fantasy lately - typically, the investment of time and dreariness of the storylines can be daunting. But the unique set up, interesting world building, grounded and realistic characters, and intricate plot line had me completely hooked with Promise of Blood. The story is exceedingly well written and had me enthralled from the first scene.
Story: Adamat is a veteran police detective who finds himself on the doorstep of a coup - an overthrow of the monarchy. Field Marshall Tamas has led a revolution with his powerful powder mages but now must stabilize the situation in the City - especially with neighboring countries circling like vultures. His son, Taniel, resents his powerful but distant father but finds himself embroiled in the coup. And Nila, the laundress, will use all her wiles to protect a little boy, her noble employer's son, from execution. Together, they will find that Tamas' coup will have set far more into motion than either could ever have realized.
First off, this really is epic fantasy. I love that the feeling of a revolutionary era France was taken and woven into an intricate story featuring magic and Gods, guns and carriages. It could have really gone wrong but instead was a perfect complement of technology (guns), magic systems (from powder mages to "knacked"), and very intricate politics. The story starts very small, converges for a short time, and then explodes across the country as we follow the four main characters in their individual quests.
The characters were extremely well done. The interactions between Taniel and Poel, Adamat and SouSmith, Tamas and his generals/bodyguards were grounded, realistic, and fascinating. As well, the incredibly intricate plot that slowly builds and expands - starting with a coup but ending up being so much more, kept me intrigued. This isn't a simple story on any level - not the world building, characters, politics, diverse magic system, or plot. I am greatly looking forward to the next book in the series.
I listened to the audible version and the narrator did an excellent job with all the different 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.
This is one of those books that you wait entire year hoping to find - solidly written, great storyline, intricate characterizations, and without the need to suspend disbelief at poor world building. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop as the story unfolded and surprised me at so many turns.
The synopsis - a boy in the lower echelons of a society, born into slave labor in the RED mining quarters underground in Mars, will find his life irrevocably changed when a small civil disobedience spirals into unforeseeable events. And one woman will choose a path for him through her own strength and sacrifice. To give any more of the plot would be to spoil the surprises to come.
This book was, to me, pure space opera. And this is just the first novel in a series with huge potential - I simply cannot wait to see where the author will take the characters in the next novel since it promises to be a huge change as well.
If I had to sum up the feel of the story - it would be a melange of the philosophy of Gattaca, action and conflict of Hunger Games, and grungy setting of Total Recall. As well, there is definitely the underlying earnestness that you find in a Homer Hickman book. Of course, creating analogies can make the book sound derivative - which I never felt while reading it. Somehow, all those influences converged into a book with characters that are flawed, real, and very interesting. Especially, the women aren't nuns/whores prototypes in so many books like this - they are full fleshed characters as well.
This really is one of those books that comes rarely - wholly satisfying science fiction type dystopia with an engaging and surprising storyline that is easy to read and not bogged down by descriptions or the science in the fiction.
I can forgive logic flaws in a YA book when the author knows to write very tongue in cheek rather than drearily earnest. With Joe Shine's I Become Shadow, we have a very snarky but also kick-butt heroine that who makes for a great character to read. Sure, you do have to turn off your brain - but that is the appeal here and I enjoyed this book for what it is - great entertainment.
Plot: At 14, Ren Sharpe is kidnapped from her bed by a shadowy organization who imprisons her for four years, teaches her martial arts, and then sends her out to protect a person who will become very important in the future (appropriate dubbed FIP for Future Important Person). On her first assignment to protect a very nerdy college student, things begin to go very wrong for Ren.
The first half of the book is the 'training' - where she become acquainted with the shadowy organization that supposedly knows the future. The justification for her kidnapping is simple: she would have been dead anyway in an accident and this way she can be of use to the world. By the second half, she's been assigned to protect a brilliant student and we get her interactions with him as she is forced to break rule after rule in order to protect him.
There are three main characters in I Become Shadow - Ren, fellow abducted Junie, and nerdy student Gareth. If it sounds like this is a love triangle, don't worry. Even the romantic subplot with Junie is very underplayed and lacking the saccharine soppiness of most YA romance novels. I greatly enjoyed following Ren through her travails - she was a likeable character smart enough to recognize when she was in trouble yet also able to hold her own without needing to be rescued. Passive, she wasn't.
Of course, what drew me most to the book was the snarkiness. I admit to greatly enjoying when the main character adroitly uses self deprecating wit in order to deal with problem situations. It's a reminder not to take the plot too seriously and just enjoy the ride and Ren mows down the bad guys.
I look forward to the next in the series. Reviewed from the Audible version, which had a decent narrator.
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.
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