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.
I have really enjoyed all of the Valor books. This fourth book is just as good as the previous - proving that everyone is expendable, Torin is always going to get the short end of the stick, and never count the Gunnery Sergeant as dead until you see her body. The conclusion of this novel closes the story arc that began with the second novel dealing with the plastic alien life form. Fortunately, it is not the last book in the series.
Story: Torin is fighting a battle with her squad when her company is bombed. When she wakes up, she is in an underground prison alone. As she explores the caverns, she will find a complex group of tunnels in which prisoners from both sides of the war are kept. Some of those prisoners will rise above the situation, some will fall horribly, but all soon realize that there is simply no way out. That is, until Kerr decides to fight back and Craig Ryder (with Presit's help) refuses to believe she's dead and goes after her.
There were a lot of interesting and complex dynamics going on in this book. All of the book pretty much takes place underground without weapons or regular supplies. Torrin first has to figure out her situation then she will have to overthrow mini dictatorships and save ally and enemy alike before they all destroy each other. There were quite a few twists and turns and I never knew where the story would go at any time. Of course, at the same time Kerr is trying to figure out her prison, Ryder is trying to figure out if she's dead - not accepting that the flattened area she had been fighting in had no biological residue. Having Craig try to reach her added a great dimension to the story since he brought along Presit - and any book with Presit is going to have that wonderful humor and banter.
This is going to be one of my favorite series. I have listened to all book on Audible and although I thought the narrator was a bit stiff in the beginning, I really warmed up to her narration by this book.
Bloody Jack is a book I definitely recommend getting in the Audible version. The narrator of this book does an incredible job bringing to life the different accents and personalities of 1780s England. I don't think I would have enjoyed the book half as much if I had read it.
Story: Little Mary's family is taken by the plague, leaving her with no recourse but the streets, workhouses, or eventual prostitution. She joins a gang of street kids surviving on their wits, lucky enough to find a leader who doesn't abuse his members. But when the doctors need more cadavers for science, Mary soon discovers that they aren't above taking specimens right off the streets - cutting down the street kids. So Mary decides life as a girl is too difficult, boys have much more freedom, and takes on the identity of Jack. She signs on and sets sail on the HMS dolphin as a cabin boy. Life is tough on the lowest rungs of the ship hierarchy - and hiding her gender will make it that much more difficult for Mary Jacky Faber.
Author Meyer does a good job of giving a pretty harrowing account of life in London for the poor and then the deprivations of ship life. It can be an incredibly depressing read as a result but the historical aspects and understanding the historical milieu do make it time well spent.
Mary and her firends/shipmates are not necessarily admirable characters but they feel much more like real people as a result. I'm not quite sure I'd give this to my 11 year old to read but this would be a great book for older kids with a greater sense of the world and who could better handle the depressing nature of the story.
As noted earlier, the Audible version of this is quite amazing. Really brings the era to life.
Chaos closes the Guards of the Shadowlands with a satisfying conclusion and plenty of action. Those who liked the first book especially will appreciate that most of Chaos takes place off Earth in the afterlife realms.
Story: Juri has stolen Malachi's body and sent the guard to the Mazakin City - a place of endless torture by the entrapped Mazakin beaasts. Desperate to get Malachi back, Lela makes a deal with the Judge - she'll go to the Mazakin dome, kill the queen, and destroy the portal. Once that's done, she can have Malachi back. Ana, still bitter over the loss of Takashi, goes with Lela. But what the women find there is more than just Malachi - it is a land of horrors revisted daily and with no escape - for eternity. Armed with on a few weapons, going up against a whole city, allies will betray, enemies become friends, and lost lovers reunited.
Chaos was a very good read - the action was nearly non stop. I greatly appreciated how author Sarah Fine allowed the story to unwind slowly, without what could have been a very cliche "go in, kick butt, save hero, save world, escape." She escalates the action at each step, with plenty of twists and turns, discoveries and battles. Just when you think the battle is over, something new happens or Lela and her crew have an all new battle on their hands.
We get a lot of insight on a lot of the characters - from Lela's mother, Takashi's previous life, even more about Malachi, who suffers quite a bit in this novel. This really is Lela's story though - she drives all the action and does a lot of the saving. Malachi and crew spend much of the book either injured or out of the action. So here we truly have a heroine who is her own action hero.
I listened to the audible version and thought the narrator did an ok, but not great, job. She had the right age sounding voice but the accents, from Japanese to Spanish, all tended to sound like bad Transylvania accent from a Vampire movie.
This was definitely the best book in the series and worth the read to the end.
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