Archive for October, 2016

scarlet

“THIS COMMUNICATION IS TO INFORM SCARLET BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, THAT AS OF 15:42 ON 28 AUG 126 THE CASE OF MISSING PERSON(S) MICHELLE BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, HAS BEEN DISMISSED DUE TO LACK OF SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF VIOLENCE OR NONSPECIFIC FOUL PLAY. CONJECTURE: PERSON(S) LEFT OF OWN FREE WILL AND/OR SUICIDE. CASE CLOSED.”

A second fairy tale heroine joins the wildly popular Lunar Chronicles: Little Red Riding Hood.

Premise :

Scarlet Benoit doesn’t know much about her grandmother’s past. And she doesn’t care. They’re family and they love each other, and that’s enough.

All she wants is to bring her grandmother back home.

But what Scarlet doesn’t know can hurt her. She doesn’t know about the secret that stole her grandmother away and produced the conflicted, mysterious (and, okay, totally hot) ally Scarlet has come to know as “Wolf.” She doesn’t know about her grandmother’s connection to a certain Lunar princess—and she doesn’t know that the very same Lunar princess is on her trail.

Yes, Cinder returns in this second book of the series. (Check out my review of book I here!)

Scarlet picks up where Cinder leaves off, with our favorite cyborg mechanic in New Beijing Prison, scoring a few handy new cyborg parts. Cinder knows she needs to escape the prison, and along the way, she picks up a young accomplice, his spaceship and a disconcerting habit of controlling people with her newly-discovered mind magic.

And then she’s on her way to discover the secrets that haunt her past. YA Sci-Fi, Fairy tale retelling. Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends. More details here.

Thoughts :

I have mixed feelings about the plot of Scarlet. It starts stronger than Cinder, imo—I love that police Comm on page 2. But ultimately, Cinder’s plot with the wily Dr. Erland interested me more than Scarlet’s plot.

Scarlet’s story seems disconnected from Cinder’s for much of the book. Basically, she wants to find her grandmother and she has to convince Wolf to help her do so. But, I kept wondering, what does this have to do with Cinder? It does come together, eventually; and thankfully, in the meanwhile, I did enjoy Scarlet’s romantic arc! Both books have romantic arcs, but I totally got into Scarlet’s. [Highlight to read spoiler: Because Wolf, that sexy literal beast.]

As a character, I find Scarlet more complex but less compelling than Cinder. Although Cinder is a relatively simple character, I always enjoy her pragmatic approach to life and the cyborg traits that make her such a unique being. Scarlet, on the other hand, pops off constantly and isn’t quite as bright as our runaway princess from book 1.

I did, however, enjoy the new setting: France. Sure, Meyer could give a few more details, but this setting beats the heck out of the almost-nonexistent setting of New Beijing in Cinder. The audiobook narrator, Rebecca Soler, does a terrific job with all the accents. She truly brings all of Marissa Meyers’ characters—organic, mechanical and both—to life.

Before I end this review, I have to give a shout-out to Iko the spaceship. I love this development! Touches like this are what make the Lunar Chronicles so fun.

3.5/5 STARS OVERALL

Here’s the breakdown:

Plot: 3.5/5 STARS

Characters: 4/5 STARS

Worldbuilding: 3.5/5 STARS

Writing: 3/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Teens! All of them! It’s really a fun series, for both teens and adults, if you’re in the mood for it. With the romantic arc between Scarlet and Wolf, I would say this is less of a “family read” than Cinder was, but it’s still squeaky clean and the audiobook is a great way to listen.

WWW Wednesday #3

Posted: October 26, 2016 in Book Review
Tags: ,

background

WWW Wednesday is a weekly MEME hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I got the idea from Socially Awkward Bookworm. The three W’s are these:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Click the book titles for more information about each!

Recently Finished

I recently reviewed three sci-fis: Larry Niven’s classic novella, “The Magic Goes Away,” a sci-fi lover’s fantasy from the ’70s; the brand new, completely entertaining space opera, Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark; and installment # 3 of the YA Dystopian serial, Remade: Home, Perilous Home. Click the titles to read the reviews!

I listened to these three on audio and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you!

Scarlet follows Cinder  in Marissa Meyer’s wildly popular YA sci-fi series, The Lunar Chronicles. This second installment re-imagines the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. I’ll be posting my review tomorrow! (And here’s my review of book I, Cinder!)

I’ve been on a Jim Butcher kick, thanks to some insistent readers friends. The Aeronaut’s Windlass review should be up on the blog next week. I actually started the Dresden Files as a teenager, but I gave up halfway through number three (because I was a romance junkie and I just didn’t find Susan that interesting). So I recently decided to try the audio version of Grave Peril! Review coming soon!

Currently Reading

I’ve been waiting and hoping to fit The Eterna Files into my reading time for weeks and I finally got the opportunity to start it yesterday. Big thanks to Tor for the sweepstakes giveaway of Leanna Renee Hieber’s books! Review coming next week.

I immediately jumped into Jim Butcher’s Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4), after finishing book #3. My car rides to work are fun anyway, since I love my library job; but James Marsters brightens even that sunny commute. Review should be coming in a few weeks.

I recently loved and reviewed Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn #4, The Alloy of Law, and I just started #5, Shadows of Self, for my bed time reading. I’m already hooked!

TBR Next

I’m pretty psyched about this batch of arcs. I mean, who wouldn’t be?

I actually got access to Ibenus on Netgalley, but somehow the arc never made it to my Kindle, so I started the ebook on Hoopla. After realizing I couldn’t take notes on the Hoopla ebook, however, I decided to order a hard copy for my library. *Fingers crossed* that it comes in very shortly!

I heard of Crosstalk thanks to the TeacherofYA and her sweet review blog (which you should totally check out if you’re a YA fan!). I’m so excited to jump in!

I requested Every Hidden Thing the second it became available on Netgalley (because…Kenneth Oppel) and I was just recently granted access. I’m sooo excited to read it! Ditto for The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz!

And that’s about it for my reading list. What about you? Have you read any of these? Are you excited about something on your TBR, too? Please do link your most recent roundup posts to mine so I can read them!

 

 

 

forsaken-skies

“Flying down a wormhole was like throwing yourself into the center of a tornado, one where if you brushed the walls you would be obliterated down to subatomic particles before you even knew it happened.”

So begins Forsaken Skies, the first installment in a new space opera by D. Nolan Clark (a pseudonym for the horror author David Wellington). And if that first line doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will.

Premise:

“You can’t just let drones do their own thinking. They’re not smart enough to know when they’ve got something wrong.”

A mysterious fleet of drones attacks a small colony of religious Separatists on the desolate planet called “Niraya.” No one seems willing to help the Nirayans fight the dangerous drones. But what do the aggressors want, anyway? Who sent them?

And who can stop them?

Published September 2016 by Orbit.

Thoughts :

The beginning of Forsaken Skies is all action and juicy conflict as it brings together the cast of characters.

A naïve pair of Transcendentalists from the victimized planet of Niraya seek military assistance from an ex-navy conman named Maggs; but rather than helping the desperate women, Maggs steals their money and runs. Unluckily for him, the Naval hero and famed commander Lanoe is in town from another planet, trying to chase down a young runaway named Thom. Commander Lanoe captures both men and, after hearing about the attack on the Nirayans, he pulls together all the help he can muster: the two criminals; an ex-rebel-pilot named Valk, who currently works space traffic control on the planet where Lanoe noisily chased down his quarries; and two women from Lanoe’s old squad. One of these squadmates, Ehta, is an ex-pilot-turned-marine with PTSD about flying ships; the other is Lanoe’s old flame and second-in-command, Zhang.

Some of the character arcs blew me away and some of them didn’t. Valk’s arc is particularly fantastic, and I also really enjoyed two of the women’s arcs, especially Ehta’s. On the other hand, two character arcs fell short, for me: (1) after the author hung his hat on the mysterious motivations of the conman, Maggs, during most of the book, that arc ended up falling short, for me; and (2) one of the women serves only as a prop for one of the men’s character arcs before she’s killed off. I suppose she’ll be a Mockingjay for the new fleet of warriors on their next mission.

Still, I enjoyed getting to know most of these characters.

After bringing together the crew, the author slowly and carefully doles out clues to the mystery that drives the plot: who is attacking the barren planet of Niraya—and why? The pacing is perfect and I read along quite happily and willingly, even as the tight, teasing setup transitioned into more plot-specific action.

One specific worldbuilding qualm surfaced as I read: the planets in this universe never seem to go to war. (Unlike modern countries.) Instead, corporations do all the fighting.

The polys always find another reason to fight…because they make money off the fighting.”

That doesn’t make a lot of sense, to me. I don’t think corporations are the main causes of war right now, so why would that change? It seems logical that different planets—like today’s different countries—would find reasons to go to war. Call me a skeptic, but if we can’t manage world peace now, I doubt we’ll be able to manage it in the intergalactic age.

Other than this worldbuilding qualm*, I found the planets, cultures and settings fully-realized and quite entertaining.

So basically, this book was a lot of fun! I was hooked from page one. Line one, even. I did find my mind wandering during certain scenes, like those detailing the religious politics of Niraya, or other scenes that focused primarily on revealing the soul of the commander hero.

But the big reveals, during the final battle, definitely live up to the epic-sized expectations built up during the setup.

Overall :

Readers very familiar with the genre may not find a lot of original stuff here, but I suspect even veterans will find something to like—and readers new to sci-fi are in for a treat! The beginning of the book is so strong, you’ll be hooked before you know it. I really enjoyed Forsaken Skies and am definitely planning to read vol. 2!

Recommended To :

Readers in search of a decent new space opera, especially new readers looking for an exciting introduction to the genre.

Many thanks to D. Nolan Clark, Orbit and Netgalley for my free review copy of Forsaken Skies!

3.5/5 STARS

*In a great interview over at MYLIFEMYBOOKSMYESCAPE, Clark/Wellington expounds upon the planets and the polys: polys have taken over the planets in our galaxy (except for earth) and currently run them to make a profit; but they also keep trying to defeat earth’s navy and ultimately add earth to their list of conquests. So that explains why corporations, not planets, go to war. I still have a hard time thinking that polys would make more money by going to war than through business or trade, but I can certainly see corporations getting behind the push for intergalactic expansion–and even owning planets. Intriguing idea.

“They had come ill-equipped, and moved too fast. Too much had been forgotten about the gods. Perhaps nobody had ever known enough.”

Premise :

Unicorns are dying. Atlantis falls. Centuries-old magicians finally grow grey-haired and tired.

The magic is going away.

But one posse of magicians—including a reanimated skull, a Grecian warrior and a Native American—determine to manufacture a solution. Together, they decide to seek out and resurrect the last living god, hardly considering the implications of raising the god of love and madness from its decaying slumber.

Thoughts :

I recently came across mention of this novella in a Fantasy Reference work and found the premise intriguing. Magic as a non-renewable resource? Very clever. The very beginning introduces us to Orlandes, a Grecian soldier who helped overthrow Atlantis and only barely survived the fall. That opening grabbed my interest immediately. (Plus, there’s that Grecian hunk on book cover #1. Mmm, mm.)

The humorous introduction to the next two characters also amused me. Two old magicians travel across a desert on pack unicorns—horror of horrors! What respectable magician travels on a pack unicorn?—to an inn, where they reanimate the dead skull of an old enemy, all to seek help on their mission.

The climax and results of their journey made the story worth reading, for me. I enjoyed the clever ending and what it conveys about gods and magic.

So I understand why the story might have been popular when it was published, in the seventies, what with the oil crisis and all. The popularity of this first short story-turned-novella spawned several more works set in the same universe. Some consider them classic F/SF “must reads.”

Clearly some readers found all they wanted in the sparkling satire and rigid, “logical” magic system of this short, satiric adventure quest. The theory of the magic disappearing—and the reappearance of beloved characters from previous stories—appeal very much to faithful readers of Larry Niven’s science fiction. These reviewers usually praise the sparkling satire and magic system.

Unfortunately, I found little of interest in the story beyond that original premise and the interesting climax. I wanted to skip the entire middle portion and get to the point. Uninteresting characters and simplistic character relationships dulled the whole adventure, for me; the only woman of the group is especially dull. (See book covers.) We don’t get much in the way of description, explanation or worldbuilding, either, beyond the magic system, since this is only a novella. Newcomers will find little originality beyond the premise.

Overall :

Interesting premise, gripping intro and climax. Meh characters, saggy middle.

Recommendation :

Clearly some readers enjoyed these stories. If the idea sounds intriguing to you—or if you’re familiar with Niven’s work, already—you might be able to get past the un-relatable characters and into the clever ideas of the worldbuilding.

2.5/5 STARS

Remade

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.” – James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

Honestly, the situation might be confusing and everyone else was freaked out, but it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.”

remade3Premise :

Nevaeh passes from her old life as gracefully as she enters her new one, in the third installment of Serial Box Publishing’s ya dystopian serial, ReMade. Unlike the other disgruntled teen characters, she’s grateful for a second chance to live, and she works to make a home for her companions in the strange wilderness.

But when a mistake with the food supply causes the group to branch out their foraging and hunting efforts, a hunting accident shows Navaeh where her talents may lie in the new society. YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian serial installment #3, authored by Carrie Harris. Published September 28th, 2016 by Serial Box Publishing. Reviews of installments 1 & 2 can be found here & here

Thoughts :

This third installment, like the second installment, drew me into the character’s narrative right away. Navaeh’s story will resonate with any teen who has struggled with long-term illness.

She had time—time! Imagine!—and now she had the strength to help Cole.”

I found myself admiring and sympathizing completely with Navaeh; her perspective is unique among the others we’ve enjoyed so far.

We also get a few clues about the elusive worldbuilding:

…the woods around them were full of animals and berries and fruits that looked kind of like things you might see in the supermarket back home, only…different…. It was tough to tell what was safe to eat, considering how much had changed.”

My theories about the world of Remade are so ridiculous, I’m not even going to try sharing them! But I’m definitely curious.

However, this third installment, like the others, primarily concerns itself with rehashing the death of the narrator. I found it refreshing to get the inevitable flashback out of the way quickly, but I’m starting to tire of this pattern. The series is rapidly becoming a collage of character sketches set against the background of some mysterious place. It’s similar to The Maze Runner, but with less action and more character-building. I feel like I’m still waiting to be introduced to the other characters—and their deaths—before anything exciting happens.

So I’m crossing my fingers for some plot movement and real problem solving, soon! I’m actually really excited to read #5, Umta’s installment, because I have a feeling she knows more than she’s saying.

Overall:

Great characters; overly mysterious mysteries.

Recommendation :

I’m definitely reading on, at least to Umta’s story; so until then, I’ll still recommend the series to teens and dystopian-addicts, but I’m going to hold off on other recommendations until I see where this is going.

***3/5 STARS

My thanks to Carrie Harris, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy!

thealloyoflaw

“Wax dashed across the rooftop and leaped off, moving toward Demoux Promenade. Just before hitting the ground, he flipped a spent casing down and Pushed on it, slowing his dissent. He landed in a patch of decorative shrubs that caught his coat tassels and made a rustling noise.

Damn. Nobody planted decorative shrubs out in the Roughs.”

Premise :

Brandon Sanderson returns to the universe of his bestselling Mistborn trilogy in this pulp Western Fantasy adventure.

Three-hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, certain developments freshen the scene, from railroads and guns to “Twinborns”—individuals with both allomantic and feruchemical powers. Wax, or “Lord Waxilliam Ladrian,” as he hates to be called, prefers to roam the “Roughs” outside the city of Elendel, where he can play the gentleman rogue officer and enjoy the adventures of an action hero. He plays the role quite well, too, capturing criminals for bounty and meeting friends with the same idea.

But when an accident shakes his confidence in his own skill, he returns to the city of Elendel and the grown-up life he’s been avoiding—only to find the city as dangerous as the Roughs. Adult Fantasy published 2011 by Tor Books.

About :

What a treat!

The Allow of Law is the stylistic antithesis to the original, epic Mistborn trilogy. While retaining the character introspection, complex magic systems and trademark twists of any Sanderson work, this book scratches a different itch. It’s shorter, faster and more fun.

Most of the beloved characters from Mistborn live only in the past, now, although there are a few surprises. I have heard library patrons complain that they missed the epic scale of the Mistborn books, in The Allow of Law and the two volumes that follow it. But I honestly liked this change. I like the original Mistborn trilogy for what it is, literally earthshaking and moving; but I like this, too. It has plenty to keep Mistborn fans interested.

And to be honest? I raced through The Alloy of Law. The Mistborns took me a while to read through.

What I Liked :

This book focuses on action and clever plotting, rather than the politics of Mistborn, a stylistic choice which gives the magic system a chance to shine. And the magic rocks, of course. Anyone who has already read the Mistborns will understand the basics of Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy; but The Alloy of Law re-imagines the possibilities by combining the powers, watering down their genetics (creating interesting limitations), and putting them in a modern world full of metal.

Though the cast is limited in number—readers spend most of the book reading from Waxillium Ladrian’s point of view—all of the main characters still have satisfying arcs. They’re also funnier. Here, Wax is speaking to a pretty young lady named Marasi about his colorful friend Wayne:

“‘Ignore him,’ Waxillium said. ‘Trust me. He’s like a rash. The more you scratch him, the more irritating he gets.'”

There’s much more humor where that came from, and not just in the dialogue. You’ll find other amusing tidbits, like the fact that aluminum is basically THE MOST VALUABLE METAL in the UNIVERSE, since Allomancers can’t Push or Pull on it.

I honestly don’t have any complaints. At least, not anything serious: Occasionally the humor feels stretched; the religious development, though diverse and pluralistic, takes a back seat to the action. Also, Sanderson doesn’t arrange his writing to be beautiful, on a sentence level. (As he explains it, words are just the window through which readers can enjoy his stories.) But ultimately, this book is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Even though it’s not as epic and political as the original Mistborns, I really enjoyed the ride and I’m eager to begin the next book, Shadows of Self.

Recommended To :

Anyone who enjoyed the Mistborns. Some say you can enjoy The Alloy of Law without having read the original trilogy, and that’s certainly true; but I recommend reading this as volume 4. The details of the worldbuilding and magic systems will seem much more coherent, that way. This book doesn’t ever slow down to explain anything like that. The quiet moments are reserved for characterization.

****4/5 STARS

Remade2“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.” – James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series.

“ ‘Good job saving the day!’ Jing-Wei beamed. May smiled back, then ducked her head. Never expected she’d get a turn at being an action hero. She didn’t like it much, it turned out. Not if it involved near misses with getting crushed to death.”

Premise :

May never expected to be an action hero. Allergen-sensitive and ever cerebral, her success comes from her work ethic. She’s an Ivy-League-or-bust kind of girl. Even her parents don’t seem to understand her drive.

“You don’t get to be the first Chinese-American Supreme Court justice by watching cartoons, Mom.”

Duh, mom.

But one day, despite all of May’s careful preparation, she can’t protect herself from a medical emergency, and somehow she ends up among the teenagers consigned to the mysterious apocalyptic world of Serial Box Publishing’s serial YA Dystopian adventure, Remade. Published September 21st, 2016. Available now on the Serial Box Publishing website. The pilot episode 1 is also available for free on the website! My review of episode 1 is available here .

In this second installment, written by Andrea Phillips, we meet several new characters of the story’s fairly large cast, and we get to know May in particular.

Thoughts :

May is such a great character. How is an allergen-sensitive SAT kid supposed to survive in a post-apocalyptic world? Well, basically, she never gives in; that counts for something, in this sort-of-afterlife. I love everything about her perspective—the drive, the humor and the pain. I’m definitely invested in her story.

And thanks to the great characterization by Andrea Phillips, the large cast is also coming into focus. We already know Holden and Seyah, from the first installment by Matthew Cody, and now we really get to know May. The adorable little Mormon Boy Scout, Hyrum, is easy to keep track of, as is the pseudonymous Loki. Everyone seems to dislike Wesley, right now, so that marks him out fairly well. Several other characters remain unimportant, so far, but I assume we’ll be getting to know them better later on: Cole, Niveah, Jing-Wei and Gabe.

Although I enjoyed the characterization of this second installment, the plot doesn’t progress much, and the majority of the episode feels like setup. I want more answers and more plot movement. I’m hoping for more of that in “Remade 1.3.”

Overall :

This was a short stop in the journey and so far, I’m quite intrigued.

Recommended To :

Dystopian-addicts and adults who YA. Teen readers, including boys, will love this fast-paced adventure. An audio version of the season is available on the Serial Box Publishing website, and don’t forget to check out the free pilot episode, “Shadows and Dreams”!

Many sincere thanks to Andrea Phillips, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy!

****4/5 STARS

Praise :

“An ongoing YA adventure told by a team of talented authors and set in a promising future world. ReMade brings to the (e)page the kind of compelling serialised storytelling made popular by TV.” – Philip Reeve, author of Mortal Engines andRailhead.

“A thrilling, diverse, character-driven adventure—a little bit of Lost, a little bit of The 100, and a whole lot of fun.” – Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Assassin’s Curse.

“ReMade is like the revved-up, feral lovechild of The Maze Runner and Under the Never Sky with a sharp injection of Lost. Gripping and addictive!” – Delilah Dawson, author ofWicked as They Come.