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Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen & The Rose Society by Marie Lu

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Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy, #2)Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cécile, free from Trollus now lives with her mother in Trianon. She’s living her dream of singing in the opera, even though her mother is not at all the kind woman she thought. But Tristan is still imprisoned and tortured in Trollus and Cécile would do anything to save him. Including swear an oath to the Troll King that she will find Anushka, the witch who cursed the trolls.

While Cécile searches in vain and struggles with her mother’s strange cruelties, Tristan faces a harsh awakening as he tries to help fix problems he had a hand in creating, all the while trying to stay alive.

This book is about betrayals and impostors and the terrible, terrible things family will do. It’s also about integrity and cleverness and sacrifice. I quite like this series and am really looking forward to more.

(Why is this book 4 stars instead of 5? There were obvious clues that I felt were ignored by characters in a way that seemed contrived to draw out the secret.)

See review of Book #1 in this series Stolen Songbird.

 

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)The Rose Society by Marie Lu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remain fascinated with this series and with Adelina. She can’t fully control her powers and she loses more control after she kills. I’m not sure how I feel about “the voices.” I can’t decide if the author is suggesting mental illness or if this somehow ties to [redacted]. (For spoilers please see my full review on Goodreads.)

Violetta also fascinates me. She is loyal to her sister, but she is aware of Adelina’s loss of control. I particularly liked how that played out at the ending of this book.

Teren is also a fascinating character, with his self-hatred and how he wants to kill all malfettos, except for the one’s he considers useful to his cause. His relationship with Giulietta is fascinating, too, in a creepy sort of way.

This series captures me in an emotional and intellectual way. I highly recommend it.

See review of Book #1 in this series The Young Elites.

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Written by tldegray

February 11, 2016 at 9:30 am

Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman & Planetfall by Emma Newman

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Dark OrbitDark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I expected this book to be a story about scientific space exploration, maybe about alien contact. What I got was an enthralling book about time and travel and possibly time travel. This book always had me pausing to think about the idea it was currently presenting. I fell into it and didn’t climb out until I was finished.

PlanetfallPlanetfall by Emma Newman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enthralling and intriguing. It’s a story about colonizing a new planet, sustainable living, grief, desperation, mental illness, and the nature of humanity, aliens, and gods.

I was absorbed by this book. All of the clues were there, but it was so subtle that I didn’t quite pick up on it–I kept denying it to myself.

This book was wonderful.

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Written by tldegray

February 10, 2016 at 9:30 am

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

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The Core of the SunThe Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So this is “Finnish weird,” huh? I like it and I want more, especially from Johanna Sinisalo.

This book is… well, it’s a suspenseful mystery set in a horrifying and plausible dystopian now with some magical realism woven between it all.

Vanna is an addict. A chile addict. In Finland in 2016 chiles, along with other dangerous and addictive substances like alcohol and drugs, are banned. Vanna is also a “morlock”–a woman who doesn’t meet societal standards and isn’t allowed to breed–except Vanna is also an “eloi,” or at least she was raised pretending to be one. Her sister, Manna, is an eloi, the type of “femiwoman” Finland has been selectively breeding for for generations. Vanna is also Vera, and Manna is Mira, because soft elois can’t have hard Rs in their names. Rs and other special things–like independence and nearly Stepford-like wives–are saved for mascos.

This story is told with letters Vanna/Vera writes to Manna/Mira, which tells their life stories from the beginning when their parents died and they moved to Finland to live with their only relative to the end where Vanna finds out what happened to her missing sister; in excerpts from fictional (and occasionally real!) books and articles about the history of Finland, which explain the history and realities of modern Finland; and through Vanna (and occasionally her masco friend Jare’s) present-day actions from Vanna’s chile highs and confused grief to Jare’s future plans and their shared chile-dealing business with a bit of capsaicin-spirituality over and above it all.

I loved this book. I was shocked by Vanna, I pitied her, her sister, and everyone trapped as they were, I was frightened by the very plausible history of Finnish society the author created, and I was always, always entertained. Also, I really want some spicy peppers now, but Vanna can keep the core of the sun for herself.

[I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.]

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Written by tldegray

January 14, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The general premise is that the library at Alexandria was never destroyed. Instead, it thrived and became The Library, a world power unto itself. It began as a shining ideal, to preserve all knowledge and make it available to everyone, through “blanks” (books) they supply. Over the years The Library began to care more for preserving and expanding its own power than its original mission.

Jess is a book smuggler. He’s part of the underground that sells illegal original books to anyone who can pay. He fears The Library because they’d kill him if they caught him. Then he gets the chance–or the curse–to enter Library training.

There’s a huge theme about paper books vs ebooks running through this story, with The Library’s blanks taking the part of ebooks. Now, I was reading this as an ebook and didn’t find it to be just “words on a page” that didn’t move me, as Jess thinks about blanks. But that theme isn’t alone; it’s accompanied by that of who controls the knowledge. And that’s where I really felt The Library’s evil. (To sum up: all books good; suppressing knowledge bad.)

There’s one piece of knowledge in particular The Library suppresses. A piece of knowledge that crops up in different places and times by different people, no matter how hard they try to erase it. It’s the absolute perfect thing for The Library to suppress and it had me thinking about the tremendous changes the lack of this would have wrought on the world. Loved it.

Chapters of ephemera are interspersed with chapters of action, and that’s a style choice that worked very well for this book. The ephemera is knowledge, of course, communications, books, etc. And it’s there, underpinning the story even though our characters don’t (yet) know it. It’s also the foundation of The Library, and that foundation is rotten. It was a nice touch.

I’m in for this series. I love thinking and reading about communication and knowledge and stories, and this is right up my alley.

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Written by tldegray

January 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

Posted in Book Reviews

Lock In by John Scalzi

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Lock InMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. There was so much in this book. It’s suspense–people are being murdered and the FBI is investigating. It’s speculative fiction–one of the FBI agents is a “Haden,” a person with Haden’s syndrome whose body is in a medical cradle at his home while his mind inhabits a robotic body (threepio–so perfect). It’s about disability and disability rights and it is very, very good at that, in my opinion. The book gets five stars from me because it combines speculative fiction with suspense/thriller and because it made me think.

What would I do, were I a Haden? Would I use a threepio and interact with the physical world? Would I never use one and interact only in the Agora (a virtual world that is utterly real to the Hadens)? Would I mix both? There was a minor incident mentioned about threepios not being allowed to use chairs in coffee shops if those chairs were needed by those without Haden’s. The particular threepio relating it doesn’t mind, but I’d mind. Oh, would I mind. There are great things like that which call into question the humanity of a Haden while in their threepio. Then there’s the housing which tends to be small and cramped for Haden’s because they are, after all, bedridden and don’t actually need space. But do they deserve it? Does it benefit them?

Oh, and the whodunnit? A wonderful mix of plots and schemes with the technology available to them. Very clever.

I could go on. I’m going to be revisiting this book many times.

Buy Lock In and its prequel Unlocked on Amazon.

Written by tldegray

November 17, 2014 at 7:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

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Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guides

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The Shambling Guide to New York CityThe Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

3.5/5 stars. Zoe is an out of work travel writer who moved home to New York City. She finds an ad for a job she’s sure she’s perfect for, only to be told she wouldn’t fit in. Zoe doesn’t take no for an answer and scores herself a job interview and an introduction to the coterie–all the supernatural monsters (don’t call them monsters!) humanity doesn’t know exist. While planning and editing the ultimate coterie travel guide to NYC, Zoe gets entangled in a dangerous plot, discovers something about herself, and saves the city.

The action is interspersed with segments from the travel guide. It’s cute, but the travel guide sections often come before the related action, somewhat spoiling it. But that’s basically my biggest complaint about this book, which I couldn’t put down and ended up reading long into the early morning.

I really enjoyed Lafferty’s versions of vampires, elementals, and all the other coterie. The travel guide format creates an opportunity to learn things you otherwise wouldn’t learn, such as coterie history and dining habits. It’s a lot of fun.

Also, I really like Zoe’s friendship with Gwen (the Welsh death goddess) and Morgen (the water elemental).

Buy The Shambling Guide to New York City from Amazon.com

 

The Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides, #2)The Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

3.5/5 stars. The Shambling Guide to NYC was a great hit with the coterie, so Zoe and some of her writers are taking the ghost train to New Orleans to write a travel guide for that city. My complaint from the first book in this series was that the travel sections often came before the action, spoiling it, and that’s fixed in this book, with the travel sections now coming after and supporting the action.

Though the first book threatened all of New York City, Zoe included, this book seemed more threatening to her on a personal level. One of her writers would happily kill her, she gets shot on the train, and some mysterious guy hints that she could be in huge danger just based upon who she is.

There is a mysterious African god Zoe meets in Jackson Square and I encourage those of you who don’t recognize him right away to google him. I think it’ll enhance your reading to know who and what he is, and it won’t take anything away from the story.

Zoe learned a lot of coterie and human-coterie history in this book and I’m fascinated to see where it goes. Yes, obvs, I am hoping for more in this series.

(Provided by publisher)

Buy Ghost Train to New Orleans from Amazon.com

Written by tldegray

July 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

Gothic Graphic Novels

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Will O' the WispWill o’ the Wisp by Tom Hammock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aurora’s parents die when they eat death cap mushrooms. Aurora survives and is sent to live with the grandfather she’s never met on Ossuary Island. At first she thinks she doesn’t fit in, but gradually she makes friends with her grandfather, his pet raccoon Missy, Mama Nonnie the hoodoo conjurer, and even a boy she meets in the swamp. But things on Ossuary Island aren’t right. People are disappearing. Dying. And the people might need Aurora’s help to survive.

This book was beautiful. I loved, loved, loved the art. The ends of things–hair, beards, tails, clothes–drift off into question mark shaped wisps. It was great how Aurora’s gradually wore more black and white stripes–there were times she and Missy were matched striped friends. It was as cute way to show how Aurora began to fit in on the island and in her new family.

I don’t know a great deal about hoodoo, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of it in this book. But I did find it to be treated respectfully. Though Aurora and her family are white–Aurora especially so with her pale skin and white hair–you will see a variety of people of color living in this Louisiana town. I worried at first that Mama Nonnie would be a “magical negro” but she was fleshed-out as a character with her own dreams and desires, she didn’t exist only to further the plot.

I liked this a lot. It was eerie, sad, and beautiful, all at once.

(Provided by publisher)


Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine, #1)Hopeless, Maine Volume 1: Personal Demons by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salamandra is an orphan. One of many on the tiny island of Hopeless, Maine. And she’s very afraid and lonely. Until she meets a friend, someone who’s always there for her. The only one who loves her, the only one who understands. Her own, personal, demon. When Sal gets rid of the demon, it moves on to target others. Together with Owen, a real friend, Sal fights this personal demon and makes things on Hopeless just a bit brighter.

This book is lovely. It’s dark and slow and feels like three a.m. when anything could happen even though you’re so close to the dawn. The island is alive, with eyes and wisps that reach to grab. Sal is beautiful, a bit wild, a bit frightened, and very smart, and Owen with his height binds the sky to the ground in the same way he binds Sal to Hopeless.

Hopeless, Maine Volume 2: InheritanceHopeless, Maine Volume 2: Inheritance by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The authors say this book isn’t about growing up, it’s about thinking you’ve already grown up and realizing you have a ways yet to go.

Finally giving her full name, Sal finds out she has a living relative on Hopeless. A grandfather, who lives in a lighthouse, and who everyone thinks is crazy. At the same time, Owen’s mother lays dying. Everyone tells him there’s no cure, but he believes there has to be one and that they’re letting her die.

Sal’s grandfather lives in the lighthouse for a reason. He’s there to guide people away and to wait for them to come back. He did it for his family, and now it’s possible he could do it for Sal and Owen. But only one of them can leave Hopeless; who will it be?

If anything, I think the art in this book is even better than that in the first. Everything is living. Hopeless is as alive as its inhabitants, and as eerily beautiful.

(Provided by publisher)

Written by tldegray

October 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews