Monday, March 30, 2015

Ilona Andrews: Magic Breaks

Althought at the beginning of this book there is a brief synopsis presented that outlines what has happened before in the previous 6 books, you should read those before reading this one. They are not only great reads but a few pages never makes up for 6 books worth of character development, world building and relationships.

Ilona Andrews is back with her Kate Daniels series, and in this book what Kate feared most is about to happen:

Kate has always been taught to hide what and who she is from the world, but she knows that that is no longer possible, especially when Hugh d’Ambray strolls into a meeting of all the powers of Atlanta and tells Kate she either comes with him or else. Kate is always one to sacrifice herself for those she loves or those who are weaker that her, but Hugh's ultimatum is one that she cannot pursue, instead it becomes a game of Cat and Mouse where Kate attempts to beat Hugh at his own game. However, some things cannot be put off forever, and if Roland knows of Kate's existence it is only a matter of time before he comes for her and Kate knows that this is a battle that she cannot win.

Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniel series is the only series that I have continued to read since I started in with the paranormal/UF genres, I'm going to say over 10 years ago now. It may have something to do that they only release one book a year or two years so I still get that little thrill of excitement when the paperback finds it way to my door (I'm was kind of upset that they decided to start releasing in hardcover first and paperback almost a year later, but I understand they are popular and need to make money too, just means I have to wait that much longer). I think that Andrews' has created an interesting and ever changing world, with the shifts between technology and magic, a cast of characters and relationships that have grown shaped and changed throughout the books and for the most part the better.

It is amazing to see the type of character that Kate has grown into and how much she has changed from the first book, not only in character and personality but also her powers and the relationships that she has formed. The Kate that is in this book will still put herself before others but she has additional people and responsibilities that she needs to factor in as well, that everything is not as black and white as she would like it to be. This also showed how much Kate is willing to do to survive and the will to live that she has is incredible. I also think that Kate and Curran's relationship has never been better in this book and i'm happy they got past some of the issues in the previous two books.

If you know anything about Kate Daniels series and Andrews, I knew that this book was going to tackle Roland and I'm going to say I'm a was a little disappointed about what happened. I was expecting an epic battle with fire works and all i really got was a match lit that kind of fizzled out. I'm really not sure where Andrews is going to go from here. This does not mean in any way that I would not continue on in the series, just wanting to know where Andrews take it next would keep me reading.

I personally dread the day when there are no more Kate Daniels book, I don't know what I would have to look forward to year after year. I guess rereading the series over and over again (well except for Magic Slays, was not the biggest fan of that book). This is my favourite UF series and I think that Andrews did a great job with this book even though I questions some of the choices that they made and I am curious to see where she takes the next book with the big changes that happen in this book.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sara Blaedel: The Forgotten Girls

Sara Blaedel takes the readers to the country side of Denmark where the past is about to define the present:

In a Denmark forest, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of a woman, with very distinctive scarring on her face, that it should be easy to identify her, but no one has reported her missing. Louise Rick is the new head of the Missing Persons department and something about this case does not sit right with her. Even when her bosses tell her to drop the case she is unable to. When a women sees a media release and is able to ID the woman as Lisemette, Louise finds out that she was one of the forgotten girls. A girl that was left at a mental institution many years ago, but the more disturbing is that Lisemette had a twin and both were issued death certificates 30 years ago. This case has now become one where Louise has to sift through the past to find out what happened to Lisemette and her twin in the hopes that she can find her alive. But strange things are happening in the forest and Louise needs to put the pieces together before more people are killed.

This was an interesting read but I had to put it down part way through reading it as I was reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn at the same time and the writing and parts of the story were similar, that at times I would get them confused. This, to me, is actually a big nod to Blaedel as I thought her writing style was very good and as I said similar to Flynn's however, that is where the similarities end between the two authors. Blaedel focuses much more on the mystery of these forgotten girls and while our main character Louise has many flaws and a past she would like to forget, her aspects and issues were never at the forefront of the novel as they are in Flynn's novel.

The mystery in this novel was interesting as Louise tries to connect the past to the present of events that occurred and that someone who was thought to be long dead was actually alive. I do not think that I have read a mystery that had this aspect before so I really enjoyed that twist. I appreciated that Louise did not just happen to come across information in her case, there was nothing about luck book, it was Louise putting in the hard work of following up any lead that she can think of and going from interview to interview and the information that each contained. To me this is a more of how a real life case would be investigated as evidence did not just come out of thin air and you are left wondering how the detective came across the information. I also liked that this was a true mystery book, it did not rely on the flash of gun fights or gory descriptions of scenes to entertain the reader, but it was just as dark and had some disturbing aspects of other books that I had read. Blaedel just relied more on the investigation and mystery than other books and her style of writing really helped her to achieve this

I felt like I never really got to know Louise in this novel as there were so many personal and personality issues that were never fully explained. I found out after I read this novel that it is actually the seventh book in the series so this is not surprising (it did not say it was the 7th book on Netgalley). Blaedel kept referring to aspects of Louise's past but you never really get the whole story (though there is a big cliff hanger at the end that deals with some of her personal aspects). I will say that what I read of Louise's character in this book I really liked, she is a thorough investigator and tries to keep her work life balance with her son. I also did not get the best impression with her best friend Camilla but I think that this also had to do with coming in at the seventh book.

I really enjoyed the mystery that Blaedel presented and executed in this book. I think that she stuck true to what a missing person/homicide investigation would look like. While I did not feel a great connection Louise I think that if I started at the beginning of the series I would have enjoyed this book even more. This book could be read as a stand alone if you are okay with less character development and I think I might even start at the beginning of this series if they have been translated in to English.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kate Corcino: Spark Rising

In her debut novel Corcino takes the reader to the future, where all that is required to start a revolution is a single Spark:

There are no more fossil fuels left on Earth, but the human race is nothing but adaptable and with the creation of the humans known as Sparks, they are still able to charge items. Sparks are a slave to the energy that runs through them, known as Dust. It allows them to do amazing things, but they always have a need to release this energy. There are nine cities that offer safety to the people but this comes at a price, control over the children who show they have the power of a Spark. The boys are taken away to be trained into agent, while girls that show promise just disappear. When Lena was a young girl, her father knew that she was powerful so they faked her death in order to let her live. When she was old enough she moved outside of the city to protect those she loves. She is self taught on how to use her Dust power and she sells her abilities on the black market. Lena thought she was safe but when come to her home looking for a renegade Spark, they get way more than they bargain for with Lena. She is the Spark that will change everything.

Corcino had me hooked from the first pages of the book, with the right off the bat action scene, introduction to this world and Lena's powers. While I did find the book did dragged on at points (really Lena thinking things too much) and there were big gaps in time every once in awhile, I never once considered putting this book down. Corcino also plays on all of your emotional strings throughout the book as you did not know what kind of trouble Lena was going to get in to and how it would affect those that she cares about.

This has one of the most original ideas for the powers of an individual (or new species really in this case) that I have ever read. Based on the cover you think that electricity would be Lena's power and while that is true, she can basically control anything, from her own body, those around her and it seemed some aspects of nature as well. She is also able to charge any battery out there from the electrical charge that seems to run through her. I am very interested to see where Corcino takes Lena's powers, as the possibilities and her power seem endless and really overall, just such a cool idea.The normal humans in this world have found a way to turn the Sparks in to relative slaves as they are needed to charge all the cities, they are even pitted against each other and even though Sparks are more powerful than humans, they are seen as a lower class.

Lena is a great female protagonist, she starts out as a loaner in forced but necessary exile because of how powerful she is, but she still has the need to protect those that she loves. She has developed all of her skills in secret and has many tricks that even the strongest of the other Sparks are not aware of. At times I found Lena a little bit childish but I think that this is due to "dieing" when she was young and not getting the proper social skills or interactions with other people.

I was secretly kind of hoping that there would be no romance in this book....but alas I was wrong, it almost seems impossible these days to find a sci-fi or UF book that has a strong female lead character without having the romance aspects. This is not to says that I am adverse to romance in novels, I just find that the romance just seems to happen and they jump into it. I thought that Lena was a stronger character than that and did not see the need for her to think of Reyes in a romantic way all the time, really from the first time she meets him.

This is a great debut novel, with a great original world and powers and while I could have done with out the immediate romance, I guess I have just come to expect in books these days. Corcino will have you hooked from the beginning and if you love a strong female protagonist, this book is for you. Well done Corcino, I know I'll be looking for the next in the series.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects

In Gillian Flynn's debut novel (yep that's right debut) she takes the reader to a small town in Missouri where secrets have secrets and you cannot trust even your own family:

Camille Preaker’s has always loved words, she was forever writing down conversations trying to remember everything that was said and to her certain words do have power. It should be no shock that Camille decided to become a reporter, but request to cover the murder of two little girls from her home town may be too much to ask. Camille is running from a past full of demons, she left Wind Gap for a reason and only part of it was to save her sanity. Camille tries to stay strong but there are certain aspects of family that never change and in  a small town there is nothing but rumors and secrets. Sometimes going back home can be the most deadly thing of all.

Many people only think of Gone Girl when they see the name Gillian Flynn, but Sharp Objects was actually Flynn's debut novel and what a debut novel it was. Dark, eerie and twisted, Flynn was able to hit the mark on many aspects that I enjoy in a mystery novel. Just when you think you have the small town of Wind Gap figured out there was a new darkness on the horizon that you may not see coming. If you have read Gone Girl you know that Flynn does not shy away from the dark side of human nature and Sharp Objects is exception. Flynn has a great ability to go where very few people are willing to go with her characters and in this case Flynn explores the self harm disorder of cutting.

Camille Preaker was a very interesting main character, mainly due to her cutting disorder and how she copes with it as well as her past haunting her as she returns home. You know as soon as she enters back in to the world she fled all those years ago that it was her situation here that caused her to start cutting. I have never heard of a cutting disorder that was word based, very interesting expression of the disorder that Flynn decided to use as well as the way in which Flynn had Camille cope with it. Camille also has very poor relationship skills with men, her family and really everyone she meets and she uses alcohol to cope in all of these interactions. So I guess you can say Camille is not your typical main character, she is very flawed and basically has only one positive relationship in her life and that is her editor. Though I'll say this is Flynn's fault as she seemed to want to focus more on the psychological aspects of Camille and not the actual murders. There were parts of Camille that annoyed me, I mean she is 30 and I understand that she has had some tough time in her life, plus her disorder, but there does come a time when you should not be pressured to do thing by you 13 year old half sister. I thought that Camille was stronger than that, and did not care what people think of her, but the more a reflect back all of this was really a good front but was never an actuality. The more I look back, the more I realize how complex of a character Camille really was and even more how screwed up she was.

The mystery is really secondary, if you are reading this for the mystery aspect that is presented in the book premise, then you will be disappointed. The mystery comes an goes in the book and it is the main reason for Camille returning to her homes town but other than the people and her mother disapproving of her being there to write a story, there does not seem to much to the mystery aspect and trying to figure it out. Camille really makes a poor reporter in this book as there is not much detecting done by her. and she only does interview when basically forced. Though I'll say this is Flynn's fault as she seemed to want to focus more on the psychological aspects of Camille and not the actual murders.

A dark and disturbing read, which I liked (hmmm what does that say about me...). This book makes me glad that I did not grow up in a small town where everyone knows your business but still has secrets every where and for me this book really looked at some nature vs nurture aspects that I found interesting. It has also been a long time since I was 13 and if 13 year old's are how Flynn describes them in this book, I am truly scared for the future generations.If you like a read that is on the darker side of the human mind, then I think you will enjoy this book. It is not the same as gone girl but that does not mean that it is lacking, it is just different than it and explores totally different dark side of humanity.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Amy Plum: After the End

Amy Plum introduces the reader to girl who is about to have her entire world and belief system turned up-side-down:

Juneau is one of the only survivors left of WWIII. Her clan survives in the traditional was of living off the land, being one with nature and hiding from those who may have also survived or those who have turned. Juneau knows every inch of her clan's territory and is one of the group best hunters. When Juneau hears a strange sound overhead that is heading towards her clan's camp, she hurriedly makes her way back only to discover that everyone is gone. Juneau is about to learn that everything she has been told is a lie, there was never a war, they were not the only survivors the world has continued on. Juneau now has to travel to civilization in order to discover where her clan has been taken to but as Juneau hunts for them she too is being hunted.

It was the premise that first drew me to this book. It made me think what would I do if I found out that everything I knew and believed was false and that I had been lied to my entire life. However, I figured out about a quarter of the way through this book that this YA book is more for young adult readers age than it was for adults who enjoy the occasional YA read (but I more of a fan of new adult books), but I continued on as I do not like not finishing a book. Therefore, the rest of my review may seem negative (but I don't think too much so) to some, but it really from an adult perspective that a young adult one.

Juneau and Miles' relationship is very kid like and this mainly has to do with Juneau  being sheltered from regular society for her entire life. She does not understand the "proper" or "cool way" to interact with Miles, which I kind of liked as she is just herself with him the entire time. She does not feel like she needs to hide who she is with him as that would be a foreign concept for her. Miles is extremely confused about Juneau and questions everything that she does. He does not believe in her powers, story or clan and just wants to impress his father, even though he thinks it more of showing his Dad up. I will say that Plum allows Juneau and Miles to grow within the book, but more growth is really seen with Miles and it was nice for him to change.

Juneau has very interesting abilities that come from her connection to the Yara and nature. I think that Plum did some research into Native American traditions and culture in order to form the ceremonies that Juneau uses and talks about as well as some of the abilities that Juneau has. Plum does a good job in showing Juneau struggle with holding onto the power of the Yara when she enters civilization as well as start to question her belief in everything.

This book goes back and forth between Juneau and Miles' POV and I think that this was the best format to tell the story as Juneau and Miles react and interpret things differently. However, I was not a fan of this at the very beginning of the book as Miles had very very short POV sections and I am glad that this changed later on in the book.

I think that this book is great for a young adult, the story is interesting, both the female and male lead are strong but also have imperfections as well as trying to discover what it means to have a relationship with someone who is completely different from you. However, for an adult I felt that the book was just too young for me, from the relationship, the decisions the characters make and even the writing style. I personally wouldn't continue on in this series but if you have a young adult reader at home, I think they would like this book.

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