Persona

Persona

By: Genevieve Valentine

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

The best way I can describe this is as a sci-fi thriller.  It’s set in a near-future world where something like the UN rules the world and the diplomats that we see on the television are nothing more than faces that do and say what the rest of their committee says.

By the end of the book, I found myself rooting for the main character and wanting to know more about what the future holds for her.  The secondary character is just as well written.  Overall, the plot and writing were well done, and the story was well executed.

If you’re a fan of science fiction that takes place in a world that’s only a few degrees from the world that we live in, you should give Persona a try.  I really enjoyed it, and am hoping that there’s a sequel upcoming.

 

Scarlet Tides

Scarlet Tides (Moontide Quartet #2)

By David Hair

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

In my review of the first Moontide Quartet book, Mage’s Blood, I closed with some pretty hefty praise:

When completed, the Moontide Quartet, of which Mage’s Blood is the first book, will likely be thought of as one of the best examples, in recent memory, of epic fantasy.

Fortunately, the second book in the series didn’t disappoint.  Hair maintained the same level of excellent storytelling that was throughout the first book while escaping some of the heavy world building that was necessary in Mage’s Blood.  Where some authors might be content to leave the same amount of story in a book, and just write a shorter book without as much world building, Hair didn’t do that.  Scarlet Tides is still a heavy tome with lots of excellent story inside of it.  The magic system becomes even more fleshed out as things are revealed, the world grows with new locations and characters, and there were a minimum of 3 or 4 double-cross plot twists that brought a fun level of “what next” to the story.

The copy I read was an ARC, so I won’t say too much about the writing.  There were some obvious grammatical and spelling issues, but that’s to be expected when it isn’t a final draft.  I’m sure the finished version has all of that nailed down.  Those typical ARC issues aside, Hair’s style is one that still screams epic fantasist to me.  The books are long and full of really deep character development.

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, you’ll want to pick up Mage’s Blood and Scarlet Tides and give them a read through.  Mage’s Blood has a 3.82 star rating at Goodreads, and Scarlet Tides is currently holding on to a 4.32 star rating.

Dark Talisman

Dark Talisman

By: Steven M. Booth

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Dark Talisman tells the story of Altira, a Dark Elf, who is thrown out of her home after it’s discovered that she robbed the Sultan.  It wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to be doing, since the Sultan is an ally, but all she did was steal a few gems.  Hardly worth banishment.  Quickly, Altira finds herself deep into a plot that has many folds and reveals.  Not all of them are completely hidden, and I did see a few of them coming, but nothing that ruined the story, or even made it unreadable.

This is, technically, classified as a YA fantasy novel, which is fine.  It actually reads a bit higher than that, and was a good read.  The plot moves along quickly, pushing the reader to keep turning the pages and digging deeper into the story.  The world that Booth has built here is well done.  I think it’s hard to build a world with enough detail to properly give the reader the feel of it, while limiting the detail so that it doesn’t become pages of description and explanation.  Booth does both really well here.

The protaganist, Altira, is younger (usual for a YA), and as such, has a few naive flaws, that were sometimes a bit annoying.  I think it went a bit too far, and didn’t give the character enough credit to be resourceful on her own.  She kept having to be distrustful, and then be proved wrong when the people she couldn’t trust come back to save her.  Maybe the combination of her age and being a Dark Elf made it seem like she needed to be that way?  I just think it could have been dialed back a bit.

That’s a pretty minor quibble, if you ask me.  Dark Talisman is a good book, with a heroine, which is good in a YA fantasy novel, I think.  If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, and want something with a lighter (e.g. not 600+ pages) feel, Dark Talisman is worth checking out.

Ex-Patriots

Ex-Patriots

By: Peter Clines

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

It wasn’t that awful long ago that I was reviewing the first novel in this series, Ex-Heroes.  In my review of the first one, I told you that it was a terribly fun read.  So, I jumped at the chance to read Ex-Patriots in hopes that it too would be a whole lot of fun to read.

Ex-Patriots picks up shortly after Ex-Heroes leaves off, rejoining the heroes and their group of survivors in the city of L.A., and their fortress they’ve dubbed “The Mount.”  Once again, Clines uses the alternating chapters structure, where we have one chapter in the now, and one in the past.  Because of the recency of my having read Ex-Heroes, it took me no time at all to get right back into the style.  Each of the past chapters lends a little bit into the story, and sets up the events that happen in the now chapters.

Ex-Patriots is just as well written as Ex-Heroes was, and just as fun to read.  He managed to find a way to bring the story along, develop the characters, and not make it seem like more of the same old situation.  After all, in a world where the super majority of the population have turned into zombies, how many major plots can be gained?  The ending clearly sets up another novel in the series, but does it in a way that also clearly ends the novel and the plot lines that carried us through the novel.

Once again, the book is full of fun superhero and zombie action, with plenty of other fun stuff thrown in to keep it lively.  I’ll be looking forward to reading the next one soon.

 

River of Stars

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel KayRiver of Stars

By: Guy Gavriel Kay

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

When I began reviewing books, I imagined that I would have a never-ending supply of books that I loved to read and review.  For the most part, that isn’t the reality.  I do, however, get the opportunity to receive a book from an author that I love.  Kay is one of those authors.  I started with his Fionavar Tapestry many years ago, and have since moved on through his library as he releases new novels.  River of Stars is set in the same “universe” as that of his novel Under Heaven.  I say “universe” because, really, the novels are set in a “universe” that is a near carbon copy of our own.  Each deals with a different historical dynasty of the Asian people.

The beauty of a Kay novel, to me, is that the stories are so very real.  It isn’t all about this huge plot arc that inevitably ends in the world finding it’s balance and the hero winning the day.  His characters are real, with real emotions, real ambitions, and real disappointments.  He makes you feel for the characters in such a way that you root for them throughout the novel, and feel those emotions right alongside them.

If there’s one thing that both this novel and Under Heaven share that I dislike is that the names of the characters is hard to follow.  That’s more of an issue on my part than on his, as he’s named the characters in keeping with naming conventions of the times he’s writing about.  Which brings me to another thing that I really like about his novels.  He’s an impeccable researcher.  Or maybe he has someone do it for him.  If that’s the case, he’s an impeccable research combiner.  😉  In any case, I think he writes stories that are very true to the era that they’re meant to take place in.

River of Stars follows several characters through a few formative years in their lives, and leads us through the fall of a dynasty and the survival of it’s remaining people.  He does it by beautifully weaving the tales of each of the characters into a wonderful story that’s a pleasure to read.  I was immersed into the story until the end, and then felt that subtle form of sadness that only the ending of a terrific book can bring.

Some classify Kay’s works as fantasy.  Others as historical fantasy.  I suppose that’s somewhat accurate.  But, much like many of the classics being taught in literature classes around the world, his works belong in a category of their own, as epic literature classics.  Even if you don’t read fantasy regularly, you really should pick up a Kay novel and see what you’ve been missing out on.

Ex-Heroes

Ex-Heroes: A Novel[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0804136572″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GOvLfAZDL._SL160_.jpg” width=”104″]

By: Peter Clines

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

As a huge fan of The Walking Dead, and as someone who’s been a fan of superheroes since I learned how to read a comic book, I’ll have to admit that I was pretty excited to give Peter Clines’ book, Ex-Heroes, a read.  After all, it melds both the recent zombie popularity with the never-ending popularity of superheroes.  But, could he do it without making either genre seem like it didn’t belong?

I’ve read a few other reviews of this book, and it seems that many of them disliked the book because of one thing or another, but it really boils down to them reviewing it for literary fiction.  I think that’s a mistake.  It’s a book about zombies and superheroes, not depression era interpersonal politics.  Or, maybe those reviewers need to just learn to read for fun once in a while.

Those reviewers are right; it isn’t an instant classic on the literary fiction scale.  But, what it is, is a really fun read.  From the very beginning of the book, the reader is picked up and carried along into the story.  The prose is written simply, which makes it a very easy read. Necessary, I think, to a good pleasureful read.  It does have a few spots of adult subject nature, but could easily be called a YA novel.

The comic book reading, zombie watching reader in me really enjoyed this book.  If either of those genres are in your repertoire, I suggest you do yourself the favor and pick yourself up a copy of Ex-Heroes.  (and probably the sequels as well)

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The King of the Crags

The King of the Crags: The Memory of Flames, Book II[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0451464001″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pr8vs0zUL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″]

By: Stephen Deas

When I read the first book in the Memory of Flames series, The Adamantine Palace, I gushed about how it was probably the beginning of one of the best fantasy dragon series’ ever.  Having read the second book, I was a little disappointed.  It might still end up being on that list, but the dragons certainly played a far smaller role in The King of the Crags.  In fact, aside from being present as mounts for the characters of the book, there’s really not a whole lot in here of the dragons we saw in the first book.  One pretty short section, and done.  If I have my guess right, though, I’d say that section is setting us up for some pretty spectacular dragon-ing in what remains of the series.

Once again, like in Adamantine, Deas writing is good.  The characters are a bit overdone, but in a epic fantasy series like this, I think that’s on purpose.  We spend a lot of time floating around between several of the main characters as the realms are thrown into a war that hasn’t been seen since the Dragon War.  The amount of world building that Deas manages to write into the story without it ending up being boring is really good.  My biggest beef with it is that the map in the front of the book is sideways.  North is left, not up.  It wouldn’t have fit as well, maybe, but North is supposed to be up.

Having read the first book way back in the summer of 2010, I did have a bit of trouble at the beginning of Crags.  Mostly that was me having to catch up to the characters and remember what was going on.  If I had to read these as they were released, I would have had the same issues.  I would have likely benefited from a little bit better job of “reminding” the reader what had gone on.  Once I got my bearings again, it was off to the races.  The book is a good read, and ample reason for me to go looking for the next book in the series.

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Mannheim Rex

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612184480″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51K8ELFDOhL._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]Mannheim Rex

By: Robert Pobi

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

This is the second Pobi book I’ve reviewed recently. The first, Bloodman, was a pretty good book, so when I saw this one come from the publisher, I was excited to get it going.  In my review of Bloodman, I mentioned that a majority of my early adult reading years were spent with my nose in a Stephen King novel.  I think one of the things that draws me to Robert Pobi’s works is they’re similarity to some of King’s early work;  there’s a good deal of psychological horror/thriller involved, but also a good deal of physical horror/thriller as well.

Mannheim Rex is a story about a writer whose wife has recently died, who is attempting to move on and find a new path in life.  In doing so, he decides that a change of location is needed and buys an old mansion on the shore of a lake in a sleepy little town called Mannheim.  From there, the story takes off.  Very little of the plot is ever slow or droll, and Pobi’s writing is excellent.  Unlike in Bloodman, I never really felt like there were plot devices that were being obviously overlooked, and when a device did surface (once you’ve read it, you’ll have to excuse the pun), it was somewhere unexpected.

Rex is a long book, and as many of them of this length are, has a few slower parts.  None of them was overly long, and usually did contain some information that was necessary to the plot.  I don’t mind a few slow spots in a book so long as they actually contribute to the story, and these did.

The book blurb describes the book as an homage to Jaws, which, given the monster in the book, is fitting.  Readers who are fans of Stephen King (especially his early-mid career work) will find Pobi’s work to be very readable.  I know I have.

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Tears in Rain

Tears in Rain[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612184383″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XDfrqA-0L._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]

By: Rosa Montero

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

When I read the blurb on the back of the cover, and it said “Inspired by the movie Blade Runner”, I knew it was a book that I needed to read.  I’ve always been a fan of Blade Runner, although I haven’t read the book (don’t hate me), and so something inspired by the movie, that was about bionic clones called replicants, sounded like it was off to a good start.

Set in a future world where political and social lines have been broken, redrawn, and then broken and redrawn again, we are led into the story by detective Bruna Husky.  Montero does an excellent job of keeping the pace of the book moving, while filling the world she’s created.  It’s a world, significantly advanced from ours to be unrecognizable, and yet has many parallels.  Corruption, greed, and crime still fill the streets and back offices.  When a replicant shows up at Husky’s door and tries to kill her, it sets Husky off on a case that could affect the course of several nations.

Tears in Rain was originally published in Montero’s native Spain, and her native language, Spanish.  It’s been brought to us by Amazon’s amazoncrossing imprint, and translated.  While I found a few places where the translation didn’t come across as well as it probably should have, the majority of it was very good.  It’s hard to tell how much of the writing, and style is Monteros and how much is in the translation, but it came out very well.

If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, and would like a quick foray into a similar world, give Tears in Rain a try.  It’s a good detective novel on it’s own, and the addition of the Science Fiction elements only makes it better, in my opinion.

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The Demoness of Waking Dreams

The Demoness of Waking Dreams (The Company of Angels)[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”077831314X” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51gQVBCfemL._SL160_.jpg” width=”101″]

By: Stephanie Chong

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I don’t normally read romance novels.  Technically, this novel qualifies as a paranormal romance.  What you probably won’t get in this review is much of a review of the romantic qualities of the story.  Sorry, it’s just not my genre.  I do like paranormal stories though, so I should be able to handle that half of it. 🙂

Of course, the parts that make the novel a romance novel are hard to miss.  But, at the same time, they weren’t as “romance”-ey as I expected them to be.  Well integrated into the story, and the flow of the book.  I found the book easy to read, and as a result, it ended up being a pretty quick read.  I think I also expected for the characters to be thin, and hard to relate to, but Chong has done an incredible job making sure that isn’t true.  They all have interesting back stories from the start.

The plot of the novel flows along nicely, quickly moving along from one scene to the next without lots of info dumps that slow it down.  The writing is tight, without the awkward changes in tempo or the grammatical errors that you sometimes see.  The angels/demons is well done and put into a relatively fresh setting and set of rules.  In short, it doesn’t feel like you’re reading another overdone paranormal plot.  That’s good.

It’s a good book, that does a really good job of not appearing to be one in a series.  If you’re into paranormal books, I think you’ll like this.  I thought the romance part of it didn’t stick out like a sort thumb, so even if you don’t do romance novels, you should still like it.

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