science fiction

Review: Crystal Venom, Steve Wheeler

crystalvenomCrystal Venom (Goodreads)
Author: nz_flag Steve Wheeler (website)

Rating: ★★★½☆

What will you do when the hand that nourishes you starts choking you? 

The crew of Basalt, the interstellar frigate, are major media heroes, famous beyond their wildest dreams. The various factions of the Administration, the Games Board, the Haulers and the corporate Gjomviks all want a piece of their action, and will go to any lengths to manipulate the famous ship and crew to make more money and gain more influence, even if it means savaging Basalt beyond recognition.

Details

Series: A Fury of Aces #2
Genre: Science fiction
Published: Harper Voyager, September 2013
Pages: 465

Paper copies:  Bookworld • Booktopia
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble

Please note: This review is for the second book in the Fury of Aces series and so contains spoilers for the first, Burnt Ice. You might prefer to read my review of that book instead!


Review

In Burnt Ice, the veteran crew of the Basalt were sent to investigate a far-away planet where they uncover a few different strange, new and rather dangerous life forms. They are effectively abandoned there by the Games Board but become instant celebrities once they limp their way back into the Sphere. Now, after a recuperation period the crew head out on a new salvage mission, along with their new crewmates, Stephine and Veg.

At the start of this book we are thrown back into the action with the crew of the Basalt without any real re-introductions. If, like me,  it’s been a while since you read Burnt Ice, here’s a short summary.

The Human Sphere of influence in space is controlled by the Administration. The Basalt is an Administration ship, tasked with carrying out security missions around the the Sphere. The Games Board is a group under the Administration providing reality audiovisual entertainment to the general population. They sanction conflicts and send in their monitors and producers to record everything, edit it and broadcast it to the hungry public.

As with Burnt Ice, Crystal Venom consists of a series of episodes – adventures where the Basalt is sent on various missions and runs into different kinds of baddies at the behest of the Games Board. I did wonder at several points why on earth they keep signing up for these missions as it’s become rather obvious that the Games Board is pretty much out to kill them, but they continue to jump in head-first. They are being well-paid for the footage they provide, but surely the cost to their sanity and general health is starting to get a bit overwhelming?

In general, the dialogue and character interactions were better written in this one than in Burnt Ice, although still rather cold and a little awkward at times. I enjoyed reading about Marko’s development and his new abilities, as well as the rest of the crew and their technical wizardry.

There also seems to be a fair bit of gratuitous sex in this one – there’s very little romance in this universe. Marko’s sheets are barely cold before he’s jumping into bed with someone else, and despite this being the future where there may well be different etiquette for this sort of thing, it jarred a little bit.

Once again, the ACEs (Artificially Created Entities) steal the show and get up to lots of mischief – it’s like having a bunch of highly intelligent children in charge of some high-tech weaponry. What could possibly go wrong?

These books are designed as a series of episodes, threaded together by plenty of amazing technical creations and strange alien life forms. The writing may not be the most brilliant I’ve seen but the imagination and world building is just amazing. I’ll be interested to see how things develop next.

Warnings: Graphic violence, sexual references

A Fury of Aces

Burnt Ice, Steve Wheeler crystalvenom 3: Obsidian MaulTBR 2014

Review: The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon

The Bone SeasonThe Bone Season (Goodreads)
Author: Flag_uk Samantha Shannon (website)

Rating: ★★★★½

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

Details

Series: The Bone Season #1
Genre: Dystopia/Paranormal Fantasy/Sci-fi
Published: Bloomsbury, August 20 2013
Pages: 480
My copy: the publisher for review

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Review

With a fast paced story, a strong heroine and a world described with exquisite detail, I enjoyed The Bone Season from beginning to end. I had heard a lot about how this was to be the next Hunger Games, the next big hit. While I’m not sure it quite hit that mark, I thought it was a brilliantly written debut that fans of the Hunger Games should certainly enjoy.

Paige is a clairvoyant – living in hiding in the criminal underworld from those in Scion London who believe her to be “Unnatural”. Her gift is to be able to sense other people’s dreamscapes and can influence others, even hurt them. She discovers that her abilities can even be deadly when she is discovered on the underground and kills two guards in self-defence. For that crime, she is arrested and sent to the penal colony of Sheol I, in the mysterious lost city of Oxford. There, she is introduced to the Rephaim – a strange race of humanoid beings who are living alongside voyant humans as their masters. All Paige wants to do is get away from her cold and aloof keeper, Warden, but as the weeks unfold it seems that the Rephaim are up to more than just keeping the world safe from the flesh-eating Emite beasts.

The Bone Season isn’t actually publicised as Young Adult, but it reads a lot like a YA Dystopia with its young protagonist, fighting to release other young people from an repressive society. This is not a new story – in fact I can think of several books I’ve read recently that have quite a similar high-level storyline, but in the Bone Season we are treated to quite a unique take on it. The world that Samantha Shannon has created here is rich and incredibly detailed, not just the corporeal world of the Scion citadel of London and of Oxford’s Sheol I, but also the etheral world – that of dreamscapes, spirits, soothsayers and guardian angels.

The world of Scion is a sort of alternative future, where the United Kingdom was rocked by some kind of event in the early nineteenth century. The Rephaim appeared from the aether and clairvoyants started appearing in the population. Fast forward to 2059 and London is now a Scion citadel, providing young voyants for the use of the Rephaim of Sheol I, or Oxford. It all has a slightly steam-punkish feel to it, although history seems to have continued in a similar fashion to the real world with Frank Sinatra music, computers and high heels still around.

The first few chapters of the story felt rather overwhelming at times, as the reader is thrown right into the thick of this world and its vernacular. There is a glossary at the back of some commonly used slang which might come in handy if you know about it before you get to the end! We only gradually learn about what has happened in the past and what the Rephaim actually are, and by the end of this first book in the series I still have a lot of questions about all manner of things in this world. The Rephaim themselves actually confused me a little as in another series I’ve read recently by Paula Weston, the Rephaim are half-angels and quite different from the beings in this book.

Information overload aside, Samantha Shannon has done an amazing job of keeping the pace up in this debut work. I had a hard time stopping at the end of each chapter, especially towards the end! The action grabbed me more than the characters did – while some of the characters were charmingly unique, I felt that most of the Dials group were a little nondescript and even the Rephaim themselves were hard to visualise. I did love Paige though – she was incredibly determined to hate everyone she perceived as an enemy and that made her a very strong character. The progression of her relationship with Warden was slightly predictable but subtle enough that I loved how it evolved.

I found The Bone Season to be a fantastic debut from Samantha Shannon who at only 22 years of age, with a seven-book publishing deal and upcoming film production under her belt certainly has a bright career ahead of her. Bring on the next in the series!

Warnings: Graphic violence, some sexual situations

What did others think of The Bone Season?

  • “If you like urban fantasy at all, please read this, you won’t regret it.” – Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  • “Shannon has created so much strange and peculiar mythology that provided so much depth to the novel. This book is just something so odd and yet so special at the same time. ” – Scott Reads It
  • “The world in The Bone Season was very in depth and well thought out, with its own language and a uniqueness unlike anything I’ve ever read before. But … sometimes it got a bit confusing and hard to grasp.” – Auntie Spinelli Reads

 

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Tour and Review: Shudder, Samantha Durante

Shudder_BlogTourBanner_600x150

This review is part of the Shudder blog tour. Make sure to stop by the main tour page and see all the other blogs participating!


ShudderShudder (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Samantha Durante (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meagre remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

Details

Series: Stitch trilogy #2
Genre: YA dystopian sci-fi
Published: Self published June 15, 2013
Pages: 348
My copy: from the author for the tour

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Smashwords

Please note: This is my review for the second book in this series, and so contains spoilers for the first, Stitch. You may wish to read my review for that book instead!


Excerpt

By the time the sun dipped toward the skyline, Alessa and Isaac had wandered through two more vacant neighborhoods, a derelict shopping center, and a downtown area that could only be described as a ghost town.
The pervasive quiet shrouding the once-vibrant village intensified the eerie feeling of being utterly alone. If Alessa hadn’t known what happened, she might have expected families and school kids and zipping cars around every corner. Besides the overgrown shrubbery and the occasional smashed storefront, everything seemed just in its place, waiting for its inhabitants to come home.
It was devastating.
Isaac kicked an empty can which went scuttling along the blacktop ahead, finally coming to rest at the base of a large sign marking the entrance to an expansive lot scattered with cars.
“Mall Parking,” he read aloud.
But what caught Alessa’s attention was the carefully lettered banner crumpled beneath, one corner still nailed to the bottom of the mall sign. She dug the other side out of the snow and held it up, the distinctive red cross painted across the tarp waving in the wind.
“Relief Center,” she added. Alessa gazed at Isaac intently. “Isaac, do you think we found another quarantine zone?”
“Only one way to know for sure – let’s go check it out.”

Review

Alyssa and Isaac have escaped from the Paragon facility on a mission in search of a base for the rebels, but with the threat of the virus still possibly live outside the fences, plus the strange creatures that seem to be stalking them along the way, their mission will not be easy. Meanwhile, inside Paragon a young woman wakes up after an ordeal with no memory of her identity or what happened to her. Newly christened “Phoenix”, she is told the story of the creation of Paragon by the creators themselves, the Developers. They hope she can carry a message to the rebel cause they know she is linked to – they want a truce.

Shudder is an enjoyable follow-up to Stitch, continuing the story of Alyssa and Isaac and their friends trying to resist a repressive society.

It did suffer a bit from the “middle book curse” in that there was a lot of story and character development and not a lot of action – perhaps worse than a normal second book in fact, due to Stitch being mostly set inside the “dramas” so that we don’t get to meet the “real” characters until close to the end. We end up hearing several people’s stories about how they came to be part of Paragon, not to mention the different versions of the actual creation of Paragon told by the Developers. At times I started to lose the thread of who knew what when, but I think by the end everyone was more or less on the same page, so to speak. I’m sure those Developers are up to something dodgy, though!

There are some action scenes through the book though, and they are very tense – sometimes scary! I think this has to be one of the most well-written Indie series I’ve read in a long time. While there is a lot of character development in this story (perhaps a bit too much, even), I did enjoy the further development of Alyssa and Isaac’s relationship. Alyssa’s strange ability to hear thoughts or memories is quite strange and rather baffling – I’ll look forward to hearing what it develops into and how it might be useful.

Overall, Shudder builds towards what I am hoping will be a blockbuster ending to the trilogy. Bring it on!

Warnings: Sexual situations

Review: Aurora: Darwin, Amanda Bridgeman

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!


Aurora DarwinAurora: Darwin (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Amanda Bridgeman (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

When a distress signal is received from a black-ops space station on the edge of inhabited space, Captain Saul Harris of the UNF Aurora is called in from leave to respond. But the mission is not what it seems. Female members of the United National Forces have not been allowed to travel into the outer zones before, but Harris is ordered to take three new female recruits.

For Corporal Carrie Welles, one of the Aurora‘s new recruits, her first mission in space seems like a dream come true. Determined to achieve the success of her father before her, and suddenly thrust into a terrifying mission, she must work with her new captain and the strained Aurora crew to make it home alive.

When the Aurora arrives at the station Harris and Welles soon find themselves caught up in a desperate fight for survival. Station Darwin is not what they expected. The lights are off. But somebody is home.

Details

Series: Aurora #1
Genre: Science fiction Thriller
Published: Momentum Australia, May 1, 2013
Pages: 532
My copy: the publisher for review, thanks!

E-copies only:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Momentum books

You can read a sample of Aurora: Darwin on the Momentum books site!

Review

It’s been a while since I read a proper hard military sci-fi. Often they are cold, violent stories with few realistic characters, and while Aurora: Darwin doesn’t hold back with the violence, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with the crew of the Aurora before the action starts. I was even a bit disappointed when they arrived at the Darwin because I was quite enjoying reading about how the original crew were reacting to suddenly having three women in their previously all-male domain.

The story is told from two alternating points of view – Captain Saul Harris, who knows something is up with this mission even before he accepts it, and Corporal Carrie Welles, a young Aussie sharpshooter, new to Space Duty but desperate to fit in and prove her usefulness. The rest of the crew are various nationalities and backgrounds, including the two other women sent along with this mission as a supposed PR exercise.

There were a few things about this story that I didn’t really buy. Firstly, several of the crew members of the Aurora question orders, including Captain Harris. Now, I’m no military expert, but I’m fairly sure that orders aren’t there to be questioned and in the real Earthly armed forces you’d get your arse kicked pretty severely if you defied orders as much as Carrie does. Then there was the Darwin. If your crew had just been attacked by vicious hostiles of unknown abilities and you knew they were locked off your ship, why go back in after them? Especially when there’s backup on the way! I just couldn’t understand why they were so keen to get back into the Darwin and find the baddies, when they were pretty obviously out-gunned. I mean I realise it wouldn’t have been such a great story if they’d held back, but it just seemed like a really dumb decision to me. One last thing that I didn’t like so much was the ending – without giving anything away, the story peaks at about the 80% mark and I was rather underwhelmed by such an anticlimactic wrap-up after that.

Plot problems aside, I really enjoyed reading this story. The action scenes were great and although the character-building scenes slowed the pace a little at times, the tension was kept high throughout the story and it’s pretty nail-bitingly scary at times! The characters themselves are interesting and their relationships and banter are what made this story a really enjoyable read.

I’d recommend Aurora: Darwin to anyone who likes their sci-fi to be about realistic people, and not overly technical. There’s a sequel on it’s way later in 2013 – Aurora: Pegasus. I’ll be interested to hear what the Aurora‘s crew get up to next.

Warnings: Graphic violence, sexual situations

About the Author

amandabridgemanBorn and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda hails from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, her three brothers raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. Naturally, she grew up somewhat of a tomboy, preferring to watch action/sci-fi films over the standard rom-com, and liking her music rock hard. But that said, she can swoon with the best of them and is really not a fan of bugs.

She lived in ‘Gero’ for 17 years, before moving to Perth (WA) to pursue her dreams and study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University (BA Communication Studies). Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England).

She is a writer and a film buff. She loves most genres, but is particularly fond of the Spec-Fic realm. She likes action, epic adventures, and strong characters that draw you in, making you want to follow them on their wild, rollercoaster rides.

When she’s not writing, she loves to travel and partake in a little photography.

(Bio and image from Goodreads)

Review: The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Rick Yancey (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

The 1st Wave took out half a million people. The 2nd Wave put that number to shame. The 3rd Wave lasted a little longer, twelve weeks… four billion dead. In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. And the 5th Wave? No one knows. But it’s coming.

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Details

Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science fiction
Published: Penguin, May 7, 2013
Pages: 460
My copy: via the publisher

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Read a preview for free here, or for kindle you can get the sample for free from Amazon.

Review

Cassie is all alone, hiding in the forest. Her father was so excited about the “visitors” arriving, but now her parents are dead, most of the human population wiped out and her five-year-old brother has been taken away by soldiers. She promised she’d find him and look after him, but the military base is far away and impenetrable. How will she get there and find Sammy if she can’t trust anyone to be human?

The 5th Wave is a raw and rather heartbreaking story of just how things could play out in an apocalyptic situation. When you can’t even trust your fellow humans not to kill you on sight, or even to not be an alien in disguise, how are you supposed to survive?

When I finished this book I gave it five stars right away, but after a bit of consideration I decided to downgrade it to four stars instead. Let me see if I can describe why in a coherent way.

What I loved

  • The premise – alien invasion! I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually read a book about aliens invading Earth but wow, it’s scary stuff to consider! Power lost, world thrown into confusion and people dying from a horrible disease left, right and centre – and people losing their families, not just to the invasion, but to other humans fighting to survive. It’s heartbreaking, and terrifying, and makes a cracker of a story. 
  • The action – the action scenes are edge-of-your-seat tense. I couldn’t stop reading because I was terrified that anyone could die at any moment!
  • Evan – such a tortured character! I won’t say more in the interest of spoiler avoidance, but wow, that guy is two parts creepy and one part sweetheart.

What I didn’t like so much

  • There’s a love triangle. Okay, so there’s only a whiff of one, but I have a nasty feeling it’s going to come back to bite in the next book. I know Cassie is only sixteen, but her behaviour towards Evan is incredibly hot and cold. Even after she finds out the truth about him she’s still torn as to whether she’s in or out. Then when Ben’s back on the scene, after all they’ve been through, it turns out she’s still a bit giddy. Okay, old lady alert – I’m sure there are those who love it.
  • Young children in combat. The children are the future, yes. They are also the most impressionable and easily indoctrinated to fight against the invaders. But seriously, anyone under 10 is not going to be able to perform in a combat situation. Also, these kids have just been through harrowing disasters in which they lost their entire families and homes. Is it really a good idea to arm them and place the future of the world in their hands?

After all that, I think I liked Cassie but I didn’t love her. She’s incredibly determined and resourceful, but at the same time is often a very terrified teenager. I guess I just couldn’t get past the part where she meets Evan (“Omg, saved by a guy I’ve never met before and shouldn’t trust, but he’s SO HOT!”).

I found The 5th Wave to be a very tense and exhilarating read. I’ll look forward to seeing what the future brings for the world, as soon as I pop down to the shops and stock up on canned food and water!

Warnings: Strong violence.

What did others think of The 5th Wave?

  • “It’s the kind of fast-paced and compelling read that will grab teen readers and leave them wanting more.” – Lost in a Great Book
  • “This book was so crazily addictive that I read it in literally half a day, and several months afterwards I am still jazzed over its edge-of-your-seat action.” – The Midnight Garden – Enter the giveaway!
  • “Think of a character in apocalyptic movies that you would hang with to survive, Cassie is that person. She is Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead. Well, you know what I mean.” – Novels on the Run

Review: The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure Julie KagawaTitle: The Eternity Cure (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #2
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror
Published: Harlequin Teen, 30 April 2013.
Pages: 446
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBarnes & Noble

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2

Please note, this is my review for the second book in the Blood of Eden series and so contains spoilers for the first book. You may wish to read my review of The Immortal Rules instead!


Review

After the rollercoaster ride that was The Immortal Rules, I was keen to get stuck into The Eternity Cure. I was delighted to discover that, although a little slow at the beginning while things were re-capped, this second instalment gripped me just as much as the first!

Allison Sekemoto has delivered her friends to safety, but as a vampire, she is not welcome with them. She resumes her search for her mentor, Kanin, following her sense of his presence as her sire. She knows he is being held captive and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren, but instead of being led to Kanin, she discovers her sibling, Jackal – the leader of the Raider city her human friends had been held captive in not long ago. It seems he and Allison might be after the same goal in the short term, but is it safe to trust him?

Even though the subject matter in this story is often quite dark and violent, there is just enough light-hearted humour to bring the story out of being a depressing read. The first few chapters contain quite a lot of re-cap from the first book, so it felt a little slow to someone like me who only just read the first book, but once the action got going, it was all go, go, go. The journey into and back out of New Covington was nail-bitingly suspenseful and there were just enough twists to keep me guessing all the way to the end. And wow, what an ending! The third book cannot come fast enough!

When Allie first meets back up with Jackal, I was a bit confused. I didn’t remember him playing a very large role in the first book – apart from being a heartless bastard, that is. In any case, he was an interesting and enigmatic addition to the new storyline, and even by the end we have no idea whether he is trustworthy or not. Such a well-written character, and I enjoyed his snark, even if I wanted to slap him more than a few times! Zeke, also, is quite different in this book – harder and more kick-arse. As the only human through a lot of the story he does a great job at making sure none of the vampires push him around, even if they could rip out his throat at any moment.

The one thing that slightly disappointed me about this book was the romantic aspect. I know, I know, it’s young adult, there has to be some romance, and after the scene at the end (no spoilers) it is necessary to a certain degree (my heart! *clutches*), but hear me out. After Zeke appears back on the scene, he knows that Allie is a vampire and that she is now working with Jackal, but he forgives her way too quickly, in my opinion. The rebuilding of their relationship could have been drawn out until the very end of the book in exquisite agony for each of them, but no. I’m trying not to give too much of anything away here, so I’ll just say that the romantic elements of this particular book didn’t work for me.

The Eternity Cure is a much darker book than The Immortal Rules in a lot of ways, but still brilliantly written and full of edge-of-the-seat suspense all the way through. I would highly recommend this series to any dark urban fantasy enthusiasts.

Warnings: Graphic violence.

Blood of Eden series

immortalrules The Eternity Cure Julie Kagawa

What did others think of The Eternity Cure?

  • “Even better than the first book! Fast pacing and high action combine for a gripping, edge of your seat read!” – Auntie Spinelli Reads
  • “It is Jackal – Allison’s blood brother and old enemy – that truly makes an impression in this instalment. He is cocky, presumptuous, unpredictable, and, more than anything, a brilliant source of dark humour and entertainment.” – Realm of Fiction
  • “…I don’t know that I’ve ever read a vampire story — especially from the point-of-view of the vampire — that I’ve loved more.  And I’ve read a lot of good ones.  Trust me.” – The Starry-Eyed Revue

Review: The Immortal Rules, Julie Kagawa

The Immortal RulesTitle: The Immortal Rules (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Julie Kagawa (website)  

Rating: ★★★★★

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

Details

Series: Blood of Eden #1
Genre: Young adult Paranormal/Dystopian Science fiction/Horror (Vampires and Zombies, oh my!)
Published: Harlequin Teen, April 2012. Paperback March 26, 2013.
Pages: 485
My copy: the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository 
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1

Review

I heard so many amazing things about this book around its original publication date in 2012, but avoided it because, well… vampires. I really wish I had picked it up though – I ended up loving it as much as everyone else seemed to!

At some point in the near future, a deadly disease wipes out most of the human population of earth. The vampires were not susceptible to the disease, and barricaded themselves within certain cities, keeping some humans nearby as a food source in exchange for relative safety. In trying to create a cure for the disease, the rabids were created – mindless zombies who roam the world outside the cities, killing any living creature in their path.

Allison (known as Allie) lives in the fringe of the city where everyday survival is a struggle for those who choose to remain unregistered as “blood donors” by the vampires. One fateful night, Allie and her group are attacked and killed by rabids. Allie, however, doesn’t stay dead. She is “rescued” by a vampire – turned into the very thing that she hates.

Allie spends much of the story trying to come to terms with the fact that she is now dead, no longer human, and a blood-craving monster. I really admired her strength, but also her vulnerability as she mourns the life she left behind, even if it wasn’t much of a life. Her journey out of the city and towards the fabled city of Eden is very tense – at any moment she could be discovered or attacked, or get a whiff of blood and lose her self-control. The pacing is just right and I couldn’t put the book down – in fact it kept me reading well into the night with a torch while I was camping over the Easter weekend!

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole business with the religious group at first. I was slightly annoyed that religion had come into it, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense for someone like Jeb to have such a single-minded purpose. I must admit I thought Zeke was a bit too much of a warm fuzzy romantic interest rather than a real leader, but he does improve by the end. I hope Allison manages to run into him again before long.

Vampire society, while briefly introduced to Allie by Kanin during her training, doesn’t play any part in this part of the story. The fact that we see barely any other vampires and that Kanin disappears from the picture so quickly made it painfully obvious that this is just the first part of a much larger story. I’ll be interested to see how he comes back into things.

I would highly recommend The Immortal Rules for anyone who likes the sound of a gritty dystopian, with vampires and zombies who are slightly different from the current norm. The second book in this series, The Eternity Cure, is due for release at the start of May and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it!

Warnings: Graphic violence including towards children.

Blood of Eden series

The Immortal Rules The Eternity Cure

What did others think of The Immortal Rules?

  • “If you swore never to pick up a vampire book again, this book is worth breaking that promise over.” – Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “Allison is actually a kick-ass heroine set to rival the likes of Buffy and whilst I didn’t see her as more than a regurgitated Katniss at first, she soon proved to be a hell of a lot more.” – Once Upon A Time
  • “The Immortal Rules is anything but traditional, and most importantly it is GOOD. (And by good I mean awesome to the point where I had trouble doing my job because I kept telling myself to read “just one more page” on my Kindle app.)” – Nina on Goodreads

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Shudder, Samantha Durante

I’m very pleased today to be able to join in with the cover reveal for the second book in the Stitch trilogy, Shudder by Samantha Durante! Samantha is also hosting a giveaway of an ARC of this book – details are at the bottom of this post.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Stitch, you can find my review here. I really enjoyed it and have been looking forward to the next part of the story!

I’d like to present to you: Shudder.

Shudder

Shudder (Stitch Trilogy #2)

Title: Shudder
Author: Samantha Durante

Series: Stitch trilogy #2
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Paranormal Romance
Published: June 15, 2013

Synopsis

It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante’s shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

 

About the Author

Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. The Stitch Trilogy is her debut series. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.

 

Giveaway

Enter the Giveaway HERE!!!

Review: Star Wars: Scoundrels, Timothy Zahn

ScoundrelsTitle: Star Wars: Scoundrels (Goodreads)
Author: Timothy Zahn (Facebook)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

Details

Series: Stand-alone, but part of the greater Star Wars saga
Genre: Science fiction heist
Published: Del Rey (Random House), January 2013
Pages: 432

Paper copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:
 Barnes & Noble

Review

Scoundrels is a very enjoyable grand heist story, set in the Star Wars universe. If you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven, you’ve got the basic storyline here – Han Solo and Chewbacca are offered an amazing reward for busting some stolen credits out of a maximum-security safe. Han gathers a team of professional thieves and slicers to take on the job, including Lando Calrissian.

The story takes place after the events of A New Hope (Episode IV) but before the Rebels relocate to Hoth at the start of Empire Strikes Back (Episode V). Han has received credits as a reward for his part in the rescue of Princess Leia and the destruction of the Death Star, but he was held up by pirates and the money was stolen before he could pay off Jabba the Hutt. Now he’s looking for a new job to raise the money again, and get those bounty hunters off his back, but with the Black Sun organisation making their presence known and Imperial agents sniffing about, a carefully crafted plan may not be enough to pull the caper off.

Timothy Zahn is a master of Star Wars lore, having already written at least 10 other books set both before and after the time of the films. I have actually read his Heir to the Empire series as well, a long time ago. His stories are easy to read and very suspenseful – you’re never quite sure who can be trusted or what the plan actually is until it happens. To a certain extent the ending is predictable – we know how some of it ends, because Lando isn’t happy with Han when they meet at Bespin during Empire Strikes Back (“You’ve got a lot of guts coming here…”), and we know the bounty hunters are still after Han. Despite that, the actual order of events is never obvious and there are plenty of twists throughout.

Being set within the timeline of the original three films is a major bonus here – unlike some of the other Star Wars books, there are only a few references to obscure places and people elsewhere in the universe, or events that happened in the past outside of the film storyline. This makes Scoundrels a more accessible book to those who are just film fans and not necessarily lore gurus like some people I know (*eyes SWTOR-playing friends*).

Scoundrels gives a bit of extra insight into some of my favourite characters from the Star Wars films. Han shows true leadership and more of his intelligent side than the “scruffy looking nerf herder” of the films. While Chewie doesn’t exactly get a lot of dialogue, he is still a major player in the heist. I didn’t feel that Han, Chewie and Lando showed that much of their film personas, but I get the feeling that the audiobook version would bring out the characters we know and love a lot better.

I’d recommend Scoundrels to Star Wars fans. Prior Star Wars knowledge isn’t essential, so those who enjoy an action-packed heist story should enjoy this one too!

Warnings: Star Wars levels of violence (blasters, no blood)

What did others think of Scoundrels?

  • “All in all this is a big step away from the traditional SW novels focused on action with plenty more tension and planning, but there are still plenty of things that go boom.” – The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf
  • “Zahn takes a number of risks here, writing something of this kind for the franchise, and as I read the book it was clear he looked simply to have fun with it and hoped readers would do the same. I think he was right because I had a good time!” – SFRevu
  • “Zahn tells a good story and Scoundrels is no exception. He has the advantage of building upon the foundation of a well-known universe and Zahn uses that to his advantage, skillfully unveiling parts of Lucas’ universe for new readers without rehashing what the passionate fans may already know.” – Stainless Steel Droppings

Review: Scarlet, Marissa Meyer

scarletTitle: Scarlet (Goodreads)

Author:  Marissa Meyer (Website) (Twitter)

Rating: ★★★★★

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Details

Series: Lunar Chronicles #2 of 4
Genre: YA Science fiction
Published: Penguin Australia (Puffin in the UK, Feiwel and Friends in USA), February 5, 2013
Pages
(hardcover): 464

Paper copies: Amazon.com (hardcover) • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Please note: This review is for the second book in this series, and so will contain spoilers for the first book, Cinder. You may wish to go and read my review of Cinder instead!


The Queens ArmyThe Queen’s Army

Before reading Scarlet you may wish to take a look at a short story that comes in as #1.5 in the series. The Queen’s Army is about a young Lunar boy, chosen to be part of Queen Levana’s army. He is physically modified to give him wolfish characteristics and is trained to be a killing machine. The events of this story pave the way for what happens in Scarlet, and gives a bit of background into some of the newer characters.

You can read The Queen’s Army for free at the Tor website! (Goodreads link)

Review

I loved Cinder when I read it early last year, so I couldn’t wait for Scarlet to be released and hoped it would live up to such a fantastic first part of the story. Thankfully, it did!

Scarlet starts almost immediately after the events at the end of Cinder, so here’s a quick recap of where things lie:  Cinder has just crashed the ball, drenched from the rain but determined to tell Kai that the Lunar Queen is planning to kill him after their marriage, if he agrees to it. She confronts Queen Levana and is exposed as a Cyborg. She flees the scene, leaving one of her feet behind her, but is captured and thrown in prison. Doctor Erland, the Lunar who had been working on the cure for the plague, tells her to escape and come meet him in Africa.

As well as continuing Cinder’s story, Scarlet is also based loosely on the story of Red Riding Hood. Scarlet Benoit is a young lady living with her grandmother in rural France. Her grandmother has been kidnapped, and in her search to find her Scarlet meets the curiously vulnerable street-fighter, Wolf. Scarlet’s father turns up desperate and disoriented after having been tortured by the same group that has kidnapped Scarlet’s grandmother, and Wolf agrees to help Scarlet find those responsible. What could her grandmother possibly know that would cause someone to do this to her?

Scarlet’s and Cinder’s stories are very separate throughout most of the book, each following their own path, but it all ties together nicely in the end. Prince (now Emperor) Kai also makes a few appearances so we get to see how he is coping with the growing crises. Kai and Cinder are not actually together so I did miss their delightful romance of the first book, but in Scarlet we get the growing relationship between Wolf and Scarlet instead. Their romance develops over only a couple of days, which feels slightly rushed, but it’s only early days for them so it will be nice to see how they further develop.

Cinder continues to be a kick-arse Cyborg and it was lovely to see the android Iko back in the action. Cinder has an accomplice on her journey through this book – a shallow and a rather comical figure, Captain Carswell Thorne. I loved how he added a lighter side to an otherwise fairly action-packed story.

If you enjoyed Cinder then you should definitely get a hold of Scarlet. Marissa Meyer has continued her story about how just a few people can change the course of worldwide events and I’m not sure how I’m going to wait a whole year for Cress to come out!

Warnings: Violence but otherwise clean.

cinder scarlet cress_dummy Expected pub Feb 2014 winter_dummy Expected pub 2015

What did others think of Scarlet?

  • “If Cinder was about lies and manipulation, then Scarlet‘s focus is on all of the secrets that led up to that.  It’s engrossing and fast-paced, the kind of story you never want to end.” – The Starry-Eyed Revue
  • “For the few of you out there who, like me, were unimpressed by Cinder, I challenge you to give Scarlet a try. It will, undoubtedly, make you eat your former words about this series.” – Ivy Book Bindings
  • “SCARLET will take you on an adventure where darts coming out of fingers can almost be considered normal and where the little red riding hood isn’t as gullible as we thought she was.” – Stéphanie of Tynga’s Reviews
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