Review: World After (Penryn & The End of Days #2) by Susan Ee

Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Skyscape (November 19, 2013)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

My rating: 5/5 Stars - Loved it! It totally rocked my socks off.

Review: 

After the amazingness that was Angelfall, I had high hopes for the sequel.  And once again, I was completely blown away.  World After doesn’t pull any punches as Penryn struggles to come to terms with having a sister who seems more monster than human. Paige’s story is utterly heartbreaking.  In many ways, this book is all about turning the definition of monster on its head and challenging our ideas about what it means to be human.

Although Penryn and Raffe aren’t reunited until near the end, Raffe’s sword gives us glimpses into his past that make the separation between the characters totally worth it. There’s so much about this story I loved – the creepy scorpion monsters, Penryn’s badass fight scenes, Uriel’s scheming, Dee and Dum just being awesome, the banter, and hints of romance.  Despite some great humorous moments, World After is even darker, bloodier, and more intense than the first book.  Once it sucks you in, you won’t be able to put it down.

In case you haven’t already guessed, World After rocked my socks off.  It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I can’t wait to get my hands on book three.  Highly recommended.

5stars

Reading Order:

  1. Angelfallread my 5-star mini-review on Goodreads
  2. World After
  3. Untitled Sequel, expected 2015

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Review: Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Roc (March 4, 2014)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut–a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard–a business district operated by the Others. 

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Could’ve been better, but I liked it overall.

Review: 

Written in Red is a different kind of urban fantasy.  Although it’s certainly not boring or slow, it has an almost slice-of-life feel.  There’s a strong theme of community running though the entire novel, like a small-town mystery except with supernatural creatures.

The protagonist, Meg, possesses a childlike innocence that makes her different from other UF heroines.  She’s inherently trusting of people she doesn’t know; she takes great pride in a job that’s relatively simple and unskilled; and she goes out of her way to be friendly to creatures a logical, informed person should fear.  Meg survives not because she’s smart or strong, but because the Others recognize that she’s different and adopt her as one of their own.  Ultimately, this isn’t a story where the heroine saves the day; it’s a story about family.

The Others themselves are both cartoonish and horrifying.  One minute the werewolves are acting like adorable puppies and the next they’re tearing into someone’s guts.  I’m honestly not sure if I like this characterization or if I hate it.  The one aspect of the story I loved unequivocally was the interactions between the human community and the Others. Watching Officer Montgomery slowly develop a relationship with these creatures – and seeing what each side thinks about it – is fascinating and perhaps the most compelling part of the novel.

In short, Written in Red is not at all what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it.  The world Bishop has created is a unique and interesting place.  I definitely wouldn’t mind returning to it in the future.

3.5stars

Reading Order:

  1. Written in Red
  2. Murder of Crows
  3. Vision in Silver, expected publication March 2015

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Review: The Informationist (Vanessa Michael Munroe #1) by Taylor Stevens

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Broadway Books (October 18, 2011)
How I got this book: PaperBack Swap
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information—expensive information—working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner and his mercenary crew when she was just fourteen. As his protégé, she earned the respect of the jungle’s most dangerous men, cultivating her own reputation for years until something sent her running. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she’s never looked back.

Until now.

A Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. It’s not her usual line of work, but she can’t resist the challenge. Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.

My rating: 4/5 Stars – A good read. I really enjoyed it.

Review: 

The Informationist is the ideal escapist read. It’s exciting and fast-paced with a great mystery at its core. The protagonist is more than a little over the top – she’s a brilliant, badass, emotionally damaged adrenaline junkie with ninja-like skills and a tragic past who speaks 22 languages. Ridiculous, I know, but it was so much fun.

A big part of what makes the story interesting is the locale. The author truly brings the setting to life with vivid descriptions and insight into the culture, politics, and socioeconomics of Equatorial Guinea and its neighboring countries. Despite the noticeable (and slightly disturbing) lack of good-guy POC characters, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself as I explored a part of the world completely different from what I normally read.

The story gets surprisingly tense and emotional towards the end. Even though I guessed who the villain was early on, there were still plenty of surprises. I could hardly put it down. I definitely recommend The Informationist for mystery and thriller fans, and perhaps some romance readers as well.

4stars

Reading Order:

  1. The Informationist
  2. The Innocent
  3. The Doll
  4. The Catch, expected publication July 15, 2014

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First trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy

And it looks awesome.

Probably half of those 11 million views are just from me hitting replay over and over.  I am so excited for this movie it hurts.

The song, by the way, is Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede.

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New Cover! The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea is the second book in Sherry Thomas’ Elementals trilogy, coming out September 16, 2014.  I gave the first book in the series a 4 star review, so I hope the second book is just as good.  The blurb sounds really intriguing!

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother’s prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

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Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin (June 18, 2013)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics–at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”, adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Bronte, Eliot, and Lowell–who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love–whatever the cost.

My rating: 4.5/5 Stars - Almost perfect. I highly recommend it.

Review: 

I absolutely love the premise of this novel.  And I love how, scattered throughout, are thought-provoking passages discussing the power of language to influence our beliefs and opinions, a topic that couldn’t be more relevant in this media-saturated world.  I don’t want to make this book sound pedantic – it’s not! – but it’s been a while since I’ve encountered a novel that’s both entertaining and intellectually stimulating.  Lexicon isn’t just fluff; it’s deeper than it appears on the surface.

The plot is fast-paced with great action sequences, though parts of the story are extremely depressing and sad.  I love how not everything is explained, but you figure out bits and pieces as it goes along until a larger picture slowly starts to form, and even then I had no clue what was going to happen.  This book kept me guessing until the very last page, literally.  Midway through, the story becomes an emotional roller coaster.  It gave me hope for a happy ending, and then crushed it, and then gave me hope again, only to crush it again, and over and over.  It felt like I bounced back and forth between hope and despair fifty times, never knowing which emotion the book was going to leave me with.

Overall, Lexicon is an extremely engaging, well written, intensely emotional book.  I would give it 5 stars except that it depressed the hell out me, pissed me off, made me laugh and cry and rejoice, and oh my gosh my feelings can’t handle it.  Really, though, it was so, so good.

4.5stars

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Review: The Rook (The Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley

Genre: Fantasy
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 11, 2012)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her. 

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own. 

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

My rating: 4/5 Stars - A good read. I really enjoyed it.

Review: 

What a delightful surprise!  The blurb gave me the impression that The Rook was going to have a dark, gritty tone, but it’s actually laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Even though I guessed the culprit early on, I loved watching Myfanwy put the clues together.  The old Myfanwy’s letters to her new self really made her feel like a person to me, which made the loss of her identity acutely painful to read; it was like watching a favorite character die.  But despite my sympathy for the old Myfanwy, I quickly came to love how the new Myfanwy makes a place for herself and establishes her own, distinct personality.  It’s extremely funny and satisfying to watch her shatter other people’s expectations by being everything the old Myfanwy was not – a bold, brash leader who isn’t afraid to use her abilities to their full extent.

On the downside, the plot line centering on Myfanwy’s long, lost sister felt kind of random and unnecessary to me (and led to a TSTL moment for our otherwise savvy heroine). It also seemed that some things came too easily to Myfanwy such as her insta-friendship with Shantay and the relative ease with which she navigated the office politics and supernatural dangers of her new job. Still, these flaws didn’t significantly detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Finally, I can’t end this review without mentioning the wonderfully creative, complex worldbuilding. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy with a well-thought-out and unique premise, then I highly recommend this novel.  In short, The Rook is an incredibly fun, entertaining read.  I didn’t expect it to be so funny, which caught me by surprise in the best possible way.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

4stars

Reading Order:

  1. The Rook
  2. Untitled sequel, expected publication TBD

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Review: Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7) by Seanan McGuire

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: DAW (September 3, 2013)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets–and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists–and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

My rating: 4/5 Stars – A good read. I really enjoyed it.

Review: 

I love the plot of Chimes at Midnight.  Big things are happening in Toby’s world, and it’s awesome.  There’s not only major character development, but also interesting, new characters that I’m excited to get to know.  As always, the worldbuilding is a major highlight.  This time, we get to explore the Library with magic fireflies and learn about blood magic, faerie dogs, royalty, and more.

Usually, I’m somewhat depressed (or at least emotionally drained) by the end of one of Toby’s adventures, but that didn’t happen this time around.  There are certainly several gut-wrenching, nail-biting moments, but overall the story’s tone is hopeful and optimistic.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts because some clues are dropped about the big bad (someone named Eira?), and it’s inevitable that Toby is going to run up against this villain in epically bloody fashion.  In any case, I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens.

My only criticism about Chimes is that I’m tired of hearing about certain Toby traits – her love of coffee, her propensity for getting into trouble, doing crazy/dangerous things, hurting herself, etc.  I think by now that these things are firmly established as part of her character and don’t need to be reiterated again and again.  There’s also a lot of traveling from place to place and logistics I could do without, but thankfully it doesn’t slow down the plot.

Overall, Chimes at Midnight is a satisfying installment in the series that expands the Toby-verse in fascinating, new directions.  I’m already looking forward to book eight!

4stars

Reading Order:

  1. Rosemary and Rue - read my 4 star review
  2. A Local Habitation - read my 3.5 star review
  3. An Artificial Night - read my 4.5 star review
  4. Late Eclipses - read my 4.5 star review
  5. One Salt Sea - read my 4.5 star review
  6. Ashes of Honor - read my 4.5 star review
  7. Chimes at Midnight

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First Veronica Mars theatrical trailer

I thought my level of excitement for this movie had reached its peak, but then I saw the trailer.  Please excuse my squeeing.

Coming out March 14th (aka Pi Day). Mark your calendars.

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Most Anticipated Reads of 2014

Here’s my running list of books I’m looking forward to in 2014 in order of publication date.

1. January 7th: Fury of the Demon (Kara Gillian #6) by Diana Rowland

I need to catch up on this series! Doesn’t the cover look amazing?

2. March 11th: Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs

I love the Mercy Thompson series so hard.  Eight books and still going strong!

3. March 13: The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass Prequels) by Sarah J. Maas

This compilation contains all four Throne of Glass prequel novellas.  Even though I’ve already read these short stories in ebook format, perhaps this edition will have some bonus content… maybe?  In any case, the cover totally rocks my socks off.

4. May 27th: Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher.

Words cannot describe how excited I am for this book.  To me, Dresden is the king of urban fantasy.

5. July 8th: Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne

Every so often, the blurb for a debut novel will catch my eye and make me say, “I have to read this.”  That was my reaction when I came across Livia Blackburne’s Midnight Thief.

6. July 12th: Grave Visions (Alex Craft #4) by Kalayna Price

The release date for this book has been pushed back several times, but I’m still really looking forward to it.  I hope this installment is worth waiting for.

7. July 29th: Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

This is another of my favorite urban fantasy series.  Can’t wait for book seven.

8. September: The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire

No cover yet, but Chris McGrath always does an amazing job with these.  I’ll be keeping my eye out.

9. September: The Perilous Sea (The Elementals Trilogy #2) by Sherry Thomas

I enjoyed the first book, so I’ll be interested to read more of this intriguing, new series.

10. October: Shifting Shadows (Mercy Thompson series) by Patricia Briggs

A compilation of short stories set in the Mercyverse.  I’ve probably read some of them, but perhaps there will be new content as well.

11. 2014: Untitled (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

I’m partway through the second book, and I already know it’s going to leave me dying to read book three.

12. 2014: Untitled (Widdershins Adventures #4) by Ari Marmell

I just got my hands on book three but haven’t started it yet.  It’s a testament to how much I’ve enjoyed this series that book four is already on my list.

What books are you looking forward to in 2014?

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