Category: Book Review

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Regime is on the hunt, forcing the Resistance to take refuge aboard the Lifemaker, an advanced submarine that houses a special cargo: a handful of women who are can give birth to human children.

To evade the Regime’s own submersibles, all parties must work together, but tensions are high, and not everyone on board is looking out for the greater good.

As they descend into the deeps, they quickly learn that not all monsters work for the Regime.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Lifemaker is the sequel to Hopebreaker, a steampunk novel featuring a smuggler named Jacob as he navigates a world essentially controlled by demons.  I had given the first book 4 stars in March and was eagerly awaiting this second installment.  So when I saw the blog tour for it, I signed up immediately.  Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with Wilson’s second book in the Great Iron War series.  Not because the characters had truly gone downhill or because he world-building suddenly tanked, but rather because of the plot.

Despite all of the good things that do happen in Lifemaker, I was a little disappointed in the plot.  It was predictable in comparison to the first book and not more than a little boring around the halfway point of the book.  There are characters interacting, sure, but there’s not really all that much for interpersonal conflict.  And until the end there’s really not all that much for action either.  It was essentially just Jacob and Whistler having a sweet sort of father-adoptive son bonding time and occasionally being interrupted by Taberah.  Oh, and playing cards with Rommond.  Compared to the sheer action of Hopebreaker, this second book was a bit of a letdown.  It does set things up nicely for the third book but at the same time I did have a little trouble getting through it.

Jacob is still a decent enough character although I’m still having problems relating to him on an emotional level.  It’s much better than my struggle to relate at all with him in the first book but it’s definitely still there.  He’s not a bad character and he’s more of an ambiguous figure than a bad or good person but I found that because he wasn’t really doing anything that I got bored.  Essentially he skulks around the ship and bonds with Whistler, occasionally running into members of the crew.  I liked that he’s finally attempting to woo Taberah back to him and is trying to mentally prepare himself for fatherhood, though.  In that respect, Jacob has certainly improved.

The world-building was still good here in Lifemaker.  It didn’t expand all that much, but we learned some fascinating things about Rommond’s background, Taberah’s past and the history of demons taking over.  The submarine everyone is staying in doesn’t exactly make it easy to expand on a whole world but Jacob’s exploring does lead him to some interesting new discoveries.  Was I absolutely as blown away in this book as I was in the first one at the world-building?  Not really, but it was still very solid and despite the somewhat boring tone of the book you can feel Dean F. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the world he’s created shine through.

So overall, Lifemaker was not a bad book, but it was definitely not as good as its predecessor, Hopebreaker.  The plot got a little boring and I definitely predicted the ending but it was not a book that I actively disliked.  I even enjoyed some parts of it.  Really, the main problem is that it suffers from Book 2 Syndrome: its trying to set everything up for the super exciting third book.  Still, if you loved Hopebreaker, you’re going to want to read this book.  The little cliffhanger for Skyshaker will ensure that and there’s still many things to enjoy about Lifemaker.  It’s just that an exciting plot isn’t one of them.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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Last Chance! 24 Hours Only! Win a Copy of Amanda Hocking’s Ice Kissed

Okay folks, since I was disappointed that literally no one entered my giveaway, you guys now have 24 hours from 4:00 MT to re-enter.  The prize is the same as before: one hardback copy of Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking.  US only!

All you have to do to enter is:

a) follow my blog in some fashion (either email or through WordPress)

b) answer my question in the comments below.

Everyone who answers my question will be entered into a random draw for the prize of a print copy.

Here is the question:

If you could be any character in any book, who would it be and why?

Have fun!

 

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is —and whom she can trust— before it’s too late?

I liked the first book Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side in a kind of guilty pleasure way.  There was an attractive guy, an average girl with hidden strengths and plenty of humour.  It wasn’t the most original thing I ever read but I was pleased with the way Beth Fantaskey created her vampires and the sort of hierarchy within them.  In all, it was just a good read.  However, I was very disappointed with Jessica Rules the Dark Side.

One of the things that I loved about the first book was Jessica as she grew to accept her role as a vampire princess and found an inner strength.  With the help of Lucius and her friend Mindy, she almost single-handedly reunited the two biggest feuding vampire clans in Romania.  Despite Lucius trying to kill her in a fit of half-madness, she managed to reunite the clans and make him realize that they really can be together because they love each other.  She was a sort of stereotypical shy teenager with low self-esteem in the beginning but Jessica triumphed and worked through a lot of those issues.  It was really satisfying.

But in Jessica Rules the Dark Side, she seems to have regressed to her former self now that she’s married and it was really disappointing.  Sure, she’s very much over her head when it comes to vampire politics but Beth Fantaskey starts the sequel at a point where she should at least be learning basic things about each vampire on the council, things about vampire lore and proper stake etiquette.  She should also be learning Romanian, but she seems to make absolutely no effort to do so.  It’s really frustrating, especially since in the first book she declared that she wanted to be a princess and learn how to rule.  Then rule, woman!  Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log waiting as events crash into you in wave after wave of dangerous plot twists.  Even when Lucius is put in solitary confinement and deprived of blood, Jessica just sort of wanders around aimlessly.  It’s really, really frustrating.

One thing I found the most frustrating about this novel is that it’s told not just from Lucius and Jessica’s points of view, it’s also told from the point of view of Mindy and Raniero, a deadly vampire warrior who just wants to be a surfer dude.  Mindy is the most annoying character in this book because she’s such a walking stereotype: she’s slightly ditzy, a fashionista, loves make up, isn’t sure what to do with life, etc.  It’s really, really frustrating because her story is told with the poor grammar that she actually uses when she speaks.  Raniero, on the other hand is desperately trying to be a surfer dude while knowing full well that he can never really banish his warrior side, no matter how hard he tries.  He’s very frustrating in the beginning because of this but I liked him in the end when he actually accepted his role in the vampire hierarchy.

So the characters this time around were mediocre at best (except for Lucius, of course) but the plot was absolutely painful.  It almost felt like someone was pulling my nails out in front of my the whole time.  Why?  Because it’s a mystery and I figured it out shortly after Lucius had been accused of murder, sometime around the first third of the book.  I had to watch as Jessica stumbled blindly around like her old self and in the end was saved by Mindy, someone who doesn’t really have the intelligence to figure out that Raniero isn’t all that he seems.  It was so frustrating.  I get that Jessica’s new to this world and is rather distracted by the fact that Lucius is slowly starving in the dungeons, but really?  You only applied modern-ish forensics to the case at the eleventh hour?  Wouldn’t it have been easier to examine the body first, like a logical human being would?  Not only that, when someone is advising you to do things and those things keep going wrong, maybe you should be suspicious of your adviser!

In the end, I wish I had never read this sequel.  It’s not badly written but it’s frustrating to see characters I liked completely regress and to have the whole book revolve around a mystery 90% of readers probably solved before they got to the halfway mark in the book.  If you read the first book, I can’t honestly recommend reading Jessica Rules the Dark Side.  It’s just disappointing.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney

Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now…

Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble. Until all hell breaks loose…

The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive…

From the blurb of this book, I was absolutely fascinated.  It’s rare that you get a surviving, almost thriving community 30 years after the apocalypse but it’s even rarer that they’re eager to explore and that zombies are still out there.  How did the zombies not rot away?  Is Arbella the only community still out there?  What happens when the next generation of survivors, the ones that have only known a post-apocalyptic world, encounter the rest of the people that have survived?  Answer: nothing good.

In the beginning of Plague of the Undead, our main character Jacob has a huge moral dilemma: he’s the sheriff of the town and a man has committed a crime.  Now normally that would not be a big deal but the problem is that crime was theft and that’s against the Code.  It means death for the man who stole because trust is the most important thing you can have post-apocalypse.  So poor Jacob has to kill his first man in cold blood, looking him right in the face to make sure he doesn’t miss his shot.  With a beginning like that, you’d expect the book to keep being pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case.  The book starts out pretty exciting as Jacob shoots a man, gets promoted, gets approval to take an expedition out into the dead lands and sets out on said expedition.  The problem is that once the group is actually out and about, things get boring pretty quickly.

The main problem in this book is the middle: it drags on and on in one place.  Long story short, the survivors get ambushed by some bad guys and the survivors of the attack are forced into slavery.  Then a huge chunk of the book is devoted to how Jacob and the survivors cope during the slavery and how they try to escape.  In a lot of cases I wouldn’t find this boring because it would be interesting from a psychology perspective or even just from a character development perspective.  But it really wasn’t.  The lack of pacing just dragged the whole plot down to the point where I really wasn’t even interested in the mysterious flying saucers and finding out how much of civilization was really left.  I just wanted the book to be over.

In the beginning, Jacob shows a lot of promise as a character.  He doesn’t want to kill the man convicted of theft but at the same time he has to in order to maintain the Code and therefore maintain law and order in Arbella.  And when he finally gets approval for the wasteland scavenging/information gathering mission, he’s ecstatic and has to plan like mad.  From personal experience I completely understand the frustration he faces as every single person criticizes how he’s going about the mission but he sticks to his guns and sets out with a great plan and a good team.  Then when things go south, Jacob as a character sort of goes downhill.  He becomes more of a walking stereotype.  He pines after Kelly (the woman he used to love as a teenager), becomes colder as the slavery takes its toll and tries to ignore just how skeevy his best friend/enemy is.  It’s like that fascinating, well-rounded character we meet in the beginning was thrown out the window and replaced with a total wimp that lacks the psychological depth of the first character.

The world-building was decent in comparison to the pacing and the characterization.  I liked the explanation Joe McKinney gave for why the zombies weren’t rotting even thirty years later and I liked the way he set up Arbella as a good model of what people can do during the apocalypse.  There are some horrible communities like you’d expect, but he shows that not only the bad people survive and thrive during the apocalypse.  That’s quite a bit different from your typical zombie apocalypse tropes.  I also love how he explained the ammunition problem and how he solved some of the problems with guns during the apocalypse, like the sound issue.  I think a lot of research went into Plague of the Undead but the problem is that the actual story itself was rather boring.

In the end, I don’t know whether or not I can recommend this book.  It won a Bram Stoker award so clearly some people didn’t think it was rubbish or disappointing but at the same time I just can’t say that I enjoyed it.  I guess you just have to do your own research, read a couple of reviews from different sides of the issue and make a decision.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Wish for Me by A. Star

Wish for Me by A. Star(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Three wishes. Two lovers. One destiny.

When the snarky Glory St. Pierre discovers the gold mechanical vase in her deceased grandmother’s basement, she has no idea that she has uncovered a priceless treasure: a genie lamp. With a real genie inside. A very sexy genie with a not-so-sexy grudge against the entire human race.

Irving Amir hates being called a genie. He’s a Djinn, and he is none too happy to be in the service of Glory, who is as intolerable, and beautiful, as humans come. Now he owes her his gratitude for freeing him and three wishes. Damn his luck.

But an arrow through the shoulder alerts Irving to the fact that he is being hunted, and after a truce dinner with Glory ends with them both almost being killed, hating each other goes right out the window. As feelings change and love starts to develop, they must dig through the secrets and lies to find the truth…a truth neither of them will ever see coming.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Wish for Me is a really hard book to describe.  On one hand, you’ve got a fantasy element: a djinn.  On the other hand, the djinn in question, Irving, leaves in a steampunk world where he tinkers with gadgets like a steam-powered motorcycle and an adorable mechanical bat with artificial intelligence.  So I guess the best way to describe this book is genie steampunk.  How you describe it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things, but it does explain why I was so thrown for a little bit when the different elements were introduced.

Glory is not your typical heroine, believe me.  She’s covered in tattoos, is independent, knows her mind and isn’t really afraid to speak up unless it comes to feelings.  And she’s got curves!  That’s a really far cry from a lot of heroines and it was a really, really refreshing change to read about someone who was reasonably self-assured.  Glory certainly has her vulnerabilities and flaws but it’s not like she’s one of those annoying shrinking violets.  Irving on the other hand, is very mysterious and sometimes mischievous but once he cares for someone, he’s not afraid to show it.  Even though humankind has done so many horrible things to djinns like him, he still learns to see Glory as one person rather than hold her responsible for what’s happened in the past with other humans.  They’re both very different people and personalities so when they realize they’re becoming attracted to each other, things get complicated pretty quickly.  I could go on and on about their attraction but I don’t want to spoil too much here.

The plot was actually quite fast paced, which I was not really expecting at the beginning.  In the beginning there’s a lot of set up and interpersonal tension but not really much in the way of physical action.  But that changes pretty quickly as Glory learns that Irving is hiding things from her and may be endangering her because of that.  When she makes a wish accidentally at dinner and they’re both hunted by a completely new enemy that isn’t the usual djinn hunters, things get exciting pretty quickly.  While the book is not all action there are lots of action scenes like that and they’re so well written.  They give you an excellent balance of dialogue, description and action and so the scenes are all the more intense.

The world-building was amazing.  I haven’t actually read many genie/djinn stories but the ones I have generally have been quite similar.  That’s not true with Wish for Me.  You have a hierarchy within djinns, a royal family, different nations of djinns, etc.  It’s all very complicated but A. Star introduces the different elements slowly so you can catch up pretty easily.  It’s clear from the start that she put a lot of thought into building her world and it shows through in the quality of the writing.  The strong world-building makes an excellent backdrop for all of the action and the amazing characters.  It also allows for quite a few plot twists when things get going.

So overall, I absolutely loved Wish for Me.  It has great characters, lots of action and romance and is set in a wonderfully well thought out fantasy world.  Not only that, it solves a lot of questions raised at the beginning of the book while still managing to end on one powerful cliffhanger.  I’m very excited to see what happens in the next book.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking

Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Bryn Aven has always longed to be a part of the Kanin world.

Though she has no social status because she’s a half-breed, she refuses to give up on her dream of serving the kingdom she loves. It’s a dream that brings her to a whole new realm . . . the glittering palace of the Skojare.

The Skojare people need protection from the same brutal rival who’s been threatening the Kanin, and, being half Skojare herself, it’s a chance for Bryn to learn more about her heritage. Her boss Ridley Dresden is overseeing her mission and wants to help. He’s always been her most trusted friend—but as their undeniable attraction heats up, he becomes a distraction she can’t afford.

Brynn is about to discover that the Skojare world is full of secrets, and as she’s drawn in deeper and deeper, she doesn’t know who to trust. As she gets closer to Ridley, she realizes she may not even be able to trust her own heart.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Bryn is a complex character who has really been through so much, what with her father nearly dying at the hands of a man she looked up to, being an outcast because she’s half-Skojare and being one of the only female trackers.  She’s under a lot of pressure and has been for a long time but things really don’t let up in this book.  If anything, the pressure gets worse when she learns of a royal disappearance and is sent to live among her mother’s people as a bodyguard for a little while until she gets to the heart of the mystery.  Unfortunately, there are some complications when she and Ridley realize and admit their feelings for each other because they are boss and underling.  So not only do you have the immense political pressure, you have a forbidden attraction on top of things that could get both of them fired if they’re found out.  With a forbidden attraction in YA you’d expect them to keep carrying on regardless of the consequences but shockingly Ridley and Bryn do the mature, reasonable thing: they agree to stop seeing each other when Bryn leaves on her Skojare mission.  They agree that being in a relationship is too risky for both of them and that realistically they can’t.  It was really a refreshing change.

Not only that, with everything Bryn goes through she matures even more.  For a tracker she can be rather naive and that’s part of what gets her into trouble when she’s among the Skojare, particularly with a certain prince.  At the same time, she actually learns that naivete can be dangerous in some cases and uses her naturally curious mind to think things through critically instead of accepting things at face value.  She becomes rightly suspicious of a lot of people around her, particularly the Skojare king and his younger brother.  Maybe the queen isn’t all that innocent as she seems to be but the royal brothers are definitely at the heart of a conspiracy that runs very, very deeply through troll society.  In the end, some of the conspiracy is revealed but we’re still left waiting to learn the full explanation for the conspiracy that started with Konstantin Black almost killing Bryn’s father.

The plot isn’t always fast-paced but it is always interesting.  So much happens in this book when you compare it to Frostfire, the first book.  There’s a lot of travel between the tribes and it was fascinating to learn more about the Skojare and about Bryn’s heritage.  You can kind of see why Bryn’s mother wanted to get out of the palace and give up her title for love rather than staying in the rather repressive Skojare society.  Part of the plot is about the rigid hierarchies present in both tribes and the tension coming from the lower classes that seem to be gently agitating for reform.  The Kanin are better than the Skojare in a lot of ways but the inequalities are always evident and Bryn as a tracker (a half-breed no less!) really feels the brunt of this.  It’s also another source of tension during Bryn’s investigation into the queen’s disappearance because at every turn she’s reminded of her low status and her utter lack of power.

All in all, Ice Kissed was an excellent second book.  I’m sure some people found the inter-personal tension a little boring in the beginning but if you’re at all invested in the characters or even just interested in them you’ll love it.  Then things really heat up in the last third of the novel as some of the conspiracy Bryn’s mixed up in comes to light and Bryn has to make one really tough decision.  By the end of the novel, you’ll be like me: almost begging for the next book.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

From the moment Alina touches London’s hottest fae superstar, breaking one of the laws founded to protect all of her kind, her fate – and the fae – close in.

Below ground, the fae High Queen plots to claim the city as her own and places her pawns, ready for the battle to come. A battle she cannot lose, but for one small problem – Alina. There are four ancient keepers powerful enough to keep the queen in her prison. Three are dead. One remains … And to fight back, Alina risks sacrificing everything she has come to love.

This New Adult urban fantasy is packed with action and suspense and will have you yearning for more forbidden fae romance.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked up City of Fae but Pippa DaCosta blew any expectations that existed away.

First we meet Alina, a reporter who has just lost her job.  She’s living in the present day but things are very, very different from what we would expect: the fae have come out to the world.  In fact, they did this a couple of decades ago and they’re basically just a fact of life now.  Everyone knows not to let a fae touch them because they can bespell you but there are always exceptions because some people live to be spelled.  The rule is three touches and you’d better get to therapy to wean yourself off because you’re pretty much guaranteed to be under their control.  So the fae are both dangerous and attractive?  Well, you can guess what many of them do for a living: they go into show business.

And that’s how Alina, a rather ordinary reporter, comes into contact with Sovereign, London’s hottest fae superstar.  Why on earth does she touch him?  Working in the entertainment industry, you’d think she would know better.  She does know better and she does it anyway because Alina is the sort of person that wants to help everyone, no matter how dangerous it might be.  Alina doesn’t have a sort of annoying martyr syndrome but she is a good person and that leads her into an entirely new world of trouble.  That’s in part why her character carries the story so well: she really is an average person in the beginning.  She wants to get a new job, focus on moving on with her life but events don’t seem to let her.  Throughout the story you can really feel her frustration with Sovereign for dragging her into this whole mess but also her undeniable attraction to the man.  He’s handsome and infuriating and can be a jerk but he’s not really that typical YA/NA hot jerk.  The main difference here is that Pippa DaCosta actually does give him depth and we do actually get to see why he’s sort of justified in being such a jerk.  I don’t like many of the romances in NA because they come off as feeling slightly abusive (mentally or physically) but this is one sizzling attraction between two people that evolved into something a little more.

As I’ve hinted at in my opening summary, the world-building here is fantastic.  It’s interesting to see how humans react to the fae since most of them are superstars.  Therefore you have the normal idiotic celebrity worship combined with the really compelling attraction humans have to the fae; it’s not really a good combination for a lot of people.  Pippa DaCosta’s fae are not cuddly, friendly nearly-humans.  They’re vicious and will use humans unashamedly for their own ends.  These are magical creatures hundreds of years old with very little in the way of consciences or morals and DaCosta really does this portrayal well.  You get that odd feeling of awe around the fae but also that sense they’re dangerous throughout the novel.  It’s hard to describe but as a reader you’ll be fairly attracted to them (particularly Sovereign) while at the same time pleading inwardly for Alina to get away from them.  This dual nature of the fae is done incredibly well and my description here really doesn’t do it justice.

The plot was surprising and that’s definitely in a good way.  There was a huge twist about Alina that I definitely did not see coming but does make sense when you consider the whole plot.  Sovereign himself is not everything as he seems but the difference there is that he actively hides his secrets while Alina doesn’t necessarily do that as well.  In addition to the character twists I really did love the antagonist in the story, the High Queen.  She’s fascinating, at the same time gorgeous and hideous and she’s a woman on a mission.  What that mission is, I’ll leave you to find out when you read the book but let’s just say it isn’t to solve world hunger or poverty or anything as nice as that.

Even if you’re not a person who’s really into the New Adult genre, I think if you’re into fairies or fae as they’re called here, you’ll enjoy City of Fae.  It’s got a sizzling romance, some plot twists that will totally blindside you at first and some excellent world-building.  Will there be a sequel?  I’m not sure because DaCosta resolves the main conflict but leaves some other questions like what Alina will do next open.  So there could be a sequel but the book doesn’t really need one to satisfy you.  Go on and pre-order this book, though!  It releases on May 7.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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