(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
An unlikely princess . . .
Kayla is determined to master her new-found abilities as a wild magic witch. She’s learning everything she can so she and her betrothed, Rane, can put a stop to the sorcerers who are recklessly gathering their power, building up their magic to take each other on in a war that will destroy the countries of Middleland.
An even more unlikely sorcerer . . .
Mirabelle’s father was one of the greatest sorcerers in Middleland, but when he used the magic in the silver pear to bespell his pregnant wife to give birth to the greatest sorcerer who would ever live, he never thought that child would be a girl. Mirabelle is nothing like a usual sorcerer, confounding every expectation, and when she comes to the rescue of Rane’s brother, Soren, she makes a decision few sorcerers would. She saves him, rather than herself, losing the silver pear in the process.
And using magic always exacts a price . . .
With war not just a possibility but simply a matter of time, there are no neutral parties and no fence-sitters in Kayla and Mirabelle’s new world. Everyone is either an ally or an enemy and there is a price to pay for everything. The question is, how high will it be?
[Full disclosure: Michelle Diener gave me a pre-approval widget for NetGalley so I could receive an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]
I must admit that while I downloaded The Silver Pear in fall 2014, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to re-read the first book, The Golden Apple and so I didn’t actually get to read it until a couple weeks ago in February 2015. So by the time I finally got to read this book, I was more than ready to slip back into Michelle Diener’s awesome fantasy world to learn Kayla and Rane’s fates.
What makes this book different from the first one is that it’s told from four different perspectives grouped into two main sections: Kayla and Rane get alternating chapters before the viewpoint switches to Soren and Mirabelle for alternating chapters before switching back to the first pair. In the hands of some authors this would never work but Michelle Diener makes each character’s voice so distinct that it would be very hard to confuse the points of view of the four different main characters. And the alternating points of view sometimes overlap but they’re never just a recap of what happened in the head of another character just one chapter ago. That makes the plot move forward constantly at a really unrelenting pace; it’s part of the reason why I stayed up to read this book until way too early in the morning.
As with the first book, the characters are amazing. Kayla still remains my favourite because I love seeing her grow into her power as a wild magic witch but Mirabelle is an interesting new addition to our unlikely quartet. She has a fantastic backstory that’s filled with both tragedy and privilege and once she learns to trust Soren she reveals it bit by bit in a natural, very organic way that never slows down the plot. Both Rane and his wayward brother Soren were excellent characters as well and you can tell that both of them care very much for not only their sibling but for the amazing women they travel with for a large chunk of the novel. All four main characters are well fleshed-out but Michelle Diener also never neglects her secondary characters, particularly Ylana, the earth witch Kayla froze in The Golden Apple. Ylana is not all that she appears to be and she definitely plays her cards close to her chest. At the end of the day, you never really know what side she’s going to choose and that kept me in suspense for a fair bit of the novel.
So here we have a great plot and very believable, realistic characters, but how was the world-building? Like with the first book, I was blown away by Michelle Diener’s world-building. Only this time our adventures are not confined to the Great Forest! We get to see many of the kingdoms that make up the world of The Silver Pear and the toll the feuding sorcerers have taken on those kingdoms. Battles between sorcerers can get very, very nasty and the politics behind which king backs which sorcerer are complex and often fraught with danger. Will Kayla and the gang be able to corner the worst sorcerer, Eric the Bold and his companion before they both destroy the kingdoms? I’ll leave it up to you to figure that part out when you read the book.
Really, if you read and loved The Golden Apple, you’re going to love the second installment in the Dark Forest set. If you haven’t picked up the first book I would definitely recommend reading it before tackling The Silver Pear but it’s not totally necessary because of the handy summary of events Michelle Diener has at the beginning of the novel. I can’t recommend both books enough so if you like unique fantasy with three dimensional characters and fascinating worlds, you can’t go wrong with either this book or the first book.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
“I hate you. I hate you with all of Sylvia’s heart.”
Helen has waited for months for the heart that will save her life. After reaching out to the grieving mother of her donor heart, Helen realises that a second chance comes at a price. The price, she soon realises, is much steeper than she’d ever have chosen to pay.
There’s more than one way to break a heart. There’s more than one way to destroy a life…
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through Masquerade Tours’ Reader Round-Up in exchange for an honest review.]
I didn’t even really read the blurb all that closely before I requested the book, to be honest. So the events of the book were somewhat of a shock for me. A pleasant shock, as it turns out.
Helen is an amazing character. At first she learns that she’s dying of congestive heart failure when she’s still so young, only in her 40s. Then, thankfully, she gets a donor heart from a young woman killed in a car accident and thus gets a new lease on life. Of course she feels guilty that she thrives from another family’s suffering but she is very eager for life to go on. Except that everyone around her really is acting weird. Her husband calls her an ingrate for being tired while recovering instead of going around and volunteering to house the homeless and be perpetually cheerful 24/7. The donor’s only living family, her mother, contacts Helen and at first seems rather nice but starts to reveal a darker side involving some pretty interesting mind games. And of course Helen starts an affair with a doctor, who turns out to be a really awesome guy but feels guilty that she’s immediately doing a ‘bad’ thing upon getting a new lease on life.
So Helen is going through all of these crazy emotions at once and as a reader it was absolutely fascinating. The fact that she didn’t immediately turn into a saint but rather continued living as a normal person was far more believable and her guilt over her affair was palpable but we also got to see her happy, which she clearly isn’t with her husband. It’s kind of jarring to see how her new boyfriend treats her in comparison to her husband, who seems increasingly distant and critical of Helen. Especially when Sylvia’s mother is around as a living reminder of the heartbreak that gave Helen a new lease on life.
The plot is amazing. I think you can kind of guess the gist of it from the blurb but I have to say that the actual plot is far better than the blurb really hints at. I can’t really describe it all that much without spoiling the whole thing but let’s just say that not everyone is as they appear in Losing Heart. Donna Brown’s characters are people and that means they are flawed; sometimes they lie, cheat or cover important things up in order to get what they want. Sometimes they have misunderstandings with their friends and/or partners that lead to disaster. Sometimes they put their needs ahead of the needs of everyone else. So while the plot is fast-paced because the book is so short, it really is character-driven and very realistic. The ending is sort of predictable but also sort of surprising.
And no, that last sentence really won’t make sense until you read the book. So go and pick up Losing Heart! It’s definitely worth your while.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)
Nostradamus and the Bible foretell the end of times. In school we learn that five billion years from now the sun engulfs and incinerates the Earth. Recent headlines say asteroid 1950 DA might wipe out all life on Earth if it collides with us in 2880. But what if none of this matters? What if none of this can harm us, because what if all life is gone from Earth before the year 2100? Using both thermodynamics and the Ideal Gas Law, Robert Ben Mitchell explains how global phase change (not global warming) is the ever present danger that might very well be the end of the world as we know it.
Author’s Note: “For those who seem a little intimidated at this point by words like thermodynamics and phase change, do not run to find your high school or college physics books just yet. In some ways, I fully understand your trepidation in engaging in an ivory-tower discussion about such a lofty topic. That fear notwithstanding, I was once told by a professor of mine that if you can’t explain your ideas at eleven o’clock in the evening to the graveyard shift waitress who is serving you coffee at an all-night diner, then no one is ever going to understand what you are talking about. So drop your books and pick up your aprons, because I am going to try and make this explanation easy to understand.”
[Full disclosure: I accepted a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
Global warming, climate change, global phase change…call it what you will, normally I would not touch the topic with a ten foot pole on my blog. In part because I don’t have a good background in environmental science and also because despite the overwhelming evidence that it does exist, the climate change controversy invites some heated debate to put it mildly. I honestly didn’t think it was worth it until I got a review request from Robert Ben Mitchell asking me to review this relatively simple yet scientific explanation of why we should all be a little more worried than we are about climate change. I was a little reluctant but I decided to give it a go.
As promised in the Author’s Note in the blurb, this is not an overly complicated highly technical book. Your average high school student could read this book and understand the science behind it quite well because the author is able to explain the science in a more accessible way. He doesn’t dumb things down so much as use regular language to explain the concepts behind climate change and add in statistics that present to us the fact that it is a clear danger to human life as we know it. Even if you have little or no science background I think you’ll find his explanations very easy to understand and at the end of every chapter there’s a bullet point summary of all of the concepts discussed so the information sinks in much better. Overall it simplifies things without talking down to readers but there are some times where I did feel like I was being spoken to like a child. That creeps into the information rarely but it definitely is there.
One of the things I liked very much about Bursting the Atmosphere is that the flow is very logical, organized and none of the sections are overly long. This is the kind of book where you could read a section when you have fifteen minutes to spare at lunchtime and then go back into it at dinner without getting confused. Robert Ben Mitchell organizes things in a logical fashion: first he talks about the controversy surrounding climate change, then he goes into the science of it and then he uses the science he just explained to extrapolate his findings to what might happen if something isn’t done soon. He does point out that life on earth will be extremely difficult for millions if not billions of people but it’s never done in a sensational 24 hours news like manner. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying, however.
Really, if you’re looking to understand the science behind climate change and really don’t have a strong science background, this is the book for you. It’s not overly data heavy but there are places where you can fact-check everything the author presents and he cites his sources quite well. It’s a well-written analysis of climate change and it is definitely accessible to the average person. Sometimes he talks down to his readers but those instances are rare and don’t really detract from the arguments and data he presents. All in all, it’s a pretty good if terrifying look at the possible future of our planet.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Sometimes, life doesn’t begin until after you’re dead.
Days stretch out in a series of predictable steps. A to B to C to A. Work. Friends. Life. But for some people, it’s not enough. It’s not enough for D. Possessed of a ravenous hunger for more, he’s at a loss for how to find it.
Until he meets Cielle. She’s everything he’s looking for: new and exciting.
And a vampire, which he’s less crazy about.
But when “new and exciting” Turns him, D is forced into an undead life he never anticipated. Trying to adjust to this new existence is hard enough, but he’s about to get more than he ever bargained for.
Will it be enough to sate his hunger?
[Full disclosure: I obtained a free ebook through the blog tour for the series but was under no obligation to review it. As always, this review is honest.]
Sometimes collaborations between authors work, sometimes not. Sometimes authors collaborate with their spouses to write a book just like Mia Darien did. Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But in the case of Voracious, it most definitely worked.
D is a man who we have no full name for but that’s about as mysterious as he gets. He’s just a regular guy at a nine to five job but deep down he yearns to be something more. In the beginning, the Dariens do a really good job creating this sense of “there’s gotta be more to life” for him, this inescapable energy, this mysterious urge to have something more out of life. It’s really hard to describe but in the book it is done extremely well. And it of course leads to D becoming a vampire, lured in by the mysterious Cielle who turns him somewhat against his will. Being a vampire would certainly add spice to anyone’s dull life but D takes it pretty badly because of the whole “against his will” thing. In his situation I wouldn’t really do much different but unfortunately his ignoring Cielle despite her pleas leads to her death. Then D is left to transition to a vampire without a sire and to hunt down the people that killed Cielle. It’s when he decides to do this that we finally see some of that drive of his satiated as he finds a new role both as avenger, and oddly enough, protector of a woman he saves.
A lot of books with unnamed narrators just don’t work in my opinion. The author tries so hard to create an air of mystery around characters that it becomes laughable. However, the Dariens are more than capable of pulling this off. They depict D’s drive to have something more so well that you start to feel the same as he does by about the end of the second or third chapter. He is so well written that it’s hard not to connect with him despite his sometimes ethically questionable actions. He is, in essence, a perfect character because he’s interesting and readers can easily connect to him on an emotional level. Haven’t we all wanted something more out of life at one point or another?
The plot was pretty amazing. I really had no idea where Voracious was going for the majority of the book so the ending was kind of a pleasant surprise. It’s certainly not your perfect fairytale ending but it is emotionally satisfying and you have fewer questions than you do at the beginning of the story. Of course as always we get to see Sadie (the main character of Cameron’s Law, the first book) through the eyes of another and really appreciate what a great person she is for helping out so much in the supernatural community. She certainly helped out D during his adjustment period and when he had no choice but to turn another vampire, something that is sort of forbidden for new vampires. Although the plots of the first two books were fast-paced, Voracious is probably one of the more action-oriented books of the series. It never sacrifices character development for the plot, though.
As always, the world-building in the Adelheid series is fantastic. When we meet Sadie she’s already been a vampire for several decades so it was nice to see how a new vampire would be treated, especially since Cameron’s Law was passed and they didn’t have to hide their new abilities. One of the things I actually liked the most, however, was seeing how the animators in the series work. We saw an animator bring back a dead person temporarily to get their side of the story in the second book, When Forever Died, but seeing the other uses for animators was fascinating and oddly touching. Once again, Mia Darien has expanded the world of Adelheid and she’s done it to great effect in collaboration with her husband. It’s really hard not to love Voracious.
Even if you haven’t read the previous two books, I highly recommend picking up Voracious. Since every book in the series is only slightly connected and features a different character you can pick up a book anywhere in the series and still enjoy it. And really, starting with D’s story is as good a place as you’ll get.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
It’s not where he appears, it’s when.
What if you’re born during another time grew up in the 21st century and thrust back into the past? Confused? So is architect, Evan Chronis.
Evan drawn by screams ventures out to his backyard and sees blood trickling down the limestone steps. He steps off the veranda and finds himself in the days of great and marvellous power, a time when the gods ruled the universe.
To return to the 21st century life he longs for, he must risk his life in search of powerful, treasured relics older than the Holy Grail. But what he finds might be more than he expected.
Will Evan find the relics and return home or will he remain forever stuck in a world so different from his own?
[Full disclosure: I was contacted by the author and provided with an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]
I’ve read quite a few of Luciana Cavallaro’s previous works so I was pretty excited to read Search for the Golden Serpent. The only problem was that she had previously only published short stories and I was a little worried about how she would transition into longer works like this one. After all, a 354 page novel is not the same as a 40 page short story. Still, I was more than ready to give her a chance. In the end, I honestly didn’t even need to worry in the slightest. Her debut novel is just as good as her previous short stories, even better in many ways.
Evan Chronis is a very memorable character. In the modern world he’s a successful architect who absolutely adores his job. Then Zeus decides that he’s needed back in his real time: the early years of ancient Greece, after the sinking of the mythical Atlantis. I don’t know about you but being immersed in the modern world and suddenly being contacted by a god who drops you in the ancient world would be a little jarring to say the least. Evan, understandably, really doesn’t handle it all that well in the beginning until he begins to speak the language and make friends. But poor Evan, called Evandros in his own time, doesn’t ever really get a break: Zeus and the other gods have sent him on a mission to recover powerful artifacts to prevent their eventual fading into historical fiction in the modern era.
He really does have a remarkable physical journey but also a mental and emotional one. When he goes back to the past he fights it tooth and nail, desperate to go back to our own time. However, when he realizes that his only option is to recover the artifacts he throws himself fully into the task. In the beginning Evan is also a little arrogant in his own way, utterly convinced that the people in the past are more primitive and somewhat inferior. Yet through his journeys he tends to appreciate them a little more and realize that many ancient cultures had more accomplishments than just their fantastic architecture. And when he befriends Phameas on the ship that rescues him and is forced to learn an entirely new language in a very short time, it sort of humbles him. He learns a lot on his journey and it was really interesting to see how his character changed throughout the course of the novel.
One of the things I absolutely loved is that Luciana Cavallaro has clearly done her research. She so vividly describes past cultures that we very rarely read about in historical fiction that you feel like you’re really there. From the streets of Carthage to the temples of ancient Egypt and a ship from Phoenicia, you will feel totally immersed in the world of the ancient Mediterranean. It’s brilliant because it shows old empires like Egypt and contrasts it with the rising might of the Greeks. It’s so rare in historical fiction to get a more international picture like this one and it’s a real treat to have it handled by an author with such a passion for history. Obviously Evan and his group are fiction but many of the main events and where they occurred are real. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m not really doing it justice with this description.
The plot begins a little slow but that’s quickly remedied as Evan is contacted by Zeus and is forced to become Evandros, the version of himself that was raised solely in the past instead of just being born in it. I suppose some people will find Evan’s period on the Phoenician ship a little boring but I really enjoyed his adjustment period as he learned more about the world he was suddenly dropped into. It helps that Evan’s point of view is interspersed with scenes with the gods, who are more than a little worried about their fate as well as scenes with the rest of his crew, who are understandably wondering where the Evandros they knew and loved has gone and whether or not he’s even alive. By the time I got to the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. The ending was a cliffhanger but it was a good place to stop and it was a fairly satisfying end. It made me want more but I had fewer questions than when I started out.
Luciana Cavallaro really has a gift for making you care about her characters and their fates even if you don’t necessarily think they’re sympathetic or likeable. That much was obvious from her short stories but she really transitioned into a longer work really well. The beautiful descriptions that were the hallmark of her short stories for me are expanded and add so much more to the richness of the world she brought to life. So if you loved Cavallaro’s short stories, you will also love Search for the Golden Serpent. And if you’re never ready anything by her, you need to pick up one of her short stories and/or pre-order a copy of her debut novel. You certainly won’t regret it.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
When no one or nowhere is safe, where do you go to escape the monsters?
In a few short days, 37 year old Emma Rossi’s hard work will finally pay off. She will don her cap and gown and graduate with a degree in nursing, but not before she loses her first patient and is confronted with a new reality. In Cape Coral, Florida, a storm approaches. The dead are coming back to life.
And they’re hungry.
Infection ravages the Eastern Seaboard with alarming speed while attempts to contain the spread of infection fail. Within days, a small pocket of panicked survivors are all that remain of civilization. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside her husband Jake and their dog Daphne, Emma comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.
Relying on snarky wit and sheer determination, she is forced to commit atrocious acts to protect her family and avoid joining the ranks of the undead.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
I love zombie novels and I’ve read quite a few of them in the past two years or so, ever since Mira Grant’s Feed sparked my appetite for them. Every author has a different take on the zombie apocalypse and while some are more creative than others, most of the ones I choose to read are generally pretty good. Time of Death: Induction is no different.
What makes Shana Festa’s novel really stand out is the fact that she really focuses on the emotions her characters go through as they lose almost everything they once held dear. Emma and Jake go from place to place, scavenging and desperately trying to find other people that can help them survive but like you’d expect, not everyone is very altruistic during the end of the world. All they want to do is find a place where they can hunker down and survive but of course nothing is simple where zombies and people are concerned. Seeing their emotional and psychological shifts to adapt to the harsh new world they live in was actually very fascinating. Jake in particular took things pretty hard while Emma retained a lot of the original softness of her character until certain events forced it from her. At times their relationship because strained—extremely strained—but you don’t really doubt that they love each other and will do anything to keep the other person alive and relatively safe.
Since Shana Festa chooses to focus on the more human side of the zombie apocalypse we never really get to see the origins of her zombies explained. We know that the government tried to contain the spread and that things moved extremely fast with dozens of supposed patient zeroes rising from their supposed deaths in hospitals and morgues. Since Emma was a nurse we got to see quite a disturbing scene as one such patient died before her second rising but we never really get into the science of the whole thing. That bothers me in some books but not in Induction in part because that’s not what she chooses to focus on. The main focus of the story is on survival and how the characters are adapting to a horrific changing world; they don’t really care about the cause of the zombies so much as how they can avoid getting eaten by the zombies.
The plot didn’t seem to be all that original at first but things quickly got going. Wherever you see typical zombie apocalypse tropes, Shana Festa tries to invert or subvert them in order to make them her own. This is in part because the main driving force of the novel is the characters, both main and secondary. The actions of all the characters have consequences that are not always immediately seen but are made painfully clear given time. Zombies are not crafty or smart but it’s the stupidity of people that allow them to overrun camps because people choose to conceal bites or don’t follow safety precautions. Really, the one thing this book makes clear is that it’s almost safer to have a smaller band of people you can trust implicitly rather than a huge community where you don’t necessarily know everyone. Will Emma and Jake find a small band of people they can trust? From the huge cliffhanger ending of the book it’s really hard to tell and that’s why I am so eager to read the second book.
If you like zombies but tend to favour a more human-based approach to a zombie apocalypse, this is definitely the book for you. The characters are believable and sympathetic and they’re not always perfect but in the end you get the feeling that everyone is just doing their best to survive. The zombies are terrifying and there are lots of plot twists, so you really can’t ask for more in those areas. Basically, if you like zombies, give this book a try!
I give this book 5/5 stars.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Forever is a long time.
The life of a hunter is a lonely one. Perhaps more for Dakota than others in her line of work. Not only is she better than anyone else at chasing down the things that go bump in the night, but her past chases her with the same tenacity.
She’s built walls around her solitary existence and that’s the way she likes it, but the past never sleeps. When she’s hired to hunt an ex-lover for murder, it’s just the first in a string of memories that will bring Dakota’s past, present and future into a collision course.
And when she agrees to take on a second case and hunt down an Ancient, a vampire over one thousand years old, it unleashes circumstances onto that collision that will shake the foundation of everything she’s built and force her, for the first time in a long while, to look to others.
Can she survive it, like she’s survived these past four centuries? Or will the weight of it all finally crush her?
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
Dakota was one of the secondary characters that really intrigued me in the first book of the Adelheid series, Cameron’s Law. That was from Sadie’s point of view and in When Forever Died we learn that Sadie has hired Dakota as a freelance hunter to work on a job-by-job basis. But what happens when a job comes across Dakota’s desk that brings her long-suppressed past back to the surface?
Even though we met Dakota briefly in the first book I was extremely excited to read about her adventures in this second book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Dakota has had a hard life as we learn through various flashbacks and her powers have not made life easy for her. Even though it would be pretty cool to morph into anything or anyone you’d like it doesn’t solve all of your problems—sometimes it even causes them as she learns when she starts tracking down a rogue Ancient. When she discovers that a former lover of hers and someone even closer to her are involved with this Ancient and his mysterious but clearly nefarious plans, things definitely get interesting. It’s very gratifying to see Dakota change throughout the course of the story as she learns more about herself and her past but also begins to look more to the present and begins to appreciate the people around her. She’ll never be the life of the party by any stretch of the imagination but it was nice to see her begin to realize that maybe people aren’t so bad at all.
Even if the plot sucked, Dakota would have carried the day and still made this a good book. However, the plot was awesome as well. Tracking an Ancient isn’t easy, particularly when they don’t want to be found and they have immensely powerful beings helping them. Add into that a seemingly insane secret society of supposedly reincarnated figures from Norse legends and you’ve got a very interesting and extremely fast-paced plot. Nothing is as it seems and of course nothing is simple in Adelheid’s supernatural community.
Speaking of the supernatural community, I absolutely love Mia Darien’s world-building. In Cameron’s Law we mainly see the world of vampires and werewolves as well as the human opposition to the fact that they are now considered human beings with full legal rights. Here in When Forever Died we see Dakota’s extremely rare species of shapeshifter, one that can turn into whatever they like whereas normal shapeshifters are restricted to one animal form like Sadie’s weretiger boyfriend Vance. Just because almost a year has passed since the events of the first book doesn’t mean that humans are more accepting of the supernatural community, though. And just because the supernatural community is ecstatic that they’re allowed to live in the open doesn’t mean some of them bear any less hatred of humans than before. Mia Darien is good at not only creating unique species of supernatural creatures but also creating complex and believable political systems within and without the supernatural community.
Even if you haven’t read the first book, you can certainly start the series at When Forever Died or any of the other books in the series because each stands alone quite well. They’re all interconnected in fascinating ways but you don’t have to start right at the beginning because they all feature different characters. It’s a great way to go about a series like this and I have to say that I can’t wait to read the other three books.
I give this book 5/5 stars.