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Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

Touch of Power (Healer #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Release Date: 27 December 2011
Read Date: 4 December 2011
Rating:

Please, Sir. May I have some more?

Touch of Power may be mildly similar to Poison Study which does bring in an element of predictability but it doesn’t feel repetitive. This world is far larger and more complex than that of the Study trilogy.

Avry has been in hiding and on the run for 3 years and she’s tired of it. After people blamed the spread of the plague on healers, they’re captured and executed whenever they’re found. However, Avry can’t stop herself from healing fatally ill children and each time she does she must move on in case the child’s parents turn her in, though this time the sickness she’s assumed overcomes her and she’s captured. While in prison awaiting execution she’s approached by a man called Kerrick who breaks her out so she can heal his “friend”.

Unfortunately this friend is hundreds of miles away and with a bounty on her head the journey is dangerous even with Kerrick’s men accompanying them. When Avry is informed of who she’s to heal, she refuses because it’s a prince accused of inhumane crimes. Assuming his illness, the plague, would mean certain death for her. Sacrificing her life for a child is one thing, they’re innocent but for a cruel and powerful man -no. Kerrick reacts badly, punishing her until she changes her mind. She’s too stubborn so they try to change her mind in other ways while they travel.

On the journey she gets to know each man, saving her hate for the mysterious Kerrick. They teach her survival and fighting skills so she can defend herself. Along the way they begin to understand more about the plague, it’s link to the sentient network of huge human-eating venus flytrap flowers and the healer’s guild. They also encounter a real madman, Tohon, who can influence and read thoughts and emotions using it to gain more territory and power. His experiments are nightmarish and genocidal. Politics and intrigue ensue. There are many fighting for power in the game of thrones kings in this post-apocalyptic fantasy.

The hundreds of miles Avry & co travel, and on foot, makes my feet ache in sympathy. I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building and Avry’s journey spanning about 6 months. I loved the high level of detail involved and the intricacies of the characters’ magical abilities. I laughed at the Men in Black moment when Avry shouts “Eat me!” to the mutant plant. In fact, I did a lot of laughing. Avry and her merry men grow to be a tight-knit family who jump at the chance to tease, compete and help each other. I was sad when a character died but I have a feeling we’ll see them again though I’m worried about how they’ll be changed by the experience. I wish I had a Papa Bear and friends like these who’d die for me if need be, and vice versa.

Kerrick and Avry’s relationship develops and evolves slowly as he learns how to handle his emotions. His desperate 2-year search for a healer and Avry’s stubborn refusal turns him into an unlikeable man but with the persuasion of his men he pushes back his anger and gets to know Avry and comes to understand what makes her tick. He shares his skills with her and they come to find they can share and enhance each others magic, something they never thought possible. I enjoyed their slow-burning combustible chemistry, Kerrick’s jealousy and finally his realisation that not every woman is like his ex Jael.

And can I just say I love these covers! It’s rare when I want both. One shows pure grit, determination and “power” (LEFT). The other, the delicate yet beautiful effect a “touch” can have (RIGHT).

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I definitely look forward to the next installment of this series. Bring it on!

***Thank you to Harlequin for the ARC supplied via NetGalley for an honest review.***

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Review: Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

Married with Zombies (Living with the Dead #1) by Jesse Petersen

Release Date: 1 September 2010
Read Date: 2 December 2011
Rating:

Dear god, what have I read?! Horrific. Superficial Too Stupid To Live characters I don’t care about, stumbling around blindly asking to be eaten.

Comedy

Having loved the show Married with Children I impulsively decided I would love this too. However, I’m wondering now whether “zombies” and “comedy” can ever be a good mix in the post-Carry On world. And perhaps with this book by marketing it as a comedy excuses the wafer-thin characters, the TSTL behaviour (e.g. checking out a potentially zombie-infested casino for the hell of it) and inappropriately timed arguments (while zombies are bearing down on you) about nothing in particular.

Romance

Um, where exactly was the romance? We meet Sarah and David on the brink of divorce as they attend their regularly scheduled marriage counseling appointment. David’s demise from having a promising future to being an unemployed deadbeat husband and all-round slacker and Sarah’s exhausted from having to work 6 days a week leads her to constantly criticise him and picking fights at every given opportunity, leaving them both deeply unhappy and wanting out of their marriage. Counselling wasn’t helping until…they killed their therapist. After that they work together to kill (directly and indirectly) almost every human they come into contact with regardless of whether they happen to be infected. In doing this they come to see each other’s positive attributes i.e. bravely killing everything in sight, appearing as heroes in each other’s eyes. So again, where was the romance? One off-stage sex scene and…I can’t remember if they ever kissed. Not good.

Zombies

Were pretty cool actually. From bite to brain-eating, the incubation period is 10-25 minutes. Red eyes, strangely happy facial expressions, faster than the average human and the ability to continue simple repetitive actions, describe these zombies. Although there is the requisite gory imagery e.g. a legless undead dragging itself along the ground carrying a baby in it’s mouth, it never truly hits home, the gut-wrenching horror of it all.

I hold Rhiannon Frater‘s As the World Dies trilogy up as the epitome of all things zombie and while reading it I laughed, I cried and I added guns to my wishlist. That was terrifying but there was humour, too. A good balance. MWZ focuses too much on the humour and whilst funny, sometimes it was grossly overused and forced, at the detriment of the characters’ intelligence and the graveness of the situation. It’s the same with the swearing, I’m not opposed to the well-timed f-word when the world is going to hell and you could die at any moment but it shouldn’t be repetitive.

After ogling this book for a while I’m disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I could’ve DNF’d at any point, my lack of affection for the couple left me uninterested in whether they lived or died but obviously they were never in any danger considering it’s part of a series.

If you have some time to waste…

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Review: Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler

Living in small town Rockabill, Maine, Jane True always knew she didn’t quite fit in with so-called normal society. During her nightly, clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean, a grisly find leads Jane to startling revelations about her heritage: she is only half-human.

Now, Jane must enter a world filled with supernatural creatures alternatively terrifying, beautiful, and deadly- all of which perfectly describe her new “friend,” Ryu, a gorgeous and powerful vampire.

It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: a dog can heal with a lick; spirits bag your groceries; and whatever you do, never-ever rub the genie’s lamp.

If you love Sookie Stackhouse, then you’ll want to dive into Nicole Peeler’s enchanting debut novel.

Tempest Rising (Jane True #1) by Nicole Peeler

Release Date: 27 October 2009
Read Date: 18 August 2011
Rating: [Did Not Finish]

Pages read: 110/359.
Conclusion: Life is too damn short.

I knew early on that I was never going to finish this book. The death knell went off every few pages.

It failed to suck me in. It was not funny even though it tried to be. There was a stereotypical lesbian couple (the butch one and the pretty one). Odd behaviour concerning a corpse -not necrophilia, though that would’ve been 1000x more interesting. The strange supernatural reveal and Jane’s reaction to her mother’s secret. I didn’t feel anything for Jane. And the list goes on and on.

Ryu, the vampire love interest. I’m not sure what it was about him but he was a complete turn-off, which is probably to be expected since this has been compared to Sookie Stackhouse, meaning Ryu = Bill. This comparison is also an insult to the Sookie series which was actually entertaining.

Anyon – He caught my eye. I know he’s a shifter even though we haven’t been told but I expected him to be Jane’s love interest. And for some reason, I sense a love triangle forming at some point. I detest love triangles.

Although my overall perception of this book was negative there were a few things I liked: the beautiful cover art to lure unsuspecting readers, the name of the bookstore “Read It and Weep”, and Jane as her father’s carer feeling trapped in a town that hates her.

Reading Tempest Rising was a struggle which I’m not prepared to continue. I know they say “no pain, no gain” but I think I’ll gain little from finishing this so I’m not prepared to even try.

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Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis

Release Date: 11 January 2011
Read Date: 26 September 2011
Rating:

Lessons learned:

Never trust HISTORY.
Never trust DOCTORS.
Never trust SCIENTISTS.
Never trust TECHNOLOGY.
Never trust BLANKET MEDICATION.

Overall my experience with this book was like meeting and falling in love, being excited and happy, then slowly finding out that he’s not perfect. He drinks out of the milk carton, he ignores you in favour of sports events and when you finally get his clothes off he’s as smooth as a Ken doll but insists he can still have children. Then finding out he’s right he can make babies, just not the same enjoyable way everyone else does, which is confusing and unsatisfying.

If you’re going to write science fiction, could you at least research the science? Please, please get your facts right, if you don’t then you must sell this as fantasy not SF.

I assumed, not even 50% in, that I was reading unscientific science fiction i.e. fantasy. As far as I was concerned the author had made little attempt to research certain aspects of her story so why was I wasting my time reading it? I was THIS close to giving up. It was almost as disastrous as my experience with the scientifically unsound I am Number Four. Little did I know that if I had given up, I would’ve missed out on the explanations which magically fixed many of the obstacles that I’d previously believed were unquestionably insurmountable because science told me so, and therefore the cure-all bandage Revis slaps on the problems didn’t sit right with me. They were hard to accept in the face of catastrophically fatal situations. There is a lesson in this: if it reads like unintelligent drivel some readers may give up on your work before you make the big reveal that attempts to explain the drivel.

Amy’s character is well-drawn and her memories and emotions are brilliantly portrayed. I had some difficulty with Elder’s character but his personality was a result of Eldest’s manipulation and his awakening is caused by Amy’s inquisitiveness and tenaciousness. I was glad he was finally able to see the truth of things.

Harley and his girlfriend were an excellent examples of people not being able to cope under the pressure of living on the claustrophobic ship surrounded by fakery (there is no substitute for the real thing) because despite his mood swings and obsession problem they were both perfectly sane, despite being labelled crazy.

It was completely understandable the almost absurd lengths Eldest went to to impose and maintain the many methods of manipulation in order for everyone to survive. Survival was imperative. Quality of life means nothing in the face of that. Or does it? And that’s what this questions.

This society may not believe in any religion as we know it but they do have religion: hope. Hope is their “opium of the masses” (a Marxist philosophy on the merits of religion) which is a method of control. By giving the people hope that their sacrifices will ensure that their children will be the ones to one day see real sky above their heads and feel earth beneath their feet, keeps them going, keeps them working, living, breathing. Without hope what is there?

There are moments, scenes, words of wisdom -that are pure genius and others where I felt baffled, confused and angry when I think I’m reading utter crap. Ideas have been stolen from movies like Serenity (Phydus is Pax) and the less popular Demolition Man (being conscious in cryo) which makes me wonder how much of this book is original. There is no romance despite the cover (Elder is interested in Amy but not vice versa), and we know who the killer is before the search even begins. Bevis gets the human element right but the science and mystery completely wrong. It’s a real mixed bag and it’s difficult for me to determine my position on this book, positive or negative. A five star beginning graduating to a one star ending?

Timeline of my reading experience (i.e. like status updates)

**SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!**

~ Hooked by page 10 and in love by page 11. I am in love. And I am not a cheap date. But why don’t they knock ’em out before starting the freezing process? Much less painful and traumatising. This is not something I’d want to go through.

~ I’d want my extra year on Earth back too, honey, but life ain’t fair. Best you learn that now. You chose this, I wouldn’t have. Deal with it.

~ Reminded of the movie Demolition Man (and a little of The Matrix) here. They’re both conscious during their cryo state. How does she not go crazy?

~ Jarred by the second POV, Amy is more than enough for me. I like her. I like her a lot. I want her to live. So why does she never get her blood back during reanimation? She’s literally blue-blooded now. She IS a freak!

~ Frexing? Brilly? Chutz? Are there only three new words in 250 years? That’s unrealistic. Language in the 1760s was different to today. The author probably should’ve left these out instead of calling attention to it.

~ Why do they repeatedly say the generational Elder between Elder Jnr and Eldest is dead? He’s obviously not. And he’s probably the killer.

~ I’ve noticed a small thing and it’s got me thinking about the science in this science fiction. The plague killed off many, decreasing the on-board free-range population to the 700s -this is where I couldn’t help but question the MVP (minimum viable population). Taking into consideration the 100 frozen battery humans, I do a quick Google search and the result is not good. Extinction, a foregone conclusion. In theory you need more than 3,000 individuals for a species to survive. So why read the rest? Because I’m in lurve and this will be amazing. Nothing will spoil this. Nothing!

~ I like fresh air. *opens window*

~ That old man. He’s going to heaven sooner than he thinks, isn’t he? I just know it. Well, that solves the pensions crisis.

~ Um, if incest is an issue with such a small population, why is everyone indiscriminately bonking? Be ready for the possibility of birth defects in the next generation. Also, why are those in their twenties the only ones to go through their Season? Shouldn’t everyone older as well as the supposed crazies plus Amy, Elder, Eldest, Doc etc. be bonking their brains out?

~ Halfway in and we’ve turned away from a possible romance as advertised on the cover and we’re ignoring Elder’s boner around Amy’s red hair. No, now we’re solving a murder. Whaaaaat? Elder is all talk. I thought he was going to use that boner to show Eldest who’s boss. Er, that didn’t come out right. I meant, he was going defy Eldest by making love to that (girl with the) beautiful red hair and then usurp/depose Eldest. Oh, and quietly but quickly solve the whodunnit. Elder is a disappointing hero.

~ I liked my priorities. Why aren’t my priorities Amy’s priorities. Look, love, you’ve been frozen for centuries, without boys, there’s a cute muscley one in front of you, you have hormones, go get ‘im!

~ She refuses to listen. We must find clues to who likes to unplug frozen people. Yawn. We, the reader, all ready know who it is, why bother? There is no mystery to solve for us but we have to watch and wait for the characters slowly put things together. Tedious.

~ Let’s get rid of the Hitler-worshipping Nazi instead, shall we? Anything but crime-solving. Anything! A threesome with Harley? It promises to be colourful and sticky. Well, more sticky. No? *whines*

~ CSI:Godspeed is on the job!

~ Those fingerprints tell me the Eldest/Elders are clones. I wonder how this came to be and how they’re brought to term if they have no mothers.

~ Soon there’ll be no frozens left to help colonise Centauri. This ship is doomed.

~ Dragggggging. Not much happening.

*flips to the back*

Oh, a map. I didn’t know there was one.

*reads the last 40 pages*

That’s it?! That’s how it ends?! But…but that was too easy. No mystery to it, and I was right all along. No surprises, no realisation that they’re on a failed mission.

Amy should’ve stayed on Earth, run the New York marathon and married Jason. That was obviously her heart’s desire. Her father knew that, it’s a shame she didn’t. Mind you, it wasn’t fair of him to give her the choice at the last minute. She made a decision under pressure and panic had her following her parents.

*back to reading, well, skimming…*

~ Attempted rape. I thought Elder said there was no crime now. Hormones are no excuse.

‘And I know without being told that she killed herself. And I totally understand why.’ Me too. I don’t envy their lives.

~ Incest and MVP problem solved but not in a way I completely accept although I’m feeling very wary of medicine and scientists right now.

~ They’ve been travelling for more than 300 years. The Plague –suicide, murder, riots, chaos. A never-ending journey. 250 years behind schedule. I was right, they are doomed!

”People will survive anything for their children.”

p336 ~ The seasons, the generations and other methods of manipulation all make more sense now.

“We’re just pawns. A means to an end. Toys you manufacture to keep playing your game.”

The 3 main causes of discord:

1) Difference

2) Lack of leadership

3) Individual thought

~ SERENITY! – A big whopping dose of the movie, Serenity. Pax = Phydus. No reavers but the other effect of the Pax in varying doses is exactly the same as Phydus. Small doses = calm, large does = death)

~ Recycling. They recycle EVERYTHING. People are treated like things. *gulp*

‘[…] I realize the simple truth is that power isn’t control at all-power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to stand on their own.’ p344.

I’ve read the end so…THE END.

*******I apologise for the extra long review but it was the only way to illustrate my frustrations.*******

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Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

Unearthly (Unearthly #1) by Cynthia Hand

Release Date: 4 January 2011
Read Date: 13 November 2011
Rating:

The best YA angel book I’ve read. Fully-fledged characters with no self-respect issues and solid, healthy relationships. No insta-love here, and no plot holes plus, there’s a truly mysterious mystery…but I won’t be reading the sequel.

Clara is one quarter angel who has just received her Purpose, the one thing she was born to do as an angel. Her vision of her Purpose implies she will be rescuing a boy from a forest fire. Small details show her he is somewhere in Wyoming so the whole family moves from California so she can fulfil her destiny. She finds the boy, Christian, is the most popular guy in school with a possessive girlfriend. Clara studies him to the point of obsession in order to understand the where, when and why she is to save him. She comes to believe she has quasi-romantic feelings for him until he manages to completely embarrass her at the school dance and sees Tucker, Clara’s best friend’s twin brother, step in to save the day.

Previously Tucker had acted like a child, calling Clara “Carrots” due to the shade of her dyed hair and picking on her. It isn’t until a school break when all her friends, including Christian and her mother, leave town and she’s alone on her 17th birthday when Wendy sends Tucker to be her present. He takes her on a nature tour over a number of days, always setting up another appointment to spend the day together. It’s during this time they grow closer. Unfortunately, when they first kiss, her angel powers activate and his love turns to fear…I absolutely loved this aspect of the story. It’s so well written I was right there experiencing the wilderness with them, wishing I could be doing the same activities. I was pleased to see Tucker and Clara gradually fall for each other. Tucker was a true gentleman cowboy with an easy smile and a loveable character. I was disappointed in Clara’s mother’s reaction though. Any mother would be happy for her daughter to be dating someone like him. And it’s not like it was against the rules to date a human. All work and no play…

Clara’s mother is a half-angel with secrets. She holds so much back to the point of putting her children in danger but as a mother she’s loving and caring and fully involved in their lives, always knowing how and what they’re doing. I do wonder what her Purpose is/was and whether it has something to do with her children. On the other hand, Clara has a long-distance, almost non-existent relationship with her human father who sends guilt presents.

Jeffrey, Clara’s younger brother, is practically an open book at first, struggling to balance his need to compete in sports, wanting to be the best but also needing to hold back to ensure he’s not accused of cheating. He feels like a fraud. At some point I believe he receives his Purpose but tells no one, he becomes pensive and broody. I’m assuming his Purpose isn’t a particularly “good” deed.

I liked these angels and the concept of White Wings (the good) and Black Wings (the bad, who don’t fulfil their Purpose and are unable to love). However, I found it strange there were so many angels in one small town, albeit a tourist one. Angela came across as not just intense but I kept expecting her to turn on Clara because she’s so enthusiastically helpful when it came to anything angel-related.

My only problem I have with this book is the serious implication that the reason Clara must save Christian is because they are meant to be together, romantically-speaking. I abhor love triangles. I hate them, I do. In this case, it really makes me mad because the love Clara has for Tucker, and vice-versa, is genuine. I fell for Tucker right along with Clara. Why must Hand go the route of so many other authors and implement a love triangle? It feels like a huge insult to have these characters form a strong relationship we rarely see in YA paranormals and then basically say “Nope, he’s not for you. This one is.” For a moment there I really thought “Yay! We have an honest to god healthy teen relationship.” And now, I’m pretty sure that will be ruined in a sequel, for a character I never cared about. I don’t want to see this happen so I doubt I’ll be continuing with this series.

ETA: I will, however, be interested in watching the TV show of the same name based on this book, announced in October.

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Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne

Release Date: 3 May 2011
Read Date: 18 October 2011
Rating: [Did Not Finish]

I jinxed myself. I read the first 5 pages and thought I might actually like it after procrastinating over the decision of: to read, or not to read? I blame myself for attempting to as many have compared it to Jim Butcher’s writing. Me and that dude do not get on. We are chalk and cheese.

The humour is unfunny, it’s forced. The info-dump is off-putting, too much too fast. Dialogue-overload. Not enough description.

Atticus claims to be 2,100 or just 21 to humans. He lies to everyone but the humans. He ain’t two thousand years old. There’s no way. He brags about the famous historical events he’s witnessed, the powerful and dangerous gods he knows and thinks his physical prowess is that of a ninja. He sounds like an immature boy. Show me you’ve lived longer than most, don’t just tell me. He also feels too modern and “down with the kids”.

These gods care enough to warn Atticus of an impending threat on his life but he doesn’t take them seriously. Even after he is attacked. I don’t understand why they care if he never listens to them.

One of said gods, has promised not to let Atticus die. So if he’s in terrible agony from multiple wounds, he won’t die. That’s awful. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, and this woman is supposed to be an ally. Some ally. No thanks.

I wasn’t impressed with the gods we met in the beginning. Not much intelligence or wisdom to be found in them. They were only concerned with petty grievances and vengeance.

I hear Oberon is a hoot and an adorable sidekick. Well, I met him but he doesn’t seem terribly dog-like.

I’ve never given up after so few pages read before but I can’t force myself to read any more.

Not for me.

36/292 pages read.

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Review: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Tory Brennan is as fascinated by bones and dead bodies as her famous aunt, acclaimed forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan. However living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina there is not much opportunity to put her knowledge to the test. Until she and her group of technophile friends stumble across a shallow grave containing the remains of a girl who has been missing for over thirty years.

With the cold-case murder suddenly hot, Tory realises that they are involved in something fatally dangerous. And when they rescue a sick dog from a laboratory on the same island, it becomes evident that somehow the two events are linked.

On the run from forces they don’t understand, they have only each other to fall back on. Until they succumb to a mysterious infection that heightens their senses and hones their instincts to impossible levels. Their illness seems to have changed their very biology – and suddenly it’s clear that the island is home to something well beyond their comprehension. It’s a secret that has driven men to kill once. And will drive them to kill again…

Virals (Virals #1) by Kathy Reichs

Release Date: 2 November 2010
Read Date: 10 October 2011
Rating:

Refreshingly nerdy.

This is The Big Bang Theory crossed with Bones (TV series based on Reich’s books). Nerdilicious.

Reich’s does not talk down to her audience. This book is all about science and technology and the era of the digital age. The author is a real-life respected scientist so happily, for once, I can say that the science is real and the leaps made into the unknown/paranormal are plausible. This is authentic science fiction. Take that, I Am Number Four!

Although slow to start, 14-year-old Tory’s alpha personality is established straight away. She’s a mature girl who knows what she wants. Reich’s writing style was punchy, concise and intriguing. Yes, the beginning was heavy with description which is par for the course when it comes to world-building but once that was out of the way it was action, action, action.

Although I predicted small parts of the story, there were still red herrings which diverted me. Often in YA the obvious is the answer and I’m pleased Reich’s didn’t go that route. Not everyone and everything is what they seem. Real mystery.

The main characters are intelligent sponges, soaking up information wherever they find it. Knowledge is valued and utilised at every opportunity, and I appreciated every bit of it. Tory, into natural and biological science; Shelton, the geeky-looking mechanic and general gadget master; Ben, the athletic strong silent type; and Hiram (or Hi), the overweight guy with a penchant for sarcasm and probably the weakest, physically and mentally – are all valued members of a tight knit team. They are real friends who do not judge each other over every little thing: they listen, contribute and help each other whenever they can. Despite being forged by necessity living on a tiny island together and forced to go to school with rich kids, they have strong and lasting bonds, not superficial alliances in the petty games of teenage wars.

I enjoyed the contrasting elements of rich vs poor, brains vs popularity, adults vs teens, and the demonstration of those who cling on to their social group at the exclusion and ridicule of others are ignorant and small-minded. And that some things are more important than money and social class, like say, morals and ethics.

Perhaps I have an exceptionally dirty mind, something I have been accused of once or twice, or maybe the author has a sense of humour but names like Cummings Point and Hyman’s Seafood had me in fits of laughter.

Also, the number of crimes committed in the book is ludicrous. These teens are criminal geniuses when it comes to B&E and theft. Luckily they’re on the side of good. If evil, they’d be unstoppable. At times, I did find their simplicity and ease with which they committed their criminal acts a little unbelievable but I shrugged and moved on.

I am curious by a few things. What’s behind the animosity between Ben and Jason? Will they become rivals for Tory’s attention/affection? Oh yes, I forgot: there is little romance here, perhaps a crush or two but nothing more. In YA these days, this is rare but very welcome when the plot isn’t contingent upon it.

There is a self-contained story, no cliffhangers, and a reminder that not all teens are vapid, immature airheads who can’t survive without conforming, not to mention needing an I-can’t-live-without-you romantic love interest hanging in the balance. Some can be witty with talent and a bright future. People I’d like to know.

This is not perfect. It was slow to start, I’m not strongly attached to the characters and the story does feel a little far-fetched at times but I was entertained and impressed by the science and the forthright nature of Tory and her merry men.

Virals engages the brain, it is nerd candy. And I need more.

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Review: Touched By An Alien by Gini Koch

How can a sexy marketing manager join forces with an Alpha Centauri male in Armani to save the planet-using hairspray, a Mont Blanc pen, and rock n’ roll? Easy… She’s Touched by an Alien Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down. In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the “agency” to perform crowd control. He’s Kitty’s kind of guy, no matter what planet he’s from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.

Touched by an Alien (Katherine “Kitty” Katt #1) by Gini Koch

Release Date: 6 April 2010
Read Date: 23 October 2011
Rating:

A mash-up of “Men In Black” and “Ghostbusters” with a central “McGyver” character. Intriguing premise. The sex scenes were steamy and the humour sometimes funny but the writing, in general, needed serious tweaking.

Fugly. That word has been (possibly temporarily) removed from my personal dictionary. “Baby” and “girlfriend” as terms of endearments should be banned. My lovely Kindle can illustrate why:

fugly = 39 mentions (mostly in the second half of the book) -used by Kitty.

baby = 22 mentions (as a term of endearment) – used by Martini (love interest) when referring to Kitty.

girlfriend = 21 mentions (as a term of endearment) – used by the only gay character when referring to Kitty.

Thesaurus. It’s there for a reason. Be imaginative when referring to a loved one or you know, call them by their actual name.

The first 25% was a nightmare to get through as Kitty asked a torrent of questions to establish the world-building and get to know the aliens. It was difficult to keep up, especially since Kitty would make huge “intuitive leaps” when I couldn’t figure out where she got the information to make such assumptions. She was also unbelievably arrogant in the way she told the professionals they were doing everything wrong:

“Feel free to tell us what you, having less than two days of this kind of experience, would like the rest of us do. You know, those of us who have spent years, or merely our entire lives in this line of work.”

Kitty doesn’t know the meaning of “tact” and “diplomatic”. She had a different perspective on things but she wasn’t willing to be even a little polite about it. When she wasn’t putting them down she was ogling and drooling over how naturally attractive all of the A-Cs are. I didn’t see why she was the only one to come up with all of the brilliant ideas since most of the A-Cs had either lived on this planet for over 40 years or were born on it. You’d think a few of them would’ve learned what kills slugs or would’ve heard of Earth’s history with religion.

Religion. The A-C’s religion changed to reflect Judaism right after Kitty compared it to that when explaining to her parents. And perhaps I’m being oversensitive to these next two issues but Martini says they’re all circumcised to appear more human -like being uncircumcised is somehow unnatural. Men are born that way, that’s human/natural enough for me.

Martini, the love interest, was hugely annoying to begin with. From the get-go he’s overly flirty verging on overbearing with the sexual harassment and proposes to Kitty within minutes, possibly an hour of meeting her. Some of his attraction to Kitty is later explained but Christopher’s interest was hard to fathom unless it was due to brotherly rivalry, only it didn’t come across that way.

I’m also unhappy with the dog-on-human violence. Duchess, the pitbull, followed Kitty’s actions by attacking an unarmed and physically non-threatening male. The dog teared into the guy’s groin. He made rape threats but was unable to carry them out as the women surrounding him had confiscated his guns. This upset me. If the dog saw her owner being attacked and it responded on it’s own or Kitty called for help then I would’ve felt differently. Instead Kitty instructed the dog to attack someone who wasn’t in a position to hurt anyone. This is a hot topic in the UK and pitbulls are subject to the Dangerous Dogs Act because they’re so aggressive, tend to be mishandled and have been responsible for a number of, sometimes fatal, maulings.

Okay, negativity over. The sex scenes were superb. Kitty’s upside-down Mission-Impossible pole-dancing move on the rope suspended in mid-air while shooting at the ground was very cool. I liked the A-C male/female dynamic when it came to mating choices. The females were super intelligent scientists interested in high IQs who thought human men like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates were and I quote “dreamy”. They considered their male A-C stock to be morons in comparison. Physical appearance didn’t matter to any of the A-Cs, perhaps because they were all 100% gorgeous.

I think this book would make an exciting movie but I’m not sure I would read the sequel unless my local library acquires it.

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Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father-an elusive European warlock-only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus.

Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins

Release Date: 2 March 2010
Read Date: 3 November 2011
Rating:

**Warning: This review contains SPOILERS!**

The Craft” meets Evernight. Despite the fast pace and entertaining story that Evernight comparison is worrying me. I don’t want future books to revolve around star-crossed lovers I don’t give a hoot about.

Sophie is sent to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for faeries, shapeshifters and witches, after Sophie uses her magic to perform a love spell gone awry for a friend, risking exposure which could attract various dangerous hunters of the supernatural. Raised by a human mother, her only supernatural contact is her warlock father whom she’s never met bar a few phone calls. She’s completely in the dark about who she is, her abilities, her father and his family history. Bombshells are dropped on her at the worst possible moments, leaving her vulnerable to manipulation and bullying. She copes admirably with the help of her headteacher, roommate Jenna (the only student vampire) and Archer, the resident mean girl’s boyfriend.

Said mean girl, Elodie, is the leader of her coven of three and they need a fourth, a position Sophie can’t turn down fast enough after their dark display of power and general racist, elitist and bitchy behaviour. It screams The Craft with Elodie as Nancy.

From the very beginning I knew Archer would play a big role in this book but as a love interest he wasn’t someone I saw Sophie with but I was glad her crush on him wasn’t merely based on looks and insta-love and instead deepened, as they became friends after being forced to spend a lot of time together chatting and trading snarky jibes as part of their playful flirting.

However, when Archer mentions that every witch’s parents arranges a betrothal to a good match for their child at age 12 and we meet Cal, his Freudian slip about becoming a groundskeeper at the school to protect “you” and then quickly rushes to clarify that “you” meant all students, had me assuming him as her prospective fiance. After that I was looking for Cal-time. The small amount we get wasn’t nearly enough for my liking though I did perceive him to be more mature, stable and kind of adorable. His hunky lumberjack look doesn’t hurt either. I’m hoping he gets the page time he deserves in future. Archer is good friend material whereas Cal, I see him as someone more important. I hope Sophie sees that one day soon.

We left Archer with tears in his eyes as he escaped without attacking Sophie. I’m assuming he’s being manipulated somehow. His family is either being held hostage or he’s being forced to play on the wrong side -something like that. And this is why I’m worried about the comparison to Evernight. I don’t want Sophie endeavoring, risking her life, to save him. Neither do I want her pining and waiting for them to be together again. Sophie has thus far impressed me with her intelligence and snark, she’s a practical girl trying to do the sensible thing, I don’t want her to lose that because of some rebellious boy in a tricky situation.

I enjoyed the humour and fast pace. The plot was a good one. It was an easy read. My only other concern was the rushed ending. At least, it felt rushed to me. I needed more, to see it, the aftermath of the climax and the reactions of everyone around Sophie. I didn’t like the showstopping last line either -a decision made in the heat of the moment without any detail about what that would entail. It’s a hook to get you to read the next book, one that probably would’ve worked on me if not for my Evernight worries.

Favourite Quotes

Sophie to her mother:

“Good luck explaining to God that you used to spank one of his heavenly beings.

‘It’s one thing to be different around people who you’re really, well, different from. It’s a whole other problem to be an outcast in a group of outcasts.’

Archer to Sophie:

“I’ll get Elodie and her friends to lay off you, okay? And seriously, try to give her another chance. I swear she has hidden depths.”

Without thinking, I shot back, “I said spare me the gory details.”

For a second I’m not sure I even realized what I’d just said. And then it sank in and I damned my sarcastic mouth strain to hell. Face on fire, I glanced over at Archer.

He was staring at me in shock.

And then he burst out laughing.

‘There was a sensible part of me somewhere that clutched its pearls and hissed that I better not give up my V-card in a cellar, but when Archer’s hands slid under my shirt and onto the skin of my back, I started thinking a cellar was as good a place as any.’

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Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

In a lawless future land, where life is cheap and survival is hard, Saba has been brought up in isolated Silverlake. She never sees the dangers of the destructive society outside. When her twin brother is snatched by mysterious black-robed riders, she sets outon an epic quest to rescue him. The story’s searing pace, its spare style, the excitement of its fabulously damaged world, its unforgettably vivid characters, its violent action and glorious lovestory make this a truly sensational YA debut novel.

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) by Moira Young

Release Date: 2 June 2011
Read Date: 17 October 2011
Rating:

A post-apocalyptic western with a touch of sci-fi and the paranormal. No speech marks and a writing style that does not include good spelling, punctuation or grammar. You might be enticed by the former and horrified by the latter but it’s okay, seriously, don’t be put off by it. I didn’t notice it after the first few pages.

In case, I’m losing you and you’re thinking this isn’t for you, it has:

~ Cage-fighting

~ Giant killer worms

~ Strong female characters (Feminists, you will love them)

~ A male love interest with balls, not just empty sacks.

Saba’s voice and personality are unique. She’s a strong woman with flaws. Real flaws. But she’s also extremely loyal and vulnerable. After horsemen attack her family and kidnap her twin brother Lugh 18-year-old Saba cares about nothing and no one but getting him back. She pushes everyone away. She doesn’t have time to make friends or allies – they’re only means to an end. Finding Lugh is everything. Nothing else matters. Or does it?

Enter Jack.

I was worried about Jack. At first, I thought he was going to be the typical weak YA hero bringing lovey-dovey romance to the book which would’ve been inappropriate but I needn’t have worried. Jack oozes charm and provides light-hearted banter but there are moments when you see his deeper side. He confronts Saba with the truth about herself, forces her to face it, and it hurts. It hurts a lot. He says her 9-year-old sister Emmi would be better off with him than Saba because she cares so little for her and her feelings.

Saba’s never been able to forgive Emmi for killing their mother during childbirth and as a result breaking their father’s heart and robbing him of his sanity. Many times she’s tried to leave Emmi behind with someone she trusts to keep her safe, like she promised her father and brother, during the immensely dangerous journey over wasteland and through barbaric towns but Emmi knows Saba will never return so she always catches up to her. She endures Saba’s mean streak, she stubbornly wants to help find Lugh but she suffers for it. And that’s when Saba starts to realise how badly she’s treated Emmi, when she’s forced to watch someone beat her, unable to protect her, when Jack shows Saba how to patiently interact with Emmi without constantly berating her. Before, Saba only had a twin brother and now she finally has a little sister. It’s heart-warming. I loved it.

Saba gains friends in the Free Hawks, a group of female bandits but she won’t accept their friendship and loyalty. If someone’s going to risk their life, it’s going to be her and her alone. It’s her mission, no one else’s. Even Jack, who you can tell is desperate to get close to Saba is pushed away, often physically. He’s a brave man, chasing a dangerous woman. Saba won’t allow herself feelings for anyone because she’s afraid it will make her weak and distract her from finding Lugh.

Apart from the expert characterisation and development, the writing itself is exemplary. It’s emotive and though some might say it’s sparse on description you still feel the burning hot sun on your skin and know the loneliness of the deadly unending desert. You fear for Saba’s safety, knowing she’s grown up in isolation, and you’re just waiting for something terrible to befall her. It’s intense reading to begin with, building up to something, you just know it but I never found the explosions I was looking forward to; of passion, of realisation, of relief. It didn’t quite happen for me. I think more could’ve been made of the occasions when lives were in danger and of the grief when they were lost, like it was in the beginning.

And the end left me wanting. Everyone went their separate ways. The characters may have grown but I thought they’d learned that being together as one group meant they were stronger as a whole so I expected them to remain together at least until the fallout of recent events blew over.

As for the plot, saving Lugh involved a deadly superstitious ritual by an insane power-hungry king who rules by doping his police force (the Tonton) with a drug called Chaal, grown by slaves who are also under its influence, and sold to the general public. In small amounts it gets you high –slow and calm, in higher doses it makes you feral, rabid, blood-thirsty.

I didn’t envision the book taking the turns that it did. There were too many convenient coincidences and the need to defeat a crazy dictator, predictable. At times all this felt ludicrous but I tried to keep in mind that there is no “society” now. No infrastructure to speak of. No law and order. It was every man for himself. It was dog eat dog. The survival of the fittest. Any man could build an empire and call himself a king. We’ve regressed back to the times of the Wild West, perhaps even before then. The height of technology is the bow and arrows. Anything more advanced is regarded as “Wrecker tech”. The Wreckers, I’m assuming, is us now. I’m presuming something wiped out much of the world’s population and people left the cities for the country in order survive on the land. I’m got the feeling that this is set in either Australia or the US because of the skyscraper graveyards and the vast deserts.

The paranormal elements are mysterious. You’re not quite sure if they’re real or silly superstition, for instance when Saba’s father reading the future in the stars, or the Heartstone that remains cold until you meet your heart’s desire, when it burns hot. The giant killer worms are mutant creatures evolved from the dumping of illegal chemicals into a mountain lake back in Wrecker times, are mucho scary.

Despite my gripes with this book, I do think it’s worth reading. If you liked Katniss’s strength and survival instinct in The Hunger Games, enjoy the depiction of REAL men and characters that experience tough times and grow from them, then this is for you.

3.5 stars.

ETA: I’ve just seen “Tremors“. Giant killer worms, people, giant killer worms! They will get you in the end. I see where Young got her inspiration.

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