I am a Russian-Swiss-American citizen of the world. I have traveled all over the globe then hopped over the big Atlantic pond and moved to North Carolina, USA, where I lived for eight years. But staying in one place for too long is not in my nature, so when the wanderlust called again, I packed my meager belongings and my cat continued my great migration all the say from NC to Texas. So here I am not in DFW area with my cat who strongly believes she is a dog and the Queen and Ruler of the house.
I have an 8 to 5 job as an field force training specialist and the rest of the time I write stories “for fun and pleasure,” though most of the time it feels like pulling teeth or bleeding on the page.
I have two novels, Of Broken Things and The Choices We Make, which are both in the fully finished first draft stage. I’m currently editing Of Broken Things and letting Choices sit in a desk drawer for a few months.
I’m also editing my novella Mists of the Crosswords which is almost ready for beta readers. Looking for a few betas btw who are not afraid to give honest feedback.
I have an idea for a serial of short stories called the Eye of the Norns Cicle. The first short story had been published in an anthology, the second story is written down but needs editing, and I’m outlining the next three stories. I think I have enough ideas for 2 seasons of 6 stories each.
I also love reading sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, urban fantasy and post -apocalyptic books. I have been known to pick up a romance or two from time to time, but NEVER in the contemporary or historical genres. I don’t read YA, children books or nonfiction.
Mona’s life has been a mess ever since a car accident took her unborn baby from her. Since then, she’s been drifting town to town, shitty job to shitty job, with no idea what to do with herself. Until she goes to her father’s funeral and discovers that her mother, who killed herself when Mona was seven years old, had owned a house in a little New Mexico town called Wink. At first glance, Wink seems like a perfect little American town where everybody is happy and friendly, and time stopped somewhere in the 1970s. Only nobody ever leaves, and walking outside at night is strongly discouraged…
This is a difficult review to write because a huge part of what makes the book excellent is the mystery behind the town and the identity of some of its inhabitants. So I can’t dwell on the story too much as to not reveal any spoilers. Let me just say that the idea is original and the execution is very well done. For more details, get the book and read it for yourselves. You won’t regret it, I promise.
So since I cannot talk about the story, let me talk about Mona Bright. I love me a strong independent heroine and I’m happy to say that Mona is one.
Yes, She had an unhappy childhood with a harsh and distant father and a mentally unstable mother, so human interaction doesn’t come easy for her. She chose to be a cop because her life until then was more about weapons and hunting with her father than about dolls and socializing with other people her age. She isn’t good at that, at socializing. But she is very good at shooting things and making split second decisions under pressure. She tried to create something she never had – a happy family with a husband who loved her and a little girl she wanted to love and cherish like her mother never cherished her. Only that dream was cut short by a drunk driver running a red light.
By the time she learns about the property her mother owned in Wink, Mona really has nothing to lose, so it’s easy for her to pack all her possessions into the trunk of her car and drive to the middle of nowhere to a town that doesn’t show on any maps except a few local ones, and all that in the hope that this house and this town would give her a glimpse into her mother’s past. All she wants is to see that time when her mother was a happy, accomplished scientist, not a broken ruin scared of her own shadow.
My description might have made you think that Mona is all doom and gloom and maybe not someone you would want to follow for 300 pages, but you would be wrong. Yes, Mona is not exactly the soul of a party and she tends to lean on the pessimistic side, but she never lies to herself. And she doesn’t bend. When threatened or attacked, she gives as much as she gets.
And when what she finds in Wink leaves her with more questions than answers, she doesn’t hesitate to dig deeper, even if what she uncovers suggests things that should be impossible. In fact, I would argue that Mona is the only person who could have done what needed to be done in Wink because she was the only one willing not to play by the rules…
I loved this book. It was fast-paced and interesting and never predictable. And I’m glad that the author chose to leave it as a standalone. The story is done. What happens to Mona after Wink is entirely up to her, and just like the ending suggests, the possibilities are endless.
So why did I give this book 4 stars instead of 5? Two things. First, the fact that the author chose to tell this story in third person present tense threw me off at the beginning and made it harder to get into the story. I got used to it eventually, but this stylistic choice can be a turn off for some readers. Second, I found some of the POVs rather useless to the story. A character would hijack the story for a small section to never reappear again until the grand finale.
But overall, I would strongly suggest this book to all my friends and readers who love a good science fiction mystery or urban fantasy, because this can kinda sorta be considered both and neither. Just get the book and find out for yourselves.
This book is composed of two distinct novellas which tell two distinct stories. The only thing that connects them is the location – Paradise Station, better known as Outcast Station, a backwater space station orbiting a backwater planet.
The Accidental Plague by Jeanne Adams tells the story of Bvax Scientist Ravinisha Trentham, who has lived all her life as an outcast simply because of the planet she was born on. Her compatriots once conspired to overthrow the global governmental system and the rest of the planets haven’t forgotten about it, even 60-some years later. It doesn’t matter that Ravi doesn’t embrace the same beliefs, she looks like one of the outcasts, so she is treated like one.
Even though she finished her apprenticeship as a Bvax Scientist with flying colors; even though she was the best in her class; the dispatch to Outcast Station is the best she could hope for. But, as Jeanne Adams slowly shows us in her story, even outcasts can build a place they can call home. Ravi’s story is one of hope. She begins by being sneered at and belittled, but proves her worth, helps the station and finally becomes a respected member of the small community.
The protagonist of The New Badge by Nancy Northcott is the complete opposite of Ravi. Hank Tremaine was a successful marshal on one of the inner planets… until he crossed the wrong person and landed at Outcast Station as punishment. While for Ravi this assignment is a chance to prove her worth, Hank considers it more like a prison sentence – unpleasant, but if he keeps a low profile, he might be paroled sooner rather than later.
Hank is fully resolved to do his job and keep his head down and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately for him, trouble finds him as soon as he lands on the planet. Now Hank is faced with a moral dilemma: agree with his superior officers and do a half-hearted investigation, or dig more and incur their wrath, thus annihilating his chances of getting transferred out of this back-end of the known space early.
While the two novellas have no common characters, they cover very similar themes: The courage it takes to stay true to your convictions despite the circumstances, even if abandoning them would make your life easier. The realization that there are bad people, but also good people even on a backwater station like Paradise, and that friends and allies can be found in the most unlikely places. And finally that home is what you make of it.
I liked the world of Outcast Station and the characters that inhabit it. I especially liked the concept of The Accidental Plague that with humanity spreading throughout the galaxy and interacting with other species, there is a need for a strict disease control and prevention protocol. After all, a space station is a very fragile ecosystem where viruses and pathogens would spread like fire. Without strict control and rapid response protocols put in place by Bvax scientists, a thriving station could transform into a tin can full of dead bodies in a matter of weeks.
So why did I give this book four stars instead of five? Because there are several plot lines in both stories that are started, but never resolved. Like the whole conversation between the station master and an unnamed individual about some shady deals going on (smuggling maybe?), and a couple others.
Now I haven’t read any other books by these authors, so I don’t know if those two novellas are part of a bigger series where all those questions are answered. To me, this is a standalone volume, so I would have appreciated to have all the loose ends tied when I turned the last page of the book.
This little complaint aside, I enjoyed both stories and wouldn’t mind revisiting Outcast Station again if the authors decide to write more.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Alex and Marcus are detectives at the Nocturne Squad in modern day Miami. Except in this Miami, vampires live in the open and are considered as much citizens of the United States as humans are, obeying the same laws and enjoying the same rights. Oh and “vampire” is not a politically correct word. They are called nocturnes, and the Nocturne Squad is in charge of investigating all crimes perpetrated by and against nocturnes.
Oh I forgot to mention that Marcus is a few thousand years old vampire who knew Julius Ceasar, and Alex is even older than that. He is the mummy of pharaoh Menkaure, cursed to walk this world until the end of times…
I have been spoiled with excellent first books in new series lately and Graveyard Shiftis no exception. I love the world; I love the main characters. I really have nothing to complain about.
So the worldbuiding. After the discovery and mass production Hemo-Synth, an artificial blood substitute, the vampires revealed their existence to the general public. And thanks to a successful PR campaign, they even persuaded said general public that they weren’t a danger to anyone and that human and vampires could coexist peacefully.
I like how much thought the author put into this idea. If vampires are regular citizens now, they also need regular jobs and places to live, places to go to relax and have fun, places to buy their artificial blood at. So there is a huge economical shift worldwide – the world literally never sleeps. Everything is open 24/7. Humans work during the day, and vampires do the same jobs at night. Even the smallest bodegas and grocery shops carry Hemo-Synth blood on their shelves.
And there is a bigger legislative shift as well. What was considered a monster and a creature of legend before is now a citizen of the United States. Staking a nocturne through the heart and cutting their head off will land you behind bars for premeditated murder just as easily as shooting a regular guy through the head. Now there are laws and procedures in place to deal with the paranormal citizens. Which calls for nocturne cops, or the Nocturne Squad.
Alex and Marcus are a few thousand years old each, and it shows in their generally pessimistic outlook on life and the world in general. But where Marcus tends to be mostly broody, Alex exhibits a pronounced lack of interest for anything. Alex, or Mankaure, has pretty much grown tired of petty human squabbles that never change, no matter how many millennia pass him by. He does his job not because he likes it or needs the money, but because the shadow powers that stand behind the government said so. And since those powers have a certain set of canopic jars in their possession that Alex might possibly not be able to exist without, he has no choice but to comply. It is implies that they hold something against Marcus as well but what that is Alex never asked his partner.
There is also no love lost between the two. Alex thinks (for good reason) that all vampires are predators and ruthless killers, no matter the tamed and friendly picture the media are painting of them. A wolf in sheep’s skin is still a wolf. And Marcus… well Marcus is an Ancient who thrives in secrets within secrets, and who lives for intrigue and conspiracies. And also doesn’t care about anybody but himself.
And at the same time, those two have a grudging respect for one another and sufficient trust that their partner will have their back in a bad situation. After all, they had been partners for the better half of a century: first as part of a secret organization called UMBRA in charge of eliminating the vampires, and that killing them is frowned upon by society, as cops trying to uphold law and order.
I also love how dark and gritty this world is. These vampires are the sparkly type with a tortured soul. They are ruthless predators who prefer real blood to the synthetic thing whenever possible. And while some are content to visit bleeder bars and take a little from willing participants, others prefer the trill of the hunt and the kill, and a bit of torture thrown in the mix as well…
The story itself was really well done. It kept you at the edge of your sit from the very first page. And since I couldn’t help but love the characters, I was hoping for their survival and well being. And while this books story arrived to a rather satisfying resolution, it left a lot of questions as to what will happen next, which is an excellent tactic for a first book in a series.
I want to know what happens to Alex and Marcus now. I want to see the fallout the events in this book have on human-vampire relations. And I want to learn more about Father Aguirre and his church. And is it really possible for vampires to grow back their soul?
So good job Mr. Haspil, good job. I am a fan now and I am eagerly awaiting the next book.
PS: I received and advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Robbie was down on his luck: he’d fought with his girlfriend because he’d had seven beers which was one too many as far as she was concerned. So she took the car and left him stranded at his friend’s house, with no other way to get home but to hike five long miles on a small country road in the middle of the night. Little did he know that his day would soon get from bad to worse. First he lost his girlfriend and his wheels. Then he lost his head… in a very literal and final way.
Now Stella Newport, rookie agent at the FBI’s Paranormal Squad is sent to Bismuth, Maine, to investigate what looks like an attack by a headless horseman. And to make things worse, her partner is Oswald Bolton, who doesn’t keep the same partner for more than a couple months before they beg to transfer or have a nervous breakdown…
I love when the first book in a new series manages the often impossible task of introducing the world, the characters and their backstories, AND manages to tell a compelling story as well. Speaker of the Lost does exactly that.
This book shows us a world much like our own, where normal citizens don’t believe in magic or the existence of supernatural creatures called the fae. Apart from those few people who can actually perform real magic and even open the gateways between our world and the world of the fae to allow them to step over into our dimension. Usually, because the sorcerers needs something from those fae. And that something is usually rather nefarious for everyone else. Good thing is, the fae demand a rather steep price for their services, often up and not limited to the death of the summoner upon competition of the contract. Another good thing is that the government is aware of their existence as well and even has a few special agencies in charge of paranormal crimes.
The story itself starts as a simple murder, albeit executed by paranormal means, but turns out to be much more sinister and far-reaching than our protagonists had expected. The good people of sleepy Bismuth keep some dark secrets indeed, and the town will never be the same after the investigation is closed.
Speaking of protagonists. This story is told from the alternating point of view of both Oz and Stella, and I must admit that the author did a very good job of creating two very distinctive characters with distinctive voices.
Stella is a joy to read about. She is smart. She is resourceful. She calls Oz on his bull%$#t and she isn’t afraid to let him know when he crosses a line. She is strong and she knows her own worth, but she is also very human. She can be overconfident and has a tendency to rush into things without thinking them through, but she isn’t afraid to acknowledge her mistakes and learn from them.
Oz on the other hand can come across as a total ass, and most of the time he does act like one. A lot of times on purpose because he doesn’t want to be saddled with yet another partner that will turn tail and run in a few weeks or days. He doesn’t want to get attached to another partner and feel responsible for them again. And there are reasons for that. I won’t spoiler here, but let’s just say that the few hints we get about Oz’s backstory explain most of his behavior. I actually cheered for him when he gradually warmed up to Stella, because I understood just how hard it was for him to trust somebody again. Or to allow himself to care for somebody again, because he was scared that he would fail to protect them.
I also liked this new twist on the headless horseman myth and how it was woven into the bigger meta of this particular world.
So as I said at the beginning, this book did an excellent job of getting me interested in the world and invested in the characters. It wrapped up the story of the dullahan and the sorcerer who summoned him, but also hinted at a bigger disaster that is yet to come. And I want to read about it. I want to see Oz and Stella working as equal partners, bickering and helping each other, and being awesome. So when is the next book coming out?
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book could have been great. It could have been the first book in a new series that I would have really wanted to follow. It had so much potential… and the fact that it frittered it away is extremely frustrating.
The little bit of worlbuilding we get hints at an interesting world. It’s set in the future, so technologies are quite advanced, especially augmented reality, implants, and the connection to the World Wide Web that allows you to experience VR with all five senses. But we also get mentions of a worldwide catastrophe that changed something in the people’s genome so that some were able to do magic. Oh, and orcs and elves became a reality.
There is so much potential in this! The author could have hooked me and kept me going if only he’d thrown a few more hints here and there about that catastrophe, or more about how the orcs and elves became so common place. Where they always there, but just hiding? Or did they come through the cracks in reality at the same time as humans became capable of magic? Or are they also a result of human mutation? Sadly, we get no answers.
I would have loved to have more background on JT and Austin, on their relationship, on what actually really happened three years ago that made them split. We get mentions here and there. We know they were part of a group of thieves and a heist went bad. We know that Austin’s sister died… and nothing else. There is a mention that they were set up, and that another one of their members died as well, but we never learn anything else. What happened? There is a small mention that JT and Austin were captured and experimented on, but by whom? How did they escape? Just dwelling in those questions could have made an awesome book. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Instead we get a book in which every character is obsessed with sex. This is a short 133 pages book, and the actual plot fits in maybe a third of that length. The rest is characters either having sex or thinking about having sex, or obsessing about whether their maybe on and off partner is having sex with someone else. There is so much sexual content in it that at one point I had to go back to Netgalley and check whether I had clicked on the erotica bookshelf by mistake when I selected the book, but no, it’s listed under Science Fiction and Fantasy…
And I would have been okay with some sexual content if it was justified. But when the characters are running for their life from the Triad, I would think they would be more worried about staying alive and figuring out how to get out of the mess they are in instead of jumping each other’s bones. This is just such an unrealistic reaction that it threw me right out of the story.
My other problem with this book is Austin. I hated him as a character, and since a lot of the narrative was from his point of view, getting through his chapters was a challenge. He is incredibly self-centered. He wants JT because he wants things to go back to how they were, and JT always had his back. He lies, cheats and uses underhanded techniques to get him to agree to this one last job, even though he can clearly see that JT has created a new life for himself. He has a legitimate business that he loves, and he has a protégé he is responsible for. But no, Austin doesn’t care, if he wreaks his friend’s life. He doesn’t even ask himself whether what he is doing will harm JT. Not once. The thought of considering somebody else’s interest apart from his own doesn’t even cross his mind. With Austin, everything is about Austin.
The second thing I hate about Austin is how twisted his sexual desires are. Like that scene in the orc night club. What he did to the bouncer cannot be called anything but rape. No matter how he justifies it, he used his glamour to force that orc to do what he did. And Austin’s thoughts in that moment were exactly what any other rapist would voice to justify his actions – I only exacerbate the desire that’s already there, my glamour wouldn’t have worked if he didn’t want it… No. Just NO. Rape is rape and there is no excuse!
As I mentioned, the book had potential, but the lack of plot and my intense dislike for one of the main characters made it so I have no desire to find out more about this world. That’s one series I will pass on.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When you are a fan of a Korean group, you kinda resign yourself to loving their music and admiring them from afar. Because, until recently, chances that they would have a concert in a city close enough that you could get there without having to sell your kidney to afford it were slim to none. Especially when you lived in a small military town in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina. Nobody comes to NC, it seems.
When Big Bang did their latest (am not saying last, because they will come back from the military and they will tour again as a band, I know it) US Tour in 2015, the closest venue to me was in New Jersey. With the plane ticket, hotel, transportation and the ticket to the show itself, it cost a small fortune. Something I simply couldn’t afford with my more than modest salary and the huge debt problems our family had at the time.
Fast forward two years. I no longer have a family. I paid off most of the debt my dear ex-husband left me with after the divorce, I have a better paying job, and I am no longer in NC. So when I saw that Taeyang would be coming to Dallas with his White Night concert, I actually thought, “Hey, I need to check this out. I could actually afford this, I think.” And I was right. I went to a terrific concert by a terrific performer who is part of my favorite group of all times for about 250 dollars, parking included.
And it was an epic concert and an epic night, let me tell you. It left me exhausted, hurting like I had run a marathon, elated, and absolutely, insanely happy.
The start of this whole adventure was rather stressful though. I have never been to Dallas, but I ventured there by myself with just my trusted Navigon and the concert ticket in my pocket, with no clue where The Bomb Factory actually was. Good thing Dallas is only about 45 minutes away from Fort Worth… on a good day… with moderate traffic… which Friday afternoon wasn’t.
But I had planned for that and left at 3pm, even though the concert wasn’t supposed to start until 7:30pm. Good thing I did too, because my Navigon crapped out as soon as I pulled off the ramp off I-30 in Dallas. I guess all those ramps and interchanges messed up its poor GPS brain, or it couldn’t connect to the satellite anymore, but it started randomly switching routes, rerouting and putting my location on different random roads. Then it sent me in a circle, as if saying, “I got nothing. You’re on your own.” Not a good situation when you are in downtown Dallas in Friday afternoon traffic with no clue where to go.
So I pulled into the first parking lot I saw and tried to resuscitate my Navigo. No luck there. I was starting to panic big time by then. I tried Waze, but it said it needed to install some critical update and left me high and dry while it proceeded to do just that. All I can say is thank God for Google maps! When all my other devices and apps failed, Google maps picked up my route and took me straight to the Bomb Factory.
That’s where the second part of the nightmare started. I had no clue how hard it was to find a parking spot next to the venue. The parking lot by the Bomb Factory is the size of a handkerchief, and by the time I got there at 4:15pm, it was full and all entrances had been closed. There were countless cars circling around the block trying to find a spot, any spot to park. Now keep in mind that most of the streets around there are one-way and that this was my first time there. I was getting more and more lost trying to find a place I could leave my car for 6-7 hours and still find it in one piece afterwards. But my guardian angel must have been looking over my that day, because after about 20 minutes of erratic driving that puzzled the locals (hey, I still have my NC tags, can’t they see I’m a tourist?), I managed to sneak into the last empty spot in a tiny parking lot three blocks away from the venue. Double score: the parking fee was only 5 dollars for the night, AND they accepted cards.
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find my car after the concert, since it would be dark and I had circled the block so many times that I got completely turned around. That’s where Google Maps came to my rescue yet again. I simply marked the location of my car, then let Google Maps walk me to the Bomb Factory … Where I waited for the next two and a half hours for the doors to open along with over a thousand other fans.
This is where I must say that the entry system at the Bomb Factory wasn’t very organized. There were supposed to be three lines – Platinum, Platinum 1 and Platinum 2. Well, the only signs for that were right by the doors, so even a few steps further back, it all became one big pile where nobody knew which line they were supposed to be in. As a result, there was an hour delay with getting everyone into the venue and the concert started 30 minutes late as well.
But I must give a big round of applause to all the VIPs I stood in line with that day. Despite the confusion, the delays, and standing for almost three hours in Texas heat, the mood never turned sour. Everybody bore this with good humor. We were swapping stories, songs and personal experiences. I heard a lot of laughter and not a single angry voice in that crowd. I was also surprised to see that only maybe 40 percent of the crowd looked Asian. Most fans were of Caucasian descent, like me. And we were also an older crowd than I thought. I had been afraid that at almost 40, I would stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of excited teenage girls, but I wasn’t the only one there in that age group.
But then the doors finally opened and the concert started and as soon as Taeyang stepped on that stage, all the hardships of the day were forgotten.
What can I tell you about this concert that hasn’t been said about any of Big Bang concerts (either as a full group or as solo artists) before? It was awesome. It was breathtaking. It was elating. Uplifting. And it was over too soon, even though it lasted three hours and two encores.
Taeyang started the concert with Ringa Linga, which is one of my favorite songs as well as my ringtone. I tried to record some of the songs, but I wasn’t close enough to the stage to get a very good view (plus at 5’5″, I was one of the shorter people in the crowd), so I’m sorry for the quality of my videos. But you can still see and feel the incredible energy and the excitement of the audience.
Taeyang is a true performer. He knows how to grab the crowd’s attention and keep it. He has an incredible presence. He seems larger than life up there on that stage, all dressed in white. But he also manages to make this performance very personal, almost intimate, especially when he talked to us about his hopes and aspirations, about his new album White Night (that you can purchase on ITunes and Google Play btw), and about his relationship with other members of Big Bang.
He performed songs from his new album, but also his older songs that we know and love, like Wedding Dress and Love you to Death.
He also sang Big Bang songs like Bang Bang Bang and Fantastic Baby, and Good Boy. The crowd went wild at those, me included. The most touching moment was when he sang Last Dance (which I sadly didn’t record) while playing piano, then talked about what Big Bang and the other members meant to him, and go so emotional he had to wipe tears from his eyes.
I love that at all their solo concerts, they always take the time to mention the other members of Big Bang. You can really see that they consider each other as brothers, not just band members. They’ve been together for over 10 years after all. Taeyang and G-Dragon have known each other for most of their adult life, since they were trainees together before they debuted…
After an amazing three hours and two encores, Taeyang closed the show with my absolute favorite song – Eyes, Nose, Lips.
You can hear the crowd of regular Americans singing along in Korean, which is absolutely amazing to me and very uplifting.
After the concert was over, I felt so light and happy, like I had wings growing from my back. So thank you, Taeyang, for an incredible show and a burst of positive energy that will last me for a good long while.
All I can say in conclusion is that I feel Amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing! Last video is not mine. The song belongs to Taeyang and YG entertainment. I took the video on Kpop Blog Youtube Channel.
I love the Divine Cities series and I await every new book with great trepidation and excitement, because I know that Robert Jackson Bennett won’t disappoint. I read and reviewed the two previous books as well, if you are interested to read my opinions: City of Stairs and City of Blades.
City of Miracles is the closing chapter in the stories of a lot of characters that I grew to know and love in the two previous books, so I have a bitter-sweet feeling upon finishing this book. Even if the author continues this series, it will be a different world with different characters, because the events in this book brought the end of an era and paved the road for a new one.
Don’t get me wrong, I will still pick up the next book with just as much trepidation and will be excited to see the direction in which this world will evolve, but it will sure feel empty without Shara and Sigrud and all the others…
Sigrud had been hiding, moving from place to place, from one meaningless job to another, just waiting for Shara to call him back. Instead, he learns one day that the former Prime Minister Shara Komayd had been assassinated. And Sigrud sets out on a journey of revenge, doing what he does best – track and kill those who killed his friend. Only there is a lot more at stake than anyone could have imagined, because all these years Shara had been waging a secret war with a Divinity, and the outcome of this war will change the world.
When previous books were about the Divine wars and its casualties, as well as the guilt of the survivors, City of Miracles is about lost souls. It’s about the war orphans, both human and Divine, whose lives had been shattered by war and who can’t quite fit in this brave new world.
We know that the Radj killed all of the Divinities except one, but what happened to the multitude of Divine children that those Divinities created in the thousands of years of their existence? It was assumed that they simply vanished when their parent Divinities died or were hunted down and exterminated as well. And the most powerful ones certainly met that fate. But what of the weaker ones? The unimportant ones that didn’t have their own followers and had always lived in the shadow of their powerful siblings and parents?
Turns out they survived. Kolkan hid them, made them seem human, erased all memories of their divine nature. He hoped to bring them all back once the war was over and he came out of hiding himself, but we all know how that played out in City of Stairs. So those children, those orphans, are condemned to drift from orphanage to orphanage, from family to family, never aging, never remembering their past, their memories resetting every time their families start to wonder why the child they adopted 7-8 years ago didn’t seem to age. Yes, they survived, but isn’t that a terrible price to pay?
But what happens when some of those Divine children remember who they are? What happens if one of them was captured by the new regime and tortured for years? Wouldn’t he want revenge when he escaped?
I think this book, more than the previous two, shows that no matter what happens to the world, no matter what horrors, humans will find a way to survive, adapt and move past it. And the biggest proof of that is the city of Bulikov – we saw it in ruins in City of Stairs, its citizens beaten down and oppressed, yet in City of Miracles, merely 50 years later, it’s a thriving metropolis again, where the old and the new are intertwined and found a way to coexist. Or Voortyashtan, where Signe’s dream of opening the river to ship traffic again is finally a reality, even if Signe died without seeing it happen…
Legacy is another recurring theme in this book. What do we leave behind when we die? Signe left a dream of an engineering miracle and others made it a reality. Shara spent her whole life trying to change Saypur and bring peace to the continent, and she succeeded. Even Kolkan managed to leave a legacy by saving all those Divine children from certain death.
I think this is the strongest message of this book. That we need to live our lives in such a way that we leave behind a positive legacy, instead of a destructive one, even if this legacy is important only to our family and friends…
A year ago, Millie listened to the little voice in her head telling her that her life is worthless and stepped off a roof. She survived, but lost both her legs and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Now she lives in a mental institution and is pretty sure that both her promising filmmaking career and her life is pretty much over. That is until she gets a second chance to make something out of her disaster when she accepts to work for the Arcadia Project.
When you read the blurb for Borderline, it sounds like a generic urban fantasy series. Even the supernatural creatures are generic – fae have been done before. You might be tempted to dismiss this book right away, but that would be a big mistake because you would lose the opportunity to read a very good story.
I picked up this book almost as an afterthought. Nothing in my reading pile sounded good at the time and Amazon put this in the “Also Bought” suggestions, so I gave it a go, not expecting much… I finished it in one day. I literally only stopped long enough to eat and didn’t move of my couch until I turned the last page. Good thing it was a Saturday.
I loved this book. I loved the story. I loved Millie. I loved all the secondary characters. I loved the setting and the world they lived in.
Mishell Baker has an interesting take on the fae and their influence on our world. In Borderline, every creative person has a muse, who is a fae. It’s a symbiotic relationship – the fae gives his or her human inspiration to create art, write books, film movies, and so on. In exchange, the fae who are paired with a human become capable of logical thinking and can grasp such disciplines as mathematics, architecture, engineering, etc. There is a quid pro quo in this relationship with both parties gaining something from each other.
I like that the longer the fae stays on Earth, the more “assimilated” it becomes, slowly losing its creativeness while it acquires more logical aptitudes. That’s why the Acradia Project has rules and regulations in place. That’s why they keep track of all the fae and follow a strict schedule as to when and for how long they can remain on Earth.
It’s not often that you find a disabled protagonist in a book, especially one that doesn’t transform into a disabled superhero by the end of the book or whose disability is conveniently forgotten about or set aside when the plot needs it.
Millie is not like that. She isn’t just token broken. As a double amputee, she faces a lot of everyday challenges and the book doesn’t gloss over that or give her a sudden ability to levitate. She also has a serious mental illness that impacts her everyday life and her interactions with everyone she encounters. You can see that the author did some in depth research into borderline personality disorder and thought about how this illness will impact the plot.
I like that despite the challenges that she faces, Millie has a very serious and down to earth approach to her life and her struggles. Apart from that first fateful jump off a roof, she never exhibits more suicidal tendencies. Once she learns she is a borderline, she learns everything she can about both the illness and the coping mechanisms that would help her function in society. I love the fact that when Millie has episodes, she is rational enough to understand what is happening and that she even tries to apply the techniques she learned to try and deescalate the situation. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t, but it’s nice to see a protagonist who tries to lead a normal life despite everything.
The story is well written and fast paced, and if you are anything like me, it will grip you and not let you go until the end.
So I will definitely recommend Borderline to all my friends and I can’t wait to pick up Phantom Pains, the second book in the series.
For a short 84 pages novella, Agents of Dreamland sure felt like one long read. Long and pointless.
You are probably not used to such harsh judgements in my reviews, since I usually try to find at least something positive in the books I read. So let me explain why I’m so negative this time.
The story is about the agent of some secret government organization dealing with the unexplained and the paranormal who discovers what at first glance seems like cult mass suicide, but turns out to be the beginning of the end of humanity. Some kind of alien fungus that would destroy humanity and pave the way for a different life form. Sounds like it could be an interesting story, right? I certainly thought so when I read the blurb and picked up the book.
Well, don’t get your hopes up. The story goes nowhere after that. I’m not joking. They discover the bodies of the cultist and one survivor. They take the survivor to a secured facility where she dies in an explosion of alien spores. It’s implied that this is the curtain call for humanity. The End.
Even that little bit of story could have been interesting if the characters were engaging enough to empathize with or the stakes high enough to create tension. Unfortunately, we get neither. In fact, I think that by giving one of her characters the ability to cast her mind both into the past and the future, the author effectively shot herself in the foot and killed her story.
So this character can get “unstuck” from the present and let her mind travel to all the moments she lived in the past or will live in the future. She goes into the future and sees that in the year 2043, human civilization is pretty much extinct, the remaining humans infected and changed beyond recognition by the fungus, and aliens are controlling the skies. She sees all that and chooses not to say a word about it to anybody. But the author includes a detailed description of her little trip into the future before the middle of the book…
That right there killed the story for me. If the end of the world is coming anyway, nothing the Signalman or his colleagues from Albany do has any meaning. There are no stakes anymore. So what’s the point of the story? Any (minimal) investment I still had in it plunged to zero on my “How much do I care about what happens next” meter. And when the novella ended with a non-ending that didn’t resolve anything, I wasn’t really surprised or particularly disappointed.
I came for an interesting horror story he blurb had promised. I got lots of allegories and similes and countless references to obscure black and white movies and the Beatles sprinkled with a bit of mythology. From what I understand, the author tried to write a Lovecraftian story. In my opinion, that attempt failed.
PS. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Once in a while you come across a book that gets you really excited about reading it because it starts with a great character who has a distinct voice and who seems to be telling a compelling story… then either goes horribly wrong halfway through or simply veers into meh category.
Sadly, this is exactly what happened with Halfway Dead. This book had so much promise! We are introduced to Carlie in the middle of action, when she goes for a little clean up job and tackles a pair of wendigos who moved close to her beloved town of Halfway with clearly nefarious intentions. She is efficient and self-reliant during that encounter, never losing her cool. We get an excellent introduction to our protagonist and an “on the job” explanation of how her magic works. She has a distinctive voice and she has sass.
At that point, I was invested in the story and ready to follow Carlie wherever her adventures or misadventures lead her. Unfortunately, the story starts unraveling pretty much right after that initial introduction.
Some random dude by the name of Major Pickford approaches her to help him find a grove of ancient chestnut trees. I would be ok with that if this plot point was presented better than it was. First, this Major appears in one scene where he hires Carlie to find those trees then disappears and is NEVER SEEN AGAIN for the rest of the book. Second, the story he feeds Carlie about why he wants those trees is so fantabulous that you really have to be stupid to believe it. Yet, Carlie believes and accepts without doing too much research to verify if what Major says is true. Author, why? You just showed us that your protagonist is a smart cookie when she handled the wendigos, but this scene undid all that good work.
At this point I was still determined to see this story through, even if my investment in it had gone down a notch, but it only gets worse afterwards.
Carlie goes to the local library and does a little bit of research into that mysterious grove of trees and discovers that it has ties to her family… and a ghost speaks to her from an old photograph and asked her to come find him. As a motivation for our protagonist to venture forth, that’s pretty good. Only it fails to confer any urgency to the situation. If you think about it, Carlie really has no stakes in this matter. Both the trees and the ghost had been there for three hundred years, so they will still be there whether she goes now or waits a few more decades.
The other problem is that when the next random stranger approaches her and tells her that Major basically fed her a load of lies, she still agreed to go into the mountains with this new stranger instead. Girl, where is your brain? Didn’t the situation just prove to you that there is a lot more at stake than you think or know and that you shouldn’t take anybody at face value? Sure, she calls the company this guy supposedly works for, but what proof those she have that she really talked to the CEO of that company? Also, how often do we call a multimillion dollar corporation and get to speak to the CEO directly as soon as we ask for it?
But my biggest frustration with this book are the dialogues. They don’t make sense. People just don’t speak and behave like that in real life. They all speak in riddles. They all go pages and pages of talk to say nothing that would advance the plot or explain the situation. And Carlie just accepts this avoidance and clear change of subject as a given. On more than one occasion, I wanted to reach into the page and slap some sense into both her and whomever she was talking to.
Add to that the sluggish pace at which the story is moving and the many interruptions to admire the scenery or get an excursion into the land’s (and the character’s) past, and you get a book that I ended up almost hate-reading until the end. And I did it only because I had a review to write and I don’t review books I don’t finish.
So to summarize, Halfway Dead is a book that had such great promise, but sort of unraveled halfway through like a badly knit sweater, leaving me with a lot of frustration at its unrealized potential and a conundrum as to how to rate it. I loved the first 1/4 of it. I was okay with the next 2/4. I would never have made it through the last 1/4 if I didn’t have a review to write.
PS. I received and advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.