Category Archives: Reviews

Between Jobs (The City Between 1) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This is the strangest book I’ve read in a long time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s strange in a good way, and I absolutely loved it, but it is weird.

It starts in a slightly usual way for an urban fantasy, with an ordinary girl and three beautiful strangers that aren’t human… But wait, because the strangers are much more interesting than the usual urban fantasy fare, and the girl… well, I’m still not convinced she is entirely human. And together they form this weird dysfunctional family that is rather fascinating to read about.

The world itself is also pretty original. Not only does the action happen in Tasmania, instead of the usual USA / UK setting, but the supernatural elements are rather original. We have our real world, that the humans inhabit. then we have the Behind, where fae and other creatures originate from. And linking them together is the Between, a strange ever-changing place that is not really here, but also not really there, and where time, space and even shapes are malleable. Fae can travel the Between to go from our reality into the Behind and back again. Humans can’t, unless they are taken in by a fae, or slip accidentally into an opened passageway.  Most of those who end up Between don’t come back, or if they do, the experience drove them to madness. 

I really liked this book. I loved the story itself, but also everything else that was alluded to but never clearly explained, because it feels like there is a whole vast world to explore, and this book only scratched its surface. I also really loved Pet. This girl has no fear or sense of self-preservation, but her interactions with the three psychos are really fun to read about. I’m sure there is a bigger mystery about the murder of her parents and how she managed to survive hidden in that house for four year without anyone even being aware of her existence. I hope this will be explained in later books, and I will happily be there for the ride. 

I should also mention that these books are fairly short, so it’s a quick sweet read between heftier books just for a change of tone and pace.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz by Garth Nix

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

I am not usually a fan of collections of short stories about the same characters. I feel like the format doesn’t give the author enough time to develop the characters and tell a compelling story at the same time, especially if the stories aren’t in chronological order or were written for different magazines and published at different times. And this compilation suffers from the same drawbacks, but the characters are compelling enough that I derived some genuine enjoyment following them around.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz make an odd pair, to say the least. One is a human knight, skilled with firearms and swords, also a dandy and a bit of a womanizer. The other one is… a living puppet with a singular mission of exterminating rogue godlets who intend to cause harm to the world.  It’s also implied that Mister Fitz is a lot older that anyone knows and suspects, older even than the order of Witches from which Sir Hereward originated. Add to that the fact that he used to be Hereward’s nanny when he was a little boy, and their relationship is interesting, to say the least. 

Sir Hereward himself is a bit harder to read, probably because we don’t get to explore his needs and wants as much in these stories. We know that he is the forbidden child to an order of Witches that are supposed to only sire female (Dune anyone?), but since his mother was part of the ruling council, he was allowed to live, and even train with other witches, but then exiled forever to go and hunt down rogue godlets in the world away from the witch stronghold. But we never really explore what Hereward himself wants in life, or how he feels about being a perpetual nomad, not able to put roots anywhere, traveling from one battle to another with only a living puppet for company. I would have loved to have this aspect explored more in the stories I read.

The world these two characters inhabit is also really interesting. It’s full of magic and different deities, called godlets. Some are powerful, some less so. Some are benevolent or simply harmless, while others either intentionally cause harm or are just so incompatible with the world they invaded that they slowly destroy everything around them. I loved the fact that Hereward and Fitz aren’t heartless killers who eliminate any godlet they are pointed at. They always assess the situation and do what’s right, even disobeying direct orders sometimes, when those orders are unjust. 

I would love to read more stories about these characters, even maybe a novella or a full blown novel where we can explore their inner workings a bit more and dive deeper into this world.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Green Samurai by Brian Christopher Shea

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DNF at 35%.

I am baffled by this book, and I don’t understand all the glowing reviews.

The plot holes are so big 6 can sink a semi truck in them. For example, why the heck do you put your Interpol profiler in an undercover position with the yakuza without consulting with him first? Also, if you are going to use him as an undercover agent, maybe go with a better legend than “HI, I’m Jimmy and I’m in real estate”. Especially since he is checked into the hotel under his real name. I mean, he isn’t making contact with a group of kindergarten bullies. These yakuza have proven that they are able and willing to kill.

Also, young and brash doesn’t equal braindead. In what normal world a jakuza lieutenant would drag a stranger he just met and knows nothing about to the very location of his stash of weapons?

As a lover of the Japanese culture, I appreciated the tour of Tokyo and the descriptions of all the foods that I personally enjoyed when I was there. However, this blatant unprofessionalism displayed by everyone involved was so irritating, I simply wasn’t enjoying this story anymore.

The Anomaly (The Anomaly Files 1) by Michael Rutger

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This was an entertaining story with very likeable characters. Wasn’t particularly scary, but I had a good time following our unfortunate crew, even if they didn’t have a good time at all.

This starts like one of those lost tape movies (kind of like Blair Witch Project) about a group of amateur mystery hunters filming a YouTube documentary about the Kincaid Cavern in the Grand Canyon. The location of this cavern is unknown, and even its existence has never been properly acknowledged. Plus, our crew has a bad track record when it comes to actually finding things. As in, they never do. But lo and behold, they find the cave this time, though by the end of this adventure, they will all be wishing that they never did.

As I mentioned before, this wasn’t particularly scary for me, though some situations the characters found themselves in were particularly uncomfortable. Stuck in a cave with no light? Having to negotiate a narrow passage back to the others by feel alone and in pitch darkness? Yeah, even not being claustrophobic, that had an extra eek factor for me.

But the main strength of this book is in the relationship between the characters. You can feel that they are complex individuals with their own agendas and desires. You can also tell that they worked together for a long time and really know each other well. The banter, and good-natured insults they throw each other’s way, but then they are always ready to help and support each other when needed. I grew to know and love them for that, so I was invested in their well-being. I was worried about them, and I really wanted all of them to survive this ordeal and see the light of the sun again. 

The titbits of information and conspiracy theories that Nolan shares with the viewers of his future documentary are also very interesting. I love The Unexplained series on Netflix, so this was right up my alley. 

I must admit that the conspiracy plot in this book was a bit over the top. And the villains were a lot less rounded than the main characters. They were very one-note, in fact. I still don’t understand what their motivation was behind switching on the terraforming machine ahead of schedule. Did they think they would be spared by creatures that are programmed to wipe out all of humanity? On what grounds? What made them the chosen ones to be spared annihilation? Maybe we will find out in future books, since it is mentioned that the society that financed this expedition has their hands in a lot more projects one of which directly involves Nolan’s ex-wife, so I’m sure he won’t let this slide.

In any case, this was an enjoyable read, and I am definitely excited to pick up the next book in the series.

The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co 5) by Jonathan Stroud

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and the series as a whole! What an original idea with wonderful characters that I learned to love and care about during the 5 books. And yes, even though this series is told from Lucy’s perspective, all the other characters are fully fleshed-out and lovable, even if some took a bit to grow on you, like Kipps or the Skull.

This book picks up a few months after the events of the previous book in the series and the pretty earth-shattering revelation at the end of that story. And as an aside, this book can’t be read as a standalone. In fact, all of the books in this series have to be read in order, because each book builds on the events and revelations of the previous one. But hey, who would want to start a series on the last book instead of experiencing the joy of discovering this world and the characters and growing with them from the beginning?

I will try to review this book without giving out too many spoilers for the events in this whole series, but let’s just say that things put in motion in the first book and even before then are finally getting to a head in here. Our little agency has fallen afoul of some very powerful people… with deadly consequences. Things looked pretty dire for most of the book. 

Not to mention that the whole world in this series seems to get grimmer and grimmer as the books progress. The Problem isn’t going away, no matter how many agencies fight on the frontlines to tackle the visitors. In fact, there seems to be more and more of them, and they are getting more and more vicious. People live in constant fear, and even the weather seems to get gloomier and more dismal as the series progresses. 

I am glad that everything was resolved in the end of the book, even if it’s not a neat ending and a happy ever after. The Problem still exists, and putting things right will take years and long perilous excursions into the other side. 

I also liked that Lockwood finally got all the answers about what happened to his parents and who was responsible for their deaths. It finally helped him get over this and start living instead of constantly standing with one foot in the empty grave next to the graves of his family. Everyone got a satisfying send off by the end of this book, even though I wouldn’t mind reading some short stories about the characters and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Fittes Agency.

All in all, this is a series I will definitely recommend. Even though this is more on the YA side, it lacks all of the tropes so typical to the genre. No love triangles or annoyingly immature characters acting in annoying immature and hormonal ways. Honestly, the grim reality of life with the Problem makes kids grow up so much faster in this world. You don’t have to worry about your make up or if the boy next door likes you when you literally fight for your life every night.

This is the second series I’ve read by this author, and I really loved them both. I will definitely check out anything else he produces in the future.

Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I come to the conclusion that I don’t like how this author writes her protagonists. I had that problem with her previous book, and it’s even worse in this one. Ophelia is a horrible person, at least in my opinion, and instead of punishing her for her shortcomings and making her grow up and become a better human being, the author rewards her for them.

I mean who you have a protagonist that LIED about her past to get the job she has now. Mind you, this job is to help people suffering from a psychological condition that can make them violent and delusional. Moreover, this is a condition Ophelia is very familiar with because her father had it… yes, that’s the part she lied about. Oh, and she also has PTSD from her experience with things her father did, and a plethora of other psychological issues herself, yet she thinks she can be objective enough to help others with this? I mean how self-absorbed do you have to be to think that this is okay?

Also, no professional board in their right mind would ever authorize something like that, so no wonder she had to lie about her identity. Oh, and use the influence and money of the family she despises so much just to get what she wants. So it’s okay to disparage your relatives and pretend that you are better than them, but still use their name when it suits you… okay then.

Not only that, but Ophelia also accepts a posting that will put her in the precise situation that will trigger her PTSD. She know is, in fact, she mentions is a few times… yet she fights tooth and nail to still get that position. I mean is that supposed to endear her to me? If this protagonist spent even a moment thinking about anyone other than herself, she would realize that she is the LAST person that needs to go on this mission. That by going she is putting everyone else in danger. She is supposed to provide psychological counseling and stability to the crew put under difficult conditions. How is she supposed to do that when she has several psychological breakdowns just being in an abandoned space station? But no, that thought doesn’t even cross her mind.

And, as I mentioned before, the author thinks this is perfectly normal and in fact brave of Ophelia to do that. She is rewarded for being this reckless and selfish at every turn. She is saved from though situations by plot armor and deus ex machina solutions. 

That’s the other issue I have with this book – the ending is extremely underwhelming, just like the previous book by her, Dead Silence, has been. We get this huge buildup with so many mysteries and horrors… and it all circles back to the evil corporation will be evil trope.. that we already saw in the previous book as well. This is getting old, and it cheapens the plot, in my opinion.

As for the supporting characters, there is really nothing much to say about them. They are more a collection of stereotypes than realized individuals. We have the gruff team leader with a hidden heart of gold who will become the protagonist’s possible love interest. Then we have the rude macho dude that hates her from the get go (for good reasons, mind you). And another male character that might as well be a non-entity. As for females, we have the b76chy female that will turn out to be evil, and a sweet young innocent girl that everybody wants to protect. Actually, if you look at the cast of characters in this book and compare it to the characters in Dead Silence, they are identical. Only the names changed.

I think I’m done with this author. Their stories sound so great when you read the blurb, and the covers are top notch, but the execution is sorely lacking, at least in my opinion. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Warden (The Warden 1) by Daniel M Ford

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

When I read the blurb of this book, this sounded like it should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, the execution was decidedly underwhelming. And the opinions of my Goodreads friends are split on this one. One absolutely loved, and another one DNFed it. I’m tending to agree with my second friend on this one, though I managed to finish the book, and I now think that I shouldn’t have bothered.

I have several issues with this book, so let’s talk about the biggest two.

First of all, this book feels rudderless. This less of a cohesive story than a series of events that happen to Aelis. A bear attacks the sheep, some mercenaries bring cursed gold, then a villager seemingly goes crazy and attacks his brother, then all of a sudden we get a detour to kill a Demon tree… You get the picture. Aelis isn’t the driving force behind this story. It feels like she is just a leaf being dragged along the current of things that happen around her. She is reacting to external forces all the time. And this isn’t a bad thing, if done well. In fact, there are book that managed to create a compelling story around a protagonist who had no agency of his/her own. Unfortunately, this is not that book.

The problem is that Aelis has no stakes in the events that happen around her. She has no goals to reach and, honestly, nothing to loose. So there is really no sense of urgency in the unfolding story. Which also means that the story meanders without a clear goal, just like Aelis and Tun in the wilderness. I grew bored following them, to tell you the truth, because I didn’t particularly care if she caught up with the crazy brother. And even when the stakes seemed to finally get bigger (like the discovery of a rogue enchanter a few days away from the village), I was already too disengaged with the story to care.

And that stems from the second issue I have with this book – the character of Aelis herself. To put it bluntly she is a pretentious and extremely unlikeable. She is extremely condescending to EVERYONE around her, just because she went to the Lyceum of magic, and they are “simple peasants”. Yes, because her having purely academic knowledge and no field experience in pretty much anything is so much better than the experiences of people who have been through a war, or who learned to survive in a harsh environment since their birth. 

I would have been better able to stomach this if she learned and evolved throughout the book, made mistakes, got her nose bloodied, and came out humbler and wiser on the other side. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. In fact, there is no character growth for Aelis whatsoever. She is just as unlikeable at the end of the book as she is at the beginning of it. 

So I finished this story, but I have no desire to continue with this series, because I really don’t care about Aelis di Lenti and her overinflated ego.

PS: I received and advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Witch King (The Rising World 1) by Martha Wells

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I adore Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, but the two other books I read by her had left me underwhelmed. They were okay, but not up to the glory that is Murderbot. So I was understandably apprehensive to pick up a new series by her. But I am glad I did.

We start right in the middle of the story with our protagonist Kai in dire circumstances and no memory as to how he got into them. I fell like this was an excellent idea, because the confusion the reader feels, having to wrestle with new words and concepts in a brand new world, mirrors what Kai feels when he wakes up dead and entombed. This might discourage some readers, but I loved it. 

One thing Martha Wells does really well is creating likeable characters. They are flawed and sometimes morally grey, but they feel “alive”, and you can’t help but root for them. I especially loved Kai. Who would have thought that a demon could be so “human”. I also loved that the chapters set in the present are interspersed with chapters set in the past, back when Kai first came to the world above in his first body. You can really see how much he changed in the almost two centuries since that event, and you understand him a lot better as a person the more you see how the events unfolded. 

I loved all the supporting characters as well. Ziede is baddass and witty and a perfect foible for Kai’s often introspective and melancholic nature. Together they form an unstoppable force akin to a hurricane. Especially when they seek answers and their loved ones might be in danger. Kai’s relationship with Sanja and Tenes shows his softer side, because even though he is a demon, he has compassion towards people who have been abused and enslaved. He lived through that, so he knows how it feels. I loved his relationship with Bashara in the past.

I also enjoyed going on the road trip with those characters and progressively discovering the world they inhabit. I loved seeing most places through the lens of what they are today and what they were at the time Kai fought the Hierarchs. 

This book gives a pretty satisfactory conclusion to the main story. We find out what happened, and Kai and Ziede’s loved ones are rescued. Kai is reminded of the purpose him and Bashara had when they fought the Hierarchs and hopefully finds the strength and will to carry on. But there are still a few threads that were left hanging, so I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a new series. I want to know what happened to the other demons Kai had liberated from the Summer Halls. Since none of them could return to their home underearth, are they still living in this world? Or did most of them dissipate after their borrowed body died? Will the Hierarchs be back? Why did they kill off an entire people just because they could reveal their origins? So many questions!

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The September House by Carissa Orlando

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Stars: 3 out of 5.

This was excellent until about 3/4 through the book. I honestly thought this would be a solid 5 start book, but then the ending ruined everything, at least for me. But let’s talk about the good parts first.

This was a very unusual haunted house story, because unlike many other stories I read, the inhabitants or said haunted house (well, at least Margaret) aren’t trying to get rid of the ghosts. They learn how to cohabit with them instead. I don’t think I’ve seen that done before, but then I haven’t read a lot of haunted house stories.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to live like that, because despite the matter of fact way Margaret talks about the hauntings, things in this house are pretty horrible. Sure, it’s bearable 11 months out of the year, but the things that happen every September are a little bit too much to coexist with. I mean, walls that leak blood for a whole month? Constant screaming that won’t let you sleep? A ghost that bites if you come to close to him? Visions of horribly mutilated children haunting you all month? Thanks, but no thanks.

I think it’s more a testament to how horrible Margaret’s life has been even before the haunted house that she manages to settle into this and survive, even thrive most of the year in a house of horrors like that. And the more you learn about Margaret’s live with her “loving” husband, the more you understand why she prefers to live with ghosts. Heck, one of them basically does all the house chores and even cooks for her most of the year.

What I liked about this book was the ambiguity of the situation. Especially when Margaret’s daughter arrived and couldn’t see or hear any of the hauntings. I loved that even Margaret started doubting herself. Are the ghosts in this house real or are they simply a figment of her imagination? Especially since there is a history of mental illness in her family. And honestly, who would have blamed her for loosing her mind after everything she’d had to endure from Hal? I was perfectly okay if the story chose to take that direction, because that would have made Margaret even more endearing to me. 

Unfortunately, the author chose to take a different route and ramp up the fear factor in the last third part of the book to rather ridiculous levels. I mean, those deaths at the end were absolutely useless. They didn’t drive the story forward, they didn’t serve any purpose except for shock value. And even then, not much shock value, because the readers didn’t particularly care about those policemen. We literally met them in the previous chapter. 

It also made the ghosts seem extremely overpowered, which… well, I can only suspend my disbelief so much. It also raised a lot of questions as to how that haunting works. How is a ghost able to cook actual meals? How is it able to learn how a cellphone works? Or why the other members of the Vale family aren’t haunting this house, when all the other victims of Master Vale seem to be stuck there? Also, why didn’t Hal appear as a ghost?

Honestly, you shouldn’t think about this book too much after you are done reading, because the more you question this, the more holes you see in the reasoning and the narrative, and the more disappointing the book gets. I would suggest that you just enjoy it for what it is and don’t question it too much. After all, it’s a very good book almost all the way through. Too bad the ending was so disappointing. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu

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DNF at 60%

I love the cover of this book. It’s what drew me to it in the first place. The content, however, was rather disappointing. 

Part of it is due to the rather non-existent worldbuilding. There is the city of Shantiport that might or might not be sinking, and it’s implied that it’s part of a bigger inter-galactic civilization, but we don’t get much more details than that. What planet is this on? How is this civilization organized? Why are people fleeing it? Is it really sinking? There are hints here and there, but they never form a coherent picture. 

Problem is, since I can’t see the overall picture, I don’t understand the stakes. And since I don’t understand the stakes, I can’t really get invested in the characters’ fights. Will a revolution be good for Shantiport? How is that better or worse than what they have now? 

Another reason for my gradual lack of interest with this book is that the author chose to tell this story through the eyes of dispassionate (at least at first) observer. Yes, Moku ends up getting involved in the action and even taking sides, but it was a little too late for me. Since Moku can’t read Lina or Bador’s minds (after Bador blocks him), he can only observe their actions and speculate to their motives. Problem is, they show very little, especially Lina, who had to live with constant surveillance all her life and learned to show a blank mask to the world in most occasions. 

It’s an interesting concept in theory, but a boring read in execution. I can’t empathize with a character if I have no clue what their motives are. Both Lina and Bador appear shallow and self-centered at times because of their actions, since the reader isn’t privy to their motivations. Which also means that some of their actions come a bit out of the left field as well.

The pacing of the book is also very slow. The action sequences are fun, especially Bador’s intervention during the fight between two giant robots, but they are few and far between. What we have most of the time are pages upon pages of dialog (and sometimes monolog) that go absolutely nowhere. And since the characters are under surveillance, they speak in riddles, which makes those passages even more convoluted and, honestly, boring to read.

I am very disappointed in this book. The cover drew me in and promised something fun and original, but the content let me down.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.