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Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

“Loved loved loved it!” were my thoughts when I finished this book as I ran around my living room excitedly, happy that I got the chance to read this excellent book before it was officially published (thanks for the ARC, Netgalley.)

This is one of those rare books that managers to portray strong female characters without making them bitchy, slutty, or catty, and without having them hate on any other females around them and lust over anything with a dick that walks into their line of sight. Unfortunately, I have read a lot of authors who think that this is what a “strong female character” is supposed to be.

I have also read, or tried to read and failed horribly, a lot of feminist and “break the patriarchy” novels that assume that to be a strong woman, you need to hate on anything that has a Y chromosome. I’m very glad that it is not the case with Persephone Station. Men are mentioned in this world, but their presence is not important to the story. And I am very glad that the main villain in this is also a woman. Too often we see this trope when a strong female protagonist has to go against a grotesque caricature of a male villain that is painted as such a horrible human being that you have to wonder how his mother didn’t smother him in his crib.

Here we have a smothering of female, male, non-binary, and genderfluid characters that all have flaws and motivations and are all portrayed as believable human (and alien) beings. And I love the fact that they fit perfectly in this world the author created. That human, alien, or artificial, they are all perfectly three-dimensional.

I also loved the strong friendships portrayed in this book. The crew of Kurosawa is a group of broken misfits that love each other and support each other like family. I admit that I cried when Kurosawa crashed, because this ship had the Firefly vibes with the same warmth of a found home and family.

So after all this gushing praise, why didn’t I give it a full 5 stars? I have a couple minor gripes about the story.

Firstly, I think the Emissaries could have been developed slightly better. I mean, at one point Vicinia says that their colony isn’t sustainable without imports from the human settlement… And I wondered why? They are native to Persephone. They lived on that planet way before it was colonized… so this statement makes absolutely no sense. So yes, I would have loved to see a little more of the planet and native Emissary settlements other than the one we saw and that was specifically adapted for humans.

My second gripe is with the ending. I don’t want to put any spoilers, but the solution to all their problems seemed very deus ex machina to me, and it literally was. It felt a little bit too simple and anticlimactic to me after the very tense and nerve-wracking events that lead to it.

These two points non-withstanding, I loved this book. I would definitely read the sequel if one is in the works, because I think this world has potential to become a series. There are still many stories to explore. Who is Zhang? What will Kennedy do now? What will happen with Persephone now that the existence of the Emissaries is known? How are Rosie doing?

The living dead by george A romero

2 out of 5 stars

I was excited to read this book, because I loved the Dawn of the Living Dead and I think that George Romero pretty much invented the zombie apocalypse genre. So I was eager to start the book as soon as I got the ARC from NetGalley, but my excitement soon turned into bewilderment, the disappointment.

First of all, this book is way too long at 700 pages and it feels a lot longer when you read it. At least 250 pages could have been safely cut without loosing any plot, which says something. In all the chapters, action scenes are constantly interrupted by characters’ introspection, flashbacks, and philosophical musings. The worst offender is the scene of their “softie” recovery towards the end of the book which is interspersed verbal accounts by all characters present of how they got to that particular point in time. This makes this one scene last over 100 pages! It could have been tense and heart-pounding, or even deep and poignant, considering their mission, instead it’s a snooze fest. When we finally reached the end of that scene, I wasn’t even sure why the characters were there anymore or why I should have cared.

That’s another problem – of all the impressive cast or characters, I could maybe sorta care for about one or two, and even that is pushing it. To my growing disappointment, almost all the characters I cared about died in the early stages of the book. I would have much rather followed Jenny than Nakamura, especially considering the stupid way she died and that we had to then follow the story of the person who killed her.

The biggest problem though is that when George Romero died, somebody else had to finish the book, and the two parts do no gel well, at least in my opinion. And you can clearly see where the original book ended and the new chapters began – instead of continuing the story in its logical progression, the new author chose to jump 15 years ahead. That wouldn’t have been too bad. A lot of books use this plot device, after all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well here.

I was expecting at least some kind of character growth or change between the two parts of the book. After all, nobody stays the same during 15 years. Heck, I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago, and I didn’t have to live through a zombie apocalypse. But these characters, it’s like they were frozen in time for those 15 years. NOTHING changed for them. They still act the same, have the same motivations or quirks, heck, some of them are still hung up about a lover they lost 15 years ago. That’s why the two parts don’t gel for me. You tell us over a decade has past, yet you don’t SHOW us that, not with your characters.

And that’s the biggest problem of the second part of the book for me. Because of that time jump, instead of following the characters through their struggles in this brave new world past the initial days of the zombie uprising, we have to listen to them recount the experience… as a series of interviews. This is the classic mistake of tell, not show. Sure, some authors managed to use this technique brilliantly (just think of World War Z, which is nothing but interviews and verbal accounts of things that already happened), but it DOESN’T WORK here. Sure, the characters are telling these stories, but as a reader, I am not emotionally invested in them, especially considering that the sometimes horrible things they recount didn’t seem to change them at all.

So by the time I got through the interviews and the slog of a “softie” recovery scene, I wasn’t really invested in the book anymore. Why should I care about Richard and the vote for the leader of Old Muddy? I didn’t get a chance to follow the characters while they met and bonded and built that settlement, so I wasn’t emotionally invested in the stakes anymore. I finished the book, but at that point it was out of cheer stubbornness – I was 85% done and didn’t want to quit this close to the end.

To summarize, this is an over-written, disjointed and disappointing book. The only reason I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 is because there was one glorious chapter that I absolutely loved – the chapter with Greer at the trailer park in the very beginning of the book. That was scary, heart-pounding and horrible just like the best zombie books should be. Too bad that nothing that happened afterwards would even come close.

Can I just hibernate till spring?

Lack of Motivation
Lack of Motivation

You might have wondered where I had disappeared to lately since I haven’t been very active on my blog: a couple of measly posts here and there, no book reviews to speak off… I’m very sorry about that! It’s just that I found it very hard to scrap up any motivation to do pretty much anything lately.

Call it winter blues, call it post-NaNo burnout, or even blame it on an insanely busy work schedule, but either way all I want to do is go into hibernation and wake up when it’s spring and everything is flowering again. And the sun doesn’t set at 5pm right when I get off work, when it even deigns to grace us with its presence at all. It’s only mid-December, and I’m already tired of the gray and the early dark. I want my sunshine back!

I think I wouldn’t mind winter as much if nature made up its mind and it was, you know, actually winter. Give me the cold weather and the snow and all the other good wintery stuff. But even that’s not the case this year! It’s 35 degrees one day and 70 the next, then back into the 40s, then oh, never mind, it’s 75 again.

Winter is coming or not

My poor rose bushes have no idea what to do about this weather, and the azaleas are trying to flower. I mean it’s 75 degrees outside today… on December freaking 15th! We had a bona fide summer thunderstorm yesterday. No wonder half the people at work are sick.

So since the beginning of December, I had been pretty much coasting on autopilot. I have a first draft to finish. I have several other books to edit, one of which I want to publish in March. I have books to read and review. I have good TV shows to watch. I have cross stitching projects that have been neglected for too long… Yet all I do when I get off work is sit and watch the grass try to grow in the middle of December while I listen to K-pop, and wonder if I should break out the riding mower or let the (hopefully) coming frost kill it. And then go to bed early because even that is exhausting.

But hey, the situation isn’t as dire as I made it sound! I’m still working on the first draft of Shadow Hunters, even though I went from writing 2k words a day to about 400-600 words. But speed is not as important as consistency, right? And the will to stick with it to the bitter end. I’ll get it done, winter slump be damned.

I have read two very good books this month as well, but I can’t post my reviews yet because they won’t be officially released until February 2016. I was lucky enough to get the ARCs (advance reader copies) of them through NetGalley. So look forward to those reviews (and books) closer to February.

I have also watched some excellent TV series, though I tend to favor Asian dramas lately. One of them, called White Christmas, stood out so much that I even posted a review of it a while back. And I’m planning on doing a marathon rewatch of it for Christmas, which only shows how much I liked the show.

So to paraphrase Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s excellent Discworld series, “I aten’t dead.” Now can we just skip this whole winter deal and get on with spring?

i-atent-dead

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows book2) by Kim Harrison.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

Rachel Morgan is back! She managed to survive breaking her contract with I.S. and even paid off her debt so there is no more death contract on her head. And she has blackmail material to keep Trent Kalamack from eliminating her. So life should be pretty good for her now, right? Wrong.

Being self-employed is not exactly synonym of job security, and Rachel struggles to make ends meet and come up with her part of the rent money each month. Add to that her uneasy cohabitation with Ivy, who is trying very hard to fight against her living vampire instincts and not claim Rachel as her shadow, because she values the trust and friendship the witch gives her more than getting a live-in blood donor. Especially since Ivy has been off blood for over three years and tries to stay that way. Not an easy thing to do when the scar Rachel was left with after the demon attack in book 1 leaves her vulnerable to vampire pheromones as well as telegraphs to all vamps in the vamps in the vicinity that she is unclaimed…

On top of that, Rachel still owes that demon a debt for saving her life (albeit reluctantly) and that he is sure to come claim it sooner rather than later, and you can see that her life is just as complicated as it was in the first book. So when FIB wants her to consult on a missing person’s case, Rachel is less than thrilled at first… until she discovers that the case might be linked to Trent Kalamack. An opportunity to get back at Kalamack for all he had done to her in book 1 is not something Rachel can pass on.

I absolutely love Rachel. She is capable without being a superwoman. She is funny and sassy, but manages to land herself in ridiculous situation from time to time. But most importantly, she has heart. I love how she grew to care for the rag-tag little family of friends she lives with: a living vampire in denial of her nature and desperately trying to stay off blood, an opinionated pixie with a very large family, and a human  dabbling in magics he has no business dabbling in. Rachel might gripe about their antics and their intrusions into her privacy, but she is also fiercely protective of them and doesn’t hesitate to put their safety above her own.

Some readers complained that Rachel often lets her mouth get the best of her, but I find even that endearing. She is a hot head with a tendency to fly off the handle when angry, but that’s part of who she is. And her big mouth and quick temper land her in hot water more than once in this book.

We also learn a bit more about this fascinating world. It came as a surprise to me that while vampires and weres were originally humans transformed by the lycanthropy and vampire viruses, witches are a completely different species. In fact, unlike weres and vamps, they can’t even have children with humans. Witches are thought to have originated from the demon world and migrated to our world some five thousand years ago along with the elves, hence the animosity between demons and witches.

We also learn a lot more about vampires and the difference between a living and an undead vampire, as well as the intricacies of power and domination between undead vampire and his / her living vamp scions and their human scions / shadows. And we learn more about witches and the difference between earth witches and ley line witches. And  we get some surprising insights into Rachel’s past and her ties to Trent Kalamack!

The plot is intense and fast-paced as well. It kept me turning the pages and screaming, “More please!” when I arrived to the end. Needless to say, I’ve already picked up book 3!

So why did I only put 4.5 stars then? Same problem as book 1 – I can’t stand Rachel’s boyfriend Nick, but he got even more obnoxious in this book. He was just the goodie two shoes boyfriend in book one, but here he showed his reckless side as well. He continues to summon a demon and deal with him even after Rachel reminds him how dangerous that is and that he is slowly losing his soul to him, one little bargain at a time. As a human, Nick is obviously in over his head, yet he insists that he is in no danger, that it’s all gonna be just fine… Yet he flips out and withdraws from Rachel after a certain scene at the end of the book. This reaction showed me that he isn’t a good man, but just a coward. Rant over.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this series for anyone who likes urban fantasy. If you enjoyed Kate Daniels or October Daye series, the Hollows are definitely for you!