Tag Archives: 2.5 stars

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This book had promise. I was intrigued by the premise and the worldbuilding, so I dived into the story with a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, it fell short in the end, at least for me.

The world is criminally underutilized and and not fleshed out enough. I understand that it’s hard to dedicate a lot of time to worldbuilding in a 129 pages novella, but a few more details would have helped make this world real. As it stands, there are simply too many questions left unanswered. 

Like are the Elect just normal humans or are they descendants of the angels? The Fallen are descendants of the fallen angels, and they retain some physical attributes of that parentage, but for the Elects, apart from their blue eyes, there doesn’t seem to be any divine treads in their physiology. So are they humans playing pretend to be the eyes and ears to a silent and uninterested God? No clue. 

Also, when is this story taking place? Right after Lucifer’s fall or after Armageddon, when the armies of Hell and Heaven clash on Earth? Is this ancient history or post-apocalypse? I know that it might not be relevant to the story, but inquiring minds want to know. Also, the whole civilization seems very steam-punkish, only instead of steam, they mine the body of a fallen angel, like carrion. 

But I think my biggest issue with this book is that I absolutely hated the protagonist. Granted, none of the characters in this book are saints to say the least, but Celeste takes the cherry on top of the cake. She doesn’t hesitate to lie and cheat and use anyone and everyone around her to obtain what she wants. Sad thing is, what she wants doesn’t exist. She painted a picture of her sister as this innocent damsel that is perpetually in distress, and Celeste is the dragon guarding her. And she tried to lock her sister into that role, then acts all surprised when her sister turns out to be nothing like that.  

She ends up alienating all her friends, even going as far as accusing one of her friend’s lovers of murder just to save her sister. She betrays the trust of her own lover and uses him for her goal, oh and she steals the prized invention of another one of her friends. All this to get what in the end? Nothing. Celeste ends up with everything slipping between her fingers like dust. No family, no friends, no loved ones, no home. And good riddance, I say. It’s hard to root for a protagonist you despise.

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

Destroyer of Worlds (End Times 4) by Shane Carrow

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This is the weakest book of the series so far. I got the feeling that the author had a good idea for the ending sequence, but didn’t quite know how to get his characters to that ending and pad the narrative enough to get a novel-sized book, so he inserted a lot of filler. I mean  A LOT. 

It seems like nothing happens for the first half of the book – everyone is just sitting around the big downed spaceship and twiddles their thumbs. That makes for a very boring narrative. Maybe the author was trying to show us just how stir crazy everyone is getting, but that fell flat for me. Also, even once Matt sets out on the Canberra to find the nuke, the story still progresses at a snails pace. They travel, then travel some more, then spend a couple months diving into the wreck to find the nuke and codes. There is no tension or danger honestly for about 80% of the book. Then all of a sudden everything picks up to a breakneck pace and happens all at once. Then it’s non-stop action until the ending that doesn’t let you take a breath and process what’s happening. 

Unfortunately, this explosive ending stretches my disbelief to the point of breaking. Are you telling me that there is this overwhelming military force that had been amassing  around the Canberra and nobody noticed a thing? Where did they get all the military equipment and fire power? How did they move all that across zombie-infested Australia without bringing a hoard of zombies behind them or making a heck of a lot of noise trying to eliminate them? They just pop out of nowhere like an evil deux ex machina. Not to mention that the fighter jets that make an appearance at the end of the book had to have been stationed somewhere relatively near. They can’t fly around indefinitely. Also, how do those groups communicate with each other? Are you telling me that nobody on the Canberra was monitoring radio traffic? I don’t buy this.

Also, for a zombie apocalypse book, this one has very few zombie encounters in it. The undead are almost an afterthought here, which also makes no sense. We were told in the previous three books that zombies congregate to places where humans are. That’s why all other refugee camps and cities were eventually overrun and infected.  Yet we have characters sitting in one spot for months, with more and more humans slowly congregating towards them… nothing. Where are the hoards of zombies that should be descending on their ramshackle camp? Heck, the characters aren’t even worried about that enough to build walls or defenses…

I liked the explanation for the zombie plague and the bigger treat that looms over humanity, but I would like the author to stay consistent with the lore he established in previous books. I also hope that the next book will be more dynamic than this. I will eventually read it, since I bought the whole bundle anyway, but as of right now, it’s relegated to the middle of my TBR pile.

Redemption Ark (Revelation Space 2) by Alasdair Reynolds

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This is the third book I read by this author, and I’m beginning to see a trend: the worldbuilding is excellent. The ideas are fascinating and thought-provoking. The faraway future of human space exploration and settlement the author paints is definitely worth exploring further. But the characters, oh the characters… the author can’t write engaging characters to save his life.

It was a slight issue for me in the first book of the series, Revelation Space, but the new world was interesting enough to dive into that I overlooked the lack of engaging characters to follow. It was also visible in the prequel Chasm City, but at least that book gave me some answers about other things raised in book 1, so I let is slide. But this problem came to the forefront in this book, because the main storyline is most definitely character driven. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any good characters to latch on to. And by good I mean interesting and realistic, or even engaging. 

I couldn’t care less for Clavain and his identity crisis, mostly because he came off condescending and thinking himself smarter and better than anyone else in the universe… while making some rather stupid assumptions and decisions. I also didn’t like Skade and couldn’t really understand her motivations for being as she is. You would think that it would be better explained, since she is the main villain. But even her story was put aside halfway through, when Clavain and his crew got busy with the big confrontation with the Triumvir. 

Speaking of which, what was that even about? We spent pages upon pages talking about the importance of the weapons, and everyone is fighting for control and possession of said weapons… only to just leave them and run at the end? What was the point of this book exactly then? If they were essential for the fight against the Inhibitors, then why didn’t anyone bother to scoop them up before they turned tail and burned it out of the dying system?

As it stands, the book dragged for me. In fact, it took me the better half of last year and then a couple months in 2024 to finish it, simply because I would start losing interest after 10 pages or so and put the book away. I had to force myself to come back to it every time and finish it. I will still give book 3 a try to see where this story is going, but I hope it will be a much tighter book with at least a couple characters I can latch into.

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.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

The blurb for this book is what drew me in, and for the first 50% of the book I was a happy camper joyfully following the story and getting creeped out by the excellent descriptions… Then the book started to drag. The descriptions were still excellent, but there was no “meat” to them. There are episodes that didn’t bring anything to the story but took up extra pages, like when Vera drives several towns over to go to a bar… only to leave because the bartender is too chatty. That added nothing to the overall story or Vera’s character that we didn’t’ already know. And of course the ending was a total miss for me. I expected a twist, but what the author choose for a twist simply didn’t work and made no sense, at least for me.

So this leaves me with a sense of frustration and disappointment. I was ready to love this book to pieces and give it my first 5 stars of 2024… then I was so mad I almost 1-stared it. But upon reflection and some cooling down, I will give it 2.5 stars for the excellent first half.

I think the biggest problem is that there are no good people in this story. Vera is an awful person. The more you read about her, the less you want to spend time with her. I mean it’s one thing to have mixed feelings about how you should feel about your father. On one hand, he is a serial killer that literally tortured and murdered people in the basement of his house. On the other hand, he is still your dad, and he loved you when your mother really didn’t. So I understand why Vera still loves him and clings to her memories of him, and why she feels guilty about it.

But as the book progresses and you discover more and more of Vera’s past, things turn very creepy and plain wrong. Just reading about her childhood and her reactions to what her father did made me feel dirty on the inside. Not a feeling I particularly enjoy, thank you very much. Also, not a character I want to root for. And I cared less and less for Vera the more the book progressed, so I quickly lost interest.

All the other characters are just as awful and honestly got everything they deserved, but also, not interesting to follow along with. So this left me with a protagonist I ended up hating and a story I grew more and more disinterested in. So this was a miss for me.

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

Paradise-1 (Red Space) by David Wellington

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I was fully onboard with this book for the first 50% or so of the story. Granted, one of the main characters was too stupid to exist, and some of her choices were that of a braindead child. But the story moved along at a good pace, things were happening, there was a big mystery about, so was happy to overlook an annoying character or two. But then the book kept going… and going… and going with no end in sight. Episodes started repeating themselves without bringing anything new to the story, and I was quickly losing interest. 

As I had mentioned, the characterizations in this book are… rather lacking. And forget about character growth. I think the only character that has any is Rapscallion, and he is a sentient robot. Which tells you everything you need to know about the other characters. So if you are looking for a character driven story, move along. This ain’t for you.

But the mystery of what the heck is happening around Paradise-1 and why all ships sent there stop responding was compelling enough to have me turning the pages for about half of the book. And I admit that the idea of an alien contract that can invade our minds by planting a destructive idea is rather horrifying, because our bodies have no defense against a virus that isn’t biological in nature. I also really wanted to discover what was on Paradise-1 that needed to be guarded so fiercely, and why was it worth so many human lives and so many ships to try and get it.

Unfortunately, this book is at least 300 pages too long, so the story started repeating itself. We get to yet another ship that’s infected with different version of the Basilisk. We encounter yet another crazy AI and see the horrors that happened to the human crew. We don’t learn anything that we didn’t know by reading the first half of the book. The characters flee the ship, or are saved, or take the ship over… then the action switches to yet another encounter with another infected ship. Honestly, I think the story should have ended after their attempt to run the blockade to land on the planet. The 200 pages after that were just filler, with a few exception, like actually encountering the Basilisk, and even that could have been incorporated into the story differently. 

Oh, did I mention that the book ends on a cliffhanger? No? Well, it does. 700 + pages end with no emotional payoff whatsoever. We still don’t know what happened on Paradise-1 and why it was so important to get there. The story ends mid-action.

I guess the reader would have to pick up the next book in the series to find out what happened to the colony on Paradise-1, but guess what?  I won’t be along for the ride. I am not willing to sit through another overlong book and follow annoying characters just to find out that the story isn’t finished and there is another cliffhanger. No thanks, I’m out.

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

Infinity Gate (Pandominion 1) by M. R. Carey

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This is another example of a book where the idea sounds great when you read the blurb on the back, but the execution is sorely disappointing. Honestly, the most I can say about this book is meh.

The idea of a technology that allows humans to travel the multiverse is amazing, and there are so many ways a story like that could go! One of the best examples so far was The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson . Now that story had a heart. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t. 

Oh, it has plenty of interesting ideas. The worlds of Pandominion are fascinating, and the idea that in some version of our Earth, primates might not have evolved to dominate the land is intriguing. The fact that most of those diverse races manage to coexist peacefully is also wonderful to see. 

However, a long story like that can’t win on worldbuilding and concept alone. It needs engaging characters to carry the narrative and keep the readers engaged. And the characters in this book are extremely unlikeable. They are selfish to the extreme, unable to take responsibility of their own actions. They make often horrible decisions and commit atrocities and manage to justify it. I couldn’t stand most of them. The only character I could more or less relate to was Paz, because she was mostly an innocent bystander at the beginning, and any actions she took afterwards were fueled by her sense of right and wrong. But we meet Paz a lot later in the book, and for the first 35% I really had nobody to root for, so this story was almost a DNF for me.

Also, we have an empire that spans countless parallel universes and includes a diverse variety of “selves”, who manage to coexist even though some of them evolved from primates, others from wolves/cats, and even others from herbivores. But that empire itself is a repressive regime, where the only political actions seem to be strike first and annihilate the (possible) treat and ask questions never. Are you telling me that with all the bright minds available in all the multiverse, the Pandominion couldn’t come up with a better form of government?

Why is it that this mighty and very technologically advanced empire didn’t even try to communicate with the machines when they stumbled upon the mechanical civilization? Seriously, not a single attempt at communication was even considered. Or, you know, just leaving them alone. There are infinite Earths in this multiverse, so why not just blacklist this particular one and go explore somewhere else? No, the solution is to invade and annihilate. Without provocation, mind you. And they wonder why they get pushback? Or that they are being destroyed in response?

Finally, even though this book is about 500 pages long, it doesn’t even resolve part of the story that is hinted at in the first chapters. It just sets up the stage and brings all the main characters together. Yes, I understand that this is the first book in a series, and that there is an overarching story. But you need to give the reader some kind of payoff for investing hours of their time into this book. At least one story arc should have been satisfyingly concluded by the end of this book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. And honestly? I won’t stick around for book 2 to find out what happens to the Pandominion.

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

Hell Divers (Hell Divers 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

If you like fast-paced military scifi, then this book is right up  your alley. The action is non-stop and the stakes are high. Don’t get attached to characters, because not many will survive this literal hellscape. If the action is enough to entertain you, and you are willing to overlook some glaring plot issues, then you will love this book. And again, if you are here for the action, and don’t particularly care about good characterization, this is definitely your book.

Unfortunately, there are limits as to how much I am willing to suspend my disbelief. And the glaring plotholes in this book are bigger than the craters in Hades, sorry, Chicago. The war was 200 years ago. Since then Earth has been a radioactive husk blasted by giant electric storms. Are you telling me that any machinery or supplies survived that long in such a hostile environment and are still usable? They would be corroded beyond repair. At one point, the hell divers come across an electric lock panel… that still has juice… after spending two hundred years in a nuclear wasteland swiped by electric storms.

The whole societal structure inside the ship makes no sense either. You are telling me that the entire population of the Hive is 560-some people. You should have all hands on deck, working around the clock to keep the derelict ship functioning. You should have excellent education for everyone and cross-training, so that each person can perform several different functions inside the ship as needed. What do we have instead? A stratified society where the upper decks get all the perks, education, food, etc. and the lower decks are basically uneducated cattle. In what apocalyptic world does that make sense? Especially since it’s pointed out several times that the Hive and Ares are the last two ships afloat. Meaning, that’s it for humanity on Earth.

This brings me to the second complaint I have – the unnecessary plotlines. That whole insurrection storyline served absolutely no purpose. It accomplished nothing but take page time from other storylines. It also makes no sense. As I mentioned, there are only 560 people on board this ship. All of them should be needed to keep this thing afloat. So it is essential that everyone knows what’s going on so that problems can be addressed and troubleshooted. Instead, the captain and the upper decks upper class choose not to tell anyone that their ship is basically sinking and they might have days left to live unless hell divers pull out a miracle. This societal structure crumbles into dust with the barest amount of scrutiny. This ship wouldn’t have survived a year after the catastrophe, yet alone 200.

Finally, don’t get into this book if you are looking for believable characters, or even characters with more depth than skin surface. There aren’t any. Again, this is about on part for the military scifi genre, where most of the characters are just names on a page and inevitable cannon fodder.  This is also why I don’t usually read that genre. I like my protagonists with slightly more substance than a carboard cutout. But this is partly my fault. I misread the genre when I picked up this book. I thought it was a post-apocalyptical story, not a military scifi.

I will still probably check out the second book in the series, just because I already own it, but I doubt I will go past that.

Steel in the Blood (The Reckoning Cycle 1) by N.T. Narbutovskih

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I am not sure why this was published as a book. As far as story goes, it’s only Part 1 of a bigger book. The part that sets up the characters and the premise and doesn’t nothing else. By the end of Steel in the Blood, the main conflict of the story was set up, alright, but no questions were answered, there was no emotional payoff for sticking with the story so far. It just ended. So if you want to learn what this story is actually about, you have to buy the next book.

Unfortunately, there is nothing I hate more in a book than a cliffhanger designed solely to make you buy the next book, so I’m afraid that this series and I will be parting ways. Which is a shame, because from the little I have seen of the world and history in this small installment, it might be an interesting story.

The human empire has existed for thousands of years, ruled by an immortal Empress. It’s big, safe and prosperous (or so we’re told), but it has stopped growing. Innovation is discouraged, exploration is non-existent. It’s a well-oiled machine designed for one purpose only – to keep trade flowing to the capital worlds. No part of the Empire is self-sufficient. They all depend on each other for food, raw materials, trade, or goods. 

Each section of the empire is governed by members of different genelines, who have been cloned and enhanced to rule their sections for millennia as well. There has been no war in a thousand years, after the last Medicant Wars have ended. But now one is brewing…

Wonderful premise for an exciting book, right? That’s what I thought as well. I already mentioned the first problem with this story – this book is only a set-up. A transit point from one geneline is seemingly attacked by agents of another geneline, even though the Executor of that geneline never ordered the attack he is accused of. He has to find those who are responsible and clear his name or a civil war will break out. He leaves to do just that and puts his daughter in charge of their whole sector… And that’s it. That’s where the story ends.

If you are expecting answers to all the questions asked in this book, you will have to purchase the next book in the series.

My second problem is that while the world setting is intriguing, the characters are a lot less so. Erick seems very naïve and indecisive for a leader who supposedly ruled his corner of the Empire for 400 years. Bryn seems a little more interesting, but we haven’t really been in her head enough to get attached. In fact, the character I found the most interesting and whom I could empathize the most with is the Medicant. Yes, an android is has more personality than the humans in this story.

The ending also feels a bit flat – we are introduced to a whole assault team of characters we’ve never seen before who have a brief battle to capture a saboteur at a fold array. Said saboteur explodes, literally, damaging the array. The end. Again, if you were looking for answers and emotional payoff for sticking with this story for a few hours, buy the next book. Maybe the story will get better, maybe not. I am out either way.

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