Tag Archives: 3 stars

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega 3) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

 

A lot of things happened in Fair Game. The werewolves have finally announced their existence to the world, much like the fae had done over 50 years ago. With the light of the media scrutiny trained on them, the werewolves have to be on their best behavior, so the offenses that ended up with just a trashing or verbal warning are now punishable by death. And it falls to Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, to carry out the execution.

 

Charles has never been keen about killing, but at least before he agreed that the crimes were on par with the punishment. Now, they are not, but he still has to kill those werewolves for his father’s sake. So instead of being angry at his father for making him do this, his anger turns into self-loathing. Charles is spiraling down into depression and Anna doesn’t know how to help him. Thankfully, the Marroks sends them to Boston where a series of murders point to a serial killer. They will be part of a joint task force between FBI, werewolves and fae, because all the victims were half-fae, but the latest one was a werewolf.

 

There are many things that I liked about this book. First of all, we get a greater insight into this interesting world and about human interaction with the other species. It was interesting to see the contempt and indifference with which they treated the fae and how the justice system was designed to protect humans first and foremost. Which brought us to the conflict at the end of the book that I won’t talk about because major spoilers 🙂

 

Of course, the situation is in part the fae’s fault as well, since they chose to only show the least powerful and non-lethal of their kind making the humans believe that the fae were pathetic weaklings happy to live in their reservations that anyone could bully around. I’m interested to see how the next book will read now that the stakes are up and the fae are done playing nice.

I also loved the giant step forward in character development Anna took since book 1. She was a scared and broken girl in book one, beaten almost to the breaking point. She started dealing with some of her psychological problems in book 2, notably her fear of Alphas and other dominant werewolves, as well as discovering what it means to be an Omega. In this book, we see her finally into her own. I love the person Anna has become. I love that even though she is usually a mild and non-conflictual person, she never covers or bows down to other werewolves or humans or fae. I love that she has her agency and that she isn’t afraid to act upon it. She drives the story of this book, with Charles and the other characters just getting dragged in her wake.

 

So why did I give this book only 3.5 stars then? Because despite the awesome world development and character progress for Anna, there are some flaws that I simply couldn’t overlook. And the biggest one of them is Charles. He was an awesome character in the first 2 books, but I think that the whole angst over killing others was overdone and dragged for way too long. It had started in book 2 and got only exacerbated in book 3. I get it that he feels like a murderer now. I get it that he feels like some of the executions he was forced to carry out were unjust. But he’s been doing that for most of his life, so why break now all of a sudden? And especially, why try to sever all emotional ties with the person who acts as your anchor? I felt like we were rehashing problems that had already been discussed and solved between Charles and Anna in book 2. So while this book was a progress for Anna’s character, it was definitely a regression for Charles. I had to fight the urge to yell at him for the first 3/4 of the book.

 

The second thing that really rubbed me the wrong way is the fact that Anna gets kidnapped… again. Good God, how many times is it now? One or two per book? It’s really getting old. Why does she always have to be rescued by Charles? She is a big bad werewolf as well, please let her get out of a sticky situation on her own for once! I especially hated it in Fair Game because her kidnapping served no other purpose than to make Charles realize that he needs to screw his head back the right way. Really? This is such an old trope that I had to roll my eyes.

 

So all in all, it’s a solid new installment in a series that I still love, but it’s weaker than the first 2 books, in my opinion, even though I appreciated the new world developments. I just hope that the next book will be better and kidnapping-free.

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

Since I had absolutely loved the Alpha and Omega series (you can read my review of Book 1 and Book 2), I decided to give this older series a go as well. They are set up in the same world after all, and some of the characters play a recurring role in both series.

 

What can I say? I was happy to come back to this world Mrs. Briggs created, because it’s fascinating and the worldbuilding is very well done. It’s a world where the fae have come out into the light of day, and now the whole world is trying to live with the consequences. And the werewolves might be forced to do that as well, because with the medical and technological advances, it’s getting harder and harder to keep their existence a secret. I was also happy to learn a bit more about pack structure and the complex hierarchy between the dominants and the submissive wolves and what it meant to be an Alpha.

 

I was NOT impressed with the role of women in this structure.  They are basically just an addition to their male mates (oh, not traditional relationships are also frowned upon). So if a dominant female mates with a submissive male, she is treated like a submissive wolf on the very bottom step of the hierarchy ladder. And if she is not mated, she is treated like an object to be protected / courted / dominated. Not cool, Mrs. Briggs, not cool at all.

 

I love Mercy. She is a fun character to follow – she is smart, independent, stubborn and tough as nails. She also loves to do a bit of mischief from now and then, so it’s no wonder that she shifts into a coyote. My problem with this book is that, unless the author plans on making the werewolf packs undergo a significant shift in mentality when they reveal themselves to the human world, if Mercy accepts to become a werewolf’s mate, she will lose everything that makes her such a great protagonist to follow.  She would become just one more female to be protected and robbed of her own agency.

 

And she understands that, that’s why she’s resisting tooth and nail and rejecting the advances of a certain very determined Alpha…  yet she still lives next to Adam, the Alpha of the local pack, and allows Samuel, who is another werewolf and who she used to have (possibly still has) a crush on to move in with her.  And no matter how much she resists and snarls, she still allows both of them to manipulate her and try to decide what’s best for her.

 

This is a very worrying tendency that I really hope not to see in the next book. I am also extremely surprised to see this kind of one-sided approach to relationships in this book, because it’s diametrically opposite to the relationship Anna and Charles have in Alpha and Omega, and they are part of the same world, after all.

 

The other thing that dampened my enthusiasm for this book is the love triangle between Mercy, Samuel and Adam. Or is it a rectangle, if you take Stefan the vampire into consideration as well? But that’s a particular pet peeve of mine. Call me naĂŻve or deluded, but I believe that if you can’t choose between two people you supposedly love, then you don’t love either one of them. But that’s a personal quirk, and plenty of people love reading about love triangles it seems – just look at the YA shelves.

 

Anyway, I liked Moon Called, but definitely not as much as I loved the Alpha and Omega series.  I will probably give the second book a go, but if the worrying tendencies I’ve seen in this book persists, I might drop this series altogether and just read about Charles and Anna.

Johnny Shipwreck by the Lindsay Brothers.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

I love pirate adventures. I’ve read all the classics back when I was a little girl, starting with Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne and the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. So when I got asked to read Johnny Shipwreck in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the occasion. After all, it has all the elements I love: pirates, a mystery, a hidden treasure and lots of adventures. And it even starts like all good adventures should – with a message in a bottle. Well, in an old lantern in this case…

 

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It had a good balance of action and sleuthing. The narrative alternates between 1950, when Johnny Socko finds a strange message and begins his search for the mysterious Castillo del Mar, and the 1700s, when Titus, first mate on the English ship Queen Anne, has his fateful encounter with a pirate and his daughter.

 

The authors managed to capture the feel of most pirate adventure novels – the slow unraveling of the mystery that drives the reader along with the protagonists in the hunt for the next clue. It was also fun to watch the conclusions Johnny and his crew come up with, and then read how it really happened in the chapters set back in the 1700s. Sometimes Johnny got it right, but sometimes he fell short of the truth.

 

So by now you are probably wondering why I gave this book only 3 stars if I liked it so much? Well, there were several problems that dampened my enjoyment considerably, that’s why.

 

First of all, the authors tried to write this book in Subjective Third Person Omniscient point of view. I get it. Most of the pirate adventure books back in the days were written in that POV, so they probably wanted to keep that feeling in their story as well. Problem is, omniscient is extremely hard to do well, especially subjective where the narrator (and the reader) knows everything, even the characters’ thoughts and feelings. For it to work, the narrator needs to have a strong voice, and he cannot be one of the participants.

 

Unfortunately, that’s where this book falls short. There is no distinct narrator to tell us this story, just a jumbled mess of POVs from all the other characters that switch back and forth several times in the same scene. That’s called “head hopping,” and I found it extremely confusing and irritating.

 

My second gripe with this book is that Johnny, the boy wonder and all-star sleuth, is a bit too perfect. He solves all the mysteries, he gets all the answers, he fights off the bad guys, and he does all that seemingly effortlessly. This kills a lot of the suspense, because I was never worried for Johnny’s life and well-being. Since he had all the answers, it was clear that nothing bad could happen to him, no matter how dire the situation. Had the authors made him a little bit more fallible, let him make some mistakes and reap the consequences, his adventures would have had a bigger impact and kept me on the edge of my seat.

 

And my final complaint: I think the whole mystical / magical element in this book was entirely unnecessary. It was all good and dandy while it was just hinted upon, because it could or could not have been the truth, but the final confrontation with the Crimson Pirazzo felt alien to this story, like it had been included as an afterthought. And it really didn’t add anything to the story itself. Just escaping from Castillo del Mar in one piece would have been a worthy enough conclusion.

 

But despite those shortcomings, I think Johnny Shipwreck is a good book. I would definitely recommend it even to reawaken that feeling of adventure and wonder we used to get when we opened a pirate book when we were kids.

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga 1) by Kameron Hurley.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

There are books that you fall in love with since the very first page. There are books that take time for you to warm up to. There are also books that absolutely fail to keep your interest. Then there are books that have such an enormous potential that you WANT to love them, but have some flaws that seriously dampen that love.

Well, The Mirror Empire falls into that last category. There is so much to love in this book! The world Kameron Hurley has created is fascinatingly complex and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the fantasy genre before. Too often, we see endless iterations on the worn out theme of elves, dwarves and magicians. Nothing of the sorts here, thankfully. The races are unique and very distinct and they live in a world like nothing I have seen before. It’s wonderfully alien and complex and a delight to explore.

The magic system is rather unique as well. I don’t think I have read about mages who depend on one of the multiple satellites that orbit this world for their powers. Which makes for an interesting dynamic, with different magical schools coming to power with the ascendance of their satellite and waning into obscurity for a few decades when their star moves away.

So as you see, there is a lot in this book to love, at least for me. The problem is that there is TOO MUCH stuffed in one book. Too many locations, too many characters, too many plot lines at once. And because of that, there is not enough worldbuilding. Yes, I never thought I would voice that particular complaint about a book, but with so many things happening simultaneously in so many places, the author doesn’t have time to concentrate on any of them.

The reader is left stumbling from character to character, trying to puzzle out who all those people are and what part of the world they are in and how the heck does it all tie in together? It’s annoying at first and gets extremely frustrating after a while when you discover that almost nothing will be explained the further you get into the book. We will just continue switching POVs and jumping from story to story, desperately trying to figure out how it all falls into the big picture. Usually, I don’t mind doing the leg work. It can even be exciting. The problem with this book is that so many seemingly unconnected stories are told at once, it’s hard to keep up.

And with so many characters to follow, the author doesn’t have time to dive deep and really develop any of them. As a result, I didn’t feel connected to any of them at all. And if I can’t connect to the characters, it takes away a lot of the tension from the story. Because I can’t worry about the fate of a character I don’t empathize with. I think the book would have been noticeably better with half the characters. At least, we would have been able to spend more time with each one of them and get to know them better.

So what’s the take away from this review, you might ask? Is this book worth reading? I think so. Even if it’s only for the wonderfully complex world Kameron Hurley has created. It’s refreshingly new. But if you like character-driven narrative like I do, this book might not be for you.

Time Patrol (Area 51: The Nightstalkers) by Bob Mayer.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

This book has a lot going for it. It has time travel / time slip. It has secret organizations dedicated to correct attempts to change our timeline in the present and the past and other secret organization protecting unsuspecting citizens from things that go bump in the night. And all this is supported by some interesting and not too farfetched scientific explanations… All in all, it was an entertaining read.

So why did I only give this book 3 stars? Several reasons, some of which are probably due to the fact that I am new to the series and have never read any other books about the Nightstalkers.

I am not familiar with the characters. I haven’t had time to get to know and love this rag-tag team. So Scout was the only person I could more or less emphasize with because she is also relatively new to the team and gets a little bit of character development. All the others? I could care less if they live or die, so even the death of one of them in the first third of the book didn’t have the dramatic effect it probably should have had on me.

So my first advice would be: don’t make my mistake and go read the first 3 books in the series before getting to Time Patrol. I’m sure that for a reader who has followed the Nightstalkers through many adventures and learned about them in the other books, the death I am talking about was a blow.

My other problem with this book has nothing to do with the fact that I’m not familiar with the world or the series. I found the pacing to be very slow, especially in the first third of the book. We start with the Time Patrol disappearing, but then we have several chapters describing how the various members of the Nightstalkers experience little time slips and inconsistencies due to that disappearance.  While that might be relevant to the story, it also completely kills the forward momentum, because by the time we finally get back to the Time Patrol, it’s 100 pages down the road and I have been yawning through the last 30 of them.

But this complaint put aside, I actually liked the world Bob Mayer has created. The idea of a Time Patrol that would track and correct attempts at changing our timeline throughout history needs to be explored more. I loved the fact that the time patrol has agents in different times, or that arts is the surest way to communicate and send messages about possible changes in the timeline, because art, unlike anything else, survives the ravages of time.

I also loved the concept of parallel universes or timelines and the space between, where things and people who disappear from our timelines sometimes end up. In fact, I liked those concepts so much that I’m debating about going back and getting the first book in the series to familiarize myself with this team and this world some more.

So my final verdict for Time patrol is – very good book for those who are already familiar with the series, but will probably be off-putting for those who aren’t, like me.

PS. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

Memory Zero by Keri Arthur

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

It’s usually hard to evaluate the first book in a series. After all, the author has to introduce a brand new world, set up the rules, introduce the characters, and tell a story that’s engaging enough to make the reader want to buy the next book. And all this without making the book read like a huge info-dump. Not an easy feat to pull off, by all accounts.

I think that Keri Arthur did a pretty decent job with Memory Zero on all accounts.

Sam Ryan accepts to meet with her partner, Jack, who has gone missing two weeks prior. She hopes that he will give her some answers as to why he has suddenly gone MIA. Instead, he tries to kill her, and she is forced to kill him in self-defense. Only the Jack she had known and worked with for five years was human, and the man she killed is a vampire. So is it really Jack she killed? And why is someone bound and determined to hunt her down? Does this have anything to do with her past that she can’t remember?

Keri Arthur manages to create an interesting world. I can see that it has depth and history, but this is conveyed without the dreaded info-dump. There are hints at a bigger conflict, but mostly we discover this along with Sam. So we only know what concerns her, nothing more. I kinda like that. It gave me enough information to know that it’s a potentially interesting world I wouldn’t mind reading more about, so in that respect Memory Zero did exactly what it was supposed to do – it hooked me.

Now let’s talk about our protagonists. I actually liked Samantha Ryan, even though she comes with the trope I absolutely hate – memory loss. Sam was dumped at an orphanage as a teenager and has no memory about anything that happened to her before that day. One of the reasons she joined the police is to discover any leads about her past. The fact that she found nothing, and that even the birth certificate that was found in her pocket by the orphanage staff is fake, indicates that someone very powerful is involved and they don’t want her digging any further.

She is a strong character, but without being pushy or rude, like too many “strong” female protagonists are nowadays. She has a head on her shoulders and she knows how to use it. I also love the fact that she faces her fears and fights them. She has a fear of dark small spaces, but she is stubborn enough to crawl through the fake ceiling to escape from imprisonment, even though the dark and tight space makes her want to hyperventilate and scream at the top of her lungs in cheer terror.

I am less impressed with Gabriel Stern. He is described as the second in command at SIU, but he spends the whole book one step behind the bad guys, trying to put out the fires that were smoldering for months without him noticing. Heck, he’s even too blind to notice a traitor in his own family!

I think the biggest problem with Gabriel is that the author didn’t bother looking much further than “love interest”, “man with mysterious and dramatic past that leaves him incapable of trust and love” tropes. So his behavior is sometimes illogical and bewildering. I really hope that the author gets a better grasp on his personality and motives in the next book, because right now he is rather frustrating to read about.

But my main problem in this book and the reason I only gave it 3.5 stars is the antagonist. Jack is such a stereotypical villain that almost everything about him is a trope. He is the right hand to the current big bad Sethanon (whom we don’t even see in this book, btw), but he wants to overthrow him and become the next big bad… Ok, whatever floats his boat I guess? He is also inexplicably fixated on Sam, whom she wants to either join his side, or kill, or just experiment on; it’s not every clear, even to the author, I think. Plus I find it hard to believe that Jack managed to play the role of a good partner and friend for 5 years without Sam suspecting anything because the Jack in this book has the acting capabilities of a doorknob.

My other problem with Jack is that he makes way too many stupid decisions. I seriously wanted to hand him the Evil Overlord’s Rulebook when I was reading. I mean who would lock both protagonists in the same room and not even bother to search their pockets? And after that he acts all surprised and asks Sam how she got out. I would have laughed in his face.

This is sad because if the antagonist was less of a caricature and more of a fleshed-out human being, the book would have had a lot more tension.

But despite all this, Memory Zero did what it was supposed to do. I will pick up Generation 18, the next book in the series. I want to know more about Sam’s past and who this Sethanon that everybody is afraid of is. But pretty please, give me a real villain, not a walking cliché next time.